Herbal tea in Canada recalled; may pose serious health risks

“Phytovie Acore Vrai Calamus” herbal tea, an unauthorized natural health product, is being recalled after Health Canada testing found it to contain excessive levels of beta-asarone. Beta-asarone can be toxic if consumed in high amounts. The product was sold by Gourmet Nutrition F.B. Inc. over the Internet and may also be available at retail stores

herbal-teaRead product labels to verify that health products have been authorized for sale by Health Canada. Authorized health products have an eight-digit DIN, a DIN-HM or an NPN. You can also check if products have been authorized for sale by searching Health Canada’s Drug Product Database and Licensed Natural Health Product Database.

Report adverse events to health products to Health Canada by calling toll-free at 1-866-234-2345, or by reporting online, by mail or by fax.

Report complaints about health products to Health Canada by calling toll-free at 1-800-267-9675, or complete an online complaint form.

Phytovie Acore Vrai Calamus herbal tea was found to contain beta-asarone (a chemical found in certain plants) exceeding the maximum level permitted in a natural health product. Ingesting high amounts of beta-asarone can be toxic, and can lead to nausea, prolonged vomiting (for several hours), and a faster-than-normal heart rate, which can be life threatening.

the company’s recall and will inform Canadians if new safety information arises.

After decades of consultation, Health Canada to propose allowing irradiated ground beef to be sold

CTV News reports Health Canada will propose regulatory changes to Food and Drug Regulations next month that would allow the sale of irradiated ground beef in Canada.

consult_3A webpage on the department’s website states the proposed amendments would add fresh and frozen raw ground beef to a list of foods that are already permitted to undergo radiation treatment.

It says the purpose would be to would allow, but not require, the beef industry to use irradiation to “improve the safety of their products.”

Health Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette says the proposed regulations for ground beef will be announced in June in the Canada Gazette and that a public consultation period will follow.

Industry groups in Canada have sought irradiation for over a decade as a way to prevent the spread of E. coli and other dangerous bacteria, but negative public reaction to it has slowed progress.

Health Canada earlier proposed to permit the sale of irradiated ground beef in 2002, but according to the web page it was never finalized “due to mostly negative stakeholder reaction.”

“I think public perception has changed,” says Mark Klassen, director of technical services with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, based in Alberta.

The cattlemen’s association first launched an application to use irradiation for ground beef in 1998. Its updated application in 2013 to irradiate all kinds of beef followed a tainted beef recall at what was then the XL Foods plant in southern Alberta.

Bruce Cran of the Consumers Association of Canada, which has been lobbying for irradiation, is pleased with Health Canada’s decision to move forward on ground beef. But he says chicken and salad vegetables should be irradiated, too.

“The science has been in on this one for decades that it does no harm,” says Cran, who adds the risk of foodborne illnesses is high without it.

“They’re going to have a catastrophe if they don’t do something, in my opinion.”

Going public: Is this why companies incorporate in Conn? Food safety info, public in the dark

Rob Cribb of the Toronto Star points out failings in transparency at Health Canada, and repeats a phrase I’ve often used, that there is no way the U.S would tolerate the amount of public service hidings that go on in Canada and Australia.

transparencyThank you, Britain.

Yet even the U.S. is becoming more, uh, secretive.

A state legislator told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters it might be time for a change after seeing our reports on what some call a lack of information shared about foodborne illness outbreaks at restaurants.

Imagine stopping by a restaurant you frequent and seeing a sign in the window saying it’s closed by order of the health department, with no explanation, and nowhere to get one.

Several people have reached out to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters with similar complaints and said the flow of information has to improve.

The Troubleshooters spoke with residents connected to two different foodborne illness cases in Connecticut, none of whom is satisfied with the way public health officials handled the incidents.

Kamran Niazi said he could not get answers from public health investigators last year when Yale-New Haven Hospital diagnosed him with salmonella hours after he ate at Oregano Joe’s in Orange and became violently ill.

Niazi was hospitalized for almost a week, and health inspectors had the restaurant temporarily closed.

“What’s the point of having a public health department that’s not protecting the public’s health and is actually hiding and withholding information from the public?” Niazi wondered.

Steve and Susan Herzog reached out after watching our reports on Niazi and said they came down with E. coli in the Willimantic area in late 2013.

The Herzogs learned the illness was most likely tied to salad they ate at a local restaurant, but the investigation was inconclusive.

“If you are going to get a foodborne illness, this is the worst state it could happen in,” said Steve Herzog. “What my lawyer was looking for was their produce invoices from the month of December.”

State epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Cartter points out most foodborne illness investigations are confidential by state law, and added that investigators learn about most outbreaks a week or two after they happen, so a news release would come too late.

The goal is often to learn from outbreaks and prevent them in the future.

“It’s not until we receive reports from multiple people that we are able to identify an outbreak,” Cartter said. “And there’s a delay between the time that someone eats a contaminated food item, gets sick, sees a doctor, gets a lab test and we hear about it.”


Public Health Agency of Canada appoints new Scientific Director General of the National Microbiology Laboratory and Laboratory of Foodborne Zoonoses

The Public Health Agency of Canada today announced the appointment of Dr. Matthew Gilmour as the new Scientific Director General National Public Health Laboratories, responsible for the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg and the Laboratory for Foodborne Zoonoses (LFZ) in Guelph, Ontario. Dr. Gilmour will begin his position in February 2015.

matthew.gilmourDr. Gilmour is currently a clinical microbiologist with Diagnostic Services of Manitoba and an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Manitoba. He is also a past employee of the Agency where he held the positions of Director of Bacteriology and Enteric Diseases and the Chief of Enteric Diseases at the NML.

The Scientific Director General is responsible for managing the delivery of laboratory public health and emergency preparedness programs, providing strategic scientific advice to senior officials and representing Canada’s top human health laboratories nationally and internationally.

The position is being filled following the retirement of Dr. Frank Plummer.  To staff the position, the Agency ran a national competition to find the most qualified and best-suited candidate. Dr. Gilmour was selected following a rigorous process and he will bring his experience and scientific leadership to this important role.

Canadian food inspectors to report through Health, not Agriculture

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, largely created and run for the first five years by my eventual friend, Ron Doering, is now going to report to Parliament via Health Canada.

My guess is that everyone got tired of the misguided rants about CFIA reporting through Agriculture, and that Agriculture was there to promote doug.ron.jan.13food, not protect public health, and it was an obvious conflict of interest.

Obvious only to conspiracy seekers.

Doering always had a straight answer – food safety has to come first, otherwise there is no market.

To me, the change is cosmetic, like promoters massaging language, so that genetic engineering becomes natural enhancement, or whatever the marketers are pushing these days.

I don’t care who does the regulating and inspection, as long as the results are available for public scrutiny.

Health Canada brags “this reorganization will strengthen Canada’s food safety system by bringing all three authorities responsible for food safety under one Minister. This will ensure clear focus, easy collaboration, and timely communication with Canadians when it comes to food safety. This change also further underscores the CFIA’s commitment to food safety as a top priority.”

According to Canadian Press, food safety in Canada is a three-way:

• Health Canada develops food safety standards and policies and participates in public awareness campaigns about safe food practices;

• CFIA checks that industry meets federal food safety and regulatory requirements; and,

• the public health agency steps in when outbreaks occur, gauging the scope of the problem, providing epidemiology services and advising people how to protect themselves.

Sounds great. Why has the Public Health Agency of Canada been silent for a week about the latest E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in hamburger?

Sex cereal to boost breakfast

Who needs testosterone to keep that male libido up after 50?

sex_bag_femaleCanada comes to the rescue again with sex-cereal.

Once confined to raw oysters, the world of aphrodisiacs has now expanded to sex cereal, billed by the Canadian manufacturer as the world’s most passionate cereal and the world’s first gender-based whole food.

sexcereal_bag_male“Because at 6:30 a.m. with bleary eyes and breath like a landfill corpse, who isn’t chomping at the bit to get bizzy.”

The Canadian sex cereal bit starts about the 2:40 mark.

Sorry my Australian friends can’t see this.

It’s nice that Colbert is doing the job of Health Canada and drawing attention to food hucksterism.


No honey for kids under 1; preventing botulism in infants

Logan Douglas was temporarily blinded and paralyzed as the botulism he contracted at 16-weeks-old ravaged his body.

Six months after his parents, Theresa Fitzpatrick and Alex Douglas, were faced with the decision of whether to turn off his life support as baffled medics feared the worst, Logan is doing great (right, photo from The Sun).

When a limp and ill Logan was first taken to physicians, he was admitted to hospital and, after a battery of tests, a Glasgow-based doctor ordered a test for infantile botulism for Logan.

Devastated Theresa has revealed she still blamed herself after feeding her baby honey. 
She wasn’t aware that the food wasn’t suitable for children so young.

Health Canada is advising parents and caregivers not to feed honey to infants less than one year of age. Honey is the only food in Canada to which infant botulism has been linked. Healthy children over one year of age can safely eat honey because they have a very low risk of developing infant botulism.

Infant botulism is caused by bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, which commonly exist in nature. Although the bacteria are unable to grow and produce toxins in honey, they may grow and produce toxins in the baby’s body should an infant consume honey and could cause paralysis.

Since the first reported case in 1979, there have been 42 reported cases of infant botulism in Canada. Parents and caregivers can prevent infant botulism by never feeding honey to infants less than one year of age. This includes never adding honey to baby food and never using honey on a soother.

Most honey produced in Canada is not contaminated with the bacteria that cause infant botulism, however you are better off playing it safe.

The bacteria that cause botulism are microscopic and do not change the colour, odour or taste of food. The bacteria are not destroyed by cooking or pasteurization.

22 confirmed sick from Salmonella in Mexican mangoes in Canada

Canadian government types remain hopeless about talking about food safety basics.

For all its talk of a single food inspection system, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency can do no better than say, “there have been several confirmed illnesses associated with the consumption of these mangoes.”

It’s up to Health Canada to say how many are sick, which they did on a Saturday afternoon. The PR flunkies probably were paid double-time to produce this gem.

“Table 1, below, shows where and how many illnesses have been reported to date. The Public Health Agency of Canada will update this table weekly during the course of the investigation.

Table 1. Location and number of Salmonella Braenderup infections
as of August 22, 2012
Location Confirmed cases
British Columbia 17
Alberta 5

“What you should do

“If you have the product, do not eat it. Secure it in a plastic bag and throw it out. Then wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water.

“Everyone can protect themselves against Salmonella infections by taking proper precautions when handling and preparing foods.”

Salmonella is in your hands; not the mango growers, distributers or retailers, but consumers.

Why do taxpayers pay to be reminded that foodborne illness is their fault – when it isn’t?

The press release also has some advice, like to protect yourself from Salmonella, “wash your hands thoroughly after feeding or handling pets.”

I’m not sure what that has to do with Mexican mangoes.

The paternalistic press release also says people should practice these general food safety precautions at all times. Those tips are about cooking temperatures for meat.

It’s still summer in Canada, most people will go back to sleep.

Maybe there’s an outbreak: Health Canada details risks of eating raw sprouts

Health Canada has a habit of issuing food safety reminders about the same time an outbreak comes to public attention. The latest example was a completely useless reminder to wash produce after an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in New Brunswick linked to Romaine lettuce from California, and just before another NB E. coli outbreak was announced.

Today, HC is “reminding Canadians that raw or undercooked sprouts should not be eaten by young children, older adults, pregnant women or those with weakened immune systems.”

Between 1995 and 2011, approximately 1,000 cases of sprout-borne illness were reported in eight outbreaks from five provinces across Canada. The largest outbreak in Canada was in 2005, when more than 648 cases of Salmonella were reported in Ontario.

Health Canada says children younger than five, older adults, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable and should not eat raw sprouts at all. They should also avoid eating cooked sprouts unless the sprouts have been cooked thoroughly.

This advice does not account for the risks of cross-contamination.

4 sick; another E. coli outbreak in New Brunswick

Two months after an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened up to 24 people was linked to Romaine lettuce served at a Jungle Jim’s restaurant in Miramichi, New Brunswick, another outbreak has sent two Fredericton teenagers to hospital and sickened at least another two people.

CBC reports Micaella Boer (right) and one of her young male friends are two of the four confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 in the city, according to Micaella’s mother, Victoria Boer.

"We absolutely have no idea" where it came from, said Victoria Boer. Health officials have been going through Micaella’s bank statements to try to figure out where she had been eating in the days leading up to her illness, she said.

Micaella is in quite a bit of pain and has been crying a lot, said Boer.

"There’s a lot of swelling, facial swelling. Her eyes are swollen, her feet are swollen, her belly’s swollen. So she’s just really having a rough time with that," she said.

"We just feel sick for her … just to watch your child in so much pain and she can’t move," said Boer. "And hearing the percentages and seeing her have blood transfusions — it’s a rough thing to go through as a parent."

Are the outbreaks linked? Don’t know. But Health Canada did reissue its woefully inaccurate safe handling of produce advice today, which usually means there’s an outbreak.