Compost sounds cool, but is it food safety safe

Twenty years ago, I sent one of my students to a big organic conference in Guelph, and requested that she ask one question: How do you know compost is microbiologically safe?

The answer was not convincing.

‘There’s so many good bacteria they out-compete the bad bacteria.’

Fairytale.

Ten years ago, I was visiting a colleague in Melbourne in his high-rise office and he said, see those crappy little houses down there with their crappy little backyard gardens, they provide the produce for Melbourne’s high-end restaurants, and it’s all fertilized with night soil’ (human shit).

A couple of days ago The Packer published a piece about composting food safety.

Doug Grant, who chairs the Center for Produce Safety’s Knowledge Transfer Task Force wrote that composting is a seemingly magical process that decomposes organic materials like green waste or animal manures through microbial fermentation, creating nutrient-rich amendments that can be added back to soils.

It’s not magical; it’s microbiological.

However, compost can also pose a risk to the food safety of fresh produce.

Animal manure is widely suspected to be a significant source of human pathogens. Cows can carry E. coli, while poultry and swine can carry Salmonella. If compost is made with manure containing such pathogens, and the composting process is not controlled properly, these pathogens can survive composting. Contaminated compost applied to fields can then cross-contaminate fresh produce that contacts amended soil during growth, irrigation or harvest.

Yes, we have over 20 years of evidence.

Gurmail Mudahar, Ph.D., is vice president of research and development and food safety at Tanimura & Antle and is a member of CPS’s technical committee and California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement’s (LGMA) advisory board. He reports that his company used to prepare and apply their own animal manure-based composts.  That changed when food safety emerged as a major leafy greens industry issue almost two decades ago.

Then Tanimura & Antle and other growers began buying compost only from specialized manufacturers to minimize produce safety hazards. 

At its simplest, composting is a manufacuring process. To produce compost safely, the most critical controls are high temperature and time held at that temperature. Over time, the heat generated by microbial respiration in turn reduces the compost’s microbial population, including any human pathogens present. 

As a general rule, compost temperatures must reach 131 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees Celsius for 3-15 days, followed by a curing phase of least 21 days and preferably a few months. (Once applied to agricultural fields, pathogens continue to die off when exposed to sunlight’s ultraviolet rays, humidity, temperature, time and other factors.)

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

From the duh files: Your chicken is no longer pink. That doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat

The New York Times followed up on the chicken study and how to tell if it’s done that I wrote about last week with a meandering story about color, texture, and stupidly recommends using pop-up thermometers.

Me and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many others have been saying the same thing for over 20 years: Use a fucking tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

That is all.

166 sick: Over half under 5 from Salmonella in pet bearded dragons

Reptiles are one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States pet industry. Reptile-associated salmonellosis (RAS) continues to be an important public health problem, especially among children.

We investigated an outbreak of human Salmonella infections resulting from serotypes Cotham and Kisarawe, predominately occurring among children. An outbreak of illnesses was identified in persons with exposure to pet bearded dragon lizards. Human and animal health officials, in cooperation with the pet industry, conducted epidemiologic, traceback and laboratory investigations. Onsite sampling was conducted at two US breeding facilities, one foreign breeding facility, and a large pet retail chain. A total of 166 patients in 36 states were identified with illness onset dates from 02/2012-06/2014. The median patient age was 3 years (range, <1-79 years), 57% were aged ≤5 years, and 37% were aged ≤1 year. Forty-four patients (37%) were hospitalized, predominantly children. Sampling at breeding facilities and a national pet store chain resulted in isolation of outbreak serotypes at each facility; isolation proportions ranged from 2%-24% of samples collected at each facility.

Epidemiologic, microbiologic and traceback evidence linked an outbreak of uncommon Salmonella serotypes to contact with pet bearded dragons. The high proportion of infants involved in this outbreak highlights the need to educate owners about the risk of RAS in children and the potential for household contamination by pet reptiles or their habitats. Strategies should be developed to improve breeding practices, biosecurity and monitoring protocols to reduce Salmonella in the pet reptile trade.

 

 

Outbreak of human infections with uncommon salmonella serotypes linked to pet beareded dragons, 2012-2014, 18 April 2020

Zoonoses Public Health

Kiebler CA1Bottichio L1Simmons L1Basler C1Klos R2Gurfield N3Roberts E4Kimura A4Lewis LS5Bird K5Stiles F5Schlater LK6Lantz K6Edling T7Barton Behravesh C1.

doi: 10.1111/zph.12701

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/32304287

Coronavirus communication and trust

The global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has already had an enormous impact and will surely have profound consequences for many years to come.

The authors reflect on three risk communication themes related to the pandemic: trust, tradeoffs, and preparedness. Trust is critically important during such a rapidly evolving event characterized by scientific uncertainty. Reflections focus on uncertainty communication, transparency, and long-term implications for trust in government and science. On tradeoffs, the positive and unintended negative effects of three key risk communication messages are considered (1) stay at home, (2) some groups are at higher risk, and (3) daily infections and deaths.

The authors argue that greater attention to message ‘tradeoffs’ over ‘effectiveness’ and ‘evaluation’ over ‘intuition’ would help guide risk communicators under pressure. On preparedness, past infectious disease outbreak recommendations are examined. Although COVID-19 was inevitably ‘unexpected’, important preparedness actions were largely overlooked such as building key risk communication capacities.

COVID-19: Reflections on trust, tradeoffs, and preparedness, April 2020

Journal of Risk Research

Dominic HP Balog-Way and Katherine A McComas

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340958173_COVID-19_Reflections_on_trust_tradeoffs_and_preparedness/references?utm_medium=email&utm_source=researchgate&utm_campaign=re413&loginT=iZBjE6QqKQDtgm9mIth3elm18k_fuz-NWD_VJXbuMq0_VSlbSUu0QyWSAb06_bTWyEX92MLG8X_6SgQ&pli=1&utm_term=re413_p_pb&utm_content=re413_p_pb_p4&cp=re413_p_pb_p4&uid=nL3zUTnj0PdkgYxg8hJW1mCbrq7iJZlhMSga&ch=reg

When our eldest daughter was about six-weeks-old in 1987, my ex and I took her to a Grateful Dead concert at an outdoor amphitheater north of Toronto. We sat at the back. The dead did this Buddy Holly song as part of their encore and it was fabulous.

With restaurants still serving food, Florida conducted over 1,000 inspections in April

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants are, according to Jeff Weinsier of Local 10 news, still operating for take-out and delivery, and inspectors are out in full force.

Local 10 News’ Jeff Weinsier looked into the numbers and found that over 1,000 inspections have been made in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties during the month of April.

Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogies in Hollywood has been a staple in the community for over 60 years. Its dining room has become a storage area, but customers are keeping them extremely busy with take-out and delivery orders.

John Nigro of Sonny’s makes every one of his employees sign a copy of the restaurant’s rules, to ensure everything remains sanitary and follows the proper health guidelines. He knows a health inspector could pop in at any moment.

The good news is that no kitchens have been ordered shut over the past two weeks.

Vibrio and oysters: A review

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

Nodali Ndraha, Hin‐chung Wong, Hsin‐I Hsiao

https://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12557

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1541-4337.12557

Outbreak investigation of Listeria monocytogenes: Hard-boiled eggs (December 2019)

Why did Listeria appear in hard-boiled eggs? Insufficient cooking? Cross-contamination? Dirty pails? This report doesn’t say.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, CDC, and state and local partners investigated an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to hard-boiled eggs produced by Almark Foods’ Gainesville, Georgia facility. Almark Foods announced an initial voluntary recall of hard-boiled and peeled eggs in pails on December 20, 2019, and then on December 23, 2019 expanded the recall to include all hard-boiled eggs produced at the Gainesville, Georgia facility. All recalled products are now past their “best by” dates.

CDC has announced this outbreak is over. FDA’s investigational activities, including an inspection, are complete. At this time, the firm is no longer producing products at this facility.

Recommendation

Recalled products are now past their “best by” dates and should be thrown away.

FDA recommends that food processors, restaurants and retailers who received recalled products use extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces that may have come in contact with these products, to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Case Counts

Total Illnesses: 8
Illnesses in 2019: 5
Hospitalizations: 5
Deaths: 1
Last illness isolation date: December 7, 2019
States with Cases: FL (1), ME (2), PA (1), SC (2), TX (2)
States with Cases in 2019: FL (1), ME (2), SC (2), TX (1)
Product Distribution*: Nationwide
*Distribution has been confirmed for states list, but at this time we believe the product was distributed nationwide. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.

What Products are Recalled?

Recalled products include bulk product sold in pails, as well as products sold at retail. Companies who received recalled product from Almark Foods have initiated recalls of products containing these eggs. A list of all these recalls is available on the FDA website.

 

It’s not a war: FDA arming itself with science to help prevent Cyclospora infections

Steven Musser Ph.D., Deputy Director for Scientific Operations, FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and Alexandre da Silva, Ph.D., Lead Parasitologist at CFSAN’s Office of Applied Research and Safety Assessment, write that Cyclospora cayetanensis is so small that it can only be seen with a microscope. However, there is nothing small about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s work to help protect consumers from the foodborne illness that this parasite can cause.

Of course it’s small. So are the trillion of microorganisms inside each of us.

Cyclospora has been on the public radar since at least 1996.

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by consumption of foods, mainly fresh produce, that are contaminated with Cyclospora. The FDA has been working to help prevent contaminated product from reaching consumers, gathering the scientific knowledge that will help to better detect the parasite in food and the environment, and gathering data to better understand how food is contaminated by the parasite and help prevent contamination in the future. We’re also sharing what we know with stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

Because several past outbreaks have been associated with fresh herbs, the FDA has been conducting surveillance sampling of fresh cilantro, parsley and basil. A quarterly update on this food surveillance study was released today. As this effort continues, our goal is to collect enough samples to provide a precise estimate of the prevalence of contamination of Cyclospora in our food supply, enabling us to better understand our vulnerability to Cyclospora contamination.     

The FDA is also acting on what we already know about where Cyclospora is found and how contamination can be prevented.   

In 2019, 10% of the Cyclospora infections reported between May and August were linked to a multi-state outbreak associated with fresh imported basil that started in mid-June and was declared over in October. FDA increased its screening at the border of basil exported by the company tied to the outbreak before the company voluntarily recalled its product and ceased shipping while corrective measures were implemented.

The FDA is also tracking contamination in domestically-grown produce. The first confirmed evidence of Cyclospora in domestically grown produce was detected in 2018 in cilantro, a finding not associated with an outbreak of illnesses. As with bacterial pathogens, if the parasite is found on produce, the FDA follows up with inspections and sampling, working with the business to take the actions needed to protect public health.

The FDA has been reaching out to farmers to increase awareness of Cyclospora and actions that can be taken on the farm to reduce the likelihood of contamination. For example, ways to control sources of contamination include proper use, maintenance and cleaning of toilet and handwashing facilities. We created education and outreach materials for farmers, including the Cyclosporiasis and Fresh Produce Fact Sheet

In late 2014, the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition established a Foodborne Parasitology Research Program, and in collaboration with the CDC, has been sequencing the genomes of several different strains of C. cayetanensis, enabling the development of genetic typing methods. In 2016, we created a genome database named “CycloTrakr” to be used as a public repository of genomic data at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). This is an important first step towards the goal of linking, in real-time, the genetic fingerprints of Cyclospora in contaminated food and sick people to pinpoint the source of the outbreaks.

The agency has also pioneered ways to detect the parasite, developing and validating new methods to test for Cyclospora in produce and water. The first of these new methods was used for the first time in 2018 to confirm the presence of the parasite in a salad mix product tied to an outbreak that sickened hundreds of people. 

In July 2019, the FDA made its second major advance in Cyclospora detection, completing studies that resulted in a novel, validated method to test agricultural water for the presence of the parasite. Water used on farms is a potential source of the contaminants that cause foodborne illnesses. Analysts from FDA laboratories are being trained in the use of this method for regulatory testing. 

Super sanitation cleaning: Caribbean Princess cruise ship turned back to US after more than 300 catch gastro bug

The Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess Ship left the U.S. on Feb 2 — and after more than a week at sea, was forced to turn back to the U.S. early when it was denied entry to the Caribbean.

The Caribbean Princess was set to have a 14-day trip around the Caribbean, but was forced to turn back to the U.S.

The cruise’s early return comes after it was denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago by the Government of Barbados due to the outbreak on board, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health.

Princess Cruises said in a statement to The Sun that the ship, which was on a 14-day cruise in the Caribbean, is now on its way back to the Port of Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

The Caribbean Princess ship is scheduled to dock at 7 a.m. on Thursday, three days ahead of its previous Feb. 16 return.

A total of 299 passengers and 22 crew members of the 4,196 people on board got sick with a gastrointestinal bug, causing vomiting and diarrhea.

Princess Cruises said the cruise has “curtailed its voyage out of an abundance of caution due to guests reporting symptoms due to a mild gastrointestinal illness,” in a statement to The Sun.

The ship will undergo a “super sanitation cleaning” when it reaches the Florida port, according to a statement from the CDC.

Storytelling is vital, so is content: Doctors on TikTok try to go viral

For decades, sex education in the classroom could be pretty cringey. For some adolescents, it meant a pitch for abstinence; others watched their teachers put condoms on bananas and attempt sketches of fallopian tubes that looked more like modern art.

Me and my veterinarian first wife had no qualms about explaining biological reality to our young daughters– no stork, no parthenogenesis, no saviour prince.

Emma Goldberg of New York Times writes that on TikTok – which my children are still trying to explain to me — sex ed is being flipped on its head. Teenagers who load the app might find guidance set to the pulsing beat of “Sex Talk” by Megan Thee Stallion.

A doctor, sporting scrubs and grinning into her camera, instructs them on how to respond if a condom breaks during sex: The pill Plan B can be 95 percent effective, the video explains.

The video is the work of Dr. Danielle Jones, a gynecologist in College Station, Tex., and so far has racked up over 11 million views. Comments range from effusive (“this slaps”) to eye-rolling (“thanks for the advice mom” and “ma’am, I’m 14 years old”).

 “My TikTok presence is like if you had a friend who just happens to be an OB/GYN,” Dr. Jones said. “It’s a good way to give information to people who need it and meet them where they are.”

Dr. Jones is one of many medical professionals working their way through the rapidly expanding territory of TikTok, the Chinese-owned short-form video app, to counter medical misinformation to a surging audience. The app has been downloaded 1.5 billion times as of November, according to SensorTower, with an audience that skews young; 40 percent of its users are ages 16 to 24.

That would be the food service audience. Guess I better get hip.

I’ve learned to text more. Seems like an entire generation missed e-mail.

Although medical professionals have long taken to social media to share healthy messages or promote their work, TikTok poses a new set of challenges, even for the internet adept. Popular posts on the app tend to be short, musical and humorous, complicating the task of physicians hoping to share nuanced lessons on health issues like vapingcoronavirusnutrition and things you shouldn’t dip in soy sauce. And some physicians who are using the platform to spread credible information have found themselves the targets of harassment.

Dr. Rose Marie Leslie, a family medicine resident physician at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said TikTok provided an enormous platform for medical public service announcements.

“It has this incredible viewership potential that goes beyond just your own following,” she said.

Dr. Leslie’s TikToks on vaping-associated lung diseases drew over 3 million views, and posts on the flu and HPV vaccines also reached broad audiences beyond her hospital.

Striking a chord on TikTok, Dr. Leslie said, means tailoring medical messaging to the app’s often goofy form. In one post, she advised viewers to burn calories by practicing a viral TikTok dance. She takes her cues from teen users, who often use the app to offer irreverent, even slapstick commentary on public health conversations. She noted one trend in which young TikTokers brainstormed creative ways to destroy your e-cigarette, like running it over with a car.

TikTok’s executives have welcomed the platform’s uses for medical professionals. “It’s been inspiring to see doctors and nurses take to TikTok in their scrubs to demystify the medical profession,” said Gregory Justice, TikTok’s head of content programming.

Earlier this month, Dr. Nicole Baldwin, a pediatrician in Cincinnati, posted a TikTok listing the diseases that are preventable with vaccines and countering the notion that vaccines cause autism.

Her accounts on TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Yelp were flooded with threatening comments, including one that labeled her “Public Enemy #1” and another that read, “Dead doctors don’t lie.”

A team of volunteers that is helping Dr. Baldwin monitor her social media has banned more than 5,200 users from her Facebook in recent weeks.

Dr. Baldwin said she started out feeling enthusiastic about the opportunity TikTok provides to educate adolescents, but her experience with harassment gave her some pause.

 “There’s a fine line physicians are walking between trying to get a message out that will appeal to this younger generation without being inappropriate or unprofessional,” Dr. Baldwin said. “Because of the short content and musical aspect of TikTok, what adolescents are latching onto is not the professional persona we typically put out there.”