More hatching chick associated salmonellosis

You see a cute baby chick, I see a Salmonella factory.

The other parents hate me at school.

borat.chickenScott Wesse writes in his Worms & Germs blog that the salmonellosis outbreak in the US associated with hatching chicks continues to expand. The outbreak, ironically associated with Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio, has now sickened at least 344 people in 42 US states and Puerto Rico with a variety of Salmonella serotypes (S. Infants, S. Newport and S. Hadar). Showing no sign of abating, another 42 cases were identified in the past 6 weeks.

As is often the case, young people are more often affected, with 33% of sick individuals being 10 years of age or younger. 32% of infected individuals have been hospitalized.

Unfortunately, the regulatory response is most often giving places like this guidance as opposed to mandatory measures. However, this is really a ‘buyer beware’ situation, where people purchasing hatching chicks need to be aware of the high risks associated with young poultry and take appropriate measures. While Salmonella-free eggs and chicks would be ideal, it’s not particularly realistic, and people need to be proactive and listen to established infection control practices, which include keeping kids <5 years of age away from young poultry.

Maybe schools will pay attention to this when they’re planning their annual (and often poorly managed) hatching chick activities.

166 sick from Salmonella linked to bearded dragons

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that this investigation is over; however, the illnesses linked to contact with pet bearded dragons are expected to continue at a low level.

bearded_dragon_pic*Reptiles can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness.

*Pet owners might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from bearded dragons.

*It is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching reptiles or anything in the area where they live and roam.

*Simple tips on how to enjoy your pet reptile and protect yourself and your family from illness is available in English and en Español. 

*A total of 166 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Cotham (160 persons) or Salmonella Kisarawe (6 persons) were reported from 36 states since February 21, 2012.

*59% of ill persons were children 5 years of age or younger.

*37% of ill persons were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

*Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback findings linked this outbreak of human Salmonella infections to contact with pet bearded dragons purchased from multiple stores in different states.

*Bearded dragons are popular pet lizards that come in a variety of colors.

*CDC’S NARMS laboratory conducted antibiotic resistance testing on Salmonella Cotham isolates collected from ten ill persons and two bearded dragons infected with the outbreak strain.

*Nine (90%) of the ten isolates collected from ill persons were pansusceptible (susceptible to all antibiotics tested).

*One (10%) of the ten isolates collected from ill persons was resistant to ceftriaxone, an antibiotic used to treat serious Salmonella infections.

*The two isolates collected from infected bearded dragons were both pansusceptible.

Vibrio cholera in Mexico City

On September 2 and 6, 2013, Mexico’s National System of Epidemiological Surveillance identified two cases of cholera in Mexico City. Rectal swab cultures from both patients were confirmed as toxigenic Vibrio cholerae serogroup O1, serotype Ogawa, biotype El Tor. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and virulence gene amplification (ctxA, ctxB, zot, and ace) demonstrated that the strains were identical to vibrio.choleraone another but different from strains circulating in Mexico previously. The strains were indistinguishable from the strain that has caused outbreaks in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba (1,2). The strain was susceptible to doxycycline, had intermediate susceptibility to ampicillin and chloramphenicol, was less than fully susceptible to ciprofloxacin, and was resistant to furazolidone and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. An investigation failed to identify a common source of infection, additional cases, or any epidemiologic link between the cases. Both patients were treated with a single, 300-mg dose of doxycycline, and their symptoms resolved.

On September 12 and 13, four cases of cholera were identified by the Hidalgo Public Health Laboratory among residents of La Huasteca region, located approximately 75 miles (121 km) east of Mexico City and inhabited mainly by Otomi and Nahuatl speakers. During September 19–December 15, 2013, a total of 175 cases of cholera were confirmed in La Huasteca (159 in Hidalgo, 14 in Veracruz, and two in San Luis Potosí). Cases were defined according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines (3). A case of cholera was suspected if, in an area where the disease is not known to be present, a patient aged ≥5 years developed severe dehydration or died from acute watery diarrhea (3). All cases were laboratory-confirmed at the Instituto de Diagnóstico y Referencia Epidemiológicos as toxigenic V. cholerae, serogroup O1, serotype Ogawa, biotype El Tor, identical to the Mexico City isolates and indistinguishable from the strain circulating in the Caribbean. All of the cases have been reported to WHO by Mexico’s International Health Regulations Focal Point (4).

Among the 175 cases, 86 (49%) were in females, and the median age of patients was 32 years (range = 3 months–83 years). Only 40 (23%) patients required hospitalization, with an average hospital stay of 36 hours. All patients had acute and watery diarrhea, and 46 (26%) passed “rice-water” stool; 63 (36%) had fewer than five bowel movements per 24 hours, 86 (49%) had vomiting, and 30 (17%) had cramps. Some degree of dehydration was noted in 75 (43%) patients; 37 (21%) suffered mild dehydration (<5% loss of body weight), 32 (18%) moderate dehydration (6%–9% loss), and five (3%) severe dehydration (≥10% loss). One patient died, a woman aged 67 years with a history of diabetes and chronic renal failure. The spectrum of disease seen in this outbreak differed from that of outbreaks in the Caribbean; the proportion of infected persons, incidence of dehydration, mortality rate, and numbers of hospitalizations and complications were smaller in La Huasteca than in the Caribbean (5).

Three quarters of patients were residents of areas neighboring El Tecoluco and El Chinguiñoso streams flowing into the Panuco River. V. cholerae isolates recovered from both streams were identical to the outbreak strain. Samples obtained from municipal sewers, fish vendors, restaurants, and drinking water sources were tested to identify potential outbreak sources.

In Mexico, during 1991–2001, a total of 45,062 confirmed cases of cholera occurred, with a 1.1% case-fatality rate. Cases of infection by V. cholerae serogroup O1 have occurred sporadically since the end of that epidemic; regular, active surveillance allowed the identification of one case in 2010, one in 2011, and two in 2012, all in the northwestern state of Sinaloa. The first two cases were caused by toxigenic V. cholerae O1 serotype Inaba, and the other two by toxigenic V. cholerae O1 serotype Ogawa. All of the isolate strains were characterized by Instituto de Diagnóstico y Referencia Epidemiológicos and were identical to the strains circulating in Mexico during 1991–2001 (6).

Health professionals at different levels of the health-care system in Mexico are being trained in cholera prevention, treatment, and control. Public awareness campaigns to safeguard food and water quality, including national radio messages on the prevention of diarrhea, are being carried out in Spanish, Nahuatl, and Otomi languages. Health authorities continue to increase epidemiologic capacity at the national level, ensure the availability of adequate medical management, increase sanitation and access to potable water at the community level, and monitor chlorine levels in drinking water. In addition, continuous microbiologic surveillance for cases of V. cholerae infection and V. cholerae contamination of reservoirs is in place to promptly detect strains with pathogenic potential.

As a result of these actions, the outbreak in La Huasteca, in which samples from 88% of the cases were collected, was controlled within the first 13 weeks. A mobile microbiology laboratory was used in this area to quickly diagnose and treat patients and to interrupt transmission. Ongoing and continuous microbiologic surveillance of area reservoirs and laboratory investigation of all cases of acute diarrhea have not detected any new cases of cholera since December 17, 2013.

Bag of cows’ hooves found in Dublin take away

A plastic bag filled with cows’ hooves and five plastic bags of cow skin found in a Dublin take away were just some of the unusual items which were the subject of prohibition orders for May, the Food safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) reported today.

Cow HoofFollowing the discovery of the bags at Johnson Best Food (take away), 86A Summerhill, Dublin 1, a prohibition orders was served under the EC (Official Control of Foodstuffs) Regulations.

Commenting on these latest Enforcement Orders, Prof. Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI, stated: “Food businesses must recognise that the legal onus is on them to make sure that the food they serve is safe to eat. This requires ongoing compliance with food safety and hygiene standards to ensure the food they are producing is safe to consume. There is absolutely no excuse for negligent practices.”

The FSAI today also reported that three Closure Orders and one further Prohibition Order were served on food businesses during the month of May for breaches of food safety legislation. The Orders were issued by environmental health officers in the Health Service Executive.

Does food safety risk analysis have a public hope? How politics make us stupid

I have no time for scientists who bitch behind closed doors about how they’re misunderstood by the public.

As Thomas Jefferson famously stated, which I always use to introduce my risk analysis course, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education.”

communicationI’m not a fan of education, but I am a fan of compelling, current, credible information.

Ezra Klein writes about the More Information Hypothesis: the belief that many of our most bitter political battles are mere misunderstandings. The cause of these misunderstandings? Too little information — be it about climate change, or taxes, or Iraq, or the budget deficit. If only the citizenry were more informed, theb thinking goes, then there wouldn’t be all this fighting.

But the More Information Hypothesis isn’t just wrong. It’s backwards. Cutting-edge research shows that the more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become.

This isn’t cutting-edge. This has been known for at least 50 years.

I heard the same thing about genetically engineered foods in the early 1990s (I’m old) and tried to tell the corporations, facts are not your answer: it’s compassion, stories.

That worked out well (that’s sarcasm).

Klein writes that in April and May of 2013, Yale Law professor Dan Kahan — working with co-authors Ellen Peters, Erica Cantrell Dawson, and Paul Slovic — set out to test a question that continuously puzzles scientists: why isn’t good evidence more effective in resolving political debates? For instance, why doesn’t the mounting proof that climate change is a real threat persuade more skeptics?

The leading theory, Kahan and his coauthors wrote, is the Science Comprehension Thesis, which says the problem is that the public doesn’t know enough about science to judge the debate. It’s a version of the More Information Hypothesis: a smarter, better educated citizenry wouldn’t have all these problems reading the science and accepting its clear conclusion on climate change.

That’s a new-fangled version of the needle theory – a willing public waiting to ingest science.

Doesn’t work like that.

Kahan goes on to say that the science community has a crappy communications team. Actually, scratch that: Kahan doesn’t think they have any communications team at all.”

Easy to throw darts from the outside. My team can tell you what you need to know about food safety science communication.



17 now sick with Salmonella from Welsh laverbread outbreak

Five new cases of Salmonella with possible links to laverbread have emerged in the past week bringing the total number to 17, said Public Health Wales.

Tests are continuing to confirm whether they are all linked to the outbreak, which has nine confirmed cases so far.

laverbreadCases have been reported across south and west Wales.

Three people have needed hospital treatment, but have been discharged.

Health officials said a study has confirmed a strong association with laverbread from Penclawdd Shellfish Processing Ltd, probably produced and distributed between 5 and 8 March.

Last week, the company voluntarily withdrew its laverbread from sale as a precaution.

Samples taken from its Swansea factory have not shown any evidence of Salmonella in either food or in the environment, said Public Health Wales.

Laverbread is the boiled and minced laver seaweed, often fried with bacon and cockles as a traditional Welsh breakfast dish. The seaweed is eaten worldwide, especially in Asia, and is often used in Japanese sushi dishes.

US taxpayers continue to pay to be told they suck at food safety

In 2010, I and about everyone else in the small incestuous world of food safety, was contacted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and asked if we would advise on a food safety communications campaign they were planning with the Ad Council.

It became clear from the beginning that USDA was committed to the cook, clean, chill separate dogma.

I asked questions like, do those messages work? Where is the evidence. Why so much Terry Frenchfocus on blaming consumers?

None was forthcoming.

It also soon became evident this was not an evidence based-exercise.

Today the Ad Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are partnering with Food Network’s World Extreme Chef winner, Terry French, to help promote food safe practices in every kitchen.

According to the taxpayer funded promos, Chef French’s unique experiences, rock ‘n roll approach to food – sounds more Journey than Stones — and vibrant personality made him the perfect candidate to promote food safe practices for the USDA and the Ad Council. By the final episode of the Food Network’s World Extreme Chef, French wowed judges with the perfect bite to receive the title of World Extreme Chef. French graduated from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and had apprenticeships in continental, European and Asian cuisine following his completion of two world tours with the U.S. Navy. His catering company, Culinary Dreams, creates unique dining experiences and he gives back with his nonprofit organization, Chefs for Life.

There’s lots of vanity presses out there, promoting all kinds of stuff that lack scientific evidence. They might as well be publishing food-safety horoscopes.

The last thing the food safety biz needs is more apologists promoting messages that don’t work.