31 sickened by E. coli O55 in Dorset: Almost 4 years later, health-types’ report is public

In Dec. 2014, an outbreak of E. coli O55 was identified in Dorset, UK with at least 31 sickened. Public Health England (PHE) and local environmental health officials investigated and found nothing, other than cats were also being affected.

There was a protracted battle between local residents affected by the outbreak, and the lack of disclosure by PHE, documented in June, 2017.

But now, the health-types have gone public, in a report in the current issue of Eurosurveillance.

The first documented British outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O55:H7 began in the county of Dorset, England, in July 2014. Since then, there have been a total of 31 cases of which 13 presented with haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). The outbreak strain had Shiga toxin (Stx) subtype 2a associated with an elevated risk of HUS. This strain had not previously been isolated from humans or animals in England. The only epidemiological link was living in or having close links to two areas in Dorset.

Extensive investigations included testing of animals and household pets. Control measures included extended screening, iterative interviewing and exclusion of cases and high-risk contacts. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) confirmed that all the cases were infected with similar strains. A specific source could not be identified. The combination of epidemiological investigation and WGS indicated, however, that this outbreak was possibly caused by recurrent introductions from a local endemic zoonotic source, that a highly similar endemic reservoir appears to exist in the Republic of Ireland but has not been identified elsewhere, and that a subset of cases was associated with human-to-human transmission in a nursery.

Recurrent seasonal outbreak of an emerging serotype of shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC O55:H7 STX2A) in the South West of England, July 2014 to September 2015

Eurosurveillance, vol 22, issue 36, 07 September 2017, N McFarland, N Bundle, C Jenkins, G Godbole, A Mikhail, T Dallman, C O’Connor, N McCarthy, E O’Connell, J Treacy, G Dabke, J Mapstone, Y Landy, J Moore, R Partridge, F Jorgensen, C Willis, P Mook, C Rawlings, R Acornley, C Featherstone, S Gayle, J Edge, E McNamara, J Hawker, Balasegaram, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2017.22.36.30610,

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=22872

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

Mar.17

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

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.

Me teaching Chapman how to golf: Norovirus everywhere

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Panhellenic Council has postponed sorority recruitment due to an outbreak of norovirus-like symptoms for a “significant section of the Greek community,” according to an email sent to students Thursday.

The council said it has taken the recommendation of Campus Health and the Orange County Health Department to cancel at least Thursday and Friday’s planned events.

“Please go to Campus Health immediately if you are showing any symptoms,” the Panhellenic Council said in an email.

In Australia as we welcomed the first day of spring, hundreds of people have been struck down by gastroenteritis with New South Wales Health urging affected people to stay home and follow medical advice.

There were 39 gastro outbreaks in NSW institutions between August 20 and 26, including 22 in childcare centres, 10 in aged-care homes, five in hospitals and two in schools.

NSW Health said at least 348 people were affected by the bug in these outbreaks, which is more than double the previous five-year weekly average number of outbreaks for August.

And the bug finally has a name.

Director Communicable Diseases, NSW Health, Vicky Sheppeard said it appeared the outbreaks were caused by viral gastroenteritis including rotavirus and norovirus which spread easily.

“If your work involves handling food or looking after children, the elderly or patients, do not return to work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.

“The best defence against gastroenteritis is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds before handling and eating food, and after using the toilet, changing nappies or assisting someone who has diarrhoea or vomiting.”

10 seconds? In the U.S. it’s 20. How can all these scientists come up with different recommendations when looking at the same data. Values. And I agree with 10.

Winter has been a bad season for gastro in Australia; 1900 people attended NSW emergency departments with the bug in early August.

Brisbane has also been affected by an outbreak, with 51 childcare centres hit in the eight weeks to August 14.

NSW Health said all children should receive the rotavirus vaccine for free as part of the National Immunisation Program.

These figure come after NSW Health data showed there were 35,670 confirmed flu cases in NSW last month, making it the worst month on record for flu cases in NSW.

University students’ hand hygiene practice during a gastrointestinal outbreak in residence: What they say they do and what they actually do
01.sep.09
Journal of Environmental Health Sept. issue 72(2): 24-28
Brae V. Surgeoner, MS, Benjamin J. Chapman, PhD, and Douglas A. Powell, PhD
http://www.neha.org/JEH/2009_abstracts.htm#University_Students%92_Hand_Hygiene_Practice_During_a_Gastrointestinal_Outbreak_in_Residence:_What_They_Say_They_DO_and_What_They_Actually_Do 
Abstract
Published research on outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness has focused primarily on the results of epidemiological and clinical data collected postoutbreak; little research has been done on actual preventative practices during an outbreak.

In this study, the authors observed student compliance with hand hygiene recommendations at the height of a suspected norovirus outbreak in a university residence in Ontario, Canada. Data on observed practices was compared to post-outbreak self-report surveys administered to students to examine their beliefs and perceptions about hand hygiene. Observed compliance with prescribed hand hygiene recommendations occurred 17.4% of the time.

Despite knowledge of hand hygiene protocols and low compliance, 83.0% of students indicated that they practiced correct hand hygiene during the outbreak. To proactively prepare for future outbreaks, a current and thorough crisis communications and management strategy, targeted at a university student audience and supplemented with proper hand washing tools, should be enacted by residence administration.

 

Going public: Embrace it; supermarket x’ and the ethics of food risk disclosure

I figured out about 45 years ago that going public was the best way to handle conflict.

I was throwing stones at the grill of a car in an abandoned lot in Brantford, Ontario (that’s in Canada), trying out cigarettes for the first time, and we got caught.

When I was 18-years-old, and went to jail, I had nothing to hide.

All incoming inmates had to strip naked in front of some deliberately inattentive guard, as part of admission.

There was nothing left to hide, and there isn’t now.

I know lots of people who hide behind their vanity; I know few whom are truly public, warts and all.

Whether it’s some academic institution or a local hockey club, bring it on; your rumors only ferment your own failures.

Julia Glotz of The Grocer in the UK writes that in the hepatitis E outbreak, supermarket X is Tesco.

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

Mar.17

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

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.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop called out for unsubstantiated and deceptive health claims

Anyone who likes Coldplay enough to marry the front man is immediately suspect.

Because Coldplay really, really sucks.

So does Goop.

Gwyneth Paltrow‘s lifestyle advice for the richly insecure and vain is now facing truthiness from the mainstream like People – calling the kettle black, or something derogative – and is under fire from watchdog group Truth in Advertising for “deceptive” health claims on over 50 of their products.

Truth in Advertising (TINA) announced Tuesday that they’ve investigated Goop’s marketing tactics, and found that “the company claims, either expressly or implicitly, that its products (or those it promotes) can treat, cure, prevent, alleviate the symptoms of, or reduce the risk of developing a number of ailments,” according to a press release.

“The problem is that the company does not possess the competent and reliable scientific evidence required by law to make such claims,” the release says.

TINA says that they initially contacted Goop about their “unsubstantiated, and therefore deceptive, health and disease-treatment claims” on Aug. 11, and because the company did not make enough changes to their site in the 11 days since, TINA has filed a complaint letter with the California Food, Drug and Medical Device Task Force.

A spokesperson from Goop tells PEOPLE that they wanted to work with TINA to correct the wording on their site, but the timeframe given was too limited.

“Goop is dedicated to introducing unique products and offerings and encouraging constructive conversation surrounding new ideas. We are receptive to feedback and consistently seek to improve the quality of the products and information referenced on our site. We responded promptly and in good faith to the initial outreach from representatives of TINA and hoped to engage with them to address their concerns. Unfortunately, they provided limited information and made threats under arbitrary deadlines which were not reasonable under the circumstances.”

“Nevertheless, while we believe that TINA’s description of our interactions is misleading and their claims unsubstantiated and unfounded, we will continue to evaluate our products and our content and make those improvements that we believe are reasonable and necessary in the interests of our community of users.”

Oh, fuck off.

 

 

Can blockchain reduce foodborne illness (and save cash for retailers)?

A consortium of big-food types including Dole, Unilever, Walmart, Golden State Foods, Kroger, Nestle, Tyson Foods, McLane Company, and McCormick and Company – along with IBM, has announced plans to cut down on the time it takes to pinpoint the source of foodborne illness and eradicate it.

But, according to Coin Desk, unlike many other blockchain groups that have launched over the years, the consortium is formally launching with a fully integrated enterprise-grade platform, according to Walmart’s vice president of food safety, Frank Yiannas.

“IBM has spent a lot of time coding and creating a real product that you can start using,” said Yiannas. “There’s legitimate framework and substance in terms of the product, the technology that’s available. It’s substantial and real.”

If successful, the project, which will extend Walmart’s own custom blockchain proof-of-concept for food safety and traceability to the other partners, stands to cut down on the time it takes to track down dangerous food from weeks to just seconds.

Drawing on multiple IBM pilots in production, the consortium then aims to identify and prioritize different ways that distributed ledger tech can save global food suppliers money via increased traceability of their products.

The resulting efficiencies could not only reduce the revenue lost from unnecessarily pulling of safe food from shelves, but also spur a drop in the number of deaths blamed on toxic food in the first place.

“We’re all in the business of trying to improve the quality of life of people that we serve around the world,” he said. “So, on these issues, it’s pre-competitive.”

But while there’s a philanthropic element to the work, the result of delays in identifying dangerous food can also hit deep into a food supplier bottom lines.

During a demo of the enterprise-grade application, IBM’s vice-president of blockchain business development, Brigid McDermott, broke down into three categories what she said were the global financial costs of current supply-chain tracking inefficiencies.

The first, which drives the most cost, is the human loss of health and life.

For example, earlier this month, a salmonella outbreak traced back to contaminated papaya fruit was blamed for infecting 173 people, leading to 58 hospitalizations and one death, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. On average, 420,000 people die each year from food poisoning, according to the World Health Organization.

The second and third costs of supply-chain inefficiencies result from the potential threat to the health of consumers, according to McDermott.

Specifically, she said the cost of recalling a tainted good is typically footed largely by the offending producer. But when identifying the dangerous items can take weeks, prices can drop and people will frequently stop buying the product altogether, resulting in a financial cost to the proprietors of even the safest products.

These losses can be so costly that recent estimates on the total economic impact of foodborne illnesses on the U.S. economy alone have varied between as low as about $4.4 billion per year to as high as $93.2 billion.

Following what was largely deemed a successful test of tracking pork sales in China and mangos in the U.S., Yiannas realized the limits of being able to identify dangerous food within its own supply chain, if others were still using the traditional system to trace the food to its origin.

While competitors and even other members of the same supply chain took weeks to identify the source of the problem, global prices of the food frequently plummeted, resulting in losses to the entire industry that could sometimes take years to fully recover from.

So, after the early Walmart tests were complete, IBM Blockchain general manager Marie Wieck said she was contacted by the company with a new problem: to help form a collective of industry players, representing more than just different aspects of the supply chain, but potentially competing aspects of the supply chain.

Wieck explained how crucial the wider network is if you want to do more than just identify the source of the problem, adding, “You need the entire industry network to start engaging in order to be able to do both the proof that you can trace back to the farm, but then have the entire supply chain address it.”

Yiannas added, “If you’re a food safety guy who’s been doing this for 30 years, the power of how much information is at your fingertips is really impressive and exciting.”

If it’s not chickens, it’s eggs

In a risk communication fiasco reminiscent of the 1999 dioxin-in-chicken-feed scandal in the EU, millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves across Europe after contamination with a banned insecticide.

On July 19, 2017, the government of Belgium said that fipronil had been found in eggs produced there, one month after the fipronil was actually detected. The contamination is thought to have been caused by the mixing of the insecticide with a cleaning agent used at chicken farms to control blood lice.

Dutch health authorities admitted that they had received a tip about fipronil being used in barns against blood lice as early as November 2016.

After initially poo-pooing the threat, things picked up in early Aug. as more countries found eggs with fipronil, and more supermarkets pulled eggs.

Dutch police arrested two individuals they say could be accountable for allowing the insecticide Fipronil to be used inside Dutch poultry farms.

A joint Dutch-Belgian task force conducted raids at eight poultry farms in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch prosecution service.

The investigation “focused on the Dutch company that allegedly used Fipronil, a Belgian supplier as well as a Dutch company that colluded with the Belgian supplier,” according to the prosecutor.

Heather Hancock, chairman of the UK Food Standards Agency said: “Our advice remains clear – there’s no need to change how you buy or consume eggs. We are responding very quickly to any new information, to ensure that any products left that contain egg from the affected farms is withdrawn immediately. We’re doing this because Fipronil is not authorised for use in food producing animals, not because we are concerned about any risk to health.”

No risk messages are risky.

So is commercial exploitation.

Robert Chapman, who packs four million eggs a week under the Farmlay label from his West Cockmuir farm at Strichen, Aberdeenshire, urged buyers to learn a lesson from the incident, adding, “Price is obviously a major factor why so many imported eggs come into Britain, but the fact that so many have been found to be contaminated is a major issue. Surely processors and retailers will take this on board and source more eggs from UK producers whose standards are second to none.”

British Free Range Egg Producers Association chief executive Robert Gooch said, “British egg producers follow stringent production standards to ensure that what they produce is perfectly safe and nutritious for consumers to eat.”

Until it isn’t.

961 sick with Salmonella: About those chicks, stop kissing them

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that since the last update on July 13, 2017, 172 more ill people have been reported. The most recent illness began on July 31, 2017.

CDC and multiple states are investigating 10 separate multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections in people who had contact with live poultry in backyard flocks.

These outbreaks are caused by several DNA fingerprints of different Salmonella bacteria: Salmonella Braenderup, Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Hadar, Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i-, Salmonella Indiana, Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Litchfield, Salmonella Mbandaka, Salmonella Muenchen, and Salmonella Typhimurium.

The outbreak strains of Salmonella have infected a reported 961 people in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 4, 2017 to July 31, 2017.

215 ill people have been hospitalized. One death has been reported.

Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory findings link the 10 outbreaks to contact with live poultry, such as chicks and ducklings, from multiple hatcheries.

In interviews, 498 (74%) of 672 ill people reported contact with live poultry in the week before illness started.

Contact with live poultry or their environment can make people sick with Salmonella infections. Live poultry can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean, with no sign of illness.

Hong Kong fairytales: More Vibrio: Suspected food poisoning outbreak in tour group

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is investigating a suspected outbreak of food poisoning in a tour group, and hence urged the public to maintain good personal, food and environmental hygiene to prevent food-borne diseases.

Because all foodborne illness is caused by poor personal hygiene, and not contaminated product.

Not

The outbreak affected six members of the tour group, comprising two men and four women aged from 44 to 80, who developed abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting 14 to 40 hours after their lunch buffet in a restaurant in a hotel in Macau on August 13 arranged by a travel agent in Hong Kong.

Among them, three sought medical attention in Hong Kong and required no hospitalisation. All affected persons have been in stable condition.

The stool specimen of one patient tested positive for Vibrio parahaemolyticus upon laboratory testing.

 

Cyclospora: Back to the future

During the summers of 2015 and 2016, the United Kingdom experienced large outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in travellers returning from Mexico. As the source of the outbreaks was not identified, there is the potential for a similar outbreak to occur in 2017; indeed 78 cases had already been reported as at 27 July 2017. Early communication and international collaboration is essential to provide a better understanding of the source and extent of this recurring situation.

Cyclosporiasis in travellers returning to the United Kingdom from Mexico in Summer 2017: Lessons from the recent past to inform the future

Eurosurveillance, vol. 22, issue 32, 10 August 2017, DFP Marques, CL Alexander, RM Chalmers, R Elson, J Freedman, G Hawkins, J Lo, G Robinson, K Russell, A Smith-Palmer, H Kirkbride, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2017.22.32.30592

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=22854

Going public fail 2-in-1 day: Tainted eggs were known about for months

I hate the phrase, food scare.

Hate is a strong word, but when it comes to food poisoning outbreaks that kill little kids and others, it’s not a scare, it’s real.

A scare implies former scream-queen Jamie-Lee Curtis flogging yoghurt that makes people poop.

That’s a food scare.

See how many times the N.Y. Times can use the word scare in its opening paragraphs:

The European Union on Monday notified the food safety authorities in Britain, France, Sweden and Switzerland to be on the lookout for contamination in eggs after a food scare in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, a European Commission spokeswoman, said, “We do not know if the eggs are contaminated or not, but because of these notifications, it’s now up to the national authorities to check.”

The scare over contaminated eggs, which began in Belgium, has led supermarkets there and in Germany and the Netherlands to clear shelves of the product as the crisis entered its third week.

The removal of eggs from shops was prompted by the discovery of the insecticide fipronil in some shipments. The contamination is thought to have been caused by the mixing of the insecticide with a cleaning agent used at chicken farms. The scare began July 19 when the government of Belgium said that fipronil had been found in eggs produced there.

Major supermarket chains in Belgium, including Delhaize and Colruyt, have stopped selling eggs from affected farms. In the Netherlands, one poultry producer declared bankruptcy on Friday as a result of the insecticide scare, according to an industry group.

 The Dutch consumer safety authority has published a guide on identifying the tainted eggs through a 10-digit serial number stamped on the shells. The country’s biggest supermarket chain, Albert Heijn, stopped selling many eggs last week, but the company said that eggs were back on sale as normal on Monday. In the Netherlands, an estimated nine million chickens from about 180 farms have been affected.

In Germany, the supermarket chain Aldi withdrew all eggs from sale after the authorities said that about three million eggs imported from the Netherlands had been affected. Since then, fipronil contamination has been found at four farms in the German state of Lower Saxony.

Fipronil is toxic in large quantities and can damage kidneys, liver and lymph glands. The Belgian and Dutch authorities are investigating how the contamination happened.

The Dutch poultry association said that farmers had no idea that cleaners were using the substance. Aalt den Herder, the group’s secretary, said the risk had been overstated.

“It was never an issue of human health, it was an issue of consumer confidence,” he said.

Yeah, except, as explained by the Irish Examiner:

Belgian authorities have now admitted they began investigating pesticide contamination in eggs in early June – several weeks before the public was made aware of a food safety scare affecting several European countries.

Kathy Brison, of the Belgian food safety agency, said on Sunday that a Belgian farm alerted authorities to a possible contamination in June, and they began investigating and alerted Belgian prosecutors.

German authorities are frustrated by the apparent delay in informing European neighbours.

German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt plans to speak to his Belgian counterpart about the issue on Monday.

And where would a risk communication failure be without the UK Food Standards Agency, who today reported, “We have no evidence that eggs laid in the UK are contaminated or that Fipronil has been used inappropriately in the UK. 85% of the eggs we consume in the UK are laid here.

“The number of eggs involved represents about 0.0001% of the eggs imported into the UK each year. Our risk assessment, based on all the information available, indicates that as part of a normal healthy diet this low level of potential exposure is unlikely to be a risk to public health and there is no need for consumers to be concerned. Our advice is that there is no need for people to change the way they consume or cook eggs or products containing eggs.”

Sounds good if they’re all getting “laid here.”

Once again:

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

Mar.17

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

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.