Whole genone sequencing fingers ham as source of Salmonella outbreak in Netherlands

In January 2017, an increase in reported Salmonella enterica serotype Bovismorbificans cases in the Netherlands was observed since October 2016. We implemented a case–control study to identify the source, including all cases after December 2016.

Adjusted odds ratios were calculated using logistic regression analysis. We traced back the distribution chain of suspected food items and sampled them for microbiological analysis. Human and food isolates were sequenced using whole genome sequencing (WGS).

From October 2016 to March 2017, 54 S. Bovismorbificans cases were identified. Sequencing indicated that all were infected with identical strains. Twenty-four cases and 37 controls participated in the study. Cases were more likely to have consumed ham products than controls (aOR = 13; 95% CI: 2.0–77) and to have shopped at a supermarket chain (aOR = 7; 95% CI: 1.3–38).

Trace-back investigations led to a Belgian meat processor: one retail ham sample originating from this processor tested positive for S. Bovismorbificans and matched the outbreak strain by WGS. All ham products related to the same batch were removed from the market to prevent further cases. This investigation illustrates the importance of laboratory surveillance for all Salmonella serotypes and the usefulness of WGS in an outbreak investigation.

Outbreak of Salmonella Bovismorbificans associated with the consumption of uncooked ham products, the Netherlands, 2016 to 2017

Eurosurveillance; Volume 23; Issue 1; 4 January 2018

Brandwagt Diederik, van den Wijngaard Cees, Tulen Anna Dolores, Mulder Annemieke Christine, Hofhuis Agnetha, Jacobs Rianne, Heck Max, Verbruggen Anjo, van den Kerkhof Hans, Slegers-Fitz-James Ife, Mughini-Gras Lapo, Franz Eelco


When it’s not the potato salad, it’s the ham

I used to eat a lot of ham sandwiches. It was the only lunch meat I’d take to school from about age 8 until I finished high school.

It’s still my preferred quick-service deli sandwich meat.

And we bake one at home a couple of times a year, making one large enough to have a few days of leftovers.

Photo Courtesy- National Pork Board

Ham can be risky though. In 1997 Neil Young missed a bunch of shows after cutting his finger while making a ham sandwich.

According to a paper by Huedo and colleagues in Food Pathogens and Disease, a couple of years ago over 40 Italian school kids got sick with salmonellosis linked to ham.

A multischool outbreak of salmonellosis caused by Salmonella enterica serovar Napoli was investigated in the province of Milan from October to November 2014, following an increase in school absenteeism coinciding with two positive cases. Epidemiological studies detected 47 cases in four primary schools: 46 children and 1 adult woman (51.4% males and 48.6% females, median age 8.9). From these, 14 cases (29.8%) were severe and resulted in hospitalization, including 6 children (12.8%) who developed an invasive salmonellosis. The epidemic curve revealed an abnormally long incubation period, peaking 1 week after the first confirmed case. Twenty-five available isolates were typed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis showing an identical pattern. The isolate belongs to ST474, an ST composed exclusively of Salmonella Napoli human strains isolated in France and Italy. Antibiotic resistance analysis showed resistance to aminoglycosides, correlating with the presence of the aminoglycoside resistance gene aadA25 in its genome. Trace-back investigations strongly suggested contaminated ham as the most likely food vehicle, which was delivered by a common food center on 21 October. Nevertheless, this ingredient could not be retrospectively investigated since it was no longer available at the repository. This represents the largest Salmonella Napoli outbreak ever reported in Italy and provides a unique scenario for studying the outcome of salmonellosis caused by this emerging and potentially invasive nontyphoidal serotype.

47 sickened with Salmonella in France, 2012

In late June 2012, the municipality of Arâches-La Frasse reported the absence of about 30 students due to acute gastroenteritis, including one hospitalization.

Arâches-La FrasseDuring the exploratory survey, several assumptions were raised, including the contamination of drinking water. The latter was excluded following an environmental investigation.

The stool cultures collected revealed the presence of Salmonella, which helped direct investigations. Following the epidemiological exploration with students and their parents, the parent associations, the physician and pharmacy of the city, a collective food poisoning was identified.

It was linked to a school meal that took place on 23 June. A cohort study was conducted among participants in this meal (47 participants were sick compared to 56 who were not). This analysis, combined with the survey of veterinary services, contributed to establish a link between patients and the consumption of roasted hams. Human and food strains were subtyped using Crispol analysis by the National Reference Centre (CNR) for Salmonella and the National Salmonella Reference Laboratory, and were compared. 
They had the same profile, Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 CT30, confirming the link between the consumption of ham and cases of salmonellosis. It is likely that contamination of ham took place during handling after roasting.


Starbucks didn’t know who supplied ham

Having pulled thousands of unsafe, spoiled ham sandwiches from its shelves on three occasions, Starbucks now claims its meat vendor owes nearly $5 million.

Levi Pulkkinen of Seattlepi.Com  writes that according to a recent lawsuit, Starbucks didn’t even know who was producing the offending ham until starbucks.ham.listeria.jul.13months after complaints began coming in from customers. As it turned out, the primary vendor had subcontracted out the coffee giant’s ham order.

At issue in the lawsuit filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court for Western Washington are ham sandwiches filled with spoiled meat bought from a vendor.

The lawsuit indicates Starbucks trashed only some of the sandwiches containing ham bought from the vendor. Sandwiches containing meat from the supplier continued to be sold at Starbucks stores for nearly two weeks after the company learned at least some of the ham purchased from Wellshire Farms Inc. was tainted.

A Starbucks spokesman declined to say when the company stopped selling all the sandwiches using the ham provided by Wellshire Farms.

Speaking Friday, spokesman Zak Hutson said that the ham used in the hot breakfast sandwiches – which were pulled from Starbucks shelves three times before Starbucks changed ham suppliers – was a different from the Wellshire-provided meat used chain’s cold sandwiches. The lawsuit indicates cold sandwiches using the Wellshire-sourced ham remained for sale for 11 days after Starbucks found “potentially harmful bacteria” on ham bought from the New Jersey pork products supplier.

Cook and reheat the damn ham; don’t hire unlicensed caterers; Clostridium perfringens strikes Las Vegas lunch

 On Dec. 8, 2011, a biz in Las Vegas had a catered lunch.

Less than a day later, a bunch of them were barfing.

The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) began an investigation the next day after receiving numerous reports of barfing among attendees; excerpts from their report are below.

Approximately 150 people work at Business A. Of the 63 employees who replied to the electronic survey, 50 reported they consumed food and/or drinks at the luncheon. Of the 50 luncheon attendees, 21 (42%) people met the case definition. An additional 29 people who ate at the luncheon but did not become ill served as non-case study participants. No ill person sought medical attention from a healthcare provider.

The caterer had a health card that is issued by the SNHD to food handlers. However, the caterer did not hold a catering permit issued by the SNHD, so health types don’t know if the same caterer sickened others at others meals because SNDH only tracks complaints against licensed businesses.

Both the caterer and a representative from Business A reported that the caterer
arrived at 9:00 am on December 8, and lunch service started at approximately 1230 hrs
(meal start time among ill persons ranged from 1130 to 1900 hrs) (Fig. 1). The duration
of the luncheon was unknown.

The caterer reported that all foods served were pre-cooked and ready-to-eat. The ham and turkey breasts were transported to Business A in a cooler with ice. Both meats were further sliced onsite, placed in bowls and re-heated in 5-6 batches per meat in two small non-commercial microwave ovens that were provided by Business A at the catering site. The caterer reported that food batches were stirred during heating. The caterer alleged the temperature of the meat was 170°F (76.7°C) after heating, but it was unclear where the temperature was taken in the meat. Heated ham slices were pooled in one chafing pan and canned pineapple with its juice was added.

Heated turkey meat was pooled in another pan and heated canned gravy was added. The
chafing dishes containing the ham and turkey were warmed by pans of hot water that was heated with Sterno heaters. Both meats were stored in their respective chafing dishes for about 0.5 hr prior to eating, but the duration of time foods were stored in the chafing dishes was not known.

Upon collecting foods for testing, EH staff observed that leftover foods were stored in a refrigerator that displayed the temperatures of <40°F, with the bulk of the food stored in covered consumer-grade plastic containers. All remaining food in their original containers was collected for testing and included: Mashed potatoes, ham and pineapple topping, green beans, salad with fruits, and two mixed-food plates containing 1) Ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and 2) Stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans.

I’m getting hungry.

The EH staff sent a formal notice to the caterer requiring all food operations to immediately cease and desist. They also required that the website which advertises the catering business be modified to announce that a permitted food facility will be providing the food to future events that are planned by the catering company. Additionally, EH also issued a bill to the caterer charging for the time that EH staff had spent in investigating the outbreak.

The isolation of C. perfringens was strongly suggestive that ham was the vehicle of transmission, and an error likely occurred during its re-heating and hot holding during the luncheon service. The heat generated by a small microwave oven might be insufficient to bring all portions of the ham to above 165°F (74°C) to destroy the C. perfringens bacteria. When the heating process is not evenly accomplished, the surviving C. perfringens bacteria can multiply and undergo sporulation. During the holding period where food is kept warm in covered chafing pans for extended periods of time, the spores can germinate to produce vegetative cells and multiply rapidly to large numbers. Ingestion of the bacteria during the luncheon may have resulted in further multiplication and sporulation in the intestine. The release of enterotoxin when C. perfringens sporulates can cause acute diarrhea. To prevent the proliferation of pathogens in potential hazardous food, the US FDA Food Code 2009 recommends that food that are reheated in a microwave for hot holding shall be reheated so that all parts of the food reach a temperature of at least 74oC (165oF) and the food is rotated or stirred, covered, and allowed to stand covered for 2 minutes after reheating (Section
3-403.11.B). Also, hot holding of such foods should occur at 57oC (135oF) or above
(Section 3-501.16.A1).

The majority of C. perfringens outbreaks are often the results of improperly cooled food or food held at room temperature for extended periods. Coupled with concurring epidemiological findings that the contamination and proliferation of the bacteria may have occurred at the luncheon, no further food traceback or recall action of the ham was implemented by the FDA.

Neil Young knows this: beware the Christmas ham, says insurer

Neil Young once had to cancel some tour dates because he sliced a guitar finger while making a ham sandwich.

New Zealand’s state-run Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), which offers universal insurance cover for accidents, released figures today showing the cost of treatment, rehabilitation and compensation for accidents recorded last Christmas Day have topped $NZ1.9 million ($1.45 million).

That includes several claims for ham-related injuries – including carving mishaps and burns, neck and knee strains from carrying heavy hams, and even a crushed finger after a ham toppled from a stand.

Most of the 3,040 Christmas Day injuries accepted by ACC resulted from outdoor activities – including frisbee, fishing, slippery sliding, trampolining and poolside antics.

One person laughed so hard they fainted, hitting their head in the garden, another broke their tooth on a dislodged gem that ended up on the menu, and someone taking their post-lunch nap was injured when a drunk person stood on their face.

Kids, kids, it’s Christmas, who wants stinky ham?

The Australian discount supermarket Franklins has had to recall a small amount of Farmfresh Half Bone in Leg Hams with use by dates between January 24, 2011 and January 29, 2011 inclusive due to an unpleasant odour that persists after opening.

Franklins have yet to determine the cause of the odour as laboratory testing is not able to be completed until after Christmas.

UK bacon producer fined 18,000 for illegally selling hams

When food safety types arrived for a routine inspection at a bacon producer on Dec. 17, 2009, they found the company had started cooking and selling hams at the premises.

The Wiltshire Gazete and Herald reports a subsequent inspection of the ham production area found problems with cleaning and food safety management, including structural defects and poorly maintained equipment.

Remedial Action Notices were served requiring them to stop the production and sale of cooked meats at the premises. The company, Sandridge Farmhouse Bacon Ltd in Bromham, agreed to voluntarily surrender all the hams on site because they had not been produced in accordance with the relevant food safety legislation.

Sandridge Farmhouse Bacon Ltd and the managing director, Roger Keen, pleaded guilty to all seven charges brought by Wiltshire Council, which were:

Failure to ensure the council had up-to-date information about the business and its operations
Failure to have in place a food safety management system
Failure to ensure the design and construction of the premises helped protect against the formation of condensation and mould on surfaces
Failure to ensure the premises was kept clean and maintained in good repair and condition
Three counts of failing to ensure that surfaces (including the surfaces of equipment) in areas where foods were handled were in a sound condition and easy to clean and disinfect.

In addition to the fine, Mr Keen and Sandridge Farmhouse Bacon Ltd were ordered to pay costs of £1,000 and a £15 victim surcharge – for a total of £18,000.

Councillor Keith Humphries, Cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said,

“This was a deliberate attempt by the business to supply food for the festive season which was produced in unsatisfactory conditions. I commend the food safety officers for their prompt action in removing the food from sale and safeguarding public health.”

Since the inspection last December standards at the premises have greatly improved and they are now able to resume ham production.

There’s no problems at Brandt meat plant except for the 23 sick from salmonella in headcheese and the undercooking

Sarah Schmidt of Postmedia News writes tonight in a story that will appear across Canada tomorrow that federal meat inspectors didn’t find any problems that needed fixing at a meat-processing plant in the months leading up to last week’s massive recall of Brandt deli meats.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency only identified sanitation issues, deficiencies in the company’s environmental testing program and possible undercooking after public-health officials linked a salmonella outbreak linked to Brandt meat, Postmedia News has learned.

The July 31 national recall of all ready-to-eat meats manufactured by G. Brandt Meat Packers at its Mississauga, Ont., plant followed 23 confirmed cases of salmonella associated with Brandt headcheese by public-heath authorities in British Columbia and one case in Ontario. It was B.C. health officials — not the government meat inspector stationed at the plant — who first alerted CFIA brass to take a closer look at the plant.

As a result of the investigation launched on July 14, CFIA issued the first of nine corrective action reports, including one singling out how well the meat was cooked and related record-keeping.

The case raises questions about the state of Canada’s meat inspection system two years after 22 Canadians died following the consumption of listeria-tainted Maple Leaf deli meats, also produced at a federally inspected plant.

In addition to finding salmonella in headcheese products manufactured at the Brandt plant, CFIA also found Listeria monocytogenes in the company’s Ham Suelze.

Caroline Spivak, a spokeswoman for Brandt Meat Packers, emphasized there have been no positive salmonella product tests for any deli meats other than headcheese. See, it’s just the headcheese, and if you eat that stuff, who knows what risks you are taking.

"There’s always a CFIA inspector that tests the product, so the company stands by its product and is not in the habit of undercooking their food.”

But they did. And got caught. Sorta.

Don’t crap where you eat

Sometimes, for mental floss, I check out the blog, It Was Over When: Tales of Romantic Dead Ends. Today’s post came from Michelle.

I prepared a nice meal for my husband. He was hungry but also had to poop. So, he took his plate into the bathroom and ate it while he was pooping. To this day I cannot eat ham.

— Michelle

Aftermath: Divorce.