John Prine, Who Chronicled the Human Condition in Song, Dies at 73

John Prine, the raspy-voiced country-folk singer whose ingenious lyrics to songs by turns poignant, angry and comic made him a favorite of Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and others, died Tuesday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. He was 73.

The cause was complications from Covid-19, his family said.

Human-to-cat COVID-19 virus transmission: Belgium

My Guelph (that’s in Canada) friend, hockey buddy and veterinarian, Scott Weese, has done an admirable job of updating the world on pets and coronavirus through his Worms and Germs Blog.

He notes that a cat in Belgium, owned by a person with COVID-19, has tested positive for the virus. The cat developed diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory difficulty about 1 week after the owner got sick, and SARS-CoV-2 was found in the cat’s feces. It’s not clear whether the test used was PCR (which can detected live or dead virus) or virus isolation (which only detects live virus), or if other samples were also tested. It’s also not clear whether the cat was sick because of the infection with SARS-CoV-2 or whether it had some other co-incidental problem (or whether the cat is still alive or not).  They were clear that this is another suspected case of human-to-animal transmission, and not the other way around.

Is this surprising?

Not really. We’ve been saying there’s likely going to be some human-to-pet transmission, and cats have been a concern because they are theoretically a susceptible species based on analysis of the virus and cell receptors.

Is this concerning?

I don’t have any more concern today than I did before this report, since it was likely that this was going to happen, and animals (still) presumably pose very limited risk. An infected cat isn’t a big concern in the household since the person who exposed the cat in the first place is the main risk. This virus is being transmitted very effectively person-person, so animals likely play little role, if any in the grand scheme of things.  But we still want to take basic steps to keep the risk as low as possible.

So, what do we do?

The same thing we’ve been saying all along. If you’re sick, stay away from animals just like you would other people. If you have COVID-19 and have been around your pets, keep your pets inside and away from other people. While the risk of transmission to or from a pet is low, we don’t want an exposed pet tracking this virus out of the household (just like we don’t want an infected person doing that).

This is completely unsurprising. It doesn’t mean things are changing or that we have more risk today than yesterday. It just emphasizes again the importance of paying attention to basic infection control measures.

If you’re worried about getting COVID-19, worry about your human contacts, not your pets. Keep pets away from high risk people, but otherwise, your risk is from exposure to people, not your pet.

Managing food safety in the time of COVID-19

I collaborated with a team of food safety professionals on the below article. Byline is:

Eric Moore, Director of Food Safety and Industry Relations, Testo

Ben Chapman, Professor, Food Safety Specialist, NCSU

Don Schaffner, Professor, Extension Specialist, Rutgers

Steven Mandernach, Executive Director, AFDO

Hal King, CEO Active Food Safety

March 2020 was a month unlike any of us have experienced before. Beyond the transition to working remotely and the seemingly endless video meetings and webinars, we’ve collectively learned a lot about coronaviruses, environmental stability, inactivation, transmission routes, how to perform wellness checks of employees,  and have fielded dozens of questions from food industry stakeholders and the media. This tragic pandemic has led to partnerships and collaborations towards many common public health, food safety and risk goals.

The current challenges to ensuring the health and safety of employees and customers has never been more difficult. There are likely unintended positive food safety impacts that are being seen across the food system. We guess that employee handwashing practices are likely at an all time high with all the added focus. Extra attention to proper chemical use to clean, sanitize and disinfect both food and non-food contact surfaces, especially high-touch surfaces, is almost certainly happening. 

Although much of what we know about COVID-19 is emerging, many media outlets are sharing consistent (and evidence-based) messages that food safety professionals have been teaching and preaching for years. On a more personal level, hearing our kids belt out new handwashing songs, watching Tik-Toks on social distancing, and now all know a little something about epidemiology – flattening the curve — is heartening. There is even a slick new website, Wash Your Lyrics, that you can use to generate your own song and handwashing poster with everything from Styx to Post Malone to the Grateful Dead. It’s been truly amazing to see how in the face of adversity some amazing advancements in enabling and supporting behavior change can happen. Of course we would have preferred there be no pandemic, but this is now the new normal. 

Since food manufacturing, foodservice, food retail, agriculture and transportation are all classified as essential critical infrastructure, the collective food industry has a responsibility to respond. It is with great thanks and admiration to these organizations and the numerous individuals that run them who are helping the rest of us get through daily life by ensuring we have safe food which is essential for our survival. We are also trying to find any positives that may result such as better reporting, and creative approaches to food manufacturing and sales.

After conversations over the last few weeks at GFSI in Seattle, then AFFI-Con in Las Vegas we thought it might be time to take a minute to share some of the ideas and recommendations  because it’s never too late to start planning for what comes next and being ready for the next challenge including the potential for seasonal reemergence (and don’t forget a pandemic flu is likely in our future as well). How can food safety professionals learn from our current situation to establish sustainable practices? Here is what we have so far. The list is not all inclusive but includes  ideas we feel merit further consideration, action and diligence: 

Management Team:

  • Implement an employee health and wellness program that supports pro-active restriction and or exclusion.  
  • Have a pandemic response plan incorporated into your organization’s Business Continuity Plans which should include key aspects of service limitations, increased cleaning/sanitizing and disinfection, etc.
  • Designate roles within your organization that will connect to global, national, regional and local regulatory authorities to monitor the situation and to deploy adequate control measures to continue operations. 
  • Identify backups for each job position and if possible alternate production sites to offset production delays.
  • Promote remote work for non production or essential roles. Digital food safety management systems (FSMS) are a great tool to facilitate and maintain adequate processes and controls are being met even from a remote location.  
  • Consider providing transportation for employees that use public transportation.

Perishable Food:

  • Reduce food waste by lowering par inventory levels.
  • Identify if/what products in your inventory that can be frozen without quality compromises, and used at a future date. Think about consolidating inventory in preparation for staff reductions 
  • When closing a facility, divert safe food to local food banks or shelters – donate as much product to them as possible as long as it has not passed its expiration date.
  • To assist locations in returning to normal operations (post pandemic) discard perishable products near the end of useful life. 

Refrigeration Recommendations:

  • Reorganize inventory and condense products into fewer refrigeration units. 
  • Empty refrigerators should be turned off, as empty refrigeration space places more stress on the cooling system that could lead to unnecessary wear and tear. This also conserves energy and allows for deep cleaning to take place as well as preventative maintenance to ensure optimal functionality once placed back into service.

Technology:

  • Adopt Digital Food Safety Management systems (DFSMS) based on HACCP guidelines that enable real time refrigeration temperature monitoring and alert based operational compliance reporting. These systems have the ability to consolidate multiple important critical food safety reporting activities by providing visibility and awareness across an entire organization 
  • Implement the use of infrared handheld thermometers as a pre-screening tool  to measure temperatures of individual employees at the start/end of their shift. Screening methods and results should be based on CDC guidance and confirmed by a medical professional.   
  • Investigate the use of advanced thermal imaging instruments to assess elevated body temperatures and in consultation with local health professionals and legal advisors, make decisions to protect employee health.

Communication Practices:

  • Leverage technology to maintain internal communication (teleconference, video conference and webinar). 
  • Keep handwashing and hand sanitizing and employee health top of mind for employees and family members via job aids and training 
  • Encourage  customers to use order ahead options and delivery services.
  • Promote the use of cashless payment at operating locations. 

Operations Planning:

  • Incorporate the use of a daily set of health assessment questions as part of temperature monitoring  (are you sick, have you been around anyone sick, do you live with anyone that  is sick) based on the CDC guidance for employee wellness.
  • Decide when to close dining rooms, restrooms and seating areas and reassessment plans for reopening. 
  • Protect cashiers by providing physical barriers between them and customers
  • Clean and disinfect credit card pin pads and touch screens between each customer at indoor self-checkout locations.
  • Clean and disinfect outdoor touch screens/credit card pin pads at routine intervals.
  • Eliminate self-serve items, buffets, and areas that encourage high touch surfaces and when possible package foods that are sold individually. 
  • Designate continuous cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces in the entire facility (door knobs/handles, handrails, phones, light switches, hand sinks, paper towel dispensers, restrooms, credit card pin pads and touch screens, etc.) to one or more employees
  • Have liquid hand sanitizer stations as well as sanitizer wipe stations in operating locations so employees can sanitize hands when hand washing is not feasible 
  • Designate employees to monitor customers entrances to ensure that all consumers are prompted to use sanitizer prior to entering.
  • Set up que line placements (e.g., X every 6 feet) and signage  to ensure customers are able to stand 6 feet apart IF a line is likely for pick-up service. 
  • Place signage encouraging anyone who feels ill to not enter and provide alternatives as to how to help them with food essentials (delivery, curbside pickup).
  • Consider transition from traditional paper and laminated menus to a digital format, when re-opening. Further consider systems that allow the customer to use their own device to access menus.

Production Planning:

  • Review your operations production and operating hours, should they be shorter or different from normal operating hours. 
  • Reduce or rethink your menu to take advantage of alternate labor models or product availability. 
  • Consider simplifying your menu items to less complex products, this would support a more sustainable labor pool that may have less formal culinary training as well as reducing the amount inventory which should help control food waste during such an unpredictable event.     
  • Divide employees into small function-based teams and stagger production times or production areas to promote adequate social distancing.

We have all had people ask us where to get information and stay up to speed with the newest and emerging information about COVID-19. Here are links to the most accurate resources that we are using daily to answer our food safety questions.

Zoonoses in Minnesota

Prospective, population-based surveillance to systematically ascertain exposures to food production animals or their environments among Minnesota residents with sporadic, domestically acquired, laboratory-confirmed enteric zoonotic pathogen infections was conducted from 2012 through 2016.

Twenty-three percent (n = 1708) of the 7560 enteric disease cases in the study reported an animal agriculture exposure in their incubation period, including 60% (344/571) of Cryptosporidium parvum cases, 28% (934/3391) of Campylobacter cases, 22% (85/383) of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 cases, 16% (83/521) of non-O157 STEC cases, 10% (253/2575) of non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica cases and 8% (9/119) of Yersinia enterocolitica cases. Living and/or working on a farm accounted for 61% of cases with an agricultural exposure, followed by visiting a private farm (29% of cases) and visiting a public animal agriculture venue (10% of cases). Cattle were the most common animal type in agricultural exposures, reported by 72% of cases.

The estimated cumulative incidence of zoonotic enteric infections for people who live and/or work on farms with food production animals in Minnesota during 2012–2016 was 147 per 10 000 population, vs. 18.5 per 10 000 for other Minnesotans. The burden of enteric zoonoses among people with animal agriculture exposures appears to be far greater than previously appreciated.

Animal agriculture exposures among Minnesota residents with zoonotic enteric infections, 2012-2016, 17 December 2019

Epidemiology and Infection

CA Klumb, JM Scheftel and KE Smith

https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/2F76B12833C41C4F63153CC4315C22F0/S0950268819002309a.pdf/animal_agriculture_exposures_among_minnesota_residents_with_zoonotic_enteric_infections_20122016.pdf

Crypto in groundwater

Cryptosporidiosis is one of the leading causes of diarrhoeal illness and mortality induced by protozoan pathogens worldwide. As a largely waterborne disease, emphasis has been given to the study of Cryptosporidium spp. in surface waters, readily susceptible to pathogenic contamination. Conversely, the status of Cryptosporidium in potable groundwater sources, generally regarded as a pristine and “safe” drinking-water supply owing to (sub)-soil protection, remains largely unknown. As such, this investigation presents the first literature review aimed to ascertain the global prevalence of Cryptosporidium in groundwater supply sources intended for human consumption.

Thirty-seven peer-reviewed studies were identified and included in the review. Groundwater sample and supply detection rates (estimated 10–20%) indicate Cryptosporidium is frequently present in domestic groundwater sources, representing a latent health concern for groundwater consumers. Specifically, sample (10.4%) and source (19.1%) detection rates deriving from comprehensive “temporal” investigations are put forward as representative of a contamination ‘baseline’ for Cryptosporidium in ‘domestic’ groundwater supplies. Proposed ‘baseline’ prevalence figures are largely applicable in preventive risk-based catchment and groundwater quality management including the formulation of Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA). Notwithstanding, a large geographical disparity in available investigations and lack of standardized reporting restrict the transferability of research findings.

Overall, the mechanisms responsible for Cryptosporidium transport and ingress into groundwater supplies remain ambiguous, representing a critical knowledge gap, and denoting a distinctive lack of integration between groundwater and public-health sub-disciplines among investigations. Key recommendations and guidelines are provided for prospective studies directed at more integrative and multi-disciplinary research.

Cryptosporidium spp. in groundwater supplies intended for human consumption—a descriptive review of global prevalence, risk factors and knowledge gaps, 18 March 2020

Water Research

Chique; P. Hynds; L. Andrade; L. Burke; D. Morris; M.P. Ryan; J. O’Dwyer

DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2020.115726

https://www.x-mol.com/paper/1240684025098997760

‘Sushi parasites’ have increased 283-fold in past 40 years

I don’t eat sushi.

The combination of rice and raw fish sets off way too many risk buttons for me.

There was this one time, about eight years ago, I went to Dubai and Abu  Dhabi, to evaluate a graduate program and hang out at Dubai’s food safety conference.

A microbiologist from the University of New South Wales was also enlisted (and knew more about this stuff than I did).

One night, our hosts took us to dinner featuring a buffet overflowing with raw seafood.

He said, “Don’t.”

You don’t want to know the microbiological profile of that raw seafood, or something like that.

The University of Washington says, the next time you eat sashimi, nigiri or other forms of raw fish, consider doing a quick check for worms.

A new study led by the University of Washington finds dramatic increases in the abundance of a worm that can be transmitted to humans who eat raw or undercooked seafood. Its 283-fold increase in abundance since the 1970s could have implications for the health of humans and marine mammals, which both can inadvertently eat the worm.

Thousands of papers have looked at the abundance of this parasitic worm, known as Anisakis or “herring worm,” in particular places and at particular times. But this is the first study to combine the results of those papers to investigate how the global abundance of these worms has changed through time. The findings were published March 19 in the journal Global Change Biology.

“This study harnesses the power of many studies together to show a global picture of change over a nearly four-decade period,” said corresponding author Chelsea Wood, an assistant professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “It’s interesting because it shows how risks to both humans and marine mammals are changing over time. That’s important to know from a public health standpoint, and for understanding what’s going on with marine mammal populations that aren’t thriving.”

Despite their name, herring worms can be found in a variety of marine fish and squid species. When people eat live herring worms, the parasite can invade the intestinal wall and cause symptoms that mimic those of food poisoning, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In most cases, the worm dies after a few days and the symptoms disappear. This disease, called anisakiasis or anisakidosis, is rarely diagnosed because most people assume they merely suffered a bad case of food poisoning, Wood explained.

After the worms hatch in the ocean, they first infect small crustaceans, such as bottom-dwelling shrimp or copepods. When small fish eat the infected crustaceans, the worms then transfer to their bodies, and this continues as larger fish eat smaller infected fish.

Humans and marine mammals become infected when they eat a fish that contains worms. The worms can’t reproduce or live for more than a few days in a human’s intestine, but they can persist and reproduce in marine mammals.

We’re all hosts on a viral planet, coronavirus edition

As cases of coronavirus skyrocket — a World Health Organisation adviser has warned that as much as two-thirds of the world’s population could catch the disease — we can have faith that televangelist Jim Bakker claims his magic “Silver Solution” will kill the coronavirus within 12 hours.

Bakker, the disgraced and infamous Trump-loving televangelist who spent time in prison after bilking his followers out of $158 million, made the claim that his magic “Silver Solution” would cure the coronavirus within 12 hours while discussing the product with Dr. Sherrill Sellman, a supposed naturopath, on his television program earlier this week:

Jim Bakker says if you mock Jim Bakker, God’s going to punish you!

Welcome to 21st century hucksterism.

I haven’t written much about coronavirus because there has been no confirmed food-link, but it is transmissible, and spreading fast.

Globally:

  • 63,851 infected
  • 1115 deaths
  • 4846 recoveries
  • 15 cases in Australia 
  • 12 Australians infected on Diamond Princess cruise ship
  • Of the 4 Victorian cases, 3 have recovered and one person is stable and expected to be discharged this week.

It’s not a war: FDA arming itself with science to help prevent Cyclospora infections

Steven Musser Ph.D., Deputy Director for Scientific Operations, FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and Alexandre da Silva, Ph.D., Lead Parasitologist at CFSAN’s Office of Applied Research and Safety Assessment, write that Cyclospora cayetanensis is so small that it can only be seen with a microscope. However, there is nothing small about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s work to help protect consumers from the foodborne illness that this parasite can cause.

Of course it’s small. So are the trillion of microorganisms inside each of us.

Cyclospora has been on the public radar since at least 1996.

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by consumption of foods, mainly fresh produce, that are contaminated with Cyclospora. The FDA has been working to help prevent contaminated product from reaching consumers, gathering the scientific knowledge that will help to better detect the parasite in food and the environment, and gathering data to better understand how food is contaminated by the parasite and help prevent contamination in the future. We’re also sharing what we know with stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

Because several past outbreaks have been associated with fresh herbs, the FDA has been conducting surveillance sampling of fresh cilantro, parsley and basil. A quarterly update on this food surveillance study was released today. As this effort continues, our goal is to collect enough samples to provide a precise estimate of the prevalence of contamination of Cyclospora in our food supply, enabling us to better understand our vulnerability to Cyclospora contamination.     

The FDA is also acting on what we already know about where Cyclospora is found and how contamination can be prevented.   

In 2019, 10% of the Cyclospora infections reported between May and August were linked to a multi-state outbreak associated with fresh imported basil that started in mid-June and was declared over in October. FDA increased its screening at the border of basil exported by the company tied to the outbreak before the company voluntarily recalled its product and ceased shipping while corrective measures were implemented.

The FDA is also tracking contamination in domestically-grown produce. The first confirmed evidence of Cyclospora in domestically grown produce was detected in 2018 in cilantro, a finding not associated with an outbreak of illnesses. As with bacterial pathogens, if the parasite is found on produce, the FDA follows up with inspections and sampling, working with the business to take the actions needed to protect public health.

The FDA has been reaching out to farmers to increase awareness of Cyclospora and actions that can be taken on the farm to reduce the likelihood of contamination. For example, ways to control sources of contamination include proper use, maintenance and cleaning of toilet and handwashing facilities. We created education and outreach materials for farmers, including the Cyclosporiasis and Fresh Produce Fact Sheet

In late 2014, the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition established a Foodborne Parasitology Research Program, and in collaboration with the CDC, has been sequencing the genomes of several different strains of C. cayetanensis, enabling the development of genetic typing methods. In 2016, we created a genome database named “CycloTrakr” to be used as a public repository of genomic data at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). This is an important first step towards the goal of linking, in real-time, the genetic fingerprints of Cyclospora in contaminated food and sick people to pinpoint the source of the outbreaks.

The agency has also pioneered ways to detect the parasite, developing and validating new methods to test for Cyclospora in produce and water. The first of these new methods was used for the first time in 2018 to confirm the presence of the parasite in a salad mix product tied to an outbreak that sickened hundreds of people. 

In July 2019, the FDA made its second major advance in Cyclospora detection, completing studies that resulted in a novel, validated method to test agricultural water for the presence of the parasite. Water used on farms is a potential source of the contaminants that cause foodborne illnesses. Analysts from FDA laboratories are being trained in the use of this method for regulatory testing. 

Super sanitation cleaning: Caribbean Princess cruise ship turned back to US after more than 300 catch gastro bug

The Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess Ship left the U.S. on Feb 2 — and after more than a week at sea, was forced to turn back to the U.S. early when it was denied entry to the Caribbean.

The Caribbean Princess was set to have a 14-day trip around the Caribbean, but was forced to turn back to the U.S.

The cruise’s early return comes after it was denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago by the Government of Barbados due to the outbreak on board, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health.

Princess Cruises said in a statement to The Sun that the ship, which was on a 14-day cruise in the Caribbean, is now on its way back to the Port of Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

The Caribbean Princess ship is scheduled to dock at 7 a.m. on Thursday, three days ahead of its previous Feb. 16 return.

A total of 299 passengers and 22 crew members of the 4,196 people on board got sick with a gastrointestinal bug, causing vomiting and diarrhea.

Princess Cruises said the cruise has “curtailed its voyage out of an abundance of caution due to guests reporting symptoms due to a mild gastrointestinal illness,” in a statement to The Sun.

The ship will undergo a “super sanitation cleaning” when it reaches the Florida port, according to a statement from the CDC.

49 sick: Glazed eclairs cause mass poisoning in two Armenian provinces

News Az reports the poisoning cases were reported in the town of Sisian in the southern province of Syunik and in Vanadzor and Stepanavan in the northern province of Lori.
According to the ministry, all the patients had symptoms of diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. A preliminary diagnosis said the cause of poisoning was an intestinal infection.

The National Center for Disease Control and Prevention said 41 patients were traced in Lori, and 8 in Syunik. Currently, 33 patients are still being treated in Lori and 8 in Syunik. Doctors assess the patients’ condition as satisfactory. According to the press service of the Food Safety Inspectorate, laboratory studies found salmonella in éclairs.

It said the Zeytun Sweet company was inspected but no violations of sanitary standards were found, but it turned out that the éclairs did not have a conformity assessment and did not have a safety certificate. Zeytun Sweet Company was ordered to ban the sale of the product and recall éclairs from the market and destroy them.

In addition, samples of eggs, oil, spread, as well as finished products used for the production of éclairs were taken for further examination.