85 sick with shiga-toxin E. coli at Marines base

About 85 U.S. Marines-in-training remained ill last week after an apparent shiga-toxin producing E. coli outbreak at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Camp Pendleton amid a week-old outbreak of diarrheal illnesses at the military installations, authorities reported.

Among the medical cases were 19 new ones diagnosed since Oct. 31, 2017, according to MCRD public affairs. In all, 16 recruits were receiving treatment at an off-base hospital, with the remainder being cared for at military medical facilities.

Base officials initially announced a total of about 300 cases of intestinal ailments at the 2 San Diego-area installations on Oct. 30, 2017.

 That tally was down to roughly 215 a day later. The cause or causes of the debilitating bacterial exposure remain under investigation.

Drug-related outbreak now affecting food events: Hepatitis A outbreak causes fifth death in San Diego

FOX 5 reports a hepatitis A outbreak in the San Diego area has claimed the life of a fifth person, county health officials reported Wednesday.

Vaccinations to help prevent Hepatitis A and B, where given by HEP Team to those interested, free of cost. Second day of the 26th Annual Sunset Junction Street Fair with food, games rides and health information for the hundred attending on Sunday. (Photo by Carlos Chavez/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The outbreak now totals 228 cases and required the hospitalization of 161 of those sickened, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. So far, the disease has mostly affected the homeless population and/or users of illegal drugs, with seven out of every 10 cases affecting those populations. One of every five people sickened with hepatitis A also has hepatitis C.

But according to a couple of barfblog.com types, the outbreak has led to the cancellation of food events in September.

Public health investigators have not identified any common food, drink or drug source as a contributing cause to this outbreak, officials said. Hepatitis A is most commonly spread via contaminated food or water, sexual contact or sharing drug paraphernalia.

“It is imperative that anyone at risk for hepatitis A get vaccinated,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “We cannot stress this enough — get vaccinated and make sure you wash your hands after going to the bathroom.”

“Lives are at risk,” Wooten said. “Protect yourself, your family and the community.”

County health officials have been working with homeless services providers, community health clinics, faith-based organizations, substance abuse treatment providers, hospital emergency departments, jails and probation facilities to conduct vaccination clinics for people who are at risk of catching the illness. It can take up to nearly two months after exposure to develop symptoms, but the disease can be prevented if people get immunized within two weeks of exposure, the HHSA said.

Food fraud: San Diego lobster edition

An investigation by the city attorney’s office has led to misdemeanor convictions against eight sushi restaurants whose “lobster rolls” apparently lacked a key ingredient.

Spongebob_and_larry_the_lobsterInvestigators bought the rolls at a sampling of restaurants and then sent them to a laboratory for DNA testing. The results revealed that less-expensive seafood, including crawfish or pollock, had been substituted for lobster.

“Every single one that was tested was found to be false,” said Kathryn Turner, chief deputy of the city attorney’s consumer and environmental protection unit. Consumers are “paying for a premium product. They should be getting a premium product.”

The “truth in menu” investigation was conducted in August and September 2014, outside the trapping season for California spiny lobster, which runs from October through March. Follow-up inspections were conducted by the city’s investigator and state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Ice fingered but epi can be ‘squishy’ 61 sickened by Norovirus at journalists’ conference

Two months after a norovirus outbreak at Bali Hai restaurant, county health officials have fingered ice as the foodborne source that sickened at least 61 people — including three in a wedding party.

norovirus-2“We’re certain it had something to do with the ice” served at the annual awards banquet of the local Society of Professional Journalists, said county spokesman Michael Workman. “We’re not certain how it got in the ice.”

In its final report to the San Diego SPJ, the county said 84 of the 172 people at the July 29 banquet returned surveys on what they ate and other issues. Fifty were sickened by norovirus type GI.1. (Eight others also reported getting ill.)

Three diners elsewhere in Bali Hai also got GI.1 — part of a wedding party of 140.

“We have to [classify it as] food poisoning,” Workman said, rather than a sick person spreading the gastrointestinal disease.

A Sept. 4 report said, “We did not link any food service workers with the illness,” but Workman on Tuesday told Times of San Diego that “we can’t say yes or no” to whether an employee caused the outbreak.

Workman stressed that Bali Hai remains “rated for high” for hygiene. “Everyone involved — from the people who attended [the banquet] and from the restaurant … did the right thing.”

County spokesman Workman saluted Bali Hai management.

“The restaurant had a great hygiene procedure, really good,” he said. “They are on the up-and-up on what they do and what they teach their employees. The employees have been there a long time. So they get it.”

But Workman acknowleged the county’s findings can be “squishy” and “it’s not an exact science.”

But: “We’re confident it’s been taken care of.”

Lifesoy sucks at food safety so FDA shuts them down

Lifesoy Inc., a San Diego-based manufacturer of ready-to-eat soy products cited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for preparing, packing, and holding articles of food under insanitary conditions, has entered into a consent decree of permanent injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

The consent decree requires Lifesoy to stop manufacturing and distributing food products until the company registers with the FDA and complies with federal laws regarding sanitary practices.

Lifesoy made sweetened and unsweetened soy milk, fried tofu, fresh tofu, soybean pudding, and other soy products for human consumption. The government’s complaint further alleges that Lifesoy did not hold and store the foods under proper refrigeration conditions to prevent the growth of microorganisms.

Hepatitis A illnesses linked to San Diego Chipotle now at 12

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) reports six additional cases of Hepatitis A linked to possible exposure at a Chipotle restaurant in La Mesa, bringing the total number of cases to 12.

The County recommends that individuals who dined at the restaurant between March 1 and April 22, 2008 — and are symptomatic for Hepatitis A — see their physician to be screened for the illness.

Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County of San Diego Public Health Officer, said,

“Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable illness. The key to prevention also includes appropriate and frequent hand-washing."

Monty Moran, president and chief operating officer of Chipotle, said,

“We continue to partner with the County of San Diego as they investigate the cause of this illness. Employees tested to date have been negative for Hepatitis A. Our restaurant has received ‘A’ ratings in all five inspections in the last five months.”

Keep poop out of food. Wash your damn hands.

San Diego Chipotle linked to hepatitis A outbreak

The San Diego Health and Human Services Agency and County Department of Environmental Health are investigating six cases of hepatitis A linked to a La Mesa Chipotle restaurant. …

Hepatitis A is a result of poor hygiene. Health officials say that victims are exposed when an individual consumes water or food contaminated with the stool of someone with the virus.

These hepatitis A cases are a weekly occurrence in the U.S. A food worker parties in Mexico or the Dominican or Honduras, where hepatitis A is endemic. Food worker comes home, is fine for two weeks, then spends the next two weeks crapping out virus. And unless food worker  is really diligent about handwashing, she’s spreading virus-containing poop on food — especially fresh produce or salads. After four weeks, food worker turns yellow and goes to the doctor where a diagnosis is made. Then the clinics start. In this case, a food worker has not been identified as the source — yet.

Get vaccinated for hepatitis A. And dude, wash your damn hands.

Fancy food isn’t safer food: San Diego edition

The San Diego Union Tribune has a couple of stories today on restaurant inspection, one with the headline, Not-so-fine dining cited at many top restaurants.

When it comes to dining out, an analysis by The San Diego Union-Tribune found that pricier doesn’t always translate into safer.

County inspection records for 103 of San Diego’s most popular, top-rated and most expensive restaurants show that 50 percent have been written up for at least one major food-safety violation in the past two years.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t analyze how that rate compares with other restaurants in San Diego.

The story does note it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much of a risk health code violations pose to diners.

When inspectors found water that wasn’t hot enough in restrooms, as was the case twice in the past two years at Island Prime on Harbor Island, they couldn’t say whether food handlers spread bacteria as a result of it.

Except that water temperature is not a factor in hand cleanliness. Flowing water, soap and paper towel are important for effective handwashing.

At The Lodge at Torrey Pines, which has maintained scores of 92 or higher in the past two years, chefs conduct hour-long safety inspections each week using the county’s measurements.

“I truly believe it comes down to pride and culture and good behavior that’s reinforced by good management,” said Bill Gross, the lodge’s food and beverage director. “It starts at the top.”

That I can agree with. Creating and nurturing a culture that values microbiologically safe food, when purchasing and preparing, serving and storing, will help reduce the number of people who get sick from food. Even fancy food.