Be serious about B. cereus

Employing advanced genetic-tracing techniques and sharing the data produced in real time could limit the spread of bacteria – Bacillus cereus – which causes foodborne illness, according to researchers. As part of a recent study, researchers at Penn State University implemented whole-genome sequencing of a pathogen-outbreak investigation, following an outbreak of foodborne illnesses in New York in 2016.

“Here, in our study, we use this approach for the first time on Bacillus cereus,” says Jasna Kovac, assistant professor of Food Science at Penn State. “We hope that whole-genome sequencing of Bacillus will be done more often as a result of our research, as it allows us to differentiate between the various species of Bacillus cereus group and project the food-safety risk associated with them.”

The project marks the first time researchers have conducted whole-genome sequencing to investigate a Bacillus cereus outbreak to link isolates from human clinical cases to food. The New York outbreak in 2016 lasted less than a month and stemmed from contaminated refried beans served by a small Mexican restaurant chain.

Although the toxin-producing bacteria are estimated to cause 63,400 foodborne disease cases per year in the US, Bacillus cereus does not receive the attention given to more deadly foodborne pathogens such as Listeria and Salmonella.

Because illness caused by Bacillus cereus typically resolves within days and outbreaks are self-limiting in nature, foodborne illness caused by members of this pathogen group are often under-reported. Although there have been reports of severe infections resulting in sudden patient death, Bacillus cereus group isolates linked to human clinical cases of foodborne disease typically do not undergo whole-genome sequencing, as is becoming the norm for other foodborne pathogens.

In this case, the New York State Department of Health coordinated the epidemiological investigations. The methods included a cohort study, food-preparation review, a food-product traceback, testing of the environment, food and water and an inquiry at a production plant in Pennsylvania that produced the contaminated refried beans. The researchers sequenced the majority of Bacillus cereus isolates, from both food and humans, at the Penn State Genomic Core Facility, which is part of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Golden Ponds: Lawsuits proceed 2 years after 306 sickened in Rochester’s worst food poisoning outbreak

On Thanksgiving Day in 2016, as many as 1,100 people ate their holiday dinner at Golden Ponds Restaurant and Party House, which was located just up Long Pond Road from the Greece Town Hall in Rochester, N.Y.

Within 24 hours, patrons began to experience stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea. Some were hospitalized and at least one underwent emergency surgery.

Eventually, 306 people who dined at Golden Ponds that day reported they had been sickened by the food, officials at the Monroe County Department of Public Health now say.

A public-health investigation later determined that the pernicious Clostridium perfringens bacteria that made people ill was in gravy that had been stored and served at an unacceptably low temperature.

“Rest assured there are a significant number of people who will never think of Thanksgiving the same way,” said Paul Vincent Nunes, a Rochester lawyer who has brought lawsuits against the defunct Greece restaurant. 

According to Steve Orr of the Democrat and Chronicle, here’s what’s happened since:

Golden Ponds is closed. The establishment at 500 Long Pond Road, which had been operated by Ralph Rinaudo for 33 years, was closed by the health department after the food poisoning episode. Improvements were made and the restaurant was allowed to open in late December. But business was predictably slow, and it closed for good in February 2017.

Rinaudo sold the property in January of this year to a corporation that shares the address of a Henrietta construction firm, Team FSI General Contractors. The building appears to be empty at present and future use of the property isn’t clear. Officials at FSI did not respond to a request for comment.

The health department has continued its practice of inspecting every restaurant once a year. It has not stepped up inspections of buffet-style eateries like Golden Ponds, spokesman Ryan Horey said. Inability to maintain food at the proper temperatures during buffet serving was key  factor in the Golden Ponds incident. The Democrat and Chronicle checked inspection records available on nydatabases.com for six Rochester-area buffet restaurants. Five of them have been cited by the health departments for serious violations involving foods being kept at the wrong temperature since the Golden Ponds episode.

Four lawsuits filed on behalf of 31 plaintiffs are pending against Golden Ponds. The four were consolidated into one case in July. Court-ordered mediation to seek a resolution before trial is set to begin soon. The cases are not suited for class-action status, as the damages incurred differed from one patron to the next, Nunes said.

Nunes said, “These were not just tummy aches. People were quite sick, some in the hospital. These are life-threatening events.”

Restaurant inspection disclosure: Should apply to supermarkers, cafeterias, anywhere food is served

John Cropley of the Daily Gazette writes that state regulators have rolled out a new letter-based grading system for food safety at hundreds of stores across New York state.

Supermarkets and other food retailers must prominently display the rating given to them by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets after inspections by the department’s Division of Food Safety and Inspection. The ratings, and their meanings, are:

A — No critical deficiencies found, store is in substantial compliance with rules. 

B — Critical deficiencies (those creating a risk of foodborne illness) were found but were corrected at time of inspection. 

C — Critical deficiencies were found but were not or could not be corrected. 

The new rule took effect Jan 1. The department requires that the notice of inspection be posted in plain sight near each public entrance to a store; retailer face a $600 fine if they fail to comply. 

Customers can also request their own copies of the inspection notice.

The department said the grades will help customers better understand the sanitary conditions in stores and provide store owners with an educational opportunity.

Agriculture and Markets made the change after meeting with stakeholders, including the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, which has 800 corporate members ranging from supermarkets and convenience stores to wholesalers and cooperatives.

Three major Capital Region food retailers: Price Chopper/Market 32, Hannaford and Stewart’s Shops, all support the new requirements.

Mona Golub, spokeswoman for Price Chopper and Market 32 parent Golub Corp., said it’s a small expansion of existing rules. Supermarkets already were inspected and already were posting the cover page of the inspection reports — behind the customer service counter, in Golub’s case.

The only change is the letter rating, she said, and Golub Corp. endorses it because it will increase customers’ understanding of sanitary conditions in stores.

“We fully support ratings and designations that inform customers of our high food-safety standards,” Golub said.

Veal products recalled due to possible E. coli O26 and O45 contamination

Gold Medal Packing Inc., a Rome, N.Y. establishment, is recalling approximately 4,607 pounds of boneless veal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O26 and O45, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

veal-cutsThe veal trim and top bottom sirloin (TBS) products were produced and packaged on August 16, 2016, and October 25, 2016. The following products are subject to recall: [View Label (PDF only)]

60-lb. boxes containing “BONELESS VEAL”.

2,387-lb. bin containing “TBS”.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 17965” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The “BONELESS VEAL” items were shipped to a warehouse in California and the “TBS” items were shipped to distributor locations in Pennsylvania.

The problem was discovered during routine sample testing. There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O26 or O45, because they are harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism. Most people infected with STEC O26 or O45 develop diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by testing of a stool sample. Vigorous rehydration and other supportive care is the usual treatment; antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended.

Golden Ponds to reopen after bad gravy sickens 260

Golden Ponds Restaurant in suburban Rochester, New York – Rochester, who goes to Rochester — has been cleared by the health department to reopen, after 260 people were sickened after eating Thanksgiving dinner.

doug-turkey-cater_-nov_-16-300x225The restaurant will most likely be open for business starting next Tuesday, according to the owner.

The Monroe County Department of Health shut the restaurant down the day after Thanksgiving, after 60 people initially reported illnesses following eating food from Golden Ponds.

According to the health department, lab results point to an outbreak of Clostridium perfringens.

Officials say it is “most likely” that the gravy served was the source of the bacteria. They also noted that lapses in food safety practices were observed during their investigation.

Golden Ponds had previously been inspected several times in the months leading up to the outbreak, and had violations including food being stored at improper temperatures.

Schnapps, herring and Listeria

To continue with the Danish theme, Royal Seafood Baza, Inc. of Staten, Island, New York is recalling various refrigerated ready to eat herring productsdelicious with Danish schnapps and that’s about it — because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

schapps-denmarkThe affected ready to eat herring products were distributed to customers located New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and North Carolina. Wholesale customers of bulk containers must discontinue sales of existing stock of these items immediately and destroy any returned product as soon as possible.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall of the products was the result of environmental sampling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during an inspection of the firm which revealed the presence of Listeria in the plant.  The company has ceased production and distribution of the products and is working closely with FDA to monitor this situation to determine the source of the environmental contamination, and make the appropriate corrective actions.

listeria-herring-16

 

21 sickened: Salmonella outbreak at New York jail

Undercooked chicken served at the Suffolk jail in Riverhead led to a salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 21 inmates in May, health officials said.

One inmate who was hospitalized has filed a notice of claim with the county, a prelude to a lawsuit.

“Suffolk County comes with an affirmative obligation to supply its criminals in prison all food that’s free of any unhealthy or dangerous substance,” stated Andrew Siben a Bay Shore attorney representing the inmate, Shawn Carpenter.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: NY Swan Club edition

Several clues point to the highly contagious norovirus as the mystery culprit that may have sickened more than 100 weekend guests at the Swan Club, leading county health officials to shut it down temporarily, the Roslyn catering hall’s owner said.

SwanClub2The Swan Club, which has been around for decades, has served as the backdrop to many GOP dinners and fundraisers, and owner Bobby Sidana worries the outbreak has damaged his business’ reputation. He received 300 calls Wednesday, most of them customers who support him.

He said he contacted health officials Monday as soon as guests notified him about gastrointestinal problems. The health department has ordered his staff to undergo tests, including for norovirus, he said, and will be looking at the facilities of the club’s food purveyors.

“We said just come in and do a full inspection here,” Sidana said. “We don’t want to take a chance with safety.”

148 sick from noro at a New York university; over $400K to clean up

The University of Rochester is spending an estimated $30,000 a day on external cleaning and supplies for their response to the Norovirus outbreak—and that’s only with about a quarter of infected students reporting.

norovirus-2The cost figure—provided by Holly Crawford, University CFO and Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance—ramped up on April 12 and has come as the rate of infection is dropping.

It will total nearly $400,000 by Monday and does not include additional internal costs, such as extra staffing and opportunity costs.

“There won’t be any changes this week [for extensive cleaning], but we will have to look at the future beyond that,” Dr. Ralph Manchester, Director of University Health Services (UHS), said.

Sushi safety: Celebrated chef vs. NYC health department

Last week, New York City’s Department of Health closed the popular, acclaimed East Village restaurant Sushi Dojo. The reasons, according to the official report and a statement provided by the DOH, were “a combination of bare hand contact and food out of temperature.”

sushi.dojoThe following day, the restaurant’s Gansevoort Market offshoot, Sushi Dojo Express, was also closed. Somewhat surprisingly, in a statement provided to Eater, Dojo chef David Bouhadana — whose third restaurant, Dojo Izakaya, is still open — wrote that he was closed because of “BS rule, a rule I don’t stand by. Sushi is being ruined [by] gloves, freezing fish and more issues.”

Grub called the chef to talk about what exactly happened, what he’s going to do about it, and why he feels he’s being targeted (an edited version is below — dp).

So, what happened?
The Department of Health, let’s put it this way, the DOH has their rules and their laws, and it is what it is. For sushi, there’s always been a gray area as far as fish, rice, temperatures — everything, really. The rule that applies to me and applies to Taco Bell is no bare-hand contact with raw food.
In sushi, we’re taught to be clean, hygienic, and professional. If you are a clean chef, you don’t need gloves. When a health inspector walks in, we all have our code word, we all have our drill: Put the gloves on, smile to the inspector, they walk in, they walk out. You’re good for six months. The problem is my restaurant is designed so when you first walk in you see me, and through the windows you can see me. But this wasn’t an issue before. Sushi Yasuda has open windows. Sushi Nakazawa has open windows. Every sushi bar has open windows.

When did it become an issue then?
The tipping point came when the inspector told me to throw food away in front of my customers. When an inspector walks into a restaurant, like Eleven Madison Park or wherever, they’re in the kitchen. Nobody knows they’re there. When you walk into my restaurant, I am positioned front and the center.
… This is not a disgusting restaurant. There’s no feces, there’s no vomit, there’s no bacteria (wow, that must be something – dp), there’s no sign of any kind of health-hazardous anything. This is a personal issue. I’ve been talking to a lot of sushi chefs for years now, and right now it’s a huge moment, and of course everyone is behind me, but no one really wants me to use their name or get involved in controversy. But, well, what do we do?