China teacher arrested for ‘poisoning’ 23 kindergarten students

The first words I wrote for barfblog.com in 2005 as me and Chapman went on a road trip to escape my ex-girlfriend stalker were something about my mother trying to kill me through foodborne illness.

She didn’t like that, and I knew my kindergarten teacher mom had nothing but best intents, but with food safety, who knows.

I’d like to make clear that my mother never intentionally poisoned any of her students.

But, a kindergarten teacher in China did, sending 23 pupils to hospital in early April after a teacher allegedly poisoned their morning porridge.

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.

 

Thermometers may help: Caterers in China are reportedly using AI to spot unhygienic cooks

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.

Cronobacter: Not just for infants 156 sick at senior high school in China

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) has been widely used in traceability of foodborne outbreaks. Here, an interesting connection between Cronobacter sakazakii and foodborne gastroenteritis (AGE) was noticed. In October 2016, an acute AGE outbreak affecting 156 cases occurred in a local senior high school.

Case-control study including 70 case-patients and 295 controls indicated a strong association between eating supper at school canteen of the outbreak onset and AGE, as revealed by the Odds Ratio (OR: 95.32). Six recovered Cronobacter strains were evaluated and compared using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and WGS. A phylogenetic tree of whole genomic single nucleotide polymorphisms (wgSNPs) were generated to traceback the potential contamination source in this outbreak. C. sakazakii isolates S2 from a patient’s rectal swab and S4 from leftover food sample shared identical PFGE pattern and sequence type (ST73), and clustered tightly together in the SNP phylogenetic tree. C. sakazakii isolates S5 and S6 from food delivery containers were both ST4 but with different PFGE patterns. Cronobacter isolates S1 and S3 from two patients’ rectal swab were sequenced to be C. malonaticus and shared another same PFGE pattern with the same ST567.

The interesting feature of this study was the implication of C. sakazakii as a causative agent in foodborne AGE occurring in healthy adults, although C. sakazakii is considered as an opportunistic pathogen and generally affects neonates, infants and immuno-compromised adults.

An investigation of an acute gastroenteritis outbreak: Cronobacter sakazakii, a potential cause of foodborne illness

Frontiers in Microbiology, doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.02549

Wei Rong, Baofu Guo Xiaochao Shi, et al

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2018.02549/abstract

Norovirus-contaminated raspberries likely caused deaths, sickened hundreds, in Quebec last summer

Frozen raspberries imported from China made hundreds of people sick in Quebec last summer and probably resulted in multiple deaths, according to a recent public health report. 

The infected fruits led to a wave of recalls in August 2017 by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency because they had been used by a variety of food processors such as brewers, pastry chefs and ice cream makers and had been cooked in hospital cafeterias and residences for seniors.

The raspberries were contaminated by Norovirus. At least 724 Quebecers fell ill, a number that may represent just “the tip of the iceberg” 

According to Dr. Yves Jalbert, director of public health protection at the Quebec health ministry, it is clear that there were deaths over this period. No specific number has been given. Public health officials in Quebec do not track the progress of each infected patient. 

‘When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro’ To sate China’s appetite, African donkeys are stolen and skinned

An edited version of this fascinating Times story is below:

“This is the spot,” said Morris Njeru, gazing down at a tangled patch of farmland where he recently found the bloody corpses of David, Mukurino and Scratch — his last donkeys.

Mr. Njeru, 44, a market porter who depends on his animals to ferry goods around this city, had already lost five donkeys earlier in the year. In each case, the thieves slit the animals’ throats and skinned them from the neck down, leaving the meat to vultures and hyenas.

Four months later, all Mr. Njeru could find of the animals was a single hoof, which he pocketed as a memento.

Rachel Nuwer of the New York Times writes there are scant remains, too, of Mr. Njeru’s once comfortable life. Without his animals, his income plummeted from nearly $30 per day to less than $5. He can no longer afford payments on a loan for a small piece of property he rented, and he fears he will have to take his child from boarding school.

“My life has completely changed,” he said. “I was depending on these donkeys to feed my family.”

For Mr. Njeru and millions of others around the world, donkeys are the primary means to transport food, water, firewood, goods and people. In China, however, they have another purpose: the production of ejiao, a traditional medicine made from gelatin extracted from boiled donkey hides.

Ejiao was once prescribed primarily to supplement lost blood and balance yin and yang, but today it is sought for a range of ills, from delaying aging and increasing libido to treating side effects of chemotherapy and preventing infertility, miscarriage and menstrual irregularity in women.

While ejiao has been around for centuries, its modern popularity began to grow around 2010, when companies such as Dong-E-E-Jiao — the largest manufacturer in China — launched aggressive advertising campaigns. Fifteen years ago, ejiao sold for $9 per pound in China; now, it fetches around $400 per pound.

As demand increased, China’s donkey population — once the world’s largest — has fallen to fewer than six million from 11 million, and by some estimates possibly to as few as three million. Attempts to replenish the herds have proved challenging: Unlike cows or pigs, donkeys do not lend themselves to intensive breeding. Females produce just one foal per year and are prone to spontaneous abortions under stressful conditions.

So Chinese companies have begun buying donkey skins from developing nations. Out of a global population of 44 million, around 1.8 million donkeys are slaughtered per year to produce ejiao, according to a report published last year by the Donkey Sanctuary, a nonprofit based in the United Kingdom.

“There’s a huge appetite for ejiao in China that shows no signs of diminishing,” said Simon Pope, manager of rapid response and campaigns for the organization. “As a result, donkeys are being Hoovered out of communities that depend on them.”

In November, researchers at the Beijing Forestry University warned that China’s demand for ejiao may cause donkeys “to become the next pangolin.”

“In 2016, this business of donkeys erupted,” said Obassy Nguvillah, a police superintendent in Tanzania’s Monduli district, near the Kenyan border. “There were increasing numbers of cases of guys passing into the Maasai area, taking people’s donkeys and transporting them to the Chinese-owned processing plant.”

In Esilalei — a village located on a sprawling, drought-plagued savanna under Mr. Nguvillah’s watch — residents lost nearly 475 donkeys in a single year. While about 175 of the animals were recovered by tracking the thieves into the bush, police believe the remainder were sold to slaughterhouses. Unable to afford replacements, the former owners are still reeling.

Unlike Tanzania, Kenya’s donkey skin trade shows no signs of slowing. In 2016, prices for skins were fifty times higher than in 2014, while prices for live donkeys have nearly tripled, from about $60 to $165.

The country’s three abattoirs — all of which have Chinese owners or partners — reported processing just under 100,000 donkeys in two years, according to a government memo. Both skin and meat are exported to China, usually through Vietnam or Hong Kong.

Seventeen skin traders have also opened shop, mostly in Nairobi, and a fourth abattoir is rumored to be on the way. The abattoir owners insist that they are bettering the country by generating jobs and paying handsome prices for unneeded donkeys.

“This business has helped so many people,” said John Kariuki, director of Star Brilliant Donkey Export Abattoir in Naivasha. “Instead of having to sell cows and goats, Maasai pastoralists are selling donkeys to pay their children’s school fees.”

Goldox Donkey Slaughterhouse in Baringo County — the largest of Kenya’s abattoirs, claiming to process some 450 donkeys a day — also attempts to spread good will by providing free water to neighbors, and by paying school fees for four local children.

Waste disposal has become a significant issue. Last fall, Goldox began dumping donkey remains at a parcel of land it purchased in Chemogoch village, down the road from its slaughterhouse.

After residents living adjacent to the site complained, the company began burying the waste rather than leaving it in the open. But neighbors say the situation is still unacceptable, accusing the company of contaminating ground water and breeding disease.

 “Should we go into the cocaine business or the sale of elephant tusks just because it makes money?” asked Dr. Onyango

Norovirus sickens 60 students at NC State; kindergarten in China

In an update to the North Carolina State University norovirus outbreak, about 60 students are experiencing symptoms.

For me it was for one night and that night it was like the apocalypse, honestly. It was, ugh, really bad,” said Astri Sundstroem, a graduate student who battled the virus this week.

Most of the affected students, including Sundstroem and senior Linda Astrom, live in the Alexander residence hall.

“It was really bad. It was very intense for like just a few hours. Everything broke out. It was crazy. Everyone was really sick,” Astrom said.

To demonstrate how infectious norovirus can be, Zhang et al. report in the current International Journal of Infectious Diseases – recommended bath time reading – that noroviruses are a common cause of acute gastroenteritis outbreaks in institutions including schools and kindergartens around the world.

An outbreak caused by GII.P16-GII.2 norovirus in a kindergarten in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, China is reported here. An epidemiological investigation was conducted, and pathogen detection was performed. The descriptive analysis indicated that this outbreak in middle class 1 had a point source. Twenty cases of acute gastroenteritis occurred in this class within a period of 8.5 h; the attack rate was 52.6% (20/38). Airborne transmission via the air conditioning unit in a confined restroom could have played a critical role in this outbreak. Sequence analysis of GII-positive samples confirmed that the norovirus GII.P16-GII.2 variant was the etiological agent of this outbreak.

An acute gastroenteritis outbreak caused by GII.P16-GII.2 norovirus associated with airborne transmission via the air conditioning unit in a kindergarten in Lianyungang, China

International Journal of Infectious Diseases, December 2017, vol 65, pages 81-84,Ting-lu Zhang, Jing Lu, Liang Ying, Xiao-lu Zhu, Lian-hao Zhao, Meng-ying Zhou, Jia-long Wang, Guo-cai Chen, Lei Xu, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2017.10.003

http://www.ijidonline.com/article/S1201-9712(17)30259-X/fulltext

Hong Kong fairytales: More Vibrio: Suspected food poisoning outbreak in tour group

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is investigating a suspected outbreak of food poisoning in a tour group, and hence urged the public to maintain good personal, food and environmental hygiene to prevent food-borne diseases.

Because all foodborne illness is caused by poor personal hygiene, and not contaminated product.

Not

The outbreak affected six members of the tour group, comprising two men and four women aged from 44 to 80, who developed abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting 14 to 40 hours after their lunch buffet in a restaurant in a hotel in Macau on August 13 arranged by a travel agent in Hong Kong.

Among them, three sought medical attention in Hong Kong and required no hospitalisation. All affected persons have been in stable condition.

The stool specimen of one patient tested positive for Vibrio parahaemolyticus upon laboratory testing.

 

2 sick with botulism from deer antler tea in Calif.

As I sip tea and watch the Pacific waves roll into Coff’s Harbour from our 13th floor beachside apartment, resting for the next-of-so-far-12 hours on the ice at a weekend hockey camp we arranged for 36 kids from Brisbane, I ask myself: who the fuck drinks tea from deer antlers?

Lots of people.

Lots of North Americans make lots of money selling deer antler velvet to southeast Asians, especially Chinese, who value the ingredient in traditional herbal medicine.

Until it gives someone botulism.

Public health officials consider a single case of botulism a public health emergency, because it might foretell a larger outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

One adult in Orange County, California has a confirmed case of botulism, and another has a suspected case. Health types suggest the botulism illnesses may be connected with drinking deer antler tea obtained in March.

According to ProMed, velvet antler (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velvet_antler>) “is used as a drug in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that classifies many
similar substances from a variety of species under the simplified
Chinese name pinyin Lu Rong and the pharmaceutical name Cervi Cornu
Pantorichum. The 2 common species used within the TCM system are Sika
Deer and Red Deer. Within the TCM system it is prescribed by a doctor
to a patient in the use to treat yang deficiency syndromes. In Asia,
velvet antler is dried and sold as slices or powdered. The powder or
slices are then boiled in water, usually with other herbs and
ingredients, and consumed as a medicinal soup.

Velvet antler in the form of deer antler spray has been at the center
of multiple controversies with professional sports leagues and famous
athletes allegedly using it for injury recovery and performance
enhancement purposes. In mid-2011 a National Football League (NFL)
player successfully sued a deer antler velvet spray manufacturer for
testing positive for methyltestosterone in 2009 for a total amount of
5.4 million.[19][20] In August 2011, Major League Baseball (MLB) added
deer antler spray to their list of prohibited items because it
contains “potentially contaminated nutritional supplements.”

On January 30, 2013, a professional PGA Tour golfer was caught unaware
and openly admitted to the personal use of deer antler spray which
contained a banned substance at the time. A week later the World
Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lifted the ban on deer antler spray, but
with urgency, “Deer Antler Velvet Spray may contain IGF-1
(Insulin-like Growth Factor -1) and WADA recommends therefore that
athletes be extremely vigilant with this supplement because it could
lead to a positive test.” The consensus opinion of leading
endocrinologists concerning any purported claims and benefits “is
simply that there is far too little of the substance in even the
purest forms of the spray to make any difference,” and “there is no
medically valid way to deliver IGF-1 orally or in a spray.”

 

Nothin’ new here: China reports 500,000 food safety violations in 9 months

The Bangkok Post reports China, rocked in recent years by a series of food safety scandals, uncovered as many as half a million illegal food safety violations in the first three quarters of the year, an official has told lawmakers.

Chinese officials have unearthed a series of recent scandals, including rice contaminated with heavy metals, the use of recycled “gutter oil” in restaurants, as well as the sale of baby formula containing lethal amounts of the industrial chemical melamine in 2008.

Bi Jingquan, the head of the China Food and Drug Administration, told the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress on Friday that while significant progress had been made in the food sector, “deep-seated” problems remained.

Thanksgiving leftovers? Ship them to Shanghai

Liu Renzhi of CCTV reports that authorities and some restaurants in Shanghai’s Putuo District have set up shared refrigerators in various public spaces. The refrigerators look to serve the disabled and elderly in getting free leftovers. The initiative also aims to reduce the amount of waste at restaurants.

sorenne-tedMr. Wang got some free cake from a community refrigerator this morning in Changshou compound. He says it’s convenient.

“I like this idea. I can’t walk normally due to a stroke. Now I don’t have to go far for food or spend too much thanks to the community refrigerator,” he said.

“The locals come as soon as we open at 8:30 am. Most of them are in their 70s or 80s,” said Peng Hongjun, volunteer, New Puxiong Community in Putuo District.

Suppliers put about 30 boxes of food in the refrigerator every time. They include half-cooked dishes, milk and cake. And more food is added in the afternoon. There’s no limit of how much food one person can get. The food is often all gone within ten minutes of the refrigerator opening in the morning.

thanksgiving-leftoversWang said they’re working with food safety authorities to ensure the hygiene and quality of the food. Volunteers also write down the names and contacts of those who take food in case there are any food safety issues.