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.

 

There are some who call it storytelling: Images matter in talking about raw milk

The internet has become an increasingly important way of communicating with consumers about food risk information. However, relatively little is known about how consumers evaluate and come to trust the information they encounter online.

Using the example of unpasteurized or raw milk this paper presents two studies exploring the trust factors associated with online information about the risks and benefits of raw milk consumption.

In the first study, eye-tracking data was collected from 33 pasteurised milk consumers whilst they viewed six different milk related websites. A descriptive analysis of the eye-tracking data was conducted to explore viewing patterns. Reports revealed the importance of images as a way of capturing initial attention and foregrounding other features and highlighted the significance of introductory text within a homepage.

 In the second, qualitative study, 41 consumers, some of whom drank raw milk, viewed a selection of milk related websites before participating in either a group discussion or interview. Seventeen of the participants also took part in a follow up telephone interview 2 weeks later. The qualitative data supports the importance of good design whilst noting that balance, authorship agenda, the nature of evidence and personal relevance were also key factors affecting consumers trust judgements.

The results of both studies provide support for a staged approach to online trust in which consumers engage in a more rapid, heuristic assessment of a site before moving on to a more in-depth evaluation of the information available. Findings are discussed in relation to the development of trustworthy online food safety resources.

Examining trust factors in online food risk information: The case of unpasteurized or ‘raw’ milk

Appetite Available online 12 January 2016

Elizabeth Sillence, (Dr), Claire Hardy, Lydia C. Medeiros, Jeffrey T. LeJeune

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666316300095

Use of Internet search queries to enhance surveillance of foodborne illness

As a supplement to or extension of methods used to determine trends in foodborne illness over time, we propose the use of Internet search metrics.

social.mediaWe compared Internet query data for foodborne illness syndrome–related search terms from the most popular 5 Korean search engines using Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service inpatient stay data for 26 International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, codes for foodborne illness in South Korea during 2010–2012. We used time-series analysis with Seasonal Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (SARIMA) models. Internet search queries for “food poisoning” correlated most strongly with foodborne illness data (r = 0.70, p<0.001); furthermore, “food poisoning” queries correlated most strongly with the total number of inpatient stays related to foodborne illness during the next month (β = 0.069, SE 0.017, p<0.001).

This approach, using the SARIMA model, could be used to effectively measure trends over time to enhance surveillance of foodborne illness in South Korea.

Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 21, Number 11—November 2015

Gyung Jin Bahk, Yong Soo Kim, and Myoung Su Park

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/21/11/14-1834_article

Hangi? NZ food act will see unlicensed online sellers fined

I have no idea what hangi is, but because of the Intertubes, I looked it up (and wiki is never wrong):

Maori-HangiHāngi (Māori pronunciation: [ˈhaːŋi]) is a traditional New Zealand Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven still used for special occasions.

To “lay a hāngi” or “put down a hāngi” involves digging a pit in the ground, heating stones in the pit with a large fire, placing baskets of food on top of the stones, and covering everything with earth for several hours before uncovering (or lifting) the hāngi.[1]

According to New Zealand regs, selling homemade hangi without a licence could soon land people with a $450 fine.

The online sale of hangi and other food items has caused an influx of complaints to the New Plymouth District Council recently.

The council’s manager of regulatory services Mary-Anne Priest said phone calls about Facebook pages being used to sell homemade food, and in particular hangi, were growing.

“The staff here have said they’ve handled more complaints about food recently than ever before. People are seeing food for sale on websites and ringing the council to see if it’s ok,” Priest said.

“When we contact the sellers a lot of them seem a little bit unaware that they are required to be licensed. Once we have spoken to them a lot of them have stopped selling.”

She said one-off sales for fundraising events were exempt and the council was not concerned about those.

“But we will go and investigate if people are selling for personal gain.”

Priest said if the online sale of food from unlicensed sellers and unregistered kitchens continued after the Food Act 2014 came into effect in March, then sellers could be hit with a $450 fine for operating without a licence.

She said there would be significant changes happening under the new act and the regulations were due to be released by central government in the next two weeks.

Salmonella from food shopping on-line

Do sandwiches and other food purchased via the Intertubes pose a unique food safety risk?

Researchers in Taiwan say, yes, in the current issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease.

Food sold over the Internet is an emerging business that also presents a concern with regard to food safety. A nationwide foodborne disease Internet-marketing-sandwichoutbreak associated with sandwiches purchased from an online shop in July 2010 is reported. Consumers were telephone interviewed with a structured questionnaire and specimens were collected for etiological examination. A total of 886 consumers were successfully contacted and completed the questionnaires; 36.6% had become ill, with a median incubation period of 18 h (range, 6–66 h). The major symptoms included diarrhea (89.2%), abdominal pain (69.8%), fever (47.5%), headache (32.7%), and vomiting (17.3%). Microbiological laboratories isolated Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis, Salmonella Virchow, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli from the contaminated sandwiches, Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Virchow from the patients, and Salmonella Enteritidis and Staphylococcus aureus from food handlers. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis genotyping suggested a common origin of Salmonella bacteria recovered from the patients, food, and a food handler. Among the pathogens detected, the symptoms and incubation period indicated that Salmonella, likely of egg origin, was the probable causative agent of the outbreak. This outbreak illustrates the importance of meticulous hygiene practices during food preparation and temperature control during food shipment and the food safety challenges posed by online food–shopping services.

Teens drug parents to use Internet

Unlimited Internet. It’s what I miss most about the U.S.

But we’re good in Anna Maria Island as everyone is running their computers, iPads and cell phones while preparing for Kansas State’s powell.girls.jan.13appearance in the chip bowl.

I also know better than to try and limit access. Boundaries, yes. Curfews? Not so much.

USA Today reports police say two California teenagers used prescription sleeping medication to drug the milkshakes of their parents so they could use the Internet.

The Sacramento Bee reports the girls offered to pick up milkshakes at a fast-food restaurant for the parents of one of the girls Friday.

The drug was mixed into the shakes, and the couple fell asleep. The suspicious parents picked up a drug test kit the following day.

The girls told investigators they wanted to use the Internet, which the parents shut down daily at 10 p.m.

It’s unclear what the girls did online.

Webidemiology: disease sleuths surf for outbreaks online

 Most folks who wake up feeling crummy will sit down with a computer or smartphone before they sit down with a doctor.

They might search the Web for remedies or tweet about their symptoms. And that’s why scientists who track disease are turning to the Internet for early warning signs of epidemics.

Philip Polgreen, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa, told NPR’s Adam Cole, "Surveillance is one of the cornerstones of public health. It all depends on having not only accurate data, but timely data."

The current system requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to compile reports about from physicians and labs all over the country — and that can take a while. There’s typically a week-long delay between an outbreak and the release of an official report.

To get an early read on things, epidemiologists look for the first clues of illness — a rise in thermometer sales or increased chatter on hospital phone lines. Now, they’re tapping into the Internet.

A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins wanted to see if Google’s estimates would prove accurate and useful in the everyday operation of a hospital.

They compared Google searches originating in Baltimore to the number of patients who showed up with flu-like symptoms at a local emergency room.

"It seems like a stretch, but what we found — amazingly — is that there’s a really high correlation between these searches in the community and what we’re seeing in hospitals," says Richard Rothman, the study’s co-author.

Online disease surveillance — or "Webidemiology" — is a cool new tool, and researchers are eagerly testing it out and double-checking the data they collect. But it won’t be used by itself to make important public health decisions anytime soon.

"The Internet is just one additional stream of information," Polgreen says. "It’s certainly not going to replace traditional forms of surveillance."

While the Internet may not be a perfect predictive tool, researchers and public health officials agree that it is great for one thing: communication.

Social networking allows officials to easily reach the public and enter into a conversation. Tweets, searches and Facebook posts can give officials a sense of public reaction to vaccines, or their attitude towards an epidemic.

"It’s a quick and easy barometer for public anxiety," Polgreen says.
And in a public health emergency, that can be just as useful as cold, hard numbers about cases.

Slander applies to Internet: legal warning over food-poison allegations in UK

A warning for armchair epidemiologists: people who make unsubstantiated allegations about food poisoning in reviews on user-generated websites such as TripAdvisor could face legal action.

“It’s almost impossible to say with any certainty that food poisoning came from any one meal, so making these kind of threats could potentially be libellous,” said Mark Harrington, chief executive of Check Safety First, a company specialising in food hygiene checks.

Mr Harrington told The Telegraph that fake restaurant reviews are being used to blackmail hoteliers. “There have been many reports that customers have blackmailed hoteliers by threatening to post false food-poisoning claims on TripAdvisor. It is scandalous.”

The news follows the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) ruling that TripAdvisor can no longer claim or imply that all its reviews can be trusted.

Kwikchex, a reputation management company that brought the case to the ASA on behalf of hoteliers and restaurateurs, said there were thousands of such allegations of food poisoning in Britain and U.S.

“Almost none are reported to the proper authorities, let alone substantiated,” said a spokesman. “Sometimes the reviewer believes it is the truth, but has not reported it and has no understanding of gastro-intestinal infections.

“They usually just pick on the last place where they ate, when in fact the incubation period for such infections is usually one to two days and sometimes as long as a week.”

The spokesman added that this type of allegation can be used by competitors and disgruntled ex-employees to harm the business.

Data not platitudes: market food safety but be able to back it up

I’m all for marketing microbial food safety at retail – directly to consumers – but only if the claims can be backed up with actions and data.

Schnuck Markets is expanding its so-called “Peace of Mind” initiative from pricing to quality assurance with a new website, www.peaceofmindquality.com, that emphasizes the chain’s dedication to quality and food safety.

Supermarket News cites one example on the website, a statement by Schnucks that “it intentionally applies shorter sell-by dates on meats and deli products to ensure products are fresher and last longer once purchased.”

“Through ‘Peace of Mind,’ you will have complete confidence that our foods are of the highest quality,” Schnucks writes on the website.

Quality and safety are seemingly used interchangeably on the website when they are actually two different concepts. The only evidence of food safety I saw on the website was that the company won some big-time award from the International Association for Food Protection in 2009.

I’m all for marketing food safety and providing comprehensive explanations of the food safety efforts of everyone in the farm-to-fork food safety chain, even the provision of testing data; some U.S. slaughterhouses are now doing this. Schnucks is going the right way, but it can be a lot better.

Risks with human breast milk from Internet (or others)

An animal advocacy group wanted Ben and Jerry’s to use human breast milk in its ice cream a couple of years ago, but it sounds like there’s some weirder mommy fetish going on in Canada – so much so that Health Canada warned Canadians yesterday to be aware of the potential health risks associated with consuming human breast milk obtained through the Internet or directly from individuals.

Obtaining human milk from the Internet or directly from individuals raises health concerns because, in most cases, medical information about the milk donors is not known. The Canadian Paediatric Society does not endorse the sharing of unprocessed human milk.

There is a potential risk that the milk may be contaminated with viruses such as HIV or bacteria which can cause food poisoning, such as Staphylococcus aureus.

In addition, traces of substances such as prescription and non-prescription drugs can be transmitted through human milk. Improper hygiene when extracting the milk, as well as improper storage and handling, could also cause the milk to spoil or be contaminated with bacteria and/or viruses that may cause illness.

Breastfeeding promotes optimal infant growth, health and development and is recognized internationally as the best method of feeding infants. However, unprocessed human milk should not be shared.