Food fraud: Crab meat from Venezuela linked to 9 cases of vibrio in Maryland

While Maryland Blue Crabs are a staple in the DMV, many places do sell crabs, packaged crab meat, and crab cakes with crab from elsewhere.

Anne Cutler of Fox 26 says the National Aquarium in Baltimore reports that due to environmental degradation and years of overfishing, there’s not enough blue crab in the region to support demand, and grocery stores and restaurants often resort to selling imported crab.

According to ocean conservancy organization Oceana, 33 percent of the seafood purchased in the United States is actually mislabeled.

The National Aquarium reports that under current law, crab meat can be imported from around the world, pasteurized in-state and relabeled as “Maryland crabmeat.”

Nine people have contracted dangerous Vibrio infections in Maryland alone. The state’s Department of Health is warning residents to not eat crab meat from Venezuela.

“We’re selling a lot of crab meat, shrimp, lobster, whatever you want. We’re steaming it for you. And as far as this crab meat, we gotta get it from the eastern shore now, because we heard from the media what’s going on,” said Clarence Goodman, with Jessie Taylor Seafood.

Goodman says the company is not taking any chances — sticking with products almost exclusively from the eastern seaboard. 

The crab in question comes in the little plastic tubs. Consumers should look for a label on the side of the container that says where the meat is from. If it comes from Venezuela, you don’t want to get it.

Diners should also pay attention when buying crab cakes as well.A 2015 study from Oceana found that 38 percent of crab cakes being advertised as having locally sourced Chesapeake blue crab were actually made of imported meat.

In the state of Maryland, only a few dozen restaurants in the state reliably make their crab cakes from local crabmeat and the state does not require restaurants to identify the specific source of the meat.

The state has a listing of “True Blue” local restaurants that serve Maryland blue crab.

Raw is risky: Over 100 oyster festival attendees ill in Maryland

Health officials say they are investigating a stomach flu outbreak, after over 100 people are apparently ill after attending an oyster festival, in Worcester County.

The Maryland Department of Health says on Friday, that their Division of Outbreak Investigation is working with the Worcester County Health Department to investigate a gastroenteritis outbreak that happened at a Beer and Oyster Festival, in Ocean City. The festival was apparently held at Fager’s Island Restaurant, on November 4.

According to state health officials, to date, there have been 145 cases of illness reported in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey that could be connected to the outbreak. There have been no reports of hospitalizations and deaths.

I don’t eat raw oysters: Gross and may have Vibrio

Following up a scientific report, Timothy B. Wheeler of the Bay Journal reports a 6-year-old outbreak of food poisoning linked to eating raw Chesapeake Bay oysters has left behind a lingering mystery. Scientists seeking to identify the water-borne pathogen that sickened a pair of Baltimore restaurant patrons have tracked the culprit to Asia.

Raw oystersHow a potent strain of Vibrio bacteria seemingly from so far away wound up in the Bay continues to puzzle Maryland health officials, who worked with researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate the 2010 cases.

The microorganism could have gotten here in the ballast water of the many oceangoing ships that ply the Chesapeake every year, state and federal scientists suggested in a recently published journal article. Or, they added, perhaps it came via the introduction of non-native oysters or some exotic fish.

“It really is speculation,” acknowledged Dr. Clifford Mitchell, environmental health bureau director for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “We didn’t sample ballast water. We didn’t take specimens that would lead us to know that we had fish coming over, or migration.”

But the case, published in the June issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, illustrates how disease-carrying organisms may travel around the world, researchers said. And while steps have been taken since 2010 to prevent the unintentional transport of pathogens, parasites and other potentially harmful organisms via ships’ ballast water, those safeguards still have significant gaps in them.

The bacterium involved in the 2010 food poisoning outbreak was Vibrio parahaemolyticus, strains of which are commonly found in coastal waters worldwide — including the Bay — though only some have been found to cause illness. When those are ingested, they can cause acute gastrointestinal distress, including diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, fever and chills. It usually passes within a few days, but in rare cases can be more severe, especially in people with weakened immune systems.

There were 45 cases of Vibrio infections reported in Maryland in 2010, but it’s not that often, state health officials said, that they’re able to pinpoint the source of the bacteria that may have sickened a particular person. By the time laboratory tests identify Vibrio as the cause of someone’s GI distress and the information gets reported to the state, days or even weeks may have passed, and the food that person had eaten is long gone.

In this case, though, state health investigators got a lucky break. Two individuals who got sick said that shortly before they became ill that summer, they had eaten raw oysters at different Baltimore restaurants. They hadn’t traveled out of state or done anything else that likely could have exposed them.

When investigators visited the restaurants, they found the half-shells eaten by the two victims were from the Bay. And when they visited the Maryland aquaculture operation that supplied both eateries, investigators pulled some oysters from the water and discovered that they had Vibrio in them as well — 11 different potentially disease-causing strains, in fact. One of those appeared to match the Asian strain found in the two food poisoning victims.

Coos Bay Oyster Co.The investigation ended there, for the time being. Even though the Vibrio involved were similar, researchers couldn’t positively identify them as the same, using the analytic techniques they had at the time. “The chromosome patterns matched, but we weren’t sure how common that pattern was in the environment,” explained Robert Myers, director of the state health department’s laboratory administration. “We hadn’t seen it before.”

A few years later, though, “whole genome sequencing” technology became available, Myers said, giving researchers the ability to draw a more detailed map of an organism’s genetic makeup.

With that new, more powerful analytical tool, FDA researchers re-examined the Vibrio strains involved in the 2010 outbreak and those from the oysters that state health investigators had sampled. They identified them as belonging to a family of strains known as “sequence type 8.” 

When researchers consulted a worldwide Vibrio database, they found that the Maryland strains were unlike any seen to date in the United States. Instead, they were closely related to strains reported only in Asia, most recently in Hong Kong about four years before the outbreak.

Changes were made to shellfish safety protocols after a larger outbreak in 2013of Vibrio parahaemolyticus illnesses associated with eating raw oysters harvested along the Atlantic Coast. More than 100 people in 13 states, including Maryland and Virginia, became ill.  According to a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, which regulates shellfish harvest waters in the state, the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference, a joint state-federal body, tightened its requirements for investigating such cases, closing implicated harvest areas and ordering a product recall when more than 10 cases are traced to a given area. 

But officials caution that the protocols are not foolproof, and cases like this are a reminder of the risk people run in consuming raw seafood, Mitchell said, especially if they have underlying health conditions.

The number of reported Vibrio infections in the state varies from year to year, but has been trending upward since 2005, according to state health data. Concentrations of the bacteria increase in warmer weather, and climate change could be a factor as Bay water temperatures tick upward. But Mitchell cautioned that the bacteria are present year-round.

“Given the number of people who eat oysters, certainly it’s a relatively small number of infections, but it can be a very significant one,” Mitchell said.

WGS, Vibrio and traceback in oysters

In the summer of 2010, Vibrio parahaemolyticus caused an outbreak in Maryland linked to the consumption of oysters. Strains isolated from both stool and oyster samples were indistinguishable by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). However, the oysters contained other potentially pathogenic V. parahaemolyticusstrains exhibiting different PFGE patterns.

Oyster-Vancouver, B.C.- 07/05/07- Joe Fortes Oyster Specialist Oyster Bob Skinner samples a Fanny Bay oyster at the restuarant. Vancouver Coastal Health now requires restaurants to inform their patrons of the dangers of eating raw shellfish.  (Richard Lam/Vancouver Sun)   [PNG Merlin Archive]

In order to assess the identity, genetic makeup, relatedness, and potential pathogenicity of the V. parahaemolyticusstrains, we sequenced 11 such strains (2 clinical strains and 9 oyster strains). We analyzed these genomes by in silico multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and determined their phylogeny using a whole-genome MLST (wgMLST) analysis. Ourin silico MLST analysis identified six different sequence types (STs) (ST8, ST676, ST810, ST811, ST34, and ST768), with both of the clinical and four of the oyster strains being identified as belonging to ST8.

Using wgMLST, we showed that the ST8 strains from clinical and oyster samples were nearly indistinguishable and belonged to the same outbreak, confirming that local oysters were the source of the infections. The remaining oyster strains were genetically diverse, differing in >3,000 loci from the Maryland ST8 strains. eBURST analysis comparing these strains with strains of other STs available at the V. parahaemolyticus MLST website showed that the Maryland ST8 strains belonged to a clonal complex endemic to Asia. This indicates that the ST8 isolates from clinical and oyster sources were likely not endemic to Maryland. Finally, this study demonstrates the utility of whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and associated analyses for source-tracking investigations.

A nonautochthonous U.S. strain of Vibrio parahaemolyticus isolated from Chesapeake Bay oysters caused the outbreak in Maryland in 2010

Appl. Environ. Microbiol. June 2016 vol. 82 no. 11 3208-3216

Julie Haendiges, Jessica Jones, Robert A. Myers, Clifford S. Mitchell, Erin Butler, Magaly Toro and Narjol Gonzalez-Escalona

http://aem.asm.org/content/82/11/3208.abstract?etoc

U.S. database of food safety inspections

University of Maryland faculty and graduate students in computer science and economics, together with a colleague from UCLA, have created the largest national database of food safety inspection information.

larry.david.rest.inspecIn the U.S., such inspections are done by local public health departments, which can take different approaches to conducting, coding and reporting inspection data. Using this unique new automated database, food service businesses and consumers can monitor and compare food safety practices from outlets across the nation.

The national database was developed by UMD Professor of Computer Science Ben Bederson, UMD Professor of Economics Ginger Jin, UCLA Associate Professor of Business Management Philip Leslie, new Ph.D. graduate Alexander Quinn (computer science) and UMD Ph.D. graduate student Ben Zou (economics).

According to Bederson, who also is UMD’s Associate Provost of Learning Initiatives and Executive Director of its Teaching and Learning Transformation Center, the team’s database uses data robots to automatically collect data from local government websites, and represents a huge leap from local and state databases that are built using manually-collected and sometimes poorly correlated data, and which can easily miss the big picture and have little impact on compliance actions.

“Building our system to reliably collect information from so many different jurisdictions was a formidable engineering challenge,” said Bederson.

Another difficulty was developing normalization algorithms to compare data across jurisdictions where the data is very different. For some web pages, the team had to write custom ‘scrapers’ to get the data, and for others they had to interpret already available databases.

For non-commercial use, the database is publicly available at http://hazelanalytics.com/ at no cost.

Maryland health types probe ‘outbreak of illness’ at conference center

State and county health officials are investigating what is being called a sudden “outbreak of illness” that affected nearly 80 people who attended a St. Maria Goretti High School luncheon earlier this month.

Hager Hall.SmKerri Corderman, director of communications at the private Catholic prep school, said on Jan. 23 that 151 people attended the luncheon held two weeks before at Hager Hall Conference and Event Center.

Afterward, 79 attendees reported that they got sick, including five who sought medical attention, she said.

“We’re working with the health department to find out further information about what happened,” Corderman said.

One woman who attended the event with her son said they both became “violently ill” with nausea and vomiting for about two days afterward. 

Pay attention, temperature abuse matters: Food Safety Summit diners sickened with C. perfringens in Baltimore in April

My colleagues at Kansas State University would happily eat a Jimmy John’s sub sandwich loaded with raw sprouts, even though there was an outbreak ongoing, and even after expressing derision when one of my students gave a seminar and said it was a stealth ingredient.

sprout.apple.aug.14They’re probably still eating them.

On April 11, 2014, the Baltimore City 311 system received 3 reports of illness from attendees of Conference A (Food Safety Summit). A 4th report was received on April 15. All of the reports were from conference attendees who also worked in the same building at another work location. The reporters stated that they, and

several coworkers who also attended Conference A, became ill with diarrhea between April 8 and April 10. The attendees suspected that lunch served on April 9 was the source of the illnesses. All 4 reports were assigned in the 311 system to Baltimore City Health Department’s (BCHD), Bureau of Environmental Health, Environmental Inspection Services (EIS) Food Control Section.

On April 16, BCHD, EIS identified that these reports were related and informed BCHD’s Office of Acute Communicable Diseases (ACD). An outbreak investigation was initiated on April 16 by BCHD. BCHD notified the

Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) Division of Outbreak Investigation on April 16. Subsequently, the response proceeded as a joint state‐local outbreak investigation.

Caterer A, the primary caterer for Convention Center A, supplied food for the conference. Food was also available for purchase at vendors and concession areas in the convention center.

The observed temperature of a walk‐in cooler was within the acceptable range. No food prepared for the conference remained. Menus for the conference,

temperature logs, and recipes and procedures for food preparation were obtained.

During the same visit on April 16, Caterer A reported that during the event, about 12 employees worked in the kitchen and 40 served food. Of these, Caterer A estimated that about 20 were temporary wait staff. Two other events were held at Convention Center A that same week and were also catered by Caterer A, but neither the facility nor Caterer A received any complaints of illness from either of these groups. DHMH called the contact person that was supplied to the convention center for one of the groups to ask if attendees of that event had become ill. Caterer A also reported that two employees had been ill around the time of the outbreak. One employee who washes dishes started feeling sick the

morning of April 10 and vomited in a restroom at work that afternoon; the employee was sent home.

Another employee, who did not work in the kitchen, became ill with diarrhea and an upset stomach on April 11, with duration of symptoms less than one day. According to Caterer A management, neither of the ill employees ate food from work. Both of the ill employees submitted stool specimens for testing.

Also during the April 16 visit, Caterer A reported hearing rumors that 20 people associated with Conference A were sick and that someone working at the registration desk for the conference had been sick and could have contaminated the attendees’ badges. When additional questions were asked about

this at a later date, Caterer A reported that it was the event organizer who told them of the illnesses on April 10. The event organizer and caterer did not report the illnesses to BCHD or DHMH.

Through subsequent calls, emails, and visits with Caterer A, information about the preparation and holding of the chicken Marsala served on April 9 for lunch was obtained. The Marsala sauce was prepared the morning of April 9 and used only for the April 9 lunch. Kitchen staff might also have consumed the chicken Marsala, but the other two groups with events at Convention Center A that day

had a different menu and would not have eaten it. Leftovers would have been discarded. However, the ingredients used to make the dish were likely used for other dishes served to this group and for dishes served to other groups. Caterer A reported that precooked frozen chicken breasts were used for the

chicken Marsala. The chicken breasts were placed on sheet pans and thawed in a walk in cooler on April 7.

They were cooked the morning of April 9 and transferred to 2‐inch pans after cooking. The sauce was prepared using wine, pre‐sliced fresh mushrooms, 16 lb. buckets of frozen demi‐glace that had been placed in a walk‐in cooler 24 hours prior to thaw, and peeled fresh garlic from 5 lb. jars that was

chopped in the kitchen prior to use. The mushrooms and garlic were added first to a steam jacket kettle, followed by the wine and demi‐glace. The sauce was brought to a boil and then simmered for 30‐ 40 minutes. One hundred and fifty gallons of sauce were prepared at one time. The sauce was drained

from the steam jacket kettle into pitchers and poured directly over the pans of cooked chicken breasts.

Plastic wrap was placed over the pans. The pans were loaded into hot holding cabinets with Sternos on the bottom shelf approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes prior to service. Temperatures were recorded at that time and 2 hours later. The hot holding cabinet was plugged in while in the kitchen, unplugged

during transport, and plugged in at the location of service. Transport to the location of service occurred about 50‐60 minutes prior to the opening of the buffet. Fifteen to 20 minutes before the buffet lines opened, the pans were loaded onto pre‐warmed serving dishes with the lids closed. The plastic wrap

was removed when the buffet line opened. The above process was reported by Caterer A management and not directly observed on the day of service by DHMH or BCHD. Time intervals were reported, not recorded, by Caterer A.

Three temperature logs for the April 9 lunch service were available from Caterer A. Temperatures were recorded for 2 time points. All three logs were similar and indicated a temperature of 167°F at 10:15 am and a temperature of 151°F or 152°F at noon for the chicken Marsala. Temperatures were also recorded

for vegetable lasagna and roasted vegetables. Per Caterer A, the buffet was scheduled to be open from 11:45 am to 1:15 pm.

Stool specimens from 22 ill individuals were tested, including 1 from an individual who was excluded from the exposure analysis because their onset of illness was April 17, 2 from ill employees of Caterer A, and 19 from case‐patients. The median time between onset of illness and specimen collection was 13 days (range 4‐21 days). Two specimens from case‐patients were positive for norovirus genogroup 2 by real‐time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction procedure (RT‐PCR). The specimen from the person with an onset of illness on April 17 who was excluded from the exposure analysis was positive for

norovirus genogroup 1. Testing for Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli O157, Shiga toxins, Campylobacter, rotavirus, sapovirus, astrovirus and Shiga toxins was negative.

Was it food poisoning? 100 sickened at Food Safety Summit

I’m always amazed at the terrible food safety and ingredients served at food safety meetings, especially at department meetings.

amy.sprouts.guelph.05People who pontificate about what others should eat have no problem consuming sandwiches with sprouts and other crap.

More than 100 people have now reported they got sick with suspected food poisoning at a national Food Safety Summit held earlier this month in Baltimore.

Maryland state health officials say they still don’t know what caused the outbreak of gastroenteritis that left participants suffering symptoms that included diarrhea and nausea.

Agencies investigating gastroenteritis outbreak in Maryland

The Harford County Health Department and the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene are investigating an outbreak of stomach issues, a spokesman said Sunday night.

“I can confirm a collaborative investigation between ourselves and the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene of what we believe at this time to be a restaurant-vomit.toiletassociated outbreak of gastroenteritis,” said Harford County Health Department spokesman William Wiseman. “However, pending lab results we expect back this week and our ongoing investigation, more specifics regarding the outbreak are currently unknown.”

Wiseman, in an email, said the organizations “are aware of an increase of gastroenteritis statewide.”

Water? We don’t need no stinkin’ water, we’ve got gloves; Subway in Maryland

Russ Ptacek of WUSA CBS Channel 9 reports that armed guards at Beltway Plaza Mall prevented our camera crew from recording video of restaurants cited and closed for operating without running water, but a producer managed to take iPhone photos before STINKINGBADGES-1ebeing escorted out.

In Greenbelt, citing operating without running water during a water main break, health inspectors temporarily closed: Subway, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road; Three Brothers, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road; Kalpena Dip-N-Depot, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road; and Heaven Bakery, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road.

All the restaurants passed re-inspection and are back in business.

At the Beltway Plaza Mall Subway, a manager told us he didn’t believe operating during the water outage was a problem because workers wear gloves.

Health experts say contaminated hands can contaminate clean gloves and workers should wash hands every time they change tasks, especially after using the restroom.