Temperature still matters: Spike in C. perfringens linked to UK aged homes

An anecdotal increase in C. perfringens outbreaks was observed in the North East of England during 2012–2014. We describe findings of investigations in order to further understanding of the epidemiology of these outbreaks and inform control measures.

clostridiumperfringens_c200pxAll culture-positive (>105 c.f.u./g) outbreaks reported to the North East Health Protection Team from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2014 were included. Epidemiological (attack rate, symptom profile and positive associations with a suspected vehicle of infection), environmental (deficiencies in food preparation or hygiene practices and suspected vehicle of infection) and microbiological investigations are described. Forty-six outbreaks were included (83% reported from care homes). Enterotoxin (cpe) gene-bearer C. perfringens were detected by PCR in 20/46 (43%) and enterotoxin (by ELISA) and/or enterotoxigenic faecal/food isolates with indistinguishable molecular profiles in 12/46 (26%) outbreaks. Concerns about temperature control of foods were documented in 20/46 (43%) outbreaks. A suspected vehicle of infection was documented in 21/46 (46%) of outbreaks (meat-containing vehicle in 20/21). In 15/21 (71%) identification of the suspected vehicle was based on descriptive evidence alone, in 5/21 (24%) with supporting evidence from an epidemiological study and in 2/21 (10%) with supporting microbiological evidence.

C. perfringens-associated illness is preventable and although identification of foodborne outbreaks is challenging, a risk mitigation approach should be taken, particularly in vulnerable populations such as care homes for the elderly.

An epidemiological review of gastrointestinal outbreaks associated with Clostridium perfringens, North East of England, 2012–2014

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 144 / Issue 07 / May 2016, pp 1386-1393


Temperature matters: 157kg of chicken and 61kg of meat to be disposed of in UAE

A total of 157kg of fresh chicken, that was being transported at an unsafe temperatures, will be disposed of immediately by order of the emirate of Abu Dhabi’s food sector regulator, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA).Chicken-Tikka_635549434140673686

An additional 61kg of mutton stored under unsafe conditions has also been confiscated and will be disposed of by the ADFCA, it announced in a statement sent on Monday.

The contaminated and spoilt food was found during random checks on fresh meat stores in the capital. Inspectors looked at the state of storage equipment, product quality, the condition of vehicles used for transportation and the adherence to food safety procedures during their visits.

Four vehicles used to transport the spoilt chicken were issued warnings for not maintaining the right temperature, and the two freezers that contained both fresh meat and spoilt samples were also isolated.

Ranking risk: E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella growth on leafy greens

The objective of this work was to study the growth potential of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. in leafy vegetable extracts at different temperature conditions.

lettuce.nov10Cocktails of five strains of E. coli O157: H7 and of S. enterica were used. Inoculated aqueous vegetable extracts were incubated at 8, 10, 16 and 20°C during 21 days. Microbial growth was monitored using Bioscreen C® . In spinach extract, results showed that for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella significant differences (p<0.05) for μabs (maximum absorbance rate) were obtained. For both pathogens, growth in chard was slightly lower. In contrast, iceberg lettuce and parsley showed the lowest values of μabs , below 0.008 h-1 . The coefficients of variance (CoV) calculated for the different replicates evidenced that at low temperature (8 °C) a more variable behaviour of both pathogens is expected (CoV > 180%).

This study provides evidence that aqueous extracts from vegetable tissues can result in distinct growth niche producing different response in various types of vegetables.

Finally, these results can be used as basis to establish risk rankings of pathogens and leafy vegetable matrices with relation to their potential growth.

Assessing the growth of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella in spinach, lettuce, parsley and chard extracts at different storage temperatures.

J Appl Microbiol. [Epub ahead of print]

Posada-Izquierdo G, Del Rosal S, Valero A, Zurera G, Sant’ Ana A, Alvarenga VO, Pérez-Rodríguez F



Handwashing with Dr. Oz (‘never heard of him’)

I was talking to a medical doctor and a couple of his students, and a New York City trip is in the works, and I said I’d only been to NYC a couple of times, including when I was on Dr. Oz.

Dr. Oz“Who’s Dr. Oz?”

“A television celebrity medical doctor.”

“Why would he call himself Dr. Oz? Does he represent all of Australia?”

Communication breakdown.

One of the students explained who Dr. Mehmet Oz was and how he was spawned from Oprah.

“Never heard of him.”

Dr. Oz released a handwashing video and it’s not bad. They got the water temperature bit right (so please, everyone else stop saying it has to be warm water, that’s just a personal preference).

They also got the soap and friction bit right.

The 20-second bit? Not so right.

So I turned to handwasher-in-chief, Don Schaffner of Rutgers University, who offered the following comments:

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration model food code says two things: In section 2-301.12 it says “warm” water must be used for handwashing.  It’s isn’t science based as far as I know.

“In section 5-202.12 it says the handwash sink must provide water at a temperature of at least 38 °C (100 °F).  Also not science based.

“The video mentions 20 seconds.  As far as I know, that’s not science based either, and while it’s a perfectly fine length of time, 30 seconds would be better, and 15 seconds would be almost as good.”

It’s a temperature thing: Woman sickened by bacteria-tainted food at Florida office party sues caterer

A holiday party gone wrong has sparked a lawsuit in Orange County Circuit Court with a food-poisoning victim suing the caterer for more than $15,000, records show.

vomit.diarrhea-300x286Gina Ervin, one of 55 people sickened by bacteria in the food at a December lunch buffet in the Maitland Colonnades office building, has filed a lawsuit against Kitchen Divas.

In the complaint, Ervin accuses the Seminole County-based food service of negligently preparing the food and failing to follow industry-wide standards of reheating and storing the food at proper temperatures.

As a result, Ervin fell “violently ill” and experienced symptoms of food poisoning including cramps, headache and vomiting, the lawsuit states.

Ervin is seeking expenses related to hospitalization and medical care for her condition, the lawsuit states.

The owner of Kitchen Divas did not respond to a request for comment.

The business is now closed, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

After the Dec. 10 outbreak, in which 200 people were evaluated, the Florida Department of Health in Orange County identified two bacteria found in the food – staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and Bacillus cereus (B.cereus).

Jim’s Burgers in California shut down after repeated health threats

Raw chicken and meat patties stored at unsafe temperatures, a clogged floor sink with standing water and dead cockroaches were discovered at Jim’s Burgers in Pico Rivera during an inspection that ultimately led to the restaurant’s permanent closure last month.

jim's.burgersLos Angeles County Public Health Department officials said the June 17 decision to revoke the burger restaurant’s health permit was the result of repeated food temperature violations — a major public health threat — but over the course of six prior routine inspections the restaurant at 4549 S. Rosemead Blvd. never had its permit suspended for those problems.

“The Department has worked in earnest with the owners to rectify repeat violations due to unsanitary conditions,” said county health officials in a statement issued less two weeks before revoking the restaurant’s permit.

Despite logging some of the highest health code violations in the county, the restaurant was only closed once for failing to comply with letter grade posting requirements under a system that allows too many facilities to operate with unsafe and unsanitary conditions and misleads the public about what’s actually going on behind kitchen doors, according to a Los Angeles News Group review of 21 months of food facility inspection data.

Cyclones, rain, and temperature-verified steak

During a morning of unrelenting and ongoing cyclone-related rain (yes, Brisbane gets weather too, not just Mass.) hockey skating and Chapman embarrassingly wearing a Leafs jersey (although my kid had one on this a.m., but Chapman should know better), I decided, why not barbeque for lunch.

145 F, rested for 10 minutes.


20 toddlers sickened: An emetic Bacillus cereus outbreak in a kindergarten

 Bacillus cereus is a ubiquitous spore-forming, potential foodborne pathogen that may cause two types of gastrointestinal illnesses: diarrhea and emesis.

dirty.jobs.daycare.e.coliThe emetic syndrome results from the presence of a heat-resistant toxin, called cereulide, produced by B. cereus in food products. Although both syndromes are usually mild, with patients recovering after about 24 h, an intoxication can be fatal for vulnerable individuals such as children or elderly people

In Belgium, from 2007 until 2012, two to eight foodborne outbreaks were reported on a yearly basis in which B. cereus was identified as the causative agent. During this period 8 of 26 B. cereus  outbreaks were caused by emetic B. cereus  representing 147 cases and 1 death.

In this report, we describe a foodborne outbreak affecting 20 toddlers aged between 10 and 18 months caused by the consumption of a homemade mashed rice–cucumber–chicory meal contaminated with critical levels of the B. cereus emetic toxin.

This outbreak highlights the importance of respecting good hygienic practices and strict storage conditions. An ill staff member had been involved in the preparation of the implicated food and may have contaminated the food. Unfortunately, no fecal sample from the staff member could be analyzed and thus her role could not be confirmed. It is recommended to withdraw any ill person from food preparation activities, as stated by the Codex Alimentarius.

Moreover, the temperature in the refrigerator where the food was stored had never been registered by the director of the kindergarten. The refrigerator at the kindergarten did not meet the Belgian recommendation on refrigeration temperatures, which are recommended to be between 0 and 4_ C, although it was in accordance ( <  7_ C) with the Belgian and European Legislation. Storage of foods below 10_ C prevents the growth of strains that produce emetic toxin, while refrigeration below 4_ C is necessary to prevent growth of all types of B. cereus , including psychrotrophic strains. In this case, high levels of B. cereus were present and cereulide was detected in the leftovers. It is known that cooked rice supports cereulide production at temperatures from 15_ C to 37_ C.

gastro.daycare.sep.12Therefore, inappropriate and slow cooling probably allowed the development of B. cereus  and subsequent cereulide production in the rice. After cooking, the temperature of the food should be allowed to drop to 10_ C as quickly as possible and should ideally reach 4_ C to avoid any growth of B. cereus.

Portioning the rice for storage would also have helped to achieve a more rapid drop in temperature below 10_ C in the center of the bowl in which the rice was stored.

Subsequent to this outbreak, a plan for cleaning was established at the kindergarten, and measures for temperature control of the refrigerators were taken.

Given that hazardous levels of cereulide can be reached quickly as demonstrated in this investigation, it is important to remain vigilant during food preparation and food storage to prevent illness and outbreaks caused by B. cereus .

An emetic Bacillus cereus outbreak in a kindergarten: detection and quantification of critical levels of cereulide toxin

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. January 2015, 12(1): 84-87

Delbrassinne Laurence, Botteldoorn Nadine, Andjelkovic Mirjana, Dierick Katelijne, and Denayer Sarah


Meat in the Texas heat: I-Team uncovers unsafe meat deliveries

A months-long I-Team investigation found more than 30 instances of restaurant employees transporting meat without refrigeration from a San Antonio food distributor.

A majority of the footage was captured in August and September, as restaurant employees left Restaurant Depot in the 3300 block of Fredericksburg Rd.

Two large banners hang outside of Restaurant Depot, imploring customers to ‘Keep it Kool’.

Some of the footage appears to show delivery practices which violate city and state health codes.

The Texas Food Establishment Rules require transported meat to remain at 41 degrees or less in order to keep it out of the so-called ‘food danger zone’, a

temperature range from 41 degrees to 140 degrees that allows harmful bacteria to grow most rapidly.

Foodborne organisms, which can cause food poisoning, grow at the fastest rate between 70 degrees and 117 degrees.

“Any boxed meat or anything like that, you would want to keep in some kind of cooler, with some kind of cooling media, dry ice, wet ice or frozen ice packs,” said Stephen Barscewski, Sanitarian Services Manager for San Antonio Metropolitan Health.

Barscewski analyzed some of the footage captured by the I-Team, pointing out instances that would likely result in health inspectors issuing the restaurants citations.

August 28, the I-Team captured footage of the owner of Daddy’s Burgers and More loading raw chicken into the trunk of a car, with the help of a Restaurant Depot employee. We followed the car as it made its way to the restaurant’s Stone Oak location. From start to finish, the trip took 30 minutes. It was 98 degrees outside.

“You have risk there,” said Barscewski as he watched footage of the incident. He added that salad greens loaded with the chicken created additional concerns about cross-contamination.

“There’s a possibility of blood from the meat or blood from the chicken getting on your onions, celery, bag salad.”

Daddy’s owner Ruben Perales refused our requests for an on-camera interview for this story. Over the phone he admitted to the I-Team he failed to refrigerate the chicken when leaving Restaurant Depot. It is important to note, city health records show Daddy’s Burgers and More had perfect scores during its last three inspections, and no complaints of customers getting sick. Perales said he has now purchased thermal packaging to use when transporting chicken to his restaurant.

Restaurant inspections really are only a snapshot in time.

Food safety modeling and real life

Friend of the blog, Don Schaffner (right, not exactly as shown), of Rutgers University writes:

 stuart.smalleyWhen I started my professional career 25 years ago there was a perception amongst many academics that those with an extension mission were somehow second-class citizens. I can see why, because many extension specialists spent all their time working with their clientele helping them to solve problems. They didn’t do research, they didn’t publish papers, and they certainly didn’t get competitive national grants. Even 25 years ago, peer-reviewed publications and grant dollars were the yardstick against which academic success was measured.

I’m delighted to report that the profession has changed. When I look around the country at my extension peers, I see we are some of the most accomplished, hard working, articulate, and well-funded academics in the game. I think there’s a reason for this. First we are all awesome, but more importantly we are engaged both with our clientele as well as the science. Understanding the needs of the industry is fundamental to doing relevant and high quality science. I did some work for Jetro/Restaurant Depot that was published in the Journal of Food Protection in 2013. That work came from blend of industry need and my skill in the practical applications of predictive food microbiology.

Like all good academics, when I find an interesting problem, I milk it for all it’s worth. That’s a joke. I think the proper academic speak for what I’m talking about is “examining the topic in-depth.” I knew that the 2013 JFP article was a good start, but it needed additional support that could only be found in the laboratory. Fortunately, I had a talented graduate student at the time that needed a good project. Jennifer McConnell and I published a paper this year, also in JFP (Vol. 77, 7:1110–1115) in which we took the modeling framework that I had proposed in the 2013 paper and applied it specifically to the growth of Salmonella in ground beef in situations where there was a loss of temperature control. When we started the project I had in mind the scenario outlined in the 2013 article: An individual transporting food from one location to another without temperature control.  By the time Jenn finished her project we had discovered another potentially even more useful application. We can blame hurricane Sandy for that.

The widespread power outages and their impacts on retail food establishments made the deliberations of the Conference for Food Protection committee updating the “Emergency Action Plan for Retail Food Establishments” document very interested in understanding the food safety implications of foods that experience a loss of temperature control due to power failure and which start to rise slowly in temperature. With my 2013 article published, and Jenn’s 2014 article well underway, I felt confident advising the committee on the utility of computer models for the growth of pathogenic bacteria in foods experiencing a gradual loss of temperature control.

How does the story end?   Jenn successfully defended her MS degree and she’s living her dream as a lab manager with Cornell University in New York City running a lab that studies tuberculosis. The CFP committee submitted their document, which was approved by Council III, and which is sitting somewhere in a repository waiting for the next hurricane. And me? I’m living my dream. Doing research, writing the occasional blog post, and trying to make the world just a little bit safer.