Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Download C.V. »

The John Oliver koala chlamydia ward

Rachel Gross of the New York Times writes, the first sign is the smell: smoky, like a campfire, with a hint of urine. The second is the koala’s rear end: If it is damp and inflamed, with streaks of brown, you know the animal is in trouble. Jo, lying curled and unconscious on the examination table, had both.

Jo is a wild koala under the purview of Endeavour Veterinary Ecology, a wildlife consulting company that specializes in bringing sick koala populations back from the brink of disease. Vets noticed on their last two field visits that she was sporting “a suspect bum,” as the veterinarian Pip McKay put it. So they brought her and her 1-year-old joey into the main veterinary clinic, which sits in a remote forest clearing in Toorbul, north of Brisbane, for a full health check.

Ms. McKay already had an inkling of what the trouble might be. “Looking at her, she probably has chlamydia,” she said.

Humans don’t have a monopoly on sexually transmitted infections. Oysters get herpes, rabbits get syphilis, dolphins get genital warts. But chlamydia — a pared-down, single-celled bacterium that acts like a virus — has been especially successful, infecting everything from frogs to fish to parakeets. You might say chlamydia connects us all.

This shared susceptibility has led some scientists to argue that studying, and saving, koalas may be the key to developing a long-lasting cure for humans. “They’re out there, they’ve got chlamydia, and we can give them a vaccine, we can observe what the vaccine does under real conditions,” said Peter Timms, a microbiologist at the University of Sunshine Coast in Queensland. He has spent the past decade developing a chlamydia vaccine for koalas, and is now conducting trials on wild koalas, in the hopes that his formula will soon be ready for wider release. “We can do something in koalas you could never do in humans,” Dr. Timms said.

In koalas, chlamydia’s ravages are extreme, leading to severe inflammation, massive cysts and scarring of the reproductive tract. In the worst cases, animals are left yelping in pain when they urinate, and they develop the telltale smell. But the bacteria responsible is still remarkably similar to the human one, thanks to chlamydia’s tiny, highly conserved genome: It has just 900 active genes, far fewer than most infectious bacteria.

Oh, Missouri: Summer camp virus outbreak raises safety questions

Looks like I picked the wrong week to send my 5 daughters to summer camp.

They’re over that now but Missouri leaders knew the risk of convening thousands of kids at summer camps across the state during a pandemic, the state’s top health official said, and insisted that camp organizers have plans in place to keep an outbreak from happening.

The outbreak happened anyway.

An overnight summer camp in rural southwestern Missouri has seen scores of campers, counselors and staff infected with the coronavirus, the local health department revealed this week, raising questions about the ability to keep kids safe at what is a rite of childhood for many.

Missouri is one of several states to report outbreaks at summer camps. The Kanakuk camp near Branson ended up sending its teenage campers home. On Friday, the local health department announced 49 positive cases of the COVID-19 virus at the camp. By Monday, the number had jumped to 82.

Some states, like Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, closed summer camps this year, and many camps elsewhere have voluntarily canceled programs. But other camps are plowing ahead, hoping that precautions like social distancing, masks and requiring children to quarantine before coming to camp will quell the risk. Other states where outbreaks have been reported have included Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Burger King apologizes over expired food sold in China

Burger King is sorry.

Burger King has apologised to customers in China after state media reported that two of the US fast food chain’s outlets sold expired food in the country, causing an uproar on social media.

Food safety issues have long been a concern in China, where quality-control scandals have fuelled fears over the safety of food and anger at regulatory lapses.

The problems at the two restaurants were highlighted on Thursday (July 16) in an influential consumer affairs programme on state television CCTV that previously shamed McDonald’s in China.

A Burger King in Nanchang, in central Jiangxi province, had used expired ingredients to make its burgers, according to the programme.

Here’s to you, Susie.

Spice risk: Cilantro and dangerous E. coli

I tell people that spices like cilantro are a significant source of dangerous E. coli and they look at me like I just fell off the turnip truck.

This study sought to model the growth and die-off of Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 along the cilantro supply chain from farm-to-fork to investigate its risk to public health. Contributing factors included in the model were on farm contamination from irrigation water and soil, solar radiation, harvesting, and transportation and storage times and temperatures.

The developed risk model estimated the microbiological risks associated with E. coli O157:H7 in cilantro and determined parameters with the most effect on the final concentration per serving for future mitigation strategies. Results showed a similar decrease in the E. coli O157:H7 (median values) concentrations along the supply chain for cilantro grown in both winter and summer weather conditions. With an estimated 0.1% prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 contamination for cilantro post-harvest used for illustration, the model predicted the probability of illness from consuming fresh cilantro as very low with fewer than two illnesses per every one billion servings of cilantro (1.6 x 10-9; 95th percentile). Although rare, 3.7% and 1.6% of scenarios run in this model for summer and winter grown cilantro, respectively, result in over 10 cases per year in the United States.

This is reflected in real life where illnesses from cilantro are seen rarely but outbreaks have occurred. Sensitivity analysis and scenario testing demonstrated that ensuring clean and high quality irrigation water and preventing temperature abuse during transportation from farm to retail, are key to reducing overall risk of illness.

Evaluation of public health risk for Escherichia coli O157:H7 in cilantro, 16 July 2020

Food Research International

eTaryn Horr and Abani Pradhan

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2020.109545

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996920305706

Salmonella and pigs

Salmonella is one of the most important foodborne pathogens worldwide. Its main reservoirs are poultry and pigs, in which infection is endemic in many countries. Spain has one of the largest pig populations in the world. Even though Salmonella infection is commonly detected in pig farms, its spatial distribution at the national level is poorly understood.

Here we aimed to report the spatial distribution of Salmonella-positive pig farms in Spain and investigate the presence of potential spatial trends over a 17-year period. For this, data on samples from pigs tested for Salmonella in 2002–2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019 as part of the Spanish Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance program, representing 3,730 farms were analyzed. The spatial distribution and clustering of Salmonella-positive pig farms at the province level were explored using spatial empirical Bayesian smoothing and global Moran’s I, local Moran’s I, and the Poisson model of the spatial scan statistics. Bayesian spatial regression using a reparameterized Besag-York-Mollié Poisson model (BYM2 model) was then performed to quantify the presence of spatially structured and unstructured effects while accounting for the effect of potential risk factors for Salmonella infection at the province level. The overall proportion of Salmonella-positive farms was 37.8% (95% confidence interval: 36.2–39.4). Clusters of positive farms were detected in the East and Northeast of Spain. The Bayesian spatial regression revealed a West-to-East increase in the risk of Salmonella infection at the province level, with 65.2% (50% highest density interval: 70–100.0%) of this spatial pattern being explained by the spatially structured component. Our results demonstrate the existence of a spatial variation in the risk of Salmonella infection in pig farms at the province level in Spain.

This information can help to optimize risk-based Salmonella surveillance programs in Spain, although further research to identify farm-level factors explaining this pattern are needed.

Spatial trends in salmonella infection in pigs in Spain, 23 June 2020

Frontiers in Veterinary Science

Kendy Tzu-yun Teng1*Marta Martinez Avilés2, Maria Ugarte-Ruiz1Carmen Barcena1Ana de la Torre2, Gema Lopez3Miguel A. Moreno1,4Lucas Dominguez1,4 and Julio Alvarez1,4

https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.00345

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2020.00345/fulld

Live python found at NZ airport as border reptile seizures rise

live carpet python found at Queenstown Airport was one of at least six snakes seized at New Zealand borders since the start of last year.

A total of 110 reptiles were intercepted at ports and airports in 2019, up from 93 the year before.

Most of the intercepted reptiles were still alive.

And they are all Salmonella factories.

The carpet python, if established in NZ, could harm native food webs and ecosystems, according to an ecologist.

Introduced reptiles could also impact agricultural productivity and incur economic costs from expensive eradication efforts, according to research from Florida-based ecologist Dr Ikuko Fujisaki​.

Dozens of stowaway reptiles, including snakes, have been detected at container ports and wharves in the past year.

Burmese pythons established in Florida were now so prolific in the Everglades National Park, the state was hiring python removal agents.

Meanwhile, a dead flying snake, chrysopelea ornata​, was found on a New Zealand wharf this year.

Many of us go through a Doors phase, usually in university.

Toxo goes about its biz the mean way

Toxoplasma gondii is an intracellular parasite that reconfigures its host cell to promote pathogenesis. One consequence of Toxoplasma parasitism is increased migratory activity of host cells, which facilitates dissemination.

Here, we show that Toxoplasma triggers the unfolded protein response (UPR) in host cells through calcium release from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). We further identify a novel role for the host ER stress sensor protein IRE1 in Toxoplasma pathogenesis. Upon infection, Toxoplasma activates IRE1, engaging its noncanonical role in actin remodeling through the binding of filamin A. By inducing cytoskeletal remodeling via IRE1 oligomerization in host cells, Toxoplasma enhances host cell migration in vitro and dissemination of the parasite to host organs in vivo.

Our study has identified novel mechanisms used by Toxoplasma to induce dissemination of infected cells, providing new insights into strategies for treatment of toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasma gondii co-opts the unfolded protein response to enhance migration and dissemination of infected host cells, 7 July 2020

American Society for Microbiology

Leonardo Augusto, Jennifer Martynowicz, Parth H. Amin, Nada S. Alakhras, Mark H. Kaplan, Ronald C. Wek, William J. Sullivan Jr.

DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00915-20

https://mbio.asm.org/content/11/4/e00915-20

The guitar solo in this still gives me chills

E. coli in tea

In this study, the persistence of toxigenic Escherichia coli (E. coli ) on dried chamomile, peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, black and green teas stored under 4, 10, and 25°C was determined.

 The E. coli survival rate in ginger and cinnamon teas decreased below 0 on Day 5. In the other tested teas, E. coli survivability showed a downward trend over time, but never dropped to 0. Chamomile tea retained the greatest population of viable E. coli . Meanwhile, die‐off of E. coli was higher at 25°C compared to lower temperatures. Additionally, fate of E. coli during brewing at 60, 70 and 80°C was evaluated.

The E. coli population was reduced to below 2 Log colony forming units (CFU)/g after 1 min at 80°C, At the same time, the E. coli survival at 60°C was higher than that at 70°C in all tested teas. The data indicated that if E. coli survives after storage of prepared teas, it may also survive and grow after the brewing process, especially if performed using temperatures <80°C. Finally, we analyzed the correlations between temperature, time, tea varieties and E. coli survival, and successfully constructed a random forest regression model. The results of this study can be used to predict changes in E. coli during storage and fate during the brewing process. Results will form the basis of undertaking a risk assessment.

Survival of toxigenic Escherichia coli on chamomile, peppermint, green, black, ginger, and cinnamon teas during storage and brewing, 23 June 2020

Journal of Food Safety

Yanan Liu, Fan Wu, Yan Zhu, Yirui Chen, Kayla Murray, Zhaoxin Lu, Keith Warriner

https://doi.org/10.1111/jfs.12831

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jfs.12831

And the tea lady is featured here.

The Crimson Permanent Assurance (Monty Python’s) from EpicFilmsGlobal on Vimeo.

Salmonella-carrying cockroaches in Cardiff City Road restaurant

A popular City Road café in the Welsh capital was closed down after around 100 cockroaches were discovered in the kitchen and dining area.

The insects were found at Mr Tikka on City Road in Roath, Cardiff, when council officers carried out an unannounced routine inspection on May 7 of last year.

When officers arrived, the owner, Rubi Begum, was seen sweeping two live insects off the counter and white powder – believed to be an insecticide – was on the kitchen floor.

More insects, including German cockroaches, which pose a significant health risk, were later discovered in the kitchen and dining area where customers were eating.

Ms Begum and her husband Munim Khan appeared at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court on July 9 for sentencing after admitting four food hygiene offences.

Mr Tikka, which serves baguettes, baked potatoes and curry dishes, has since been awarded a four-star food hygiene rating.

Raw is risky: Why salads are the biggest source of food poisoning and what to do to avoid it

Brian Adam of Intallght writes just over a year ago, the United States saw the largest outbreak of E. coli since 2006; affecting at least 98 people in more than 20 states. The origin wa bagged romaine lettuce. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Vegetables and fresh fruit have become a real headache for food safety experts.

 Today in the United States, fresh vegetables are the largest source of food poisoning. In Europe, the figures are not so pristine, but the bacteria and viruses associated with this type of food also are to blame for the vast majority of poisonings. We are facing a real danger for food safety: salads.

The numbers speak for themselves

In 1990, more than 400 epidemic outbreaks associated with fresh fruits and salads were detected. Between 2001 and 2013 we are not even able to know in its entirety, some experts explain, how many related outbreaks appeared, but they are many, increasing since 2008. Arrived in 2013, in Europe these epidemics seem to reduce their growth, stagnating in number per year, as explained in this article by EFSA, the European authority on food safety.

Despite the fact that Europe the number of appearances seems to have stabilized, in the United States they have continued to increase. The danger is still lurking, hidden between “romaine lettuce and Brussels sprouts.” The reason is in “cool” words.

According to some independent experts, this increase could be related to the increased consumption of vegetables and fresh fruit in the diet. This is a consequence of the search for a better, healthier diet. But, not being processed, these foods can also bring unexpected and unpleasant surprises.

But what is the problem? What’s wrong with fresh vegetables? It is not that strict food safety controls do not pass, as it happens with everything that arrives at our supermarkets but fresh food, especially if we put it in a plastic bag, is cannon fodder for microorganisms.