Human norovirus (HuNoV) is a foremost cause of domestically acquired foodborne acute gastroenteritis and outbreaks. Despite industrial efforts to control HuNoV contamination of foods, its prevalence in foodstuffs at retail is significant. HuNoV infections are often associated with the consumption of contaminated produce, including ready-to-eat (RTE) salads.
Decontamination of produce by washing with disinfectants is a consumer habit which could significantly contribute to mitigate the risk of infection. The aim of our study was to measure the effectiveness of chemical sanitizers in inactivating genogroup I and II HuNoV strains on mixed salads using a propidium monoazide (PMAxx)-viability RTqPCR assay. Addition of sodium hypochlorite, peracetic acid, or chlorine dioxide significantly enhanced viral removal as compared with water alone. Peracetic acid provided the highest effectiveness, with log10 reductions on virus levels of 3.66 ± 0.40 and 3.33 ± 0.19 for genogroup I and II, respectively. Chlorine dioxide showed lower disinfection efficiency.
Our results provide information useful to the food industry and final consumers for improving the microbiological safety of fresh products in relation to foodborne viruses.
Effectiveness of consumers washing with sanitizers to reduce human norovirus on mixed salad
Eduard Anfruns-Estrada, Marilisa Bottaro, Rosa Pinto, Susana Guix, Albert Bosch
No good journal does that. They have lots of submissions.
The spam emails highlight the wild west of predatory journals, often with names that try to imitate real journals. Today’s was the “New American Journal of Medicine”, a not-so-subtle variation of the New England Journal of Medicine or the American Journal of Medicine. It looks like that journal has published a total of 8 papers in 2019. I looked at one of them and ‘crap’ is my generous assessment. It’s a paper that recommends a treatment for pregnant women and it’s one page long, does not disclose the funding source, fails to fulfill pretty much every standard reporting requirement for a clinical trial and reports essentially no specific data or analysis. But, it’s ‘published data’ and on someone’s CV.
The state of the scientific literature is pretty messed up. “Show me the study” has been a common refrain, but it’s not as useful these days because anything can get published.
Too many journals.
Good journals screen out the weak articles. High impact journals publish a minority (5-25% of submissions…and most often people only send their best papers to those journals). Some journals are still good quality and take lower impact papers that are still good science. Some journals take whatever they can get, trying to screen out the bad science.
Others…they take whatever they can get, as long as the authors can pay. Sadly, there are literally thousands of those.
Some people don’t realize we don’t get paid to write scientific papers. Some journals publish at no cost, but increasingly, there are publication fees that may range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. That, itself, isn’t necessarily the problem. Some journals charge fees so that the papers can be open access (available to anyone, without a need for a subscription). However, some journal charge a couple thousand dollars, make a nice profit and don’t particularly care about the science.
As someone who’s an associate editor, editorial board member and frequent reviewer for many journals, I see the good and bad.
I see papers that should be published accepted.
I see good quality papers rejected by good journals, knowing they’ll still end up in another good journal.
I see bad papers rejected.
However, I also see…
Horrible quality papers rejected that I know will end up published somewhere.
It’s frustrating to be reviewing a paper that’s complete crap, knowing it will find a home in a journal eventually. Yes, it will most likely be in a bottom feeder journal that many of it of us in the scientific community know is dodgy. However, not everyone will realize that and there will still be ‘published data’ to refer back to. Sometimes, that’s just frustrating, because poor quality science shouldn’t be published. However, when it deals with clinical matters (e.g. diagnosis, treatment…) it can be harmful, since poor quality or invalid data shouldn’t form the basis of decisions. Yet, it happens.
There have been a couple ‘stings’, where fake (and clearly garbage) papers have been submitted to journals. The highest profile was one that was published in Science (Bohannon, 2013). The author submitted a paper to various journals, with the following set-up “Any reviewer with more than a high-school knowledge of chemistry and the ability to understand a basic data plot should have spotted the paper’s short-comings immediately. Its experiments are so hopelessly flawed that the results are meaningless.” More than 50% of open access journals accepted it.
There are many reasons these dodgy journals are used.
“Publish or perish” isn’t quite true but it’s pretty close. Junior faculty need to show productivity to keep their positions or move into the increasingly elusive tenured positions. Scientific papers is a key metric, because it’s easy to count.
Some people get taken advantage of, not realizing the journal is predatory (or that fees are so high, until after the paper is accepted).
Commercial profit. Companies want to say their products are supported by published data. If the data aren’t any good, the amount of money that it takes to get something published is inconsequential for most companies.
Open access isn’t inherently bad. There are excellent open access journals that charge a couple thousand dollars per paper but have high standards. Open access is ideal as it means the science is available to everyone. It just has to be acceptable science, and that’s where things start to fall apart.
Anyway…enough ranting. I always like to say “don’t talk about a problem without talking about a solution” but I don’t have an easy solution. More awareness is the key, which is why sites that track predatory journals, such as Beall’s List, are important. It’s a good update on a sad state of affairs.
I love Mondays in Australia because it’s Sunday in the U.S., football and hockey are on TV for background, the kid is at school when not in France, and I write (Sorenne painting in France).
Fourteen years ago, me and Chapman went on a road trip to Prince George (where Ben thought he would be eaten by bears) to Seattle, then to Manhattan, Kansas, where in the first week I met a girl, got a job, and then spinach happened.
Leafy greens are still covered in shit.
I am drowning in nostalgia, but things haven’t changed, and, as John Prine wrote, all the news just repeats itself.
Same with relationships.
Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration food safety chief, David Acheson, writes that on October 31, 2019, FDA announced a romaine lettuce E. coli O157:H7 outbreak for which the active investigation had ended and the outbreak appeared to be over. As such FDA stated there was no “current or ongoing risk to the public” and no avoidance of the produce was recommended.
Since that announcement, however, I have seen a number of articles condemning FDA and CDC. Why? Because the traceback investigation of the outbreak began in mid-September when CDC notified FDA of an illness cluster that had sickened 23 people across 12 states. So why the delay in announcing it to the public?
Despite the critical (and rather self-serving; always self-serving) stance on the “inexcusable” delay taken by a prominent foodborne illness attorney and his Food Safety “News” publication – which blasted a headline FDA “hid” the outbreak – my stance, having been an FDA official myself involved in outbreak investigations, is that the delay was practical and sensible.
Why? As FDA states right in its announcement:
When romaine lettuce was identified as the likely source, the available data indicated that the outbreak was not ongoing and romaine lettuce eaten by sick people was past its shelf life and no longer available for sale.
Even once romaine was identified as the likely cause, no common source or point of contamination was identified that could be used to further protect the public.
During the traceback investigation, the outbreak strain was not detected in any of the samples collected from farms, and there were no new cases.
Thus, neither FDA nor CDC identified any actionable information for consumers.
So, if it is not in consumers’ best interest to publicize an issue that no longer exists, why should they be driven away from a healthy food alternative? Why should unfounded unease be generated that will damage the industry, providing no benefit for consumers but ultimately impacting their pockets? There is just no upside to making an allegation without information. We’ve seen the impact on consumers and the industry when an announcement of a suspected food turns out to be incorrect; specifically “don’t eat the tomatoes” when it turned out to be jalapeno and serrano peppers. Having learned from such incidents, FDA’s approach is: If we don’t have a message that will help protect the public, then there is no message to be imparted.
So, rather than condemn FDA and CDC, I would commend them for getting the balance correct. And, perhaps, instead of any condemning, we should be working together to get the answers faster, to get outbreak data through better, faster, more efficient and coordinated traceability. Our entire system is too slow – a topic we have discussed many times in these newsletters.
The public and the scientific community need to be informed to prevent additional people from barfing.
I also rarely eat lettuce of any sort because it is overrated and the hygiene controls are not adequate.
Greek salad without lettuce is my fave.
Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health
NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14
Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell
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.
I’ll leave the summary of two antimicrobial resistance reports to my friend and hockey colleague (and he’s a professor/veterinarian) Scott Weese of the Worms & Germs Blog (he’s the semi-bald dude behind me in this 15-year-old pic; I’m the goalie; too many pucks to the head):
Two reports came out this week, both detailing the scourge of antibiotic resistance.
They’re both comprehensive, with a combined >400 pages explaining that this is a big problem.
I’m not going try to summarize the reports. I’ll just pick out a few interesting tidbits.
From the CCA report (Canada):
According to their modelling, first-line antimicrobials (those most commonly used to treat routine infections) helped save at least 17,000 lives in 2018 while generating $6.1 billion in economic activity in Canada. “This contribution is at risk because the number of effective antimicrobials are running out.”
Antimicrobial resistance was estimated to reduce Canada’s GDP by $2 billion in 2018. That’s only going to get worse unless we get our act together. It’s estimated that by 2050, if resistance rates remain unchanged, the impact will be $13 billion per year. If rates continue to increase, that stretches to $21 billion. Remember, that’s just for Canada, a relatively small country from a population standpoint.
Healthcare costs due to resistance (e.g. drugs, increased length of stay in hospital) accounted for $1.4 billion in 2018. But remember that people who die from resistant infections can actually cost less. If I get a serious resistant infection and die quickly, my healthcare costs are pretty low since I didn’t get prolonged care. All that to say that dollar costs alone don’t capture all the human aspects. Regardless, this cost will likely increase to $20-40 billion per year by 2050.
In terms of human health, resistant infections were estimated to contribute to 14,000 deaths in Canada in 2018, with 5,400 of those directly attributable to the resistant infection (i.e. those deaths would not have occurred if the bug was susceptible to first line drugs). That makes resistance a leading killer, and it’s only going to get worse.
The document’s dedication says a lot. “This report is dedicated to the 48,700 families who lose a loved one each year to antibiotic resistance or Clostridioides difficile, and the countless healthcare providers, public health experts, innovators, and others who are fighting back with everything they have.”
The forward has some great messages too:
To stop antibiotic resistance, our nation must:
Stop referring to a coming post-antibiotic era—it’s already here. You and I are living in a time when some miracle drugs no longer perform miracles and families are being ripped apart by a microscopic enemy. The time for action is now and we can be part of the solution.
Stop playing the blame game. Each person, industry, and country can affect the development of antibiotic resistance. We each have a role to play and should be held accountable to make meaningful progress against this threat.
Stop relying only on new antibiotics that are slow getting to market and that, sadly, these germs will one day render ineffective. We need to adopt aggressive strategies that keep the germs away and infections from occurring in the first place.
Stop believing that antibiotic resistance is a problem “over there” in someone else’s hospital, state, or country—and not in our own backyard. Antibiotic resistance has been found in every U.S. state and in every country across the globe. There is no safe place from antibiotic resistance, but everyone can take action against it. Take action where you can, from handwashing to improving antibiotic use.
Some might say it’s alarmist. However, I don’t think it’s alarmist when someone really should be raising the alarm. We need to talk about it more, not less. We need to get people (including the general public, healthcare workers, farmers, veterinarians, policymakers) on board, to realize it’s a big issue that needs to be addressed now. “Short term pain for long-term gain” certainly applies here. We can keep delaying and the numbers will keep going up, or we can invest in solutions.
The numbers are scary but specific numbers don’t really matter in many ways. “Lots” is all we should have to know to get motivated. However, decision-makers like numbers, so these numbers hopefully will be useful to show the impact and potential benefits of investing in this problem, and motivate them to put money into antimicrobial stewardship. Saving lives should be enough, but that often doesn’t cut it. Antibiotic resistance doesn’t have a good marketing campaign. Everyone knows why people were wearing pink last month and why there are some pretty dodgy moustaches this month. Those are important issues, for sure. However, considering the overall impact, antibiotic stewardship needs to get more people behind it if we’re going to effect change.
The kids in my lab had me buy a video camera in 1999 so we could film stuff and put it on the Intertubes long before youtube existed (and film my 2000 Ivan Parkin lecture at IAFP when I got turned away at the U.S. border).
Twenty years later, Leesburg, Ind.-based Maple Leaf Farms is offering a behind-the-scenes look at its duck farms with its new #MLFarmToFork campaign that focuses on transparency and the company’s commitment to operating responsibly.
According to Rita Jane Gabbett of Meating Place, Maple Leaf Farms will highlight its farm-to-fork process on social media through behind-the-scenes videos, farmer interviews and more.
“We want consumers to know the story behind our duck and our desire for continuous improvement,” explained Maple Leaf Farms Duck Marketing Manager Olivia Tucker. “We’re proud of our animal husbandry practices, our facilities and our people, and we want to showcase how vertical integration allows Maple Leaf Farms to produce the highest quality duck on the market.”
To explain vertical integration and how it benefits the entire supply chain, Maple Leaf Farms has created an animated video that outlines the production process and how products get to consumers’ tables. You can view the video at www.tinyurl.com/MLFarmtoFork.
In an ongoing effort to understand sources of foodborne illness in the United States, the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) collects and analyzes outbreak data to produce an annual report with estimates of foods responsible for foodborne illnesses caused by pathogens. The report estimates the degree to which four pathogens – Salmonella, E. coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter – and specific foods and food categories are responsible for foodborne illnesses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, together, these four pathogens cause 1.9 million foodborne illnesses in the United States each year. The newest report (PDF), entitled “Foodborne illness source attribution estimates for 2017 for Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter using multi-year outbreak surveillance data, United States,” can be found on the IFSAC website.
The updated estimates, combined with other data, may help shape agency priorities and inform the creation of targeted interventions that can help to reduce foodborne illnesses caused by these pathogens. As more data become available and methods evolve, attribution estimates may improve. These estimates are intended to inform and engage stakeholders and to improve federal agencies’ abilities to assess whether prevention measures are working.
Foodborne illness source attribution estimates for 2017 for salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, listeria monocytogenes, and campylobacter using multi-year outbreak surveillance data, United States, Sept.2019
Tyson Foods has, according to KATV, negotiated a settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for $1 million.
The settlement is linked to a lawsuit in which the meat processor said a federal meat inspector lied about inspecting hogs at its Storm Lake, Iowa, plant, forcing the company to destroy 8,000 carcasses and resulting in $2.4 million in losses and expenses.
Tyson Foods filed suit against the government agency in May after an inspector signed inspection cards for 4,622 hogs at the Storm Lake facility. The antemortem inspections were never actually conducted by the agency in person as the report stated.
The meat giant was able to show the courts the inspector never left her car but signed the cards without seeing the hogs.
Tyson Foods said it incurred losses of $2.48 million from the false reports. By the time it learned of the alleged actions, the negligently inspected hogs had been intermingled into a larger group of some 8,000 hog carcasses and therefore could no longer be positively identified and the entire group had to be destroyed.
“This was an unfortunate situation and we appreciate the USDA for working with us to address our losses. We take our commitment to food safety very seriously and look forward to a continued partnership with the USDA,” Tyson Foods spokesman Worth Sparkman told Talk Business & Politics in an email statement.
In interviews, 12 (71%) of 17 ill people reported contact with a turtle.
This investigation is ongoing and CDC will provide updates when more information is available.
Turtles can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings while appearing healthy and clean. These germs can easily spread to their bodies, tank water, and habitats. People can get sick after they touch a turtle or anything in their habitats.
Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for a turtle or cleaning its habitat.
Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.
Don’t kiss or snuggle turtles, because this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick.
Don’t let turtles roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchens.
Clean habitats, toys, and pet supplies outside the house when possible.
Avoid cleaning these items in the kitchen or any other location where food is prepared, served, or stored.
Pick the right pet for your family.
CDC and public health officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of human Salmonella Oranienburg infections linked to contact with pet turtles.
Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting is performed on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using a standardized laboratory and data analysis method called whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these sequences that are used to identify possible outbreaks. WGS gives investigators detailed information about the bacteria causing illness. In this investigation, WGS showed that bacteria isolated from ill people were closely related genetically. This means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.
Ill people reported contact with red-eared sliders and other turtles that were larger than four inches in length. Previous Salmonella outbreaks have been linked to turtles with a shell length less than four inches. Due to the amount of Salmonella illnesses related to these small turtles, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale and distributionexternal icon of turtles with shells less than four inches long as pets.
Regardless of where turtles are purchased or their size, turtles can carry Salmonella germs that can make people sick. Pet owners should always follow steps to stay healthy around their pet.
This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide updates when more information becomes available.
My friend Tim Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, author of “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: How the Famous Sell Us Elixirs of Health, Beauty & Happiness” (Beacon, 2015) and host of “A User’s Guide to Cheating Death” on Netflix (that’s a long bio) writes for NBC News, humans need water but the marketing of water as a detoxifying, energizing, health-enhancing, miracle beverage has become a lucrative business. Over the past few years the booming wellness industry (aka Big Wellness) has coopted this most basic of biological needs to sell products and promises of miraculous improved health. But is there any evidence to support the hydration hype?
Before I dump on the water business, let’s give a nod to the positives. There is growing recognition that sugary beverages are not a good choice, nutrition wise. Evidence suggests that consumption of sugary beverages, especially soft drinks, is associated with a range of health issues, including obesity and heart disease. As a result, there is a broad consensus among nutrition and public health experts about the value of limiting the consumption of these calorie-dense and relatively nutrition-free beverages.
So, in this context, the shift to water is a very good thing. But that doesn’t mean we have to buy what the “premium” water market is selling.
But before we get to the fancy packaging, we need to talk about volume. Do you actually need to drink eight glasses of water a day? In a word: Nope.
This strange and incredibly durable myth seems to have emerged from a misinterpretation of a 1945 US Food and Nutrition Board recommendation. That document suggested a “suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 litres daily” (i.e., roughly eight glasses a day). But what is almost always overlooked is that the recommendation — which was not based on a robust body of research — also noted “[m]ost of this quantity is in prepared foods.” In other words, you already get the bulk of your needed water from the food you eat.
In reality, there is no magical amount of water. We do need to stay appropriately hydrated, of course. And as our climate and activities change, so does the amount of water we lose through sweating etc. But our bodies are good at telling us how much and when we should drink. (Thanks, evolution.) And all liquids — coffee, tea, that weird fluid inside hotdogs — count toward your daily consumption of water. My body can’t tell if an H20 molecule came from a fresh-water spring on the side of a remote Himalayan mountain or from a cup of gas station java (which isn’t, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, dehydrating).
But even if water is found in a lot of foods and beverages, pure bottled water is still better for us, right? Wrong again.
Yes, drinking plain water is almost always a better choice than some other, sugar-infused, beverage. But the water you drink doesn’t need to come out of a plastic, glass, or 24-karat gold (yes, that is a thing) bottle.
But bottled water tastes better, you say! Actually, blind taste tests have consistently found that to be untrue too. To cite just one example, only one-third of the participants in a Boston University study, were able to correctly identify tap water. One third thought it was bottled water and one third couldn’t tell the difference.
But bottled water tastes better, you say! Actually, blind taste tests have consistently found that to be untrue too.
And now we get to what is probably the biggest scam. Wellness wonks have been pushing absurd diets, supplements and potions for decades. Now that same thinking has come to water, with alkaline, hydrogen, gluten and GMO-free water brands hitting the supermarket and health food store shelves near you.
Nope, nope and — sigh — nope.
Alkaline water is part of the larger multimillion-dollar alkaline diet fad embraced by celebrities like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Proponents claim that humans can become too acidic and, as such, we need to consume foods and beverages that will lower the pH of our bodies. By doing so, we will improve our health and reduce the incidence of disease and cancer, the theory goes.
Problem two: You can’t change the pH of your body through food and beverages. So the entire premise is scientifically absurd. Your body tightly regulated the pH of your blood. It doesn’t need the help of overpriced bottled water.
Queen Elizabeth has a crafty way to avoid getting poisoned at the dinner table. A new documentary called Secrets of the Royal Kitchen explores the ins and outs of Buckingham Palace’s kitchens, including the lengths royal staffers go to keep Elizabeth safe. Here’s a quick look at all the interesting elements that go into a state banquet with the Queen.
During state banquets, Her Majesty’s staff are required to follow a serious protocol to keep her safe – and the lengths they go for her safety might surprise you.
A personal chef at the palace prepares the dishes for all of the guests. According to the New York Post, Elizabeth’s staff members then chose a random plate for her in an effort to prevent someone from poisoning her food.
The only way someone would be able to poison Queen Elizabeth is if they contaminated all of the dishes. This tactic has paid off so far, though we couldn’t imagine why someone would want to poison the Queen.
“After everything is plated up, a page chooses at random one of the plates to be served to her majesty,” Emily Andrews, a correspondent for the royals, shared. “So if anyone did want to poison the monarch they’d have to poison the whole lot.”
The documentary also revealed that banquet guests are required to follow some strict rules while dining with Elizabeth Queen.
This includes finishing their plates before Her Majesty is done eating. This is an old tradition that used to be more of an issue in the past as guests would race to finish their food. It is unclear if the palace requires visitors to follow this protocol or if they have gotten more flexible in recent years.
There are, of course, plenty of other traditions guests are required to follow whenever they are eating with the Queen.
For starters, nobody sits down until Elizabeth has been seated. You also cannot start eating until she has taken her first bite.
Elizabeth also has a personal menu that has been crafted to her liking. She schedules her meals three days in advance to give the palace chef plenty of time to gather ingredients.
When picking her dining options, Elizabeth crosses out dishes she doesn’t like. She also crosses out entire pages whenever she has a royal event that evening and will not be dining in the palace.