30 cases of salmonellosis linked to Sprouts Extraordinaire

According to CDC, sprouts are back at it again with the illnesses.

I don’t eat them, but if I did, I would want to know a whole lot about the seed source and who was growing them – fairly hard to do when they arrive as garnish on a salad or on a sandwich.

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Reading and Salmonella Abony infections.Alfalfa-sprouts

Thirty people infected with the outbreak strains have been reported from nine states. Of those ill people, 24 were infected with Salmonella Reading, 1 was infected with Salmonella Abony, and 5 were infected with both.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from May 21, 2016 to July 20, 2016. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 72, with a median age of 30. Fifty-three percent of ill people are female. Five ill people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence available at this time indicate that alfalfa sprouts supplied by Sprouts Extraordinaire of Denver, Colorado are the likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Of the 27 ill people who were interviewed, 17 (63%) reported eating or possibly eating alfalfa sprouts in the week before illness started. This proportion is significantly higher than results from a 2006 survey of healthy people, in which 3% reported eating sprouts on a sandwich in the week before they were interviewed. Ill people in the current outbreak reported eating raw alfalfa sprouts on sandwiches from several different restaurants.

Federal, state, and local health and regulatory officials performed a traceback investigation from five restaurants where ill people reported eating alfalfa sprouts. This investigation indicated that Sprouts Extraordinaire supplied alfalfa sprouts to all five of these locations.

On August 5, 2016, Sprouts Extraordinaire recalled its alfalfa sprout products from the market due to possible Salmonella contamination. These products were sold in 5-pound boxes labeled “Living Alfalfa Sprouts”.

A historical selection of sprout outbreaks can be found here.

Rice in Chinese food? Italian desserts? Food-styles most likely to cause illness in England and Wales

What shall we have for dinner? Chinese? Indian? Italian? Researchers at the UK’s Health Protection Agency went through available data and found some food-type-pathogen-matches that statistically stood out. Abstract below.

The food service sector continues to be the most common setting for reported foodborne disease outbreaks in England and Wales.

Using restaurant-associated foodborne outbreaks reported in England and Wales from 1992 to 2009, cuisine-specific risk factors were examined. Of 677 restaurant outbreaks, there were 11,795 people affected, 491 hospitalizations, and seven deaths; and Chinese, Indian, British and Italian cuisines were the most commonly implicated (26%, 16%, 13% and 10%, respectively).

Salmonella spp. accounted for most outbreaks of all cuisine types, and particularly Chinese (76%, 133/175) and Italian (55%, 38/69). Poultry meat was the most frequently implicated food vehicle in outbreaks associated with Indian (30%), Chinese (21%), and British (18%) cuisines while for Italian cuisine, desserts and cakes were more frequently implicated (33%). Rice dishes were also a common outbreak food vehicle in those restaurants serving Chinese (22%) and Indian (16%) cuisine.

Cross-contamination was the biggest contributory factor associated with Chinese (46%), British (33%) and Indian (30%) cuisines whereas inadequate cooking (38%) and use of raw shell eggs in lightly cooked or uncooked food (35%) were more often associated with Italian cuisine. Over the surveillance period, the proportion of SalmonellaEnteritidis PT4 outbreaks in restaurants serving Chinese cuisine significantly decreased (P<0·0001) and this was mirrored by an increase in S.Enteritidis non-PT4 outbreaks (P<0·0001). Despite this change in proportion, contributory factors such as cross-contamination have continued to cause outbreaks throughout the 18 years.

The results show that by stratifying the risks associated with restaurants by cuisine type, specific evidence of food control failures can be used to target foodborne illness reduction strategies.

Epidemiology and Infection June 2012 140 : pp 997-1007
F. J. Gormley, N. Rawal and C. L. Little

Operation Meat Locker is latest attempt to ax meat thieves

Elizabeth Weise of USA Today writes today that with food prices escalating, meat thieves — organized groups who target steaks and high-end cuts at supermarkets for resale to unscrupulous restaurants and markets — are a growing problem. They’re also hitting meat lockers, cattle pens and even 18-wheelers.

In a comprehensive follow-up to the July 29/11 arrest of six men in Austin, Texas, Weise explains how police officers took fresh meat to more than 28 area restaurants to offer for sale. It wasn’t an easy sting to carry out because unlike the thieves, they had to abide by food safety regulations. "The meat had to be kept under 41 degrees, so we didn’t have much time to work," says Sgt. David Socha, who took part in the investigation.

None of the 25 restaurants chosen at random would touch the meat brought to their back doors and offered at half off, but the three restaurants who’d been fingered by the shoplifters "bought it again and again and again," Socha says. It wasn’t just staff looking to make money on the side, but management who were involved, "so we knew it wasn’t a fluke," he says.

After each restaurant had bought more than $1,500 worth of stolen meat, making it a felony, police moved in and made arrests July 28.

This sort of organized retail crime is a common and growing problem, says Joseph LaRocca, who focuses on asset protection for the National Retail Federation. A recent poll by the group found 95% of retailers falling victim to it in 2010, up from 89% in 2009. More than two-thirds of members say "these groups are getting more brazen and they’re getting hit harder," LaRocca says.

Organized retail crime rings consist of professional shoplifters, called boosters, who take "orders" from fences who buy the pilfered product. "Their entire job is to go out and steal. It seems that they stay within their realm — meat thieves will steal meat," says officer Scott Stanley of the Tacoma, Wash., Police Department. Stanley is also the founder of the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance.

In his experience, most of the boosters are drug addicts. Many are even paid in drugs. "They say ‘You go out and steal me $150 in tri-tip (roasts), and I’ll give you enough crack for a week," he says.

The meat gets sold to unscrupulous restaurants or out of the back of a van at swap meets. Sometimes it goes to mom-and-pop convenience stores. "We’ve gone into a Shell (gas) station and found steaks with the Safeway sticker still on them," Stanley says.

"The lack of refrigeration is a serious food safety concern; so is the suspect handling," says Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. "And if restaurant owners are willing to cut corners and buy street meat, what else are they cutting corners on in the back kitchen? It doesn’t inspire confidence."

The organizations aren’t all small-scale. Thieves made off with $11,000 worth of meat from Sedlacek’s Wholesale Meat Co. in Melbourne, Iowa, in February.

Owner Barry Sedlacek came in one morning to find his cooler door open and 2,500 pounds of top-quality meat missing.

Texas has already had between 700 and 800 cattle rustling cases this year, says Larry Gray, law enforcement officer for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in Fort Worth. "There’s been an uptick in cattle thefts, first because of the economy and also because cattle prices are so high," he says.

An 800-pound steer is worth about $880 right now, he says. Thieves will pull up to a feeding pen, load up their truck and "be out of there in 10, 15 minutes," Gray says. They sell them at livestock auctions for quick cash.

Albert Amgar: Mandatory training in food service?***

Our French colleague Albert writes recently on his blog,

I’m no expert on the commercial and institutional restaurant business, just a simple user.

I’m also not a fan of guides to good practices of which, in my opinion, we shouldn’t expect so much. The guide shouldn’t be a white cane for the blind when it comes to matters of hygiene and food safety. But I also know that some people have been waiting, according to a message published on la liste Hygiène on July 3, 2010, “…for at least 8 years, [for] the probable publication date of the Guide to Good Hygiene Practices for the food services industry.”

As such, le blog HysaConseil from Quebec tells us that, “Mandatory training in hygiene and safety, who does it concern?”

On November 21, 2008, a modification to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Québec’s (MAPAQ) food regulation requires all business owners who are or are not licensed with MAPAQ to undergo training in hygiene and safety. Whenever food handling is done in his/her business, the owner must comply with regulations (convenience stores, pharmacies, bars, bed & breakfasts, butcheries, supermarkets, selling meat on the farm, etc…).

You can refer to the available guide to the application of regulations on MAPAQ’s website for more information on this regulation. All information is found at this site.
At a time when France has launched its Food Operation Holidays (see “
The return of Operation Thunder”), here’s a measure that would be welcome for us! Is this obligation applicable for us? I don’t believe so according to certain reports we see (see “Hygiene in the food service industry”).

In the words of one AFSCA administrator (Belgium), “I currently use the carrot with the subcommittee on language simplification (referred to as cellule de vulgarisation). Now there is a stick behind the door: not only the administrative fines or the temporary closures, but we could also put the results of our inspections on the Internet, clearly online for the consumers.”

Mandatory training, scores or grades on the doors and online inspection results are the answers that Albert suggests to advance food safety in restaurant businesses.

Taking toddlers to fancy restaurants

Italian restaurants are best when dining with little kids. Maybe it’s a cultural stereotype, but I always found Italian eateries were more welcoming to the screaming, barfing and flirting that toddlers bring to the dining experience.

French restaurants? The worst.

Proponents of doggie dining often state that restaurants allow germ-spewing little kids inside so why not dogs?

Richard Vines of Bloomberg decided to check on the acceptability of children at London’s fancy foodie restaurants. Vines called 30 establishments, asking if a pair of kids aged 2 and 7 would be admitted, whether there were high chairs and about the availability of special menus. With few exceptions, each was child friendly.

Among the responses:

L’Anima: “Yes, we allow children. We have high chairs. When you come here we can arrange something with the chef.”

What if your kid hates high chairs for anything more than 3 minute stretches?

Bob Ricard: “We’re not allowing children under 10 years old. There are no special menus.”

The Ivy: “It’s fine. Any age. We have high chairs. We can adapt dishes for children.”

Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley: “Children are welcome but if kids get a bit restless and unhappy you might be asked to take them outside for a while. We can arrange a high chair if you let us know in advance. Our team can adjust the dishes for children.”

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay: “Children are welcome but babies are not recommended because the restaurant is quite small so we don’t have space for high chairs or push chairs.” What age would be OK? “I would say maybe seven or 10 years onwards. We don’t have kids’ menus but we will be able to offer something suitable.”

I find so-called fancy food is lost on little kids. They’d rather eat the crayons at Chuck-E-Cheese, although those places seem prone to violence.

The most mentioned simple food for kids was something around $7 for a bowl of pasta; who can afford that? That’s Sorenne (above, right)  in a gratuitious food porn shot with a simple bowl of rotini and a homemade tomato-veggie sauce during the U.S.-Canada hockey debacle Sunday night. Tonight, we’re going upscale with grilled tuna loins, although Sorenne will be again wearing her Ovechkin jersey (left) as Russia takes on Canada in the Olympic quarter-finals.