11 hospitalized, 125 sick from South Carolina fundraiser

At least four more people who ate food sold last week at a fundraiser at a Conway church have been hospitalized as of today, said Jim Beasley, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

A total of 11 people have been hospitalized, and DHEC officials believe there are about 125 people who sought physician care for gastro-intestinal illness symptoms in the area, Beasley said.

Conway Medical Center performed tests on three samples from patients and it appears that salmonella is expected, Beasley said.

People started becoming ill with symptoms such as abdominal cramping, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, after buying and eating food sold at the Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Conway to raise money to benefit the family of an ill child, said Dr. Covia L. Stanley, director of DHEC’s Region 6 public health office, which serves Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties, said in a news release Tuesday.

The meals, which included barbecue pork, baked sweet potatoes, cole slaw and rolls, were prepared at a local hunting club, Stanley said.

DHEC officials are asking that anyone who purchased any of the roughly 1,450 plates of food sold at the fundraiser to throw leftovers away and to contact their private healthcare physician if they are experiencing any symptoms.

South Carolina fundraiser linked to foodborne illness outbreak

The Sunnews.co reports from South Carolina that at least seven people who ate food sold Friday at a fundraiser at a Conway church have been hospitalized, officials with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control said Tuesday.

DHEC officials are asking that anyone who purchased any of the roughly 1,450 plates of food sold at the fundraiser to throw leftovers away and to contact their private healthcare physician if they are experiencing any symptoms.

No one told me that there would be snakes here

While investigating our move to North Carolina last year, no one told me that there would be snakes involved. I’m sort of a city person, my wildlife and camping experiences are limited and I’m not a huge fan of rodents. I didn’t think much about snakes in Ontario.

I’m starting to think about snakes a lot more now — I saw a story on Fark.com today about a snake in Brunswick County (N.C.). A serious snake:

"Two brothers were just driving along N.C. 133, near Orton Plantation, on Wednesday morning when they noticed a large snake – different from those native to the area – in the roadway. “We thought it was a rattlesnake,” said Billy Ballard, of Oak Island. But a closer look and, later, an expert opinion revealed it was actually a boa constrictor that stretched at least 7 feet long."

"The brothers, on their way to Wilmington for an appointment, brought the snake to the StarNews, where about a dozen people – the ones who apparently did not have a phobia of snakes – came outside to hear the brothers’ story."

"“He’s wounded. We just have to care for him,” Billy Ballard said. “He’s got a family. You can’t tell me he’s just a stray.”"

Who grabs a snake from the highway, thinking that it might be a rattle snake, throws it in the back of a truck and takes it to the newspaper?

I had my own snake sighting last week. While visiting a farm in Chatham County with a bunch of food safety folks, we saw a snake (left, exactly as shown), known to my tour companions a "big black snake" (creative taxonomist).

I’m feeling a bit like Indiana Jones.

Doggie dining (on patios) allowed in N.C., Wake Co. attorney throws restaurant owners a bone

The ongoing saga of doggie dining in North Carolina gets a bit muddier. Today, a Wake County attorney weighed in on health authorities enforcing a "no live animals in food preparation areas" rule by not allowing dogs on patios.

Attorney Scott Warren says he thinks the rule is meant to keep animals out of kitchen areas where food is prepared or pantry areas where food is stored. He says that means it’s up to restaurants to decide whether to allow animals on patios, unless federal law protects that right.

Ben Chapman profiled at NC State (this time with notes)

Chapman got his obligatory profile as new faculty in one of the North Carolina State University publications this week; this is the bites/barfblog version.

When Ben Chapman arrived at N.C. State University in January as the new food safety specialist in the Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences, he hit the ground running. …

Since arriving in North Carolina, Chapman has converted from a former Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan to a Carolina Hurricanes fan.

Carolina has a good hockey team and tickets are easy to get. Toronto sucks and tickets are impossible to get. Carolina has also won the Stanley Cup once in the past 42 years. Toronto has not.

He says that he spends much of his free time discussing the virtues of hockey with his wife and son (that’s Jack, below, left, at a Hurricanes game in about 4 years)..

Those who can, do. Others teach. Others talk. Others bore their families.

A player himself since age 4, he has even started playing hockey here in North Carolina with a group in Wake Forest.

If he’s been playing since 4 he really should be better.

Chapman has focused on finding the best ways to communicate food safety risk to the people who need to know. He is interested in how social media like Facebook and rapid communication technologies like Twitter might improve public safety around the issue of food risk.

It also helps to stay current on all the social media for fantasy baseball/football/hockey/cycling tips.

Chapman had a sense that the bathroom posters proclaiming that “employees must wash hands before returning to work” might not produce the desired results.

It was probably the sense of smell, coming from his hands.

Chapman even spent a semester working as a dishwasher in a restaurant to get a better sense of what the work climate was like.

I didn’t pay him enough as a graduate student and he had to moonlight.

Chapman noted that during busy times, employees tended to forget safe food-handling practices. “When it’s busy in a food-service operation, it gets really crazy,” he said.

That’s when the Pink Floyd is cranked.

In his new position, Chapman continues his quest to find the best ways of reaching food-service workers and consumers.

Go to a restaurant? A supermarket? It’s not like searching for a Holy Grail.

“We have a responsibility to get that information out there,” Chapman said. “The kind of things we’re doing here would have been hard to do in Canada — moving food safety forward.”

That’s what she said.

One way that Chapman has been moving food safety forward is helping agents develop training programs on home food preservation. Once a hallmark of extension programming through tomato clubs for girls, canning and other home food preservation techniques had largely fallen out of favor with consumers in recent years.

Ben Chapman: Defender of the can.

No pet turtles for Xmas

Pet turtles can kill. Or make a bunch of kids barf.

North Carolina is the latest area to be hit — after five kids got sick with salmonellosis after handling pet turtles.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) investigated the cluster of five cases – four in North Carolina (Burke, Lincoln, Union and Montgomery counties) and one in South Carolina (York County).  Four of the children had positive cultures for salmonella. The fifth did not have a positive culture but was sick and had contact with a confirmed case.  All five children have recovered, although one was hospitalized with kidney failure as a result of the infection. The children all got sick this past summer.

Veterinarians recently tested the Union County child’s pet turtle cage; it tested positive for the same strain of Salmonella that was responsible for the outbreak.

They may appear cute, but reptiles are Salmonella factories. And who knows what kids will do with them.

Four people had pregnancy complications after getting Listeria

The North Carolina Division of Public Health is warning pregnant women about the consumption of soft cheeses, hot dogs and deli-style meats and prepared salads after three cases of listeriosis were identified in Moore, Durham and Mecklenburg counties and a probable case was identified in Buncombe County.

The story says that two of the pregnant women miscarried after they contracted the infection. In a third case, the pregnant mom delivered early, but she and her baby are doing well. The probable case involves another pregnant woman who also lost her baby. All four had consumed soft cheeses from a variety of sources.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Jeff Engel said, "This is a tragedy, which could have been avoided. Listeriosis can be prevented by avoiding unpasteurized milk and other potentially contaminated food, especially among vulnerable people."

State Laboratory of Public Health testing showed different strains of the bacteria were involved and that one product doesn’t seem to be the blame, and that’s why public health officials issued a general Listeria warning.