Bacteria found in water samples from Malaysia’s vending machines

The water you buy from vending machines in Malaysia may not be as clean as you think.

bottled.water.malaysiaTwenty-nine samples of water were drawn from such machines throughout the Klang Valley – and almost all were contaminated.

There were harmful E. coli, Coliform and Clostridium perfringens microbes – the same kind of bacteria found in untreated sewage.

Coliform and Clostridium perfringens are also the same bacteria found in human and animal faeces.

These bacteria can cause cramps, diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal problems.

The Star conducted the tests together with Forum Air Malaysia, an organisation formed to assist the National Water Services Commission.

Barreled water or bottled water? Over 400 cases of noro linked to Chinese schools

According to CRI English, there’s a whole lot of noro going through Chinese schools. Over 400 students attending schools in Haning City and Haiyan County have come down ill with the gastrointestinal virus and investigators believe it is linked to water. A few weeks ago Japan dealt with its own massive school-linked norovirus outbreak that was eventually traced to bread.

Classes will be suspended on Thursday and Friday but are expected to resume on Monday.woode0barrel

The outbreak began on Feb. 11 in Haining and Feb. 13 in Haiyan.
It is suspected that the outbreak was caused by barrelled water. All the affected schools have been using barrelled water with the same brand, said Yang Jing, head of the provincial health and family planning commission.

A further epidemiological investigation is under way, said Yang.

Governments have ordered all the schools to disinfect canteens, classrooms, dormitories and toilets.

Slipped my mind: 2,000 bottles of potentially tainted water found in Toronto food venues long after closure order

More than 2,000 bottles of water from a Caledon producer shut down in July because of its bacteria-tainted product have been found in Toronto restaurants, hotels and a health food store in recent weeks, according to Rob Cribb of the Toronto Star.

While Blue Glass Water Co. Ltd. was under a provincial health order to stop producing and shipping its product as of July 18, Toronto health officials say blue_glass_water.jpg.size.xxlarge.promopotentially tainted water was still entering food establishments here as recently as Sept. 27.

In an exclusive interview with the Star, Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. David McKeown, said Friday it is impossible to know whether there could be more of the banned product still out there. “We don’t have a complete and accurate distribution list (because) it has not been provided by the operator,” he said. “So, in terms of the challenges of responding, it’s more complex than other such cases.”

Marshall Kazman, the only listed director of Blue Glass Water Co. Ltd. in Ontario corporate filings, has dismissed the allegations in interviews with the Star, calling his water safe and naturally infused with cancer-fighting properties. The disbarred lawyer, who is currently facing criminal fraud charges, called the ordered shutdown of his facility “a witch hunt” and “much ado about nothing.” He said he has not shipped his product since being ordered closed in July. “If there was a real danger would you not think a recall would have been ordered months ago?” he said in a statement Saturday.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which originally tested the water along with Peel Region in late July, found “elevated levels of aerobic colony counts” in some samples, it said in a statement to the Star. The tests did not show pathogens such as E. coli or parasites, it says. “Based on the absence of an identified hazard and the contained exposure . . . the CFIA determined that a risk assessment was not needed and as such, no recall action was requested.” The level of concern about the water is much higher among provincial and local health officials. Officials at both levels have told the Star that testing of the Caledon Clear Watercompany’s water revealed it was “heavily contaminated” and “unfit to drink.” The “overgrowth of bacteria” in the water “masked” identification of specific pathogens such as E. coli and coliform, said the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Arlene King.

The Star first reported health concerns about serious contamination in Blue Glass Water on Thursday, a threat nearly three months old that had not been made public. That lack of public notification meant the water continued to be served to unwitting customers across southern Ontario even as health officials were quietly looking for the water in food establishments for confiscation.

Following the Star’s questions to the province, the ministry issued a strongly worded statement warning the public not to consume Blue Glass Water because of the “potential health threat posed by these products.” Since the Star’s story, Toronto Public Health received several complaints from people who say they were made ill after drinking it. Inspectors are now investigating those cases.

So far, Toronto inspectors have found Blue Glass Water in 20 food establishments, ranging from high-end restaurants to a hotel and a health food store. The city is not identifying the establishments since they no longer serve the water and “they did nothing wrong,” said McKeown.

Is bottled water safer? ‘Heavy levels of bacteria’ in one Canadian product

The province’s chief medical officer of health is warning Ontarians not to consume bottled water manufactured by a Caledon-based company due to bacterial contamination.

Dr. Arlene King is also warning businesses not to serve the products.

Tests of water samples taken from Blue Glass Water Co. Ltd.’s products revealed heavy Caledon Clear Waterlevels of bacteria, according to the Ministry of Health.

King says there is a potential health threat posed by the products manufactured by the company also known as Caledon Clear Water Corporation.

According to the ministry, Blue Glass Water Co. Ltd. was ordered to stop its operations related to bottling, processing and distributing water on July 25.

However, public health units have identified the products in food establishments in Hamilton, Niagara and in Toronto.

The ministry is advising consumers and businesses to check labels on bottles for: “Bottled at source by Blue Glass Water Co. Ltd.“ or “Bottled at source by Caledon Clear Water Corp.”

No illnesses have been reported to date.

Maybe water shouldn’t be bought from a place named, ‘Hunky Bill’s;’ PNE employee hospitalized after drinking spiked bottle of water

A Pacific National Exhibition employee – that’s like the state fair they have in Vancouver, which is in Canada — was hospitalized Thursday night after buying and drinking a bottle of water at the fair tainted with what is thought to be ammonium chloride.

The Vancouver Sun reports that just after 11 p.m. Thursday, the PNE employee experienced dizziness and muscle weakness and was taken to hospital 30 minutes after drinking a bottle of water from Hunky Bill’s concession inside the fair, Vancouver Police spokeswoman Jana McGuinness said in a press release.

Upon later inspection, it was apparent that the bottle of Dasani water contained small holes where a syringe had apparently been inserted and the substance injected in what PNE spokeswoman Laura Ballance called a single isolated incident.

The Vancouver Police Department is investigating the incident and, according to Vancouver Coastal Health spokeswoman Anna Marie D’Angelo, there have been no other reports of similar illnesses to Vancouver Coastal Health at this time.

Special Agent Oso Feeds a Llama at the Petting Zoo

I want a llama. Or so I’ve been telling Doug ever since I saw Tina the lasagna-eating llama in one of my favorite films, Napoleon Dynamite. Now we have a baby and our lifestyle is not compatible with llama tending.

This morning when Sorenne and I got up, we turned on the Disney channel to watch Special Agent Oso. The episode, “A Zoo to a Thrill” showed Oso helping June Kim feed a llama at the petting zoo. Special Agent Oso always has to accomplish “three special steps” in each of his missions. This time it was:

  • step one: get the llama food
  • step two: wait your turn in line
  • step three: feed the llama.

Not included in the steps, but clearly shown in the episode were washing hands before getting the llama food and after feeding the llama. Our veterinary friend Kate Stenske told us that washing your hands before handling the animals is a question of not transmitting whatever you have to the animals and washing them afterwards is about not transmitting what the animal has to you.

I was especially pleased in this episode to see that June Kim’s father stayed outside of the petting zoo area while he fed his baby a bottle. Bottles and pacifiers are at high risk for cross-contamination in such areas because some of the pathogens can be aerosolized.

If Sorenne wants to meet a llama, I may take her to a petting zoo someday, or to our friend and contractor Russell’s house. We’ll try to make sure she washes her hands so her first visit to a zoo does not give her a bad thrill.

Should fruits and vegetables be cleaned with bottled washes? No

I’ve already posted on some of the dubious marketing and safety claims that accompanied the original Fit produce wash before it was abandoned by Procter & Gamble in 2001.

On Monday, the Los Angeles Times takes a look at produce washes out there – such as Veggie Wash, Fit Fruit and Vegetable Wash, Bi-O-Kleen Produce Wash, Earth Friendly Products Fruit & Vegetable Wash and Eat Cleaner All Natural Food Wash and Wipes — and concludes water is just fine.

Sandra McCurdy, extension food safety specialist in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, says that most produce is pathogen-free because it’s been washed during processing and because handlers take steps to avoid contaminating the fruits and vegetables they stock in the produce aisle. But if it is not, a thorough rinse under water is usually all that’s needed to remove most pathogens.

Michael Doyle (left), professor and director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia in Griffin, Ga. (Doyle developed an antimicrobial technology that was licensed earlier this year by the makers of Fit produce wash.) said,

"If the bacteria get into the tissue during processing, it’s too late, it’s trapped in the tissue.”

As for pesticides, there’s little scientific evidence to support claims that washes do a better job than water when it comes to removing them, says Anne Riederer, a professor of environmental and occupational health at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.

I’ve gotten divorced, remarried, had another kid and moved to the U.S. – CFIA updates bottled water consultations ongoing since 2002

Yesterday, I made fun of Campbell soup boss Doug Conant who said he wanted Canadian-style food safety regulation in the U.S.

Here’s an example of the lightening speed with which Canadian bureaucracy works:

In 2002, Health Canada and the CFIA began consulting on proposed regulatory changes for bottled water and prepackaged ice in a document called Making it Clear – Renewing the Federal Regulations on Bottled Water: A Discussion Paper.

During the consultation, several significant technical challenges with the proposal were identified including: how to identify the source of the bottled water and the specific microbiological, chemical and radiological requirements listed in the proposed amendments.

Since that time, Health Canada and the CFIA have been consulting further with stakeholders to identify how to address these specific issues. A summary of consultations and comments received on proposed revisions to food and drug regulations on prepackaged water and ice up until November 2008 has been posted as a next step in this process to develop regulations.

This was published today. That’s seven years. And they’re still years from finishing.

Canadian food safety: there are no rules on informing the public

Toronto’s Globe and Mail reports in tomorrow’s edition that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency often finds problems with bottled water, but doesn’t tell the public about them.

CFIA food safety and recall specialist Garfield Balsom said there are no hard-and-fast rules on what requires public notification.

“There is nothing indicating what is to be made public or what’s not.”

The way the story is written, it’s difficult to tell whether this rather explosive quote refers to just bottled water or all food safety issues. The story does explain that an Access to Information Act request was required to determine CFIA issued 29 recall notices for bottled water products between 2000 and early 2008, but issued a public warning in only seven cases, two of which came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made public its recall orders.

Balsom said that other countries follow the same approach and don’t automatically issue notices because consumers would soon be overwhelmed by publicity over recalls, most of which would pose low risks.

“There are downsides to publicizing everything.”

True. But based on past case studies, people hate it when government-types are inconsistent or bureaucratic or less than forthcoming.

The agency has an internal hazard ranking system, known as class one, class two and class three, for products that respectively pose high, moderate and low risk. … But the access records show that there was no consistency in the agency’s approach. There were cases of the same bacteria and same hazard ratings being treated differently, with some having public recalls and others not.

This is a persistent problem – when to go public. Suspicions remain that CFIA and Maple Leaf Foods were slow in responding to last year’s listeria shitstorm that killed at least 21 – and a public offering of who knew what when is still missing.

Same with the Salmonella in tomatoes and jalapenos last summer in the U.S. Many were frustrated by conflicting messages and finger-pointing. Same with cyclosproa in the U.S. in Canada in 1996, in which California strawberries were erroneously fingered when it was the Guatemalan raspberries.

Epidemiology, like humans, is flawed. But it’s better than astrology. The more that public health folks can articulate when to go public and why, the more confidence in the system. Past risk communication research has demonstrated that if people have confidence in the decision-making process they will have more confidence in the decision. People may not agree about when to go public, but if the assumptions are laid on the table, and value judgments are acknowledged, then maybe the focus can be on fewer sick people.