European Union takes a stand against food fraud

Anadolu Agency reports

The European Union said it will take more measures against food fraud cases after a contaminated eggs scandal touched 24 out of 28 member states this year.
“Misdoings and fraudulent practices of a few should not have such devastating effects,” EU Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said in a statement after the high-level meeting in Brussels.
The commissioner said the bloc will improve “risk communication” between the member states to make sure the general public learns about such incidents in a “more coherent and swift way.”
He warned that a lack of transparency could “eventually lead to destruction of trust in particular [of the] food industry,” Andriukaitis added. The European Commission is planning to present more proposals to an upcoming the Council of the EU meeting on Oct. 9-10. The measures include creating common risk assessment on incidents, stretching the rapid alert system for food and holding training and regular crisis exercises. The origin of the egg contamination was detected in poultry in the Netherlands and has led to the closure of 200 farms in the country. Since July 20, millions of eggs have been destroyed or taken off supermarket shelves across Europe amid fears they had been contaminated with fipronil, used in insecticide

The Australian Institute of Food Safety identifies five high risk food items for poisoning

In the UK each year roughly 20,000 people are hospitalised with food poisoning and 500 people die.
Symptoms are unpleasant and include vomiting, diarrhoea and a high temperature, according to the NHS.
There are a number of causes, including chemicals, toxins and bacteria.
While it’s almost always an accident, food poisoning tends to affect people after they’ve eaten particular foods.
According to the Australian Institute of Food Safety, this is because certain foods are more at risk of bacterial growth than others.
Poultry
Raw and undercooked poultry can be contaminated with campylobacter bacteria and salmonella.
According to the Australian Institute of Food Safety, the bacteria can survive up until cooking kills them – so make sure you cook it thoroughly and don’t contaminate surfaces with raw chicken.

Cook poultry to an internal temperature of 74C (165F) to ensure safety, forget the jargon “cook thoroughly,”doesn’t tell me anything.

Eggs
Last week it was revealed that Dutch eggs contaminated with insecticide may have entered the UK.
They can also sometimes be contaminated with salmonella.
You can avoid being affected by cooking eggs thoroughly, and avoiding foods that purposely contain undercooked eggs, like mayonnaises and salad dressings, according to the Australian Institute of Food Safety.

Leafy greens
Because they are often eaten raw with no cooking process, bacteria like E.coli can easily affect you.
However, according to the Australian Institute of Food Safety, washing them can reduce risk of harmful bacteria as well as chemical pesticides.

Well this all depends if the salad is pre-washed and labelled accordingly, if so, washing lettuce at home will only increase the risk of cross-contamination. Reducing the food safety risk with leafy greens begins well before it arrives in your home.

Raw milk
This is where milk is unpasteurised, meaning it has not been heated up to kill harmful bacteria.
It leaves you at a higher risk than regular milk of consuming bacteria like E.coli, salmonella and listeria.

Raw milk has always left an impression on me ever since I was a food tech in Alberta. The health department submitted a sample of raw milk from a community in Alberta where a significant number of kids became ill. I was responsible in analyzing the milk to determine the etiologic agent and I remember vividly looking at this black, overgrown agar plate, completely taken over by Campylobacter jejuni, poor kids.

Cheese
A bacteria commonly found in cheese is staphylococcus aureus.
It’s heat resistant, so the best way of avoiding cheese becoming contaminated is to store it at or under 5 degrees.

 

But is it (microbiologically) safe?

Mangoes are coming into season.

Australian egg producers are flogging studies saying that eggs are OK to eat every day.

duhBut are they safe?

And the pork producers have a national 6-2-2 campaign:

Discover the secret to the perfect pork steak with our new 6-2-2 campaign.

  1. Take a 2cm pork steak (sirloin, leg, scotch fillet or medallion).
  2. Pre-heat a pan, griddle pan or BBQ plate just like you would for any other steak.
  3. Cook the pork steak on one side, without turning, for 6 minutes.
  4. Turn it over once and allow it to cook for 2 more minutes. This method will cook the steak to just white but if you prefer it cooked pink, just reduce the cooking time.
  5. Remove the steak from the pan and rest for 2 minutes. Resting allows the juices to settle and produces a more tender and juicy result.
  6. Remember the simple rule for next time: 6 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other and 2 minutes to rest = the 10 minute pork steak.

(No accounting for variations in cooking devices, just use a damn thermometer and take out the guesswork.)

All at the same time as Australia’s annual food safety week began with this year’s theme , raw and risky (sounds familiar).

The NSW Food Authority is throwing its support behind the Food Safety Information Council’s Food Safety Week 2016 that commences today Sunday 6 November, urging NSW consumers not to become one of the estimated 4.1 million people affected by food poisoning each year in Australia.

Dr Lisa Szabo, NSW Food Authority CEO, said the theme of this year’s Australian Food Safety Week “Raw and risky” is a timely and apt reminder that some foods carry more risk than others.

“Recent years have seen major food poisoning outbreaks linked to risky raw foods such as unpasteurised cow’s milk, raw egg dishes, bean/seed sprouts, frozen berries and lettuce,” Dr Szabo said.

Australia has an egg problem: Adelaide Hotel InterContinental edition

There are so many egg/salmonella/Australia stories in the past few years that I spent 20 min googling to see if this was a repeat.

It’s not.

According to the Daily Mail over 40 salmonellosis cases, including 9 hospitalizations have been linked to InterContinental Adelaide.raw.eggs_

A mother of three said her and her husband started showing the telltale signs of food poisoning two days after eating the contaminated food. According to the woman, Adelaide City Council and InterContinental suspect the cause to be eggs.

A South Australian Health spokesperson said authorities were ‘aware of a localised case of food poisoning in a city hotel’.
it is understood that up to 45 could have contracted the disease, but the exact number remains unconfirmed as the hotel chain and SA Health investigate the cause of the outbreak.

‘The issue I have is they (the hotel and the council) know there are 400 people out there potentially infected with salmonella and they’re not actively notifying them,’ the mother told the newspaper.

But InterContinental Adelaide general manager Colin McCandless said it was ‘absolutely safe’ to eat at the hotel.

Saying absolutely safe means absolutely nothing. Especially to the nine who were hospitalized.

A selection of egg-related outbreaks in Australia can be found here.

Food Safety Talk 80: Literally the hummus I’m eating

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.1442690399236

The show opens with a discussion of Don’s mic stand and quickly segues into “Linda’s Famous Cigar Story”, and Ben’s annual pollen throat. After a discussion of their various ailments, Don wishes Ben an almost 37th birthday.

Ben is currently expecting a new macbook, which was discussed on Episode 116 of the Talk Show. Don shares his recent experiences looking at Apple Watch in the Apple Store, and his preference for the Milanese Loop and his new burr grinder and aeropress.

When the talk turns to food safety, Ben talks about his work with Family & Consumer Sciences in North Carolina, (called Family and Community Health Sciences at Rutgers University) and how Ben has recently changed his training practices from classroom lecture to supermarket and restaurant inspection field trips based on inspiration from Dara Bloom.

This inspires Don to talk about the work he’s doing to help documentary film makers doing a story on shelf life dating of foods especially milk. Ben shares some of the myths circulating about expired milk including this bogus article from Livestrong, and the work he’s doing on expired food and food pantries.

From there the discussion moves to other shelf life myths including the egg float or shake tests, and why they are bogus, as well as places to go for good egg information, because someone on the Internet will always be wrong.

The discussion turns to recalled hummus recall messaging and Ben’s post hockey snacking tips.

As the guys wrap up the show they briefly talk about Blue Bell ice cream and the doses of Listeria that might have made people sick and the future of food safety given the advances in molecular biology, clinical microbiology and whole genome sequencing. Ben shares some final thoughts on Salmonella in spices and how whole genome sequencing might impact that industry too.

In the brief after dark, Ben and Don talk about yoga, and getting healthy, the Turing Test, and the new Star Wars movie trailer.

Science is hard, being a celebrity isn’t: Salmonella reductions in the US

With six cases of measles linked to the University of Queensland and paleo-diet-for-babies moron Pete Evans being eviscerated by viewers, it seems like a bright time for science.

paleo.pete.evansThe boring, repetitive, peer-reviewed stuff that science is made of.

I want the bridges designed to cross the Brisbane river to function safely based on mathematics and engineering, not scientology.

Following on Chapman’s deserved put-down of state-sponsored jazz and food porn – sometimes referred to as NPR – I offer this paper about Salmonella, and the efforts required to reduce the number of sick people.

Salmonella enterica causes an estimated 1 million domestically acquired foodborne illnesses annually in the U.S. Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis (SE) is among the top three serovars of reported cases of Salmonella.

We examined trends in SE foodborne outbreaks from 1973 to 2009 using Joinpoint and Poisson regression. The annual number of SE outbreaks increased sharply in the 1970s and 1980s but declined significantly after 1990. Over the study period, SE outbreaks were most frequently attributed to foods containing eggs.

The average rate of SE outbreaks attributed to egg-containing foods reported by states began to decline significantly after 1990, and the proportion of SE outbreaks attributed to egg-containing foods began declining after 1997. Our results suggest that interventions initiated in the 1990s to decrease SE contamination of shell eggs may have been integral to preventing SE outbreaks.

The rise and decline in Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis outbreaks attributed to egg-containing foods in the United States, 1973–2009

Epidemiology & Infection

P. Wright, L. Richardson, B. E. Mahon, R. Rothenberg and D. J. Cole

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9916508&fileId=S0950268815001867y

 

 

Bureaucrats at work, more eggs recalled: Australia sucks at this recall-provision-of-information thing

My elderly parents arrived from Canada yesterday, and we took them out to dinner.

barfblog.Stick It InThe restaurant knows me, knows my concerns, and does not serve aioli (garlic and mayonnaise) on those occasions when I venture out because they make it with raw eggs.

Australia not only has an egg problem, it has a regulatory problem.

The company that packed those eggs involved in the Salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 20 in the Gold Coast, and may be linked to 250 illnesses in Brisbane (but nobody’s talking about that) has expanded its list of recalled products because they’re dirty.

Safefood Queensland today decided to tweet, “Don’t serve raw egg foods that won’t be cooked to the elderly, small children, pregnant women & people with compromised immune systems.”

250 school principals generally don’t fall into those categories. A table of the shit fest of Australian raw egg outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-12-15-2.pdf. Why are consumers the critical control point in this?

raw.eggsLast week, the safefood group endorsed an infosheet from Queensland Health that said, “Make sure to cook chicken thoroughly so that there is no pink meat and the juices run clear.”

I can’t make this stuff up. Tax dollars at work.

Use pasteurized eggs. Use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer and stick it in.

Eggs should be treats not tricks

My latest for the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety.

The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved introduced the world to Gonzo journalism and Hunter S. Thompson in 1970.

amy.melbourne.cup.12Forty-four years later, they’re still living the decadence at Australia’s Melbourne Cup.

In true Hunter fashion, Australian bars open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov.4, Melbourne Cup day. The entire country shuts down to watch a three-minute horse race. Women wear outrageous hats.

And people get sick.

Last year on silly-hat day, there was an outbreak of Salmonella poisoning at Melbourne Cup functions.

At least 220 people at 40 different Melbourne Cup events catered by the same Brisbane-based company, Piccalilli Catering, got sick with Salmonella. One died.

On Nov. 14, the co-owner of Piccalilli Catering released a statement via Twitter identifying her company as the responsible caterer and saying that they were deeply upset and distressed but denying responsibility, alleging that the infection was due to eggs provided by their supplier to make raw egg mayonnaise. Ms Grace denied any breakdown in her company’s quality system.

In the ensuing year, there has been no further update from Queensland Health and the initial Nov. 13 update has been erased from the Department’s website.

There’s some basic risk analysis questions here that should be answered to provide some level of confidence to Australian consumers, so I wrote the Queensland Minister of Health to ask:

powell.egg.nov.14• how did the outbreak happen;

• was this commodity sourced from a food safety accredited supplier;

• did handling by the caterer contribute to this outbreak;

• what is Queensland Health’s policy on use of raw eggs in dishes to be consumed raw;

• is this policy enforced;

• is the investigation closed and if so, why and when was it closed;

• will an outbreak investigation report be created and publicized;

• why was the previous update erased from the Department’s website and on whose authority; and,

• what is Queensland Health’s policy on providing information to the public.

It is in the best interests of both the public and the food industry that your Department respond promptly to such outbreaks demonstrating timeliness, transparency and critical detail. I have no confidence that your Department will follow through on the release of information should there be any similar outbreaks.”

In the past year, I’ve chatted with folks about the Melbourne Cup outbreak and am usually met with, oh yeah, I heard something about that. One person told me her husband was hospitalized for several days and was pissed off about the lack of public discussion.

Forget the Salmonella, it’s all about hats.

And cute tweets.

Safe Food Queensland on Oct. 16, 2014 wrote that “eggs that are cracked &/or dirty (e.g. feathers, feces) can be a source of microbes like salmonella, which if eaten can make people sick.”

egg.farmThanks for that tip.

So how did those 220 people get sick last year?

Or the 160 who got sick from a raw-egg mayonnaise at a Canberra restaurant on Mother’s Day 2014 when they just wanted to go for lunch?

Or the weekly outbreaks involving raw eggs around the world.

As reported by the Des Moines Register, in 2010, a Salmonella outbreak traced to Austin “Jack” DeCoster’s Iowa egg plants caused the recall of 550 million eggs and led to confirmed illness in nearly 2,000 people, though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimated that tens of thousands of people were sickened.

Plea agreements show the company sold the tainted eggs for about eight months starting in January 2010. Documents in a lawsuit by a California food coop that sold the eggs indicate that four months elapsed between when a manager was notified by a veterinarian that Salmonella was present in three DeCoster plants and when one of those, Wright County Eggs, began a recall. And that was only after it had been contacted by the FDA about salmonella sickness in three states linked to its eggs.

Given the BS brand names, how is a consumer to know?

The vast majority of farmers can produce eggs with limited or no Salmonella. I want to buy those eggs – not the eggs marketed as cage-free or not (I don’t want chickens eating their own shit).

It can be a scary and deranged world out there. Might as well bet on the ponies.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University. 

You’re not a fan of washing? I’m not a fan of Salmonella; 220 sickened and Australia still has an egg problem

In Feb. 2014,  the Victorian Department of Health blamed Green Eggs for a Salmonella outbreak in Melbourne and issued a health alert for the company’s raw eggs.

garlic.aioli_-300x300-300x300At least 220 people were sickened.

Science more that soundbites is what is needed on this issue.

The loss of 70 per cent of its business forced the Great Western company to shed staff and send their eggs to Melbourne for washing.

Owner Alan Green says the saga has cost the family-owned company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We lost 70 per cent of our market in 24 hours,” he said.

“We’ve got 40 per cent of that back and we’re now working rapidly on the other 30.”

The business has 33,000 chooks, which produce eggs for restaurants in Melbourne and farmers markets across Victoria.

The Department of Health has repeatedly said it’s confident Green Eggs was linked to a salmonella outbreak at two restaruants.

The farm was initially quarantined, with the department ordering the company to wash its eggs.

The couple has since, reluctantly, purchased an egg washer.

They wash their eggs prior to grading and packaging.

“Washing can be positive because it now eliminates any bacteria on the egg whatsoever,” Mr Green said.

“If done incorrectly, then washing won’t add bacteria but it can allow bacteria to get back in.

“It won’t happen during the washing because of the chlorine level in the washing water but it can get in later if the egg isn’t treated properly after washing.

“We’ve had to do it, not wishing to do it, but having done it we’ve now endorsed it and we’re doing everything we can to not only reach that level but go beyond it.”

Mr Green says all eggs in the United States must be washed, while in the UK egg producers are banned from washing eggs.

“We’re now vaccinating all our birds, which is what’s required in Europe and England.

“…we’ll be leaders in the small production field – there’s already big operators washing eggs.

“Does that mean everyone washing? I’m not a fan of washing.”

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx.

“A little garlic to kill the germs.” Mike Tyson makes eggs on Jimmy Kimmel

Mike Tyson’s resurgence as a figure in popular culture is likely correlated with his frequent appearances on Jimmy Kimmel (my favorite one is Mike Tyson’s pigeons). Last night he was at it again and showed Jimmy how to make an omelette a scramble. Tyson includes a little food safety advice, “need a little garlic to kill the germs.”

Not sure that’s going to work for Salmonella. Probably best to cook it 145F, which just above the temperature that eggs set at.