Testing is necessary evil not food safety solution: Company ignores epi says tests are clean

Despite 31 people sickened with Hepatitis A linked by epidemiology to frozen berries from China, Australian food manufacturer Patties Foods is bragging that tests on its recalled frozen berries from China  are negative.

FROZEN BERRIES RECALLPatties Foods sent about 360 packs of recalled and non-recalled frozen berries for testing at accredited viral laboratories in Europe, North America and Australia, but neither hepatitis A norE. coli was detected in any sample.

Steven Chaur, Patties Foods CEO, said in a statement, “Extensive microbiological and viral testing conducted by Patties Foods shows no evidence of systemic failure of Patties Foods’ quality assurance programs.”


Anyone in food safety knows that testing is the last resort and proves nothing.


Beware those berries: Three simultaneous, foodborne, multi-country outbreaks of hepatitis A in 2013

I love the berries fresh, so I moved to a sub-tropical climate where we have a steady supply.

I love the berries frozen, because of convenience and continual availability.

Frankenface.berryBut there’s been a lot of outbreaks on berries of late – on the frozen kind. Many of the frozen kind are originating in areas like Egypt and shipped around the world.

Many countries in the European Union advise cooking frozen berries to reduce the risk of Hepatitis A.

Where’s the smoothie fun in that?

According to Gossner and Severi, writing in Eurosurveillance, between March and May 2013, three multi-country outbreaks of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection were reported through the Epidemic Intelligence Information System for Food- and Water-borne diseases (EPIS-FWD) of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The aim of this work is to put these outbreaks into a European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) perspective and highlight opportunities for improving detection and investigation of such outbreaks. Although HAV outbreaks are not unusual in the EU/EEA, having three large food-borne multi-country outbreaks declared within three months is an unexpected event, particularly when at least two of these outbreaks are associated with frozen berries. Factors influencing the occurrence of these events include the increased number of susceptible Europeans, the limited coverage of HAV vaccination, the global trade of potentially contaminated products introduced in the EU/EEA, and the ‘awareness chain effect’ leading to a wave of notifications. Further studies should be conducted to understand the risk posed by frozen berries.

Laboratory capacity and surveillance of viral infections in the EU/EEA, as well as HAV vaccination recommendations to travellers to endemic countries should be strengthened. Finally, timely reporting food-borne events through EPIS-FWD, to ensure timely response.

Eurosurveillance, Volume 19, Issue 43, 30 October 2014

Gossner CM, Severi E.


Linked to global frozen fruit outbreak? 28 cases of hepatitis A infection reported in Norway

A total of 28 cases of hepatitis A infection has been reported over the last few months in Norway, where this disease is said to be rare, the Norwegian news Agency NTB reported Saturday, quoting public health officials.

In almost half of the cases, the patients were found to have infected with hepatitis A virus while travelling abroad.

frozen.strawberryThe remaining half got infected in Norway, which was described as a rare occurrence.

Last year there was an outbreak of hepatitis A in the Nordic countries, which was believed to be most likely caused by eating imported frozen berries.

Norwegian health authorities suspect the new outbreak in Norway is also caused by eating contaminated food.

49 now sick; Fingering pomegranate, keeping hepatitis A out of frozen berries starts at the farm

State-sponsored jazz got something right: food safety for produce starts at the farm.

Nancy Shute of NPR reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that at least 49 people in seven states have gotten Hepatitis A from eating organic frozen berries.

Hepatitis A in frozen berries is not a new problem — though most recorded outbreaks have been small. Way back in the 1980s people got the same virus raspberryfrom frozen raspberries used to make mousse in Scotland. A 2003 outbreak in New Zealand was traced to a single blueberry farm. Finland banned serving uncooked berries in institutional settings after multiple outbreaks in the late 1990s.

Canada also has a hepatitis A outbreak caused by frozen berries. One last year in British Columbia came from a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt.

Pomegranate seeds are also in the berry blend fingered in the new outbreak. According to the label, the berries were a cosmopolitan bunch — from the U.S., Argentina, Chile and Turkey. The manufacturer, Townsend Farms Inc. of Fairview, Ore., issued a recall notice yesterday. The berries were sold through Costco and Harris Teeter stores.

Growers and processors should be screening workers for symptoms of hepatitis A, says Juan Silva, a professor of food technology at Mississippi State strawberryUniversity. He says they also should be requiring good hygiene either through hand-washing or wearing gloves.

“You need constant training and awareness for supervisors and employees that they can cause this kind of problem,” Silva says. “Try to make them realize that they are responsible for the safety of people who eat the food.”

Cooking or pasteurizing food is one of the only reliable ways to kill the hepatitis A virus, Silva says. So you’ll probably be safe if you’re planning to make pie or cobbler.

But antimicrobial rinses haven’t proven to kill enough germs on fresh fruit to be worth their while. Irradiation kills bacteria, but it’s much harder to zap viruses, so that’s not a sure bet, either. And freezing food doesn’t kill the germs, alas. That’s how scientists keep the bacteria they study frisky.

“There’s no post-harvest intervention as of now that’s capable of eliminating the virus,” Silva told The Salt. “That’s why prevention is key.”

So what’s a smoothie lover to do?

No one’s suggesting getting vaccinated just to make smoothies, but as more and more people gain protection from the vaccine, outbreaks like these will pose less of a risk.

Cockroach for breakfast ‘just gross’ even if in lovely New Zealand

Eleven-year-old Ariana Lee was disgusted to find a cockroach in her breakfast boysenberries.

APN News & Media reports that the Rotorua girl and her family (right, pic from APN) were having cereal and boysenberries for breakfast on Wednesday when they made the stomach-turning discovery.

Ariana’s mother, Zarnia Lee, said her husband, Jymel Webber, who is visually impaired, was the first to open the tin of Pams boysenberries in syrup and eat from it. Her son Taine, 11, and daughter Tayla, 9, also ate some and when Ariana emptied the last of them from the tin into her cereal, she noticed something black fall into her bowl.

When she looked closer, she realised it was a cockroach and screamed for her mother.

"The cockroach was pretty purple, I could tell it had been in there a while," Mrs Lee said.

Mrs Lee rang Pams’ customer service hotline and gave the details of her complaint. She received a letter of apology from Pams and two $10 vouchers for Pak’N Save.