Dumbing down: Mark Bittman is starting a food magazine at Medium

Mark Bittman is a food safety idiot.

This is nothing new, he’s been publishing his microbiological rubbish about the glories of eating raw hamburger, not using a thermometer and other shit for decades and that someone would give him a new gig is baffling.

He’ll now head up a new online magazine, Salty.

Nice title. My kidneys can’t handle that.

We’re doing practical stories that will help people see food in a way they haven’t seen it before,” said Bittman.

If I was going to reinvent myself, this would be the least creative way to go.

Salty, which is making its debut on Tuesday, will comprise recipes, stories related to food and more.

From the duh files: How well do you understand irrigation water risk management?

Doug Grant of The Packer writes food safety outbreaks have a massive effect not only on growers, but on all stakeholders throughout the fresh produce supply chain. Irrigation water has been identified over the years as a likely cause of fresh produce contamination, so it’s critical that our industry fully understands the potential risk involved and how these risks are being managed by growers.The Center for Produce Safety has numerous research projects involving irrigation water. One 2015 project titled “Evaluation of risk-based water quality sampling strategies for the fresh produce industry,” led by PI Channah Rock, Ph.D., University of Arizona, concluded that “localized environmental conditions play a large role in water quality.”

Further, that “growers must get a better understanding of their water sources through collection of water quality data and historical analysis.” Another outcome from this project was developing a computer app to provide guidance on the frequency of sampling based on risk factors (e.g. after rainfall).

Several other CPS research projects focus on predictive models for irrigation water quality, exploring the relationship between product testing and risk, reuse of tail water and evaluating alternative irrigation water quality indicators.

Let me introduce Natalie Dyenson, head of food safety and quality assurance at Dole. As you can imagine, she has a huge responsibility covering several product lines (fruits, vegetables, leafy greens and packaged salads) sourced from hundreds of growers throughout the Americas and other countries. She’s been involved with CPS for several years and takes a keen interest in new research findings.

With leafy greens as her top priority, she is still very concerned about the three romaine lettuce outbreaks during 2018. With all Dole crops, water quality risk assessment and testing are very important. Dole reviews water source (wells, reservoir, canals, etc.) and type of irrigation (foliar spray, furrow irrigation, flooding farms).
All water sources including deep wells are tested monthly, and after weather events such as wind and frost. Enhanced testing of product is done prior to harvest depending on their environmental risk assessments — for example, after an excessive rain event where potential contaminated water run-off could be introduced to the field.

Natalie said, “there is a huge potential to leverage historical water quality test data to help mitigate risk.” She’s also very interested in predictive models and is looking forward to the results of a CPS research project starting in 2019, “Development of a model to predict the impact of sediments on microbial irrigation water quality,” led by Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D, from the University of Arizona.

Previous CPS research has shown that sediments at the bottom of waterways can harbor 10 to 10,000 more fecal bacteria than surface waters. This new project will investigate the conditions where pathogens could be re-suspended in surface water and will design sampling strategies to minimize contamination to crops.

While discussing sediment in irrigation canals Natalie mentioned that it’s been observed that some non-Dole farmers are still laying irrigation intake hoses directly on the bottom of water sources (canals, ponds, etc.). A simple solution is to use a flotation device positioned so that the hose end extracts water just below the surface where there are fewer potential contaminants. While not a complete remedy to eliminate all organic matter and pathogens in the water supply, it is a simple tool to help reduce risk.

Improperly home-canned peas linked to botulism illnesses

A couple of years ago I ran into a barfblog reader who commented to me, ‘You’re really scared of botulism, aren’t you?’ This wasn’t a random question, it was related to a few things I had posted over a couple of year period. I think he thought I was irrationally worried about it.

Scared isn’t how I would describe it. Rattled and in awe of are probably better terms. The toxin blocks motor nerve terminals at the myoneural junction, causing paralysis. It starts with the mouth, eyes, face and moves down through the body. It often results in paralysis of the chest muscles and diaphragm, making a ventilator necessary. Months of recovery follow an intoxication.

Maybe I am scared.

There isn’t a whole lot of botulism in the U.S. every year, and not all of it is foodborne – (infant botulism is more common); over the past two decades, improperly home preserved foods have been identified as a common vehicle.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (my favorite Thursday read, see my coveted mug at right) nails it again with a detailed report of three botulism cases in 2018 – all linked to an improperly canned jar of peas.

Here are some highlights from lead author Bergeron and colleagues:

On June 6, 2018, at 1:30 p.m., the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was notified of three related women who had arrived at a hospital 4 hours earlier for evaluation for acute nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, slurred speech, ptosis, thick-feeling tongue, and shortness of breath. Two patients developed respiratory failure, requiring intubation and mechanical ventilation in the emergency department, and the third patient was intubated at 7 p.m. that evening.

Approximately 14 hours before arriving at the hospital, the patients had shared a homemade potato salad containing home-canned peas. The family’s freezer had malfunctioned, and, to preserve some commercially produced frozen peas, one of the patients had home-canned the peas 1–2 weeks before consumption.

The patient who prepared the home-canned peas was a novice home canner. She used a peach preserves recipe with a boiling water technique, replacing the peaches with frozen vegetables. The patient was unaware that low-acid foods (e.g., vegetables) must be canned in a pressure canner rather than a boiling water canner to eliminate C. botulinum spores (1). After the jars cooled, the patient correctly checked for jar seal. One of the jars of peas was not sealed, so the patient covered and refrigerated it, and the family consumed the peas in the potato salad.

 

Food safety advice as herring egg harvest opens on Vancouver Island

Health officials are offering some food safety advice as this year’s herring egg harvest opens along a section of Vancouver Island’s east coast.

Hand-gathered herring eggs, known as spawn-on-kelp, are an important traditional seafood for many First Nations, but an outbreak of a cholera strain in 2018 forced closure of the harvest between French Creek and Qualicum Bay.

Island Health says in a news release that lab tests confirm a small group of people contracted the vibrio cholera bacteria last year after eating herring eggs from the affected region.

Officials say the bacteria are a “natural inhabitant” of the marine environment, are unable to produce the toxin found in more severe strains of cholera and are not from poor sanitation or sewage.

Until last year there had been no reported outbreaks, but a Health Canada and B.C. Centre for Disease Control review found salinity, acidity, temperature, sunlight and availability of nutrients can encourage the bacteria.

Water temperature above 10 C and sea water low in salt are two key factors in development of vibrio cholera, the review said.

Not bad for a bunch of southern Ontario boys (that’s in Canada).

Game meat: Because we do conference calls: Food poisonings prompt investigation after fundraiser feast

TV9 has learned the Johnson County Public Health Department and the Iowa Department of Public Health are investigating reports of food poisoning following an event in Swisher (interesting choice of graphic for game meat).

The illnesses have been linked to the Swisher Men’s Club’s Game Feast Dinner this past weekend. The group’s facebook page says the fundraiser has been going on for 15 years and features dishes that include meat from animals that are often hunted.

The health departments are looking for anyone who may have attended the meal to try to track down the source of the illnesses. It’s asking attendees to email diana.vonstein@idph.iowa.gov with their contact information.

Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch tells TV9 part of their investigative efforts have included taking part in a conference call with officials from the Iowa Department of Public Health on Tuesday.

Koch says part of the investigation will also include testing samples of the food that was served along with conducting tests on any individuals who think they may have contracted an illness.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Spanish woman dies after eating at Michelin-starred restaurant in Valencia

Christina Vazquez of El Pais reports an investigation has been opened to determine the cause of death of a 46-year-old woman, who became ill after eating at a one-star Michelin restaurant called RiFF in Valencia.

A total of 23 other patrons, including the victim’s husband and 12-year-old son, also fell sick after the meal but their symptoms were mild and they have reportedly all recovered. The restaurant will be closed to the public until the cause of death has been established.

Everything appears to be normal and now analytical tests will be carried out on the food products

The case was confirmed by regional health chief Ana Barceló, who expressed her condolences to the family and said that an investigation was already underway.

Barceló added that at this point she could not confirm whether the sickness had been caused by morel mushrooms that were on the restaurant’s menu. “We will have to wait for the autopsy to be carried out on the woman before we can determine whether it was the ingestion of a food that directly caused her death, or whether it prompted a state that led to this fatal outcome, or if she had an exisiting condition,” she explained on Wednesday.

Forensic teams are working to determine whether she could have been poisoned by something she ate, or whether she may have choked on her own vomit.

In a statement, the owner of RiFF, Bernd H. Knöller, announced that the restaurant will remain closed until the cause of the food poisoning outbreak is determined and “activities can resume with full assurances for the staff and the patrons.”

Be serious about B. cereus

Employing advanced genetic-tracing techniques and sharing the data produced in real time could limit the spread of bacteria – Bacillus cereus – which causes foodborne illness, according to researchers. As part of a recent study, researchers at Penn State University implemented whole-genome sequencing of a pathogen-outbreak investigation, following an outbreak of foodborne illnesses in New York in 2016.

“Here, in our study, we use this approach for the first time on Bacillus cereus,” says Jasna Kovac, assistant professor of Food Science at Penn State. “We hope that whole-genome sequencing of Bacillus will be done more often as a result of our research, as it allows us to differentiate between the various species of Bacillus cereus group and project the food-safety risk associated with them.”

The project marks the first time researchers have conducted whole-genome sequencing to investigate a Bacillus cereus outbreak to link isolates from human clinical cases to food. The New York outbreak in 2016 lasted less than a month and stemmed from contaminated refried beans served by a small Mexican restaurant chain.

Although the toxin-producing bacteria are estimated to cause 63,400 foodborne disease cases per year in the US, Bacillus cereus does not receive the attention given to more deadly foodborne pathogens such as Listeria and Salmonella.

Because illness caused by Bacillus cereus typically resolves within days and outbreaks are self-limiting in nature, foodborne illness caused by members of this pathogen group are often under-reported. Although there have been reports of severe infections resulting in sudden patient death, Bacillus cereus group isolates linked to human clinical cases of foodborne disease typically do not undergo whole-genome sequencing, as is becoming the norm for other foodborne pathogens.

In this case, the New York State Department of Health coordinated the epidemiological investigations. The methods included a cohort study, food-preparation review, a food-product traceback, testing of the environment, food and water and an inquiry at a production plant in Pennsylvania that produced the contaminated refried beans. The researchers sequenced the majority of Bacillus cereus isolates, from both food and humans, at the Penn State Genomic Core Facility, which is part of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

She’s no Churchill: ‘Scrape the mould off’ Theresa May’s unusual advice horrifies Brits

Microganisms are only visible when they are numerous.

I would throw away the entire jam to get rid of the unseen bugs, which number in the trillions.

Theresa May, chief Brexit strategist, PM and armchair microbiologist, shocked the UK by telling a Cabinet meeting Tuesday that she “will not throw away a jar of jam if it has gone mouldy on top”  according to the Daily Mail,

Instead, the newspaper reported, “she scrapes off the mould and eats the good preserve left underneath”.

May considered the rest of the jam to be “perfectly edible”, a Whitehall source told the Mail, and instead of binning food past its best-before date shoppers should “use common sense” to check if it’s edible.

The tip came during a Cabinet discussion on how to reduce food waste.

Social media immediately set about debating on whether this was good food advice, but more importantly, whether it was a metaphor for Brexit.

Nick Miller of The Canberra Times writes, some asked if Brexit was a case of “jam tomorrow.”

As the country lurches towards a potential no-deal Brexit, featuring potential food and medicine shortages, there has been a new focus on making the most of indigenous food supplies.

The UK is Europe’s biggest producer of citrus jams and marmalades, however France is by far the biggest producer of other types of jams and purees, followed by Germany.

If there are significant customs delays then breakfasts across the UK could be disrupted.

It may also be significant that the British government has been simulating the immense traffic jams expected to materialise around its southern ports if there is a no-deal Brexit.

Interestingly, the British government revealed in 2016 that its post-Brexit ‘Food and Drink International Action Plan’ would include a major campaign to sell British jam to Australia.

Asked on Wednesday if May thought people should follow her example, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said it was a “matter for the individual”.

Time magazine reported in 2015 that “when visible mould is present, its tentacles – called ‘threads’ – have likely penetrated deep into your food [unless it’s a hard cheese], contaminating even those parts that appear to be mould-free”.

They added that mould exposure can produce mycotoxins leading to respiratory problems, allergic reactions and even cancer.

However, in 2014, a “mould expert” told the BBC that “the moulds you find on jam are fine – just scrape them off”.

Rotavirus or Norovirus: They’re both spread by poo and lousy handwashing

Rotavirus is a leading cause of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) in children and is highly transmissible. In this study, we assessed the presence of AGE in household contacts (HHCs) of pediatric patients with laboratory-confirmed rotavirus.

 

Between December 2011 and June 2016, children aged 14 days to 11 years with AGE were enrolled at 1 of 7 hospitals or emergency departments as part of the New Vaccine Surveillance Network. Parental interviews, medical and vaccination records, and stool specimens were collected at enrollment. Stool was tested for rotavirus by an enzyme immunoassay and confirmed by real-time or conventional reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction assay or repeated enzyme immunoassay. Follow-up telephone interviews were conducted to assess AGE in HHCs the week after the enrolled child’s illness. A mixed-effects multivariate model was used to calculate odds ratios.

Overall, 829 rotavirus-positive subjects and 8858 rotavirus-negative subjects were enrolled. Households of rotavirus-positive subjects were more likely to report AGE illness in ≥1 HHC than were rotavirus-negative households (35% vs 20%, respectively; P < .0001). A total of 466 (16%) HHCs of rotavirus-positive subjects reported AGE illness. Of the 466 ill HHCs, 107 (23%) sought healthcare; 6 (6%) of these encounters resulted in hospitalization. HHCs who were <5 years old (odds ratio, 2.2 [P = .004]) were more likely to report AGE illness than those in other age groups. In addition, 144 households reported out-of-pocket expenses (median, $20; range, $2–$640) necessary to care for an ill HHC.

Rotavirus-associated AGE in children can lead to significant disease burden in HHCs, especially in children aged <5 years. Prevention of pediatric rotavirus illness, notably through vaccination, can prevent additional illnesses in HHCs.

Evidence for household transmission of rotavirus in the United States, 2011-2016

7.feb.19

Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, https://doi.org/10.1093/jpids/piz004

Mary E Wikswo, Umesh D Parashar, Benjamin Lopman, et al

https://academic.oup.com/jpids/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jpids/piz004/5310348?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Raw is risky: Drug-resistant brucellosis linked to raw milk

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials are investigating potential exposures to Brucella strain RB51 (RB51) in 19 states, connected to consuming raw (unpasteurized) milk from Miller’s Biodiversity Farm in Quarryville, Pennsylvania. One case of RB51 infection (brucellosis) has been confirmed in New York, and an unknown number of people may have been exposed to RB51 from drinking the milk from this farm. This type of Brucella is resistant to first-line drugs and can be difficult to diagnose because of limited testing options and the fact that early brucellosis symptoms are similar to those of more common illnesses like flu.­

The New York case is the third known instance of an infection with RB51 associated with consuming raw milk or raw milk products produced in the United States. The other two human cases occurred in October 2017 in New Jersey and in August 2017 in Texas. Those cases reported drinking raw milk from an online retailer and a Texas farm, respectively. In addition to these three confirmed cases, hundreds of others were potentially exposed to RB51 during these three incidents.

RB51 is a live, weakened strain used in a vaccine to protect cows against a more severe form of Brucella infection that can cause abortions in cows and severe illness in people. On rare occasions, cows vaccinated with RB51 vaccine can shed the bacteria in their milk. People who drink raw milk from cows that are shedding RB51 can develop brucellosis.

People who consumed raw milk or raw milk products from this dairy farm since January 2016 may have been exposed and should talk to their doctor.

People who are still within six months of the date they last consumed the raw milk are at an increased risk for brucellosis and should receive antibiotics to prevent an infection and symptoms, and should monitor their health for possible symptoms for six months. If symptoms develop, they should see their doctor immediately for testing.

Milk samples from Miller’s Biodiversity tested positive for RB51. A cow that tested positive for RB51 has been removed from the milking herd.