Raw is still risky: Six years after a toddler died, Australian advocates want raw milk back on the table

In late 2014, three children in the Australian state of Victoria developed hemolytic uremic syndrome linked to Shiga-toxin toxin producing E. coli in unpasteurized bath milk produced by Mountain View Dairy Farm. One child died, and two others developed cryptosporidiosis.

The Victorian government quickly banned the sale of so-called bath milk, which although labeled as not fit for human consumption, was a widely recognized way for Australian consumers to access raw milk.

What followed was a despicable whisper campaign that the child who died had an underlying medical condition, it wasn’t Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC), farmers were losing access to lucrative markets – anything but the basic and sometimes deadly biology of STECs and everything involving fantasy and fairytales.

Victorian Dairy farmer Vicki Jones was told in 2014 by the coroner that raw milk was the likely cause of death of a three-year-old boy in 2014.

The milk was ‘raw’, or unpasteurised, and Ms Jones’ Mountain View Dairy Farm had been selling it as bath milk — a cosmetic product labelled ‘not fit for drinking’. 

Ms Jones said she told the officer she would immediately remove the milk from the shelves of local stores. 

“And he said to me, ‘No, no, no, don’t do that. You’ve done nothing wrong and all your labelling is right’.”

In hindsight, Ms Jones said this response “was really bizarre” — as was the decision to wait months before telling her about the cases.

But then the health officer told her a three-year-old boy had died after drinking the bath milk. 

“It was the most devastating news that you could possibly imagine ever getting,” she said.

“I was mortified, we were doing the raw milk because people wanted it.”

Or because you contributed to promoting BS.

A Gippsland MP, the father of the child who died, and evidence presented to the coroner have all questioned how the cases were managed and suggested other contributing factors were overlooked.

Mark Wahlqvist, an Emeritus professor of medicine at Monash University and former president of the international union of nutrition sciences, said, “Raw milk, unpasteurised milk, is not safe enough to be in the public domain.”

Professor Wahlqvist said he was open to new research but at present, found campaigners for raw milk to be more than unconvincing.

“When people for conspiratorial reasons rather than scientific reasons, think that vaccination is a problem or that pasteurisation is a problem,” he said.

“We have a science communication problem in this country and it needs science leaders.”

From the duh files: 19% of Americans have put bleach on food to kill coronavirus, sanitizer sold as gin in Australia

Survey results published last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), revealed that 39% of the Americans surveyed have done high-risk things with household cleaners in attempts to stay safe from the Covid-19 coronavirus. That’s based on a web-based survey administered to a nationally-representative sample of 502 adults on May 4. Surveys still suck, but it provides some sort of insight into where people are at after three months of isolation.

These high-risk activities included drinking or gargling diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions, which 4% of the survey respondents said they have done. It also including trying to clean their hands or skin (18%) or misting their bodies (10%) with household cleaning and disinfectant products.

But the most common high-risk thing to do was applying bleach to food items such as fruits and vegetables, which 19% did. Umm, don’t do this. Your food isn’t a bathroom tile. You can’t just apply bleach to food and then expect to wipe it off completely. Anything that you put on food could potentially seep into the food and eventually make it into your mouth, assuming that’s where you end up putting your food.

Victoria’s Apollo Bay Distillery (that’s in Australia) has recalled its SS Casino Dry Gin as a number of the 700ml bottles were filled with hand sanitiser. The liquor company said the recall affects nine bottles sold from June 5-7 2020.

The bottles were sold at Great Ocean Road Brewhouse in Victoria, according to a statement from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

The food safety group said that Apollo Bay Distillery’s gin was recalled as it was labelled as gin, but does not contain gin. FSANZ said the product had non-compliant labelling and did not have a shrink wrap seal.

The bottles contain 1.45 per cent glycerol and 0.125 per cent hydrogen peroxide, which may cause illness when consumed. FSANZ advised consumers not to drink it as it may result in harmful side effects such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, bloating, vomiting, thirst and diarrhea.

And on the 40th anniversary of the release of The Blues Brothers, which helped to once again revitalize American knowledge of the country’s musical wonderfulness, enjoy.

Raw is risky: Yes, for dogs too

There’s a subset of pet guardians who feverishly believe raw food is the only food for dogs and cats and other pets because that’s all that was available in the wild.

As Hobbes noted in 1651, nature is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Dogs too.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced last week that Carnivora Fresh Frozen Patties for Dogs and Cats may be contaminated with Escherichia coli O157 (E. coli) and there is risk of cross contamination and illness after handling.

Consumers should immediately stop using any of the affected pet food products and contact the retailer where they purchased the affected product for a full refund or exchange.

As of June 12, 2020, the company has been made aware of 4 reports of illnesses in Canada – in people.

Consumers are advised to always wash hands, surfaces and utensils thoroughly with soap and water after feeding, handling or cleaning up after pets. Clean surfaces that come into contact with pet food or ill pets.

One of daughter Sorenne’s daily tasks is to give stress-reducing wet food to our neurotic cat, and she absolutely knows to wash her hands after handling the food.

Scott Weese over at the Worms and Germs blog writes that while people were presumably not eating the pet food (I wouldn’t presume that), there is the potential for cross-contamination of human food when handling raw pet food, as well as potential for exposure to pathogens through things like contact with pet food bowls and pet feces.

The main concern with raw pet food tends to be Salmonella; however, E. coli O157 is another significant concern because of the  potential severity of disease. A death was reported in a UK a couple years ago from exposure to E. coli O157 from contaminated pet food.

While most dogs and cats that eat raw diets are fine, and most owners don’t get sick, it’s clear that feeding raw diet or raw animal-based treats (e.g. pig ears) is associated with risks to the pet and any human contacts. I’d rather people not feed raw diets to their pets, particularly when the pet or household members are very young, elderly, pregnant or have compromised immune systems. If none of those risk factors are present and someone wants to feed a raw diet, I’d still rather they didn’t, but there are some things that can reduce the risks, as outlined on the Worms & Germs infosheet on raw diets available on our Resources – Pets page.

Oh, and don’t go to the company’s website for accurate information about risk and risk mitigation. They bury some good prevention recommendations in a pile of often out-of-context dialogue to try to deflect any concerns and the typical raw diet misinformation. Some other raw pet food companies are up front about the risks and prevention measures – I have a lot more confidence in companies like that.

Good on ya, Dr. Weese.

Is quarantine the right time to get a puppy?

Yes

We got George, to go with Ted,  a few weeks ago when he was 8 weeks old.

I’ve had turtles that small but never a dog

Ronda Kaysen of the New York Times asked the same question a week ago.

For Julie Taylor, a TV writer and producer in Glendale, Calif., the answer was two.

Stuck at home with her husband and two teenage children following coronavirus stay-at-home orders, she started to get the itch in mid-March for something furry, happy and oblivious to the stress going on around her.

“It hit me pretty much as soon as we locked down. I really wanted a dog,” said Ms. Taylor, 48. “I can turn on the news at night and three hours later I’m still watching. I get sucked in. I was hoping a dog could help me be more in the moment.”

So earlier this month, the family adopted an 8-month-old pug named Bentley from a friend of a friend, immediately transforming their home life from gloomy to giddy. For the teenagers, the puppy offered a reprieve from the disappointment of a stunted social life. Bentley “has been a fast distraction,” Ms. Taylor said. “He’s added a lot of life into the house.”

On Petfinder.com, adoption inquiries in the four weeks between March 15 and April 15 jumped 122 percent from the previous four weeks. Americans are fostering, too, as shelters look to empty their facilities during the pandemic. Since March 15, more than 1,500 people have completed online foster applications for the ASPCA’s New York City and Los Angeles foster programs, a 500 percent increase compared to typical application numbers usually seen in this period.

“Bringing a new life into a home is an act of optimism,” said Judith Harbour, a licensed clinical social worker for the Animal Medical Center on East 62nd Street in Manhattan, pointing out that many animals in shelters need homes now. “So there is an idea that some people might have: I can do this good thing right now.”

A pet is also a way to wrestle control back into a life that feels unmoored. Our routine may be thrown, but dogs still need to be walked, fed, cleaned and nurtured. A pet’s schedule gets us out of bed and maybe even out of our pajamas and onto the street for some fresh air.

Coronavirus and chicks: Risk remains

As coronavirus increases, many have taken to old timey ways of raising food.

Careful with that.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports the outbreak strain of Salmonella Hadar has een reported from 28 states.

17 people (34% of those with information available) have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.

30% of ill people are children younger than 5 years of age.

Epidemiologic evidence shows that contact with backyard poultry (such as chicks and ducklings) is the likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, 38 (86%) of 44 ill people reported contact with chicks and ducklings.

People reported obtaining chicks and ducklings from several sources, including agricultural stores, websites, and hatcheries.

Advice to Backyard Flock Owners

You can get sick with a Salmonella infection from touching backyard poultry or their environment. These birds can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean and show no signs of illness. Follow these tips to stay healthy with your backyard flock:

Wash your hands.

Always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching backyard poultry, their eggs, or anything in the area where they live and roam.

Adults should supervise handwashing by young children.

Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.

Be safe around poultry.

Don’t kiss backyard poultry or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth.

Don’t let backyard poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.

Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of the house.

Don’t eat or drink where poultry live or roam.

Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for poultry, such as cages and containers for feed or water.

Supervise kids around poultry.

Always supervise children around poultry and while they wash their hands afterward.

Children younger than 5 years of age shouldn’t handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other poultry. Young children are more likely to get sick from germs like Salmonella.

Handle eggs safely.

Collect eggs often. Eggs that sit in the nest can become dirty or break.

Throw away cracked eggs. Germs on the shell can more easily enter the egg though a cracked shell.

Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned carefully with fine sandpaper, a brush, or a cloth.

Don’t wash warm, fresh eggs because colder water can pull germs into the egg.

Refrigerate eggs after collection to maintain freshness and slow germ growth.

Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter. Raw and undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria that can make you sick.

For a complete list of recommendations, visit the Healthy Pets, Healthy People website section on backyard poultry.

My friend, veterinarian, University of Guelph prot and OK hockey player writes in his Worms and Germs blog, Scott Weese I’m not anti-backyard chickens. I’m anti-“spending the weekend on the toilet” and anti-“seeing people hospitalized unnecessarily” and, I guess, just anti-Salmonella and anti-Campylobacter in general. I can’t see any redeeming qualities of those bacteria, at least in people.

From the duh files: FDA says cows may have caused E. coli lettuce contamination, gumshoes are needed

Lettuce and leafy greens are overrated.

Outbreaks of E. coli illness sickened 188 people last year who ate romaine lettuce in three separate outbreaks.

There have been so many outbreaks going back to spinach in 2006, and beyond that, my favorite salad now is a Greek  salad – without the lettuce.

If the Leafy Greens Marketing Association was as rigorous as its press releases maintain this would be minimized.

Instead, between 2009 and 2018, federal authorities identified 40 food-borne outbreaks of E. coli in the U.S. “with a confirmed or suspected link to leafy greens,” the FDA said.

Investigators concluded the most recent outbreaks were centered on ranches and fields owned by the same grower and that were located downslope from public land where cattle grazed.

So if LGMA is doing internal audits, why didn’t they notice this dude?

Because it’s PR not gumshoes, people out in the field.

We figured out 20 years ago that gumshoes are required.

 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published the findings of an investigation into the contamination of romaine lettuce implicated in three outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 during the Fall of 2019.

The investigation was conducted at several farms identified in the outbreak tracebacks, as well as at other businesses and public access areas and resulted in several key findings:

Each of these three outbreaks, identified in the report as Outbreaks A, B and C was caused by distinctly different strains of E. coli O157:H7 as determined by whole genome sequencing (WGS) analysis;

Traceback investigations of multiple illness sub-clusters and supply chain information identified a common grower with multiple ranches/fields which supplied romaine lettuce during the timeframe of interest to multiple business entities associated with all three outbreaks. 

The same strain of E. coli O157:H7 that caused Outbreak A was found in two different brands of fresh-cut salads containing romaine lettuce in 2019;

This same outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 in Outbreak A was detected in a fecal–soil composite sample taken from a cattle grate on public land less than two miles upslope from a produce farm with multiple fields tied to the outbreaks by the traceback investigations;

Other strains of Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC), while not linked to any of the  outbreaks, were found in closer proximity to where romaine lettuce crops were grown, including two samples from a border area of a farm immediately next to cattle grazing land in the hills above leafy greens fields and two samples from on-farm water drainage basins.

These findings, together with the findings from earlier leafy greens outbreaks dating back to 2013, suggest that a potential contributing factor has been the proximity of cattle—a persistent source of E. coli O157:H7 and other STEC—to the produce fields identified in traceback investigations.

Because of  the reoccurring nature of outbreaks associated with leafy greens, the FDA recently released a 2020 Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan, which outlines a three-pronged approach for tackling this problem.  It describes the FDA’s plans for working with industry, federal partners, state and local regulators, academia and others to address the safety of leafy greens by advancing work in three areas: prevention, response, and addressing knowledge gaps.

Outbreak investigation of E. coli: Romaine from Salinas, California (November 2019)

21.may.20

FDA

https://www.fda.gov/food/outbreaks-foodborne-illness/outbreak-investigation-e-coli-romaine-salinas-california-november-2019

Compost sounds cool, but is it food safety safe

Twenty years ago, I sent one of my students to a big organic conference in Guelph, and requested that she ask one question: How do you know compost is microbiologically safe?

The answer was not convincing.

‘There’s so many good bacteria they out-compete the bad bacteria.’

Fairytale.

Ten years ago, I was visiting a colleague in Melbourne in his high-rise office and he said, see those crappy little houses down there with their crappy little backyard gardens, they provide the produce for Melbourne’s high-end restaurants, and it’s all fertilized with night soil’ (human shit).

A couple of days ago The Packer published a piece about composting food safety.

Doug Grant, who chairs the Center for Produce Safety’s Knowledge Transfer Task Force wrote that composting is a seemingly magical process that decomposes organic materials like green waste or animal manures through microbial fermentation, creating nutrient-rich amendments that can be added back to soils.

It’s not magical; it’s microbiological.

However, compost can also pose a risk to the food safety of fresh produce.

Animal manure is widely suspected to be a significant source of human pathogens. Cows can carry E. coli, while poultry and swine can carry Salmonella. If compost is made with manure containing such pathogens, and the composting process is not controlled properly, these pathogens can survive composting. Contaminated compost applied to fields can then cross-contaminate fresh produce that contacts amended soil during growth, irrigation or harvest.

Yes, we have over 20 years of evidence.

Gurmail Mudahar, Ph.D., is vice president of research and development and food safety at Tanimura & Antle and is a member of CPS’s technical committee and California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement’s (LGMA) advisory board. He reports that his company used to prepare and apply their own animal manure-based composts.  That changed when food safety emerged as a major leafy greens industry issue almost two decades ago.

Then Tanimura & Antle and other growers began buying compost only from specialized manufacturers to minimize produce safety hazards. 

At its simplest, composting is a manufacuring process. To produce compost safely, the most critical controls are high temperature and time held at that temperature. Over time, the heat generated by microbial respiration in turn reduces the compost’s microbial population, including any human pathogens present. 

As a general rule, compost temperatures must reach 131 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees Celsius for 3-15 days, followed by a curing phase of least 21 days and preferably a few months. (Once applied to agricultural fields, pathogens continue to die off when exposed to sunlight’s ultraviolet rays, humidity, temperature, time and other factors.)

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

Bacteria don’t recognize state borders: Salmonella in Australian eggs

Kelsey Wilkie of the Daily Mail  reports at least three people have come down with salmonella poisoning after purchasing eggs from a popular supermarket.  

The infection is believed to have come from eggs bought in the Melbourne suburb of Werribee. 

The Weekly Times reported the eggs were supplied from farms in New South Wales.

However, a spokesman for the NSW Department of Primary Industries disputed those claims. 

‘There is no evidence to suggest the reported illnesses in Victoria are connected to NSW eggs, or even eggs. The matter is an active investigation being undertaken by Victorian authorities.

‘There are no current recalls of eggs in NSW and no warnings with regards to eggs.’

Since 2012 there have 12 farms identified with Salmonella Enteritidis bacteria and has been working to eliminate the infection.

Most of the infections were discovered in 2019 and the majority of the farms have had their hens removed, but the NSW DPI is still clearing three properties.

There are still salmonella cases in humans in NSW which are linked to a yet-to-be-identified farm.  

Officials from Agriculture Victoria have warned Victorian egg producers to be careful when trading eggs with NSW farmers. 

A table of Australian egg-related outbreaks is available at https://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-5-1-17.xlsx.

Salmonella found in ‘death dumplings’ that killed a Thai woman

Lab results have found a dubious dish dubbed “death dumplings” after at least one woman died contained salmonella.

After-sale of the dumplings in southeast metro Bangkok was blamed for one death and several illnesses, the lab results, which came out yesterday confirmed they contained salmonella, according to Prakit Wongprasert of the Samut Prakan provincial health office. 

Earlier this month, 66-year-old Thanu Changpoopanga-ngam suffered severe diarrhoea and was taken to a hospital. Her condition was allegedly caused by eating a dumpling bought from a local vendor. Others in Thanu’s family, who also ate the dumplings, said they also had severe diarrhoea.

Thanu died a few days later. Her death, led the media to dub the dim sum snack as ‘death dumplings,’ after several others came forward to say they had taken sick from eating them.

Going down, in the sink

Since knowledge and understanding of waterborne pathogens and their diseases are well illuminated, a few research publications on the prevalence of pathogenic microorganisms in various household sink drain pipes are often not extensively examined. Therefore, this study aims to (a) assess and monitor the densities of the bacterial community in the different natural biofilm that grow on plastic pipelines, (b) to detect Escherichia coli , Salmonella , and Listeria spp. from natural biofilm samples that are collected from the kitchen (n = 30), bathroom (n = 10), laboratories (n = 13), and hospital (n = 8) sink drainage pipes.

Three bacterial species selected were assessed using a culture‐dependent approach followed by verification of isolates using both BIOLOG GEN III and polymerase chain reaction. The estimated number of each bacterium was 122 isolates, while 60, 20, 26, and 16 isolates were obtained from the natural biofilm samples, kitchen, bathroom, laboratories, and hospital, respectively. As for the tests, in all types of biofilm samples, the overall bacterial counts at low temperature (22°C) were higher than those at high temperature (37°C). Meanwhile, E . coli had the most significant number of bacterial microorganisms compared to the other two pathogens. Additionally, the most massive cell densities of E . coli , Salmonella , and Listeria species were discovered in the biofilm collected from the kitchen, then the hospital.

Statistically, the results reveal that there is a positive correlation (p ≥ .0001) with significance between the sources of biofilm. This work certainly makes the potential of household sink drain pipes for reservoir contagious pathogens more explicitly noticeable. Such knowledge would also be beneficial for prospective consideration of the threat to human public health and the environment.

Prevalence of E. coli, salmonella, and listeria spp. as potential pathogens: A comparative study for biofilm of sink drain environment

Journal of Food Safety

Mohamed Azab El‐Liethy, Bahaa A. Hemdan, Gamila E. El‐Taweel

https://doi.org/10.1111/jfs.12816

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jfs.12816?af=R