BS: Report says poor regulation contributed to Australia strawberry tampering crisis

A new report into Australia’s 2018 strawberry tampering crisis, which caused catastrophic economic damage to the industry, has found food-tracing protocols need to be strengthened.

Lucy Stone of The Sydney Morning Herald reports the report also found that food safety expertise in the horticulture industry was “variable” due to there being many small businesses, with no regulatory or industry oversight particularly for strawberry farmers (uh, I’m right here).

The “fragmented nature” of the sector also complicated matters with no regulation tracking strawberry farm locations during the crisis, and the use of seasonal or contract pickers muddying traceability.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) was commissioned by Health Minister Greg Hunt to review the response to the strawberry contamination crisis, which began on September 9 when a man swallowed a needle hidden inside a strawberry.

Within days more reports had been made to Queensland Health and Queensland Police of similar incidents, sparking copycat actions of needles being hidden in fruit across Australia and New Zealand.

The crisis saw strawberry production nationally grind to a halt, with Queensland growers dumping thousands of tonnes of fruit that could not be sold.

A Caboolture woman, 50-year-old strawberry farm supervisor My Ut Trinh, was arrested and charged with six counts of food tampering, ending the crisis.

But is more regulation and oversight really gonna stop someone driven by demons from inserting needles into produce?

Is there a better approach to both protect and enhance consumer confidence in the wake of an outbreak, tampering, or even allegations of such?

On June 12, 1996, Dr. Richard Schabas, chief medical officer of Ontario (that’s a province in Canada), issued a public health advisory on the presumed link between consumption of California strawberries and an outbreak of diarrheal illness among some 40 people in the Metro Toronto area. The announcement followed a similar statement from the Department of Health and Human Services in Houston, Texas, which was investigating a cluster of 18 cases of cyclospora illness among oil executives.

Turns out it was Guatemalan raspberries, not strawberries, and no one was happy.

The initial, and subsequent, links between cyclospora and strawberries or raspberries in 1996 was based on epidemiology, a statistical association between consumption of a particular food and the onset of disease.

The Toronto outbreak was first identified because some 35 guests attending a May 11, 1996 wedding reception developed the same severe, intestinal illness, seven to 10 days after the wedding, and subsequently tested positive for cyclospora. Based on interviews with those stricken, health authorities in Toronto and Texas concluded that California strawberries were the most likely source. However, attempts to remember exactly what one ate two weeks earlier is an extremely difficult task; and larger foods, like strawberries, are recalled more frequently than smaller foods, like raspberries.

By July 18, 1996, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control declared that raspberries from Guatemala — which had been sprayed with pesticides mixed with water that could have been contaminated with sewage containing cyclospora — were the likely source of the cyclospora outbreak, which ultimately sickened about 1,000 people across North America. Guatemalan health authorities and producers vigorously refuted the charges. The California Strawberry Commission estimated it lost $15-20 million in reduced strawberry sales.

The California strawberry growers decided the best way to minimize the effects of an outbreak – real or alleged – was to make sure all their growers knew some food safety basics and there was some verification mechanism. The next time someone said, “I got sick and it was your strawberries,” the growers could at least say, “We don’t think it was us, and here’s everything we do to produce the safest product we can.”

That was essentially the prelude for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration publishing its 1998 Guidance for Industry: Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. We had already started down the same path, and took those guidelines, as well as others, and created an on-farm food safety program for all 220 growers producing tomatoes and cucumbers under the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers banner. And set up a credible verification system involving continuous and rigorous on-farm visits: putting producers in a classroom is boring, does not account for variations on different farms and does nothing to build trust. Third-party audits can be hopeless indictors of actual safety on a day-to-day basis and generates the impression that food safety is something that can be handed off to someone else.

The growers themselves have to own their own on-farm food safety because they are the ones that in the marketplace. Bureaucrats will still have their taxpayer-funded jobs, farmers lose.

There is a lack – a disturbing lack – of on-farm food safety inspection; farmers need to be more aware of the potential for contamination from microbes (from listeria in rockmelon, for example) as well as sabotage.

There is an equally large lack of information to consumers where they buy their produce. What do Australian grocery shoppers know of the food safety regulations applied to the produce sold in their most popular stores? Do such regulations exist? Who can they ask to find the answers?

The Sydney Morning Herald also notes that in the report published on Friday, FSANZ made several recommendations to prevent similar crises in the future, including greater regulation for the industry.

The lack of a peak soft fruits regulatory body left the small Queensland Strawberry Growers Association “inundated with calls”, while national horticulture body Growcom later helping manage communication.

The crisis prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to announce legislation to extend the jail time for anyone convicted of food tampering to 15 years.

Police handled more than 230 reports of fruit sabotage across Australia, across 68 brands, with many reports of copycats and hoaxes.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand made seven recommendations in its final report, including a recommendation that all jurisdictions review food incident response protocols.

A central agency should be engaged to manage national communication in future food tampering incidents, and communication between regulators, health departments and police should be reviewed, the organisation found.

Triggers for “activation and management of intentional contamination of food” under the National Food Incident Response Protocol (NFIRP) should also be reviewed.

This recommendation was despite the NFIRP not being activated during the strawberry contamination issue. The protocol is a national incident response that can be activated by any agency to manage food incidents.

 “Due to the unique criminal nature of this case and associated investigation, the protocol was not triggered,” the report said.

The horticulture sector also needs a representative body to “support crisis preparedness and response”, and traceability measures to track food through the sector needed greater work.

“Government and industry should work together to map the current state of play and identify options and tools for enhancing traceability,” the FSANZ report recommended.

A single national website for food tampering should be set up to give the public clear information, the report found.

The report found greater regulation of the horticulture sector was needed and cited the complexity of small farm and distribution operations as making the investigation difficult.

A suggestion that strawberry farms should be fitted with metal detectors also raised concerns about cost and practicality, while tamper-proof packaging risked shortening shelf life, and criticisms about increased use of plastic packaging.

For 20 years, I have been advising fruit and vegetable growers there are risks: Own them: Say what you do, do what you say, and prove it. The best producers or manufacturers can do is diligently manage and mitigate risks and be able to prove such diligence in the court of public opinion; and they’ll do it before the next outbreak.

Use a thermometer, raw is risky: Large number of US consumers ignore advice

Providing consumers with recommendations on specific food safety practices may be a cost-effective policy option, acting either as a complement to or substitute for additional food safety regulations on food suppliers, but it would require a detailed understanding of consumer food safety practices.

Using data from the 2014 to 2016 American Time Use Survey–Eating and Health Module, we examine two food safety practices in which Government health and safety officials, as well as the broader food safety community, have offered unequivocal advice: meal preparers should always use a thermometer to verify that meat has reached a recommended temperature and consumers should avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk.

We found that 2 percent of at-home meal preparers in the United States served raw milk during a typical week; of which 80 percent lived with two or more people, 44 percent were married, 36 percent lived with one or more children, and 28 percent lived with at least one person age 62 or older, indicating the potential that at-risk populations are consuming raw milk.

While preparing meals with meat, poultry, or seafood, 14 percent of at-home meal preparers in the United States used a food thermometer. Meal preparers who use a food thermometer typically earned more, reported better physical health, were more likely to exercise, were more likely married, and had larger and younger households. Last, rates of food thermometer usage were higher for at-home meal preparers whose occupation was food-preparation related, suggesting food safety training or awareness at work may influence food safety behavior at home.

Consumer Food Safety Practices: Raw Milk Consumption and Food Thermometer Use

Rhodes, Taylor M., Fred Kuchler, Ket McClelland, and Karen S. Hamrick.

EIB-205, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, January 2019.

https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/91110/eib-205.pdf?v=675.4

Stop kissing chicks, stop stroking that hedgehog and stop touching yourself: 11 sick with Salmonella linked to hedgehogs

Every time someone introduces a new pet at the kid’s school, I see a Salmonella factory (summer holidays are over, grade 5 started today for Sorenne).

This isn’t the first time the prickly pest or pet, depending on perspective, like possums, has been linked to Salmonella Typhimurium: From December 2011 to April 2013, 26 people were infected with Salmonella typhimurium. One person died and eight people were hospitalized in that outbreak, the C.D.C. reported.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 11 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from eight states.

One person has been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that contact with pet hedgehogs is the likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, 10 (91%) of 11 ill people reported contact with a hedgehog.

Illnesses started on dates from October 22, 2018 to December 25, 2018. Ill people range in age from 2 to 28 years, with a median age of 12. Forty-five percent are female.

The outbreak strain making people sick was identified in samples collected from three hedgehogs in two ill patients’ homes in Minnesota.

Hedgehogs can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings while appearing healthy and clean.

These germs can easily spread to their bodies, habitats, toys, bedding, and anything in the area where they live. People become sick after they touch hedgehogs or anything in their habitats.

Wash your hands

Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for a hedgehog or cleaning its habitatAdults should supervise handwashing for young children.

Play safely

Don’t kiss or snuggle hedgehogs, because this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick.

Don’t let hedgehogs roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchens.

Clean habitats, toys, and supplies outside the house when possible. Avoid cleaning these items in the kitchen or any other location where food is prepared, served, or stored.

529 now sick with Salmonella in Canada: Crisp & Delicious brand chicken breast nuggets recalled

Over a decade ago, when I went to Kansas State, me and Chapman and Phebus came up with a project to see how people cooked raw, frozen chicken thingies.

The American Meat Institute funded it.

Some of these chicken thingies are frozen raw, which means they have to be cooked in an oven and temperature verified with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, and some of these thingies are pre-cooked, so can be thawed in a microwave.

Labelling has changed over the years, but it’s still necessary to know what you’re buying.

Some of the frozen raw products may appear to be pre-cooked or browned, but they should be handled and prepared with caution.

Through whole genome sequencing, health types in Canada had, by Nov. 2, 2018, identified 474 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella linked to 14 national outbreaks involving raw chicken, including frozen raw breaded chicken products.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued food recall warnings for ten products linked to some of these outbreak investigations.

Make that 11 products.

Sofina Foods Inc. is now recalling Crisp & Delicious brand Chicken Breast Nuggets from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination.

As of January 25, 2019, there have been 529 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella illness investigated as part of the illness outbreaks across the country: British Columbia (42), Alberta (81), Saskatchewan (18), Manitoba (25), Ontario (187), Quebec (111), New Brunswick (27), Nova Scotia (17), Prince Edward Island (5), Newfoundland and Labrador (12), Northwest Territories (1), Yukon (1), and Nunavut (2). There have been 90 individuals hospitalized as part of these outbreaks. Three individuals have died; however, Salmonella was not the cause of death for two of those individuals, and it was not determined whether Salmonella contributed to the cause of death for the third individual. Infections have occurred in Canadians of all ages and genders.

All active and future Salmonella outbreak investigations linked to raw chicken, including frozen raw breaded chicken products, and related food recall warnings will be listed in the next section of the public health notice to remind Canadians of the ongoing risk associated with these types of food products.

Active investigations

As of January 25, 2019, there is one active national Salmonella outbreak investigation linked to raw chicken including frozen raw breaded chicken products, coordinated by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

January 25, 2019 (NEW) – Salmonella Enteritidis

  • Currently, there are 54 cases of illness in ten provinces linked to this outbreak: British Columbia (4), Alberta (11), Saskatchewan (1), Manitoba (3), Ontario (20), Quebec (4), New Brunswick (2), Nova Scotia (5), Prince Edward Island (3) and Newfoundland and Labrador (1). None of the ill individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Frozen raw breaded chicken products have been identified as a source of this outbreak.

Product recall on January 25, 2019

  • Crisp & Delicious Chicken Breast Nuggets (1.6kg) with a best before date of July 19, 2019. UPC – 0 69299 11703 5. The product was distributed in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, and may have been distributed in other provinces or territories

Self-reported and observed behavior of primary meal preparers and adolescents during preparation of frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products
01.nov.09
British Food Journal, Vol 111, Issue 9, p 915-929
Sarah DeDonder, Casey J. Jacob, Brae V. Surgeoner, Benjamin Chapman, Randall Phebus, Douglas A. Powell
http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do;jsessionid=6146E6AFABCC349C376B7E55A3866D4A?contentType=Article&contentId=1811820
Abstract:
Purpose – The purpose of the present study was to observe the preparation practices of both adult and young consumers using frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products, which were previously involved in outbreaks linked to consumer mishandling. The study also sought to observe behaviors of adolescents as home food preparers. Finally, the study aimed to compare food handler behaviors with those prescribed on product labels.
Design/methodology/approach – The study sought, through video observation and self-report surveys, to determine if differences exist between consumers’ intent and actual behavior.
Findings – A survey study of consumer reactions to safe food-handling labels on raw meat and poultry products suggested that instructions for safe handling found on labels had only limited influence on consumer practices. The labels studied by these researchers were found on the packaging of chicken products examined in the current study alongside step-by-step cooking instructions. Observational techniques, as mentioned above, provide a different perception of consumer behaviors.
Originality/value – This paper finds areas that have not been studied in previous observational research and is an excellent addition to existing literature.

Consumer choice at Kenyan restaurants

I’m still sorta amazed me and the barfblog.com gang get citied daily (and that after 15 years, Chapman can skate and sorta write).

So here’s one from Kenya.

Dining is a common phenomenon in major cities and towns, especially in modern lifestyle where people have limited time due to work and other related engagements. Indigenous restaurants have become a preference for most consumers although their patronage varies, attributed to various push factors such as health, curiosity and variety. Although hygiene is an important aspect in choosing where to dine, most customers are not keen to observe it.

This study explored food handlers’ hygiene practices as determinants of customers’ choice of selected African indigenous restaurants’ in Nairobi City County, Kenya. The study adopted a cross-sectional descriptive survey targeting 15 selected African indigenous restaurants. Cochran formula was used to determine a sample size of three hundred and eighty-four (384) customers from a population of 2,560 through convenient sampling. Data collection instruments were two questionnaires, an interview guide and an observation checklist. Qualitative data was ordered, coded and summarized in compilation sheets for easier analysis in addition to inferential statistics. Quantitative data was analyzed using statistical packages for social sciences with levels of significance established using paired tests with a cut-off point of P < 0.05, (95%) confidence and significance levels. Chi square Pearson’s correlation coefficient tests were calculated to identify the correlation between food handlers’ hygiene practices and customers’ choice of restaurants. The findings presented a c 2 = 4.244, df* = 2 and p = 0.133 which is > 0.05. With a significance level > 0.05 (0.133), the alternative hypothesis (H1) was rejected. The findings showed that there was no significant relationship between the two variables. Most customers were not keen on hygiene standards as evidenced in some restaurants where regardless of the poor hygiene practices present, there were still high flows of customers.

The study concluded that even though hygiene practices have an effect on the customers’ choice of the restaurants, the effect is not significant. The study recommended the public health authorities in the urban centers to educate all restaurant stakeholders on food hygiene regulations and inform consumers about hazards associated with improper handling of food. The study further recommended that restaurants operators to adhere to the food hygiene regulations and similar studies to be done in other localities, in rural restaurants, and to incorporate more restaurants

Evaluating the food handlers’ hygiene practices as determinants of customer choice at selected African indigenous restaurants in Nairobi City County, Kenya, 13 November 2018

Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management p. 57-76

N., M., Wandolo, M., N, M., & Mutisya-Mutungi, M. 

https://stratfordjournals.org/journals/index.php/Journal-of-Hospitality/article/view/204

Les Nessman explains how to talk about continuing leafy green outbreaks

A romaine lettuce task force was organized by the industry in December to help prevent future outbreaks, said Jennifer McEntire, vice president of food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association.

The task force has representation from all types of growing operations from different growing regions, she said.

One primary focus of the task force is preventing outbreaks by looking at root cause analysis, she said.

A table of leafy green-related outbreaks – at least 80 since 1995 – is available here.

But Les Nessman gets to the heart of this political process — in 1978:

Risk communication sucks, everyone needs innovative food safety stories

Consumers in most developed countries have greater access to safer food than ever before, yet the issue of consumer perception on the safety of the food supply, the control infrastructure and existing and new process technologies is often not positive.

A series of high profile food incidents, which have been ineffectively managed by both the regulators and the industry, and where there has been a failure to be open and transparent, have sensitised a proportion of consumers to scary stories about the food supply. There has been concomitant damage to consumer confidence in (i) the safety of food, (ii) the food industry’s commitment to producing safe food and (iii) the authorities’ ability to oversee the food chain.

Threats to consumers’ health and their genuine concerns have to be addressed with effective risk management and the protection of public health has to be paramount.

Dealing with incorrect fears and misperceptions of risk has also to be addressed but achieving this is very difficult. The competencies of social scientists are needed to assist in gaining insights into consumer perceptions of risk, consumer behaviour and the determinants of trust.

Conventional risk communication will not succeed on its own and more innovative and creative communication strategies are needed to engage with consumers using all available media channels in an open and transparent way. The digital media affords the opportunity to revolutionise engagement with consumers on food safety and nutrition-related issues.

Moving from risk communication to food information communication and consumer engagement

Wall, P. G., & Chen, J. (2018). Moving from risk communication to food information communication and consumer engagement. Npj Science of Food, 2(1). doi:10.1038/s41538-018-0031-7

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329324755_Moving_from_risk_communication_to_food_information_communication_and_consumer_engagement

It’s explained by shit in irrigation water: Santa Barbara farm first fingered with outbreak strain of E coli O157 in Romaine lettuce that sickened 59 in US, 28 in Canada: Tumble those dice

Welcome to Washington, D.C., Frank, and government PR.

On Nov. 20, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned the American public of a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 linked to romaine lettuce and advised against eating any romaine lettuce on the market at that time.

According to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. and FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas, we  have new results to report from this investigation tracing the source of the contamination to at least one specific farm. Based on these and other new findings, we’re updating our recommendations for the romaine lettuce industry and consumers.
Today, we’re announcing that we’ve identified a positive sample result for the outbreak strain in the sediment of a local irrigation reservoir used by a single farm owned and operated by Adam Bros. Farms in Santa Barbara County.

The FDA will be sending investigators back to this farm for further sampling. It’s important to note that although this is an important piece of information, the finding on this farm doesn’t explain all illnesses and our traceback investigation will continue as we narrow down what commonalities this farm may have with other farms that are part of our investigation. While the analysis of the strain found in the people who got ill and the sediment in one of this farm’s water sources is a genetic match, our traceback work suggests that additional romaine lettuce shipped from other farms could also likely be implicated in the outbreak. Therefore, the water from the reservoir on this single farm doesn’t fully explain what the common source of the contamination. We are continuing to investigate what commonalities there could be from multiple farms in the region that could explain this finding in the water, and potentially the ultimate source of the outbreak.

As of Dec. 13, our investigation yielded records from five restaurants in four different states that have identified 11 different distributors, nine different growers, and eight different farms as potential sources of contaminated romaine lettuce. Currently, no single establishment is in common across the investigated supply chains. This indicates that although we have identified a positive sample from one farm to date, the outbreak may not be explained by a single farm, grower, harvester, or distributor.

At the same time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control updated its warning to advise U.S. consumers to not eat and retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any romaine lettuce harvested from certain counties in the Central Coastal growing regions of northern and central California. If you do not know where the romaine is from, do not eat it.

  • Some romaine lettuce products are now labeled with a harvest location by region. Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should check bags or boxes of romaine lettuce for a label indicating where the lettuce was harvested.
      • Do not buy, serve, sell, or eat romaine lettuce from the following California counties: Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Barbara.
      • If the romaine lettuce is not labeled with a harvest growing region and county, do not buy, serve, sell, or eat it.
      • The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified ill people infected with the same DNA fingerprint of E. coliO157:H7 bacteria in Canada.

‘Something is going on’ Salmonella Typhimurium infections in France jump from 50 to 2500 per year in a decade

(As usual, something may be lost in translation)

Salmonella contamination, found in cold cuts, mainly pork, exploded in 10 years in France, because of the progression of a new strain, called “monophasic typhimurium variant”.

(I particularly like the graphic, right, of the pregnant woman, with five bottles of wine in the fridge and a couple of beers).

On October 30th, lots of dry sausages contaminated with this salmonella were removed from supermarket shelves. Withdrawals and recalls have already taken place in the spring, on sausages that had sickened a dozen young children in the south of France. Dry sausages were also concerned.

Dr. François-Xavier Weill, director of the national center of reference for Salmonella, at the Institut Pasteur, at the origin of this discovery with his teams . It is here, in Paris, that the bacteria are identified, after analysis of the samples sent by the analysis laboratories. This is how the rise in food infections has been spotted.

“While it was detected that about 50 in 2007, we are at 2500 per year now,” says François-Xavier Weill. As a result, this bacterium, which causes gastroenteritis and fever, which can reach sepsis in the most fragile, has risen to the third position of salmonella, which gives the most poisoning. “We sounded the alarm, we said we’re paying attention, something is happening”. 

“Manufacturers must continue their work to limit the risks of the farm to the fork, explains Nathalie Jourdan-da Silva, doctor epidemiologist at Public Health France, agency that gave the alert in 2012 in one of its publications. But there is no risk zero, especially since this salmonella, identified in the swine industry, has since expanded to the beef sector. 

And the father of Amy’s French family was in Paris the other day, and he looked up and saw Charlie Watts, the drummer for the Rolling Stones, so this song is in honor of the time the Stones moved to southern France as tax exiles from the UK and recorded Exile on Main Street.

Surveys still suck: How likely would you go back to a restaurant involved in a foodborne illness outbreak

This study reports an investigation of the determinants of the likelihood consumers will revisit a restaurant that has had a foodborne illness outbreak, including the moderating effects of restaurant type and consumer dining frequency.

A scenario-based survey was distributed via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to collect data from 1,034 respondents; the tally of valid responses was 1,025. Partial least squares-based structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) showed perceived vulnerability and perceived severity to be statistically significant; both also negatively affected customer intentions to patronize restaurants cited for serving foods that caused foodborne illness outbreaks.

Results suggest that type of restaurant is a significant moderator between perceived severity and customer intentions. The type of diner, however, based on frequency, does not moderate the relationships between perceived severity and perceived vulnerability and customer intentions to patronize restaurants that served food causing a foodborne illness outbreak (FBI).

Using protection motivation theory (PMT) (Rogers, 1975), this study’s findings contribute to understanding determinants and moderators of customer intentions to revisit restaurants after a foodborne illness outbreak.

Consumers’ return intentions towards a restaurant with foodborne illness outbreaks: Differences across restaurant type and consumers’ dining frequency

Food Control

Faizan Ali, Kimberly J. Harris, Kisang Ryu

DOI : 10.1016/j.foodcont.2018.12.001

http://m.x-mol.com/paper/921130