From the cross-contamination bad idea files: RI orders Asian supermarket in Providence to stop selling live frogs, turtles

Madeleine List of the Providence Journal reports Department of Public Health inspectors have ordered the owners of a supermarket on Cadillac Drive to cease the sale of live animals in their store.

Health inspectors responded to a complaint about the Good Fortune Supermarket on Tuesday and found 45 frogs and seven turtles for sale at the establishment, said Joseph Wendelken, spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Health.

“It’s against Rhode Island food code for there to be live animals in a food establishment,” he said.

The department ordered the owners to stop selling the animals and put up signs at the store to notify the public that the critters were not for sale, Wendelken said.

Health officials will coordinate with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to determine what to do with the animals, he said. For now, they are still at the store.

Good Fortune, which is described on its website as one of the largest Asian supermarkets in the United States, opened in Providence about two weeks ago, Wendelken said. The market has more than a dozen locations across the U.S., according to its website.

Health officials inspected the establishment before it opened and found no violations, Wendelken said.

“There was no indication at that point that frogs and turtles were going to be sold,” he said.

Farm animals quarantined following crypto at Rhode Island petting zoo

I’m getting too old for this shit.

As John Prine famously sang, all the news just repeats itself.

Animals at a Middletown farm are being quarantined after three people got sick, Rhode Island health officials announced last week.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management said one child and two adults came down with cryptosporidiosis after having contact with goats during “pet and cuddle” events at Simmons Farm on West Main Road on March 25 and 31.

“I have never been so sick,” one woman, who did not want to be identified, told NBC 10 News. “I had visited the farm on Saturday, March 31 and by Friday evening, I was extremely ill and it progressively got worse from there.”

She said she went to the hospital April 10 and a doctor asked if she had been to a farm.

“Today, I have had my first real meal and my stomach is already gurgling,” she said. “Up until tonight, I had six Saltines.”

About 60 goats and five cows are being quarantined, Simmons Farm owners told NBC 10 News. They will also be screened.

Was it real or the fake stuff? Olive oil helps free Rhode Island man stuck in jetty while fetching phone

A man who got stuck head-first between two rocks on a Rhode Island jetty while trying to retrieve his cellphone has been rescued with the help of olive oil.

olive-oil-jetty-sep-16WJAR-TV reports ( it happened Saturday afternoon near a fishing area in Point Judith.

Authorities say the man dropped his phone and got stuck up to his chest when he bent down to retrieve it.

Narragansett firefighters and environmental police spent most of the afternoon trying to free him before the tide came in. After about 2 1/2 hours, they were able to remove him with the help of olive oil.

The man went to a hospital to be treated for hypothermia and a small injury to his foot.

Whole-genome sequencing detection of ongoing Listeria contamination at a restaurant, Rhode Island, USA, 2014

Infection with Listeria monocytogenes, a foodborne bacterial pathogen, causes listeriosis, which can lead to severe illness, typically among persons with compromised immune systems and pregnant women and their fetuses.

listeria4The pathogen can survive at high salt concentrations and grow at refrigeration temperatures (1). These properties enable the bacteria to persist in food processing and food service establishments for extended periods. Listeriosis has a long incubation period (3–70 days), making exposure recall difficult.

Retail delicatessens are a potential source of L. monocytogenes because they hold ready-to-eat foods at refrigeration temperatures; however, a risk assessment by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service suggests that thorough sanitization of food contact surfaces, proper maintenance of equipment and facilities, safe product handling practices, and good employee practices to avoid cross-contamination can help prevent listeriosis cases associated with retail food establishments (2).

Since 1998, PulseNet ( has used pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to look at genetic differences in L. monocytogenes subtypes and to identify outbreaks. However, distantly related strains can appear indistinguishable by PFGE; thus, greater differentiation may be needed to distinguish between outbreak and sporadic cases of listeriosis. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) offers an opportunity to further discriminate between strains and identify outbreaks. WGS has historically been used retrospectively to provide additional insight into outbreak investigations (3). However, since September 2013, WGS has been performed on all clinical L. monocytogenes isolates identified in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta, GA) and several state public health laboratories (4). L. monocytogenes is a good candidate for WGS because it causes a relatively rare condition that can result in serious illness, it has a small genome that is relatively easy to analyze, and epidemiologic surveillance and food regulatory program components for the bacterium are strong (5).

Data obtained from WGS has been analyzed using whole-genome multilocus sequence typing (wgMLST), a technique that examines allelic differences from thousands of loci, and ≈96% of L. monocytogenes coding sequences have been identified as loci in the wgMLST scheme (S. Stroika, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pers. comm., 2016 Jan 29). To discriminate between strains and identify outbreaks, alleles within the coding sequence (i.e., loci) are compared with ≈178 reference genomes. A unique combination of alleles at each locus specifies the sequence type, which enables comparison of isolates (6); the smaller the number of allelic differences between isolates, the more related they are.

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) attempts interviews and, when applicable, conducts environmental investigations for all reports of listeriosis. Each year during 2011–2013, RIDOH received ≈3 reports of listeriosis, most of which were sporadic cases. However, in November 2014, a cluster of cases was detected from laboratory reports and examined using WGS in conjunction with epidemiologic, laboratory, and environmental investigations. Isolates were confirmed to be L. monocytogenes and submitted for PFGE analysis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention performed WGS on clinical isolates; the Food and Drug Administration performed WGS on food isolates.

The Investigation

During October 27–November 5, 2014, RIDOH’s Center for Acute Infectious Disease Epidemiology was notified of 3 L. monocytogenes–infected persons residing in the same city. The 3 case-patients were all non-Hispanic white persons >60 years of age; 2 had an immunocompromising condition. Interviews conducted by the Center for Acute Infectious Disease Epidemiology identified a single common restaurant visited by the 3 patients. RIDOH’s Center for Food Protection performed inspections and collected food and environmental samples at the establishment.

listeria.cdc.jul.14PFGE analysis showed that clinical L. monocytogenes isolates from the 3 case-patients shared an identical, common PFGE pattern (Figure). To determine the relationship between the isolates, RIDOH collaborated with federal partners to conduct WGS. Results of wgMLST showed that the isolates were closely related (0–5 allelic differences) (Figure) and a close genetic match (median allelic differences 4) to a clinical isolate from a 2013 patient, who was reinterviewed and reported eating at the same restaurant. A sliced prosciutto sample from the restaurant tested positive for L. monocytogenes, and PFGE patterns for this isolate matched those for isolates from the 2013 and 2014 case-patients. Results of wgMLST showed that the isolate from the prosciutto differed by 0–5 alleles (median 3) from the 2014 clinical samples and by 0–11 alleles (median 4) from the 2013 clinical sample. Sequences for the isolates were uploaded to GenBank (7) (clinical isolates: accession nos. SAMN02400177, SAMN03253348–49, SAMN03253359; isolate from prosciutto: accession no. SAMN03218571).

A total of 10 food and environmental food samples were initially collected from the restaurant. Swab samples were obtained from the food slicer, preparation tables, and walk-in cooler. Environmental investigation of the restaurant identified issues related to control of L. monocytogenes: the temperature of the refrigerated unit that held sliced meat and other food items was elevated (52°F [11°C]), and cleanliness issues were observed with the preparation tables and slicer. An additional 19 environmental samples were later collected from the establishment; however, the refrigerated unit and preparation tables had been replaced, so additional swab samples could not be collected from those surfaces. The sample of sliced prosciutto was the only L. monocytogenes–positive sample identified at the restaurant; however, just 1 of the 2014 case-patients reported eating prosciutto (in an antipasto salad) at the restaurant. Other foods reported included green salad and coleslaw.

RIDOH tested a sample of prosciutto from an unopened package from the establishment and collaborated with the Food Safety and Inspection Service to see if the processing plant had recently tested positive for L. monocytogenes. The sample tested negative, and no positive tests had been reported at the plant in at least 1 year.


Epidemiologic, environmental, and laboratory investigation results implicated a restaurant with sanitation issues and improper sliced meat storage as the likely source of a multiyear listeriosis outbreak. A long incubation period makes WGS an effective technology to use during listeriosis outbreak investigations and to identify outbreak-associated cases originally believed to be sporadic cases. This technology can help overcome difficulties associated with investigating listeriosis cases and can be useful for the investigation of other pathogens. In this investigation, WGS (wgMLST) helped link the 2013 listeriosis case, which was originally believed to be a sporadic case, to the 2014 outbreak. Furthermore, given that the 4 isolates had a common PFGE pattern, this technology increased confidence that the restaurant, which was the only common restaurant among the 4 patients, was the source of the outbreak. The allelic differences observed are consistent with slow, spontaneous mutation occurring over a long period due to persistent contamination.

There is no set number of allelic differences used to determine whether clusters of cases are part of actual outbreaks (8). Thus, WGS is not sufficient by itself to identify outbreaks and must be performed in conjunction with epidemiologic, laboratory, and environmental investigations (8,9). In the investigation we describe, WGS was used in this supporting role. The close relationship that WGS showed between the clinical isolates and the isolate from meat provides additional evidence that the restaurant was the likely source of contamination for the cases in 2013 and 2014.

Our findings support the need to control L. monocytogenes at retail food establishments. Storing meat at <41°F (5°C) can prevent ≈9% of listeriosis cases (2). In addition, retail delicatessens and food establishments can prevent L. monocytogenes–associated illnesses among customers by controlling cross-contamination, cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces, and eliminating environmental niches.

Mr. Barkley is a public health epidemiologist at the Center for Food Protection, Rhode Island Department of Health. His research interests include understanding risk factors of foodborne illness associated with retail food establishments.


We thank the Rhode Island State Laboratory for performing confirmatory L. monocytogenes testing on clinical and food samples and for coordinating PFGE and WGS testing; the Massachusetts William A. Hinton State Laboratory for performing PFGE testing of the clinical and food samples; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration for performing WGS of clinical and food samples, respectively.


  1. Ferreira V, Wiedmann M, Teixeira P, Stasiewicz MJ. Listeria monocytogenespersistence in food-associated environments: epidemiology, strain characteristics, and implications for public health. J Food Prot. 2014;77:150–70.DOIPubMed
  2. United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service. Best practices guidance for controllingListeria monocytogenesin retail delicatessens. June 2015 [cited 2016 Feb 1].
  3. Le VT, Diep BA. Selected insights from application of whole-genome sequencing for outbreak investigations. Curr Opin Crit Care. 2013;19:432–9. DOIPubMed
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advanced molecular detection (AMD). AMD projects: learning from Listeria [cited 2015 Oct 23].
  5. Jackson B, Jackson K, Tarr C, Evans P, Klimke W, Kubota K, Improving detection and investigation of listeriosis outbreaks using real-time whole-genome sequencing. Presented at: IDWeek 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; 2014 Oct 8–12.
  6. Larsen MV, Cosentino S, Rasmussen S, Friis C, Hasman H, Marvig RL, Multilocus sequence typing of total-genome-sequenced bacteria. J Clin Microbiol. 2012;50:1355–61. DOIPubMed
  7. Benson DA, Clark K, Karsch-Mizrachi I, Lipman DJ, Ostell J, Sayers EW. GenBank. Nucleic Acids Res. 2015;43:D30–5.DOIPubMed
  8. Jackson B. Everything in sequence: listeriosis outbreak investigations in the era of WGS. Presented at: Integrated Foodborne Outbreak Response and Management (InFORM) 2015 Conference; Phoenix, AZ, USA; 2015 Nov 17–20.
  9. Leekitcharoenphon P, Nielsen EM, Kaas RS, Lund O, Aarestrup FM. Evaluation of whole genome sequencing for outbreak detection of Salmonella enterica.PLoS One. 2014;9:e87991. DOIPubMed

Whole-genome sequencing detection of ongoing Listeria contamination at a restaurant, Rhode Island, USA, 2014

Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 22, Number 8, August 2016

Jonathan S. Barkley , Michael Gosciminski, and Adam Miller

30 sick, noro suspected: Rhode Island investigates Wright’s Farm Restaurant

The Rhode Island Department of Health is investigating Wright’s Farm Restaurant in Burrillville, R.I., NBC 10 News has learned.

wright' 30 people became ill with gastrointestinal symptoms after eating at the popular restaurant on Sunday, according to the Health Department. Some of those students include members of Bryant University’s men’s lacrosse team.

The team was originally scheduled to be play on Tuesday, March 15 against Siena, but the game was postponed due to a stomach virus they announced.

“Based on their symptoms, we believe it to be norovirus, but we don’t have test results back yet,” Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the Health Department told NBC 10 news.

Denise Senosk of Brookfield, Mass. and 12 other family members, who were at the restaurant as the same time as the Bryant lacrosse team, ate the chicken dinner at Wright’s on Sunday. Unfortunately, eight of the 13 people became ill, she told NBC 10 News.

Nothing was out of the ordinary with the food that she noticed, but she said a little boy vomited not far from where they were sitting in the restaurant.


College paper pilfered after reporting on food safety, sanitation

About 650 copies of The Unfiltered Lens, a student paper at the Community College of Rhode Island, have been reported stolen, prompting speculation the thefts may be a response to Lens reports on campus cockroach sightings and food safety violations.

College Media Matters reports the front-page features two items: an article on cockroaches (“Roaches storm CCRI Knight Campus”) and a feature on the health inspection troubles of a CCRI campus café. The cafe has apparently been flagged for improper food storage, employee “hand washing infractions,” and the absence of “an air gap, a necessary feature to separate the sink workspace from the sewage system.”

Noting that other publications distributed on campus were noticeably still stacked like normal in their newsstands, the paper’s editor-in-chief Robert Armistead said “it leads me to believe that it is something specific with our newspaper, and more specifically with this issue.”

Rhode Island has been sensitized to food safety issues on the one-year anniversary of the DeFusco’s Bakery salmonella outbreak killed two and sickened 75 people. Four new health inspectors for the state have been hired.

One year after salmonella killed 2 sickened 75 from Rhode Island bakery

In March, 2011, an outbreak of salmonella was first identified after a nursing home in Rhode Island reported that 15 residents and two staff members had fallen ill. Investigators discovered that all had eaten zeppole from DeFusco’s Bakery to commemorate St. Joseph’s Day; store owners closed the bakery the same day.

Over the next week, the state received dozens of similar reports of salmonella symptoms, and all but one person had eaten zeppole from DeFusco’s, which supplied the pastries to other bakeries and catered events for the holiday.

WPRI reports that one year later, four new health inspectors have been hired, giving the Food Inspection Department a total of 11 to cover more than 2,000 food establishments.

The Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health refused an interview but, based on inspection reports, there have been numerous inspections at bakeries statewide in the past month, which found:

• "Pizza, calzones and pork pies stored at 65 degrees…"
• "Temperatures need to be 41 degrees"
• "Raw beef stored with deli meats"
• "Mouse droppings found"

A number of lawsuits have been filed against DeFusco’s Bakery and some of those are still pending.

Others have been dropped due to the fact the bakery was not insured.

Last year, The Boston Globe reported state inspectors found a host of health violations at DeFusco’s, from gallons of pastry cream left unrefrigerated for hours to pastry shells stored in egg crates tainted with salmonella bacteria. It was most likely the shells, which had come into contact with the salmonella-infected eggs, that ignited the outbreak, disease detectives said. The state issued an immediate recall of the bakery’s goods, and the shop agreed to close its two locations immediately.

Rhode Island sushi restaurant closes; mouse droppings in flour, diapers in kitchen, 8 people sick

Uncle Sushi and Grill in Cranston has shut down after health inspectors found mouse droppings and evidence that a baby’s diapers were being changed in the kitchen, among other violations.

Felice Freyer of Projo reports the inspection took place on Monday when health officials learned that eight people who ate at the restaurant on May 19 became ill with vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps.

Based on the symptoms, the illnesses were probably caused by norovirus, said Health Department spokeswoman Annemarie Beardsworth. All employees were asked for stool samples, and so far three have tested positive for norovirus, she said.

Although the owner, Thong Den Vongvixay, closed the restaurant voluntarily, the Health Department issued a compliance order to make sure that he does not reopen until all violations are corrected, Beardsworth said.

Among the key violations that inspectors found:

• mouse droppings were found in flour, jimmies and noodles and on the doilies on which sushi is served.;
• vinegar was being stored in container previously used for laundry detergent.;
• rice was kept at room temperature in a turned-off cooker;
• the restaurant does not employ a full-time manager certified in food safety
• scooters, toys, powder and wipes were found in the kitchen area, suggesting that a child was allowed in the kitchen area and diapers were changed there.

Bakery goes from bad to worse; 2 dead, 66 sick from salmonella in zeppoles

A second man has died after a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 66 people and may be linked to a Rhode Island bakery.

The state Health Department says the unidentified man died Thursday after being hospitalized and testing positive for salmonella. He was in his 90s and was from Providence County.

DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston closed down, and its products were recalled, on March 25 after a Health Department inspection found many food-safety violations. They included storing empty, baked pastry shells in cardboard boxes that formerly held trays of raw eggs. Tests later found evidence of salmonella in the boxes, probably from an infected egg that broke.

In addition to closing down DeFusco’s, the outbreak has affected business at other bakeries, at least two of which have taken ads assuring their customers that their products are safe.

43 sick, 22 hospitalized, 1 dead in Rhode Island salmonella-in-pastry outbreak

The number of suspected cases of salmonella linked to a Rhode Island bakery has increased to 43 people, the Health Department reported Wednesday.

Health officials said 22 of those people have been hospitalized.

Health officials said many of the people that were sickened ate doughnut-like pastries called zeppoles made by DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston. The pastries were sold at other stores around the state and have been recalled.

State Sen. John Tassoni has launched a new push to hire more state food inspectors, adding, “The safety of every person who visits a restaurant or other food establishment in Rhode Island is at stake.”

There are seven food inspectors responsible for inspecting 8,000 food establishment across the Ocean State – yet being short staffed only allows them to inspect half that number.

The most recent salmonella-in-pastry outbreak happened in Adelaide, South Australia earlier this year, when at least 107 people were sickened with Salmonella Typhimurium phage type 9 after eating custard eclairs and cannolis from two bakeries.