Worsening mouse plague sees ‘thirsty’ rodents dying in Australian water tanks sparking health fears

As southeast Queensland experiences one of the wettest springs in years, rural residents are raising concerns about potentially contaminated drinking water after finding poisoned mice in their tanks, as the mouse plague continues to worsen.

Lucy Thackray of ABC reports frustrated landholders are continuing to try to reduce mice populations with rigorous baiting programs, but the problem isn’t showing any signs of slowing.

Louise Hennessy, from Elong Elong in Central West NSW, has issued a warning to other rural residents about potential health implications for humans and animals after finding baited mice in her drinking supply.

She made the discovery when she climbed up her house tank to check a blockage and was immediately overwhelmed by a revolting smell.

“It was so horrifying, I thought it would make a good picture to remind people to be vigilant about their water tanks,” Ms Hennessy said.

“We always filter the water going into our house from the tanks, so for us personally we feel we’ve covered our precautions so we didn’t notice anything with the taste. But the smell of the mice at the top of the tank was so disgusting.”

Dubbo Regional Council’s environment and health officer Simone Tenne said people often did not consider drinking water contamination.

“Rainwater tanks are perceived to be a clean source of drinking water, but they often have frogs in them, insects, a large amount of bird faeces which has come down off the roof,” Ms Tenne said.

“The public health sector recommends people do some form of treatment whether it be chlorination, a bit of acidification or some sort of filtration to avoid getting bacteria inadvertently through drinking contaminated water.”

Ms Tenne said health issues could be triggered by mice in drinking water.

Facebook deletes celebrity chef wannabe Pete Evans’s Instagram account over repeated coronavirus and vaccine misinformation

ABC (the Australian one) reports celebrity chef wannabe Pete Evans (right, exactly as shown) has been permanently booted off Instagram for sharing misinformation about coronavirus and vaccines.

Pete Evans’s Facebook page was removed last year, but he continued posting misinformation on Instagram, which Facebook owns

Facebook last week expanded the list of false claims it will remove, adding more about coronavirus and the vaccines.

The company no longer tolerates false claims the virus is man-made, that the disease is safer than the vaccine, that vaccines are toxic, dangerous, or cause autism

Facebook confirmed it deleted Mr Evans’s account on the popular picture-sharing platform on Wednesday.

The account had hundreds of thousands of followers.

Celebrity chefs are just so full of bad food safety information (except for Alton Brown).

“We removed Pete Evans’s account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines,” the company said in a statement.

“We don’t allow anyone to share misinformation about COVID-19 that could lead to imminent physical harm or about COVID-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts.”

Mr Evans’s Facebook page was removed in December, but he continued to share misinformation through Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook.

Facebook had earlier removed several of the chef’s Instagram posts for violating its policies on misinformation.

Facebook’s COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation policies were updated last week, with the company vowing to crack down on false claims.

Mr Evans was a judge on My Kitchen Rules between 2010 and 2020.

He has repeatedly made posts opposing COVID-19 vaccines and masks, shared discredited coronavirus cures, and claimed in a podcast that the coronavirus is a hoax.

Mr Evans regularly used his Instagram account to cast doubt on official information about COVID-19, vaccines, and other parts of mainstream science.

His company was fined more than $25,000 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in April after he promoted a device called a “BioCharger” on a Facebook live stream, claiming it could be used in relation to coronavirus.

The TGA said the claim had “no apparent foundation”.

Mr Evans announced last week he would run for federal parliament, standing as a Senate candidate for a fringe party set up by former One Nation senator Rod Culleton.

Who knows, he may get some votes: On Saturday more that 1,000 clogged roads in downtown Brisbane to protest against the vaccine as the first inoculations were conducted in the federal capital of Canberra. Vaccines begin Monday in Brisbane.

As a risk communication dude, I am however concerned with the approach being taken by the Australian Capital Territory to win over anti-vaxxers. The Canberra Times reports the ACT government will launch a major public information campaign as part of efforts to counter anti-vaccination messages amid concern vaccination rates could be affected by misinformation. Flyers making false and misleading claims about vaccines have been distributed to households in Canberra in recent days, prompting renewed calls for people to stop undermining public health information.

On Saturday, about 150 people, including some affiliated with far-right groups, gathered near the Carillon on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin to protest mandatory vaccinations – despite no such initiative being proposed.

Ms Stephen-Smith said, “We aim to provide informative, trustworthy and up-to-date advice to the community so they understand the risks of COVID-19, our responsibilities in helping to reduce these risks and where to access healthcare services.

“As the vaccine program rolls out, we will be ramping up our public health information campaign. This will focus on educating Canberrans about the COVID-19 vaccine, where and when they can access it and how they can find factual and reliable information.”

It’s a leader’s duty to inform rather than educate. Further, the proposal reeks of a failed risk communication strategy: If I could only get that one person or group to change their minds, conflict will be removed. By focusing on vaccine opponents, leaders are not paying enough attention to vaccine proponents and the essence of good science. But I’ll let Jimmy Kimmel explain from 2015:

Empedocles the Empiricist: 6-legged calf survives in Australia

There was this one time, my first wife, the veterinarian, was working as a student in an anatomy lab at the vet college. She gave me a call one evening and said, get here quick, you have to see this.

Off i went and unknowingly strolled into the receiving area at the vet college and there was a newborn Holstein with two heads, and it was alive.

It later died.

A few years later I started a MSc in Philosophy of science. We were talking about Empedocles, and his descriptions of various mutant animals, and I told the class about the two-headed cow.

I argued it was biology and was reporting what he observed, and Iabeled him Empedocles the Empiricist.

The rest of the class snickered and went on with their elaborate, probably drug-induced crazy metaphor-based analysis.

I finished the class but dropped out. Talking shit all day and night is sorta boring.

Channel 7 Toowomba reports a three-week old calf has left some Queensland (that’s the state in Australia where we live) cattle farmers dumbfounded. It was born with not four but six legs, and today it defied the odds and survived surgery to remove the extra limbs.

The John Oliver koala chlamydia ward

Rachel Gross of the New York Times writes, the first sign is the smell: smoky, like a campfire, with a hint of urine. The second is the koala’s rear end: If it is damp and inflamed, with streaks of brown, you know the animal is in trouble. Jo, lying curled and unconscious on the examination table, had both.

Jo is a wild koala under the purview of Endeavour Veterinary Ecology, a wildlife consulting company that specializes in bringing sick koala populations back from the brink of disease. Vets noticed on their last two field visits that she was sporting “a suspect bum,” as the veterinarian Pip McKay put it. So they brought her and her 1-year-old joey into the main veterinary clinic, which sits in a remote forest clearing in Toorbul, north of Brisbane, for a full health check.

Ms. McKay already had an inkling of what the trouble might be. “Looking at her, she probably has chlamydia,” she said.

Humans don’t have a monopoly on sexually transmitted infections. Oysters get herpes, rabbits get syphilis, dolphins get genital warts. But chlamydia — a pared-down, single-celled bacterium that acts like a virus — has been especially successful, infecting everything from frogs to fish to parakeets. You might say chlamydia connects us all.

This shared susceptibility has led some scientists to argue that studying, and saving, koalas may be the key to developing a long-lasting cure for humans. “They’re out there, they’ve got chlamydia, and we can give them a vaccine, we can observe what the vaccine does under real conditions,” said Peter Timms, a microbiologist at the University of Sunshine Coast in Queensland. He has spent the past decade developing a chlamydia vaccine for koalas, and is now conducting trials on wild koalas, in the hopes that his formula will soon be ready for wider release. “We can do something in koalas you could never do in humans,” Dr. Timms said.

In koalas, chlamydia’s ravages are extreme, leading to severe inflammation, massive cysts and scarring of the reproductive tract. In the worst cases, animals are left yelping in pain when they urinate, and they develop the telltale smell. But the bacteria responsible is still remarkably similar to the human one, thanks to chlamydia’s tiny, highly conserved genome: It has just 900 active genes, far fewer than most infectious bacteria.

Raw is still risky: Six years after a toddler died, Australian advocates want raw milk back on the table

In late 2014, three children in the Australian state of Victoria developed hemolytic uremic syndrome linked to Shiga-toxin toxin producing E. coli in unpasteurized bath milk produced by Mountain View Dairy Farm. One child died, and two others developed cryptosporidiosis.

The Victorian government quickly banned the sale of so-called bath milk, which although labeled as not fit for human consumption, was a widely recognized way for Australian consumers to access raw milk.

What followed was a despicable whisper campaign that the child who died had an underlying medical condition, it wasn’t Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC), farmers were losing access to lucrative markets – anything but the basic and sometimes deadly biology of STECs and everything involving fantasy and fairytales.

Victorian Dairy farmer Vicki Jones was told in 2014 by the coroner that raw milk was the likely cause of death of a three-year-old boy in 2014.

The milk was ‘raw’, or unpasteurised, and Ms Jones’ Mountain View Dairy Farm had been selling it as bath milk — a cosmetic product labelled ‘not fit for drinking’. 

Ms Jones said she told the officer she would immediately remove the milk from the shelves of local stores. 

“And he said to me, ‘No, no, no, don’t do that. You’ve done nothing wrong and all your labelling is right’.”

In hindsight, Ms Jones said this response “was really bizarre” — as was the decision to wait months before telling her about the cases.

But then the health officer told her a three-year-old boy had died after drinking the bath milk. 

“It was the most devastating news that you could possibly imagine ever getting,” she said.

“I was mortified, we were doing the raw milk because people wanted it.”

Or because you contributed to promoting BS.

A Gippsland MP, the father of the child who died, and evidence presented to the coroner have all questioned how the cases were managed and suggested other contributing factors were overlooked.

Mark Wahlqvist, an Emeritus professor of medicine at Monash University and former president of the international union of nutrition sciences, said, “Raw milk, unpasteurised milk, is not safe enough to be in the public domain.”

Professor Wahlqvist said he was open to new research but at present, found campaigners for raw milk to be more than unconvincing.

“When people for conspiratorial reasons rather than scientific reasons, think that vaccination is a problem or that pasteurisation is a problem,” he said.

“We have a science communication problem in this country and it needs science leaders.”

Bacteria don’t recognize state borders: Salmonella in Australian eggs

Kelsey Wilkie of the Daily Mail  reports at least three people have come down with salmonella poisoning after purchasing eggs from a popular supermarket.  

The infection is believed to have come from eggs bought in the Melbourne suburb of Werribee. 

The Weekly Times reported the eggs were supplied from farms in New South Wales.

However, a spokesman for the NSW Department of Primary Industries disputed those claims. 

‘There is no evidence to suggest the reported illnesses in Victoria are connected to NSW eggs, or even eggs. The matter is an active investigation being undertaken by Victorian authorities.

‘There are no current recalls of eggs in NSW and no warnings with regards to eggs.’

Since 2012 there have 12 farms identified with Salmonella Enteritidis bacteria and has been working to eliminate the infection.

Most of the infections were discovered in 2019 and the majority of the farms have had their hens removed, but the NSW DPI is still clearing three properties.

There are still salmonella cases in humans in NSW which are linked to a yet-to-be-identified farm.  

Officials from Agriculture Victoria have warned Victorian egg producers to be careful when trading eggs with NSW farmers. 

A table of Australian egg-related outbreaks is available at https://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-5-1-17.xlsx.

36 sick: Salmonella outbreak at Melbourne café

(I’m playing catch up)

Anthony Colangelo of The Age wrote a week ago a café in Melbourne’s inner-north has been closed for more than a week due to a salmonella outbreak that’s feared to have caused illness in 36 people.

The Lincoln Bakery Café on Bouverie Street in Carlton was closed on May 8 and 36 people who ate there prior to the closure have been diagnosed with salmonella poisoning.

Australian rockmelon growers get best practice guide to help food safety

Really?

Are these guidelines actually going to make fewer people barf and die?

It’s all about the implementation and verification, but that’s expensive and rarely undertaken beyond soundbites.

When Listeria killed seven people in Australia last year, linked to rockmelon (cantaloupe for you North American types) growers acted like it never happened before and just wanted to get product back on shelves.

They should never be cut in half, although all retailers do it, and it’s just greed over public health.

In the fall of 2011, 33 people were killed and 147 sickened from Listeria linked to cantaloupe in the U.S.

And it keeps happening.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has released a best practice guide for rockmelons and speciality melons prompted by the 2018 listeria detection on a NSW farm which severely impacted the entire Australian rockmelon industry.

Domestic and export sales ceased for around six weeks. It has taken the following two years to regain market share.

To support rockmelon growers and combat foodborne illness risks, Hort Innovation launched a review of all industry food safety practices to strengthen food safety measures and provide training support for the industry.

Delivered by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), the project involved working individually with all Australian rockmelon growers to review and audit current practice and critical control points.

One-on-one food safety consultations with growers, managers and key farm staff also took place.

The project also developed a Melon Food Safety Best-Practice Guide and a “toolbox” for grower use including risk assessment templates, training guides, food safety posters and record sheets to support food safety programs.

Australia’s bromance with Heston may be losing its sheen

It only took a decade.

In late February 2009, complaints from customers who suffered vomiting, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms began pouring into celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s UK restaurant, the Fat Duck.

A report by the UK Health Protection Agency concluded that 529 patrons paying a ridiculous amount of money for food-porn styled dishes were sickened with Norovirus – this at a restaurant that only seats 40 patrons per night — introduced through contaminated shellfish, including oysters that were served raw and razor clams that may not have been appropriately handled or cooked.

Investigators identified several weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant that may have contributed to ongoing transmission including: delayed response to the incident, the use of inappropriate environmental cleaning products, and staff working when ill. Up to 16 of the restaurant’s food handlers were reportedly working with Norovirus symptoms before it was voluntarily closed.

Last week it was announced that Heston Blumenthal’s scandal-plagued Australian restaurant appears doomed after its landlord and financial backer, Crown Casino, said it had moved to terminate its lease.

The company behind the Dinner by Heston restaurant appointed provisional liquidators just before Christmas. It came just days after it missed a deadline with the Fair Work Ombudsman to pay back staff the millions it owed them for underpayment.

In a statement Crown said due to the appointment of the provisional liquidator “it has taken action” to terminate the lease of restaurant owner Tipsy Cake Pty Limited.

“While this is disappointing, Crown is working to provide assistance to Tipsy Cake employees looking for employment within Crown,” a Crown spokeswoman said. “The provisional liquidator of Tipsy Cake, however, will need to deal with employee matters at the first instance.”

In December 2018, a Sunday Age investigation revealed that Dinner by Heston was dramatically underpaying staff and Tipsy Cake, the company that owned the restaurant, was based in a notorious tax haven.

The investigation revealed chefs at the Southbank eatery regularly worked 25 hours of unpaid overtime a week. That pushed pay down to as little as $15 to $17 an hour, well below the minimum rates of the award, the wages safety net.

The Fair Work Ombudsman soon after launched an investigation.

The spokeswoman said Crown would allow customers who purchased Dinner by Heston gift cards to exchange them for Crown gift cards. No timeframe was provided by Crown on when the lease of one of its high-profile tenants would end.

The move to terminate the lease creates further uncertainty for employees who had hoped that Crown may financially support the restaurant to keep it open.

Crown had provided the business – one of its marquee tenants – with a $750,000 interest free loan. Industry sources said the interest free loan could have been used as a way to lure such a high profile business to the casino, boosting its appeal to visitors

Before Christmas Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said it was disappointing that Tipsy Cake had not resolved the underpayment issue before it went into provisional liquidation.

Accounts for the Dinner by Heston restaurant show it has reported persistent losses since opening in Melbourne in 2015.

The accounts disclosed it was dependent on interest free loans from a related company run through a Caribbean tax haven and Crown Melbourne ‘’to continue operating’’.

But its opaque structure – restaurant owner Tipsy Cake is based on the volcanic Caribbean island of Nevis – made it hard to determine the true health of the business.

The ownership of companies incorporated in Nevis is never disclosed so there is no way to know who is behind companies created there.

But the company has said Blumenthal sold his shareholding more than a decade ago but remained its chef patron and “integral’’ to its operation.

Once a hack, always a hack.

RIP Neil.

Animals and produce-related risk: Australia New Zealand version

The Fresh Produce Safety Centre of Australia and New Zealand came out with an 8-page fact sheet on the risks of animals to fresh produce that was seven pages too long.

Chapman used to write wonderful 1-page fact sheets that were used around the world, and maybe he can be persuaded to do so again, or find a skilled student.

The important graphic is below. The rest is filler.