Raw is risky: At least 40 sick linked to 2 Canadian oyster farms

Two B.C. Vancouver Island oyster farms have been closed following an outbreak of norovirus associated with eating the raw shellfish.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says about 40 cases of acute gastrointestinal illness have been connected to the consumption of raw oysters since March. Testing has confirmed some of the cases were norovirus.

Federal officials with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) confirmed the affected farms are located on the east coast of Vancouver Island at Deep Bay and Denman Island.

While the two farms are no longer harvesting oysters for consumption, no recall of oysters has been issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

While the precise sources of contamination have not been identified, human sewage in the marine environment is currently believed to be the most plausible cause of shellfish contamination, according to BCCDC epidemiologist Marsha Taylor.

In late 2016 and early 2017, more than 400 norovirus cases associated with raw or undercooked B.C. oysters led to the closure of 13 farms.

The outbreak was declared over in April 2017. Human sewage was also suspected as the cause.

In order to kill norovirus and other pathogens, the BCCDC recommends consumers cook oysters thoroughly, to an internal temperature of 90 C for 90 seconds. Consumption of raw oysters is not encouraged.

Use a tip sensitive thermometer and stick it in.

And stop eating raw: It’s just a put on.

(The video is from The Who’s farewell concert in Toronto in 1982, which I watched in my girlfriend’s residence in 1982 at uni, but they’re still around to make a buck, just like food hacks. At least Towsend had tales to tell)

Food safety is every day (and every meal)

The world does not need a food safety day.

It needs day-in-day-out commitment.

The United Nations‘ General Assembly will discuss in Sept. whether to establish a World Food Safety Day.

The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization has already adopted a draft resolution that puts the wheels in motion for this international day. The resolution has been forwarded to the secretary-general of the United Nations so that it can be added to the organization’s September agenda. If the resolution passes through the General Assembly, World Food Safety Day would be set for June 7 of each year, the F.A.O. says.

World Food Safety Day would “raise awareness of the global threat posed by foodborne diseases and reinforce the need for governments, the food industry, and individuals to do more to make food safe and prevent these diseases,” said Ren Wang, director of F.A.O.’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection.

The draft resolution clearly states that “there is no food security without food safety, and that in a world where the food supply chain has become global, any food safety incident has global negative effects on public health, trade, and the economy.”

Another use for thermometers: Drinking coffee hotter than 149F ‘probably’ causes cancer or means you’re dumb

Drinking coffee, tea and other beverages at temperatures hotter than 149 degrees Fahrenheit may lead to cancer of the esophagus, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday.

bill.murray.coffeeBeverages that are too hot can injure cells in the esophagus and lead to the formation of cancer cells, said Mariana Stern, an associate professor of preventative medicine and urology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.

But a cup of joe at the right temperature might not be so dangerous, and it could even be beneficial. Scientists said coffee at cooler temperatures is safe to drink and may decrease the risk of liver cancer by 15%, according to the research published in Lancet Oncology on Wednesday. Previously, the International Agency for Research on Cancer ruled coffee was a “possibly carcinogenic” in 1991.

“This gets the word out for more people to be aware that coffee is a healthy beverage and that it’s part of a healthy diet,” National Coffee Association President Bill Murray (right, not exactly as shown) said. “It’s an opportunity for people to drink a little more coffee and create more business.”

The research involved Stern and 22 other scientists from 10 countries, who examined about 1,000 studies on more than 20 types of cancer. They determined that drinking very hot beverages are “probably carcinogenetic,” with a higher risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.

Denmark represent: Global figures for the burden of foodborne disease

My friend Miriam Meister, along with Heidi Kornholt, write that every year, one-in-ten people around the world gets sick from food they eat and 420,000 die as a result.

vomit.toiletThis is the finding of a report from the World Health Organization, WHO, which uncovers the global burden of foodborne disease. Researchers from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, have contributed considerably to the project.

Knowledge about the burden of foodborne disease is crucial when setting public health targets, prioritizing resources and assessing the impact of these diseases on public health and the economy.

Statistics on foodborne disease only show the tip of the iceberg because few people go to the doctor when they get sick from something they have eaten. Over the past decade, WHO has worked to produce data that can correct for underreporting and underdiagnosis and thereby reveal the true burden of foodborne disease. This work has been carried out with the help of researchers from around the world, including researchers from the National Food Institute, who have contributed with significant input.

The project shows that within one year, one in ten people globally get sick from food they eat and of these, 420,000 end up dying.

Foodborne diseases affect people of all ages, but children are particularly at risk. WHO’s new figures show that a third of deaths related to unsafe food occur among children under five, although this age group is less than one tenth of the world’s population.

The report also shows regional differences and reveals that both cases of foodborne disease and mortality rates as a consequence thereof are higher in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Researchers from the National Food Institute has been part of an international research team, that has calculated the number of cases of disease and deaths caused by nine bacteria, viruses and parasites, which are commonly transmitted through food and typically cause diarrhea.

Researchers from the National Food Institute have also led a global study to estimate, how big a proportion of these diseases that is directly linked to food consumption. Results are presented at both global and regional level.

WHO estimates 420,000 deaths due to foodborne illness annually

1 in 10 people worldwide annually and 420,000 deaths (125,000 of whom are kids). That’s a lot.

WHO released these numbers it in a report published in PLOS Medicine today.who-logo1

Almost one third (30%) of all deaths from foodborne diseases are in children under the age of 5 years, despite the fact that they make up only 9% of the global population. This is among the findings of WHO’s Estimates of the global burden of foodborne diseases – the most comprehensive report to date on the impact of contaminated food on health and wellbeing.

The report, which estimates the burden of foodborne diseases caused by 31 agents – bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals – states that each year as many as 600 million, or almost 1 in 10 people in the world, fall ill after consuming contaminated food. Of these, 420 000 people die, including 125 000 children under the age of 5 years.

“Until now, estimates of foodborne diseases were vague and imprecise. This concealed the true human costs of contaminated food. This report sets the record straight,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “Knowing which foodborne pathogens are causing the biggest problems in which parts of the world can generate targeted action by the public, governments, and the food industry.”

While the burden of foodborne diseases is a public health concern globally, the WHO African and South-East Asia Regions have the highest incidence and highest death rates, including among children under the age of 5 years.

“These estimates are the result of a decade of work, including input from more than 100 experts from around the world. They are conservative, and more needs to be done to improve the availability of data on the burden of foodborne diseases. But based on what we know now, it is apparent that the global burden of foodborne diseases is considerable, affecting people all over the world – particularly children under 5 years of age and people in low-income areas,” says Dr Kazuaki Miyagishima, Director of WHO’s Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses.

Diarrhoeal diseases are responsible for more than half of the global burden of foodborne diseases, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230 000 deaths every year. Children are at particular risk of foodborne diarrhoeal diseases, with 220 million falling ill and 96 000 dying every year.

 

 

 

World food safety increases risks and prevention opportunities

There was this time, about five years ago, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to consult with everyone they could find to chat about food safety messaging.

who.factors(1)I participated in good faith, but soon dropped out, because it was apparent the folks in charge had their minds made up, and my – and dozens of others – time on the phone was a consultative circle jerk.

The result was those embarrassing Ad Council ads with a pig in a sauna.

I was vocal, saying that cook, clean, chill, separate places too much blame on the consumer and doesn’t account for choosing safety: source food from verifiable safe sources.

Nope, weren’t having any of that, even though the World Health Organization has been promoting that message for 15 years (one of my former students worked on this, years ago).

On World Health Day 2015, WHO/Europe estimates that levels of foodborne disease are much higher than currently reported and underlines the need for improved collaboration among sectors to lower the health risks associated with unsafe food. 

Our food chain is longer and more complex than ever before, and demographic, cultural, economic and environmental developments – globalized trade, travel and migration, an ageing population, changing consumer trends and habits, new technologies, emergencies, climate change and extreme weather events – are increasing foodborne health risks. 

“The fact that we significantly underestimate how many people become ill from chemicals in the food chain and from common microorganisms such as Salmonella and Campylobacter should start alarm bells ringing across the many areas with a stake in our food chain. A failure in food safety at any link in this chain, from the environment, through primary production, processing, transport, trade, catering or in the home, can have significant health and economic consequences,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

the-who-whos-next-cover*Contamination from a single source may become widespread and have enormous health and economic consequences. In 2011, for example, an enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) outbreak in Germany and France, linked to imported contaminated fenugreek seeds, led to almost 4000 cases of EHEC infection in 16 countries, including more than 900 haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) cases and 55 deaths. The estimated loss for farmers and industries was US$ 1.3 billion.

*Changes in animal food production are leading to an increase in the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases. Of 335 emerging infectious disease events in humans between 1940 and 2004, it is estimated that 60% were transmitted from animals and many of these were foodborne. 

WHO calls on policy-makers:

*To build and maintain adequate food safety systems and infrastructures, including laboratory capacities and surveillance and reporting systems; 

*To respond to and manage food safety risks along the entire food chain, including during emergencies;

*To foster multisectoral collaboration among public health, animal health, agriculture and other sectors for better communication, information sharing and joint action;

*To integrate food safety into broader food policies and programmes (e.g. nutrition and food security);

*To think globally and act locally to ensure that food produced domestically is as safe as possible internationally.

who.throws.a.shoeWorld Health Day 2015, celebrated on 7 April, is an opportunity to recognize the important food safety role of all those involved in food production, and to strengthen collaboration and coordination among these various areas, in order to prevent, detect and respond to foodborne diseases efficiently and cost-effectively. A kaleidoscope of events is planned across the globe. 

People are also invited to engage through social media and to promote “From farm to plate: make food safe” using the hashtag #safefood.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) says to be able to meet the demand for milk, eggs and meat and guarantee their safety, it is first of all essential to control pathogens in animals on the farm.

Eliminating or controlling food hazards at source has proved more effective than an approach relying solely on checking the finished product.

 

Listeriosis and Produce: What’s the Connection? (via The Abstract)

I’m collaborating with Matt Shipman, public information officer at NC State University and curator of The Abstract, on a set of food safety-related posts from other NCSU folks as we roll toward WHO’s World Health Day on April 7– which is focused this year on food safety. Here’s a post on Listeria’s history with produce by Danisha Garner, a graduate student in NC State’s Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.

In the United States and other industrialized nations, consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is considered a key component of a healthy diet.

There are many benefits to eating fresh produce such as receiving adequate vitamins and minerals, reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure, and preventing some types of cancer. Even healthy foods, however, can be vehicles for foodborne pathogens. Indeed, fresh produce is now considered a major contributor to human foodborne disease, and an increasing number of produce-associated foodborne disease outbreaks have occurred in recent years.

An especially worrisome trend is the increase in outbreaks of listeriosis, involving the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.

Danisha Garner. Photo courtesy of Danisha Garner.

What Is Listeriosis?

Although it is relatively uncommon, human listeriosis remains a major public health concern due to high hospitalization and death rates. In fact, it has the highest hospitalization rate of all foodborne pathogens in the U.S. and is the third largest contributor to deaths from foodborne illness. Symptoms of infection can be severe and include septicemiameningitis, stillbirths and abortions. At high risk are the elderly, pregnant women and their fetuses, and patients with cancer and other immunocompromising conditions.

L. monocytogenes can be found in decaying plant material, soil and water, and has been detected on many types of fresh produce. Its reservoirs in nature remain poorly characterized but likely include soil and vegetation. Major contributors to the ability of L. monocytogenes to contaminate foods include its capacity to persistently colonize the environment and equipment of both food processing plants and produce packing sheds, and to grow even at refrigeration temperatures. Hence, foods typically implicated in human listeriosis are those that are processed, cold-stored and ready-to-eat – i.e. consumed without further treatment.

History of Listeriosis Outbreaks

The first outbreak of human listeriosis to be epidemiologically investigated (and to confirm foodborne transmission of the pathogen) involved produce (coleslaw) and took place in the Maritime Provinces of Canada in 1981. However, most subsequent outbreaks involved dairy products (especially soft cheeses) and ready-to-eat meats. Fresh produce was generally considered at low risk for listeriosis.

This situation changed dramatically in 2011, when one of the largest listeriosis outbreaks on record was traced to contaminated whole cantaloupe and resulted in a total of 147 cases of illness and 33 deaths across 28 states. This was also the first time that whole cantaloupe was found to serve as food vehicle for listeriosis. Contamination of the cantaloupes occurred in the packing facility, likely due to inadequate cleaning and sanitation of equipment. The pathogen was not recovered from the field where the melons were grown or from fruit prior to packing.

Even though additional melon-associated outbreaks of listeriosis have not been noted since the 2011 outbreak, several other produce-associated outbreaks have been documented in the U.S. since 2010. Implicated produce included diced celery (2010), sprouts (2014) and commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples (2014). In all investigated cases, the source of contamination was the packing/processing environment or equipment. These outbreaks highlight the importance of having good sanitation practices in the packing/processing facility to prevent or reduce contamination with Listeria and other pathogens.

Research and Prevention

At NC State, several efforts are being focused on characterizing Listeria-produce associations with the ultimate goal of identifying new tools and strategies to reduce the risk of contamination.

In the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Science, researchers in the lab of Sophia Kathariou are collaborating with Lisa Gorski and William G. Miller at USDA-ARS to investigate genes of L. monocytogenes that mediate the pathogen’s adherence and growth on both fresh produce and on surfaces likely to be encountered in packing sheds and processing plants.

In collaboration with Christian Melander (in NC State’s Department of Chemistry) the Kathariou lab is also investigating the potential of novel compounds to prevent or disperse biofilms formed by L. monocytogenes on environmental surfaces and equipment. Such research will be critically needed for development of novel tools and strategies to ensure the safety of fresh produce and reduce the risk for human listeriosis.

More information about Listeria monocytogenes and listeriosis outbreaks can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/

The burden of foodborne illness: it’s kind of a big deal

Last week I gave a guest lecture to an undergraduate nutrition class at UNC-Chapel Hill on the burden of foodborne illness as sort of an introduction to how and why folks like small farmers, school garden managers, cafeteria staff address food safety.

In a lot of my talks I get looks of bewilderment when I throw up the details from Elaine Scallan (and lots of her colleagues) papers on the burden of foodborne illness. Same with when I show economic estimates from friend of barfblog and all-around-good-guy-with-hipster-glasses Mike Batz (and colleagues). Foodborne illness, is kind of a big deal (at least to us food safety nerds).

I’m collaborating with Matt Shipman, public information officer at NC State University and curator of The Abstract, on a set of food safety-related posts from other NCSU folks as we roll toward WHO’s World Health Day – which is focused this year on food safety.

Here’s the first post:21d2f2194e7eb6925dac5a428cc518d4398b850316887505b740e8bd0e8ffdd2

Food safety poses a global health problem. According to the World Health Organization, contaminated food can cause more than 200 diseases – and food- and water-borne diseases that cause diarrhea are estimated to kill two million people each year worldwide.

And food safety is not just someone else’s problem.

“Foodborne illnesses are a significant problem in the United States, with massive impacts on public health and the economy,” says Ben Chapman, a food safety expert and researcher at NC State. And the numbers back Chapman up.

According to a 2012 report from researchers at the Emerging Pathogens Institute, Resources For the Future, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, foodborne illness is estimated to cost the U.S. more than $14 billion annually. (The estimate takes into account factors such as medical costs and productivity losses.)

And a 2011 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an estimated 9.4 million episodes of foodborne illness each year in the U.S. from known pathogens. An additional 38.4 million cases are estimated to come from unspecified or unknown pathogens. In total, foodborne illnesses are thought to contribute to 48 million illnesses annually – resulting in more than 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

It is, in short, a big deal.

So what are these foodborne illnesses? And how much damage does each of them cause?

In advance of World Health Day, we wanted to explain a handful of the relevant pathogens implicated in foodborne illness.

Campylobacter: Campylobacteris a genus of bacteria, many of which can cause an illness called campylobacteriosis in humans, with symptoms including diarrhea and abdominal pain. People can contract campylobacteriosis from undercooked chicken, from cross-contamination via raw chicken, or from drinking unpasteurized milk.

According to the 2012 paper, campylobacteriosis affects 845,000 people annually in the U.S., costing the nation an estimated $1.747 billion every year and leading to 8,463 hospitalizations.

Listeria monocytogenes: This is a bacterium that causes listeriosis, which is characterized by fever, muscle aches, and sometimes by gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea. Listeriosis can be contracted from an incredibly broad range of foods.

According to the 2012 study, listeriosis costs the U.S. $2.577 billion annually, despite the fact that there are only 1,591 illnesses per year. But 1,455 of those illnesses require hospitalization – and 255 result in death.

Norovirus: Noroviruses are the most common cause of foodborne illness in the U.S., affecting an estimated 19-21 million people each year. Symptoms range from vomiting and diarrhea to fever and headache. Transmission comes from ingesting infected feces or vomit particles – for example, by touching a contaminated surface and then touching food or touching your mouth.

According to the 2012 study, noroviruses cost the U.S. $2 billion per year, with more than 14,000 hospitalizations and approximately 150 deaths annually. NC State is a leader in norovirus research, and home to NoroCORE – the Norovirus Collaborative for Outreach, Research, and Education. NoroCORE pulls together norovirus research from 18 institutions, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Salmonella enterica: This is one species of the pathogen that has myriad of subspecies and types – more than 1,400 of which are known to cause human illness. Infection with Salmonella species causes salmonellosis, with symptoms including diarrhea, fever, and cramping. Salmonellosis can be contracted from a variety of sources, ranging from poultry to peanut butter to mangoes.

According to the 2012 study, the subspecies within S. entericaalone costs the U.S. $3.3 billion each year, causing more than one million hospitalizations and almost 400 deaths annually.

What are researchers doing about this?

The four pathogens listed above are just a few of the rogue’s gallery of bacteria and viruses that can cause foodborne illness. But researchers are constantly learning more about these health risks.

“New technology and new research on pathogens, practices and prevention are improving our ability to identify and address foodborne illness,” Chapman says. “The field is really opening up. It’s an exciting time to be involved in food safety research.”

Between now and April 7, we’re planning to publish a series of posts on various aspects of food safety – what we know, what we don’t know, and what we’re working on. We also hope to offer insights to help folks lower the risk of contracting foodborne illnesses. We hope you’ll learn something new.

Note: you can find all of our posts related to food safety here.

Citations:

Batz, Michael B., Sandra Hoffmann, and J. Glenn Morris, Jr. “Ranking the Disease Burden of 14 Pathogens in Food Sources in the United States Using Attribution Data from Outbreak Investigations and Expert Elicitation” Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 75, No. 7, 2012, Pages 1278–1291. doi:10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-11-418

Scallan, Elaine, et al. “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States—Major Pathogens” Emerg Infect Dis, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2011. doi:10.3201/eid1701.P11101

Shopping for safety: What is consumer food safety education?

Now that the annual orgy of food safety advice has subsided until the next holiday (that would be the Super Bowl, and all the bad puns), it’s time to ask: are any of these messages effective?

powell.food.safety.edu.jan.15Do they actually reduce the number of people who get sick? Does anyone test these messages in a scientifically credible way?

Cook-clean-chill-separate has become the mantra of food safety types but there is no evidence — regardless of repetition — these messages work.

Instead, people are picking up sound bites like venereal diseases; I thought we’d gotten past that.

Marty had no reason going to the first food safety educators conference in Washington, D.C. in 1997. He was working as a student life advisor or something but, I had gotten in the habit of taking Marty along on road trips from Guelph – got lost once in some New York mountains in the middle of the night and thought we were going to die – for fun and driving chores.

The 1996 Nissan Quest minivan still had the new car smell, and as a new prof with a carload of students, I decided driving all night was better than dishing out non-existent cash for an extra night of hotel rooms.

We arrived in Georgetown about 7:30 a.m., ate at a dive, and found the on-campus conference room. People looked at us like we had just rolled out of a vehicle and been driving all night.

We had.

pink.floyd.educationMost of us went and changed into fresh clothes, while Marty crashed somewhere until the room was available.

The conference started and we were pumped.

I may have fallen asleep.

There were descriptions of many food safety education programs but the evaluation components were either non-existent or sucked.

I remember going out to a Georgetown bar later that night, watching The Truth About Cats and Dogs in the hotel room while Marty farted, and commenting that student Janis looked like Janeane Garofalo. I remember the drive home.

I don’t remember much about the conference.

Which is why I haven’t gone back.

I’m all for providing food safety information in a compelling, creative and critically sound manner. However education is something people do themselves. Lewis Lapham wrote in Harper’s magazine in the mid-1980s about how individuals can choose to educate themselves about all sorts of interesting things, but the idea of educating someone is doomed to failure. And it’s sorta arrogant to state that shoppers need to be educated; to imply that if only you understood the world as I understand the world, we would agree and dissent would be minimized.

These may be subtle semantics – to communicate with rather than to; to inform rather than educate – but they set an important tone.

With outbreaks in pizza, pot pies, pet food, peanut butter, bagged spinach, lettuce, sprouts, carrot juice, lettuce, tomatoes, canned chili sauce, hot peppers, cookie dough, chia seeds, tuna back scrape, and white pepper, I’m not sure what consumers have to do with it.

This is not to discount the role of consumers in protecting or enhancing the safety of the food they eat. Rather, consumers should be engaged as partners in the management of the farm-to-fork food continuum, and not unduly blamed for failing to recognize and correct errors that other players in this continuum have made.

Forget the blame; focus on shared responsibility; share information. Help people make better decisions. Tell them why what they do is important (if not yourself, try not to make your kids or friends barf).

The World Health Organization recognized this back in 2001 and included a fifth key to safer food: use safe water and raw materials, or, source food from safe sources (http://www.who.int/foodsafety/consumer/5keys/en/index.html).

I’m not sure what consumers are supposed to do about Listeria in caramel apples, but that’s another story.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University.