Norovirus in frozen raspberries: Quebecers sick

My grandfather, Homer the Canadian asparagus baron, always said if it wasn’t asparagus, he figured raspberries would be a good cash crop.

He had a patch out front and as a child I could often be found in the raspberry patch, picking a few and eating many.

So I’m disappointed (how Canadian) whenever cheap raspberries are the culprit in transmitting norovirus or hepatitis A.

I’m even more disappointed when taypayer-funded bureaucrats in government and public journalism fail to ask basic questions or provide basic information so consumers can make actual food choices, away from the hucksterism.

CBC News reports the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) has issued a warning list of raspberry and raspberry products that may have been contaminated by norovirus.

Several cases of illness have already been reported to the ministry.

Those who have products on the list are asked to avoid consuming them and return them to the facility where they were purchased, or discard them.

Media coverage notes the bad batch of raspberries that is the likely culprit has been recalled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Oddly, the only recall on the CFIA website involving norovirus and frozen raspberries happened on June 20, 2017, with almost no supporting information, other than, media should call.

Gelsius brand IQF Whole Raspberries were recalled due to norovirus,and were distributed by Farinex (113712 Canada Inc.), a Quebec-based distributor of all things food.

Here’s some questions to ask:

Where were the frozen berries grown?

Were they covered in human shit?

Why so little info from CFIA?

Montreal locations affected by the recall:

Crémerie Gélato Cielo (10414 Gouin Blvd. W.)

Raspberry gelato

Raspberry sorbet

Berry sorbet

C’Chô-Colat Inc. (1255 Bishop St.)

Raspberry gelato

Raspberry sorbet

Berry sorbet

Les Délices Lafrenaie Inc. (8405 Lafrenaie St.)

Frutti di bosco

Heavenly berry

Les gourmandises de Marie-Antoinette (4317 Ontario St. E.)

Marie-Antoinette cake

Glaces et Sorbets Kem Coba inc. (60 Fairmont Ave. W.)

Raspberry sorbet

Boulangerie Et Pâtisserie Lasalle R.D.P. Inc. (8591 Maurice-Duplessis Blvd.)

Berry cake

Gourmet Bazar inc. (9051 Charles-de-la-Tour St.)

Whole raspberries

Me thinks something is going on here.

Homer would be ashamed that raspberries got a bad name.

Health Canada’s quiet move to end use of antibiotics to fatten up animals

A cow can get penicillin without a prescription in most parts of Canada, unlike humans who have to see their doctors first.

kelly-croweFarmers can simply go down to the local farm supply store and buy tetracycline and many other antibiotics over the counter.

And the animals don’t have to be sick. Cattle, chickens, turkeys and pigs take antibiotics to prevent them from becoming infected.

For animal producers, antibiotics are an important management tool to keep their herds and flocks healthy and profitable. It’s estimated that up to 80 per cent of the world’s antibiotics are used in agriculture.

But every time a bug comes up against a drug, whether it’s in humans or animals, that’s a fresh opportunity to evolve a new defence.

And the links are now clear. Antibiotic use on farms is creating superbug infections in humans.

The World Health Organization warns that unless antibiotic use is reined in, the world is headed for a dystopian future where routine infections are deadly. So it’s a surprise to learn that Canada has no coordinated national system to control antibiotics in agriculture.

There is no way of monitoring what drugs are being used and how farmers are using them, and no reliable statistical data on the volumes of antibiotics being given to food animals.

I discovered all of that as I was researching what seemed to be a simple good news story: that Health Canada is about to stop letting farmers use antibiotics as growth promoters.

On the surface, it sounded like a breakthrough. Public health advocates have been calling for an end to the use of antibiotics for growth promotion for years. It’s a practice that has been banned in most of Europe.

ab.res.prudent.may.14But I soon learned that many believe the change won’t significantly reduce the amount of antibiotics used on Canadian farms. That’s because it’s estimated that most of the antibiotics in feed are intended for disease prevention. And that use will still be permitted.

It was curious how quietly this change came about. No press release, no news conference or ministerial announcement. Just a short “Notice to Stakeholders” posted on the Health Canada Veterinary Drug Directorate website.

But one of the biggest stakeholders — the animal drug manufacturers  — didn’t need any notice, because the whole thing was their idea, according to Jean Szkotnicki from the Canadian Animal Health Institute, the trade association that represents the drug companies who make and sell antibiotics for animals.

In March, the trade association approached Health Canada with an offer to change the labels on 140 animal antibiotics that are the same or similar to human drugs.

They offered to remove claims for growth promotion, to bring their products in line with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Health Canada apparently agreed. But what does it mean in practice?

When I tried to answer that question, I ran up against the wall that is Health Canada media relations.

Health Canada won’t let me talk directly to a policy maker, so, in what has become a familiar pattern, a media person emailed me a short written response to my initial inquiries, raising more questions than it answered:

“The removal of the production claims from the labels is anticipated to eliminate such use of the relevant antimicrobials whereas other claims which are considered prudent and necessary for animal health would remain.”

Translation (after making a lot of calls to veterinarians and others outside of government): this change is unlikely to substantially reduce the amount of antibiotics used in food animals, according to people who will be involved in implementing these changes.

“We’re not going to achieve anything if we stop at the growth promotion discussion,” says Dr. Greg Douglas, Ontario’s chief veterinarian.

“In other jurisdictions, they’ve found that, the drugs are not used for growth promotion, wink, wink, they’re used for disease prevention.”

Canadian restaurant inspections uncover repeated, major violations

Canada’s (self-proclaimed) biggest analysis of public health inspection reports from national chain restaurants reveals that almost one-in-four inspections has at least one major violation, a CBC Marketplace investigation has found.

Major violations, such as improper food handling, inadequate handwashing and failing to keep food at safe temperatures, have the potential to negatively affect human health.

toronto.red.yellow.green.grades.may.11In the largest investigation of its kind, Marketplace analyzed the data from a year’s worth of public health restaurant inspections in five Canadian cities — Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Toronto and Ottawa — almost 5,000 reports in total. Two statisticians from the University of Toronto analyzed the data.

 “Food safety is a very serious matter,” says Jim Chan, a retired public health inspector who spent 36 years with Toronto Public Health. “The public has a right to know so they can make informed choices.”

In some cases, Marketplace discovered that serious problems continued even after restaurants were notified by public health inspectors:

A Subway restaurant in Calgary was cited by health inspectors three times for contaminated cleaning cloths.

A Moxie’s in Vancouver failed to keep food at a safe temperature during three consecutive inspections.

A Tim Hortons in Calgary was written up by inspectors five times for a fly infestation.

According to the reports, handwashing was a significant problem in most cities, as was general kitchen cleanliness.

sylvannus.toronto.2005In addition to the statistical analysis of report results, Marketplace used a hidden camera to document troubling behaviour at several locations.

​Retired Vancouver public health inspector Domenic Losito was alarmed by footage showing garbage strewn all over the kitchen floor at one restaurant.

​“At least try to get the garbage in the garbage can, but – I think I would have walked into this place, walked out and filed a closure notice right away. I just – it’s just unacceptable,” he said.

Restaurants Canada, the group representing the restaurant industry, refused to speak on camera about the investigation.

The group opposes the public posting of inspection grades, such as those used by Toronto Public Health in its award-winning DineSafe program. In Toronto, restaurants are required to post inspection results where patrons can see them. The DineSafe cards are colour-coded (green for “pass,” yellow for “conditional pass,” and red for “closed”) to make results easy to understand.

Restaurants Canada says the yellow cards are “problematic and misleading” because there are many factors that depend on subjective assessment and that grades present an oversimplified picture of safety.

The group says that consumers who want to know how a restaurant has performed during inspections should access the reports online.

While many jurisdictions make inspection reports available online, some do not make results public.

Stick it in with a thermometer, not a finger (yours or anyone else’s)

Canada’s version of state-sponsored jazz, CBC Radio, is the latest entrant in the terrible food safety advice category.

After several minutes of seductive food porn talk about the perfect burger, food and nutritionist columnist Julie Van Rosendaal said on CBC Calgary morning rare.hamburgerradio show, The Eyeopener, on April 30, 2012, I don’t know anyone who checks burgers with a thermometer.

One of the hosts had opined that people are told to get their burgers well-done, yet this one looks medium rare.

Van Rosendaal derisively pooh-poohed the question, saying something about the temperature should be 160F, adding that, “I don’t know many people who stick a meat thermometer in their burger,” and that cooks can tell when it’s done when it springs back when you touch the patty, rather than a finger sliding into the patty.

The clip is 7:48 long, and they start talking about this at 5:30. It’s available at http://www.cbc.ca/video/news/audioplayer.html?clipid=2382534459.

Color is a lousy indicator of hamburger safety. So is finger-banging beef. Use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer and stick it in. The refs are all here.

bites_stick_it_in(40)

Nosestretcher alert: CBC (that’s in Canada) sucks at food safety info

I was on a trip with some Kansas Staters earlier this week, and at a dinner, one of them started talking about a report he’d heard on NPR (National Public Radio) earlier that week.

I said, “State-sponsored jazz.”

He looked at me like I was special, because, how hard is it to repeat lines from the Colbert Report.

Satire, like the Intertubes, is lost on some people.

The Vancouver television section of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) ran a bunch of food safety stories in the run-up to Canadian Thanksgiving on Oct. 11, 2010. An astute reader e-mailed me to say, “You may want to check out their ‘food-safety facts.’” I have no idea where these alleged facts came from, but the BS highlights include:

2. "Pot luck meals are responsible for a large amount of food poisonings. They are usually caused by poor food temperature controls in egg or meat products."

4. "Harmful bacteria does not stop multiplying unless refrigerated below 5 degrees. However, most refrigerators are not capable of this temperature."

7. "Do not eat foods directly from a jar or can. Saliva can contaminate the contents inside."

8. "Peanut butter needs to be stored in a refrigerator after opening to prevent the fats from going rancid.”

None of these facts are substantiated, and there is plenty of available evidence to counter these claims. As the reader points out, nothing is mentioned about cross-contamination or handwashing.

Hate is a strong word, but I hate jazz. Especially state-sponsored jazz. And terrible taxpayer-funded news.
 

More mice, now in a Toronto pastry tray

Here’s one from east-end Toronto that I missed last week but Coldmud picked up from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – hockey and state-sponsored jazz).

Amateur photographer Borys Machinkowski’s photo (right, exactly as shown) shows a mouse popping out of a space between two trays of pastries sitting in the display case of Bakery On the Go at the Warden Toronto

Machinkowski. a 20-year-old Centennial College student, said in a blog post that he noticed the rodent while he and some friends were sitting in the coffee shop waiting for another friend to arrive.

Machinkowski said he pointed out the mouse to the employee working at the coffee shop, but the employee continued to sell food.

Machinkowski and his friends started telling customers about the mouse and showing them the photo they had taken.

"Being thoroughly disgusted, we decided to warn everyone who would listen that we just saw a mouse in plain sight and showed them the picture each time. They were grateful they hadn’t eaten what they had bought yet."

Their warnings stopped after a man arrived, and he turned out to be the eatery’s manager.

"Finally, another man came in and we continued our mission to warn people. We told him about the mouse and he said, ‘Huh? This is subway station. You see mice sometime. So what?’ in an irritated tone. Then we showed him the picture and his face froze. It turned out he was the manager and he promptly told us to get out, but we didn’t until they turned off the lights and closed the store for fear they’d continue selling food to people."

During an inspection by Toronto Public Health on Aug. 27, the bakery was given a conditional pass. Inspectors cited it for failure to protect food from contamination and inadequate temperature controls.