A tale of two outbreaks: Farmers have to get ahead of the public conversation because they lose

I don’t like counting outbreak tolls or square mileage affected – in the absence of meaningful information – because it seems like accounting, and I have an accountant to do that.

Numbers numb and go past the story: Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”

None of us wants to be a statistic.

Whether it’s E. coli in Romaine lettuce in the U.S. or Listeria in rockmelon in Australia, producer groups have failed the farmers they are supposed to represent.

Step up. It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.

Metal is a risk in food, even in Australia

Mark Donaldson of the Wanneroo Times writes, a Currambine food outlet, which has now shut down, has been fined for a food safety breach after a customer bit into a piece of metal while eating a meal last year.

DS Business Venture, which ran Pastacup at Currambine Central, was due to stand trial in Joondalup Magistrates Court today but changed its plea to guilty.

No one from the business appeared in court to face the charge of “a person must not sell food that is unsuitable”.

The City of Joondalup prosecutor said a customer bought a three cheese ravioli from the store in May, 2017.

The complainant was eating a meal and bit into something hard, damaging a tooth.

Investigators found it was a rivet that had fallen off a cheese grater.

Magistrate Edward de Vries considered it a minor food safety case but said the customer “would have been in some pain biting into a metal rivet”.

He fined the business $3000 plus costs of another $3000.

The prosecutor conceded there was little chance of recovering the fine now the business had shut down.

From the (written) barf: Goodbye Jimmy-self-serve buffet on Holland America cruises

Holland America cruise line has all but put an end to the self-serve buffet.

Darren Cartwright of Yahoo News writes the Holland America Line has literally taken a hands-on, or make that hands-off, approach and heavily restricted self-service in the general dining areas of its ships.

The move could be just what’s needed to restore Australia’s faith in the industry following four gastro outbreaks on Holland America’s sister line Princess Cruises over the past 15 months.

The most recent was in January when some 200 passengers went down with the norovirus aboard the Sea Princess during a tour of New Zealand.

Both Holland America and Princess are subsidiaries of the Carnival Corporation, which has a number of cruise lines including P&O Australia and Cunard.

I take a tour around Asia on Holland America’s Volendam, which can cater for up to 1450 guests. I quickly notice that the grab’n’go treats are behind glass in the Lido Market dining room, where there’s an abundance of big-smiling waiting staff ready to serve me.

Only pre-plated desserts and pre-made and wrapped sandwiches can be retrieved from the general buffet area. All other meals are carried out to guests.

There are only a few areas where passengers can treat themselves, including the poolside taco servery, while in the bars, nuts are delivered in mini-carafes and have to be poured out to be consumed.

The Volendam’s hotel director Craig Oates says the reduction in self-service has been gradual and is purely to enhance the guest experience and not related to concerns over passenger hygiene.

“I joined 14 years ago and a lot of it was self-service but it’s slowly transitioned. It has not been an overnight decision to restrict self-service,” Mr Oates told AAP.

“The reason we have people making salads is, rather than people helping themselves and getting mixed up with the dressings, we wanted to add something to the guest experience.”

11 now sick in Australia linked to Creative Gourmet frozen pomegranate

Two South Australians have been hospitalised with Hepatitis A, believed to have been caused by them eating Creative Gourmet frozen pomegranate.

The product was recalled from Coles last month but SA Health is reminding South Australians to make sure they do not have the product in their freezers.

SA Health food and controlled drugs director Fay Jenkins said nationally there have been 11 cases linked to the outbreak, with two in South Australia.

“There’s a lady in her 60s and she is quite unwell and she is in hospital. There is a younger gentleman [aged 33] … and he’s actually been discharged from hospital,” Dr Jenkins said.

Melboune beware: Shit with dangerous E. coli can survive a long time in river sediment

Bed sediment resuspension is a potential source of faecal microorganisms in the water column of estuaries. As such, it is important to identify the survival of faecal microorganisms in these bed sediments and understand how bed sediment resuspension impacts the quality of estuarine waters.

This study explores the effect of bed sediment resuspension on Escherichia coli on concentrations in the water column and the persistence of E. coli in the water column and bed sediments of the Yarra River estuary in South‐Eastern Australia. Using sediment cores, we identified that the resuspension of both surficial sediments (e.g., by tidal movements) and deeper bed sediments (e.g., by large storm events) can increase E. coli concentrations in the water column by up to 20 times in estuaries in oceanic climates. Bed sediment resuspension can result in increased E. coli concentrations in the water column even up to 24 days after E. coli first enters the estuarine water.

This study demonstrates that faecal microorganisms, such as E. coli, can persist for extended periods in estuarine bed sediments, which may then be re‐entrained into the water column via recreational activities, high flow events, or tidal fluctuations. If the survival and resuspension processes observed here hold true for pathogenic microorganisms, the resuspension of bed sediments may indeed represent an increased public health risk.

Escherichia coli survival and transfer in estuarine bed sediments

C. Schang, A. Lintern, P. L. M. Cook, G. Rooney, R. Coleman, H. M. Murphy, A. Deletic, D. McCarthy

https://doi.org/10.1002/rra.3281

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/rra.3281

The role of meat in foodborne disease

Meat has featured prominently as a source of foodborne disease and a public health concern. For about the past 20 years the risk management paradigm has dominated international thinking about food safety. Control through the supply chain is supported by risk management concepts, as the public health risk at the point of consumption becomes the accepted outcome-based measure.

Foodborne pathogens can be detected at several points in the supply chain and determining the source of where these pathogens arise and how they behave throughout meat production and processing are important parts of risk-based approaches. Recent improvements in molecular and genetic based technologies and data analysis for investigating source attribution and pathogen behaviour have enabled greater insights into how foodborne outbreaks occur and where controls can be implemented. These new approaches will improve our understanding of the role of meat in foodborne disease and are expected to have a significant impact on our understanding in the next few years.

The role of meat in foodborne disease: Is there a coming revolution in risk assessment and management?

Meat Science

Narelle Fega, Ian Jenson

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meatsci.2018.04.018

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174018300731

Obit: Des Sibraa

Widely admired former Chief Food Inspector for New South Wales, Australia, (NSW), Des Sibraa, sadly passed away on Saturday, 7th April 2018.

Des was a truly special soul, with an infectious humour and passionate about the important things in life –  his family, animal welfare and of course, food safety. Des was an avid advocate for food safety, constantly seeking to improve the integrity and expected standards of the food service industry in NSW. In later years, he also became very passionate and vocal about animal welfare.

His legacy lives on through his family. Des was a loving husband to Helen, father of Tatiana, Veronica and Paul, and doting grandfather to Mick, Natalia and Ivan.

Taxes, folks and WKRP

Like any good American, I spent the early hours of the Australian morning to finalize and submit my 2017 U.S. taxes.

Wasn’t too hard, I don’t get paid, but we have to declare any foreign income to avoid future troubles with the IRS.

The Canadian one is next and then will be starting on the Australian one, where the tax year runs from July 1 rather than Jan. 1.

Filing in the U.S. is joint for me and my partner, but separate in the other countries.

I get confused.

And when I get confused, I watch TV (was WKRP in Cincinnati a great TV show or the greatest?).

Or go to the supermarket.

When I started in the food safety stuff, my friend Gord told me, pay attention to the farmers.

Those that produce the food.

I agreed, did that for years, then expanded further to customers, the people that actually buy food.

Yesterday I went to my supermarket-lab after a few hours in the city.

Half of the meat section was cleared out.

I asked if they had a power outage, but the young dude said, nah, it’s all monitored at HQ, the temp went down so we had to pull the stock to the back cooler.

OK, cool, way to be responsive, until a manager walked by, tapped the worked on his shoulder, meaning get back to work or stop talking to the food safety dude, or both.

At the checkout, I overheard a number of staff had called in sick.

That prompted me to ask, are you told to stay at home when you’re sick, and they both said yes, until the one said the other was sick, and at work.

They said it’s a great policy but lousy in action.

I learn so much just goofing around.

Disease outbreak at Texas cat café leads to kitty quarantine, investigation

I was walking Ted the Wonder Dog the other morning — which I try to do every day but often fail because I’m human, dammit, and Ted would rather sleep beside me all day, and then party at 2 a.m. — and we passed the new cat café in Annerley, Brisbane.

I never had indoor cats until the townhouse rules in Brisbane forced us so. Same with the tiny dog. Now we have our own inner city million-dollar property (in Monopoly money) the cats go in and out, and the dog won’t shut-up.

Cuteness overload was supposed to be the number one item on the menu at San Antonio’s first cat cafe, but now the owner is facing an investigation from local authorities.

City of San Antonio Animal Care Services seized two cats last week and ordered the remaining 54 cats in the 1,000-square-foot San Antonio Cat Cafe to be quarantined from the public on Monday, according to WOAI.

“You are not going to get the sick cats better in that environment and unfortunately you are likely to spread those ailments to the other animals that are currently healthy,” Shannon Sims, the assistant director of Animal Care Services, told the station.

The ailments that he’s talking about allegedly include ringworm and FIP, a viral disease that tends to attack the cells of the intestinal wall and is usually fatal in domestic cats, according to WebMD. Animal Care Services spokeswoman Lisa Norwood told KENS that the investigation thus far had revealed that up to three dozen cats that did not have rabies shots and that sick cats were often mixed with healthy cats.

Leah Taylor, a former cafe employee, who is studying to become a veterinary technician, told KENS she filed a complaint against owner Casey Steuart with Animal Care Services after witnessing four cats die there during her four months on the job.

“A lot of the cat care wasn’t maintained,” Taylor told KENS. “There were animals that should have been on medicine. There were animals that needed to see a vet for medical attention that weren’t tended to. There was a lot of ringworm and upper respiratory, which is very contagious not only to people but also to other animals.”

Cas Moskwa, another former Cat Cafe employee, posted a series of photos on Facebook Sunday, detailing what she called “the reality of the cafe and the poor state it currently is in.” She claimed that Steuart waited for weeks at a time before taking sick cats there to a veterinarian and left at least one sick and dying cat, named Decoy, out in the public lounge during his last agonizing days.

Her post includes photos of cats with crusted eyes and allegations that Steuart brought in a cat infected with ringworm into the facility’s kitten coop, resulting in three different litters becoming infected. She said in a separate post that a cat she took home from the cafe was one of them that had been infected.

According to KSAT, though, Steuart disputes the reports from Moskwa and other former employees, blaming “a lack of communication and misinterpretations.” She specifically disputed the reports of ringworm, a skin infection that can be transmitted to humans, in the cafe.

She also told the San Antonio Express News that three cats did die at the cafe, but none from neglect. One, she said, was 17 years old.

WGS links Salmonella in egg outbreaks in Australia

Building on their work with whole genome sequencing and eggs – because there’s a lot of outbreaks of Salmonella in eggs — a group of Australian researchers have reported on seven outbreaks of Salmonella Typhimurium multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) 03-26-13-08-523 (European convention 2-24-12-7-0212) in three Australian states and territories investigated between November 2015 and March 2016.

We identified a common egg grading facility in five of the outbreaks. While no Salmonella Typhimurium was detected at the grading facility and eggs could not be traced back to a particular farm, whole genome sequencing (WGS) of isolates from cases from all seven outbreaks indicated a common source. WGS was able to provide higher discriminatory power than MLVA and will likely link more Salmonella Typhimurium cases between states and territories in the future. National harmonization of Salmonella surveillance is important for effective implementation of WGS for Salmonella outbreak investigations.

Seven Salmonella Typhimurium outbreaks in Australia linked by trace-back and whole genome sequencing

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, March, 2018, 10.1089/fpd.2017.2353

Laura Ford Qinning Wang Russell Stafford,Kelly-Anne Ressler, Sophie Norton, Craig Shadbolt, Kirsty Hope, Neil Franklin, Radomir Krsteski, Adrienne Carswell,Glen P. Carter, Torsten Seemann,Peter Howard, Mary Valcanis,10 Cristina Fabiola Sotomayor Castillo, John Bates, Kathryn Glass,Deborah A. Williamson, Vitali Sintchenko, Benjamin P. Howden and Martyn D. Kirk1