Three cases of Listeria linked to deli meats sold at restaurant in Toronto hospital

Public health officials are investigating three cases in which people contracted Listeria infections after eating deli sandwiches at a Toronto hospital.

Toronto Public Health says the individuals were diagnosed with the infection after eating deli meats from the Druxy’s restaurant in Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

Officials say the restaurant is currently closed and the owner is co-operating with the agency to make sure there is no further risk to the public.

Druxy’s makes a decent Reuben sandwich and is a chain of some 48 restaurants.

Even though the branch is in a hospital, they probably have their own suppliers separate from the hospital.


Regardless, the supplier needs to be tracked down.

As Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said about the outbreak of Listeria in cantaloupe in Australia, “People at risk of listeriosis should always take care with handling and storage of food, including not purchasing pre-cut melons, salads, bagged lettuce, deli meats, raw seafood and sprouted seeds,” Dr Sheppeard said.

People at risk means immunocompromised or pregnant.

The kind of people in hospitals, in Australia and Canada.

And where kinds of foods continue to be served to patients daily.

6 dead, 13 sick: Where’s the details on Listeria-in-rockmelon?

As the sixth listeriosis death in Australia linked to rockmelon was reported on Tuesday, the silence from cantaloupe growers, packers, retailers and regulators has been deafening.

Listeria in cantaloupe has happened before.

(A table of rockmelon-related outbreaks is available here.)

Here are some basic questions:

  • was the farm prone to flooding and near any livestock operations;
  • what soil amendments, like manure, were used;
  • after harvest were the rockmelons placed in a dump tank;
  • was the water in the dump tank regularly monitored for chlorine levels;
  • did a proper handwashing program exist at the packing shed;
  • were conveyor belts cleaned and tested;
  • did condensation form on the ceiling of the packing shed;
  • were transportation vehicles properly cooled and monitored;
  • was the Listeria in whole cantaloupe or pre-cut; and,
  • was the rockmelon stored at proper temperatures at retail?

I’m just spit-balling here, but these are basic questions that need to be answered before any dreams of regaining consumer confidence can be entertained.

Fifth person dies in Australia’s rockmelon listeria outbreak

An elderly man has died and a woman has miscarried as a result of the nationwide listeria outbreak, which has been linked to contaminated rockmelon.

Amy McNeilage of The Guardian reports the Victorian man in his 80s was the fifth person to die as a result of the outbreak.

The source of the outbreak has been traced to Rombola Family Farms in the Riverina region of NSW, according to authorities.

There have been at least 17 confirmed cases of listeria linked to the contaminated rockmelon, including two deaths in NSW and three in Victoria.

Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said all people affected so far ate the rockmelon before the national recall on 28 February. The latest cases have been linked to the outbreak through microbiological testing.

A miscarriage in Victoria was also linked to the outbreak, and a total 19 people – including those who died – had been affected across the country.

Listeria in SA: ‘Fuck you Doug’

Ms Patrick would be proud.

She was my grade 7 teacher and instilled in me an efficiency with words.

So when Seattle lawyer Bill Marler wrote me last night to say, “By the way Fuck you Doug,” I immediately thought, ‘By the way,’ is a waste of words.

Just say, Fuck you Doug.

The issue is 183 dead and 967 sick from Listeria in South Africa.

Every time I see Marler quoted as a food safety expert, I vomit a little bit in my mouth.

Rhetoric is the prose of lawyers.

I don’t like Rush, even though they played at my high school.



Identifying farm does nothing: What are normal practices on rockmelon farms to ensure microbial food safety confidence?

ABC news reports the rockmelon farm at the centre of the deadly listeria outbreak has been revealed as Rombola Family Farms, authorities have confirmed.

The NSW Food Authority said it was working closely with the farm, located in the NSW Riverina, to determine the exact cause of the outbreak.

Four people died and there have been 17 confirmed cases of listeriosis nationally, linked to the contaminated rockmelons.

That sucks, but the industry has been silent about steps it takes to minimize bugs like Listeria.

It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

Salmonella, Listeria, people dead, the outbreaks are relatively common in a way they shouldn’t be.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Food Authority said, pending the results of its investigation into the incident, it may implement additional regulation to the rockmelon industry to ensure compliance with food safety.

If the industry relies on government to set minimal standards, it’s going down the road of the Pinto defense: Meets all government standards, still kills people.

Rockmelon growers are the ones who are going to lose – bureaucrats will still have their salaries and supers – and rockmelon growers need to step up.

Listeria in South Africa: Who knew what when?

I’ve never met a lawyer who couldn’t appropriate an idea as her own, and I’ve never met a lawyer who would sit out a class-action (as long as the country’s legal terms, like the dude, abide, and how great is Townes Van Zandt covering the Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers in the background of the clip below; my high-school friend Dave used to tell me, hills and valleys, Boog, hills and valleys; but I digress).

Marler swooping into South Africa to drum up biz was not surprising, but may pressure locals to reveal how much corruption was in place to let 183 die and 967 get sick from Listeria, presumably from polony, and who knew what when – especially public health types.

South African food producer Tiger Brands said in a statement that it had received a report from the department of health on Thursday which confirmed the presence of the LST6 listeria strain at its factory in the northern city of Polokwane.

“We are well advanced in the national recall of all ready-to-eat chilled processed meat products, which we initiated on Sunday,” it said. 

“We have appointed a team of local and international scientific experts to attempt (to) identify the root cause of LST6.” 

Who are these experts and why weren’t they appointed decades ago? Listeria in refrigerated-ready-to-eat foods, like shit cold cuts, is a well known food safety problem.

Only as good as your worst supplier: Rockmelon growers in Australia suffering through outbreak (so are the sick and the families of the 4 dead)

I was wrong.

When I said Australia is about 20 years behind North America in micro food safety terms, I really meant 40, because that’s when the Brisbane-raised Bee Gees were on the charts with Saturday Night Fever.

When it comes to public disclosure and on-farm food safety of fresh produce, Australia is only 20 years behind North America.

It was 1998 when I and many in my lab started working on this problem.

What I soon realized is that government doesn’t give a shit. As sales of an implicated commodity collapse because of a real or imagined outbreak of foodborne illness, the bureaucrats keep their jobs.

Farms go bankrupt.

With 4 dead and 17 sick from Listeria in rockmelon (cantaloupe), this notion has occurred to at least one Western Australian melon grower who is rightly pissed about the lack of information from government, growers, and anyone else.

Dane Capogreco, one of the directors of Capogreco Farms in Western Australia says the incident is an isolated case of “negligence” and the whole of the country’s melon industry should not be judged by the actions of one grower.

“The vast majority of growers are doing the right thing. One grower has done the wrong thing and the rest of us are paying the price.”

“It’s very concerning that the grower responsible (from the New South Wales Riverina region) hasn’t come forward to take action,” Mr Capogreco said. “He knew that he had it, and has destroyed the industry. I don’t believe it’s spreadable but it probably happened through the way he handled or washed the fruit post-harvest”

“It (previously) was very good – Australia had a good name. We have a clean, green product. We can’t compete on price alone, but we sell on trust because of our name. Now one guy has set us back a long way.”

He added that his company’s test results are on their website.

That’s a good claim, and something I’ve endorsed for 20 years, but a visit to the website found no such data available, just an eternal circle click.

Something about throwing stones from glass houses.

And again, the Colorado farm in the 2011 Listeria in cantaloupe that killed 33 and sickened at least 140 people in 26 states received a score of 96% in a third-party audit completed by Primus Labs only six days prior to the first reported illness.

Growers, take microbial food safety into your own hands (literally) and be able to prove your product is safe.

Retailers, market microbial food safety at retail.

Then consumers can choose.

(Me and the ex saw the Dead perform these two songs, pretty much exactly as shown, north of Toronto in 1987 with a six-week old kid, who will turn 31 later this year. I still get goosebumps from their rendition of Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away)

4 dead, 13 sick from Listeria-in-cantaloupes: The public conversation is lame

I’ve always believed in don’t complain, create.

When I didn’t like the university newspaper I was editor of, I created my own (along with others).

When I didn’t like my higher education, I created my own path to a PhD.

I created my own professoring job (with lots of help from others) and have sorta done my own thing.

So while I’m somewhat beaten with the broken ribs, I still have some spirit.

With Listeria-in-cantaloupe spreading across Australia, I got excited and wrote an op-ed on Monday before lunch.

Amy edited, just like the old days, and I sent it off to the Sydney Morning Herald.

They said they were interested and then … nothing.

Today, with news of a fourth death and more illnesses, I asked again if they were interested.


That’s cool, I have a nostalgia for print and the smell of ink, and I have no doubt why print is vanishing.

That’s one reason why we made our own publishing outlet,, in 2005 because, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” (A. J. Liebling).

Here’s the op-ed. And yes, PR flunkies should be paying me for this advice.

On Sept. 9, 2011, reports first surfaced of an outbreak of Listeria linked to cantaloupe – known as rock melons in Australia — grown in Colorado. Already two were dead and seven others sick.

By the end of the outbreak, 33 people were killed and at least 140 sickened.

On Aug. 17, 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced an outbreak of Salmonella linked to cantaloupe that ultimately killed three people and sickened 270 in 26 states.

In Australia, a fourth death has now been linked to the Listeria-in-rockmelon outbreak, and the number of sick people has risen to 13.

Already, an Australian rockmelon grower is saying “misinformation” about the listeria outbreak will have a negative impact on growers.

Rather than misinformation, there is a lack of information required to regain consumer confidence and trust.

Sadly, the number of dead and sick will probably grow, because Listeria has an incubation period of up to six weeks. The melon you ate five weeks ago could make you sick with listeriosis tomorrow.

This is not misinformation, it’s biology.

Australian media reports that the Listeria contamination is on the rockmelon surface but I have yet to see any verification of that statement. Under a microscope the exterior of a rockmelon looks like a lunar surface of hills and craters, a soft porous skin which microbes can easily cross.

Regardless of how careful a consumer is while cutting rockmelon, bacteria like Listeria, on the outside or inside, are going to be in the final product.

This means everything has to be done to reduce the risk of contamination beginning on the farm.

On a trip to the local Woolies this morning, I found no rockmelon, however some was available in fresh-cut mixed fruit packages. Shouldn’t those also have been pulled? I asked a stocker where the rockmelons were and he said there were none because of the recall. There was no information posted in the shelf-space that previously held rockmelon.

Us mere mortals, those who like rockmelon, have no information on the size of the farm involved in the outbreak, how often water was tested for dangerous bugs, what kind of soil amendments like manure may have been used, whether the melons went into a dump tank of water after harvest to clean them up, whether that water contained chlorine or some other anti-microbial and how often that water was tested, whether there was a rigorous employee handwashing program, whether the crates the melons were packed in were clean, whether melons were  transported at a cool temperature (won’t help with Listeria, it grows at 4 C), and so on.

These are the basic elements of any on-farm food safety program, which my laboratory started developing over 20 years ago for fresh produce in Canada.

These are the questions that need to be answered by any supplier of rockmelon before I would buy again.

The 2011 and 2012 U.S. outbreaks were the result of familiar factors to food safety types: seemingly minor issues synergistically combined to create ideal conditions for Listeria or Salmonella to contaminate, grow and spread on the cantaloupe. There was no overriding factor, and there is no magic solution, other than constant awareness and diligence to the microorganisms that surround us.

Eric Jensen, the fourth-generation produce grower at the centre of the 2011 Listeria-in-cantaloupe outbreak told a reporter once the outbreak was “something Mother Nature did. We didn’t have anything to do with it.”

I’ve yet to see divine intervention as a cause of foodborne illness. Instead, illnesses and outbreaks are frighteningly consistent in their underlying causes: a culmination of a small series of mistakes that, over time, results in illness and death. After-the-fact investigations usually conclude, why didn’t this happen earlier, with all the mistakes going on?

So while retailers ask themselves, why did we rely on such lousy food safety assurances, it would bolster consumer confidence if there was any public indication that Australian rockmelon growers had learned anything from past outbreaks, at home and abroad.

(A table of rockmelon-related outbreaks is availabe at In Oct. 2006, 36 Australians were sickened with Salmonella in rockmelon).

Tying a brand or commodity – rockmelon, lettuce, tomatoes, meat —  to the lowest common denominator of government inspections is a recipe for failure. The Pinto automobile also met government standards but that didn’t help much in the court of public opinion.

The best growers, processors and retailers will far exceed minimal government standards, will proactively test to verify their food safety systems are working, will transparently publicize those results and will brag about their excellent food safety by marketing at retail so consumers can actually choose safe food.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety at Kansas State University who publishes the food safety blog, from his home in Brisbane.



Keep that cooler cold: Listeria in deli meats

Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) causes the third highest number of foodborne illness deaths annually. L. monocytogenes contamination of sliced deli meats at the retail level is a significant contributing factor to L. monocytogenes illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) conducted a study to learn more about retail delis’ practices concerning L. monocytogenes growth and cross-contamination prevention.

This article presents data from this study on the frequency with which retail deli refrigerator temperatures exceed 41°F, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-recommended maximum temperature for ready-to-eat food requiring time and temperature control for safety (TCS) (such as retail deli meat). This provision was designed to control bacterial growth in TCS foods. This article also presents data on deli and staff characteristics related to the frequency with which retail delis refrigerator temperatures exceed 41°F.

Data from observations of 445 refrigerators in 245 delis showed that in 17.1% of delis, at least one refrigerator was >41°F. We also found that refrigeration temperatures reported in this study were lower than those reported in a related 2007 study. Delis with more than one refrigerator, that lacked refrigerator temperature recording, and had a manager who had never been food safety certified had greater odds of having a refrigerator temperature >41°F.

The data from this study suggest that retail temperature control is improving over time. They also identify a food safety gap: some delis have refrigerator temperatures that exceed 41°F. We also found that two food safety interventions were related to better refrigerated storage practices: kitchen manager certification and recording refrigerated storage temperatures. Regulatory food safety programs and the retail industry may wish to consider encouraging or requiring kitchen manager certification and recording refrigerated storage temperatures.

Food Safety Practices Linked with Proper Refrigerator Temperatures in Retail Delis


Foodborne Pathogens and Disease

Brown Laura G. , Hoover Edward Rickamer , Faw Brenda V. , Hedeen Nicole K. , Nicholas David , Wong Melissa R. , Shepherd Craig , Gallagher Daniel L. , and Kause Janell R.