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FoodHACCP Newsletter
05/13 2013 ISSUE:547

Fujian tainted-meat scandal suggests flaws in China's food-safety system
Source : http://www.whatsonxiamen.com/news30817.html
By whatsonxiamen.com (May 13, 2013)
A recent high-profile food safety case related to meat products in Nanjing county, Zhangzhou, Fujian province has suggested the existence of loopholes in the rural area's food safety supervision, local officials said.
Three suspects have been arrested for allegedly selling about 40 metric tons of meat from sick or dead pigs for human consumption.
Two of the suspects, Lin Yuhong and Wu Jinrong, both of whom are farmers in Nanjing county, were hired by a local township government to collect sick and dead pigs and dispose of them in an environmentally friendly manner.
According to the Zhangzhou public security bureau's branch office in the Taiwanese Investment Zone, which is in charge of the case, the pair had sold meat from the sick and dead pigs since 2003.
The duo collected diseased or dead pigs that local residents discarded and bought them from local farmers. They also built a freezer that could store up to 6 tons of pork and hired three butchers and sold the meat in standard 20-kg packages.
Xiao Zhiwei deputy head of Jingcheng town of Nanjing county, a major pig breeding and farming area of Fujian province, said the town features household pig farming that sees the birth of 200,000 pigs annually.
Every village in the town has set up a specific pool to dispose of dead pigs using bio-safety techniques, but most pools are in remote areas and usually there isn't anyone taking care of them, Xiao said.
"So it is still common that people just discard the dead and sick pigs randomly," Xiao said.
The data from the Nanjing agriculture bureau showed the number of sick and dead pigs annually is up to 19,000. Spring and autumn are the two high seasons when hogs are diseased and die.
Yang Zhizhong, head of the Nanjing agriculture bureau said the bureau had no clue of the manufacturing and selling of tainted meat products until the case surfaced recently.
Currently, the two veterinarians in the town's veterinary medical center are responsible for the registration of the dead and sick pigs, but it's impossible for them to follow every incident, Yang said.
The website xinhuanet.com reported that after the case was exposed, Zhangzhou city government launched a campaign to check and update the figure of sick and dead pigs in every county.
As of May 2, Nanjing county had dispatched 787 people, checking 18 freezers and disposing of 2,900 sick and dead pigs.
Government departments of agriculture, animal husbandry, quality supervision and industry and commerce administration should collaborate with each other to establish a mechanism to avoid loopholes in food safety supervision, especially in rural areas, xinhuanet.com quoted a source in Zhangzhou food safety office as saying.
The Zhangzhou case has been listed as one of the top 10 food safety cases related to meat product by the Ministry of Public Security.
Two swine diseases, which are highly contagious and fatal to the animals, were tested positive during a test conducted by the local animal disease control and prevention center.
An earlier rumor said that the pork has entered the market of Fujian's neighboring province of Jiangxi, but the Fuzhou-based newspaper the Strait News quoted a source with the Fujian provincial public security department as saying that such an allegation has no factual basis.
Some details, including the exact destinations the tainted pork has gone to and whether there is a mastermind behind the case, are still under investigation.
SOURCE: China Daily

Rat meat and Chinese food safety
Source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22467484
By Martin Patience (May 13, 2013)
The latest food scandal in China - which has seen rat meat passed off as lamb - has raised more questions about food safety in the country.
It seems that barely a day goes by in China without news of yet another food safety scandal.
But the latest case - even by Chinese standards - was truly stomach-churning.
Hundreds of people were arrested after passing off rat meat as lamb.
Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the scandal has given rise to a round of stories about rodents.
I heard one anecdote about a restaurant in southern China that serves up rat meat dishes. Believe me these establishments do exist.
At this particular restaurant, the owners reassured the customers their rats had been caught in the countryside and not in the sewers.
Now, whether the story is true or not, it gives you a flavour of public concern over food safety.
When you eat at cheap restaurants - or roadside stalls for that matter - you are always left with that queasy feeling you may have consumed something you did not order.
My wife recently had lunch at a restaurant and discovered a stone in her soup and then a piece of scrubbing brush in her main course. When I asked why she had not complained, she said she did not want to spoil the meal for her friends.
The irony is that people in China are now eating more than ever before but quality remains elusive.
Obesity, once unheard of, is now becoming an issue.
There has been the largest wave of migration in human history here: tens of millions of rural migrants have poured into the cities to fuel the country's remarkable economic growth.
The journey from the farms to the factories in the last couple of decades has given rise to a vast food supply chain catering for China's urban population.
But the food industry here is often filthy and even downright criminal.
Farmers drown vegetables in pesticides; businesses pump cattle full of steroids; and corrupt officials - after taking their cut - often certify questionable food as safe.
It is little wonder then that people are concerned.
One weekend I joined some city slickers who had become part-time farmers.
The PR consultants, teachers and computer programmers juggled their iPhones and spades at an organic farm on the outskirts of the capital.
Glistening with sweat, they said their weekend workout was all about ensuring the quality of the produce.
For most people though a return to the land simply is not feasible.
So the Chinese middle class - along with many foreigners - buy their meat from Australia and milk from New Zealand.
With so much mistrust, those with the cash plump for trusted brands.
But if there is one issue that provokes anger here more than most it is formula baby milk.
Back in 2008 a scandal of stunning proportions unfolded in homes across the country.
Hundreds of thousands of babies became sick after drinking contaminated formula. Several of them died.
The authorities initially suppressed the scandal because they did not want bad news breaking before the Beijing Olympics.
That decision sparked outrage. Because what it boiled down to was an issue of trust: if the authorities are not prepared to look out for babies - then exactly who will they protect?
During the fallout from the baby milk scandal, the authorities promised to take tougher measures to clean up the food supply chain. They introduced the death penalty for some cases.
But corruption and lax enforcement of regulations mean people here are still looking at their plates every mealtime thinking about the country's terrible record on food safety.
The surest sign of the scale of the problem is that China's leaders are very picky about what they eat themselves.
One gutsy Chinese newspaper reported there were special farms - and carefully monitored producers of fish, pork and poultry - supplying the nation's leadership. That report did not stay online for long.
But while they may be eating from a different plate, the authorities know they need to deal with the simmering public anger over food safety.
Like the appalling air pollution here, it is something they simply cannot afford to ignore.
Texas A&M Researchers Kill Norovirus in Oysters with Electron Beam
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/texas-am-researchers-kill-norovirus-in-oysters-with-electron-beam/
By  Carla Gillespie. (May 12, 2013)
Researchers at Texas A&M University have developed a way to pasteurize oysters without chemicals or heat using an electron beam. A study measuring the method’s efficacy on norovirus and hepatitis A appears in the June issue of the scientific journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Hepatitis A is virus that causes a liver disease that can last for weeks or months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice. Symptoms usually develop two to six weeks after exposure and can last up to six months.
Sometimes called “the stomach flu,” norovirus is an extremely contagious virus responsible for half of all foodborne illness outbreaks each year, according to the CDC. About 21 million Americans get sick from norovirius each year. Of those, 70,000 are hospitalized and 800 die, according to the CDC.
It can be spread from contact with an infected person or surfaces he or she has touched; or from contaminated food or water. The virus inflames the linings of the stomach and intestines causing stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and vomiting. It can cause serious illness in young children and older adults.
Oysters can become contaminated with norovirus or hepatitis A from being handled by a sick food service worker or from contamination in the waters where they were harvested. If eaten raw, oysters contaminated with either virus can make people sick.
Although the CDC recommends that all shellfish be cooked to an internal temperature of 140вк, many people enjoy raw eating oysters raw. Pasteurization is one way to address the health risk of raw foods. And it’s one of the electron beam or E beam applications being explored at the National Center for Electron Beam Research at Texas A&M University.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved E beam technology as a way to control Vibrio vulnificus, a naturally occurring bacteria in shellfish that can cause life- threatening illness or death. In this study, researchers measured E beam’s efficacy on different levels of viral concentration. They found that at high levels of contamination the E beam was able to reduce norovirus levels by 12 percent and hepatitis A levels by 16 percent and at more moderate levels of contamination the method was able to reduce norovirus by 26 percent and hepatitis A by 90 percent.

Foods Consumed by Patients Sickened in Salmonella Firefly Outbreak
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/foods-consumed-by-patients-sickened-in-salmonella-firefly-outbreak/
By Linda Larsen(May 12, 2013)
People from twenty states and two foreign countries are ill in the Salmonella outbreak linked to Firefly restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada. The patients live in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington state. People from Canada and England are also sick.
The serotype of this particular Salmonella bacteria is called “I:4,5,12:i:-”. That means it doesn’t have a name assigned to it, such as Salmonella Saintpaul, found in imported cucumbers this year, or Salmonella Typhimurium, found in unpasteurized Mexican-style cheese last month in Minnesota.
The Southern Nevada Health District has been investigating this outbreak from the first report of illness. They have released two reports and they are very detailed. The report released May 10, 2013 has a list of foods public health officials have investigated for the possible cause of the outbreak. Not only did investigators culture foods for the bacteria, but they also asked the patients which food they ate to try to finger the culprit. In addition, foods that can be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria were sent to labs.
Samples of these foods were sent to the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory on or before May 9, 2013: Tetilla (a type of cheese), Calamari, Chorizo, cooked rice, garlic cream sauce, macaroni and cheese, mussel sauce, stuffed mushrooms, White Sangria, and Thai Beef Salad.. Since the restaurant had violations of improperly cooling potentially hazardous foods, improper holding temperatures of potentially hazardous foods, and improper food storage, these foods are suspect.
The foods ill individuals ate are interesting. In true Vegas tradition (this is also a good statistical practice), investigators put odds on whether or not a certain food or drink may have caused the outbreak, with a 95% confidence interval. Those foods included White Sangria, Thai Beef Salad, Crispy Duck Roll, Petite Filet, Manchego Cheese, Fried Calamari, Firefly Fries, Manchego Mac N Cheese, and Chicken and Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms. We’ll keep you informed about the outbreak investigation as it continues. Many lab results have not yet been finalized.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, Canada and England tied to Firefly Salmonella Outbreak
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/arizona-california-colorado-hawaii-illinois-massachusetts-minnesota-mississippi-north-carolina-new-hampshire-nevada-ohio-oklahoma-oregon-pennsylvania-south-carolina-texas-utah-washin/
By Bill Marler (May 12, 2013)
Firefly restaurant is closed.
According to a report just released by the Southern Nevada Health Department, as of May 5, 2013 at least 196 patrons and 4 employees of Firefly who consumed food and/or drinks at Firefly restaurant during April 21-26, 2013 have been determined to be confirmed or probable cases of Salmonella infection.  From various surveillance data sources, reports of illness from restaurant patrons who normally reside in twenty states:
Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and two foreign countries (Canada, United Kingdom).
Illness onset dates occurred within the April 22 to May 1, 2013 time frame.  The onset date with the peak number of ill restaurant patrons was April 24, 2013. Because the incubation period for Salmonella is usually 12-36 hours, this might suggest that patrons who ate at Firefly on April 22-23, 2013 had the highest risk of exposure to the pathogen.
Serotyping of the isolates indicated that the outbreak strain was Salmonella (assigned with the antigenic code “I:4,5,12:i:-”.
According to Las Vegas press, an inspection report on Firefly on Paradise Road released Wednesday was cited for employees handling food without gloves and preparing food next to cleaning chemicals.  Records show Firefly received an “A” grade during a routine inspection last year. Now, it has been cited with 44 demerits.  First Full Report Here.
Salmonella:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants.  The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.
If you or a family member became ill with a Salmonella infection, including Reactive Arthritis or Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Salmonella attorneys for a free case evaluation.

Firefly Salmonella – “What goes on in Vegas did not stay in Vegas”
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/firefly-salmonella-what-goes-on-in-vegas-did-not-stay-in-vegas/
By  Bill Marler (May 11, 2013)
20 state and three countries impacted by 200 Salmonella illnesses – Restaurant will close location.
According to a report just released by the Health Department, as of May 5, 2013 at least 196 patrons and 4 employees of Firefly who consumed food and/or drinks at Firefly restaurant during April 21-26, 2013 have been determined to be confirmed or probable cases of Salmonella infection.
Thus far, surveillance for additional cases revealed 200 people who became ill after eating at Firefly during April 21-26, 2013. The Epi-X posting resulted in reports of salmonellosis from five public health agencies outside of NV. From various surveillance data sources, we have received reports of illness from restaurant patrons who normally reside in twenty states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and two foreign countries (Canada, United Kingdom).
Illness onset dates occurred within the April 22 to May 1, 2013 time frame.  The onset date with the peak number of ill restaurant patrons was April 24, 2013. Because the incubation period for Salmonella is usually 12-36 hours, this might suggest that patrons who ate at Firefly on April 22-23, 2013 had the highest risk of exposure to the pathogen.
Serotyping of the isolates indicated that the outbreak strain was Salmonella (assigned with the antigenic code “I:4,5,12:i:-”.
An inspection report on Firefly on Paradise Road released Wednesday was cited for employees handling food without gloves and preparing food next to cleaning chemicals.  Records show Firefly received an “A” grade during a routine inspection last year. Now, it has been cited with 44 demerits.  First Full Report Here.
Salmonella:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, has been retained by over 75 former customers of Firefly.  Marler Clark is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants.  The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.
If you or a family member became ill with a Salmonella infection, including Reactive Arthritis or Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Salmonella attorneys for a free case evaluation.

CDC Reports Two Multistate Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Live Poultry
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/05/two-multistate-salmonella-outbreaks-linked-to-live-poultry-expand/
By foodsafetynews.com (May 10, 2013)
Two separate outbreaks linked to live baby poultry are sickening people across the country, according to two announcements from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday.
Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak
The first outbreak, caused by a strain of Salmonella Typhimurium, has sickened 146 people in 26 states since early March, when the outbreak began.
Of these patients, 27 have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been caused by the bacteria. Approximately two thirds (66 percent) of the victims are children 10 years old or younger.
While epidemiological investigation have pointed to baby chickens, ducks and other live baby poultry, the source of the outbreak has yet to be determined.
In interviews, 94 percent of patients report having contact with live baby poultry in the days prior to their illnesses. A ful 97 percent of patients with available information report having purchased baby poultry from one of 13 agricultural feed store companies around the country.
The number of cases by state is as follows: Arizona (5), California (3), Colorado (16), Florida (2), Indiana (4), Iowa (2), Kansas (10), Louisiana (5), Minnesota (2), Mississippi (3), Missouri (9), Nebraska (9), Nevada (1), New Hampshire (1), New Mexico (10), New York (8), North Dakota (1), Oklahoma (9), Oregon (5), South Dakota (6), Texas (19), Utah (3), Vermont (1), Virginia (1), Washington (10) and Wyoming (1).
Salmonella Infantis and Salmonella Mbandaka Outbreaks
A second Salmonella outbreak tied to contact with live baby poultry is being caused by a strain of Salmonella Infantis and a strain of Salmonella Mbandaka, according to CDC.
A total of 61 people in 18 states have fallen ill in this outbreak since March 8 of this year. Of those sickened, 12 were hospitalized. No deaths have been linked to the outbreak strains of bacteria. In this outbreak, 48 percent of victims are 10 years old or younger.
The live chicks and ducklings thought to be the source of this outbreak were sold by Mt. Healthy Hatchery in Ohio.
“This hatchery uses multiple source flocks to obtain eggs and chicks, so it is unclear at this time where the contamination originated,” said CDC in its outbreak report.
Mt. Healthy Hatchery is the same operation whose baby poultry were the source of a 2012 outbreak of Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Lille that sickened 195 people in 27 states and led to 2 deaths.

Farm Rich E. coli O121 Outbreak Grows Again
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/farm-rich-e-coli-o121-outbreak-grows-again/
by Linda Larsen(May 11, 2013)
The E. coli O121 outbreak linked to Farm Rich brand frozen food products has grown again to include 35 people in 19 states. Nine people have been hospitalized in this outbreak, and no deaths have been reported. Two patients have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The outbreak has grown from 32 people since the last update in late April.
The case count by state is: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), California (1), Colorado (1), Florida (2), Illinois (2), Indiana (2), Michigan (3), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), New York (4), Ohio (6), Pennsylvania (1), South Dakota (1), Texas (3), Utah (1), Virginia (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (2). Missouri is now included in the outbreak. The new reports of illness come from Ohio and Missouri. Ill persons range in age from one year to 75 years, with a median age of 17 years. Eighty-two percent of patients are 21 years of age or younger.
The outbreak strain of E. coli has been identified in two different Farm Rich products collected from patient’s homes in Texas and New York. All Farm Rich, Market Day, and Schwan’s brand frozen products made at the Waycross, Georgia plant between July 1, 2011, and March 29, 2013 have been recalled because of this outbreak.
Public health officials are concerned that the frozen items may still be in consumer’s homes. Please check your freezer to see if you have any of the recalled items. If you do, discard them in a closed container. And if you ate any of the recalled products and became ill with symptoms of an E. coli infection, see your doctor immediately and ask for a stool culture. Officials are currently investigating this outbreak to find the source of product contamination.

Farm Rich Frozen Food E. Coli Outbreak Hits 35
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/05/farm-rich-frozen-food-e-coli-outbreak-hits-35/
By foodsafetynews.com News Desk ( May 10, 2013)
Another three individuals have been confirmed ill with E. coli O121 after eating Farm Rich products, bringing the total number ill to 35 people in 19 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At least nine patients have been hospitalized, and 82 percent of those ill are 21 years old or younger. Two of those hospitalized developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a kidney disease resulting from severe E. coli infections.
Farm Rich has recalled a number of products, all of which are listed here. The recalled products have best-by dates ranging from January 1, 2013 to September 29, 2014.
Consumers are encouraged to discard any recalled Farm Rich products.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are currently investigating the cause of the Farm Rich E. coli contamination.

200 sickened after dining at Vegas restaurant
Source : http://news.yahoo.com/200-sickened-dining-vegas-restaurant-181121768.html
By MICHELLE RINDELS(May 10, 2013)
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A new report shows 200 people who dined at one of Las Vegas' most popular restaurants about a block off the Strip have reported food poisoning symptoms, making it the largest outbreak southern Nevada health officials have seen in at least a decade.
Sick patrons who dined at Firefly, a tapas restaurant on Paradise Road, in late April hailed from 20 different states and two foreign countries, according to a report released Friday by the Southern Nevada Health District. There are likely many more cases that have gone unreported.
"Usually we think of people who are identified as just the tip of the iceberg," said Linh Nguyen, an epidemiologist with the health district and lead investigator on the case.
Firefly is one of Las Vegas' highest-rated restaurants on the review site Yelp.com, garnering a 4 ½ star rating on a five-star scale out of more than 1,300 reviews. Patrons rave about bacon-wrapped dates and signature sangria.
The restaurant has been closed since April 26, when health district officials received reports of gastrointestinal illness from eight separate groups of people who had dined at Firefly between April 21 and 24. Inspectors hit the restaurant with 44 demerits, including food stored at improper temperatures and employees handling food without gloves.
Firefly owner John Simmons said in a statement that he hopes to reopen by the end of the month at a different site near the old restaurant. He added that he's hired a food safety consultant and is working to implement the district's recommendations to regain the community's confidence.
Already, a Las Vegas couple has filed a lawsuit against Firefly. Representatives of Seattle law firm Marler Clark, which specializes in foodborne illness cases, said Friday that a total of 76 people have contacted them hoping to be included in the suit.
In salmonella cases where a person has a few days of severe illness but fully recovers, a jury might award $5,000 or $10,000, lawyer Bill Marler said. That number can go up if the person spent time in the hospital, missed work, or had lasting complications linked to the illness.
A key element of the case will be determining whether the restaurant's actions caused the outbreak, Marler said.
But two weeks after shutting down the restaurant and collecting food samples that ranged from macaroni and cheese to mussel sauce, investigators say they haven't pinpointed a menu item or ingredient that's the likely culprit.
Investigators initially zeroed in on an egg-based aioli sauce, but have since ruled that out. Some grated hard cheeses also appeared to be associated with the illness, although many of the menu items consumed by the patrons didn't contain the cheese.
Inspectors are considering employee hygiene practices, and tracing back the sources of some foods served raw. If the salmonella originated further back in the supply chain, sickness may be showing up elsewhere in the country.
Nguyen said the restaurant's popularity and vast menu may have contributed to the spread of salmonella.
"Sometimes when they're very busy ... employees might take shortcuts," she said.
Two other Firefly locations in the Las Vegas area remain open.

Firefly Salmonella Outbreak to top 200
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/firefly-salmonella-outbreak-to-top-200/
By Patti Waller ( May 10, 2013)
Thus far, surveillance for additional cases revealed 200 people who became ill after eating at Firefly during April 21-26, 2013. The Epi-X posting resulted in reports of salmonellosis from five public health agencies outside of NV. From various surveillance data sources, we have received reports of illness from restaurant patrons who normally reside in twenty states (AZ, CA, CO, HI, IL, MA, MN, MS, NC, NE, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TX, UT, WA) and two foreign countries (Canada, United Kingdom) who ate at Firefly during their visits to Las Vegas.
On April 26, 2013, the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), Office of Epidemiology (OOE) received reports of gastrointestinal illness from 8 independent groups of patrons of Firefly on Paradise or the adjacent affiliated restaurant Dragonfly on Paradise (Firefly) located at 3900 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, NV 89109. All patrons from these groups ate at the restaurant during April 21-24, 2013. Ill patrons reported symptoms of diarrhea and/or vomiting after they consumed food from Firefly restaurant, and many sought medical care for their illness. In response to these illness reports, the SNHD initiated an investigation.
On April 26, 2013, the SNHD performed investigative inspections and closed Firefly and Dragonfly restaurants to minimize ongoing risk of illness. The SNHD OOE, Environmental Health (EH) and Southern Nevada Public Health Laboratory (SNPHL) have been collaborating on the investigation and response to this outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Nevada State Health Division were also notified of the outbreak investigation.  A probable case is defined as illness in a person who consumed food served by Firefly restaurant during April 21-26, 2013 and experienced diarrhea (defined as ≥ 3 bouts of loose stools) and/or ≥ 1 episodes of vomiting during a 7-day period after eating. A confirmed case met the probable case definition and had Salmonella infection that was confirmed by PCR or bacterial culture of a stool specimen. We extended the incubation time originally selected for the case definition from 72-hours to 7-days after eating to accommodate possible longer incubation periods for Salmonella, which may occur from ingesting a low dose of the pathogen.On April 26, 2013, OOE and EH staff visited the restaurant. OOE staff interviewed restaurant management and other employees regarding their illnesses in the past 2 weeks, their  knowledge of other recent illnesses in restaurant staff and patrons, whether the restaurant had a sick employee policy, and if there were other customer complaints of illness.OOE staff performed telephone interviews with ill restaurant patrons to obtain more information regarding their symptoms, food history, and illnesses. The SNHD foodborne illness complaint database was searched to identify other complaints against the restaurant in the 30 days prior to these complaints.  OOE staff performed surveillance for additional cases. Contact information of restaurant patrons who ate at Firefly during April 21-26, 2013 (the first and last meal dates of known ill persons) was obtained from telephone and oral interviews of ill people, electronic foodborne illness reports, confidential morbidity reports, notifications of illness by healthcare providers, and OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation system.
On April 29, 2013, OOE staff posted a notification on Epi-X, the CDC’s web-based, national communications system for public health professionals, asking other health departments to report to us salmonellosis case-patrons with histories of travel to Las Vegas during the April 21- 26 time period.
A preliminary case-control study was performed, using 32 case-patrons and 38 controls (restaurant patrons who ate at Firefly during April 21-26, 2013 but did not subsequently become ill) for whom we had food/drink consumption histories to try to identify statistical associations between having consumed specific food or drink items and subsequently developing illness. Univariate analysis (odds ratio (OR) and 95% exact confidence intervals (CI)) was also performed for each food item eaten by case-patrons or controls. Food items with CI ranges not including the value 1.0 were considered significant.
Among the food items collected on April 26 by EH staff (Table 1), those with the highest OR (Table 2) and/or associations with past Salmonella outbreaks were selected for laboratory testing.
EH staff performed inspections of Firefly and Dragonfly restaurants on April 26, 2013 and an assessment of foodborne illness transmission.
EH staff collected various food items (Table 1) during the inspection for possible testing to determine whether one or more food item(s) could have been the source of the illness. On April 26, 2013 Salmonella had not yet been identified as the source of the outbreak; thus, the selection of these food items was based on EH staff’s on-site assessment of the likelihood of the food being a source of contamination.
Inspections were also conducted on April 29, 2013 of the two other Firefly restaurant outlets located in Clark County.
EH staff met with Firefly representatives on May 2, 2013 and notified them of the actions that are necessary for the restaurant to re-open. Firefly management has fully cooperated with SNHD staff during the investigation.
Fifteen stool collection kits were dispensed to ill restaurant guests and staff to collect stool specimens for bacterial culture (Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157, Yersinia, and Vibrio), Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) testing, and norovirus RT-PCRtesting.
SNPHL received additional microbial samples that had been identified as Salmonella-positive by local diagnostic laboratories for additional testing.
SNPHL staff performed Salmonella serotyping and pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE, commonly known as “molecular fingerprinting”) on samples that tested positive for Salmonella to determine the outbreak patterns. These PFGE patterns were also submitted to PulseNet, a   CDC database that enables rapid comparison of the PFGE patterns to facilitate identification of common source outbreaks. The SNPHL also received Firefly outbreak-related PFGE results  from other states’ public health laboratories.
SNPHL submitted Salmonella cluster isolates to the CDC National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) for antimicrobial sensitivity testing.
SNPHL stored the 35 food specimens collected by EH staff, and shipped 19 of these food specimens to the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory (NSPHL) for pathogen testing.
The epidemic curve as of May 5, 2013 is presented in the figure below and shows a total of 200 people (16 confirmed and 184 probable) whose illnesses met the case definition. All identified ill persons ate at Firefly during April 21 through April 26, 2013. Illness onset dates occurred within the April 22 to May 1, 2013 time frame.
The onset date with the peak number of ill restaurant patrons was April 24, 2013. Because the incubation period for Salmonella is usually 12-36 hours, this might suggest that patrons who ate at Firefly on April 22-23, 2013 had the highest risk of exposure to the pathogen.
A total of 33 Firefly employees were interviewed on April 26, 2013. Three employees were identified as having been recently ill with gastrointestinal symptoms after having eaten at Firefly within the previous 7 days of their illness; these workers submitted stool specimens. The OOE staff identified an additional ill staff member at a later interview, but stool testing was not offered to this employee. The onset dates of the 4 ill staff members are included in the figure below, and the timing of their illness onset dates suggests that none of these 4 restaurant workers was the source of the illness. The restaurant has a sick employee policy and employees may call-in sick when necessary.
We were notified of one customer complaint of illness made to the restaurant.
Initially, suspicions were directed at the raw unpasteurized egg-based aioli sauce served at Firefly, because many ill patrons had reported eating it and the historical association between eggs and Salmonella. However, epidemiologic analysis showed that aioli was not associated with illness. The OR and 95% CIs for food items eaten by case-patrons and controls, presented in Table 2, show that case-patrons were significantly more likely than controls to have consumed a number of menu items. No single menu item appeared to be the likely source for the outbreak. Additionally, no common factors or ingredients were identified among the statistically significant menu items. We also looked for associations between illness and several common ingredients such as parsley, aioli, and grated hard cheeses (parmesan and  manchego). Of these, only the grated hard cheeses showed a statistical association with illness. However, many of the statistically significant menu items contained none of that cheese.
The Firefly on Paradise restaurant used two adjacent permitted kitchens, Firefly on Paradise (SNHD Permit Number PR0013375) and Dragonfly on Paradise (SNHD Permit Number PR0015008), to prepare food for their customers. During the inspections, observed violations that could have contributed to an outbreak of a foodborne disease included employees not washing their hands properly, employees using bare hands to dispense ready to eat foods, foods contaminated by debris-filled liquid, improper cooling practices of potentially hazardous foods, improper holding temperatures of numerous potentially hazardous foods, improper food storage that included raw animal products stored above ready to eat foods, improper storage of in-use utensils, and inadequate cleaning and sanitizing of preparation surfaces.
The results of the inspection were 44 demerits for Firefly and 47 demerits for Dragonfly on Paradise. Both facilities were closed by SNHD on April 26, 2013 because of the investigation into the reports of illness (SNHD Regulations Governing the Sanitation of Food Establishments 8-304.11) and the excessive number of violations noted at each facility that resulted in > 40 demerits (SNHD Regulations Governing the Sanitation of Food Establishments 8-303.11B).
Thirty-five samples of various foods were collected during the inspection and submitted to the SNPHL for possible testing to determine which food item(s) could have been the source of the illness.
Inspections of the two other Firefly restaurant outlets located in Clark County showed Firefly Westside (9560 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas) received 30 demerits and Firefly on Eastern (11261 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson) received 6 demerits. Both of these restaurants remained open because neither establishment received > 40 demerits, and were required by SNHD to rectify their respective infractions within 15 business days of the inspection. On May 1, 2013 Firefly Westside restaurant was re-inspected and found to be in compliance and received 0 demerits. Since Firefly on Eastern retained an “A” rating after the first inspection, it did not receive any further inspection.
We have begun tracebacks of some food products that either arrived raw to the restaurant or served uncooked to patrons to try and identify how the food may have become contaminated at its source, during delivery, storage or preparation.
Firefly on Paradise and Dragonfly on Paradise remain closed at this time. Before the facilities will be permitted to be re-opened by SNHD, the following requirements must be met:
1.A Person-In-Charge (PIC) who has completed a Certified Food Safety Manager (CFSM) training program must be present and responsible at the facility at all times including evenings, weekends, and breaks. The designated PIC staff must be knowledgeable of all food safety measures associated with the operation and be actively supervising to assure the food-handling staff performs duties in compliance with SNHD Regulations. SNHD may request a schedule that verifies that a CFSM is onsite during all operating hours.
2.The SNHD will verify that the facility owner has obtained the services of a Food Safety Consultant who will assist the facility in implementing measures to assure ongoing active managerial control of risk factors for foodborne illness. This would include Standard Operating Procedures, employee training, and methods to verify ongoing safe food handling practices by facility management.
3.The facility shall actively monitor all food products during cooling and maintain cooling logs until further notice by SNHD. These logs are required to be kept on-site for a minimum of one year.
4.Any menu items including sauces/dips that contain raw or undercooked animal products must have a consumer advisory statement and proper disclosure next to the item.
5.Facility must be cleared pending foodborne illness outbreak investigation by SNHD OOE.
6.The facility must pay the associated closure fee and pass a scheduled inspection with <10 demerits with no repeat critical or major violations.
Fourteen of 15 stool specimens requested of ill patrons and employees were received and tested by the SNPHL. Of the 14 returned specimens (which included specimens from 3 employees), 12 were positive and 2 were negative for Salmonella species.
Local microbiology laboratories submitted to the SNPHL 17 additional Salmonella isolates that were obtained at community clinics from ill Firefly patrons. Serotyping and PFGE were completed on 8 of these samples and those PFGE patterns all match the outbreak pattern. Nine samples are pending serotyping and PFGE analyses.
Serotyping of the isolates indicated that the outbreak strain was Salmonella (assigned with the antigenic code “I:4,5,12:i:-”). Thus far, all Salmonella serotypes and PFGE patterns processed by the SNPHL have matched each other. These PFGE patterns have been submitted to PulseNet to determine if they are related to other common source outbreaks in the U.S.
Three outbreak Salmonella isolates were sent to NARMS for antimicrobial sensitivity testing. The SNPHL sent 19 food items (selected because of their high OR and/or associations with past Salmonella outbreaks) from the 35 collected from Firefly restaurant on April 26, 2013 to the NSPHL for analysis. Of the 19 food items that were sent, 11 (including the aioli) were negative and 8 are pending for Salmonella by RT-PCR. Eight food samples were negative and 11 food items are pending for Salmonella cultures.
As of May 5, 2013 at least 196 patrons and 4 employees who consumed food and/or drinks at Firefly restaurant during April 21-26, 2013 have been determined to be confirmed or probable cases of Salmonella infection.
1.Firefly should rectify faulty food storage equipment and practices to ensure that food will be produced in a safe manner for consumption.
2.The SNHD OOE staff will continue to characterize the outbreak through case finding, investigative, and data analyses activities.
3.The SNHD OOE staff will continue to monitor for additional complaints of illness to determine whether the outbreak is limited to this establishment or has spread to the general community.
4.The SNHD OOE will report out-of-jurisdiction confirmed cases of salmonellosis to the Nevada State Health Division, which will notify the appropriate public health agencies of their respective ill residents.
5.The SNHD EH staff will continue to monitor and enforce corrective actions required of the Firefly restaurant management prior to the re-opening of the restaurant.
6.The SNHD EH staff will continue to conduct tracebacks of some food products to try and identify how the food may have become contaminated at its source, during delivery, storage or preparation.
7.The SNPHL will continue to perform serotyping and PFGE on the submitted specimens that were positive for Salmonella and to continue to submit these PFGE patterns to PulseNet to determine if illnesses among patrons from the different groups were linked.
8.The SNPHL will further analyze the collected Salmonella isolates by submitting them to PulseNet for multiple-locus variable number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA), a method used to perform molecular typing of particular microorganisms to study possible transmission routes and sources of infection.
9.The SNPHL will continue to facilitate the testing of food collected from the restaurant
Food-service workers who test positive for Salmonella must be excluded or restricted from work per the FDA Food Code and will require approval from the SNHD to return to work.  Restaurant employees should be cautioned about how Salmonella is transmitted and be made aware of the heightened importance of hand hygiene through washing with soap and water. Information about salmonellosis can be found at the SNHD website http://www.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/health-topics/salmonellosis.php  Food service workers should also be educated to the ways to clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces. Types of acceptable sanitizer solutions for use in a food establishment are located at the SNHD website http://www.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/ferl/sanitizer-fact-sheet.php  Restaurants are advised to monitor and log all food products during cooling, and to cook all potentially hazardous foods thoroughly. All foods including ingredients that contain raw or undercooked foods must have a consumer advisory.All suspected cases of Salmonella infection related to this outbreak should be reported to SNHD. Illness clusters (e.g. restaurants, schools, hotels) are reportable under Nevada Administrative Code sections 441A.525 and the SNHD Regulations Governing the Reporting of Diseases, Exposures, and Sentinel Health Events section 4.9. Reports should be made to the SNHD Office of Epidemiology at (702) 759-1300, option 3, and can be made 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Restaurant Worker in North Carolina Tests Positive for Hepatitis A
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/05/restaurant-worker-in-north-carolina-tests-positive-for-hepatitis-a/
By foodsafetynews.com(May 9, 2013)
An employee at the High Hampton Inn restaurant in Cashiers, N.C., has tested positive for Hepatitis A.
The Jackson County Health Department is now asking anyone who ate at the restaurant between April 26 and 29, or May 1, 2013, to contact the health department to receive information on Hepatitis A in the event of exposure. Those at risk may not fall ill if given a vaccine within 14 days of exposure.
Anyone who ate at the restaurant on those days and experienced fever, headache, vomiting, or diarrhea are encouraged to contact a healthcare provider.
Health investigators in Jackson County are trying to determine if any other people have been infected with the virus.

Will That Be Original Recipe or Crunchy?
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/05/will-that-be-original-recipe-or-crunchy/
By Tony Corbo (May 8, 2013)
The guest op-ed piece by former UDSA Under Secretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond entitled, “Can We Talk Turkey?” had some factual errors that need to be addressed, along with some pieces of information that readers need to have in order to put some of the issues he raised into proper perspective.
Dr. Raymond challenged some of the points raised by Tom Philpott on April 24, 2013 in a story authored for Mother Jones entitled, “USDA Ruffles Feathers with New Poultry Inspection Policy.” I would like to address some of Dr. Raymond’s assertions.
First, he takes exception with Mr. Philpott’s observation that the maximum line speeds in chicken slaughter plants under the proposed privatized inspection model will run 25 percent faster than the current maximum for plants that receive conventional inspection. That is absolutely correct. The current maximum line speed in plants that receive conventional inspection is 140 birds per minute. There are 4 USDA inspectors assigned to that slaughter line – each inspecting a maximum of 35 birds per minute. The proposed rule sets the maximum line speed at 175 birds per minute – 25 percent higher – with only one USDA inspector left on the line. I thought that Mr. Philpott was being much too conservative in what could happen under the proposed model. Under the new system, the remaining USDA slaughter inspector on the slaughter line could face a 400 percent line speed increase.
For some strange reason, Dr. Raymond challenges USDA’s own estimates that the new inspection model would save the Department $90 million over a three year period. The headline of the Department’s January 20, 2012 news release published when Secretary Tom Vilsack announced his intent to propose a rule that would privatize poultry inspection stated:
USDA Seeks to Modernize Poultry Inspection in the United States
Inspection would focus on areas most critical to ensuring food safety, save taxpayers more than $90 million over three years and lower production costs by more than $256 million annually (1)
Straight from the horse’s mouth. And it cannot get any plainer than that. Dr. Raymond tries to confuse the issue about pay upgrades for certain inspector positions, but the bottom line is that the budget for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will shrink by implementing this new inspection model because upwards of 800 inspector and supervisory inspector positions will be eliminated. Department officials have made media statements saying they believe most if not all of the reductions can be achieved through attrition, but that is not a guarantee (2).
As a consumer, I care about those so-called “quality defects” that Dr. Raymond and the advocates of the proposed new system seem to dismiss. Besides feathers, those “quality defects” that will be turned over to company-paid employees to inspect under the new system include: fecal contamination; digestive content (ingesta); improper evisceration where organs, such as intestines, are still in the carcass; and disease conditions, such as septicemia and toxemia. According to the proposed rule, the company-paid “inspectors” do not have to be trained to assume these duties, while USDA inspectors are trained to work on poultry slaughter lines.
A year ago, Food & Water Watch was contacted by a consumer in Georgia who had bought a package of chicken that he intended to barbeque for his family on Mother’s Day. When he opened up the package, he found that some of the chicken breasts had some hard yellow substances on them. He sent us photos of the packaging and of the suspect chicken breasts. It turned out that those yellow substances were of partially digested chicken feed or ingesta. That product should never have been allowed into commerce. The package wrapper had the USDA-inspected label on it with the establishment number P-177. P-177 happens to be the Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Gainesville, Georgia. That plant also happens to be one of the 20 HIMP broiler plants that Dr. Raymond is so proud of, where the privatized inspection model is being piloted by USDA. You can take a look at the photo of the ingesta on that chicken on our website and an analysis of the inspection data from some of the HIMP plants we did that revealed that not only feathers were missed by the company employees, but a whole host of other “defects” such as visible fecal contamination (3).
I showed the photos that we had received from that consumer to Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia who at the time was the Chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee and the main congressional advocate for privatized poultry inspection, and to the current USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen and FSIS Administrator Alfred Almanza. I explained what the photos represented and I told all of them that when I go to KFC to order fried chicken, the cashier always asks: “Do you want original recipe or crispy?” Not, “Do you want original recipe or CRUNCHY?” Yes, Dr. Raymond, I want my taxpayer dollars to go to government inspectors to keep the food I feed my family safe and wholesome.
Dr. Raymond also dismisses the discussion that has taken place on the issue of worker safety as it relates to the privatized inspection model. This concern is not new. The Government Accountability Office issued a lengthy report in January 2005 entitled, “Safety in Meat and Poultry Industry, While Improving, Could Be Further Strengthened” (4). Among the recommendations included in that report was for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conduct a study of the impact of line speed on worker safety and health. I would like to take Dr. Raymond down Memory Lane to his “Salmonella Initiative Program” that he announced in February 2006 while he was under secretary. That program was designed to give the poultry industry certain incentives in exchange for increased Salmonella testing. One of the incentives was to allow up to five plants to increase their line speeds to increase production. As Dr. Raymond will recall, some members of the Safe Food Coalition, including Food & Water Watch, expressed concern with the impact that increased line speeds could have on food safety and worker safety. We alerted members of Congress about what was being proposed and in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-8), the following language was included:
The Department is currently reviewing several proposals to increase maximum line speeds at chicken slaughter facilities. FSIS is directed to make any analysis conducted by the agency on increasing maximum line speeds, and the effects such changes might have on food and employee safety, available to the Committees within 30 days.
The Department slow-walked the analysis and the results have never been made public.
One modification made to Dr. Raymond’s Salmonella Initiative Program in July 2011 was to require any plant that sought a line speed waiver to agree to have NIOSH conduct a study on the impact of line speed on worker safety. One plant has come forward – the Pilgrim’s Pride in Sumter, South Carolina. But NIOSH has already informed FSIS that it will take 3 ½ years to complete its study. Whether the findings from that one plant can be generalized to the entire poultry industry as a whole is another issue.
In advocating for the privatized inspection model, Congressman Jack Kingston stated that one of the savings that FSIS can realize is reduced workers compensation claims from inspection personnel “as the repetitive stress injuries associated with sorting carcasses are reduced” (5).
Interestingly, a key FSIS management official made that same assertion to members of the Safe Food Coalition during a briefing session on the proposed rule in March 2012. When I pointed out that the new inspection model was shifting additional costs of worker injuries to the private sector and that was not included as part of the agency’s economic analysis accompanying the proposed rule, the management official responded that I could include that point in my written comments to proposed rule. So, Food & Water Watch did. But to this day, I have not heard anyone from USDA express any real concern about the working conditions in these plants.
Frankly, I am so disappointed that Dr. Raymond thinks that the worker safety issue should not be on the table for discussion in the context of the proposed rule. When Mike Johanns, Dr. Raymond’s old boss, served as Nebraska’s governor, he realized that workers were being denied their rights in the meatpacking industry in that state. Governor Johanns signed an executive order entitled “The Meatpacking Worker Bill of Rights,” that enumerated basic rights that workers in those plants should have including the right to organize into a union and a right to a safe workplace along with the right to file complaints related to health and safety issues without fear of reprisal (6). There is intimidation in the meatpacking industry across the country. Workers are afraid to come forward for a variety of reasons. I strongly suggest, Dr. Raymond, that you read the Southern Poverty Law Center’s report entitled, “Unsafe at These Speeds: Alabama’s Poultry Industry and its Disposable Workers.” It will teach you why worker safety needs to be discussed in conjunction with the proposed rule and how it is related to food safety (7).
As a food safety advocate, I am interested in reducing foodborne illness. Unfortunately, the proposed rule is not going to accomplish that. All it is going to do is deregulate inspection. As some of us have continually pointed out, Salmonella and Campylobacter are not going to be reduced unless there are enforceable performance standards. That means going to Congress and proposing legislation to get that authority. Dr. Raymond did not do that when he was under secretary and I have not discerned any desire by the current administration to do it either. So, we keep playing around with all sorts of gimmicks that probably will not work because they nibble at the edges of the problem.
I would like to point out several other facts that Dr. Raymond carefully avoided in his piece.
First, on page 26 of the FSIS document entitled, “Evaluation of HACCP Inspection Models Project (HIMP)”, there is a chart that shows that for the latest data provided, the Salmonella rates of poultry slaughtered in HIMP plants were higher than the rates in comparably sized plants that received conventional inspection (8).
Second, as a result of Dr. Raymond’s Salmonella Initiative Program, each month FSIS posts on its website a listing of poultry plants that fail the government’s Salmonella testing. The latest Salmonella verification testing results show that two HIMP broiler plants – the Tyson plant in Clarksville, Arkansas and the Golden Rod Broilers plant in Cullman, Alabama – failed the government’s testing (9). They represent 10 percent of the HIMP broiler plants. What is going to happen to these two plants? Are they being kicked out of HIMP? Will they be allowed to use the new inspection model if the final rule is implemented? Those are questions that need to be answered by FSIS before they move forward with this new inspection model.
Third, FSIS concedes that there is no way to determine whether the new inspection model will contribute to an increase or a reduction or maintenance of the status quo for the incidence of Campylobacter (10).
If we are really interested in reducing foodborne illness, FSIS needs the regulatory authority to enforce its pathogen reduction standards.
Lastly, I would like to address Dr. Raymond’s allegations regarding the inspectors union and my association with it. Dr. Raymond has spent the better part of the last five years whining about the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Unions literally all across the world. The union is doing what it is supposed to do – representing its members. The FSIS inspectors are some of the most dedicated public employees I have ever met. They love their jobs protecting consumers in spite of the tough working conditions they endure and in spite of the roadblocks thrown in their way by their managers. It is not uncommon to find inspectors who have worked for FSIS for over twenty years. The leadership of the union is made up of volunteers – they are not paid to be officers of the union. They remain working inspectors. But Dr. Raymond expends too much energy maligning them. For what reason? Because inspectors have a right to a voice in their working conditions? Why can’t you accept that? And, in a recent post on Food Safety News, he has decided to cast aspersions about me. I expect Dr. Raymond to apologize to me and to retract his insinuation. The main reason that I communicate directly with USDA inspectors is due to the fact they speak the unvarnished truth about the enforcement of food safety laws and regulations, or lack thereof, which I do not seem to get when I deal with their bosses in Washington.
What Dr. Raymond should be doing is taking responsibility for the development of the Public Health Information System (PHIS) that occurred under his watch and has turned into an $82 million boondoggle that does not work. If we want to save the government money, maybe we should start there. He should also own up to the fact that FSIS secretly granted Canada equivalency status for a HIMP-style inspection model in beef slaughter during his tenure (11). One of the Canadian beef slaughter plants using that privatized inspection system is XL Foods, which just experienced the largest meat recall in Canadian history that left 18 Canadian consumers ill from eating beef contaminated with E.coli 0157:H7 (12). HIMP does not work.

(1)  United States Department of Agriculture.  “USDA Seeks to Modernize Poultry Inspection in the United States,” news release, January 20, 2012.
(2)  “USDA to Alter Visual Poultry Inspection,” MeatPoultry.com, January 20, 2012 (see http://www.meatpoultry.com/News/News%20Home/Regulatory/2012/1/USDA%20to%20eliminate%20visual%20poultry%20inspection.aspx)
(3)  See http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/foodsafety/privatized-poultry-inspection-usdas-pilot-project-results/
(4)  U.S. Government Accountability Office.  “Safety in Meat and Poultry Industry, While Improving, Could Be Further Strengthened,” January 12, 2005, GAO-05-96.
(5)  U.S. House of Representatives. Hearing before the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations, March 15, 2011, p. 60.
(6)  Nebraska Department of Labor.  “The Meatpacking Worker Bill of Rights.”  (see http://www.dol.nebraska.gov/center.cfm?PRICAT=2&SUBCAT=5K&ACTION=bor)
(7)  Southern Poverty Law Center.  “Unsafe at These Speeds:  Alabama’s Poultry Industry and its Disposable Workers,” March 2013 (see http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/Unsafe_at_These_Speeds_web.pdf)
(8)  United States Department of Agriculture.  Food Safety and inspection Service.  “Evaluation of HAACP Inspection Models Project, August 2011, p. 26.
(9)  United States Department of Agriculture.  Food Safety and inspection Service.  “FSIS Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (PR/HACCP) Salmonella Set Results for Individual Establishments (current as of April 1, 2013):  Category 3 Young Chicken (Broiler) Establishments” (see http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Category_3_Broilers.pdf)
(10)  United States Department of Agriculture.  Food Safety and Inspection Service.  “FSIS Risk Assessment for Guiding Public Health-Based Poultry Slaughter Inspection,” November 2011,  p. 10.
(11)  Letter from Sally White, Director of International Equivalence Staff, Office of International Affairs, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service to Dr. William Anderson, Director of Food of Animal Origin, Canadian Food Inspection Agency granting equivalency status to the High Line Speed Inspection System in beef slaughter, March 2, 2006.
(12)  See http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/phn-asp/ecoli-1012-eng.php

Eight Possible Illnesses in Texas E. coli Outbreak
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/05/eight-possible-illnesses-in-texas-e-coli-outbreak/
By foodsafetynews.com (May 8,2013)
Health investigators in Texas’ Brazos County are looking into eight possible infections of E. coli O157:H7 they suspect may be linked to food.
The Brazos County Health Department has confirmed five of the illnesses, and investigators believe another three patients are infected with the same strain of bacteria.
Two related children under the age of five have been hospitalized at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston for the past week, The Eagle reports. The other six cases are adults and were not hospitalized.
Investigators are still searching for a possible outbreak source, saying that the patients did not eat at the same restaurant

Wildlife forced out of California 'salad bowl' by food safety regulations
Source : http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/world-on-a-plate/2013/may/08/wildlife-california-salad-bowl-food-safety
By Emma Bryce (May 8, 2013)
In California's 'salad bowl' – a landscape portioned into emerald fields of spinach, lettuce, kale, and other leafy vegetables, grown to satiate the nation's appetite for greens – hush-hush food safety standards are deforesting land and forcing wildlife out. These practices are unnecessary for ensuring safe food, say experts in a new study, and yet they spell marginalisation for a number of species.
The Californian Salinas Valley is the fertile, riverside floodplain where salad growing is concentrated in the state, and where 70% of America's greens are produced. It is also near to the site of one the most devastating bacterial outbreaks in recent American history. In 2006, E coli bacteria found nestling in the folds of spinach leaves killed five people, and sickened over 200 others.
Spinach was recalled across the United States, and producers suffered a major economic dent due to buyer concern and consumer boycotting. "Everyone wants to trust the food that they eat," says Lisa Schulte Moore, a landscape ecologist working to restore habitat around Iowa's farms, who commented on the new research.
Bacteria could have come from water sources contaminated with fecal matter from livestock farms upstream, bacteria-affected handlers, or from direct contact with wild animals like feral pigs, an investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later showed. Because of the variability of the threat, and the impact that single-source produce can have on people across the country, the industry dramatically ramped up its food safety standards.
The result was a number of industry-led groups intent on improving safety in salad-growing regions by imposing more stringent regulations on producers who voluntarily joined in. In the Salinas Valley, that industry collective is embodied by the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA), which advertises science-based solutions to bacterial spread.
But in the wake of the E coli disaster, some corporate produce buyers have taken matters into their own hands, requiring producers to abide by apparently superfluous safety regulations. Ecologically, these translate into large chunks of land cleared of natural vegetation, and impermeable fencing designed to stave off wildlife, so restricting the movements of deer, coyote, and likely the endangered mountain lion says Sasha Gennet, a Central Coast ecologist with the Nature Conservancy, and an author on the study.
There's no proof that these rules make food any safer. If they did, they'd be included in official, third party-audited guidelines like those put forward by the LGMA, Schulte Moore says.
Maybe most problematically, these businesses are not required to make their dealings transparent, "and therefore even savvy consumers would not have any way to suspect this might be occurring," Gennet adds. "It's been an invisible issue."
Workers harvest iceberg lettuce at a Nunes Company farm on October 4, 2010 in Salinas, California. Photograph: Tony Avelar/Getty Images What's in it for the buyers? Greens that they deem 'extra-safe', and therefore less likely to cause financial havoc. It's what Schulte Moore calls a "gut reaction", lacking a scientific base. But for farmers, these advances are hard to reject. "There are lots of businesses that enjoy a huge share of the food market," she says, including grocery stores and restaurants. "So by being a kingpin in the supply chain of a food between the producers and the consumers, [buyers] can say, we're not going to buy your product unless you do these things."
Most farmers must accept their land's fate. "Farmers care about their land. Many in this region had invested time and money in conservation, for example wetlands restoration," Gennet says. "I can't imagine it's been an easy choice to reverse all that."
Between 2005 (before the spinach E coli outbreak) and 2009 (three years afterwards) Sasha Gennet and her team took aerial photographs and analysed farmer surveys in the Salinas Valley, picked for its agricultural importance, but also because of its conservation value. The floodplain habitat is a stopover and feeding ground for migrating birds like the Great Blue Heron, its plains and river harbour a number of endangered species like the steelhead salmon, and the waterway connects with one of the country's largest marine sanctuaries.
But in that 2005-2009 period, the area lost 13% of its riverside and wetland habitat. Strips of land—some more than 100 meters wide—were completely cleared or degraded, says Gennet, apparently to create a suitable wildlife buffer, since animals are treated as potential carriers of bacteria.
If the destruction continues at its current rate, the researchers predict natural habitat losses of over 2000 square kilometers in California alone—which incorporates a 20% slash in riverside vegetation across nine Californian counties.
Bare ground also acts like a slipway between farm fields and nearby rivers for the pesticides and fertilizers showered over fresh produce. "Vegetation plays a key role in stabilising soils, in terms of uptake of nutrients and chemicals before it gets in the water way," Schulte Moore explains. Without natural cover to aid drainage, these contaminants sluice across the earth and into the water—bearing untold impacts on aquatic life.
There's the loss of ecosystem services to consider too: an intact system brings with it valuable pollinators, fertile soil, and unpolluted water. On fragmented lands, those features fade away.
Right now, it's not even clear who is instilling these hyper-safe reforms. Because private company activities aren't transparent, it's impossible to tie the changes to anyone in particular. Yet the researchers hold what they call "compelling evidence"—largely through bold farmer testimonies—that the degradation of the land and corporate paranoia are linked.
For consumers, the covert influence of some in the fresh produce industry makes it harder to weed out a good bag of greens from a questionable one. But, says Gennet, the more consumer pressure there is for information about food sources, the more likely big players are to feel the push.
"The health of the food we eat is tied directly to the health of the land it's grown on," she says—an overplayed sentiment to some perhaps, but one that holds true here.

Cucumber Salmonella Outbreak Tops 80
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/cucumber-salmonella-outbreak-tops-80/
By Bill Marler (May 8, 2013)
Consumption of imported cucumbers is the likely source of infection for the ill persons.  On April 24, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culiacán, Mexico on Import Alert. Cucumbers from these two firms will be denied admission into the United States unless the suppliers show that they are not contaminated with Salmonella.
A total of 81 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul have been reported from 18 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Arizona (11), California (28), Colorado (1), Idaho (2), Illinois (3), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (9), Nevada (1), New Mexico (2), North Carolina (3), Ohio (3), Oregon (2), South Dakota (2), Texas (6), Virginia (3), and Wisconsin (2).  Since the last update, 8 new ill persons have been reported from Arizona (2), Minnesota (1), North Carolina (2), Ohio (2), and Virginia (1). This PFGE pattern has rarely been seen before in PulseNet and in the past typically caused 0-5 cases per year.  29% of ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

Food Safety Inspections Dodge the Sequester
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/05/how-food-safety-inspections-dodged-the-impact-of-the-sequester//
By Helena Bottemiller(May 8, 2013)
Just two months after the White House warned that across-the-board budget cuts, known as the sequester, could have dire consequences for the country, in part because they could weaken food safety protections, it seems food safety has escaped the worst of the impact.
According to the Obama administration, the sequester could have resulted in 11 days of federal meat inspector furloughs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a move that would have disrupted the nation’s meat supply and resulted in 2,100 fewer U.S. Food and Drug Administration food safety inspections, an 18 percent cut.
In February, a memo from the White House Office of Management & Budget warned: “These reductions could increase the number and severity of safety incidents, and the public could suffer more foodborne illness, such as the recent salmonella in peanut butter outbreak and the E. coli illnesses linked to organic spinach, as well as cost the food and agriculture sector millions of dollars in lost production volume.”
In March, Congress was able to pass a measure to reinstate the funding to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (the agency actually came out ahead, getting $55 million to cover a $52 million cut).
Now, as FDA figures out how to absorb the $209 million cut to food and drug regulation, the agency is saying food safety inspections will be spared too. FDA will scale back training and travel and not facility inspections, an agency official confirmed Monday.
“The 2,100 number was an initial estimate and we were always trying to minimize the impact,” said FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess.
“Our goal is to absorb the cuts without a risk to public health,” said Burgess. “We are working to manage budget reductions through other mechanisms.  We are working on mitigating the inspection reductions to the greatest extent practicable to protect the public health, but we are still in the early stages of executing our budget under sequestration.”
While it appears food safety inspections will dodge the sequester, stakeholders remain concerned that FDA will not have the resources it needs to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act going forward. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the law could require $1.4 billion over five years to roll out, but the agency has received only a small fraction of that in resource increases.
“A loss of resource is obviously going in the wrong direction in terms of our ability to move forward on FSMA,” Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine recently told Food Safety News. Taylor has said that the agency has the resources needed to move forward with the hefty rulemaking that lies ahead, but whether FDA will be able to hire the personnel needed to enforce the law remains in question.

Salmonella Group B is Linked to Firefly Outbreak, so what’s the Serotype?
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/salmonella-group-b-is-linked-to-firefly-outbreak-so-whats-the-serotype/
By Bill Marler (May 8, 2013)
It is expected that the Nevada and Southern Nevada Health District will update the public on the Firefly outbreak by the numbers ill and the likely serotype of the Salmonella.  We learned today from a stool culture that the illnesses are Salmonella Group B, but the serotype has not yet been listed.  Group B consists of many varieties with the most common – in alphabetical order:
S. abortusovis
S. agona
S. bredeney
S. heildeberg
S. indiana
S. jave
S. paratyphi B
S. reading
S. saintpaul
S. schwarzendrund
S. stanley
S. typhimurium
S. typhimurium var. copenhagen
Many of the above are the most common serotypes that we have seen in outbreaks, if you want to do a bit of research, visit, www.outbreakdatabase.com and type in the any of the above names and see what outbreaks they have been associated with.

Illinois Changing Rules for On-Farm Unpasteurized Milk Sales
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/illinois-changing-rules-for-on-farm-unpasteurized-milk-sales/
By Kathy Will (May 7, 2013)
The state of Illinois published a rule change for on-farm unpasteurized milk sales in January. Now raw milk advocates are objecting to three requirements in the proposed change.
The changes include limiting on-farm sales to 100 gallons per month per farm. The dairies that sell raw milk must purchase equipment so their product meets Grade A certification requirements. And dairy farms would have to keep a log of customer names and numbers. The changes would also prohibit herd-sharing. In Illinois, the sale of raw milk is outlawed except directly to consumers on the farm under certain production regulations.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has published a paper titled “Risks Associated with Consumption of Unpasteurized Dairy Products“. In its Healthbeat newsletter, public health officials warn people about the danger of drinking unpasteurized milk and products made from unpasteurized milk. The bacteria that are found in raw milk include Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and Yersinia. The newsletter states “illnesses due to these bacteria can lead to diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, headache, and vomiting. Illness can be severe in people with weakened immune system, such as the elderly, children, people with cancer, organ transplant recipients or individuals with HIV/AIDS. Bacteria found in raw milk and raw dairy products can be especially dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies.”
There were six outbreaks linked to unpasteurized milk in the U.S. in 2012. A Campylobacter outbreak from Organic Pastures in California sickened 10 people. Raw milk from Foundation Farm in Oregon sickened 21 people with E. coli O157:H7, and four children developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Stroupe Farm in Missouri was linked to a raw milk outbreak that sickened 14 with E. coli; one child developed HUS. Claravale Farm in California was the source of Campylobacter in raw milk that sickened 9 people. Campylobacter in raw milk sickened 80 in an outbreak linked to Family Cow in Pennsylvania. And Campylobacter in raw milk sickened 18 in an outbreak in Kansas. There have been two raw milk outbreaks so far in 2013.

Texas E. coli O157:H7 illnesses may be as many as eight
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/texas-e-coli-o157h7-illnesses-may-be-as-many-as-eight/
By Bill Marler (May 7, 2013)
The Brazos County Health Department and the Texas Department of State Health Services are investigating five cases of a possible fatal strain of E. coli O157:H7 found in Brazos County residents.
The health department confirms that two children, Eighteen-month-old Noah Melton and 4-year-old Jack Melton, are in the hospital. According to news reports, the boys are in fair condition at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. Three local adults have also been confirmed to have E. coli O157:H7. All cases have been confirmed within the last week by the health department, the most recent coming Monday.
Three additional local cases are also under investigation, but have yet to be confirmed.
The sources of the E. coli O157:H7 have not been confirmed.

After Horsemeat Scandal, EC Revises Food Safety Laws
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/after-horsemeat-scandal-ec-revises-food-safety-laws/
By foodpoisoningbulletin.com editor (May 7, 2013)
Months after the discovery of a food fraud scandal in Europe where foods advertised as beef were found to contain horse DNA, the European Commission (EC) has announced revisions to its food safety laws that include increasing unannounced inspections and upping penalties.  Under the new law, fines must be equivalent to the economic gain from the violation.  ”Crime must not pay. If penalties are low it does pay,” said Tonio Borg, the EC’s Health and Consumer Commissioner said during  a news conference in Brussels yesterday.
European health officials spent months analyzing meat products after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland announced it had discovered horse DNA in a variety of products in January. Since that time, at leas 4,000 samples of meat have been tested and  three people have been arrested. In the US, the scandal prompted an  increase in species testing of meat.
The reform package also aims to cut red tape by reducing the EC’s current body of food safety law from 70 pieces of legislation to five.  The goal is to make a nimbler, more efficient system that reduces the administrative burden on businesses while creating more transparency of system controls at each step in food supply chain.
“The agri-food industry is the second largest economic sector in the EU, employing over 48 million people and is worth some €750 billion a year. Europe has the highest food safety standards in the world. However, the recent horsemeat scandal has shown that there is room for improvement, even if no health risk emerged. Today’s package of reforms comes at an opportune moment as it shows that the system can respond to challenges; it also takes on board some of the lessons learned. In a nutshell, the package aims to provide smarter rules for safer food,” Borg said in a statement.

Salmonella Typhi Risk at San Francisco Nordstrom Café
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/salmonella-typhi-risk-at-san-francisco-nordstrom-cafe/
By Bill Marler (May 6, 2013)
An employee at the Nordstrom Café in San Francisco’s Stonestown Galleria has been diagnosed with typhoid fever and may have exposed customers to the disease, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
Anyone who ate at the café on April 16, 17, 18, 20, or 27, 2013 may be at risk of infection. The health department advises any individuals who ate at the café on those days and experience symptoms such as fever, nausea, stomach pains, diarrhea, vomiting or headache to seek medical attention. Those symptoms generally appear within 8 to 14 days after exposure.
Typhoid fever is caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi, and it can be spread through food prepared by an infected person. The disease affects approximately 300 to 400 people in the U.S. each year, often during international travel. Health investigators believe the café employee contracted the disease while traveling abroad

Campylobacter in Raw Milk in Alaska, by the numbers – Peninsula Dairy
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/campylobacter-in-raw-milk-in-alaska-by-the-numbers-peninsula-dairy/
By Bill Marler (May 6, 2013)
On February 13, 2013, Alaska State Public Health Laboratory (ASPHL) notified the Alaska Section of Epidemiology (SOE) of a cluster of four Campylobacter coli isolates with an indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern that was new to Alaska. All four isolates were grown from stool specimens collected in late January from ill Kenai Peninsula residents.
Patient interviews and other investigative work indicated that all four of the ill persons with PFGE-matching C. coli strains reported consuming raw (unpasteurized) milk within a few days of their illness onset. These initial interviews also led to additional case finding, primarily by way of ill persons reporting others they knew who were also ill with similar symptoms. While some of the persons who were initially identified during this investigation were reluctant to say where their raw milk came from, four individuals reported that it came from Farm A (Peninsula Dairy), a cow-share farm on the Kenai Peninsula.
A confirmed case was defined as a laboratory-confirmed, PFGE-matched, C. coli infection diagnosed from January 1, 2013 onward. A clinical case was defined as an acute GI illness with self-reported diarrhea lasting ≥2 days in a person with exposure to Farm A raw milk within 10 days of illness onset. A secondary case was defined as an acute GI illness lasting ≥2 days in a person with close contact to a confirmed or clinical case within 10 days of illness onset.
On February 14, SOE notified the Office of the State Veterinarian (OSV) of the outbreak, and a joint press release and health advisory were issued on February 15.2 OSV immediately notified Farm A of the outbreak and requested a list of all active shareholders. Despite notification of the outbreak, Farm A (Peninsula Dairy) continued to distribute raw milk to shareholders living in the Kenai Peninsula and in Anchorage.
During the week of February 18, two additional confirmed cases were reported—one of which was in a school-aged child who was hospitalized for 4 days with fevers, abdominal pain, rash, and acute reactive arthritis involving the wrists, ankles, knees, and hips. On February 22, an updated health advisory describing new developments in the outbreak was issued.3 On February 22, Farm A provided SOE with an incomplete shareholder list, which lacked contact information for the majority of shareholders. Calls were made to notify persons on the list about the outbreak and to identify additional cases.
In total, 31 cases were identified during the investigation. Ill persons ranged in age from 7 months to 72 years (median: 10 years). Three children and one adult developed reactive arthritis lasting a minimum of 6 weeks. Two persons were hospitalized. All ill persons were Kenai Peninsula residents who either personally consumed Farm A (Peninsula Dairy)raw milk within 10 days of illness onset (n=29) or met the secondary case definition (n=2).

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