22 sickened; outbreak of Staphylococcal food poisoning from a military unit lunch party

I’ve never served in the military but am proud of the work I’ve done with the U.S. military over the years on food safety training, and have met a lot of great people.

But, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports, on July 30, 2012, the emergency department at a military hospital was visited by 13 persons seeking care for gastrointestinal illness with onset 2–3 hours after a work lunch party. The hospital responded by opening up temporary evaluation and treatment capacity in primary-care clinics and a progressive-perlo.sausagecare unit and by diverting one patient to a local civilian hospital. An immediate outbreak investigation was conducted by local military public health personnel with assistance from CDC. Initial epidemiologic analysis implicated “perlo” (a chicken, sausage, and rice dish) and bacterial intoxication as the outbreak mechanism. This enabled public health personnel to 1) recommend no further consumption of perlo and 2) reassure appropriate authorities that no additional ill persons likely would be seeking care and advise that nothing more than supportive care of ill persons likely would be required.

After interviewing party attendees, investigators found nine additional persons who met their case definition. Subsequent CDC laboratory analysis of a sample of perlo detected staphylococcal enterotoxin A, supporting the epidemiologic findings. Improper food handling and preparation measures were identified and addressed by the appropriate authorities, who provided additional detailed education on food preparation safety for the persons who prepared the meal.

On July 29, the raw chicken thighs and sausage were defrosted in the microwave. The defrosted chicken thighs were cooked in a stock pot of boiling water. After cooling, the chicken was removed from the thigh bones by hand and placed back into the stock pot. Sausage was cooked in a skillet and added to the pot. Onions and other seasonings were sautéed in the sausage oil and added to the pot. To complete the perlo, rice was added to the stock pot and cooked until all remaining water was absorbed. The pot of cooked perlo then was placed in an unheated oven for approximately 8 hours overnight. On the morning of July 30, the perlo was found to be warm. It was transferred to a slow cooker for reheating for approximately 1 hour on a high setting before transport and consumption.

Don’t leave food, especially rice, at room temperature for eight hours. Put it in the fridge. Must not have had a military food safety type at this party, because they know their stuff.

Effect of temperatures on the growth, toxin production, and heat resistance of Bacillus cereus in cooked rice

I never order rice when I’m out. I cook it better than I used to for the gluten-free wife, and the kid, who is friends with a kid whose Chinese mom makes excellent stir-fry that I can’t replicate.

But it only took me about 15 years to learn how to cook steak properly, so maybe, soon.

When I make rice, it’s into the refrigerator reasonably fast. But lots of asparagus-and-chicken-fried-ricepeople leave it out overnight and that’s the problem.

As explained by Wang et al in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease:

Bacillus cereus is capable of producing enterotoxin and emetic toxin, and Bacillus foodborne illnesses occur due to the consumption of food contaminated with endospores. The objectives of this study were to investigate the growth and toxin production of B. cereus in cooked rice and to determine the effect of temperature on toxin destruction. Cooked rice inoculated with B. cereus was stored at 15, 25, 35, and 45°C or treated at 80, 90, and 100°C. The results indicated that emetic toxin was produced faster than enterotoxin (which was not detected below 15°C) at all the storage temperatures (15–45°C) during the first 72 h. Emetic toxin persisted at 100°C for 2 h, although enterotoxin was easily to be destroyed by this treatment within 15 min. In addition, B. cereus in cooked rice stored at a warm temperature for a period was not inactivated due to survival of the thermostable endospores. These data indicate that the contaminated cooked rice with B. cereus might present a potential risk to consumers. Results from this study may help enhance the safety of such food, and provide valuable and reliable information for risk assessment and management, associated with the problem of B. cereus in cooked rice.

Sticky balls slay Buddhists; why I never eat food service rice

Sticky rice balls are the suspected culprit behind a Mother’s Day outbreak of foodborne illness that sickened dozens who attended a Mother’s Day garden party and food fair at a Buddhist monastery in Carmel.

About 700 people, most of them arriving on tour buses from New York City, came to the annual event where dishes were prepared by volunteers, a spokeswoman for the Chuang Yen Monastery said.

When the tour buses arrived at Woodbury Common for a post-lunch shopping excursion, witnesses saw people crying and gripping their stomachs as they were stricken with nausea and diarrhea.

Eric Gross of the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services said about 150 people overall became sick and about 80 of those had boarded buses to go to the shopping outlet.

The Chuang Yen Monastery will be working with health officials on the investigation, the spokeswoman said.

The Putnam County Health Department asks people who fell ill after attending the party to call their hotline at (845) 808-1390.

Stock on the counter invites microbiological trouble

I’m in Brisbane one day and I cook a whole chicken and then make stock.

It’s my go-to food.

Back in Manhattan I had a groovy measuring cup similar to the one, right, that easily separates the fat. Overnight in the refrigerator also works (I have 3 containers biding their time in the fridge).

A well-flavored – careful not to over-salt — chicken stock is a key ingredient, not just for soups and stews, but a meal of shrimp and red pepper over rotini, stir-fried veggies, even some kinds of bread.

So when Michael Ruhlman, some sort of cookbook author, said on his blog that he likes to make chicken stock and leave it out on the stovetop all week, using portions day to day to make quick soups and sauces, Harold McGee of The New York Times decided to check with a real expert: O. Peter Snyder, a food scientist and veteran educator and consultant to the food-service industry, who has at times taken issue with government guidelines he considers unnecessarily conservative.

“The process described by Mr. Ruhlman is a very high-risk procedure,” wrote Dr. Snyder. “It depends totally on reheating the stock before it is used to be sure that it doesn’t make anyone ill or possibly kill them.”

Boiling does kill any bacteria active at the time, including E. coli and salmonella. But a number of survivalist species of bacteria are able to form inactive seedlike spores. These dormant spores are commonly found in farmland soils, in dust, on animals and field-grown vegetables and grains. And the spores can survive boiling temperatures.

After a food is cooked and its temperature drops below 130 degrees, these spores germinate and begin to grow, multiply and produce toxins. One such spore-forming bacterium is Clostridium botulinum, which can grow in the oxygen-poor depths of a stockpot, and whose neurotoxin causes botulism.

Once they’ve germinated, bacteria multiply quickly in nourishing stock. They can double their numbers every 90 minutes at room temperature, every 15 minutes at body temperature. A single germinated spore can become 1,000 bacteria in a matter of hours, a billion in a few days.

As Dr. Snyder put it, “After sitting on the stove and growing bacteria for two or three days, Mr. Ruhlman’s stock almost certainly has high levels of infectious Clostridium perfringens cells, or Clostridium botulinum or Bacillus cereus cells and their toxins, or some combination thereof.”

Why has the Ruhlman family survived? Because Mr. Ruhlman boils the stock before he serves it, Dr. Snyder wrote. Any active bacteria are killed by holding the stock for a minute at 150 degrees or above, and botulism toxin is inactivated by 10 minutes at the boil.

But quickly reheating a contaminated stock just up to serving temperature won’t destroy its active bacteria and toxins, and the stock will make people sick.

In 2008, a 26-year-old Japanese mother in the Osaka region shared a meal of leftover fried rice with her two children, ages 1 and 2. She had prepared and served the rice the day before and kept it at room temperature.

All three became ill 30 minutes after eating the leftovers, and were hospitalized. Both children lost consciousness, and the youngest died seven hours after the meal. Pathologists later reported in the journal Pediatrics that the rice contained a very common spore-forming bacterium, Bacillus cereus, along with a heat-resistant toxin that the bacterium tends to make on starchy foods, and that can cause vomiting even after being heated to the boil.

Dr. Snyder agreed that official pronouncements on food safety can be inconsistent and self-defeating. “The F.D.A. Food Code is very conservatively written,” he wrote. “Four hours after it’s cooked is plenty fast enough to get food into the refrigerator.” And slow enough to relax and enjoy the meal.

I’m with Pete.

Manhattan, famous for sushi?

One of my great laments about Manhattan (Kansas) has been the lack of sushi. In the past few years, however, sushi has appeared on campus, in grocery stores and a Japanese restaurant is expected to open in Aggieville. Today during our regular pilgrimage to a Dillon’s grocery store (owned by Kroger), the "Sushi" sign was prominently displayed out front. While thinking to myself, "that might make a nice lunch today,"once inside the store I changed my mind. I snapped this picture (right) of an unattended rice container and decided not to buy sushi there because of the potential risk.

While most people presume that the greatest risk for foodborne illness in sushi comes from the raw fish, I’ve learned from living with Doug that rice is too often the culprit. When held at improper temperatures or temperature abused, Bacillus cereus, a soil dwelling bacterium, can germinate in the rice and create toxins. Although only responsible for 2-5% of foodborne illness, B. cereus can result in nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Diarrhea onset usually occurs between 8 and 16 hours after consumption but nausea and vomiting can occur from 1 to 5 hours after consumption. This is one of the few foodborne illnesses with symptom onset soon after consumption.

Last year when one of my students told me he got sick from eating sushi on campus, he blamed himself for eating raw fish. He was rather surprised when I told him the rice was more likely to blame.

Food poisoning strikes 100 at policing meet in Guyana

Health officials in Berbice, Guyana (that’s on the northern coast of South America) told Stabroek News last night that approximately 100 people attending a police retreat were treated at the New Amsterdam Hospital shortly after lunch was served.

Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, who was present at the event yesterday, told this newspaper last evening that the police were investigating the incident and several persons were questioned.

According to reports, sometime around 1 pm yesterday lunch, which consisted of fried rice and pot roast chicken, was served and shortly after, persons began to complain of abdominal pains while some began to vomit.

Persons at the New Amsterdam Hospital told Stabroek News that the hospital was filled with patients seeking treatment, many persons lay on the floors at the hospital crying out in pain. It was noted that residents in the area had already departed the venue for their homes when they began to experience pains about their bodies.

Malaysia on alert over E. coli in ‘Wang Wang’ rice crackers

The Malaysian health ministry is stepping up scrutiny on the imported ‘Wang Wang’ rice crackers and collecting its samples for laboratory tests, following a report that coliform and Escherichia coli bacteria were detected in the product in China.

The minister, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, said Malaysia imported 334,460 boxes of the product this year but was unsure how many were still in the market or whether they were contaminated.

As a precaution, he said the product was placed at Level 5 of the Food Safety Information of Malaysia (Fosim), where the product would be analysed before release into the market.

Bees make honey

A Japanese fan club for wasps has, according to Reuters, begun adding digger wasps to rice crackers, saying the result adds a waspish scent to the traditional fare.

The jibachi senbei, or digger wasp rice crackers, are made in Omachi town 200 km (120 miles) northwest of Tokyo and have five or six black digger wasps each, clearly visible to the naked eye.

A bag of 20 crackers costs 370 yen (1.60 pounds), but output may be limited as the wasps are caught in the wild for optimum flavour.