Low levels of Salmonella in sprouted chia can cause big problems (I miss Phil Hartman)

Despite the increasing popularity of sprouted chia and flax seed powders, no data have been reported on their intrinsic physicochemical properties and background microflora.

chiahead11Here, we report the moisture content, water activity, pH, and fatty acid methyl ester and bacteriological profiles of 19 sprouted chia and flax seed samples, 10 of which were associated with an outbreak of salmonellosis in Canada and the United States. The physicochemical parameters of the Salmonella-positive samples did not differ significantly from those of the negative samples. However, the higher Enterobacteriaceae and coliform levels on the contaminated powders were associated with the presence of Salmonella. Enumeration of Salmonella by the most probable number (MPN) method revealed concentrations ranging from 1 MPN per 3 g of powder to 1 MPN per 556 g of powder.

The results of this study demonstrate that low numbers of Salmonella may be linked to foodborne outbreaks.

Physicochemical and bacteriological characteristics of organic sprouted chia and flax seed powders implicated in a foodborne salmonellosis outbreak

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 5, May 2016, pp. 696-889, pp. 703-709(7)

Tamber, Sandeep; Swist, Eleonora; Oudit, Denise

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/iafp/jfp/2016/00000079/00000005/art00002

I pity the fool: Flax & chia seed powder recalled due to Salmonella contamination

Health Matter America, based in New York state, is recalling specific lots of Organic Traditions Sprouted Flax Seed Powder & Organic Traditions Sprouted Chia & Flax Seed Powder because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.

chia.mr.tThe affected products were distributed nationwide in flexible plastic bags.

Included are the following products:

Organic traditions SPROUTED FLAX SEED POWDER, NET WT. 8 oz./227g, UPC barcode 854260006261; Lots AHM626151103 Exp. 09/2017, AHM626151229 Exp.10/2017 (lot number located near UPC barcode on back of bag);

Organic traditions SPROUTED CHIA & FLAX SEED POWDER, NET WT. 8 oz./227g; UPC barcode 854260006216; Lots AHM621151217 Exp. 10/2017; AHM621151229 Exp. 10/2017 (lot number located near UPC barcode on back of bag);

chia.seed.powderOrganic traditions SPROUTED CHIA & FLAX SEED POWDER, NET WT. 16oz./454g bag, UPC barcode 854260005479; Lot AHM547151217 Exp. 10/2017 (lot number located near UPC barcode on back of bag).

No illnesses have been reported to date. The company says random samples taken by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) from retail stores in Canada tested positive for Salmonella.

63 sick; Canadian health types say Salmonella chia infections over

The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that in total, 63 cases of Salmonella infection were reported as part of this outbreak and that sprouted chia seed powder was the source of the illnesses. Sprouted chia seed powder is made from dried, ground, sprouted chia seeds.

chia.mr.tThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported in mid-July that 25 Americans were sick.

Given that no new cases have occurred since the beginning of July, this outbreak appears to be over and the investigation is now closed.

In Canada, four strains of Salmonella were associated with this outbreak: Salmonella Newport, Salmonella Hartford, Salmonella Oranienburg, and Salmonella Saintpaul. In total, 63 cases were reported in British Columbia (14), Alberta (10), Ontario (35) and Quebec (4). Twelve cases were hospitalized; nine cases were discharged and have recovered or are recovering. No deaths were reported.

Are chia (pet) seeds safe?

When I think chia seeds, I think chia pet head with hairstyles by Lyle Lovett or the dude from Eraserhead.

But when a microbiologist and cook marries a French professor, anything is eraserheadpossible.

I prefer fun with fermentations, but Amy’s trying this largely lactose and gluten reduced diet because of diagnosed intolerances. I’m old but can try some new things.

A couple of French professors from Wales who were in New York for years and now Adelaide came to visit for the weekend to take in the British Lions versus the Queensland Reds rugby match Saturday night.

We entertained them at the ocean (low tide) and I woke up early and tried lyle.lovett.hairsome new approaches to baking for breakfast.

The muffins on the right are primarily buckwheat flour, with some quinoa and coconut flour, a bunch of fruit, and stuff.

The things on the left are polenta rolls, with some quinoa, garlic, rosemary, and, chia seeds.

Both made with soy milk and lime.

And now that chia seeds are widely available and favored by hispsters, it’s a good idea the UK Food Standards Agency is going to evaluate their safety.

Infoods Ltd (based in the UK). It is requesting an opinion from the Agency on the ‘equivalence’ of their chia seeds, which are grown in particular regions of South America, with the chia seeds grown in Australia and marketed by The Chia Company.

The European Novel Foods Regulation includes a simplified approval procedure for when a company believes its novel food is substantially IMG_0419
equivalent to a food that is already on the market. In such a situation, the applicant can submit a notification to the European Commission after obtaining an opinion on equivalence from an EU Member State – in this case the UK.

Chia is a summer annual herbaceous plant belonging to the Labiatae family. The plant grows from a seedling to develop lush green foliage before it produces long flowers that are either purple or, less commonly, white. These flowers develop into seed pods to produce chia seeds. Although chia is grown commercially in several Latin American countries and Australia, the seeds have not been consumed to a significant degree in Europe.

The applicants’ chia seeds will be used in the same products as those for which approval was granted earlier this year for The Chia Company’s seeds (bread products, breakfast cereal, fruit, nut and seed mixes and bread and 100% packaged chia seeds).

dp.beach.jun.13

When gourmet means no sprouts

Friday I had to grab a quick lunch, so I joined a colleague at the “UQ Refec” (University of Queensland – that’s in Australia – food court in American lingo) to buy a sandwich. She had one in hand within a few seconds while I picked over the containers. The delicious looking wraps all had sprouts. Some were labeled with all ingredients, including alfalfa, but some were simply called Chicken and Salad and still contained sprouts. I rejected a chicken caesar sandwich because it cost $2 more for the same amount of food. While frantically trying to make a decision, I attempted to explain, in French, the dangers of sprouts and my decision not to eat them. I do enjoy the taste, but there are just too many people getting sick.

Finally, I settled on a sliced roast pork, shaved carrots and cucumber sandwich. It, too, was $2 more but sprout-free. Apparently gourmet means no sprout filler.

We returned to our office to discuss work over lunch. I cracked open my sandwich only to realize it was made on chia seed bread. At least the bread was cooked.

A table of sprout-related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/sprouts-associated-outbreaks

When gourmet means no sprouts

Friday I had to grab a quick lunch, so I joined a colleague at the “UQ Refec” (University of Queensland – that’s in Australia – food court in American lingo) to buy a sandwich. She had one in hand within a few seconds while I picked over the containers. The delicious looking wraps all had sprouts. Some were labeled with all ingredients, including alfalfa, but some were simply called Chicken and Salad and still contained sprouts. I rejected a chicken caesar sandwich because it cost $2 more for the same amount of food. While frantically trying to make a decision, I attempted to explain, in French, the dangers of sprouts and my decision not to eat them. I do enjoy the taste, but there are just too many people getting sick.

Finally, I settled on a sliced roast pork, shaved carrots and cucumber sandwich. It, too, was $2 more but sprout-free. Apparently gourmet means no sprout filler.

We returned to our office to discuss work over lunch. I cracked open my sandwich only to realize it was made on chia seed bread. At least the bread was cooked.

A table of sprout-related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/sprouts-associated-outbreaks

Where’s the data? Chia seeds all the rage, but are they microbiologically safe?

The Food Network, which always trumpets porn over safety, is jumping on the chia seed gush-fest.

But we can’t find any safety data.

Chapman wrote about it last month, the UK Food Standards Agency has at least asked for comment before approving chia seed as a food, and the rest is gush.

It’s one thing to sprout seed on a Mr. T head; it’s another to put it in a shake. Are there food grade standards for edible chia? If it’s anything like sprouts, the seeds are the problem, originating who-knows-where, and with a potential to wreak microbiological havoc.

J.M. Hirsch, the national food editor for The Associated Press, writes for the Food Network blog that, “chia seeds — which are a relative of sage — resemble poppy seeds, but have a nuttier, less assertive flavor. They have gobs of fiber and a fair amount of protein.

"The seeds were a staple of the Aztecs, who roasted and ground the seeds, then mixed them with water to form a porridge or a meal for making cakes.

"Chia seeds’ reputation for providing sustained energy — as well as plenty of nutrients — more recently have turned them into the darling of the fitness world.

"They also have shown up in a growing number of products in natural foods shops, from protein bars and baked goods to drinks such as kombucha.”

And so on. It’s up to proponents to provide the microbiological data to support safety.

Does chia carry the same microbial risks as sprouted seeds/beans?

As a child of the 80s my after school TV viewing was peppered with G.I. Joe, Voltron and Three’s Company reruns. And commercials for Chia Pets and other chia items. Even with the advertisement blasts I didn’t get the allure. A couple of weeks ago, friend of barfblog and Nebraska-based environmental health officer extraordinaire Troy Huffman emailed Doug and I about the newest health food craze (as seen on Dr. Oz) – eating Chia seeds.

According to wikipedia, chia (Salvia hispanica) is related to mint and is eaten in parts of central america as a food source (either ground or whole).

Today, U.K.’s FSA published a request for comment on an application by The Chia Company, an Australian firm that would like approval to market the seeds in baked goods, breakfast cereals and other mixed seed/nut products.

Chia (also known as Salvia hispanica) is a summer annual herbaceous plant belonging to the mint family. Chia is grown commercially in several Latin American countries and Australia, but the chia seed has not been consumed to a significant degree in the European Union and is therefore considered to be a novel food.

A novel food is a food or food ingredient that does not have a significant history of consumption within the European Union before 15 May 1997.

Before any new food product can be introduced on the European market, it must be assessed rigorously for safety. In the UK, the assessment of novel foods is carried out by the ACNFP, an independent committee of scientists appointed by the FSA.

The ACNFP has considered this application and has formulated a positive draft opinion. Any comments on this draft opinion should be emailed to [email protected] by Friday 9 March 2012. The comments will be considered by the committee when it concludes its assessment of this novel food ingredient.

Troy’s question to Doug and I was about micro risks – do chia sprouts (and maybe seeds) carry similar contamination risks to clover, alfalfa and mung bean sprouts? After a quick google scholar tour I couldn’t find much on pathogen evaluation (surveillance, survivability, growth)  of chia at all. Or whether the sprout (where the environment might promote pathogen growth) or the seed (a low moisture food like pepper and seasonings) could be an issue.