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An independent international research team has stepped forward with cues and pointers for the fledgling lab-grown meat industry. Authors, Christopher Bryand, and Courtney Dillard say “cultured meat,” as they call it, must confront “some consumer uncertainty.”

But the pair also found enough consumers are willing to purchase the meat alternative to “displace a considerable amount of demand for conventional meat.”

The journal “Frontiers in Nutrition” published the team’s open access research paper in its July edition. Bryand is from the U.K.’s University of Bath. And Dillard is with Oregon’s Portland State University.

Title of their 10-page paper is “The Impact of Framing on Acceptance of Cultured Meat.” They suggest that even before it has ramped up any production, the lab-grown meat business is making a big mistake with its “high tech” framing.

Like the genetically modified organisms that came before it, cultured meat’s birth is in laboratories with midwives being people in white coats. In Petri dishes, the scientists are growing animal cells “in-vitro rather than as part of a living animal.”

Bryand and Dillard say their research involved exposing 480 adults in the U.S. to different ways of framing the “societal benefits” of lab-grown meat.

“We demonstrate that those who encounter cultured meat through the ‘high tech” frame have significantly more negative attitudes toward the concept, and are significantly less likely to consume it.” they write.

“Worryingly,” they continue, “this has been a very dominant frame in early media coverage of cultured meat. Whilst this is arguably inevitable since its technologically advanced nature is what makes it newsworthy, we argue that this high tech framing may be causing consumers to develop more negative attitudes toward cultured meat they otherwise might.”

The UK-USA team said the research on framing of GMO crops and foods should hold “particular relevance” for cultured meat researchers and producers. Mainstream media coverage of GMOs “diverges somewhat from scientific publications,” the paper says. They say events like food scares and staged environmental events drove GMO stores in significant media. And its complexity was “condensed for popular consumption.”

They claim GMO stories originating in the U.S. were more “focused on the scientific-economic elements of the technology” and were generally more favorable than those written by European reporters.

“The Good Food Institute is giving ‘substantial attention’ to the question of what cultured meat should be called, demonstrating that consumers are significantly more like to find ‘clean meat” appealing that other names including “cultured meat’ and “cell-based meat,” Bryand and Dillard report.

The Good Food Institute, located in Washington, D.C., is a 501 nonprofit that promotes plant-based and lab-grown meat alternatives to the products of conventional animal agriculture.

Some focus groups run by academic researchers have found many consumers “reacted with disgust” when exposed to the lab-grown meat concept and said they could perceive few personal benefits.

“Therefore, the framing of cultured meat is likely to have a substantial impact on consumer perceptions, though this has yet to be studied empirically,” say the researchers.

Lab-grown meat stories usually include mention of the product’s benefits, but often includes “science-themed art like laboratory Petri dishes.

The UK-USA team recruited their research participants from Amazon MTurk, a micro-tasking platform used in social research. A description of cultured meat was read to each participant and then asked for a one-word response for what they thought of the product.

After giving their one-word response, the questioner asked for their attitude about cultured meat on a 1-to-5 scale with one being very favorable. Using a similar rating scale, the respondents then scored cultured meat for healthfulness, safety, environmental friendliness, sensory quality, and benefits for society. Finally, the questioner asked how likely it is that the respondent would eat cultured meat.

The project paid 50 cents to each of the participants.

The research project found 64.6 percent willing to give cultured meat a taste, while 18.4 said it was doubtful they’d ever try it. Another 16.9 percent were not sure.

Almost half said they might be willing to purchase cultured meat on a regular basis.

“Overall, this indicates a fairly high willingness to eat cultured meat regardless of framing,” the team reported, “with almost half willing to buy it regularly and eat it instead of conventional meat.

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Federal officials haven’t been able to confirm whether a company has effectively recalled raw fish potentially contaminated with Listeria. Consequently the FDA is warning restaurants and retailers against using Topway Enterprises Inc. or Kazy’s Gourmet ready-to-eat seafood products.

The implicated products, including tuna and salmon, are intended to be eaten raw and might be incorporated into sushi, according to the alert Thursday from the Food and Drug Administration. Topway Enterprises Inc. shipped the raw fish to restaurants in Texas and Louisiana from July 10 to July 13.

There is concern that some of the recalled fish could still be in restaurants. Listeria monocytogenes is not killed by freezing.

“These products are typically sold fresh and do not have a long shelf life, though they can be frozen to extend the shelf life,” according to the FDA notice.

The FDA action comes months after inspectors found multiple problems at the Topway Enterprises manufacturing plant. Of 53 test samples collected at the facility in February, 31 were positive for Listeria monocytogenes. A followup inspection in June showed problems remained. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) performed the followup inspection for FDA.

During the June inspection, four of the environmental samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes and state inspectors observed continuing sanitation and seafood safety compliance issues. Topway Enterprises Inc. had yet to completely implement the corrective actions the firm had agreed to in February 2019. The FDA was notified of these findings on July 3, 2019 by the state.

“On July 3 the FDA and state partners notified the firm of the recent environmental sampling results. Topway Enterprises Inc. agreed to voluntarily cease operations and recall products. They also agreed to provide the FDA with any corrective action planned, prior to resuming operations. However, on July 10, the FDA became aware that Topway Enterprises Inc. resumed production at its facility, without implementing adequate corrective actions to address the risks that were identified,” the FDA reported.

“On July 11, in discussions with the company owner, the FDA advised that the company cease operations until additional corrective action is performed, and no contamination can be detected at the facility. 

“Although the firm committed to recalling ready-to-eat seafood products, including tuna and salmon for raw consumption, FDA has been unable to confirm whether consignees of the recalled food were notified of the firm’s recall and were able to take action to remove existing product from the market. As a result, FDA is publishing this Safety Alert to notify businesses who may have received product from Topway Enterprises Inc. from July 10 to July 13.”

Recommendations for restaurants and retailers
Restaurants and retailers that have received product from Topway Enterprises Inc. between July 10, 2019 and July 13, 2019 should discard the product and take appropriate action to ensure customers are not served the potentially contaminated food.

Food service operators who have handled potentially contaminated food in their facilities should:

  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wash and sanitize display cases and surfaces used to potentially store, serve, or prepare potentially contaminated foods.
  • To prevent the growth of L. monocytogenes, set the refrigerator to 40 degrees F (4 degrees C), and set the freezer to 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C).
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
  • Conduct regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing to help minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.

Unlike most bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes can grow at refrigeration temperatures and freezing will not eliminate or reduce the pathogen. The FDA recommends that retailers implement time and temperature controls to reduce the opportunity for the growth of L. monocytogenes.  The pathogen can also cross-contaminate other food that has been cut and served on the same cutting board or stored in the same area. Retailers should check with your state for specific guidance. More information can be found in the FDA Food Code 2017.

About Listeria infections
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled product should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop. 

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses. 

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth.

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More than 130 foodborne outbreaks were recorded in Finland between 2014 and 2016, according to a recent report.

Data comes from a register of foodborne and waterborne outbreaks maintained by the former Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira) that became the Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) at the beginning of this year.

The number of people infected from foodborne pathogens was 2,761 in 132 outbreaks. Forty-eight people needed hospital treatment. No deaths were reported.

Vegetables and meat common food sources
Norovirus remained the most common agent in foodborne outbreaks between 2014 and 2016. It was responsible for 42, or 32 percent, of such outbreaks.

These were the causative agents of foodborne outbreaks in Finland. Click chart to enlarge.

The most significant foodborne outbreaks were because of restaurant food contaminated with norovirus in 2015 and 2016, with 100 and 131 infected, respectively, and because of arugula, also known as rocket, contaminated with Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) and Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) in 2016 with 237 infected.

The cause of outbreaks was unknown in more than a third of foodborne incidents — 54 of 132. Those affected accounted for 21 percent of all patients. That’s 582 out of 2,761 patients. The most common reason causative agent remains unknown because of the lack of patient samples.

Foodborne outbreaks were reported fairly steadily throughout the year. The highest number occurred in December with 20 in 3 years and the least was in September with 4.

The most commonly reported food sources were vegetables. They were the source in 12 outbreaks. The second most common was meat and meat products at 11 outbreaks. Fish products, cereals and bakery items caused four outbreaks while milk products caused three.

In 70 percent of the outbreaks, the source was unidentified or several foods were suspected. Use of contaminated raw ingredients was identified as the cause for 18 outbreaks.

Issues behind the outbreaks
Of reported shortcomings and errors underlying the outbreaks, 28 percent were related to temperature. An excessively long storage period of food was an underlying cause in 16 percent of outbreaks.

Involvement of an infected employee in food preparation and inadequate hand hygiene were the underlying cause in 20 percent of reported foodborne outbreaks, with norovirus the pathogen in each instance. The most frequent locations of foodborne outbreaks were restaurants, cafés and hotels with 78 outbreaks, followed by households in 12 instances.

Bacillus cereus caused six outbreaks between 2014 and 2016 with a total of 81 ill people. The influencing factors were temperature and/or storage time errors. In 2015, one Shigella outbreak sickened seven people.

A total of five outbreaks because of Clostridium perfringens were reported with a total of 87 people sick. Only one outbreak of Listeria was recorded in 2015 that affected 24 people. In the same year, one Staphylococcus aureus outbreak was reported with 22 ill people.

In 2016, five Campylobacter outbreak were reported and in 2014 and 2015 one was recorded in each year with 91 people affected. Between 2015 and 2016, three Salmonella outbreaks were identified and 70 people became ill.

Three outbreaks linked to raw beetroot were recorded in 2016 with 68 people ill. Based on past incidents, Evira recommended that beetroot should be served only when it has been heated.

In 2014, one Yersinia pseudotuberculosis outbreak was reported in which 55 people were affected. In the same year, two were caused by Yersinia enterocolitica and 24 people became ill.

Also in 2014, one histamine outbreak was reported with 23 people ill and one incident due to lectin poisoning in chickpeas was reported with 12 cases.

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The following is a highlight list of outbreaks in recent years that were caused by E. coli O103 and E. coli O121.

E. coli O121 outbreaks

2017 Outbreak of STEC O121 at an Athletic Center, Colorado

  • Organism:
  • Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • Recreational water

In September 2017 Colorado public health officials investigated an outbreak of E. coli O121 associated with recreational swimming at Villa Sport Athletic Center located in Colorado Springs. Three confirmed cases and three primary cases all went to the pool on the same day, September 9, 2017. Two cases were hospitalized. Both developed the hemolytic uremic syndrome. No one died.

2015-2016 Outbreak of E. coli O121 linked to General Mills’ Flour

  • Organism:
  • Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • flour

In June 2016 the CDC announced that public health officials were investigating a multistate outbreak of E. coli O121 linked to flour produced at the General Mills’ Kansas City, Missouri facility. In interviews with ill persons, sixteen (76%) reported that they or someone in their household used flour in the week before they became ill. Twelve (55%)of 22 people reported using Gold Medal brand flour. On September 29, 2016, the outbreak was declared to be over. There were 63 ill people reported by 24 states. Seventeen people were hospitalized. One person developed the hemolytic uremic syndrome. No one had died. Illness onset dates ranged from December 21, 2015, to September 5, 2016. The FDA identified STEC O121 in an open sample of General Mills flour collected from the homes of ill persons in Colorado, Arizona, and Oklahoma. On May 31, 2016, General Mills recalled several sizes and varieties of Gold Medal Flour, Gold Medal Wondra Flour, and Signature Kitchens Flour. On July 1 General Mills expanded the recall. the recall was expanded again on July 25, 2016.

2014 Outbreak of E. coli O121 Linked to Raw Clover Sprouts from Evergreen Fresh Sprouts

  • Organism:
  • Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • Vegetables, Sprouts, Clover Sprouts

On May 21, 2014, an outbreak of E. coli O121 linked to consumption of clover sprouts was announced by health officials in Washington and Idaho. On August 1, 2014, the CDC declared the outbreak over. In total 19 patients had been confirmed with E. coli O121. Patients resided in California, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Utah, and Washington. Among those persons with information, seven (44%) of 16 were hospitalized. No ill persons developed HUS, and no deaths were reported. Epidemiologic and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicated that contaminated raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, LLC of Idaho was the most likely source of the outbreak. Sprouts were eaten in sandwiches at several food establishments including Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich locations in King and Spokane counties as well as two Pita Pit locations in Spokane County. In Kootenai county, case-patients had eaten raw clover sprouts at Jimmy John’s and Daanen’s Deli. The producer also distributed sprouts to other restaurants and retail grocery stores in the northwest.

2012-2013 E. coli O121 linked to Farm Rich Products Frozen Mini Meals and Snack Items

  • Organism:
  • Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • Frozen Snacks, poultry, chicken

On March 28, 2013, Farm Rich Products Corporation announced a recall of 196,222 pounds of frozen chicken quesadilla and various other heat-treated, not fully cooked frozen mini meals and snack items because of possible contamination with E. coli O121. The recall was initiated after patients residing in 16 states were identified by public health investigators. As of May 30, 2013, 35 patients had been identified. Eighty-two percent of ill persons were 21 years of age or younger, 31% were hospitalized. Among persons for whom information was available, illness onset dates ranged from December 30, 2012, to April 15, 2013. Two people developed the hemolytic uremic syndrome. A sample of Farm Rich frozen chicken mini quesadilla collected from a patient’s home was positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli O121. On April 4, 2013, the recall was expanded to all products produced at its Waycross, Georgia plant with “Best By” dates ranging from January 1, 2013, to September 29, 2014, due to possible contamination with Escherichia coli O121 bacteria (“E. coli O121”). In addition to Farm Rich brand products, Market Day brand products are being recalled.

2009 E. coli O157: H7 and Non-O157 E. coli Linked to Dungeness Valley Creamery Raw Whole Milk, Washington

  • Organism:
  • coli O157: H7, Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • Dairy, Milk, Unpasteurized, Raw Milk

An outbreak was linked to the consumption of raw, unpasteurized, whole milk produced by the Dungeness Valley Creamery. There were a total of three cases. There were two E. coli strains implicated. One strain was confirmed as E. coli O121. The other strain was suspected and was E. coli O157: H7. Raw milk was legal to sell and buy in Washington, provided the dairy underwent a series of inspections and was licensed. This dairy had been licensed since 2006.

2007 non-O157 E. Coli at a Jefferson County Jail Linked to Pasteurized American Cheese or Margarine

  • Organism:
  • Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • Dairy, American Cheese Fats or Oils, Margarine

An outbreak attributed to three non-O157 strains of E. coli bacteria, occurred at the Jefferson County Jail, in Colorado. The strains of E. coli associated with this outbreak were: O121; O26; O84. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named pasteurized, American style, cheese, or margarine, as the vehicles for this outbreak.

2006 Utah Wendy’s Restaurant Lettuce

  • Organism:
  • Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • Vegetable, Leafy greens, Unknown Iceberg lettuce

Iceberg lettuce that had been prepared and served to patrons of the Wendy’s Restaurant, in Ogden, Utah, and to attendees of a catered teachers’ conference at a junior high school(CORE academy) was implicated in an outbreak of E.coli O121: H19. This is a rare strain of E.coli. Three people developed kidney failure. Lettuce was the only food that all of the sickened people had eaten. The lettuce was not available for testing after the outbreak was recognized.

2006 Nebraska Day Care

  • Organism:
  • Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • Person-to-Person

An outbreak of E. coli O121 occurred among children who attended a Nebraska daycare program. The infection was spread from person-to-person. All cases required hospitalization.

E. coli O103 outbreaks

2019 Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O103 Infections Linked to Ground Beef

  • Organism:
  • Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • ground beef

In April 2019 public health officials announced a multistate outbreak of Escherichia coli O103 infections. Preliminary epidemiologic information suggests that ground beef is the source of this outbreak. On June 19, 2019, the outbreak appeared to be over. In total 209 people infected with the outbreak strain had been reported by 10 states: Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia. Twenty-nine people had been hospitalized. Two cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome were reported. There were no deaths. Illnesses started on dates from March 1, 2019, to May 1, 2019. Ill people in this outbreak ate ground beef from many sources. Some ground beef was recalled but investigators were not sure if all producers had been identified. On April 24, 2019, Grant Park Packing in Franklin Park, Illinois recalled approximately 53,200 pounds of raw ground beef products. K2D Foods, doing business as Colorado Premium Foods in Carrollton, Georgia recalled approximately 113,424 pounds of raw ground beef products on April 23, 2019.

2015 Outbreak of Gastrointestinal Illness Linked to Unpasteurized Apple Cider, Illinois

  • Organism:
  • Cryptosporidium, non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • unpasteurized apple cider

In November 2015 public health officials in Illinois investigated an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness among individuals who attended the Pike County Fall Color Drive. An estimated 30,000 people attended the festival. One-hundred-four cases were identified. Consumption of apple cider was a significant risk factor for diarrheal illness. The cider was produced by Yoder Brothers Dairy Farm. Ten samples of cider were tested for Cryptosporidium and E. coli. Subtype Cryptosporidium parvum IIaA17G2R2 as identified in one cider sample and in all five stool specimens submitted for Cryptosporidium subtyping. E. coli O130: H11 was identified in 6 cider samples. Two of eight stool specimens that tested positive for Shiga Toxin E. coli. Serotypes were identified as E. coli O103 and O111. Investigators determined that cider production took place outdoors on a farm within 200 feet of a calf pen. Individuals involved in cider production handled cattle and did not change or disinfect clothes and boots between cattle operations and cider processing. Cider was unpasteurized and containers were unlabeled.

2010 Outbreak of E. coli O103 E. coli O145: NM Linked to Consumption of Venison, Minnesota

  • Organism:
  • Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • Game, Venison

An outbreak of non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli occurred among students at a high school in Minnesota, in November 2010. The students had handled and consumed venison from a wild white-tailed deer in a high school class. Consuming undercooked venison and not washing hands after handling raw venison were associated with illness. E. coli O103: H2 2 isolates) and non-Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O145: NM 1 isolate) were isolated from ill students and the venison.

2004 Outbreak of E. coli O26: H11 and E. coli O103: H2, Wyoming

  • Organism:
  • Non-E.coli O157: H7
  • Vehicle:
  • Unknown

Between July and November 2004, in Lincoln County, Wyoming, six reported cases of enterohemorrhagic E. coli were identified. An extensive food history questionnaire was conducted with the cases along with enhanced laboratory testing through the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory. Five of the six isolates were serotyped as E.coli O26: H11, the sixth was O103: H2. No common exposures were discovered.

2000 Outbreak of E. coli O103 linked to Consumption of Punch, Washington

  • Organism:
  • Non-O157 STEC
  • Vehicle:
  • Beverage, Drink, Punch

An outbreak of E. coli O103 occurred in Washington state on July 2000. The implicated vehicle was contaminated fruit punch. Illnesses were confirmed by the use of serology (blood work). Eighteen people were ill. Two were hospitalized. There were no deaths.

About E. coli infections

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. If there is fever, it is usually not lower than 101 degrees F (38.5 degrees C). Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or even life-threatening symptoms and complications.

About 5 percent to 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. 

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children younger than 5 years old because of their immature immune systems. Older adults are also at higher risk because of deteriorating immune systems. Other people with compromised immune systems such as transplant recipients, HIV patients, and cancer patients. 

People who experience HUS symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately. People with HUS should be hospitalized because it can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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Koch Foods, located in Fairfield, Ohio is recalling approximately 743 pounds of fully cooked boneless chicken bites due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The products contain soy, milk, and eggs, known allergens, which are not declared on the product label.

The frozen, fully cooked breaded boneless chicken bites were labeled as fully cooked chicken strips and were produced on May 31, 2019. The following products are subject to recall:

  • 40-oz. plastic bags containing fully cooked breaded boneless chicken bites that were labeled “SCHWAN’S FULLY COOKED Crispy Chicken Breast Strips” with lot code YN91518412L1; these bags may be separate or in cardboard box cases labeled “BONELESS CHICKEN BITES” with a timestamp of 20:55 to 21:50.

The recalled products bear establishment number “EST. P-20795” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to a distributor in Minnesota.

The problem was discovered when the firm received a customer complaint reporting that the product was incorrectly labeled.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to the consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify that recalling firms are notifying their customers of the recall and that actions are being taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

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The Coast Guard’s 65 signal flags and pennants were part of Scott Benson’s life for 20 years. He retired with the rank of Commander and now finds himself an elected Detroit City Councilmember, chairing the Public Health and Safety Committee.

Those signal flags might explain why Benson prefers color-coded signs over letter grades for letting the public know where a restaurant stands with the city’s health department.

Benson has the Detroit Health Department looking at Columbus, OH, which uses color-coded signs for posting restaurant inspection ratings. New York City requires restaurants to post A-B-C letter grades.

Columbus requires restaurants, grocery stores, public pools, tattoo parlors, and various other entities to post the results of their most recent health department inspection with a color-coded sign. Detroit is using Columbus as a model for the proposed ordinance sponsored by Benson. Here’s how the Ohio city explains it:

The Columbus System

These dated and color-coded signs inform the public of the most recent inspection conducted, and show what standing the business is in regarding that inspection. Use this signage system with other information, such as the detailed online inspection results, to make healthy and safe choices about where to eat, play, live and work in the City of Columbus.

Green Sign: All standard inspections have been conducted and the business has met the standards of Columbus Public Health.
Yellow Sign: All businesses that are in the enforcement process due to uncorrected critical violations found during follow-up inspections.
White Sign: All businesses placed on an increased frequency of inspections.
Red Sign: All businesses that the Board of Health or the Health Commissioner has ordered closed.

Detroit restauranters are wary about the Columbus system. Benson said work on the new system began after Detroit’s hepatitis A outbreak. The city’s health department wants a system with incentives for improvement, and the public favors more transparency.

Benson’s proposed ordinance has yet to be written or introduced, but he said that should happen by the end of the year. The councilman has requested the city’s health and law departments begin work on drafting rules and formalize their recommendations for writing the ordinance.

Initially, the Detroit Restaurant and Lodging Association feared Benson might import New York’s A-B-C letter grade system to the Motor City. The local association now plans to work with Benson and the health department to “find solutions that maximize customer safety.”

Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association President Justin Winslow says the restaurant industry needs to know more about the color-coded system. He calls grading a “tricky practice” because it can signal “potential risk to the consumer.”

New York City began using letter grades in 2010. Other major cities like Los Angeles, Boston and Montreal have followed. New York officials attribute a 41 percent decline in sanitary violations between 2012 and 2017 to the letter grading system.

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Officials in Denmark are investigating an outbreak of E. coli that has sickened 10 people.

Statens Serum Institut (SSI) reports the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak began in May and the source of infection is not yet known.

Eight people had bloody diarrhea, which is a typical symptom of infection with this type of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). Six have been hospitalized but no cases have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure associated with E. coli infection. The people that needed hospital treatment have been discharged and no deaths have been reported.

Those sickened live across Denmark, they have not been traveling or shared common events in the time before becoming ill, primarily during the first two weeks of June. Four people are ill in Midtjylland, three in Hovedstaden, two in Syddanmark and one in Nordjylland.

Patient demographics provide clues 

Patients are six men and four women with a median age of 29. Half of them are between 16 and 37 years old, with a complete range of 8 to 63 years old. Investigators say E. coli O157:H7 often infects younger people, often less than five years old

Laura Espenhain, an epidemiologist at Statens Serum Institut, told Food Safety News this could be a possible clue in finding the source.

“Potentially, and we are taking the age profile into account when hypothesizing what the source could be. For now, unfortunately, we do not have a clear hypothesis,” she said.

“The last patients became ill in the first weeks of June. We cannot rule out that the outbreak is still ongoing since there is some weeks lag between when a patient provides a sample and until we have the sequencing result.

“SSI has notified the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and other countries through the Epidemic Intelligence Information System (EPIS). There is no indication that an outbreak with the same strain is ongoing in other countries.”

SSI is investigating the outbreak with the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) and National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark. The agencies are also investigating 23 people that have been infected by a rare strain of Salmonella with almost half of them needing hospital treatment.

Past outbreaks and STEC in Denmark

To find what may have made the E. coli patients sick, interviews are underway with them or their relatives to obtain information about relevant foods, animal contact and other exposures.

The outbreak strain has the serotype O157:H7 and encodes the Shiga toxin (Stx) 1a and Stx2a genes. Stx2a is more often associated with severe disease and HUS. Thanks to whole genome sequencing, it has been found that isolates of the 10 cases are closely related and of the sequence type 11.

Since 2014 Denmark has seen about 40 STEC O157 infections each year, with a range from 33 to 51.

The last outbreak with STEC O157:H7 in Denmark was in 2012 when 13 cases were reported over a six-week period. In that outbreak, patients were younger, with a median age of 14 and range of 3 to 68 years old than in the new outbreak, and eight of the 13 developed HUS. The 2012 outbreak investigation pointed to ground, or minced, beef, probably from the same batch, as the cause of infection.

The number of people in Denmark found to have become infected by STEC nearly doubled from 281 in 2014 to 495 in 2018 and the largest increase was seen from 2017 to 2018. STEC isolates must be submitted to SSI where they have been whole-genome sequenced since 2014.

“PCR diagnostics and more potential patients being examined for STEC explain some or maybe all of the increase, but we nevertheless have initiated several activities to better understand the transmission routes, including scientific studies, among those a large case-control study of risk factors for sporadic infections,” said Espenhain.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

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Shiga-toxin producing E. coli and Salmonella both caused six outbreaks last year in Scotland, according to figures from Health Protection Scotland.

Data comes from ObSurv, a surveillance system established in 1996 for general outbreaks of infectious intestinal disease in the country. It does not include those where infection is thought to have been acquired overseas.

The six outbreaks of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) in 2018 were due to three different serogroups; three were O157, two were O145 and one was O26. A total of 22 people were affected with three outbreaks recording five cases. A source was not found for any of the outbreaks.

The total is comparable to the number of outbreaks in 2013 to 2017, when there was an average of five and a range of three to nine per year.

In five outbreaks the main mode of transmission was foodborne and in the sixth it was a combination of foodborne and person to person.

Since August 2017, whole genome sequencing of all STEC isolates has been routine practice in Scotland.

Earlier, Health Protection Scotland revealed Shigella and norovirus increased but Listeria, Hepatitis A and E declined in 2018. The agency also published a report on lab-confirmed travel-related infections in Scotland.

Salmonella outbreaks

There were six outbreaks of Salmonella in 2018 involving five different serotypes; two of Salmonella Enteritidis, and one each of Salmonella Typhimurium, Salmonella Agona, Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Bovismorbificans. Five of the outbreaks had a foodborne source.

This total is comparable to the number of Salmonella outbreaks from 2013 to 2017, with an average of four and a range of two to seven per year.

One of the Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak was associated with consumption of eggs from Poland and is part of a wider European outbreak.

An outbreak of Salmonella Newport affected six people linked to an imported unpasteurized goat’s milk cheese from France. The source was not found for the Salmonella Agona outbreak which affected eight people and the Salmonella Bovismorbificans incident with five ill.

Since October 2017, whole genome sequencing of Salmonella isolates has been routine practice in the country.

Although Campylobacter is the most common bacterial cause of infectious intestinal disease, no general outbreaks were found in 2018. This follows the trend in recent years with one outbreak in each of 2012 and 2014, and none in 2017, 2016 or 2015.

During 2018 one general outbreak of norovirus with 60 patients was reported in which food was a possible factor along with person to person transmission.

Two outbreaks of Cryptosporidium were recorded in 2018, which is comparable to the previous five years. Mode of transmission in one was considered to be waterborne and the other was due to person to person transmission.

There were no general outbreaks of hepatitis A in 2018 compared to two such incidents in 2017. There were also no outbreaks of Scombrotoxin poisoning this past year with the last outbreak reported in 2013.

Creation of Public Health Scotland

Meanwhile, the Scottish government recently closed a consultation on plans to create a new national public health body, to be known as Public Health Scotland. The organization will launch in April 2020.

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) currently performs the health protection role in the country. HPS is organized into three specialist groups including gastrointestinal and zoonoses, travel, and environmental public health.

HPS functions transferred to Public Health Scotland will include surveillance; expert advice and horizon scanning; effective preparation and response to outbreaks and incidents; monitoring quality and effectiveness of health protection services and support for commissioning specialist/reference lab services.

Public Health Scotland will become responsible for implementing health protection programs and policies, such as public communication and advice on health protection issues and coordinating national health protection response to incidents requiring Scotland-wide action.

The Scottish Health Protection Network will still be supported to evaluate and characterize the epidemiology of communicable diseases in Scotland; and strategies to reduce incidence, using surveillance data and evidence based intelligence and investigating and managing outbreaks of communicable disease to limit impact on public health.

Gerry McLaughlin, NHS Health Scotland chief executive, said Public Health Scotland can be effective in protecting and improving the health of people in the country.

“Not only will it drive the delivery of public health priorities through better integration between local and national partners, but it will help us to increase the reach of our practical and professional advice to the public. We believe that Public Health Scotland has a distinct national role in supporting communities to participate in decisions that affect their health and wellbeing.”

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Ice cream production and contact with calves has been stopped while investigations continue into an E. coli outbreak in Iceland, according to one of the owners of the farm.

A cluster of Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC) O26:H11 infections have been traced to the tourist attraction Efstidalur II farm in Blaskogabyggd in the south of the country.

The 19 ill children are aged between 14 months and 12 years old and at least three have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe condition associated with E. coli infections that causes kidney failure.

Officials from the Directorate of Health urged anyone who visited the farm between June 10 and July 4, and developed diarrhea within 10 days, to contact a doctor and be tested for the bacterium.

Calf enclosure shut
Björgvin Jóhannesson, one of the owners of the business which is run by four families, told Food Safety News that it has been sending samples to the health department and authorities and E. coli has not been found in products from the farm.

“The source they found is on the property just outside the restaurant, because it is connected with the cow house, there were three baby calves where the guests could see and pet them. The baby calves have their separate area with an open door. They found the E. coli in this area where the baby calves were and their feces. This area is just next to the entrance so there is a big share of guests who are in contact with them,” he said.

“On July 4 when they made the discovery we closed it so there is no chance for the guests to be in contact with the baby calves. Since then there have been no new infections, only cases before that in June. We cleaned it and don’t plan to re-open yet until we discuss with authorities and find some solution so it will be 100 percent safe. Maybe it will be where people can see but not be in contact with them but at the moment it will be closed for safety.

“At this same point we took our products like the ice cream, because most of the people that were infected were related to the ice cream, we stopped our production and now we are selling ice cream from another company just to be safe. We are continuing with production but not selling it. We are doing it to send samples to make sure that everything is clean and the samples we have been sending are all negative for E. coli.”

Testing of ice cream did not find the outbreak strain but samples were not from the same batch as the children had eaten. The E. coli strain that infected the children was detected in feces from calves.

The site was originally a farm and has been in the same family for at least five generations. It started about 20 years ago with a small accommodation and horse riding for tourists. Now it has 15 rooms for guests. In 2014, the family opened the restaurant offering local products with meat, cheese, skyr, and ice cream from the farm. Skyr is an Icelandic cultured dairy product eaten like yogurt.

Handwashing advice
Jóhannesson said it was doing everything in cooperation with the Icelandic doctors and health departments who are giving the farm information and directions which it is following.

“We believe we have high standards of production, we try to make sure everything is clean and to avoid all chances of everything getting into the food. Probably that is why all samples of the food are negative but we tell people how important it is to clean if you are in contact with the animals, before you eat the ice cream you have to wash your hands,” he said.

“All our staff members are following procedure and high hygiene standards. But of course when this happens we are checking all our measures and procedures and improving standards as we want to avoid anything like this happening again.”

The farm didn’t test specifically for E. coli in the past but no previous issues had been recorded, according to Jóhannesson.

“During the years we have been examined by the health department and all results have been good so far. We have been following all the rules during that time. This year the tests that have been run, the bacteria that was discovered in the people, has never been found in our food products. We have sent samples in June but it is checked one week later and then we don’t have the products from that time. When we make the batch of ice cream it is 50 to 100 liters.”

Jóhannesson said business decisions on restarting ice cream production or animal contact can wait and sent his best wishes to those affected and their families.

“We are following the orders of the health department and want to make sure our products are 100 percent safe. We are just taking one step at a time at the moment, now is making sure all the people infected will get better as soon as possible. The next step in the business is something we will decide later, about continuing production of ice cream. We will take our decision in cooperation with the health department.”

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Growers Express is again telling consumers to toss out certain fresh vegetable products because of a test result showing Listeria contamination, but it’s not telling them who supplied the implicated vegetables.

In an expansion to a July 1 recall, Growers Express is recalling four products involving Brussels sprouts, green beans and cauliflower. (See chart below.) The brands involved are Green Giant, Growers Express and Peak.

“After further testing of an additional product lot from the suspected source of the recall, a single retail sample was found to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes,” according to the Growers Express recall notice.

The products originated from a Growers Express production facility in Biddeford, ME, and were distributed to Massachusetts and Maine. The same production plant prepared the long list of fresh vegetable products Growers Express recalled on July 1. That recall did not name the vegetable supplier. Neither dose the recall expansion.

“Growers Express is no longer sourcing vegetables from the suspected cause of the contamination,” is the only reference to the supplier in the recall notice.

There are no reported illnesses to date in relation to the products recalled by Growers Express. Consumers who purchased any of the recalled products from the affected “best by” or “pack dates” or with an unreadable date code are urged not to consume them and to throw the products away, the recall notice says. “Please refer to the toll-free number listed on each package with any questions or requests for refund. Visit www.GrowersExpress.com/voluntaryrecall for the most up-to-date information.”

About Listeria infections
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled product and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled product should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop. 

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses. 

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth.

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