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.

6 dead, 32 sick in European Listeria outbreak linked to frozen corn

As listeria continues it death stroll in South Africa, Australia, and before that, Canada, the European Food Safety Authority reports an outbreak of invasive Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) infections defined by whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and probably linked to frozen corn has been ongoing in five EU Member States (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom) since 2015.

As of 8 March 2018, 32 cases have been reported and six patients have died due to or with the infection. WGS analysis of six non-human L. monocytogenes isolates detected from 2016 to January 2018 in Austria, Finland, France and Sweden found these isolates closely related to the multi-country cluster of L. monocytogenes  serogroup  IVb, multi-locus sequence type 6 (ST6).

The non-human isolates were detected in two different samples from mixed frozen vegetables; three samples from frozen corn, and one sample from a surface where various vegetables could have been processed. The only common food item in all non-human samples was corn. The WGS analysis provides a strong microbiological link between the human and the non-human isolates and is suggestive of a potential contaminated food source related to frozen corn persisting in the food chain at least since 2016.

Traceability information for the three frozen corn samples pointed to frozen corn products packed in Poland and processed/produced in Hungary. Two additional non-human strains isolated in Austria from frozen vegetable mixes with corn as an ingredient were traced back to the same common origin in Hungary. Further investigations are needed to verify the point of contamination in the food chain.

Consumption of frozen corn has been confirmed by two patients, one in Finland and one in Sweden. In addition, a Danish patient reported consumption of mixed frozen vegetables, which could have included corn. The Finnish patient confirmed consumption of frozen corn of one suspected brand, supporting an epidemiological link between the outbreak cases and frozen corn. However, no traceability and microbiological information was available for the corn consumed by the Finnish and the Swedish patients.

Food business operators in Estonia, Finland, Poland and Sweden have withdrawn and recalled the implicated frozen corn products from the market. These measures are likely to significantly reduce the risk of human infections in these countries. However, new invasive listeriosis cases may be identified due to the long incubation period (1–70 days), long shelf-lives of frozen corn products and potential consumption of frozen corn bought by the customers before the recalls and eaten without being properly cooked. Furthermore, until the root source of contamination is established and control measures implemented, new cases may occur.

So where does frozen corn – one of my personal favorites – come from?

In 2001, long before barfblog.com or youtube, Chapman and I toured some farms and vegetable processing plants in Ontario (that’s in Canada) in 2001.

We more both amazed at the efforts involved in taking corn from the field to a frozen packaged state.

At the time we were wandering around combines in fields – something comfortable for me – and a dude said, we’re gonna sell 90-minute, non-GMO frozen corn in the EU./em>

That’s 90 minutes from harvest to the frozen bag.

I won’t go into the BS marketing aspects of this, but that they were able to pull it off was something to watch.

Intricate timing with the harvest, metal detectors, individually quick frozen (IQF) kernels and into a box to be bagger later.

I asked what the biggest microbial risks were, and the manager said, Listeria.

So they ran a test-and-hold procedure.

That’s how it’s done.

No idea what’s happening with the EU suppliers.

6 dead, 13 sick: Where’s the details on Listeria-in-rockmelon?

As the sixth listeriosis death in Australia linked to rockmelon was reported on Tuesday, the silence from cantaloupe growers, packers, retailers and regulators has been deafening.

Listeria in cantaloupe has happened before.

(A table of rockmelon-related outbreaks is available here.)

Here are some basic questions:

  • was the farm prone to flooding and near any livestock operations;
  • what soil amendments, like manure, were used;
  • after harvest were the rockmelons placed in a dump tank;
  • was the water in the dump tank regularly monitored for chlorine levels;
  • did a proper handwashing program exist at the packing shed;
  • were conveyor belts cleaned and tested;
  • did condensation form on the ceiling of the packing shed;
  • were transportation vehicles properly cooled and monitored;
  • was the Listeria in whole cantaloupe or pre-cut; and,
  • was the rockmelon stored at proper temperatures at retail?

I’m just spit-balling here, but these are basic questions that need to be answered before any dreams of regaining consumer confidence can be entertained.

Fifth person dies in Australia’s rockmelon listeria outbreak

An elderly man has died and a woman has miscarried as a result of the nationwide listeria outbreak, which has been linked to contaminated rockmelon.

Amy McNeilage of The Guardian reports the Victorian man in his 80s was the fifth person to die as a result of the outbreak.

The source of the outbreak has been traced to Rombola Family Farms in the Riverina region of NSW, according to authorities.

There have been at least 17 confirmed cases of listeria linked to the contaminated rockmelon, including two deaths in NSW and three in Victoria.

Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said all people affected so far ate the rockmelon before the national recall on 28 February. The latest cases have been linked to the outbreak through microbiological testing.

A miscarriage in Victoria was also linked to the outbreak, and a total 19 people – including those who died – had been affected across the country.

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. 

107 dead, 852 sick from Listeria in South Africa: Suspects unknown

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), in Johannesburg, South Africa, reported 107 case patients have died from Listeria monocytogenes.

The agency, which is a division of the National Health Dept., said 852 listeriosis cases were confirmed between Jan. 1, 2017 and Feb. 5,2018, but so far, the source of the outbreak is not known. “Presently no food sources that are contaminated with the outbreak strain have been found, including amongst poultry and poultry products,” the agency said in a statement.

61 dead from listeriosis in South Africa as fatalities double in a month

Wendy Knowler of Business Day reports the death toll from the listeriosis outbreak plaguing SA has nearly doubled in the past month, to 61 from 36, as SA grapples with an outbreak that experts say is the worst on record, worldwide.

The origin of the outbreak remains a mystery, though researchers have confirmed it probably has a single source.

Nonetheless, a Sovereign Foods abattoir has been closed, after listeria bacteria were found there.

Sovereign Foods, which is based in the Eastern Cape‚ is one of the major poultry producers in Africa. The company delisted from the JSE on November 22, concluding a management buyout funded by private equity firm Capitalworks.

But Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the strain found at the abattoir was not the ST6 strain responsible for the deadly outbreak.

He told a briefing in Pretoria on Monday that a chicken sample collected from the fridge at a patient’s home tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

This chicken was traced back to the store and then traced back to the abattoir. It was sourced from Sovereign Foods‚ he said.

However‚ all samples collected from the abattoir have so far failed to pick up the ST6 strain of the outbreak that the country is experiencing.

As a consequence‚ authorities cannot yet link clinical isolates obtained from patients to particular foodstuffs or a food production site.

Motsoaledi said that the number of cases of listeriosis confirmed via lab testing had increased from 557 in early December to 727 at the latest count.

Food scientists are now calling it the worst documented listeriosis outbreak in global history.

The minister said 91% of the isolates were ST6 type isolates, a finding that supported the hypothesis that a single source of food contamination may have caused the outbreak from one or more food products at a single facility.

Dr Lucia Anelich‚ a prominent South African food microbiologist and food safety expert, said “I concur with my colleagues from business‚ academia and governments‚ in Europe‚ Australia‚ Canada and the US‚ that this is the worst documented listeriosis outbreak in global history.”

8 dead, 25 hospitalized from trichinellosis in Cambodia

Cambodia’s Ministry of Health confirmed on Tuesday an outbreak of Trichinellosis in an area in central Kampong Thom province that has left eight people dead and 25 others hospitalized.

In its statement, the ministry said 33 villagers living in Prey Long (forest) area in Sandan district had fallen ill earlier this month, about three weeks after they ate contaminated wild meat that was undercooked, and eight of them had subsequently died in recent weeks.

“The samples of 3 patients’ muscle tissue were tested by the Calmette Hospital’s laboratory and the result confirmed that there were Trichinella larvae in their muscle tissue,” the statement said.

It added that another test on the blood samples from other nine patients by a Vietnamese hospital’s laboratory confirmed that “there were eggs of Trichinalla worms” in their blood.

Cambodian Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said,  “I’d like to appeal to the people to stop eating raw or undercooked meat in order to prevent themselves from infecting Trichinellosis and other diseases.”

 

Always tragic: 3-year-old dead in Japan E. coli O157 outbreak; 23 sickened

Tokyo Daily News reports a 3-year-old girl is the first confirmed death in an outbreak of food poisoning linked to potato salad and other dishes from the Delicious self-service chain of stores.

The Tokyo toddler died after eating food from the Delicious Rokku outlet in Maebashi, capital of Gunma Prefecture, said the Maebashi Health Center.

The girl experienced diarrhea and stomach pains several days later, and was hospitalized in Tokyo. She died in early September. A female relative from Maebashi who shared the food also came down with diarrhea and other problems, but recovered.

The O157 E. coli bacteria detected in the girl was of the same type as that found in 20 other people in Gunma and Saitama prefectures since late August.

While many of those fell ill after consuming potato salad, the toddler instead ate fried food that included shrimp and bamboo shoots.

The fried dishes the girl ate were produced by Fresh Corp. in Ota, also Gunma Prefecture, which operates the Delicious chain stores.

The Maebashi Health Center concluded that the girl’s death resulted from the dishes sold in the Delicious Rokku outlet where 11 people in total ate food contaminated with the E. coli bacteria.

The food poisoning case involving the Delicious chain stores first emerged Aug. 21 when the Saitama prefectural government announced that eight men and women who had eaten potato salad from the Delicious Kagohara outlet in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, on Aug. 7 or 8 had suffered diarrhea or stomach pains. They included a 5-year-old girl who fell unconscious, but recovered.

 

Raw is risky: US woman battling cancer dies after eating oysters

I don’t eat much raw food.

Too much risk.

A Texas woman who was vacationing with her husband in Mississippi died last Thursday, after eating raw oysters that were contaminated.

Jane White Cunningham, who had battled leukemia since 2016, had several limbs removed prior to her death in an effort to combat the infection, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“There has been a lot of swelling in her extremities and a lot of pain,” David Cunningham, the 56-year-old’s husband, wrote in an Aug. 8 Facebook post. “Today they had to amputate both legs and her left arm in an attempt to save her life as the infection was spreading rapidly.”

Cunningham was being cared for a Gulfort Mississippi Hospital, with health officials pointing to the bacteria Vibrio as a cause of infection, CBS DFW reported.