2 dead, 184 sick linked to Spanish listeriosis outbreak

Last Tuesday a 90-year-old woman passed away, becoming the second death in Spain’s burgeoning listeria outbreak linked to La Mecha branded ‘carne mechada.’

The outbreak has been traced to utensils (slicers? Something lost in translation) used in the preparation of the food products.

Now experts say the bacteria may be present in other products from the Magrudis factory in Sevilla. All its production has been recalled with experts saying at least two other products are at high risk of having been infected.

Medical authorities say this strain of the bacterium is particularly virulent, taking three days to incubate. Normally the incubation period is up to 70 days.

Celebrity chef to advise UK government on hospital food following Listeria deaths

Health chiefs are to set national standards for hospital food after the deaths of six people in a listeria outbreak.

Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith (right) will advise the Government review into bedside meals, amid growing criticism of patients’ food.

The “root-and-branch” probe, launched by the Department of Health today, will examine whether the number of hospitals doing catering in-house can be increased.

Prue said: “Millions of pounds are wasted in hospitals with food ending up in the bin – unpalatable food being the main complaint.

A hospital meal should be a pleasure and comfort, and it should help, not hinder, the patient’s recovery.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for the review in June when the six people died after getting listeria from prepackaged sandwiches and salads.

Hopefully there will be some Listeria scientists on the advisory panel.

Foodborne pathogen sheltered by harmless bacteria that support biofilm formation

Pathogenic bacteria that stubbornly lurk in some apple-packing facilities may be sheltered and protected by harmless bacteria that are known for their ability to form biofilms, according to Penn State researchers, who suggest the discovery could lead to development of alternative foodborne-pathogen-control strategies. 

That was the key finding that emerged from a study of three tree-fruit-packing facilities in the Northeast where contamination with Listeria monocytogenes was a concern. The research, done in collaboration with the apple industry, was an effort to better understand the microbial ecology of food-processing facilities. The ultimate goal is to identify ways to improve pathogen control in the apple supply chain to avoid foodborne disease outbreaks and recalls of apples and apple products.

“This work is part of Penn State’s efforts to help producers comply with standards set forth in the federal Food Safety Modernization Act, often referred to as FSMA,” said researcher Jasna Kovac, assistant professor of food science, College of Agricultural Sciences. “The Department of Food Science at Penn State, through research and extension activities, has an ongoing collaboration with the apple industry, led by Luke LaBorde, professor of food science.”

The research was done in collaboration with the apple industry, in an effort to better understand the microbial ecology of food-processing facilities. The ultimate goal is to identify ways to improve pathogen control in the apple supply chain to avoid foodborne disease outbreaks and recalls of apples and apple products. 

In the study, researchers sought to understand the composition of microbiota in apple-packing environments and its association with the occurrence of the foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes. Their testing revealed that a packing plant with a significantly higher Listeria monocytogenes occurrence was uniquely dominated by the bacterial family Pseudomonadaceae and the fungal family Dipodascaceae.

“As we investigated the properties of these microorganisms, we learned that they are known to be very good biofilm formers,” said lead researcher Xiaoqing Tan (upper left), a recently graduated master’s degree student in food science and a member of the Penn State Microbiome Center, housed in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. “Based on our findings, we hypothesize that these harmless microorganisms are supporting the persistence of Listeria monocytogenes because they protect the harmful bacteria by enclosing them in biofilms. We are testing this hypothesis in a follow-up study.”

The findings of the research, published today (Aug. 21) in Microbiome, provide insight into the Listeria contamination problem and may lead to researchers and the apple industry getting closer to solving it, Kovac believes. Equipment in fruit-processing plants — such as brush conveyors — have a poor sanitary design that makes them difficult to clean and sanitize, she pointed out. She and LaBorde plan to work with the apple industry to devise more effective cleaning and sanitizing strategies.

Camera 360

Researchers collected samples in apple-packing facilities in which Listeria monocytogenes has been persistent. They discovered that harmless bacteria may be sheltering the pathogens.

 “Following up on these findings, we are experimenting with some of the nonpathogenic strains of bacteria that are not harmful to humans to see whether they can be used as biocontrols,” she said. “Once applied on the surfaces of the equipment in these environments, they may be able to outcompete and suppress Listeria, thus reducing food-safety risks and potential regulatory action. We are still exploring that approach in a controlled laboratory environment. If it proves to be feasible, we would like to test it in apple-packing and processing facilities.”

The challenge presented by microbiota possibly sheltering Listeria monocytogenes is not limited to fruit-processing facilities or produce, Penn State researchers suspect. They will soon begin analyzing microbial communities in dairy-processing facilities to determine the microbial composition and ecology of these environments.

175 now sick with Listeria in Spanish outbreak

Jack Guy of CNN reports Spain’s health ministry has issued an international health warning over a listeria outbreak that has infected 175 people.

The bacteria was detected in a processed meat product manufactured in the city of Seville, in the southern region of Andalucia, according to an alert published Tuesday.

“My priority is to avoid the spread of the outbreak,” said Spain’s acting health minister María Luisa Carcedo, in a video watched by CNN. 

The country has informed the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission about the outbreak. 

It comes during peak tourist season in Spain, with Andalucia a popular destination among visitors.

Fifty people remained in hospital Wednesday, 23 of whom were pregnant women, according to Reuters.

80 sick: Listeria outbreak in Spain

Charlie Smith of The Olive Press reports 80 people have now contracted listeria in Andalucia, 15 of whom are pregnant.

The disease, which can be fatal, has hospitalised 56 of those who have been infected, according to the Junta de Andalucia.

Several of those infected are believed to have eaten the meat products of the Sevilla-based pork firm Magrudis.

The company’s star product, its meatloaf, called ‘Mecha’ has been widely cited by Spanish media as the source of the spread of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

The family-run business, which launched in 2013, ceased production on August 15, while a spokesperson said: “I’m very sorry, from now on we are not going to make any more statements about it.”

It comes after the company admitted that over 2,000 packs of its meat products were infected with the bacteria.

Most hospitalised patients are in Sevilla, with 43 recorded so far in the Andalucian capital.

7 sick in Canada: Listeria infections linked to Rosemount brand cooked diced chicken

As of August 18, 2019, there have been 7 confirmed cases of Listeria monocytogenes linked to Rosemount brand cooked diced chicken in British Columbia (1), Manitoba (1) and Ontario (5). Individuals became sick between November 2017 and June 2019. Six individuals have been hospitalized. Individuals who became ill are between 51 and 97 years of age. The majority of cases (86%) are female.

The collaborative outbreak investigation was initiated because of an increase of Listeria illnesses that were reported in June 2019. Through the use of whole genome sequencing, two Listeria illnesses from November 2017 were identified to have the same genetic strain as the illnesses that occurred between April and June 2019.

It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because of the delay between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. In national Listeria monocytogenes outbreak investigations, the case reporting delay is usually between 4 and 6 weeks.

If you have Rosemount brand cooked diced chicken meat 13mm – ½” (#16305), packdate – 01/21/2019 in your food establishment, do not eat the product or serve it to others

Secure the product and any foods made with the product in a plastic bag, throw it out and wash your hands with soapy water.

At least 30 sickened: Multistate outbreak of listeriosis associated with packaged leafy green salads, United States and Canada, 2015-2016

We investigated an outbreak of listeriosis detected by whole-genome multilocus sequence typing and associated with packaged leafy green salads. Nineteen cases were identified in the United States during July 5, 2015–January 31, 2016; isolates from case-patients were closely related (median difference 3 alleles, range 0–16 alleles). Of 16 case-patients interviewed, all reported salad consumption. Of 9 case-patients who recalled brand information, all reported brands processed at a common US facility.

The Public Health Agency of Canada simultaneously investigated 14 cases of listeriosis associated with this outbreak. Isolates from the processing facility, packaged leafy green salads, and 9 case-patients from Canada were closely related to US clinical isolates (median difference 3 alleles, range 0–16 alleles). This investigation led to a recall of packaged leafy green salads made at the processing facility. Additional research is needed to identify best practices and effective policies to reduce the likelihood of Listeria monocytogenes contamination of fresh produce.

CDC

Julie L Self, Amanda Conrad, et al

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/25/8/18-0761_article?deliveryName=DM4960

Two elderly Australians die after eating Listeria-contaminated smoked salmon

Sahil Makkar of the Daily Mail writes two elderly people have died and a third is fighting for their life after eating salmon believed to be contaminated.

The two people were from New South Wales and Victoria respectively, while the third person who was rushed to hospital was from Queensland.

All three people have contracted listeriosis.

‘Investigations have implicated smoked salmon as the likely source,’ Australian chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said in a statement.

‘All cases occurred in people aged over 70 years and all had significant underlying health conditions.

Tasmanian salmon products are believed to be the source of the outbreak.

But its two largest suppliers said they are not aware of any evidence linking their products to the outbreak. 

‘Tassal products have not been deemed unsafe, nor has it breached the Food Standards Code,’ Tassal said in a statement.

Huon Aquaculture said health authorities had recently tested and cleared of any food safety law breaches.

Tassal and Huon command 30 per cent and 20 per cent of market share respectively.

Tasmania’s Minister for Primary Industries Guy Barnet said his department has investigated the matter.

Faith-based food safety sucks

In a decision issued [June 19, 2019] in Marchand v. Barnhill et al., No. 533, 2018 (Del. June 19, 2019), the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of a stockholder derivative lawsuit against the members of the board of directors and two officers of Blue Bell Creameries USA, Inc.

The lawsuit arose out of a serious food contamination incident in 2015 that resulted in widespread product recalls and was linked to three deaths. The Delaware Supreme Court, applying the “duty to monitor” doctrine enunciated in In re Caremark International, Inc. Derivative Litigation, 698 A.2d 959 (Del. Ch. 1996), and noting the very high hurdle to claims under it, nonetheless ruled that the plaintiff had adequately alleged the requisite bad faith by the members of the Blue Bell board.

Plaintiff did so by using information obtained in a Section 220 books and records demand to show facts supporting their contention that the Company did not have in place “a reasonable board-level system of monitoring and reporting” with respect to food safety, which the Court deemed to be “a compliance issue intrinsically critical to the company’s business.”

After concluding that “food safety was essential and mission critical” to Blue Bell’s business, the Supreme Court ruled that bad faith was adequately pled by alleging “that no board-level system of monitoring or reporting on food safety existed.” The Court thus declined to dismiss a claim that the directors breached their duty of loyalty, potentially exposing directors to non-exculpated (and potentially not indemnifiable) monetary damages.

In light of the Blue Bell decision, boards of directors should review carefully their board processes and procedures to ensure that “reasonable compliance system and protocols” are in place with respect to “safety and legal compliance” and other regulatory and business threats that may pose significant risks for their particular company.

Equally important, boards should document the procedures followed to identify significant risks, including advice from management, counsel and other advisors, as well as the processes and procedures implemented to provide for board reporting and appropriate supervision of these risks, and maintain written records of the implementation of these processes and procedures in practice. The principal basis upon which the Court in Blue Bell found the record to support the complete failure to impose any board-level “system of controls” with respect to food safety was the absence of any written board procedures or documented discussion on the topic, and the lack of any mention of food safety in board minutes in periods before the food contamination outbreak, despite previous food safety issues that allegedly had arisen in previous years, including positive tests for listeria in Company facilities beginning in 2013.

The Blue Bell decision makes clear that oversight with respect to these kinds of issues is a board-level responsibility, and goes beyond mere compliance with laws. The Delaware court opined that “the fact that Blue Bell nominally complied with FDA regulations does not imply that the board implemented a system to monitor food safety at the board level.”

“In short,” the Delaware Supreme Court ruled, “to satisfy their duty of loyalty, directors must make a good faith effort to implement an oversight system and then monitor it.” While “routine regulatory requirements, although important, are not typically directed at the board,” companies should ensure that they have written processes and procedures in place for the board to be timely informed about, and to monitor regularly, compliance, safety and business developments that are important to the company, or may be viewed as critical to the company in hindsight. [1]

This decision, while only on a motion to dismiss, illustrates the continued importance of the Caremar kdoctrine as a strand of Delaware law governing the conduct of directors. While the burden for withstanding a motion to dismiss a Caremark claim is high, and the theory remains “possibly the most difficult theory in corporation law upon which a plaintiff might hope to win a judgment,” [2] it can be met. Caremark is an important tool in the Delaware jurisprudential arsenal for enforcing what Delaware courts view as reasonable director conduct, and when applied sends a powerful message because of the potential it creates for personal director liability.

11.jul.19

Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation

Brian Frawley, Joseph Frumkin and Krishna Veeraraghavan

https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2019/07/11/bad-faith-monitoring-on-food-safety-issues/

3 dead, 3 sick in UK hospital sandwich outbreak

I’ve told these Australian hospitals to stop serving raw sprouts and cold cuts to immunocompromised people.

They just call me crazy.

Three hospital patients in the UK have died in an outbreak of listeria linked to pre-packed sandwiches.

Public Health England (PHE) said the victims were among six patients affected in England and the deaths occurred in Manchester and Liverpool.

Two of the victims were at Manchester Royal Infirmary, with the other a patient at Aintree Hospital.

Sandwiches and salads from The Good Food Chain linked to the outbreak have been withdrawn and production ceased.

PHE said the products were withdrawn from hospitals when the links to the infections were first identified.

PHE said The Good Food Chain had been supplied with meat produced by North Country Cooked Meats which subsequently produced a positive test result for the outbreak strain of listeria.

This business and North Country Quality Foods, who it distributes through, have also voluntarily ceased production.

A spokesman for The Good Food Chain Ltd said the company’s production facility in Stone, Staffordshire, was “cross contaminated by an ingredient from one of its approved meat suppliers”.