Don’t eat dogs: China finally agrees

China signaled that it is planning to officially ban the eating of dogs after the species was omitted from a list of animals approved for human consumption.

The Ministry of Agriculture published a draft version of the list on Wednesday, which lays out what animals will be allowed to be bred for meat, fur and medical use, and includes species such as deer, ostriches and foxes.

The ministry is seeking public feedback on the draft list until May 8, it said.

In its statement, the ministry specifically noted the omission of dogs, saying that public concern about the issue and a growing awareness of animal protection had contributed to the species being left off.

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, the wet market that spawned the pandemic which has brought the world to its knees now slumbers quietly behind a tidy-looking blue-and-white partition.

The eating of dogs has become an increasingly controversial issue in China as pet ownership has surged. 

It has been further brought to the fore by the coronavirus, which was first identified in patients linked to market in the city of Wuhan where non-traditional animals were sold for food.

Spitting on food, even in UAE, is not cool

Dude, I just said it wasn’t cool to spit in food.

Ruba Haza of The National reports a bakery worker has been tested for the coronavirus after he was caught on camera spitting in the bread he was preparing, police said.

They said the worker was detained after Ajman Municipality and Planning Department received a video from a customer.

The worker was brought to the Al Jarf Police Station and was tested for Covid-19 as a precautionary measure.

The bakery was shut down by the municipality for flouting food hygiene rules.

From the duh files: Spitting on food in a grocery store is not cool

Asher Klein of NBC Boston reports a man who allegedly coughed and spit at a Stop & Shop in Kingston, Massachusetts, before getting into a fight there Saturday afternoon has been taken to a hospital for evaluation and may face charges, police said.

A witness to the incident said the man was coughing and spitting on food at the supermarket. He shared video to Facebook showing two men holding another one down, with one of Stop & Shop’s hazard-spotting robots hovering nearby.

“Some guy at Stop and Shop in Kingston was coughing and spitting on the produce, he didn’t last long. He fought an employee and good customers took him down until the cops arrived,” the witness, Kyle Mann, wrote in the post.

Store officials have discarded potentially affected product and conducted a deep cleaning and sanitizing of all impacted areas, according to the statement. Additionally, the Board of Health has inspected the store and affirmed it is safe for shoppers.

The accused spitter has been told that police are moving to accuse him of crimes that may involve assault and battery and destroying property.

A Pennsylvania grocery store had to throw out tens of thousands of dollars worth of food late last month after a woman walked inside and “proceeded to purposely cough on our fresh produce, and a small section of our bakery, meat case and grocery.”

(And we had a lovely 1-hour of John Prine songs yesterday at my weekly music therapy session, but I forgot this one. As one of my Canadian daughters likes to say, we’ll just put that down as a dementia moment — dp).

What We Know – And Don’t Know – About Food Safety And COVID-19

The always awesome, and all around great dude, Matt Shipman pitched a bunch of questions to Lee-Ann Jaykus and I about COVID-19 and food safety. Here’s what we said: (from The Abstract)

Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

As the world grapples with COVID-19, people have a lot of questions about how to best protect themselves. Many of those questions have to do with food, and NC State experts are sharing the best available information on food safety, and what risks are associated with eating takeout and going to the grocery store.

Sharing this information is part of our mission as a land-grant university: we want to help people make informed choices about how to protect their health. We also want to help people get a better understanding of what we know and what we don’t know about the COVID-19 virus. And there is a lot we don’t know.

There are quite a few resources available online that can help readers better understand what we do know about COVID-19, such as this Q&A page from the World Health Organization. So we thought we’d talk to some folks at NC State about the basics of COVID-19 and (importantly) what we don’t know in the context of food safety, as well as what’s being done to fill those gaps in our understanding.

With that in mind, we took some time to pick the brains of Lee-Ann Jaykus and Ben Chapman. Both are trained microbiologists and are internationally recognized experts on various aspects of food safety. Jaykus, in particular, is a leading authority on food virology.

The Abstract: Okay, first question: what is “food virology”?

Ben Chapman: Food virology is the field of studying the biology, infectivity, transmission, epidemiology and control of human pathogenic viruses that are associated with the food we eat. Common foodborne viruses include norovirus and hepatitis A, but there are some lesser known ones like hepatitis E and astroviruses (a particular favorite name of mine) that we are learning more about and their impacts on the food system. This area of study is closely related to animal virology, as we look at public health as a combination of animal and human health – known in our world as “one health.”

Lee-Ann Jaykus: Foodborne viruses are diverse but have many features in common: non-enveloped structure; human-only transmission; fecal-oral exposure routes; a high degree of environmental persistence; resistance to commonly used food processing techniques and disinfectants, etc. SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is structurally very different from these viruses and is not considered “foodborne” per se. Nonetheless, SARS CoV-2 has been particularly challenging because it is less fragile than most common respiratory viruses and there is still much that we don’t know about how to control it.

TA: Because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, not by bacteria, that means it cannot be treated with antibiotics, right?

Chapman: Yes. COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, which appears to be closely related to another coronavirus that was the cause of illnesses classified as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome almost 20 years ago. As antibiotics or antibacterial soaps are created to disrupt certain biological functions of bacteria, they don’t have the same impacts on viruses.

Jaykus: That’s right. Viruses are obligate intracellular parasites; in other words, they require a live host cell in order to multiply. In fact, once they infect the host cell, they take over its functions, producing many new viruses, infecting surrounding cells and causing the symptoms of the disease. In general, the antibiotics we normally use are designed to kill or prevent the growth of certain bacteria and hence do not commonly work on viruses.

Chapman: There are antiviral drugs however, and applying these compounds as treatment for COVID-19 is something that medical researchers are investigating.

TA: So, the available resources addressing food safety and COVID-19 are based on the best available science. Given that COVID-19 has only been around for a matter of months, how much science is available right now?

Jaykus: Not much, although I think it is very safe to say that this is not a foodborne virus in the traditional sense of the term. And if the virus were present in a food, it would still not be likely to infect the person eating that food – although it’s probably not impossible. However, for such an infection to occur, all the right factors would need to be in place. It is so much easier for the virus to jump from one person to another by close personal contact and respiratory secretions. I believe putting our attention on foods takes attention away from what we already know works, which is social distancing and isolation.

Chapman: There are researchers around the world investigating the virus daily, helping us determine some of the very basic characteristics of SARS-CoV-2.

We also have a body of literature on SARS-CoV-1 that is giving us some indication on environmental stability, infection, shedding, symptoms, transmission, inactivation and other control measures that may apply to SARS-CoV-2.

The other big data set we’re all watching in real time is from the epidemiological studies that are coming out of some of the earlier clusters of outbreak. Work out of Wuhan, Washington State and cruise ships are all adding to what we know. But yeah, being only months into this, there’s not a rich body of work to make decisions on. Comparatively, we have decades of data on norovirus outbreaks to make decisions on – but even with that virus, it took many years to figure out how to grow it in a laboratory. So what we know about SARS-CoV-2 is really still in its infancy.

TA: How has our scientific understanding of COVID-19 and food safety evolved in recent months, or even in recent weeks?

Chapman: We’re relying on the data we do have in hand – that epidemiology is pointing largely to person-to-person transmission from symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. We’re also drawing on the library of literature on SARS-CoV-1 and other respiratory viruses. As of right now, CDC and FDA have been fairly clear that they don’t have any data (epidemiological or otherwise) that is showing that food or food packaging is a primary risk factor for illness. It’s not to say that transmission isn’t possible (we don’t use a lot of absolutes in the scientific world), but the evidence currently isn’t pointing to food as something we need to manage differently than we normally do for other foodborne illnesses. But every day I think we are actively looking to make sure we haven’t missed anything.

Jaykus: Quite frankly, and rightly so, we are not looking at SARS-CoV-2 as a foodborne pathogen, so we haven’t really studied it in the food system. Food companies are focused largely on preventing aerosol or tactile (hands or surfaces)-based contamination of foods and trying to protect their workforce from infection, which in turn protects the food they come into contact with. Using the controls currently in place and mandated by federal, state, and local food safety and public health authorities remain the best approaches: adequate and frequent handwashing; prevention of bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods; surface cleaning and disinfection; and (uniquely), liberal use of hand sanitizers. Add to that social distancing and exclusion of ill or infected food workers.

TA: How have we been able to learn even this much in such a short period of time?

Jaykus: It’s a pandemic. Scientists are racing against the clock. It is a different world when everyone is in it together and we’re saving lives.

Chapman: It’s such a global focus, like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. Everyone is generating and analyzing data as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that in many places people don’t have access to their labs, so that is definitely slowing the progress down. Still, there’s a ton of COVID-19 research coming out on a daily basis.

But there are lots of caveats to everything that has been done. For example, we are just beginning to really know what this virus is all about and still need to confirm that it acts like other coronaviruses. And we don’t have all that data in hand yet.

TA: What are some of the outstanding questions that we’re working to understand? Who’s taking the lead on addressing those questions?

Jaykus: From a food-safety perspective, characterizing the efficacy of various disinfectants is critical. For instance, we just don’t know if there is a “best,” or even a recommended, cleaning and sanitation regimen for food processing. I think that is a critical question right now. The facemask debate is a problem; I can see arguments both ways, but we have to be careful not to use face coverings only to find that they are a way to spread the virus.

It appears that the fecal matter of some infected people contains evidence of the virus, but we don’t know if that virus is actually infectious. Answering this question would allow us to better understand transmission in general.

Development of an inexpensive and very rapid test method that can be used to screen pre-symptomatic individuals or those shedding virus after recovery would be good for all, and especially helpful for critical infrastructure, including food manufacturing. Having such a test will be really important as we move toward lifting social isolation restrictions.

Chapman: Another big one is how long the virus remains viable on different surfaces (including food and packaging). There are a few studies out there that address this, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions. We need to know how long the virus remains viable not only on different materials, but under various temperature and humidity combinations. Another line of questioning involves the extent to which heat, disinfectants, UV light and pressure can inactivate the virus. And, of course, questions surrounding transmission, such as why there are seemingly so many asymptomatic individuals who are shedding virus.

TA: Why are those things important?

Jaykus: Because understanding these issues will provide scientific evidence upon which we can make better recommendations for controlling the spread of the virus.

TA: Where can people go to keep track of new information as it becomes available?

Chapman: The CDC is a go-to source, because they are proactive about posting new information daily. And NC State also has a bunch of resources available online.

Jaykus: There are good resources for tracking the pandemic here and here. People may also want to visit the Association of Food and Drug Officials Coronavirus website.

TA: What advice do you have for people who are trying to figure out, for lack of a better term, how to eat during a pandemic?

Chapman: Remember that the biggest risk factor is being around other people, so reduce those interactions as much as possible. Limit contact by using delivery or curbside pickup of food. Handwashing and sanitizer are excellent secondary control steps.

Jaykus: We all have to eat and food is low risk for transmitting this virus. Use of surface disinfectants and particularly, frequent handwashing and sanitizing is a useful protection. But really, your best protection is to put your efforts into the controls recommended by public health officials: i.e., limit your contact with other people and, when that is not possible, maintain social distance.


Salmonella in poop on produce

Heightened concerns about wildlife on produce farms and possible introduction of pathogens to the food supply have resulted in required actions following intrusion events. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the survival of Salmonella in feces from cattle and various wild animals (feral pigs, waterfowl, deer, and raccoons) in California, Delaware, Florida, and Ohio.

Feces were inoculated with rifampin-resistant Salmonella enterica cocktails that included six serotypes: Typhimurium, Montevideo, Anatum, Javiana, Braenderup, and Newport (104 to 106 CFU/g). Fecal samples were stored at ambient temperature. Populations were enumerated for up to 1 year (364 days) by spread plating onto tryptic soy agar supplemented with rifampin. When no colonies were detected, samples were enriched. Colonies were banked on various sampling days based on availability of serotyping in each state. During the 364-day storage period, Salmonella populations decreased to ≤2.0 log CFU/g by day 84 in pig, waterfowl, and raccoon feces from all states. Salmonella populations in cattle and deer feces were 3.3 to 6.1 log CFU/g on day 336 or 364; however, in Ohio Salmonella was not detected after 120 days. Salmonella serotypes Anatum, Braenderup, and Javiana were the predominant serotypes throughout the storage period in all animal feces and states. Determination of appropriate risk mitigation strategies following animal intrusions can improve our understanding of pathogen survival in animal feces.

Survival of salmonella in various wild animal feces that may contaminate produce, 01 April 2020

Journal of Food Protection

Topalcengiz Z1,2Spanninger PM3Jeamsripong S4,5Persad AK6,7Buchanan RL8Saha J2LeJEUNE J7Jay-Russell MT4,9Kniel KE3Danyluk MD2.


(Oh, and I have a young lady who comes over every week for musical therapy, and we’ve been going through my greatest hits of the 1960s and 70s, so I just post whatever video I want now. Freedom of the press belongs to whoever owns one.)

Proper handwashing requires proper tools: Alton Brown’s handwashing tutorial is funny, informative, and a little bit gory

Everyone says wash your hands in the wake of Coronavirus.

But proper handwashing requires proper tools.

I go to my local grocery store (when I’m let out of the house, and usually only with a carerer) and the bathroom for the shops has these stupid Dysan machines that just blow microbes around.

I got my job at Kansas State in 2005 because their handwashing thingies just blew stuff around, I wrote something up, they hired me, I did enough work to become full professor, and then they fired me.


Every time there is some weird outbreak at a local school, the first thing I do is check out the bathrooms – that’s right, I’m the creepy guy watching you kids wash their hands – and invariably they have no soap and no paper towel (the later is required for the friction).

Even the 20 seconds is probably overstating things: Can you imagine working in food service and having to wash your hands for 20-30 seconds every time you did something food safety risky?

You can keep imagining because you wouldn’t be working long.

Yes, wash your hands, my daughters have all had this engrained in them, but keep the messaging on a level people might actually follow.

Good Eats host Alton Brown is here to explain it in a 4-plus minute video that illustrates why soap is a solid line of defense against viruses, that demonstrates how to wash every square inch of your mitts, and that wraps up with one of the most surprising endings you’ll see outside of an M. Night Shyamalan flick.

“I’m happy that someone finally wants to talk about handwashing,” he says within the first minute. “I’ve been wanting to do a handwashing video for twenty years, but everybody was like ‘Oh no, hygiene’s boring, do cheese pulls.’ What do you think is going to save us now? Cheese pulls, nanorobots, lasers, hot yoga? I don’t think so.”

We did one 20 years ago.

So yeah, what might give us a shot at getting through… all of this is a bar of soap. (Regular soap, Brown emphasizes, not hand sanitizer. “Not the stuff you’ve been fighting over in drugstore parking lots,” he adds.)

Brown says that he actually travels with his own bar of soap, carrying it with him in a small tin. He also keeps his own zip-sealed bag of paper towels handy, to ensure that he can dry his hands properly too. (So take that, Dyson Airblade!) His handwashing technique takes a full 30 seconds to complete, and he adds a few ticks to the 20-second-minimum wash that has previously been suggested. He goes through a number of steps, for the front and backs of the hands, in-between the fingers, and under the nails. There are a lot of five-counts, but it works. And if that fails to do the job? Well, that’s where Brown’s sense of humor takes a darker turn.

I carry a tip-sensitive digital thermometer wherever I go.

Zoonoses in Minnesota

Prospective, population-based surveillance to systematically ascertain exposures to food production animals or their environments among Minnesota residents with sporadic, domestically acquired, laboratory-confirmed enteric zoonotic pathogen infections was conducted from 2012 through 2016.

Twenty-three percent (n = 1708) of the 7560 enteric disease cases in the study reported an animal agriculture exposure in their incubation period, including 60% (344/571) of Cryptosporidium parvum cases, 28% (934/3391) of Campylobacter cases, 22% (85/383) of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 cases, 16% (83/521) of non-O157 STEC cases, 10% (253/2575) of non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica cases and 8% (9/119) of Yersinia enterocolitica cases. Living and/or working on a farm accounted for 61% of cases with an agricultural exposure, followed by visiting a private farm (29% of cases) and visiting a public animal agriculture venue (10% of cases). Cattle were the most common animal type in agricultural exposures, reported by 72% of cases.

The estimated cumulative incidence of zoonotic enteric infections for people who live and/or work on farms with food production animals in Minnesota during 2012–2016 was 147 per 10 000 population, vs. 18.5 per 10 000 for other Minnesotans. The burden of enteric zoonoses among people with animal agriculture exposures appears to be far greater than previously appreciated.

Animal agriculture exposures among Minnesota residents with zoonotic enteric infections, 2012-2016, 17 December 2019

Epidemiology and Infection

CA Klumb, JM Scheftel and KE Smith

Smoked trout spread sold throughout Quebec likely to contain

I have this weird affliction (among many): Every time a food is involved in an outbreak or recall, I tend to crave that food.

Earlier in March, food safety officials warned the public about a possible health risk in consuming a smoked trout spread sold at several establishments throughout Quebec because it is likely to contain Listeria monocytogenes.

The spread, ‘Tartinade de truite fumee,’ was sold in 160g units and was produced by the National Herring Import Company Ltd. at 9820 Ray-Lawson Boulevard in Montreal. The units had a best before date of April 2, 2020.

The product was packaged in a clear plastic container with a black plastic cover and was refrigerated.

That’s not a trout lunch, this is, which I made yesterday (this not mine, but similar, because I forgot to take a picture).

Crypto in groundwater

Cryptosporidiosis is one of the leading causes of diarrhoeal illness and mortality induced by protozoan pathogens worldwide. As a largely waterborne disease, emphasis has been given to the study of Cryptosporidium spp. in surface waters, readily susceptible to pathogenic contamination. Conversely, the status of Cryptosporidium in potable groundwater sources, generally regarded as a pristine and “safe” drinking-water supply owing to (sub)-soil protection, remains largely unknown. As such, this investigation presents the first literature review aimed to ascertain the global prevalence of Cryptosporidium in groundwater supply sources intended for human consumption.

Thirty-seven peer-reviewed studies were identified and included in the review. Groundwater sample and supply detection rates (estimated 10–20%) indicate Cryptosporidium is frequently present in domestic groundwater sources, representing a latent health concern for groundwater consumers. Specifically, sample (10.4%) and source (19.1%) detection rates deriving from comprehensive “temporal” investigations are put forward as representative of a contamination ‘baseline’ for Cryptosporidium in ‘domestic’ groundwater supplies. Proposed ‘baseline’ prevalence figures are largely applicable in preventive risk-based catchment and groundwater quality management including the formulation of Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA). Notwithstanding, a large geographical disparity in available investigations and lack of standardized reporting restrict the transferability of research findings.

Overall, the mechanisms responsible for Cryptosporidium transport and ingress into groundwater supplies remain ambiguous, representing a critical knowledge gap, and denoting a distinctive lack of integration between groundwater and public-health sub-disciplines among investigations. Key recommendations and guidelines are provided for prospective studies directed at more integrative and multi-disciplinary research.

Cryptosporidium spp. in groundwater supplies intended for human consumption—a descriptive review of global prevalence, risk factors and knowledge gaps, 18 March 2020

Water Research

Chique; P. Hynds; L. Andrade; L. Burke; D. Morris; M.P. Ryan; J. O’Dwyer

DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2020.115726

UK Chinese restaurant had ‘worst standard of cleanliness’ food safety officers had ever seen

The kitchen at a North Wales Chinese restaurant had the worst standard of cleanliness seen by food safety inspectors, a hygiene report reveals.

Lydia Morris of the Daily Post writes that the Sleepy Panda in Wrexhamregained (gotta love the Welsh language) its long-held five star hygiene rating in January after it plummeted to zero following a grim inspection in October 2019 .

Despite requesting the inspector’s official report in November 2019 through the Freedom of Information Act, Wrexham Council denied the information.

However, it has today shared the document with North Wales Live , revealing the “extremely poor standard of cleanliness” that led to the temporary closure of the restaurant last year.

The town centre restaurant considered to be “one of the best in the area” has since reopened, and has held a five star hygiene since January 25 .

However, following the October inspection, food safety officials noted the restaurant had “almost total non-compliance with statutory obligations”.

“The standard of cleaning to the structure was extremely poor to the point where both myself and my colleague not seen a kitchen with such a poor standard of cleanliness,” the report says.

As well as cooked duck and other food items being stored on the floor, cooked rice was also found to have been left out at room temperature.

Cooked chicken, beef and duck were also being stored at room temperature – supporting what the report called “the growth of food poisoning”.