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.



 

Australian smallgoods company Wintulichs recalls mettwurst products amid contamination fears

Several types of mettwurst, manufactured by a South Australian Company, have been recalled after it was discovered the products may be contaminated with harmful bacteria.

Wintulichs, based in Gawler, recalled their Metwurst Garlic 300g, 375g, 500g, 700g, Mettwurst Plain 700g and Mettwurst Pepperoni 375g products.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand say the products have been sold at Woolworths, IGA and independent stores across SA.

The recall is due to incorrect pH and water activity levels, which may lead to microbial contamination and could cause illness if consumed.

Customers should return the products to the place of purchase for a full refund.

In Australia and around the world, the incidence of reported foodborne  illness is on the increase. Regularly cited estimates suggest that Australia is  plagued with over two million cases of foodborne  illness each year, costing  the community in excess of $1 billion annually.

Based on the case studies cited here and a thorough examination of a variety of documents disseminated for public consumption, government and  industry in Australia are well aware of the challenges posed by greater public  awareness of foodborne illness. They are also well aware of risk  communication basics and seem eager to enter the public fray on contentious issues. The primary challenge for government and industry will be to provide evidence that approaches to managing microbial foodborne risks are indeed mitigating and reducing levels of risk; that actions are matching words.

There  is a further challenge in impressing upon all producers and processors the  importance of food safety vigilance, as well as the need for a comprehensive crisis management plan for critical food safety issues.

On Feb. 1, 1995, the first report of a food poisoning outbreak in Australia  involving the death of a child from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after  eating contaminated mettwurst reached the national press. The next day, the causative organism was identified in news stories as E. coli 0111, a Shiga-toxin E. coli (STEC) which was previously thought to be destroyed by the acidity in fermented sausage products like mettwurst, an uncooked, semi-dry fermented sausage. By Feb. 3, 1995, the child was identified as a four-year-old girl and the number sickened in the outbreak was estimated at 21.

The manager of the company that allegedly produced the contaminated mettwurst had to hire security guards to protect his family home as threats continued to be made on his life, and the social actors began jockeying for position in the  public discourse. The company, Garibaldi, blamed a slaughterhouse for  providing the contaminated product, while the State’s chief meat hygiene  officer insisted that meat inspections and slaughtering techniques in  Australian abattoirs were “top class and only getting better.”

On Feb. 4, just three days after the initial, national report, the South  Australian state government announced it was implementing new food regulations effective March 1, 1995. The federal government followed suit the next day, announcing intentions to bolster food processing standards and  launching a full inquiry. Even the coroner investigating the death of the girl  said on Feb. 9 that investigations relating to inquests usually took about three months to complete, but he would start the hearing the next day if possible.

By Feb. 6, 1995, Garibaldi Smallgoods declared bankruptcy. Sales of smallgoods  like mettwurst were down anywhere from 50 to 100 per cent according to the National Smallgoods Council.

The outbreak of E. coli O111 and the reverberations fundamentally changed the public discussion of foodborne illness in Australia, much as similar outbreaks of STEC in Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. subsequently altered public perception, regulatory efforts and industry pronouncements in those countries. The pattern of public reporting and response followed a similar pattern of reporting on the medical implications of the illness, attempts to determine causation and finger pointing. Such patterns of reporting are valid; when people are sick and in some cases dying from the food they consume, people want to know why. The results altered both the scientific and public landscapes regarding microbial foodborne illness, and can inform future risk communication and management efforts.

In all, 173 people were stricken by foodborne illness linked to consumption of mettwurst manufactured by Garibaldi smallgoods. Twenty-three people,  mainly children, developed HUS, and one died. Although sporadic cases of HUS had been previously reported, this was the first outbreak of this condition recognized in Australia.

Once public attention focused on Garibaldi as the source of the offending foodstuff, the company quickly deflected criticism, blaming an unnamed Victorian-based company of supplying contaminated raw meat, and citing historical precedent as proof of safety. Garibaldi’s administration manager Neville Mead was quoted as saying that he was confident hygiene and processing at the plant were up to standard, adding, “We stand by our processing. We’ve done this process now for 24 years and it’s proved successful.” Such blind faith in tradition, even in the face of changing science-based recommendations, even in the face of tragedy, is often a hallmark of outbreaks of foodborne illness, reflecting the deep cultural and social mythologies that are associated with food.

However, given the uncertainties at the time, a spokesman with the Australian Meat and Livestock Association appropriately rejected such allegations, saying, “I believe it is irresponsible of them (Garibaldi) to make that statement when there is absolutely no evidence of that at all.” Likewise, Victorian Meat Authority chairman John Watson said his officers were investigating Garibaldi’s claims, but that even if the raw meat had come from

Victoria, the supplier may not necessarily be the source of the disease, but rather it could be based in Garibaldi’s processing techniques.

Similarly, when Garibaldi accused the watchdog South Australian Health Commission of dragging its feet with investigations, Health Minister, Dr. Michael Armitage responded by publicly stating that, “They indicated to us that they wanted their lawyers first to be involved before they provided us with information (concerning the mettwurst). It was only (after) earlier this week, under the Food Act, we issued a demand for that information, that we got it. So indeed, I would put it to Garibaldi that the boot is completely on the other foot.”

Likewise, South Australia’s chief meat hygiene officer, Robin Van de Graaff rejected such claims, saying that, “These organisms are part of a large family of bugs that are normal inhabitants of the gut of farm animals … If a tragedy like this occurs it is usually because, and it no doubt is in this case, not because of a small amount of contamination at the point of slaughter but because of the method of handling and processing after that.” The statements of government regulators would be subsequently validated.

Where does it come from? Salmonella in macadamia nuts in Queensland

Salmonella enterica is a common contaminant of macadamia nut kernels in the subtropical state of Queensland (QLD), Australia. We hypothesized that nonhuman sources in the plantation environment contaminate macadamia nuts.

We applied a modified Hald source attribution model to attribute Salmonella serovars and phage types detected on macadamia nuts from 1998 to 2017 to specific animal and environmental sources. Potential sources were represented by Salmonella types isolated from avian, companion animal, biosolids-soil-compost, equine, porcine, poultry, reptile, ruminant, and wildlife samples by the QLD Health reference laboratory. Two attribution models were applied: model 1 merged data across 1998–2017, whereas model 2 pooled data into 5-year time intervals. Model 1 attributed 47% (credible interval, CrI: 33.6–60.8) of all Salmonella detections on macadamia nuts to biosolids-soil-compost. Wildlife and companion animals were found to be the second and third most important contamination sources, respectively. Results from model 2 showed that the importance of the different sources varied between the different time periods; for example, Salmonella contamination from biosolids-soil-compost varied from 4.4% (CrI: 0.2–11.7) in 1998–2002 to 19.3% (CrI: 4.6–39.4) in 2003–2007, and the proportion attributed to poultry varied from 4.8% (CrI: 1–11) in 2008–2012 to 24% (CrI: 11.3–40.7) in 2013–2017.

Findings suggest that macadamia nuts were contaminated by direct transmission from animals with access to the plantations (e.g., wildlife and companion animals) or from indirect transmission from animal reservoirs through biosolids-soil-compost. The findings from this study can be used to guide environmental and wildlife sampling and analysis to further investigate routes of Salmonella contamination of macadamia nuts and propose control options to reduce potential risk of human salmonellosis.

Source attribution of salmonella in macadamia nuts to animal and environmental reservoirs in Queensland, Australia,

04 December 2019

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease

Nanna MunckJames SmithJohn BatesKathryn GlassTine Hald, and Martyn D. Kirk

https://doi.org/10.1089/fpd.2019.2706

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/fpd.2019.2706?utm_source=sfmc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=FPD%20OA%20Dec%206%202019&d=12/6/2019&mcid=386543234

‘No biggie’: 11 gastro cases at Australian aged care home

An aged care home criticised for its handling of an influenza outbreak which killed 10 people has suffered a gastro outbreak.

A staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, raised concerns about the way the situation had been handled.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesman said the first case was identified last Thursday with eight residents and three staff affected, with the department notified on Tuesday (that in early Dec.).

Respect Aged Care chief operating officer Brett Menzie said it wasn’t a major outbreak.

The dates and number of infected people differed to those provided to DHHS, with Mr Menzie stating five residents and three staff members were infected.

Mr McKenzie said a resident first showed signs of gastro on Sunday, with an outbreak – which occurs when three people show symptoms – declared on Monday.

He said the Health Department had been notified and infection control procedures enacted.

“St John’s Retirement Village Nursing Home did not implement a coordinated and timely infection control program that was effective in identifying and containing infection during the influenza and respiratory outbreak of August and September 2017,” a report found.