Raw is risky: 2 Tampa Bay residents die from shellfish

Jacqueline Ingles of WFTS Tampa Bay reports, take a ride on Captain Nick Warhurst’s boat and there is just one rule: do not eat raw shellfish.

seven.fish.bbq.dec.11“I’d rather you not eat anything raw on my boat,” said Warhurst. “If you want to eat them raw you wait till you get to the dock and you’re on your own.”

Married to a nurse, Warhurst says he knows the dangers of eating raw or undercooked shellfish.

“Some people die from this stuff,” he explained.

According to the Florida Department of Health, two Bay area residents did get infected with Vibrio Vulnificus and died this year. One resident was from Citrus County, the other resided in Sarasota County.

Vibrio is a bacteria that occurs naturally in Gulf Coast waters.

You can also get infected if you go into water with an open cut or sore.

So far this year, 23 people have been infected by the bacteria across the states. A total of five people have died from the infections.

However, contracting it is rare.

“It is really, really, really rare, but why take the chance,” asked Terry Natwick, the director of sales and marketing at the Plantation Inn in Crystal River.

The inn, which is a hotspot for tourists who’ve come to scallop stay, offers a catch and cook program.

“Not only do we have somebody who will professionally shuck the scallops for you and keep it on ice and then put it in a Ziplock and then you bring it right to our kitchen where we refrigerate it at the proper temperature and cook if for you either that day at lunch or that night for dinner,” Natwick said.

First time scalloper Nick Tulse is taking the Inn up on it’s offer.

“Oh no no, you cook ’em,” said Tulse, who drove up from Bradenton.

Raw is risky: Canada reports 1st case this year of illness linked to eating raw oysters

CBC News reports British Columbia has recorded its first case this year of someone being sickened by eating raw oysters contaminated with Vibrio bacteria.

oysters.grillThe B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) said the illness was reported June 30 in the Vancouver area.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria grow in seawater and can end up in shellfish like oysters and clams. When water temperatures rise in the summer, the accumulations of the naturally occurring bacteria increase to the point that eating undercooked shellfish can give people nausea, fever and diarrhea.

Last year’s outbreak of the Vibrio-caused illness was the biggest in Canadian history and sickened at least 73 British Columbians. Sixty of the illnesses were due to eating contaminated raw or undercooked B.C. oysters in restaurants. The other 13 illnesses were traced to exposure to seawater with high levels of the bacteria.

At the height of the outbreak last summer, Vancouver Coastal Health ordered restaurants not to serve raw oysters harvested from B.C. waters and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a food recall for B.C. oysters. 

“Eating raw shellfish increases your risk of Vibrio and other infections,” said Dr. Eleni Galanis, epidemiologist at the BCCDC, in a release.  

“It’s best to eat them cooked, but if you choose to eat raw shellfish like oysters, then understand the risks and take steps to reduce your likelihood of illness.”

Meanwhile, Florida health officials have reported 13 Vibrio vulnificus cases as of July 5, including four fatalities thus far in 2016.

Last year, Florida saw 45 cases and 14 deaths, the most since 2003.

Healthy individuals typically develop a mild disease; however, Vibrio vulnificus infections can be a serious concern for people who have weakened immune systems, particularly those with chronic liver disease.

Oyster-Vancouver, B.C.- 07/05/07- Joe Fortes Oyster Specialist Oyster Bob Skinner samples a Fanny Bay oyster at the restuarant. Vancouver Coastal Health now requires restaurants to inform their patrons of the dangers of eating raw shellfish.  (Richard Lam/Vancouver Sun)   [PNG Merlin Archive]

So don’t be a drunk and eat raw.

I BBQ them, and prefer scallops on the half-shell.

In other Virbrio news, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have uncovered a mechanism that a type of pathogenic bacteria found in shellfish use to sense when they are in the human gut, where they release toxins that cause food poisoning.

The researchers studied Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a globally spread, Gram-negative bacterium that contaminates shellfish in warm saltwater during the summer. The bacterium thrives in coastal waters and is the world’s leading cause of acute gastroenteritis.

“During recent years, rising temperatures in the ocean have contributed to this pathogen’s worldwide dissemination,” said Dr. Kim Orth, Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study, published today in the online journal eLife.

About a dozen Vibrio species cause infection in humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus is one of the three most common culprits. Vibrio infections cause an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States every year.

The study found that two proteins made by Vibrio parahaemolyticus work together to detect and capture bile salts in the intestines of people who eat raw or undercooked seafood containing the bacteria.

“When a person eats, acids in the stomach help break down the meal, and bile salts in the intestine aid in the solubilization of fatty food. When humans eat raw or undercooked shellfish contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus, the bacteria use those same bile salts as a signal to release toxins,” said Dr. Orth, also an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), holder of the Earl A. Forsythe Chair in Biomedical Science, and a W.W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research. Dr. Orth studies the strategies that bacterial pathogens use to outsmart their host cells.

Evidence is increasing that several bacterial pathogens that cause gastrointestinal illness, including the extremely toxic Vibrio cholerae, sense bile salts. But until now, the mechanism that those pathogens use for doing this has remained unknown, Dr. Orth said. In previous studies, only one bacterial gene had been implicated in receiving and transmitting the gut-sensing signal, Dr. Orth said.

“We discovered that not one, but two genes are required for Vibrio to receive the bile salt signal. These genes encode two proteins that form a complex on the surface of the bacterial membrane. Using X-ray crystallography, we found that these proteins create a barrel-like structure that binds bile salts and receives the signal to tell the bacterial cell to start making toxins,” she said.

Future experiments will aim to understand how binding of bile salt by this protein complex induces the release of toxins.

“Ultimately, we want to understand how other pathogenic bacteria sense environmental cues to produce toxins. With this knowledge, we might be able to design pharmaceuticals that could prevent toxin production, and ultimately avoid the damaging effects of infections,” she said.

The receptor pair could possibly act as a model to discover sensors in other bacteria where pharmaceuticals might be more applicable, Dr. Orth said, adding “we are in the early stages of this research.”

Co-lead authors were graduate student Peng Li and research scientist Dr. Giomar Rivera-Cancel, both in Molecular Biology. Other contributing authors included Dr. Lisa Kinch, an HHMI bioinformatics specialist; Dr. Dor Salomon, postdoctoral researcher; Dr. Diana Tomchick, Professor of Biophysics and Biochemistry and Director of the Structural Biology Core Facility; and Dr. Nick Grishin, Professor of Biophysics and Biochemistry, an HHMI Investigator, and a Virginia Murchison Linthicum Scholar in Biomedical Research.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Welch Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the HHMI.

And finally, bacterial infections from various organisms including Vibrio sp. pose a serious hazard to humans in many forms from clinical infection to affecting the yield of agriculture and aquaculture via infection of livestock. Vibrio sp. is one of the main foodborne pathogens causing human infection and is also a common cause of losses in the aquaculture industry. Prophylactic and therapeutic usage of antibiotics has become the mainstay of managing this problem, however this in turn led to the emergence of multidrug resistant strains of bacteria in the environment; which has raised awareness of the critical need for alternative non antibiotic based methods of preventing and treating bacterial infections. Bacteriophages – viruses that infect and result in the death of bacteria – are currently of great interest as a highly viable alternative to antibiotics. This article provides an insight into bacteriophage application in controlling Vibrio species as well underlining the advantages and drawbacks of phage therapy.

Insights into bacteriophage application in controlling Vibrio species

Front. Microbiol. | doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.01114


Vengadesh Letchumanan,  Kok Gan Chan,  Priyia Pusparajah,  Surasak Saokaew,  Acharaporn Duangjai,  Bey Hing Goh,  Nurul-Syakima Ab Mutalib and  Learn-Han Lee

Subway sandwich artists need to become sanitarians

Subway is known for its made-to-order sandwiches and salads but one ingredient found in the kitchen by the state would never be ordered on any sandwich… rodent droppings

subway-sandwich-in-handABC Action News I-Team uncovered that last week, Subway at 696 S. Gulfview Blvd. in Clearwater Beach had to temporarily close after the state discovered over 40 rodent droppings underneath the storage rack, on top of boxes, underneath the sink, inside a bin, and near the soda syrup dispensers.

In addition, food safety issues written up in the inspection include potentially hazardous food thawed at room temperature with two tuna packages and two meat packages on the back prep table thawing, Subway’s manager lacking proof of a food manager certification, and employees failing to wash their hands before putting on gloves to work with food and failing to wash prior to heading to the front line to work.

More hand washing concerns include the hand wash sink not accessible for employees to use due to bread baking holders stored in the sink and no paper towels provided.

The state has warned this Clearwater Beach Subway before about high priority violations. In September, the state found no hot water in the facility for employees to wash their hands, no soap, no paper towels and a long list of potentially hazardous cold food held at greater than 41° Fahrenheit.

Inspectors found ham at 48°, lettuce at 47°, tomatoes at 51°, tuna at 44°, chicken at 44°, steak at 48°, pepper-jack cheese at 48°, turkey at 47°, meat trio at 45°, and cheddar cheese at 48°.

Inspectors also issued a stop sale on some of those items due to that temperature abuse.

Man ‘throws alligator through fast food restaurant’s window’

Florida is a special place. My parents are there now, but they don’t like to stay too long.

alligator.fast.food.fla.feb.16They might get an alligator thrown at them.

A fast food restaurant got a customer it wasn’t expecting when a live alligator was tossed through a drive-through window by a patron.

Joshua James, 23, wanted to play a practical joke on a friend working at the Wendy’s restaurant in Florida when he decided to hurl the reptile into the building in October.

“It was just a stupid prank that he did that’s now turning into this,” James’ mother, Linda James, told local broadcaster WPTV, adding that her son is a huge fan of the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin.

“He’s a prankster. He does stuff like this because he thinks it’s funny.”

Officials retrieved the animal from the restaurant’s kitchen, taped its jaws shut and released it to a nearby canal.

James faces charges of aggravated assault and unlawful possession, and transportation of an alligator.

Multi-source surveillance works; ciguatera fish poisoning outbreak identified using linked databases

Ciguatera fish poisoning sounds awful. Symptoms include paradoxical temperature perception, paresthesias, extremity numbness, a metallic taste, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, arthralgia, and myalgia. And a female fish lover in Florida experienced all of these things, according to CDC’s MMWR, after eating black grouper in October 2014.

Following her illness she notified Florida’s Department of Health through an online reportable illness complaint system.black-grouper

Keen epi folks took this single case as a signal, went into the Inter and Intra-nets of the public health and identified five additional cases. After reviewing food histories (and black grouper consumption) they were able to trace the fish to a common supplier and solved the mystery.

What looked like two separate events turned out to be a bigger deal. Yay for databases.

On November 3, 2014, the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) received a report through the DOH online foodborne illness complaint system from a person (patient A) describing paresthesias and numbness that suggested CFP, which had occurred on October 31, the day after eating two fish meals. The day the report was received, DOH-Orange interviewed patient A and determined that her illness met the CFP case definition. In Florida, a single case of CFP is considered an outbreak. Multiple data sources were used to identify five additional CFP cases. DOH-Orange, the DOH Bureau of Epidemiology, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) collaborated to conduct investigations at two restaurants, one grocery store, two fish distributors, and one fish supplier to identify the outbreak food source. The six persons with CFP had eaten black grouper either at a local restaurant or purchased from a grocery store; the fish was traced back to a common international distributor. Rapid identification and reporting of CFP cases to public health officials is imperative to facilitate supportive medical care and source-food traceback efforts.

The toxin associated with ciguatera fish poisoning is produced by a dinoflagellates (usually Gambierdiscus toxicus which lives on algae or dead coral) and is eaten up by sporting fish like barracuda, amber jack, snapper and black grouper

The fish eat the small organisms and overtime bioaccumulate the toxin in their tissue.

Then folks who like fish, eat it and get sick. Even if it’s cooked.

The toxin is pretty heat stable (FAO says that even 20 min of cooking at 158°F/70°C for 20 min was insufficient to fully denature the toxin protein).

Florida Vibrio vulnificus cases reach 30, Canadian growers upset with ban

As the number of Vibrio cases in Florida hit 30, and 81 in western Canada in a separate outbreak, producers of shellfish in B.C. say they cutting jobs because of a month-long raw oyster ban in Vancouver.

BC.oystersRoberta Stevenson, executive director of the B.C. Shellfish Growers Association says producers are testing the oysters and they meet health requirements, so the ban should be lifted.

“They are tested five times more than they used to be with the new Health Canada guidelines that are more stringent. So we are 100 per cent confident that before those oysters leave that processing plant they are completely safe to eat,” she said.

Local oysters are being sold to customers in the rest of Canada and to the U.S., Stevenson said, so she doesn’t understand why Vancouver Coastal Health isn’t lifting the ban.

If you’re so confident in your data, make it pubic and market food safety at retail.

“We will lift the order when public health officials in B.C. are satisfied that oyster conditions in coastal waters are not at a level to be a food safety concern,” said Vancouver Coastal Health in a statement.

Food safety dominates first day of Florida tomato conference

Doug Ohlemeier of The Packer writes that during the opening day of the Florida Joint Tomato Conference, participants heard how the state’s tomato good agricultural practices and tomato best management practices are helping ensure safe shipments.

tomatoSince implementation of TGAPS, tomatoes haven’t experienced any recalls or outbreaks, Keith Schneider, associate professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition with the Gainesville-based University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said during a Sept. 8 tomato safety session.

He also noted the Sept. 4 multi-state salmonella outbreak of Mexican cucumbers distributed by San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce.

“All commodities are potential sources of foodborne illnesses,” Schneider said. “No one’s exempt. There is the recall in cucumbers for salmonella. Even things not traditionally associated with foodborne outbreaks (are subject to recalls). Those can be problematic. But I think we’re getting better with tomatoes and the record of tomatoes clearly speaks to that.”

In nine years of state tomato production inspections, the Tallahassee-based Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has issued 163 corrective actions, 120 failed audits and given 831 audit approvals, which means the farms and packinghouses passed the first time, said Steve Eguino, an agency certification specialist.

The average audit time is 3 1/2 hours and during the 2014-15 season, the agency conducted audits at 76 fields, five greenhouses, 81 packinghouses and 12 repacking operations, he said.

David Gombas, senior vce president of food safety and technology for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said, “I’m getting tired of talking with folks that don’t have it. They did a mock recall last year with an auditor and think that’s enough, but it’s like deer in the headlights. It will always be more expensive doing it that way than having one in advance.” 

Fix it and they will come: Florida shutting down more local restaurants for violations after repairing reporting glitch

State inspectors are shutting down twice as many Central Florida restaurants for food-safety violations than they did five years ago, and an upgrade to an online-complaint website can take some of the credit.

field.dreamsAn Orlando Sentinel analysis of inspection records showed that state officials issued 139 emergency-closure notices to restaurants between July 2014 and June 2015. That compares with just 67 closures during the one-year period of July 2010 to June 2011.

Other parts of the state have seen the same spike.

In early 2014, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation fixed a technological shortcoming that allowed only Internet Explorer users to access its online-complaint form, agency spokeswoman Chelsea Eagle said.

That technological foible left the site inaccessible to about 88 percent of Internet users, including those on mobile devices, according to statistics from browser-tracking website StatCounter.

Along with the change to its online-complaint form, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation also created a new system starting in July 2014 that inspected problem restaurants more frequently. Under the old system, every restaurant got two routine inspections a year, Eagle said.

Now those that have been the source of a foodborne illness or have repeat violations get inspected as often as once a month.

A real headline: Health Officials React To An Outbreak Of Stomach Yuck

I don’t know what Stomach Yuck is, but health department folks in Florida are reacting to it, according to WUWF radio.Wooden-Mannequin-Vomiting-300x198

An outbreak of a nasty stomach bug (Stomachus yuckii? – ben)  has health officials getting the word out about basic hygiene. Dr. John Lanza, the Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, recently issued a release about a spike in the number of gastrointestinal infections reported in Escambia County.

Lanza says thirty plus people have come down with the illness causing vomiting, diarrhea and fever.  They are all part of the same outbreak, which involved children and workers at day care centers in the county. While you might expect the chilly weather keeping people inside as the cause, Dr. Lanza says it’s not so much the time of year but an event or circumstance that exposes a lot of people to a bug at once that can cause an outbreak like this. He says the classic case is the spring wedding where a sick caterer can cause illness in more than half a wedding party within a few days.

Salmonella risk? Shop owner hit employees with bearded dragon lizard

A Florida man was arrested after authorities say he swung a bearded dragon lizard around his head and struck employees with the animal.

bearded_dragon_picBenjamin Herman Siegel, owner of Siegel Reptiles in South Florida, was caught Friday on video putting a bearded dragon lizard in his mouth, throwing the animal in the air and swinging the animal around his head multiple times, according to a Broward County Sheriff’s Office police report.

He was charged with two counts of battery and animal cruelty.

The police report said Siegel, 40, also hit employees multiple times with the dragon and threw Gatorade on them.