Own it: Gossip goes away

I knew I wouldn’t get into rehab Friday morning because I had been drinking at 3 a.m. in a vain attempt to go back to sleep.

Gotta blow zero to get into rehab, which I’ll do Monday.

But, as I said to one of my rehab buddies, whose life has spun out of control, yet he got 90% in the law courses he has taken, own it. Don’t be ashamed.

He said, I read your blog and it seems you had a falling out with Ben.

I said I’ve had a falling out with my wife of 13 years every week (she’s at hockey practice, 6 a.m. in Brisbane).

Ben, about the same.

Bad wiring.

Or, the people you are closest with and feel vulnerable enough to share your fears, are the ones to lash out at.

The produce industry needs a similar self-reckoning.

Candice Choi of APwrites that after repeated food poisoning outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce, the produce industry is confronting the failure of its own safety measures in preventing contaminations.

The E. coli outbreak announced just before Thanksgiving follows one in the spring that sickened more than 200 people and killed five, and another last year that sickened 25 and killed one. No deaths have been reported in the latest outbreak, but the dozens of illnesses highlight the challenge of eliminating risk for vegetables grown in open fields and eaten raw, the role of nearby cattle operations that produce huge volumes of manure and the delay of stricter federal food safety regulations.

A contested aspect of the regulation, for example, would require testing irrigation water for E. coli. The Food and Drug Administration put the measure on hold when the produce industry said such tests wouldn’t necessarily help prevent outbreaks. Additional regulations on sanitation for workers and equipment — other potential sources of contamination — only recently started being implemented.

We’ve been saying the same thing for over 20 years.

Raw is risky, Mods vs. Rockers: Apple cider from Virginia farm market recalled

Over two decades later and food safety types still have to deal with this shit – literally, because it’s shit in the cider. Don’t eat poop, and if you do, cook it.

Mountain Man Market of Cana has recalled their half gallon containers of apple cider because it has the potential to be contaminated with shiga-toxin producing E. coli.

The apple cider was sold at Mountain Man Market on Fancy Gap Road on and before November 10.

Their cider hasn’t been pasteurized, which means it can contain harmful bacteria.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services found the potential contamination after routine testing, and the Division of Consolidated Laboratories (DCLS) found shiga-toxin producing E. coli. in the cider.

VDCAS and Mountain Man Market say they will continue investigating into how the apple cider got contaminated in the first place.

(Quadrophenia is so much better than Tommy and a modern masterpiece)

65 sick from E. coli in Romaine lettuce: Collective amnesia for leafy green growers and loads of manure

Maybe CNN is fake news.

When the foodbabe is billed as an expert on microbial contamination of leafy greens and ends up delivering a screed about antimicrobial overuse in livestock as the source of superbugs, I sorta wonder.

But some background.

In sentencing me to jail in 1982, the judge said I had a memory of convenience.

I said I had a memory of not much.

Still don’t.

Spinach and lettuce growers seem to have a memory of not much, given the produce industry’s revisions to the 2006 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in spinach that killed four and sickened 200.

In October, 1996, a 16-month-old Denver girl drank Smoothie juice manufactured by Odwalla Inc. of Half Moon Bay, California. She died several weeks later; 64 others became ill in several western U.S. states and British Columbia after drinking the same juices, which contained unpasteurized apple cider — and E. coli O157:H7. Investigators believed that some of the apples used to make the cider might have been insufficiently washed after falling to the ground and coming into contact with deer feces.

Almost 10 years later, on Sept. 14, 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that an outbreak of E. coli O157: H7 had killed a 77-year-old woman and sickened 49 others (United States Food and Drug Administration, 2006). The FDA learned from the Centers for Disease Control and Wisconsin health officials that the outbreak may have been linked to the consumption of produce and identified bagged fresh spinach as a possible cause.

In the decade between these two watershed outbreaks, almost 500 outbreaks of foodborne illness involving fresh produce were documented, publicized and led to some changes within the industry, yet what author Malcolm Gladwell would call a tipping point — “a point at which a slow gradual change becomes irreversible and then proceeds with gathering pace” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tipping_Point) — in public awareness about produce-associated risks did not happen until the spinach E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in the fall of 2006. At what point did sufficient evidence exist to compel the fresh produce industry to embrace the kind of change the sector has heralded since 2007? And at what point will future evidence be deemed sufficient to initiate change within an industry?

In 1996, following extensive public and political discussions about microbial food safety in meat, the focus shifted to fresh fruits and vegetables, following an outbreak of Cyclospora cayetanesis ultimately linked to Guatemalan raspberries that sickened 1,465 in 21 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1997), and subsequently Odwalla. That same year, Beuchat (1996) published a review on pathogenic microorganisms in fresh fruits and vegetables and identified numerous pathways of contamination.

By 1997, researchers at CDC were stating that pathogens could contaminate at any point along the fresh produce food chain — at the farm, processing plant, transportation vehicle, retail store or foodservice operation and the home — and that by understanding where potential problems existed, it was possible to develop strategies to reduce risks of contamination. Researchers also reported that the use of pathogen-free water for washing would minimize risk of contamination.

What was absent in this decade of outbreaks, letters from regulators, plans from industry associations and media accounts, was verification that farmers and others in the farm-to-fork food safety system were seriously internalizing the messages about risk, the numbers of sick people, and translating such information into front-line food safety behavioural change.

So why was spinach in 2006 the tipping point?

It shouldn’t have been.

But it lets industry apologists say, how the hell could we known?

Beginning Sept. 14 and continuing until Sept. 20, 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued daily news releases that flatly advised consumers “not to eat fresh spinach or fresh spinach-containing products until further notice.”

The agency had never before issued such a broad warning about a commodity, said Robert Brackett, who in 2006 was director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutritions. Brackett is now vice president and director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology,

“In this particular case all we knew (was) that it was bagged leafy spinach, but we had no idea whose it was or where it was coming from.

“It was a very scary couple of days because we had all of these serious cases of hemolytic-uremic syndrome popping up and people getting sick, and it was so widespread across the country.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported about half of those who were ill were hospitalized during the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak.

“It was shocking how little confidence that FDA and consumers had in the produce industry at that moment,” said David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

Given the history of outbreaks, the only thing shocking was that the industry continued to expect blind faith.

There were guidelines for growers in 2006, but not a way to make sure growers were following them, said Joe Pezzini, CEO of Ocean Mist Farms, Castroville, Calif.

Convenient.

And now another decade-plus has passed and once again, FDA issued a commodity-wide warning: don’t eat Romaine lettuce (Cos for my Australian friends).

The same huskers and buskers stepped out to make their case, with industry saying OK, maybe we need to be more than a mile away from 100,000 cattle head feedlots that crap into the same water canals used to irrigate leafy greens.

Denny Black, a Manitoba farmer, who grows more than 20,000 heads of Greenleaf and butterhead lettuce at his Neva Farms in Landmark, Man., using hydroponics, a mix of nutrients including calcium and  nitrogen combined with water. The plants, which take about eight weeks to mature from tiny seeds into full grown greens, are grown under artificial lights.

“I think people are looking for an alternative to field grown crops,” Black said.

His method, he claims, could mitigate some risk, since produce can be contaminated with E. coli through the soil, water, animals or improperly composted manure.

Fortunately, Claudia Narvaez, an associate professor in the food science department at the University of Manitoba said, “If the seeds for that lettuce are contaminated with a foodborne pathogen, you can’t, you won’t get rid of it even in a hydroponic production system.”

She added that Black’s controlled environment is only moderately safer compared to soil, depending on the source of the water and whether people follow proper safety procedures when handling the produce.

Keith Warriner of the University of Guelph told CBC he was “shocked” by advice the public got this week from Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, after people got sick from E. coli in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

Russell advised people to throw away their romaine lettuce. But if they decided to consume the lettuce, she said, they should wash it under cool, running water.

Warriner said washing is too risky.

“We’ve known for years now that washing doesn’t cut it.”

Warriner also told CTV News that romaine lettuce is more susceptible to E. coli contamination partly because of how it’s grown, adding “In our own research, what we found is that E. coli likes romaine lettuce out of all the other lettuces we have.”

Warriner conducted a study that showed romaine lettuce extracts prompted E. coli out of a dormant state, which it can remain in for about a year in soil, and allowed it to flourish.

Romaine’s increased susceptibility comes down to several factors, he said.

The crop is mostly grown in Arizona and California, Warriner said, which is also cattle country. Irrigation water used on romaine fields can become tainted with bacteria from the animals. It doesn’t help that both states are quite hot and romaine lettuce already requires an abundance of water, he said.

But top prize goes to the self-proclaimed foodbabe, she who gets chemicals out of food and managed to secure an interview on CNN (she starts at about 40 seconds in; judge for yourselves).

(Update: the video appears to be removed by CNN, probably due to the Twitter backlash, but here’s the transcript)

I don’t want to give her anymore space for fear it will be associated with credibility: it’s not, that stuff is earned.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says romaine lettuce is now safe to eat following the “purge” of product on the market, and will allow supplies to resume, after grower-shippers agreed to new labeling standards that will include where the lettuce is grown.

The agreement, negotiated by romaine grower-shippers, processors and industry associations, will be the new standard for romaine packed in the U.S. The standards follow an E. coli outbreak linked to 43 illnesses in the U.S. and 22 in Canada, as of Nov. 26.

 “A number of produce associations also have agreed to support this initiative and are recommending that all industry members throughout the supply chain follow this same labeling program,” according to the United Fresh Produce Association, in an e-mail alert to members Nov. 26 sent several hours before the FDA released a statement lifting the advisory that virtually banned romaine in the U.S.

According to the FDA statement, the new labels are voluntary, but its updated message to consumers suggests it’s against shippers’ interest to forego the label:

“Based on discussions with major producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date,” according to the FDA. “Romaine lettuce entering the market can also be labeled as being hydroponically or greenhouse grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.”

I like that. It’s what we used with Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers back in 2000 – yes I’m that old – this is a voluntary food safety program, but we have a list of everyone who doesn’t participate and that list will be available to retailers.

Yet why didn’t growers do this for themselves, decades ago, instead of waiting for sick people?

The FDA is advising retailers to display signs about the origin of romaine products when they’re not individually packaged, such as bulk displays of unwrapped heads of romaine.

And kudos to Hansel ‘n Griddle, a small but popular breakfast/lunch chain in the Rutgers area.

In the interest of public health, they texted the following to their customers:

To Our Valued Customer,

Hansel ‘n Griddle has temporarily stopped serving romaine lettuce due to a CDC Food Safety Alert posted on Tuesday, November 20th, 2018 regarding a E. coli outbreak with its source being from romaine lettuce. 

From the CDC website: “The CDC is advising that U.S. consumers not eat any romaine lettuce, and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any, until we learn more about the outbreak… This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.”

Below are two links, one to the CDC website, and one to the FDA website, giving details on the E. coli outbreak and more information.

https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2018/o157h7-11-18/index.html

https://www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies/Outbreaks/ucm626330.htm

 While the CDC has not issued any formal recalls yet, we want to be proactive when it comes to issues regarding food safety and our customers health.

In the meantime, all Hansel ‘n Griddle locations will be substituting romaine lettuce with:

  • Iceberg lettuce in all our salads and wraps
  • Green leaf lettuce on all our paninis, sandwiches and burgers

As always, baby spinach is available for a small upcharge, in place of one of the above lettuce options.

We apologize for any inconvinience this temporary situation may cause

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us atinfo@hanselngriddle.com

Thank you for being a Hansel ‘n Griddle customer.

Best Regards,

The Hansel ‘n Griddle Team

And Scotland: Study could explain higher rates of E. coli O157 infection

A subtype of E. coli O157 found in cattle may be responsible for higher rates of severe human infection in Scotland, report suggests.

E. coli O157 is a bacterium carried by cattle, which can cause life-threatening human infections when it enters the food chain. Scientists found that cattle in Scotland have a higher level of a subtype of E. coli O157 – PT21/28, which is known to cause more severe human infection.

It may be that local exposure to this particular subtype is a potential factor for the rates of people infected by E. coli O157 in Scotland being around three times higher than in England and Wales.

Researchers used Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) to define which specific subtypes of E. coli caused an outbreak. For example, data obtained from WGS helped to understand whether a human infection is likely to have arisen from local farm animals or by a strain present in imported food or as a consequence of travel abroad.

The team have also combined WGS data with machine learning to predict which subtypes of E. coli O157 pose the greatest threat to human health.

The research also trialed a vaccine, developed to limit E. coli O157 excretion from and transmission between cattle. Results indicated that the vaccine may be effective in reducing human exposure and infection from E. coli O157.

However, before a vaccine can be made available, further work is needed to assess if it is practical and works in field situations.  Modelling by collaborators at Glasgow University indicates the vaccine would be an effective public health intervention.

The research, undertaken by a consortium of scientists led by The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, the Moredun Research Institute, Scotland’s Rural College, University of Glasgow, Public Health England, NHS Lothian & United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that the overall prevalence of E. coli O157 in cattle is similar across Great Britain, and has remained relatively consistent in Scotland over the last decade.

Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency published the results of this four-year project in a new report.

The study was a successful collaboration bringing together scientists in multiple disciplines to understand how common E. coli O157 is across farms in Great Britain and then sequencing approaches are used to determine how these bacteria relate to the ones causing human infections.

Strains present in Scottish cattle are more likely to be associated with serious illness in humans, possibly explaining the higher incidence of E. coli O157 infections in Scotland compared to England & Wales.

Phages be sexing up E. coli O157 in England and Wales

We used whole-genome sequencing to investigate the evolutionary context of an emerging highly pathogenic strain of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 in England and Wales. A timed phylogeny of sublineage IIb revealed that the emerging clone evolved from a STEC O157:H7 stx-negative ancestor ≈10 years ago after acquisition of a bacteriophage encoding Shiga toxin (stx) 2a, which in turn had evolved from a stx2c progenitor ≈20 years ago. Infection with the stx2a clone was a significant risk factor for bloody diarrhea (OR 4.61, 95% CI 2.24–9.48; p<0.001), compared with infection with other strains within sublineage IIb. Clinical symptoms of cases infected with sublineage IIb stx2c and stx-negative clones were comparable, despite the loss of stx2c. Our analysis highlighted the highly dynamic nature of STEC O157:H7 Stx-encoding bacteriophages and revealed the evolutionary history of a highly pathogenic clone emerging within sublineage IIb, a sublineage not previously associated with severe clinical symptoms.

Highly pathogenic clone of shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7, England and Wales, December 2018

Emerging Infectious Diseases vol. 24 no. 12

Lisa Byrne, Timothy Dallman, Natalie Adams, Amy Mikhail, Noel McCarthy, and Claire Jenkins

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/24/12/18-0409_article

Golden Ponds: Lawsuits proceed 2 years after 306 sickened in Rochester’s worst food poisoning outbreak

On Thanksgiving Day in 2016, as many as 1,100 people ate their holiday dinner at Golden Ponds Restaurant and Party House, which was located just up Long Pond Road from the Greece Town Hall in Rochester, N.Y.

Within 24 hours, patrons began to experience stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea. Some were hospitalized and at least one underwent emergency surgery.

Eventually, 306 people who dined at Golden Ponds that day reported they had been sickened by the food, officials at the Monroe County Department of Public Health now say.

A public-health investigation later determined that the pernicious Clostridium perfringens bacteria that made people ill was in gravy that had been stored and served at an unacceptably low temperature.

“Rest assured there are a significant number of people who will never think of Thanksgiving the same way,” said Paul Vincent Nunes, a Rochester lawyer who has brought lawsuits against the defunct Greece restaurant. 

According to Steve Orr of the Democrat and Chronicle, here’s what’s happened since:

Golden Ponds is closed. The establishment at 500 Long Pond Road, which had been operated by Ralph Rinaudo for 33 years, was closed by the health department after the food poisoning episode. Improvements were made and the restaurant was allowed to open in late December. But business was predictably slow, and it closed for good in February 2017.

Rinaudo sold the property in January of this year to a corporation that shares the address of a Henrietta construction firm, Team FSI General Contractors. The building appears to be empty at present and future use of the property isn’t clear. Officials at FSI did not respond to a request for comment.

The health department has continued its practice of inspecting every restaurant once a year. It has not stepped up inspections of buffet-style eateries like Golden Ponds, spokesman Ryan Horey said. Inability to maintain food at the proper temperatures during buffet serving was key  factor in the Golden Ponds incident. The Democrat and Chronicle checked inspection records available on nydatabases.com for six Rochester-area buffet restaurants. Five of them have been cited by the health departments for serious violations involving foods being kept at the wrong temperature since the Golden Ponds episode.

Four lawsuits filed on behalf of 31 plaintiffs are pending against Golden Ponds. The four were consolidated into one case in July. Court-ordered mediation to seek a resolution before trial is set to begin soon. The cases are not suited for class-action status, as the damages incurred differed from one patron to the next, Nunes said.

Nunes said, “These were not just tummy aches. People were quite sick, some in the hospital. These are life-threatening events.”

FDA’s update on Romaine-linked outbreak investigation – it is California stuff

The normal folks who I hang out with at the hockey arena have already started asking when they can start eating Romaine again (who knew there were so many Caesar fans).

FDA’s answer to when is soon

Some places never stopped serving it. 

Earlier today I told Korin Miller at Yahoo the below:

If you happen to visit a restaurant that tries to claim its romaine is safe, it’s really best to avoid the food. “I would send it back,” Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “When the CDC comes out with a message that says ‘Don’t eat romaine lettuce,’ you should heed that advice,” he says. “Right now, we don’t have any indication that it’s romaine from any certain part of the country or a certain company. It’s a standing blanket statement.”

And now we’ve got more information (that’s how quickly this stuff moves).

FDA announced late today that they have narrowed their investigation to field grown Romaine from Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California.

All other lettuce is as safe as it was last week before the announcement.

FDA is taking things a step further, in a really positive way in concept – asking producers to label where it came from.

Based on discussions with producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date or labeled as being hydroponically- or greenhouse-grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.

There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine lettuce that is certain to have been harvested from areas outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. For example, romaine lettuce harvested from areas that include, but are not limited to the desert growing region near Yuma, the California desert growing region near Imperial County and Riverside County, the state of Florida, and Mexico, does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Additionally, there is no evidence hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine is related to the current outbreak.

During this new stage of the investigation, it is vital that consumers and retailers have an easy way to identify romaine lettuce by both harvest date and harvest location. Labeling with this information on each bag of romaine or signage in stores where labels are not an option would easily differentiate for consumers romaine from unaffected growing regions.

Food Safety Talk 170: Pants Pants Pants!

The show opens with a discussion of technology and cyber Monday, before segueing to Ben’s missing tooth. From there the guys do a deep dive into the recent E. coli O157:H7 in romaine lettuce outbreak before turning to listener feedback. They cover heating breastmilk, putting bleach on the food of homeless people, temperature monitoring devices, proper methods for thawing turkey, reconditioning cutting boards, and air quality of dairy processing plant all based on listener feedback. Buckle up, this is a bonus sized episode.

You can download episode 169 here and at iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

CDC’s Romaine clapback

Maybe it’s Californian Romaine, maybe not, but there looks to be some contradiction between messages from FDA’s Scott Gottlieb and CDC’s Director, Robert Redfield.

Redfield announced this after Gottlieb’s tweets indicating that the source of illnesses is likely California.

CDC continues to investigate a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157 infections linked to romaine lettuce. We understand this outbreak is of concern to many Americans – especially with so many gathering for meals this Thanksgiving week. CDC’s disease detectives are working with federal regulatory partners to investigate and determine the source of contamination as quickly as possible. We will continue to provide more information as it becomes available. The good news is we were able to detect and identify the outbreak quickly through our disease surveillance system, which can prevent further illness.

However, until we know more, it’s crucial that Americans continue to follow the guidance that CDC issued. There are no exceptions – all romaine lettuce must be discarded, regardless of brand, type, or if it is in a mixture. We also continue to urge people to follow our tips to help prevent E. coli illness. In addition, we remind clinicians that antibiotics are not recommended for patients in whom E. coli O157 is suspected until diagnostic testing rules out this infection.