Authorities investigating hepatitis A outbreak from Chinese salted clams

Authorities have launched an investigation into a hepatitis A breakout.

The City of Busan said nineteen customers at a restaurant have been diagnosed with hepatitis A between mid-June and early-July.

The city suspects the Chinese salted clams from the restaurant may have been the cause of the breakout and are looking into the correlation.

Raw is risky: 12 sick from Norovirus linked to oysters, prompting shellfish harvest closure and recall

 JoNel Aleccia of the Seattle Times writes that Washington state health officials have ordered an emergency harvest closure and a multistate recall of all shellfish from a portion of Mason County’s Hammersley Inlet after at least a dozen people who ate raw oysters became ill.

oystersNorovirus is suspected in the illnesses reported last month; laboratory tests confirmed the infection in two people, health officials said.

The recall announced Thursday includes nearly 4,000 dozen oysters and nearly 3,000 pounds of Manila clams from the area processed from Nov. 10 to Dec. 5.

Health officials used the state’s shellfish-tracking system, which tags commercially harvested shellfish with location and dates, to identify the problem.

In Massachusetts, a man who nearly died in 2011 from Vibrio after eating raw Cape Cod oysters will have his civil suit heard in Hampshire Superior Court.

Raw oystersJohn W. Roy claims the defendants were negligent in their handling of the oysters, and failed to warn him of the dangers of Vibrio contamination in oysters harvested and sold in Massachusetts. The oysters served at Chapin’s came from the East Dennis Oyster Farm, who in turn procured oysters from Avery, Roy maintains.

The Roys seek compensatory damages and have demanded a jury trial.

The Massachusetts Dept. of Marine Fisheries in 2012 issued a Vibrio Control Plan for parts of the Cape, which required that oysters be kept on ice after harvest and that good records and a clear chain of custody be maintained. The program was expanded to cover the entire state in 2013.


Not only oysters; clam-associated vibriosis, USA, 1988–2010

Infections with Vibrio spp. have frequently been associated with consumption of bivalve molluscs, especially oysters, but illness associated with clams has also been well documented. We describe the 2312 domestically acquired foodborne Vibrio infections reported to the Cholera and Other Vibrio Illness Surveillance system from 1988 to 2010. clamsClams were associated with at least 4% (93 persons, ‘only clams’) and possibly as many as 24% (556 persons, ‘any clams’) of foodborne cases. Of those who consumed ‘only clams’, 77% of infections were caused by V. parahaemolyticus. Clam-associated illnesses were generally similar to those associated with other seafood consumption. Clams associated with these illnesses were most frequently harvested from the Atlantic coastal states and eaten raw. Our study describes the contribution of clams to the overall burden of foodborne vibriosis and indicates that a comprehensive programme to prevent foodborne vibriosis need to address the risks associated with clams.

529 sickened; final epi report into norovirus-in-oysters at the Fat Duck won’t please Heston

By March 2009, 529 diners had become sick with norovirus from raw oysters served by Fat Duck proprietor and pseudo-celebrity, Heston Blumenthal.

From the beginning of the outbreak, Blumenthal blamed others – especially the suppliers – failing to recognize that as owner and chef, he determines what is served, and his business, with consumers who fork over hundreds of pounds for a meal, is based almost entirely on trust.

When health-types noted a number of staff were working while sick, Blumenthal employed the but-we-have-a-manual defense, which is nothing more than an invitation for more derision.

When Blumenthal did finally issue an apology on September 25, 2009—seven months after the outbreak was discovered and more than two weeks after the U.K. Health Protection Agency issued a report on the outbreak—it suggested that he viewed an empathetic apology as an admission of guilt.

"I am relieved to be able to finally offer my fullest apologies to all those who were affected by the outbreak at the Fat Duck,” said Blumenthal, “It was extremely frustrating to not be allowed to personally apologise (sic) to my guests until now. It was devastating to me and my whole team, as it was to many of our guests and I wish to invite them all to return to the Fat Duck at their convenience [for a free meal]."

The apology was too late and again failed to accept responsibility for the aspects of the outbreak that were under the chef’s control—namely, acquiring seafood from unsafe sources and allowing sick employees to handle food.

Television presenter Jim Rosenthal, who was sickened, called Blumenthal’s response, “pathetic.”??

“He has basically attempted to re-write the HPA report and its conclusions in his favour. It is pathetic and a complete PR disaster. There isn’t even a hint of apology."

Last week, investigators published the results of the investigation in a peer-reviewed journal, Epidemiology and Infection.

According to the paper, HPA received notification of four individuals who had developed symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting on Feb. 25, 2009, after a local health authority received notification from private consultants late on Feb. 24, 2009. The consultants had apparently been hired by the restaurant in mid-Feb. to review its food safety management system following complaints from diners.

The restaurant voluntarily closed Feb. 22, 2009, but didn’t bother telling health types until late Feb. 24 – and it was the consultants who notified investigators. By this time, 66 complaints of illness had been received by the restaurant, although no one had contacted the health department (because most people don’t know to contact the health department in suspected foodborne illness cases).

Not telling health-types there is an outbreak going on and hoping it will go away reflects serious misgivings with upper – and the upperist – management.

Abstract below.

A large foodborne outbreak of norovirus in diners at a restaurant in England between January and February 2009
Epidemiology and Infection 01.dec.11, FirstView Article : pp 1-7
A. J. Smith, N. McCarthy, L. Saldana, C. Ihekweazu, K. McPhedran, G. K. Adak, M. Iturriza-Gomara, G. Bickler and É. O’Moore
An outbreak of gastroenteritis affected at least 240 persons who had eaten at a gourmet restaurant over a period of 7 weeks in 2009 in England. Epidemiological, microbiological, and environmental studies were conducted. The case-control study demonstrated increased risk of illness in those who ate from a special ‘tasting menu’ and in particular an oyster, passion fruit jelly and lavender dish (odds ratio 7·0, 95% confidence interval 1·1–45·2). Ten diners and six staff members had laboratory-confirmed norovirus infection. Diners were infected with multiple norovirus strains belonging to genogroups I and II, a pattern characteristic of molluscan shellfish-associated outbreaks. The ongoing risk from dining at the restaurant may have been due to persistent contamination of the oyster supply alone or in combination with further spread via infected food handlers or the restaurant environment. Delayed notification of the outbreak to public health authorities may have contributed to outbreak size and duration.

Raw clams sicken 60 with campy in NY

The Onondaga County Health Department says 60 people have become ill because of raw clams served at an event at Hinerwadel’s Grove in North Syracuse.

The Health Department says so far, all of the illnesses have been linked to a clambake September 15th for the CNY Builders Exchange. Approximately 3,800 members attended that clambake.

The reported symptoms are related to campylobacter, a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, cramps, and fever. The incubation period for the infection is usually two to five days, but it can last as long as 10 days. Symptoms can last up to two weeks.

The Health Department is asking that anyone who ate at the facility and became ill to call (315) 435-6607.


Food safety standards for fast-food far better than for school lunches

Every semester I give a couple of lectures in an introductory food science class at Kansas State University and every semester I ask the same question: what is safe food, and what retailers come to mind when thinking about safe food?

Safe food is food that doesn’t make you barf; food that doesn’t make you barf is based on food safety programs validated with microbiological testing. Whole Foods Markets may be trendy and a nice place to shop, but they suck at food safety. Good food safety programs can be found at places like McDonald’s, Burger King, Costco and WalMart.

Students are generally surprised.

As will be readers of today’s USA Today, which once again slams the U.S. school lunch program as behind the times and proclaims that “McDonald’s, Burger King and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day. And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.”

David Theno, who developed the safety program at Jack in the Box before retiring last year, says,

"We look at those (measures) to gauge how a supplier is doing.”  If shipments regularly exceed the company’s limits on indicator bacteria, "we’d stop doing business with them.”

Mansour Samadpour, a Seattle-based food safety consultant and microbiologist says the AMS approach to sampling "is not robust enough to find anything."

Florida man dies from raw oysters

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of raw seafood.

Medical examiners in Florida say a Florida man who was a passenger and died suddenly following a high speed chase with police, had a deficient liver and was killed by Vibrio vulnificus in raw oysters he had eaten earlier.

Meanwhile, Mahogany clams served at Hinerwadel’s Grove in North Syracuse, New York, have been found to contain two bacteria, including campylobacter. So far, 236 people have been sickened. The investigation continues.

Reasons to avoid raw shellfish

Me, I love a bowl of mussels with a white wine and tomato sauce (go figure) and a thick bread for dipping. That’s me (right) indulging while in New Zealand. Kansas isn’t exactly the seafood capital of the U.S., and I chuckle when I see mussels from Prince Edward Island (that’s in Canada) advertized in Manhattan (Kansas).

But I also take my seafood cooked. Here’s why:

Hinerwadel’s in North Syracuse, New York served up some raw clams earlier in September that is responsible for at least 160 illnesses. The clams apparently originated in Maine.

And at least 40 people the Valencia region of Spain have contracted Hepatitis A after eating frozen shellfish from Peru. They were probably thawed and either served raw or undercooked.

Don’t’ eat poop. Or at least cook it out.