127 sick with Yersinia in NZ: When should public health types go public with food safety risks?

Early findings into a severe gastroenteritis outbreak were withheld to avoid causing a public scare with limited information, the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says.

carrotjuiceI’ve heard the same shit for 20 years – we can’t tell the public, we know better and are paid better than the plebes, so we must know better.

We’ve worked with several farming groups over the decades with no problems.

People can handle discussions of risk.

Bureaucrats are terrified of discussions of risk.

About 127 people have been affected and 38 hospitalized by a Yersinia pseudotuberculosis outbreak since it appeared last month.

MPI deputy director general Scott Gallacher yesterday said lettuce and carrots had been associated with the outbreak in an Environmental Science and Research (ESR) draft report last week but the information was “not a slam dunk.”

Epidemiology is rarely a slam dunk.

Foodstuffs, the company that owns New World and Pak’n Save, said it had viewed the report which named two of its two products, Pam’s fresh express mesclun salad lettuce and Pam’s fresh express lettuce, as possible sources.

The company is investigating this and did not believe any of the potentially affected products were still on its shelves.

Gallacher fended off claims the MPI risked public health because it was more concerned about protecting supermarkets’ reputations.

Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey yesterday said the ESR draft report clearly identified bagged lettuce and carrots from a particular supermarket chain as the source.

Time for an epidemiology refresher in New Zealand, Or a political one; sick people vote with their barf.