Food Safety Talk 149: Free-range, Grass-fed Raised Unicorns

This episode starts with a discussion on running really long relay races and unplanned home repairs.

Don and Ben then edible cookie dough validation (or lack thereof), sour milk pancakes and backyard chicken eggs. The episode ends on a discussion of moldy, fermented rice used as a meat flavor enhancer, glitter beer and Listeria in frozen corn.

Episode 149 is available on iTunes and here.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Bologna blamed in worst Listeria outbreak in history

The world’s largest known listeria outbreak has spread throughout South Africa for 15 months, killing 189 people. Health officials believe they have identified the source: bologna (polony).

Emily Baumgaertner of The New York Times reports that since January last year, 982 confirmed cases of listeriosis had been recorded, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa reported on Thursday. The infection, caused by food that has been contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, is often lethal.

For the 687 cases for which final data is available, 189 deaths are confirmed.

A cluster of gastroenteritis cases among toddlers in a Johannesburg hospital this January led authorities to the sandwich meat in a day care center’s refrigerator — and in turn, to a meat production facility in the northern city of Polokwane. There, officials said they detected traces of LST6, the listeria strain identified in 91 percent of the outbreak’s cases.

The South African meat processor, Enterprise Foods, issued a recall of some of its processed products in early March. Food safety experts at the World Health Organization plan to review the company’s exports to 15 countries across Africa, many of which lack reliable disease surveillance systems and diagnostic tools. Namibia recently reported one listeriosis case; its link to South Africa’s outbreak is uncertain.

Tiger Brands, the parent company of Enterprise Foods, did not respond to requests for comment.

The highly processed meat, locally called “polony,” is known for its fluorescent artificial color. It is often consumed in low-income communities and sold by street vendors, making distribution difficult to track.

Doctors in South Africa were not required to report cases of listeriosis to the Ministry of Health until last December. Patient records were vague and often lacked the contact information for follow-up, said Dr. Peter K. Ben Embarek, a food safety expert at the W.H.O.

“Many didn’t even know to be asking patients about the meat,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, an associate global health professor at Harvard. “Surveillance is a critical but neglected piece of health systems,” Dr. Ivers said. “Without the resources and lab infrastructure, countries are left reacting: reacting to cholera, reacting to Ebola, reacting to listeria.”

Richard Spoor, a lawyer in South Africa, has filed a $2 billion lawsuit against Tiger Brands. Nearly 70 victims and family members are part of the suit, according to William-fuck-you-Doug Marler, a Seattle-based food safety lawyer who is a consultant on the case.

Just trust us: How not to build consumer confidence in rockmelons

Maybe rockmelon growers and Woolworth’s think Australian consumers are just too daft to understand things like Listeria and rockmelon.

Listeria (and Salmonella) in cantaloupe has happened before.

(A table of rockmelon-related outbreaks is available here.)

Here are some basic questions:

  • was the farm prone to flooding and near any livestock operations;
  • what soil amendments, like manure, were used;
  • after harvest were the rockmelons placed in a dump tank;
  • was the water in the dump tank regularly monitored for chlorine levels;
  • did a proper handwashing program exist at the packing shed;
  • were conveyor belts cleaned and tested;
  • did condensation form on the ceiling of the packing shed;
  • were transportation vehicles properly cooled and monitored;
  • was the Listeria in whole cantaloupe or pre-cut; and,
  • was the rockmelon stored at proper temperatures at retail?

I’m just spit-balling here, but these are basic questions that need to be answered before any dreams of regaining consumer confidence can be entertained.

Good on Coles.

Rockmelons are, according to Dominica Sanda of AAP, starting to reappear on some Australian supermarket shelves, nearly a month after the fruit was linked to a deadly listeria outbreak.

Woolworths stores in Queensland and Western Australia have been restocking the melon sourced from local farms, the company said Wednesday, but shoppers in other states will have to wait a little longer.

A spokeswoman said the supermarket has taken a “careful approach” with restocking the fruit and those being sold were from suppliers not affected by the recent outbreak.

Coles, however, is holding off on selling rockmelons as it continues to work with producers to meet its new increased standards.

“We will recommence supply from growers around Australia once this process is complete,” a spokesman told AAP.

The Australian Melon Association has welcomed the fruit’s partial comeback, which comes just in time for the melon season in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.

“Growers in these regions want to reassure consumers that they have been reviewing their processing practices to ensure that the rockmelons are safe to eat,” industry development manager Dianne Fullelove said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is a huge vote of confidence in our industry and the efforts we are making to ensure that Australian rockmelons meet customers’ expectations – both here in Australia and internationally.”

6 dead, 32 sick in European Listeria outbreak linked to frozen corn

As listeria continues it death stroll in South Africa, Australia, and before that, Canada, the European Food Safety Authority reports an outbreak of invasive Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) infections defined by whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and probably linked to frozen corn has been ongoing in five EU Member States (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom) since 2015.

As of 8 March 2018, 32 cases have been reported and six patients have died due to or with the infection. WGS analysis of six non-human L. monocytogenes isolates detected from 2016 to January 2018 in Austria, Finland, France and Sweden found these isolates closely related to the multi-country cluster of L. monocytogenes  serogroup  IVb, multi-locus sequence type 6 (ST6).

The non-human isolates were detected in two different samples from mixed frozen vegetables; three samples from frozen corn, and one sample from a surface where various vegetables could have been processed. The only common food item in all non-human samples was corn. The WGS analysis provides a strong microbiological link between the human and the non-human isolates and is suggestive of a potential contaminated food source related to frozen corn persisting in the food chain at least since 2016.

Traceability information for the three frozen corn samples pointed to frozen corn products packed in Poland and processed/produced in Hungary. Two additional non-human strains isolated in Austria from frozen vegetable mixes with corn as an ingredient were traced back to the same common origin in Hungary. Further investigations are needed to verify the point of contamination in the food chain.

Consumption of frozen corn has been confirmed by two patients, one in Finland and one in Sweden. In addition, a Danish patient reported consumption of mixed frozen vegetables, which could have included corn. The Finnish patient confirmed consumption of frozen corn of one suspected brand, supporting an epidemiological link between the outbreak cases and frozen corn. However, no traceability and microbiological information was available for the corn consumed by the Finnish and the Swedish patients.

Food business operators in Estonia, Finland, Poland and Sweden have withdrawn and recalled the implicated frozen corn products from the market. These measures are likely to significantly reduce the risk of human infections in these countries. However, new invasive listeriosis cases may be identified due to the long incubation period (1–70 days), long shelf-lives of frozen corn products and potential consumption of frozen corn bought by the customers before the recalls and eaten without being properly cooked. Furthermore, until the root source of contamination is established and control measures implemented, new cases may occur.

So where does frozen corn – one of my personal favorites – come from?

In 2001, long before barfblog.com or youtube, Chapman and I toured some farms and vegetable processing plants in Ontario (that’s in Canada) in 2001.

We more both amazed at the efforts involved in taking corn from the field to a frozen packaged state.

At the time we were wandering around combines in fields – something comfortable for me – and a dude said, we’re gonna sell 90-minute, non-GMO frozen corn in the EU./em>

That’s 90 minutes from harvest to the frozen bag.

I won’t go into the BS marketing aspects of this, but that they were able to pull it off was something to watch.

Intricate timing with the harvest, metal detectors, individually quick frozen (IQF) kernels and into a box to be bagger later.

I asked what the biggest microbial risks were, and the manager said, Listeria.

So they ran a test-and-hold procedure.

That’s how it’s done.

No idea what’s happening with the EU suppliers.

Washed rind cheeses from France recalled in Australia

The NSW Food Authority advises Washed Rind Pty Ltd has recalled a variety of cheeses made in France from IGA and Supa IGA in NSW, independent retailers in QLD and ACT, Foodworks and independent retailers in VIC, Foodlands IGA and independent retailers in SA and IGA, Supa IGA and independent retailers in WA due to potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Product details:

Saint Simeon 200g, Plastic container, Best before 08-04-201

Brie de Nangis 1kg, Wrapped in cheesepaper/plastic and set in ½ wooden box, Best before 08-04-2018

Le Vignelait Brillat Savarin 500g, Plastic container, Best before 8-04-2018

Coulommiers Truffe 800g, Wrapped in cheesepaper/plastic and set in ½ wooden box, Best before 08-04-2018 and 22-04-2018

Le Coulommiers 500g, Wrapped in cheesepaper/plastic and set in ½ wooden box, Best before 08-04-2018 and 22-04-2018

Brie de Brie Pasteurise 2.8kg, Wrapped in cheesepaper/plastic and set in ½ wooden box, Best before 08-04-2018 and 22-04-2018

Three cases of Listeria linked to deli meats sold at restaurant in Toronto hospital

Public health officials are investigating three cases in which people contracted Listeria infections after eating deli sandwiches at a Toronto hospital.

Toronto Public Health says the individuals were diagnosed with the infection after eating deli meats from the Druxy’s restaurant in Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

Officials say the restaurant is currently closed and the owner is co-operating with the agency to make sure there is no further risk to the public.

Druxy’s makes a decent Reuben sandwich and is a chain of some 48 restaurants.

Even though the branch is in a hospital, they probably have their own suppliers separate from the hospital.

Probably.

Regardless, the supplier needs to be tracked down.

As Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said about the outbreak of Listeria in cantaloupe in Australia, “People at risk of listeriosis should always take care with handling and storage of food, including not purchasing pre-cut melons, salads, bagged lettuce, deli meats, raw seafood and sprouted seeds,” Dr Sheppeard said.

People at risk means immunocompromised or pregnant.

The kind of people in hospitals, in Australia and Canada.

And where kinds of foods continue to be served to patients daily.

6 dead, 13 sick: Where’s the details on Listeria-in-rockmelon?

As the sixth listeriosis death in Australia linked to rockmelon was reported on Tuesday, the silence from cantaloupe growers, packers, retailers and regulators has been deafening.

Listeria in cantaloupe has happened before.

(A table of rockmelon-related outbreaks is available here.)

Here are some basic questions:

  • was the farm prone to flooding and near any livestock operations;
  • what soil amendments, like manure, were used;
  • after harvest were the rockmelons placed in a dump tank;
  • was the water in the dump tank regularly monitored for chlorine levels;
  • did a proper handwashing program exist at the packing shed;
  • were conveyor belts cleaned and tested;
  • did condensation form on the ceiling of the packing shed;
  • were transportation vehicles properly cooled and monitored;
  • was the Listeria in whole cantaloupe or pre-cut; and,
  • was the rockmelon stored at proper temperatures at retail?

I’m just spit-balling here, but these are basic questions that need to be answered before any dreams of regaining consumer confidence can be entertained.

Fifth person dies in Australia’s rockmelon listeria outbreak

An elderly man has died and a woman has miscarried as a result of the nationwide listeria outbreak, which has been linked to contaminated rockmelon.

Amy McNeilage of The Guardian reports the Victorian man in his 80s was the fifth person to die as a result of the outbreak.

The source of the outbreak has been traced to Rombola Family Farms in the Riverina region of NSW, according to authorities.

There have been at least 17 confirmed cases of listeria linked to the contaminated rockmelon, including two deaths in NSW and three in Victoria.

Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said all people affected so far ate the rockmelon before the national recall on 28 February. The latest cases have been linked to the outbreak through microbiological testing.

A miscarriage in Victoria was also linked to the outbreak, and a total 19 people – including those who died – had been affected across the country.

Listeria in SA: ‘Fuck you Doug’

Ms Patrick would be proud.

She was my grade 7 teacher and instilled in me an efficiency with words.

So when Seattle lawyer Bill Marler wrote me last night to say, “By the way Fuck you Doug,” I immediately thought, ‘By the way,’ is a waste of words.

Just say, Fuck you Doug.

The issue is 183 dead and 967 sick from Listeria in South Africa.

Every time I see Marler quoted as a food safety expert, I vomit a little bit in my mouth.

Rhetoric is the prose of lawyers.

I don’t like Rush, even though they played at my high school.

 

 

Identifying farm does nothing: What are normal practices on rockmelon farms to ensure microbial food safety confidence?

ABC news reports the rockmelon farm at the centre of the deadly listeria outbreak has been revealed as Rombola Family Farms, authorities have confirmed.

The NSW Food Authority said it was working closely with the farm, located in the NSW Riverina, to determine the exact cause of the outbreak.

Four people died and there have been 17 confirmed cases of listeriosis nationally, linked to the contaminated rockmelons.

That sucks, but the industry has been silent about steps it takes to minimize bugs like Listeria.

It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

Salmonella, Listeria, people dead, the outbreaks are relatively common in a way they shouldn’t be.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Food Authority said, pending the results of its investigation into the incident, it may implement additional regulation to the rockmelon industry to ensure compliance with food safety.

If the industry relies on government to set minimal standards, it’s going down the road of the Pinto defense: Meets all government standards, still kills people.

Rockmelon growers are the ones who are going to lose – bureaucrats will still have their salaries and supers – and rockmelon growers need to step up.