Sunday, August 31, 2008

Deli Meats Recalled In Australia

Never let it be said that pathogenic bacteria play favorites. An Australian company, P & M Quality Smallgoods Pty Ltd., has just recalled 100g packages of "Primo Roast Beef Thinly Sliced" and Primo Pastrami Thinly Sliced", due to the chance that they contain Listeria monocytogenes.

The meats are packaged in plastic containers with laminate tops, and are labeled with a "use by" date of 16/09/08. The roast beef was distributed in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria; the pastrami was sold in Tasmania and South Australia, in addition to the other three states.

The recalled meats should be returned to the place of purchase for a full refund.

There is no indication in the recall notice of any illnesses associated with these products. But the lethal Canadian outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes is a vivid reminder to take these recall notices seriously. Anyone who has eaten one of these recalled products and who has experienced any symptoms consistent with Listeria monocytogenes infection, should seek medical attention immediately.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Oklahoma Food Poisoning Outbreak - E. coli Suspected

The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced yesterday that it is looking into an outbreak of bloody diarrhea in the northeastern part of the state. One person has died so far, at least 14 people have been hospitalized, and more than 20 possible cases are under investigation. 

The victims are from Tulsa and several other communities in that part of the state, including Bixby, Pryor, Sand Springs, Locust Grove, Broken Arrow, Peggs and McAlester. Many of them ate at the Country Cottage restaurant in Locust Grove, OK.

Health authorities suspect E. coli, based on the range and severity of the symptoms – diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, severe abdominal cramps, with little or no fever. There is not yet any confirmation of this hypothesis; lab tests are still in progress.

There is no firm evidence that the outbreak originated with the restaurant; an investigation is still in progress. The Country Cottage is reportedly "in compliance" with health standards, according to a report in the Tulsa World, and was given permission by health inspectors on Saturday to remain open. Nevertheless, the restaurant was planning to close today (Tuesday) in order to cooperate in the outbreak investigation.

Anyone who lives in or has recently visited the northeastern part of Oklahoma – including Tulsa – and who is experiencing any of the symptoms described above, should seek medical attention immediately. Whether this proves to be an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 or some other gastrointestinal pathogen, it is a very dangerous microbe.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Canada's Listeria Outbreak Continues Unabated

Dr. Mark Raizenne, the Director General of Canada's Centre for Food-borne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, announced today that the national death toll from the country's Listeria monocytogenes outbreak now stands at twelve, according to a CBC report. The number of lab-confirmed cases has risen to 26 from 21, and there are 29 suspected cases still under investigation.

The hardest-hit province is Ontario, which is reporting 20 confirmed cases, with an additional 13 under investigation. There have been 11 deaths among the 20 confirmed cases; in at least 6 of those deaths, the Listeria monocytogenes infection has been judged an "underlying or contributing cause." 

The outbreak was traced to processed meat from Maple Leaf Consumer Foods' Bartor Road facility in Toronto. Microbiological analysis of two samples of meat from that facility yielded cultures of Listeria monocytogenes that are have genetic fingerprints identical to the outbreak strain isolated from patients. A third sample yielded a very slightly different strain of Listeria monocytogenes.

Maple Leaf has responded to the lab findings by recalling everything produced at the Bartor Road facility since the beginning of June. Some secondary recalls have also been announced by companies who used the Maple Leaf meats to produce prepared sandwiches for retail sale.

Consumers,  managers of institutional food service operations, and owners and operators of deli shops are being reminded to check their food supplies against the recall lists published by Maple Leaf, and to discard any suspect food items. 

Anyone who experiences symptoms consistent with listeriosis and who may have eaten a cold cut or deli meat in recent weeks, should be examined by a doctor. Pregnant women, the elderly, young children and immune-compromised individuals must be especially careful to avoid eating these types of foods. 

For more information, call toll-free 1-800-O Canada.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Maple Leaf Releases Expanded Recall List

CTV Toronto is reporting that Maple Leaf Consumer Foods has released an expanded list of recalled products from its Bartor Road processing facility. The list does not yet appear on the Maple Leaf web site, but can be found in the CTV report.

The list of products includes all Schneiders, Burns, Sure Slice and other cold cuts – beef, pork and poultry – identified as coming from Establishment No. 97B, in addition to Shopsy's sandwiches labeled with Best Before dates up to and including AU 22 and  AU 24.

The recalled products were distributed to food service operators, nursing homes, retirement homes, hospitals, and deli counters across Canada. The company has not released a list of recipients of the recalled meat.

Consumers should avoid eating cold cuts unless they can establish with certainty the source of the meat. Especially, the elderly, young children, immune-compromised individuals and pregnant women should not eat cold cuts until this outbreak is over. 

Maple Leaf Recalls All Food Products From Bartor Road Facility

Maple Leaf Foods has responded to the confirmation that its products were the source of Canada's lethal Listeria monocytogenes outbreak by recalling all outstanding food products from its Bartor Road facility (Establishment No. 97B).

The company will post a complete list of recalled items on its web site some time today. The production facility will remain closed until workers complete a thorough scrub-down and sanitation of the plant. The facility is expected to reopen sometime this week.

As of yesterday evening, 21 cases of listeriosis have been linked by genetic fingerprinting to the contaminated Maple Leaf meat products. Four of those people died as a direct or indirect result of their infection. An additional 30 cases of listeriosis are under investigation to determine whether or not they are part of this same outbreak.

All of the confirmed cases so far have been concentrated in four provinces: Ontario (16 cases, including 3 deaths), British Columbia (3 cases and 1 death), Saskatchewan (1 case) and Quebec (1 case). The 30 additional suspected victims live in Ontario (14), British Columbia (2), Alberta (4), Saskatchewan (2) and Quebec (8).

There will be a press briefing this afternoon in Ottawa at 2pm (EDT) to provide an update on the progress of the outbreak investigation.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Maple Leaf Link To Outbreak Confirmed

According to a report this evening on CBC, the Prime Minister's Office has confirmed the link between Canada's deadly outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes and contaminated meat produced by Maple Leaf Consumer Foods.

As I reported earlier this evening, there have now been four confirmed deaths associated with this outbreak. Twenty one cases of listeriosis have been linked genetically to the outbreak strain, and an additional 30 cases are under investigation.

Canada Issues Updated Information On Listeria Outbreak

Following the progress of a food poisoning investigation in the news media can be frustrating, to say the least. Every reporter has his or her own media sources, and the numbers don't always add up.

This evening, the Public Health Agency of Canada released an update statement on the progress of the investigation. Here are the latest statistics:

  • Contrary to press reports of five fatalities, PHAC has confirmed four deaths so far – three in Ontario and one in British Columbia.
  • Federal and provincial health agencies have confirmed 21 cases of listeriosis linked to the outbreak strain so far – 16 in Ontario, 3 in BC and one each in Saskatchewan and Quebec.
  • There are 30 additional suspect cases awaiting genetic fingerprint confirmation, including 4 in Alberta.
  • PHAC and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are still waiting for genetic fingerprint results on an isolate of Listeria monocytogenes obtained from Maple Leaf samples before they are prepared to say, definitively, that the company's meat was the source of the outbreak. 
The CFIA has posted a FAQ sheet on its website. Consumers in search of information on Listeria monocytogenes and on the specifics of the outbreak and recall can navigate to the CFIA site for some answers.

There have been suggestions in the news media and in the blogosphere that Canadian government agencies were dilatory during the early stages of this outbreak. But that's a separate story. We'll be reviewing the outbreak time line in the next week or so.

Nebraska Beef Ltd.-Recalled Meat Distribution List


Since USDA has not yet gotten its act together and delivered on its promise to begin listing retail stores that were supplied recalled meat and poultry, we'll do our best to fill in the knowledge gap. 

California consumers can obtain a complete list of retail markets, restaurants and hotels that received the recalled meat by navigating to the California Department of Public Health site for the most recent update.

Here is a consolidated list of all US retail recipients outside California that we've learned about so far.

Whole Foods Markets: all stores in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington DC, Wisconsin. 

Fred Meyer (a Kroger company): all stores in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Alaska.

King Soopers and City Market (both Kroger companies): all stores in Colorado and Wyoming. A second recall notice, with additional items, was issued August 19th.

Jay C: all stores in southern Indiana.

Kroger: all stores in Cincinnati, Dayton, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana.

Kroger: all Kroger, Scott's, Owen's, Hilander and Pay Less stores in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. A second recall notice, with additional items, was issued August 14th.

Cub Foods and bigg's (subsidiaries of Supervalu): Cub Foods stores in Minnesota and bigg's stores in greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. Thank you to reader "Batman" for pointing us to this one.

Please read the linked press releases for details of lot numbers and product descriptions, and return any recalled meat to the store for a full refund.

This distribution list will continue to be updated as more information becomes available. Please link to this post and check back periodically.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Alaskan Smoked Salmon Contaminated With Listeria, Recalled

FDA has announced that Interior Alaska Fish Processors, Inc. has recalled batch #637 of its Santa's Smokehouse smoked keta salmon due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. The FDA recall notice is dated August 13, 2008, but was only distributed by email today.

The recalled product, described as "teriyaki style smoked keta salmon," was packed in random weights in clear vacuum-sealed plastic bags and was sold at the company's Fairbanks, Alaska store or sold in gift packs over the Internet between mid-December 2007 and July 2008.

The contamination was detected during a routine survey sampling carried out by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. No illnesses have been reported in associated with this recall.

The Interior Alaska is asking its customers to return any recalled product to the company for a full refund.

Star Foods "Blows" It, Issues Recall Notice

The UK Food Standards Agency is alerting consumers to a recall initiated by Star Foods Inc. due to date labeling and vacuum packaging issues. The company has recalled all sizes and date codes of the following products:

  • Star Foods Peppered Mackerel
  • Star Foods Smoked Mackerel
  • Star Foods Sliced Chicken Roll
  • Star Foods Sliced Chicken Breast
  • Star Foods Sliced Spiced Chicken
Several of the recalled items were labeled with incorrectly extended use-by dates. The peppered and smoked mackerel products were not vacuum packaged correctly, and some of the packages have blown. Blowing of a normally vacuum-packaged product is a symptom of possible microbial growth in the package.

The recalled items were distributed only in the southeast region of the UK. Star Foods has requested that its customers return these products to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers may contact Harry by telephone at 07958 194963 to obtain any additional information they may require. 

Kentucky Company Recalls "Hot Pockets"

USDA is advising consumers this morning that Nestlé Prepared Foods Company of Mt. Sterling, KY has recalled some 215,660 pounds of "Hot Pockets" frozen pepperoni pizza sandwich products, because they "... may contain foreign materials." 

The Class I recall was initiated as a result of consumer complaints. No illnesses or injuries have been reported.

The following product has been recalled:
54-ounce, 12-pack cartons of "HOT POCKETS PEPPERONI PIZZA" brand stuffed sandwiches. Printed on the side of each carton is "8157544614D," "EST 7721A," and "BEST BEFORE JAN2010."
The recalled food was produced on June 5th and distributed to retail stores nationwide. Neither Nestlé nor USDA have provided a list of retailers that received the recalled items. 

The following retailers have issued their own recall notices as a result of the Nestlé recall:

This retail recall list will be updated as additional food chains chime in. For more information on the recall, consumers can contact the Nestlé Consumer Services Center at (800) 350-5016.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Zealand Norovirus: More Victims, But Hospital Reopens

Dunedin Hospital in New Zealand has reopened for business after closing its doors to visitors, out-patients and new admissions in an effort to contain a recent outbreak of Norovirus.

The decision to reopen the hospital was taken despite the onset of additional cases of gastroenteritis due to this highly contagious virus. Some wards, however, remain closed.

At last count, more than 150 patients and staff at Dunedin and Wakari hospitals have been infected with Norovirus, and 30 patients remain in isolation.

In an apparently unrelated incident, Norovirus also has infected approximately about half of the 24 residents of a rest home in Greymouth, New Zealand. And, halfway around the world, Cheltenham General Hospital in Gloucestershire, England has closed a trauma ward in the hope of containing an outbreak of Norovirus gastroenteritis that has sickened an unspecified number of people.

Misery (a.k.a. Norovirus) not only loves, but also thrives on, company.

Canadian Listeria Outbreak Claims Five Lives

The death toll in the nationwide Canadian outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes has grown to five – all in Ontario – according to a report today by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Three of the victims are from Toronto. Sun Media reports one death in Hamilton, and one in Peterborough.

So far, there have been a total of 17 confirmed cases of Listeria monocytogenes, including the five fatalities. Thirteen of the 17 are from Ontario. There are an additional 16 cases under investigation. All of the confirmed cases – including those from British Columbia – have been tied to the same outbreak strain.

Earlier today, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a clarification to its previous Health Hazard Alert. The revision corrects confusion over the range of products and expiration dates covered in the Maple Leaf recall.

Health authorities continue to stress that the link between the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak strain and the strain of Listeria monocytogenes found in the Maple Leaf meat samples has not yet been confirmed. But, if the scope of the recall is any indication, CFIA and Maple Leaf are acting on the assumption that the link will be confirmed.

As we reported earlier, Maple Leaf has closed its processing facility temporarily to permit a complete tear-down, testing and comprehensive cleaning and sanitation of the two processing lines on which the recalled foods were produced and packaged. The plant is expected to reopen on Monday.

Most of the recalled products were supplied directly to nursing homes and other food service operations, which helps to explain the demographic profile of the outbreak victims. Their average age is 65 years, and many of them were in nursing homes or already hospitalized for another reason at the time of their exposure to the pathogen.

Listeria monocytogenes is especially dangerous to the very young, the elderly, pregnant women and immune-compromised individuals. If you have a family member or friend who is in a nursing home, an assisted living facility, a seniors' residence, or is hospitalized, please contact the institution's management and verify that they are aware of – and have responded appropriately to – this recall.

Salmonella Agona Outbreak Spreads

An outbreak of Salmonella Agona, which began in the British Isles, and was traced to sliced meats processed and distributed by Dawn Farm Foods in the Republic of Ireland, has spread to three countries on the European mainland.

Last week, Eurosurveillance reported that 110 illnesses due to the outbreak strain had been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, the UK – England, Scotland and Wales – and Finland. Fourteen of the victims were hospitalized, and one elderly woman died. An additional nine cases were under investigation.

Since then, two cases of Salmonella Agona have been reported in Sweden and one case in France. The total number of confirmed and probable cases in the EU has risen to 132.

Yesterday, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland posted an updated list of products recalled by Dawn Farm Foods. Food service operators and caterers are reminded to check the list of recalled items to make certain that they have been withdrawn from use.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nebraska Beef Recall Fallout Continues

Some supermarket chains who already issued ground beef recall notices as a result of the Nebraska Beef fiasco, updated those notices today.

Kroger has asked customers of Kroger, Scott's, Owens, Hilander and Pay Less stores in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri to discard ground beef with sell by dates of August 1st through 16th, inclusive.

King Soopers and City Market stores are asking customers throughout Colorado and Wyoming to check for the following frozen ground beef items:

  • Kroger Ground Beef Patties, 73% Lean/27% Fat; 3-pound packages; "sell by" date of 11/06/08; UPC 11110 97981
  • Kroger Ground Beef Family Pack, 73% Lean/27% Fat; 6-pound packages; "sell by" date of 11/06/08; UPC 11110 97988
  • Kroger Ground Sirloin Beef Patties, 85% Lean/15% Fat; 2.5-pound packages; "sell by" date of 11/06/08; UPC 11110 97987.

Recalled meat should be returned to the store for a full refund or replacement.

These recalls are the result of Nebraska Beef's recent expanded recall of nearly 1.4 million pounds of beef. The company agreed to the recalls after meat from their processing facility was linked to two separate outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 infections earlier this summer.

Water Woes: Cryptosporidium

Cryptosporidium – a protozoan parasite that is able to withstand normal levels of water chlorination – has popped into the news once again, with outbreaks reported in Ohio and New Mexico.

Health officials in Columbus and Franklin County, Ohio have received reports of 31 cases of Cryptosporidium infection since the beginning of July. Suspicion has fallen on public swimming pools – a common means of spread. 

In Albuquerque, the health department has confirmed two cases of Cryptosporidium and is investigating 10 more. Victims reported swimming at the West Mesa Aquatic Center. The city has hyperchlorinated its swimming pools in order to kill the pathogen, and advises that public pools are safe for swimming.

Cryptosporidium infections may be asymptomatic, or they can induce watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. The protozoa is transmitted through contact with infectious feces. Children suffering from diarrhea often can contaminate water in swimming pools or wading pools and pass their infection on to others.

Maple Leaf Expands Listeria Recall

Maple Leaf Consumer Foods today expanded its previously announced recall of "Sure Slice" sliced roast beef and sliced corned beef to include a long list of products that were processed on the same lines as the two products already recalled.

The initial recall was due to the possibility that the sliced meat products may have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. According to Maple Leaf's most recent news release, the pathogen has been found at a low level in a small number of packages of the corned beef and roast beef.

This morning, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Health Canada is investigating an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes that has affected at least 17 people nation-wide and has claimed the life of an Ontario resident. Thirteen of the 17 victims live in the province of Ontario; the others are in British Columbia, Saskachewan and Quebec.

While Health Canada has not yet directly linked the Maple Leaf meats to this outbreak, the company has decided to expand its recall to include all products processed since June 2nd on the same two lines used for the sliced roast beef and sliced corned beef. Maple Leaf has also closed its processing facility temporarily, "... in order to fully reassess all aspects of its food safety procedures at this facility, including supplementary sanitation of equipment and validation of our testing protocols."

All of the recalled meat was produced at the company's Bartor Road facility in Toronto, identified on the packaging as Establishment No. 97B. The meat was sold mostly to food service operators, nursing homes, restaurants and fast food chains – including McDonald's and Mr. Sub. Some of the packaged meat also was distributed to retail food stores and delis. McDonald's has temporarily withdrawn its turkey BLT sandwich from store menus as a precaution.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued a Health Hazard Alert that provides a complete list of the recalled products. The affected brand names include Schneiders, MSD and Burns, among others. Please check the CFIA notice or the Maple Leaf news release for details.

Anyone who may have eaten any of these sliced meat products and who has experienced symptoms consistent with Listeria monocytogenes infection should contact a doctor. While Listeria monocytogenes usually produces only mild flu-like or gastrointestinal symptoms in healthy adults, it can cause serious illness – even death in young children, the elderly, immune-compromised individuals and pregnant women.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Salmonella In New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Environment Department are investigating a cluster of nine cases of Salmonella gastroenteritis traced to Diego's Restaurant in Santa Fe. According to a news release dated August 18th, two of the nine victims were hospitalized. 

The investigation in ongoing, but there is no indication from the news release of any connection between this outbreak and the nation-wide Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that has had FDA running around in circles for the last three months. An inspection of the restaurant, conducted as part of the investigation, uncovered some inappropriate food handling practices, which have since been corrected.

The nine victims fell ill between August 2nd and August 7th. They range in age from 5 to 62 years old. Eight of the nine live in Santa Fe County.

Anyone who ate at Diego's Restaurant in Santa Fe since late July and who has since experienced symptoms of Salmonella gastroenteritis – nausea, stomach ache, diarrhea, low-grade fever – should contact their doctor. Medical practitioners who suspect one of their patients is suffering from Salmonella gastroenteritis should obtain a stool specimen for culture, whether or not the patient ate at Diego's. 

Salmonella is a reportable disease. For more information, individuals or medical practitioners can call the New Mexico Department of Health at (505) 827-0006.

eFoodAlert World Tour: Asia and Africa Update

The cost of poor sanitation in developing countries is often overlooked or underestimated. The World Bank reported that Indonesia loses more than $6 billion per year to diseases transmitted by contaminated water and unsanitary practices. According to the WHO, Indonesia, with a total population of some 237 million, suffers 120 million cases of hygiene-related disease – and 50,000 fatalities – annually. 

These statistics should not be a surprise to anyone who has been following the eFoodAlert World Tour and Water Woes series. But this problem extends far beyond Indonesia's borders. BBC News reported today that the International Water Management Institute has found that untreated sewage is being used to irrigate urban crops in many areas of the developing world. 

The IWMI has learned that 5.6 million farmers and their family members in the 53 cities included in their study irrigate using water containing raw sewage, industrial effluent or other untreated urban surface water. Untreated waters, which may contain pathogenic bacteria, pesticides, or other industrial chemicals, can transfer the contaminants to crops.

Today's World Tour is one more illustration of the consequences of poor sanitation and contaminated water.

Guinea Bissau
This African country has been struggling to contain an outbreak of cholera ever since flooding produced by heavy rains helped to spread the disease earlier this year. According to the latest report from Agence France Presse, the capital city of Bissau has accounted for 1,450 of the 1,700 cases so far.

UNICEF, which is already working with the government to disinfect water wells, has just contributed an additional US$600,000 to the country. The money is earmarked for training health agents and for a public health educational campaign.

Orissa, a state on India's east coast (Bay of Bengal), is the latest venue for an outbreak of diarrhea caused by drinking contaminated water. Two people are reported dead so far, and an unspecified number are ill in a remote village that has no access to clean drinking water. The outbreak may be due to cholera, but there is no way of knowing for sure, because doctors have been unable to access the village due to the poor condition of roads in the area.

Villagers in the state of Jharkhand  also in eastern India, are in similar straits. At least 18 people have died from severe diarrhea, and more than 24 were still ill as of August 4th, the date of the most recent report.

Eastern Uganda finally appears to be gaining the upper hand on its 5-month long cholera outbreak, according to New Vision Online. The epidemic killed 32 people and sickened at least 482. Unfortunately, the country is not yet out of the woods. Western Uganda now is experiencing an outbreak of what may be typhoid. Twenty-seven people have been stricken with the illness so far; nine have died.

Dysentery has claim two lives in this Himalayan country recently. Details of the extent of the outbreak are scantly, but one doctor reported seeing an average of 10 dysentery patients at his clinic daily.

Cholera is making its presence felt in the south of the country after heavy rains forced 250,000 people from their homes last month. At least 20 people have died, and an unknown number have been sickened. Cholera spreads rapidly in these types of situations, and the toll is likely to increase significantly before the outbreak can be brought under control. 

Hong Kong (China)
Sixteen travelers to Thailand came down with symptoms of food poisoning after returning to Hong Kong. Twelve of the victims visited a hospital for treatment, but none were admitted. In a separate incident, 12 people complained of food poisoning symptoms after eating lunch on a boat trip on August 16th. The victims experienced abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and fever.

Monday, August 18, 2008

eFoodAlert World Tour: A Salmonella Special

This special edition of our continuing world tour focuses on a microbe that has wreaked much havoc recently, both in the United States and in Europe.

Salmonella Saintpaul
The CDC released an update on this outbreak, which is now in its fifth month. As of 9pm on August 14th,  1,423 people in the United States and Canada have been on the receiving end of an infection by the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul. At least 272 people have been hospitalized and the microbe is believed to be at least partly responsible for two deaths.

FDA has detected the outbreak strain in samples of Mexican grown jalapeño peppers and serrano peppers, and in a sample of irrigation water from a Mexican farm. But – smoking gun or not – FDA investigators are still working to understand the sequence of events that led to this major food poisoning event. Meanwhile, the government of Mexico denies that its produce was the source of the outbreak.

Salmonella Agona
An outbreak of Salmonella Agona that has sickened at least 119 people in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Finland – and has killed at least one of its victims – has been traced to cooked, sliced meats supplied to the prepared sandwich industry by a Dawn Farm Foods, of County Kildare, Republic of Ireland. The manufacturer has withdrawn a long list of products from sale and has notified its customers of the withdrawals. 

Bovine and Ovine Salmonellosis in Sweden
The International Society for Infectious Diseases is following the progress of an apparent outbreak of salmonellosis among cattle and sheep on five Swedish farms. As many as 700 infected calves, lambs and bulls have been put down, possibly in order to avoid having the infection spread to the Swedish poultry and egg industry.

Salmonellosis in Williamson County, Texas
Public health officials have noticed an unusual number of reports of Salmonella infections in the county. So far this year, county health officials have investigated 50 cases of salmonellosis – 11 of them due to the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak. The county health department is unsure how to explain the increase. 

This might be no more than an artifact of heightened awareness of Salmonella reporting on the part of the general public and the medical profession as a result of the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak. 

New Zealand Norovirus Update

The news from Dunedin, New Zealand just keeps on getting worse.

I reported on Friday that Dunedin Hospital was forced to close some additional wards after the Norovirus outbreak had spread beyond the initial focus of infection. Now, the entire hospital has been effectively quarantined.

No one is allowed into the hospital except for personnel carrying valid identification and visitors who can demonstrate "exceptional circumstances." Casual visitors are denied entry. 

Most non-emergency hospital activities also have been curtailed. Elective surgeries, out-patient clinics and planned admissions all have been postponed, affecting some 800 people. Only the emergency department is continuing on a "business as usual" basis.

These drastic measures were triggered by a spread of the hospital's Norovirus outbreak to an additional 17 people over the weekend. The outbreak, as of this morning, has affected 57 patients and staff in several wards.

In the spirit of "misery loves company," New Zealanders should know that they are not alone. The Mona Vale Hospital in Manly, Australia also has been struggling to contain an outbreak of Norovirus gastroenteritis. The Manly Daily reported a week ago that at least 10 elderly patients had been quarantined, and wards on two floors closed, in an attempt to control the spread of the disease.

A common complaint from hospital staff running through the press reports on both outbreaks is one of stretched resources, cost-cutting, and the resulting inadequate attention to cleaning and sanitation. These conditions, combined with an immune-compromised population and uncontrolled visitor traffic, make Norovirus outbreaks difficult to prevent and even more difficult to contain.

Anyone planning to visit a hospital patient – in New Zealand, Australia or anywhere else – should take special pains to avoid carrying an infectious agent into the hospital. The last thing your ailing family member or friend needs is the gift of a respiratory or gastrointestinal illness. The rule of thumb should be "When in doubt, stay at home."

A hospital is no place for sick people!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sliced Beef Recalled In Canada

Maple Leaf Consumer Foods has announced a recall of sliced roast beef and sliced corned beef after learning that the products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The following products, sold in 1 kg. packages, are covered in this recall notice:

  • Sure Slice brand roast beef; product code 21333, Best Before AU 09
  • Sure Slice brand corned beef; product code 21444, Best Before AU 23

The sliced meat was distributed nationwide to food service institutions – including restaurants, hospitals and nursing homes – and may also be sold at some deli counters. 

While no illnesses have been reported, the distribution of these products to hospitals and nursing homes is worrisome. The elderly, young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are especially susceptible to serious illness – even death – as a result of Listeria monocytogenes infection.

The Canadian government does not publish a list of stores and institutions that have received recalled meat. So ask before you eat!

Food service operators and consumers with questions about the recall can contact Maple Leaf Consumer Foods directly at 1-800-568-5801.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

FDA Warns Against Consuming Bantry Bay Mussels

The UK Food Standards Agency advised in early May that certain batches of frozen mussels processed by Bantry Bay Seafoods Ltd. – an Irish company – should not be consumed due to the presence of azaspiracid shellfish poisoning toxin, a naturally-occurring marine biotoxin. The warning was expanded at the end of May to include one additional batch of mussels.

It now appears that some of those mussels have traveled to the United States. FDA reported yesterday evening that two people in Washington state became ill last month after eating Bantry Bay Mussels in a Garlic Butter Sauce. Tests carried out by the agency on samples from the same production lot revealed the presence of azaspiracid toxin in the product.

Consequently, FDA is advising consumers across the United States to check their freezers and discard the following 1-pound cardboard packages of Bantry Bay mussels with "Best Before End" dates of January 23, 2009 to November 15, 2009. FDA also has asked retailers and food service operators to look for and discard any of the affected products.
  • Mussels in a Garlic Butter Sauce
  • Mussels in White Wine Sauce
  • Mussels in Tomato and Garlic Sauce
According to FDA, the toxins are odorless, tasteless and resistant to both freezing and heating – even boiling. Ingesting the toxin may result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hospitals And The Vomiting Bug

An outbreak of the "vomiting bug" has closed a ward at Calderdale Royal Hospital in the United Kingdom. According to an article in the Evening Courier, the ward has been closed to new admissions since Monday, after an outbreak of  "sickness and diarrhea" developed among the patients.

Hospital administrators have asked non-essential visitors to stay away, but haven't gone so far as to embargo all visitors to the ward. The cause of the outbreak has not yet been identified; the hospital suspects either Clostridium difficile or Norovirus is behind the sickness.

On the other side of the world, a New Zealand hospital is still struggling to contain its own Norovirus outbreak. The New Zealand Herald reported that two more wards were closed – both to visitors and to new admissions – by Dunedin Hospital earlier this week after nine patients and three staff members began to suffer from vomiting and diarrhea on Sunday. A scheduled surgery also was postponed. Yesterday, yet another ward was closed after four of its 18 patients began to experience the same symptoms. 

The outbreaks experienced by these two hospitals highlight the difficulty all hospitals face when trying to control an infectious disease outbreak. High traffic volume, visitors sporting contagious illnesses, susceptible patients, and overworked staff all contribute to the ease with which diseases can spread. 

Anyone who is suffering from a contagious disease – respiratory or gastrointestinal – has no business visiting a hospital, except in case of a dire emergency. Hospital staff, especially, should avoid coming to work when ill. Face masks and hand washing can only go so far to contain an illness outbreak. The patients must come first.

Dawn Farm Foods Recalls Cooked Bacon - Northern Ireland

The dominoes continue to tip over in the UK/Ireland Salmonella Agona outbreak and recall.

The Salmonella outbreak, which was responsible for the death of a Liverpool woman and the illness of at least 114 people in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, was traced recently to sandwich meats processed by Dawn Farm Foods in the Republic of Ireland. Dawn Farm Foods initiated a recall of several products one week ago.

The UK Food Standards Agency announced today that Dawn Farm Foods has withdrawn one additional product – cooked bacon – as a precautionary measure. The cooked bacon was supplied to the Kerry group for use in its store-brand sandwich fillers. 

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has released three updates to its original Salmonella Agona recall advisory. Merchants, caterers and consumers in the Republic or Ireland should review the lists of affected products identified in these updates and discard or return any recalled item.

France Recalls The Whole Enchilada - Botulism

France's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has announced a recall of Companeros brand enchiladas and fajitas after high levels of Clostridium botulinum toxin were detected in a sample of "chicken enchiladas".

The investigation of Companeros' products was initiated after two members of the same family were diagnosed with botulism. The family members had eaten a meal of chicken enchiladas identified by lot no. 08/190 and a "use by" date of August 7, 2008. Both victims remain in hospital in serious but stable condition.

Due to the serious risk to health and life posed by Clostridium botulinum intoxication, the government has taken the precaution of recalling all outstanding lots of all varieties of Companeros enchiladas and fajitas. The recall is NOT limited to the specific lot eaten by the two victims.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nebraska Beef Recall: California Retail Distribution List

The California Department of Public Health has released a 7-page list of retail outlets in the state that received meat from one or more of the products recalled by Nebraska Beef Ltd. due to potential contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

According to the list, which is current as of August 13th, Stater Brothers, Foods Co., some IGA stores, a number of small retail meat markets, and numerous restaurants, hotels and food service establishments are impacted by this recall.

USDA promised last month that it would begin releasing a list of retail recipients of Class I-recalled meat and poultry. The "voluntary" recalls by Nebraska Beef Ltd. were prompted by two separate multi-state outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses since late May. Surely, all consumers – not just those in California – have the right to know whether their local food market or restaurant was sold recalled food.

Pedigree® Pet Food Recall Update

This is why I love California!

Last weekend, I posted news of a pet food recall. For those who missed it, Mars Petcare announced the recall of 20-pound bags of dry dog food in Southern California and the Las Vegas, NV area. The dog food, which was possibly contaminated with Salmonella, was shipped – according to the press release – to Albertson's for retail sale.

California is the only US state to provide consumers with a list of retail locations that have received recalled food, something USDA has been promising – so far emptily – to begin doing this month. 

According to the California Department of Public Health, Albertson's was not the only recipient of the Pedigree® dog food. The recalled batches were supplied to Costco in 52-pound bags and were being sold in Costco stores throughout California. Mars Petcare has acknowledged having supplied 52-pound bags of the recalled food to Costco, but only to Northern California and Nevada – not to Southern California.

Anyone who has purchased Pedigree® "Complete Nutrition Small Crunchy Bites" from Albertson's (20-pound bags) or Costco (52-pound bags) in California or Nevada should check the recall notices to determine whether the food they purchased has been recalled. If in doubt, contact Mars Petcare toll-free at 1-877-568-4463.

Massachusetts Expands Tuna Salad Advisory - Updated

Earlier this week, the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services alerted consumers in that state to a recall of nearly 5,000 pounds of ready-to-eat tuna salad. The tuna salad, a product of Home Made Brand Foods, was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, and was distributed to Stop & Shop supermarkets and to other retail markets and delicatessens.

Massachusetts released a Public Health Advisory this morning to warn consumers not to consume tuna salad that was purchased between July 26th and August 10th. The state took this action because some of the recalled product was sold in bulk to retail markets and delicatessens during that time period. Tuna salad purchased after August 10th should be safe to eat, according to the Advisory.

Both the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and the Rhode Island Department of Health also are advising consumers not to eat Stop & Shop tuna salad purchased before August 10th. According to Rhode Island, Home Made Brand Foods is working with FDA to develop a distribution list for the recalled products.

To summarize: Stop & Shop ready-to-eat tuna salad sold in 12-ounce units with a sell-by date of 8/19/2008, and any ready-to-eat tuna salad sold "in bulk" at retail stores or delicatessens between July 26th and August 10th may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and should be discarded immediately. This warning definitely applies to consumers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, and might also impact consumers in other neighboring states. See a doctor immediately if you have been experiencing any symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes infection.

Whole Foods Market Expands Beef Recall

The August 8th recall of ground beef by Whole Foods Market has been extended to include four more states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Utah.

Whole Foods' initial recall was triggered by the August 8th recall of 1.2 million pounds of beef cuts by Nebraska Beef Ltd. That recall has just been expanded by a further 200,000 pounds of meat.

Are there more recalls in the offing?

Nebraska Beef Ltd. Expands Most Recent Recall

The Nebraska Beef Ltd. recall of 1.2 million pounds of beef that was announced on August 8 has been increased by a further 200,000 pounds of primal cuts, subprimal cuts and boxed beef. The additional meat was processed on June 24th, one of the three dates mentioned in the August 8th recall notice.

According to the USDA recall announcement, the additional 200,000 pounds of meat have not been linked to any illnesses. Rather,
"FSIS has concluded that the production practices employed by Nebraska Beef, Ltd. on June 24 were insufficient to effectively control E. coli O157:H7. The products subject to the expansion may have been produced under insanitary conditions."
We are meant to believe that this is an "on again, off again" problem of sporadic unsanitary conditions? Come on, FSIS. Pull the other leg – it has bells on!

According to a Reuters story reported by Newsinferno, USDA Secretary Ed Schafer thinks that the US food safety system is peachy-keen. From his perspective, there has been a drop in the number of contaminated products in recent years. "I don't believe," Schafer was quoted as saying, "that, from a USDA standpoint, we need to increase the number of inspectors or change the testing requirements."

Secretary Schafer's beliefs notwithstanding, the fumbling and bumbling of USDA in its dealings with Nebraska Beef Ltd. are not doing the international reputation of US beef any good. The government of South Korea, which has been under fire from its citizens for reopening its borders to beef imports from the United States, announced earlier this week that it will be tightening its quarantine requirements for meat from Nebraska Beef Ltd. 

South Korea also has asked USDA to provide details on the August 8 recall, and to elaborate on countermeasures being taken by the agency to prevent E. coli O157:H7 from entering the food chain. Is there a re-closure of the South Korean border in the offing?

Let's hope that the South Korean government will be more successful than US consumers in obtaining satisfactory answers from USDA.

Unilever Recalls Bovril In UK

Unilever has recalled five production batches of its iconic Bovril Beef Extract due to the presence of Salmonella in the product.

The following batch codes, packed in 250g glass jars and labeled with a best before date of "end January 2010", are covered by this recall notice: L8201XX795, L8206XX795, L8207XX795 and L8208XX795.

Batch code L8207XX795, packed in 600g plastic tubs and with a best before date of "end January 2010", is also included in the recall.

Unilever is asking customers who purchased one of the recalled batches to dispose of the product and to contact the company directly at 0800 146 252 to arrange for a refund.

This recall is completely unrelated to a recent outbreak of Salmonella Agona illnesses that has swept through the British Isles recently, killing one Liverpool woman and sickening at least 114 people in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. That outbreak was traced to a supplier of prepared sandwich ingredients – Dawn Farm Foods, Ltd. – based in Ireland. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fresno Meat Market Recalls Ground Beef-Update

Renna's Meat Market of Fresno, CA recalled 870 pounds of ground beef yesterday after USDA detected E. coli O157:H7 in a package of the meat as part of a routine sampling program. No illnesses have been associated with this recall.

The meat, which bears Establishment Number 27365, was distributed to several restaurants and also was available for retail sale in the Fresno area. Renna's Meat Market is urging customers to either discard the recalled ground beef or return it to the store for a full refund.

Additional information on the recalled meat was released this evening by USDA.

USDA has not yet implemented its promised distribution list service, but the California Department of Health Services will likely make this information available on its web site – perhaps as early as today.

Customers who have questions about this recall can contact the owner, Joe Renna, at (559) 304-2852.

Tuna Salad Recalled by Home Made Brand and Stop & Shop

Home Made Brand Foods of Massachusetts has recalled 4,890 pounds of "Ready-To-Eat" tuna salad after testing carried out by an independent laboratory detected Listeria monocytogenes in a sample of the product. The recalled salad carries an expiration date of 8/19/2008.

The recall encompasses:
  • 99 5-pound units of "Home Made Brand Foods Tuna Salad"
  • 412 10-pound units of "Stop and Shop Tuna Salad"
  • 366 12-ounce units of "Stop and Shop Tuna Salad"

In addition, Stop and Shop has recalled its "Service Deli Stop and Shop Tuna Salad" labeled with UPC #20880380000 and sell-by dates of July 28, 2008 through August 19, 2008, inclusive.

Consumers who have purchased the recalled tuna salad should return it to the store for a full refund.

USDA and Nebraska Beef: What Is Wrong With This Picture?

The Omaha World-Herald carried a report by Joe Ruff yesterday that summarized the Nebraska Beef E. coli O157:H7 story.

According to spokespersons for Nebraska Beef and the USDA, everything is under control and the company is continuing to operate "... with increased testing for food safety." reports that USDA signed off on Nebraska Beef's initial corrective actions following the July 3rd recall. So, what happened? Apparently, the most recent outbreak and recall was triggered by a different strain of E. coli O157:H7. A USDA spokesperson told reporters that "... the corrective actions the agency approved at that time only applied to E. coli O157:H7 strain linked to the ground beef-related illnesses."

Since when are corrective actions strain-specific?

The answer can be found in the Omaha World-Herald article. The meat covered in the new recall was processed in a different part of the Nebraska Beef plant.

Am I the only one who finds this worrisome? Nebraska Beef has a long history of E. coli O157:H7 contamination problems going back several years, as Bill Marler has reported on more than one occasion. How can USDA justify reviewing corrective actions in only one part of the processing plant?

And while we're asking pointed questions, what is significant about the three production dates – June 17, June 24 and July 8 – on which the latest 1.2 million-pound mountain of recalled beef was produced? Was that part of the processing plant idle during the periods June 18-23 and June 25-July 7? Or was USDA only able to document E. coli O157:H7 contamination on those very specific production dates? 

If the same strain is present in meat processed in the same part of the plant on three widely spaced dates, there is a strong probability that it is also present in meat processed on the intervening dates. Is there yet another outbreak and recall in the offing?

Monday, August 11, 2008

eFoodAlert World Tour: Prague, Hong Kong, Alaska, Malaysia

This phase of our world tour is a bit unusual, in that it includes a North American stop.

We start the tour in Alaska, where botulism is endemic in the native community. Alaska saw 10 cases of botulism in 2007, all but one in the southwest part of the state. All 10 cases were traced to traditionally prepared native foods: fermented beluga, fermented beaver tail, fermented seal flipper, seal blubber, whale blubber and fermented fish heads. One of the victims died.

From Alaska, we cross the Pacific Ocean to Hong Kong, which is still having problems with its restaurants. The Centre for Food Protection is investigating three separate incidents of food poisoning, encompassing 16 people. The victims, 11 of whom either consulted private doctors or visited a hospital, all ate at a restaurant in the Sheung Wan district of Hong Kong.

It's a relatively short hop from Hong Kong to Malaysia, where 43 students were sickened after eating at a school canteen on August 9th. The canteen has been closed for cleaning, and won't be allowed to reopen until health authorities give their permission. The results of lab testing is are not yet available, but suspicion seems to have fallen on some chicken nuggets.

Our final stop this week is a new one for us – Prague, in the Czech Republic. The city – indeed, the entire country – has been wrestling with a record incidence of hepatitis infections. Most major types of hepatitis – A, B, C and E – have increased. Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through the fecal-oral route, and are often spread, in the past, by contaminated food handlers. In the first six months of 2008, the State Health Institute has received reports of 130 cases of hepatitis A and 41 cases of hepatitis E. 

Cholera continues to pop up in parts of Africa and Asia. Here's the most recent tally, according to the latest report from the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

  • Sudan: 64 deaths. nearly 6,000 illnesses
  • Guinea-Bissau: 25 deaths, 950 illnesses
  • Philippines: 18 deaths in two hamlets
  • Vietnam (Thanh Hua Province): 19 illnesses
  • Vietnam (northern region): 287 illnesses
  • Nepal: 9 children dead and nearly 100 ill from unspecified diarrhea

Who knows where we'll be going next.

UK Yuck Alert: Larvae in Chicken Breasts

The UK Food Standards Agency has alerted consumers that Netto Foodstores Ltd. has withdrawn from sale one batch of its Fresh Chicken Breast Filets due to the presence of larvae.

The 450g packages of fresh chicken are identified with a "Display until" date of 10 August 2008 and a "Use by" date of 11 August 2008. Consumers who have purchased the contaminated chicken breasts should contact the store for information on how to proceed.

Smelling A Rat

Travel, we are told, is broadening – to the mind and to the palate. Part of the fun of visiting a new part of the world is to sample the local delicacies.

The Indian government is trying to make it easier for tourists in Bihar to sample one of the staple foods of the Musahar community in that town – rat meat. According to an article in the Times of India, the poverty-stricken Musahars catch wild rats in the field to supplement their diet. Rat meat, apparently, is "... rich in protein and tastier than chicken."

The government has been encouraging Musahars to farm rats instead of catching them in the wild. The farmed rats could be sold to local hotels, which would then be able to offer rat meat to their more adventurous guests.

Rat meat is an inexpensive source of protein for many poorer villagers in India and Southeast Asia. It forms part of the local diet in Laos and Myanmar, in addition to India. We even saw dried rat for sale in a local food market in Bagan during our visit to Myanmar in January.

Think I'll stick to chicken!

Yoplait Yoghurt Recalled "Down Under"

National Foods Ltd. of Australia has recalled Yoplait Go-Gurt and Yoplait Smackers due to a choking hazard. The product may become contaminated with small pieces of clear plastic film as the result of a packaging defect.

All Go-Gurt and Smackers products packaged in 8 x 70g packs showing dates up to and including 27/09/08 are included in this recall.

The products were distributed nationally in Australia and in New Zealand. Consumers in both countries should return the recalled products to their place of purchase for a full refund.

Pork Products Recalled In Hawaii

Palama Holdings of Kapolei, HI has recalled 4,535 pounds of fully-cooked pork products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The recalled items, which are identified as coming from Est. 11077, were produced on August 4 and August 7. The cooked pork was distributed to retail and food service establishments on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai.

Details of the recall can be found in the USDA News Release (follow link at the top of this article). USDA has not released a list of retail establishments that received the recalled items – something the agency promised to initiate this month.

Consumers in Hawaii who have purchased cooked pork products processed by Palama Holdings should check the packaging against the information contained in the recall notice, and should return any recalled item to the store for a refund. For answers to any questions not addressed in the recall notice, contact Palama's Vice President of Sales, Lionel Yokoyama at (808) 682-8368.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More Info On Latest Nebraska Beef Recall

Whole Foods Market is not the only grocery chain that may have received some of the meat that was recalled late Friday by Nebraska Beef. Some of the 1.2 million pounds of beef was sold to stores within the Kroger empire.

Fred Meyer stores has asked its customers in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Alaska to check their refrigerators and freezers for ground beef labeled as "Lean Ground Beef Family Pack Not To Exceed 20% Fat" with sell by dates of July 6th through August 11th.

King Soopers and City Market stores have advised their customers in Colorado and Wyoming to check their refrigerators and freezers for ground beef labeled as "Ground Beef – 70 to 80% Lean" with sell by dates of July 4th through August 11th.

Customers who have purchased any of the recalled meat should return it to the store for a full refund.

The meat has likely been distributed elsewhere, as well. But USDA has not yet initiated its policy of listing the retail establishments who have received meat or poultry items included in a recall. As usual, the consumer is the last to know.

Pet Food Recall - Salmonella

Mars Petcare has recalled a limited amount of its Pedigree® Complete Nutrition Small Crunchy Bites due to the possibility of Salmonella contamination. The 20-pound bags were supplied to Albertson's supermarkets for sale in Southern California and the Las Vegas, NV area. 

This recall is the result of a logistic error. A component of the dry dog food, which was on hold because of a positive Salmonella result, was accidentally shipped to Mars Petcare's Tracy, CA facility and used to produce the Pedigree dog food that is the subject of this recall.

No illnesses – pet or human – have been reported. Approximately 100 bags of pet food with a best buy date of 07/2009 are involved.

Mars Petcare has notified Albertson's and is also cooperating with FDA on this recall. Consumers in Southern California and the Las Vegas area should check the best buy date on the Pedigree package and return any recalled product to Albertson's.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dysentery In The Developed World

Usually, one thinks of dysentery as being in the same category as cholera – a disease of disaster. But that's not always the case.

Shigella, the microbe responsible for dysentery, is spread through what is euphemistically called the "fecal-oral" route. This spread can occur by fecal contamination of drinking water, through poor personal hygiene, improper hand-washing after coming contact with contaminated feces (perhaps when changing a diaper), or through anal sex with an infected person.

Shigella infections produce a range of gastrointestinal symptoms, including: abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea – often with blood, pus, or mucus – fever, vomiting, and tenesmus. Dehydration can be life-threatening for young children or the elderly.

The Montreal public health department has reported an unusually large number of recent cases in that city – 13 between mid-June and early August, versus just four cases during the same period last year.

Montreal is not alone in reporting increased incidences of Shigella dysentery. There have been at least three US reports in the last month – in Ohio, Oregon and Florida.

The Columbus Dispatch carried a Shigella report on July 21. Public health officials in that city were focusing on day care centers as the possible source for an outbreak that had sickened at least 100 people since the beginning of June. Day care centers, especially those catering to very young children, often are the source of outbreaks spread through fecal contamination.

The Oregon outbreak has been linked to attendance at a country fair near Veneta. At least 8 people have been infected, according to Food Safety Daily News.

In Florida, Shigella has been working its way through Palm Beach County and parts of South Florida, affecting mainly minority and immigrant communities – many of which are overcrowded. Food Safety Daily News reports that children and the immunocompromised appear to be at highest risk of serious illness.

Shigella has been spread by food in the past, but always as a result of contamination by a food handler or from contaminated water used to wash or prepare a food item. The best defense against this microbe is careful attention to proper sanitation and good personal hygiene.