Cracker Barrel in SW Michigan closing because of Salmonella

I’ve spent a good portion of my life on Interstate-75 heading south from Detroit to Sarasota, Florida.

Gramps had a mobile home in Englewood, where he would spend 6-months-minus-one-day every year, to escape the Canadian cold and be covered by insurance.

Amy and I had independently visited Venice, Florida before we met, and we’ve had a few retreats to Anna Maria Island.

A common sight on I-75 was the endless Cracker Barrel restaurants. They looked so appealing, with their ole’ timey messaging, but were no different than turtles, birds and backyard chickens: they were Salmonella factories.

One in southwestern Michigan will not reopen after a problem with salmonella.

The Kalamazoo County health department says it was told about the closing last week. The agency says private tests revealed significant contamination at the Kalamazoo-area restaurant. Results from state tests are expected this week.

The restaurant had reopened after closing in June due to health-code violations. Cracker Barrel, which is based in Lebanon, Tennessee, says the salmonella was not related to the food supply. But the chain says the restaurant has closed because it wasn’t confident that it could “prevent a reoccurrence.”

Preschoolers were supposed to get apple juice at snack time. They got Pine-Sol instead

Amy B Wang of the Washington Post writes that officials at a preschool in Hawaii have apologized after young children were given Pine-Sol instead of apple juice to drink during a morning snack time, a mix-up that health officials said occurred because the two liquids were “the same color.”

The incident involving the household cleaning liquid took place on Tuesday at the preschool at Kilohana United Methodist Church in Honolulu.

A classroom assistant prepared the snacks — which should have been crackers and apple juice — in the preschool’s kitchen, according to an inspection report by the Hawaii State Department of Health.

Instead of juice, however, the assistant reportedly grabbed a container of Pine-Sol, a decades-old brand of household cleaner that comes in a variety of scents, though none particularly reminiscent of apple juice.

The preschool’s cleaning supplies are “stored below the kitchen sink and in the janitors room,” the report stated, while food items “are properly stored and labeled in the kitchen cabinets.”

“I think it’s extremely terrifying,” parent Turina Lovelin told KHON News. “It’s very, very scary, but it’s hard for me, or any of the people that I’ve spoken to, to understand how it happened in the first place.”

Your vomit and diarrhea is our bread and butter: Portland’s outbreak museum

I still miss Bill.

I never really knew him, but we all have our demons.

Everyone has problems, especially the ones who think they don’t.

He was awkward in a way I found familiar

Thing is, Bill could nail an outbreak in a heartbeat.

Emily Smith of Atlas Obscura writes about the home-canned beets killed someone.  The freezer-aisle pot pies (there’s about 50 in Phebus’ freezer from 2007). The cheese, breakfast cereal, frozen pizza, tampons, tattoo ink and plastic bags have victims of their own.

These are a handful of the exhibits on display at the International Outbreak Museum in Portland, Oregon, which curators say is the world’s only museum of its kind. It features objects collected from outbreaks of infectious diseases that took place in Oregon and around the globe.

The museum is a single windowless room in a state office building that’s home to the Oregon Health Authority. This room was once the office of Bill Keene, an internationally respected disease investigator for the State of Oregon who assisted on cases around the world. He officially began collecting the mementos for a museum in 1993, though he started holding onto items a decade or more earlier. After his unexpected death in 2013, his colleagues have continued his efforts.

The small room is crammed with more than 100 exhibits that fill tall glass-encased cabinets and cover every surface. The beets and the box of Rely tampons are authentic. Others, like the papier-mache cantaloupes in a net that hangs from the ceiling, are carefully handcrafted representations.

Not every item in the collection represents a fatal outbreak. But every item hints at ailment: stomach cramps, fevers, chills, rashes—the often-agonizing symptoms that accompany an outbreak. And each exhibit hints at investigators’ quiet, crucial work to unravel the mystery of their cause.

On a shelf along the back wall, some tarot cards and mugs bearing the image of cult leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh mark a dark chapter for disease detectives, when a cult in rural Antelope, Oregon, perpetrated the largest bioterrorism attack in U.S. history. The goal was to suppress voter turnout in Wasco County, ensuring that cult members, known as Rajneeshees, could overtake locals in the November 1984 elections. They slipped liquid tainted with salmonella into salad-bar offerings at 10 restaurants and several other public places. The attack sickened 751 people, who ranged in age from newborn to 87.

The plastic milk jugs contained in a red plastic crate recall a yearlong case that stumped investigators as they pondered 25 cases of salmonella spread across Oregon, over the course of 12 months, with no clear link. The only detail the cases had in common was milk, which perplexed investigators because the milk was pasteurized. However, a trip to a beloved local dairy in Roseburg, southern Oregon revealed that while the milk itself was fine, a crate-washing machine at the facility was contaminated with salmonella bacteria. So, as crates of milk cartons moved through the facility, they were doused with a salmonella-infused solution. A thorough cleaning of the facility ended the yearlong outbreak.

The Outbreak Museum’s peanut-laced products including granola bars, cookies, and crackers serve as a reminder of Stewart Parnell, a corporate peanut peddler who was sentenced to 28 years in prison for knowingly selling contaminated products. Parnell, the CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America, famously wrote in an email, “Just ship it,” when he learned a shipment had been delayed pending salmonella testing. The shipped peanut-butter paste was linked to a 2008 outbreak that killed nine people and sickened more than 700 others.

In isolation, the stuff that fills this one-room museum is the same ordinary stuff that fills trash and recycling bins. It’s waxy paper boxes printed with company slogans and plastic wrappers bearing logos and nutrition facts. In some cases it’s convincing reproductions of raw meat you’d find shrink-wrapped and refrigerated in the grocery store or fresh strawberries you’d buy from a farmer’s market.

But in Bill Keene’s world, each exhibit stands for a smoking gun. This museum is the evidence of real, everyday items that harmed or killed—and that could have gone on to hurt more, if not for the scientists who solved these mysteries. Even before it was a museum, this room was a place where other investigators drew inspiration.

“You could come in here when you needed a break from your work, sit here and ask him about anything,” epidemiologist Tasha Poissant says.

Keene wanted this museum to commemorate the successes, remember the failures and demonstrate the importance of this work, Poissant says. He understood that outbreaks affect people’s lives in intimate and powerful ways, which means they also have the power to educate, to influence public opinion and change policy.

“When Bill passed away, we all wondered what are we going to do with this museum?” epidemiologist Hillary Booth says. “He didn’t get a chance to make it into the proper museum he wanted to.”

So his colleagues and family stepped in to bring some order to the collection he’d amassed. They installed the display cabinets in his office and catalogued exhibits on the museum website. They continue to collect artifacts, from their own work as well as from cases around the world. While the museum isn’t open to the general public, the curators show it off whenever the opportunity arises—when a public health conference comes to town or guests visit the office.

Memorabilia from Keene’s work spills out of the museum and covers the walls leading to its door. Newspaper clippings, photos from his field work and quotes from Keene (Keene-isms) decorate the cubicle walls just outside.

“Your diarrhea is our bread and butter,” one quote reads.

Poissant offers a correction: What Keene actually said was, “Your vomit and diarrhea is our bread and butter.”

Either way, Keene’s words capture a genuine passion for this line of work that in some cases saves lives but almost always remains invisible.

Uh-huh: Lactalis says no salmonella in baby milk at second production line

But what about that first production line?

That’s me and Madelynn in 1987, the photo I used for my science column (Madelynn is 31 and has a 5-year-old; our hair was, and still is fabulous; she went and saw the Grateful Dead when she was 6-weeks-old)

Channel News Asia reports that Lactalis, the world’s largest dairy group, on Friday (Nov 30) rejected media reports that salmonella had been detected in baby milk from a second production line at a French factory where contaminated milk led to dozens of babies falling ill last year.

The salmonella outbreak at the Craon plant in northwest France led Lactalis to recall millions of tins of baby milk in France and around the world, and drew criticism from politicians and consumer groups about a lack of transparency at the company, which is privately held by the Besnier family.

Oh, France.

Citing an internal report by French health authorities last December in the midst of the product recall, French media reported that two types of salmonella had been detected by Lactalis in products made in the second dryer at Craon.

The company denied this, saying in a statement that a sentence quoted by media was incorrect.

“We confirm that there was no positive test for salmonella in products from the dryer no. 2 before this dryer was halted in December 2017,” Lactalis said in its statement.

My five daughters were all breastfed, and I’m grateful for that. No formula ever touched their mouths.

Campy in puppies: Petland store faces 3rd lawsuit this year alleging it knowingly sold sick puppies

A Petland store in Michigan is facing its third lawsuit this year after a man said he was hospitalized after buying a puppy later found to be sick from the store.

Doug Rose said he became infected with Campylobacter — a multi-drug resistant infection — after he and his wife Dawn purchased Thor, a beagle-pug mix puppy that the couple said was infected with parasites, suffered from coccidia and giardia, and had an upper respiratory infection, The Oakland Press reported.

The couple said the same veterinary clinic that gave the dog a clean bill of health through the Petland in Novi also diagnosed the puppy with a number of ailments.

Symptoms of Campylobacter infections can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting.

The couple is seeking monetary compensation after Doug Rose said he required multiple weeks of medical treatment.

Randy Horowitz, who owns the Petland in the Detroit suburb, told the newspaper the case would be resolved to “reflect the facts.”

lawsuit filed by 17 plaintiffs against Horowitz was dismissed earlier this year. The lawsuit alleged that Horowitz knowingly sold puppies suffered from genetic defects.

A lawsuit was filed in April by nine families alleging that puppies they purchased suffered from a number of medical issues.

Other pet owners have claimed puppies they purchased from that Petland location became sick.

In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released results of a multi-state investigation that showed 113 cases of Campylobacter across 17 states linked to pet stores. A majority of people reported becoming sick after coming in contact with a puppy purchased from a Petland store or after coming in contact with another human who had recently purchased a dog from a Petland store.

Food safety confessional: Tell us your stories

I did not create this idea, nor will take credit (unlike lawyers, the credit belongs to Michele and Josh, just like the barfblog name belongs to Christian) but will run with it, using the barfblog forum.

Food safety professionals, we all know everyone messes up.

As we say in therapy, everyone has problems, especially the ones who think they don’t.

So rather than say food safety is simple, we’ve always said it’s hard.

And to show we’re all human, we professionals should confess to our failings (and like therapy, no last names will be used and establishing relationships is discouraged, and no physical contact with the counselliors).

I’ll start, e-mail yours to me or Chapman and we’ll get it posted.

I got religious about using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer for cooking about 2000, in the same way a reformed cigarette smoker is against cigs.

I didn’t like the religion. But there were times I was grilling and didn’t have a thermometer.

Usually I just cooked the shit (literally) out of it.

But I know there were occasions where I undercooked stuff, because of time and drunk pressures.

I also know I have left stock on the counter for days, creating a wonderful colony of Staph. Usually I throw it out, but not always, because I’m still a struggling grad student at heart, and would never turn down anything that was free.

Look forward to hearing from youse.

Own it: Gossip goes away

I knew I wouldn’t get into rehab Friday morning because I had been drinking at 3 a.m. in a vain attempt to go back to sleep.

Gotta blow zero to get into rehab, which I’ll do Monday.

But, as I said to one of my rehab buddies, whose life has spun out of control, yet he got 90% in the law courses he has taken, own it. Don’t be ashamed.

He said, I read your blog and it seems you had a falling out with Ben.

I said I’ve had a falling out with my wife of 13 years every week (she’s at hockey practice, 6 a.m. in Brisbane).

Ben, about the same.

Bad wiring.

Or, the people you are closest with and feel vulnerable enough to share your fears, are the ones to lash out at.

The produce industry needs a similar self-reckoning.

Candice Choi of APwrites that after repeated food poisoning outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce, the produce industry is confronting the failure of its own safety measures in preventing contaminations.

The E. coli outbreak announced just before Thanksgiving follows one in the spring that sickened more than 200 people and killed five, and another last year that sickened 25 and killed one. No deaths have been reported in the latest outbreak, but the dozens of illnesses highlight the challenge of eliminating risk for vegetables grown in open fields and eaten raw, the role of nearby cattle operations that produce huge volumes of manure and the delay of stricter federal food safety regulations.

A contested aspect of the regulation, for example, would require testing irrigation water for E. coli. The Food and Drug Administration put the measure on hold when the produce industry said such tests wouldn’t necessarily help prevent outbreaks. Additional regulations on sanitation for workers and equipment — other potential sources of contamination — only recently started being implemented.

We’ve been saying the same thing for over 20 years.

55 sick from Salmonella linked to long English cucumbers (the looooonnnnnggg ones)

The stories I have about cucumbers.

Especially the long ones.

But I’ve already been threatened with one lawsuit, and will not indulge further, other than the facts.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections involving five provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec. The illness reported in Quebec was related to travel to British Columbia. At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that residents in eastern Canada are affected by this outbreak.

Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to long English cucumbers has been identified as the likely source of the outbreak. Many of the individuals who became sick reported eating long English cucumbers before their illness.

(Those would be the ones grown in greenhouses, but I’m just speculating, rather than inviting a lawsuit from the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers who like to intimidate with threats of lawsuits, but know shit about growing up in Southern Ontario; bring it on).

As of November 27, 2018, there have been 55 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella Infantis illness investigated in the following provinces: British Columbia (47), Alberta (5), Saskatchewan (1), Manitoba (1), and Quebec (1). The individual from Quebec reported traveling to British Columbia before becoming ill. Individuals became sick between mid-June and late-October 2018. Eleven individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 1 and 92 years of age. The majority of cases (60%) are female.

Raw milk convention goerers got sick from raw milk

Katie Burns of JAVMA News writes, what could be more wholesome than chocolate milk from an Amish farm?

In November 2015, the International Raw Milk Symposium in Anaheim, California, brought in unpasteurized chocolate milk from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania. The sale of raw milk is legal in California and Pennsylvania, but the interstate sale of raw milk is illegal. Authorities embargoed the chocolate milk and sent a sample to the Food and Drug Administration—turning up Listeria.

An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments found that Listeria isolates from the milk seized at the symposium were related to isolates obtained from two people in 2014. One person in California had been hospitalized and the other, a cancer patient in Florida, had died.

The investigation revealed some of the risks of raw milk and some of the complexities of buyers’ clubs, which can be so secretive as to involve drop points and burner phones for temporary use. The AVMA supports laws requiring pasteurization of all milk, but unpasteurized milk has a devoted following despite the safety concerns and varying legality among states.

48 sick: Raw is risky: Icelandic oysters cause noro at top notch restaurant

There’s nothing like people forking over huge coin only to end up barfing.

Irony is sometimes ironic.

The Iceland Monitor reports infected Icelandic oysters caused food poisoning for 48 individuals at Skelfisksmarkaðurinn, a relatively new restaurant owned by succcessful tv chef and restaurant owner Hrefna Sætran. Icelandic oysters are a novelty in Iceland as all oysters on menus until now have been imported from Ireland or other countries. 

The oysters were imported as youngsters and raised in Skjálfandaflói bay by company Víkurskel. This is the first time that the noro virus is confirmed in oysters in Iceland. 

Forty-four individuals ate oysters at the restaurant from November 8th to November 13th and four further individuals ate oysters between October 29th and November 4th. Oysters infected by the noro virus were on the menu during this period of time, confirms the Icelandid food and veterinary authority. According to the health authorities they found that the restaurant complied to all regulations and standards with regards to food safety and hygiene.