E. coli found in Icelandic meat

Keeping with all things Icelandic, E. coli was found in 30% of lamb samples and 11.5% of beef samples in a test carried out by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST). The particular strain discovered is known as STEC, or shiga-toxin producing E. coli. This is the first time lamb and beef have been screened for STEC in Iceland.

The testing was carried out on around 600 samples of lamb, beef, pork, and chicken of both Icelandic and foreign origin between March and December 2018. The purpose of the testing was to determine the prevalence of pathogenic micro-organisms in products when they reach the consumer, and for this reason the samples were taken from shops.

Campylobacter and salmonella were not detected in pork or chicken samples, with the exception of a single sample of pork from Spain. MAST attributes this to improved preventative measures in slaughterhouses.

MAST points to several ways consumers can reduce the risk of infection from salmonella, campylobacter, and E. coli, including cooking meat all the way through and taking care to avoid cross-contamination. Most E. coli is found on the surface of meat, and therefore is killed by frying or grilling, but when meat is ground, the bacteria is distributed throughout. Therefore, hamburgers and other types of ground meat should be cooked through.

But what does that mean?

Use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

E. coli: Kentucky teen is back in the game after life-threatening illness

Sixteen-year-old Anna Rexford is, according to this story, a winner. Not only is she the goalkeeper for the two-time state champions West Jessamine High School girls’ soccer team, Anna was named MVP for the tournament two years in a row. After her first season at West Jessamine, she committed to playing for University of Cincinnati and is a contender to play in the Allstate All-America Cup this summer. Clearly, Anna is at the top of her game. But just three short years ago, a harrowing illness made her future uncertain.

Anna Rexford on June 7, 2019. Photo by Mark Cornelison | UKphoto

In July 2016, Anna and her mother Tracy went on a week-long mission trip to Haiti. Tracy is a nurse, and the two spent the week doing health screenings and nutrition programs for children. Anna played with the local children nonstop during that week, challenging them to soccer and leading them in games.

“She gave 110 percent,” said Tracy. “She was always with the kids, playing and giving her whole heart to them.”

Within hours of returning home to Wilmore, Anna began to feel unwell. She had pounding headache and her whole body hurt. Her mother took her temperature. It was a staggering 106.8 degrees.

“I knew, as a nurse, that was almost incompatible with life and that we needed to get help,” said Tracy.

Anna was admitted to Kentucky Children’s Hospital and diagnosed with a rare case of four different strands of E.coli, two of which were toxic. She was showing signs of sepsis, a bacterial infection of the blood, as well as organ failure.

“There was one particular night where I didn’t think she would make it,” said Tracy. “There were some confusing times, questioning God, “‘God, you called a 14-year-old passionate Christian to go and serve, and you want to end it like this? You want to end it where she dies?'”

Should we be afraid of eating sprouts?

I don’t eat much lettuce either.

But I eat a lot of fruit and veg.

 I revealed last week I was nervous about doing a media interview, because I’ve been out of the game for a while, and my brain, just don’t work so well.

Fell again today and it hurt.

I have no balance.

But I still have a brain.

So when a U.S. reporter agrees to chat at 4 a.m. EST (6 p.m. EST) I say sure, because I’ve always been a media whore. How else to spread the message.

I particularily like the lede.

Kate Bernot of The Take Out wrote, “If you ask anyone in food safety, ‘What is the one food you will not eat?’ Raw sprouts tops the list, always.”

That’s one of the first sentences out of the mouth of Doug Powell, a former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog, a frequently updated site that publishes evidence-based opinions on food safety.

I’ve asked him whether food-safety fears about sprouts—those tiny, crunchy squiggles in your salad or sandwich—are well-founded. He tells me the public isn’t concerned enough about them.

“Risk is inherent in the nature of the product which is why Walmart and Costco got rid of them,” he says. (Kroger also stopped selling sprouts in 2012.) “This is not a new problem. It’s been going on for decades.”

According to a paper he and three colleagues published in the journal Food Control in 2012, sprouts have been responsible for at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people globally in the past two decades. The Food And Drug Administration tallies 46 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness in the United States linked to sprouts between 1996 and 2016, accounting for for 2,474 illnesses, 187 hospitalizations, and three deaths. In an effort to reduce these outbreaks, the FDA in 2017 collected 825 samples of sprouts from across the U.S.; 14 of those tested positive for E. coli, listeria, or salmonella.

The first reason sprouts—whether alfalfa or mung bean or radish or other varieties—can carry E. coli or salmonella bacteria has to do with how the sprouts are produced. The conditions that cause a seed to sprout are the same conditions that cause bacteria to breed: warm, moist air.

“The sprout is made from germinating seeds and the seeds themselves may be the source of the contamination. When you’re germinating a seed and growing a sprout, you’re providing conditions for the sprout growth that are ideal also for bacterial growth,” says Craig Hedberg, a professor in the School Of Public Health at University Of Minnesota. “This is a product that went through incubator-like circumstances.”

The second reason is related to how most of us consume sprouts: raw. Because we value sprouts’ crunch, we rarely cook them before adding them to a dish. Powell notes that people in many Southeast Asian countries do blanch their sprouts before cooking with them, but that the West tends to consume them raw.

The third reason sprouts can pose a risk is because even rinsing them won’t generally remove enough of the bacteria to keep an infected sprout from making a person sick. Hedberg says that even romaine lettuce, which has recently been associated with foodborne illness outbreaks, has a surface area that’s easier to wash than sprouts.

“The seeds can get contaminated as they’re growing, so the contamination can be internal,” Powell tells me. “So you’re never going to wash it off.”

Sprouts do have their defenders, though, who note higher levels of soluble fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and mineral bioavailability compared to non-sprouted grains and vegetables. The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics statesthat “in general, the health benefits associated with savoring raw or lightly cooked sprouts outweigh risks for healthy individuals. However, be aware that there is risk of food poisoning if you plan to eat them.”

The FDA recommends cooking sprouts thoroughly to kill bacteria, and further advises that the elderly, children, people who are pregnant, and people with compromised immune systems should not eat sprouts at all. To further reduce your risk of sprout-related foodborne illness, the FDA says consumers can “request that raw sprouts not be added to your food.” So, bottom line, if you’re concerned—yeah, just don’t eat them. May we suggest beet slivers or carrot ribbons for crunch?

Ontario parents speak out after 2-year-old’s E. coli linked death

I seemed to have missed this, which is inexcusable, volunteer or not, medical stuff for me or not, but here it is, a month later (and if I did publish it, shows where my brain is going).

Avis Favaro of CTV News reported in early May that it all started with a romaine salad.

Kristen and Brad Bell felt a little sick after eating the salad last October.

Their two-year-old son soon started to show more severe symptoms. Cooper Bell was vomiting. He developed diarrhea. Then his mother noticed the blood in his diaper.

“I had no idea [what] was happening,” Kristen Bell told CTV News from her home in Stirling, Ont.

“I thought ‘This is not normal.'”

An emergency room doctor thought Cooper might have contracted a bacterial infection. The family’s pediatrician agreed, saying the Bells should keep their son hydrated and bring him back in the morning.

Soon after the Bells returned home, they noticed some worrying changes in Cooper’s behavior.

“He wasn’t responding to me the same as he was earlier. It wasn’t long after that, that he had a seizure in Brad’s arms,” Kristen Bell said.

Seeing their son shaking uncontrollably with his eyes closed, the Bells called an ambulance. He spent a few hours in hospital in nearby Belleville, Ont., and was then airlifted to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa.

Doctors at CHEO diagnosed Cooper with kidney failure brought on by E. coli. He suffered cardiac arrest and died. The Bells believe it was the romaine lettuce that made Cooper sick, although they were unable to send the lettuce for testing to confirm their belief because it had been thrown out.

There were 29 illnesses and 10 hospitalizations reported across Canada during last fall’s E. coli outbreak, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. It was one of three outbreaks in North America over the past year all of which were linked to romaine lettuce.

Keith Warriner, a food safety expert and professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, said in an interview that the food industry has long been slow to improve its testing practices something that could improve overall food safety, but would mean extra costs for their operations.

“The industry itself has known for many years what it needs to do, but it’s just been reluctant to do it,” he said.

The Bells agree. They’re sharing their story of grief with the hope it will help hospital workers and other parents better understand the danger of E. coli, but also because they want to see changes at the food production level.

“E. coli shouldn’t be in our food,” Brad Bell said.

“The way that we’re growing food is dangerous, and something has to change.”

Raw is risky: 19 children develop HUS in France from E. coli O26 linked to raw milk cheese

Gabrielle Jones, Sophie Lefevre, et al report in Eurosurveillance that from 25 March to 27 April 2019, 19 suspected Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) associated paediatric haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) cases were notified by French hospital paediatric departments to Santé publique France, compared with 5–10 cases during the same period in previous years [1].

Thirteen cases were confirmed as serogroup O26, with whole genome sequencing (WGS) underway for strain comparison. Initial epidemiological investigations using a trawling questionnaire identified the consumption of raw cow’s milk soft cheeses (Saint-Félicien and Saint-Marcellin) as the common link for eight of these 13 cases. Trace-back investigations using supermarket loyalty cards identified a common producer (producer A) of these cheeses for three cases and on the basis of this information a recall was initiated by French health authorities on 27 April 2019 [2]. As at 27 May 2019, investigations identified 16 outbreak cases including 14 paediatric HUS cases and two cases with uncomplicated diarrhoea (one child and one adult). Investigations are ongoing for one suspected case. The 16 outbreak cases reside in six administrative regions in France. All paediatric cases are under 5 years of age; the median age is 22 months (overall age range: 6 months–63 years). Eight cases are female. Date of symptom onset was between 31 March (week 13) and 29 April (week 18). All HUS cases were hospitalised. Thirteen cases received blood and/or platelet transfusion and seven underwent haemodialysis. Six cases had neurological complications, all of them received transfusions and three also had haemodialysis.

The families of all 16 outbreak cases and the suspected case were interviewed about their at-risk exposures during the 10 days before symptom onset. Families of 16 cases (15 outbreak cases and one suspected case) reported the consumption of Saint-Félicien or Saint-Marcellin raw cow’s milk cheeses by either the case (n = 12) or household members (n = 4). One outbreak case did not report consumption of these cheeses. For the 16 cases with reported consumption of these cheeses, trace-back investigations using loyalty cards and supply data from the different shops where the caretakers reported purchasing the cheeses identified a link with producer A for 13 (all outbreak cases).

Producer A manufactured only Saint-Félicien and Saint-Marcellin cheeses. To date, no positive STEC O26 cheese or milk samples have been identified. Investigations, including sampling of the cheeses and trace-back of the milk supply chains, are ongoing.

Four outbreak cases had not consumed the cheeses themselves but a household member had. This suggests the affected child may have been infected via cross contamination (knives, cutting board, hands, etc.). None of the household members reported symptoms of illness, indicating that the cases were unlikely to have been infected by person-to-person transmission. Investigations are ongoing in an attempt to further document the exposures of these cases (consumption of cheeses or other food items cut by the knives or on the same cutting board as the suspected cheeses). Only one in 16 outbreak cases reported a family member with self-limiting diarrhoea (no stool analysis).

Note: If that many people developed HUS, hundreds could have potentially been sickened.

Just cook it doesn’t cut it: 196 sick from E. coli O103 linked to ground beef

The U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports several states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O103 infections linked to ground beef.

Ill people in this outbreak ate ground beef from many sources. Some ground beef has been recalled, but more product contaminated with E. coli O103 may still be on the market or in freezers.

Restaurants, retailers, and institutions should not sell or serve the following recalled ground beef products because they may be contaminated with E. coli O103 and could make people sick:

Grant Park Packing in Franklin Park, Ill., recalled 53,200 pounds of raw ground beef products on April 24, 2019.

Recalled products were sold in 40-lb. bulk cardboard boxes of “North Star Imports & Sales, LLC. 100% GROUND BEEF BULK 80% LEAN/ 20% FAT” marked “FOR INSTITUTIONAL USE ONLY” with lot code GP.1051.18 and pack dates 10/30/2018, 10/31/2018, and 11/01/2018.

Recalled products are labeled with establishment number “EST. 21781” inside the USDA mark of inspection on the boxes.

K2D Foods, doing business as Colorado Premium Foods, in Carrollton, Ga., recalledexternal icon approximately 113,424 pounds of raw ground beef products on April 23, 2019.

Recalled products were sold in two 24-lb. vacuum-packed packages in cardboard boxes containing raw “GROUND BEEF PUCK” with “Use Thru” dates of 4/14/19, 4/17/19, 4/20/19, 4/23/19, 4/28/19, and 4/30/19.

Recalled products are labeled with establishment number “EST. 51308” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Investigators continue to trace other sources for ground beef eaten by ill people in this outbreak, and more product contaminated with E. coli O103 may be recalled.

Cook ground beef hamburgers and mixtures such as meatloaf to an internal temperature of 160°F. Use a food thermometer to make sure the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. You can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it.

For hamburgers, insert thermometer through the side of the patty until it reaches the middle.

(Piping hot doesn’t cut it, UK).

‘Contamination of wheat poses a foodborne illness risk’

Following up on Chapman’s coverage of the current outbreak of E. coli O26 in flour that has sickened at least 17 people, researchers have concluded that little information is available regarding microbial pathogens in wheat and wheat flour. Information about microbial pathogens in wheat is needed to develop effective methods to prevent foodborne illnesses caused by wheat products.

From 2012 to 2014, we conducted a baseline study to determine the prevalence and levels of pathogens in wheat samples taken before milling. A total of 5,176 wheat samples were tested for enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), Salmonella spp., Listeria spp., and L. monocytogenes. Positive samples were assayed for most probable numbers (MPNs), and isolates were fingerprinted by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). The rate of detection of each pathogen tested was as follows: Salmonella was in 1.23% of the samples (average level of 0.110 MPN/g), EHECs occurred in 0.44% of the samples (0.039 MPN/g), and Listeria spp. occurred in 0.08% of samples (0.020 MPN/g), but L. monocytogenes was not detected.

The PFGE assessment found a high diversity for all organisms. All EHEC PFGE patterns (22 of 22) were unique, and 39 of 47 Salmonella patterns (83%) were unique. These results indicate a diverse background of naturally occurring organisms. These findings suggest that the microbial contamination is coming from diverse sources and provide no evidence in support of a specific pathogen load. Altogether, our surveillance study shows that contamination of wheat with pathogens is clearly evident and poses a foodborne illness risk.

Occurrence and levels of salmonella, enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, and listeria in raw wheat

June 2019

Journal of Food Protection vol. 82 no. 6 pp. 1022-1027

Samuel Myoda, Stefanie Gilbreth, Deann Akins-Leventhal, Seana Davidson, and Mansour Samadpour

https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-18-345

https://jfoodprotection.org/doi/full/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-18-345

Tangled up in blue: Finding food safety purpose

I used to write up the U.S. Centers of Disease Control with the enthusiasm of a teenage going on a date.

It was current, it was confident and it was cool.

Now, not so much.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m tired of watching Salmonella and other foodborne illnesses flatline, even if a Senator brings a day-old bucket of KFC into a hearing to make some sort of metaphorical point.

I’ll say the same thing I say every year: the numbers aren’t changing because the interventions are in the wrong place.

When national organizations go agenst the World Health Organization and don’t mention on-farm food safety, then they’re missing the source.

According to Food Business News, illness was more prevalent in 2018, according to preliminary surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control (C.D.C.) and Prevention. Incidents of Campylobacter, Salmonella and Cyclospora infections increased last year, according to FoodNet 2018 preliminary data released by the C.D.C. The increases were due, in part, to more infections being diagnosed using culture-independent diagnostic tests (C.I.D.T.s), but the C.D.C. noted the possibility that the number of infections actually is increasing.

Campylobacter infections were the commonly identified infection in FoodNet sites since 2013 with poultry being the major source of infection.  More infections are being diagnosed, the C.D.C. said, because more laboratories use C.I.D.T.s to detect Campylobacterand other pathogens. C.I.D.T.s detect the presence of a specific genetic sequence of an organism. The tests produce results more rapidly because they do not require isolation and identification of living organisms.

Reducing Campylobacter infections will require more knowledge of how case patients are becoming infected, the C.D.C. said. The pathogen can contaminate raw chicken or poultry juices, and cross-contamination can impact hands, other foods or kitchen equipment.

“Focusing on interventions throughout the food production chain that reduce Campylobacter bacteria in chicken could lead to fewer illnesses in people,” the C.D.C. said. “Whole genome sequencing might help us figure out the contribution of various sources and help target interventions.”

Salmonella infections, the second most common infection, also appear to be increasing, according to the preliminary report. The most common Salmonella serotypes were Enteritidis, Newport and Typhimurium. Additionally, Enteritidis infections are not decreasing despite regulatory programs aimed at reducing Salmonella in poultry and eggs.

 

Just cook it doesn’t cut it: 6-year-old in France dies from E. coli

(Thanks to our French colleague, Albert, who forwarded this)

Matthew, a child “full of life, very intelligent despite his disability ” according to his mother, Angélique Gervraud, died February 22, 2019 at the Children’s Hospital of Bordeaux. He had been sick for more than a month after eating an undercooked burger at the beginning of January 2019 says his mom in a forum posted on his Facebook page.

It’s probably poorly cooked mince that has contaminated Matthew, his mom is sure. “Matthew only ate that,” she explains. Matthew developed haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) usually linked to shiga-toxin producing E. coli.

And because food safety is simple – that’s sarcasm, which the French may not get —  the transmission of the disease can be avoided by simple actions, which advises the site Public Health France:

  • Cook meat thoroughly and especially minced meat at over 65 ° C(The Ministry of Health published a note to the attention of the professionals of the collective catering from February 2007, with the appearance of the first cases)
  • Avoid giving raw lai, and cheeses made from raw milk to young children. Prefer baked or pasteurized pressed cheese
  • Always wash your hands before cooking
  • Keep cooked and raw foods separately
  • Consume quickly and well warmed leftover food.
  • Do not give untreated water to children or the elderly.

In 2017, 164 cases of HUS were reported in children under 15 years of age. There are a hundred in France in general every year.

Always tragic: Washington state third-grader’s death may be linked to E. coli

Wendy Culverwell of the Tri-City Herald reports a Pasco elementary student has died from apparent complications of E. coli.

Ismael Baeza Soto, 9, died Feb. 11 at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, apparently of kidney failure brought about by E. coli.

The Benton-Franklin Health District is investigating the source of what sickened the boy. So far, it appears to be an isolated case that hasn’t been linked to other investigations, though future testing could change that.

“We have not identified any ongoing public health threats,” said Dr. Amy Person, the public health officer for the Mid-Columbia.