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More than 600 sick in 45 states because of poultry pets

Salmonella traced to backyard flocks and pet chicks and ducklings continues to claim victims, with public health officials now tracking eight outbreaks across 45 states.

chick-nuzzler-406Since the outbreaks were reported on June 2, there have been 287 confirmed cases added, bringing the total to 611 people sickened, according to an update this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 138 outbreak victims had to be hospitalized, according to information available on 496 of the outbreak victims. The illnesses began Jan. 4 and are ongoing. People who became ill after June 16 may not yet be reflected in the outbreak statistics because of the lag time between onset of symptoms and data being reported to federal officials.

“These outbreaks are expected to continue for the next several months since flock owners might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from live poultry or participate in risky behaviors that can result in infection,” according to the CDC.

In interviews, 434 of 493 ill people told health officials they had been in contact with live poultry, including chicks, chickens, ducks and ducklings, during the week before they became sick.

Victims reported buying live baby poultry from several suppliers, including feed supply stores, Internet sites, hatcheries and friends in multiple states. Some of the places ill people reported contact with live poultry include their home, someone else’s home, work or school settings.

“Epidemiologic, traceback and laboratory findings have linked the eight outbreaks to contact with live poultry such as chicks and ducklings sourced from multiple hatcheries,” CDC reported.

“Regardless of where they were purchased, all live poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria, even if they look healthy and clean.”

To help prevent the spread of Salmonella bacteria, the CDC advises consumers to:

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where the birds live and roam;
  • Do not let live poultry inside the house; and
  • Do not let children younger than 5 years of age handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other live poultry without adult supervision.

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Food Safety News

More sick, 20 hospitalized in Chicago E. coli outbreak

The number of people sickened in an E. coli outbreak traced to a suburban Chicago restaurant continues to increase, with 65 now confirmed. Twenty of the victims’ symptoms were so severe they were admitted to hospitals.

Public health officials have not yet determined the root cause of the outbreak, which was traced to the Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill location on 26th Street in the suburb of Bridgeport. The restaurant remains closed, according to Matt Smith, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

logo Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill“As part of our comprehensive investigation, we have taken and tested numerous samples from the restaurant and have tested staff,” Smith said Thursday. He did not say whether the department had the test results yet.

It remains unknown when exactly the health department became aware of the outbreak. The department posted a news release about the outbreak July 1, but has not posted an update since then.

The restaurant’s owners voluntarily closed the Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill, according to the July 1 news release. A second Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill on North Marshfield was also voluntarily closed, but the health department cleared it and the owners reopened.

At least two Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill customers who became ill and had to be hospitalized after eating food from the 26th Street location have filed civil lawsuits seeking compensation.

In their lawsuits, the two victims reported eating food from the restaurant on June 22 and June 24, respectively. A third victim who was hospitalized with the outbreak strain of E. coli told Chicago’s CBS News affiliate she ate at the restaurant during the last week of June.

Chicago public health officials continue to urge people to seek immediate medical attention if they ate food from the restaurant and later developed symptoms of E. coli infection.

Generally symptoms develop within five to seven days of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In otherwise healthy adults symptoms usually include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting.

“Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening,” according to the CDC. “Around 5 percent to 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with STEC infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

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Food Safety News

Hepatitis A Outbreak Numbers Rise Again: 127 Sick in 8 States

The Hepatitis A outbreak linked to pomegranate seeds from Turkey continues to grow. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said five more illnesses have been confirmed as part of the outbreak, bringing the total to 127 ill in 8 states.

According to CDC, all of the confirmed victims became ill after eating Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend, a frozen berry blend sold across the country in Costco stores. Harris Teeter also sold the now recalled product, but so far no illnesses have been linked to the retailer.

The updated case count by state is as follows: Arizona (17), California (64), Colorado (25), Hawaii (7), New Mexico (5), Nevada (5), Utah (2), and Wisconsin (2). [Note: The cases reported from Wisconsin resulted from exposure to the product in California.] Nearly 60 percent of those sickened are women. The ages in the outbreak range from 2 to 84 and include 6 children under the age of 18. CDC said none of the children had been vaccinated. More than half of those ill required hospitalization.

The outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus, belonging to genotype 1B, is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East, according to CDC.

Three weeks ago, Townsend Farms Inc. recalled certain lots of the product linked to the outbreak because it has the potential to be contaminated. This week, Scenic Fruit Company recalled certain lots of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels, also thought to be at risk for contamination. Both companies are based in Oregon.

Food Safety News

10 Sick in UK from E. Coli O55 Outbreak

At least 10 people in Blandford, United Kingdom, have been diagnosed with infection of E. coli O55, a rare strain of E. coli never before recorded in the U.K., according to BBC News.

Seven patients have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a kidney disease associated with the most severe E. coli illnesses.

Some of the patients include children from the Blanford Children’s Centre Nursery.

One child was diagnosed as far back as mid-October. The nursery closed for three days of deep cleaning after that diagnosis, according to a nursery representative.

Another child from the nursery became infected on Monday, Nov. 24. The nursery is currently closed while the staff undergo blood tests and children receive stool samples.

No direct link has been confirmed between the nursery and the outbreak.

E. coli can be past from person to person, and young children are especially vulnerable to infections from the bacteria.

Local health authorities are still investigating the exact cause of the outbreak.

Food Safety News

Two More Cases Added to Hepatitis A Outbreak: 122 Sick in 8 States

The number of confirmed illnesses part of the multistate Hepatitis A outbreak linked to Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxident Berry Blend continues to creep up. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that there are now 122 confirmed cases, up two cases from the previous day and three more than the agency had confirmed on Monday. This week the outbreak also went from affecting 7 states to affecting 8, Wisconsin being the latest addition.

Arizona has 17 cases, California has 62, Colorado 25, Hawaii 5, New Mexico 5, Nevada 5, Utah 2 and Wisconsin 1, but the exposure in Wisconsin resulted from exposure to the product in California, according to CDC.

Nearly 60 percent of the victims are women. Illnesses onset dates range from the end of March to the middle of June and 45 percent of the reported illnesses have resulted in hospitalization. No deaths have been reported.

 

“Investigation by state and local health departments, FDA, and CDC is ongoing,” according to CDC. “FDA is inspecting the processing facilities of Townsend Farms of Fairview, Oregon.”

The outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV), belonging to genotype 1B, was found in clinical specimens of 36 people in six states. According to CDC, “this strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East.”

Hepatitis A is a human disease and usually occurs when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene.  However, food contaminated with HAV, as is suspected in this outbreak, can cause outbreaks of disease among persons who eat or handle food. Anyone concerned about exposure or foodborne illness should contact their health provider or their local health department.

Food Safety News

California May Soon Require Paid Sick Time for Restaurant Workers and Others

California is poised to become the second state in the country to require paid sick leave for workers, an issue that has serious food safety implications for the restaurant industry.

Under the just-passed legislation, which is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature (and he has already expressed support), California workers as of July 1, 2015, would be guaranteed at least three paid sick days a year.

More precisely, the bill requires businesses to grant employees one paid hour off for sick time for every 30 hours worked.

“Tonight, the Legislature took historic action to help hardworking Californians,” Brown said in a statement after the bill was passed on Aug. 30. ”This bill guarantees that millions of workers — from Eureka to San Diego — won’t lose their jobs or pay just because they get sick.”

Campaigners for restaurant worker sick pay say that many employees in the restaurant industry are more likely to work while sick if they do not have the privilege of paid sick time. In turn, sick restaurant workers have a higher chance of causing foodborne illnesses due to their contact with food.

In 2010, 88 percent of restaurant workers in a survey reported not receiving paid sick leave, according to Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC). ROC’s report, “Serving While Sick,” also found that 63 percent of workers reported cooking or serving food while sick at some point.

Another ROC report, “Backed into the Corner,” found that 48 percent of restaurant workers in the Miami-Dade area of Florida reported working while sick at some point, with 11 percent saying they experienced diarrhea or vomiting during a work shift. That report also found that workers were twice as likely to work while sick if they did not have paid sick time.

Once the bill is signed, California would be joining the state of Connecticut and cities such as Washington D.C., Seattle, WA, and Portland, OR, in requiring paid time off for illness.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) and other business groups have lobbied against paid-sick-time legislation at the state and local level, saying that the one-size-fits-all legislation hurts businesses and threatens jobs.

Groups, including the NRA, have successfully helped pass laws to prevent new local paid-sick-leave legislation in 12 states.

Food Safety News

Could Funding Cuts to Food Safety Programs Make You Sick?

(This blog post by Michelle Forman was published July 23, 2014, at APHL’s LabLog.com and is reposted here with permission.)

When public health works, no one sees it.

That’s a common adage at APHL and is most frequently used when referring to the gross lack of — and ever-plummeting — funding for valuable public health programs. But what does it mean? When do we see public health and when does it vanish into the background?

The public health system comprises many areas from healthy eating to smoking cessation to biomonitoring to newborn screening. To answer this question, we’re going to focus on food safety — something that impacts every person in the United States — by following the journey of peanuts as they pass through the food system and into your lunch bag.

(Note: Peanuts were chosen to make a point. They are not inherently risky. As of the original date of this post, there is no current known outbreak associated with peanuts. This journey could feature any food item.)

Our peanuts were grown on a large farm that distributes its harvests for use in many different products.

After being roasted, they are shipped to another facility to be ground into a paste. That paste is then used to make peanut butter for cookies, crackers, ice cream, dog treats and many other products.

In a perfect situation, our peanuts are grown using the safest growing practices: They are thoroughly roasted to kill pathogens acquired on the farm, processed in facilities that ensure utmost safety and cleanliness in accordance with all food safety guidance provided to them, and sent to stores, restaurants and other food service facilities where they will be purchased and consumed by families trusting that they are receiving peanut butter crackers free of Salmonella. Public health has worked in the form of inspectors, guidelines, regulations, sample testing, quality assurance, staff training and public education to ensure that a perfect situation can and will exist most of the time. Although you never saw public health working to prevent you from getting sick, it was there.

Even when all goes right — even when there are not blatant safety oversights along the way — sneaky Salmonella can find its way in. What then?

Our peanuts have picked up Salmonella after roasting (there’s likely no more heating to kill that nasty pathogen) in the processing facility. They are then mixed with more and more peanuts, shipments from other farms, passing through machine after machine, being ground into peanut paste, infecting huge lots of peanuts along the way. Our peanuts are now causing a silent outbreak deep within the processing facility.

The lots of infected peanut paste — soon to be peanut butter — go unsuspected and are sent to the next phase of processing where they will become cookies, crackers, ice cream, dog treats, etc.

Suzy Public loves peanut butter cookies, so she picks up a package during a routine grocery store visit. Two days later, Suzy is very sick.

Vomiting takes a turn to more severe symptoms, so Suzy does the right thing and heads to her doctor. In keeping with clinical care guidelines, Suzy’s doctor orders a stool sample, which is then sent to a clinical lab where it tests positive for Salmonella. This is obviously important information for Suzy’s doctor, who needs to determine the most effective treatment, but it is also important for the public at large, especially for those in her community.

Additional testing at the public health laboratory could link Suzy’s Salmonella to other cases in her area or across the country.

While clinical labs must submit a report alerting epidemiologists of Suzy’s Salmonella, many states don’t require clinical labs to submit isolates (a sample of the Salmonella that made Suzy sick) to the public health lab. The report allows epidemiologists to gather initial exposure information on cases, but identifying potential outbreaks among sporadic cases can be tough without additional information. An isolate allows the public health lab to subtype or get DNA fingerprints from the Salmonella (more on this below), providing greater information and more rapid outbreak detection. So why wouldn’t states require these isolates be submitted? There are likely different reasons for this; one common reason is simply that the states lack resources. Some states can afford to have a courier pick up and deliver those isolates, but not every state is able. It is hard to mandate that the clinical labs handle shipments on their own time and dime. Additionally, some states simply cannot process all of those isolates at their current funding level. Requiring all clinical labs to send those isolates would put an enormous workload on already understaffed public health laboratories.

Once the investigation has been opened, an epidemiologist or public health nurse will contact Suzy Public to begin the investigation to nab the culprit. The first question they will ask Suzy is to list everything she consumed in the week or so prior to getting sick. These interviews allow disease detectives to track patterns in sick individuals’ diets. If everyone ate peanut butter crackers, they can target their investigation.

Could funding cuts to food safety programs make you sick? | www.aphlblog.orgDelays in testing or reporting will delay these disease detectives, and that means Suzy and the others who were made ill may not remember so far back. Even if they do remember and the disease detectives can identify a common food item in their diets, that product may already be off the shelves and in more people’s homes, thus exacerbating the outbreak. Additionally, departments of public health face staff shortages that mean overloaded epidemiologists and public health nurses. Their ability to conduct thorough interviews requires ample time — and time is limited when staff are carrying a workload suited for several people.

If that isolate was sent to the public health lab, additional testing is done to confirm Salmonella and to subtype the pathogen. There are more than 2,500 subtypes of Salmonella, so the first step in outbreak detection is determining which type has made this individual sick. PFGE testing delves further into the identification of the pathogen by identifying its DNA fingerprint. For example, there could be multiple outbreaks associated with Salmonella Typhimurium at the same time, but that doesn’t mean it is the same culprit. Isolating the DNA fingerprints is like a detective pulling fingerprints from a crime scene — when there are multiple offenses committed, fingerprints can link them to the same perpetrator. The DNA fingerprints are then entered into the PulseNet database, a system used to detect clusters nationally. This information is used by epidemiologists to further target their investigation.

But staff shortages in public health laboratories mean that not all isolates can be tested, and those that are tested could be delayed. That means less information is making its way into the PulseNet database, or it is being entered too late.

Delays or gaps in information make the investigation extremely difficult.

The case of the contaminated peanuts is a complicated one. We know the contaminated peanut butter used to make Suzy’s cookies caused her illness, but identifying those cookies as the source is only the beginning of the investigative process. Was it the flour, sugar, salt, eggs, peanuts, or one or more of the other ingredients that made Suzy sick? And what about the people who were sickened by peanut butter crackers? Or energy bars? Finding the common denominator — and drilling all the way down to where contamination occurred — is very difficult. These complicated investigations can last upwards of a year, but they are being closed without resolution simply because public health departments don’t have the means to keep them open. No resolution means contamination at the processing facility could continue and more people could become ill. It also means the rest of the industry cannot learn from the outbreak and implement changes to improve product safety.

Rapid detection leads to faster recalls of contaminated products. That means fewer people get sick. But our public health system does not have the means to investigate every case of foodborne illness. There are not enough resources to follow up on every cluster.

Without question, more outbreaks would be found if there were sufficient resources to detect and investigate them all. Simply put, funding cuts are ultimately causing more people to get sick.

Advocates continue to work hard to convince decision makers that increasing funding for the public health system is a very good investment in our population. Healthy people are better for every aspect of society. While the advocates are working, public health professionals continue to seek more ways to improve the system with fewer staff and fewer resources. Whole genome sequencing, for example, could provide more information to better understand outbreak clusters, and that could mean less follow-up testing, which could mean operating with fewer staff. However, implementation of advancements such as whole genome sequencing requires time and money that the system simply does not have.

Every day that you wake up without foodborne illness, thank the public health system. Waking up healthy did not happen without the dedicated men and women working hard to prevent the spread of dangerous bacteria.

When public health works, no one sees it, but it still needs adequate support to continue protecting our health. The disease identification system described above operates on only $ 40 million annually and is in immediate need of at least an additional $ 10 million as indicated in the 2015 budget request. To realize significant improvements, CDC funding for food safety should, at a minimum, be doubled.

Tell Congress that more money is needed for food safety! Follow these two simple steps:

  1. Here is a letter telling Congress that more funding is needed for public health. Complete the information and it will be sent to your elected officials.
  2. Copy the following sentence and paste it into the letter to draw attention to the specific needs for food safety: I am especially concerned with the need for funding to improve our nation’s food safety system. CDC’s food safety office is in immediate need of an additional $ 10 million as indicated in the 2015 budget request. Without this funding, more Americans will get sick from foodborne illness.

Food Safety News

126 Sick with Salmonella in Live Poultry Outbreak

At least 126 people have been sickened according to the latest case count of an ongoing Salmonella outbreak linked to live poultry in 26 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The case count has more than doubled since 60 illnesses were first announced on May 8.

At least 35 percent of patients have been hospitalized. Of those ill, 82 percent say they had contact with live poultry in the week before their symptoms began.

The poultry in question came from Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Springfield Township, Ohio, which has a long history of Salmonella outbreak connected to its baby chicks and ducklings. Among them, the hatchery was connected to a Salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 195 people and killed two.

Investigators at the CDC say that multiple traceback investigations of live poultry from homes of sickened individuals all point to Mt. Healthy Hatcheries as the source in the latest outbreak.

Illnesses in this outbreak began between February 4 and May 15, with patients ranging in age from infants to 95 years old. Of those ill, 39 percent are 10 years old or younger.

Mt. Healthy Hatchery ships birds to a variety of retailers. The company says it is working closely with health officials to accommodate the outbreak investigation, according to a statement on its website.

The company’s statement goes on to describe a number of precautions it has implemented to prevent the spread of Salmonella contamination to poultry.

“It is important to note that although some CDC data suggests a link to chicks from our hatcheries, the vast majority of chicks we ship are not associated with this outbreak,” the hatchery said. “Mt. Healthy Hatcheries ships thousands of chicks each week to customers, and our commitment is to provide safe, healthy chicks at all times.”

Baby chicks and ducklings are commonly associated with Salmonella. Health officials advise everyone to wash their hands thoroughly after handling baby poultry. Children are especially susceptible to pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, and require extra precaution when handling poultry.

Below are a map showing the distribution of illnesses by state and an epidemiological graph of illness onset dates.

Persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis or Newport, by state as of May 27, 2014

Persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis or Newport, by date of illness onset as of May 27, 2014

Food Safety News produced a video on the risks associated with handling baby poultry:

Food Safety News

Beneficial anti-inflammatory effects observed when plant extracts fed to sick pigs

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) is the most expensive and invasive disease for pig producers on a global scale. Though it is not occurring on every farm, it is the biggest disease problem in the pig industry, said a University of Illinois animal sciences researcher.

E. coli has also been a problem historically and continues to be on an industry-wide basis, said James Pettigrew. “Either disease can sweep through a farm so their alleviation would substantially reduce production costs. Even though many management practices have been used in the swine industry, these practices cannot guarantee freedom from disease for pigs,” he said.

Consumer concerns about bacterial resistance to antibiotics have prompted the swine industry to seek additional methods to protect the health of pigs, including special feed additives. This interest led Pettigrew and his team to explore the potential benefits of selected plant extracts.

The researchers conducted two experiments to test the beneficial effects of adding plant extracts to pig diets to combat PRRS and E. coli. In both experiments, researchers used four diets in weanling pigs, including a control diet and three additional diets that included garlic botanical extracted from garlic, turmeric oleoresin extracted from ginger, or capsicum oleoresin from pepper. In both experiments, half of the pigs in each dietary treatment were challenged with either E. coli or PRRS virus while the other half of the pigs were non-challenged.

“We’ve known for a long time that plant extracts, also called essential oils or botanicals, have certain biological actions,” said Yanhong Liu, a doctoral student who led the studies. “For instance, they can act as antioxidants or as antimicrobials. We wanted to test whether we could get a benefit from feeding those products in very low doses to pigs that were challenged with these specific diseases.”

E. coli, a bacterial illness of the gut, is marked by diarrhea, decrease in appetite, decrease in body weight, and in some cases, a higher mortality rate. E. coli is especially dangerous post-weaning as pigs adapt to new feed and new environments, Pettigrew said.

The pigs in the study challenged with E. coli that had been fed any of the three plant extracts had a lower frequency of diarrhea (20 percent) than the pigs fed the control diet (40 percent). The pigs fed plant extracts were more efficient (40 percent) in feed use than the pigs fed the control diet in the E. coli-challenged group, and challenged pigs fed plant extracts had sounder gut morphology compared with the challenged pigs fed the control diet.

Liu noted that even the pigs in the non-challenged group, with a low frequency of mild diarrhea, benefited from the plant extracts. “Because there is a relatively high diarrhea rate in post-weaning pigs as they are moved from the mom and started on all solid feed, the extracts could also be used to reduce its occurrence,” she said.

Common symptoms of PRRS, a viral infection of the lung, include fever, lethargy, trouble breathing, loss of appetite, and decreased growth performance. The disease can also lead to spontaneous abortions and higher pre-weaning mortality rates in pigs.

After feeding the pigs challenged with the PRRS virus the three plant extracts, the researchers observed that the pigs were more efficient in week 1 (55 percent) and week 2 (40 percent) than the pigs fed the control diet. The pigs continued eating and gaining weight. They found this to be especially true with turmeric, Liu said.

When they checked blood samples from the pigs with the PRRS virus, they found that the pigs fed plant extracts also had a lower blood viral load (13 percent) and lower concentrations of inflammatory mediators than pigs fed the control diet. These observations also suggest that feeding plant extracts could suppress ongoing inflammation and prevent secondary infections.

The researchers believe the benefits resulted from the effects on the pigs’ immune systems because feeding plant extracts reduced the inflammation caused by E. coli and the PRRS virus.

“In production animals, inflammation is costly. Inflammation reduces feed intake, and it diverts nutrients away from growth to the immune system,” Pettigrew said, “If we can bring that quickly back down to normal after a challenge, then that helps in production.”

Although previous studies have looked at using plant extracts in pig diets, Pettigrew said Liu’s study, which looked at the effects of three different extracts on two different diseases, had not been done previously. He also added that the low concentration of the extracts used while still producing beneficial results set this study apart.

The researchers will continue to study the mechanisms behind the beneficial effects they observed, including conducting gene expression studies. “We want to know the big picture of how these plant extracts affected the challenged and non-challenged pigs,” Liu said.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

New Illnesses Bring Scottish E. Coli Outbreak to 21 Sick

An additional six cases of E. coli have been linked to burgers eaten at the Glasgow Hydro arena, bringing the total number ill to 21.

The cases first began appearing several weeks ago. Some attendees who ate burgers at the arena between Jan. 17 and Jan. 19 have fallen ill with symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infectoin, which includes diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea.

Health officials are asking anyone who attended events at the arena within those three days and then fell ill with similar symptoms to contact a healthcare provider to record their case.

All of those who fell ill are recovering at home by this point.

Investigators have not conclusively linked the illnesses to the burgers, but said burgers appear to be the most likely source of infection.

Food Safety News

Seven Sick With E. Coli From Scottish Arena

The health board in West Central Scotland is investigating seven cases of E. coli O157 possibly linked to burgers from the SSE Hydro arena in Glasgow.

The NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) issued a statement Friday alerting anyone who attended events at the Hydro between Jan. 17 and Jan. 25 and has experienced stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and fever to contact their doctor.

“All seven cases are recovering at home,” read the statement. “One of the cases is from the NHSGGC area, two are from the NHS Lanarkshire area, three from NHS Lothian and one is from Cumbria.”

The Public Health Protection Unit of NHSGGC is working with other health boards, Health Protection Scotland, the Food Standards Agency and Glasgow City Council Environmental Health to investigate the source of the outbreak and ensure that Hydro vendors are following proper food hygiene standards.

Food Safety News

Seven People Sick with E. Coli from Raw Meat in Montreal

Seven people are sick from E. coli after eating a raw meat dish at Marché 27 in Montreal.

The owner of the restaurant, Jason Masso, told the CBC that he’s been serving tartare at Marché 27 for six years and has never had a problem until now. He also said that the problem has been addressed and that his restaurant is safe.

Masso admitted his restaurant was the cause, but Canada’s agriculture ministry is refusing to name the source location. This has drawn criticism from patient advocates who say that the public deserves to know the source of the outbreak.

“[This] information should be known to the public because it is of the utmost public interest, if not health hazard interest,” said Paul Brunet, the chair of Montreal’s Conseil pour la protection des malades.

Food Safety News

At Least 890 Sick in Japan From Pesticide-Contaminated Food

Hundreds of people in Japan haven been sickened by food contaminated with the pesticide malathion. Reports on the number of victims differ from at least 890 to over 1,000.

The mass poisoning have been traced to Maruha Nichiro Holdings, which is recalling about 6.4 million bags of frozen foods including croquettes, frozen pizza and chicken nuggets, after 2.6 million times the permitted levels of pesticide were found in the products.

While 1.2 million packages have been recovered, another 5.2 million are still unaccounted for.

Police are now investigating the company’s plant in eastern Japan and Japanese media report that police suspect the malathion was mixed into products there.

“We test products several times a day for evidence of spoilage, based on the law, but we had no reason to believe pesticides would be present, so we didn’t test for that,” Ichiro Gohara, a spokesman for the company told Bloomberg News.

Symptoms of the poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea and customers complained of a strong odor from the foods. According to Maruha Nichiro, none of the contaminated products have been shipped to other countries.

Malathion is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use on crops and is also an ingredient in head lice treatments.

Food Safety News

Pet Food Safety: When Pet Food Makes Pets and Humans Sick

Between late 2011 and spring 2012, dozens of people across 20 U.S. states and Canada were falling ill with apparent Salmonella infections all coming from the same source. For nearly six months, the illnesses slowly cropped up around North America, with health investigators unable to connect the dots with how they were being caused.

It wasn’t until April 2012 that the puzzle finally came together, when the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development performed a routine test on a retail product that came up positive for Salmonella. When they checked the exact strain against a federal disease database, they realized the food had been sickening people for half a year.

But the food in question was not something like raw chicken or leafy greens — it was dry dog food. More specifically, Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice, produced at a Diamond Pet Foods plant in South Carolina.

Soon after, the Ohio Department of Agriculture found another contaminated bag of a different formula. And then the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found more when inspecting the South Carolina facilities.

The plant-wide contamination resulted in one of the largest pet food recalls in recent history and actually encompassed nine brands names, including Canidae and Natural Balance. The company expanded the recall eight times — eventually including cat food — and FDA inspectors found additional contamination at another Diamond plant in Missouri.

Ultimately, 49 humans tested positive for Salmonella from the pet food. But the actual number ill could have been closer to 1,500. (For every person who actually tests positive for Salmonella, another 30 are estimated to have been infected, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

That outbreak was a reminder that contaminated pet food poses a threat to not just dogs and cats, but their owners as well. A few years earlier, in 2007, at least 62 people fell ill in a Salmonella outbreak linked to pet food manufactured by Mars Petcare, which owns brand names such as Pedigree and Whiskas.

When a new pet food outbreak makes headlines, readers often ask how humans end up getting sick. Pet owners don’t need to eat kibbles to get sickened by contaminated food.

Most people who fall ill from pet food do so by handling contaminated food or having contact with infected animals. Thorough hand washing after serving pet food or touching pets is always recommended to avoid potential pathogen transmission.

Of course, foodborne illness outbreaks can work both ways. Among the patients testing positive for Salmonella in the 2008-2009 peanut butter outbreak was one dog.

Because dogs and cats are almost never tested for foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella or E. coli, it’s impossible to know how many get sickened when big outbreaks strike a pet food product. Only two dogs were tested positive for Salmonella in the Diamond outbreak, for instance.

When dogs or cats do become infected with a foodborne illness, they typically suffer the familiar symptoms, such as diarrhea (sometimes including blood or mucus), vomiting, dehydration and lethargy. But some pets may serve as carriers without showing any symptoms, shedding the pathogen in their stools or harboring it on their fur or saliva.

Parents are often advised to take extra precaution with pets around young children for this reason, due to children having developing immune systems that are especially susceptible to pathogenic transmission. Of the patients in the Mars Petcare outbreak, 39 percent were less than one year old.

It’s possible that children could crawl on floors where pets have been eating contaminated food or treats, or simply come into contact with a pet that has fecal contamination in its fur.

These pet-to-human contamination scenarios are one of the many reasons the FDA is proposing to overhaul safety rules on pet food manufacturing as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Read more on Food Safety News about the changes FDA is proposing, the reactions FDA has received, and 10 changes that have been recommended by experts.

The pet food safety series on Food Safety News is sponsored by ABC Research, a company that conducts testing on pet food products. Read more about ABC Research pet food testing on the company blog.

Food Safety News

CDC Update: 416 People Sick in Foster Farms Salmonella Outbreak

As the safe food project of The Pew Charitable Trusts released its report on weaknesses in Salmonella regulation on Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered an update on the ongoing outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg linked to chicken produced by Foster Farms.

At least 416 people in 23 states and Puerto Rico have been sickened, CDC reports. That count is up another 27 cases since the Nov. 20 report. Most of the victims (74 percent) live in California.

Thirteen percent of the victims have developed blood infections as a result of their illness. Typically, only five percent of people with Salmonella infections develop blood infections.

Foster Farms has not initiated a recall, instead opting to comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture requests to mitigate issues at three central California facilities tied to the outbreak.

The products involved in the outbreak are identified by one of three USDA mark of inspection numbers: P6137, P6137A and P7632.

Persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg, by State as of December 18, 2013

Persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Typhimurium, by date of illness onset as of December 13, 2013

Food Safety News

At Least 27 Sick in AL Salmonella Outbreak, Beans Possible Cause

At least 27 people are sick with Salmonella after attending the annual “Bean Day fundraiser” at First Baptist Church Family Life Center in Athens, Alabama, reports WAFF-TV.

The event held Oct. 4 by the Limestone County Foundation on Aging, and 13 people were admitted to the Athens-Limestone Hospital after 50 people associated with the outbreak came to the emergency room.

An Athens-Limestone Hospital spokesperson told WAFF that the hospital believes that the number of people sick is actually higher than what is being reported because many people did not seek medical attention.

Alabama Department of Public Health officials told Food Safety News that beans served at the event tested positive for Salmonella, but are unable to confirm a link between the victims and the food because specific strains have not yet been identified in either.

Food Safety News

Three Sick With E. Coli in KY and IN

The Louisville Metro Health Department has linked three cases of E. coli reported in Louisville and Indiana through genetic fingerprinting.

All three victims reportedly visited Huber’s Orchard and Winery in Borden, IN between Sept. 20 and 28, but a statement released by the facility last week indicated that an inspection of their food by the Clark County Health Department found no connection.

The Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana Board of Animal Health have now taken over the investigation of the outbreak.

Symptoms of E. coli infection typically include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. Severe illnesses may develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal kidney disease.

 

 

Food Safety News

35 Sick After Eating at Hacienda Don Villo in Channahon, IL

According to the Grundy County Health Department, 35 people are ill after eating at Hacienda Don Villo, a Mexican restaurant in Channahon, IL.

The county’s health administrator Phil Jass told Food Safety News that although patient samples are still being tested, some have tested positive for Salmonella, including one restaurant employee.

At least one person has been hospitalized, Jass said. The Channahon-Minooka Patch reported that one victim with a confirmed case of Salmonella was in the hospital for four days.

Hacienda Don Villo closed on Sept. 25, two days after the first illness was reported. It has since been cleaned and employees have been re-trained in proper food handling.

Jass said that the restaurant owner has been very cooperative and closed Hacienda Don Villo voluntarily. He said it will reopen once employees have had two stool samples test negative for Salmonella.

The exact source of the illness is still unknown.

Food Safety News

35 Sick After Eating at Hacienda Don Villo in IL

According to the Grundy County Health Department, 35 people are ill after eating at Hacienda Don Villo, a Mexican restaurant in Channahon, IL.

The county’s health administrator Phil Jass told Food Safety News that although patient samples are still being tested, some have tested positive for Salmonella, including one restaurant employee.

At least one person has been hospitalized, Jass said. The Channahon-Minooka Patch reported that one victim with a confirmed case of Salmonella was in the hospital for four days.

Hacienda Don Villo closed on Sept. 25, two days after the first illness was reported. It has since been cleaned and employees have been re-trained in proper food handling.

Jass said that the restaurant owner has been very cooperative and closed Hacienda Don Villo voluntarily. He said it will reopen once employees have had two stool samples test negative for Salmonella.

The exact source of the illness is still unknown.

Food Safety News

One Dead, 15 Sick as Kentucky Salmonella Outbreak Spreads to Three Counties

The deadly Salmonella outbreak in western Kentucky has grown to 15 cases in three counties. The outbreak is already blamed for one death and for sending five people to area hospitals.

Hopkins, Webster, and Muhlenberg counties have reported illnesses, according to Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services. A genetic “fingerprint” associated with the outbreak has been linked to at least eight of the region’s Salmonella cases.

The state said that the Hopkins County Health Department is conducting the investigation to determine the source of the Salmonella. The department is collecting patient and food samples, but has not said how long it might take before the source will be found.

The three adjacent counties are located south and west of Louisville. Salmonella is a foodborne illness known for causing diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

Food Safety News