Food fraud: Ton of meat seized by food safety officers from halal butchers in Glasgow

Glasgow City Council’s environmental health teams have been investigating allegations that halal meat is being supplied by illegal sources to city food outlets.

A-halal-butcher-s-in-Lond-011In the biggest case to date, food safety officers seized 1000kg of meat from two halal butchers operating in the city.

The meat – which was believed to be lamb but couldn’t be verified because it had no labels – had been supplied by an unapproved cutting plant in Lancashire.

Halal meat involves slaughtering animals or poultry in a specific way. It is eaten by followers of Islam and is supplied by specialist butchers.

A report has been sent to the council’s Health and Social Care Police Development committee about traceability in the halal meat supply chain.

The report says officers launched a project in 2010 to find out if illegal meat was being processed in or distributed to Glasgow food outlets following allegations.

They found there was no evidence of meat being illegally slaughtered but documentation and labelling was “in many cases insufficient”.

The biggest haul happened in 2012. Recent allegations received include the supply of meat by unregistered traders, the supply of meat without any health marks and illegal street trading of meat from unmarked vans.

The report also referenced the horsemeat scandal in January 2013, which raised public awareness of the potential for food fraud in the meat supply chain.

The report said: “It would appear that some food businesses have not learned lessons from the horsemeat scandal.

“Unless traceability significantly improves it will continue to be impossible to differentiate legal meat from that originating from illegal sources.

“Consequently Glasgow food businesses remain at risk of food crime from elsewhere in the food chain.”

There are a total of 43 halal butchers across the city.

Rare amino acid influences E. coli O157 infection

Scientists have discovered how a rare amino-acid in humans influences the behavior of the E.coli bacterium.

e.coliO157H7Most of the thousands of strains of E. coli are harmless, with many being a normal part of the gut flora in healthy people, however some strains can cause illness in humans.

Among the most well-known is E. coli O157, typically acquired via contaminated food, which causes severe diarrhea and can lead to kidney damage.

The O157 strain only infects the gut so scientists at the University of Glasgow wanted to know what stopped it from spreading to other parts of the body.

The team led by Dr Andrew Roe, and PhD student James Connolly of the Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, analyzed the genome sequence of 1,500 strains of E. coli.

They wanted to see how the genes of the bug, which enable it to attach to and infect a host, responded to varying concentrations of D-Serine, an amino-acid produced in the brain where it plays a role in nerve signaling.

They found that E. coli O157 is unable to attach itself to host tissue in high concentrations of D-Serine. Other strains, such as those that cause meningitis, thrive in the presence of the amino-acid.

The discovery, published in the ISME Journal, opens up the possibility of altering the diet to increase levels of D-Serine to prevent E. coli O157 infection or perhaps treat it.

Dr Andrew Roe, senior lecturer, said: “This work provides new insights into the infection process with the aim of developing compounds that block such bugs from attaching to the host.

“With many strains of E. coli developing resistance to traditional antibiotics, such approaches are urgently needed.

“If we can disarm such bacteria rather than killing them it puts less pressure on the bacteria to evolve into something that is resistant to treatment.”

e.coli.magnifiedE. coli O157 doesn’t normally live in humans, instead residing in the gut of cattle. Eating contaminated food is the most common cause of infection but it can also be picked up in the environment, through contact with the bacteria in fields, for example.

The genetic variety between strains of E. coli is huge, with around 2,000 ‘core’ genes and 18,000 genes that vary between strains. Different strains are able to attach themselves to different tissues, causing a range of different infections.

The bacterium can cause a wide range of infections including those of the gut, bladder, bloodstream and brain. These can be very common, for example, over half of all women suffer from E. coli associated bladder infections at some point in their lives.


The host metabolite D-serine contributes to bacterial niche specificity through gene selection

ISME Journal [ahead of print]

James PR Connolly, Robert J Goldstone, Karl Burgess, Richard J Cogdell, Scott A Beatson, Waldemar Vollmer, David GE Smith, and Andrew J Roe


Escherichia coli comprise a diverse array of both commensals and niche-specific pathotypes. The ability to cause disease results from both carriage of specific virulence factors and regulatory control of these via environmental stimuli. Moreover, host metabolites further refine the response of bacteria to their environment and can dramatically affect the outcome of the host–pathogen interaction. Here, we demonstrate that the host metabolite, D-serine, selectively affects gene expression in E. coli O157:H7. Transcriptomic profiling showed exposure to D-serine results in activation of the SOS response and suppresses expression of the Type 3 Secretion System (T3SS) used to attach to host cells. We also show that concurrent carriage of both the D-serine tolerance locus (dsdCXA) and the locus of enterocyte effacement pathogenicity island encoding a T3SS is extremely rare, a genotype that we attribute to an ‘evolutionary incompatibility’ between the two loci. This study demonstrates the importance of co-operation between both core and pathogenic genetic elements in defining niche specificity.

Norovirus outbreak at Commonwealth Games linked to restrooms that were ‘not as they should be’

The staff restrooms at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow have a norovirus problem. According to, almost 50 games staff members have now come down with gastrointestinal illness and a makeshift restroom is being fingered as the source.

First Minister Alex Salmond said officials were “confident” they had identified the probable cause of the outbreak, which sparked a health scare just days before Glasgow 2014 gets 

No athletes or team officials have been affected by the suspected norovirus outbreak and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said the toilet block had been closed to prevent the bug – which leads to sickness and diarrhoea – spreading further.

Speaking after the final meeting of the Glasgow 2014 strategic group yesterday, Mr Salmond said: “We’re confident we’ve identified the cause of the outbreak, a temporary facility which was not as it should be.”

‘Should be’ translates to soap, running water, paper towels and some sort of cleaning and sanitation program.

22 sickened: E coli outbreak at Scotland’s Hydro ’caused by under-cooked burgers’ at venue

We wish to assure the public that at this time we have no significant concerns in relation to catering for our patrons.”

That was the statement from SSE Hydro arena in Glasgow as the number stricken by E. coli O157 climbed in Feb. 2014.

big-grillEventually at least 22 people were stricken, and a new report concludes it was due to under-cooking of beef burgers at the venue.

Of the 22 confirmed cases, a total of 19 of those cases attended had eaten beef burgers at the SSE Hydro’s food stall, Big Grill, between Friday 17 and Sunday 19 January 2014.

The remaining three individuals were infected after having household contact with the initial cases.

An investigation by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) alongside other public health bodies found evidence “strongly suggesting processing errors leading to under-cooking as well as the potential for cross contamination” at The Hydro.

The report concluded: “Descriptive evidence gathered by environmental health officers strongly suggests processing errors leading to under-cooking as well as the potential for cross contamination in the preparation and serving of the beef burger products.

“These processing errors would provide plausible mechanisms for exposure to VTEC (a strain of E coli).”

Health inspectors then visited the popular music venue after reports of the infection to examine how food was prepared by staff.

They found that preparation of food at “The Big Grill” at the venue involved a lack of consistency in the searing and cooking process of burgers.

Inspectors observed inadequacy of temperature monitoring records and weaknesses in temperature monitoring of food to test how cooked items were by staff.

It was also discovered there was “an inappropriate cleaning and disinfection regime, and an absence of documented evidence of a hazard analysis” at the venue.

All of the 19 confirmed primary cases had eaten a six ounce burger served on a bread bun from the Big Grill stall.”

185 Glasgow eateries failed to meet legal requirements

A total of 185 out of the first 1,200 businesses tested under a new restaurant inspection and disclosure scheme in Glasgow, Scotland, received an ‘Improvement Required’ certificate.

The Evening Times reports that health inspectors suggest to owners that their certificates should be publicly displayed in their premise, although businesses are not required by law to do so.

Which is sorta against the point of disclosure schemes.

Peter Midgley, Head of Enforcement for Scotland at the Food Standards Authority, said the information means diners can make informed choices about where to eat, adding

“It is the owners’ choice if they display their certificate but usually if certificates are being displayed in nearby restaurants, other owners follow.”

Usually, but not always, especially for those diners with lousy inspection results. The system is flawed – make disclosure mandatory.

The hygiene status for businesses in Merchant City, City Centre, Anderston, Woodlands, Yorkhill, Hillhead, Dowanhill and Hyndland are available at

Cook your own food at Glasgow restaurant an invitation to health problems?

The Glaswegian reports that diners are being invited to make their own dishes at a new Glasgow restaurant.

Cookie will be the first restaurant in Scotland to invite customers into the kitchen to prepare and cook the food.

They will have access to quality ingredients and be guided by a trained chef.

The eaterie is the brainchild of Scots-Italian architect Domenico Del Priore.

He hopes the concept of "horizontal cooking" will break down barriers between chef and diner.

Inspired by open family restaurants in Italy, Domenico predicts "self cooking" will be the next big thing.

How will health inspectors view the latest trend? Especially with cross-contamination issues.