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.

 

1 dead, 18 sick: Raw frozen chicken thingies strike again, in Canada

Sofina Foods Inc. of London, Ontario (that’s in Canada, not the UK), is recalling Janes brand frozen uncooked breaded chicken products from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

This recall was triggered by findings by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) during its investigation into a foodborne illness outbreak. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

Recalled products

Brand Name//Common Name//Size//Code(s) on Product//UPC

Janes//Pub Style Chicken Burgers – Uncooked Breaded Chicken Burgers//800 g//2018 MA 12//0 69299 12491 0

Janes//Pub Style Snacks Popcorn Chicken – Uncooked Breaded Chicken Cutlettes//800 g//2018 MA 15//0 69299 12542 9

The agency said frozen raw breaded chicken products may look pre-cooked, but they contain raw poultry and must be cooked correctly.

Been there, done that.

As we found back in 2007, when preparing frozen foods, adolescents are less likely than adults to wash their hands and are more susceptible to cross-contaminating raw foods while cooking.

“While half of the adults we observed washed their hands after touching raw chicken, none of the adolescents did,” said Casey Jacob, a food safety research assistant at Kansaas State. “The non-existent hand washing rate, combined with certain age-specific behaviors like hair flipping and scratching in a variety of areas, could lead directly to instances of cross-contamination compared to the adults.”

Food safety isn’t simple, and instructions for safe handling of frozen chicken entrees or strips are rarely followed by consumers despite their best intentions, said Doug Powell, K-State associate professor of food safety who led the study.

As the number and type of convenience meal solutions increases — check out the frozen food section of a local supermarket — the researchers found a need to understand how both adults and adolescents are preparing these products and what can be done to enhance the safety of frozen foods.

In 2007, K-State researchers developed a novel video capture system to observe the food preparation practices of 41 consumers – 21 primary meal preparers and 20 adolescents – in a mock domestic kitchen using frozen, uncooked, commercially available breaded chicken products. The researchers wanted to determine actual food handling behavior of these two groups in relation to safe food handling practices and instructions provided on product labels. Self-report surveys were used to determine whether differences exist between consumers’ reported food handling practices and observed behavior.

The research appeared in the November 2009 issue of the British Food Journal. In addition to Jacob and Powell, the authors were: Sarah DeDonder, K-State doctoral student in pathobiology; Brae Surgeoner, Powell’s former graduate student; Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University and Powell’s former graduate student; and Randall Phebus, K-State professor of animal science and industry.

Beyond the discrepancy between adult and adolescent food safety practices, the researchers also found that even when provided with instructions, food preparers don’t follow them. They may not have even seen them or they assume they know what to do.

“Our results suggest that while labels might contain correct risk-reduction steps, food manufacturers have to make that information as compelling as possible or it will be ignored,” Chapman said.

They also found that observational research using discreet video recording is far more accurate than self-reported surveys. For example, while almost all of the primary meal preparers reported washing hands after every instance in which they touched raw poultry, only half were observed washing hands correctly after handling chicken products in the study.

Powell said that future work will examine the effectiveness of different food safety labels, messages and delivery mechanisms on consumer behavior in their home kitchens.

 Self-reported and observed behavior of primary meal preparers and adolescents during preparation of frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products

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

Abstract:

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.

Who wants to market lousy food: Food safety and promotion, yes they go together

Ron Doering, the creator of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and its first president, writes in this column for Food in Canada that, in a recent column I wrote on the occasion of the 20th birthday of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), I proudly concluded that the CFIA had mostly met its original objectives. Since then I have received several responses from industry leaders suggesting I was overly generous in my assessment. Several responses focused particularly on one complaint: that too many at the CFIA seemed to have forgotten that in addition to its primary role to protect the health and safety of Canadians, the CFIA also has a clear legislative mandate to help the commercial linterests of Canadian industry.

From the very beginning of the 1995 consultations with industry, all sectors expressed grave concern that while con­solidating 16 programs delivered by four different departments might promote efficiency and effectiveness and provide a single point of contact for consumers, industry and the provinces, such consolida­tion might also result in an erosion of the longstanding understanding that while safe food was the overarching priority, all programs also had an important role in promoting the commercial health of the various sectors. To answer this fear, we changed the draft legislation to specify that the minister responsible for the CFIA would be the minister of Agriculture, and we built right into the legislation that the CFIA’s mandate included the “promotion of trade and commerce.” Without this solemn promise to industry, it’s unlikely that the CFIA would have been created.

Of course, except in situations where consumer health and safety is threatened, such as in a case of an outbreak of foodborne illness, inspecting for safe food and promoting market access are not conflicting objectives. The most important marketing advantage for the Canadian food industry is Canada’s repu­tation for safe food and the credibility of our rigorous regulatory system. Putting the whole food chain — seeds, feeds, fertilizer, plant protection, animal health, and all food commodities including fish — under the same umbrella agency created a real opportunity for a more comprehensive and focused approach to promoting international market access for Canadian products. Moreover, still unique in the world, we would have one agency to negotiate equivalency agree­ments and other arrangements for access. Many products can only be exported if they first receive CFIA certification. That is how we export food, plants and animals to over 100 countries, usually without re-inspection.

After raising this issue in my speech at the recent annual meeting of the Canadian Meat Council, many participants confirmed the problem and stressed that it has been seriously worsening in the last three years since the Conservative govern­ment changed the primary reporting relationship of the CFIA to the minister of Health. One industry leader insisted that it was obvious that since then “the CFIA is giving less time, resources and attention to industry’s commercial needs.” Another reported that “most CFIA inspectors now seem to think their sole job is consumer protection, and market access is just not part of their job.” Another added that “increasingly, and particularly in the last few years, the culture of the CFIA is that they’re in the public health business; the health of the industry is none of their concern.”

There is a great deal of talk these days about the potential for Canada to be an agri-food powerhouse. Canadians can’t eat much more food, so the key is to increase exports. Our industry is up to the task, but the agri-food business (unlike many other industry sectors) cannot even begin to achieve its potential unless the government does its job to:

  1. Provide a clear, responsive and well implemented regulatory system that will serve to improve competitiveness, enhance investment and promote innovation; and
  2. Remind the CFIA that it is also its responsibility to help industry gain greater market access and then adequately resource this function.

Meat industry leaders tell me that they have already met the new CFIA president and stressed the need to change attitudes and to reinvigorate the market access function. This is a good start, but real progress will require a united and sustained push.

Food fraud in Canada

I love Canada except for the ridiculous sub-zero temperatures we get here in the winter-Powell and Chapman can attest to this having lived in Ontario.
Canada is not immune to food fraud and with increase testing of food products, we’ll see just how bad it is. A study conducted by Sylvain Charlebois, the dean of the Faculty of Management and professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University indicates that more than 40 per cent of Canadians believe to have been victims of food fraud already.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. – Mahatma Gandhi

Liam Casey of the Globe and Mail writes

A federally funded study has found that 20 per cent of sausages sampled from grocery stores across Canada contained meats that weren’t on the label.
The study, published this week in the journal Food Control, was conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph and commissioned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
It examined 100 sausages that were labelled as containing just one ingredient – beef, pork, chicken or turkey.
“About one in five of the sausages we tested had some off-label ingredients in them, which is alarming,” said Robert Hanner, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph.
The CFIA reached out to Prof. Hanner for the study after the European horse meat scandal in 2013, where food labelled as beef was found to have horse meat – in some cases beef was completely substituted by horse meat.
The goal of the study, the federal food regulator said, was to examine scientific methods used by Prof. Hanner to see if the CFIA could use them in its regulatory practices. The scientific tools showed promising results, the CFIA said.
Seven of 27 beef sausages examined in the study contained pork. One of 38 supposedly pure pork sausages contained horse meat. Of 20 chicken sausages, four also contained turkey and one also had beef. Five of the 15 turkey sausages studied contained no turkey at all – they were entirely chicken.
None of the sausages examined contained more than one other type of meat in addition to the meat the sausage was meant to contain, Prof. Hanner said, noting, however that researchers were only testing for turkey, chicken, pork, beef and horse.
“The good news is that typically beef sausages predominantly contain beef, but some of them also contain pork, so for our kosher and halal consumers, that is a bit disconcerting,” Prof. Hanner said.

The undeclared meats found weren’t trace levels, Prof. Hanner noted.
“The levels we’re seeing aren’t because the blades on a grinder aren’t perfectly clean,” he said, adding that many of the undeclared ingredients found in the sausages were recorded in the range of 1 per cent to 5 per cent.
More than one per cent of undeclared ingredients indicates a breakdown in food processing or intentional food fraud, Prof. Hanner explained.

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.