NZ poultry industry calls chicken contamination findings ‘scaremongering’

That didn’t take long.

Nor should it.

But the so-called experts undermine their case by not advocating the use of a tip-sensitive digital thermometer and instead relying on the woefully unreliable color test (‘chicken must be fully cooked through until juices run clear) for safety.

A new University of Otago, Wellington study, published last week in the international journal BMC Public Health found an overwhelming majority of consumers were not aware of the widespread Campylobacter contamination.

But the Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand is challenging the findings, which it says does not reflect reported Campylobacter statistics nor consumer behaviour.

PIANZ executive director Michael Brooks said the findings did not add up with New Zealand’s soaring chicken consumption, and flat rates of reported campylobacter cases.

“Reported cases of campylobacter have sat between 6000 to 7000 for the past five years, so it’s misleading to estimate there are 30,000 cases occurring,” Brooks said.

“It is important to note that the source of these cases was not always chicken.

“Consumers contract campylobacteriosis from other sources too.”

Brooks said the poultry industry had made significant changes when it came to labelling for food safety.

The association lost control of that access to information once third parties like butchers or supermarkets started packaging their own raw chicken product.

“As an industry it is important for everyone to educate their customers on food safety practices.”

Brooks said he welcomed a collaborative approach with institutions such as Otago University, as consumer education was key to reducing cases of campylobacter.

Campy in NZ poultry: ‘Warning labels required’

(Doesn’t say if the study has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)

New Zealanders want brightly coloured warning labels on fresh chicken to warn them of the risks of the country’s “number one food safety problem”, new research suggests.

A University of Otago study found only 15 per cent of consumers were aware that 60 to 90 per cent of fresh chicken meat for sale in New Zealand is contaminated with campylobacter.

“This study has identified some clear gaps in campylobacteriosis prevention in New Zealand,” University of Otago infectious diseases researcher Professor Michael Baker said.

“Fresh chicken is heavily contaminated with campylobacter and causes an estimated 30,000 New Zealanders to get sick each year. “

Fresh chicken was also spreading antibiotic resistant bacteria and was “New Zealand’s number one food safety problem”, Baker said.

Speaking on Mike Hosking Breakfast today, he said people were still getting sick as a result of not carrying out best practice when preparing fresh chicken – including not adequately cleaning bench surfaces or sinks that have come in contact with it.

Baker said a label would need good information to help a consumer, but would need to be tested.

He said labels to should read something like: “This food should be treated with care.”

The study was based on interviews with 401 shoppers over 16 who were recruited outside 12 supermarkets and six butcheries in the Wellington Region

“New Zealand has one of the highest rates of campylobacteriosis in the world and at least half of cases can be attributed to contaminated chicken,” Philip Allan, a medical student and researcher at the Department of Public Health, University of Otago Wellington (UOW), said.

“Our study showed that many consumers are not aware of the risks, and that retailers should do much more to inform shoppers.”

The study also assessed the quality of current chicken labelling in supermarkets and butcheries and identified major deficiencies in the safety information provided to consumers.

Butchery labels in particular were lacking in chicken preparation information.

More than half wanted the levels of campylobacter contamination reported, the study found.

“Most participants thought a large, brightly coloured warning label containing safety information would be the most effective for communicating safe chicken preparation information.”

The study’s researchers said the most effective way to reduce campylobacteriosis rates is for Ministry for Primary Industries to mandate lower contamination levels of fresh poultry.

“This measure has been highly effective in the past, halving the rate of campylobacteriosis in New Zealand when implemented in 2007.
“While improved labelling is important, it is no substitute for cleaning up our poultry,” Baker said.

Tests show NZ beef sector so far free of M. bovis

Emma left this morning.

Emma has always been a special person in our lives, and especially Sorenne’s.

When Amy was pregnant almost 10 years ago at Kansas State University, we talked about getting some early childhood education students to help out, so I could work and Amy could write.

Never had to post the ad.

Emma was a student in one of Dr. Amy’s French classes, noticed she was pregnant, and asked, are you going to need help with that baby?

Emma became one of our helpers.

This was in the U.S., with six weeks maternity leave, rather than Canada, with six months maternity leave (plus a whole bunch more parental leave, in Canada).

Emma now lives in New Zealand with her partner, the veterinarian, and took advantage of the long weekend to have a visit.

To watch Emma and her partner experiment and flourish over the past 10 years has been a delight.

But this story is for the dude, since he works at MPI in New Zealand, whose $3 billion beef export sector seems to be free so far of the serious new cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

The Ministry for Primary Industries, which is attempting to contain an outbreak of the disease in dairy cattle by a mass slaughter of more than 22,000 dairy cattle before the beginning of June, said there had been no positive results from its testing of beef animals.

The beef and dairy sectors work closely in New Zealand through dairy calf rearing and dairy grazing with about 80 per cent of premium beef cattle production originating from the dairy herd.

In response to a Herald inquiry, an MPI spokeswoman said the risk profile for M. bovis in beef farming was very different to that of dairying because of how beef is raised in New Zealand.

“Generally beef cattle are farmed extensively in pasture and are not fed risky discarded calf milk.

“We looked into this carefully and determined the beef stock at greatest risk were those that were raised in feed lots – not that common in New Zealand.”

With the support of industry good organisation Beef+Lamb, MPI had carried out some surveillance of cattle in feed lots, mostly in the South Island, the epicentre of the M. bovis outbreak.

“The animals were tested at slaughter in order to take samples … there were no positive results,” the spokeswoman said.

“We also consider that many dairy beef animals were tested in the response as part of our tests on neighbouring farms to infected properties. Again, no positives were found.”
Meanwhile, newly released MPI reports on M. bovis investigations since the first outbreak last July said “confluence of multiple rare events” could have allowed the bacterial disease into New Zealand, possibly as long ago as 2015.

One of the three released reports identifies seven potential pathways for the disease but finds all “improbable – yet one of them resulted in entry”.

The risk pathways investigated were imported embyros, imported frozen bull semen, imported live cattle, imported feed, imported used farm equipment, and other imported live animals. A seventh pathway was redacted from the reports along with all discussion about it, but the Herald can confirm it was imported veterinary medicines and biological products.

MPI has opted to try to contain the disease with a mass cull of cattle on 28 quarantined properties, all but one in the South Island, because it believes it is not yet well established in New Zealand. The first outbreak of the disease was on a large-scale dairying business in the South Island. However, the MPI reports suggest it may have been introduced in mid-2016 or even earlier.

Risk assessment ‘tolerable’ for tree that killed woman

Risk assessments are fraught with value judgements scientists make when choosing the upper and lower boundaries of numerical ranges and the assumptions made, especially those involving human behavior.

Conrad Brunk (right) and co-authors explored this in the 1991 book, Value Judgements in Risk Assessment.

For the many food safety risk assessors and analysts out there, a New Zealand tree may offer a lesson.

A tree in Rotorua, known as Spencer’s Oak, was deemed to be of a “tolerable” level of risk when it came down in a Jan. 2018 storm and killed a woman.

The 150-year-old oak, believed to be around 23m tall, blocked Amohia St, trapped 56-year-old Trish Butterworth in her car. She died at the scene.

The risk assessment of the tree has been revealed in documents released by Rotorua Lakes Council to Stuff under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

Benn Bathgate reports that in a tree assessment report from an arboricultural contractor dated February 28, 2017, Spencer’s Oak and a second tree were assessed.

“The assessed risk levels for these trees all fall the tolerable level,” the report said. 

“There is some decay evident in some of the buttress roots and in some old pruning wounds. Sounding the trunk and buttress roots with a plastic mallet did not indicate any major areas of concern.”

The report also found several old wire rope cables installed in the tree which were described as “under a lot of tension”, with one frayed and unravelling.

“Although the cables appear to be under tension there are no signs that these cables are required by the tree.”

The tree was also described as showing signs of decline.

The report also outlines three bands of risk level; broadly acceptable, tolerable and unacceptable.

“This inspection and report will give the three a risk rating and options for mitigation,” the report said.

“It is up to the tree owners to decide what if any action is to be taken depending on their tolerance of tisk.”

The report’s conclusion said if the examined trees had major deadwood removed, their risk level would be considered as low as reasonably practible.

Will the world get a sad poop emoji? Or just a shithole?

Vomit.

Poop.

Shit.

It’s everywhere.

And biological.

In Christchurch, New Zealand, vomit and fecal contamination has forced the closure of Christchurch’s public pools 178 times during 2017.

The Christchurch City Council has taken steps to reduce closures across its three indoor facilities. This has led to a 20 per cent drop in closures this year compared to 2016 when the pools were closed 224 times.

Pioneer pool in Spreydon was the hardest hit, experiencing 79 closures, including 50 “code browns” and 26 vomiting incidents. Pioneer pool was closed 93 times in 2016.

Most incidents happened in the leisure pool, which was closed 52 times, followed by the teach pool with 20 closures.

With those kind of numbers, should there be a sad poop emoji to go with the smiling pile of poop emoji?

Barbara Ortutay of USA Today reports that the Unicode Consortium is tasked with setting the global standard for the icons. It’s a heady responsibility and it can take years from inspiration — Hey, why isn’t there a dumpling? — to a new symbol being added to our phones.

That’s because deciding whether a googly-eyed turd should express a wider range of emotions is not the frivolous undertaking it might appear to be. Picking the newest additions to our roster of cartoonish glyphs, from deciding on their appearance to negotiating rules that allow vampires but bar Robert Pattinson’s or Dracula’s likeness, actually has consequences for modern communication.

Not since the printing press has something changed written language as much as emojis have, says Lauren Collister, a scholarly communications librarian at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Emoji is one way language is growing,” she says. “When it stops growing and adapting, that’s when a language dies.”

So full congrats to the New York Daily Post, whose front-page this morning slammed the immigration comments of so-called U.S. President Donald Trump with an appropriate emoji of its own.

According to the Washington Post, which first reported the story, President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting. 

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt they help the United States economically.

In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.” 

George Washington said in 1783, “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger, but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights & privileges” (except for colored people which was sorta dumb).

Maybe Jimmy Buffett got it.

Buffet’s 1978 album, Son of a Son of a Sailor, was one of the first 8-tracks I bought while on vacation in Florida when I was 15-years-old, and it included the track Manana, which weirdly applies to Trump.

She said I can’t go back to America soon

It’s so goddamn cold it’s gonna snow until June

Yeah, they’re freezin’ up in Buffalo stuck in their cars

And I’m lyin’ here ‘neath the sun and the stars.

Customs man tell her that she’s gotta leave

She’s got a plan hidden up her shrewd sleeve

Wants to find her a captain, a man of strong mind

And any direction he blows will be fine.

Please don’t say manana if you don’t mean it

I have heard those words for so very long

Don’t try to describe the ocean if you’ve never seen it

Don’t ever forget that you just may wind up being wrong.

Tried and I tried but I don’t understand

Never seems to work out the way I had it planned

Hanging out at a marina when Steve Martin called

Singin’ anybody there really want to get small.

But women and water are in short supply

There’s not enough dope for us all to get high

I hear it gets better, that’s what they say

As soon as we sail on to Cane Garden Bay.

Please don’t say manana if you don’t mean it

I have heard your lines for so very long

Don’t try to describe the scenery if you’ve never seen it

Don’t ever forget that you just may wind up in my song.

Called all my friends on those cheap nightly rates

Sure was good to talk to the old United States

While the lights of St. Thomas lie twenty miles west

I see General Electric’s still doing their best.

I’ve got to head this boat south pretty soon

New album’s old and I’m fresh out of tunes

But I know that I’ll get ’em, I know that they’ll come

Through the people and places and Caldwood’s Rum

So please don’t say manana if you don’t mean it

I have done your lines for so very long

Don’t try to describe a Kiss concert if you’ve never seen it

Don’t ever forget that you just may wind up being gonged

And I hope Anita Bryant never does one of my songs.

 

Noro suspected: 15 concert-goers in NZ hospitalized

Fifteen people are in Gisborne Hospital with severe vomiting and diarrhoea, after attending Rhythm and Vines.

Local health authorities warn the symptoms look like norovirus, and some festival-goers may need to be isolated to stop a full outbreak.

Medical officer of health Dr Bruce Duncan said they needed to stop any further contamination.

“Fifteen young people were transported [this morning] to Gisborne Hospital, where an isolation ward has been set up.

“The priority is avoiding an outbreak. Norovirus has not been confirmed, but it remains a possibility.

“With thousands of people in close proximity, it was a priority to do all we can to prevent a mass outbreak.

“At this stage, this appears to have been successful.”

Food fraud: Illegal fish via Facebook in NZ

Michael Daly of Stuff reports the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says it has been alerted to more than 250 cases this year where people have tried to sell recreationally caught seafood on Facebook.

The issue attracted attention in Southland just before Christmas, with at least three posts on local group buy and sell sites offering seafood for sale. One was for fresh pāua said “trades or swaps 2kgs left”. Another was for 1kg of fresh pāua and 700g of frozen, while the third advertised nine “Fiordland lobster” tails “snap frozen straight off boat”.

An MPI spokesperson said the ministry was investigating several reported illegal fish sales on social media in the Southland area.

“For good reason, we cannot disclose the stage at which our inquiries are or what methods we use to acquire best evidence.”

The three posts advertising the pāua and crayfish angered members of the Spearfishing Southland group Facebook page. In a discussion on the site about the online advertising of seafood, one spearfishing group member said he had reported three incidents to MPI.

Another spearfishing group member, Andy Smith, who also runs an open community page with the same name, said after he had replied to the post for the crayfish tails after spotting it. 

“I put a message up myself saying, ‘Do you realise, it’s illegal what you’re doing?’ Fifteen minutes later, the post was gone,” he said.

He wasn’t aware of many cases where seafood was advertised in Facebook posts. “I see it happen sometimes, but it usually gets taken down pretty quick.” 

Sounds like Walkerton: More than 750,000 in NZ exposed to potentially unsafe drinking water

Same old, same old.

Tracy Watkins of Stuff writes complacency, inept officials – a Government inquiry paints a frightening picture of the state of New Zealand’s drinking water, with at least 750,000 of New Zealanders drinking from supplies that are “not demonstrably safe” – a figure described as likely to be a “significant underestimate.”

The inquiry was sparked by the 2016 Havelock North gastro outbreak, which has now been linked to four deaths, and calls for a major overhaul of water supplies, including mandatory treatment.

The Government has now written urgently to all mayors and district health boards asking to check the water they are supplying meets current standards after the inquiry revealed 20 per cent of water supplies were not up to standard.

That 20 per cent affects 759,000 people, of which 92,000 are at risk of bacterial infection, 681,000 of protozoal infection and 59,000 at risk from the long term effects of exposure to chemicals through their water supply.

But that figure was likely to understate the problem, as it did not include more than 600,000 people who drink water from self-suppliers or temporary suppliers, or tourists to places like Punakaiki on the West Coast, which is under a permanent “boil water” notice.

The inquiry found that complacency about the state of New Zealand’s drinking water was common, yet the evidence showed that in many cases it was safer to drink tap water overseas than here.

But its most damning findings related to the Ministry of Health, which it described as inept and negligent in its oversight of a system in which non-compliance with safe standards was high.

The risks for contamination of the water supplies were detailed by the inquiry including damaged pipes, a huge number of private and unknown bores, and the close proximity of sewerage to drinking water assets, a factor that caused surprise among overseas experts.

The second part of the inquiry looked at broader water quality issues.

It found that lessons from Havelock North appeared not to have been learned – compliance figures in the 2016-17 period were still “alarmingly low” and “do not appear to reflect any increased vigilance by suppliers in the aftermath of [that] outbreak”.

“The inquiry found the falling compliance levels with the bacteriological and chemical standards particularly concerning. The decrease in compliance with the bacteriological standards results from an increased number of transgressions, an increased number of supplies with ineffective, delayed or unknown remedial action following transgressions, and an increased number of supplies with inadequate monitoring.

“Twenty-seven supplies failed entirely to take any remedial action after a transgression. In the aftermath of the bacteriological outbreak in Havelock North, these failures to respond effectively to transgressions or to monitor adequately are surprising and unacceptable.”

Fonterra fined $183m over contamination scandal

New Zealand’s Fonterra has been ordered to pay 105 million euros (NZ$183 million) in damages to French food giant Danone as a result of the Fonterra food safety failures of 2013.

Danone had sued Fonterra as a result of the whey protein concentrate contamination scandal in 2013, when Fonterra quarantined several batches over fears it was contaminated with clostridium bacteria. It later turned out to be a false alarm.

Danone launched a legal suit in New Zealand and arbitration proceedings in Singapore, seeking restoration for the costs of recalling the whey protein concentrate.

At the time, Fonterra said it expected any court action would show the Kiwi firm didn’t have any liability in the contract, and it recognised a contingent liability of just $14m over the recall.

In 2014, New Zealand’s Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision that the Singapore arbitration proceedings should be the first avenue, as provided for in the contract, but refused to permanently stay the legal suit.

The result of the Singapore proceedings was released on Friday, and Danone says it “welcomes” the decision.

3 members of NZ family stricken with botulism from wild boar: 1 has begun to ‘mouth words’

The oldest member of a South Waikato family struck down by suspected botulism poisoning has begun to mouth words, a spokesman says.

Shibu Kochummen, 35, his wife Subi Babu, 33, and his mother Alekutty Daniel, 62, ate a wild boar curry for dinner two weeks ago at their Putaruru home.

Within minutes of eating, Babu and Daniel collapsed, vomiting. Kochummen called an ambulance but collapsed while on the phone.

The trio have been in a serious but stable condition in Waikato Hospital for the past two weeks and at the weekend Daniel became “slightly responsive”, having co-ordinated eye movement and the ability to focus.

“No one has spoken but we are beginning to get focus on movement,” family spokesman Joji Varghese earlier told Belinda Feek of the New Zealand Herald.

He confirmed today that Daniel was now beginning to mouth words but she wasn’t yet talking.

Subi Babu was also making progress but not as much as her mother-in-law.

Shibu Kochummen has yet to respond.

Varghese said doctors did not know if Daniel’s ability to follow an object with her eyes meant she was comprehending yet and they were still awaiting results of tests being conducted in Brisbane to definitively diagnose botulism.