Golden Ponds: Lawsuits proceed 2 years after 306 sickened in Rochester’s worst food poisoning outbreak

On Thanksgiving Day in 2016, as many as 1,100 people ate their holiday dinner at Golden Ponds Restaurant and Party House, which was located just up Long Pond Road from the Greece Town Hall in Rochester, N.Y.

Within 24 hours, patrons began to experience stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea. Some were hospitalized and at least one underwent emergency surgery.

Eventually, 306 people who dined at Golden Ponds that day reported they had been sickened by the food, officials at the Monroe County Department of Public Health now say.

A public-health investigation later determined that the pernicious Clostridium perfringens bacteria that made people ill was in gravy that had been stored and served at an unacceptably low temperature.

“Rest assured there are a significant number of people who will never think of Thanksgiving the same way,” said Paul Vincent Nunes, a Rochester lawyer who has brought lawsuits against the defunct Greece restaurant. 

According to Steve Orr of the Democrat and Chronicle, here’s what’s happened since:

Golden Ponds is closed. The establishment at 500 Long Pond Road, which had been operated by Ralph Rinaudo for 33 years, was closed by the health department after the food poisoning episode. Improvements were made and the restaurant was allowed to open in late December. But business was predictably slow, and it closed for good in February 2017.

Rinaudo sold the property in January of this year to a corporation that shares the address of a Henrietta construction firm, Team FSI General Contractors. The building appears to be empty at present and future use of the property isn’t clear. Officials at FSI did not respond to a request for comment.

The health department has continued its practice of inspecting every restaurant once a year. It has not stepped up inspections of buffet-style eateries like Golden Ponds, spokesman Ryan Horey said. Inability to maintain food at the proper temperatures during buffet serving was key  factor in the Golden Ponds incident. The Democrat and Chronicle checked inspection records available on nydatabases.com for six Rochester-area buffet restaurants. Five of them have been cited by the health departments for serious violations involving foods being kept at the wrong temperature since the Golden Ponds episode.

Four lawsuits filed on behalf of 31 plaintiffs are pending against Golden Ponds. The four were consolidated into one case in July. Court-ordered mediation to seek a resolution before trial is set to begin soon. The cases are not suited for class-action status, as the damages incurred differed from one patron to the next, Nunes said.

Nunes said, “These were not just tummy aches. People were quite sick, some in the hospital. These are life-threatening events.”

English pub slapped with zero rating after 60 people got food poisoning turned around to get five stars

Heather Pickstock of Bristol Live reports the Old Farmhouse in Nailsea is now under new management and has been issued with a five start rating for its food hygiene.

A pub where dozens of diners suffered food poisoning after eating there on Mothering Sunday has been issued with a five star

SONY DSC

food hygiene rating.

More than 60 people fell ill, suffering from sickness and diarrhoea in March this year after eating at the Old Farmhouse in Nailsea.

The kitchens at the pub, off Trendlewood Way, were temporarily closed while officials from Public Health England and North Somerset Council launched an investigation into the cause. It was given a zero food hygiene rating after an inspection.

Putting food-safety detection in the hands of consumers

I always thought the MIT Media Lab would be the coolest place to work.

I have no idea whether this gadget will work, but it has coolnest factor.

MIT Media Lab researchers have developed a wireless system that leverages the cheap RFID tags already on hundreds of billions of products to sense potential food contamination—with no hardware modifications needed. With the simple, scalable system, the researchers hope to bring food-safety detection to the general public.

Food safety incidents have made headlines around the globe for causing illness and death nearly every year for the past two decades. Back in 2008, for instance, 50,000 babies in China were hospitalized after eating infant formula adulterated with melamine, an organic compound used to make plastics, which is toxic in high concentrations. And this April, more than 100 people in Indonesia died from drinking alcohol contaminated, in part, with methanol, a toxic alcohol commonly used to dilute liquor for sale in black markets around the world.

The researchers’ system, called RFIQ, includes a reader that senses minute changes in wireless signals emitted from RFID tags when the signals interact with food. For this study they focused on baby formula and alcohol, but in the future, consumers might have their own reader and software to conduct food-safety sensing before buying virtually any product. Systems could also be implemented in supermarket back rooms or in smart fridges to continuously ping an RFID tag to automatically detect food spoilage, the researchers say.

The technology hinges on the fact that certain changes in the signals emitted from an RFID tag correspond to levels of certain contaminants within that product. A machine-learning model “learns” those correlations and, given a new material, can predict if the material is pure or tainted, and at what concentration. In experiments, the system detected baby formula laced with melamine with 96 percent accuracy, and alcohol diluted with methanol with 97 percent accuracy.

“In recent years, there have been so many hazards related to food and drinks we could have avoided if we all had tools to sense food quality and safety ourselves,” says Fadel Adib, an assistant professor at the Media Lab who is co-author on a paper describing the system, which is being presented at the ACM Workshop on Hot Topics in Networks. “We want to democratize food quality and safety, and bring it to the hands of everyone.”

The paper’s co-authors include: postdoc and first author Unsoo Ha, postdoc Yunfei Ma, visiting researcher Zexuan Zhong, and electrical engineering and computer science graduate student Tzu-Ming Hsu.

Other sensors have also been developed for detecting chemicals or spoilage in food. But those are highly specialized systems, where the sensor is coated with chemicals and trained to detect specific contaminations. The Media Lab researchers instead aim for broader sensing. “We’ve moved this detection purely to the computation side, where you’re going to use the same very cheap sensor for products as varied as alcohol and baby formula,” Adib says.

RFID tags are stickers with tiny, ultra-high-frequency antennas. They come on food products and other items, and each costs around three to five cents. Traditionally, a wireless device called a reader pings the tag, which powers up and emits a unique signal containing information about the product it’s stuck to.

The researchers’ system leverages the fact that, when RFID tags power up, the small electromagnetic waves they emit travel into and are distorted by the molecules and ions of the contents in the container. This process is known as “weak coupling.” Essentially, if the material’s property changes, so do the signal properties.

A simple example of feature distortion is with a container of air versus water. If a container is empty, the RFID will always respond at around 950 megahertz. If it’s filled with water, the water absorbs some of the frequency, and its main response is around only 720 megahertz. Feature distortions get far more fine-grained with different materials and different contaminants. “That kind of information can be used to classify materials … [and] show different characteristics between impure and pure materials,” Ha says.

In the researchers’ system, a reader emits a wireless signal that powers the RFID tag on a food container. Electromagnetic waves penetrate the material inside the container and return to the reader with distorted amplitude (strength of signal) and phase (angle).

When the reader extracts the signal features, it sends those data to a machine-learning model on a separate computer. In training, the researchers tell the model which feature changes correspond to pure or impure materials. For this study, they used pure alcohol and alcohol tainted with 25, 50, 75, and 100 percent methanol; baby formula was adulterated with a varied percentage of melamine, from 0 to 30 percent.

“Then, the model will automatically learn which frequencies are most impacted by this type of impurity at this level of percentage,” Adib says. “Once we get a new sample, say, 20 percent methanol, the model extracts [the features] and weights them, and tells you, ‘I think with high accuracy that this is alcohol with 20 percent methanol.’”

The system’s concept derives from a technique called radio frequency spectroscopy, which excites a material with electromagnetic waves over a wide frequency and measures the various interactions to determine the material’s makeup.

But there was one major challenge in adapting this technique for the system: RFID tags only power up at a very tight bandwidth wavering around 950 megahertz. Extracting signals in that limited bandwidth wouldn’t net any useful information.

The researchers built on a sensing technique they developed earlier, called two-frequency excitation, which sends two frequencies—one for activation, and one for sensing—to measure hundreds more frequencies. The reader sends a signal at around 950 megahertz to power the RFID tag. When it activates, the reader sends another frequency that sweeps a range of frequencies from around 400 to 800 megahertz. It detects the feature changes across all these frequencies and feeds them to the reader.

“Given this response, it’s almost as if we have transformed cheap RFIDs into tiny radio frequency spectroscopes,” Adib says.

Because the shape of the container and other environmental aspects can affect the signal, the researchers are currently working on ensuring the system can account for those variables. They are also seeking to expand the system’s capabilities to detect many different contaminants in many different materials.

“We want to generalize to any environment,” Adib says. “That requires us to be very robust, because you want to learn to extract the right signals and to eliminate the impact of the environment from what’s inside the material.”

sick: Donated catered meal cause of a foodborne outbreak of Staphylococcus aureus at a hospital in Houston after Hurricane Harveyd

Lucila Marquez of Healio reports that 50 staff members — but no patients — suffered acute gastrointestinal symptoms after eating a meal that included pork sausage, pulled pork, brisket, chicken and yogurt, at Texas Children’s Hospital, and colleagues.

Experts warned that flooding caused by Harvey could put storm victims at a higher risk for infection, but Marquez and colleagues said exposure to flood water was not associated with illness in the patients involved in the outbreak. They noted that S. aureus is one of 31 known causes of foodborne illness and outbreaks.

According to their report, on Sept. 1, 2017, a catered meal was donated and served to staff of the unnamed hospital. After infection control staff were notified of several cases of gastrointestinal illness among staff who ate the meal, the Harris County Department of Health was notified about the suspected outbreak, leftover food was secured and samples were taken from the pork sausage, pulled pork, brisket and chicken for testing.

Staff at hospital in Houston were sickened in an outbreak of Staphylococcus aureus linked to a donated catered meal.

Of the 191 staff who were working when the catered meal was delivered, 48% (n = 92) reported eating some of the meal, according to Marquez and colleagues. Within 14 hours, 54% (n = 50) of those who consumed the meal reported acute onset of gastrointestinal symptoms. All recovered within 24 hours.

Leftovers were tested for S. aureus, shigatoxin-producing Escherichia coli, and Bacillus cereus —pathogens with a short incubation period, Marquez and colleagues noted. Brisket and chicken tested negative for any pathogen, but portions of pulled pork and pork sausage tested positive for S. aureus. Based on a questionnaire completed by staff members, Marquez and colleagues calculated a 1.47 relative risk for illness from eating pork sausage (95% CI, 1.06-2.04) and a 1.45 relative risk for illness from eating yogurt (95% CI, 1.05-2.01), although no yogurt samples were available for testing.

They said the disruption in public health services in the wake of the storm prevented the health department from immediately investigating the catering business that delivered the meal.

Singapore: 1 dead, 72 sick from Spize restaurant

The Sats officer who fell sick after consuming food from popular restaurant Spize has died on Wednesday (Nov 14).

Mr Fadli Salleh, who was married with two young children, had been in critical condition in the intensive care unit (ICU) of Sengkang General Hospital (SKH) after he was one of 72 people who suffered gastroenteritis, allegedly after eating bento boxes prepared by Spize’s River Valley outlet for an event last Tuesday. (the raw egg looks like a Salmonella factory).

 

The party was for a Deepavali celebration organised by security company Brink’s Singapore and held on its premises at Kaki Bukit.

Mr Fadli attended the gathering as he was deployed to Brink’s Singapore, though the event itself did not involve Sats.

A Sats spokesman said: “We are providing support to the family during this sad and difficult time. Please approach Brinks if you have further questions.”

 

Brinks offered its condolences to Mr Fadli’s family and said it it was “deeply saddened” that an employee of its business partner died.

 

A joint statement by the National Environment Agency (NEA), MOH and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority last Friday said the authorities were notified of the cases last Wednesday and they conducted a joint investigation that day.

Spize’s 409 River Valley Road branch’s licence was suspended at 7pm that evening.

 

The statement added that they were investigating several cases of gastroenteritis traced to the consumption of food prepared at the restaurant.

 

“Several hygiene lapses were observed, including leaving ready-to-eat food uncovered in a chiller, not providing soap for hand washing (soap dispenser was faulty) and slotting knives for preparing ready-to-eat food in the gap between the food preparation tables,” said the statement.

Spize had supplied 88 bento sets to Brink’s Singapore and Spize’s co-owner Mr Haresh Sabnani had told The Straits Times on Wednesday before news of Mr Fadli’s death was confirmed that “on that day, 221 bento sets were sent to six different locations, but only that one location was affected”.

Raw is risky: Longtime North Dakota lawmaker dies after eating raw oysters in New Orleans

The New Orleans Advocate reports that former longtime Mandan Republican state Rep. Rae Ann Kelsch has died.

Alex Kelsch says his mother died early Tuesday morning at a New Orleans hospital from a bacterial infection caused by eating raw oysters at a restaurant there. She was 58.

Kelsch died after becoming infected with Vibrio vulnificus, which is linked to oysters, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

Kelsch was first elected to the North Dakota House in 1990 and served 22 years, including as the chairwoman of the Education Committee.

She was defeated in the 2012 primary, after it came to light she didn’t file state income tax returns for seven years.

Kelsch’s husband, Thomas, a lawyer, said at the time that he was to blame for the tax problems. The couple said the tax bill was eventually paid.

UK Cyclospora shit fest

TTG reports a judge sitting at Manchester county court has ordered the disclosure of all documentary evidence relating to investigations carried out by Public Health England (PHE) surrounding cyclospora — a parasite spread by food contaminated with infected human faeces.

According to The Times, many customers claimed Tui did not tell them the Riviera Maya region of Mexico was subject to a public health warning due to cyclosporiasis before they booked.

This is in spite of 359 of the 440 British cases reported between June and October 2016 “involving travel to Mexico”, it is claimed.

Others customers allege they were handed a warning letter “only after their plane landed”.

Squirrel brains aren’t for everyone: New York state hunter, 61, dies from CJD

Mary Kekatos of the Daily Mail reports a New York man died after he developed a rare and fatal brain disorder from eating squirrel brains.

In a case report, researchers said the 61-year-old was brought to Rochester Regional Health in 2015 saying he was having trouble thinking, he was losing touch with reality and he couldn’t walk.

(Sounds like me, but I don’t eat squirrel brains; I got a whole other basket of dementia in my future).

Doctors discovered he developed a degenerative disease caused by the same infectious proteins that also result in the more infamous ‘mad cow disease’.

However, it wasn’t contaminated beef that caused this man’s death. His family told doctors he enjoyed hunting and had recently eaten squirrel brains – although it’s unclear if he ate the whole brain or squirrel meat contaminated with parts of the brain. 

The findings of the report were presented on October 4 at IDWeek, an annual meeting of infectious diseases professionals, reported Live Science.

Lead author Dr Tara Chen, a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health, told the website she discovered the case while doing a report on cases of the disease seen at her hospital during a five-year period

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, degenerative brain disorder that is caused by coming into contact with tissue that has been infected, such as eating contaminated meat.

Amy says squirrel tastes like chicken — if you add ketchup.

Fortunately, she wasn’t into the whole squirrel-brain culture thing.

440 sickened: Tui faces legal action from 400 people over Mexico sickness

TTG reports a  judge sitting at Manchester county court has ordered the disclosure of all documentary evidence relating to investigations carried out by Public Health England (PHE) surrounding cyclospora — a parasite spread by food contaminated with infected human faeces.

According to The Times, many customers claimed Tui did not tell them the Riviera Maya region of Mexico was subject to a public health warning due to cyclosporiasis before they booked.

This is in spite of 359 of the 440 British cases reported between June and October 2016 “involving travel to Mexico”, it is claimed.

Others customers allege they were handed a warning letter “only after their plane landed”.

Just because it says probiotic doesn’t mean it’s good for you

Cryptosporidiosis, a leading cause of diarrhea among infants, is caused by apicomplexan parasites classified in the genus Cryptosporidium. The lack of effective drugs is motivating research to develop alternative treatments. With this aim, the impact of probiotics on the course of cryptosporidiosis was investigated.

The native intestinal microbiota of specific pathogen-free immunosuppressed mice was initially depleted with orally administered antibiotics. A commercially available probiotic product intended for human consumption was subsequently added to the drinking water. Mice were infected with Cryptosporidium parvumoocysts.

On average, mice treated with the probiotic product developed more severe infections. The probiotics significantly altered the fecal microbiota, but no direct association between ingestion of probiotic bacteria and their abundance in fecal microbiota was observed. These results suggest that probiotics indirectly altered the intestinal microenvironment or the intestinal epithelium in a way that favored proliferation of C. parvum.

Probiotic product enhances susceptibility of mice to cryptosporidiosis

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 10.1128/AEM.01408-18

Bruno C. M. Oliveira, Giovanni Widmer

https://aem.asm.org/content/84/21/e01408-18?etoc=