Man swallows needle in strawberry bought from Woolworths Australia

Queensland, with its sub-tropical climate, has fabulous produce and seafood.

Even if regulators are a bit dopey about food safety.

Jill Poulson and Tanya Westthorp of the Courier-Mail report health authorities are warning people who have bought strawberries in Queensland, NSW and Victoria to throw the punnets out after several incidents of needles being found in strawberries sold at Woolworths.

Queensland Health and Queensland Police today took the extraordinary step to urge people who bought strawberries across the eastern seaboard in the past week to throw them out after three separate incidents in Queensland and Victoria.

Police suspect the ground-down needles were deliberately planted in the punnets with the culprit intending to cause ‘grievous bodily harm or other objectives’.

The needle allegedly found in strawberries purchased from Woolworths at northside Brisbane. Pic: Supplied.

The contaminated strawberries come from one farm and are sold under the brands ‘Berry Obsession’ and ‘Berry Licious’. They are sold from Woolworths and it’s believed they may also be sold at other stores. A product recall is underway.

It comes as a 21-year-old Burpengary man ended up in hospital after he swallowed part of a needle when he bit into a strawberry bought from Strathpine in Brisbane’s north on Sunday.

Two more incidents in Victoria were confirmed yesterday.

Don’t get shot in America. Live in Australia


Building on what John Oliver, then of the Daily Show, started five years ago, Damien Power writes in The New York Times there are more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, which means there are more guns than people. If that makes you feel unsafe, visit Australia.

In Australia, it took one mass shooting in Port Arthur in 1996, where 35 people were killed, for the country to do something concrete about gun reform. The government adopted tighter gun control, banned semiautomatic weapons and started a mandatory gun buyback program.

The United States, meanwhile, has an average of nine mass shootings every 10 days, and 13,000 gun homicides a year. Gun violence is so rampant that China has warned its citizens about traveling here.

So if you’re interested in not getting shot to death and adorable koalas, Australia might be the place for you. Not being the target of snipers adds to the magic of visiting Down Under.

I’d add don’t barf and visit Aus, but food safety controls aren’t as good as gun controls.

EU Listeria-in-frozen veg outbreak hits Australia

The Listeria-in-frozen veg outbreak in the EU that has killed nine and sickened 47 since 2015 has taken an Australian twist: the vegetables distributed by Belgium-based frozen food distributor Greenyard Frozen NV were also distributed in Australia (and who knows where else) underlying the role of bullshit and faith regarding global food safety.

Food safety is, of course, any distributor’s first priority (as Sorenne asked me today, about something completely different, “was that sarcasm?”

Nothing funny about this.

A whole bunch of frozen veg stocked by Woolworths, IGA and ALDI in Australia have been added to the recall by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

FSANZ spokeswoman Lorraine Haase said there had not been any evidence of infections in Australia, but a number of people had died in the United Kingdom.

Two days later, on July 11, 2018, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services identified a case of Listeria from earlier in 2018 that has now been linked to the strain in Europe which has led to a recall of a range of imported frozen vegetables.

The listeria is the same serotype with similar genetics.

Unfortunately, the Victorian case who was being treated for another serious illness died earlier this year.

So it is not possible to confirm whether this person actually consumed any of the frozen vegetable products.

This is not the same serotype of Listeria which killed seven in Australia and caused one miscarriage after consumption of rockmelon earlier this year.

Listeria can be anywhere, and it is up to food producers and merchants to provide rapid, reliable, relevant and repeated information about these outbreaks, which, based on conversation at a hockey tournament in New South Wales this weekend, are starting to permeate the consciousness of shoppers in Aus.

Patterns of crypto in Australia

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite that causes the diarrheal disease, cryptosporidiosis. Although many species have been identified, the majority of human disease worldwide is caused by two species; Cryptosporidium parvum and Cryptosporidium hominis. 

In Australia, data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) show that cryptosporidiosis outbreaks occur every few years. To better understand the transmission, trends and nature of cryptosporidiosis outbreaks in Western Australia, epidemiological and genomic data from three cryptosporidiosis outbreaks in 2003, 2007 and 2011 were reviewed.

The 2007 outbreak was the largest (n = 607) compared with the outbreaks in 2003 (n = 404) and 2011 (n = 355). All three outbreaks appeared to have occurred predominantly in the urban metropolitan area (Perth), which reported the highest number of case notifications; increases in case notifications were also observed in rural and remote areas. Children aged 0–4 years and non-Aboriginal people comprised the majority of notifications in all outbreaks. However, in the 2003 and 2007 outbreaks, a higher proportion of cases from Aboriginal people was observed in the remote areas. Molecular data were only available for the 2007 (n = 126) and 2011 (n = 42) outbreaks, with C. hominis the main species identified in both outbreaks. Subtyping at the glycoprotein 60 (gp60) locus identified subtype IbA10G2 in 46.3% and 89.5% of C. hominis isolates typed, respectively, in the 2007 and 2011 outbreaks, with the IdA15G1 subtype was identified in 33.3% of C. hominis isolates typed in the 2007 outbreak. The clustering of cases with the IdA15G1 subtype in the remote areas suggests the occurrence of a concurrent outbreak in remote areas during the 2007 outbreak, which primarily affected Aboriginal people.

Both the C. hominis IbA10G2 and IdA15G1 subtypes have been implicated in cryptosporidiosis outbreaks worldwide; its occurrence indicates that the mode of transmission in both the 2007 and 2011 outbreaks was anthroponotic. To better understand the epidemiology, sources and transmission of cryptosporidiosis in Australia, genotyping data should routinely be incorporated into national surveillance programmes.

Comparison of three cryptosporidiosis outbreaks in Western Australia: 2003, 2007 and 2011

05 July 2018

Epidemiology & Infection

S. Y. Ng-Hublin(a1)B. Combs(a2)S. Reid (a3) and U. Ryan (a1) 

https://doi.org/10.1017/S0950268818001607

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/epidemiology-and-infection/article/comparison-of-three-cryptosporidiosis-outbreaks-in-western-australia-2003-2007-and-2011/4B7491E4CB498D3E20E0E4B1B275BEF6

Petting zoos as a source of shiga-toxin producing E. coli in Austria

Hey Gonzo, they cited us.

Too bad your soccer teams suck, and I don’t care.

But I do care when others cite the gumshoe work we put into our research activities.

And I especially care when every year, I tell our public school or the local shopping mall that petting farms around kids can lead to heartache.

They call me crazy, just like they continue to top salads with raw alfalfa sprouts at Brisbane Private Hospital, despite my protestations.

I do what I can.

These others are microbiological idiots.

There, I’m done.

Despite their general low incidence, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia (E.) coli (STEC) infections are considered an important public health issue due to the severity of illness that can develop, particularly in young children.

 We report on two Austrian petting zoos, one in Tyrol (2015) and one in Vorarlberg (2016), which were identified as highly likely infection sources of STEC infections. The petting zoo related cases involved a case of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) due to STEC O157:HNM in 2015 and an outbreak of STEC O157:H7 infections affecting five young children and two adults in 2016. The HUS case accounted for 2.8% of the 36 STEC O157:HNM/H7 infections notified in Austria in 2015 (5,9% of 17 HUS cases). The seven cases described for 2016 accounted for 4.0% of the 177 human STEC infections documented for Austria in 2016, and for 19% of the 36 STEC O157:HNM/H7 infections notified that year.

The evaluation of the STEC infections described here clearly underlines the potential of sequence-based typing methods to offer suitable resolutions for public health applications. Furthermore, we give a state-of-the-art mini-review on the risks of petting zoos concerning exposure to the zoonotic hazard STEC and on proper measures of risk-prevention.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at https://www.barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Petting-Zoo-Outbreaks-Table-7-26-17.xlsx

Erdozain G, Kukanich K, Chapman B, Powell D. 2012. Observation of public health risk behaviours, risk communication and hand hygiene at Kansas and Missouri petting zoos – 2010-2011. Zoonoses Public Health. 2012 Jul 30. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2012.01531.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Outbreaks of human illness have been linked to visiting settings with animal contact throughout developed countries. This paper details an observational study of hand hygiene tool availability and recommendations; frequency of risky behavior; and, handwashing attempts by visitors in Kansas (9) and Missouri (4), U.S., petting zoos.

Handwashing signs and hand hygiene stations were available at the exit of animal-contact areas in 10/13 and 8/13 petting zoos respectively. Risky behaviors were observed being performed at all petting zoos by at least one visitor. Frequently observed behaviors were: children (10/13 petting zoos) and adults (9/13 petting zoos) touching hands to face within animal-contact areas; animals licking children’s and adults’ hands (7/13 and 4/13 petting zoos, respectively); and children and adults drinking within animal-contact areas (5/13 petting zoos each). Of 574 visitors observed for hand hygiene when exiting animal-contact areas, 37% (n=214) of individuals attempted some type of hand hygiene, with male adults, female adults, and children attempting at similar rates (32%, 40%, and 37% respectively). Visitors were 4.8x more likely to wash their hands when a staff member was present within or at the exit to the animal-contact area (136/231, 59%) than when no staff member was present (78/343, 23%; p<0.001, OR=4.863, 95% C.I.=3.380-6.998). Visitors at zoos with a fence as a partial barrier to human-animal contact were 2.3x more likely to wash their hands (188/460, 40.9%) than visitors allowed to enter the animals’ yard for contact (26/114, 22.8%; p<0.001, OR= 2.339, 95% CI= 1.454-3.763). Inconsistencies existed in tool availability, signage, and supervision of animal-contact.

Risk communication was poor, with few petting zoos outlining risks associated with animal-contact, or providing recommendations for precautions to be taken to reduce these risks.

Petting zoos as sources of shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections

27.june.18

International Journal of Medical Microbiology, DOI: 10.1016/j.ijmm.2018.06.008 

Sabine Schlager, Sarah Lepuschitz, Werner Ruppitsch, Oksana Ableitner, Ariane Pietzka, Sabine Neubauer, Anna Stöger, Heimo Lassnig, Claudia Mikula, Burkhard Springer, Franz Allerberger
http://www.x-mol.com/paper/721663

7 dead, 1 miscarriage: New control measures to be set up on Australian rockmelon farms

My thoughts go to Australian rockmelon growers because they’ve been sold down the stream.

In April, thousands of rockmelons were left to rot in paddocks near Geraldton on the Western Australian coast, record low prices and lost markets meant they were simply not worth picking.

Grower Carol Metcalf said the rows of rotting melons were the result of the listeria outbreak on a rockmelon farm more than 3,500 kilometres away in New South Wales.

Under a new plan released this week, all rockmelon farms in Australia will be inspected and work will be undertaken on each individual farm to ensure that the highest standards are implemented and maintained.

At the time of the outbreak on February this year, the NSW Food Authority speculated that the most likely cause of the listeria outbreak was contaminated soil possibly not being properly washed off the skin of the fruit.

In addition it was thought that a weather event may have increased the listeria bacteria on the product.

But the formal investigation into the cause of the outbreak has not been completed by the NSW Food Authority and therefore the official report on the cause has still not been released.

What is planned is visits to all Australian rockmelon growers and packing sheds to review and audit current practice and critical control points and provide one-on-one food safety consultations with growers, managers and key farm staff.

The development of a melon food safety Best-Practice Guide, was informed by the findings from consultations, feedback from retailers and other key stakeholder groups.

The development of a ‘toolbox’ for grower use including risk assessment templates, training guides, food safety posters and record sheets to support food safety programs — this will be housed on the Australian Melon Association website.

Regional roadshows in key growing regions will highlight the availability and contents of the toolbox and Best Practice Guide.

A helpdesk to provide technical support to growers, packers and other stakeholders will also be developed.

Australian Melon Association industry development manager Dianne Fullelove said the new initiatives would ensure that every rockmelon grower in Australia had the highest level of food safety possible.

“NSW DPI will lead the project and the key is that they will visit every farm and work with every grower to fix any problems or issues.

“We want to make food safety as good as it can be,” Ms Fullelove said.

“This new initiative will make that reputation even stronger and give our growers sure-fire tools to support our product integrity for decades to come.

“This move will put us ahead of the game.”

Food safety isn’t a game, not when your product contributes to the death of seven people and one miscarriage.

Why are melon growers relying on government to visit farms (oh, right, money).

They should hire their own people to be out front on any food safety issue; government is the last source to rely on. And don’t act like this is something new: There have been plenty of outbreaks of Listeria and Salmonella on rockmelon over the years.

(A table of rockmelon-related outbreaks is available here.)

Some basic questions that have yet to be answered:

  • was the farm prone to flooding and near any livestock operations;
  • what soil amendments, like manure, were used;
  • after harvest were the rockmelons placed in a dump tank;
  • was the water in the dump tank regularly monitored for chlorine levels;
  • did a proper handwashing program exist at the packing shed;
  • were conveyor belts cleaned and tested;
  • did condensation form on the ceiling of the packing shed;
  • were transportation vehicles properly cooled and monitored;
  • was the Listeria in whole cantaloupe or pre-cut; and,
  • was the rockmelon stored at proper temperatures at retail?

Stop waiting for change to happen and take charge, without relying on government: Your growers are still losing money.

Sprouts still suck: Seven in hospital, 14 more sick with Salmonella from alfalfa sprouts in South Australia

Brad Crouch of The Advertiser writes seven people are in hospital and another 14 sick from eating alfalfa sprouts, triggering a SA Health warning to the public not to eat alfalfa sprout products produced by Adelaide business SA Sprouts.

SA Health Chief Medical Officer and Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Paddy Phillips, said there had been 21 confirmed cases of Salmonella havana linked to the sprouts.

“We are advising anyone who has purchased the recalled SA Sprouts alfalfa sprouts products to return them to the place of purchase for a refund, or throw them away,” Prof Phillips said.

“We also want to alert cafes and restaurants to check their suppliers and not serve any SA Sprouts alfalfa sprout products until further notice.

“In cases of salmonella a common food source is not often identified, however a joint investigation between SA Health, local government and Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) has linked these cases to SA Sprouts alfalfa sprouts.

“We are working closely with the producer and suppliers while we continue to investigate.”

1 dead, 24 sick check your freezers: Hepatitis A death linked to frozen pomegranate recall in Australia (grown in Egypt)

Now for something more serious from Australia.

SA Health chief medical officer and chief public health officer Professor Paddy Phillips revealed a 64-year-old woman died last Wednesday after “some time” in hospital.

“This is a rare and tragic case and I offer my sincere condolences to the woman’s family,” Professor Phillips said.

“The majority of people infected with hepatitis A recover fully and the woman’s death is the only death linked to this recalled product nationally to date.

“The incubation period for hepatitis A is generally 15-50 days, so we don’t anticipate further cases because the product was recalled two months ago.

“While we expect most people would have disposed of the recalled product, we urge everyone to double-check freezers and remove any affected products.

“Fresh pomegranate and frozen Australian-grown pomegranate products are not affected.”

Her death had been referred to the Coroner.

The Creative Gourmet 180g frozen pomegranate arils, which are sold at Coles supermarkets, were first recalled in April after a hepatitis A outbreak in New South Wales.

Then in May, SA Health again reminded people to throw away the product, made by Entyce Food Ingredients, after 11 linked hepatitis cases.

Professor Phillips said some 2,000 packets of the fruit — grown in Egypt — were sold.

Of those, 226 packets were returned, but he said they believed many more were thrown away as instructed by health authorities.

He said it was “very rare” to die from hepatitis A.

“Most people usually recover without any consequences but occasionally this does happen,” he said.

He would not say if the woman suffered other medical conditions.

SA Health was told about the woman’s death yesterday, Professor Phillips said.

“We have come out as soon as we found out about it.”

Australia restaurant review: Going public isn’t always pretty

In more Australian weirdness, customer Branch Latroll claims he was served a cold pie and an expired iced coffee during his Sunday morning visit with his two young children to the Howard Springs Bakery in the Northern Territory.

He wrote on the bakery’s Facebook page, “Have been coming to this bakery for years. At least once a fortnight, for a Sunday morning pie and ice coffee with the fam.

“This all stops today untill [sic] I hear that the place has got its s**t together.”

The review went on to list exactly why he was disappointed by his pie and coffee.

“1. Pie wasn’t even warm,” the first point read.

“2. Tasted like it was microwaved than grilled. Had that weird raw pastry taste.

“3. My ice coffee is out of date. Today is the 3rd my ice coffee ran out on first.

“The nutella donuts scored them the second star.”

The customer commented on how cold the pie was, and that his flavoured milk was out of date.

But his review was met with hostility, when the local bakery responded and called him a “w**ker”, a “gutless troll” and a “little b**ch”.

“F***ing keyboard worrier,” the post from Howard Springs Bakery read.

“Does it make you feel like a man to post this bulls**t. Get a life you w**ker.

“Say you been going for years and have 1 bad pie and crack the sads like a little b**ch. If you weren’t satisfied, take it back for a refund or exchange instead of jumping on your phone last a right pr**k.

“Staff make mistakes, its life, it happens, get over it. Let me know where you work and I’ll have the staff member come and review you. Gutless Troll. Not nice is it.”