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

 

UK regulator types on antimicrobial resistance in food

In 1969, the Swann report recommended strict oversight and restrictions on the use of antibiotics used in human medicine as growth promoters in agriculture. That was in the UK, and 37 years later, the UK Food Standards Agency has published a systematic review of the available evidence on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in food. The review looked at research on the presence of AMR in bacteria in a number of different foods sold at retail.

fda-antibiotics-agricultureThe research has confirmed the need for extra surveillance of AMR in food at retail level, to support the wider programme of work currently underway across government to help reduce levels of AMR.

The study was produced by the Royal Veterinary College, on behalf of the Food Standards Agency, and looked at the areas where consumers are more likely to be exposed to AMR in bacteria from the food chain. Researchers examined published evidence between 1999 and 2016 for pork and poultry meat, dairy products, seafood and fresh produce sold in shops.

FSA action includes:

Working to encourage the adoption of clear transparent reporting standards that help consumers have access to and understand information about the responsible use of antibiotics in the food chain. 

Continued focus on improving the scientific evidence base relating to antimicrobial resistance in the food chain through supporting relevant research and improving surveillance. 

Setting up an independent group to advise us on responsible use of antibiotics in agriculture to support the above work.

Background

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major public health issue worldwide. It is a complex issue driven by a variety of interconnected factors enabling microorganisms to withstand antimicrobial treatments to which they were once susceptible. The overuse and/or misuse of antibiotics has been linked to increasing the emergence and spread of microorganisms which are resistant to them, rendering treatment ineffective and posing a risk to public health.

People can become exposed to AMR bacteria through a number of routes such as human-to-human spread, animals, through the environment and food chain. There is currently uncertainty around the contribution food makes to the problem of AMR and the types of AMR bacteria found in foods on retail sale in the UK. There is a need to consider the literature in this area to gain a better understanding of the potential risk to consumers through contaminated foods and also to identify the key evidence gaps.

Research Approach

The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in retail pork, poultry meat, dairy products, seafood and fresh produce that could pose a risk to UK consumers. For this purpose a systematic review was undertaken following the PRISMA guidelines (Liberati et al., 2009) through which current existing evidence present in scientific databases and grey literature is collected and assessed. A protocol, which describes the methodology used, has been made accessible through the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO). The protocol is available at http://www.york.ac.uk/crd/. Please search PROSPERO using registration number CRD42016033082.

ab-res-prudent-may-14Research questions were developed taking into consideration current evidence for relevant resistant foodborne pathogens and commensal bacteria observed in animals, food and humans in European countries published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (EFSA, 2015), feedback provided by experts and findings from scoping searches of the literature (i.e. PubMed).

Key recommendations: 

There is a need to standardise the selection of antimicrobials for antimicrobial susceptibility testing panels, harmonising criteria for assessment of resistance per bacteria/drug combination for surveillance purposes, using a standardised definition for multidrug resistance (MDR) and the adoption of random sampling and adequate study design for epidemiological studies.

Identification of a core set of relevant antimicrobials when developing and implementing prospective testing for surveillance systems for determination of AMR in the food chain.

Surveillance priorities could be set using a risk-based approach, taking into account the importance of antimicrobials used for treatment in both humans and animals, and continued surveillance of the incidence and emerging resistance (including MDR) in commensal bacteria (Enterococcus spp. and E. coli) should be encouraged.

Data on AMR bacteria from British and imported pork meat in the UK are limited and dated. Further research and surveillance efforts are needed to ascertain AMR levels in both foodborne and commensal bacteria in pork meat in the UK.

There is evidence of increasing levels of resistance to antimicrobials in foodborne bacteria (i.e., Campylobacter spp.) from poultry meat in the UK. Research and surveillance efforts should be continued to monitor AMR trends in both foodborne and commensal bacteria in British and imported chicken and poultry meats in the UK.

There is a lack of information on AMR bacteria in foods of animal origin other than meat at retail level. In recent years, there have been growing numbers of outbreaks associated with milk and dairy products (cheese, butter, yogurt), seafood (fish and shellfish) and fresh produce (fruit, vegetables and salads) at national and international levels but there is scarce, scattered evidence of resistance and MDR occurrence in foodborne and commensal bacteria in these food products and its implications for public health. These gaps should be addressed also using a risk-based approach following evidence of resistance in food items as well as the extent of expected consumer exposure using consumption and import volumes.

Data on antimicrobial usage in food-producing animals in the UK are important to explain the occurrence and dynamics of AMR, resistance genes and MDR phenotypes in a defined geographical area. More complete information should therefore be collected on the type of production system from which food samples originate to assess the impact of animal husbandry practices as risk factors for resistance.

There is a need for more studies to quantify the contribution of both domestic and imported foods to AMR occurrence. Information on country of origin for imported products should be collected.

Priorities should be set according to the importance of a food item in terms of exposure of consumers. Consumption data will be essential for assessing the risk of exposure of British consumers.

Finally, further research and surveillance are needed to establish and quantify the risk of transmission of AMR against critically important antimicrobials in organisms from foods of animal and non-animal origin) to humans.

A systematic review of AMR bacteria in pork, poultry, dairy products, seafood and fresh produce at UK retail level

August 2015-October 2016

Food Standards Agency

https://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/foodborneillness/b14programme/b14projlist/fs102127/a-systematic-review-of-amr-in-pork-and-poultry-dairy-products-seafood-and-fresh-produce

Fancy food ain’t safe food: UK restaurant critic Oliver Peyton’s bar ‘covered with mouse droppings’

Dave Burke of the Daily Mail reports a kitchen in an upmarket Westminster bar owned by restaurant critic Oliver Peyton’s company was covered in mouse droppings, a court has heard.

oliver-peytonThe plush ICA Bar was owned by Peyton & Byrne Ltd, a firm co-owned by Irish restaurateur Oliver Peyton, who is a judge on BBC show Great British Menu.

The company has since gone bust. 

Inspectors discovered mouse droppings inside food storage containers and a sandwich sealing machine, Westminster Magistrates Court heard.

And they found that rodents were trying to nest under the sink by chewing up paper hand towels, prosecutors claim.

The court was told mouse droppings were discovered on a tray where ready-to-eat sandwiches are kept before they are wrapped in cling film.

Westminster Council, which is prosecuting the business, says inspectors found more on the floor in the food storage areas, shelves near food preparation areas and on shelves containing bottles of olive oil.

Even more droppings were discovered on the lids of jars containing ready-to-eat food such as hazelnut paste, sugar cubes, chestnuts and popping candies, it is alleged.

The firm went into administration last month, after the first court hearing into health and safety breaches at the ICA Bar.

French company Sodexo bought the firm’s remaining catering contracts, while the Peyton family took over the bakery side of the business.

The charges the company face include a further allegation that mouse droppings and grease was found in the washing up areas and all over shelves holding cleaning products and paper towels.

Inspectors noted that two rolls of blue hand paper towel underneath the sink in the wash-up room had been gnawed by mice.

portraits-people-003Cracked tiles were found in the kitchen, possibly giving the pests a place to nest.

The company was summoned to court face eight charges of failing to comply with food safety and hygiene provisions, but no-one from the now defunct firm showed up.

Prosecutor Kirsty Pantin, for Westminster Council, applied to district judge Paul Goldspring for the case to be adjourned so the administrators, Deloitte, could be contacted.

‘The company has gone into administration after the last hearing when pleas were meant to be entered,’ said Ms Panton.

Be careful: Pet food – raw, frozen, processed – can be contaminated

My new best friend – Ted, the dog – came from a breeder in Toowoomba, about 90 minutes away, atop Australia’s Great Dividing Ridge.

ted-grass-nov-16He weighs less than our cats, but is feisty and loves a walk.

Or a run.

The breeder (we went to the local shelters, but they had dogs that were not deemed appropriate by our townhouse body corporate) so we got the little one rather than make a rush decision to buy an $800K house so we could have a bigger dog.

Besides, this one’s got personality.

The breeder insisted that dogs do better on a raw meat diet.

I just wanted to get the dog, go visit our friends, and go home, so didn’t belabor the point.

But any raw product carries the same risk of Salmonella and E. coli and other things that are not fun to inflict on your dog.

Natures Menu is recalling its ‘Country Hunter 80% Farm Reared Turkey with Wholesome Fruit and Veg’ frozen pet food, because the product contains Salmonella.

The UK Food Standards Agency is issuing this product recall notice because we are responsible for animal feed regulations and their enforcement through local authorities.sorenne-ted

Make it mandatory: Voluntary restaurant inspection ratings are silly

According to new research by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), only a third (34%) of us regularly check food hygiene ratings before eating in a restaurant or takeaway. With an estimated 4.3 million meals expected to be eaten out over this festive period, FSA is urging people to check a restaurant’s food hygiene rating before booking this Christmas.

respect-authorityThe research, released ahead of the expected Christmas spike in restaurant bookings, found that although food hygiene and safety were of concern for 37% of people, only 6% said that they actively consider the food hygiene rating when deciding where to eat. Other priorities included:

quality/type of food (58%)

own experience of the place (32%)

location/convenience (23%)

good service (21%)

price (20%)

appearance (20%)

recommendation (19%)

Mark O’Neill, senior advisor, local authority policy and delivery, Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland said: ‘We are pleased to see that so many food businesses in Northern Ireland are already compliant with the Food Hygiene Rating Act, which came into operation in October, making it mandatory for food businesses to display their hygiene ratings. This means that around 90% of businesses should now be displaying hygiene information on a green and black sticker somewhere easy to spot outside of their premises. We expect that consumers will be pleased with this development as our recent survey showed that 95% of people in Northern Ireland believe that businesses should have to display their ratings, which now they do.

We are now urging people to look for hygiene ratings and choose restaurants which score three or above this Christmas.