Washington health officials are warning of an outbreak of foodborne illness believed to be connected to the recent Northwest heat wave.
Health officials said 52 cases of vibriosis have already been reported in July, surpassing previous records for the month.
Michael Crowe of King 5 reports Vibrio bacteria are found naturally in the environment but thrive in warm conditions. Officials believe the record heat and low tides at the end of June led to high levels.
That same heat wave, which experts said was made more likely because of human-caused climate change, is believed to have killed as many as a billion sea creatures. People can get vibriosis by eating raw or undercooked shellfish. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever and chills.
Most people will recover in a few days, though those with compromised immune systems or liver disease are at increased risk of serious illness.
Of the 52 cases, 26 have been from commercial oysters, the DOH said. Four were recreational oysters, and the rest are either unknown or under investigation.
Because of the outbreak, officials are asking people to follow the “Three Cs:”
Cook shellfish to 145 degrees for at least 15 seconds Check the DOH’s shellfish safety map before gathering Cool shellfish immediately for the trip home, whether gathered or bought.
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.
ITV reports a Whitstable Oyster Company farm has been closed down as officials investigate multiple reports of people falling ill after eating the shellfish.
It’s believed more than 100 people have fallen ill with vomiting and diarrhea symptoms since eating the oysters.
Officials stress that the batches of oysters affected have been identified and testing is ongoing.
The Food Standards Agency, Public Health England and Canterbury City Council have issued a joint statement stressing that there is no further risk to consumers.
“The oyster harvesting business linked to the outbreak ceased harvesting, no further oysters have been distributed since illnesses have occurred, and oysters distributed before they were aware of the illnesses have been withdrawn from the market.
“All oysters that were distributed are now passed their shelf life, there is no known further risk to consumers.”
A new foodborne illness outbreak taking place in multiple states is, according to Food Safety Magazine, being investigated by federal officials, with turkey products identified as the likely source.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service indicated the cause of the outbreak in its investigation table as “Salmonella Hadar, turkey suspect.”
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokeswoman confirmed that the CDC is investigating the outbreak. As of March 15, there have been 22 patients reported across nine states.
Turkey has been the source of food poisoning outbreaks in the United States in both 2018 and 2019 investigations, involving Salmonella Reading and Salmonella Schwarzengrund, respectively. According to the CDC, the 2019 Salmonella outbreak sickened at least seven people in three states.
The 2018 outbreak involved at least 358 people in the United States who became sick, across 42 states. One death was confirmed, and the illnesses were linked to raw human and pet foods from many sources, including Jennie-O turkey, which recalled some of its products. At the same time in 2018, Canadian officials investigated an outbreak of Salmonella Reading linked to poultry products. Testing showed the same strain on both side of the U.S./Canada border.
New Zealand Food Safety is, according to Outbreak News Today, warning consumers to thoroughly cook mussels before eating following 2 people reportedly becoming sick from Vibrio parahaemolyticus in the Nelson-Tasman region.
Paul Dansted, director of food regulation at New Zealand Food Safety said, “Vibrio parahaemolyticus is bacteria in mussels that may cause food poisoning if they’re undercooked or eaten raw. People with low immunity, pregnant, or elderly should avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish as the illness can be more severe.
“While the cause has not been established both people who became ill have reported eating mussels and as a precaution we are reminding consumers to cook mussels thoroughly before consumption.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections involving Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. The outbreak appears to be ongoing, as recent illnesses continue to be reported to PHAC.
Based on theinvestigation findings to date, exposure to eggs has beenidentified as a likely source of the outbreak. Many of the individuals who became sick reported consuming, preparing, cooking and baking at home with eggs. Some individuals reported exposure to eggs at an institution (including nursing homes and hospitals) where they resided or worked before becoming ill.
Eggs can sometimes be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria on the shell and inside the egg. The bacteria are most often transmitted to people when they improperly handle, eat or cook contaminated foods.
Illnesses can be prevented if proper safe food handing and cooking practices are followed. PHAC is not advising consumers to avoid eating properly cooked eggs, but this outbreak serves as a reminder that Canadians should always handle raw eggs carefully and cook eggs and egg-based foods to an internal temperature of at least 74 C (165 F) to ensure they are safe to eat.
PHAC is issuing this public health notice to inform Canadians of the investigation findings to date and to share important safe food handling practices to help prevent further Salmonella infections.
As the outbreak investigation is ongoing, it is possible that additional sources could be identified, and food recall warnings related to this outbreak may be issued. This public health notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.
As of February 18, 2021, there have been 57 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritidis illness investigated in the following provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador (25), and Nova Scotia (32). Individuals became sick between late October 2020 and late January 2021. Nineteen individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 2 and 98 years of age. The majority of cases (68%) are female.
Between October and December 2020, CFIA issued food recall warnings for a variety of eggs distributed in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The recalled eggs are now past their shelf-life and are no longer available for purchase. Some individuals who became sick in this outbreak reported exposure to recalled eggs; however, there are a number of recent ill individuals that do not.
It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because there is a period of time between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between three and six weeks.
Most people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.
Raw or undercooked eggs and egg-based foods carrying Salmonella may look, smell and taste normal, so it’s important to always follow safe food-handling tips if you are buying, cleaning, chilling, cooking and storing any type of eggs or egg-based foods. If contaminated, the Salmonella may be found on the shell itself or may be inside the egg. The following food preparation tips may help reduce your risk of getting sick, but they may not fully eliminate the risk of illness.
Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs. Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm.
When purchasing eggs, choose only refrigerated eggs with clean, uncracked shells.
Always wash your hands before and after you touch raw eggs. Wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
Eggs (whether raw or cooked) should not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Eggs that have been at room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown out.
Use pasteurized egg products instead of raw eggs when preparing foods that aren’t heated (such as icing, eggnog or Caesar salad dressing).
Do not taste raw dough, batter or any other product containing raw eggs. Eating even a small amount could make you sick.
Microwave cooking of raw eggs is not recommended because of the possibility of uneven heating.
Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing eggs or egg-based foods. Use a kitchen sanitizer (following the directions on the container) or a bleach solution (5 mL household bleach to 750 mL of water), and rinse with water.
Do not re-use plates, cutting boards or utensils that have come in contact with raw eggs unless they have been thoroughly washed, rinsed and sanitized.
Use paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or change dishcloths daily to avoid the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria. Avoid using sponges as they are harder to keep bacteria-free.
Do not prepare food for other people if you think you are sick with a Salmonella infection or suffering from any other contagious illness causing diarrhea.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start 6 to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonella bacteria from an infected animal or contaminated product. Symptoms include:
Thesesymptoms usually last for 4 to 7 days. In healthy people, salmonellosis often clears up without treatment, but sometimes antibiotics may be required. In some cases, severe illness may occur and hospitalization may be required.People who are infected with Salmonella bacteria can be infectious from several days to several weeks. People who experience symptoms, or who have underlying medical conditions, should contact their health care provider if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.
The Public Health Agency of Canada leads the human health investigation into an outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal, provincial and territorial partners to monitor the situation and to collaborate on steps to address an outbreak.
Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine whether the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a Gram‐negative bacterium that is naturally present in the marine environment. Oysters, which are water filter feeders, may accumulate this pathogen in their soft tissues, thus increasing the risk of V. parahaemolyticus infection among people who consume oysters. In this review, factors affecting V. parahaemolyticus accumulation in oysters, the route of the pathogen from primary production to consumption, and the potential effects of climate change were discussed. In addition, intervention strategies for reducing accumulation of V. parahaemolyticus in oysters were presented.
A literature review revealed the following information relevant to the present study: (a) managing the safety of oysters (for human consumption) from primary production to consumption remains a challenge, (b) there are multiple factors that influence the concentration of V. parahaemolyticus in oysters from primary production to consumption, (c) climate change could possibly affect the safety of oysters, both directly and indirectly, placing public health at risk, (d) many intervention strategies have been developed to control and/or reduce the concentration of V. parahaemolyticus in oysters to acceptable levels, but most of them are mainly focused on the downstream steps of the oyster supply chain, and (c) although available regulation and/or guidelines governing the safety of oyster consumption are mostly available in developed countries, limited food safety information is available in developing countries. The information provided in this review may serve as an early warning for managing the future effects of climate change on the safety of oyster consumption.
Managing the risk of vibrio parahaemolyticus infections associated with oyster consumption: A review
Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety
Chris Koger of The Packer reported in late Dec. 2019 that Sprouts Unlimited, Marion, Iowa, is recalling clover sprouts, which have been linked to a cluster of E. coli cases under investigation in Iowa.
The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals is investigating the link between the outbreak and the product from Sprouts Unlimited, according to a Dec. 27 recall notice from the company.
The sprouts were shipped to Hy-Vee and Fareway Foods stores, and Jimmy John’s restaurants.
The retail packs in the recall are in pint containers with a blue label on the lid, according to Sprouts Unlimited. The Universal Product Code is 7 32684 00013 6 is on the bottom right side of the label.
The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals told Sprouts Unlimited the sprouts are epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. More tests are being conducted to determine the source, according to the recall notice.
Nutritional and perceived health benefits have contributed to the increasing popularity of raw sprouted seed products. In the past two decades, sprouted seeds have been a recurring food safety concern, with at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people. A compilation of selected publications was used to yield an analysis of the evolving safety and risk communication related to raw sprouts, including microbiological safety, efforts to improve production practices, and effectiveness of communication prior to, during, and after sprout-related outbreaks. Scientific investigation and media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks has led to improved production guidelines and public health enforcement actions, yet continued outbreaks call into question the effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance. Raw sprouts remain a high-risk product and avoidance or thorough cooking are the only ways that consumers can reduce risk; even thorough cooking messages fail to acknowledge the risk of cross-contamination. Risk communication messages have been inconsistent over time with Canadian and U.S. governments finally aligning their messages in the past five years, telling consumers to avoid sprouts. Yet consumer and industry awareness of risk remains low. To minimize health risks linked to the consumption of sprout products, local and national public health agencies, restaurants, retailers and producers need validated, consistent and repeated risk messaging through a variety of sources.