Mr. Cheese sickens up to 2100 with bathtub queso fresco, gets off with a fine

Fidel Gomez — initially dubbed "Mr. Cheese" by state regulators — was issued a citation and ordered to pay a $500 fine for violating the Utah Dairy Act for producing and selling homemade queso fresco that was the source of an outbreak of Salmonella Newport in Utah going back to 2009.

Reports have placed the number of confirmed cases between 40 and 80, but have said the unreported cases may be in the thousands.

The news release states that Gomez was producing the cheese in his West Valley City home without the proper sanitation equipment or a license or permit. At least one Salt Lake Valley restaurant, in turn, was selling the cheese.

The cheese probe took three years, involved a criminal investigator and extended to a fast-food franchise where Mr. Cheese’s wife worked.

Yersinia sickens 5 in Penn. from bottled milk

The Beaver County Times reports that a local dairy has voluntarily suspended its milk production while health officials investigate what caused five individuals to become sick after drinking glass-bottled milk from the business.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Agriculture and the Allegheny County Health Department are advising the public not to consume glass-bottled pasteurized milk produced by Brunton Dairy in Aliquippa.

State health officials said three young children and two older adults developed diarrhea and other symptoms caused by a bacteria called Yersinia enterocolitica after drinking pasteurized milk in glass bottles from the dairy.

Herb Brunton, a partner in the family business, said the dairy is cooperating with the health department during the investigation.

Who serves raw milk to kids in grade 4; at least 16 sick

At least 16 people have been sickened by an outbreak of foodborne illness which started at North Cape Elementary School in Wisconsin.

"We are in the process of doing an investigation," said Cheryl Mazmanian, director and health officer for the Western Racine County Health Department.

The incident apparently began about June 3 when a number of foods were served at a celebration for fourth-graders. Symptoms – diarrhea and similar gastrointestinal problems – were first reported about June 6, she said.

"Raw milk was served. We have not pinpointed it as that."

The 16 people infected includes family members who contracted the germs brought home from the school.

Mazmanian the public health type, actually said, As in similar cases, prevention comes down to washing hands and practicing good hygiene.

How about don’t serve raw milk to little kids?

’Headless chickens’ running China’s food safety

Despite efforts to create a modern food-safety regimen in China, oversight remains utterly haphazard, in the hands of ill-trained, ill-equipped and outnumbered enforcers whose quick fixes are even more quickly undone.

So says the New York Times in Sunday’s edition.

Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, a food safety expert with the World Health Organization’s Beijing office, who’s usually blunt, said, “Most of them are working like headless chickens, having no clue what are the major food-borne diseases that need to be addressed or what are the major contaminants in the food process.”

In recent weeks, China’s news media have reported sales of pork adulterated with the drug clenbuterol, which can cause heart palpitations; pork sold as beef after it was soaked in borax, a detergent additive; rice contaminated with cadmium, a heavy metal discharged by smelters; arsenic-laced soy sauce; popcorn and mushrooms treated with fluorescent bleach; bean sprouts tainted with an animal antibiotic; and wine diluted with sugared water and chemicals.

Even eggs, seemingly sacrosanct in their shells, have turned out not to be eggs at all but man-made concoctions of chemicals, gelatin and paraffin. Instructions can be purchased online, the Chinese media reported.

Scandals are proliferating, in part, because producers operate in a cutthroat environment in which illegal additives are everywhere and cost-effective.

Manufacturers calculate correctly that the odds of profiting from unsafe practices far exceed the odds of getting caught, experts say. China’s explosive growth has spawned nearly half a million food producers, the authorities say, and four-fifths of them employ 10 or fewer workers, making oversight difficult.

Amazing Boring Race plays with poop in India

Amy watches The Amazing Race for some wind-down after a day of Sorenne and French literature.

I go to bed.

On Sunday night, the racers went to India and had to choose between feed the fire or feed the buffalo. For feed the fire, teams navigated the Ganges River to the home of a milkman. Once there, they had to make 50 traditional fuel patties out of buffalo manure and then slap them on the wall to dry in the sun. Finally, teams loaded a stove with fuel patties and lit a fire to boil milk for the local children.

Using poop to cook the poop out of milk.

But at least they wore plastic gloves.

For feed the buffalo, teams crossed the Ganges, pick up a large load of hay, cross the Ganges again and carry their hay through the narrow streets to a designated address.

The sisters choose buffalo, not knowing there was poop involved. "Man, the crap you do for a million dollars," sister Jen says. Both start gagging over the stench while the local kiddies watch and laugh. When the sisters are done, their poop piles don’t pass muster, and they have to redo a couple.

Half China’s dairies shut in safety audit

Nearly half of Chinese dairies inspected in a government safety audit have been ordered to stop production, a spokesman said today.

The move follows the 2008 melamine-in-baby milk health scandal, in which Chinese authorities said at least six babies died and another 300,000 were sickened.

Only 643 companies from a total of 1176 had their licences renewed, while 426 failed the quality criteria set by the audit and 107 others had already stopped production to bring themselves into compliance, said administration spokesman Li Yuanping in comments reported on its website.

Of the 145 companies producing milk powder for babies, 114 had their licence renewed, he said.

The authorities will strengthen supervision of dairy companies, both those who passed the audit and the those who did not, and "production without authorisation will be severely punished", said Li.

The measures taken will lead to more than 20 percent of businesses being closed, the Dairy Producers Association of China predicted in an article in China Daily.

Woman finds condom and receipt in milk drink in Sweden

Tests were being carried out today on a container of a popular Swedish fermented milk drink after a woman claimed she found a condom and a receipt inside it.

The woman, known only as Bejta, made the discovery at her home near Gothenburg, western Sweden, after she drank two cups of Arla Food’s filmjolk, a sour-tasting fermented milk drink, and poured the remaining liquid into her dog’s bowl, Swedish newspaper Expressen reported yesterday.

To her surprise it was not only milk that appeared in the bowl – a pink-colored condom still in its packaging and a receipt also fell in.

When Milica called Arla’s customer services team she was told the discovery was "impossible".

They suggested someone in the home must have placed the condom and receipt inside the product as prank.

However, Milica told the newspaper that could not have happened.

Arla Sweden spokeswoman Katarina Malmstrom told Expressen the company was waiting for an analysis of the container in a bid to assess what had happened.

"I deeply regret that there was someone who fell victim to something like this, no matter what caused it," Ms Malmstrom said.

FDA with expanded powers buckles to industry demands on antibiotic testing?***

I got a phone call about this story about 10 days ago while visiting family in Minnesota. I checked it out, thought there was merit, but there were many agendas at play.

The N.Y. Times apparently got the same phone call, checked it out, and is running with a story tonight about government and industry and antibiotic residues in culled dairy cattle.

It’s not clear who’s an advocate for what in these kinds of stories. Excerpts below.

Each year, U.S. inspectors find illegal levels of antibiotics in hundreds of older dairy cows bound for the slaughterhouse. Concerned that those antibiotics might also be contaminating the milk Americans drink, the Food and Drug Administration intended to begin tests this month on the milk from farms that had repeatedly sold cows tainted by drug residue.

But the testing plan met with fierce protest from the dairy industry, which said that it could force farmers to needlessly dump millions of gallons of milk while they waited for test results. Industry officials and state regulators said the testing program was poorly conceived and could lead to costly recalls that could be avoided with a better plan for testing.

In response, the F.D.A. postponed the testing, and now the two sides are sparring over how much danger the antibiotics pose and the best way to ensure that the drugs do not end up in the milk supply.

“What has been served up, up to this point, by Food and Drug has been potentially very damaging to innocent dairy farmers,” said John J. Wilson, a senior vice president for Dairy Farmers of America, the nation’s largest dairy cooperative. He said that that the nation’s milk was safe and that there was little reason to think that the slaughterhouse findings would be replicated in tests of the milk supply.”

But food safety advocates said that the F.D.A.’s preliminary findings raised issues about the possible overuse of antibiotics in livestock, which many fear could undermine the effectiveness of drugs to combat human illnesses.”

The F.D.A. said that it would confer with the industry before deciding how to proceed. “The agency remains committed to gathering the information necessary to address its concern with respect to this important potential public health issue,” it said in a statement.

The concerns of federal regulators stem from tests done by the Department of Agriculture on dairy cows sent to be slaughtered at meat plants. For years, those tests have found a small but persistent number of animals with drug residues, mostly antibiotics, that violate legal limits.

The tests found 788 dairy cows with residue violations in 2008, the most recent year for which data was available. That was a tiny fraction of the 2.6 million dairy cows slaughtered that year, but regulators say the violations are warning signs because the problem persists from year to year and some of the drugs detected are not approved for use in dairy cows.

“F.D.A. is concerned that the same poor management practices which led to the meat residues may also result in drug residues in milk,” the agency said in a document explaining its plan to the industry. In the same document, the F.D.A. said it believed that the nation’s milk supply was safe.

Today, every truckload of milk is tested for four to six antibiotics that are commonly used on dairy farms. The list includes drugs like penicillin and ampicillin, which are also prescribed for people. Each year, only a small number of truckloads are found to be “hot milk,” containing trace amounts of antibiotics. In those cases, the milk is destroyed.

But dairy farmers use many more drugs that are not regularly tested for in milk. Regulators are concerned because some of those other drugs have been showing up in the slaughterhouse testing.

Federal officials have discussed expanded testing for years. But industry executives said that it was not until last month that the F.D.A. told them it was finally going to begin.

The agency said that it planned to test milk from about 900 dairy farms that had repeatedly been caught sending cows to slaughter with illegal levels of drugs in their systems.

It said it would test for about two dozen antibiotics beyond the six that are typically tested for. The testing would also look for a painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug popular on dairy farms, called flunixin, which often shows up in the slaughterhouse testing.

The problem, from the industry’s point of view, is the lengthy time it takes for test results.

No raw milk or sprouts for Santa

There are now 50 people confirmed sick from salmonella in sprouts served with Jimmy John’s sandwiches in parts of Illinois, the raw milk cheesemaker in Washington state has shuttered her doors after making at least 8 sick with E. coli O157:H7, and a judge in Minnesota has ruled that Minnesota raw milk pusher Michael Hartmann was the source of an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7, and that that embargoed food items on the farm must be destroyed.

That’s a long-winded way to say, no sprouts or raw milk for Santa this year, like we did in this animation going back to 2005.

Health officials confirm E. coli in cheese samples

The New Mexico Department of Health has confirmed an outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 in an intact sample of cheese sold at Costco stores.

The Alamogordo Daily News and Associated Press say the outbreak strain had been isolated at other laboratories in already opened packages of cheese, but this is the first confirmation from an intact cheese sample.

The findings confirm what scientists have found in the past: 60-days don’t mean much when the cheese is made from unpasteurized or raw milk (see abstract below; thanks Carl).

The Bravo Farms Dutch Style Raw Milk Gouda Cheese was offered for sale and for in-store tasting between Oct. 5 and Nov. 1 at Costco stores in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and the San Diego, Calif., area.

Health officials say at least 37 people from five states have become sick with E. coli since mid-October. Cases in New Mexico include a 41-year-old man, a 7-year-old girl from Bernalillo County and a 4-year-old boy from Valencia County who are all recovering. Arizona has 19 cases reported, Colorado has 10, California has 3 and Nevada has two. Nationally there have been 15 reported hospitalizations, one case of hemolytic uremic syndrome and no deaths.

People who have any of the cheese should not eat it. People should return the cheese to the place of purchase or dispose of it in a closed plastic bag placed in a sealed trash can. This will prevent people or animals from eating it.

Survival of a five-strain cocktail of Escherichia coli O157:H7 during the 60-day aging period of cheddar cheese made from unpasteurized milk

May 2006

Journal of Food Protection, Volume 69, Number 5 pp. 990-998(9)

Schlesser, J.E.; Gerdes, R.; Ravishankar, S.; Madsen, K.; Mowbray, J.; Teo, A.Y.L.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Standard of Identity for Cheddar cheeses requires pasteurization of the milk, or as an alternative treatment, a minimum 60-day aging at ‰¥2°C for cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, to reduce the number of viable pathogens that may be present to an acceptable risk. The objective of this study was to investigate the adequacy of the 60-day minimum aging to reduce the numbers of viable pathogens and evaluate milk subpasteurization heat treatment as a process to improve the safety of Cheddar cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. Cheddar cheese was made from unpasteurized milk inoculated with 101 to 105 CFU/ml of a five-strain cocktail of acid-tolerant Escherichia coli O157:H7. Samples were collected during the cheese manufacturing process. After pressing, the cheese blocks were packaged into plastic bags, vacuum sealed, and aged at 7°C. After 1 week, the cheese blocks were cut into smaller-size uniform pieces and then vacuum sealed in clear plastic pouches. Samples were plated and enumerated for E. coli O157:H7. Populations of E. coli O157:H7 increased during the cheese-making operations. Population of E. coli O157:H7 in cheese aged for 60 and 120 days at 7°C decreased less than 1 and 2 log, respectively. These studies confirm previous reports that show 60-day aging is inadequate to eliminate E. coli O157:H7 during cheese ripening. Subpasteurization heat-treatment runs were conducted at 148°F (64.4°C) for 17.5 s on milk inoculated with E. coli O157:H7 at 105 CFU/ml. These heat-treatment runs resulted in a 5-log E. coli O157: H7 reduction.