E. coli O91 in food and environmental samples

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains of the O91:H21 serotype have caused severe infections, including hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Strains of the O91 serogroup have been isolated from food, animals, and the environment worldwide but are not well characterized. We used a microarray and other molecular assays to examine 49 serogroup O91 strains (environmental, food, and clinical strains) for their virulence potential and phylogenetic relationships.

Most of the isolates were identified to be strains of the O91:H21 and O91:H14 serotypes, with a few O91:H10 strains and one O91:H9 strain being identified. None of the strains had the eae gene, which codes for the intimin adherence protein, and many did not have some of the genetic markers that are common in other STEC strains. The genetic profiles of the strains within each serotype were similar but differed greatly between strains of different serotypes.

The genetic profiles of the O91:H21 strains that we tested were identical or nearly identical to those of the clinical O91:H21 strains that have caused severe diseases. Multilocus sequence typing and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat analyses showed that the O91:H21 strains clustered within the STEC 1 clonal group but the other O91 serotype strains were phylogenetically diverse.

IMPORTANCE This study showed that food and environmental O91:H21 strains have similar genotypic profiles and Shiga toxin subtypes and are phylogenetically related to the O91:H21 strains that have caused hemolytic-uremic syndrome, suggesting that these strains may also have the potential to cause severe illness.

Shiga toxin-producing serogroup O91 Escherichia coli strains isolated from food and environmental samples

7.july.2017

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Feng et al.

http://aem.asm.org/content/83/18/e01231-17.abstract?etoc

 

37 sick from Salmonella in turtles

Turtles in the 1960s and 1970s were inexpensive, popular, and low maintenance pets, with an array of groovy pre-molded plastic housing designs to choose from. Invariably they would escape, only to be found days later behind the couch along with the skeleton of the class bunny my younger sister brought home from kindergarten one weekend.

Maybe I got sick from my turtle.

Maybe I picked up my turtle, rolled around on the carpet with it, pet it a bit, and then stuck my finger in my mouth. Maybe in my emotionally vacant adolescence I kissed my turtle. Who can remember?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports there are now – in yet another turtle outbreak – 37 people sick with Salmonella Agbeni in 13 states.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 1, 2017 to August 3, 2017

Of 33 people with available information, 16 have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Twelve (32%) ill people are children 5 years of age or younger.

Epidemiologic and laboratory findings link the outbreak of human Salmonella Agbeni infections to contact with turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about contact with animals during the week before becoming ill. Fifteen (45%) of the 33 people interviewed reported contact with turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat, before getting sick.

In interviews with 9 ill people about where their turtles came from, 6 reported buying a turtle from a flea market or street vendor, or receiving the turtle as a gift.

In 2015, state and local health officials collected samples from turtles at a street vendor. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella Agbeni isolated from ill people in this outbreak is closely related genetically to the Salmonella Agbeni isolates from turtles. This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.

Do not buy small turtles as pets or give them as gifts.

Since 1975, the FDA has banned selling and distributing turtles with shells less than 4 inches long as pets because they are often linked to Salmonella infections, especially in young children.

All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy.

This outbreak is expected to continue since consumers might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from small turtles. If properly cared for, turtles have a long-life expectancy.

 

Sprouts still suck: FDA sampling shows sprouts a problem

There’s a reason Walmart and Costco and Kroger stopped selling raw sprouts: they suck, meaning that, like raw milk, they cause a disproportionate percentage of illness based on low consumption rates.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wrote in a recent report sprouts are especially vulnerable to pathogens given the warm, moist and nutrient-rich conditions needed to grow them. From 1996 to July 2016, there were 46 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness in the U.S. linked to sprouts. The U.S. outbreaks accounted for 2,474 illnesses, 187 hospitalizations, and three deaths (and, tragically, many more in Canada, Australia, Japan and Europe).

A table of sprout-related outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-2-23-16.xlsx.

From the executive summary:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set out to collect and test sprouts in 2014 as part of a new proactive and preventive approach to deploying its sampling resources with the ultimate goal of keeping contaminated food from reaching consumers.

The new approach, detailed in the Background section of this report (page 4), centers on the testing of a statistically determined number of samples of targeted foods over a relatively short period of time, 12 to18 months, to ensure a statistically valid amount of data is available for decision making. This approach helps the agency determine if there are common factors – such as origin, season, or variety – associated with pathogen findings.

The FDA issued the sprouts assignment in January 2014 under its new sampling model. The assignment targeted sprouts at three points in the production process (seeds, finished product and spent irrigation water), with the aim of collecting and testing 1,600 samples to determine the prevalence of select pathogens in the commodity. As background, the FDA designed its sampling plan such that if contamination of one percent or greater was present in the commodity, the agency would detect it. The FDA monitored the assignment closely to gather lessons learned and make changes to its sampling procedures if needed to address trends or food safety issues. About one year into the assignment, the FDA decided to stop its collection and testing at 825 samples because it had already collected samples on more than one occasion from many of the sprouting operations known to the agency and its state partners. The sample set acquired was sufficient for the FDA to estimate the bacterial prevalences in the commodity with a 95 percent confidence interval of 0% to 2% for a one percent contamination rate.

The FDA tested only domestically grown sprouts for this assignment because virtually all sprouts eaten in the United States are grown domestically due to the commodity’s delicate nature and relatively short shelf-life. Of note, the industry features a preponderance of relatively small operations.

The FDA tested the sprout samples for three pathogens: Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7. Based on the test results, the FDA found the prevalence of Salmonella in the finished product sprouts to be 0.21 percent. The agency also found that the prevalence of Salmonella in seeds (2.35%) was significantly higher than in finished product (0.21%) and in spent irrigation water (0.54%). Based on the test results, the FDA found the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in the finished product to be 1.28 percent. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes based on point in the production process. None of the samples tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. The agency did not test seed for E. coli O157:H7 due to limitations associated with the test method.

Among the FDA’s other findings, the agency found most of the positive samples at a small number of sprouting operations. Specifically, the FDA found violative samples at eight (8.5%) of the 94 sprouting operations visited for purposes of this assignment. The fact that the agency found multiple positive samples at some of these operations underscores the need for sprouting operations to comply with the agency’s Produce Safety Regulation (published November 2015), which seeks to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness and improve sprout safety.

To address the positive samples, the FDA worked with the firms that owned or released the affected product to conduct voluntary recalls or to have their consignees destroy it, and then followed up with inspections. Of particular note, this sampling assignment helped detect and stop an outbreak of listeriosis while it still entailed a small number of cases, as described in the Public Health Impact section of this report (page 14). This assignment also prompted six product recalls.

The FDA will continue to consider microbial contamination of sprouts and how best to reduce it. Such contamination remains a concern to the FDA given the aforementioned outbreak and the recalls initiated. Going forward, the FDA intends to inspect sprouting operations to ensure they are complying, as applicable, with the Produce Safety Rule, which includes new requirements for sprouts growers. The agency has no plans to conduct additional large-scale sampling of sprouts at this time but may sample the commodity in accordance with its longstanding approach to food sampling, which centers on (but is not limited to) the following criteria:

  • A firm has a previous history of unmitigated microbial contamination in the environment (e.g., human illness, recalled or seized product, previous inspectional history, or environmental pathogens without proper corrective actions by the facility), or
  • Inspectional observations that warrant collection of samples for microbiological analyses.

The complete report is available at https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/ComplianceEnforcement/Sampling/UCM566981.pdf?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Food fraud: Inside global bullshit about spices

A bowl of ice cream on a hot day in Shanghai gave American Mitchell Weinberg the worst bout of food poisoning he can recall. It also inspired the then-trade consultant to set up Inscatech — a global network of food spies.

In demand by multinational retailers and food producers, Inscatech and its agents scour supply chains around the world hunting for evidence of food industry fraud and malpractice. In the eight years since he founded the New York-based firm, Weinberg, 52, says China continues to be a key growth area for fraudsters as well as those developing technologies trying to counter them.

“Statistically we’re uncovering fraud about 70 percent of the time, but in China it’s very close to 100 percent,” he said. “It’s pervasive, it’s across food groups, and it’s anything you can possibly imagine.”

While adulteration has been a bugbear of consumers since prehistoric wine was first diluted with saltwater, scandals in China over the past decade — from melamine-laced baby formula, to rat-meat dressed as lamb — have seen the planet’s largest food-producing and consuming nation become a hotbed of corrupted, counterfeit, and contaminated food.

Weinberg’s company is developing molecular markers and genetic fingerprints to help authenticate natural products and sort genuine foodstuffs from the fakes. Another approach companies are pursuing uses digital technology to track and record the provenance of food from farm to plate.

“Consumers want to know where products are from,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, citing surveys the Shanghai-based consultancy conducted with consumers and supermarket operators.

Services that help companies mitigate the reputational risk that food-fraud poses is a “big growth area,” according to Rein. “It’s a great business opportunity,” he said. “It’s going to be important not just as a China play, but as a global play, because Chinese food companies are becoming part of the whole global supply chain.”

Some of the biggest food companies are backing technology that grew out of the anarchic world of crypto-currencies. It’s called blockchain, essentially a shared, cryptographically secure ledger of transactions.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer (and source off the terrible graphic, above, right), was one of the first to get on board, just completing a trial using blockchain technology to track pork in China, where it has more than 400 stores. The time taken to track the meat’s supply chain was cut from 26 hours to just seconds using blockchain, and the scope of the project is being widened to other products, said Frank Yiannas, Wal-Mart’s vice president for food safety, in an interview Thursday.

But will it be advertised at retail, or just some faith consumers will be forced to rely on.

Real transparency means reals data, shared publicly; it’s not a matter of faith.

Shiga toxin producing E coli in raw milk products in Norway

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority has detected Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC) in four unpasteurized milk products.

Mattilsynet said 82 unpasteurized milk products were examined and STEC was isolated from three products from Norwegian companies and a French cheese. Stx genes were also detected in 20 samples.

E. coli O-, stx2a was found in a Norwegian-produced soft red cheese of cow’s milk and rømme (a type of blue cheese) and E. coli O26, Stx1 and eae was in fresh cheese from goat milk. E. coli O113, stx2d was detected in French chèvre.

Joe Whitworth of Food Quality News reports Mattilsynet took 714 samples of pasteurized and unpasteurized dairy products – mainly cheeses – as part of a monitoring program from 2010 to 2016 – including 184 samples last year.

Samples in 2016 consisted of 102 produced from pasteurized milk and 82 of unpasteurized milk from stores, importers and manufacturers.

These products consisted of cow’s milk (139), goat (33), sheep (11) and a mixture of these (1).

The monitoring program was done to acquire knowledge on hygiene of dairy products on the Norwegian market.

Campy on the risin’ risin’

Lyrics to the Doors’ song below are sorta dumb, but a great guitar solo that still sends shivers up and down my spine. And Campy, it keeps on risin.’

Campylobacter is the most frequently occurring cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in Europe. Unlike other zoonotic diseases, European-wide incidences of Campylobacter infections have increased during the past decade, resulting in a significant disease burden. In Denmark, campylobacteriosis is notifiable by laboratory and a unique registration system of electronic transfer and storage of notified Campylobacter cases linked to the national person register of age, gender and geographical location allows collection of comprehensive case data.

Using national surveillance data, we describe Campylobacter infections in Denmark from 2000 to 2015, focusing on age-specific incidences, geography, seasonality and outbreaks. During the observed period, a total of 60,725 Campylobacter infections were registered with a mean annual incidence of 69.3 cases/100,000 population. From 2000 to 2014, the incidence of campylobacteriosis decreased by 20%, followed by an apparent increase of 20% from 2014 to 2015. Approximately one-third of cases were travel-related. Incidences were highest in males, young adults aged 20–29 years and children under 5 years of age. Generally, children under 10 years of age living in rural areas were at higher risk of infection. Infection patterns were seasonal with an increase from May to October, peaking in August. Outbreaks were identified each year, including four large waterborne outbreaks which all occurred following heavy rainfall events. For the most part, patterns of Campylobacter infection in Denmark during 2000 to 2015 remained remarkably constant and followed what is known about the disease with respect to demographic, temporal and spatial characteristics.

To establish better targeted prevention and control measures, the current knowledge gaps regarding both Campylobacter microbiology (degree of clonal diversity and clustering) and the importance of different risk factors (food versus environment/climate) need to be filled.

Epidemiology of campylobacteriosis in Denmark 2000–2015

Zoonoses and Public Health

G. Kuhn, E. M. Nielsen, K. Mølbak, S. Ethelberg

DOI: 10.1111/zph.12367

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/zph.12367/abstract;jsessionid=B1876B46881FE2313CB2972DF3AA7AD3.f04t01

Citizen science: Using socks to sample environmental pathogens

This paper introduces a novel method for sampling pathogens in natural environments. It uses fabric boot socks worn over walkers’ shoes to allow the collection of composite samples over large areas. Wide-area sampling is better suited to studies focusing on human exposure to pathogens (e.g., recreational walking).

This sampling method is implemented using a citizen science approach: groups of three walkers wearing boot socks undertook one of six routes, 40 times over 16 months in the North West (NW) and East Anglian (EA) regions of England.

To validate this methodology, we report the successful implementation of this citizen science approach, the observation that Campylobacter bacteria were detected on 47% of boot socks, and the observation that multiple boot socks from individual walks produced consistent results. The findings indicate higher Campylobacter levels in the livestock-dominated NW than in EA (55.8% versus 38.6%). Seasonal differences in the presence of Campylobacter bacteria were found between the regions, with indications of winter peaks in both regions but a spring peak in the NW. The presence of Campylobacter bacteria on boot socks was negatively associated with ambient temperature (P = 0.011) and positively associated with precipitation (P < 0.001), results consistent with our understanding of Campylobacter survival and the probability of material adhering to boot socks. Campylobacter jejuni was the predominant species found; Campylobacter coli was largely restricted to the livestock-dominated NW. Source attribution analysis indicated that the potential source of C. jejuni was predominantly sheep in the NW and wild birds in EA but did not differ between peak and nonpeak periods of human incidence.

Novel sampling method for assessing human-pathogen interactions in the natural environment using boot socks and citizen scientists, with application to campylobacter seasonality

Applied and Environment Microbiology, July 2017, vol. 83, no. 14, Natalia R. Jonesa, Caroline Millmanb, Mike van der Esc, Miroslava Hukelovab, Ken J. Forbesd, Catherine Glovere, Sam Haldenbyf, Paul R. Hunterc, Kathryn Jacksonf, Sarah J. O’Brieng, Dan Rigbyb, Norval J. C. Strachanh, Nicola Williamse, Iain R. Lakea, doi: 10.1128/AEM.00162-17

http://aem.asm.org/content/83/14/e00162-17.abstract?etoc

634 sickened in national Salmonella outbreak, 2013-14, from one poultry company (Foster Farms)

In June 2012, the Oregon Health Authority and the Washington State Department of Health noted an increase in the number of Salmonella enterica serotype Heidelberg clinical isolates sharing an identical pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern. In 2004, this pattern had been linked to chicken from Foster Farms by the Washington State Department of Health; preliminary 2012 interviews with infected persons also indicated exposure to Foster Farms chicken.

In the end, at least 634 Americans were sickened with Salmonella Heidelberg, all linked to Foster Farms, from 2013-2014.

Here is the scientific write-up of that outbreak, or I’m completely wrong in my interpretation and will blame the painkillers.

Importance

This large outbreak of foodborne salmonellosis demonstrated the complexity of investigating outbreaks linked to poultry products. The outbreak also highlighted the importance of efforts to strengthen food safety policies related to Salmonella in the chicken parts and has implications for future changes within the poultry industry.

Objective

To investigate a large multistate outbreak of multidrug resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infections.

Design

Epidemiologic and laboratory investigations of patients infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella  Heidelburg and traceback of possible food exposures.

Setting

United States. Outbreak period was March 1, 2013 through July 11, 2014

Patients

A case was defined as illness in a person infected with a laboratory-confirmed Salmonella Heidelburg with 1 of 7 outbreak pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) Xbal pattern with illness onset from March 1, 2013 through July 11, 2014. A total of 634 case-patients were identified through passive surveillance; 200/528 (38%) were hospitalized, none died.

Results

Interviews were conducted with 435 case-patients interviewed with a focused questionnaire, 201 (74%) reported eating chicken prepared at home. Among case-patients with available brand information, 152 (87%) of 175 patients reported consuming Company A brand chicken. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing was completed on 69 clinical isolates collected from case-patients; 67% were drug resistant, including 24 isolates (35%) that were multidrug resistant. The source of Company A brand chicken consumed by case-patients was traced back to 3 California production establishments from which 6 of 7 outbreak strains were isolated.

Conclusions

Epidemiologic, laboratory, traceback, and environmental investigations conducted by local state, and federal public health and regulatory officials indicated that consumption of Company A chicken was the cause of this outbreak. The outbreak involved multiple PFGE patterns, a variety of chicken products, and 3 production establishments, suggesting a reservoir for contamination upstream from the production establishments. Sources of bacteria and genes responsible for resistance, such as farms providing birds for slaughter environmental reservoir on farms that raise chickens, might explain how multiple PFGE patterns were linked to chicken form 3 separate production establishments and many different poultry products.

National outbreak of multidrug resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infections linked to a single poultry company

PLoS ONE, 11(9), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0162369

http://forum.efeedlink.com/contents/07-05-2017/976bf575-6e5a-4067-a763-0598a663f48d-c784.html

 

AI and dairy

Why did I write the other day about an artificial intelligence dude who I knew 25 years ago, and whose primary application at the time was ensuring elevators in skyscrapers were efficiently dispersed to floors that needed them – oh, and vision?

Because he made the N.Y Times with an hyperbaric headline about making Toronto a high-tech hotbed (he didn’t write the headline) and because his AI basics are making their way into food safety.

Caroline Diana of Inquisitr writes IBM and Cornell University, which primarily focuses on dairy research, will make use of artificial intelligence (AI) to make dairy safe(r) for consumption.

By sequencing and analyzing the DNA and RNA of food microbiomes, researchers plan to create new tools that can help monitor raw milk to detect anomalies that represent food safety hazards and possible fraud.

While many food producers already have rigorous processes in place to ensure food safety hazards are managed appropriately, this pioneering application of genomics will be designed to enable a deeper understanding and characterization of microorganisms on a much larger scale than has previously been possible.

Only a PR thingy could have written this paragraph: “This work could eventually be extended to the larger context of the food supply chain — from farm to fork — and, using artificial intelligence and machine learning, may lead to new insights into how microorganisms interact within a particular environment. A carefully designed informatics infrastructure developed in the IBM Accelerated Discovery Lab, a data and analytics hub for IBM researchers and their clients and partners, will help the team parse and aggregate terabytes of genomic data.”

Better than a poorly designed informatics infrastructure.

Salmonella and hockey don’t mix: 250 sickened at Riga Cup in 2015

(Thanks to a Brisbane-based colleague and barfblog.com fan who passed this along.)

In April 2015, Finnish public health authorities alerted European Union member states of a possible multi-country Salmonella enteritidis outbreak linked to an international youth ice-hockey tournament in Latvia.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Finnish and Latvian authorities initiated an outbreak investigation to identify the source. The investigation included a description of the outbreak, retrospective cohort study, microbiological investigation and trace-back. We identified 154 suspected and 96 confirmed cases from seven countries.

Consuming Bolognese sauce and salad at a specific event arena significantly increased the risk of illness. Isolates from Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian cases had an identical multiple-locus variable-number of tandem repeats analysis-profile (3-10-6-4-1).

Breaches in hygiene and food storing practices in the specific arena’s kitchen allowing for cross-contamination were identified. Riga Cup participants were recommended to follow good hand hygiene and consume only freshly cooked foods.

This investigation demonstrated that the use of ECDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Information System for Food- and Waterborne Diseases and Zoonoses platform was essential to progress the investigation by facilitating information exchange between countries. Cross-border data sharing to perform whole genome sequencing gave relevant information regarding the source of the outbreak.

Multi-country outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis infection linked to the international ice hockey tournament

Epidemiology and Infection, pages 1-10, 14 Jun 2017, Pärn T, Dahl V, Lienemann T, Perevosčikovs J, DE Jong B

https://doi.org/10.1017/S0950268817001212

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28610640