Know your plants: Japanese pref. warns of toxic lily resembling edible taro after poisoning cases reported

The Kumamoto Prefectural Government is warning people to be on their guard following cases of food poisoning caused by people mistaking toxic night-scented lilies for edible taro plants (that’s the two plants, right).

A woman in southwestern Japan suffered symptoms of food poisoning, including acute pain in her mouth, after mistakenly eating night-scented lily, the prefectural government announced on Nov. 26.

There have been repeated cases across Japan where people accidentally consume the plants, as the leaves resemble those of edible taros. Officials are calling on people to “avoid eating taros of an unknown type.”

According to the prefecture, the 43-year-old woman and her family, who live in an area under the jurisdiction of the Mifune public health center in Kumamoto Prefecture, consumed a wild night-scented lily plant that had been growing at the side of an agricultural road near their residence, after mistaking it for edible shrimp-shaped taro. The woman felt a sharp pain in her mouth, as well as numbness in her lips and tongue, shortly after tasting the plant, which she used as an ingredient for miso soup, and was taken to hospital in an ambulance. Although the woman has been recovering, her symptoms apparently still remain. The woman said she had no experience cooking shrimp-shaped taro, and felt itchiness in her hand from the time she started cutting the plant.

In a separate case, eight people suffered food poisoning after eating night-scented lilies that were mistakenly sold at a produce stand in Miyazaki Prefecture in October. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has cautioned people to “avoid picking, eating, selling, or giving to others plants that cannot be ascertained as being edible.”

1012 sick in US: Salmonella infections linked to onions

This is over two months old, but should get it out there, because onions are an infrequent source of foodborne illness, despite being grown in the ground.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that onions supplied by Thomson International, Inc., or any foods made with recalled onions, should not be eaten.

As of August 31, 2020, a total of 1,012 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport have been reported from 47 states. A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the Map of Reported Cases page.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 19, 2020, to August 11, 2020. Ill people range in age from less than 1 to 102 years, with a median age of 40. Fifty-seven percent of ill people are female. Of 581 ill people with information available, 136 hospitalizations have been reported. No deaths have been reported.

Illnesses might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of 2 to 4 weeks. Please see the Timeline for Reporting Cases of Salmonella Infection for more details.

Whole genome sequencing analysis of 732 bacterial isolates from ill people did not predict any antibiotic resistance in 730 isolates; one isolate had predicted resistance to ampicillin, and one isolate had predicted resistance to tetracycline. Standard antibiotic susceptibility testing of seven clinical isolates by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory showed no resistance. This resistance does not affect the choice of antibiotic used to treat most people.

Whole genome sequencing analysis shows that an outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections in Canada is related genetically to this outbreak in the United States. This means that people in both of these outbreaks are likely to share a common source of infection.

Recalled onion types include red, white, yellow, and sweet yellow varieties.

Foods made with recalled onions, such as cheese dips and spreads, salsas, and chicken salads, have also been recalled. These foods were sold at multiple grocery store chains. View the list of recalled onions and foods

Check your home for onions and other foods recalled by Thomson International, Inc. and several other companies, including Food Lion, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Publix, Ralph’s, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart.

If you can’t tell where your onions are from, don’t eat them or any food made with them. Throw them away.

If you used recalled onions to make any other food, don’t eat the food. Throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one got sick.

Wash and sanitize any surfaces that may have come in contact with onions or their packaging, such as countertops, storage bins, refrigerator drawers, knives, and cutting boards.

When you order food from a restaurant or shop for food, check to make sure they are not serving or selling any recalled onions, foods prepared with recalled onions, or any recalled foods such as salads, sandwiches, tacos, salsas, and dips.

If they don’t know where their onions are from, don’t buy the product or order the food.

Check the list of recalled products.

If you don’t know where your onions are from, don’t serve or sell them.

View the list of recalled onions and foods

A total of 1,012 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport have been reported from 47 states.

136 hospitalizations have been reported. No deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic and traceback information showed that red onions are a likely source of this outbreak. Due to the way onions are grown and harvested, other onion types, such as white, yellow, or sweet yellow, are also likely to be contaminated.

On August 19, 2020, Hello Fresh recalledexternal icon onions received by customers from May 8 through July 31, 2020.

See the full list ofrecalled onions and foods

This investigation is ongoing. CDC will provide more information as it becomes available.

Disgusting face, disease-ridden place? Emoji influence on the interpretation of restaurant inspection reports

Every year, millions of Americans get sick from foodborne illness and it is estimated half of all reported instances occur at restaurants. To protect the public, regulators are encouraged to conduct restaurant inspections and disclose reports to consumers. However, inspection reporting format is inconsistent and typically contains information unclear to most consumers who often misinterpret the inspection results. Additionally, consumers are increasingly searching for this information in a digital context. Limited research explores inspection reports as communication tools.

Using affect-as-information and ELM as theoretical frameworks, this experiment investigated how discrete emotions (e.g., disgust) conveyed through pictorial cues (i.e., emojis) influenced consumers’ processing of inspection reports. Participants, recruited from Amazon’s MTurk, were randomly assigned to one of six experimental conditions in a 3 (emoji: smiling vs. disgusted vs. none) x 2 (violation level: low vs. high) between-subjects design. Then, participants completed a questionnaire regarding perceptions and cognitive processing of the message.

Results revealed that, compared to text, disgusted face emoji increased risk perceptions and avoidance behavior. In terms of emotion, smiling face emoji motivated participants to feel more emotions related to sanitation. In turn, positive feelings decreased elaboration likelihood. As predicted by ELM, involvement also predicted elaboration, such that participants who were highly involved with inspection reports elaborated more than those less involved. Involvement also moderated the relationship between emoji presented and elaboration. Practical implications are also discussed.

Disgusting face, disease-ridden place?: Emoji influence on the interpretation of restaurant inspection reports

Health Communication, 18 August 2020

Elizabeth Ray and Patrick Merle

https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2020.1802867

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10410236.2020.1802867

Assessment of food safety compliance to federal, state and local regulations within NYS capital region farmers markets: An investigation of current facilitators, barriers, and future opportunities to increase food safety, 2020

Patricia Miller of the State University of New York at Albany writes in her Doctor of Public Health dissertation that within the United States there are over 8,000 farmers markets, that sell directly to consumers. New York State has the second-largest number of markets, at 637, with the capital region host to 114 markets.

Over the years the selections of offerings have grown to include not only produce but ready-to-eat foods, eggs, dairy products, crafts, beer, and wine. The increasing popularity of farmers markets coupled with inadequate regulatory oversight of these markets, can contribute to incidences of foodborne illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control identified 95 foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States potentially associated with fairs, festivals, and temporary mobile services from 1988-2007, which resulted in almost 4,000 illnesses, including 144 hospitalizations (Centers for Disease Control, 2008). Of these markets, six are held year-round.

This research undertook a needs assessment to identify gaps in food safety as it related to compliance with regulations required by federal, state, and local government by farmers markets and their vendors. This was a multimethod study utilizing content of each farmers markets rules compared to regulations, direct observations of vendor behaviors, and data collection through observation of physical characteristics of the markets, and interviews with market managers. Market compliance was measured by analysis of market rules to key rules and regulations required through the Federal Food Code, and by the New York State Temporary Food Service Establishments Regulations. These rules included adherence to minimal cooking of foods, maintaining and monitoring temperatures of foods, hand hygiene requirements, prevention of cross-contamination, and storage of food. These regulations address transportation of food to the markets, into the markets, display of food, and serving of food.

Data collection through observation of each markets was done to assess market facilities, and direct observations were made of vendors during market operations on multiple occasions. Results showed many markets lacked clearly defined rules, and resources, including handwashing stations, as regulated, were not in evidence. Observational data collection showed that these markets did not comply with the New York State Department of Health Temporary Establishments Regulations and that the vendor behaviors did not meet food code requirements. In addition, this study looked to identify facilitators and barriers to safe food handling behaviors. A lack of handwashing facilities and thermometers were found to be barriers to safe food handling at these markets.

While implementing more rules or changing policies may improve these behaviors, enforcement of the required rules would be a better method to decrease these barriers. Inspection by local authorities may improve compliance to regulations as may providing resources to the vendors.

30 Helens and most of 635 epidemiologists agree: Stay at home for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, both the Canadian, in early October, and the American, today, the last Thursday in November.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has finally found a consistent voice and has recommendations to make #Thanksgiving safer. Bring your own food and drinks, stay at least 6 feet apart, and wash your hands often. Choose outdoor or well-ventilated spaces.

Most importantly, CDC and others strongly recommend to celebrate only with those you live with, and use virtual gatherings with others (I am exceedingly thankful for the electronic toys we have to help weather the pandemic; 1918 and the Spanish flu would have really sucked).

Of course, the current White House occupant is planning on hosting several parties throughout the holidays. Please ignore Trump et al. and listen to the science.

To that end, the N.Y. Times surveyed 635 epidemiologists and found that most are staying at home, and that those who are gathering with family or friends are taking precautions or rethinking their holiday rituals altogether.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving my American friends and colleagues, and be thankful that someone will live with you.

Australia has somewhat enviable statistics related to this pandemic and the lesson that America is only beginning to grasp is this: go fast, go hard and go smart to limit the spread of coronavirus or any illness.

The 3 Ws: A public health Thanksgiving

Friend of the barfblog, Michéle Samarya-Timm, MA, HO, MCHES, REHS, health educator and registered environmental health specialist at the Somerset County Department of Health in Somerville, New Jersey, has graciously made time from the public health front lines to continue her U.S. Thanksgiving tradition of contributing to the barfblog.

It’s the 10th month  of COVID-19 response for public health professionals in the U.S.

That’s 46 straight weeks (and counting) of conducting public testing clinics, providing COVID-19 information and test results, contact tracing, and educating on prevention.    

 In addition, public health has been proactive with regular disease prevention work, holding COVID-safe flu clinics, providing guidance to food establishments, schools and workplaces, and planning for the herculean task of vaccinating 70% of the population (twice) for COVID-19 as soon as the vaccine is delivered. 

 We do what we’ve been trained to do, and what needs to be done to protect our residents. It’s the prime directive of public health: prevent disease and save lives.

Be thankful, as I am, for their dedication and efforts as you pass the turkey…and pass the hand sanitizer.

This year, in addition to food safe practices to assure a disease-free meal, remember to add 3 W’s:

  • Watch your distance (keep 6 feet apart)
  • Wear a mask 
  • Wash your hands 

 Be safe, my friends.  And THANKS for all you do.

Listeria in sheep water trough

In the context of a study on the occurrence of Listeria species in an animal farm environment in Valencia, Spain, six Listeria -like isolates could not be assigned to any known species.

Phylogenetic analysis based on the 16S rRNA gene and on 231 Listeria core genes grouped these isolates in a monophyletic clade within the genus Listeria , with highest similarity to Listeria thailandensis .

Whole-genome sequence analyses based on in silico DNA–DNA hybridization, the average nucleotide blast and the pairwise amino acid identities against all currently known Listeria species confirmed that these isolates constituted a new taxon within the genus Listeria . Phenotypically, these isolates differed from other Listeria species mainly by the production of acid from inositol, the absence of acidification in presence of methyl α-d-glucoside, and the absence of α-mannosidase and nitrate reductase activities.

The name Listeria valentina sp. nov. is proposed for this novel species, and the type strain is CLIP 2019/00642T (=CIP 111799T=DSM 110544T).

Listeria valentina sp. nov., isolated from a water trough and the faeces of healthy sheep

International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology

Juan J. Quereda1​Alexandre Leclercq2​,3Alexandra Moura2​,3​,4​Guillaume Vales2​,3​Ángel Gómez-Martín1​Ángel García-Muñoz1​Pierre Thouvenot2​,3​Nathalie Tessaud-Rita2​,3​Hélène Bracq-Dieye2​,3​Marc Lecuit2​,3​,4​,5​

https://www.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/ijsem/10.1099/ijsem.0.004494

75% of pregnant women in NZ aren’t aware of dangerous foods

New research from New Zealand has found that 75% of pregnant women aren’t aware of what foods are potentially dangerous.

Researchers took a survey of 205 pregnant women, both those in a hospital and online, between December 2017 and January 2018. The results, according to BabyGaga, can be read in two ways. The good news is that the average woman scored 95% correct. The troubling news? Only 25% scored a perfect score. With things like deadly foods for fetuses, you need 100% in order to be completely protected from the dangers.

What danger foods weren’t readily known by expectant mothers? Baked goods with added cream or custard, hummus, certain salads, and soft/semi-soft Cheese all were among the most missed.

Hummus typically purchased in packages run the risk of listeria. This bacteria poses a danger to an unborn baby as it can cause the immune system to weaken. This, in turn, leads to listeriosis. Pregnant women are told to prepare any hummus at home and make sure to eat it while it is still fresh.

Refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods are generally a no-no. Two recent recalls highlight the risk.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a recall for a popular brand of lunch meat.

Levitts Foods (Canada) Inc. is recalling Compliments Smoked Beef Pastrami 175 g with a best before date of Dec 25th, 2020 

The CFIA said people should not consume the recalled product and instead throw it out or return it to the store they purchased it from. 

The recalled Pastrami was sold at stores in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario and possibly across the country. 

Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you and your family sick. 

The CFIA said there have been no illnesses reported. 

This recall was triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings. 

The CFIA is verifying that the industry is removing the recalled product from the marketplace. 

In the UK, Tesco has issued a recall of 80G packets of its own-brand spicy chorizo slices.

Food standards officials reported a detection of Listeria monocytogenes inside some packs of 16.

Packets with the best before end date of 19/12/20 should return the product immediately.

Cyclospora sucks: 1060 North Americans sickened in summer Fresh Express outbreak

The parasite, Cyclospora, continues to provide illness and intrigue.

Florida-based Southeastern Grocers has issued a voluntary recall for its “SE Grocers Naturally Better Organic Fresh Cut Basil” following the detection of Cyclospora.

The company says the product was delivered through all of its distribution centers and sold in all its stores, including Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarkets. The basil comes in a 0.5-ounce container with UPC code 6-07880-20230-4.

The latest recall follows a summer outbreak of Cyclospora in the U.S. linked to Fresh Express and private label brand salad products produced at its Streamwood, IL facility that contain iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, and/or carrots.

690 people with laboratory-confirmed Cyclospora infections and who reported eating bagged salad mix before getting sick weren reported from 13 states (Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Wisconsin).

Illnesses started on dates ranging from May 11, 2020 to July 20, 2020.

37 people were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

Canadians in several provinces were also sickened.

As of November 4, 2020, 370 confirmed cases of Cyclospora illness were reported in the following provinces and territories: British Columbia (1), Ontario (255), Quebec (105), New Brunswick (1), Newfoundland and Labrador (6), and Nunavut (2). Individuals became sick between mid-May and late August 2020. Ten individuals were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in Aug. that a new method developed and validated by the FDA to sample for Cyclospora in agricultural water was used for the first time in a field investigation.

This method was used in our current investigation and may be instrumental in our efforts to better understand the dispersion of the parasite in the environment, which could help prevent future outbreaks. The collective work by public health officials to get these new findings demonstrates a commitment to innovation and science in the service of public health and the importance of strong federal and state coordination on food safety work.

Even as our agencies continue to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis, teams of experts from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have continued to respond to a threat of a different kind – a nationwide outbreak of Cyclospora illnesses. Cyclospora cayetanensis is a parasite that is so small it can only be seen with a microscope. It causes an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis from the consumption of contaminated food, mainly fresh produce, or contaminated water.

Epidemiology linked the illnesses to bagged salad produced by Fresh Express. The number of reported cases of Cyclospora typically rises during May through August. Although CDC conducts surveillance for cyclosporiasis year-round, during the spring and summer months CDC conducts enhanced surveillance for cases of domestically acquired illness. In this outbreak, CDC has reported 690 cases across 13 states, with 37 hospitalizations and no deaths. Onsets of illness range from May 11, 2020 to July 20, 2020. Salads made by Fresh Express and containing iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, and carrots were identified as the food vehicle responsible for the outbreaks.

Traceback of cases with the strongest sources of information (shopper card info, etc.) revealed that bagged salad codes most likely to have resulted in illness contained iceberg lettuce from California and red cabbage from Florida. The FDA evaluated and investigated each of the ingredients in the bagged salads, identifying red cabbage from Florida and iceberg lettuce from California as those most likely in the bagged salads consumed by people who became ill. Traceback investigations are time-consuming work but are critical. In this instance, in the wake of traceback and collaboration with the retailers to recall product, FDA identified a noticeable decline in illnesses that matched the time period in which cabbage sourcing shifted from Florida to another area, providing a possible clue in the investigation.

Environmental sampling detected the presence of Cyclospora in the surface water of a canal near a farm suspected of being a source of the red cabbage. Two samples collected to the north and south of where the farm accessed canal water for seepage irrigation were found to be positive for Cyclospora cayetanensis. The farm that supplied red cabbage was no longer in production at the conclusion of the growing season, so it was not possible to sample product. Additionally, the farms growing iceberg lettuce in California were investigated and all of the samples collected in California were negative for Cyclospora.

Given the emerging nature of genetic typing methodologies for this parasite, the FDA has been unable to determine if the Cyclospora detected in the canal is a genetic match to the clinical cases, therefore, there is currently not enough evidence to conclusively determine the cause of this outbreak.

The FDA has pioneered ways to detect the parasite that have been employed in this outbreak investigation, developing and validating new methods to test for Cyclospora in produce and agricultural water. The first of these new methods was used in 2018 to confirm the presence of the parasite in a salad mix product tied to an outbreak that sickened hundreds of people.

In July 2019, the FDA made its second major advance in Cyclospora detection, completing studies that resulted in a novel, validated method to test agricultural water for the presence of the parasite. These new methods were developed by the Foodborne Parasitology Research Program that the FDA established in 2014 in our Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in part to break the cycle of recurring Cyclospora outbreaks.

Strong federal and state coordination on matters of public health are critical. In identifying clinical cases of Cyclospora, assisting in providing traceback records and completing investigations in processing facilities and growing fields, our state partners’ work has proven essential to this investigation. We continue to work to strengthen these vital public health partnerships and federal agencies continue to work together to advance additional tools needed to assist with these investigations. For example, CDC is piloting the use of a genotyping tool to help identify cases of parasitic illness that might be linked to a common source.

While we as public health agencies have gotten better at detecting foodborne illnesses due to Cyclospora, our ability to trace contaminated foods back to their source has lagged, and once again, our ability to trace has been a challenge in this investigation, due in part to the lack of modernized food traceability capabilities.

Moreover, the detection of the parasite in surface waters near where product was grown once again puts a spotlight on the importance of managing the quality of irrigation water used to grow ready to eat crops. We are working closely with our colleagues at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to investigate this issue further to prevent future occurrences.

These findings further emphasize the importance of industry’s role in ensuring that irrigation water is safe to be used on produce. Under the FDA’s recently released New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, we’ll continue to remain laser focused on prevention. In the coming months, we will be issuing a proposed rule that will aid in achieving our goal of enhancing traceability to greatly reduce the time it takes to identify the origin of a contaminated food or ingredient tied to a recall and/or outbreak.

In addition, we intend to release a proposed rule in late 2020 to revise certain agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule and to address practical implementation challenges while protecting public health. We also plan to advance detection techniques that will help us pinpoint sources of Cyclospora outbreaks and to continue our research around water treatments for this parasite.

In closing, we believe the entire fresh produce supply chain from farm to fork can do better and we look forward to continuing our work with our public health partners, growers, processors, distributors and retailers in our shared efforts to protect consumers. Together, we’ll make progress on our overarching goal to give consumers the confidence they deserve to have in the safety of fresh produce.

Three sushi restaurants closed after Food Safety Authority discover they were being run from the bedroom of a house

Another reason not to like sushi

Eoghan Moloney of the Independent writes three unregistered online sushi restaurants were ordered to close by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) after it was found they were being run from a bedroom of a house in Dublin.

Koi Sushi, Nagoya Sushi and Kyoto Sushi takeaway restaurants were all registered to the same address of a house in the Santry area of Dublin and were ordered to close after the FSAI found them in breach of numerous laws around food and food safety.

Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI expressed particular concern at the conditions in which the high-risk sushi products were being stored in.

Dr Byrne said the conditions in which the Sushi restaurants were operating in “posed a grave and immediate danger” to consumer health.

“Running a food business that has not been registered and is therefore, not supervised is totally unacceptable and poses a very serious risk to consumers’ health.

“In these instances, the unregistered businesses were producing sushi without any hygiene or temperature controls. Sushi is a very high-risk product because it contains raw fish which must be kept chilled to reduce the growth of dangerous bacteria. It can also contain cooked rice, which is a ready-to-eat product that must be kept chilled.

“In these instances, the absence of a food safety management system, no monitoring of the cold chain and no evidence of traceability of raw ingredients posed a grave and immediate danger to consumer health,” Dr Byrne said.

The FSAI closure orders on the premises detail how food was being produced, processed and distributed in an unsatisfactory and unclean environment.

There was an absence of safe practice when handling raw fish and cooked rice, it says, with the enforcement order noting a lack of access to hand washing facilities in the ‘food prep’ area. There was also no access to hot water, which posed “a serious risk to public health.”