Raw is risky: Why salads are the biggest source of food poisoning and what to do to avoid it

Brian Adam of Intallght writes just over a year ago, the United States saw the largest outbreak of E. coli since 2006; affecting at least 98 people in more than 20 states. The origin wa bagged romaine lettuce. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Vegetables and fresh fruit have become a real headache for food safety experts.

 Today in the United States, fresh vegetables are the largest source of food poisoning. In Europe, the figures are not so pristine, but the bacteria and viruses associated with this type of food also are to blame for the vast majority of poisonings. We are facing a real danger for food safety: salads.

The numbers speak for themselves

In 1990, more than 400 epidemic outbreaks associated with fresh fruits and salads were detected. Between 2001 and 2013 we are not even able to know in its entirety, some experts explain, how many related outbreaks appeared, but they are many, increasing since 2008. Arrived in 2013, in Europe these epidemics seem to reduce their growth, stagnating in number per year, as explained in this article by EFSA, the European authority on food safety.

Despite the fact that Europe the number of appearances seems to have stabilized, in the United States they have continued to increase. The danger is still lurking, hidden between “romaine lettuce and Brussels sprouts.” The reason is in “cool” words.

According to some independent experts, this increase could be related to the increased consumption of vegetables and fresh fruit in the diet. This is a consequence of the search for a better, healthier diet. But, not being processed, these foods can also bring unexpected and unpleasant surprises.

But what is the problem? What’s wrong with fresh vegetables? It is not that strict food safety controls do not pass, as it happens with everything that arrives at our supermarkets but fresh food, especially if we put it in a plastic bag, is cannon fodder for microorganisms.

Smarter than your average bear: Trichinosis sends 10 people to the hospital after eating undercooked bear in Russia

Outbreak News Today reports that Russian officials report last week that 10 people from Altai Republic, near the Mongolian border, were hospitalized with trichinosis after consuming undercooked bear cub.

The regional office of Rospotrebnadzor said, “Not all bears, of course, are infected wi. But this sometimes happens, there were simply no such massive cases. We are in control of the situation.”

Earlier, Russians were advised to avoid contact with raw meat and animal blood in Altai, so as not to get infected with bubonic plague. As the infectious disease doctor Ivan Konovalov stated , outbreaks of the plague periodically occur in Russia, where the traditions of local peoples include eating raw animal meat. He emphasized that there is a vaccine against the plague pathogen.

Trichinosis is a parasitic disease caused most commonly by the roundworm Trichinella spiralis. If someone ingests undercooked or raw meat with the encysted larvae, the stomach acid releases the larvae which mature to adults in the intestine.

After about a week the female starts releasing larvae which enter the bloodstream and find their way to skeletal muscle where they encapsulate.

There can be gastrointestinal symptoms mimicking acute food poisoning when there is activity of the adults in the intestine.

US to miss foodborne disease reduction goals

I’ve said this for years.

Need new messages, new strategy.

The American Veterinary Medical Association newsletter reports numbers of confirmed illnesses in humans resulting from common foodborne pathogens have risen or remained level for several years, putting the U.S. on track to miss 2020 reduction targets.

Better tests and more testing may help explain why the numbers have not fallen, but to reach its goals, the U.S. needs more work to reduce food contamination, according to authors of an article published this spring in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Among the findings, the authors wrote that preliminary 2019 data show confirmed illness counts for Listeria, Salmonella, and Shigella have remained unchanged over several years, and confirmed illness counts for the other five pathogens tracked by the CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network increased.
“FoodNet surveillance data indicate that progress in controlling major foodborne pathogens in the United States has stalled,” the article states. “To better protect the public and achieve forthcoming Healthy People 2030 foodborne disease reduction goals, more widespread implementation of known prevention measures and new strategies that target particular pathogens and serotypes are needed.”

I saw the Hip at a bar in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada on this tour with my 6-month pregnant ex-wife.

Great show.

Food safety management: the UK version

My 28-year-old music therapist came over for her one hour session this morning which is the highlight of my week. I sing and play guitar like no one is watching. And I introduce her to 50-year-old songs, like those on Workingman’s Dead, which we played this morning in its entirety (Oh, and Chapman, she likes Jimmy Buffett, so suck it).

This paper forms part of an ongoing project studying various approaches to the management of hazards and risk in the food industry with implications for other areas of risk management where cooperation and collaboration between organisations are of a potential benefit. In this paper we give particular focus to the Food Standard Agency’s proposed Regulating Our Future that requires closer cooperation and collaboration between the public enforcement authorities and the industry organisations that police food hygiene and food safety management. The forming of a Primary Authority between Cornwall Council and Safe and Local Supplier Approval (SALSA) emerged as a potential means of contributing to this by improving trust between all parties involved, sharing of information, assessing risk, reducing inspection times and frequency of inspections from Primary Authority. Attention is given to the current relationship between the various organisations involved from the perspectives and viewpoints of Local Authority Enforcement Officers from Preston City Council, Cornwall Council and SALSA and other experienced food safety professionals. The research is qualitative and grounded, including a review of the extant literature and interviews with food safety and food standards professionals from the private and public enforcement sectors.

Approaches to the management and policing of food safety: The food standard agency’s regulating our future, 2019

International Journal of Management and Applied Research vol. 7 no. 2

Richard Bradford-Knox, Kevin Kane, Simon Neighbour

http://ijmar.org/v7n2/20-012.pdf

When ya gotta go: Woman goes to toilet on California beach during CNN reporter’s live broadcastd

A woman was filmed using a beach for a bathroom in broad daylight while a CNN reporter broadcast just feet away from her. The unidentified woman relieved herself on Santa Monica beach in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon as journalist Sarah Seigner discussed the ongoing coronavirus crisis with her colleagues in New York City.

The woman, who appeared to be homeless, wandered into the camera shot as Seigner told her colleagues how the area had broken a one-day Covid-19 diagnosis record on Friday, with more than 3,000 cases confirmed. The video-bomber could be seen dumping a black trash bag on the sand, before pulling down her pants as she prepared to go to the bathroom. Seigner appeared to have been warned over her ear-piece about what was going on behind her, and shuffled slightly to the right to block the woman from view and spare viewers’ blushes. Her colleague in New York managed to keep a straight face throughout. Seigner spoke as California saw a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with the Golden State experiencing a 41% rise in Covid-19 hospitals since mid-June.

California broke its single-day coronavirus diagnosis on July 5, with 11,529 new cases confirmed. Daily death figures have been hovering around 100, and have yet to beat the all-time high of 115 Covid-19 deaths recorded towards the start of the outbreak on April 22. The worrying numbers have prompted multiple California counties to pass or begin reversing reopening measures.

Fancy food ain ‘t safe food: UK restaurant fined £10,000

An award-winning Fishguard restaurant and its two directors have been ordered to pay more than £15,200 for food safety offences, with one of them prohibited from operating a food business.

Both directors of JT3 Restaurant in Fishguard, Daniel Wynne Jones and Lois Thomas, along with their company Me‘n’u1 Ltd, pleaded guilty to all offences at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on Friday, 3 July.

They were fined a total of £10,700 with more than £4,500 costs, and Daniel Wynne Jones was also banned from operating a food business.

In a prosecution brought by Pembrokeshire County Council, the court heard that the premises was issued a Food Hygiene Rating of 0 following an inspection in March 2019 by an officer from the authority’s Public Protection Division.

During the inspection the officer found the basement kitchen to be in a poor state of cleanliness and repair, with no disinfecting cleaning products or soap available, an inadequate water supply and flies present. There was no evidence of any food safety management system in use and the business scored a 0 food hygiene rating.

Two revisits were made to check for improvements, which were made, but the business failed to display their food hygiene rating sticker and had to be supplied with a new one, along with a warning.

Subsequent visits saw the sticker being hidden behind doors and then behind an umbrella hanging from a hook above it. A fixed penalty fine for the offence of failing to display the sticker went unpaid.

On 13 December 2019 another inspection was carried out at the restaurant. On arrival officers were told that the business was closed, but once in the kitchen, they found that a substantial amount of food preparation was going on and were dismayed to find that conditions had deteriorated again, including the ongoing poor structural condition and complete lack of any implemented food safety controls in relation to the safe production of food. Again, the business scored a 0 Food Hygiene rating.

By 19 December the situation had worsened to the point that two visits had to be made that day and a Remedial Action Notice served to prevent the manufacture of chicken liver parfait and duck. Improvement notices were also served to try to address the level of training and ensure that food safety procedures were introduced and sustained.

Unfortunately these improvement notices were not complied with and the food hygiene rating sticker remained deliberately hidden.

As well as the fine, costs of £4571.11 were awarded to the county council, with victim surcharges of £240.

And, on the 50th anniversary of Workingman’s Dead, one of my favorite albums, enjoy.

 

Canned snails leads to NZ botulism outbreak

COVID-19 sucks. Botulism also sucks. Here’s a quick story with not a lot of details but home canned sea snails in New Zealand led to an outbreak of botulism amongst 4 people in the same house back in May. 

After Sqirl Jam’s #jamgate, this has been a pretty good food safety week for preservation stories.

Back to the sea snails, my guess is they were put into a jar with little or no acidification. Low acid foods like seafood have to be pressure canned to inactivate Clostridium botulinum spores and the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the go-to source doesn’t have anything on snails.

Using the clam or oyster pressure canning processing times isn’t a good idea either – even those similar foods have different processing times due to heat penetration variability. Best to freeze the snails. Not sure about quality, but would avoid the botulism risks.

Brits like their tea – it’s not local

In this study, the persistence of toxigenic Escherichia coli (E. coli ) on dried chamomile, peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, black and green teas stored under 4, 10, and 25°C was determined.

The E. coli survival rate in ginger and cinnamon teas decreased below 0 on Day 5. In the other tested teas, E. coli survivability showed a downward trend over time, but never dropped to 0. Chamomile tea retained the greatest population of viable E. coli . Meanwhile, die‐off of E. coli was higher at 25°C compared to lower temperatures. Additionally, fate of E. coli during brewing at 60, 70 and 80°C was evaluated.

The E. coli population was reduced to below 2 Log colony forming units (CFU)/g after 1 min at 80°C, At the same time, the E. coli survival at 60°C was higher than that at 70°C in all tested teas. The data indicated that if E. coli survives after storage of prepared teas, it may also survive and grow after the brewing process, especially if performed using temperatures <80°C. Finally, we analyzed the correlations between temperature, time, tea varieties and E. coli survival, and successfully constructed a random forest regression model. The results of this study can be used to predict changes in E. coli during storage and fate during the brewing process. Results will form the basis of undertaking a risk assessment.

Survival of toxigenic Escherichia coli on chamomile, peppermint, green, black, ginger, and cinnamon teas during storage and brewing, 23 June 2020

Journal of Food Safety

Yanan Liu, Fan Wu, Yan Zhu, Yirui Chen, Kayla Murray, Zhaoxin Lu, Keith Warriner

https://doi.org/10.1111/jfs.12831

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jfs.12831

Bureaucratic bullshit: Communication inside risk assessment and risk management (COMRISK): Final report, 08 July 2020

For those who care about how risk information is provided – I despise the words educate and communicate – welcome to the world of the European Food Safety Authority.

How hard is it to tell a story, one that is backed with credible information?

That’s how people learn.

A key feature of risk analysis is that risk assessment and risk management should be functionally separated (bullshit). However, the usefulness of a risk assessment may be limited if the output is not designed to help with risk management decisions. The COMRISK project investigated the communication between risk assessors and risk managers. The overall goal of the project was to identify current practices and challenges in communication between risk assessors and risk managers during the risk analysis process, and thus increase and improve the understanding and the quality of the communication between them.

Specific actions to achieve this aim included reviewing of historical food safety cases, analysing risk assessment requests, identifying communication guiding documents, including legislation and agreements, conducting semi‐structured interviews with risk assessors and risk managers, and identifying tools for facilitating the communication between risk assessors and risk managers.

It was concluded that the usefulness of a risk assessment is strongly dependent on well‐defined and mutually recognised risk questions and that scarce or poor communication between risk assessors and risk managers is one of the major reasons when an output from risk assessment fails to support risk management. The communication between risk assessors and risk managers preceding the onset of the risk assessment, when the risk assessment requests with its risk questions are defined, is especially identified as one of the critical points to ensure a risk assessment that is fit for purpose. However, difficulties in understanding were also reported for the communication between risk assessors and risk managers during and after the risk assessment. Lack of communication is seldom a result of formal constraints or agreements nor can it be explained by a wish of the risk assessors or risk managers. Instead, perceived constraints or traditions appear to be possible underlying factors leading to scarce or poor communication between risk assessors and risk managers. It is essential that both risk assessors and risk managers acknowledge the crucial importance of communication between them while at the same time respect their different roles in a risk analysis.

According to respondents, the best solution to facilitate the framing of the risk assessment questions is an open dialogue between risk assessors and risk managers to agree on the goal of the assessment and to build trust. Further, the interview results indicate that a formal systematic process may facilitate communication during the risk analysis. Where there is uncertainty, e.g due to data gaps or issues related to the methodology and models, it should be acknowledged and described properly by risk assessors to risk managers. Training of risk assessors and risk managers may improve the possibility of a timely and fit‐for‐purpose output. Such a training should give a deeper insight in the risk management process, give a better understanding of the risk managers role, and especially raise the awareness of the importance of the communication between risk assessors and risk managers.

To improve the risk analysis process, it is also important that the risk assessor gets feedback regarding how risk assessments have met the needs of the risk managers. The present study also found that aspects of risk communication studied in this project are not extensively discussed in the guidance documents for risk analysis. More research is needed to identify the barriers for a fit for purpose communication.

A lab accident in France likely led to a woman’s death from prions 9 years later

As the co-author of Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk (1997) I couldn’t let this slide.

A lab accident in 2010 likely led to a woman’s untimely death nearly a decade later, according to doctors in France. In a recent case study, they describe how a woman in her early 30s developed a universally fatal brain disorder years after she had pierced her skin with equipment used to handle infectious rogue proteins called prions.

Prions are a type of protein that exist naturally in our brains. Ordinarily, they’re thought to be harmless, though their exact function remains a mystery. But rarely, they can transform into a misfolded version that compels normal prions to change shape, too. Over years or even decades, this cascade of misfolded prions destroys the brain from the inside out, leaving behind signature sponge-like holes under a microscope. Because of these holes, prion diseases are also medically known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

Prion diseases often happen with no clear rhyme or reason — native prions just seem to spontaneously pull a heel turn. Other times, a person’s inherited genetics are to blame. But what makes prions even scarier is that they can be also infectious, spreading from one person to another or across different species of animals.

In the 1980s and 1990s, scientists noticed outbreaks of cows that were developing their own prion disease, which became popularly known as mad cow disease. Years later, we began seeing people develop a never-before-seen sort of prion disease, which was eventually traced to them eating contaminated beef (meanwhile, the cows were being infected from eating animal feed that contained brain matter from other infected cows and possibly sheep). Medically, this infectious type of prion disease became known as variant-Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), to distinguish it from the classic version that’s the most common but still very rare prion disease in humans.

The young woman had been a lab technician in a research facility studying prions in 2010, according to a case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this month. One day in May, she was using a pair of curved forceps to handle frozen, prion-infected brain samples taken from mice genetically engineered to develop human prions, when the forceps slipped and stabbed into her thumb. Though she was wearing two pairs of protective gloves, the sharp ends pierced her skin and drew blood. She was only 24 at the time.

About seven and a half years later, in November 2017, she began experiencing a burning pain down her right shoulder and neck. Her condition worsened over the next year, to the point of memory impairment, visual hallucinations, and muscle stiffness along her right side by January 2019. Eventually, 19 months after the onset of symptoms, she died. Tests before her death strongly suggested she had vCJD, which was confirmed post-mortem.

It’s possible that the woman might have caught vCJD through eating tainted beef made before sharp shifts in the meat processing industry came along that seemed to end the threat of mad cow disease in the 1990s. But that would be very unlikely, according to the authors, because vCJD isn’t thought to take longer than a decade to show up after exposure in people with the woman’s genetic makeup. Nearly all known cases of vCJD have been in people who share a specific but relatively common genetic variation of their prion gene, called MM, which the women also carried. But the timing does work out if you assume she caught vCJD through the lab accident.

Prion diseases remain incredibly rare, and even in cases where they are infectious, genetics seem to strongly influence the risk of actually becoming sick (only a few hundred cases of vCJD have ever been reported worldwide). But this isn’t the first time that a case of vCJD has been linked to exposure in a lab, according to the authors, suggesting that more could be done to keep scientists and technicians safe during the valuable work they do to understand these utterly mysterious things. Prions are notoriously very hard to “kill” using traditional decontamination methods, which provides an added source of concern for medical procedures involving the brain.