August 18, 2019

Salmonella Carrau Melon Outbreak: How To Prepare Safe Melons

Ever since the huge and deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak that was linked to whole melons produced by Jensen Farms in Colorado, I have been wary of cantaloupes, honeydew, and watermelon. While I did sometimes purchase precut melons, that ended when a Salmonella outbreak linked to precut melons sickened dozens in 2018. The current Salmonella Carrau melon outbreak has increased my resolve. How do you prepare safe melons in this day and age? The problem with this fruit is that the surface of melons is the perfect space for bacteria to grab onto and hold on. Melons, especially cantaloupe, have deep crenelations and a webbed, rough surface. Bacteria love to hide in those nooks and crannies. Even worse, some pathogens can produce a biofilm that covers bacterial colonies, protecting … [Read more...]

Lawyer Asks: Why Are There Ground Beef E. coli Outbreaks?

This afternoon, amidst the ongoing ground beef E. coli O103 outbreak affecting much of the east-central United States, I began my weekly meal preparation ritual. I went to the freezer and grabbed two pounds of frozen ground beef, defrosted it, and put it in a frying pan to brown. My family of four goes through so much ground beef that I regularly fill my freezer with a “quarter of beef” raised by my father and processed by a local butcher shop. We live on it. My family’s subsistence on ground beef is not uncommon. For 2018, Americans were projected to eat 222.2 pounds of meat and poultry, each. According to the self-proclaimed “best information source” of the beef industry, Beef2Live.com: “Ground beef is the most widely consumed beef product among American consumers. It is estimated … [Read more...]

Why Doesn’t Everyone Who Drinks Raw Milk Get Sick?

Over the years, Food Poisoning Bulletin has received many, many messages from people defending raw milk consumption. Every one of these messages has used the claim, "I have drunk raw milk for years and I have never gotten sick." There are several problems with that statement: one is the logical fallacy of a small sample size. But first, some history. There is a Salmonella outbreak that was just discovered in Washington state. Raw milk from Pride & Joy Dairy has teated positive for a rare strain of Salmonella Dublin that sickened and hospitalized two people in that state in January 2017. The dairy's license to sell raw milk was pulled by the Washington State Department of Health. Raw milk has been consumed by people for many years. And many people have been sickened and … [Read more...]

Raw Milk: A Risky Food

It never ceases to amaze me why people drink raw milk. Raw milk, as all should know, is unpasteurized. Pasteurization is the process by which milk, juices and other products are heated in order to kill off dangerous pathogens. Without pasteurization, bacteria that harm or even kill people remain in the milk. Pasteurization, a simple procedure that’s been used for about 150 years, is absolutely effective. Pasteurization does not affect the taste of milk. It does not reduce or degrade milk’s beneficial and nutritional qualities. Any claims that it does have been debunked by scientists and physicians. The only people who claim raw milk is good for you are people who ignore science. The only people who claim pasteurization makes milk less nutritious ignore science. This is … [Read more...]

Milk Makers Fest E. coli Patient Still Hospitalized

Organizers of the Milk Makers Fest in Lynden, Washington, said one of the 45 case patients in an E. coli outbreak associated with the annual schools event remained hospitalized this week at St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham. All together there have been eight hospitalizations among a case patient population dominated by first-graders from public schools throughout Whatcom County, including schools in Bellingham, Lynden, Ferndale, Meridian, Blaine, Nooksack Valley and Mount Baker. E. coli lawyers, medical experts, infectious disease investigators and a growing number of parents suspect the cause of  the outbreak could be related to animal feces at the event's petting zoo or around other live animals on exhibit at the Milk Makers Fest. Still, officials from the Centers for Disease Control … [Read more...]

Restaurant Outbreaks: Not the Fault of Workers

The history of food safety, corporate irresponsibility, and workers’ rights is long and tortuous (as well as tortious). From the days of Upton Sinclair (rotten and diseased meat), unpasteurized and tuberculosis-laden milk, all the way through the present, the dangers of unsafe food have been compounded by improperly trained and poorly paid food workers. In fact, during my career as a food safety lawyer on behalf of people harmed by contaminated food, I can honestly say that only a few cases did not involve food workers who were insufficiently trained, poorly paid or both. That’s particularly true in the restaurant industry, especially in fast food restaurants. Employees of those establishments who are paid poorly, have few benefits and no pensions are time and time again implicated … [Read more...]

Food Safety Bloopers: Raw Cookie Dough Edition

Last week, an editor for Slate magazine, L.V. Anderson, wrote an article entitled: "Salmonella and raw eggs: How I've eaten tons of cookie dough and never gotten sick". In it, she says that she has eaten about 360 raw eggs in her lifetime and has never contracted a Salmonella infection. From that, she infers that raw cookie dough is not really dangerous. This story is full of logical fallacies. First, she is committing the logical fallacy of a small sample size: herself. Extrapolating from her personal experiences to the entire nation is extremely foolish. In addition, she may have gotten sick from eating a Salmonella-contaminated egg, but didn't even know it. The incubation period for these infections is up to three days, so she most likely did not connect the food that made her sick … [Read more...]

Dietary Supplement Industry Largely Unregulated

There is a lot of confusion about the dietary supplement industry, what products they are allowed to sell, and how they are regulated. Before 1990, supplements were mainly just vitamins and minerals. Interest peaked in the early 1990s, and more manufacturers got into the business.  Congress wanted to strengthen the FDA's enforcement powers over misleading claims and unscrupulous manufacturers. But in 1994, outfits such as Mercola and other supplement supporters got the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act passed. It was heavily supported by the supplement industry. In addition, companies got consumers involved, telling them that the government was going to take away their supplements. That was a lie. A huge groundswell of public opinion helped get the Act passed. Dietary … [Read more...]

Salmonella Should be an Adulterant

In the world of food safety, many dangerous pathogens are controlled  through HACCP plans, regulation, and inspections by the FDA and USDA. Of course pathogens are ubiquitous in the world. But food should not be sold to the public that is so contaminated with pathogenic bacteria that it makes people sick. At this time, just a few bacteria are considered "adulterants" in food. That means companies are not allowed to sell certain types of food that contain these bacteria. Those are E. coli O157:H7 and the other Big Six STEC bacteria; Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods, and Salmonella in ready-to-eat foods. Salmonella in all other foods? Not an adulterant. Salmonella outbreaks have become common in this country. In the latest outbreak involving Foster Farms chicken, the … [Read more...]

Food Processors, Food Safety, the Law, and Common Sense

After the announcement of the Foster Farms raw chicken Salmonella outbreak, we realized there is a lot of misinformation out there about what contamination of food by pathogenic bacteria really means, both physically and legally. Reading comments on some other news stories really brought this point home. Most people do not understand why food safety experts and the law stress that food processors must produce safe food. The law states that companies are not allowed to sell food contaminated with enough bacteria to make someone sick. In addition, there is zero tolerance for several bacteria in certain foods: E. coli O157:H7 in beef; Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods, and Salmonella in ready-to-eat foods. The government has also classified six other STEC (shiga toxin-producing … [Read more...]

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