C perfringens in herbs and spices

Clostridium perfringens spores are able to persist under harsh conditions, and thus, are predestined as high risk hazards in the food category dried spices and herbs.

In the present study, C. perfringens spores were produced, and then, screened toward their susceptibility to the antimicrobial activity of nine condiments. While heat activation for induction of spore germination led to a significant increase in recovery by almost 1 log10 colony forming units, the supplementation of germinants was negligible. The enumeration of C. perfringens before heat treatment revealed no detrimental effects by potential antimicrobial active compounds of the condiments. However, after heat activation a significant reduced recovery was determined for cinnamon and allspice in comparison to the control but it was still higher than without treatment. Probably, the heat improved the extraction of compounds inhibiting the germination of the spore and/or the outgrowth of the cell.

Practical applications

This study contributes to the understanding of the production of C. perfringens spores and their recovery from artificially spiked condiments. For an efficient spore production the following four factors are essential with decreasing importance, namely (a) the strain selection, (b) the preparation via a two-step approach, (c) the heat activation, and (d) the supplementation of germination factors. The detection of the actual contamination is of major importance especially for food control institutions. Neglecting the heat activation poses a potential risk for underestimation and false-negatives during food control analyses. Consequently, it is recommended to enumerate before and after heat treatment to detect vegetative cells as well as spores.

Production of Clostridium perfringes spores and their recovery from artificially spiked spices and herbs

1 March 2018

Journal of Food Safety

Philipp Lins

DOI: 10.1111/jfs.12453


Tragic Thanksgiving outbreak linked to Clostridium perfringens 

It’s deja vu all over again. In November 2015 over 40 fell ill with Clostridium perfringens in my home state of North Carolina following a Thanksgiving community meal.

The caterer failed to keep the hot foods hot according to the investigation report in MMWR:

Turkeys were cooked approximately 10 hours before lunch, placed in warming pans, and plated in individual servings. Food was then delivered by automobile, which required multiple trips. After cooking and during transport, food sat either in warming pans or at ambient temperature for up to 8 hours. No temperature monitoring was conducted after cooking.

Today, according to the LA Times, perfringens has been linked to another Thanksgiving outbreak. This one was fatal.thanksgiving-dinner-1_0

Health officials say common foodborne bacteria caused an illness that left three people dead and sickened 22 others who attended a Thanksgiving dinner at an events hall in Antioch, Calif.

Officials identified the three people who died as 43-year-old Christopher Cappetti, 59-year-old Chooi Keng Cheah, and 69-year-old Jane Evans. All were residents of assisted living facilities in Antioch.

From a Contra Costa County press release:

A laboratory at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) confirmed the presence of the bacteria in stool samples taken from people sickened by food served at the Nov. 24 holiday celebration, held by a community church at Antioch’s American Legion auditorium.

“Our investigation was not able to determine exactly what people ate that made them sick. But after extensive interviews we found most of the ill people ate turkey and mashed potatoes and they all ate around the same time. Some dishes served at the event, including cooked turkey, were brought to the site after they were prepared in private homes,” said Dr. Marilyn Underwood, CCHS Environmental Health director.


TSA says a little bit of gravy okay to take on a plane; a grenade is not

One of the greatest byproducts of having kids is that the grandparents visit us during the holidays. Traveling around Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a nightmare so I’m glad we’re not navigating airport gates and TSA security screening today with the millions of other modern-day pilgrims. If we were, I wouldn’t be taking food. According to TSA, food complicates the screening process.

When it comes to bringing items through checkpoints, we’ve seen just about everything. Traveling with food or gifts is an even bigger challenge. Everyone has favorite foods from home that they want to bring to holiday dinners, or items from their destination that they want to bring back home.

Not sure about what you can and can’t bring through the checkpoint? Here’s a sample list of liquid, aerosol and gel items that you should put in your checked bag, ship ahead, or leave at home if they are above the permitted 3.4 oz.

   * Cranberry sauce
   * Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
   * Gift baskets with food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings)
   * Gravy
   * Jams
   * Jellies
   * Lotions
   * Maple syrup
   * Oils and vinegars
   * Salad dressing
   * Salsa
   * Sauces
   * Snowglobes
   * Soups
   * Wine, liquor and beer
You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.

So are grenades, as Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips found out in Oklahoma City.

Post thanksgiving gravy, some creamy dips, or salsa aren’t the best things to transport without refrigeration, less than 3.4oz or not. Gravy has been linked to lots and lots of outbreaks, particularly those associated with Clostridium perfringens. Julian Grass, MPH, a surveillance epidemiologist at the CDC Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, and colleagues presented a summary of C. perfringens outbreaks at International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in March 2012.

C. perfringens outbreaks are often the result of improperly cooled food or food held at room temperature for extended periods.

Grass was cited as saying, “We thought it was particularly interesting that outbreaks peak during the holiday season, when people tend to gather in large groups to eat foods such as roasts, gravies, and poultry that are cooked in large batches or prepared ahead of serving.”

Grass told Medscape Medical News, “Our finding that meats are by far the most common vehicle of C. perfringens outbreaks speaks to the need for proper cooking, cooling, and hot holding of these foods.”

Pretty hard to properly hot- or cold-hold gravy during airplane travel. Jelly should be okay.

She Don’t Use Jelly from Slow•Nerve•Action on Vimeo.

Clostridium perfringens foodborne outbreaks often large: CDC

Foodborne illness outbreaks resulting from Clostridium perfringens were often large and caused substantial morbidity from 1998 to 2008, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Julian Grass, MPH, a surveillance epidemiologist at the CDC Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, and colleagues presented the findings in Atlanta at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases 2012.

"Our finding that meats are by far the most common vehicle of C. perfringens outbreaks speaks to the need for proper cooking, cooling, and hot holding of these foods," Grass told Medscape Medical News.

"We thought it was particularly interesting that outbreaks peak during the holiday season, when people tend to gather in large groups to eat foods such as roasts, gravies, and poultry that are cooked in large batches or prepared ahead of serving," he added.

According to the researchers, C perfringens is estimated to be the third most common cause of foodborne illness in the United States, causing 1 million illnesses each year.

Restaurants, the most common setting of food preparation, were responsible for 44% of outbreaks. Other settings included catering facilities (19%), private homes (13%), prisons or jails (11%), and schools (4%).

About half of the outbreaks were attributed to a single food commodity; of those, beef was implicated in 46% of the outbreaks. The next most common causes were poultry, which caused 30% of outbreaks, and pork, which caused 16%.

In all, 91% of outbreaks with an identified single food commodity could be attributed to meat or poultry products.

Cook and reheat the damn ham; don’t hire unlicensed caterers; Clostridium perfringens strikes Las Vegas lunch

 On Dec. 8, 2011, a biz in Las Vegas had a catered lunch.

Less than a day later, a bunch of them were barfing.

The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) began an investigation the next day after receiving numerous reports of barfing among attendees; excerpts from their report are below.

Approximately 150 people work at Business A. Of the 63 employees who replied to the electronic survey, 50 reported they consumed food and/or drinks at the luncheon. Of the 50 luncheon attendees, 21 (42%) people met the case definition. An additional 29 people who ate at the luncheon but did not become ill served as non-case study participants. No ill person sought medical attention from a healthcare provider.

The caterer had a health card that is issued by the SNHD to food handlers. However, the caterer did not hold a catering permit issued by the SNHD, so health types don’t know if the same caterer sickened others at others meals because SNDH only tracks complaints against licensed businesses.

Both the caterer and a representative from Business A reported that the caterer
arrived at 9:00 am on December 8, and lunch service started at approximately 1230 hrs
(meal start time among ill persons ranged from 1130 to 1900 hrs) (Fig. 1). The duration
of the luncheon was unknown.

The caterer reported that all foods served were pre-cooked and ready-to-eat. The ham and turkey breasts were transported to Business A in a cooler with ice. Both meats were further sliced onsite, placed in bowls and re-heated in 5-6 batches per meat in two small non-commercial microwave ovens that were provided by Business A at the catering site. The caterer reported that food batches were stirred during heating. The caterer alleged the temperature of the meat was 170°F (76.7°C) after heating, but it was unclear where the temperature was taken in the meat. Heated ham slices were pooled in one chafing pan and canned pineapple with its juice was added.

Heated turkey meat was pooled in another pan and heated canned gravy was added. The
chafing dishes containing the ham and turkey were warmed by pans of hot water that was heated with Sterno heaters. Both meats were stored in their respective chafing dishes for about 0.5 hr prior to eating, but the duration of time foods were stored in the chafing dishes was not known.

Upon collecting foods for testing, EH staff observed that leftover foods were stored in a refrigerator that displayed the temperatures of <40°F, with the bulk of the food stored in covered consumer-grade plastic containers. All remaining food in their original containers was collected for testing and included: Mashed potatoes, ham and pineapple topping, green beans, salad with fruits, and two mixed-food plates containing 1) Ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and 2) Stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans.

I’m getting hungry.

The EH staff sent a formal notice to the caterer requiring all food operations to immediately cease and desist. They also required that the website which advertises the catering business be modified to announce that a permitted food facility will be providing the food to future events that are planned by the catering company. Additionally, EH also issued a bill to the caterer charging for the time that EH staff had spent in investigating the outbreak.

The isolation of C. perfringens was strongly suggestive that ham was the vehicle of transmission, and an error likely occurred during its re-heating and hot holding during the luncheon service. The heat generated by a small microwave oven might be insufficient to bring all portions of the ham to above 165°F (74°C) to destroy the C. perfringens bacteria. When the heating process is not evenly accomplished, the surviving C. perfringens bacteria can multiply and undergo sporulation. During the holding period where food is kept warm in covered chafing pans for extended periods of time, the spores can germinate to produce vegetative cells and multiply rapidly to large numbers. Ingestion of the bacteria during the luncheon may have resulted in further multiplication and sporulation in the intestine. The release of enterotoxin when C. perfringens sporulates can cause acute diarrhea. To prevent the proliferation of pathogens in potential hazardous food, the US FDA Food Code 2009 recommends that food that are reheated in a microwave for hot holding shall be reheated so that all parts of the food reach a temperature of at least 74oC (165oF) and the food is rotated or stirred, covered, and allowed to stand covered for 2 minutes after reheating (Section
3-403.11.B). Also, hot holding of such foods should occur at 57oC (135oF) or above
(Section 3-501.16.A1).

The majority of C. perfringens outbreaks are often the results of improperly cooled food or food held at room temperature for extended periods. Coupled with concurring epidemiological findings that the contamination and proliferation of the bacteria may have occurred at the luncheon, no further food traceback or recall action of the ham was implemented by the FDA.