Tex-Mex theft: $1.2M in stolen fajitas prompts employee’s arrest at Texas juvie center

This ranks up there with the great maple syrup theft in Canada a couple of years ago.

Josh Hafner of USA Today reports a Texas juvenile center employee confessed to stealing shipments of fajitas over nine years, a district attorney said, a theft totaling $1.2 million.

The Tex-Mex mystery unfolded on Aug. 7 when an 800-pound delivery of fajitas arrived at the Cameron County Juvenile Justice Department in San Benito, The Brownsville Herald reported, about 10 miles north of the Mexico border.

There was only one problem, a kitchen staffer told the delivery driver: The department didn’t serve fajitas. That’s when the driver said he had been delivering fajitas to the center for nearly a decade, District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said.

“If it wasn’t so serious, you’d think it was a Saturday Night Live skit,” Saenz told the Herald. “But this is the real thing.”

The kitchen staffer told her supervisor about the call, and the missing piece fell into place: Gilberto Escamilla, a department employee, had taken that day off. When confronted at work the next day, he confessed to stealing fajitas for the past nine years, Saenz told the newspaper.

Officers later searching his home found fajitas in the refrigerator. Escamilla made bail following his firing and arrest, but a trail of invoices and vouchers led investigators to the shockingly spicy conclusion: Escamilla’s fajitas fraud totaled $1,251,578, per the Herald.

“He would literally, on the day he ordered them, deliver them to customers he had already lined up,” Saenz said.

Texas Environmental Health Association and Austin

There are exactly five cities I could live in. Portland, Madison, Toronto, Raleigh.

And Austin.

I grew up in one of these, and currently live in another.

The only problem with Austin is a lack of hockey. 

Today I gave a talk to the Texas Environmental Health Association about a bunch of food safety stuff. Got to catch up with old friends and tell folks about some of the fun things we’re working on.

Also got to eat some brisket, listen to good music and drink some Texas beer.

Good times.

Not Paradise: Brucellosis linked to raw milk consumption in Texas

The Texas Department of State Health Services reports in the course of diagnosing the cause of fever, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue in a Texas resident, blood culture results revealed that the patient was infected with Brucella. Through investigation by DSHS, the most probable source of the infection was determined to be raw cow’s milk which the person had been consuming. The source of the milk was K-Bar Dairy, a licensed raw milk dairy in Paradise, Texas.

DSHS is concerned that other people who consumed raw milk from K-Bar Dairy may also have been exposed to Brucella and became infected. Brucellosis may cause short-term and long-term disease. Without specific testing, this disease may elude correct diagnosis, and without appropriate antibiotic therapy, illness may persist.

Health care providers should consider Brucellosis among differential diagnoses when a patient presents with a clinically-compatible constellation of signs and symptoms. The patient should be asked about risk factors for Brucellosis. A key question affecting the level of suspicion of Brucellosis in this scenario is the patient’s consumption of raw milk or raw milk products from K-Bar Dairy in Paradise Texas in Wise County since June 1, 2017. These individuals are considered to be at high risk of contracting brucellosis. Consumers are advised not to consume any raw milk or raw milk products from K-Bar Dairy that are still in their possession and to discard it.

At this time, it is uncertain how long Brucella may have been present in the raw milk from this dairy. Testing is ongoing in an attempt to answer that question. If a patient seeks consultation because they consumed raw milk or raw milk products from this dairy between January and June, 2017 they should be advised to be watchful for signs of chronic Brucellosis and clinically evaluated as appropriate.

Benefit for 7-year-old Texas girl with E. coli set for August

Alexis Dominguez of KXII Fox News 12 reports a 7-year-old Tioga girl has spent the last month recovering in a Dallas hospital after getting E. coli.

Emorie Clayton, 7, from Tioga has been in the pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital in Dallas for nearly a month.

Austin Lewter, Emorie’s uncle says she is recovering after she was infected with E. coli, which attacked her intestines, her digestive system and her kidneys.

“She’s had several surgeries and procedures now but the biggest one actually removed 70% of her colon.”

Emorie’s family says doctors are unsure how she got E. coli and may never even know what caused it.

But during the family’s difficult time, friends and family have come together to help pay for their medical bills.

“There’s stories like this everywhere and when people want to do good, when people need to do good, when people need to come together, they do.”

Lewter says they are several events for the month of August being planned by community members.

“The 12th of August, here in Whitesboro, we’re planning an all-day benefit event. All the proceeds will go to her medical expenses.”

Food safety is not simple

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada correspondent, Rob Mancini, writes:

I’ve been told many times from various sources that Mancini’s always a cheerful guy, you can’t upset him… this is only because I find happiness with my family. I have an amazing wife and 2 incredible kids (6 years old and 19 months), all healthy.  What more can I ask for: nothing.

But when I read stories of kids dying from hemolytic uremic syndrome due to an E. coli infection, in particular when it could have been prevented, I get mad.

“We can’t hold him. We can’t love on him. All we can do is just stand at the bedside,” Lindsey Montgomery, Huston’s mom, told WFAA.

Heartbreaking.

Fox News reports A 2-year-old boy is on life support after contracting an E. coli infection from an unknown source while on vacation in Oklahoma with his family. Landon Huston, of Ennis, Texas, was experiencing stomach virus-like symptoms when a fecal sample tested positive for E. coli, WFAA reported.

Huston was taken to Children’s Medical Center Dallas where doctors discovered the infection had progressed to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), an abnormal destruction of red blood cells that leads to kidney failure, WFAA reported.

Huston underwent the first of two surgeries on June 14 and has had a blood transfusion. He was placed on life support after doctors discovered fluid in his lungs, a post on the family’s GoFundMe page said.

The Texas Department of Health Services is investigating any potential source of the bacteria. E. coli can be found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Most parents like us had no idea, you know, the dangers of something like this,” Montgomery told WFAA. “And it’s everywhere. E. coli is something that’s everywhere.”

While most strains of the bacteria are harmless, others can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia. About 5-10 percent of patients who contract E. coli will develop (HUS), which could present as decreased frequency of urination, feeling tired and losing color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. Patients can recover in a few weeks but others may suffer permanent damage or die.

“I have faith he’s going to come out on top,” John Huston, the toddler’s dad, told WFAA.

I’ve taught many food safety courses and have lectured on the importance of food safety to many. I’ve used different techniques in teaching, heavily based on behavioral science amongst other antics, to stress the importance of certain food safety principles. Even did a TV show on the subject.  All of this doesn’t matter if your inherent belief system is contrary to the information provided.  Need to be compelling and understand how human behavior operates. At times I wish I know more psychology but it’s never too late.

Food safety is not simple, it is hard and anyone who says otherwise is clueless.

I always try to share personal stories and current relevant food safety stories in an attempt to connect with my audience or readers and gauge their interest. Doug taught me this and it works.

 

Handwashing is never enough: Texas family says sons infected with E. coli at petting zoo

An Azle family wants to warn others after both their young boys were hospitalized with E. coli earlier this year.

“It’s awful. You can’t do anything but just sit there and watch your child hurt,” Emily Miller told WFAA.

Miller’s sons Brayden, 7, and Dylan, 5, were both diagnosed with an E. coli infection, and Dylan’s case impacted his kidneys. Miller said he required dialysis, and he was hospitalized for 27 days, including several nights in the ICU.

“It’s such a crazy thought that this could happen,” Miller said.

She was surprised by the intensity of the illness, but also by where her boys may have come into contact with E. coli. She said doctors believe they were likely contaminated while the family was visiting a petting zoo.

“I wasn’t aware that you could get it from animals and livestock,” Miller said.

She took the boys to the petting zoo back in January, and four days later her oldest was in the hospital.

Both brothers are now doing well, though Dylan is still on blood pressure medicine due to the illness, Miller said.

The Centers for Disease Control says petting zoos do pose risks, as livestock can carry E. coli bacteria. The CDC’s advice is to wash hands with soap and water immediately after being near animals, whether you touch them or not.

The CDC also says that soap and water is more effective than instant hand sanitizers, and if sanitizers are the only option, go ahead and use them but follow up with soap and water as soon as possible.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Petting-Zoo-Outbreaks-Table-4-8-14.xlsx.

Erdozain G, Kukanich K, Chapman B, Powell D. 2012. Observation of public health risk behaviours, risk communication and hand hygiene at Kansas and Missouri petting zoos – 2010-2011. Zoonoses Public Health. 2012 Jul 30. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2012.01531.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Abstract below:

Observation of public health risk behaviors, risk communication and hand hygiene at Kansas and Missouri petting zoos – 2010-2011Outbreaks of human illness have been linked to visiting settings with animal contact throughout developed countries. This paper details an observational study of hand hygiene tool availability and recommendations; frequency of risky behavior; and, handwashing attempts by visitors in Kansas (9) and Missouri (4), U.S., petting zoos. Handwashing signs and hand hygiene stations were available at the exit of animal-contact areas in 10/13 and 8/13 petting zoos respectively. Risky behaviors were observed being performed at all petting zoos by at least one visitor. Frequently observed behaviors were: children (10/13 petting zoos) and adults (9/13 petting zoos) touching hands to face within animal-contact areas; animals licking children’s and adults’ hands (7/13 and 4/13 petting zoos, respectively); and children and adults drinking within animal-contact areas (5/13 petting zoos each). Of 574 visitors observed for hand hygiene when exiting animal-contact areas, 37% (n=214) of individuals attempted some type of hand hygiene, with male adults, female adults, and children attempting at similar rates (32%, 40%, and 37% respectively). Visitors were 4.8x more likely to wash their hands when a staff member was present within or at the exit to the animal-contact area (136/231, 59%) than when no staff member was present (78/343, 23%; p<0.001, OR=4.863, 95% C.I.=3.380-6.998). Visitors at zoos with a fence as a partial barrier to human-animal contact were 2.3x more likely to wash their hands (188/460, 40.9%) than visitors allowed to enter the animals’ yard for contact (26/114, 22.8%; p<0.001, OR= 2.339, 95% CI= 1.454-3.763). Inconsistencies existed in tool availability, signage, and supervision of animal-contact. Risk communication was poor, with few petting zoos outlining risks associated with animal-contact, or providing recommendations for precautions to be taken to reduce these risks.

Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions

Zoonoses and Public Health 62:90-99, 2015

G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman  and D. Powell

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/zph.12117/abstract?deniedAccess

Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the US caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.

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2-year-old on life support in Texas after contracting E. coli

An Ennis family says the CDC is investigating after their 2-year-old was exposed to a dangerous strain of E.coli.

Landon Huston is now on life support at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

“He’s usually up, rambunctious, running around,” said his mother, Lindsey Montgomery. “I’m ready for my little boy to be back.”

The family took a trip to Oklahoma two weeks ago, cooling down in a hotel pool and at a natural spring.

“I’d never heard of people swimming and get E. oli,” said his father, John Huston.

Unfortunately, many, many people have been identified as getting sick with Shiga-toxin producing E. coli from swimming, water parks, or water supplies.

“Three, four days later, Landon’s got fever, diarrhea, really sick,” said Montgomery.

But by the time a test confirmed E.coli, his kidneys were shutting down. Montgomery said the CDC interviewed her trying to determine the source of the infection.

“They asked me where he had been, what food he had ate, any restaurants,” she said.

Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, Children’s Health Chief of Pediatric Infections Diseases, said it’s normal for a case like this to trigger a public health investigation.

“That suggests that there’s some contamination somewhere. It’s usually water or food and typically that means it’s not just one individual who’s been exposed,” he said.

Don’t eat poop: Texas cop edition

A policeman in Texas has been sacked for allegedly giving a sandwich filled with feces to a homeless man.

matthew-luckhurst-san-antino-pd_650x400_81478532857Matthew Luckhurst, a San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) officer who had been on the force for five years, reportedly placed fecal matter between two pieces of bread and gave it to a homeless person.

“This was a vile and disgusting act that violates our guiding principles of ‘treating all with integrity’, compassion, fairness and respect,” SAPD Chief William McManus said in a statement.

“The fact that his fellow officers were so disgusted with his actions that they reported him to Internal Affairs demonstrates that this type of behavior will never be tolerated. The action of this one former officer in no way reflects the actions of all the other good men and women who respectfully serve this community,” he was quoted as saying by San Antonio Express-News.

The alleged incident occurred in May, when Officer Luckhurst bragged to a fellow officer that “he had picked up some feces, placed it in a slice of bread, and put it in a Styrofoam container next to the unknown homeless male”, a statement from the police chief’s office said.

“The officer reported that he told Luckhurst to go back and throw it away. The officer said he saw Luckhurst go back and he assumed that Luckhurst discarded the container,” it said.

The incident was reported to Internal Affairs in July. Police Department officials have been unable to locate the homeless man.

“Firing this officer was the right thing to do,” Mayor Ivy Taylor was quoted as saying.

Ben Sifuentes, Luckhurst’s attorney, said his client joked about giving an excrement sandwich to a homeless person but never actually did so.

Seek and ye shall find: Beef products recalled due to possible E. coli O103 contamination

Caviness Beef Packers, a Hereford, Texas establishment, is recalling approximately 2,100 pounds of boneless beef trim products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.  

caviness-beef-packerssThe 2,100-lb. Combo Bin of “boneless beef trim 84L” products were produced on September 14, 2016 and further processed into ground beef products by another establishment. The recalling establishment has control of all but 320 pounds of ground beef products.

10 lb. chub – 73% Regular Ground Beef products with a “Use By” or “Freeze By” date of October 10, 2016 and bear UPC number 52846-48935. 

2-3 lb. tray pack of – 73% Regular Ground Beef products with a “Sell By” date of September 28, 2016 and bear UPC number 2-01656-00000.

1.5 lb. tray pack of – 73% Regular Ground Beef products with a “Sell By” date of September 28, 2016 and bear UPC number 2-01654-00000.

The products subject to this recall were further processed by a firm other than Caviness Beef Packers, “EST. 675” and may not bear the establishment number “EST. 675”, on products available for direct consumer purchase. These products were shipped to retail locations in Texas.

The problem was discovered when FSIS was notified of a USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) sample that tested positive for E. coli O103. Because the company works with the AMS Commodity Program, AMS did routine microbiological testing. This shipment of beef was never intended for the National School Lunch Program (NLSP) and no sales were made to the NLSP. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O103 because it is harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism. Most people infected with STEC O103 develop diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by testing of a stool sample. Vigorous rehydration and other supportive care is the usual treatment; antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended.

Unpasteurized cheese making record number sick in Texas

Claire Z. Cardona of The Dallas Morning News reports a record number of people in Dallas County have been sickened from an infection caused by consuming unpasteurized cheese, health officials said. 

brucellosisThere have been 13 brucellosis infections in residents so far this year, affecting patients between 6 and 80 years old, according to a health advisory released Thursday

All of the patients reported eating the cheese brought into the U.S. from Mexico by friends or relatives, consuming the cheese while traveling in Mexico or eating unidentified cheese products from local street vendors, officials said. 

The county typically sees two to six cases a year, though 11 were recorded in 2004. 

Health officials confirmed all the Dallas County cases by blood culture. In two instances, hospital lab personnel were exposed while handling the samples. 

The Brucella bacteria can infect livestock and is most commonly transmitted to humans who consume the unpasteurized dairy products. Some areas, such as Mexico and Central and South America, are considered high-risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.