New food safety infosheet: 103 cases of salmonellosis linked to North Carolina church fundraiser meal

When it comes to food safety temporary events can be problematic. Outbreaks have been linked to food festivals, community dinners and church fundraisers. The newest food safety infosheet is based on a September 2013 outbreak linked to a Shelby, North Carolina church fundraiser.Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 10.36.50 AM

Food Safety Infosheet Highlights:

– At least 13 individuals who ate at a barbecue event were hospitalized with symptoms including abdominal cramping, diarrhea and vomiting.
– All preparers should know safe cooking/cooling temperatures and procedures. Hold meals and ingredients requiring temperature control either below 41°F or above 135°F.
– Purchase ingredients from commercial food businesses instead of homemade/donated foods and ask about food safety systems for suppliers.
– Community dinners can be great fundraisers but are often held at temporary sites and staffed by volunteers unfamiliar with safe food handling practices for large meals.

Download the infosheet here.

Flu-like Illness hits Illinois church

I lost my passport. God hasn’t found it yet. I’m stuck in Dallas.

I blame the Catholics.

While flying from Manhattan to Dallas last night, on my way to Brisbane, my passport was misplaced. Thirty years of international travel and I do the one thing you should never do – lose a passport. I was having a pleasant enough chat with a fella who was telling me why Catholicism was the best of all religions; I was trying to be polite, and said I primarily viewed religion as a spectator sport – at least for me.

Most food safety is faith-based, and the lord wasn’t shining so bright on about 40 parishioners at Spring Lake Missionary Church who were sickened over the past two weeks.

The Pekin Times reports the Tazewell County Health Department is investigating the outbreak.

Kim Gudzinskas, the department’s weekend on-call nurse, said she only knew that no final determination has been made on the possible source and exact nature of the virus. Further information may be available today, she said.

Lacey said the illness was first noticed about two weeks ago. While he knew of no one hospitalized, the illness’s symptoms were strong.

Health department investigators told church members the illness possibly spread through both contact with a germ-laden surface or person and through the air.

I was having enough trouble learning Australian; now I’m gonna have to learn Texan.

PEI church dinner suspect as 160 sickened

At least 160 people became ill following a weekend church supper in Malpeque, Prince Edward Island (that’s in Canada).

The Charlottetown Guardian reports the province’s Health Department must wait "several days” before receiving lab results to help pinpoint the exact cause.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Lamont Sweet says all indications are the cause of the wide spread illness was foodborne. However, the ongoing investigation has yet to determine if a virus or bacteria is responsible.

Sweet says the illnesses, mainly diarrhea but also some cases of abdominal pain and nausea, appear linked to the 500 meals that were sold Saturday at Princetown United Church, most as takeout dinners. Many were ill for only a few hours but others reported being sick for 24 hours or longer, he said.

If this outbreak of illness proves to be food-borne, this will mark only the third time in the past 22 years that community meals have resulted in food-borne illness on P.E.I.

Any remaining food purchased from the church on the weekend should be tossed out, he added.

The meal was roast beef, vegetables, rolls and desserts. A portion of the meal was prepared on site and some of the items, including desserts, were brought into the venue.

Good intentions, bad food safety: 40,000 pounds of potentially contaminated chicken mistakenly given away in Texas

KTXS News reports that what started out as a good deed could have potentially bad consequences – after 40,000 pounds of contaminated chicken was mistakenly donated to charities in the Brownwood area two weeks ago.

After a rollover accident in Mills County, Texas, on February 10, 2012, Brown County Health Department received a report that 40,000 pounds of partially thawed and potentially contaminated chicken was being given away in Brown County.

Texas Department of Public Safety worked the accident scene until approximately 9:30pm and condemned the trailer load of chicken due to its partial thawing and possible health risks said Brownwood/Brown County Health Inspector Paul Coghlan. He explained that the chicken posed a hazard with consumption of either salmonella or food poisoning, both of which can be life threatening to anyone with a compromised immune system.

After the insurance company released the contents of the trailer to be disposed of on February 15th, someone from the company decided to take the chicken, not knowing of the health risk that it posed, to non-profit agencies such as Good Samaritan Ministries and the Salvation Army in Brownwood, according to Coghlan. Both of these agencies refused the donation because they are required to only buy or accept raw meats from licensed distributors. The man then went to local churches and donated many cases of chicken which were then passed on to individuals in need, Coghlan said.

As soon as Coghlan received the report about the man possibly donating the contaminated chicken, he and Dr. James Hays began trying to find where the chickens were distributed. They also notified the Brownwood Regional Medical Center emergency room so that cases of food poisoning or salmonella could be tracked. The man who donated the chicken was located and he gladly cooperated, giving officials a list of places he left the chicken, Coghlan said. Brownwood Police were also called in to assist in the search and interview of possible recipients of the tainted meat.

“The man was trying to do a good deed, unfortunately some people don’t know how to handle meat safely,” said Coghlan. “I feel like we would have seen something by now if anyone was going to get sick from the meat; however it does still have potential to be dangerous.”

Coghlan stated that some of the people who received the chicken would not give the meat back; however, they were warned of the possibility that they may become ill if they consumed it. They were also given tips on how to tell if chicken is contaminated, to look for air in the packaging which signals decay, a slimy feel to the meat, or a foul odor when the packaging is opened.

Of the 40,000 pounds of chicken on the trailer, less than 3000 pounds have been accounted for and the public is still urged to dispose of this chicken if received.

The risk of cross-contamination seems grossly underestimated.

Church turkey dinner sickens 22 in Kansas

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and City-Cowley County Health Department, with assistance from the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the cooperation of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Arkansas City, are conducting an investigation of a possible foodborne illness outbreak associated with the Sacred Heart Turkey Dinner that was held on the evening of November 8.

Since November 8, at least 22 individuals have reported becoming ill; symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping. Follow-up investigations are ongoing, but preliminary information suggests that the illnesses among these individuals are associated with attendance at or consumption of food from the turkey dinner. No other common links have yet been identified.

At this time, no specific foods have been identified as the potential source of illnesses. As a precaution, KDHE is recommending that no food that was prepared for this dinner is consumed. Any food left over from the event should be discarded to reduce the potential of further illness.

To aid in the investigation and potentially identify the source of the outbreak, KDHE is conducting an online survey that can be accessed at:

Outbreak brings congregation closer; information about bugs may help too; 40 North Carolina church members fall ill after potluck

People weren’t so lucky at this potluck.

After a Sunday church service last week, 40 members of a Cary, NC, Baptist church caught what media described as a stomach virus, including the pastor’s family.

About 140 people gathered for Sunday worship at North Cary Baptist Church on Reedy Creek Road and then ate a potluck lunch together, said Pastor Mark Minervino.

Soon after, people began falling ill and vomiting, he said. At first, they thought it was food poisoning, but the illness passed between family members at different times.

They later discovered a child in the church had been ill two days before the pot luck. The child was not there Sunday, but relatives were, Minervino said.

The pastor spoke with a Wake County Health Department official, who told him it is probably the norovirus, a stomach bug that swept through Wake County earlier this year.

The church will be open Sunday, Minervino said, adding the outbreak has brought the congregation closer.

"They have such good spirits, and it’s really drawn us to watch over one another.”

New Food Safety Infosheet: 125 illnesses linked to church fundraiser

Community gatherings around food awaken nostalgic feelings of the rural past — times when an entire town would get together monthly, eat, enjoy company and work together. And also, as Rob Tauxe says in an article about new trends in foodborne pathogens, have created some of the easily traced foodborne illness outbreaks:

The traditional foodborne outbreak scenario often follows a church supper, family picnic, wedding reception, or other social event. This scenario involves an acute and highly local outbreak, with a high inoculum dose and a high attack rate. The outbreak is typically immediately apparent to those in the local group, who promptly involve medical and public health authorities. The investigation identifies a food-handling error in a small kitchen that occurs shortly before consumption. The solution is also local.

In 1997, two elderly people died, more than 100 made a trip to the emergency room, and 700 more reported feeling ill after an annual church dinner of stuffed ham, turkey and fried oysters at Our Lady of the Wayside Parish in Chaptico, Md., population 100. Tests showed that Salmonella in the ham likely caused the illnesses.

In September 2004, near Buffalo, N.Y., 28 confirmed cases of salmonella infection were reported following an annual community roast-beef dinner. Volunteers were not trained in food service and "didn’t quite understand the importance of maintaining a hot or cold temperature," investigators said.

The nasty bugs that cause foodborne illness don’t distinguish between commercial and charitable food operations.

The newest food safety infosheet focuses on a recent outbreak of Salmonellosis linked to a church fundraiser in Conway, SC. It’s not entirely clear what factors led to the outbreak, but what is apparent is that over 125 of the 1,500 participants had were left with foodborne illness symptoms including abdominal cramping, diarrhea and vomiting after their BBQ plates were consumed. Fourteen individuals were hospitalized.

To download this week’s infosheet, click here.

Cheech and Chong may be the cooks: why people shouldn’t purchase brownies from streets vendors

I can’t wait until Sorenne goes to pre-school, only to be greeted by a teacher giggling, muttering to herself, “Dave’s not here.”

That’s what happened in April, 2009, when the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) notified officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) in California about a group of preschool teachers with nausea, dizziness, headache, and numbness and tingling of fingertips after consumption of brownies purchased 3 days before from a sidewalk vendor.

As reported in today’s U.S. Centers for Disease Control weekly update, “the findings also underscore the need to consider marijuana as a potential contaminant during foodborne illness investigations and the importance of identifying drug metabolites by testing of clinical specimens soon after symptom onset.

On the morning of April 7, 2009, a preschool teacher put brownies, which she had purchased on April 5, on a table in a break room to share with staff. The day before, she also had given two brownies to her adult son at home. Five preschool teachers (not including the teacher who had purchased the brownies) and the teacher’s adult son were the only persons who ate the brownies. Each person ate only one brownie. At approximately 1:30 p.m., the preschool director and the administrator noticed that one of the teachers suddenly looked drowsy and was complaining of drowsiness, ataxia, dizziness, shortness of breath, and numbness and tingling of the face, forehead, arms, and hands. When the director and administrator learned that the teacher who had shared the brownies had purchased them from a sidewalk vendor for a church fundraiser, they suspected the affected teacher’s drowsiness was associated with her ingestion of the brownie 30 minutes before onset of symptoms. The teacher did not seek medical care.

The brownies were sold as single, unlabeled units, individually wrapped in plastic wrap, costing $1.50 each. The preschool director contacted the head pastor of the church, who reported that the church had not held a fundraiser, and the pastor subsequently notified LAPD to investigate. After interviewing persons at the church and the preschool, LAPD suspected foodborne illness and contacted DPH on April 8.

Pray the flu away: Religious groups become involved in H1N1 prevention

Manhattan feels markedly different this fall. Returning to campus, I’ve seen Doug’s “How to avoid H1N1 and seasonal flu” in every bathroom in the veterinary medicine buildings. Everyone’s whispering about H1N1 and many preventative methods have been put in place to keep the flu at bay. At St. Isidore’s Catholic Church, they’ve even gone as far as to discontinue communion wine for the congregation. Chaplain Fr Keith Weber says that the decision was made by the staff and not mandated by the diocese. Will it be mandatory in the future?

Drinking the communion wine always felt like a bit of Russian roulette for me. How healthy was the person who drank before me? During the winter when the whole church was coughing and hacking, I decided to skip it entirely. I had accepted the fact that this public health nightmare would continue indefinitely. St. Isidore’s new policy of discontinuing communion wine is definitely a smart move to join the “avoid H1N1” campaign.

The policy for distributing communion wafers has always been to wash your hands before the service starts, but now there is also a bottle of antibacterial available to use immediately before giving out communion. St. Isidore’s is just one of many churches around the country (and globally) implementing these anti-flu strategies. The virus once known as swine flu has affected the practices of Christians and Muslims, especially in Great Britain.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York said the church’s worship needed to "take into account the interests of public health during the current phase of the swine flu pandemic."

The Muslim Council of Britain has released guidelines to Muslims urging imams and mosque committee members to increase the awareness among the Muslim community about the dangers of using communal towels during cleansing ceremonies before worship.

As far as working against H1N1, it’s a good step in the right direction. Even once the pandemic has blown over, shouldn’t these practices stay in place to prevent future diseases?

Florida woman assaulted at church with cucumber

Cucumbers should be used as vegetables, or even conversation starters like in this scene from the movie, Animal House (right).

But a Lee County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office report says that during a food giveaway at the Lehigh Christian Church, a 33-year-old woman was struck with a cucumber by another woman after an argument over which free food belonged to which woman.

The church asked both women to leave.