What was the suspect food? Salmonella found in food from Chincoteague Chili and Chowder Cook-off in Virginia

The 18th annual Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s Chili and Chowder Cook Off, held Sat. Sept. 30, sickened dozens of the approximately 2,000 attendees.

Reports started to trickle in about people becoming seriously ill. Enough people fell ill to prompt an investigation from the state Department of Health. Dozens sounded off on social media about gastrointestinal problems.

On Monday, the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (state laboratory) in Richmond apparently identified Salmonella in specimens that they received which were associated with the event. The investigation is still ongoing in regard to what food or food items may have caused the outbreak.

According to health department officials, they are continuing to try to reach more than 2,000 attendees from multiple states in order to get them to submit information to the online outbreak survey and see their primary care provider if the are still ill.

Attendees, whether ill or well, are asked to complete the online survey related to this incident. To take the survey, click here.

Going public fail: 14 sick with E. coli linked to raw milk in Virginia, 2016

The general public didn’t have access to the suspect food, so there was no point in unnecessarily alarming the public.

I’ve heard that paternalistic crap for 30 years now, and it never turns out well.

Coral Beach of Food Safety News reports that Virginia officials did not alert the general public to an E. coli outbreak in March 2016 that sickened at least 14 people — a dozen of them children.

This week, 17 months after the outbreak, public health officials expect to complete their report on the incident, according to a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Health. The implicated milk was from Golden Valley Guernseys (free samples delivered for $4) dairy, which sent a letter to members of its herd-share operation alerting them to the illnesses at the time.

Of the 14 confirmed E. coli victims, half had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization. Three developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.

The state health department’s Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District office did not make a public announcement about the outbreak at the time because the general public did not have access to the milk, District Director Dr. Wade Kartchner told Food Safety News.

“Consideration was given to putting out a broad public notice, but the nature of the herd-share programs are such that we were confident that we would be able to effectively reach those who were truly at risk of illness,” Kartchner said. “… it is not quite the same situation as a restaurant outbreak where the public at large may be exposed.”

This is so wrong.

Others, even mere mortals, learn from outbreaks: How did this happen? How dangerous was the outbreak? And what kind of foods to avoid, like raw fucking milk.

In the absence of public announcements, it also makes it harder for mere scientists to make a case that a certain food may be risky.

Going public is the new normal for foodborne outbreaks, and some day, admin-types may catch up.

Facebook, tweets, calls to lawyers like Marler, going public is any agency’s best defense.

And it’s the right thing to do.

We’ve published about this before, and as I said at the time, I’ve had different versions of this paper running through my head for 25 years.

It started as a rebel-without-a-clue teenager, and led to questions about mad cow disease in 1995 (or earlier) when the UK government knew there were human victims but said nothing until March 1996.

Yet the job of public health, no matter how many political assholes, no matter how many impediments, and no matter how many dog bites you have to investigate, is to protect public health.

If people are barfing, it’s time to go public.

That doesn’t always happen.

Anyone can search barfblog.com under the phrase “going public” and find hundreds of incidents of people acting like shits.

But this is important shit, because credibility depends on transparency and trust and truthiness (at least in my idyllic world-view).

Public health is under siege.

The science is there, the outbreaks are there. Go public.

Or at least explain the process so the rest of us can understand.

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.

Chipotle sounds like a John Prine song: Throw front-liners under the bus: Chipotle CEO blames staff for noro outbreak that sickened at least 135

Business Insider reports that last week, news broke that Chipotle had closed a restaurant in Sterling, Virginia, following multiple reports of customers getting sick after eating there. Chipotle’s stock plummeted and more than 130 people claimed they had become ill after eating at the restaurant.

Now, CEO and founder Steve Ells needs to convince customers and investors that the chain has a plan to prevent another food poisoning scandal.

“We have isolated the failure that occurred,” Ells said in a call with investors on Tuesday.

According to Ells, the Sterling, Virginia restaurant had failed to comply with Chipotle’s safety regulations, specifically allowing an employee to work while sick.

“We made it clear to the entire company that we have a zero-tolerance policy” for not following food-safety measures, Ells said. “When followed, they work perfectly.

That’s bullshit.

When biology and humans are involved, nothing is perfect.

Seriously, this dude who runs thousands of restaurants hasn’t looked at the fail-safe measures used by engineering firms for decades?

Another nosestretcher: Ells told reporters on a conference call Tuesday, “We are the only major restaurant to have HACCP.”

That would be news to McDonalds, Disney, and dozens of others.

In describing the norovirus outbreak this past week, Ells placed the blame squarely on the individual restaurant, saying “norovirus is unrelated to our food supply chain.”

How do you know?

Coke-head Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle, said: “We conducted a thorough investigation and it appears that someone in the restaurant leadership did not adhere to our food safety protocol. We believe someone worked while sick.

The lack of compliance at the Sterling restaurant doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. According to some Chipotle employees at other locations, store managers have encouraged workers to not to follow certain regulations, forcing them to work while sick and lie when filling out food safety sheets.

To prevent another food poisoning outbreak, Ells said that the chain needs to create a “culture of compliance.”

In light of the Sterling outbreak, Chipotle has made it clear that there will be “severe” consequences when in-store employees do not follow safety procedures. The company is launching additional training and communications efforts to ensure that each location follows national policies, such as sending sick workers home.

“Compliance with our procedures is nonnegotiable,” Ells said.

That’s all nice, and probably because Chipotle Mexican Grill received a follow-up subpoena on July 19, requesting information:

* Chipotle Mexican Grill says follow-up subpoena sought information related to illness incidents associated with a single Chipotle restaurant in Sterling, Virginia

* Chipotle Mexican Grill says it intends to continue to fully cooperate in the investigation

* Chipotle – sales trends in H2 of July 2017 have been adversely impacted by news regarding norovirus incident in co’s restaurant in Sterling, Virginia‍.

But it was just an accident.

Serial pooper plagues Virginia park

Kids love climbing and playing at Fort Barnard Park in south Arlington, VA, but now they have to watch where they step.

fort.barnard.park.vaSome parents are disgusted after learning a “serial pooper” is targeting the playground.

“I have three kids, one is a cancer survivor. You run into something like that?” Andy Delafield, who takes his kids to Fort Barnard Park, said. “Oh my God. Just … ugh. Who would be sick enough to do something like that?”

Arlington County Parks and recreation officials say human poop has been found about four or five times in the last few months.

Whoever is responsible is covering the poop with a shirt or jacket.

Park workers believe it happens after hours in the dark. Each time it is reported, workers clean it up and disinfect the area.

10 sick with Hepatitis A: Frozen strawberries from Egypt used in Virginia Tropical Smoothie Cafe customers

According to the Virginia Department of Health, people who consumed smoothies with frozen strawberries on August 5, 6, 7 or 8 may benefit from a vaccine or immune globulin to prevent hepatitis A.

Tropical Smoothie CafeAccording to a health department official, there have been 10 total cases of hepatitis A linked to the strawberries at Tropical Smoothie in Virginia so far.

The Department of Health has linked the smoothies with a strain of hepatitis A that has been associated with past outbreaks due to frozen strawberries from Egypt.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe voluntarily withdrew all of the strawberries sourced from Egypt and found an alternate supply.

The Department of Health says other restaurants and restaurant suppliers may have received the frozen strawberries. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify other locations where the product may have been distributed.

In a news release sent Friday, the department said genetic testing had linked frozen strawberries from Egypt, distributed to all 90 Tropical Smoothie Café locations across Virginia to the Hepatitis infections.

Sprout grower recalls product 19 days after judge forces closure

On March 3, 2016, a federal court ordered Henry’s Farm Inc. of Woodford, Virginia, to close because of repeated contamination of its raw sprouts.

henrys_recalled_sproutsOn March 22, 2016, the same company recalled all packages of soybean sprouts because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The following products are being recalled by the firm:

1-lb bags of soybean sprouts in clear plastic bags labeled “Natto Soybean Sprouts” “Keep Refrigerated” with a UPC Code of 1303020000 produced on or after March 1, 2016.

10-lb bags of soybean sprouts in black plastic bags labeled “Soy Bean Sprouts” “Keep Refrigerated” produced on or after March 1, 2016.
These items were distributed to retail stores in Virginia and Maryland.

The contamination was discovered through surveillance and monitoring coordinated by the Virginia Rapid Response Team (RRT), Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) Food Safety Program and subsequent analysis by the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) that revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the products. No illness has been reported to date.

Another Virginia college with a norovirus outbreak

Farmville, VA has a norovirus problem. After Hampden-Sydney college closed Sunday for an outbreak-inspired deep clean, four students from neighboring Longwood University have also come down with noro, according to CBS6.

Longwood University reported that over the weekend, there were four cases of students with gastrointestinal issues.

In each case, cleaning crews disinfected the reported area with bleach. The university is continuing to monitor the situation and cleaning crews are standing by.

Proposed Virginia law would allow sale of uninspected home processed food

A few weeks ago my neighbor told me about a how he was making kimchi, a fermented cabbage, carrot and onion concoction, in is kitchen. He put some vegetables into a mason jar, added some water, put the lid on it and tightened it as hard as it could go. Then he left it on the counter for a week. Although he created a pretty nice environment for botulinum toxin production, he luckily didn’t paralyze himself or his family.

After we chatted about fermentation, anaerobic environments and botulism, he decided he’d buy kimchi.

Kenric Ward writes at Watchdog.org that some Virginians are looking to change state law around purchasing processed food from neighbors.original_ARTICLE-IMAGE-kimchi-jars-finedininglovers

Virginians who try to sell homemade food from their kitchens are feeling the heat from state and local inspectors.

“I have to turn down my neighbors when they ask if they can buy pesto I make from my own basil plants,”

HB 1290, sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, would end home-kitchen inspections on items produced for direct sale. The goods would bear a label stating that the products are not for resale and were processed without state inspection.

“If someone wants to buy food from someone, what business is that of the state?” asks Matthew French, a farmer in Bland, Va. “The state basically comes at you with a gun, and says you can only buy from state-approved supplier.”

The push for fresh, locally made food is gaining ground,” French told Watchdog.org in an interview. “Buyers want to know the person who’s preparing their food. People want it — and the state is getting in the way,” he said.

My neighbor is a great guy, but he’s not a food processor.

Improperly processed low-acid foods sold at Virginia farmers market; health alert issued

In 2011, a 29-year-old man was hospitalized after five days of progressive dizziness, blurred vision, dysphagia, and difficulty breathing. The patient required mechanical ventilation and botulism antitoxin. He remained in the hospital for 57 days and then spent some time in a rehabilitation facility. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he had tasted some potato soup that included botulinum toxin.

In 1977, 59 patrons of a Detroit Mexican restaurant became ill with botulism after consuming improperly canned peppers. As a result of rumors of a pending shortage of fresh peppers, the restaurant staff decided to stick lightly-cooked peppers and some water in jars and seal them.

Putting low acid foods in a jar and sealing them without either acidifying (with vinegar/fermentation) or processing using pressure is a bad idea.

According to WTVR, Corfino Foods of Richmond VA has been selling soups and sauces that were improperly processed resulting in a health alert from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.corfino-foods

These products were improperly processed, making them susceptible to contamination with Clostridium botulinum.

Corfinio Foods has already suspended production of all of its canned soups and sauces and the firm is currently working with VDACS to come into compliance with state requirements.

Although there have been no reported cases of illness associated with these products, VDACS is issuing this consumer warning so that people who have previously purchased the products do not consume them.

The soups and sauces are packaged in glass, mason style jars with metal, screw on lids and have been sold at the Brandermill Green Market. The jars are marked with the Corfinio Foods label.

The firm was made aware of the dangers associated with selling improperly processed foods of this type and is working with VDACS and the market to notify consumers of the product recall.

Consumers who have any of these products or any foods made with these products should discard them immediately. They should double bag the jars in plastic bags and place in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash. Those who don’t wear gloves when handling these products should wash their hands with soap and running water after handling.

 

FDA to Virginia sprout producer: your place is a dump

In an Aug. 2/12 warning letter made public last week,, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told Henry’s Farm In. of Woodford, VA that, “We inspected your soybean sprout and mung-bean sprout manufacturing facility on April 30, May 1-4, and 10, 2012. This inspection was conducted in response to a sample of your of soy bean sprouts collected by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and that yielded Listeria monocytogenes. In this letter we summarize violations we observed and set forth steps you may take to demonstrate your correction.

During the inspection, FDA collected samples of finished JJBS soybean sprout, P-Natto soybean sprout, and mung-bean sprout as well as environmental samples from your facility and your well water. We notified you with a letter dated June 5, 2012 that our laboratory analysis of sample 752567, which consisted of ten approximately 100-gram sub-samples of JJBS soy bean sprout product, yielded Listeria monocytogenes. We acknowledge your cooperation in recalling your soybean sprouts from the marketplace, ceasing of all production activities, and voluntarily disposing of all in-process products.

Our investigators also documented numerous insanitary conditions and practices that may have contributed directly or indirectly to contamination of your sprouts with pathogens and filth. Accordingly, the soybean sprouts and mung-bean sprouts grown in your facility are adulterated within the meaning of Section 402(a)(4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. § 342(a)(4)] because they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health.