Flour power: Raw is risky

When I was a kid, I had this multi-colored swim towel that stated Flower Power (right, not exactly as shown).

I should have known that if a 1960s slogan had been co-opted by towel manufacturers in the early 1970s, it was a sign of corporate greed rather than earth-tone sentiment.

For the past decade, raw flour has increasingly come under the food safety microscope.

Flour was suspect in a 2008 outbreak of Salmonella in New Zealand. In June, 2009, an outbreak of shiga-toxin producing E. coli (primarily O157:H7) in Nestle Toll House cookie dough sickened at least 77 people in 30 American states. Thirty-five people were hospitalized – from flour in the cookie dough.

Hemp seed flour sickened 15 Germans in 2010.

There was the U.S. General Mills outbreak of 2016 which sickened at least 56 people with the outbreak strain of E. coli O121 and O26, followed by a separate outbreak of E. coli O121 in Robin Hood flour in Canada in late 2016 going into 2017, that sickened at least 29.

It’s this latter outbreak that has journalist Jim Romahn’s attention.

Romahn writes the release of 759 pages of mostly e-mails indicates there was a massive effort involved in a recall of flour milled in Saskatoon that was contaminated with E. coli O121.

Twenty-two Canadians were identified as sickened by the flour, including one key case where the person consumed raw dough.

With hindsight, health officials were able to determine the first person sickened was Nov. 13, 2016. The others sickened and linked to the flour were between then and Feb. 26, 2017.

Robin Hood flour was identified as the source in March and on March 26 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency began a recall that eventually grew to scores of brand-name products across Canada and even an export shipment to Guyana.

The recall involved a number of major companies, such as Smucker Foods of Toronto and the Sobeys supermarket chain.

There were some unusual difficulties, including the challenge of contacting Mennonites who have no telephones.

The investigation and lab results eventually traced the source to flour milled at Ardent’s Saskatoon plant on Oct. 15, 16 and 17.

A high percentage of packages of flour milled on those dates turned up with E. coli O121.

But even then it’s not clear where the wheat originated.

Ardent Mills said it was probably spring wheat, but it could have also contained soft wheat, and that it probably was from the 2016 harvest, but might have had some wheat from the 2015 harvest.

That’s reflective of the amount of blending that happens both with the wheat used in milling and the flours that are blended into products for sale.

The documents were released under Access to Information at the request of a woman who spent time in a hospital in Medicine Hat, Alta.

 An Outbreak of Shiga Toxin–Producing Escherichia coli O121 Infections Associated with Flour – Canada, 2016–2017

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017; 66: 705–706

Morton V, Cheng JM, Sharma D, Kearney A.

People barfing: Listeria in Deli Classic brand Seasoned Cooked Roast Beef Round in Canada

There was this one time, about 5 years ago, and I had to go to emergency to get 13 stiches after falling while trying to teach Sorenne to ride a bicycle, and Dr. Monty Python said, “merely a flesh wound.”

I was back 8 hours later for an additional 10 stiches cause it was still bleeding.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency there have been reported illnesses associated with a product similar to Erie Meat Products Ltd. Deli Classic brand Seasoned Cooked Roast Beef Round however, at this time, there have been no confirmed illnesses associated with the product identified in this Food Recall Warning.

Uh-huh.

The Canadians are like their Commonwealth breathen, the Australians, in that the food regulators leave it up to the heath regulators to say if someone is sick from food.

At least in Canada the food types will say if someone is sick, whereas the Australian food types say, nothing to see here, move along.

But, Canadian regulatory types refuse to say how many are sick, leaving that to the health folks: shouldn’t a government be able to deliver a clear, consistent message?

Canada’s Good Butcher not so good: E. coli O157:H7 found in lean ground beef

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public not to consume the products described below due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

Check to see if you have the products in your home. If the products are in your home, do not consume them.

This warning was triggered by CFIA test results. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of these or other products. If products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through a Food Recall Warning.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

Use a thermometer: Canada to improve labelling on frozen chicken thingies

I’m old.

My ribs hurt, my body hurts, I can’t butterfly like Tony O, and I’m writing about stuff I had ideas for 12 years ago.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), along with their federal food safety partners, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as industry, remind Canadians about the importance of always fully cooking frozen raw breaded poultry products prior to consumption, as well as using proper food handling techniques and following cooking instructions to limit the risk of foodborne illnesses as salmonella is commonly found in raw chicken and frozen raw breaded chicken products.

That’s a terrible sentence.

Just use a fucking thermometer.

In the last 10 years the incidence of salmonella illness in Canada has steadily increased. This increase has been driven by Salmonella enteritidis (SE), the most common strain of salmonella in the food supply that is often associated with poultry. 

While frozen raw breaded chicken products often appear to be “pre-cooked” or “ready-to-eat,” these products contain raw chicken and are intended to be handled and prepared the same way as other raw poultry. The safety of these products rests with the consumer who is expected to cook it, according to the directions on the package.

In 2015, industry voluntarily developed additional labelling on frozen raw breaded chicken products that included more prominent and consistent messaging, such as “raw,” “uncooked” or “must be cooked” as well as explicit instructions not to microwave the product and they voluntarily introduced adding cooking instructions on the inner-packaging bags.

“The CFIA is proud to be working side-by-side with our industry partners to protect the health of Canadians from the ongoing risks of salmonella infection associated with frozen raw breaded chicken products. “

Dr. Aline Dimitri, Deputy Chief Food Safety Officer of Canada

Someone got paid to write this press release?

Use a fucking thermometer.

Direct video observation of adults and tweens cooking raw frozen chicken thingies

01.nov.09

British Food Journal, Vol 111, Issue 9, p 915-929

Sarah DeDonder, Casey J. Jacob, Brae V. Surgeoner, Benjamin Chapman, Randall Phebus, Douglas A. Powell

http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do;jsessionid=6146E6AFABCC349C376B7E55A3866D4A?contentType=Article&contentId=1811820


Purpose – The purpose of the present study was to observe the preparation practices of both adult and young consumers using frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products, which were previously involved in outbreaks linked to consumer mishandling. The study also sought to observe behaviors of adolescents as home food preparers. Finally, the study aimed to compare food handler behaviors with those prescribed on product labels.


Design/methodology/approach – The study sought, through video observation and self-report surveys, to determine if differences exist between consumers’ intent and actual behavior.

Findings – A survey study of consumer reactions to safe food-handling labels on raw meat and poultry products suggested that instructions for safe handling found on labels had only limited influence on consumer practices. The labels studied by these researchers were found on the packaging of chicken products examined in the current study alongside step-by-step cooking instructions. Observational techniques, as mentioned above, provide a different perception of consumer behaviors.

Originality/value – This paper finds areas that have not been studied in previous observational research and is an excellent addition to existing literature.

 

Norovirus-contaminated raspberries likely caused deaths, sickened hundreds, in Quebec last summer

Frozen raspberries imported from China made hundreds of people sick in Quebec last summer and probably resulted in multiple deaths, according to a recent public health report. 

The infected fruits led to a wave of recalls in August 2017 by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency because they had been used by a variety of food processors such as brewers, pastry chefs and ice cream makers and had been cooked in hospital cafeterias and residences for seniors.

The raspberries were contaminated by Norovirus. At least 724 Quebecers fell ill, a number that may represent just “the tip of the iceberg” 

According to Dr. Yves Jalbert, director of public health protection at the Quebec health ministry, it is clear that there were deaths over this period. No specific number has been given. Public health officials in Quebec do not track the progress of each infected patient. 

Sexy: Lots of erectile dysfunction in Canadians as Health Canada warns of poppers and sex aides

Health Canada is advising Canadians about unauthorized health products that may pose serious health risks. The table below is updated when Health Canada finds unauthorized health products that are promoted for sexual enhancement, weight loss, as a workout aid, or as “poppers,” and that are labelled to contain or have been tested and found to contain dangerous ingredients.

Unauthorized health products have not been approved by Health Canada, which means that they have not been assessed for safety, effectiveness and quality. Unauthorized health products can pose many health dangers, including:

“Poppers” is a slang term for products that contain alkyl nitrites. Despite being labelled for various uses such as leather cleaners, room odourizers or liquid incense, these products are inhaled or ingested by consumers for recreational purposes. Alkyl nitrites, such as amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite, are prescription drugs and should be used only under the supervision of a health care professional. Products containing alkyl nitrites may pose serious risks, including death, depending on the amount used, how frequently they are used and how long they are used for, as well as the person’s health and the other medications they may be taking. Since it is difficult to control how much is inhaled, people can accidentally overdose. Swallowing these products can lead to serious medical complications and may be fatal. People with certain medical conditions (including recent head trauma, bleeding into the head, glaucoma, or heart disease) and those taking certain medications (particularly drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction, and other drugs such as high blood pressure medications, certain migraine drugs, and high doses of aspirin) or illicit drugs are at particular risk.

Sildenafil is a prescription drug used to treat erectile dysfunction and should be used only under the supervision of a health care professional. It should not be used by individuals taking any kind of nitrate drug (e.g. nitroglycerine) as it can cause potentially life-threatening low blood pressure. Individuals with heart problems are at increased risk of cardiovascular side effects such as heart attack, stroke, chest pain, high blood pressure and abnormal heartbeat. Other possible side effects include headache, facial flushing, indigestion, dizziness, abnormal vision, and hearing loss.

Tadalafil is a prescription drug used to treat erectile dysfunction and should be used only under the supervision of a health care professional. It should not be used by individuals taking any kind of nitrate drug (e.g. nitroglycerine) as it can cause potentially life-threatening low blood pressure. Individuals with heart problems are at increased risk of cardiovascular side effects such as heart attack, stroke, chest pain, high blood pressure and abnormal heartbeat. Other possible side effects include headache, facial flushing, indigestion, dizziness, abnormal vision, and hearing loss.

Thyroid is a prescription drug ingredient commonly used to treat decreased or absent thyroid function, called hypothyroidism. Products containing thyroid hormone should be used with caution in patients also using medication to treat diabetes and blood clotting. There is also a risk to patients with cardiac conditions such as angina pectoris, high blood pressure and in the elderly as they have a greater likelihood of heart conditions.

Vardenafil is a prescription drug used to treat erectile dysfunction and should be used only under the supervision of a health care professional. It should not be used by individuals taking any kind of nitrate drug (e.g. nitroglycerine) as it can cause potentially life-threatening low blood pressure. Individuals with heart problems are at increased risk of cardiovascular side effects such as heart attack, stroke, chest pain, high blood pressure and abnormal heartbeat. Other possible side effects include headache, facial flushing, indigestion, dizziness, abnormal vision, and hearing loss.

Yohimbine is a prescription drug and should be used only under the supervision of a health care professional. Yohimbine is derived from yohimbe, a bark extract. The use of yohimbine or yohimbe may result in serious adverse reactions, particularly in people with high blood pressure, or heart, kidney or liver disease. Side effects include increased blood pressure and heart rate, anxiety, dizziness, tremors, headache, nausea and sleep disorders. It should not be used by children, or pregnant or nursing women.

Zopiclone is a prescription drug used to treat insomnia. Side effects associated with zopiclone include unpleasant taste, drowsiness, dizziness, memory loss and hallucinations.

Confused consumers: Canadians say E. coli in romaine outbreak is over; U.S. says it’s leafy greens

Outbreaks of foodborne illness are fraught with uncertainties.

It’s OK to admit, to do the best with the info available, and get on with things.

On January 10, 2018, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infections (STEC O157:H7) they had identified was linked to romaine lettuce appears to be over.

As of January 10, 2018, there were 42 cases of E. coli O157 illness reported in five eastern provinces. Individuals became sick in November and early December 2017. Seventeen individuals were hospitalized. One individual died.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control, several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continue to investigate a multistate outbreak of 24 STEC O157:H7 infections in 15 states. Since CDC’s initial media statement on December 28, seven more illnesses have been added to this investigation. The last reported illness started on December 12, 2017.

The likely source of the outbreak in the United States appears to be leafy greens, but officials have not specifically identified a type of leafy greens eaten by people who became ill.  Leafy greens typically have a short shelf life, and since the last illness started a month ago, it is likely that contaminated leafy greens linked to this outbreak are no longer available for sale. Canada identified romaine lettuce as the source of illnesses there, but the source of the romaine lettuce or where it became contaminated is unknown.

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that the STEC O157:H7 strain from ill people in the United States is closely related genetically to the STEC O157:H7 strain from ill people in Canada. WGS data alone are not sufficient to prove a link; health officials rely on other sources of data, such as interviews from ill people, to support the WGS link. This investigation is ongoing. Because CDC has not identified a specific type of leafy greens linked to the U.S. infections, and because of the short shelf life of leafy greens, CDC is not recommending that U.S. residents avoid any particular food at this time.

In the United States, a total of 24 STEC O157:H7 infections have been reported. Among the 18 ill people for whom CDC has information, nine were hospitalized, including one person in California who died. Two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

The Public Health Agency of Canada identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada. In the United States, the likely source of the outbreak appears to be leafy greens, but health officials have not identified a specific type of leafy greens that sick people ate in common.

State and local public health officials continue to interview sick people in the United States to determine what they ate in the week before their illness started. Of 13 people interviewed, all 13 reported eating leafy greens. Five (56%) of nine ill people specifically reported eating romaine lettuce. This percentage was not significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 46% reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before they were interviewed.  Based on this information, U.S. health officials concluded that ill people in this outbreak were not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine lettuce.  Ill people also reported eating different types and brands of romaine lettuce. Currently, no common supplier, distributor, or retailer of leafy greens has been identified as a possible source of the outbreak. CDC continues to work with regulatory partners in several states, at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to identify the source.

Although the most recent illness started on December 12, there is a delay between when someone gets sick and when the illness is reported to CDC. For STEC O157:H7 infections, this period can be two to three weeks. Holidays can increase this delay. Because of these reporting delays, more time is needed before CDC can say the outbreak in the United Stated is over. This investigation is ongoing.

Salmonella found by USDA in Canadian deli products

Piller’s Fine Foods, a Waterloo, Canada establishment, is recalling approximately 1,076 pounds of ready-to-eat salami and speck products that may be adulterated with Salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The problem was discovered when an FSIS sample of the ready-to-eat salami product was confirmed positive for Salmonella. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

The ready-to-eat speck prosciutto and salami items were produced on Sept. 22 and Oct. 12, 2017, respectively. The following products are subject to recall:

Vacuum-sealed random weight plastic packages containing “Black Kassel Piller’s Dry Aged D’Amour Salami” with Best Before date of May 12, 2018

Vacuum-sealed random weight plastic packages containing “Black Kassel Piller’s Dry Aged Speck Smoked Prosciutto” with Best Before date of May 12, 2018.

These items were produced in Canada and were shipped to distribution centers in California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New York.         

Listeria triggers major recall of veggies across US and Canada

A leading vegetable supplier in California, Mann Packing, voluntarily recalled products that might have been contaminated with Listeria.

The recall affects packaged produce at multiple supermarkets across the United States and Canada including Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Meijer, Albertson’s and Safeway.

Mann Packing is issuing this recall out of an abundance of caution,” the company said in a statement, adding that it is cooperating with U.S. and Canadian health officials to recall the products.

No illnesses have been linked to the products, the company said. The contamination risk was picked up by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency through random sampling.

The affected items were listed as “best if used by” October 11 to October 20.

About 1,600 people become infected with listeria each year, and about 260 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

100 sickened: Why I hate text and always told students to check e-mail: Missed e-mail leads to Norovirus outbreak

Back around 2002, when my lab and responsibilities were growing exponentially, the hardest thing to teach any new student was this: check your e-mail.

Every 5 minutes.

(It would have been every minute, but the IT nerds at the university said no one needs that, it can wait. Which is why they’re on university timelines.)

We were on-call for grocery stores, ran the national food safety hotline, and whether I was golfing or hanging with the kids, I was always accessible.

I hate text.

I hate Facebook.

Hate is a strong word, but apt in this situation.

Chapman says now, there’s a whole generation that missed e-mail.

But since I had it from the late 1980s, it was always crucial.

And still is.

Radio-Canada reports that an email miscommunication led to an outbreak of norovirus that affected more than 100 people at a long-term care facility in Rouyn-Noranda in early August.

Patients and staff at the home were served peach and raspberry compote on Aug. 2 and 4.

A few hours later, 26 people showed symptoms of gastroenteritis.

Over the next 10 days, between Aug. 4 and 14, 61 patients and 48 employees at the facility fell ill.

The Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region had been notified that the raspberries were subject to a recall because they were suspected of being contaminated with norovirus.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency emailed the facility about the recall on July 20, according to access to information requests obtained by Radio-Canada.

But that email was only sent to one person and that person didn’t relay the information to the kitchen staff.

The facility wouldn’t say why the message didn’t get to the kitchen.

The interim head of IT services for the facility, Stéphane Lachapelle, says more people have been added to its mailing list.