Sorority women stricken with norovirus

Dozens of tri-delts who became sick after a meal at their University of Michigan sorority house were stricken with norovirus.

The Detroit Free Press reports lab results released Wed. by the Washtenaw County Public Health Department confirmed norovirus. Spokeswoman Susan Cerniglia, said the outbreak was “most likely,” the result of food poisoning, but the virus also may have been transmitted through personal contact or shared surfaces at the Delta Delta Delta house near the university.

Raw alfalfa sprouts source of Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak in Michigan – 12 confirmed illnesses

At one of the local Manhattan (Kansas) restaurants, we’re known as the sprout people. The menu features a lot of dishes with raw sprouts, and I always say, no raw sprouts. Too many opportunities for screw-ups.

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) are issuing a public health alert regarding illness from Salmonella infections among people who have reported raw alfalfa sprouts consumption in Michigan.

Michigan has 12 confirmed Salmonella Typhimurium cases from seven jurisdictions in Michigan (Bay, Genesee, Kent, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties) involved in the current outbreak. The illness onset dates range from Aug. 17 to Sept. 18, 2009. There have been two known hospitalizations. MDCH and MDA are working closely with local health departments, the CDC and the FDA to determine the source of the outbreak.

"Eating raw sprouts is a known risk for exposure to Salmonella or E. coli O157:H7 bacteria," said Dr. Gregory Holzman, chief medical executive for MDCH. "We want to educate people about this known risk in order for them to make informed decisions concerning their health."

Sprouts are the germinating form of seeds and beans and are frequently eaten raw in sandwiches and salads. Past sprout-related outbreaks of foodborne illness have been linked to seeds contaminated by fecal materials in the field, during storage, or as a result of poor hygienic practices in the production of sprouts. In addition, the warm and humid conditions required to grow sprouts are ideal for the rapid growth of bacteria.

In general, the FDA recommends these guidelines for those who choose to continue to eat sprouts:

– Cook all sprouts thoroughly before eating to significantly reduce the risk of illness.

– Sandwiches and salads purchased at restaurants and delicatessens often contain raw sprouts. Consumers who wish to reduce their risk of food borne illness should specifically request that raw sprouts not be added to their food.

– Homegrown sprouts also present a health risk if eaten raw or lightly cooked. Many outbreaks have been attributed to contaminated seed. If pathogenic bacteria are present in or on seed, they can grow to high levels during sprouting even under clean conditions.

Michigan salmonella outbreak tied to alfalfa sprouts

This is Amy making a face in Guelph in 2005 after being served raw pea sprouts when she specifically said, no sprouts. At a local Manhattan (Kansas) restaurant, we’re known as the ‘no sprouts’ people.

And now, sprouts are in the news again for making people barf.

The Michigan Department of Community Health is telling people to avoid alfalfa sprouts after an outbreak of salmonella sent two people to the hospital and sickened 14 others in southeast Michigan.

For the most part, people got infected from sprouts in sandwiches, but the origin of the sprouts is not yet known, MDCH officials said in a statement. The illnesses mostly occurred between March 23 and April 6.

This same salmonella caused a recall of alfalfa (sprouts) in the Midwest earlier this year.

Text messages reduce the spread of norovirus at Hope College

A text message proved effective in alerting thousands of students about last month’s norovirus outbreak at Hope College.

Hope College officials informed the Health Department they had a database that contained all of the students email and text messaging addresses. 3600 students were notified at once.

Students were asked via text message to reply to an email detailing their symptoms and how long they were ill.

The Health Department says in the end about 540 students responded. Officials say the information was crucial for determining a plan of action and slowing the spread of the virus.

Contaminated food for resale found during Michigan traffic stop

Driving the long stretches of big sky country in Kansas, the mind can wander. I wonder what’s in that rental truck up there, the one I may pass in the next hour. Maybe it’s a load of fresh produce in a truck that was moving chickens the week before; maybe it’s a widely popular Canadian band tyring to break into the U.S. where they are unknown; maybe it’s a crystal meth lab.

The Grand Rapid Press reports that during a routine traffic stop at the eastbound Int. 96 weigh station near Ionia this week, motor carrier officers discovered a large quantity of perishable food being transported in a nonrefrigerated rental truck.

Inspectors discovered a case of Biofeel, a yogurt drink included in a nationwide import alert on dairy products originating from Asia because of the melamine contamination of baby food and milk products in some Asian countries.

Inspectors seized and destroyed more than 2,000 pounds of food products, including tofu, dairy, meat, seafood and noodles. They also seized 200 pounds of beef that had not passed USDA inspection.

And since that video of the Canadian band I like is no longer available on youtube, here’s a different version, circa 1999.

Lettuce linked to 36 ill in Michigan, 3 in Ontario, came from California

The Detroit Free Press is reporting that state agriculture officials say the tainted iceberg lettuce that has been linked to 36 E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in Michigan and 3 in Ontario originated in California before being shipped to Michigan.

Aunt Mid’s Produce of Detroit was identified as one of the local suppliers. The company immediately stopped its lettuce distribution, said Philip Riggio, chief executive officer, and had its supply and processing facilities tested by outside experts. The tests found no evidence of contamination.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture also tested Aunt Mid’s lettuce, with no findings of E. coli, but, “we never had product available that was tested from the outbreak timeframe, primarily due to the perishable nature of the product we dealt with,” said Jennifer Holton, MDA spokesperson.

A Michigan State University student sickened by E. coli-tainted lettuce is suing Aunt Mid’s. Samantha Steffen of East Lansing began suffering from bloody diarrhea and was hospitalized with dehydration in mid-September.

“At this point, based on testing…I don’t believe the lawsuit has any merit,” said Riggio.

Lettuce linked to Michigan E. coli O157:H7 outbreak; MSU needs to check its food safety facts

On the same day that congressional investigators cited shoddy oversight of produce processing operations, wholesale, bagged iceberg lettuce appears to be the culprit in the Michigan E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened at least 26 people.

Some of the 26 Michigan cases consumed shredded or chopped iceberg lettuce in restaurants or institutions purchased from Aunt Mid’s Produce Company, a Detroit-based wholesale distributor; and other distributing outlets could be identified. Product trace back and additional tests results are still in progress.

“Our top priority at the Michigan Department of Community Health is to protect the public,” said Dr. Gregory Holzman, chief medical executive for MDCH. “We appreciate all of the assistance from Aunt Mid’s. They have been very helpful in this investigation. We want to ensure that the public’s health and well-being is protected. Even though the investigation is ongoing, available evidence is strongly pointing to iceberg lettuce.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if just one public health official in Canada had a similar statement – our top priority is to protect public health – during the listeria outbreak that has killed at least 18?

Although I do have some concerns about statements from Michigan State University physician Beth Alexander, who tonight said,

“We will continue to be as cautious as possible, until this issue is completely resolved.”

This is the same MSU physician Beth Alexander who said on Sept 16, 2008,

“Generally, the infection isn’t serious. It’s usually caused by food or water that has been contaminated with that bacteria.”

The eight MSU students who were hospitalized probably thought it was serious.

Further, a press release from MSU tonight said,

“The one food item typically associated with E. coli outbreaks is undercooked hamburger. Health officials advise all chefs to cook their hamburgers until the juice runs clear.”

I’m not sure what that has to do with lettuce. And color is a lousy indicator for judging whether meat is done or not – a digital, tip-sensitive thermometer is a must. Cooking until the juices run clear seems reckless rather than cautious.

Alexander also stressed that thorough hand washing remains the most effective way of fighting communicable diseases, and,
“Always wash your hands before preparing any foods. Make sure your countertops are clean and don’t do any food preparation if you are sick.”

Again, I’m not sure what this has to do with lettuce. Doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in the ability of MSU food service to provide safe food – no matter how much Spartan spirit they have. Maybe MSU should be examining their food procurement policies. If this is what a top-10 land grant university produces, maybe those rankings don’t mean too much.

A table of at least 28 previous North American outbreaks of shiga-toxin producing E. coli, like O157:H7, is available at:

E. coli outbreak in ground beef linked to Whole Foods Markets

When I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Whole Foods was adjacent to my apartment complex. It was cruel, really. I couldn’t afford to shop there very often but the food always looked so delicious, and, well, wholesome. Yesterday, however, Whole Foods Market recalled fresh ground beef sold between June 2 and August 6 for a possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

Seven are sick in Massachusetts and two in Pennsylvania. None in Ann Arbor, yet.

Whole Foods has successfully built its reputation on natural and organic foods with high prices to make you believe you are doing good to your body by shopping there. Personally, I shopped there for the wide array of cheeses and pâté that wasn’t available in my favorite (more affordable) grocery. This outbreak raises the question for me – why are people still getting sick from ground beef processed at Nebraska Beef Ltd. that was previously recalled? And, as Bill Marler points out, why was Whole Foods selling Nebraska Beef? He offers a list of hard-hitting questions for the elite grocery chain that touts its own high standards.

On a side note, the Whole Foods that used to be in my backyard in Ann Arbor has since become a Trader Joe’s. Whole Foods moved down the street to a much larger and fancier location.