We’re all hosts on a viral planet: Viruses help keep the gut healthy

Drunken graduate student discussions about the role of viruses in human development have taken on new importance now that researchers studying mice have shown that a virus can help maintain and restore a healthy gut in much the same way that friendly bacteria do.

kellysheroes2t1oddballThe work “shows for the first time that a virus can functionally substitute for a bacterium and provide beneficial effects,” says Julie Pfeiffer, a virologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who was not involved with the study. “It’s shocking.”

Our bodies are mostly microbes, with each of us hosting a hundred trillion bacteria as our so-called microbiome. These bacteria appear to play a role in everything from our weight to our allergies. But viruses also lurk in and around those bacteria—and they vastly outnumber the microbes.

Like the microbiome, this “virome” may be important for human health. One recent study, for example, found that viruses that are abundant in saliva may weed out harmful bacteria. Kenneth Cadwell, a virologist at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, wanted to know what viruses in the gut might be doing. In particular, he was interested in a group called noroviruses. Although they are notorious for causing epidemics of diarrhea on cruise ships and disease in lab mouse colonies, some noroviruses infect mice with no ill effects.

Reminds of this scene from 1978’s Animal house, but I could only find the clip in this other language.

Horse meat scandal: Finger-pointing and false trust

Supermarkets in the UK are really, really super mad about the horse meat scandal.

Probably not as mad and violated as consumers, but hey, we’re all in this together right, retailers, consumers, you, me – except only one makes money on the deal.

And how well do retailers know their suppliers?

In a public letter, 11 firms, including Tesco and Asda, said they shared mr.edshoppers’ “anger and outrage”.

BBC News reports UK retailers have rejected government criticism they “remained silent” over the horsemeat crisis – as they begin to release test results on beef products.

Earlier, Downing Street said big retailers selling affected products had a responsibility to answer key questions on the scandal.

Sources said it was not “acceptable for retailers to remain silent while customers have been misled about the content of the food they have been buying.”

Meanwhile, the results of up to one third of tests on the presence of horsemeat in processed meals ordered by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are being released.

Whitbread, which supplies thousands of pubs and owns Premier Inn, Beefeater Grill and Brewers Fayre, has confirmed two of its products have been found to contain horsemeat.

Compass Group, one of the biggest school food providers in the UK, says its tests have found between 5% and 30% horse DNA in burgers it sold in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Cottage pie delivered to 47 schools in Lancashire has tested positive for horse DNA. The product has now been withdrawn from kitchens. And beefburgers containing horsemeat had been withdrawn from hospitals in Northern Ireland.

That will be reassuring to parents and patients. You know, consumers, partners.

The French government has accused meat processing company Spanghero of knowingly selling horsemeat labeled as beef. The firm has denied the allegations, but apologized to British consumers, saying it was “tricked as well.”

Further to the arrests made yesterday in Wales and West Yorkshire in relation to suspected fraud, there have been seizures of evidence in Hull and London.

UK Food Safety Authority officers entered an additional three premises in England today with local authorities and the police; one was in Hull and two in Tottenham. Computers and documentary evidence have been removed from these premises, as well as meat samples that have been taken for testing.

FSA has submitted a full file and evidence on this issue to Europol.

France has pinned much of the blame for Europe’s meat scandal on a French firm that allegedly sold 750 tonnes of horsemeat as beef that ended up in millions of ready-to-eat meals sold across the continent.

Agence France-Presse reports Spanghero denied any wrongdoing, saying it had never ordered, received or resold any meat that it did not believe to be beef. 

The findings of an investigation by France’s anti-fraud office, presented by the Consumer Affairs Minister, Benoit Hamon, were staggering.

It said Spanghero, a meat-processing firm in the southwestern town of Castelnaudary, had knowingly sold 750 tonnes of horsemeat mislabelled as beef over a period of six months, 500 tonnes of which were sent to French firm Comigel, which makes frozen meals at its Tavola factory in Luxembourg.

That meat was used to make 4.5 million products that were sold by Comigel to d-day in animal house28 companies in 13 European countries, it said.

Mr Hamon said Spanghero would be prosecuted and officials said its licence to handle meat would be suspended pending further investigations.

The minister said that Comigel, which supplied millions of ready-to-eat meals to supermarkets, which have now removed them from their shelves, had been deceived by Spanghero.

But he said Comigel had failed to carry out tests or inspect paperwork that would have alerted it to the scam. He said Romanian abattoirs named in the affair appeared to have acted in good faith.

Cheerleader toll climbs to 200 after Washington tournament

Nearly 200 people across the state have reported illnesses after attending a high school cheer and dance event in Everett earlier this month.

Preliminary survey results show at least 192 reports of illness from participants and adults who attended the event Feb. 4. Students and adults from Columbia River and Skyview high schools in Vancouver attended the event.

The Washington State Department of Health is investigating the cause of the outbreak.

As part of the investigation, questionnaires were sent to participants and their families and stool samples are being collected for testing at the state Public Health Laboratories.

More than 3,000 people attended the event and more than 1,000 competed in the State Cheerleading and Salute to Spirit in cheer and dance/drill.

Remain calm: restaurant as epidemiologist in San Francisco

Following last week’s report of a supposed outbreak of foodborne illness last month at the fancy Delfina eatery in San Francisco that was not reported to public health types, Inside Scoop SF reports that Delfina has now provided a statement, complete with dick fingers and exclamation marks.

This unfortunate incident is an isolated case and happened to a private party. There is no reason for any alarm or panic from our customers or throughout our city. We are confident that this is not a part of an epidemic or outbreak and are still working with the health department. We would like to assure the public that there is no “tainted lettuce” outbreak in San Francisco as reported by SFist and then spread throughout the Internet. Below is our account of the incident:

A group of fifty rented out the restaurant for a private dinner with a set menu for their holiday party on December 10, approximately one month ago.

A day-and-a-half later we were informed that approximately half the group reported symptoms consistent with those of food poisoning.

We believe we narrowed the culprit down to three of the most likely menu items from the private party menu. We contacted the purveyors of the most suspect ingredients to inform them of what happened

After contacting the Department of Health we decided not to report it since it was a contained isolated incident.

At the end of the day, and as we expressed to the affected group, we take full responsibility and are truly sorry to be the cause of their discomfort. We are in the business of providing pleasure, not misery!

3 Austin restaurants closed for selling stolen supermarket meat

Eater reports that 60-year-old East Austin barbecue legend Sam’s BBQ, Willie’s Bar-B-Que and La Morenita all had their business licenses revoked as a result of Operation Meat Locker. Austin police had been working with HEB for the past three months to bust meat thieves — it’s a "growing crime" in Central Texas.

Apparently thieves shove meat down their pants to sneak it out of grocery stores and "walk long distances or ride the bus" in order to sell it to restaurants.

Shockingly, investigators discovered "food safety was not a priority."

Officers posing as meat thieves approached 25 restaurants with the stolen meat, and only the three listed above went for it. Five arrests have been made. The restaurants can apply to have their permits reinstated but must remain closed until that happens.

University students plan cafeteria boycott after health violations

Big tip of the hat to the students at New York’s Pace University and a Colbert wag of the finger to Lackmann Culinary Services, which runs the school cafeteria, and was closed after health inspectors discovered it was a dump.

DNAinfo.com reports the city shut down Pace’s main dining hall, along with the school’s coffee kiosk and late-night eatery, last Thursday after observing workers touching food with their bare hands and storing perishable items at unsafe temperatures.

The 79 violation points also included citations for dirty clothing, no soap in the bathroom and un-sanitized cloths.

And just like in the UAE, a company spokesthingy had to say, health and safety are the company’s top priorities.

Which is why Lackmann only now plans to hire a full-time sanitarian and has already made changes to better monitor food temperatures. Students said they noticed the staff wearing gloves for the first time.

They got caught.

The students are having none of it and have Facebook-planned a boycott of the cafeteria.

Orlando Olave, 22, a Pace senior who said he knew several people who believe they have gotten food poisoning from the cafeteria, adding,

"I felt like it was going to happen eventually. [The workers’] aprons are usually dirty, and they wipe their hands on them."

Ashley Cetinkaya, 19, a Pace freshman who plans to buy her lunch elsewhere from now on, said,

"It’s unacceptable considering the prices they charge us. I’m not going to be eating there again."

A Pace spokesthingy said the university is meeting with students this week "to discuss their grievances and the university’s plans for addressing them."

Pace students, take some food safety knowledge with you to the meeting and you’ll know far more than the bureaucrats or the catering firm.

Canadian Walmart deli worker with hepatitis A; immunizations to employees and public

A deli worker in a Duncan, B.C. Walmart (that’s in Canada) has tested positive for hepatitis A so the local health types are offering hepatitis A immunizations “to eligible members of the general public who have consumed certain deli products from the delicatessen in the Duncan Walmart.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority recommends members of the public who consumed ready-to-eat food, including sliced meat and cheese, from the delicatessen at the store between December 30, 2010 and January 4, 2011, or consumed meat or cheese sliced at the deli counter from January 5 to January 10, 2011 should receive hepatitis A vaccine as a precaution. Individuals who ate or purchased deli items after this time period are not at risk of contracting the disease.

This alert DOES NOT (sic) apply to produce or other foods purchased from the grocery department or to foods from the McDonalds restaurant located in the Walmart.

I don’t know why the press release writers think putting words in all caps will make readers pay double super-secret attention to the warning.

Florida woman assaulted at church with cucumber

Cucumbers should be used as vegetables, or even conversation starters like in this scene from the movie, Animal House (right).

But a Lee County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office report says that during a food giveaway at the Lehigh Christian Church, a 33-year-old woman was struck with a cucumber by another woman after an argument over which free food belonged to which woman.

The church asked both women to leave.