Highway to Hell: 22 sickened with Salmonella at wedding at Arizona winery

Highway to Hell, one of the West’s most popular wedding songs, took on added meaning when at least 22 guests were stricken with Salmonella at a winery in Arizona.

highway.to.hellPinal County’s Public Health Services District say they’re investigating the outbreak that’s linked to a March 19 wedding at the Windmill Winery.

The district received a call from a participant of the wedding who reported that at least four attendees needed to be hospitalized.

County public health officials began an investigation into the winery’s food practices and found the operators had exceeded their legally allowable level of food preparation and used a non-permitted caterer.

Saturday barf: Tiger, football, airplane

It is called barfblog.

First up, Tiger Woods doing his best Ben Chapman impersonation on the first tee at his charity tournament — the Hero World Challenge — and he still made birdie.

Next, Arizona center Carter Wood vomits just before snapping ball during a barf-inducing loss to Oregon.

Finally, a US Airways plane was forced to land when 16 people aboard it started vomiting and suffering from red eyes.

The entire crew of 14 and two passengers were taken ill on the plane which made an emergency landing in Rome on Friday.

The stench of vomit could be smelt from the cabin, alerting those on board to the problem.

Arizona school’s noro outbreak linked to over 100 ill

I was chatting with a couple of guys at a birthday party of one of Sam’s friends this past weekend and relayed that I do food safety stuff. One dude said “I hate this time of year: between the colds, pink eye and norovirus our kids pick up at school we’ll all be sick until Thanksgiving.”

‘Tis the season for school-related infections.norovirus-2-1

According to AZ Central, the so-called winter vomiting virus is making an appearance in the desert. Over 10%, at least 100 students, of Kyrene de la Colina, a Phoenix (AZ) elementary school called in sick last Thursday – definitely an outbreak.

Kyrene Elementary School District spokeswoman Nancy Dudenhoefer said the absences were reported to the Maricopa County Health Department after more than 10 percent of students who attend the Ahwatukee Foothills school called in sick on Thursday.

The district also sent notices to parents about norovirus symptoms and advised them to keep ill children home from school.

In the Tempe Union High School District, Bruce Kipper, principal of nearby Mountain Pointe High, also notified parents about norovirus symptoms.

Kyrene hired a company that specializes in removing norovirus to clean Colina and its school buses before the Friday morning bell. Colina and all other Kyrene schools were open on Friday.

Maricopa County Health Department spokeswoman Jeanene Fowler said norovirus outbreaks are common in schools. “Norovirus is very common,” Fowler said. The solution is “cleaning and getting kids to stay home if they are sick.” (cleaning and sanitizing, with chlorine-based compounds -ben)

Restaurant inspection rules friendlier in Maricopa County, Arizona

Maricopa County’s newly adopted updates to restaurant-inspection rules expand the self-regulation program and make the process friendlier to restaurant operators.

restaurant.inspectionThe county Board of Supervisors approved 20 recommendations this week from a stakeholder task force that had been meeting since March. The changes are part of an ongoing effort to make various county regulatory functions more business- and user-friendly.

Maricopa County will expand its Cutting Edge program and educate restaurateurs about how it gives more autonomy to high-performing restaurants. It reflects a national trend in which regulators focus limited resources on those areas of the highest public-health risks, while giving high performers tools to stay compliant.

Restaurant owners in the program develop their own plans, subject to county approval, to reduce risk of food-borne illness.

Every other inspection is a “verification visit” in which the inspector makes sure the restaurant is following its own rules.

The county will now require owners to attend a class on the program and the underlying concept of “active managerial control” so that more restaurants know and enlist in the program, which began in 2011.

The county Environmental Services Department also will stop posting inspection records online immediately, instead posting them three business days after the inspection. Currently, the results are posted as soon as an inspector files them into the county database.

The change is intended to give permit holders time to clarify or challenge items in the inspection report, because “once the report is posted, the damage is done,” according to a recommendation document presented to the board.

79 sick with E. coli O157; Arizona restaurant confuses queen-of-clean for food-safety expert

A branch of Federico’s Mexican Food in Arizona decided it would be a good idea to give away free burritos Monday and hire the self-proclaimed Queen of Clean after sickening at least 79 people with E. coli O157 over the summer.

queen.of.clean.sep.13As pointed out by Grub Street, and me, this is a terrible idea.

Linda Cobb owns an industrial cleaning company in Michigan, presides over a sort of as-seen-on-TV product line, and otherwise has been known to scrub toilets with Tang and wash dogs with Massengill. Considering that just a month ago 23 of those sickened had to be hospitalized after suffering fevers and bouts of bloody diarrhea, what could possibly go wrong?

This promo video, dug up by the Phoenix New Times, must have been designed with a quick one-two punch PR strategy: “Queen of Clean” Linda Cobb gets to promote her “New York Times best-selling” books and pimp her cleaning supplies, while the public gets a not-so-subtle peek into the prep kitchen at Federico’s — look! vegetables and meats are cut at two separate workstations! with color-coded knives! And what’s that in the background at the 1:55-minute mark? Gloves! Sanitizer! Cleanliness!

Cobb tells us that she’s convinced the restaurant to try using her branded “Nature’s Kloth” to sanitize tables. “It doesn’t hold bacteria,” she proclaims, holding a dry specimen. (Though the product is somehow simultaneously adept at “absorbing more micro-organisms than leading competitor,” her website fatuously claims.)

Every restaurant has to go beyond the simplistic clean, chill, cook and separate and start verifying their suppliers. And use some basic science, not hucksterism.

52 sickened; E. coli O157 outbreak at Arizona restaurant

Maricopa County health officials are continuing to investigate a bloody diarrhea outbreak they say is linked to Federico’s Mexican Restaurant in Litchfield Park, Arizona.

The Maricopa County Department of Public Health announced in Aug. that 52 people have Federico's Mexican Restaurant in Litchfield Parkbeen sickened, and of those, 18 have been or are currently hospitalized.

Dr. Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Departments of Public Health, previously told ABC15 a few of the patients have experienced renal failure.

The Maricopa County Environmental Service Department responded to these reports by inspecting the facility immediately and taking food samples.

“The restaurant has been extremely cooperative with our investigation. In fact, out of an abundance of caution and concern for their customers, the restaurant is voluntarily closing,” said Steven Goode, deputy director for MCESD. 

Ariz town bans animals as prizes

Jennifer Aniston may let chickens roam at her newly refurbished, $21 million Bel Air mansion, but Fountain Hills, Arizona, has unanimously amended the town code to prohibit the practice of giving away as game prizes live animals, reptiles, fish, fowl and insects.

The Republic reports that state law already prohibits giving away live animals as prizes in games of chance. However, animals can still be given away as jennifer.aniston.chicken.13prizes in games of skill, such as hitting a target with either a ball or a dart, or the ring toss.

The loophole in state law allowed Scottsdale-based Frazier Shows to give away rabbits, turtles and fish at its carnival in Fountain Hills last November, Kavanagh said.

When alerted by residents that live animals were being given as prizes, the mayor said she was “shocked and appalled” that any organization in today’s society would do this and called the practice “cruel and inhumane.”

The mayor said she received numerous calls from parents panicked about having to care for the animals and the potential for contracting diseases. Many of them didn’t want to just let the rabbits go in the wash, she said.

Young E. coli victim to speak to Arizona county supervisors on food safety

On June 4, 2012, Brian Supalla, health program manager at Yavapai County Community Health Services went before the supervisor-types to discuss plans to introduce the 2009 FDA Food Code to the area.

Supalla wasn’t far into his PowerPoint presentation when he mentioned one of the provisions of the new code – that restaurants would not be allowed to offer hamburgers cooked less than well-done on their children’s menus.

He said that’s because kids don’t have well-developed immune systems and are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses.

But Supervisor Chip Davis stopped him. "Do we have a lot of kids getting sick in Yavapai County from eating rare hamburgers?" Davis asked.

Couldn’t find one of those but did find a kid sickened by E. coli O157:H7 in the 2006 spinach outbreak.

As reported by the Verde Independent, Community Health Services Director Robert Resendes asked the family of Jacob Goswick, a Prescott Valley eighth-grader who was in the second grade when he ate spinach contaminated with E. coli bacteria, if Jacob would testify at the meeting.

Jacob spent two months in Phoenix Children’s Hospital – one month on dialysis – after his kidneys shut down, which is one of the potential side effects of food poisoning.

Since the spinach E. coli outbreak in 2006, both Jacob and his mother, Juliana Goswick, have lobbied in Washington, D.C., to improve food safety.

In his email to the Goswicks, Resendes said, "To have a family of your caliber and unfortunate compelling experience (speak to the board) would be ideal for the cause."

He said that experience would show the supervisors "that indeed foodborne illnesses can and do affect area residents and that some of the newer pathogens, e.g., E. coli, are particularly dangerous to children."

Juliana said she and Jacob would be willing to appear at the meeting, on Monday.

Giving thanks to local public health types

The daily grind for health department professionals is underappreciated.

Armchair quarterbacks are quick to point out the failings of health types without recognizing the pressures of a standard epidemiological investigation, along with requirements to test pools, investigate dog bites, and soothe political egos.

As reported by The Daily Courier, Brian Supalla went before the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Monday (that’s in Arizona) with new food safety regulations expecting a rubber stamp.

Instead, he found himself under fire.

Supalla, county health program manager, was holding a "courtesy public hearing" intended to introduce the board to the 2009 FDA Food Code – safety regulations which the Yavapai County Community Health Services Board of Health wants the supervisors to adopt.

Supalla wasn’t far into his PowerPoint presentation when he mentioned one of the provisions of the new code – that restaurants would not be allowed to offer hamburgers cooked less than well-done on their children’s menus.

He said that’s because kids don’t have well-developed immune systems and are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses.

But Supervisor Chip Davis stopped him. "Do we have a lot of kids getting sick in Yavapai County from eating rare hamburgers?" Davis asked.

"That’s a difficult question to answer," Supalla said, because most people who become ill from contaminated food will never go to a doctor. "In the 15 years I have been with the county, we have never had a death reported to us determined to be associated with food (contamination)," he said.

Supalla went back to his presentation, outlining the changes to be adopted.
When he was finished, Supervisor Carol Springer spoke up.

"I have a real problem with this," she said. "How did all of us manage to survive without health departments?"

With that door open, she began to talk about events like farmers’ markets and chili cook-offs, which are not specifically addressed by the food code changes.

"I think that’s kind of a trend these days, and we’ve had a number of complaints about the health department stepping in," Springer said. "I’m having a real problem with our county health department saying, ‘No, you can’t have this kind of event’ because you’re serving some food product."

Supalla, unprepared for the topic, did his best to answer Springer, but she pressed on.

"I think this is too much government control when you say, ‘You can’t have a salsa contest," she said, referring to Cottonwood’s Old Town Sizzlin’ Salsa competition, which was planned for spring.

"We have not disapproved any requests for a chili cook-off or a salsa competition," Supalla replied. "Every facet of that salsa-tasting complaint, our investigation found, was based on a complete misunderstanding by the event organizers," who were new to the event this year.

Davis called the new regulations "burdensome" and said he didn’t "see the necessity to increase to an additional level of scrutiny on the restaurant business."

Iceberg lettuce pulled on salmonella fears, or not

Seventy-one Smith’s stores throughout five Western states were told Thursday afternoon to remove and destroy hundreds of heads of iceberg lettuce after the company received an urgent recall notice due to possible salmonella contamination.

However, by early Friday afternoon the recall had been downgraded from "urgent" to "precautionary and voluntary," according to Smith’s Food and Drug spokeswoman Marsha Gilford.

Lettuce from the central California produce company is not known to have had any salmonella contamination.

Smith’s officials got the original, urgent — so-called Class 1 — recall around 4 p.m. Thursday, Gilford said. Workers at all 71 Smith’s at stores in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and northern Nevada began removing iceberg lettuce from shelves.

Friday, when it was clarified that the actual source of the salmonella was not a Growers Express lettuce field but a nearby one owned by another company, the recall was downgraded to Class 2: voluntary and precautionary.

Salmonella was apparently found in an Arizona field adjacent to the grower’s property.

None of the lettuce in the markets has tested positive for salmonella but the grower alerted retailers of the test results and sought a withdrawal of the product “out of an abundance of caution.”

“There’s no evidence of contamination on any product whatsoever,” Jamie Strachan, CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Growers Express, told The Associated Press on Friday.

Still, The Kroger Co. and its affiliated grocery chain, Smith’s Food and Drug, decided to pull the product from 200 stores in at least seven states, including Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada, Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey said.

Dailey called it a cautionary move prompted by a notice from the grower.

Strachan stressed that none of his company’s product has tested positive for salmonella, and that crops growing in the adjacent field south of Phoenix were destroyed. He would not say who owned the tainted property.

“They’re pulling the lettuce to be on the safe side, but there’s no official recall,” Utah Department of Agriculture and Food spokesman Larry Lewis said.

To notify customers, Smith’s had put up signs in its produce departments, made automated phone calls to customers with Smith’s discount card information and printed out warnings on those people’s receipts, she said.