Dehydration and salt toxicity? Cows dying in Saskatchewan

Ann Hui of The Globe and Mail reports that for decades, cattle farmers have sent their livestock to graze on the sprawling Shamrock pasture, about 80 kilometres south of Chaplin in southwest Saskatchewan. Shamrock is where Russ Coward, a fourth-generation cattle farmer, has for years raised nearly a quarter of his cattle. It’s the same place Mr. Coward’s father sent his cattle.

But some time between last Monday and Friday, the cows and calves at Shamrock began to die. It’s not known whether the deaths happened all at once or slowly over the course of the four days. But by the time the manager arrived on Friday afternoon, 200 of the approximately 680 cattle in a single field were dead.

The president of Shamrock Grazing Ltd., Glenn Straub, called Mr. Coward, who raced out to the field. He was met with a gruesome scene. “We seen a tragedy,” he said. “We simply seen a terrible sight.”

Other ranchers soon joined him, about 31 in total who have cows and calves there. “We all had the same feelings – how did this happen? How did this happen?”

Since Friday, provincial authorities as well as the local RCMP have been trying to piece together the mystery. The cause is still being determined, but the prevailing theory is dehydration and salt toxicity.

The area has been subject to drought in recent weeks, said Saskatchewan’s chief veterinary officer, Betty Althouse. Officials believe this may have led to evaporation at the water source, resulting in higher concentrations of salt in the water.

“An analogy would be someone shipwrecked in the ocean,” Dr. Althouse told reporters this week. “They’re thirsty, they’re craving water, so they’re going to drink the water. But ultimately the salt water will kill them.”

Many of the dead cows and calves were found clustered around one “dugout” in particular – the pools of collected rain and runoff where they drink. Investigators at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon who were called in to assist have collected samples from the dugouts. Results are expected some time this week.

Soy sauce overdose sends man into coma

A young man who drank a quart of soy sauce went into a coma and nearly died from an excess of salt in his body, according to a recent case report.

The 19-year-old, who drank the soy sauce after being dared by friends, is the first person known to have deliberately overdosed on such a high amount of salt and survived with no lasting neurological problems, according to the soy.sauce.quart.13doctors in Virginia who reported his case. The case report was published online June 4 in the Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Huffington Post reports too much salt in the blood, a condition called hypernatremia, is usually seen in people with psychiatric conditions who develop a strong appetite for the condiment, said Dr. David J. Carlberg, who treated the young man and works as an emergency medicine physician at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Hypernatremia is dangerous because it causes the brain to lose water. When there is too much salt in the bloodstream, water moves out of the body tissues and into the blood by the process of osmosis, to try to equalize the salt concentration between the two. As water the leaves the brain, the organ can shrink and bleed, Carlberg said.

After the man drank the soy sauce, he began twitching and having seizures, and the friends took him to an emergency room. That hospital administered anti-seizure medication, and he was already in a coma when he was taken to the hospital where Carlberg was working, the University of Virginia Medical Center, nearly four hours after the event.

The team immediately began flushing the salt out of his system by administering a solution of water and the sugar dextrose through a nasal tube. When they placed the tube, streaks of brown material came out. Within a half hour, they pumped 1.5 gallons (6 liters) of sugar water into the man’s body.

The man’s sodium levels returned to normal after about five hours. He remained in a coma for three days, but woke up on his own.

A typical quart of soy sauce has more than 0.35 pounds (0.16 kilograms) of salt, the researchers said.

Low salt suspect; 7 dead, 110 sick from E. coli O157 in pickled cabbage in Japan

Five people, including a 4-year-old girl, have been confirmed dead of food poisoning from pickled Chinese cabbage produced by a Sapporo food company. Another two deaths are believed to be related to E. coli O157 found in the cabbage.

The Daily Yomiuri Online reported today that the Sapporo-based food company that processed the cabbage is suspected of failing to properly sterilize the cabbage by heating.

Many details regarding how the E. coli O157 infections reached epidemic proportions have yet to be clarified. One possible factor behind the mass food poisoning is a method of using less salt when pickling vegetables to suit consumer tastes.

The pickled Chinese cabbage in question was produced by the food company Iwai Shokuhin in Sapporo.

The company said it produced the pickled cabbage by first washing the vegetables with water before soaking them in an antiseptic solution for 10 minutes. The vegetables were then washed a second time.

The products were shipped after the cabbage was pickled for 24 hours in brine mixed with acidic ingredients, company officials said.

The contaminated pickled cabbage was made Saturday. The amount produced on that day was double that of weekdays, the officials said.

Each of the firm’s 12 employees in charge of pickling wore masks and gloves. No E. coli bacillus were found in groundwater used for washing purposes in a checkup conducted after the incident, the officials said.

Officials at the Sapporo municipal health center said they will investigate whether the bacteria came from mud attached to cabbage that was not fully sterilized.

E. coli O157 from livestock roaming – and pooping on — cabbage fields has been the suggested etiology of several outbreaks in the past 25 years. It is difficult to wash off, but proper preservation – salt, acid – should take care of things.

Health center officials also noted that Iwai Shokuhin failed to record the concentration of the antiseptic solution, raising suspicions that the sterilization process may have been insufficient.

The Hokkaido prefectural government and the Sapporo municipal government have launched on-the-spot investigations of about 590 pickling facilities in Hokkaido under the Food Sanitation Law.

Mass poisoning caused by lightly pickled vegetables occurred in Saitama Prefecture in 2000, resulting in a single death, and in 2005 in Kagawa Prefecture, which resulted in five deaths. All fatalities were elderly residents of nursing care facilities.

In 2002, more than 100 boys and girls at a nursery in Fukuoka were infected with O-157. The incident was traced back to lightly pickled cucumbers.

"It’s possible that O-157 could get mixed with vegetables through fertilizers such as cattle dung," said Prof. Shinichi Yoshida of Kyushu University, a bacteriology expert who participated in probes regarding the poisonings.

"The E. coli O-157 bacteria wouldn’t be killed it if were soaked in brine with a salt concentration similar to seawater, or about 3 percent," he added.

Vegetables pickled in a fermented mixture of rice bran and brine have relatively high pH readings of about 3.5, which indicates a considerably high acidity that is conducive to killing bacteria, Yoshida said.

In recent years, however, many consumers prefer low-sodium processed foods and they tend to shy away from highly acidic pickles, Yoshida explained.

Poland pulls food suspected of having road salt

What’s not to like about the Polskie Okorki?

And what about those cabbage rolls?

But with lorry salt?

Polish health authorities have ordered the withdrawal from the market of more than 230,000 kilograms (500,000 pounds) of pickles, bread and other food suspected of containing industrial salt, the latest development in a scandal raising fears about food safety.

Revelations that industrial salt was sold to food producers has prompted authorities to open a criminal investigation and arrest five people. More than 600 tests have also been carried out on food samples. The industrial salt was intended for deicing roads in winter.

With much of its territory devoted to agriculture, Poland produces everything from apples and beets to eggs and meat that gets sold to Germany and other neighboring countries.

Laboratory tests so far have found that the amounts of dioxins and heavy metals in the salt are minimal and unlikely to harm human health. Nonetheless, the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate ordered the withdrawal of suspect food as a precaution, its spokesman, Jan Bondar, said Friday.

The foods include vegetables that are preserved in salts, likes pickles and sauerkraut and beets, but also sausages and breads and other baked goods.

Even if the salt used does not contain anything harmful, it still is not enriched with iodine, as the law requires for food, said the inspectorate, which is a state body responsible for food safety and other public health matters.

The food producers that used the questionable salt have been told not to let the foods leave their warehouses.

Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki said he was worried that the scandal — which has received a lot of media coverage in Poland — is unfairly hurting the image of Poland’s food.

What’s in a label? Is chicken injected with salt and water ‘all-natural’

Food is 21st century snake oil.

And shopping for food can be so confusing.

Natural, organic, local, antioxidants, welfare-friendly, whole wheat made predominantly with white flour, hormone-free, hucksterism of whatever kind.

Juliana Barbassa of Associated Press reports today that a disagreement among poultry producers about whether chicken injected with salt, water and other ingredients can be promoted as "natural" has prompted federal officials to consider changing labeling guidelines.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had maintained that if chicken wasn’t flavored artificially or preserved with chemicals, it could carry the word "natural" on the package.

But the agency agreed to take another look at its policy after some producers, politicians and health advocates noted that about one-third of chicken sold in the U.S. was injected with additives that could represent up to 15 percent of the meat’s weight, doubling or tripling its sodium content. Some argue that could mislead or potentially harm consumers who must limit their salt intake.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service plans to issue new proposed rules this fall.

Perdue, the nation’s third largest poultry producer, is among those pushing for a change. The company has joined a group called the Truthful Labeling Coalition, which has hired a lobbyist and launched an advertising campaign.

The two largest chicken processors, Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson Foods, are among those that affix "natural" labels to chicken injected with extra salt and water.

A buyer perusing the chicken counter at a San Francisco supermarket agreed.

Muembo Muanza, 30, said he read the label and considered the price but never thought to check the salt content when buying fresh chicken.

"If it says natural, I expect it to be all natural – nothing but chicken," he said.

I’d be more interested if food-types would start marketing based on microbial food safety.