Strawberry sabotage unfolds in Australia

Charlie Peel of the Australian writes that the woman accused of sparking the nationwide fruit contamination crisis by sticking sewing needles into strawberries will remain behind bars for at least 10 days.

The weird thing in Australia is food safety types won’t go public with what they know when they know it because they are afraid it will upset some British-modeled court case; I say bullshit.

So does all the risk communication literature.

Public needs to know.

Prosecutors opposed the bail application of Caboolture woman My Ut Trinh, 50, who appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning, because they feared she may suffer retribution from those angered by her alleged actions.

Following a two-month police investigation, she was charged on Sunday with seven counts of contamination of goods with intent to cause economic loss.

Ms Trinh, who was born in Vietnam but came to Australia as a refugee 20 years ago, worked at the Berrylicious/Berry Obsession fruit farm in southeast Queensland as a supervisor.

The court heard Ms Trinh was allegedly motivated by spite and revenge when she inserted needles into strawberries between September 2 and 5.

Mr Cridland said the alleged reason for her wanting to seek revenge was “not articulated” by the police.

Arguing for bail, Mr Cridland said the extensive publicity around the case, which included copycat actions throughout Australia, should not influence his client’s ability to be released on bail.

He denied she was a flight risk.

“She has been aware that she has been a person of interest for over two months and she has not changed phone number or address,” he said.

“I might add, other people working on these farms have left the country. She has not.”

Mr Cridland said it was too early to say whether forensic evidence, which found Ms Trinh’s DNA on a contaminated punnet of strawberries in Victoria, was a direct match or a mixed profile.

Prosecutor Cheryl Tesch said bail was “strongly opposed” because there was a “high risk of witnesses being interfered with”.

She said the strawberry farm owner had suffered significant financial loss and reputational damage.

Magistrate Roney said the alleged offending was unusual.

“It is a most peculiar way to go about promoting or agitating a workplace grievance, to sabotage an employer,” she said.

The matter will return to court on November 22.

This is what I wrote when all the unknows were out there.

It holds up.

How to stop food sabotage

16.sep.18

The Sydney Morning Herald

Doug Powell

https://amp-smh-com-au.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/amp.smh.com.au/national/how-to-stop-food-sabotage-20180916-p50428.html?amp_js_v=0.1&usqp=mq331AQICAEoATgAWAE=#origin=https://www.google.com.au&prerenderSize=1&visibilityState=prerender&paddingTop=54&p2r=0&horizontalScrolling=0&csi=1&aoh=15371298565862&viewerUrl=https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/amp.smh.com.au/national/how-to-stop-food-sabotage-20180916-p50428.html&history=1&storage=1&cid=1&cap=swipe,navigateTo,cid,fragment,replaceUrl

https://www.barfblog.com/2018/09/how-to-stop-food-sabotage/

Last Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, I had a requested op-ed published in the Sydney Morning Herald. I was a little rusty, so Amy did more than just clean it up, and I haven’t gotten around to posting it until now because there was some medical stuff last week, but all is well and here it is:

My 9-year-old daughter and I were watching the news on Saturday morning and she asked, why would someone put a needle in strawberries?

Some people are not nice.

A couple of years ago a food safety type asked me, what’s the biggest risk to the food supply.

I didn’t hesitate.

Deliberate tampering and food fraud.

Food safety has traditionally been faith-based – especially when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables. Consumers cannot control how food is handled before it gets to them. This is why consumers need to know their suppliers and know what they are doing to keep people safe.

This latest food tampering scare – 11 cases of contaminanted strawberries reported nationally so far, the first in Sydney on Saturday – makes that clear.

Faith-based food safety sucks. It always has. Risks have always been present. As Madeleine Ferrieres, the author of Mad Cow, Sacred Cow: A History of Food Fears,  wrote, “All human beings before us questioned the contents of their plates.”

But contemporary consumers forget that contamination risk has always been with us: “We are often too blinded by this amnesia to view our present food situation clearly. This amnesia is very convenient. It allows us to reinvent the past and construct a complaisant, retrospective mythology.”

“We still live with the illusion of modernity, with the false idea that what happens to us is new and unbearable,” she has said in an interview.

What’s new is that we have better tools to detect problems. This also presents an opportunity: those who use the best tools should be able to prove their food is safe through testing and brag about it. They can market food safety measures at retail.

The days of faith-based food safety are coming to a protracted close.

There is a lack – a disturbing lack – of on-farm food safety inspection; farmers need to be more aware of the potential for contamination from microbes (from listeria in rockmelon, for example) as well as sabotage.

There is an equally large lack of information to consumers where they buy their produce. What do Australian grocery shoppers know of the food safety regulations applied to the produce sold in their most popular stores? Who can they ask to find the answers?

The best solution is for farmers and retailers to market food safety. If they have a great food safety program they should be promoting it. Consumers can handle more information rather than less.

Douglas Powell is a retired professor of food safety in Canada and the US who now lives in Brisbane. He blogs at barfblog.com

BTW, the Eagles are terribly overrated, but this song has relevance; maybe not to this story, maybe to me.

Jello at an Australian hospital deliberately contaminated with ‘organic’ material (that means poop)

It’s bad enough to live on Jello – like I had to before my recent colonscopy – but when someone deliberately adds shit, at a hospital, things get worse.

ABC News reports jellies and custards at one of Adelaide’s biggest hospitals, Flinders Medical Centre, were contaminated with a “solid organic” product

Police would not rule out faeces, and said the material was being analysed

Health staff are assisting police with a criminal investigation

“We are satisfied that there are no patients who have been fed the contaminated foodstuffs. No threat or claim has been made in connection with this,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Joanne Shanahan said.

Asked whether it was faeces, and what colour the substance was, Assistant Commissioner Shanahan said she could not comment beyond saying the “matter was being forensically analysed”.

The contaminated items were discovered yesterday on a refrigerator tray in a hospital kitchen, and police were notified this morning.

They have now launched a criminal investigation.

“During a routine food safety inspection yesterday a small number of desserts were identified as contaminated,” said Sue O’Neill, the CEO of the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network.

“Staff were vigilant and isolated the area and raised the alarm. Management then initiated a small assessment team who investigated all other prepared food.”

Ms O’Neill said the contaminant was a “solid, organic-looking product” and was “very obvious”.

44 sick from Salmonella Enteritidis linked to shell eggs from Gravel Ridge Farms

Amy and I helped make breakfast for 120 grade 4 and 5 school kids this morning.

The kids had their annual sleepover Friday night at the school, in tents, with activities and endless gossip until late night or early morning (that’s Hubbell being busy in the background).

We arrived about 5:50 a.m., ready to make breakfast.

The menu was bacon and egg sandwiches on rolls, brown beans, and juice, along with vegan and halal alternatives, reflecting the multi-cultural nature of our neighbourhood and Sorenne’s school.

Amy worked in the kitchen, prepping rolls and keeping things rolling, while me and another dude worked the grill.

We cooked the bacon we had, then cleaned the grill thoroughly out of respect for others, and then the eggs.

There were no runny eggs.

There was no cross-contamination.

There wasn’t going to be some sorta Salmonella outbreak on my watch.

And Australia still has an egg problem.

What you do at home is your own business, but when cooking for 120 children, risk management is a little different.

For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local partners, investigated a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis illnesses linked to shell eggs.

As of October 25, 2018, there were 44 illnesses associated with shell eggs from Gravel Ridge Farms, in Cullman Alabama. The CDC has announced that this outbreak appears to be over.

The FDA advises consumers not to eat recalled shell eggs produced by Gravel Ridge Farms. Consumers who have purchased these products should discard the eggs or return them to the store for a refund. For a complete list of stores, visit the recall notice.

Consumers should always practice safe food handling and preparation measures. Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw eggs and raw egg-containing foods. Dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160° F. For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is use either eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method, or pasteurized egg products.

On September 5, 2018, the FDA and Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry began an inspection at Gravel Ridge Farms and collected environmental and egg samples for laboratory testing. The results were used to confirm that Salmonella Enteritidis isolates collected from environmental and egg samples taken at the farm were genetically related to isolates obtained from ill persons.

As a result of the outbreak, Gravel Ridge Farms voluntarily recalled cage-free, large eggs and removed the eggs from the shelves at grocery stores, restaurants, and other retail locations.

Twenty-six of 32 (81%) people interviewed reported eating restaurant dishes made with eggs. These restaurants reported using shell eggs in the dishes eaten by ill people.

The whole restaurant dishes-made-with-raw-eggs-thing, such as mayo and aioli is problematic. My 9-year-old knows to ask how the aioli is made if she gets fish, and the server always comes back and says, chef makes it only with raw eggs, and she knows enough to say no.

But we are the poop family (it’s on the front door).

I had a couple of thermometers in my back pack but were not necessary.

Naked butcher photos leads Australian residents to throw out beef and sausages

Bridget Judd of ABC News reports the photo, purportedly taken at a local meat supplier, shows a butcher handling sausages dressed in only boots and an apron, leaving his bare buttocks exposed.

Kalkarindji Traditional Owner and Gurindji Aboriginal Corporation spokesperson Rob Roy said the butcher and meat supply facility were “easily identified” by the community.

“That to me is one idiot who is treating black people of this community, Kalkarindji, very wrong and not with a lot of respect,” he said.

“To me, that’s making me think back to Vincent Lingiari, maybe that’s why he walked off the station, because he wasn’t treated fair.

“They’re just treating us like dogs.”

Mr Roy said he had asked local supermarkets to dispose of fresh beef and sausages from the meatworks.

He said it was a health and safety risk, and the community should not “eat dirty meat off their sweat”.

“I went to the main mob, our local community store, told them to empty out the shelf,” he said.

“I said the snags, the beef, I want it all chucked away and empty the fridge until further notice.

“I rang the school, spoke to the principal … and told him to dispose all of [the meat], because we’ve got a really serious situation happening here.”

The butcher, who has been contacted for comment, removed the photo from Facebook on Friday afternoon.

In a statement, the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA), which runs a number of remote stores across the Northern Territory, including the Kalkarindji meatworks, said the man’s employment had been terminated “effective immediately”.

Australian drought could lead to spike in crypto cases

According to The Canberra Times, the current drought affecting parts of Australia could lead to a spike in gastro cases around the country, a population health scientist from The Australian National University has warned.

The warning comes from the results of a study, published in the Journal of Water and Health, found reported cases of cryptosporidiosis, rose significantly in parts of Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory along the Murray Darling Basin during the drought that ended in 2009.

Lead researcher Dr Aparna Lal,  from the ANU Research School of Population Health, said the study estimated the risk of the gastro bug dropped by 84 per cent in the ACT and by 57 per cent in Queensland once the drought ended.

She said 385 cases of the gastro bug were reported in the ACT and 527 in Queensland, out of 2048 cases in the Murray Darling Drainage Basin, from 2001 until 2012.

“Cryptosporidiosis is one of the most common water-related parasitic diseases in the world, and Australia reports the second highest rate of the illness in humans among many developed countries,” Dr Lal said.

Children under five years old are particularly at risk from cryptosporidiosis, and it can cause developmental problems such as stunted growth.

Dr Lal said droughts reduced river volume and flow, thereby potentially increasing the concentration of pathogens such as those that cause gastro.

“As these gastro bugs can also be spread from livestock, land-use change may also contribute to this pattern, due in part to access around waterways,” she said.

Frozen berries should be boiled

This is why we boil berries at home.

Hepatitis A virus is an important cause of food-borne diseases and has been associated with several European outbreaks linked to berries [14]. Here, we describe an ongoing outbreak of hepatitis A virus (HAV) in Sweden and Austria and the confirmation of frozen strawberries imported from Poland as the source of infection. The aims are to highlight the importance of sequencing in outbreak investigations and, due to the long shelf-life of the food vehicle, to increase awareness and warnings towards HAV infections related to frozen strawberries in Europe.

Hepatitis A outbreak linked to imported frozen strawberries by sequencing, Sweden and Austria, June to September 2018

Theresa Enkirch, Ronnie Eriksson, Sofia Persson, Daniela Schmid, Stephan W. Aberle, et al

https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2018.23.41.1800528#html_fulltext</a

Bullshit: Australian rockmelon Listeria investigation finds outbreak that killed seven largely caused by dust storm

(thanks to the avid barfblog.com reader who forwarded this)

An investigation into a series of deaths linked to listeria on rockmelons has concluded the contaminated fruit came from a single farm in New South Wales, and the outbreak was largely caused by the weather.

Between January 16 and April 10, 22 cases of listeriosis occurred across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, which led to seven deaths and a miscarriage.

Key points:

The investigation found the farm that was the source of the outbreak had hygiene and sanitary procedures on par with or better than most rockmelon-growing operations

Dust storms that covered the farm’s paddocks significantly increased the amount of listeria on the fruit

There were other peripheral issues found in the packing facility that were not considered to be major underlying causes

A report released on Thursday by the NSW Department of Primary Industries confirmed those cases were all linked to consumption of rockmelon packed at Rombola Family Farms in Nericon, NSW.

The report said the farm’s hygiene and sanitary procedures were “on par with or better than most other rockmelon-growing operations across Australia”.

Despite this, heavy rains in December and dust storms that followed covered the farm’s paddocks in dust, and “significantly increased” the amount of listeria on the fruit.

Rockmelons on the farm were washed in a chlorine solution and scrubbed prior to packing.

“The wash water was not recirculated, sanitiser was constantly monitored and applied through an auto-dosing system, and all water coming into the facility was treated and considered potable,” the report said.

“The netted skin of rockmelons makes this fruit particularly hard to clean and sanitise.”

The report said there were other peripheral issues noted in the packing facility during the investigation.

These included some dirty fans that were used to reduce the level of moisture on melons after washing, and some spongy material on packing tables that was not able to be easily cleaned.

These may have been contributing factors to the outbreak but were not considered to be the major underlying causes.

The report said the outbreak highlighted the need for better control measures and awareness of external threats to food safety in the rockmelon indstury.

As more cases of listeriosis emerged, sales of rockmelon plummeted and failed to recover.

Many rockmelon growers called for the farm that was the source of the outbreak to be named, in order to reassure the public that the fruit was safe to eat.

Australia still has an egg problem: 23 sick but Salmonella egg farm says ‘not my fault bro’

This story is a month old, but I thought I’d wait and see if there was any follow-up communication with the mere egg-consuming mortals of the public.

There was none.

On Sept. 8, 2018, the New South Wales Food Authority issued a statement saying it was advising that ‘Eggz on the Run’ is undertaking a voluntary recall of Glendenning Farms eggs as part of an investigation into human illness.

A cluster of human cases of Salmonella Enteritidis, have been detected in the Sydney area. To date there have been 23 confirmed cases.

Eggz On the Run lawyer Raed Rahal the Sunday Telegraph the family which ran the company was “not even certain that the outbreak is in the eggs

“The strain is from overseas.

“There was only a certain batch that was supposed to be removed but the company has voluntarily decided to remove all batches of eggs.”

He said the family was “shell-shocked by the news as it is their livelihood”.

“They would certainly not do anything to risk anyone’s safety,” Mr Rahal said.

Customers who purchased the eggs can return the product for a full cash refund.

The egg farmer linked to the latest Salmonella poisoning outbreak has said “it’s not my fault bro” and blamed foreign birds flying in and defecating on his poultry sheds.

In an epidemiologically outrageous claim following the 23 illnesses, the Glendenning Farms worker at Cobbitty in southwestern Sydney has denied any blame.

The farmer, who has been producing eggs for 20 years, told The Sunday Telegraph the salmonella outbreak came from “something to do with the birds.

“Some birds have been flying in from overseas, landed on the shed and chucked a s**t,” he said.

“Even the Food Authority said it wasn’t my fault,” the man said from the farm run by EggzOn the Run.

Back to you, defenders of public health.

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.

How to stop food sabotage

Last Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, I had a requested op-ed published in the Sydney Morning Herald. I was a little rusty, so Amy did more than just clean it up, and I haven’t gotten around to posting it until now because there was some medical stuff last week, but all is well and here it is:

My 9-year-old daughter and I were watching the news on Saturday morning and she asked, why would someone put a needle in strawberries?

Some people are not nice.

A couple of years ago a food safety type asked me, what’s the biggest risk to the food supply.

I didn’t hesitate.

Deliberate tampering and food fraud.

Food safety has traditionally been faith-based – especially when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables. Consumers cannot control how food is handled before it gets to them. This is why consumers need to know their suppliers and know what they are doing to keep people safe.

This latest food tampering scare – 11 cases of contaminanted strawberries reported nationally so far, the first in Sydney on Saturday – makes that clear.

Faith-based food safety sucks. It always has. Risks have always been present. As Madeleine Ferrieres, the author of Mad Cow, Sacred Cow: A History of Food Fears,  wrote, “All human beings before us questioned the contents of their plates.”

But contemporary consumers forget that contamination risk has always been with us: “We are often too blinded by this amnesia to view our present food situation clearly. This amnesia is very convenient. It allows us to reinvent the past and construct a complaisant, retrospective mythology.”

“We still live with the illusion of modernity, with the false idea that what happens to us is new and unbearable,” she has said in an interview.

What’s new is that we have better tools to detect problems. This also presents an opportunity: those who use the best tools should be able to prove their food is safe through testing and brag about it. They can market food safety measures at retail.

The days of faith-based food safety are coming to a protracted close.

There is a lack – a disturbing lack – of on-farm food safety inspection; farmers need to be more aware of the potential for contamination from microbes (from listeria in rockmelon, for example) as well as sabotage.

There is an equally large lack of information to consumers where they buy their produce. What do Australian grocery shoppers know of the food safety regulations applied to the produce sold in their most popular stores? Who can they ask to find the answers?

The best solution is for farmers and retailers to market food safety. If they have a great food safety program they should be promoting it. Consumers can handle more information rather than less.

Douglas Powell is a (sorta?) retired professor of food safety in Canada and the US who now lives in Brisbane. He blogs at barfblog.com.

And in memorandum, Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, the Blues Brothers’ guitarist and longtime blues sideman who died Friday at 88.

Needles in Australian produce: Copy-cats, metal detector sales and stiff penalties for ‘cowards and grubs’

With more than 100 reports of tampered fruit being investigated by police across Australia, an Adelaide father has been charged over a fake needle-in-strawberry report.

Police say the 34-year-old last week reported that his daughter bit into a strawberry purchased at a local supermarket and that it was contaminated with a needle.

The arrest comes as the hunt for those responsible for sticking needles in strawberries continues, and the federal government ramps up penalties for so- called “food terrorists.”

Food tamperers could spent 10 to 15 years behind bars under draft laws passed by the government on Thursday.

One young boy in NSW has already been arrested over behaviour that “could be called a prank”, police said, and he will be dealt with under the youth cautioning system.

The warning comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison looks to punish ‘cowards’ who purposely contaminate food.

Culprits could face up to 15 years jail under tough updates to food contamination laws the PM will urgently push through parliament this week.

And “idiots” who post Facebook hoaxes about fake contamination cases could face up to 10 years in jail under new measures to deal with “reckless” behaviour.

‘Sabotage’ laws will also be updated to include the sabotage of “goods for human consumption” where it impacts national security.

“Any idiot who thinks they can go out into a shopping centre and start sticking pins in fruit and thinks this is some sort of lark or put something on Facebook which is a hoax, that sort of behaviour is reckless and under the provision we will be seeking to introduce swiftly, that type of behaviour would carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison,” Prime Minister Morrison said today.

“It’s not a joke. It’s not funny. You are putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk and you are scaring children,” he said.

“You are a coward and a grub. And if you do that sort of thing in this country we will come after you and we will throw the book at you.”

Meanwhile, the strawberry scandal’s costing the industry millions of dollars, but it’s created a booming trade for one food safety company.

A&D Australasia provides metal detectors to food production companies, and their sales in the last week – including in New Zealand – have skyrocketed.

Spokesperson for the company Julian Horsley says he’s sold a year’s worth of products in just four days.

“There’s an element of panic obviously because customers are saying we can’t buy your product until this and this are in line – so that’s obviously a commercial panic to them” he said.

Each detector costs around $22,000, but Horsley says growers are viewing them as an investment.

“For these guys it’s either put my produce in the rubbish bin, or supply it to the customers.”