Alexandria Hein of Fox News reports a 43-year-old man in China who was suffering from seizures and loss of consciousness went to the doctor after his symptoms persisted for several weeks, only to discover that he had hundreds of tapeworms in his brain and chest, reports say.
The patient, identified as Zhu Zhongfa, allegedly had eaten undercooked pork, which was contaminated with Taenia solium, a parasitic tapeworm.
“Different patients respond [differently] to the infection depending on where the parasites occupy,” Dr. Huang Jianrong, Zhongfa’s doctor at Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, told AsiaWire. “In this case, he had seizures and lost consciousness, but others with cysts in their lungs might cough a lot.”
Jianrong explained that the larvae entered Zhongfa’s body through the digestive system and traveled upward through his bloodstream. He was officially diagnosed with cysticercosis and neurocysticercosis, and given an antiparasitic drug and other medications to protect his organs from further damage, according to AsiaWire.
Jianrong said his patient is doing well after one week, but the long-term effects from the massive infestation are unclear.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cooking meat at a safe temperature and using a food thermometer in an effort to avoid taeniasis. Humans are the only hosts for Taenia tapeworms, and pass tapeworm segments and eggs in feces which contaminate the soil in areas where sanitation is poor. The eggs survive in a moist environment for days to months, and cows and pigs become infected after feeding in the contaminated areas.
Once inside the animal, the eggs hatch in the intestine and migrate to the muscle where it develops into cysticerci, which can survive for several years. This infects humans when they eat contaminated raw or undercooked beef or pork, according to the CDC.
Chinese officials believe the unidentified male became infected after handling and eating a wild hare on Nov. 5 in the Inner Mongolia, according to state news site XinhuaNet.
As a precaution, officials quarantined the people who had since come in contact with the man. None of them have exhibited fever or other symptoms of the plague, infamous for the Black Death pandemic during the Middle Ages.
Two cases of pneumonic plague, a highly contagious form of the disease, were confirmed in China by local health officials last week. The two patients, who also were from Inner Mongolia, were diagnosed in Beijing and are currently being treated for the condition in the Chaoyang District.
No epidemiological association has been found between the two cases, according to officials.
The plague is caused by Yersinia pestis — a common bacteria carried by rats, rabbits and squirrels, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Humans can contract the bubonic plague when bitten by infected fleas. Handling infected animals directly also can cause infection.
Cal Rolston of NCTY News reports 168 children were sent to hospital with possible Salmonella food poisoning in Dongguan, Guangdong Province prompting health authorities to shut down a kindergarten on Monday for two days.
One hundred and three people, including 99 children, remained in hospitals in the city and neighboring Shenzhen, according to statements released by the Dongguan Health Bureau.
Nobody died or was critically ill as of Sunday midnight, the bureau said.
Ms. Yang in the southern China port city of Guangzhou bought six high priced giant tiger prawns in October—she was happy with the purchase until she found gel inside the heads of the prawns.
Juliet Song of NTD writes that such gel, the presence of which is not typically detectable upon superficial inspection, is injected some time between when the shrimp are caught and when they’re sold, in order to add weight and thus earn a greater profit. Shrimp sold live have not been injected, because the injection would kill the shrimp.
Chinese food authorities have not been particularly active in pursuing the cases brought to their attention, according to interviews and news reports, and there is not even a consensus at which point in the production line the operation takes place.
China is the third-largest exporter of seafood to the United States, and it also exports significant amounts of shrimp and catfish, representing 2 of the 10 most consumed seafood products in the country. Nearly $150 million worth of shrimp were imported from China between January and October 2015, according to data by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The problem of adulterated shrimp has persisted for over a decade, despite new cases regularly reported in the Chinese press. Some of the first well-publicized cases of the gel-injected shrimp appeared in 2005, the same year in which the municipal government of Tianjin launched a strike-hard campaign against shrimp injectors. The report, which referred to the campaign gave no details about how many were arrested, or whether the shrimp adulteration rings were broken.
It is unclear how much, or if any of the gel-injected shrimp make their way to these shores, but food safety experts said there is reason to be concerned. The Food and Drug Administration issued an import alert on Dec. 11, 2015, about the “presence of new animals drugs and/or unsafe food additives” from seafood imported in China, including shrimp.
Wu Wenhui, a professor at Shanghai Ocean University, said in an interview in the Chinese press that customers should be wary about industrial gel ending up in shrimp, given that it’s cheaper than the edible version. “Industrial gel is used for furniture, print, and contains many heavy metals such as lead and mercury, which harms the liver and blood, and is even carcinogenic.”
But the act of injection is itself potentially unsafe.
“Even if what was injected was edible gel, which may not itself be harmful, who can guarantee that the process is aseptic?” said Liu Huiping, a member of the executive council of the Tianjin aquatic products association, in an interview with the Beijing News.
The incident in Jiaozuo came just before a new regulation took effect Monday, requiring school officials from kindergartens to secondary schools in China to dine with their students to prevent food safety scandals.
The pupils began vomiting and fainting after breakfast, the Beijing News said, citing unnamed city officials.
One parent told the newspaper that he rushed to the hospital after receiving a call from the school to find doctors had already pumped his child’s stomach to prevent high levels of toxicity in his blood.
One child remains in hospital with “severe” symptoms, and seven others have been held for observation, Xinhua reported.
The reports did not specify the ages of those affected, but typically, kindergarten students in China are aged three to six.
A preliminary investigation has revealed that sodium nitrite, which is used for curing meats but can be toxic when ingested in high amounts, caused the poisoning, Xinhua said.
Thepaper.cn (via the South China Morning Post) reports that local authorities in eastern China have tapped artificial intelligence (AI) to clamp down on unsanitary cooks in kitchens — and to reward those who adhere to best practices.
According to the report, a camera-based system currently being piloted in the Zhejiang city of Shaoxing automatically recognizes “poor [sanitation] habits” and alerts managers to offending workers via a mobile app. It’s reportedly the fruit of a six-year project — Sunshine Kitchen — that seeks to bring transparency to food preparation in catering, hotels, school cafeterias, and restaurants.
Zhou Feng, director of the Food Service Supervision Department in Shaoxing, told Thepaper.cn that the system can identify 18 different “risk management” areas, including smoking and using a smartphone. On the flip side, it recognizes four positive habits, like disinfecting surfaces and hand washing, and monitors kitchen conditions that might impact food safety, such as temperature and humidity.
So far, the local Xianheng Hotel and over 87 catering companies are said to have trialed the system, and authorities reportedly plan to expand the number to over 1,000 this year.
It’s not the first time AI has been applied to food safety.
In November 2018, a study led by researchers at Google and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health described a machine learning model — FINDER (Foodborne IllNess DEtector in Real time) — that leveraged search and location data to highlight “potentially unsafe” restaurants. FINDER took in anonymous logs from users who opted to share their location data, and it identified search queries indicative of food poisoning (e.g., “how to relieve stomach pain”) while looking up restaurants visited by the users who performed those searches.
In the end, FINDER not only outperformed complaint-based inspections and routine inspections concerning precision, scale, and latency (the time that passed between people becoming sick and the outbreak being identified), it managed to better attribute the location of foodborne illness to a specific venue than did customers.
San Francisco-based startup ImpactVision, meanwhile, leverages machine learning and hyperspectral imaging — a technique that combines spectroscopy and computer vision — to assess the quality of food in factories and elsewhere automatically. It’s now working with avocado distributors to replace their current systems, and with large berry distributors to potentially automate manual processes, such as counting strawberries.