Javier Arroyo of El Pais reports that Spain’s National Police and Civil Guard have seized hundreds of tons of expired jamón and other meat products that were about to be placed back in the market – in some cases, they were already back on sale.
In three separate raids conducted over the course of a few weeks, officers found that individuals and companies were apparently tampering with seals and labels to extend the shelf life of expired food products.
Sources at the Civil Guard and the Health Ministry said that the operations were independent from each other, but that further investigation is being conducted to determine whether there is a link between the cases.
The problem is no longer about lower-quality ham being passed off as gourmet or “pata negra,” a designation used for top pork products. This has been a more or less habitual scam that producers of real Iberian meats have been trying to eliminate through quality regulations established in 2014, as well as seals indicating the animal’s breed and feeding method.
This latest fraud involves taking expired food products that should legally be destroyed, altering their labels, and putting them back on the market.
Under the crackdown, a limit will be set on the legal costs that can be claimed in overseas package travel claims. This will stop claims management companies from seeking legal costs that are out of proportion to the damages sought – a loophole that has often pushed tour operators to settle out of court.
In a press release, the Ministry of Justice said the change “would mean tour operators would pay prescribed costs depending on the value of the claim and length of proceedings, making defense costs predictable and assisting tour operators to challenge bogus claims.”
According to court documents, phony food poisoning claims may have cheated Spanish hotels out of as much as €60 million since 2014. The scam took off in the summer of 2016, with one hotel chain receiving 273 claims requesting compensation for 700 people.
The scam was simple enough. The tourist buys a travel package with any travel agent and stays at a Spanish hotel that includes all meals in the price. Back in Britain after the vacation, the tourist uses a claims-management company to file a complaint against the company that organized the trip, alleging that the hotel meals made him/her ill.
Current British consumer laws barely require the claimant to produce any evidence. No doctor’s report is necessary, and claims may be filed up to three years after the event.
Since it is hard to prove that the client did not get sick, and faced with high legal fees if the case goes to court, the tour operator accepts the claim, then pass on the cost to the Spanish hotels as per their contract, in which the latter accept responsibility for all damages.
According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), the number of claims jumped from 5,000 in 2013 to 35,000 in 2016 – an increase of 500%.
“Claiming compensation for being sick on holiday, when you haven’t been, is fraud,” said Justice Minister Rory Stewart. “This behavior also tarnishes the reputation of British people abroad. That is why we are introducing measures to crack down on those who engage in this dishonest practice.”
The Ministry of Justice says the new rules will come into effect shortly – well before summer begins.
On February 5 the Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition has learned through the Coordinated System of Rapid Information Exchange (SCIRI) of the existence of an affected by meningitis in the Community of Madrid, as a result of intoxication food by Listeria monocytogenes presumably associated with the consumption of soft milk sheep cheese made by the company Ohian Txiki Koop located in the Basque Country. The affected one evolves favorably.
The cheeses allegedly involved are the following:
Gutizia, raw sheep milk cheese.
Txuria , soft cheese from raw sheep’s milk.
Beltza, lactic cheese-curl of raw sheep’s milk.
These products have been distributed from the manufacturer to the Autonomous Communities of Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country. On February 7 there is evidence that from Madrid, there has been a small redistribution to Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Extremadura, Galicia, Valencia and Portugal, few units.
The removal of all batches of raw soft-ewe sheep milk cheese is being carried out.
This information has been communicated through the system of the national alert network to the competent Authorities of the Autonomous Communities that are carrying out the appropriate actions, as well as to the competent Portuguese Authorities through the Rapid Alert Network System for Food and Feed. European.
As a precautionary measure, people who have some packaging of these products at home are advised, refrain from consuming them and if they have consumed them and if they present any unusual symptoms, it is recommended to go to a health center.
During April 11–25, 2016, a total of 4,136 cases of gastroenteritis were reported by the Public Health Agency of Catalonia (ASPCAT; Figure, panel A). A case-patient was defined as an exposed person who had vomiting or diarrhea (3 or more loose stools within 24 hours) and >2 of the following: nausea, abdominal pain, or fever (≥37.8°C). Six patients required hospitalization.
The epidemiologic investigation conducted by the ASPCAT pointed toward an association of the outbreak with drinking bottled spring water from office water coolers; the water had been bottled at a source in Andorra (M. Jané-Checa and A. Martínez-Mateo, Public Health Agency of Catalonia, pers. comm., 2016 Sep 1). Compared with other modes of transmission such as food or person to person, norovirus outbreaks associated with drinking water are rare in developed countries. On April 15, 2016, as a precautionary measure, the company producing the bottled water recalled >6,150 containers of water of suspected quality that had already been distributed to 925 companies. The water complied with all requirements of the European Commission directive on the exploitation and marketing of natural mineral waters, but these requirements do not include any virologic determination.
Norovirus in bottled water associated with gastroenteritis outbreak, Spain, 2016
Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 23, Number 9—September 2017
Albert Blanco, Susana Guix, Noemí Fuster, Cristina Fuentes, Rosa Bartolomé, Thais Cornejo, Rosa Maria Pintó, and Albert Bosch
Ainhoa Iriberri of El Español reports (and something may be lost in translation) there are already 252 those affected by the outbreak of acute gastroenteritis that ravaged last week to the Hospital of Bellvitge, in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. The Public Health Agency of Catalonia (ASPCAT) has reported the increase of victims, which last Friday had been set at 190, all workers at the health center.
In all cases the symptomatology has been mild so, despite the high number of affected, the outbreak has had no attendant consequences. That is to say, it has not had to reprogram surgeries nor close operating rooms, always according to the governmental organism.
This has also indicated that the analysis of samples is ongoing but that, so far, two of them have proved to be norovirus positive, reason why it is suspected that this pathogen is the cause of the massive infection.
Although the information is still preliminary, it seems also to confirm where the source of the infection would be that is not other than the snacks served in the cafeteria for hospital staff between Tuesday and Friday.
I was so sick for two weeks, although I did manage to crawl out of bed for a Neil Young show in Toronto (part of the International Harvesters tour) but then felt so sick afterwards I went home to Brantford.
One of my parent’s neighbours was my evy doctor, so I was in for a regular check-up and he detected it immediately.
Put me on some Acyclovir, which had just come out, and I was cured in no time.
Or temporarily. Viruses don’t go away.
We’re all hosts on a viral planet.
Mine has come back, in the form of a cold sore, probably because of the stress of buying a new house in an over-heated real-estate market and not selling ours.
I went to the chemist, got some drugs that aren’t really working, but at least I had that option.
Imagine 600 years ago, when Cortez from Spain dances across the water to what is now Mexico and there’s no chemist down the road.
Ewen Callaway of Nature writes one of the worst epidemics in human history, a sixteenth-century pestilence that devastated Mexico’s native population, may have been caused by a deadly form of salmonella from Europe, a pair of studies suggest.
In one study, researchers say they have recovered DNA of the stomach bacterium from burials in Mexico linked to a 1540s epidemic that killed up to 80% of the country’s native inhabitants. The team reports its findings in a preprint posted on the bioRxiv server on 8 February.
This is potentially the first genetic evidence of the pathogen that caused the massive decline in native populations after European colonization, says Hannes Schroeder, an ancient-DNA researcher at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen who was not involved in the work. “It’s a super-cool study.”
In 1519, when forces led by Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés arrived in Mexico, the native population was estimated at about 25 million. A century later, after a Spanish victory and a series of epidemics, numbers had plunged to around 1 million.
The largest of these disease outbreaks were known as cocoliztli (from the word for ‘pestilence’ in Nahuatl, the Aztec language). Two major cocoliztli, beginning in 1545 and 1576, killed an estimated 7 million to 18 million people living in Mexico’s highland regions.
“In the cities and large towns, big ditches were dug, and from morning to sunset the priests did nothing else but carry the dead bodies and throw them into the ditches,” noted a Franciscan historian who witnessed the 1576 outbreak.
There has been little consensus on the cause of cocoliztli — although measles, smallpox and typhus have all been mooted. In 2002, researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City proposed that a viral haemorrhagic fever, exacerbated by a catastrophic drought, was behind the carnage2. They compared the magnitude of the 1545 outbreak to that of the Black Death in fourteenth-century Europe.
In an attempt to settle the question, a team led by evolutionary geneticist Johannes Krause at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, extracted and sequenced DNA from the teeth of 29 people buried in the Oaxacan highlands of southern Mexico. All but five were linked to a cocoliztli that researchers think ran from 1545 to 1550.
Ancient bacterial DNA recovered from several of the people matched that of Salmonella, based on comparisons with a database of more than 2,700 modern bacterial genomes.
Further sequencing of short, damaged DNA fragments from the remains allowed the team to reconstruct two genomes of a Salmonella enterica strain known as Paratyphi C. Today, this bacterium causes enteric fever, a typhus-like illness, that occurs mostly in developing countries. If left untreated, it kills 10–15% of infected people.
It’s perfectly reasonable that the bacterium could have caused this epidemic, says Schroeder. “They make a really good case.” But María Ávila-Arcos, an evolutionary geneticist at UNAM, isn’t convinced. She notes that some people suggest that a virus caused the cocoliztli, and that wouldn’t have been picked up by the team’s method.
Krause and his colleagues’ proposal is helped by another study posted on bioRxiv last week, which raises the possibility that Salmonella Paratyphi C arrived in Mexico from Europe.
A team led by Mark Achtman, a microbiologist at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK, collected and sequenced the genome of the bacterial strain from the remains of a young woman buried around 1200 in a cemetery in Trondheim, Norway. It is the earliest evidence for the now-rare Salmonella strain, and proof that it was circulating in Europe, according to the study. (Both teams declined to comment on their research because their papers have been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal – good for them, dp).
“Really, what we’d like to do is look at both strains together,” says Hendrik Poinar, an evolutionary biologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. And if more ancient genomes can be collected from Europe and the Americas, it should be possible to find out more conclusively whether deadly pathogens such as Salmonella arrived in the New World from Europe.
The X-files movie was on the other night – the 1998 one – featuring bad dialogue, overwrought music, mysterious scientists and a mutated virus originally delivered by extraterrestrials.
At the same time I was reading how scientists at the Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA) in Spain have carried out a comprehensive analysis of several viromes from different habitats to explore whether bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) harbor antibiotic resistance genes.
The team demonstrated that while human-associated viromes do not or rarely carry resistance genes, viromes from non-human sources (e.g., pig feces, raw sewage, and freshwater and marine environments) contain a large reservoir of resistance genes. Their work is described in the journal Environmental Pollution (1).
“These findings suggest that phages may play a more significant role in the acquisition and mobilization of antibiotic resistance genes than previously expected”, says Dr. Jose L. Balcazar, a Ramon y Cajal research scientist and senior author of the study.
Of course they do: We’re all hosts on a viral planet.
In this study, several viromes (community of viruses) from humans, animals, and different environments worldwide were screened for sequences similar to those associated with antibiotic resistance genes. The results showed that genes encoding major facilitator superfamily transporters and beta-lactamases were found in all analysed viromes regardless their origin. The presence of these resistance genes in bacteriophages is of particular concern, because these genes may eventually be transferred to bacteria, making them resistant to antibiotics. Considering that bacteriophages have the potential to transfer genetic material between bacteria, they play an important role in the evolution and ecology of bacterial species. However, the contribution of bacteriophages to the acquisition and spread of antibiotic resistance has been partially explored in environmental settings. So these findings suggest that the role of bacteriophages should be taken into account in the development of strategies for tackling antibiotic resistance. This work was funded by the first joint call of the Water Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.