Responding to bioterror concerns by increasing milk pasteurization temperature would increase estimated annual deaths from listeriosis

In a 2005 analysis of a potential bioterror attack on the food supply involving a botulinum toxin release into the milk supply, the authors recommended adopting a toxin inactivation step during milk processing. In response, some dairy processors increased the times and temperatures of pasteurization well above the legal minimum for high temperature, short time pasteurization (72°C for 15 s), with unknown implications for public health.

listeriaThe present study was conducted to determine whether an increase in high temperature, short time pasteurization temperature would affect the growth of Listeria monocytogenes, a potentially lethal foodborne pathogen normally eliminated with proper pasteurization but of concern when milk is contaminated postpasteurization. L. monocytogenes growth during refrigerated storage was higher in milk pasteurized at 82°C than in milk pasteurized at 72°C. Specifically, the time lag before exponential growth was decreased and the maximum population density was increased. The public health impact of this change in pasteurization was evaluated using a quantitative microbial risk assessment of deaths from listeriosis attributable to consumption of pasteurized fluid milk that was contaminated postprocessing. Conservative estimates of the effect of pasteurizing all fluid milk at 82°C rather than 72°C are that annual listeriosis deaths from consumption of this milk would increase from 18 to 670, a 38-fold increase (8.7- to 96-fold increase, 5th and 95th percentiles). These results exemplify a situation in which response to a rare bioterror threat may have the unintended consequence of putting the public at increased risk of a known, yet severe harm and illustrate the need for a paradigm shift toward multioutcome risk benefit analyses when proposing changes to established food safety practices.

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 5, May 2014, pp. 696-863 , pp. 696-712(17)

Stasiewicz, Matthew J.1; Martin, Nicole2; Laue, Shelley2; Gröhn, Yrjo T.3; Boor, Kathryn J.2; Wiedmann, Martin2

Toilet Terror

I’m a small adult and I was a small child. One day at my babysitter’s house when I was somewhere shy of five-years-old, I slipped off the seat, sank into the toilet bowl, and cried and screamed until the sitter, Mrs. Anderson, came and saved me and my soaking wet shirttail. That’s what this picture that Katie sent us made me remember. Thank you, Katie.

photo credit:

U.S. in bird flu biological weapons conspiracy? No

The Indonesian Health Minister has claimed the U.S. is using bird flu samples to produce biological weapons.

The United States has rejected the claims.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is understood to have ordered the minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, to recall copies of her book on avian influenza, which alleges the US and the WHO are conspiring against developing countries by seizing control of bird flu samples.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Susan Stahl, denied Dr Supari’s claim that Indonesian virus samples had been sent to a biological weapons laboratory in Los Alamos. The laboratory possessed no bird flu viruses from Indonesia or elsewhere.

Dr Supari yesterday continued to say virus samples had been sent via the WHO to the laboratory in Los Alamos, adding,

"Whether they use it to make vaccine or develop chemical weapons would depend on the need and interest of the US Government. It is indeed a very dangerous situation for the destiny of humanity."

The WHO’s assistant director-general for Health Security, David Heymann,said he was puzzled by the claims, adding,

"I don’t understand why they would take this virus to make a biological weapon; it doesn’t transmit from human to human. Indonesia needs to spend more time on dealing with infections with chickens and stopping humans from being infected."