Food poisoning at food safety conference — Har!

Authorities confirmed that the attendees of the 2014 Food Safety Summit in April were struck by food poisoning. Back in April, NBC reported that authorities had received accounts of more than 100 people who had fallen ill after eating a meal at the conference. At the time, health officials were not sure what caused the outbreak. According to Food Safety News, the illness has been linked to tainted chicken marsala served at lunch.

In total, 216 conference attendees — most of whom are experts in food safety — fell ill after eating the dish which a new report shows was contaminated with C. perfringens…The bacteria causes symptoms like stomach cramps, vomiting, and fever. The outbreak was apparently the first in the summit’s 16-year history.The Food Safety Summit notes in a statement that they are working with the convention center to ensure next year’s event is outbreak (and probably chicken marsala) free.

I’d love to know who was the producer of that delightful chicken.

A follow-up check of the facility didn’t find anything more dangerous than a fridge that dripped a bit of condensate.

Thanks, Mike

Egg titan and his son plead guilty in food poisoning and bribery charges


Father and son

A self-made titan in the egg industry, his son and the Iowa company they ran pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal food safety violations stemming from a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands in 2010.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett will later decide their sentences, which could be up to one year in jail, fines of $100,000 apiece and additional restitution for victims.

Their company, Quality Egg LLC, pleaded guilty to charges of bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector, selling misbranded food and introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. The company has agreed to pay a $6.8 million fine — one of the largest ever related to food safety — under a plea deal that Bennett could accept or reject…

The salmonella outbreak prompted a recall of 550 million eggs by Quality Egg and another Iowa company that used its feed and chickens, and led to the collapse of the vast egg production empire that DeCoster built from modest beginnings in Maine. Federal investigators spent years scrutinizing its business practices in the aftermath, as the DeCosters gave up control of their egg production facilities in Iowa, Maine and Ohio and settled dozens of legal claims from those who were sickened…

The company admitted that former Quality Egg manager Tony Wasmund and another employee bribed a now-deceased USDA inspector on at least two occasions. Those bribes, including a $300 cash payment, were meant to influence the inspector to release pallets of eggs that had been retained for failing to meet federal standards because too many were cracked, dirty or leaking.

The company also admitted that, with Wasmund’s approval, it had a longstanding practice of putting false processing and expiration dates on labels to make eggs appear fresher than they were. That practice helped the company circumvent laws in California, Arizona and elsewhere that require eggs to be sold within 30 days of their processing dates.

Throw away the key!

Recall issued for Skippy reduced-fat peanut butter

The possible discovery of salmonella has prompted a limited recall of Skippy reduced-fat peanut butter spreads sold in 16 states.

Unilever issued a press release detailing a voluntary recall of Skippy’s “Reduced Fat Creamy” and “Reduced Fat Super Chunk” brands. The recall applies only to these branded items distributed in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

While there have been no known illnesses, the recall was issued for fear that some of the peanut butter now in stores had salmonella…

The recalled products are sold in 16.3-ounce plastic jars, have UPC codes of 048001006812 or 048001006782 and have best-if-used-by-dates of May 16-21, 2012, on the top, the company statement said. Those with such jars should throw them away and call Skippy at 1-800-453-3432 to get a replacement coupon, according to Unilever…

Salmonella is a bacterial infection that usually lasts four to seven days. About 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported each year in the United States, according to the CDC.

Those who get it typically develop fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea between 12 and 72 hours after becoming infected. Most people recover on their own, without needing significant treatment. But salmonella in very young and very old people, as well as those with weakened immune systems, can lead to severe illness and even death.

Cripes. This prompts a couple of thoughts.

I ate a ton of Skippy peanut butter growing up. The only change in my adult peanut butter life is switching to organic brands from markets I know run their own checks on food quality.

Wonder if there were as many or more – or fewer – instances of salmonella and other food poisonings in the good old days. Are they just better reported nowadays? Is it only the increase in production servicing a larger population that seems to include a calculated risk of food poisoning?

Hmmm?

Supermarket chicken packaging reeks with bacteria

Picking up a packet of chicken in a supermarket is more likely to give you food poisoning than handling a raw bird, a pioneering survey has found.

Food standards officials discovered that 40 per cent of packets of chicken in a range of supermarkets, convenience stores and butchers were covered with bacteria on the outside.

Of 20 packets of chicken studied, eight had food poisoning bacteria on their wrapping while seven chickens were contaminated inside the packet. One tested positive for salmonella.

Shoppers are now being warned to wash their hands after handling chicken cartons to combat the risk of catching the campylobacter bug which can induce vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Birmingham Food Safety officials…is believed to be the first to test packaging and it has reported its findings to the Government’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) and major retail chains…

“These findings reinforce our advice to avoid cross-contamination when handling and storing raw chicken even if it is still in its packaging…”

The contamination is believed to take place during the manufacturing and shipping.

Which is why as soon as we return home from our weekly shopping, we remove the packaging from most meat, fish and poultry we buy – wash the food and repackage it in clean plastic bags – washing our hands in the process as well.

This also cleans off some of the solutions used – even by reputable firms – to help preserve foods before sale.

More Romaine lettuce recalled

More romaine lettuce has been recalled amid an investigation into an outbreak of food-borne illness that has sickened at least 19 people in three states.

Vaughan Foods of Moore, Oklahoma, is recalling romaine lettuce with “use by” dates of May 9 and May 10, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement. The company sold the lettuce to restaurants and food-service facilities, the administration said.

Vaughan’s recall comes after Freshway Foods recalled romaine lettuce last week because of a possible connection to an outbreak of food-borne disease linked to E. coli 0145 in Michigan, Ohio and New York.

Authorities are investigating a farm near Yuma, Arizona, where the tainted lettuce was harvested, the Food and Drug Administration said. Vaughan Foods received lettuce from that farm.

Investigators have confirmed that the outbreak has sickened 19 people: 10 in Michigan, seven in Ohio and two in New York. Twelve of the 19 have been hospitalized, including three who developed a potentially life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, the administration said.

Be aware of the fact that E.coli 0145 isn’t tested for as a matter of course. The FDA thinks it’s too rare and tests for E.coli 0157. E.coli 0145 causes truly dangerous ailments like HUS.

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Poultry is our #1 source of food poisoning – followed by veggies

Poultry was the most commonly identified source of food poisoning in the United States in 2006, followed by leafy vegetables and fruits and nuts, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

After a concerted campaign by the federal Department of Agriculture to improve the safety of chickens, the number of people sickened by contaminated poultry in 2006 declined compared with an average of the previous five years, according to C.D.C. researchers.

But problems persist. Most of the poultry-related illnesses, the centers found, were associated with Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium that commonly causes abdominal cramping and diarrhea usually within 10 to 12 hours after ingestion. The spores from this bacterium often survive cooking, so keeping poultry meat at temperatures low enough to prevent contamination during processing and storage is critical.

Researchers counted leafy vegetables, fungi, root vegetables, sprouts and vegetables from vines or stalks as separate categories. Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, noted that if all of the produce categories were combined, outbreaks associated with vegetables would have far exceeded those in poultry…

While poultry is the most common source of illnesses among the 17 different foods tracked by federal officials, the C.D.C. found that two-thirds of all food-related illnesses traced to a lone ingredient were caused by viruses, which are often added to food by restaurant workers who fail to wash their hands. Such viruses often cause what many people refer to as a “stomach flu,” one to two days of nausea and vomiting that is unrelated to the flu virus.

Salmonella, the bacteria found in nationwide outbreaks of contaminated peanut butter, spinach and tomatoes, was the second-leading cause of sole-source food illnesses, the centers found.

Wonder if the Party of No will get off their rusty dusty and join in the legislation for food safety currently before Congress? Or will they maintain allegiance to their corporate masters.

No matter. The important task is – even though I think the U.S. does a better job than most other nations at safety through the food chain – let’s raise and codify better food standards while we have the chance.

Whether or not you die from food poisoning depends on where you live


Lauren Threlkeld got sick after eating baby spinach

In just about every major contaminated food scare, Minnesotans become sick by the dozens while few people in Kentucky and other states are counted among the ill.

Ruth Ann Merrick of Somerset, Ky., is still bitter about how her case was handled. The state never investigated why she and three friends went to the hospital after eating Chinese food.

In Kentucky, a county health worker called Lauren Threlkeld only to verify that she had fallen ill in another county.

Contaminated peanuts? Forty-two Minnesotans were reported sick compared with three Kentuckians. Jalapeño peppers last year? Thirty-one in Minnesota and two in Kentucky became ill. The different numbers arise because health officials in Kentucky and many other states fail to investigate many complaints of food-related sickness while those in Minnesota do so diligently, safeguarding not only Minnesotans but much of the rest of the country, as well.

Congress and the Obama administration have said that more inspections and new food production rules are needed to prevent food-related diseases, but far less attention has been paid to fixing the fractured system by which officials detect and stop ongoing outbreaks. Right now, uncovering which foods have been contaminated is left to a patchwork of more than 3,000 federal, state and local health departments that are, for the most part, poorly financed, poorly trained and disconnected, officials said.

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Lancashire study finds primary source of food poisoning is farm-raised livestock and poultry

A study by researchers from Lancashire, England, and Chicago, IL, found that 97 percent of campylobacteriosis cases sampled in Lancashire were caused by bacteria typically found in chicken and livestock. The work is based on DNA-sequence comparison of thousands of bacteria collected from human patients and animal carriers.

Campylobacter jejuni causes more cases of gastroenteritis in the developed world than any other bacterial pathogen, including E. coli, Salmonella, Clostridium and Listeria combined. Wild and domestic animals act as natural reservoirs for the disease, which can also survive in water and soil.

Researchers led by Daniel Wilson, of the University of Chicago, and formerly Lancaster University, United Kingdom, sequenced the DNA of bacteria collected from 1,231 patients and compared it to Campylobacter jejuni DNA sequences collected from wild and domestic animals, and the environment. They used evolutionary modeling to trace the ancestry of human C. jejuni back to one of seven source populations.

In 57 percent of cases, the bacteria could be traced to chicken, and in 35 percent to cattle. Wild animal and environmental sources were accountable for just three percent of disease.

“The dual observations that livestock are a frequent source of human disease isolates and that wild animals and the environment are not, strongly support the notion that preparation or consumption of infected meat and poultry is the dominant transmission route,” Wilson said.

Further studies are underway in the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand to determine the generality of the result. But the authors say they hope the current study will add impetus to initiatives aimed at controlling food-borne pathogens.

Phew! Guess I’m buying organic chicken at the grocers, this weekend.