Mystery Mexican-style restaurant chain ‘A’ source of Salmonella Hartford and Baildon; 155 sick across US since April

On July 12, 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and research partners presented data and a press release that concluded nearly 1 out of every 25 restaurant-associated foodborne outbreaks with identified food sources between 1998 and 2008 could be traced back to contaminated salsa or guacamole, more than double the rate during the previous decade.

Today, CDC revealed there are two multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections, each involving a different Salmonella serotype: Hartford and Baildon, and that the sick people have been showing up since April and the numbers peaked in June.

Salsa and guac must be on the CDC’s mind because they’ve fingered “a Mexican-style fast food restaurant chain, Restaurant Chain A,” as associated with some illnesses. And if it’s been narrowed to a single chain restaurant, it’s probably a supply issue; salsa safety begins with the ingredients, on the farm.

Among persons eating at Restaurant Chain A, no specific food item or ingredient was found to be associated with illness for either outbreak. The numbers of new cases for the Salmonella Hartford outbreak have declined substantially since a peak in early June 2010. The numbers of new cases for the Salmonella Baildon outbreak have declined substantially since a peak in late June 2010. The number of new cases of illness associated with these outbreak strains appears to have returned to baseline, indicating the outbreaks are not ongoing.

In both outbreaks, the FDA worked with CDC and state partners to conduct a traceback investigation. The tracebacks focused on produce that ill individuals reported eating and that had been implicated in previous outbreaks of salmonellosis. The extensive traceback effort was initiated to determine if a common source or supplier could be identified to help focus the epidemiologic investigations. No common food source was identified in either traceback. The FDA also sampled and tested produce items and did not find either outbreak strain. As with previous outbreaks in which contaminated produce may be the factor, produce tracebacks present substantial challenges because of the short shelf life of the product and the industry’s comingling of product from multiple sources.

CDC stressed:

• There are over 2,500 serotypes of Salmonella.Hartford and Baildon are very rare serotypes of Salmonella.

• CDC used its Emergency Operation Center facilities and mobilized employee and student volunteers to conduct two large case-control studies within several weeks of each other. These studies involve calling thousands of U.S. residents to screen them for eligibility into the study and, once determined eligible, interviewing them about the foods they had eaten during a certain period. These studies are not possible unless people who are called agree to be interviewed. CDC thanks every person who participated in these telephone interviews.

• The Mexican-style fast food Restaurant Chain A, as well as their food suppliers and distributors, were very cooperative in providing extensive information to public health officials as various leads were explored.

Top 5 Records presents: Top 10 fast food movies

The folks at Shadowlocked decided to create conversation with their Top-10 fast food movies, and I’ve inserted my culturally-backwards comments below.

10: Grease (1978)
Didn’t care for it. Might as well watch Welcome Back Kotter to get early John Travolta.

9: Waitress (2007)
Not bad, although sad that writer/director Adrienne Shelly was murdered three months before its debut and never learnt of its acceptance into the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

8: Batteries Not Included (1987)

7: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (1991)
Chick flick. While I’m sentimental, hated this one.

6: Legion (2010)
Didn’t see it.

5: Pulp Fiction (1994)
John Travolta again, and he speaks French like I do — Royale with cheese.

4: American Graffiti (1973)
Isn’t Ron Howard the most likeable person in Hollywood? Or is that Tom Hanks.

3: Mystic Pizza (1988)
Awful. I want to feed Julia Roberts sugar cubes.

2: Clerks II (2006)
Awesome. Amy and me and some 50 frat boys saw the movie in the theater when it came out. Amy’s a wordsmith and has an ear for the dialogue of writer/director Kevin Smith (suck it, N.J. Devils, but yeah you go to my hometown of Brantford, Ontario — that’s in Canada – to boost Walter Gretzky’s annual charity road hockey event). It gets better with repeated viewing.

1: Diner (1982)

Fast food workers: Wash your hands

I have been sick the past few days. I am not sure what caused it, where I contracted the illness, but I am sick. In my mind, this reiterates the need for everyone to wash his or her hands.

A recent study co-authored by William Burkhardt, a food virologist and microbiologist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),  explains that more than half of food service workers do not wash their hands before returning to work.

In an article by the Quad-City Times, foodborne illnesses can happen anywhere and they are easy to transmit:

Norovirus, hepatitis A and E. coli, another gastrointestinal infection, are the most common food-borne illnesses involving restaurants, Burkhardt said. Norovirus, like hepatitis A, is spread by fecal matter on food products that are then ingested by unaware patrons. However, the hepatitis A symptoms might not show up for 10-14 days while those with norovirus know much more quickly, in as little as 12 hours after ingestion.

Those who ingest the hepatitis A virus need only a few particles to eventually become ill, according to the microbiologist. "Oftentimes, a hundred million of these viral particles are present in a gram of fecal material," he said.

Even a small piece of fecal matter on a person’s hand can transmit the germs, especially to salads, uncooked food items or in ice. The virus is killed during proper cooking.

To prevent the spread of foodborne illness food service workers should abide by proper handwashing and proper glove usage.

Restaurant sinks are not bathtubs

An Ohio man is in hot water for taking a hot bath in a Burger King bathtub. The video shows a man sitting in the sink, while other employees look on laughing. At one point the employee with the camera goes to ask the manager if she wants to come watch. The manager declines, but also fails to take any action. The video was then posted on Myspace. The fast food restaurant has fired all employees involved. They added that the sink was sanitized twice and all utensils were thrown out. Health officials are working with prosecutors to see if charges will be filed. However the health department has declined to issue any fines. If bathing in a kitchen sink isn’t worth a fine, what is?

The video contains some not safe for work language.

Burger King Employee Takes Bath In Sink – Watch more free videos

I ate a fast food burger and it made me sick a few hours later: doubtful

Dallas Morning News columnist James Ragland tried to raise awareness of foodborne illness yesterday but instead perpetuated some of the worst myths — that barfing is caused by the last food eaten and that fast-food burger joints are largely to blame.

Ragland writes that on Monday,

"I decided to swing through a popular fast-food restaurant to grab a burger, fries and a cold drink.

Hours later, the burger grabbed back. My stomach tightened. A chill fell over me. Then sweat.

If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know what happened next.

One recurring thought crossed my mind as my wife patiently dabbed a cold damp towel across my forehead: "Go into the kitchen, fetch the solid cast-iron skillet and whack me over the head with it!"

By week’s end, I was still struggling to get back to full strength, relying mostly on saltines and Gatorade."

Foodborne illness sucks for anyone, and Ragland deserves credit for reporting on the topic and telling people how to report foodborne illness in Dallas. However, except for a few toxins, it’s not the last meal that made someone like Ragland sick, and fast-food joints — especially the popular ones — have fairly good food safety systems; they have too, with so many outlets and so many people looking to make a fast buck. Incubation times for most foodborne ailments can be found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Bad Bug Book at

If you think food made you sick, here’s what to do:

• go to the doctor if necessary;

• keep the food, in the fridge or freezer if necessary; and,

• contact your local health department.