Water? We don’t need no stinkin’ water, we’ve got gloves; Subway in Maryland

Russ Ptacek of WUSA CBS Channel 9 reports that armed guards at Beltway Plaza Mall prevented our camera crew from recording video of restaurants cited and closed for operating without running water, but a producer managed to take iPhone photos before STINKINGBADGES-1ebeing escorted out.

In Greenbelt, citing operating without running water during a water main break, health inspectors temporarily closed: Subway, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road; Three Brothers, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road; Kalpena Dip-N-Depot, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road; and Heaven Bakery, Beltway Plaza Mall, 6000 Greenbelt Road.

All the restaurants passed re-inspection and are back in business.

At the Beltway Plaza Mall Subway, a manager told us he didn’t believe operating during the water outage was a problem because workers wear gloves.

Health experts say contaminated hands can contaminate clean gloves and workers should wash hands every time they change tasks, especially after using the restroom.

Salmonella outbreak linked to Maryland fish fry?

WBOC-TV reports that Wicomico County Health Department officials say they believe an increase in the number of people visiting the hospital with salmonellosis is related to a fish fry held in Salisbury.

The fish fry in question occurred on Friday, July 1 at a home on Delaware Avenue in Salisbury. According to the health department, the emergency department at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury has reported an increase in the number of hospital visits related to gastrointestinal illness involving salmonella and one other unspecified type of bacteria.

In addition to fish, goat was also served at the event, health department officials noted.

Anyone who may have attended the fish fry is asked to contact the health department’s community services division at (410) 543-6943 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or call (410) 543-6996 after hours.

18 sick with salmonella from sausage after pancake breakfast benefit in Maryland

The News-Post of Frederick, Maryland, reports that health types have concluded their investigation of Salmonella Infantis infections linked to food eaten at a March 5 benefit pancake breakfast at Trinity United Church of Christ in Thurmont.

Dr. Barbara Brookmyer, county health officer, said in an e-mail that 18 cases of infection were reported, nine confirmed by stool sample testing, and nine probable.

The infections were linked to sausage and meat pudding consumed at the benefit breakfast, Brookmyer said.

The meat products were originally from a Frederick County 4-H Camp and Activities Center butchering event held Jan. 27 at the Mount Pleasant Ruritan Club.

The camp center is a nonprofit not directly affiliated with the 4-H youth development group, 4-H Extension Educator Mike Kuster said.

Neil Gaffney, press officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said its investigation is ongoing. The USDA investigation includes tracing the pork products’ origin.

Salmonella outbreak after benefit pancake breakfast in Maryland

Although details are limited at this point, officials believe sausage from a Frederick County 4-H Country Butchering event back in late January is to blame for an outbreak of salmonella connected back to a benefit pancake breakfast earlier in March in Thurmont, MD.

Sausage that was bought by some guests was tested by the State Health Department Laboratory and did contain salmonella.

The Frederick County Health Department is recommending that anyone who still has sausage from the event should get rid of it.

Let’s do the time warp again: Baugher’s to pasteurize cider after E. coli outbreak

In October, 1996, 16-month-old Anna Gimmestad of Denver drank Smoothie juice manufactured by Odwalla Inc. of Half Moon Bay, Calif. She died several weeks later; 64 others became ill in several western U.S. states and British Columbia after drinking the same juices, which contained unpasteurized apple cider –and E. coli O157:H7. Investigators believe that some of the apples used to make the cider may have been insufficiently washed after falling to the ground and coming into contact with deer feces.

In the fall of 1998, I accompanied one of my four daughters on a kindergarten trip to the farm. After petting the animals and touring the crops –I questioned the fresh manure on the strawberries –we were assured that all the food produced was natural. We then returned for unpasteurized apple cider. The host served the cider in a coffee urn, heated, so my concern about it being unpasteurized was abated. I asked: "Did you serve the cider heated because you heard about other outbreaks and were concerned about liability?" She responded, "No. The stuff starts to smell when it’s a few weeks old and heating removes the smell."

Yesterday, Baugher’s Orchard and Farm in Westminster, Maryland, announced to local fanfare – and some customer distress — that it will change the way it produces apple cider in the future after E. coli infections were linked to the product this fall.

Dr. David Blythe, medical epidemiologist from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said environmental and product testing of the apple cider was conducted in November and December in an attempt to confirm a link between seven cases of a specific strain of E. coli infections that began appearing in mid-October that was believed to be associated with the consumption of Baugher’s unpasteurized apple cider.

Three of the seven cases resulted in hospitalization. Five of the seven cases were children younger than 18. All afflicted people recovered and those hospitalized were discharged, Frances Phillips, Deputy Secretary for Public Health from the DHMH said.

Blythe said the E. coli strain was not found in any of the tested samples, but that they were not able to test from the batch of apple cider that is suspected of causing the sickness.

Though they cannot make any conclusions from the testing, Blythe said the information collected, like interviews from those affected by the E. coli strain, still points to the apple cider as what made people sick.

Dwight Baugher, farm manager, said they are not currently making any apple cider. The company typically makes cider from about mid-September through mid-March.

"There’s no way of knowing if we had anything to do with it," he said.

Though they have not found out the source of the E. coli strain, they are working on changing the apple cider production process to include pasteurization.

Salmonella sickens eight at Maryland nursing home

Salmonella sickened eight people at Homewood at Crumland Farms nursing home in Frederick, Maryland over the past four months.

The News-Post reports one person died after being hospitalized for salmonella, although Homewood’s executive director, Eric Nichols, said the death was from other complications.

Darlene Armacost, communicable disease program manager for the Frederick County Health Department said,

"The last onset of a case was in early November. We are still monitoring the situation."

Health department officials have inspected Homewood repeatedly, Armacost said. The entire Environmental Health Services branch of the department, the section that inspects restaurants, has visited the kitchen many times, she said.

Nichols said the kitchen was found to be very clean in all inspections.

Cider strikes again; seven sick with E. coli O157 in MD

In the fall of 1998, I accompanied one of my four daughters on a kindergarten trip to the farm. After petting the animals and touring the crops –I questioned the fresh manure on the strawberries –we were assured that all the food produced was natural.

We then returned for unpasteurized apple cider. The host served the cider in a coffee urn, heated, so my concern about it being unpasteurized was abated. I asked: "Did you serve the cider heated because you heard about other outbreaks and were concerned about liability?"

She responded, "No. The stuff starts to smell when it’s a few weeks old and heating removes the smell.”

??I repeat this story, again, because more people are once again sick with E. coli O157:H7 linked to unpasteurized cider.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are conducting an investigation into a cluster of seven E. coli O157 infections.

There have been no deaths, although three of seven cases have resulted in hospitalization.

A potential association exists with the consumption of unpasteurized Baugher’s apple cider.

In response to the ongoing investigation, Baugher’s Orchard and Farm of Westminster, issued a voluntary recall of all its apple cider due to its potential contaminants. At this time, no other Baugher’s products are affected by the recall.

HACCP or get out: FDA closes Maryland seafood processor

Failure to document proper refrigeration, failure to keep fish species separate to avoid cross-contamination, failure to meet sanitation standards or keep records of compliance, and failure to verify that imported fish met FDA standards has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to shut down Congressional Seafood of Jessup, Md.

Michael Chappell, acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at FDA, said,

“On numerous occasions, FDA has warned the defendants, both orally and in writing, about their conduct and has emphasized the importance of their compliance with the (Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic) Act.”

Under a consent decree filed Friday, to become compliant with food safety laws, Congressional Seafood must have its HACCP and sanitation plans submitted by an independent expert and approved by FDA.

The FDA complaint accompanying the decree notes that the production of fresh, frozen and ready-to-eat seafood products without adequate HACCP plans poses a significant public health risk because these products are well-known sources Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella spp., and other pathogenic microorganisms. Humans who consume food containing these bacteria can suffer serious health consequences.

Living for, and hopefully not dying from, barbecue in Maryland

Michelle Marcotte (bottom, exactly as shown), an ex-pat Canadian and regulatory affairs consultant based in Glenn Dale, Maryland, who has worked in 40 countries, eaten well, but carefully, and never been sick, writes:

My husband was born lacking the barbecue gene on his Y chromosome; so it is up to me to either cook or fetch barbecue. Here, in the steam bath that is Maryland in the summer, sensible people fetch barbecue from a roadside truck or trailer.

Barbecue is slow cooked pork ribs, chicken or brisket. It is cooked over a wood flame, on a grill. The grill is placed down the length of a converted home heating oil tank which has been turned on its side, cut open and hinged to form a lid. When the lid of the tank is down, the resulting oven is as hot as hell.

Since barbecue is a necessity of life, I watch for a smoking truck or van parked by the side of the road. A line of cars parked on the verge and the intoxicating smell of barbecue are evidence of other barbecue-addicted persons getting a hit.

So, this week, while waiting for my whole chicken to slowly cook, I thought to observe the food safety of these itinerant barbecue kings. It is a two-person operation: the cook and the boss. You give your order to the boss and he yells to the cook to start the selection process. You stand in line and wait, unable to speak because your mouth is watering.

The cook uses a very long-handled fork to move the dripping raw, marinated meat from the cooler to the grill and then, using exceptional genius, moves the meat around the flame, placing it in various positions sufficient to result in slow-cooked deliciousness. The raw meat and chicken juice drips on the almost done and finished cooked meat on the grill. But, after each addition of raw meat, that lid comes down for a few minutes, the smoke comes up, the heat waves distort the air for 4-5 feet above the tank. I pray it is enough to kill the bacteria spread from the raw chicken over the cooked meat.

The boss takes his long handled fork and spears the meat that the cook has placed on the front of the grill. He whacks it down on the cutting board that has been in use from early morning. He puts disposable gloves on, and chops the chicken into quarters, the ribs into halves and the brisket into slices. He places it all in a foil-lined Styrofoam take-out box. He slathers it with barbecue and hot sauce. He then takes the gloves off, takes your money, puts new gloves on and starts over with the next customer.

In this scenario there was no handwashing, not even a pretense of handwashing. There was no tub of water on the trailer. The nearest meat thermometer is 10 miles away. And that’s how it is when you have a barbecue addiction. You take risks.

You take the barbecue home and eat it promptly, praying to the foodsafety gods

Clean Crab award sinks in Baltimore

In May 2008, the Baltimore Health Department proposed the Clean Crab award, the image of a meticulous crab, hung perhaps at a restaurant’s threshold, to alert people to Baltimore’s cleanest dining establishments.

Yesterday, health types decided to cleanse themselves of crabs.

Instead, the Baltimore Examiner reports, a prize ribbon decal will recognize those with a solid record of sanitation for the Charm City Health Award for Excellence in Sanitation.

Olivia Farrow, assistant commissioner of the environmental health division of the Baltimore City Health Department, said,

"[The crab] is a bottom-feeder, so it’s probably not a good image."