‘Some will rob you with a 6-gun, some with a fountain pen’ Why people are smuggling butter into Wisconsin

Maple syrup thefts in Quebec; adulterated olive oil from Italy; horse meat filler in the EU and apparently everywhere.

The mob’s got its fingers in all kinds of food fraud, but leave it to Wisconsin to quaintly produce a butter smuggler.

Whenever Jean Smith leaves her home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, to visit relatives out of state, she’ll stop in Nebraska to load up on blocks of Kerrygold butter, imported from Ireland, which is banned in the state that calls itself, “America’s Dairyland.”

“Ms. Smith brings back as much Kerrygold butter with her when she visits family in Nebraska,” said a civil lawsuit she and three other butter-lovers filed against Wisconsin in a state court last month. “She keeps large amounts of the butter in her home refrigerator in the hopes that she will have enough to last her until her next out-state trip.”

Kerrygold says the “winds, rain and warming influence of the Gulf Stream all contribute to the lush grass” where the Ireland-based company’s happy cows graze before they’re milked to create butter that’s “silky and creamy and glow a healthy, golden yellow.”

It may be specially crafted but the product is what’s called “ungraded butter,” which doesn’t carry the familiar USDA stamp of approval or in this case a Wisconsin grade. The state is the only one in the U.S. to declare it “unlawful to sell, offer or expose for sale, or have in possession with intent to sell, any butter at retail unless it has been graded.”

M. L. Nestel of The Daily Beast writes that Smith’s lawsuit is the first of three dealing with the butter law this year. In one federal lawsuit, Kerrygold accuses a competitor of trademark infringement for selling “Irishgold” butter. In another federal lawsuit, a small ungraded artisanal butter company called Minerva claims its butter is getting cut out of the Wisconsin market over an outdated technicality.

The 1953 law was rarely enforced until now, maybe because the grading process is grueling.

A grader has to assess in sequential steps the “flavor and aroma, body and texture, color, salt, package and by the use of other tests or procedures approved by the department for ascertaining the quality of butter in whole or part,” according to the state’s website on the matter.

The story goes on to outline the minutia of grading standards, protectionism and bullshit claims.

And, like most food porn, has nothing to do with safety.

Not the 4-H: 21 confirmed sick with Salmonella in 8 US states from contact with dairy bull calves

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is working with Wisconsin health, agriculture, and laboratory agencies, several other states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) to investigate a multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infections.

Portrait of the cute baby bull calf

Portrait of the cute baby bull calf

Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may have been part of this outbreak. PulseNet, coordinated by CDC, is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories. PulseNet performs DNA fingerprinting on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using techniques called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks.

Twenty-one people infected with an outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from eight states.

Among 19 people with available information, illnesses started on dates ranging from January 11, 2016 to October 24, 2016. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 72, with a median age of 21. Sixty-two percent of ill people are female. Among 19 ill people with available information, 8 (42%) reported being hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

WGS showed that isolates from ill people are closely related genetically to one another. This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.

Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory findings have identified dairy bull calves from livestock markets in Wisconsin as the likely source of infections. Dairy bull calves are young, male cattle that have not been castrated and may be raised for meat. Dairy bull calves in this outbreak have also been purchased for use with 4-H projects.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about any contact with animals and foods eaten in the week before becoming ill. Of the 19 people interviewed, 15 (79%) reported contact with dairy bull calves or other cattle. Some of the ill people interviewed reported that they became sick after their dairy bull calves became ill or died.

One ill person’s dairy calves were tested for the presence of Salmonella bacteria. This laboratory testing identified Salmonella Heidelberg in the calves. Further testing using WGS showed that isolates from ill people are closely related genetically to isolates from these calves. This close genetic relationship means that the human infections in this outbreak are likely linked to ill calves.

As part of routine surveillance, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, one of seven regional labs affiliated with CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network, conducted antibiotic resistance testing on clinical isolates from the ill people associated with this outbreak. These isolates were found to be resistant to antibiotics and shared the same DNA fingerprints, showing the isolates were likely related to one another.

dairy-male-calves-salmonellaWGS identified multiple antimicrobial resistance genes in outbreak-associated isolates from fifteen ill people and eight cattle. This correlated with results from standard antibiotic resistance testing methods used by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory on clinical isolates from two ill people in this outbreak. The two isolates tested were susceptible to gentamicin, azithromycin, and meropenem.  Both were resistant to amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, ampicillin, cefoxitin, ceftriaxone, chloramphenicol, nalidixic acid, streptomycin, sulfisoxazole, tetracycline, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and had reduced susceptibility to ciprofloxacin. Antibiotic resistance limits treatment options and has been associated with increased risk of hospitalization, bloodstream infections, and treatment failures in patients.

Traceback information available at this time indicates that most calves in this outbreak originated in Wisconsin. Wisconsin health and agriculture officials continue to work with other states to identify herds that may be affected.

 

Wisconsin health officials report two cases of cryptosporidiosis

Waukesha County health officials said Thursday they’re investigating two confirmed cases of cryptosporidiosis.

diaper-poolThose affected recently swam at the Princeton Club in New Berlin, but the original source is unknown, a county spokeswoman said.

“Princeton Club has been very cooperative, have followed all Waukesha County Environmental Health requirements and have taken steps that go above and beyond the standards to ensure appropriate prevention steps are taken,” Julianne Davan said in a statement.

She said it’s not uncommon for annual reports of cryptosporidiosis, and the number of cases in Waukesha County this year is consistent with previous years.

Salmonella killed otters at Wisconsin Zoo

Robert Herriman of Outbreak News Today reports on June 8, the NEW Zoo located near Green Bay, WI announced the deaths of three North American River Otters saying a mother and four of her pups were sickened by a rapidly-progressing gastrointestinal problem.

river-otter-1062574_640Two of the pups were saved, while the mother and two pups did not survive.

The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory concluded salmonella poisoning was the culprit that caused the otter deaths.

According to veterinarian, Dr. Tracey Gilbert, the strain of salmonella involved was one that otters would typically survive after experiencing symptoms for a few days. However, the mother’s body was under unusual stress as she was feeding the four pups, making her vulnerable to the infection. The strain is resistant to all but two types of antibiotics.

NEW Zoo officials say that the surviving otter pups are doing well and there is no sign of salmonella infection among any other animals at the zoo.

40 sick: Tourism breakfast hosts Norovirus outbreak

The Door County, Wisc. tourism breakfast event held on Tuesday, May 3 resulted in 40 of the 117 attendees and employees at the Sandpiper Restaurant at Maxwelton Braes in Baileys Harbor stricken with Norovirus.

sandpiper3.20356Following the protocols required for a Norovirus outbreak, the restaurant has taken precautions to sanitize surfaces that may have come into contact with this virus, the Door County Public Health Department said in a news release. The establishment has since opened and continues to operate without further incident.

Raw milk legislation gains supporters in Wisconsin, but illegal to sell homemade muffins

An attempt to legalize the sale of unpasteurized milk direct from a farm to consumers has gained some traction in the Wisconsin Legislature, but opponents say they aren’t backing down.

sorenne.doug.muffinAssembly Bill 697 would allow a dairy farmer to sell raw milk, and raw-milk products such as butter and cheese, directly to consumers on the farm where the milk and dairy products were produced. Current law generally prohibits the practice.

AB 697, which now has sponsorship from at least 18 members of the Assembly and three members of the Senate, also exempts dairy farmers from needing a dairy plant or food processing license if the only milk products they process are raw-milk items sold on the farm.

In 2015, state officials suspended for 30 days the Grade-A milk production permit of a Durand dairy farm blamed for a raw-milk illness outbreak that sickened nearly 40 people.

Raw milk advocates say the risks to public health have been exaggerated and the decision to buy an unpasteurized dairy product ought to be left to the consumer.

Wisconsin is one of only two states to ban entrepreneurs from selling cookies, muffins and breads simply because they are made in a home kitchen.

“That means that even if you sell one cookie at a farmers market, to your neighbor, somewhere in your community, you can go to jail for up to six months or even be fined up to $1,000. That’s not only unfair, it’s unconstitutional,” attorney Erica Smith told Wisconsin Watchdog Wednesday on the Vicki McKenna Show , on NewsTalk 1310 WIBA.

Smith is with the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm that “fights against unreasonable government restrictions on individuals’ economic liberty,” according to the Virginia organizations website.

Prove that it’s safe.

15 sick: Wisconsin football team stricken with Cryptosporidium

Milton School District says they now have three confirmed cases of Cryptosporidium at the Milton High School.

north.dallas.fortyMilton football coach Bill O’Leary told 27 News Tuesday he has “lots” of sick kids on his team. Health officials are trying to get samples from those who are ill to either confirm or deny they have Cryptosporidium.

According to WKOW-TV, two community meals among the football players have led to the outbreak.

The health department and school are taking precautionary measures and the high school will be closed for 24 hours for disinfection.

Wasted resources on raw milk: Regulators not pursuing raw milk sales in Wisc.

There’s rules, and then there’s rules.

raw.milk.idahoAnd as long as no one gets sick, it doesn’t hit the chatting classes, and no goes to jail, they’re just rules (sorta).

I’ve always said, hypocrisy is parents’ disease.

Applies to regulators too, apparently.

An Australian prof-type who is traveling in the U.S. sent this picture from Idaho today, another state of many grappling with the ambition and angst of sick people.

Approaching summer, when city dwellers often seek fresh food from area farms, Wisconsin state regulators say they’re not aggressively pursuing cases against farmers who illegally sell raw, unpasteurized milk to the public, but the laws are still in place.

“Some people are simply willing to take their chances with the authorities…while others are quite deep in the underground. Certainly I will protect my farmer,” said Margo Redmond of Madison, a board member of the Wisconsin Raw Milk Association.

Wisconsin has been at the center of a national controversy over raw milk sales. That’s partly because of the trial of Loganville farmer Vernon Hershberger, who in 2013 was acquitted of three criminal charges that included operating an unlicensed retail store and operating a dairy farm and dairy processing facility without licenses.

Earlier this year, state officials suspended for 30 days the Grade-A milk production permit of a Durand dairy farm blamed for a raw-milk illness outbreak that sickened nearly 40 people.

But some raw milk consumers say state officials have been less aggressive since the Hershberger trial.

“That’s what we have been assuming and hoping for,” Redmond said.

Wow.

Couple kicked out of Wisconsin McDonald’s for bringing in kangaroo

On Friday, Diana and Larry Moyer brought one of their five pet kangaroos to a McDonald’s in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, prompting a customer to call the police, reports WISN.

kangaroo-800“He’s just a little guy, but you can touch him and pet him,” Larry says of Jimmy the kangaroo.

The couple often brings the smaller marsupial with them on errands to keep Diana, who is battling cancer, company. Jimmy isn’t a licensed service animal, but the kangaroo is a therapy pet.

The Moyers – who’ve owned kangaroos for five years – say the animals often turn heads in public, but rarely do they cause problems, so the couple was shocked when a customer at McDonald’s felt the need to call the police and complain.

Since kangaroos are not protected by disability laws, the Moyers and Jimmy were asked to leave by the restaurant. The group left without incident at the same time authorities arrived at the scene.

How about disclosure? Wisconsin restaurants support new food safety standards

Ed Lump, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, writes in the LaCrosse Tribune that to say food safety in restaurants and other food outlets is important is an understatement. However, the public doesn’t hear much about it unless there is an actual outbreak of foodborne illness. Occasionally, awareness is heightened by publication in local newspapers or TV segments about restaurant inspection reports.

restaurant.inspectionOn Jan. 1, we took another big step forward as a new law (strengthening a 20-year-old existing law) went into effect. The original law requires that every restaurant in Wisconsin, regardless of size, have at least one manager on staff certified in food safety (Certified Food Protection Manager). To become certified, the manager has to pass a state approved exam.

The existing law also requires that a Certified Food Protection Manager be recertified every five years. However, recertification was accomplished by class time — no exam. Now an exam is required for both original certification and recertification. WRA feels this is the best way to ensure the manager demonstrates knowledge and is up-to-date on current science and food codes. By the way, the city of Milwaukee has required this since 2008, which our association also supported.

This is why food safety knowledge accountability is critical. WRA supported this stricter re-certification process because it helps to protect customers, restaurants and our industry from dangerous and costly outbreaks of foodborne illness.

Lump doesn’t say whether that certified manager has to be present or at home.

That’s where disclosure can play a role.

Sari Lesk of Stevens Point Journal Media, home of Portage county, Wisconsin, writes that Portage County diners can now go online, before they go out, to find out how a local restaurant performed in its most recent health inspection.

Public access to the inspection reports, contained on a portal called Healthspace, went live Monday. A link to the portal is available on the county’s home page.

restaurant.inspection.la.porn.mar.13The inspections date back to July 2013 and will, over time, display the results for three years’ worth of data. The information is organized alphabetically by restaurant name.

Users can tell if a restaurant’s health violations fall under one of three categories:

  • Priority: Violations such as improper cooking, reheating, cooling, or handwashing. These violations are known to cause foodborne illnesses. Uncorrected priority observations usually result in a reinspection.
  • Priority foundation:Violations such as no soap or single-use toweling available for handwashing, failure of the person in charge to properly train employees, not maintaining required documentation, labeling or records. These observations support or enable a priority violation and may contribute to a foodborne illness. Priority foundation observations will be reexamined during the next routine inspection.
  • Core:Violations that usually relate to general sanitation, operational controls, sanitation standard operating procedures, facilities or structures, equipment design, or general maintenance. Core observations will be reexamined during the next routine inspection.

The website also lists recommendations for correcting the violations, and notes whether they were corrected in a follow-up inspection.

Public health environmental specialist Lindsay Benaszeski cautions that the information should be looked at as a snapshot in time, but that the business owners she’s told about the online access have largely been receptive to the idea, adding, “It’s kind of a way to showcase their facility if they’re doing a great job,” she said.

Some restaurant owners disagree, however. Jim Billings, president of the Portage County Tavern League and owner of Final Score, said he thinks the information could be easily misconstrued by someone who does not work in the restaurant business.