Australian politicians decided to be good politicians, not leaders – because pioneers get arrows in their back – and threw the issue of same-sex marriage to a public mail-in vote. The yes side won by a 2:1 margin, thereby undermining the foundation of Western society (or so some say).
I say, who cares, let same sex people enjoy the benefits and grief of marriage like the rest of us.
Australian food safety week is Nov. 11-18, 2017.
The organizers have been to my church, and the theme is not hockey, but, “Is it done yet? Use a thermometer for great food, cooked safely every time.”
Stick it in.
The theme last year was“Raw and risky.”
These PR thingies are increasingly meaningless.
Chapman is coming over in Jan. or so, once our renovations are done.
Bring another batch of thermometers, buddy.
If a group wants to promote thermometer use, give them away.
According to a self-reported bullshit survey, 70% of Australians don’t know that 75°C is the safe cooking temperature for high-risk foods such as hamburgers, sausages and poultry. 75% of Australians surveyed also reported that there wasn’t a meat thermometer in their household and only 44% of those with a thermometer reported using is over the previous month.
Apparently, that’s just a throw-a-way tag line, at the end of an abstract for a paper, but my observations say it’s the most important. Have paper towels, not bacterial blow dryers; have soap; and have vigorous running water, not a trickle-down (as effective in economics as in handwashing).
Each year millions of children are enrolled in center-based childcare. Childcare employees are tasked with handling over half the children’s weekly meals. Proper food handling practices are crucial in mitigating this high-risk population’s risk of foodborne illness. The purpose of this study was to identify childcare food handling employees’ (n = 278) perceived barriers and motivators to follow recommended food safety practices. Six important barriers and 14 key motivators to following recommended food safety practices were identified. Important barriers pertained to time restraints, workloads, and lack of understanding of the importance of following proper food safety practices. Key motivators were focused on children’s safety, available supplies, communication, and food safety training/information. Employee and facility characteristics were shown to influence perceived importance of barriers and motivators to following food safety practices. Childcare directors should review scheduling and job duties of employees as the majority of identified barriers focused on “work pace” and “time restraints.” Directors should also attempt to increase food safety communication through practical situational training, written food safety policies, and use of food safety signage to increase understanding of the importance of proper food safety practices. Ensuring proper supplies are available is necessary.
Childcare food handling employees’ perceived barriers and motivators to follow food safety practices
Early Childhood Education Journal, pp 1-9, 24 October 2017, Joel Reynolds, Lakshman Rajagopal
A farmer died and 67 others were hospitalised due to alleged food poisoning after they participated in a lunch given by a seed manufacturing company in Dindori, India on Wednesday. The police have arrested the caterer who distributed the food and the cook who prepared it.
Police sources said a seed manufacturing company had arranged a seminar on hybrid tomato US 1143 at Umrale village in Dindori tehsil of Nashik district on Wednesday. Around 300 farmers attended the seminar. Later lunch was served which, according to the farmers included mattha. Mattha, a digestive drink, is curd diluted with water with addition of coriander and spices.
After the lunch, the farmers began feeling uneasy. Farmer Atul Pandurang Kedar (41) of Umrale Bu village began feeling dizzy and collapsed. He was treated at a private hospital in Umrale and then rushed Magnum Heart Hospital in Nashik. From here he was shifted to Nashik Civil Hospital, where he succumbed to the alleged food poisoning on Wednesday evening while 67 others have been admitted to various hospitals.
Senior police inspector Rajesh Shirsath told The Asian Age on Thursday that they had sealed the food, which included rice, jelabi and mattha. “Our forensic team checked everything and will submit its report to our seniors,” he said.
“We have two confirmed cases, but it is possibly a third too. It is too early to say anything about the source of infection,” says Surveillance Authority in Bergen municipality Kari Stidal Øystese.
Bergen is sensitive to Giardia outbreaks because in autumn 2004, the drinking water was infected by the Giardia parasite and approximately 5,000 people from Bergen became sick, and many have suffered after-effects for years.
In 2006, a SINTEF report commissioned drainage systems related to the buildings at Knatten, Starefossen and Tarlebøveien, triggered the epidemic. Local authority Torgeir Landvik would blame the dog owners for the fact that thousands of mountain people were infected by Giardia in the fall of 2004. But in 2015, an expert group picked up the dog-kit theory. “Based on available knowledge, Giardia infection from humans is still the most likely cause of the outbreak of disease and long-term strokes,” said the group’s conclusion.
A large community outbreak of waterborne giardiasis- delayed detection in a non-endemic urban area
BMC Public Health, 2006, 6:141, Karin Nygård, Barbara Schimmer, Øystein Søbstad, Anna Walde, Ingvar Tveit, Nina Langeland, Trygve Hausken and Preben Aavitsland, https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-6-141
Giardia is not endemic in Norway, and more than 90% of reported cases acquire the infection abroad. In late October 2004, an increase in laboratory confirmed cases of giardiasis was reported in the city of Bergen. An investigation was started to determine the source and extent of the outbreak in order to implement control measures.
Cases were identified through the laboratory conducting giardia diagnostics in the area. All laboratory-confirmed cases were mapped based on address of residence, and attack rates and relative risks were calculated for each water supply zone. A case control study was conducted among people living in the central area of Bergen using age- and sex matched controls randomly selected from the population register.
The outbreak investigation showed that the outbreak started in late August and peaked in early October. A total of 1300 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported. Data from the Norwegian Prescription Database gave an estimate of 2500 cases treated for giardiasis probably linked to the outbreak. There was a predominance of women aged 20–29 years, with few children or elderly. The risk of infection for persons receiving water from the water supply serving Bergen city centre was significantly higher than for those receiving water from other supplies. Leaking sewage pipes combined with insufficient water treatment was the likely cause of the outbreak.
Late detection contributed to the large public health impact of this outbreak. Passive surveillance of laboratory-confirmed cases is not sufficient for timely detection of outbreaks with non-endemic infections.
Whenever someone tells me of an outbreak at a school, day care, university residence, whatever, the first place I go, or someone more geographically-centered should go, is check out the bathrooms.
It’s easy to preach proper handwashing as a way to reduce the spread of infectious disease.
But proper handwashing requires access to proper tools.
So I check out the bathroom and usually find the tools, uh, missing.
Proper handwashing requires vigorous water flow (temperature doesn’t matter), a vigorous rub with soap, and drying with paper towel.
Garth Bray of TVNZ reports an Auckland primary school has dumped a policy that saw soap and hand towels removed from all children’s toilets.
The school felt the children were wasting those basic items, but failed to follow some of the most basic health advice with its policy.
“I think it’s appalling”, said Dr Michael Baker, who is the University of Otago Professor of Public Health.
“We’ve got good evidence in big trials showing that having handwashing can actually reduce risk of gut infections by about 30 per cent and respiratory infections by about 20 per cent so I think all of our schools need to be part of this,” Dr Baker told Fair Go.
Fair Go was contacted by four parents of children at the school who objected to the school withdrawing soap but had been told by teachers this was the policy.
Some had simply accepted this and started sending their children to school with little bottles of liquid hand soap to use.
However, one took her concerns to the principal and to a school board member.
Fair Go has seen written messages between the board member and the parent which say: “There are no legal requirements from the Ministry of Health and the students were wasting the soap and hand towels so they were taken out but every class has hand sanitiser that they encourage their kids to use regularly.”
That’ll work until the kids start drinking the stuff.
Fair Go spoke with the principal, who disclosed that classrooms were sometimes locked at lunchtimes, meaning children had no access to anything but water for washing before meals and after using toilets.
The principal told Fair Go that the same week our programme had made contact, the school board had decided to reverse the policy and will now stock toilets with soap and hand towels again.
On that basis, Fair Go has decided for now not to name the school publicly as it takes steps to make good its commitment to provide hygienic hand washing facilities for children.
“New Zealand’s got an appalling record of having very high rates of a lot of major childhood diseases – respiratory infections, skin infections and gut infections and these are exactly the things that hand washing can protect our children against,” Dr Baker said.
Fair Go’s advice is for parents to take a look at their own school’s facilities and reassure themselves their children have the essentials on hand at school.
(This is an Australian flying fox, left; everything is bigger here.)
Although percutaneous exposures are more likely to result in successful transmission of rabies virus to humans (1), transmission can occur when infectious material, such as saliva or nervous tissue from an infected animal, comes into direct contact with human mucosa (2). Infection with rabies virus causes an acute, progressive encephalitis that is nearly always fatal once clinical signs have begun. The disease is preventable if exposed persons receive timely postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), which includes human rabies immunoglobulin and 4 doses of inactivated rabies vaccine administered over 14 days (4).
FLDOH submitted the bat carcass to CDC for rabies virus testing on April 4. Polymerase chain reaction and direct fluorescent antibody tests were inconclusive because of the deteriorated condition of the carcass. However, because the cranium of the bat was intact, exposure to brain material by the persons who consumed the salad was unlikely, although exposure to the bat’s organs or peripheral nervous tissue was possible. PEP was recommended because laboratory test results were inconclusive and exposure to nervous tissue could not be ruled out.
The salad was purchased from a company A store location. After being notified of the investigation, company A removed the lot of prepackaged salad from all store locations on April 5. Company B (the prepackaged salad supplier) recalled the affected lot of salads on April 8. CDC advised consumers to contact their local health department for PEP evaluation only if the consumer had eaten a recalled prepackaged salad and had found animal material in the salad. CDC was not notified of any other reports of dead bats in prepackaged salads.
To identify where the bat might have been introduced into the prepackaged salad, CDC performed genetic analyses on the bat to determine its subspecies. Based on morphology and phylogenetic analyses (Bayesian inference and haplotype network analyses) of mitochondrial DNA sequence data (Cytb and D-loop), the bat was identified as a Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana), which is found throughout the southwestern United States. It is genetically distinct from T. brasiliensis cynocephala, which occurs in the southeastern United States (Figure) (5).
The investigation determined that cutting and harvesting of greens for the recalled salad occurred in fields in the west and southwest United States before they were transported to a processing plant in Georgia. At the processing plant, the greens were washed with chlorinated water and packaged. Given the physical condition of the bat (e.g., decomposed, bisected) and the geographic location of the fields and the processing plant, along with the genetic identification of the bat, investigators concluded the bat most likely came into contact with the salad material in the field during harvesting and cutting and was then transported to the processing facility.
Several factors likely reduced the risk for rabies virus transmission to the two Florida consumers. No rabies virus was detected in the specimen, the bat’s cranium was intact, and the salad was rinsed before packaging, thereby diluting any potential virus. In addition, mucosal membrane exposures have rarely been proven to result in rabies disease, and rabies virus does not survive more than a few days outside a host (2). Although this exposure was likely of low risk, this investigation was an example of effective industry and government collaboration to remove a product of concern from the marketplace rapidly to protect consumers.
‘Notes from the Field: Postexposure Prophylaxis for Rabies After Consumption of a Prepackaged Salad Containing a Bat Carcass — Florida, 2017
Weekly / October 27, 2017 / 66(42);1154–1155, Vikram Krishnasamy, MD1,2; Matthew R. Mauldin, PhD3; Matthew E. Wise, PhD2; Ryan Wallace, DVM3; Laura Whitlock, MPH2; Colin Basler, DVM2; Clint Morgan, MS3; Dana Grissom4; Sherry Worley4; Danielle Stanek, DVM5; Jamie DeMent, MNS5; Pamela Yager3; William Carson3; Rene E. Condori, MS3; Yoshinori Nakazawa, PhD3; Claire Walker3; Yu Li, PhD3; Christopher Wynens, DVM6; Allison Wellman, MPH6; James Ellison, PhD3; Emily Pieracci, DVM
This year saw the largest number of illnesses linked to contact with backyard poultry ever recorded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Contact with live poultry or their environment can make people sick with Salmonella infections. Live poultry such as chickens and ducks can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean, with no sign of illness.
As raising backyard flocks becomes more popular, more people are having contact with chickens and ducks – and may not know about the risk of Salmonella infection.
These outbreaks are a reminder to follow steps to keep your family healthy while enjoying your backyard flock.
Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where the birds live and roam.
Adults should supervise handwashing for children.
Do not let live poultry inside the house.
Do not let children younger than 5 years handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry without adult supervision.
In 2017, CDC and multiple states investigated 10 separate multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections in people who had contact with live poultry in backyard flocks.
The outbreak strains of Salmonella infected a reported 1120 people in 48 states and the District of Columbia
Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 4, 2017 to September 22, 2017.
249 ill people were hospitalized. One death was reported from North Carolina.
Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory findings linked the 10 outbreaks to contact with live poultry, such as chicks and ducklings, from multiple hatcheries.
In interviews, 542 (70%) of 774 ill people reported contact with live poultry in the week before illness started.
The outbreaks were caused by Salmonella bacteria with several DNA fingerprints : Salmonella Braenderup, Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Hadar, Salmonella I 4,,12:i-, Salmonella Indiana, Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Litchfield, Salmonella Mbandaka, Salmonella Muenchen, and Salmonella Typhimurium.
Multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to live poultry in backyard flocks, 2017 (final update)
On the same day that Australia celebrated national egg day with vid-clips of schoolchildren pronouncing their love of eggs, the UK Food Standards Authority says it’s OK for pregnant women to eat raw eggs.
These are both so wrong on so many levels.
The UK’s contribution to international cuisine has been mushy peas and mad cow disease.
The UK Food Standards Authority’s contribution to food policy has been cook your food until it is piping hot, and now, it’s OK for pregnant women to eat raw eggs.
With five daughters, I’ve spent a lot of time around pregnant women, they may feel like Rocky Balboa, but biology don’t work that way.
The Food Standards Agency has announced a change to its advice about eating eggs – infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked eggs that are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice.
The revised advice, based on the latest scientific evidence, means that people vulnerable to infection or who are likely to suffer serious symptoms from food poisoning (such as infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people) can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked hen eggs or foods containing them.
We had previously advised that vulnerable groups should not consume raw or lightly cooked eggs, because eggs may contain salmonella bacteria which can cause serious illness.
The decision to change the advice is a result of the findings from an expert group that was set up by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) in February 2015 to look at egg safety. Its report, published in July 2016, highlighted that the presence of salmonella in UK eggs has been dramatically reduced in recent years, and the risks are very low for eggs which have been produced according to food safety controls applied by the British Lion Code of Practice. More than 90% of UK eggs are produced under this scheme.
Heather Hancock, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said: “It’s good news that now even vulnerable groups can safely eat UK eggs without needing to hardboil them, so long as they bear the British Lion mark. The FSA has thoroughly reviewed the scientific evidence about the safety of these eggs, and we’re confident that we can now change our advice to consumers.
“The major reduction in the risk of salmonella in Lion eggs is testament to the work carried out by egg producers. The measures they’ve taken, from vaccination of hens through to improving hygiene on farms and better transportation, have dramatically reduced salmonella levels in UK hens.”
A range of interventions have been put in place across the food chain as part of the Lion scheme including: vaccinating hens, enhanced testing for salmonella, improved farm hygiene, effective rodent control, independent auditing and traceability, and keeping the eggs cool while transporting them from farm to shop.
Great. Show us mere mortals the numbers.
And any science-based body that recommends cooking food until it is piping hot is seriously suspect.
Julia is referring to explosive claims that, as initially reported by the Sunday Times, hepatitis E is sickening Brits at an alarming rate.
But that didn’t stop Public Health England from sticking its fingers in its ears and loudly singing ‘la la la’ for the best part of a week. It didn’t want to name ‘supermarket x’ because the findings of its hepatitis E study do ‘not infer blame on the supermarket’.
Oh okay. Fair enough. I see the strategy here. So instead of some uncomfortable articles about a possible link between hep E infections and retail pork products, we’re going for a week of near-hysterical coverage shouting Silence On Banger Virus, and insinuating an agency tasked with protecting public health is refusing to drop a big supermarket in it. What must these brutes at Tesco be doing to poor PHE to force it into silence? Round of applause, everyone.
Anyway, the kitty is now firmly out of the bag, so it’s time to reflect on some lessons from the whole saga. After all, hepatitis E is far from the only food scandal in town right now. And, in PHE’s defence, this is really tricky territory. Risk communication is notoriously hard, and informing the public about risks related to food can be especially thorny. Food regulators and agencies across the globe struggle with it.
Doug Powell, a former professor of food safety who runs the wonderfully named BarfBlog (yes, it’s about people getting sick from dodgy food), has an entire section on his website called ‘Going public’. In it, he chronicles example after example of public disclosure foul-ups from food regulators around the world: vague press releases rushed out after hours; vital information made available too late for the sake of double, triple and quadruple checking; and bare facts and stats dumped on the public without context to help them make sense of risk.
Powell is also the co-author of a fascinating article published in the Journal of Environmental Health earlier this year, which examines how regulators approach public comms during food scares. It concludes there is widespread confusion – and hugely varying standards – largely because there is little concrete guidance on food risk disclosure. Too many decisions are made ad hoc; what little guidance there is is couched in flabby, unhelpful language like ‘timely release of information’, without defining what ‘timely’ means.
So does that mean PHE should have named Tesco right from the start? Not necessarily. Its study did not establish that Tesco products were the direct cause of hepatitis infections; it was a statistical analysis only. There are valid concerns about the potential for premature information to mislead consumers and do significant harm (though it’s worth pointing out Powell’s report found no evidence to support a paternalistic approach where members of the public are protected from ‘too much’ information). ‘Naming and shaming’ of individual companies could potentially distract consumers from other, more important information about how they can protect themselves. Might a shopper who doesn’t buy ham and sausages at Tesco, for example, tune out and not pay attention to cooking advice to minimise the risk of hepatitis E infections?
It’s a fair question. So by all means don’t name names in your scientific paper. But accept that a paper like it will very likely get media pick-up – and once it’s out in the public domain, the game is up. You have to come clean. “To support consumer decision making, available information must support what consumers want and need to know, which might or might not be what information authorities want to relay,” Powell writes in his JEH article. And in this case, consumers wanted to know who ‘supermarket x’ was.
“While PHE may have reasons for not going public – whether legislative or bureaucratic – whoever is involved will eventually be found out,” Powell added when I caught up with him about the case this week. “Trust is earned, not given, and consumers have a right to know – especially if it’s a public health issue like hepatitis E in pork.”
It’s not all down to the regulators, though. Industry, too, has a part to play in this. If there’s any risk to public health, information disclosure must be led by the relevant agencies, says Chris Elliott of the Institute for Global Food Security. But when there is no (or a very remote chance) of a food safety problem, “then I think supermarket x should take the lead in the comms,” he adds. “But this should be agreed with the regulator, so no contradiction or confusion should result.”
It’s undoubtedly a difficult balance to get right. In Powell’s article, the killer line comes from epidemiologist Paul Mead: “Food safety recalls are always either too early or too late. If you’re right, it’s always too late. If you’re wrong, it’s always too early.”
So yes, it can be a poisoned chalice. But regulators can’t dodge it – and they have to start dealing with it more assuredly than they often do at the moment.
Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health
NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14
Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell
Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public. Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions. Information provision on its own is not enough. Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.
NSW Health and NSW Food Authority have started using whole genome sequencing technology to more quickly identify a foodborne outbreak and connect it with its source, which could reduce illnesses and even deaths.
“[It’s] a significant breakthrough that could help revolutionise how food-borne illnesses are identified, understood, tracked and managed,” said Dr Craig Shadbolt, the Food Authority’s acting chief executive.
“This will be invaluable in terms of achieving the NSW Government’s Food Safety Strategy goal of reducing foodborne illnesses caused by salmonella, campylobacter and listeria by 30 per cent by 2021.”
That sounds nice, but some practical steps, like not using raw eggs in mayo, aoili, or baked Chinese ice cream, would go farther. In Australia, rates of foodborne salmonella poisoning have climbed from 38 per 100,000 people in 2004 to 76 per 100,000 in 2016, with a record-breaking 18,170 cases last year, according to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.