Raw is still risky: New Brunswick (that’s in Canada) health officials say no to restaurants serving beef tartare

Health officials in New Brunswick are clamping down on restaurants serving beef tartare because the dish, considered by some a delicacy, violates the province’s food regulations.

Kevin Bissett of The Globe and Mail writes that over the past month, 11 restaurants have been given notice to stop serving raw or undercooked meat. The notice came as a surprise to chef Luc Doucet at the Black Rabbit restaurant in Moncton, N.B.

“I was blindsided,” he said in an interview Monday. “I got an email from health inspector that they needed a meeting and they showed up Thursday and served us a letter to cease all tartare operations and take it off the menu.”

The letter said current regulations don’t allow such foods to be served. “Our department was recently made aware that ground beef prepared as per the request of the customer and/or steak tartare is presently available at your food premises,” the letter stated. “This practice must cease immediately as it is in direct violation of the New Brunswick food regulation.”

Doucet said it appears officials were responding to a complaint, even though he’s never heard of anyone becoming sick from eating the dish (huh? – dp). He said he didn’t appreciate the way officials addressed the issue.

“It was not to ask us to provide our procedure for tartare or ground beef at the restaurant,” he said. “It was more, cease every dish that you have, and a lot of my restaurant friends have tartare on the menu.”

Of concern is that undercooked meat can contain pathogens that can make people sick. In a statement, the province said it’s working on establishing how such dishes can be served safely.

“These letters have not been issued as the result of people becoming ill from consuming these foods — instead, they are issued because of general food safety concerns, as eating raw or lightly cooked meats may increase the risk of food poisoning,” wrote Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesman for the Department of Health.

New Brunswick regulations include minimum cooking temperatures for meats such as beef, pork and poultry. The statement said for items like sushi and sous vide, policies are in place to support safe consumption.

Doucet said his beef tartare is composed of a quality cut of meat that is sliced in small cubes rather that ground up, and he said he has sampled tartare in restaurants across the country.

 “Every time I go to Quebec, I have tartare in some form,” he said.

Blame game erupts in tragic New Brunswick outbreak

There’s lots of talk about an organization creating and fostering a positive food safety culture, with much of the of focus being internal. Food safety goes beyond what the organization controls in day-to-day activities (like internal value systems, processes, training, support, and others).

A retailer doesn’t have a good food safety culture if it only places resources on their own staff and ignores suppliers’ actions and fails to communicate risks to consumers.image

Same thing goes for a place that rents space to others. Keeping the equipment up to standard is one thing, but if you truly value food safety you also need to check out who is using the space and gauge their ability to manage risks. And that’s not easy.

The consequence of just being a place that rents space and doesn’t work with the users is that if something bad happens (like 30 illnesses and a death) you’re all in it together.

Just ask the Nackawic Lions Club.

According to CTV news, the Lions Club, which supplied space for a local church function is trying to distance themselves from the outbreak.

The Lions Club kitchen in Nackawic, N.B. The club says it is not responsible for a dinner that left one woman dead and more than 30 people ill earlier this month.

Two different illness-causing bacteria were later found in food samples collected from the dinner, the province’s acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, said in a statement.

Now, Brian Toole, the president of the Nackawic Lions Club, is trying to mend the club’s reputation. He says the church, not the Lions Club, provided the food that night, but people have mistakenly blamed the club for the unsafe meal.

“It was an unfortunate incident,” Toole said. “But the Lions Club and their food preparation, we had nothing to do with it.”

The Lions Club kitchen is inspected on a regular basis, and members have taken government-sponsored food safety courses. Now, they are also considering requiring groups renting the space to take the same precautions (uh, yeah, that’s what the good organizations do -ben).

Here are our conclusions on creating a good food safety culture from a 2011 Food Control paper (blaming others doesn’t really fit).

Individuals focusing on food safety risks within an organization with a good food safety culture:

– know the risks associated with the foods they handle and how those should be managed;

– dedicate resources to evaluating supplier practices;

– stay up-to-date on emerging food safety issues;

– foster a value system within the organization that focuses on avoiding illnesses;

-communicate compelling and relevant messages regarding risk-reduction activities and – empower others to put them into practice;

– promote effective food safety systems before an incident occurs;

– and, do not blame customers (including commercial buyers and end consumers) when illnesses are linked to their products.

5 sick; E. coli O157 outbreak in NB

CBC News reports five cases of E. coli O157:H7 have been confirmed in New Brunswick, with two in Saint John and three in Fredericton.

Dr. Eilish Cleary, the Chief Medical Officer of Health said in a statement it’s unclear if the cases have a common source, adding, “A number of sources are being investigated and we are still gathering information.”

One of the patients was admitted to hospital, the other four were treated in hospital and released, said Cleary.

Blaming consumers, New Brunswick edition

If weird things are being said about raw hamburger in Windsor, Ontario, it’s been food safety amateur hour in the public discussion of two apparently separate E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks this summer in New Brunswick.

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

The Daily Gleaner reported that one of those teens, Micaella Boer, was thrilled when the infectious disease specialists at the Saint John Regional Hospital told her she could go home on a 24-hour pass Wednesday. That was some good news.

Unfortunately, the Gleaner felt it necessary to lecture consumers about safe eating practices, saying in a separate editorial that at home, “we have complete control.”

People at home have little to no control over fresh produce – especially lettuce – and a host of other foods such as contaminated peanut butter, spices, deli meats, pet food, frozen pizza, pot pies and so on. Parents and consumers have some responsibility; so does everyone else, farm-to-fork.

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.

New Brunswick teen recovering from E. coli

A Fredericton teenager’s condition has improved after a week-long bout with E. coli O157:H7.

The Daily Gleaner reports Micaella Boer, 18, first showed symptoms of the infection Sunday, complaining of stomach cramps and an irritable bowel. Her mother and one of her sisters had recently fought a flu bug, so the family waited for the illness to pass. However, when her father Scott Boer returned from work at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning to find his daughter in pain with blood in her stool, it was time to see a doctor.

She was admitted to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital on Wednesday as a precautionary measure due to severe dehydration. Test results later revealed a positive test for Escherichia coli O157:H7.

Once admitted, the Boers heard of another E. coli case in the hospital. However, there’s no confirmation on whether the two were linked, and Public Health has begun its investigation.

30 sickened: Miramichi E. coli outbreak linked to Romaine lettuce

The Sponge-Bob-Colbert leafy greens cone of silence has been partially peeled back after investigators in New Brunswick (that’s in Canada) determined an outbreak of E. coli O157 in April was linked to Romaine lettuce.

CBC News reports the Department of Health released results of a case control study on Friday that examined 55 people, including 18 individuals who were sick and 37 people who were not sick.

Dr. Eilish Cleary, the chief medical officer of health, said all of those in the study who were sick with E. coli appear to have consumed romaine lettuce.

"The lettuce was used in salads, as an ingredient in wraps and hamburgers and as a garnish. These results indicate a strong likelihood that contaminated lettuce was served at the restaurant,” Cleary said in a statement.

The Public Health Agency of Canada helped the province’s health department on the control study. The experts focused on the food items eaten by those who ate at Jungle Jim’s in Miramichi between April 23 and 26, 2012.

The federal agency became aware that cases matching the E. coli strain involved in the Miramichi outbreak had also been identified in Quebec and California, according to the province’s statement.

Now that would be something to follow up on. So while the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement folks were wining and dining Canadian journalists last month (not so much journalists, more like hacks) , I wonder how many asked about the Romaine-related outbreaks? There was also the Schnucks salad bar outbreak that sickened 58 people in the U.S. Midwest last fall.

A table of leafy green related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/leafy-greens-related-outbreaks.

New Brunswick E. coli O157 outbreak linked to Jungle Jim’s restaurant

CBC reports that up to 24 cases of E. coli O157 in Miramichi, New Brunswick (that’s in eastern Canada) have been linked to Jungle Jim’s restaurant.

Dr. Eilish Cleary, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said in a statement a majority of the confirmed cases ate at a Jungle Jim’s restaurant in Miramichi in the days prior to getting sick.
“Food samples taken from Jungle Jim’s tested negative for E. Coli 157: H7,” Cleary said (O157?- ben). “However, as most of the confirmed cases ate at this restaurant, it is likely that the contaminated food source was present in the restaurant for a short period of time but that contaminated products had been used up when testing took place.”

She said Jungle Jim’s fully co-operated with provincial inspectors, including a thorough sanitation of its kitchen and the completion of a food safety course.

With no new cases of E. coil being reported, she said it suggests the source of the contamination remained in the food supply chain for only a short period of time.

A case-control stud with help from the Public Health Agency of Canada is planned.  No pathogen in the food samples isn’t all that surprising; not finding the smoking gun is often the norm.

On Jungle Jim’s Facebook page, Brian Geneau, of Jungle Jim’s posts:

As you all can see the information on the news today the NB board of public Health has issued a statement concerning (sic) the e-coli and the possible implications of our location.
Please make sure to remember their is 2 sides to all stories and that all indications are that we operate at the highest possible standard that is set by the public health and that "If" their was contamination is would of been a product that was contaminated prior of arriving to our location. all our inspections before during and after all this came back green and is posted on line and also all product tested with the results comming (sic) back negative.

we will keep you posted as Genevieve and myself have the highest regards for our customers and their safety and have been in full cooperation (sic) with the BOHealth in order to find and prevent this from happening again (sic).

Please remeber that the I have over 20 years experience in this industry and that we continue to operate at the highest level and with the staff we have they excecute with the same attitude.

Kindest regards and hope to see yea all soon,

30 sick, 12 confirmed; New Brunswick investigators continue search for causes of E. coli outbreaks

New Brunswick media are reporting public health officials continue to seek the causes of two sets of E. coli outbreaks in New Brunswick – one in Miramichi and the other in the Saint John area.

Speaking in the legislature Tuesday, Minister of Health Madeleine Dubé said authorities have investigated 30 cases involving people of various ages – between their teens and middle age – who reported symptoms of the infection, which can be fatal.

"The source itself, they’re still investigating and water was ruled out," she said, referring specifically to the Miramichi outbreak. "They’re looking in food and we’re still doing our work," Dubé said.

The 12 cases of E. coli that have been confirmed in Miramichi and two others in Bathurst are linked, she said.

The cases in Miramichi and Bathurst have been diagnosed as E. coli O157:H7.

Dubé said authorities are also investigating an outbreak of a different strain of E. coli that affected two other people in Saint John and is not linked to the Miramichi outbreak.

Over the weekend, it was determined through stool samples that the Saint John E. coli cases are of a different strain than the ones afflicting patients in Miramichi and Bathurst, meaning they’re not connected.

27 suspect with E. coli O157 in NB; 8 hospitalized

Health officials in New Brunswick say they have some leads in their search for the source of an E. coli outbreak that they believe has left people ill in three communities.

However, a spokeswoman for the Health Department said Saturday there’s, “still no clear evidence of the source of the outbreak.”

Jennifer Graham says in an email that 27 cases of bloody diarrhea suspected to be caused by E. coli have been reported since Tuesday.

The first person began showing symptoms on April 23 and as of Friday night 23 cases were reported in Miramichi, two in Saint John and two in Bathurst.

So far, 11 cases have tested positive as E. coli O157; 14 people have been hospitalized, eight of whom remain in hospital.

New Brunswick gets an average of 12 cases of E. coli per year. Dr. Eilish Cleary, the provinces’s chief medical officer of health (left), issued a statement on Friday confirming the E. coli outbreak.

Dr. Denis Allard, the province’s deputy chief medical officer for health, said there is no clear evidence yet that points to a source for the outbreak, but they do have some leads.

"Some of them are related — either family or friends — and some of them have eaten in common places," Allard said in an interview Friday.

"But it doesn’t point to just a single restaurant or a single food at this stage."