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Seattle outbreak sparks nationwide public health alert

Overnight, the Seattle Salmonella outbreak traced to pork from Kapowsin Meats broke into a nationwide public health alert about the use and consumption of whole hog roasters prepared for barbeque.

The health alert was issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and specifically concerns concerns about illnesses  caused by Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-.

On July 13, FSIS was notified of the Kapowsin Meats investigation in Seattle. The Washington State Department of Health notified FSIS on July 19 of confirmed case patients involved in an illness outbreak of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i-.

The Good Vibe Tribe Luau July 3 included pork from Kapowsin Meats, which was linked to a five-state Salmonella outbreak in 2015 that sickened 192 and resulted in a recall of more than 115,000 pounds of whole pigs.

The Good Vibe Tribe Luau July 3 included pork from Kapowsin Meats, which was linked to a five-state Salmonella outbreak in 2015 that sickened 192 and resulted in a recall of more than 115,000 pounds of whole pigs.

Working in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Health and local health departments, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FSIS determined that there is a possible link between the roaster hogs for barbeque from Kapowsin Meats and this illness cluster.

Based on epidemiological investigation, three Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- case-patients have been identified with illness onset dates ranging from July 5, 2016 to July 7, 2016. Traceback investigation indicated that three case-patients consumed whole hog roasters for barbeque from Kapowsin Meats. It is not known at this time if this outbreak strain has any drug resistance; results are pending.

This investigation is ongoing. FSIS continues to work with public health partners at the Washington State Department of Health, local health agencies and the CDC on this investigation. Updated information will be provided as it becomes available.

FSIS moved forward with a Public Health Alert because company representatives were not available to participate in a recall committee conference earlier in the day. FSIS is working with the company to identify specific products to be removed from commerce. In the meantime, FSIS recommends the following guidance associated with roasting pigs.

Roasting a pig is a complex undertaking with numerous potential food handling issues. FSIS urges consumers to keep the four food safety steps in mind: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

  • CLEAN: Obtain your pig from a reputable supplier. Have the supplier wrap it in plastic, or a large plastic bag to contain the juices. Keep the pig cold until it is time to cook it. If you can’t keep it under refrigeration or on ice, consider picking it up just before you are ready to cook it.
  • SEPARATE: Anything that comes into contact with whole pig should be washed with hot soapy water afterwards. This includes hands and utensils.
  • COOK: FSIS recommends that all pork products are cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145º F with a three minute rest time. Make sure to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer in numerous places, including near the bone. Check the temperature frequently and replenish wood or coals to make sure the fire stays hot. Remove only enough meat from the carcass as you can serve within 1-2 hours.
  • CHILL: Once the meat is cooked, transfer to clean serving dishes. Pack leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate within 1-2 hours. It is not necessary to cool before you refrigerate it.

FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume pork and whole hogs for barbeque that have been cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F with a three minute rest time. The only way to confirm that whole hogs for barbeque are cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature, http://1.usa.gov/1cDxcDQ.

For whole hogs for barbeque make sure to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer in numerous places, including near the bone. Check the temperature frequently and replenish wood or coals to make sure the fire stays hot. Remove only enough meat from the carcass as you can serve within 1-2 hours.

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the organism. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days.

Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

Recommendations for Preventing Salmonellosis:

Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. Also wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water. Clean up spills right away.

Keep raw meat, fish and poultry away from other food that will not be cooked. Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and egg products and a separate one for fresh produce and cooked foods.

Cook raw meat and poultry to safe internal temperatures before eating. The safe internal for groundmeat is 160º F, and 165º F for poultry, as determined with a food thermometer.

Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours after purchase (one hour if temperatures exceed 90º F). Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking.

Food Safety News

Cattle grazing and clean water are compatible on public lands, study finds

June 28, 2013 — Cattle grazing and clean water can coexist on national forest lands, according to research by the University of California, Davis.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the most comprehensive examination of water quality on National Forest public grazing lands to date.

“There’s been a lot of concern about public lands and water quality, especially with cattle grazing,” said lead author Leslie Roche, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “We’re able to show that livestock grazing, public recreation and the provisioning of clean water can be compatible goals.”

Roughly 1.8 million livestock graze on national forest lands in the western United States each year, the study said. In California, 500 active grazing allotments support 97,000 livestock across 8 million acres on 17 national forests.

“With an annual recreating population of over 26 million, California’s national forests are at the crossroad of a growing debate about the compatibility of livestock grazing with other activities dependent upon clean, safe water,” the study’s authors write.

“We often hear that livestock production isn’t compatible with environmental goals,” said principal investigator Kenneth Tate, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “This helps to show that’s not absolutely true. There is no real evidence that we’re creating hot spots of human health risk with livestock grazing in these areas.”

The study was conducted in 2011, during the grazing and recreation season of June through November. Nearly 40 UC Davis researchers, ranchers, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service staff and environmental stakeholders went out by foot and on horseback, hiking across meadows, along campsites, and down ravines to collect 743 water samples from 155 sites across five national forests in northern California.

These areas stretched from Klamath National Forest to Plumas, Tahoe, Stanislaus, and Shasta-Trinity national forests. They included key cattle grazing areas, recreational lands and places where neither cattle nor humans tend to wander.

UC Davis researchers analyzed the water samples for microbial and nutrient pollution, including fecal indicator bacteria, fecal coliform, E. coli, nitrogen and phosphorus.

The scientists found that recreation sites were the cleanest, with the lowest levels of fecal indicator bacteria. They found no significant differences in fecal indicator bacteria between grazing lands and areas without recreation or grazing. Overall, 83 percent of all sample sites and 95 percent of all water samples collected were below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency benchmarks for human health.

The study noted that several regional regulatory programs use different water quality standards for fecal bacteria. For instance, most of the study’s sample sites would exceed levels set by a more restrictive standard based on fecal coliform concentrations. However, the U.S. EPA states that E. coli are better indicators of fecal contamination and provide the most accurate assessment of water quality conditions and human health risks.

The study also found that all nutrient concentrations were at or below background levels, and no samples exceeded concentrations of ecological or human health concern.

The study was funded by the USDA Forest Service, Region 5.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Recipe for Better Seafood Safety Opened to Public Comments

Seafood safety, legal fishing, and proper labeling of fish might all benefit from presidential task force recommendations now open to public comments. Scheduled for publication on Dec. 18 in the Federal Register, the “Recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud” cover four general themes:

  • International: Combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud at the international level;
  • Enforcement: Strengthen enforcement and enhance enforcement tools to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud;
  • Partnerships: Create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations to identify and eliminate seafood fraud and the sale of IUU seafood in U.S. commerce, and,
  • Traceability: Create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce to prevent entry of illegal product into the supply chain and better inform retailers and consumers.

“One of the biggest global threats to the sustainable management of the world’s fisheries is illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing,” states the task force report. “IUU fishing occurs both within nations’ waters and on the high seas and undermines the biological and economic sustainability of fisheries both domestically and abroad. IUU fishing in other parts of the world can cause problems in places where there are strong rules managing fisheries, such as the United States.”

The task force report was filed Tuesday by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a unit of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which, in turn, is a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

President Obama established the task force in June at the global Our Ocean conference hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Federal agencies were directed to work together for six months to develop recommendations to combat seafood fraud and illegal fishing.

“While not necessarily related to IUU fishing, seafood fraud (whereby fish is mislabeled with respect to its species or country of origin, quantity, or quality) has the potential to undermine the economic viability of U.S. and global fisheries as well as the ability of consumers to make informed purchasing choices, “ the task force report continued.

“Seafood fraud can occur at any point along the seafood supply chain from harvest to market. It can be driven by diverse motives, from covering up IUU fishing to avoiding duties, to increasing a profit margin through species substitution or falsification of the country of origin. While it is difficult to know the extent of seafood fraud, the frequency of seafood fraud incidents has received increasing attention in peer-reviewed journals, government reports and private sector reports. Seafood fraud threatens consumer confidence, serving to further undermine the reputation and market competitiveness of law-abiding fishers and businesses in the seafood industry,” it states.

Seafood fraud is all too common. In February 2013, Oceana, a U.S.-based group working to improve oceans worldwide, reported that 33 percent of more than 1,200 fish samples purchased at retail and tested were mislabeled, according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

Fish fraud is typically practiced to fool consumers into paying more, not to necessarily put them at risk from a food safety perspective, although unsafe food can result from fraudulent practices. To help improve the situation, Oceana advocates for “full chain traceability” from “boat to plate.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Oceana said the presidential task force recommendations are “a real step forward in fighting illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the U.S. and around the world.” The group says the recommendations will help carry out the president’s “commitment to stop those crimes that provide profits to pirate fishermen, rip off consumers, and hinder ocean conservation.”

Beth Lowell, senior campaign director for Oceana, called the task force recommendations a “historic opportunity to ensure that the seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.”

The organization is calling on Obama to implement the recommendations “swiftly and to their fullest extent.”

Comments on the task force recommendations must be received within 30 days of their publication in the Federal Register. Instructions on how to comment electronically or by mail are on the second page of this document.

Food Safety News

How Culture-Independent Diagostics Threaten Public Health Surveillance

Traditional methods for diagnosing foodborne illness infections such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli involve cultivating patient samples in an artificial nutrient medium. But tests that don’t require isolates from pure culture are becoming increasingly popular.

There are different kinds of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs), but they all take a broad look at the DNA in samples, screening for the general types of pathogens that are present. The type of CIDT public health folks think will really overtake culture tests are syndrome-based panels that can test for multiple agents at once. There are five such tests currently licensed for gastrointestinal illnesses, with more expected to follow in coming years.

These CIDTs are particularly attractive to clinicians because, in addition to testing for many different pathogens, they can be faster than traditional methods and can detect bugs that would otherwise be difficult to find. They also don’t need as much equipment or highly trained technicians, so they can save labs money.

“It represents a major departure from what we used to see and we’re anticipating: that there’s going to be very rapid adoption,” says Dr. John Besser, deputy chief of the enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases.

Despite all the positives, there is real concern about what CIDT adoption will mean for public health surveillance.

By definition, these types of tests don’t result in any bacterial or viral isolate, despite the fact that PulseNet, the current government pathogen database, is isolate-based. PulseNet is the national network of public health laboratories that use pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to connect illnesses that have the same pattern, or DNA “fingerprint.”

Information from PFGE tests are uploaded to CDC’s central server, where they can monitor trends nationwide and track illness clusters that may indicate an outbreak. This is how most outbreaks are identified in the U.S.; but without isolates, public health can’t detect the clusters.

“The irony is that the adoption of new tests that are arguably better for patient management may actually be a negative for our ability to detect and investigate clusters of disease,” Besser says.

Using the example of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), a CIDT can tell you if the pathogen is present or not and possibly if it has toxin genes Stx1 or Stx2. “PFGE will tell you if it’s one of a thousand different strains in our database, and it’s that level of specificity that we use to connect cases together,” Besser says. “Without that, the cases pretty much all look alike.”

“We haven’t seen a drastic reduction in the number of isolates coming in yet, but it’s something we are anticipating,” said CDC’s Jean Whichard at a National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) conference in August.

While they may not be able to be logged in PulseNet, positive CIDT results that were confirmed by culture are included in the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network’s (FoodNet) statistics every year. But in the network’s most recent foodborne illness report card, the agencies identified an additional 1,487 reports of positive CIDTs that were not confirmed by culture, either because the specimen was not cultured or because a culture did not yield the pathogen.

FoodNet decided to start tracking these tests in 2013 to better understand their uptake, calling them “a trend that will chal­lenge the ability to identify cases, monitor trends, detect out­breaks, and characterize pathogens.”

How to Proceed

The currently-licensed tests do not result in the destruction of the original patient sample, so one temporary solution to the need for an isolate is reflex testing — proceeding to culture after a CIDT shows a positive result.

Another option is to send the positive sample on to a public health laboratory for them to do the isolation. The problem there is that the state and local public health agencies don’t have the resources to do this.

Furthermore, it slows down the process of obtaining detailed information about the pathogen when a lot of the success in detecting and solving outbreaks comes from the ability to do these things quickly. The longer it takes to get information into PulseNet, the longer it takes to identify illness clusters, and the longer it takes for health departments to contact patients about what they ate and where. The more time that passes between a patient consuming a contaminated meal and the epidemiological interview, the less they’re going to remember.

“While we’re probably going to have to go the route of reflex culture because we don’t have any alternative, it’s not optimal,” Besser says.

Many food safety experts are excited about whole-genome sequencing because of the increased level of detail it can provide. CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are in the process of implementing the technology. The program began with Listeria and has so far sequenced hundreds of clinical and environmental isolates and begun real-time sequencing of every Listeria isolate across the country.

But, as it’s currently used, whole-genome sequencing also requires an isolate, so it’s also threatened by changing testing practices in clinical labs.

The long-range solution for testing is to develop culture-independent methods that function the same as PulseNet.

“Those new tests will almost certainly be DNA sequence-based,” Besser says.

By developing whole-genome sequencing, he adds, the agencies are putting together the infrastructure that will be needed for culture-independent tests, taking advantage of the current technology to get more accurate detection of illnesses and building a large library of bacterial genomes that can help in the development of these new CIDTs.

“Whole genome sequencing is the first phase of our long-term plan,” Besser says.

In September, CDC launched a “No-Petri-Dish” Diagnostic Test Challenge , which offered a $ 200,000 prize to encourage researchers to straintype and characterize Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) without using culture-based methods. The contest is open until Nov. 30 and the agency will notify the winner by mid-December.

Food Safety News

How Culture-Independent Diagostics Threaten Public Health Surveillance

Traditional methods for diagnosing foodborne illness infections such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli involve cultivating patient samples in an artificial nutrient medium. But tests that don’t require isolates from pure culture are becoming increasingly popular.

There are different kinds of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs), but they all take a broad look at the DNA in samples, screening for the general types of pathogens that are present. The type of CIDT public health folks think will really overtake culture tests are syndrome-based panels that can test for multiple agents at once. There are five such tests currently licensed for gastrointestinal illnesses, with more expected to follow in coming years.

These CIDTs are particularly attractive to clinicians because, in addition to testing for many different pathogens, they can be faster than traditional methods and can detect bugs that would otherwise be difficult to find. They also don’t need as much equipment or highly trained technicians, so they can save labs money.

“It represents a major departure from what we used to see and we’re anticipating: that there’s going to be very rapid adoption,” says Dr. John Besser, deputy chief of the enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases.

Despite all the positives, there is real concern about what CIDT adoption will mean for public health surveillance.

By definition, these types of tests don’t result in any bacterial or viral isolate, despite the fact that PulseNet, the current government pathogen database, is isolate-based. PulseNet is the national network of public health laboratories that use pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to connect illnesses that have the same pattern, or DNA “fingerprint.”

Information from PFGE tests are uploaded to CDC’s central server, where they can monitor trends nationwide and track illness clusters that may indicate an outbreak. This is how most outbreaks are identified in the U.S.; but without isolates, public health can’t detect the clusters.

“The irony is that the adoption of new tests that are arguably better for patient management may actually be a negative for our ability to detect and investigate clusters of disease,” Besser says.

Using the example of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), a CIDT can tell you if the pathogen is present or not and possibly if it has toxin genes Stx1 or Stx2. “PFGE will tell you if it’s one of a thousand different strains in our database, and it’s that level of specificity that we use to connect cases together,” Besser says. “Without that, the cases pretty much all look alike.”

“We haven’t seen a drastic reduction in the number of isolates coming in yet, but it’s something we are anticipating,” said CDC’s Jean Whichard at a National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) conference in August.

While they may not be able to be logged in PulseNet, positive CIDT results that were confirmed by culture are included in the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network’s (FoodNet) statistics every year. But in the network’s most recent foodborne illness report card, the agencies identified an additional 1,487 reports of positive CIDTs that were not confirmed by culture, either because the specimen was not cultured or because a culture did not yield the pathogen.

FoodNet decided to start tracking these tests in 2013 to better understand their uptake, calling them “a trend that will chal­lenge the ability to identify cases, monitor trends, detect out­breaks, and characterize pathogens.”

How to Proceed

The currently-licensed tests do not result in the destruction of the original patient sample, so one temporary solution to the need for an isolate is reflex testing — proceeding to culture after a CIDT shows a positive result.

Another option is to send the positive sample on to a public health laboratory for them to do the isolation. The problem there is that the state and local public health agencies don’t have the resources to do this.

Furthermore, it slows down the process of obtaining detailed information about the pathogen when a lot of the success in detecting and solving outbreaks comes from the ability to do these things quickly. The longer it takes to get information into PulseNet, the longer it takes to identify illness clusters, and the longer it takes for health departments to contact patients about what they ate and where. The more time that passes between a patient consuming a contaminated meal and the epidemiological interview, the less they’re going to remember.

“While we’re probably going to have to go the route of reflex culture because we don’t have any alternative, it’s not optimal,” Besser says.

Many food safety experts are excited about whole-genome sequencing because of the increased level of detail it can provide. CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are in the process of implementing the technology. The program began with Listeria and has so far sequenced hundreds of clinical and environmental isolates and begun real-time sequencing of every Listeria isolate across the country.

But, as it’s currently used, whole-genome sequencing also requires an isolate, so it’s also threatened by changing testing practices in clinical labs.

The long-range solution for testing is to develop culture-independent methods that function the same as PulseNet.

“Those new tests will almost certainly be DNA sequence-based,” Besser says.

By developing whole-genome sequencing, he adds, the agencies are putting together the infrastructure that will be needed for culture-independent tests, taking advantage of the current technology to get more accurate detection of illnesses and building a large library of bacterial genomes that can help in the development of these new CIDTs.

“Whole genome sequencing is the first phase of our long-term plan,” Besser says.

In September, CDC launched a “No-Petri-Dish” Diagnostic Test Challenge , which offered a $ 200,000 prize to encourage researchers to straintype and characterize Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) without using culture-based methods. The contest is open until Nov. 30 and the agency will notify the winner by mid-December.

Food Safety News

How Culture-Independent Diagostics Threaten Public Health Surveillance

Traditional methods for diagnosing foodborne illness infections such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli involve cultivating patient samples in an artificial nutrient medium. But tests that don’t require isolates from pure culture are becoming increasingly popular.

There are different kinds of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs), but they all take a broad look at the DNA in samples, screening for the general types of pathogens that are present. The type of CIDT public health folks think will really overtake culture tests are syndrome-based panels that can test for multiple agents at once. There are five such tests currently licensed for gastrointestinal illnesses, with more expected to follow in coming years.

These CIDTs are particularly attractive to clinicians because, in addition to testing for many different pathogens, they can be faster than traditional methods and can detect bugs that would otherwise be difficult to find. They also don’t need as much equipment or highly trained technicians, so they can save labs money.

“It represents a major departure from what we used to see and we’re anticipating: that there’s going to be very rapid adoption,” says Dr. John Besser, deputy chief of the enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases.

Despite all the positives, there is real concern about what CIDT adoption will mean for public health surveillance.

By definition, these types of tests don’t result in any bacterial or viral isolate, despite the fact that PulseNet, the current government pathogen database, is isolate-based. PulseNet is the national network of public health laboratories that use pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to connect illnesses that have the same pattern, or DNA “fingerprint.”

Information from PFGE tests are uploaded to CDC’s central server, where they can monitor trends nationwide and track illness clusters that may indicate an outbreak. This is how most outbreaks are identified in the U.S.; but without isolates, public health can’t detect the clusters.

“The irony is that the adoption of new tests that are arguably better for patient management may actually be a negative for our ability to detect and investigate clusters of disease,” Besser says.

Using the example of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), a CIDT can tell you if the pathogen is present or not and possibly if it has toxin genes Stx1 or Stx2. “PFGE will tell you if it’s one of a thousand different strains in our database, and it’s that level of specificity that we use to connect cases together,” Besser says. “Without that, the cases pretty much all look alike.”

“We haven’t seen a drastic reduction in the number of isolates coming in yet, but it’s something we are anticipating,” said CDC’s Jean Whichard at a National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) conference in August.

While they may not be able to be logged in PulseNet, positive CIDT results that were confirmed by culture are included in the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network’s (FoodNet) statistics every year. But in the network’s most recent foodborne illness report card, the agencies identified an additional 1,487 reports of positive CIDTs that were not confirmed by culture, either because the specimen was not cultured or because a culture did not yield the pathogen.

FoodNet decided to start tracking these tests in 2013 to better understand their uptake, calling them “a trend that will chal­lenge the ability to identify cases, monitor trends, detect out­breaks, and characterize pathogens.”

How to Proceed

The currently-licensed tests do not result in the destruction of the original patient sample, so one temporary solution to the need for an isolate is reflex testing — proceeding to culture after a CIDT shows a positive result.

Another option is to send the positive sample on to a public health laboratory for them to do the isolation. The problem there is that the state and local public health agencies don’t have the resources to do this.

Furthermore, it slows down the process of obtaining detailed information about the pathogen when a lot of the success in detecting and solving outbreaks comes from the ability to do these things quickly. The longer it takes to get information into PulseNet, the longer it takes to identify illness clusters, and the longer it takes for health departments to contact patients about what they ate and where. The more time that passes between a patient consuming a contaminated meal and the epidemiological interview, the less they’re going to remember.

“While we’re probably going to have to go the route of reflex culture because we don’t have any alternative, it’s not optimal,” Besser says.

Many food safety experts are excited about whole-genome sequencing because of the increased level of detail it can provide. CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are in the process of implementing the technology. The program began with Listeria and has so far sequenced hundreds of clinical and environmental isolates and begun real-time sequencing of every Listeria isolate across the country.

But, as it’s currently used, whole-genome sequencing also requires an isolate, so it’s also threatened by changing testing practices in clinical labs.

The long-range solution for testing is to develop culture-independent methods that function the same as PulseNet.

“Those new tests will almost certainly be DNA sequence-based,” Besser says.

By developing whole-genome sequencing, he adds, the agencies are putting together the infrastructure that will be needed for culture-independent tests, taking advantage of the current technology to get more accurate detection of illnesses and building a large library of bacterial genomes that can help in the development of these new CIDTs.

“Whole genome sequencing is the first phase of our long-term plan,” Besser says.

In September, CDC launched a “No-Petri-Dish” Diagnostic Test Challenge , which offered a $ 200,000 prize to encourage researchers to straintype and characterize Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) without using culture-based methods. The contest is open until Nov. 30 and the agency will notify the winner by mid-December.

Food Safety News

How Culture-Independent Diagostics Threaten Public Health Surveillance

Traditional methods for diagnosing foodborne illness infections such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli involve cultivating patient samples in an artificial nutrient medium. But tests that don’t require isolates from pure culture are becoming increasingly popular.

There are different kinds of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs), but they all take a broad look at the DNA in samples, screening for the general types of pathogens that are present. The type of CIDT public health folks think will really overtake culture tests are syndrome-based panels that can test for multiple agents at once. There are five such tests currently licensed for gastrointestinal illnesses, with more expected to follow in coming years.

These CIDTs are particularly attractive to clinicians because, in addition to testing for many different pathogens, they can be faster than traditional methods and can detect bugs that would otherwise be difficult to find. They also don’t need as much equipment or highly trained technicians, so they can save labs money.

“It represents a major departure from what we used to see and we’re anticipating: that there’s going to be very rapid adoption,” says Dr. John Besser, deputy chief of the enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases.

Despite all the positives, there is real concern about what CIDT adoption will mean for public health surveillance.

By definition, these types of tests don’t result in any bacterial or viral isolate, despite the fact that PulseNet, the current government pathogen database, is isolate-based. PulseNet is the national network of public health laboratories that use pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to connect illnesses that have the same pattern, or DNA “fingerprint.”

Information from PFGE tests are uploaded to CDC’s central server, where they can monitor trends nationwide and track illness clusters that may indicate an outbreak. This is how most outbreaks are identified in the U.S.; but without isolates, public health can’t detect the clusters.

“The irony is that the adoption of new tests that are arguably better for patient management may actually be a negative for our ability to detect and investigate clusters of disease,” Besser says.

Using the example of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), a CIDT can tell you if the pathogen is present or not and possibly if it has toxin genes Stx1 or Stx2. “PFGE will tell you if it’s one of a thousand different strains in our database, and it’s that level of specificity that we use to connect cases together,” Besser says. “Without that, the cases pretty much all look alike.”

“We haven’t seen a drastic reduction in the number of isolates coming in yet, but it’s something we are anticipating,” said CDC’s Jean Whichard at a National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) conference in August.

While they may not be able to be logged in PulseNet, positive CIDT results that were confirmed by culture are included in the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network’s (FoodNet) statistics every year. But in the network’s most recent foodborne illness report card, the agencies identified an additional 1,487 reports of positive CIDTs that were not confirmed by culture, either because the specimen was not cultured or because a culture did not yield the pathogen.

FoodNet decided to start tracking these tests in 2013 to better understand their uptake, calling them “a trend that will chal­lenge the ability to identify cases, monitor trends, detect out­breaks, and characterize pathogens.”

How to Proceed

The currently-licensed tests do not result in the destruction of the original patient sample, so one temporary solution to the need for an isolate is reflex testing — proceeding to culture after a CIDT shows a positive result.

Another option is to send the positive sample on to a public health laboratory for them to do the isolation. The problem there is that the state and local public health agencies don’t have the resources to do this.

Furthermore, it slows down the process of obtaining detailed information about the pathogen when a lot of the success in detecting and solving outbreaks comes from the ability to do these things quickly. The longer it takes to get information into PulseNet, the longer it takes to identify illness clusters, and the longer it takes for health departments to contact patients about what they ate and where. The more time that passes between a patient consuming a contaminated meal and the epidemiological interview, the less they’re going to remember.

“While we’re probably going to have to go the route of reflex culture because we don’t have any alternative, it’s not optimal,” Besser says.

Many food safety experts are excited about whole-genome sequencing because of the increased level of detail it can provide. CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are in the process of implementing the technology. The program began with Listeria and has so far sequenced hundreds of clinical and environmental isolates and begun real-time sequencing of every Listeria isolate across the country.

But, as it’s currently used, whole-genome sequencing also requires an isolate, so it’s also threatened by changing testing practices in clinical labs.

The long-range solution for testing is to develop culture-independent methods that function the same as PulseNet.

“Those new tests will almost certainly be DNA sequence-based,” Besser says.

By developing whole-genome sequencing, he adds, the agencies are putting together the infrastructure that will be needed for culture-independent tests, taking advantage of the current technology to get more accurate detection of illnesses and building a large library of bacterial genomes that can help in the development of these new CIDTs.

“Whole genome sequencing is the first phase of our long-term plan,” Besser says.

In September, CDC launched a “No-Petri-Dish” Diagnostic Test Challenge , which offered a $ 200,000 prize to encourage researchers to straintype and characterize Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) without using culture-based methods. The contest is open until Nov. 30 and the agency will notify the winner by mid-December.

Food Safety News

How Culture-Independent Diagostics Threaten Public Health Surveillance

Traditional methods for diagnosing foodborne illness infections such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli involve cultivating patient samples in an artificial nutrient medium. But tests that don’t require isolates from pure culture are becoming increasingly popular.

There are different kinds of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs), but they all take a broad look at the DNA in samples, screening for the general types of pathogens that are present. The type of CIDT public health folks think will really overtake culture tests are syndrome-based panels that can test for multiple agents at once. There are five such tests currently licensed for gastrointestinal illnesses, with more expected to follow in coming years.

These CIDTs are particularly attractive to clinicians because, in addition to testing for many different pathogens, they can be faster than traditional methods and can detect bugs that would otherwise be difficult to find. They also don’t need as much equipment or highly trained technicians, so they can save labs money.

“It represents a major departure from what we used to see and we’re anticipating: that there’s going to be very rapid adoption,” says Dr. John Besser, deputy chief of the enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases.

Despite all the positives, there is real concern about what CIDT adoption will mean for public health surveillance.

By definition, these types of tests don’t result in any bacterial or viral isolate, despite the fact that PulseNet, the current government pathogen database, is isolate-based. PulseNet is the national network of public health laboratories that use pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to connect illnesses that have the same pattern, or DNA “fingerprint.”

Information from PFGE tests are uploaded to CDC’s central server, where they can monitor trends nationwide and track illness clusters that may indicate an outbreak. This is how most outbreaks are identified in the U.S.; but without isolates, public health can’t detect the clusters.

“The irony is that the adoption of new tests that are arguably better for patient management may actually be a negative for our ability to detect and investigate clusters of disease,” Besser says.

Using the example of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), a CIDT can tell you if the pathogen is present or not and possibly if it has toxin genes Stx1 or Stx2. “PFGE will tell you if it’s one of a thousand different strains in our database, and it’s that level of specificity that we use to connect cases together,” Besser says. “Without that, the cases pretty much all look alike.”

“We haven’t seen a drastic reduction in the number of isolates coming in yet, but it’s something we are anticipating,” said CDC’s Jean Whichard at a National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) conference in August.

While they may not be able to be logged in PulseNet, positive CIDT results that were confirmed by culture are included in the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network’s (FoodNet) statistics every year. But in the network’s most recent foodborne illness report card, the agencies identified an additional 1,487 reports of positive CIDTs that were not confirmed by culture, either because the specimen was not cultured or because a culture did not yield the pathogen.

FoodNet decided to start tracking these tests in 2013 to better understand their uptake, calling them “a trend that will chal­lenge the ability to identify cases, monitor trends, detect out­breaks, and characterize pathogens.”

How to Proceed

The currently-licensed tests do not result in the destruction of the original patient sample, so one temporary solution to the need for an isolate is reflex testing — proceeding to culture after a CIDT shows a positive result.

Another option is to send the positive sample on to a public health laboratory for them to do the isolation. The problem there is that the state and local public health agencies don’t have the resources to do this.

Furthermore, it slows down the process of obtaining detailed information about the pathogen when a lot of the success in detecting and solving outbreaks comes from the ability to do these things quickly. The longer it takes to get information into PulseNet, the longer it takes to identify illness clusters, and the longer it takes for health departments to contact patients about what they ate and where. The more time that passes between a patient consuming a contaminated meal and the epidemiological interview, the less they’re going to remember.

“While we’re probably going to have to go the route of reflex culture because we don’t have any alternative, it’s not optimal,” Besser says.

Many food safety experts are excited about whole-genome sequencing because of the increased level of detail it can provide. CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are in the process of implementing the technology. The program began with Listeria and has so far sequenced hundreds of clinical and environmental isolates and begun real-time sequencing of every Listeria isolate across the country.

But, as it’s currently used, whole-genome sequencing also requires an isolate, so it’s also threatened by changing testing practices in clinical labs.

The long-range solution for testing is to develop culture-independent methods that function the same as PulseNet.

“Those new tests will almost certainly be DNA sequence-based,” Besser says.

By developing whole-genome sequencing, he adds, the agencies are putting together the infrastructure that will be needed for culture-independent tests, taking advantage of the current technology to get more accurate detection of illnesses and building a large library of bacterial genomes that can help in the development of these new CIDTs.

“Whole genome sequencing is the first phase of our long-term plan,” Besser says.

In September, CDC launched a “No-Petri-Dish” Diagnostic Test Challenge , which offered a $ 200,000 prize to encourage researchers to straintype and characterize Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) without using culture-based methods. The contest is open until Nov. 30 and the agency will notify the winner by mid-December.

Food Safety News

How Culture-Independent Diagostics Threaten Public Health Surveillance

Traditional methods for diagnosing foodborne illness infections such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli involve cultivating patient samples in an artificial nutrient medium. But tests that don’t require isolates from pure culture are becoming increasingly popular.

There are different kinds of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs), but they all take a broad look at the DNA in samples, screening for the general types of pathogens that are present. The type of CIDT public health folks think will really overtake culture tests are syndrome-based panels that can test for multiple agents at once. There are five such tests currently licensed for gastrointestinal illnesses, with more expected to follow in coming years.

These CIDTs are particularly attractive to clinicians because, in addition to testing for many different pathogens, they can be faster than traditional methods and can detect bugs that would otherwise be difficult to find. They also don’t need as much equipment or highly trained technicians, so they can save labs money.

“It represents a major departure from what we used to see and we’re anticipating: that there’s going to be very rapid adoption,” says Dr. John Besser, deputy chief of the enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases.

Despite all the positives, there is real concern about what CIDT adoption will mean for public health surveillance.

By definition, these types of tests don’t result in any bacterial or viral isolate, despite the fact that PulseNet, the current government pathogen database, is isolate-based. PulseNet is the national network of public health laboratories that use pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to connect illnesses that have the same pattern, or DNA “fingerprint.”

Information from PFGE tests are uploaded to CDC’s central server, where they can monitor trends nationwide and track illness clusters that may indicate an outbreak. This is how most outbreaks are identified in the U.S.; but without isolates, public health can’t detect the clusters.

“The irony is that the adoption of new tests that are arguably better for patient management may actually be a negative for our ability to detect and investigate clusters of disease,” Besser says.

Using the example of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), a CIDT can tell you if the pathogen is present or not and possibly if it has toxin genes Stx1 or Stx2. “PFGE will tell you if it’s one of a thousand different strains in our database, and it’s that level of specificity that we use to connect cases together,” Besser says. “Without that, the cases pretty much all look alike.”

“We haven’t seen a drastic reduction in the number of isolates coming in yet, but it’s something we are anticipating,” said CDC’s Jean Whichard at a National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) conference in August.

While they may not be able to be logged in PulseNet, positive CIDT results that were confirmed by culture are included in the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network’s (FoodNet) statistics every year. But in the network’s most recent foodborne illness report card, the agencies identified an additional 1,487 reports of positive CIDTs that were not confirmed by culture, either because the specimen was not cultured or because a culture did not yield the pathogen.

FoodNet decided to start tracking these tests in 2013 to better understand their uptake, calling them “a trend that will chal­lenge the ability to identify cases, monitor trends, detect out­breaks, and characterize pathogens.”

How to Proceed

The currently-licensed tests do not result in the destruction of the original patient sample, so one temporary solution to the need for an isolate is reflex testing — proceeding to culture after a CIDT shows a positive result.

Another option is to send the positive sample on to a public health laboratory for them to do the isolation. The problem there is that the state and local public health agencies don’t have the resources to do this.

Furthermore, it slows down the process of obtaining detailed information about the pathogen when a lot of the success in detecting and solving outbreaks comes from the ability to do these things quickly. The longer it takes to get information into PulseNet, the longer it takes to identify illness clusters, and the longer it takes for health departments to contact patients about what they ate and where. The more time that passes between a patient consuming a contaminated meal and the epidemiological interview, the less they’re going to remember.

“While we’re probably going to have to go the route of reflex culture because we don’t have any alternative, it’s not optimal,” Besser says.

Many food safety experts are excited about whole-genome sequencing because of the increased level of detail it can provide. CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are in the process of implementing the technology. The program began with Listeria and has so far sequenced hundreds of clinical and environmental isolates and begun real-time sequencing of every Listeria isolate across the country.

But, as it’s currently used, whole-genome sequencing also requires an isolate, so it’s also threatened by changing testing practices in clinical labs.

The long-range solution for testing is to develop culture-independent methods that function the same as PulseNet.

“Those new tests will almost certainly be DNA sequence-based,” Besser says.

By developing whole-genome sequencing, he adds, the agencies are putting together the infrastructure that will be needed for culture-independent tests, taking advantage of the current technology to get more accurate detection of illnesses and building a large library of bacterial genomes that can help in the development of these new CIDTs.

“Whole genome sequencing is the first phase of our long-term plan,” Besser says.

In September, CDC launched a “No-Petri-Dish” Diagnostic Test Challenge , which offered a $ 200,000 prize to encourage researchers to straintype and characterize Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) without using culture-based methods. The contest is open until Nov. 30 and the agency will notify the winner by mid-December.

Food Safety News

Connecticut Public Health Agencies Won’t Name Restaurant in Salmonella Outbreak

When John Snow traced the London cholera epidemic of 1854 to a local well, he removed the pump handle so all would know the source of the fatal disease when it ceased to plague the city. Removing that pump handle is still remembered today because it represented public health’s first major victory.

But it seems this act would be illegal today in Connecticut. Here’s the story:

Both the Orange, CT Health Department and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have declined to tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, a local affiliate, if a closed restaurant was responsible for sickening a local resident with Salmonella.

Karan Niazi blames three slices of chicken pizza he consumed at Oregano Joe’s on Boston Post Road in Orange for his illness, which included a 104-degree fever, extreme diarrhea and vomiting. He spent almost a week in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and was told by one of his doctors he was suffering from a severe case of Salmonella.

Another patient at the hospital with the same Salmonella symptoms reportedly also ate at Oregano Joe’s.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reports that the restaurant was closed twice by the Orange Health Department, once on May 30 for one day and then again on June 20 for five weeks. However, the local health department won’t say why it closed the establishment and won’t say if there is a link between the illnesses and the restaurant closures.

Both the local and state health departments say state law prevents them from sharing the information they have with the public. The Troubleshooters investigation did find one local police report made when the restaurant owner needed access to the business while it was closed. The local police report quoted the owner as saying his eatery was shut down ‘due to multiple confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning.’”

Niazi also filed a lawsuit, and the TV report says court documents show Oregano’s was closed down for “falsified employee stool samples” during the investigation.

Law Professor John Thomas, who teaches healthcare law at Quinnipiac University, says officials are “completely wrong” in the way they are interrupting state statutes on privacy and confidentiality of records.

“I believe that both the Orange town health department, its lawyers, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) have erred in their interpretation of the governing statute,” Professor Thomas told Food Safety News.  ”As the Connecticut Supreme Court observed in the 1999 in the definitive case of Babcock v. Bridgeport hospital, the exemption from public disclosure only applies to ‘the designated materials…that are generated primarily for the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality, undertaken specifically for the purpose of reducing the incidence of patient deaths.’

“The City of Orange data at issue in this case were not voiced in the context of a study for ‘the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality.’ As a result, any claims that the records at issue are confidential are mistaken,” Thomas says.  He says it “remains a mystery” as to why the state’s elected officials have sided with health officials in the current narrow interpretation.

“Every state legislature and the relevant administrative agencies weigh the public’s interest in knowing about health risks against the disruption in the health treatment and evaluative process that revelation of health risks will cause,” he added.

Food Safety News also invited William Gerrish, director of communications and government relations for Connecticut’s Department of Public Health, to comment on the restrictive policy, but he did not respond to the invitation.

Food Safety News

Connecticut Public Health Agencies Won’t Name Restaurant in Salmonella Outbreak

When John Snow traced the London cholera epidemic of 1854 to a local well, he removed the pump handle so all would know the source of the fatal disease when it ceased to plague the city. Removing that pump handle is still remembered today because it represented public health’s first major victory.

But it seems this act would be illegal today in Connecticut. Here’s the story:

Both the Orange, CT Health Department and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have declined to tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, a local affiliate, if a closed restaurant was responsible for sickening a local resident with Salmonella.

Karan Niazi blames three slices of chicken pizza he consumed at Oregano Joe’s on Boston Post Road in Orange for his illness, which included a 104-degree fever, extreme diarrhea and vomiting. He spent almost a week in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and was told by one of his doctors he was suffering from a severe case of Salmonella.

Another patient at the hospital with the same Salmonella symptoms reportedly also ate at Oregano Joe’s.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reports that the restaurant was closed twice by the Orange Health Department, once on May 30 for one day and then again on June 20 for five weeks. However, the local health department won’t say why it closed the establishment and won’t say if there is a link between the illnesses and the restaurant closures.

Both the local and state health departments say state law prevents them from sharing the information they have with the public. The Troubleshooters investigation did find one local police report made when the restaurant owner needed access to the business while it was closed. The local police report quoted the owner as saying his eatery was shut down ‘due to multiple confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning.’”

Niazi also filed a lawsuit, and the TV report says court documents show Oregano’s was closed down for “falsified employee stool samples” during the investigation.

Law Professor John Thomas, who teaches healthcare law at Quinnipiac University, says officials are “completely wrong” in the way they are interrupting state statutes on privacy and confidentiality of records.

“I believe that both the Orange town health department, its lawyers, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) have erred in their interpretation of the governing statute,” Professor Thomas told Food Safety News.  ”As the Connecticut Supreme Court observed in the 1999 in the definitive case of Babcock v. Bridgeport hospital, the exemption from public disclosure only applies to ‘the designated materials…that are generated primarily for the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality, undertaken specifically for the purpose of reducing the incidence of patient deaths.’

“The City of Orange data at issue in this case were not voiced in the context of a study for ‘the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality.’ As a result, any claims that the records at issue are confidential are mistaken,” Thomas says.  He says it “remains a mystery” as to why the state’s elected officials have sided with health officials in the current narrow interpretation.

“Every state legislature and the relevant administrative agencies weigh the public’s interest in knowing about health risks against the disruption in the health treatment and evaluative process that revelation of health risks will cause,” he added.

Food Safety News also invited William Gerrish, director of communications and government relations for Connecticut’s Department of Public Health, to comment on the restrictive policy, but he did not respond to the invitation.

Food Safety News

Connecticut Public Health Agencies Won’t Name Restaurant in Salmonella Outbreak

When John Snow traced the London cholera epidemic of 1854 to a local well, he removed the pump handle so all would know the source of the fatal disease when it ceased to plague the city. Removing that pump handle is still remembered today because it represented public health’s first major victory.

But it seems this act would be illegal today in Connecticut. Here’s the story:

Both the Orange, CT Health Department and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have declined to tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, a local affiliate, if a closed restaurant was responsible for sickening a local resident with Salmonella.

Karan Niazi blames three slices of chicken pizza he consumed at Oregano Joe’s on Boston Post Road in Orange for his illness, which included a 104-degree fever, extreme diarrhea and vomiting. He spent almost a week in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and was told by one of his doctors he was suffering from a severe case of Salmonella.

Another patient at the hospital with the same Salmonella symptoms reportedly also ate at Oregano Joe’s.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reports that the restaurant was closed twice by the Orange Health Department, once on May 30 for one day and then again on June 20 for five weeks. However, the local health department won’t say why it closed the establishment and won’t say if there is a link between the illnesses and the restaurant closures.

Both the local and state health departments say state law prevents them from sharing the information they have with the public. The Troubleshooters investigation did find one local police report made when the restaurant owner needed access to the business while it was closed. The local police report quoted the owner as saying his eatery was shut down ‘due to multiple confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning.’”

Niazi also filed a lawsuit, and the TV report says court documents show Oregano’s was closed down for “falsified employee stool samples” during the investigation.

Law Professor John Thomas, who teaches healthcare law at Quinnipiac University, says officials are “completely wrong” in the way they are interrupting state statutes on privacy and confidentiality of records.

“I believe that both the Orange town health department, its lawyers, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) have erred in their interpretation of the governing statute,” Professor Thomas told Food Safety News.  ”As the Connecticut Supreme Court observed in the 1999 in the definitive case of Babcock v. Bridgeport hospital, the exemption from public disclosure only applies to ‘the designated materials…that are generated primarily for the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality, undertaken specifically for the purpose of reducing the incidence of patient deaths.’

“The City of Orange data at issue in this case were not voiced in the context of a study for ‘the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality.’ As a result, any claims that the records at issue are confidential are mistaken,” Thomas says.  He says it “remains a mystery” as to why the state’s elected officials have sided with health officials in the current narrow interpretation.

“Every state legislature and the relevant administrative agencies weigh the public’s interest in knowing about health risks against the disruption in the health treatment and evaluative process that revelation of health risks will cause,” he added.

Food Safety News also invited William Gerrish, director of communications and government relations for Connecticut’s Department of Public Health, to comment on the restrictive policy, but he did not respond to the invitation.

Food Safety News

Connecticut Public Health Agencies Won’t Name Restaurant in Salmonella Outbreak

When John Snow traced the London cholera epidemic of 1854 to a local well, he removed the pump handle so all would know the source of the fatal disease when it ceased to plague the city. Removing that pump handle is still remembered today because it represented public health’s first major victory.

But it seems this act would be illegal today in Connecticut. Here’s the story:

Both the Orange, CT Health Department and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have declined to tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, a local affiliate, if a closed restaurant was responsible for sickening a local resident with Salmonella.

Karan Niazi blames three slices of chicken pizza he consumed at Oregano Joe’s on Boston Post Road in Orange for his illness, which included a 104-degree fever, extreme diarrhea and vomiting. He spent almost a week in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and was told by one of his doctors he was suffering from a severe case of Salmonella.

Another patient at the hospital with the same Salmonella symptoms reportedly also ate at Oregano Joe’s.

NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reports that the restaurant was closed twice by the Orange Health Department, once on May 30 for one day and then again on June 20 for five weeks. However, the local health department won’t say why it closed the establishment and won’t say if there is a link between the illnesses and the restaurant closures.

Both the local and state health departments say state law prevents them from sharing the information they have with the public. The Troubleshooters investigation did find one local police report made when the restaurant owner needed access to the business while it was closed. The local police report quoted the owner as saying his eatery was shut down ‘due to multiple confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning.’”

Niazi also filed a lawsuit, and the TV report says court documents show Oregano’s was closed down for “falsified employee stool samples” during the investigation.

Law Professor John Thomas, who teaches healthcare law at Quinnipiac University, says officials are “completely wrong” in the way they are interrupting state statutes on privacy and confidentiality of records.

“I believe that both the Orange town health department, its lawyers, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) have erred in their interpretation of the governing statute,” Professor Thomas told Food Safety News.  ”As the Connecticut Supreme Court observed in the 1999 in the definitive case of Babcock v. Bridgeport hospital, the exemption from public disclosure only applies to ‘the designated materials…that are generated primarily for the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality, undertaken specifically for the purpose of reducing the incidence of patient deaths.’

“The City of Orange data at issue in this case were not voiced in the context of a study for ‘the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality.’ As a result, any claims that the records at issue are confidential are mistaken,” Thomas says.  He says it “remains a mystery” as to why the state’s elected officials have sided with health officials in the current narrow interpretation.

“Every state legislature and the relevant administrative agencies weigh the public’s interest in knowing about health risks against the disruption in the health treatment and evaluative process that revelation of health risks will cause,” he added.

Food Safety News also invited William Gerrish, director of communications and government relations for Connecticut’s Department of Public Health, to comment on the restrictive policy, but he did not respond to the invitation.

Food Safety News

Public Health Groups Ask Congress For More FSMA Funding

On Wednesday, the first day of the new federal fiscal year, 16 public health organizations wrote to the heads of the House and Senate Appropriations committees urging Congress to add $ 50 million to the Food and Drug Administration’s budget so the agency can fully implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

“FDA estimates that it needs an additional $ 300 million over the next two to three years to fully implement FSMA,” wrote the organizations, which include the Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“As you complete your work on Agriculture Appropriations legislation for FY2015, we strongly urge you to more robustly fund this vital national priority by providing at least $ 50 million in additional resources for the FDA’s efforts to implement FSMA in the year ahead,” they stated.

In August, Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sam Farr (D-CA) called on the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Health and Human Services to request “much higher budget authority” for FSMA implementation in the president’s FY 2016 budget rather than continuing to consider user fees as a funding source.

Congress passed a Continuing Resolution in September that funds the federal government at current levels until Dec. 11.

Food Safety News

Officials Warn Public of Possible Hepatitis A Exposure at Texas Burger Restaurant

Health officials in Austin, TX, have alerted the public about possible Hepatitis A exposure at a Whataburger restaurant in central Austin after a restaurant employee at the 2800 Guadalupe St. location was diagnosed with the virus.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that is usually spread when a person ingests something that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person, including contaminated food or water.

Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A can include the following: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Signs and symptoms usually appear two to four weeks after exposure, although they may happen up to two to seven weeks after exposure. Children younger than 6 with Hepatitis A often do not have, or show few, signs and symptoms. Children, however, are least likely to get sick because they are typically immunized.

While health officials say transmission of the infection to customers is unlikely, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department is recommending that people contact their doctor if they ate at that specific Whataburger restaurant between Aug. 7 and Aug. 19 and fit the following criteria:

  • Are 75 years old or older
  • Are immune-compromised
  • Have chronic liver disease or have had a liver transplant
  • Have clotting-factor disorders
  • Are experiencing Hepatitis A symptoms

If you do not fall into these risk categories but are still worried or are needing more guidance, officials recommend that you should visit your doctor or call the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department at 512-972-4372. The city’s Public Health Department is also working with the Whataburger Corporation to make sure employees are using the proper control measures at the Guadalupe location.

Whataburger has established a hotline for anyone with questions about the situation. That number is:  844-569-5555. The company released the following statement:

“This report of one employee’s Hepatitis A diagnosis at our 2800 Guadalupe St. location is top priority for us, which is why we have set up a dedicated hotline at 844-569-5555 to answer questions from the community. We invest a tremendous amount of time and effort to ensure food safety, so we have a team actively managing the situation, and we are working closely with the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department. We remain committed to a safe and clean dining experience for our employees and customers, and we have taken several precautionary measures, including providing all of our team members who work at this restaurant a Hepatitis A vaccine at Whataburger’s expense. Again, we encourage those with questions to contact our hotline at 844-569-5555.”

Food Safety News

Officials Warn Public of Possible Hepatitis A Exposure at Texas Burger Restaurant

Health officials in Austin, TX, have alerted the public about possible Hepatitis A exposure at a Whataburger restaurant in central Austin after a restaurant employee at the 2800 Guadalupe St. location was diagnosed with the virus.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that is usually spread when a person ingests something that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person, including contaminated food or water.

Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A can include the following: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Signs and symptoms usually appear two to four weeks after exposure, although they may happen up to two to seven weeks after exposure. Children younger than 6 with Hepatitis A often do not have, or show few, signs and symptoms. Children, however, are least likely to get sick because they are typically immunized.

While health officials say transmission of the infection to customers is unlikely, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department is recommending that people contact their doctor if they ate at that specific Whataburger restaurant between Aug. 7 and Aug. 19 and fit the following criteria:

  • Are 75 years old or older
  • Are immune-compromised
  • Have chronic liver disease or have had a liver transplant
  • Have clotting-factor disorders
  • Are experiencing Hepatitis A symptoms

If you do not fall into these risk categories but are still worried or are needing more guidance, officials recommend that you should visit your doctor or call the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department at 512-972-4372. The city’s Public Health Department is also working with the Whataburger Corporation to make sure employees are using the proper control measures at the Guadalupe location.

Whataburger has established a hotline for anyone with questions about the situation. That number is:  844-569-5555. The company released the following statement:

“This report of one employee’s Hepatitis A diagnosis at our 2800 Guadalupe St. location is top priority for us, which is why we have set up a dedicated hotline at 844-569-5555 to answer questions from the community. We invest a tremendous amount of time and effort to ensure food safety, so we have a team actively managing the situation, and we are working closely with the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department. We remain committed to a safe and clean dining experience for our employees and customers, and we have taken several precautionary measures, including providing all of our team members who work at this restaurant a Hepatitis A vaccine at Whataburger’s expense. Again, we encourage those with questions to contact our hotline at 844-569-5555.”

Food Safety News

Officials Warn Public of Possible Hepatitis A Exposure at Texas Burger Restaurant

Health officials in Austin, TX, have alerted the public about possible Hepatitis A exposure at a Whataburger restaurant in central Austin after a restaurant employee at the 2800 Guadalupe St. location was diagnosed with the virus.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that is usually spread when a person ingests something that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person, including contaminated food or water.

Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A can include the following: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Signs and symptoms usually appear two to four weeks after exposure, although they may happen up to two to seven weeks after exposure. Children younger than 6 with Hepatitis A often do not have, or show few, signs and symptoms. Children, however, are least likely to get sick because they are typically immunized.

While health officials say transmission of the infection to customers is unlikely, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department is recommending that people contact their doctor if they ate at that specific Whataburger restaurant between Aug. 7 and Aug. 19 and fit the following criteria:

  • Are 75 years old or older
  • Are immune-compromised
  • Have chronic liver disease or have had a liver transplant
  • Have clotting-factor disorders
  • Are experiencing Hepatitis A symptoms

If you do not fall into these risk categories but are still worried or are needing more guidance, officials recommend that you should visit your doctor or call the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department at 512-972-4372. The city’s Public Health Department is also working with the Whataburger Corporation to make sure employees are using the proper control measures at the Guadalupe location.

Whataburger has established a hotline for anyone with questions about the situation. That number is:  844-569-5555. The company released the following statement:

“This report of one employee’s Hepatitis A diagnosis at our 2800 Guadalupe St. location is top priority for us, which is why we have set up a dedicated hotline at 844-569-5555 to answer questions from the community. We invest a tremendous amount of time and effort to ensure food safety, so we have a team actively managing the situation, and we are working closely with the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department. We remain committed to a safe and clean dining experience for our employees and customers, and we have taken several precautionary measures, including providing all of our team members who work at this restaurant a Hepatitis A vaccine at Whataburger’s expense. Again, we encourage those with questions to contact our hotline at 844-569-5555.”

Food Safety News

Ruling on FDA’s Oversight of Animal Antibiotic Use Called a ‘Big Blow to Public Health’

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City ruled Thursday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not required to hold hearings concerning the safety of feeding antibiotics at subtherapeutic levels.

The ruling overturns two district court rulings from 2012 in a case initially filed in 2011 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The groups argue that FDA is required by statute to hold hearings to determine whether to withdraw approval for the use of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed after the agency declared that the subtherapeutic use of the drugs in animal feed “ha[s] not been shown to be safe” in the late 1970s.

Such hearings would be a requirement for industry to prove that the use of these drugs as approved is safe.

“If they were not able to do that, then FDA would have to proceed with withdrawing the approvals for those drugs, which would effectively ban those drugs in animals for food production,” said Keeve Nachman, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

NRDC says that not requiring hearings means FDA “does not have to consider banning” the practice of feeding antibiotics to healthy animals.

“The science was there in 1977 and 40 years later, it’s only gotten stronger that these low-dose, routine use of antibiotics on livestock is causing development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and that bacteria is coming off the farm in many different ways and affecting humans,” said Mae Wu, an attorney with NRDC’s health program.

“Today’s decision allows the FDA to openly declare that a particular animal drug is unsafe, but then refuse to withdraw approval of that drug,” wrote Judge Robert Katzmann in his dissent. “It also gives the agency discretion to effectively ignore a public petition asking it to withdraw approval from an unsafe drug. I do not believe the statutory scheme can be read to permit those results.”

Part of FDA’s argument in the case has been Guidance #213, which will ban the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in food animals, as an alternative strategy for dealing with resistance. But NRDC and other groups have argued that it won’t be effective at curbing antibiotic use on farms because “disease prevention” labels could simply replace those for growth promotion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections.

“Because of the link between antibiotic use in food-producing animals and the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, antibiotics should be used in food-producing animals only under veterinary oversight and only to manage and treat infectious diseases, not to promote growth,” reads CDC’s report on antibiotic resistance threats, released last September.

Today’s decision was a “big blow to public health,” Nachman said. “It’s tough to know where it’s going to go from here. I would expect that NRDC would appeal this decision in some manner; I would hope they would.”

When asked if NRDC plans to appeal Thursday’s ruling, Wu told Food Safety News, “I can’t say today what we’re going to do because it takes a lot more discussion, but we’re not discounting any options at this point.”

Food Safety News

Groups Ask OMB, USDA to Release Revised Poultry Rule for Public Comment

Organizations representing workers and consumers want the Department of Agriculture to follow the Food and Drug Administration’s lead by releasing the revised poultry inspection rule for public comment.

Last week, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) submitted a draft final version of its Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

At the time, an agency spokesperson said, “Although we do not discuss the specifics of a rule under review, the draft rule has been significantly informed by the feedback we received from our stakeholders, as well as from our interagency partners such as the Department of Labor.”

But, in a July 16 letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Howard Shelanski, administrator for OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Safe Food Coalition argued that “stakeholders have no information about what those changes entail.”

The group wants to see the revised rule released to the public for public meetings and a 120-day comment period — not a requirement under normal rule-making procedures.

“We have raised numerous concerns about the negative impact USDA’s proposal will have on food safety and consumer protection,” wrote signatories Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch, Government Accountability Project, National Consumers League and STOP Foodborne Illness.

The American Federation of Government Employees — the poultry inspectors’ union — sent a similar letter stating, “Many other labor unions, consumer groups, members of Congress, and even federal government agencies have raised concerns as well.”

AFGE Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten wrote that, because the rule is so important, “stakeholders and the public should be given the opportunity to comment on the ‘significant changes’ made to the proposed rule before it is finalized.”

Re-releasing the rule would not be unprecedented. By the end of the summer, FDA will release revised language for the Food Safety Modernization Act’s rules regarding human food preventive controls, animal food preventive controls, produce safety and the Foreign Supplier Verification Program.

The same move for the poultry inspection rule would enhance transparency, the groups said.

“The USDA needs to come clean about what changes it has since made to the rule,” stated the Organic Consumers Association in its call for public comment. “Otherwise, the agency’s lack of transparency on this issue leaves us wondering what it is hiding.”

When asked whether FSIS plans to re-release the rule, a spokesperson told Food Safety News that the agency would have no further comment beyond last week’s statement that the rule had been submitted to OMB after incorporating stakeholder feedback — in particular, worker safety concerns.

Food Safety News