80 sickened at back-to-school BBQ, first day of school cancelled in Kansas town

Not a good way to start the school year: local health officials in McPherson, Kansas, are investigating a possible outbreak of foodborne illness linked to a back-to-school cookout last Sunday.

Fern Hess, director of the McPherson County Health Department, said St. Joseph Catholic School in McPherson delayed its vomit.salmplanned first day of school on Wednesday because of a “significant number of students and staff who were ill.”

The school opened Thursday instead.

Hess said that based on symptoms and the time frame, health officials suspect the illnesses were caused by foodborne contamination from a Sunday, back-to-school barbecue.

The food served there was a combination of food provided by the school and food brought by people who attended.


Sick food preparer, salad at room temp 23h, leads to Salmonella outbreak with huge attack rate in Germany

On May 1, 2010, 14 people gathered for a BBQ in Germany.

All of them ended up barfing, three were hospitalized.

That’s what happens when someone who is sick makes a pasta salad and leaves it unrefrigerated for 23 hours before serving.

Will a press release before BBQ season really make a difference?

German researchers report in the current Epidemiology and Infection that shortly after the BBQ, 11 cases of Salmonella Enteritidis infections were notified to a district health office in Rhineland-Palatine.

The researchers conducted exploratory interviews via telephone with the hostess, three barbecue guests and one person who had prepared a salad but did not attend the barbecue himself.

The barbecue lasted from about 15:00 hours until well after midnight. According to the hostess, 14 persons attended the barbecue and all of them became ill with gastroenteric symptoms that night or the day after the party.

A person who was supposed to attend the barbecue party had fallen ill the day before (30 April). He had prepared a vegetable pasta salad in the morning and
developed gastroenteric symptoms within 3 h after salad preparation. He was hospitalized the next morning (1 May) and therefore did not attend the barbecue.

Nevertheless, his salad was served at the party. It was stored unrefrigerated for 23 h at approximately 20C before being served. The stored salad contained only pasta, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers and was dressed with basic vinaigrette from oil and vinegar just shortly before consumption.

Storing the salad at room temperature for 23 h allowed a substantial increase of bacterial load, which can explain the severe infections of all barbecue guests, none of whom belonged to a risk group for severe infections. Proliferation is inhibited or can be reduced by acidic pH values but vinegar was only
added to the salad shortly before serving.

This outbreak underscores the importance of proper kitchen hygiene and food storage in private settings. Food hygiene recommendations should be reiterated to the public at the beginning of the barbecue season by public health actors. Additionally, it should be emphasized that if a person develops gastroenteric symptoms shortly after preparing a meal, the food should be considered as potentially infectious and discarded.

Abstract below.

Severe infections caused by Salmonella Enteritidis PT8/7 linked to a private barbecue
Epidemiology and Infection, FirstView Article : pp 1-7
E. Mertens, H. Kreher, W. Rabsch, B. Bornhofen, K. Alpers and F. Burckhardt
A cohort study on a barbecue-associated Salmonella outbreak was conducted to describe the burden of disease and to identify the outbreak vehicle. Dose–response relationships were tested with Fisher’s exact and Wilcoxon rank sum tests (alpha=0·05). S. Enteritidis isolates were cultured and phage-typed. Information was available for 11 out of 14 individuals attending the barbecue; all were healthy young adults (median age 27 years). The attack rate was 100%. Three cases were hospitalized and two developed acute pancreatitis. The exposure common to all cases was a vegetable pasta salad that had been stored unrefrigerated for 23 h. Consuming higher doses was associated with longer median symptom duration (7 days vs. 4 days, P=0·11). S. Enteritidis was found in the stools of nine barbecue guests. Phage type 8/7 was identified in the stools of the salad preparer and one barbecue guest. This outbreak shows that S. Enteritidis can cause serious infection in young healthy individuals without well-known risk factors.

Barbecued snags with side of salmonella

I was going to bring along my tip-sensitive digital thermometer and help-out at a sausage sizzle for the kids today before tomorrow’s national holiday, but days of rain have thwarted any plans for the barbie.

Australia Day is the official national day of Australia, commemorating the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove on Jan. 26, 1788, and the proclamation at that time of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of New Holland. The Brits viewed the settlement as necessary because of the loss of the 13 colonies in North America. The locals didn’t think it was that necessary.

The Aussies have fabulous parks everywhere, especially in Brisbane because so much of the city is in a flood plain. And there are free electric and wood-burning grills at almost every park.

So someone thought to test the cleanliness of the BBQs.

Of eight public barbecues across Melbourne surveyed by an accredited food safety specialist, all cooking surfaces were deemed safe at the time, but not so for benchtops around communal barbies.

Port Phillip Council acting mayor Frank O’Connor, whose municipality takes in St Kilda, said barbecues were cleaned twice a day between November and March with operation checked weekly. Contractors also regularly checked their heat output.

Mission thermometer: fervent converts, one sausage sizzle at a time

With five daughters, I’ve put in my share of time at the fundraising-BBQ- cookout, or in Aussie-speak, sausage sizzle.

Last night was the Christmas concert for Sorenne’s pre-school, which was somewhat surreal the first time – outdoors, everyone in shorts and flip-flops or dressed up fancy-like. For a sub-tropical climate in summer, they go a little nuts about the Christmas thing, with surfin’ Santa’s and shrimp on the barbie by the beach.

I proudly wore my Kansas State hockey shirt (there is no K-State hockey) and waved around my Comark PDT 300 tip-sensitive digital thermometer – which wasn’t necessary because the staff had precooked the sausages. But as the hundreds of parents and kids poured in (dozens?) me and John Hodgman-lookalike, Clayton, resorted to cooking raw sausage, and the thermometer became a necessary aide.

No children were harmed in this sausage sizzle.

Up to 40 ill; possible foodborne illness associated with South Carolina church fundraiser

South Carolina health types advised people who purchased barbeque at a fundraiser at York’s Grace Covenant Church fundraiser on Sept. 16 and 17 to throw the food away.

“The food from this event shouldn’t be eaten by any people or animals,” said Gil Potter, M.D., medical director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Region 3 public health office, which includes York County. “We’ve received reports of more than 40 people who became ill after eating food purchased at the church. More than 300 plates of food were sold, and many people bought barbeque in bulk for freezing and later use.”

According to Potter, all of the people who became ill are reporting the same symptoms, mainly vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.

“Tests are under way to identify the cause of the illness and we’ll continue to investigate this situation,” Potter said. “While not conclusive, this fundraiser is one thing in common among the people who got sick. As a precaution, we are advising everyone to immediately discard any food purchased at this fundraiser.”

Digestion disaster warning as barbecue season begins – in Germany

Foodborne illness also happens in Germany.

The number of campylobacter cases registered with the Robert Koch Institute has risen by nearly 50 per cent over the last 10 years, to reach around 65,700 last year. Of these, around 45 percent occurred between May and August.

“Care should be taken particularly with barbecuing and preparation of poultry.

“As the warm weather tempts people to dust off their barbecues and head for the parks for the Easter break, medics are warning that half-cooked hamburgers and barely-warmed-through bratwursts can cause digestion disaster.”

The Germans are as good as most other public health agencies in making consumers the critical control point and providing lousy advice.

Handle all food like toxic waste; use a thermometer.

Summertime Blues: lowering bacterial loads from farm-to-fork means fewer sick people

Every summer, government agencies at the local state and federal level in Western countries around the world warn consumers to be extra super-duper careful when barbecuing, because the incidence of foodborne illness, especially E. coli O157:H7, goes up in the warm summer months, and this is because consumers are doing dumb things at the grill.

I never believed it – consumers, food service workers, humans are capable of doing dumb things wherever they are cooking – but it was another standard line in the blame-the-consumer approach to food safety risk reduction.

There has been plenty of evidence over the years to show that the increase in human illnesses in summer months is strongly correlated to overall increases in E. coli O157:H7 loads in cattle in summer months.

Lower the loads, reduce the risk.

Most food safety interventions are designed to reduce or eliminate pathogen loads – to lower the number of harmful bugs from farm-to-fork. A piece of highly-contaminated meat can wreck cross-contamination havoc in a food service or home kitchen.

A new paper in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease by researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln uses models representing seasonal variation in E. coli O157:H7 loads in the farm-to-fork continuum, and concludes that summertime cooking is as risky as the rest of the year.

The authors write:

“A plausible explanation for the increase in E. coli O157:H7 illness during the summer is poor consumer storage and cooking practices associated with meals prepared and cooked outdoors (e.g., picnics and barbeques). If these practices are major contributors to human illness, then an effective mitigation strategy could be additional labeling and consumer education regarding the need to maintain meat products at temperatures sufficiently low to avoid bacterial growth during transportation to outdoor venues and to cook products to a sufficient temperature when grilling. Conversely, if summer storage and cooking practices are not responsible for a large proportion of summer illnesses, a more effective mitigation strategy would reduce the seasonal effect of E. coli O157:H7 contamination at the preharvest stage or during the production and processing of beef. …

“The seasonal change in the probability of exposure to a contaminated serving is the primary driver of the season pattern in illnesses, rather than any seasonal changes in consumer storage and handling.”

The complete abstract is below.

Determining relationships between the seasonal occurrence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in live cattle, ground beef, and humans
Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. October 2010, 7(10): 1247-1254
Michael S. Williams, James L. Withee, Eric D. Ebel, Nathan E. Bauer, Wayne D. Schlosser, William T. Disney, David R. Smith, Rodney A. Moxley
The prevalence and concentration of many foodborne pathogens exhibit seasonal patterns at different stages of the farm-to-table continuum. Escherichia coli O157:H7 is one such pathogen. While numerous studies have described the seasonal trend of E. coli O157:H7 in live cattle, ground beef, and human cases, it is difficult to relate the results from these different studies and determine the interrelationships that drive the seasonal pattern of beef-related human illnesses. This study uses a common modeling approach, which facilitates the comparisons across data sets, to relate prevalence in live cattle to raw ground beef and human illness. The results support an intuitive model where a seasonal rise of E. coli O157:H7 in cattle drives increased ground beef prevalence and a corresponding rise in the human case rate. We also demonstrate the use of these models to assess the public health impact of consumer behaviors. We present an example that suggests that the probability of illness, associated with summertime cooking and handling practices, is not substantially higher than the baseline probability associated with more conventional cooking and handling practices during the remainder of the year.

Kansas City BBQ joint closed for health violations

There’s a scene in the fabulous 2003 movie, Almost Famous, where the band gets new T-shirts, and only the lead guitar player is discernable in the group pic – the rest of the band are the out-of-focus guys.

The bass player, tired of the band angst, says, “I just want to go get some barbeque.”

And why not. The fictional band is in real Topeka (Kansas).

But Kansas BBQ may not be all it should be. LC’s Barbeque in Kansas City, Missouri, has been shut down for 12 critical health code violations, leaving the city without one of its longtime favorite for barbeque.

In its report, the Kansas City health department noted violations like handwashing procedures, pest issues and sanitation problems. Among the most damaging violations were the pest issues.

The health department’s report stated, "Food was not seen as safe, unadulterated and /or honestly presented."

The report said inspectors found a loaf of bread that had been chewed through by a rodent.

Is that the entr??e or are you just happy to see me? Nude barbecue in Oregon

Sub Rosa describes itself as a virtual restaurant & secret bar located in Dundee, Oregon. By day, it’s a lunch room for the distillery office and stealth drop in bistro with thundering tunes, WiFi Internet connections and a limited lunch menu. By night, when we are open, it’s an underground fine dining restaurant and spirits bar.

Today, Sub Rosa posted on its web site that,

It will come to no surprise to many that Sub Rosa has a clothing optional policy.

This ‘tradition’ started with our wait staff. It was late July – the week of the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration and it was quite hot outside. We had to chill our Pinot Noir before serving because of the heat.

One wardrobe malfunction led to another that evening and soon the entire wait staff was topless. Being a huge wine tasting weekend, Sub Rosa was filled out-of-towners including some French guests. There is something about being on vacation that releases the inhibitions. It wasn’t long until half the female guests had doffed their tops as well. You would have thought you were at some French Rivera private party, but no – just another magical weekend night at Sub Rosa in Dundee.

We’ve been known to cook topless with only the benefit of a kitchen apron separating us from the raw flame. Nude barbecue, while not the rule can happen on hot summer evening at Sub Rosa.

Sub Rosa’s feeling is that both men and women deserve to go topless. Get over it already. You’re starting to accept screw caps as alternatives to cork in wine bottles. You might as well get used to both sexes running around topless.

Nothing says classy like, Show me your hooters – with a $100 bottle of wine rather than Miller LIte.

Hamburger, meat and foodborne illness. Who’s to blame? And how do petting zoos fit into this worldview

Amy is a carnivore. First time I went to dinner at her place, almost four years ago, we couldn’t decide what to eat. Eventually, Amy said, let’s go to the supermarket, get a couple of steaks, and grill at home.

I was in love.

Amy’s grill (right) served us well, but the years took its toll. So we splurged and got a new BBQ – the Weber Genesis — which I used for the first time last night. Whenever we get a new car, or grill, or pretty much anything, since I insist on owning things for 10 years until they are completely spent, I marvel at the technological advances. It was awesome.

We grill meat and vegetables pretty much every day. And maybe it’s not so cool after last weeks tragic story of E. coli O157:H7 victim Stephanie Smith, but we eat hamburgers – make them at home from ground beef and turkey.

The news is confusing: The N.Y. Times feature by Michael Moss that started the latest round of confusion said hamburger trim was mixed together from all sorts of places and no one wanted to test for E. coli O157:H7 (that’s what happens with a zero tolerance policy; don’t test, don’t tell). Subsequently the Times said in an editorial that the only way to be safe was to cook hamburger to shoe leather, and former Centers for Disease Control-type, Richard Bessler told Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America the only way to cook meat safely is to "cook it to the point where most people wouldn’t want to eat it."

Former U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety, Richard Raymond, responded on his blog that the Times story simplified a few things about testing and mixing, and that, “raw meat and raw poultry should not be considered to be pathogen free—ever.”

Then yesterday, the Minnesotans, home of Cargill, tried to poke a few more holes in the Times story.

Craig Hedberg, professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota, said,

“Testing of product, either raw materials or finished products, is something that has limited usefulness. We can’t test every square inch of an animal’s carcass to see if there’s bacteria present … it just would be too expensive.”

I’m not sure who we is, and playing cost off against human health is never a good tactic.

Ryan Cox, professor of meat science at the University of Minnesota said,

“If you were to go into a modern meat facility, it looks very similar to a surgical suite in a hospital.”

Especially with the sick people.

Cox explained that meat industry practices are so stringently regulated that “to infer in some way that we have an unsafe system would be certainly an error.”

Pete Nelson , who spent 35 years running a USDA-inspected facility, defended the multiple sourcing used by large processing plants. He cited the need for a steady supply of beef in case an individual slaughterhouse is not able to deliver on time, as well as the need for a variety of meats to ensure consistency. …

Both Nelson and Cox said consumers have an important role in food safety, especially in the handling and cooking of raw meats.

“We both agree on the fact that there really wouldn’t have been much of a story to begin with, particularly with the instance [The New York Times] cited with the food sickness, if the product had been cooked to the correct internal temperature.

Ouch. Blame the consumer. USDA stopped that in 1994.

Cross-contamination is a serious issue, as repeatedly pointed out on this blog and in our research, and that’s why pathogen loads have to be reduced as much as possible before entering a further processing plant, a restaurant, a grocery store or someone’s kitchen. And then, as Raymond says, never assume meat – or any raw food – is pathogen free. Same with animals. Those 90 kids that got sick with E. coli O157:H7 at a petting zoo in the U.K. weren’t dealing with meat from different sources.

And no one has to cook to shoe leather. Meat thermometers can help, and stick it in until 160F for hamburger.

Our steaks were a delicious 125F, climbing to about 135F over time.