Jimmy John’s and sprouts — again

Remember when Jimmy John’s, the sandwich favored by university faculty department meetings and college students across the U.S., sickened hundreds of people across the U.S linked to raw alfalfa sprouts so they switched to raw clover sprouts and made more people sick?

It’s happened again.

Chris Koger of The Packer reported in late Dec. 2019 that Sprouts Unlimited, Marion, Iowa, is recalling clover sprouts, which have been linked to a cluster of E. coli cases under investigation in Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals is investigating the link between the outbreak and the product from Sprouts Unlimited, according to a Dec. 27 recall notice from the company.

The sprouts were shipped to Hy-Vee and Fareway Foods stores, and Jimmy John’s restaurants.

The retail packs in the recall are in pint containers with a blue label on the lid, according to Sprouts Unlimited. The Universal Product Code is 7 32684 00013 6 is on the bottom right side of the label.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals told Sprouts Unlimited the sprouts are epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. More tests are being conducted to determine the source, according to the recall notice.

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found here.

Failures in sprouts-related risk communication

Food Control.2012. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.08.022

Erdozain, M.S., Allen, K.J., Morley, K.A. and Powell, D.A.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004707?v=s5

Nutritional and perceived health benefits have contributed to the increasing popularity of raw sprouted seed products. In the past two decades, sprouted seeds have been a recurring food safety concern, with at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people. A compilation of selected publications was used to yield an analysis of the evolving safety and risk communication related to raw sprouts, including microbiological safety, efforts to improve production practices, and effectiveness of communication prior to, during, and after sprout-related outbreaks. Scientific investigation and media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks has led to improved production guidelines and public health enforcement actions, yet continued outbreaks call into question the effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance. Raw sprouts remain a high-risk product and avoidance or thorough cooking are the only ways that consumers can reduce risk; even thorough cooking messages fail to acknowledge the risk of cross-contamination. Risk communication messages have been inconsistent over time with Canadian and U.S. governments finally aligning their messages in the past five years, telling consumers to avoid sprouts. Yet consumer and industry awareness of risk remains low. To minimize health risks linked to the consumption of sprout products, local and national public health agencies, restaurants, retailers and producers need validated, consistent and repeated risk messaging through a variety of sources.

FDA warns Purell to stop making ‘unproven’ claims that sanitizer can eliminate Ebola

WTKR reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning to the maker of Purell hand sanitizer to stop making unproven claims that the product can help eliminate diseases like Ebola, MRSA and the flu.

According to CNN, the FDA’s director of compliance sent a “warning letter” to Gojo, Purell’s parent company, to stop making unproven claims for marketing purposes that could position the hand sanitizer as a pharmaceutical drug.

The letter from the FDA reportedly notes that Purell says on its website and on social media that the sanitizer “kills more than 99.99% of the most common germs that may cause illness in a healthcare setting, including MRSA & VRE.” Purell and Gojo also note that “Purell Advanced Gel, Foam, and Ultra-Nourishing Foam Hand Sanitizer products demonstrated effectiveness against a drug resistant clinical strain of Candida auris in lab testing.

Finally, the FDA chastized Purell for claiming on the Q&A section on its website that the product can be “effective against viruses such as the Ebola virus, norovirus and influenza.” The FDA says it is not aware of any hand sanitizers that have been tested against Ebola.

The Tripartite Zoonotic Guide (TZG): Worst catchphrase ever, but important

Every day I see jobs being advertised for communications and marketing types that I know I am qualified for and it would be nice to have a paycheck, but then I look at what is produced and realize I would have to check my brain at the door.

Not my style.

Someone from the OIE writes, we hear about health challenges at the human-animal-environment interface. Zoonotic diseases such as avian influenza, rabies, Ebola, and Rift Valley fever continue to have major impacts on health, livelihoods, and economies. These health threats cannot be effectively addressed by one sector alone. Multidisciplinary and multisectoral collaboration is needed to tackle them and to reduce their impacts.

As a way to support countries in taking a One Health approach to address zoonotic diseases, the guide: “Taking a Multisectoral, One Health Approach: A Tripartite Guide to Addressing Zoonotic Diseases in Countries” has been jointly developed by the Tripartite organizations (FAO, OIE, and WHO). This Guide, referred to as the Tripartite Zoonotic Guide (TZG) is flexible enough to be used for other health threats at the human-animal-environment interface; for example, food safety and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

I won’t go into anymore. If you’re interested, click on the url.

Here’s a tripartite (below).

Fancy food ain’t safe food, Yelp California edition

The popular review site Yelp started warning Southern Californians about restaurants that get low health inspection grades Wednesday, and some of those places are famous, fancy eateries.

Joel Grover and Amy Corral of NBC Los Angeles report that starting Wednesday, if you try to read Yelp reviews of any LA County restaurant that has a C rating or worse, you’ll first see a big, bold warning that says “Consumer Alert: Low Food Safety Score.”

”The goal of the ‘health score alerts’ that we’re placing today is to both warn consumers, but also provide further incentive for businesses to improve their cleanliness and their hygiene at their establishment,” said Yelp senior VP Vince Sollitto.

Here’s what the new alert will look like on Yelp.

Among the dozens of restaurants that now have Consumer Alerts on Yelp is the upscale Rosaline in West Hollywood. Rosaline was honored as a “favourite for good value” by the prestigious Michelin Guide last year, but also received C grades on its last two inspections.

On Nov. 5, the health inspector cited Rosaline for 13 violations, three of them major,  including vermin. In his report, the inspector observed “at least a dozen live adult and nymph cockroaches” and “at least a dozen soft, fresh rat droppings.”

…at least a dozen live adult and nymph cockroaches” and “…at least a dozen soft, fresh rat droppings.

But customers might not know Rosaline got a “C” –70 out of 100 — because the letter grade is not prominently placed at eye level at the entrance.

Rosaline told the I-Team it has fixed the vermin problem and is waiting for a re-inspection.

“After the Health Department found vermin in a wall cavity, Rosaliné closed for 10 days to repair damage found in two of our walls we believe was caused by neighboring construction. The health department thoroughly inspected and approved our reopening on November 15th. Over the past two and a half months, we have made multiple requests to the Health Department provide a current grade,” the Rosaliné team said in a follow-up email.

The LA County Health Department began giving restaurants letter grades in 1998, after the I-Team’s Joel Grover went undercover and exposed LA restaurants with filthy conditions and practices, like workers picking their noses while preparing food, and sneezing right into food that was about to be served to customers.

Before 1998, the health department kept restaurant inspection scores secret. Until then, if a restaurant failed an inspection, consumers remained unaware.

For the last 21 years, restaurant inspection information and scores have been made available on the LA County Public Health Department’s website, but finding information about specific restaurants requires several steps of digging.

The county’s online information is also sometimes inaccurate or incomplete; the I-Team noticed that one prominent Beverly Hills restaurant got a C rating last October, but then paid a fee for a reinspection and got an A. The C no longer appears on the county’s site. A restaurant inspection history is supposed to be publicly posted.

Yelp says its new Consumer Alerts will make information about low scoring restaurants easily accessible to consumers.

“The goal of the Yelp program is to make health hygiene scores for restaurants both more accessible to consumers and more easily understandable for them,” Yelp’s Vince Sollitto said.

But the I-Team found errors in Yelp’s Consumer Alert program too. As of this morning, more than 70 LA county businesses had Health Score Alerts –meaning their grades were C or below. But the I-Team found at least five of those businesses actually had As or Bs, on their most recent inspections listed on the county’s website.

When the I-Team asked Yelp about the discrepancies, a spokesperson said they “get an updated data feed from the Los Angeles County Health department on approximately a weekly basis,” and were factoring the most recent information into their consumer alerts.

Science of storytelling

Chapman and I have know for decades that when someone says they’re going to educate someone else about food safety stuff, it is doomed to failure.

The key to learning is, and always has been, storytelling.

Embed your data or facts within the story.

The Science of Storytelling (2019) shows you how to craft a compelling story using lessons from psychology and neuroscience. These blinks walk you through the steps of creating a narrative that grips your audience by subtly manipulating their brains. From demonstrating how to create a perfectly flawed character to explaining the power of stimulating details, Will Storr reveals the crucial elements that go into building a great story.

Microbial contamination of grocery shopping trolleys and baskets in west Texas, 2020

The objective of this study was to identify food safety risk factors associated with supermarket trolleys (grills and handles) and handheld baskets. 

Indicator microorganisms evaluated were those detected by aerobic plate count (APC), yeast and molds (YM), Enterobacteriaceae (EB). Environmental listeria (EL), coliforms (CF), and E. coli (EC).  In addition, listeria monocytogenes, staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli O157 and salmonella sp. Were tested for.  Trolley grills (n=36) had 2.7 x 102 CFU/cm2.  Trolley handles (n=36) had 2.7 x 106 of CF and 5.2 CFU/cm2 of YM.  The bottom of handheld baskets (n=25) had 3.5 x 105 CFU/cm2 of CF and 5.07 CFU/cm2 of EC.  S. aureus was found on 96% of the baskets, 50% of the trolley handles (18 out of 36 samples), and 42% of the trolleys’ grills.  E. coli O157 was identified on 17% of baskets, 3% on trolley grills, and 3% on handles.  Salmonella sp. was detected on 16% of baskets and 8% of trolley grills.  L. monocytogenes was detected on 17% of the bottoms of handheld baskets but on none of the other samples. 

These results suggest the need for implementation of sanitation programs to regularly clean trolleys and baskets, as well as for consumer education. 

Microbial contamination of grocery shopping trolleys and baskets in west Texas, 2020

Food Protection Trends vol. 40 no. 1

Alexandra Calle, Breyan Montoya, Andrea English, and Mindy Brashears

https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/trilix/fpt_20200102/index.php#/10

They still suck: After years of bashing agriculture and GMOs, Chipotle reverses course

I started bashing Chipotle about 2006, when driving through Kansas City with a trailer full of stuff as I moved to Manhattan, Kansas, to follow a girl, and cited this billboard.

Any company focused on this stuff usually meant they were somewhat oblivios to basic food safety.

Unfortunately for all the thousands of sick people over the next 14 years, I was right.

I tried to call them out for the food safety amateurs they were.

Even worse, when Amy was pregnant with Sorenne, she would get Chipotle cravings and I would dutifully comply, because she was doing the heavy lifting in pregnancy.

Now I have an entire book chapter I’m working on, devoted to Chipotle.

Kevin Folta of the Genetic Literacy Project writes that after years of attacking conventional agriculture and crop biotechnology, Chipotle now seems to have found a love for the American farmer that is as warm and inviting as the gooey core of a steak burrito. With the launch of its “Cultivate the Future of Farming” campaign, the company seeks to raise awareness about the hardships facing American agriculture and offer some recommendations and seed grants to address the problems. According to the campaign website:

It’s time to take real steps to give the next generation of farmers a bright future. Through our purpose to Cultivate a Better World, we’re putting programs in place that make a real impact, including seed grants, education and scholarships, and 3-year contracts. Our vision is bold, but we’re starting with a mission to cultivate the future of farming by focusing on pork, beef, and dairy.

It is good to see a company raising awareness about these issues. But given Chipotle’s past cozy relationship with organic food marketers, this seems more like a marketing stunt to woo consumers who are growing increasingly concerned about the status of American farms, and less like a genuine example of philanthropy.

Chipotle is absolutely correct about one thing. The crisis in agriculture is real. Farmers are facing low prices for their products, astronomical costs, and strangling regulation.  Farms, from commodity crops to dairies, are going out of business daily. Farmer suicides are a barometer of how severe the problem is.

From Chipotle’s website- The “challenge is real” and “It’s a hard living.”

However, Chipotle’s new ag-vertisment seems too little, too late. The threats to farmers and the public’s negative perception of agriculture didn’t seem to bother the company just a few years ago. For example, it’s 2014 video Farmed and Dangerous was an assault on large-scale animal agriculture, the industry that produces the ingredients that go into Chipotle’s burritos. Farmed and Dangerous was not the restaurant chain’s first effort, either.  The video short The Scarecrow falsely depicted a sad, dystopian world of dairy production in which forlorn cows are locked in stacked metal boxes as milk is extracted by an extensive network of plumbing.

And of course, Chipotle’s penetrating campaign against genetic engineering (GE) sought to capitalize on the momentum of several failed GMO labeling efforts, which were designed to demonize crop biotechnology by suggesting to consumers that GE seeds were dangerous—an allegation known to be false.

Let’s get real. Chipotle’s decisions to criticize agriculture and then embrace it were not born of altruism.  Public-facing corporate positions are spawned from focus groups and surveys. As a multinational, billion-dollar food empire, Chipotle is no different. The company’s ad campaigns aim to reinforce consumers’ perceptions and identity, showing that Big Burrito shares their values. That is what we see in this latest pro-farm campaign. The public is becoming increasingly aware of the fragile state of US agriculture and the crisis that has hit rural North America hard, and Chipotle is responding.

So is “Cultivate the Future of Farming” just an ag-washing ornament to exploit farmer hardship, or is this a genuine change of heart?

If it is indeed the latter, it needs to start with an apology—an honest one. Chipotle needs to publicly reject its anti-science positions and profound misrepresentation of agriculture. In the six years since the fast food chain’s anti-farming efforts hit a feverish pace, public perception has changed. The fear-based misinformation campaigns are failing, and time has not treated such efforts well. Chipotle’s videos are a shameful reminder of the rhetoric that was so prevalent just a short time ago.

Imagine where we’d be today if in 2014 Chipotle and other brands  invested heavily in research, rural mental health, or resources to bring precision agriculture to farmers. I think the perception of Chipotle and the perception of crop and animal production would be very different.

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds in the first place. Targeting farmers who produce the products you sell is bad business—and it threatens a critical industry we all depend on.

‘No biggie’: 11 gastro cases at Australian aged care home

An aged care home criticised for its handling of an influenza outbreak which killed 10 people has suffered a gastro outbreak.

A staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, raised concerns about the way the situation had been handled.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesman said the first case was identified last Thursday with eight residents and three staff affected, with the department notified on Tuesday (that in early Dec.).

Respect Aged Care chief operating officer Brett Menzie said it wasn’t a major outbreak.

The dates and number of infected people differed to those provided to DHHS, with Mr Menzie stating five residents and three staff members were infected.

Mr McKenzie said a resident first showed signs of gastro on Sunday, with an outbreak – which occurs when three people show symptoms – declared on Monday.

He said the Health Department had been notified and infection control procedures enacted.

“St John’s Retirement Village Nursing Home did not implement a coordinated and timely infection control program that was effective in identifying and containing infection during the influenza and respiratory outbreak of August and September 2017,” a report found.

Health update, and sprouts still suck

Amy and Sorenne came to visit me last night at the Clinical Facility I’ve been staying at for the past two weeks and we went out for dinner (the seafood was fabulous).

That’s me and the kid last night at dinner (right).

I checked myself in because I have been randomly falling when walking — the sidewalk just sorta rises up and I smash my head yet again. The other day I endured two seizures while eating lunch in the cafeteria and the docs present shipped me off to Emergency.

Long-time skeptics are finally agreeing with me that these things are happening because of genetics, booze (which is primarily to provide numbness to the fog upstairs but I’m going without) 50 years of pucks to the head, dozens of concussions, epilepsy and whatever else may be happening in that precious organ known as the brain.

So I haven’t been writing much.

They shipped out to New Caledonia this morning for Amy’s work for a few days, so I made sure I was taken care of so she wouldn’t have to worry.

It is seemingly impossible to get a sandwich or salad in Australia without it being covered in raw sprouts.

This is Amy’s salad from dinner last night (left).

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found here.

Australia’s food safety system falls well short

Adele Ferguson of The Age writes that food safety is again in the headlines following an investigation into the Grill’d burger chain.

The long list of food safety transgressions at hamburger chain Grill’d outlined in a series of leaked internal food and safety audit reports, internal documents, a council report, and dozens of photos from staff, triggered a social media backlash.

In an attempt to dilute the public’s disgust Grill’d announced it would hire a global food auditor to review its food safety and work practices.

But in the process of exposing the worker exploitation and uncleanliness scandal it became clear there was another scandal that has been festering away: an overall lack of enforcement by the relevant authorities of food hygiene regulations and fines that are so low they fail to act as a deterrent.

Take for instance, Grill’d in Windsor, Victoria, the local council, Stonnington, issued an inspection notice of “major non-compliance” in October 2018. It said it didn’t have effective cleaning systems in place, which is the basic requirement of any restaurant.

What was even more disturbing was the council admitting that the same non-compliances were happening every year and that “infringement notices may be issued if this continues”.

In other words, the council’s inspection notice and wishy-washy threats were ineffectual.

This was no better demonstrated in early December when a photo was taken and posted on The Age and Sydney Morning Herald websites of a mouse inside a tray of hamburger buns sitting on the floor at Grill’d in Windsor.

The council’s reaction was to keep the public in the dark. It refused to say how many years of non-compliance it had recorded at the Grill’d Windsor restaurant and its only reaction to the buns stored on the floor, which attracted a mouse in the pest infested restaurant, was that it would act if someone lodged a complaint.

On a broader level, it illustrates shortcomings in the food safety system in Australia. It seems the public only get to know what’s going on when it is too late.

The Victorian Health register of convictions of food safety is an eye-opener. In 2019 only a few cases went to court and received a conviction, which attracted a minuscule fine.

The laws may be strict but if they aren’t properly monitored and enforced then things fall apart.