Cockles warmed: E. coli O157 strikes UK child, school says wasn’t us

Parents have been warned to be alert for signs of a “very infectious” strain of E. coli after a pupil from Thurnby Lodge Primary, in Leicester, contracted the O157 strain of the bug.

The source of the infection, caught over the half-term holidays, is not known, the school said. The severity of the illness has not been disclosed, but pupils in the same
class were sent letters by Public Heath England.

A spokeswoman for the school said, in her best British bureaucratese, “Thurnby Lodge Primary has received no further notifications of such incidents and it is deemed likely that the child was infected outside of school during the holidays. The letters from Public Health England came via the academy and were just a precautionary measure.”

The cockles of the parents were warmed.

And what kind of school is named, Thumby?

31 sickened by E. coli O55 in Dorset: 3 years later, health-types’ report remains a secret

In Dec. 2014, an outbreak of E. coli O55 was identified in Dorset, U.K. 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.

Tara Russell of Bournemouth Echo reports again this week that a review into the outbreak in Dorset was carried out, health chiefs have insisted – but the report is not available to the public.

Public Health England (PHE) says the public can only request to see the report detailing exactly what happened when 31 people contracted the O55 strain between July 2014 and November 2015 through a Freedom of Information request.

Families including some whose children have been left with lifelong health complications say they did not know the review existed and have branded it ‘disappointing and disgusting’ they have been kept in the dark.

The Daily Echo has lodged an official FOI request on behalf of the affected families and will receive a response in July.

Nurse Jessica Archer, who today suffers crippling head pains, fatigue and depression while her nephew Isaac Mortlock (right) endures severe seizures, must be peg fed every night and will need a kidney transplant as a result of the outbreak, said: “Without the Daily Echo we wouldn’t even know this report even existed and we are very interested to see it and we have the right to know. The families affected have so many unanswered questions and have to live with the effects of this outbreak forever but yet again we feel Public Health England are trying to sweep it under the carpet and hope that it will just go away.

“It is disappointing and disgusting this report has not already been made public let alone having to wait and wait still. We feel there have been a series of failures and this is the latest.”

The news comes after Jessica last month called for PHE to be held to account telling how her and her five-year-old nephew’s Isaac Mortlock’s lives have changed irreversibly, and accused the organisation of ‘a cover up.’

In response, PHE told the Daily Echo it carries out ‘routine outbreak reviews once investigations have ended’, adding it is ‘a learning organisation and reflects on outbreaks to identify lessons learnt and to continually improve our response.’

However at the time, the organisation refused to tell the Daily Echo exactly which lessons were learned.

It was only following a further request from this newspaper, PHE said a report was compiled however it has not been available to the public.

A spokesman said: “This report was not intended for external publication – it’s not standard procedure to publish outbreak reports externally due to patient confidentiality – however if interested parties would like to request a copy they can do this via our Freedom of Information portal.”

That’s bullshit.

Outbreak investigations are routinely published while ensuring patient confidentiality.

Families say it is the latest in a string of ‘failures’ by Public Health England.

A spokesman from PHE added: “As with all outbreaks, PHE Health Protection Team ensured throughout their investigation that those affected were kept informed of any information that was uncovered at that time.”

That’s also bullshit.

And why UK health types feature prominently in our paper on when to go public for the benefit of public health.

Three years seems a bit long.

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.

Cooking pork to control Hep E: Use a fucking thermometer

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture very publicly began to urge consumers to use an accurate food thermometer when cooking ground beef patties because research demonstrated that the color of meat is not a reliable indicator of safety.

USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety at the time, Catherine Woteki, said, “Consumers need to know that the only way to be sure a ground beef patty is cooked to a high enough temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present is to use a thermometer.”

At the time, I said, no one uses a meat thermometer to check the doneness of hamburgers. The idea of picking up a hamburger patty with tongs and inserting the thermometer in sideways was too much effort (others insist the best way to use a tip sensitive digital thermometer is to insert into the middle of the patty at a 45 degree angle).

I was wrong.

Shortly thereafter, I started doing it and discovered, not only was using a meat thermometer fairly easy, it made me a better cook. No more extra well-done burgers to ensure the bugs that would make me sick were gone. They tasted better.

By May 2000, USDA launched a national consumer campaign to promote the use of food thermometers in the home. The campaign featured an infantile mascot called Thermy that proclaimed, “It’s Safe to Bite When the Temperature is Right.”

Seventeen years later, the converts are minimal. Canada came to the thermometer table a few years ago,  Australia is doing a slow policy creep, but the UK is still firmly committed to piping hot.

The UK Food Standards Agency recently published the sixth, chief scientific adviser’s Science Report, entitled Data Science. No mention of thermometers except to determine refrigerator temperatures or included as packing on food.

Science-based policy depends on whose science is being quoted to what ends. The fancy folks call it value judgments in risk assessments; Kevin Spacey in the TV series House of Cards would call it personal advancement.

So last week, when UK media reports dubbed Hepatitis E the Brexit virus, with the potential for 60,000 Brits to fall sick annually from EU pork, the UK Food Standards Agency once again reiterated how fucking unscientific they are.

“Following media reports this morning we wanted to remind consumers of our advice about cooking pork thoroughly. We always advise that whole cuts of pork, pork products and offal should be thoroughly cooked until steaming hot throughout, the meat is no longer pink and juices run clear.”

The National Pig Association — it’s a thing, “recommends that consumers follow the advice from the Food Standards Agency that pork and sausages should be cooked thoroughly until steaming hot throughout, with no pink or red in the centre, to greatly reduce the risk of infection.”

Back to science instead of a rainbow fairy tale on safe cooking procedures, in May 2011, USDA recommended pork, and all whole meat cuts, only have to get to 145 degrees internally, not the 160 the agency had previously suggested, followed by a 3-minute rest.

The U.S. pork board for years promoted pork be cooked with a “hint of pink.”

This has more to do with breeding efforts to produce leaner pork.

But HEV is a different beast.

Public Health England reported the number of severe cases has almost trebled since 2010, with 1,244 reported in 2016, compared with 368 six years earlier.

The virus causes a flu-like illness and in severe circumstances, could cause death.

This strain has been linked to pig farms in France, Holland, Germany and Denmark and is only killed in meat if people cook it for longer than usual.

Dr Harry Dalton, a gastroenterologist at Exeter University, told a conference on neurological infectious diseases HEV had become a major threat and that no one should eat pink pork and that pregnant women and transplant patients should not eat pork at all.

He also said the virus is heat resistant and survives being cooked until the meat is heated to above 71C (160F) for two minutes.

Looks like some research is required, not that the Brits would change their no pink policy. Maybe they’re homophoblic.

With Memorial Day on Monday in the U.S. and a bank holiday Monday in the U.K., whatever that is, USDA yesterday once again stated, “The best and only way to make sure bacteria have been killed and food is safe to eat is by cooking it to the correct internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer.”

Recent research by USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that only 34 percent of the public use a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers – and that’s self-reported, people lie on surveys.

Use a fucking thermometer and stick it in.

(If you don’t like profanity, don’t read, but if you want to read, your IT censors may figure you can’t handle such dreadful language, and messages are getting blocked. You may want to have a word with your IT folks.)

I don’t go to restaurants much anymore: Too many fake beliefs, not enough science

Beginning in April, 2011, 190 people were sickened with Salmonella Heidelberg linked to partially-cooked chicken livers throughout six U.S. states.

There have been endless outbreaks, especially of Campylobacter in the UK linked to similar products.

Stephen Luscombe, who runs the Golden Ball in Lower Assendon, UK, admitted serving undercooked calves’ liver in 2015.

Two diners suffered food poisoning and others suffered symptoms after eating a dish containing the meat at the restaurant.

Luscombe was fined £4,434, ordered to pay £5,284 costs and a victim surcharge of £120. 

Luscombe admitted serving food on the premises that was unsafe as it had been inadequately cooked and failing to implement and maintain legally required food safety procedures, including those for the safe cooking of high risk foods. 

Magistrates heard South Oxfordshire District Council, the environmental health authority, was asked to investigate after a member of the public suffered campylobacter food poisoning after eating at the restaurant.

Environmental health officers carried out an immediate unannounced inspection and found that the diners had been offered a set menu including calves’ liver for the main course.

They found the calves’ liver had been cooked at too low a temperature.

The restaurant was found to have no protocol to ensure high risk items, such as liver, were cooked according to recommendations from the Food Standards Agency.

It also failed to complete required monitoring records for almost three months, meaning it was failing to meet its legal requirements for food safety. 

We’ve learned lessons but we’re not telling anyone: Public Health England accused of E. coli O55 cover up

In Dec. 2014, an outbreak of E. coli 055 was identified in Dorset, U.K. 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.

Tara Russell of the Bournemouth Echo reports a nurse who fears her family’s lives will never be the same again after contracting the deadly E. coli bug has accused health officials of a ‘cover up.’

Jessica Archer and her nephew Isaac Mortlock, now five, were among the first of 31 people in Dorset who battled for their lives when they were diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) as a result of E. coli O55 in summer 2014.

Three years on, Isaac suffers with severe seizures, must be peg fed for 10 hours each night and will need a kidney transplant and Jessica endures crippling head pains, fatigue and depression as a result of the bug.

But though the families’ lives have changed irreversibly, they feel let down by the Public Health England (PHE) investigation.

Jessica, who completed the London Marathon to raise awareness of her family’s plight, said: “This illness has robbed us. We are no longer the same people. It’s very frightening how life can suddenly change in an instant and I’m sure if all the other families were sat around the table they would say exactly the same.

“If someone attempts to murder someone, that is taken very seriously. We have been close to death through whatever reason that may be, yet we feel it was not taken at all seriously and more and more and more people suffered.

“It feels like a cover up and we just believe there are too many questions that have been left unanswered.”

Isaac and Jessica became ill after the family had eaten together at a restaurant. Medics originally put symptoms down to gastroenteritis but they were later diagnosed with a severe life-threatening complication which attacked their kidneys, liver and brain and fought for life. Today Jessica said they face a daily battle for recovery.

“We were discharged within a day of each other and we were so naïve. We thought we’d get our lives back together. How wrong were we.

“I used to be fit and active, now there’s not a day I can say ‘I feel well today.’”

Isaac today suffers severe health and behavioural problems.

The investigation closed in March 2016 without the affected families being made aware and failed to find the source. The outbreak was only confirmed by PHE in response to enquiries made by the Bournemouth Echo in November 2014 after it struck a children’s nursery in Blandford – months after the initial outbreak.

Jessica said: “We’ve been in the dark throughout with absolutely no communication about the outbreak, investigation or what has happened since. If they’d have thought we were important enough to find the cause, little babies and children may not have been put through the same hell.

“All we can hope for is that lessons have been learned so no other family ever has to go through the same horrendous ordeal we are living. For us, every morning is a constant reminder that life for us will never be the same.”

This is normal in the U.K. where science-based agencies recommend cooking food to the standard of piping hot, and where 252 people were sickened with E. coli O157 in 2010 – 80 hospitalized, one death, possibly linked to potatoes and leeks – and the Food Standards Agency reminded people to wash their produce.

This is some fucked up shit.

Maybe that’s why I like John Oliver so much.

He says he’s British and has no human emotion.

It’s buried way, way down.

Russell of the Bournemouth Echo writes public health officials carried out a review of the E. coli outbreak in Dorset to ‘identify lessons learnt.’

Public Health England said it is a ‘learning organisation’ and ‘reflects on outbreaks’ however refused to reveal what these lessons were.

Dr Sarah Harrison, consultant in health protection at Public Health England South West said: “Our colleagues in Public Health England worked closely with partners to try and identify a possible common source of infection, but the investigations did not identify a single common source. It is very good news that there have been no further cases of infection with this strain in Dorset since the end of the outbreak in 2015, however we remain vigilant.

“PHE is a learning organisation and reflects on outbreaks to identify lessons learnt and to continually improve our response. A review of this outbreak was conducted at the time by staff involved in line with standard procedures.

“E coli VTEC can be a very serious infection and can be passed easily from person to person and young children are particularly easily affected. We know that the bacteria causing the infection can survive in the environment, so good hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread. Wash hands thoroughly using soap and water after using the toilet, before and after handling food and after contact with animals including farm animals. Small children should be supervised in washing their hands. Remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruit that will be eaten raw.”

PHE said the investigation at the time was extensive with involvement from many organisations.

A statement read: “Control measures included extended screening and exclusion of cases and high risk contacts. Public Health England and the Animal and Plant Health Agency put in place enhanced surveillance of faecal samples in Dorset laboratories and environmental sampling to help determine the extent of this organism in the community. The only link common to all the cases was that they either lived in or had close links to the county. The outbreak investigation closed in March 2016.”

As John Oliver would say, cool.

As Jessica Archer would say, fuck off you bureaucratic assholes who spend work time watching goats singing Taylor Swift songs on the the Intertubes.

Crapping 40 times a day: UK couple left reeling after luxury holiday in Bulgaria

Claudia Tanner of the Daily Mail reports that an idyllic holiday turned into a health nightmare for a couple when they were struck down with salmonella poisoning at a luxury resort.

Paul Gallagher, 45, and wife Lesley, 48, were looking forward to a sun-drenched break in Sinemorets, Bulgaria, but their joy was short-lived when they both fell ill.

Three days into their stay, the pair suffered extreme vomiting, diarrhoea, sweating and stomach cramps in September last year.

Paul, a HGV driver, revealed how he spent the remainder of the week-long holiday going to the toilet 40 times a day.

The pair, from East Kilbride, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, claim food was left out for hours which attracted flies and the pool was dirty at the four-star Bella Vista Beach Club, where they had paid £620 for an all-inclusive stay.

Back home, Paul’s stools tested positive for salmonella – which is usually caused by eating contaminated food. Lesley was suspected of having the same.

The couple are now seeking compensation. 

6 sick with Campy linked to raw milk in UK

Six cases of campylobacter have so far been linked to people consuming unpasteurised milk from Low Sizergh Barn Farm in Kendal.

low-sizergh-barn-farm-in-kendalSouth Lakeland Council said it had launched a joint investigation with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The farm said it was co-operating with the inquiry and had suspended sales of raw milk from a vending machine.

Public Health England (PHE) also asked anyone who had bought raw milk from the farm or visited its tearoom in the past two months to complete an online questionnaire.

The farm, which began offering unpasteurised milk from its vending machine in March, sells about 70 litres a day.

In August the farm won a National Trust fine farm produce award for its unpasteurised milk.

Duty calls: Tweet when you barf (maybe FSA should tell Heston)

This is what is infuriating about food safety government types: they have the budgets, they have the knowledge, but they don’t have the wherewithal to confront an issue on a public scale.

heston-blumenthalThey can say, oooohhh, we use social media to track when people are barfing but they do no evaluation of their alleged interventions.

Telling people to wash their hands doesn’t mean people will wash their hands.

Elizabeth Cassin of BBC writes if you’re suffering with projectile vomiting and watery diarrhea, reach for your phone and post an update.

While it won’t ease your suffering, a tweet or two could help researchers track the spread of the winter vomiting bug (which the rest of the world calls Norovirus).

The UK Food Standards Agency has been using social media to track levels of norovirus, a highly contagious illness which spreads via food and through person-to-person contact. The symptoms usually last for one to two days, with the person remaining infectious for a further two days.

If you’ve ever had, it you know what it means: vomiting, diarrhea, pain, and the general feeling of having been run over by a car.

In 2013, the Foods Standards Agency started looking at new ways to track the virus. They analysed Google searches but found that social media was a better source of data. “It’s more about the immediacy… what’s happening in their lives right now,” says Dr Sian Thomas.

On the other hand, “if you’re in hospital or a nursing home and you’re sick, then they might take a sample and send it to a laboratory for analysis,” she says.

The FSA compared this official sample data with the volume of relevant tweets and concluded that “there’s a really good correlation between the number of mentions on Twitter of ‘sick’ and a range of search terms, with the incidents of illness as defined by laboratory reports.”

“Our current estimate is that between 70-80% of the time, we are able to accurately predict an increase the next week.”

If the team predict a national outbreak, they plan to run a digital campaign explaining how to look after yourself.

“The intervention is really quite basic,” she notes. “It’s about washing your hands, it’s about looking after yourself, and not coming in to contact with other people while you’re sick.”

Norovirus can be dangerous for children or the elderly. Fortunately for healthy adults though, the illness is usually a minor, if messy, inconvenience.

 

FSA idiots: Cooking until the juices run clear is a bad way to tell if the meat is done

It’s sorta sad when the PhD boffins at the UK Food Standards Agency get stood up by Cooks Illustrated.

chicken-thermWorse when they fail to acknowledge the error of their ways, but still earn the big bucks.

Cooking a chicken until its “juices run clear when pricked” is pretty standard poultry advice but, according to Cook’s Illustrated, it’s not a very dependable way to tell if your chicken is properly cooked.

As reported by Claire Lower of Skillet, though myoglobin (the molecule that gives meat its pink or red hue) does lose its color when heated, the temperature at which the color change occurs can vary depending on a whole bunch of factors. In fact, when Cook’s Illustrated tested this theory, they found the color of the juice had very little to do with the temperature of the meat:

But when we cooked whole chickens, in one case the juices ran clear when the breast registered 145 degrees and the thigh 155 degrees—long before the chicken was done. And when we pierced another chicken that we’d overcooked (the breast registered 170 degrees and the thigh 180 degrees), it still oozed pink juices.

The takeaway? Get a thermometer, use it, and never under-cook or overcook your chicken again.

Stick it in and use a thermometer.

barfblog-stick-it-in