But we have training and audits: Dirty crates and vans used to deliver food by Asda

Assif Majid of BBC News writes that Watchdog’s reporter was given no training on keeping delivery crates and vans clean.

The reporter witnessed spillages, but was told by senior drivers that there was no need to clear it up during the delivery round.

Asda says it has a “clean as you go” policy and staff get full training.

Both Asda employees and customers have contacted the consumer programme with allegations about the cleanliness of the store’s delivery crates.

One driver told the programme: “There’s no cleaning process in place. The crates are used over and over again, even after spillages. Most, if not all, are dirty, from food, and things like smashed eggs.”

Another driver told the programme they are so concerned about poor hygiene, they are worried about their own family eating food from the crates.

Asda said the findings were “isolated examples and the opinion of individual colleagues”.

It added: “The findings do not reflect the extensive policies and training they have in place, which are supported by independent third party audits.”

The supermarket also says Watchdog’s researcher did not receive the full role-specific training because he didn’t do enough shifts.

Chartered environmental health practitioner Barrie Trevena said: “Even if the food you’re putting in is wrapped, the packages then become contaminated and then when the customer handles the cans and the packages, then that’s going to contaminate their worktop and fridge.”

The company said it delivered almost half a million orders each week, using their totes more than 2.5 million times, and it was inaccurate and misleading to suggest that it did not have policies or training in place at a business level.

Inconceivable.

UK still insists on steaming (rather than piping) hot to reduce Campy in chicken; scientists do a Picard face palm

The UK Food Standards Agency reports the top nine retailers across the UK have published their latest testing results on campylobacter contamination in UK-produced fresh whole chickens (covering samples tested from April to June 2019).

The latest figures show that on average, across the major retailers, 3.6% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination. These are the chickens carrying more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g) of campylobacter. 

Results

The sampling and analyses are carried out in accordance with protocols laid down by the FSA and agreed by Industry.

Background information

Contamination levels         July-September 2018          October-December 2018    January-March 2019           April-June 2019

cfu/g less than 10   58.8% 63.1% 55.4% 59%

cfu/g 10-99   26.7% 22.3% 25.3% 25.3%

cfu/g 100-1000         11%    11.4% 15.8% 12.1%

cfu/g over 1000       3.5%   3.1%   3.5%   3.6%

We have been testing chickens for campylobacter since February 2014 and publishing the results as part of a campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem. Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

In September 2017 we announced changes to the survey, with major retailers carrying out their own sampling and publishing their results under robust protocols laid down by the FSA. We are continuing to sample fresh whole chickens sold at retail, however, the focus is now on the smaller retailers and the independent market.

Chicken is safe if consumers follow good kitchen practice:

Cover and chill raw chicken – cover raw chicken and store at the bottom of the fridge so juices cannot drip onto other foods and contaminate them with food poisoning bacteria such as campylobacter

Don’t wash raw chicken – thorough cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter, while washing chicken can spread germs by splashing

Wash used utensils – thoroughly wash and clean all utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare raw chicken

Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, after handling raw chicken – this helps stop the spread of campylobacter by avoiding cross-contamination

Cook chicken thoroughly – make sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut into the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.

It’s a scientific embarrassment.

The bloody diarrhea gives it away: UK family of boy hit by E. coli after Turkish holiday takes legal action

Julie Gilmartin, 39, said her son Matthew Bennett, 10, started to develop symptoms including diarrhea on the plane home from a week-long stay at the Bone Club Sunset Hotel & Spa, Antalya, at the start of July.

Stacey Mullen of the Herald Scotland writes the youngster, from Penilee, Glasgow, was then seen by a GP, who requested a stool sample after the boy experienced further symptoms, including severe abdominal pains and passing blood.

His health deteriorated and he was taken to A&E, where he was admitted to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow for more than three days.

Following several tests, his mother was advised Matthew had been diagnosed with E.coli O157, a serious bacterial infection that can cause serious long-term complications and sometimes even death.

Ms Gilmartin, a customer assistant at Sainsbury’s, said: “Matthew went to the toilet a few times on the plane journey home, which seemed odd for him.

 “Then, as the days passed, there was clearly something wrong. He didn’t eat well and started to suffer from further issues, like stomach cramps.

“I ended up calling the NHS 24-hour helpline and was told straight away to take him to hospital. It was awful to see how the illness affected him and they [doctors] felt they had no choice to admit him. It was horrendous.”

Ms Gilmartin and Matthew, along with his father Henry and younger brother Ollie, arrived at the Turkish resort on July 6, after booking the break through Jet2. She added: “I was stunned to get the news that Matthew’s illness was E.coli.

“I’m just so frustrated we went away for what should have been a nice, family break, only for this to happen.

“It is awful and we deserve some answers as to how Matthew’s illness emerged and whether it could have been prevented.

“Although I had seen some concerning issues in relation to the cleanliness and hygiene in the restaurant, such as roaming cats and food sometimes being served lukewarm, I never thought I was at serious risk of illness. I dread to think that other children might be running the risk of also being affected.”

Surveys still suck: Did the UK FSA discover that piping hot is a fairytale

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have released their biannual findings from the general public attitudes tracker. This tracker highlights the behaviour, thoughts and reputation of food safety aspects throughout the year. Whenever there’s a scandal, a legislation change or a news piece surrounding the FSA’s points of interest, it’s going to have a public reaction. Whether good or bad, these reactions will shape and alter the way in which the public perceives food safety.

The FSA’s findings are based on 2,150 interviews from a representative sample of adults aged 16 and over across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Fieldwork was carried out between 8th and 26th May 2019, as part of the regular TNS Kantar face-to-face-omnibus survey.

Questions cover several topics of interest for the Agency, including:

concern about food safety issues

awareness of food hygiene standards

awareness of the FSA and its responsibilities

trust in the FSA and the food industry

confidence in food labelling.

At wave 18, a new set of questions were added to monitor the public’s trust in the FSA as well as the wider food system.

One of the FSA’s strategic objectives is to ensure consumers have the information and understanding to make informed choices about where and what they eat. To help monitor performance against this objective, respondents were asked about their awareness of hygiene standards when buying food or eating out. At wave 18, 52% of respondents reported always being aware of the hygiene standards in places they eat out at or buy food from, and a further 33% said they were sometimes aware.

It’s fair to say that the public is now taking a greater interest in UK food safety standards, meaning there is less margin for error in the food industry. With nearly 80% of the UK public being aware of food hygiene standards when eating out, it’s imperative that you get your standards right first time. Partnering with a food safety company like ourselves is one of the best ways of ensuring you meet your legal obligations as a food business. Our experts are some of the best in the business are available around the clock to coach, advise, audit and help your business reach the highest level of food hygiene.

Piping hot is not a standard.

Duck egg warning after UK man dies of Salmonella

I don’t like the idea of backyard chickens, or chooks.

They are Salmonella factories.

The latest numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has more than 1,000 Americans sick from backyard chicks and two deaths; 605 have been hospitalized.

In a related twist, duck eggs bought at a UK village fair have been linked to the death of Mr. Tavakoli, of Lindholme, Doncaster.

BBC News reports there has been a second case of salmonella involving someone who also said they ate duck eggs from the same farm – although this has not been confirmed as the source of infection.

The supplier of the eggs believes the salmonella came from elsewhere (magic)

The Food Standards Agency said eggs with the British Lion Mark were virtually free of salmonella, however this only applies to hens’ eggs.

Vulnerable groups are advised to avoid raw or lightly cooked duck eggs (above, right, are duck eggs from my friend and collaborator, Kate the vet, at Kansas State; we did research together but my department chair in firing me said I didn’t play well with others; what an asshole).

And I had to live through disco as a teenager.

Salmonella in Spain: 50 UK holidaymakers hit

Brett Gibbons and James Rodger of Birmingham Live report that more than 50 people have been struck by salmonella in Majorca.

Holidaymakers are among those affected by the outbreak of the deadly food poisoning on the holiday island.

A La Liga footballer, who plays for Real Mallorca, is among those affected.

The player has not been named.

The outbreak comes after a listeria epidemic, which affected hundreds in the Andalusia region on the Spanish mainland.

The source of the Majorca salmonella outbreak is believed to be linked to a Japanese restaurant in the island capital of Palma, reports WalesOnline.

It has since been closed as a preventative measure.

The first cases were reported last week, according to the local Ultima Hora newspaper.

Emergency units on the island received several patients reporting food poisoning symptoms after eating at the restaurant, which as then identified as the source of the illness.

The Balearic Islands’ public health department says the number of cases could rise even higher because some are not reported immediately when initial symptoms are less severe.

Proceedings against the restaurant have been opened by local government bodies.

Thousands of British holidaymakers visit Majorca each year with many heading to resorts like Magaluf and Palma Nova that are just a short bus or taxi ride from the capital.

13 sick pulling mussels from the shell

I love my shellfish – mussels and scallops (oysters are sorta gross) – but the kid was diagnosed with a shellfish allergy so they’re an occasional lunch while she’s at school.

Health types in the UK report on six cases of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) following consumption of mussels in the United Kingdom (UK). The mussels contained high levels of heat-stable okadaic acid (OA)-group toxins. Here we describe the environmental and epidemiological investigation carried out in response to the outbreak.

In June 2019 (day 0), Public Health England South West was notified by the local authority of three diners who were unwell following consumption of mussels in a restaurant 5 days earlier. The local authority had determined that the restaurant had had received a batch recall notice, also 5 days earlier, from the shellfish producer for the mussels because of elevated toxin levels but this was not seen before the mussels were served that day. On day 1, PHE South West received a report from the county neighbouring the first of gastrointestinal illness linked to mussels from the same producer. A multi-agency outbreak control team was therefore convened on day 2 and led by the PHE South West health protection team.

An alert was sent to all health protection teams across England on day 2 asking about any reported cases of gastrointestinal illness following consumption of mussels. Local authorities in areas of product distribution were informed of the identified risk by email. Persons reporting illness who were identified by local authorities as having consumed the affected mussels were asked by PHE to complete a bespoke questionnaire on exposure and clinical data.

A probable case of DSP was defined as an individual with diarrhoea, three or more loose stools in 24 h, or vomiting or abdominal cramps or nausea, with date of onset from 7 days before to 1 day after notification of the outbreak, and time of onset 30 min to 24 h following consumption of mussels harvested from the affected site. Confirmed cases were as probable, but with an absence of pathogens in a stool sample that would otherwise explain illness.

Thirteen individuals reported to have been unwell after consumption of mussels were contacted. Completed questionnaires were received from seven individuals, of which three were confirmed, and three probable cases. The cases ate at four separate venues. One respondent did not meet the case definition as symptom onset was more than 24 h following consumption.

The mean age of cases was 59 years (range: 37–76 years); three were male and three were female. All cases reported eating steamed mussels. Five cases ate mussels as a main course and one as a starter. Reported portion sizes ranged from 11 to 50 mussels.

The mussels were produced in an offshore marine area. A routine shellfish monitoring programme is in place throughout England and Wales, including at the affected site. As a part of this programme, the water column is sampled every 2 weeks from April to September and cell counts of potentially harmful algal species are measured. Shellfish flesh samples are also tested for the presence of selected European Union (EU)-regulated biotoxins every 4 weeks during April to September each year unless phytoplankton counts and/or shellfish toxins are quantified above specified warning limits that require further precautions, including re-testing and closure.

Lipophilic toxin determination, including that for OA-group toxins, is routinely carried out using the method specified in in the EU-Harmonised Standard Operating Procedure for determination of lipophilic marine biotoxins in molluscs by LC-MS/MS [1]. Additional flesh and water samples were taken in advance of the planned sampling date following a report to the local authority from a local fisherman of a red-coloured algal bloom six miles offshore from the production site.

The local authority determined the source of the mussels by questioning venues linked to reports of illness. Subsequently, the shellfish producer provided the outbreak control team with a complete list of all businesses who had received the affected mussels. Mussels from the site were harvested daily from 9 to 5 days before notification of the outbreak for commercial sale. The mussels were not tested by the producer for the presence of toxins. A large volume of mussels was distributed to seafood wholesalers, restaurants and pubs, and subject to the recall notice distributed by the producer 5 days before reports of illness to PHE. A limited number of businesses not linked to any known cases, including wholesalers, retailers, restaurants and pubs, responded to the recall stating they had sold some of the affected produce. No produce was found to still be in circulation at the time of the outbreak response.

Water column and shellfish flesh sampling results are summarised in Table 2. Measured densities of Dinophysis spp. in the water column increased rapidly from being undetectable 16 days before outbreak notification to 1,600 cells per litre 7 days before, coinciding with the time of harvesting of the affected batch and exceeding the England, Wales and Northern Ireland Food Standards Agency trigger level of 100 cells per litre. The level of total OA-group lipophilic toxins in mussel flesh was 338 µg OA equivalents (eq) per kg, following application of measurement uncertainty, 7 days before outbreak notification. This exceeded the maximum permitted limit (MPL) of 160 µg OA eq per kg defined by European Commission (EC) regulation 853/2004 [2]. Toxin concentrations quantified showed that an average of 94% of the OA-group toxins present in the mussels consisted of OA itself, with the remainder being dinophysistoxin 2 (DTX2).

Water column sampling 7 days before outbreak notification did not detect other harmful algal species apart from Pseudo-nitzschia spp., the causative diatom for domoic acid responsible for amnesic shellfish poisoning, at 1,320 cells per litre. This is below the trigger level of 150,000 cells per litre for this species.

Routine shellfish sampling at the same site during the same time period did not detect paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins. Trace levels of yessotoxins were detected, but along with traces of azaspiracids, they were well below regulatory levels. Amnesic shellfish poisoning toxins were below the limit of quantitation (LOQ).

In response to the elevated toxin levels quantified and reported 5 days before outbreak notification, the shellfish bed was immediately closed for harvesting as per standard practice in England. The Food Standards Agency urgently contacted local authorities of places where the affected product had been distributed to ensure that wholesalers and venues had acted upon the recall. Venues were asked whether any product had been frozen, for example in the form of stock, as this would not deactivate the toxin, but there was no evidence this had been done.

Discussion

We report on six cases of DSP associated with consumption of mussels harvested in the South West of England. Without an available validated test for relevant toxins in human samples, the diagnosis was made based on characteristic clinical symptoms, including diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea and fever/chills, elevated levels of OA-group toxins in the flesh of mussels from the same batch as those consumed, the absence of faecal pathogens in stool of cases and epidemiological evidence of exposure to the produce.

DSP occurs following consumption of seafood containing high levels of the heat-stable OA-group toxins produced by dinoflagellates including Dinophysis spp., and is characterised by a rapid-onset of self-limiting gastrointestinal illness [3,4]. Recognised outbreaks of DSP are rare. Seventy cases were identified in 2013 following consumption of mussels harvested around the Shetland Islands [5] and 49 cases were identified in 1998 following consumption of UK-harvested mussels in London [6]. Outbreaks have been recorded in recent years in China, the United States, France and Canada [4,79].

The lowest-observed-adverse-effect level of OA is 45 to 50 µg OA eq per person [4,10]. In our study, an average main course portion of mussels (500 g in shell) would provide 41 µg OA eq., using a flesh weight yield of 24% [11]. This level of exposure is consistent with DSP as the cause of illness considering variability in portion sizes, flesh yield, body weight and toxin levels at the production site. Individual mussel sizes served were unavailable but would likely vary. Therefore, overall estimated portion weight was used to calculate the exposure dose. A limitation is that body weight (bw) was not recorded for cases and because of this, OA eq per kg bw could not be calculated.

A shellfish biotoxin programme monitoring the occurrence of harmful algal blooms and toxins in classified shellfish production areas in the UK, alongside food business operator checks, remains a robust system to protect population health. Nonetheless, a rapid increase in concentrations of Dinophysis spp. cells within the waters of the production site may have contributed to the outbreak, in tandem with shellfish harvesting occurring before official control results were reported and site closure. Whyte et al. (2014) demonstrated that a similar rapid increase in Dinophysis levels, resulting from a change in prevailing wind direction, occurred in the 2013 Shetland Islands origin outbreak [5]. Transdisciplinary research is required to predict future risk and inform monitoring, particularly given likely changes in the distribution of potentially-toxic species particularly if temperature of ocean water increases [12]. Our investigation suggested that affected produce may have been sold by restaurants and pubs with no known linked cases. Given that DSP is a self-limiting illness that may be under-reported by cases and has low awareness among clinicians, the actual number of persons affected in this outbreak is likely to be higher [13].

This outbreak highlights that clinicians and public health professionals should be aware of algal-derived toxins as a potential cause of illness following seafood consumption, and that the need for effective end-product testing of shellfish to ensure food safety remains.

Outbreak of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning associated with consumption of mussels, United Kingdom, May to June 2019

28.aug.19

EuroSurveillance

Nick Young, Charlotte Robin, Et al

https://eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2019.24.35.1900513

UK Chinese restaurant had ‘ideal conditions for food poisoning bacteria in the kitchen’

Kate Lally of the Wirral Globe reports environmental health officers found a catalogue of problems at Sun Ying in Birkenhead including chefs wearing dirty clothes, raw chicken being chopped on the same surface as vegetables, and filthy kitchen surfaces and food storage racks.

Chefs told inspectors they regularly left items such as cooked duck and cooked rice out for some six hours at a time.

A report following the environmental health visit states this presents “ideal conditions for food poisoning bacteria to grow” and that the “risk of causing food poisoning among customers is high.”

Inspectors also found sweet and sour chicken being kept “hot” in the all-you-can-eat buffet area was lukewarm and therefore should have been thrown away after a maximum of two hours.

Several packs of eggs – which appeared to have been purchased at a heavily reduced price – were found to be more than three weeks out of date.

Following the June inspection the restaurant – which has a 3-out-of-5 rating on Tripadvisor – was given the second lowest hygiene rating, and the report says staff’s food hygiene awareness was “inadequate.”

These people had no business running a restaurant, just like Sorenne at an aquarium … in Arizona … petting a two-toed sloth. Random.

Celebrity chef to advise UK government on hospital food following Listeria deaths

Health chiefs are to set national standards for hospital food after the deaths of six people in a listeria outbreak.

Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith (right) will advise the Government review into bedside meals, amid growing criticism of patients’ food.

The “root-and-branch” probe, launched by the Department of Health today, will examine whether the number of hospitals doing catering in-house can be increased.

Prue said: “Millions of pounds are wasted in hospitals with food ending up in the bin – unpalatable food being the main complaint.

A hospital meal should be a pleasure and comfort, and it should help, not hinder, the patient’s recovery.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for the review in June when the six people died after getting listeria from prepackaged sandwiches and salads.

Hopefully there will be some Listeria scientists on the advisory panel.