April 25, 2014

Outbreak at Food Safety Summit in Baltimore, MD


An outbreak at the Food Safety Summit held in Baltimore Maryland at the Convention Center earlier in April has sickened an unknown number of people. At least four people told the Baltimore City Health Department that they were sickened after attending the event. Symptoms of upset stomach and diarrhea began about 12 hours after eating a meal on April 9, 2014. Attendees were sent a questionnaire if they were at the event April 8 to April 10, 2014. More than 1,500 food safety professionals were there. Officials have inspected the convention center, along with the food service provider, Centerplate. That facility had no violations during a recent inspection, although they were cited for condensation dripping from an ice machine. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had … [Read more...]

CSPI Says Restaurants Pose Twice the Risk of Foodborne Outbreaks

Restaurant Food Poisoning

Outbreak data analyzed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says that Americans are twice as likely to get food poisoning from restaurants than from food prepared at home. The review, which covers outbreaks from 2002 through 2011, is titled "Outbreak Alert! 2014". The worst outbreaks of that decade included a Campylobacter outbreak linked to pasteurized milk served to inmates at the California State Prisons. That sickened 1,644 people. In April 2008, Salmonella contaminated jalapeños and Serrano peppers and pepper products sickened 1,535 people in 42 states. And in 2011, Listeria-contamianted cantaloupe produced by Jensen Farms sickened 148 people in 28 states. Overall, 1,610 outbreaks linked to restaurants sickened more than 28,000 people. In that same tie frame, … [Read more...]

Salmonella Ground Beef Outbreak Highlighted Raw Meat Risks

A Salmonella outbreak included diners who ate raw meat

A year ago this weekend, Michigan health officials announced a Salmonella outbreak that would eventually grow to include 22 cases in six states. Among those sickened were diners at at a restaurant in Macomb County, Mich. who ate a raw ground beef dish called kibbe. Kibbe is a Middle Eastern dish made from bulgar, minced onions and ground meat that is often stuffed into croquettes and fried, but is sometimes served raw, as it was at the restaurant that was never named by public health agencies. Raw kibbe seems to be popular in Maycomb County, which includes the cities of Troy and Sterling Heights,  where at least 13 restaurants featured it on their menus at the time of the outbreak compared with one in the  Twin Cities and 21 in New York City. The Centers for Disease Control and … [Read more...]

CDC Electronic Laboratory Reports Improve Outbreak Response


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been promoting its electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) by the 10,400 labs that send reportable data to health agencies. In the Cyclospora outbreak that is still ongoing, government health officials encouraged doctors and labs around the country to use telediagnosis to speed up diagnoses. CDC has funded 57 state, local and territorial health departments to increase the use of ELR. The number of health departments that are using the system has more than doubled since 2005. State and local departments estimate that almost two-thirds of lab reports were received electronically. When information about a potential foodborne illness outbreak is received and disseminated quickly, the source can be identified more quickly and fewer … [Read more...]

FDA Releases Two Year Plan for Program Priorities


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its two year Plan for Program Priorities. It is designed to meet the issues of the globalization of the food supply chain, changing industry processes, and consumer preferences for fresh and minimally processed foods. The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) is implementing the plan. There are six program objectives detailed in the plan, taking into account new authorities established by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The first goal is to reduce foodborne illness rates every year by publishing guidance for egg safety, manufacturing process changes, and record keeping for high-risk foods to facilitate traceback. Rules on infant formulas, guidance on arsenic in apple juice and other foods, and rules for "gluten … [Read more...]

Suspect Food Poisoning? State Contact List is a Good Place to Start


If you or someone you know has been exhibiting the symptoms of food poisoning, you (or your doctor) should contact your state or city health department. FoodSafety.gov has a map with links to all of the state, commonwealth, and territory health departments to get you started. When two or more people have the same illness from the same contamianted food or drink, the illnesses are officially classified as an outbreak. Since most cases of foodborne illness are not reported, it's crucial that if you did get sick from food served at a restaurant or event, you tell public health officials about it. For instance, Salmonella outbreaks are usually underreported by a factor of 30. If an official Salmonella outbreak case count stands at 100, there are likely 3,000 people who are actually sick in … [Read more...]

Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water in the U.S.

Water glasses

Those of us in the United States tend to think of illnesses caused by drinking water as a third world problem. But believe it or not, people in the United States are getting sick after consuming water from public treated systems. The MMWR news synopsis for September 5, 2013 reports that  contamination of untreated ground water in public water systems and private wells, Legionella in building plumbing systems, and deficiencies in the public drinking water infrastructure are all causes of illness. The numbr of outbreaks in the federally regulated portions of public water systems has declined. But when these outbreaks occur, they sicken many people because so many use water from the tap. During 2009-2010, the latest year for which finalized numbers are available, there were 33 … [Read more...]

New Twitter App Tracks Foodborne Illness Outbreaks in Chicago


We've told you before about apps that can help keep you safe from food poisoning, and how Twitter may be playing a role in foodborne illess outbreak investigations. Now a company in Chicago has created a new Twitter app called Foodborne Chicago. The project is part of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, an organization "devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology." The app asks people who think they contracted food poisoning at a restaurant to fill out a form, which is sent to the Chicago Department of Public Health. The app also uses computer codes to search Twitter for anything relating to food poisoning in the Chicago area. People review the tweets and reply back to people who posted about them, asking them to fill out the web form. The form asks which restaurant the person … [Read more...]

Florida Passes Bill Prohibiting Required Paid Employee Sick Leave

Tables in a restaurant

In a blow to food safety in restaurants, Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott signed HB 655 that takes effect July 1, 2013. The law bans local governments from requiring that companies give employees paid sick time. As Food Poisoning Bulletin has told you before, lack of paid sick leave can cause food poisoning outbreaks. While states do have laws requiring that sick employees do not handle food, many workers will come to work anyway because they need the money. Restaurant employees are usually paid low wages and receive almost no benefits. And a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that ill food handlers are to blame for most norovirus outbreaks in this country and 65% of the food poisoning outbreaks at restaurants. In just the last month, foodborne illness … [Read more...]

CSPI Releases List of Risky Meat

Raw Chicken Breast

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has released a list of meat and poultry products that have the greatest risk of causing foodborne illness outbreaks. They studied 12 years of outbreaks from meat and poultry that occurred in the U.S. from 1998 to 2010. Only illnesses linked to outbreaks that were definitively attributed to meat or poultry product were used in the analysis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that 48 million Americans contract some sort of foodborne illness every year, but most are not known because they are either "sporadic", not linked to an outbreak, or are not diagnosed or reported to public health officials. The vast majority of foodborne illnesses don't require medical attention. And of the illnesses that do require medical … [Read more...]

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