The barf museum in Sweden

Maura Judkis of The Washington Post writes buy a ticket to the Disgusting Food Museum in Malmo, Sweden, and it won’t be printed on a slip of paper.

“Your ticket is a vomit bag with our logo,” said Samuel West, the museum’s founder. It’s a joke, but not really: Somewhere between the exhibit on the world’s stinkiest cheese and the free samples of fermented shark meat, someone’s stomach may turn. But, then again, the noni, an Asian fruit nicknamed the “vomit fruit,” is one of the displays. So visitors will already be acclimated to some pretty terrible smells.

Welcome to the world’s first exhibition devoted to foods that some would call revolting. The museum’s name and its contents are pretty controversial — one culture’s disgusting is another culture’s delicacy. That goes for escamoles, the tree-ant larvae eaten in Mexico, or shirako, the cod sperm eaten in Japan, or bird’s nest soup, a Chinese dish of nests made from bird saliva. The name is meant to grab visitors’ attention, but that’s the point that West says he’s trying to make: Disgust is a cultural construct.

“I want people to question what they find disgusting and realize that disgust is always in the eye of the beholder,” said West. “We usually find things we’re not familiar with disgusting, versus things that we grow up with and are familiar with are not disgusting, regardless of what it is.”

For example: Though the museum is in Sweden, he includes surströmming, an incredibly pungent fermented Swedish herring, and salt licorice, which is found throughout the Nordic nations.

Party on: It’s Global Handwashing Day- October 15

Kids, kids. It’s global handwashing day.

Join CDC expert, Dr. Vincent Hill for a Facebook Live handwashing demonstration on October 15 at 11:00 AM EDT in observance of Global Handwashing Day. Global Handwashing Day is an occasion to support a global and local culture of handwashing with soap, and promote handwashing with soap as an easy and affordable way to prevent disease in communities around the world.

The Facebook Live presentation will feature a handwashing contest between two volunteers to help viewers understand the importance of proper handwashing techniques. Tune in via CDC Facebook at www.facebook.com/cdcgov

I don’t do hashtags.

Do you really have to wash your hands every time you use the bathroom? The definitive answer, according to Schaffner

Following on all things Schaffner, a professor of food science at Rutgers, who has been studying hand washing for years and says the conventional wisdom shouldn’t be ignored.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re peeing or you’re pooping, you should wash your hands,” he told Business Insider.

Here’s why.

Germs can hang out in bathrooms for a long time

Each trip to the restroom is its own unique journey into germ land. So some occasions probably require more washing up than others.

“If you’ve got diarrhea all over your hands, it’s way more important that you wash your hands than if… you didn’t get any obvious poop on your fingers,” Schaffner said. “My gosh, if you’ve got poop on your hands and you have the time, certainly, get in there, lather up real good and do a real good job.”

Compared to feces, urine can be pretty clean when we’re not harboring any infections, though it’s not totally sterile.

“People who use urinals probably think they don’t need to wash their hands,” Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said to the New York Times. (In studies, women tend to be better about adhering to hand washing than men.)

But it’s best to wash your hands after every trip to the toilet because human feces carry pathogens like E. coli, Shigella, Streptococcus, hepatitis A and E, and more.

You can also easily catch norovirus by touching bathroom surfaces that have been contaminated with a sick person’s poo or vomit, then putting your hands into your mouth. The super-contagious illness is the most common food poisoning culprit, and causes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.

wide variety of other microbes and bacteria can be found in bathrooms, too. Some strains of Staphylococcus, or staph, are “found on almost every hand,” as a team of hand washing researchers pointed out in a 2004 study. Public toilets can house many different drug-resistant strains of that bacteria.

“I think a good general rule of thumb is you should wash your hands any time you feel that they might be dirty,” Schaffner said. In other words, seize the opportunity when you’re near a sink.

He said he’s not “super paranoid” about making sure his own hands are always squeaky clean, but some of his favorite times of day to wash up are after walking the dog, working in the dirt, or handling raw meat.

Even a quick “splash ‘n dash,” as researchers like to call the practice of rinsing with water but no soap, can help fight off some bacteria that causes infections. But that shortcut is not advised if you might have raw meat or feces on your mitts, and a lather with soap and water is more effective at disinfecting hands than any wipe or sanitizer.

Here are Schaffner’s best tips for your next journey to the toilet

Follow this simple, three-step hand-washing plan to lower your chances of getting colds, self-inflicted food poisoning, and diarrhea.

First, don’t worry about the temperature of the water; Schaffner’s studies have confirmed that doesn’t make a difference. He suggests that you “adjust the water temperature so it’s a nice comfortable temperature, so you can do a good job.”

Second, give yourself enough time to “get some soap in there, lather it up real good, clean under your finger nails,” Schaffner said. Spending even five seconds washing your hands can help reduce the amount of bacteria on them, but 20 seconds is better. The Centers for Disease Control recommends humming the Happy Birthday song to yourself twice as a timer.

Third, dry off before you leave the room. This step is key because wet hands transfer more bacteria than dry ones.

“If your hands are still wet, you go to touch that door of the bathroom, having your wet hand might actually help transfer bacteria,” Schaffner said. He’ll even dry his palms on his pants if there’s no paper towel around.

Despite all the evidence demonstrating the health benefits of regular hand washing, Schaffner knows his advice can only go so far.

“I’m not in charge of you washing your hands, just because I’m a guy who did some science and did some research on hand-washing,” he said. “You do what you want.”

Well said.

We ain’t preachers, just provide evidence-based advice.

Got me a job at Kansas State University, got me dismissed.

Close the toilet lid when you flush

As a father of 5 daughters, I have been sufficiently instructed in leaving the toilet seat – and lid – down.

But is it important to close the lid before flushing?

It’s a random question that came out of nowhere, but Schaffner provided a link to a possible answer.

Caroline Picard of Good Housekeeping writes that with one little flick of the lever, the swirling water whisks away your business … down into the sewer but also up into the air, all over your counters, and even in your towels and toothbrushes. Yuck.

In the field of science (yep, there’s science about this!), it’s called the “toilet plume,” a.k.a. the germs and fecal matter that get shot upwards — up to 15 feet high! — with the force created by the sudden gush of water.

The first foray into this poop-tastic piece of physics happened during the ’50s, with a particularly groundbreaking (and skin-crawling) piece of research emerging in 1975, when Charles P. Gerba published a study in the journal Applied Microbiology. Gerba found that a single flush sent E. coli airborne and viable for at least four to six hours later. That means your 7-year-old could flush the toilet with the lid up after he gets home from school and harmful bacteria would still be floating around your bathroom at dinnertime.

Today’s low-flow toilets might not produce such gag-inducing results, but a 2013 review of studies done on the topic still came to a pretty horrifying conclusion. “Research suggests that this toilet plume could play an important role in the transmission of infectious diseases for which the pathogen is shed in feces or vomit,” the scientists wrote in the American Journal of Infection Control. “The possible role of toilet plume in airborne transmission of norovirus, SARS, and pandemic influenza is of particular interest.”

One 2012 study found that leaving the lid up versus down led to 12 times as much diarrhea-inducing bacterium Clostridium difficile in the air.

Lifting the lid on toilet plume aerosol: A literature review with suggestions for future research

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4692156/pdf/nihms746087.pd

David L. Johnson, PhDa,*, Kenneth R. Mead, PhDb, Robert A. Lynch, PhDa, and Deborah V.L. Hirst, PhDb
aDepartment of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Oklahoma College of Public Health, Oklahoma City, OK

Division of Applied Research and Technology, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati, OH

Background—The potential risks associated with “toilet plume” aerosols produced by flush toilets is a subject of continuing study. This review examines the evidence regarding toilet plume bioaerosol generation and infectious disease transmission.

Methods—The peer-reviewed scientific literature was searched to identify articles related to aerosol production during toilet flushing, as well as epidemiologic studies examining the potential role of toilets in infectious disease outbreaks.

Results—The studies demonstrate that potentially infectious aerosols may be produced in substantial quantities during flushing. Aerosolization can continue through multiple flushes to expose subsequent toilet users. Some of the aerosols desiccate to become droplet nuclei and remain adrift in the air currents. However, no studies have yet clearly demonstrated or refuted toilet plume-related disease transmission, and the significance of the risk remains largely uncharacterized.

Conclusion—Research suggests that toilet plume could play a contributory role in the transmission of infectious diseases. Additional research in multiple areas is warranted to assess the risks posed by toilet plume, especially within health care facilities.

Keywords

Aerosol; Droplet nuclei; Airborne infection; Bioaerosol

An association between inhalable bioaerosols produced from disturbed sewage and the transmission of infectious disease has been proposed for over 100 years. However, little study has been devoted to characterizing the potential risks posed by the “toilet plume”

*Address correspondence to David L. Johnson, PhD, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Oklahoma College of Public Health, P.O. Box 26901, Room 431, Oklahoma City, OK 73126-0901. David-Johnson@ouhsc.edu (D.L. Johnson).

Conflicts of interest: None to report.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Mention of company names and/or products does not constitute endorsement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Safe food, farm to fork

It’s been my lab’s moto for over 20 years.

Nice to see the American Society for Microbiology catch up (nothing personal, Randy, just idle academic chirping, but at least you get paid).

Fresh produce supply chains present variable and diverse conditions that are relevant to food quality and safety because they may favor microbial growth and survival following contamination. This study presents the development of a simulation and visualization framework to model microbial dynamics on fresh produce moving through postharvest supply chain processes.

The postharvest supply chain with microbial travelers (PSCMT) tool provides a modular process modeling approach and graphical user interface to visualize microbial populations and evaluate practices specific to any fresh produce supply chain. The resulting modeling tool was validated with empirical data from an observed tomato supply chain from Mexico to the United States, including the packinghouse, distribution center, and supermarket locations, as an illustrative case study. Due to data limitations, a model-fitting exercise was conducted to demonstrate the calibration of model parameter ranges for microbial indicator populations, i.e., mesophilic aerobic microorganisms (quantified by aerobic plate count and here termed APC) and total coliforms (TC). Exploration and analysis of the parameter space refined appropriate parameter ranges and revealed influential parameters for supermarket indicator microorganism levels on tomatoes. Partial rank correlation coefficient analysis determined that APC levels in supermarkets were most influenced by removal due to spray water washing and microbial growth on the tomato surface at postharvest locations, while TC levels were most influenced by growth on the tomato surface at postharvest locations. Overall, this detailed mechanistic dynamic model of microbial behavior is a unique modeling tool that complements empirical data and visualizes how postharvest supply chain practices influence the fate of microbial contamination on fresh produce.

IMPORTANCE Preventing the contamination of fresh produce with foodborne pathogens present in the environment during production and postharvest handling is an important food safety goal. Since studying foodborne pathogens in the environment is a complex and costly endeavor, computer simulation models can help to understand and visualize microorganism behavior resulting from supply chain activities. The postharvest supply chain with microbial travelers (PSCMT) model, presented here, provides a unique tool for postharvest supply chain simulations to evaluate microbial contamination. The tool was validated through modeling an observed tomato supply chain. Visualization of dynamic contamination levels from harvest to the supermarket and analysis of the model parameters highlighted critical points where intervention may prevent microbial levels sufficient to cause foodborne illness. The PSCMT model framework and simulation results support ongoing postharvest research and interventions to improve understanding and control of fresh produce contamination.

Postharvest supply chain with microbial travelers: A farm-to-retail microbial simulation and visualization framework

American Society for Microbiology, 10.1128/AEM.00813-18

Claire Zoellner, Mohammad Abdullah Al-Mamun, Yrjo Grohn, Peter Jackson, Randy Worobo

Bullshit: Australian rockmelon Listeria investigation finds outbreak that killed seven largely caused by dust storm

(thanks to the avid barfblog.com reader who forwarded this)

An investigation into a series of deaths linked to listeria on rockmelons has concluded the contaminated fruit came from a single farm in New South Wales, and the outbreak was largely caused by the weather.

Between January 16 and April 10, 22 cases of listeriosis occurred across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, which led to seven deaths and a miscarriage.

Key points:

The investigation found the farm that was the source of the outbreak had hygiene and sanitary procedures on par with or better than most rockmelon-growing operations

Dust storms that covered the farm’s paddocks significantly increased the amount of listeria on the fruit

There were other peripheral issues found in the packing facility that were not considered to be major underlying causes

A report released on Thursday by the NSW Department of Primary Industries confirmed those cases were all linked to consumption of rockmelon packed at Rombola Family Farms in Nericon, NSW.

The report said the farm’s hygiene and sanitary procedures were “on par with or better than most other rockmelon-growing operations across Australia”.

Despite this, heavy rains in December and dust storms that followed covered the farm’s paddocks in dust, and “significantly increased” the amount of listeria on the fruit.

Rockmelons on the farm were washed in a chlorine solution and scrubbed prior to packing.

“The wash water was not recirculated, sanitiser was constantly monitored and applied through an auto-dosing system, and all water coming into the facility was treated and considered potable,” the report said.

“The netted skin of rockmelons makes this fruit particularly hard to clean and sanitise.”

The report said there were other peripheral issues noted in the packing facility during the investigation.

These included some dirty fans that were used to reduce the level of moisture on melons after washing, and some spongy material on packing tables that was not able to be easily cleaned.

These may have been contributing factors to the outbreak but were not considered to be the major underlying causes.

The report said the outbreak highlighted the need for better control measures and awareness of external threats to food safety in the rockmelon indstury.

As more cases of listeriosis emerged, sales of rockmelon plummeted and failed to recover.

Many rockmelon growers called for the farm that was the source of the outbreak to be named, in order to reassure the public that the fruit was safe to eat.

Science or scapegoat’? E. coli outbreak leaves Tennessee: day care owners worried

In May 2018, five children at Pam Walker’s day care in Tenn. were stricken with E. coli O157.

Kristi L Nelson of Knox News reports that science, public health officials said, sleuthed out the source of the E. coli infection: a goat farm across the road.

But for Walker, there’s been no closure — and she may never get the answers to exactly how a microorganism turned her dream of a bucolic child care center in a farm setting to a weeks-long nightmare.

Meanwhile, the health department was already investigating an E. coli outbreak among 10 children who’d consumed raw milk from a nearby dairy, French Broad Farms. Because it would be so unusual for two different E. coli O157 outbreaks to occur in the same area simultaneously, the health department, in the course of extensive interviews, looked for a link between Kids Place and the dairy. Did any children at the day care drink raw milk? Socialize or swim with anyone in the other group of infected children? Did any person or animal go back and forth between the dairy and the day care? The answers, they found, were no.

“Finding a bacteria that is microscopic, not visible to the naked eye, is really, really challenging,” said health department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan. “You have got to get the right sample at the right spot. And environmental cleaning did happen — the environment had changed when they went back” to sample.

With the positive culture from goat feces, the health department’s investigators determined that bacteria from the goats had somehow gotten into the baby house — and probably would have been present there before cleaning. When the specimens were sent back to the Tennessee Department of Health for DNA comparison with stool samples from the sick children, the DNA “fingerprint” from the goat samples and the Kids Place children were an exact match — but different from the DNA “fingerprint” of the cow feces from the dairy and the children who’d consumed raw milk, which matched each other. That meant, though unusual, that Knox County had two separate E. coli outbreaks in young children happening at the same time.

Finding it in goat feces, however, wasn’t a surprise. Goats, cows, sheep and other “ruminant” animals — animals that have a multichambered stomach and regurgitate and rechew food before digesting it — often carry E. coli in their digestive tracts. They can carry the bacteria, and shed it through their feces, but it typically doesn’t make them sick.

“Given that some of these illnesses have been linked to the goats at your facility, I recommend you no longer keep goats or other ruminant animals on your property, or that those who interact with the goats do not have contact with the children in your care,” Buchanan told Walker in a July 6 letter.

After the outbreak, Walker gave the goat herd to a friend. But the week after the health department informed her of the test results, she and her husband contacted the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine to have the goats tested again for E. coli. Dr. Marc Caldwell, assistant professor in large animal clinical sciences, remembers the test being requested merely to see if the goats were healthy, but Steve Walker said he wanted to see if this second test also would find a DNA fingerprint match between his goats and the children’s stool samples.

Techs from UTVM swabbed the goats themselves for fecal samples, rather than collecting feces from the ground as the health department did, and sent them to the Nebraska lab for culture. None of the goats tested positive for E. coli, but both herd dogs — also swabbed — did, while the health department’s dog feces samples were negative. It’s unusual, but possible, for dogs to carry E. coli, Caldwell said.

Caldwell said the test doesn’t prove the animals didn’t have E. coli O157 when the health department tested the feces. In fact, it doesn’t prove they didn’t have it that week, since the amount of bacteria shed from an infected animal can depend on heat, stress and other factors, and a certain amount has to be present for the antigen test — which is what the lab used — to show positive.

Salmonella cases double in Denmark

Ben Hamilton of CPH Post reports there were twice as many salmonella outbreaks in Denmark in 2017 than in the previous year.

In total, there were 25 outbreaks, and 1,067 people became ill as a result.

The increase is partly blamed on improved ways of detecting outbreaks. ‘Whole genome sequencing’, for example, makes it easier to detect the same source of infection.

“We hope it can lead to a decline in salmonella cases in the long term,” noted Luise Müller, an epidemiologist at Statens Serum Institut.

“It should enable us to become better at deducing why some foods are more likely to make people sicker than others.”

Danish-produced pork was the biggest culprit, while there were no cases sourced to chicken.

Foodborne outbreaks in general are increasing. In 2017, there were 63, up from 49 in the previous year.

The biggest culprit is campylobacter, a bacterium that made 4,257 people ill in 2017.

5 confirmed sick from Salmonella at Wyoming fair

The Wyoming Department of Health has confirmed a Salmonella outbreak caused by a pig or pigs at the Johnson County Fair.

After a number of Johnson County Fair participants fell ill with stomach cramps and diarrhea, the Department of Health requested stool samples from five people and was able to confirm that all five were suffering from the same type of salmonella.

According to the department’s surveillance epidemiologist Tiffany Greenlee, when two or more people get the same illness from contact with the same animal or animal environment, the event is called a zoonotic outbreak. Greenlee said the pathology reports indicate that the bacteria was transferred from animal to person via pig feces.

“Salmonella lives in animal intestines and is passed through excrement,” Greenlee said. “At fair, people are around their animals extensively – washing and feeding and grooming, and it’s pretty easy to get animal poop on your hands. We believe people got it from pig poop.”

Blockchain won’t stop this: Walmart manager fined $40,000 for selling contaminated food after Fort McMurray wildfire

David Thurton of CBC reports that  Walmart Canada and its district loss prevention manager were fined $20,000 each after pleading guilty Monday to 10 charges of selling contaminated food following the May 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire. 

The retailer has also agreed to donate $130,000 to the Red Cross.

The retail giant and Darren Kenyon pleaded guilty in Fort McMurray provincial court.

“Unfortunately, during the confusion of the unprecedented 2016 wildfire crisis in Alberta, we didn’t adequately carry out an order from Alberta Health to dispose of certain food items in the Fort Mac store prior to reopening,” Walmart said Monday in a statement attributed to Rob Nicol, the company’s vice-president of corporate affairs.

“For this, we sincerely apologize to our customers and Alberta Health. Food safety and the safety of our customers is our top priority. We have learned from this experience and will be better able to respond in future crises to support the community. As part of our commitment, Walmart has recently made a donation to the Red Cross to support ongoing disaster preparedness, relief and recovery operations.”

Walmart and Kenyon admitted to displaying, storing and selling food that was not fit for human consumption after the wildfire.

The food included pickles, beef jerky, spices, pretzels, mints, stuffing mixes, vinegar, salad dressings, corn starch and yeast.