58 sick, 2 dead, possible link to romaine lettuce

Over the past seven weeks, 58 people in the U.S. and Canada have become ill and two have died from E. coli O157H7, linked by Canadians to romaine lettuce, probably grown in California, given the timing of illnesses.

On Dec. 11, 2017, the Public Health Agency of Canada did its public duty and notified Canadians that at least 21 people were sick with E. coli O157:H7 and the probable source was romaine lettuce.

A couple of retailers in Canada pulled all romaine lettuce from the shelves, but the others shrugged and said, not enough is known.

By Dec. 28, 2017, the Canadian numbers had jumped to 41 sick and one dead, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control chimed in to say there were 17 sick in the U.S. with a similar strain but they wouldn’t say it was linked to romaine lettuce, with the Trumpesque language of “CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food.”

Outbreaks are hard, but where’s the tipping point between protecting public health and protecting a commodity and all the growers, retailers, involved?

Everyone went off and enjoyed New Year’s, and then people woke up again on Jan. 2, 2018 (happy new year), to be told by the Toronto Star (that’s in Canada) that of the 17 U.S. cases, five people have been hospitalized, one of whom has died. Two have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.

That’s 58 sick and two dead.

On Jan. 3, 2018, Trisha Calvo of Consumer Reports wrote the group’s food safety types advise “consumers stop eating romaine lettuce until the cause of the outbreak is identified and the offending product is removed from store shelves.”

“Even though we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw,” says James Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety and research at Consumer Reports.

“There is not enough epidemiologic evidence at this time to indicate a specific source of the illnesses in the United States,” says Brittany Behm, MPH, a CDC spokesperson. “Although some sick people reported eating romaine lettuce, preliminary data available at this time shows they were not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine, based on a CDC food consumption survey.” Health officials, Behm says, take action when there is clear and convincing information linking illness to a contaminated food.

“The FDA should follow the lead of the Canadian government and immediately warn the public about this risk,“ said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports.

“The available data strongly suggest that romaine lettuce is the source of the U.S. outbreak,” she says. “If so, and people aren’t warned, more may get sick.”

That got attention, and many media outlets chimed in.

barfblog.com’s Ben Chapman told Rachael Rettner of Live Science that, “[To] say ‘avoid romaine for now,’ I don’t know if I have enough information to agree with that statement,”  Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University.

“Avoiding just romaine may or may not be enough,” because other lettuces or foods could also be affected, Chapman told Live Science. “It could be that there’s a different [food] source of this exact same pathogen,” he said.

Another possibility is that the E. coli strain causing illness in the United States is actually slightly different from the strain in Canada. “We could be looking at two different outbreaks at the same time,” Chapman said.

About four times a day I’ll get a tweet from the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement – the folks who set themselves up after the spinach outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in 2006 that killed four and sickened 200 – blowing themselves about how great they are, and how their products are so safe.

If you want that kind of PR, then you have to take the hits as well.

LGMA never talks about an outbreak linked to leafy greens (publicly).

To me, they’ve succeeded best at lowering the leafy greens cone of silence and intimidating public health types into delaying reports of outbreaks.

But late on Jan. 4, 2018, LGMA finally made a public statement, below, with my comments.

A group of produce industry associations today issued the following statement to update consumers on a recent e.coli outbreak being investigated in Canada in the U.S.:

It’s E coli. You folks should be well-versed in that.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not identified what food likely caused this foodborne illness.  No public agency has contacted any Romaine lettuce grower, shipper or processor and requested that they either stop shipping or recall product already in the marketplace.

Defensive.

Even if this outbreak is actually confirmed to be caused by Romaine lettuce, it’s important to recognize this is a highly perishable product with a limited usable shelf life and it’s highly unlikely a specific affected lot would still be available for sale or in a home refrigerator with the last U.S. illness being reported on December 8th.

Carry on, it’s all gone.

Food safety remains a top priority of leafy greens farmers, shippers and processors and the industry has robust food safety programs in place that incorporate stringent government regulatory oversight.

The Pinto defense. Audits and inspections are never enough, and saying we have government oversight does nothing to build trust with the consuming public, as research shows.

Our leading produce industry associations have and will continue to cooperate fully with public health officials investigating this foodborne illness outbreak.

Play nice in the sandbox.

Anytime we see an outbreak of any foodborne illness, our hearts go out to the victims.

This is what you should have led with. Now it reads like a tack-on.

If the leafy green marketing folks want to be truly transparent, they will make actual inspection data public for mere mortals to review, they will market microbial food safety at retail, and stop stonewalling every time there is an outbreak linked to leafy greens.

I have lots of respect for individual farmers who make a go of it and produce the bounty of produce we enjoy.

I have no respect for self-serving associations with bad soundbites.

A table of leafy green related outbreaks is available at http://www.barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/lettuce-leafy-greens-outbreaks-table-_1-5-18.xlsx

At least 20 sick with Cyclospora in Canada

Health-types in Canada are investigating locally acquired Cyclospora infections in two provinces. The source of the outbreak has not been identified. Previous outbreaks in Canada and the United States (US) have been linked to imported fresh produce. The investigation is ongoing.

In Canada, a total of 20 cases have been reported in two provinces: British Columbia (5) and Ontario (15). Individuals became sick between May and early June of this year. The majority of cases (60%) are male, with an average age of 53 years. The investigation into the source of the outbreak is ongoing. To date, no multi-jurisdictional outbreaks of Cyclospora have been linked to produce grown in Canada.

The outbreak investigation is active and the public health notice will be updated on a regular basis as the investigation evolves.

People living or travelling in tropical or subtropical regions of the world who eat fresh produce or drink untreated water may be at increased risk for infection because the parasite is found in some of these regions.

7 sick: Outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to raw frozen breaded chicken thingies in Canada, again

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with lotsa other bureau-types to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections in four provinces with cases of human illness linked to frozen raw breaded chicken products.

PHAC feels compelled to tell Canadians the risk is low and illnesses can be avoided if safe food handling, preparation and cooking practices are followed when preparing these types of food products. This outbreak is a reminder that frozen raw breaded chicken products contain raw poultry and should be handled and prepared no differently from other raw poultry products.

It’s the just-cook-it stance, which doesn’t account for cross-contamination, and utterly fails to account for the BS marketing that companies use to market this shit (see video below, when we had no idea how to shoot video).

Currently, there are seven cases of Salmonella illness in four provinces: British Columbia (1), Alberta (4), Ontario (1) and New Brunswick (1). Two people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between April and May of this year. The majority of cases (71%) are male. The average age of cases is 26 years.

It’s the end of June. How much time is needed to go public with an identifiable foodborne risk? And no company identified? A public health disgrace.

Direct video observation of adults and tweens cooking raw frozen chicken thingies (not the real title)

01.nov.09

British Food Journal, Vol 111, Issue 9, p 915-929

Sarah DeDonder, Casey J. Jacob, Brae V. Surgeoner, Benjamin Chapman, Randall Phebus, Douglas A. Powell

http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do;jsessionid=6146E6AFABCC349C376B7E55A3866D4A?contentType=Article&contentId=1811820


Abstract:

Purpose – The purpose of the present study was to observe the preparation practices of both adult and young consumers using frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products, which were previously involved in outbreaks linked to consumer mishandling. The study also sought to observe behaviors of adolescents as home food preparers. Finally, the study aimed to compare food handler behaviors with those prescribed on product labels.


Design/methodology/approach – The study sought, through video observation and self-report surveys, to determine if differences exist between consumers’ intent and actual behavior.


Findings – A survey study of consumer reactions to safe food-handling labels on raw meat and poultry products suggested that instructions for safe handling found on labels had only limited influence on consumer practices. The labels studied by these researchers were found on the packaging of chicken products examined in the current study alongside step-by-step cooking instructions. Observational techniques, as mentioned above, provide a different perception of consumer behaviors.


Originality/value – This paper finds areas that have not been studied in previous observational research and is an excellent addition to existing literature.

Handle flour like raw meat: More Canadian flour and people sickened with E. coli O121

In April 2017, health-types in Canada said E.coli O121 had sickened 26 people that was linked to Robin Hood All Purpose Flour, Original.

On May 26, 2017, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Ardent Mills is recalling various brands of flour and flour products due to possible E. coli O121 contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

This recall was triggered by findings by the CFIA during its investigation into a foodborne illness outbreak. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled products from the marketplace.

There have been reported illnesses associated with flour; however, at this time, there have been no confirmed illnesses associated with the products identified in this Food Recall Warning.

But there have been with Roger flour in B.C.

On May 21, 2017 the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) alerted British Columbians after six people in BC were infected with the same strain of E. coli O121 between February and April, 2017.

A sample of flour from one of the ill people was tested by the BCCDC Public Health Laboratory and found positive for the same strain of E. coli O121 as seen in all the illnesses.

While it is unknown at this time whether the other ill people consumed the same flour, the BCCDC recommends consumers:

Dispose of Rogers all-purpose flour in a 10kg bag with the lot number MFD 17 Jan 19 C.  This flour was available to Costco customers in B.C. beginning in January 2017.

Although this outbreak is occurring at the same time as a national outbreak involving a different strain of E. coli O121 that has been linked to various flours and flour products, it is unclear whether there is a link between the two outbreaks.

The national outbreak has affected 30 people from six provinces: British Columbia (13), Saskatchewan (4), Alberta (5), Ontario (1), Quebec (1) and Newfoundland and Labrador (5). One of the 30 cases was a visitor to Canada. The illness onset dates range from November 2016 to April 2017.

These are the questions that remain about the interactions between Robin Hood, Ardent, Rogers and their flour: Do you folks all get your flour from the same place and slap your name on it like Trump slaps his name on towers? If so, where is the common processor, and why the fuck is there E. coli O121 in it? What are companies prepared to do, like offering pasteurized flour, especially so the medically vulnerable can continue to bake without fretting about flour dust?And when will the Public Health Agency of Canada move beyond boilerplate fairy tales like wash hands, and offer something meaningful to Canadians who bake?

Overpaid bureacrats, worried about their retirement savings rather than a nasty bug like E. coli O121.

Inhale the dust, assholes.

The outpouring of compassion for the victims is underwhelming.

24 sick: E. coli O121 outbreak shows failures of food safety safety net

 

Chapman was always the kinder, gentler version of me, and he goes too easy on Canadian boffins who announced today there are now 24 people sick with E. coli O121 in British Columbia (12), Saskatchewan (4), Alberta (3) and Newfoundland and Labrador (5).

That the outbreak missed Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI should give epidemiologists solid clues, ones that the Public Health Agency of Canada is not ready to divulge.

The initial public announcement was Jan. 12, 2017.

A couple of months later, the case count has doubled, and the only advice PHAC has is wash your fucking hands.

The last two major North American outbreaks of E. coli O121 were in flour, last year, and in sprouts, a few years earlier (please, let it be sprouts, please).

Five months into the outbreak, I’m sure the dedicated Canadian public servants have had time to match the genetic fingerprint of the outbreak strain with the U.S.-based outbreaks, but don’t expect PHAC to answer such simple questions.

They could have done whole genome sequencing in the time it took to have miniions craft a press release that said … nothing.

“The Government of Canada is committed to food safety. The Public Health Agency of Canada leads multi-jurisdictional human health investigations of outbreaks and is in regular contact with its federal and provincial partners to monitor and take collaborative steps to address outbreaks.”

Eat me completely.

Public Health Agency of Canada MIA again: Mr. Christie’s brand Arrowroot Biscuits recalled due to potential off-taste

If there’s been reported illnesses, shouldn’t the Public Health Agency of Canada be reporting those illnesses?

m-christieNo, they’re busy collecting their pensionable hours in meaningless meetings.

And it’s nothing new.

It’s the Potomac two-step (Ottawa River version).

I still don’t dance.

The food recall warning issued on October 21, 2016 has been updated to include additional codes. This additional information was identified during the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) food safety investigation.

Mondelēz Canada is recalling certain date codes of Mr. Christie’s brand Arrowroot Biscuits from the marketplace due to potential off-taste. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

Mr. Christie’s Arrowroot Biscuits, 350 g, Best Before 2017 MR 01, UPC: 0 66721 01046 9

Mr. Christie’s Arrowroot Biscuits, 3.6 kg- 300x 12 g (2-pack), Best Before 2017 MA 13, UPC: 1 00 66721 51404 9

If you think you became sick from consuming a recalled product, call your doctor.

jauce-jordan-weddingCheck to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

This recall was triggered by the company. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

There have been reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

And that’s not a happy M. Christie baby. This is a happy baby, with one of my daughters, and I take credit for my grandson’s curls, but they probably belong to their dad.

Frozen chicken thingies perhaps: 91 sick with Salmonella in Canada, ‘poultry products are food items of interest’

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

public-accountabilityFor years, critics have complained that agencies like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency couldn’t possibly do its job properly, reporting to Parliament through Agriculture Canada, because ag promotes food.

But it’s good marketing if that food is safe.

So CFIA was moved to report through Health Canada.

Absolutely no difference.

And then there’s the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The key is solid outbreak investigations and public accountability.

Between March 15 and November 30, 2015, 91 confirmed cases of Salmonella Infantis have stricken Canadians in nine provinces.

The majority of cases (60%) are female, with an average age of 40 years. Sixteen people have been hospitalized, and all have recovered or are recovering. No deaths have been reported.

To date, the source of this investigation has not been identified, but poultry products are food items of interest in the ongoing investigation. Further evidence in the investigation is needed to determine the source in this outbreak.

81 sick: Vibrio outbreak linked to raw oysters grows in Canada’s west

The Public Health Agency of Canada reports 5 additional cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus that have been reported in British Columbia (4), and Saskatchewan (1).

Coos Bay Oyster Co.PHAC is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Health Canada to investigate 81 Canadian cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario linked to raw shellfish. The majority of the illnesses have been linked to eating raw oysters.

The risk to Canadians is low, and illnesses can be avoided if shellfish are cooked before being eaten. People with weakened immune systems, young children, pregnant women and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications if they get sick.

Individuals became sick between May 26 and August 26, 2015 and all reported consumption of raw shellfish, primarily oysters.

Based on the investigation of the foodborne illness outbreak by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, oysters harvested from British Columbia coastal waters for raw consumption on or before August 18, 2015 have been recalled from the marketplace. See the food recall warning for more information on the recalled products that were distributed nationally. Consumers should not consume the recalled products.

7 sick in E. coli outbreak: Public Health Agency of Canada doesn’t cross provincial borders

Jim Romahn writes in his blog that Belmont Meat Packers burgers have crossed every provincial border across Canada, but the Public Health Agency of Canada isn’t posting any information about how many people have been sickened so far after eating burgers processed at the Toronto plant.

Loblaws is recalling its President’s Choice products from across Canada.
Sobeys is recalling its Compliments products from across Canada, and cold.cut.cannonmaybe we’ll soon learn that it, too, will be recalling them from across Canada.

But as far as the Public Health Agency is concerned, it’s not involved until people are sickened in more than one province or territory.

But the agency did post information from the Ontario Ministry of Health indicating that seven people in Ontario have so far been linked to these burgers.

It makes me wonder how things are going to work out as food safety transitions from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to Health Canada where it will be joined at the hip with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

At least being joined at the hip promises to be better than being under the head of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz of “death by a thousand cold cuts” fame. 

6 sick: federal health types publicly absent in Canadian E. coli burger outbreak

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced late Wednesday night that certain Compliments brand Super 8 Beef Burgers were being recalled because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

They said people were sick but wouldn’t say how many; that’s up to either the e.coli.O157.belmont.oct.13Public Health Agency of Canada or Health Canada (who knows the difference).

The silence has been deafening.

However, a spokesman for Ontario’s health ministry told the Weyburn Review there have been six confirmed cases of illness in that province associated with the beef in question. Of the six people, four were hospitalized; of the four, one is still in hospital. All are recovering, the ministry said.