Mason’s mum: change the law

When a coroner ruled last week a lack of food hygiene standards at a Welsh butchery was the cause of 5-year-old Mason Jones’ death but there was insufficient evidence to prove “a serious and obvious risk of death,” Sharon Mills was stunned.

Mason’s mum told Abby Alford of Wales online,

“To me this is a travesty of justice.”

Ms Mills, 36, from Deri, near Bargoed, said she and partner Nathan Jones, Mason’s father, are considering calling for a change in the law which meant Bridgend butcher William Tudor – the man responsible for the 2005 outbreak during which more than 150 people were infected with potentially deadly E. coli O157 – escaped a manslaughter charge.

Last week’s verdict followed a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2007 not to pursue a manslaughter case because there was not a realistic prospect of conviction.

“Last Thursday after the inquest I woke up and I felt like I had lost Mason all over again. It’s been us versus the system and it’s a hard system to beat.”

Ms Mills said despite the support of some officials, she believes the pace of change in improving food safety systems has been painfully slow following the 24 recommendations for improvement put forward by expert Professor Hugh Pennington after the public inquiry.

Backyard butchers in Sydney

An investigation into suspected illegal meat manufacturers in Sydney has uncovered a range of products from dodgy backyard butchers.

Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan says the NSW Food Authority found 29 of the 80 meat products assessed were produced by unlicensed operators, adding,

"In some cases, these unregulated products are then sold to the public through small retail outlets, delis, restaurants, cafes and weekend farmers’ markets.”

The crackdown resulted in the issue of a number of enforcement actions, including 27 penalty notices, five improvement notices, four prohibition orders and ten warning letters.

Hepatitis A scare for Australian Afghani community

An employee who worked on the butcher’s counter at an Adelaide supermarket has tested positive for hepatitis A, prompting a health warning.

The supermarket specialises in retailing products to the Afghan community.

"While the chances of becoming infected are small, we’re asking customers who bought produce from the butcher’s counter during the infectious period to be aware of the risk," director of public health Kevin Buckett said.

Hepatitis A is spread when traces of faecal matter containing the virus contaminate hands, objects, water or food and are then taken in by mouth.

The ‘ole poop-on-the-hands-oral-fecal-route routine.

Dr Buckett said employees from the Vatan supermarket had been offered a vaccination against hepatitis A and health officials continued to work with the business owners to inform the local Afghan community of the health warning.

He said 55 cases of hepatitis A had been reported in South Australia so far this year compared to just 19 in 2008.

Cats shouldn’t hang out in supermarket meat cases

Cats like meat.

Even though we live in central Manhattan (Kansas), there’s a small greenbelt behind the house and we’ve had visitors such as deer, turkeys, and yesterday, a fox.

The raccoons, squirrels, birds and rabbits are everywhere.

My two black cats have had happy hunting since our 2006 arrival, and left me a pair of lucky rabbits feet the other day (the two black ones, as kittens in this pic, from 2003; the other one, named Lucky, wasn’t so lucky).

Because cats like meat, it’s a good idea to keep them out of supermarkets, especially those with a butcher shop, or a meat case with open doors.

A colleague sent along this video of a cat in a meat case in a supermarket, apparently, according to readers’ comments, in St. Petersburgh, Russia. Not good supermarket food safety practices.

Australian state cracks down on backyard butchers

A New South Wales Food Authority crackdown on backyard butchers has caught unlicensed operators producing and selling smallgoods from homes in Sydney.

The NSW has been targeting illicit meat processors and confiscated almost 120 kilograms of homemade nem chua – a Vietnamese-style fermented pork.

The authority made 10 seizures of the product from illegal processors operating out of homes that were then selling the meat to butchers’ shops, restaurants and private consumers.

Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said the crackdown, which started in March, would continue.

Staff butchering deer leads to closure of Chinese restaurant

“In general, you can’t have a dead animal in a food services establishment.”

That’s the advice from Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony J. Billittier IV after a dead deer was discovered being butchered in a restaurant.

The Buffalo News in New York reports the discovery was made after a tipster called the Health Department.

A health inspector was quickly sent to the restaurant, which was immediately closed. A hearing on the matter is expected to be held early next week.

Officials don’t know whether the dead deer at China King, 5999 South Park Ave., had been hunted or if it was road kill.


Wales: E. coli lessons ‘were not learned’

The families of the 150 sickened and one killed in the 2005 E. coli O157 outbreak in Wales told a public inquiry today it was "galling" that lessons from other outbreaks were not learned and that the events caused "lasting and untold harm" to many families.

Mark Powell QC (no relation but a fine Welsh name), representing the families, said warnings had not been heeded following an E.coli outbreak in Scotland between 1996 and 1997 which left 21 elderly people dead.

"It is galling to the families that many of the observations the Sheriff’s inquiry, with the substitution of the name of Tudor for that of Barr, the butcher involved in that outbreak, could be written about the 2005 outbreak. Much of what was said then could equally be said now."

The inquiry, chaired by Professor Hugh Pennington, who also chaired an inquiry following the 1996 outbreak in Scotland, is hearing final submissions on Wednesday and Thursday.

It was as if the report following the Scottish outbreak was never written, he told Professor Pennington, adding, "The families are determined that in 10 year’s time, the same might not be said of your inquiry."

The inquiry’s findings and any recommendations are not expected to be published until later this year.

Why are UK butchers — and inspectors — apparently so lousy?

This isn’t about the Butcher of Wales, or the Butcher of Scotland. This time, it’s the Butcher of Leeds,

The Yorkshire Post reports today that a butcher’s shop at the centre of one of Yorkshire’s most serious food poisoning outbreaks was found to be "filthy" by inspectors two years before it was shut down.

About 60 people were struck down by E-coli O157 during an outbreak in Leeds in 2006 that led to an investigation into Todd’s Pork and Beef Butchers in Armley and its stall at Kirkgate Market.

Papers released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Todd’s was warned several times about poor hygiene standards and practices.

Hilary Cobley, whose late husband Neil was struck down by poisoning as he was due to undergo chemotherapy, was quoted as saying the outbreak was "no accident", adding,

"I don’t think this happened overnight. When they shut the shop you could see the muck on the floor. It is a shame that they can’t make them pay the fine."

Summer sausage is tasty, maggots and all

I grew up in a deer hunting family, and although my own deer hunting career started and ended when I was 13, I was so used to eating venison that beef tasted weird. I still remember one deer my family butchered at home, and my brother chased me around the house with an eyeball. We packaged and marked the cuts, but they stayed in our family freezer. Perhaps we had some guests over for dinner or gave some to a friend at church, but if anyone got sick, it was us.

In Omaha, apparently, things are run differently. Deer processor and poacher extraordinaire Jack McClanahan was finally put out of the summer sausage business.

According to the Omaha World-Herald McClanahan processed and sold tons of tainted summer sausage, much of it from poached deer. McClanahan told federal undercover agents that he sometimes shot deer at night with a rifle from the bathroom window of his home in Omaha’s Ponca Hills and then would retrieve the carcasses in the morning. He baited the deer with corn, used a spotlight to blind them, and then shot.

McClanahan is a retired butcher who sold summer sausage in 5-pound casings at $3.50 a pound. He also made salami, jerky and snack sticks, and authorities estimated annual production at about 10,000 pounds.

Mark Webb, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent, said mouse droppings, maggots, deer carcasses, dried blood, deer hair and other contaminants littered the commercial-grade meat processing equipment that filled McClanahan’s three-car garage. There was no running water for cleaning. When wildlife agents seized the equipment and cleaned it with hot water and soap at a carwash, they discovered two lead bullets the size of a man’s thumb lodged in the grinder. The blade had been shaving lead into the meat.

The butcher-poacher was fined $10,000 and sentenced to three years of probation Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

My family and most deer hunters I have known have a strong conservationist ethic. I was raised to respect wildlife and have a deep appreciation for nature. McClanahan, and other poachers, are appalling, but making humans sick and putting their lives at risk with filthy processing conditions is even more disgusting.