October 2008

  • Posted: October 24th, 2008 - 2:19pm by Doug Powell

    Like National Hockey League legendary goaltender Glenn Hall, I used to puke before hockey games when I was a kid. Seriously, that’s how serious hockey was when I was 11-years-old in Brantford, Ontario.

    A few years later I decided to abandon my destiny as a NHL goaltender and started playing high school football. I played linebacker because after all those years of being shot at with pucks, it felt good to be hitting someone else.

    One of the other schools in town had this tank of a fullback – this was old school, when teams had halfbacks and fullbacks. He ran over me so hard once I didn’t move for about a minute. And then I barfed on the field.

    The Washington Post has decided to follow up on the hit heard round the Internet – the one where the kid was hit so hard in a college football game that he vomited – and has asked the Washington Redskins their best vomit stories.

    This is no Jamie Fox on Any Given Sunday; this is the read deal.

    Player Casey Rabach says,

    "Oh yeah, I've thrown up on the field. That happens a lot, yeah. Guys puke all the time. It's funny when the guy across from you starts puking, that's the best part. Oh my God, so funny. You've never seen a player who puked on the field? It's pretty funny. The guy's sitting there puking in front of you, and you KNOW you're just gonna kill him the next play. It's awesome. Jansen, you ever puked on the field," he called out to Jon Jansen, one locker over.

    "Yeah," said Jansen, who was in the middle of interviews at the time.

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  • Posted: October 24th, 2008 - 1:39pm by Doug Powell

    Dane Cook, watch out.

    The unfunny man who has been fighting with his landlord about cleaning up dog poop could be fingered by the same DNA fingerprinting that troubled O.J. and Bill Clinton.

    You let your pooch poop wherever, and pissed-off people will come after you.

    BioPet Vet Lab, a Knoxville, Tenn., DNA laboratory, announced today the introduction of PooPrints™, a program designed to encourage dog owners to pick up their dog’s “droppings."

    The program is targeted initially to neighborhoods, but could be applied to any municipality that wants to clean up its public areas. The PooPrints™ program recommends that a home owner association (HOA) pass an amendment to its existing covenant that requires all dog owners in the community to have their dogs’ DNA analyzed and filed with Bio-Pet’s "DNA World Pet Registry."

    Once the DNA is on file, any dropping found in the public areas of the neighborhood can be sent to BioPet to be analyzed and matched up with the DNA already on file. Once the dog is identified, an email report is sent to the HOA, which then can identify the offending owner. The matching process takes three to four days after receipt to process. With positive proof through the DNA matchup, the association may elect to impose fines on the offenders, which will defray the cost of the program to the HOA.

    Three to four days? That’s faster than Canadians can match an E. coli or listeria DNA fingerprint.

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  • Posted: October 24th, 2008 - 9:11am by Doug Powell

    At least 15 children have been hospitalized and nearly 30 children and adults as part of a Salmonella outbreak at several preschools in the San Fernando Valley and East Los Angeles.

    The outbreak was traced to a North Hollywood kitchen that supplies food to the 29 preschools operated by the Volunteers of America of Greater Los Angeles, a faith-based nonprofit organization, said David Dassey of the L.A. Co. Public Health Department.

    County public health officials inspected the kitchen, which voluntarily closed at the end of last week and reopened Tuesday. Letters were sent home to parents informing them of the situation and urging frequent hand-washing and other healthy practices.

    All 29 facilities report at least one person coming down with salmonella-type symptoms, including fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

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  • Posted: October 23rd, 2008 - 8:00pm by Doug Powell

    Susan Schoenfeld, the Vermont Health Department’s deputy epidemiologist, said state and UVM health officials were looking into the possibility that some of the students sickened by the virus got sick shortly after eating a meal at the University Marche, a dining center inside the school’s Living & Learning Center.

    “Several of the students who had just eaten a meal at the dining hall became ill,” she said. “We’ve told the university we can’t rule out the possibility that food was related to the outbreak, in addition to person-to-person transmission.”

    To date, about 60 students have reported becoming sick with gastroenteritis symptoms over the past few days, but the outbreak now appears to be in decline. Only four new cases of the illness were reported Thursday, according to a UVM memo to the campus community.

    The memo also discussed the possible connection of the dining hall to the outbreak and said there was no way to confirm if food in the eatery caused anyone to become sick. The memo said it was possible someone who was sick possibly contaminated otherwise high-quality food.”

    High quality? OK, so I’m sure the providers of food to UVM students are concerned about the things that make people barf, and wouldn’t be taken in by some trendy, local, natural thing, at least without asking basic questions about microbial food safety such as irrigation water quality, soil amendments and employee handwashing. 

    But I asked the same questions of Organic To Go and have heard nothing.

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    Norovirus  |  Comments
  • Posted: October 23rd, 2008 - 3:40pm by Doug Powell

    The E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to a North Bay, Ontario, Harvey’s burger joint, is going from bad to worse.

    The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit said today there are now a total of 207 cases, of which 39 are lab confirmed for E. coli O157:H7.

    “Although we can reveal few details to avoid identifying anyone, there is one child who is very ill and in hospital,” said Dr. Catherine Whiting, Medical Officer of Health. “This person meets the criteria for complications from an E. coli infection, specifically Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome or HUS.”

    The restaurant has been closed since Oct. 12. That’s more than enough time for DNA fingerprinting and to see if there are any matches with rather numerous E. coli outbreaks going on throughout North America. The CBC reports food samples have tested negative for the E. coli strain, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's investigation has turned to testing food handlers. After only 11 days? Wow.  If this was an animal disease, CFIA would be all over it. But, it’s just people.

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  • Posted: October 23rd, 2008 - 1:15pm by Doug Powell

    Norovirus sickened more than 70 people who attended a wedding reception in Washington County, PA, this month.

    Investigators from the state Department of Agriculture found that the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Company, which hosted the reception at its fire hall, allowed an ill bartender to handle drinks and ice and used an unsanitary ice machine during the event.

    Wedding guest Kim McCrory of Cranberry called the state Department of Health after she learned that she wasn't the only guest experiencing diarrhea and vomiting in the days after the event.

    "I have never been so sick; it was awful," McCrory said. "We weren't sure if it was food poisoning or something else. But when I heard that so many people who were at the wedding got sick, I knew I should report it."

    The bartender admitted having flu-like symptoms and should have been restricted from handling foods, ice and beverages.


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  • Posted: October 23rd, 2008 - 1:06pm by Doug Powell

    Toronto Public Health has identified a case of Hepatitis A in a food handler at Sushi Haru located at 635 College Street at Grace Street in Toronto. Anyone who consumed food from this restaurant on the following dates may have been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus: September 30; October 1 to 3; or October 6 to 10. …

    If you ate at Sushi Haru on October 9, you may still benefit from receiving a vaccination to prevent Hepatitis A infection. The vaccine is effective for up to 14 days after coming into contact with the virus. Today is the last day that the vaccine would be effective. Call your doctor to get the vaccine, or go to a walk-in clinic.

    A Fact Sheet on Hepatitis A is available at

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  • Posted: October 22nd, 2008 - 2:54pm by Doug Powell

    Harvey's Canada president Rick McNabb said Tuesday at a North Bay, Ontario, hotel that he’s sorry for the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has now stricken 190 people, of which 36 are laboratory confirmed.

    ". . . On behalf of our company, I just want to say how sorry we are that something happened here, despite the fact that we don't know what it is, but it's clear we were associated with it."

    McNabb said the local franchise operator, Cindy Gibb, is distraught and this is overwhelming for her.

    I speak to her daily," he said. She's hurt, sorry and scared. The best-case scenario for everyone is to find the source."


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  • Posted: October 22nd, 2008 - 11:46am by Doug Powell

    Baseball is incredibly boring. Anytime someone gases on about the mathematics and how literal it all is, I’m reminded of the time Homer Simpson was sober for a month and agreed that watching baseball was the most boring thing ever. At a hockey game in Sweden last night the crowd littered the ice with dildos. Hockey’s a great game.

    But I’m forced to write about baseball because the World-Series bound Tampa Bay Rays did something somewhat astute: as reported in the New York Times, “The Rays are here (in the World Series) because of the outstanding good karma of allowing fans to bring their own food into the dome.

    “In the vast majority of sports arenas and stadiums in this great land of freedom and opportunity, anybody caught transporting edible contraband through the turnstiles is immediately taken under the stands and beaten with rubber hoses.”

    Tell me about it.

    A pregnant Amy and I went to a Kansas State football game a few weeks ago. The dude doing the bag check found a wrapped energy bar and confiscated the offending carbs. I said, ‘She’s pregnant, she needs food.”

    He grunted, which was as persuasive as K-State’s terrible football defense.

    And unlike airport security, where an empty water bottle will be allowed through, K-State only allows full bottles of water. No one would ever fill a water bottle with vodka.

    Back in Tampa, the Times reports that,

    “Under this sane policy, fans can actually bring carrots and apples and cereal to the ball park and not have them wrestled away by gristly guards. I know what you are thinking: “There’s no healthy eating in baseball,” what with the mandatory calories and salt and sugar laced into the junk food sold in the corridors of American arenas.”

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  • Posted: October 22nd, 2008 - 10:47am by Doug Powell

    Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star writes this morning that,

    “In the end, Frances Clark's unfocused gaze never moved as she desperately gasped for air.

    “The listeria-tainted meat served to her in a Belleville-area hospital and again in a nursing home this summer was ravaging her 89-year-old body. She began losing breath altogether. Seizures came. And then, on Aug. 25, days after she allegedly ate Maple Leaf cold cuts from a Toronto plant, she died.

    “Details of Clark's death and the deaths of two others are documented in affidavits filed in court this week as part of a planned class-action lawsuit against the food giant in six provinces, including Ontario. The graphic accounts written by family members of the deceased describe gradual deterioration from flu-like symptoms to fading consciousness and struggles for air.” …

    "It was the most disturbing sight," recalls Clark's daughter, Karen, who was at her bedside. "She was ... gasping, like a fish out of water ... Maple Leaf has to understand this is not acceptable. It hurts real families." …

    "A second affidavit focuses on the case of Jeaninne Jacques, 69, who died July 28 after eating Maple Leaf ham. Her daughter, Linda Gosselin, said blood test results confirmed listeriosis was the cause of death. Tests filed in court confirm this.

    "It is frustrating to think my mother passed away due to the negligence of Maple Leaf. ... I believe (Maple Leaf) should be held accountable and their behaviour should change so that no one will suffer like this again."

    Maple Leaf was given the OK to start selling deli meats from its Toronto plant yesterday.

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  • Posted: October 21st, 2008 - 11:33pm by Doug Powell

     Amy’s getting to the final stages of pregnancy. Our house on the hill isn’t quite so attractive. All of her teaching is in the afternoon, so lunch-time TV usually includes Days of Our Lives. Sure it’s a stupid soap opera, but if hockey great and hometown pal Wayne Gretzky can appear on The Young and the Restless with a bad mullet, Amy can tune out to an hour of Days of Our Lives.

    Loving husband that I am, I flipped the TV to NBC about 10 minutes before the soap was due to start. What I saw was horrifying.

    Kathie Lee Gifford has apparently attempted to resurrect her career by doing some NBC Today Show extension. And they did a piece with some woman from Good Housekeeping on how do you know if it’s done. These people perpetuated every food safety myth and probably made some folks ill. The only way to tell if it’s done is to use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer. Color is a lousy indicator.

    Stick it in.



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  • Posted: October 21st, 2008 - 10:50pm by Doug Powell

    Thanksgiving is coming up (11/27/08), and just recently passed in Canada (10/13/08). Both have common foods and in this video a few different recipes are prepared keeping in mind food safety practices. Turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing are featured.

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  • Posted: October 21st, 2008 - 10:01pm by Doug Powell

    The Owen Sound Sun Times has had enough of raw milk evangelist Michael Schmidt.

    The Ontario paper  correctly observes that the Ontario government does not have the capacity to ensure that unpasteurized milk is safe to distribute and Michael Schmidt does not have the right to pick and choose which laws he wishes to obey.

    Schmidt's raw-milk operation may be the most sparkling-clean in all of Ontario. His methods of storage and transport may be beyond reproach. His milk cows may be grass-fed, free-range, pest-free and of above average intelligence. For all we know they may produce wonderful abstract-expressionist paintings in their off hours.

    That does not change the fact that drinking raw milk brings with it a heightened risk of salmonella, E. coli and Listeriosis. Nor does it change the fact that pasteurization saves lives.

    Anyone who doesn't believe this should ask someone old enough to remember the days before pasteurization was introduced.

    If selling raw milk were legal, it would in short order become a big business. The Ontario government, knowing the statistical risks of raw-milk distribution, would be legally and morally responsible for ensuring that no one got sick as a result.

    That is a chance no responsible, reasonable government can or will take.

    Therefore, Schmidt's crusade will fail. It should fail.

    One man, however impassioned, cannot set health policy for all Ontarians, in the face of medical evidence that doing so would put people at risk.


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  • Posted: October 21st, 2008 - 7:30pm by Doug Powell

    Kansas State student Mayra Rivarola writes in this exclusive for barfblog that hospital rooms and doctors became scarce, when 97 students sickened with gastroenteritis crowded the emergency room in Georgetown University Hospital last week. Students who weren’t receiving medical attention began vomiting in the waiting room, according to the Georgetown Voice.

    “I know that some people in the waiting room had been there for three hours. There was a boy yelling ‘help me, help me!’ but there were no doctors,” said Kathrin Verestoun, who went with her roommate to the hospital. “They ran out of rooms and set up stretchers in the hall. Some people were so dehydrated that they couldn’t find their veins for IVs. They were just bleeding. [My roommate] bled all over her stretcher.”

    The Georgetown students got sick after dining at Leo O’Donovan Cafeteria, which led to a temporary closure of the dining center. They were diagnosed with norovirus and the number of sick people has since risen to more than 200.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control website states that people can become infected with norovirus by eating food or drinking liquid that is contaminated, by touching contaminated surfaces and subsequently their mouth, or through direct contact with a sick person. The virus is found in vomit or in the stool of an infected person and it is quite contagious.

    In establishments where a large number of people are in close contact, like cruises, nursing homes and universities, infectious diseases are common.

    At the University of Southern California, it took five days for 300 students to contract norovirus last week. Students were advised to wash their hands often and those who were feeling ill were told to avoid socializing.

    Norovirus is not the only disease infecting the classrooms. In Michigan, 34 people got sick with E. coli in September, including 9 students from Michigan State University. Just a month before that, E. coli sickened at least 5 students at Guelph University, with 15 more unconfirmed cases.

    Outbreaks happen. So how prepared is Kansas State University?

    “I don’t know that anybody is prepared for an outbreak,” said Ron Bridges, campus sanitarian. Food service establishments on campus are inspected monthly by campus staff, and are also inspected annually by the county health department. If there are reports of students getting sick the university may take action depending on the case; officially, the university is not involved.

    “Any reported incident of suspected foodborne illness of people who are not related is handled by the Department of Agriculture in the state of Kansas,” Bridges said. The Department of Agriculture then carries on with the investigations.

    Bridges said he believes food safety personnel on campus are quite knowledgeable and is confident that they know what they are doing. But some things are just out of their control and outbreaks are hard to prevent.

    About 15 years ago, around 80 students were sick after attending a potluck sponsored by a student organization, Bridges recalled. “If the student organization had wanted to hold the event on campus, the food would’ve had to be regulated,” he said. For this reason, K-State does not approve of any organizations serving food on campus.

    How to handle vomit and stop the spread
    Vomit and other body fluids are potentially contaminated and can easily spread diseases like norovirus if not properly handled. Spills should be immediately cleaned and the area within 25-foot radius properly disinfected.

    At Kansas State University, students and faculty are advised to notify the custodial department immediately and to avoid coming into contact with vomit, according to John Woods, director of Facilities Services.

    “Custodians are supposed to be trained to go in and handle vomit,” Woods said. “We will be limiting the number of staff authorized to handle vomit.”

    Woods explained that custodians are required to wear gloves, goggles, and a mask. They are supposed to spray the area, wait a few minutes, and scoop the vomit in a plastic bag with paper towels. They turn in the plastic bag to public safety.

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  • Posted: October 21st, 2008 - 4:06pm by Ben Chapman

    Clean it up.  That's the easy answer.

    Exactly how is another question.  After Amy's story of one of her students yacking in class, we started tossing around that question and using norovirus outbreaks at Georgetown and USC as hooks. Mayra and I decided to build a food safety infosheet around it.  After reviewing available guidelines from regulators and peer-reviewed research publications, we came up with some steps for cleaning up vomit. 

    We based our recommedations on a norovirus-induced vomit (because aerosolized spread of virus particles is likely). 

    If you are looking for a cool paper on vomit, check out: Evidence for airborne transmission of Norwalk-like virus (NLV) in a hotel restaurant (Epidemiology and Infection, 2000. 124:481-487), which discusses the spread of post-vomit norovirus (abstract is here).

    A pdf of the vomit cleanup food safety infosheet can be found here.

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  • Posted: October 21st, 2008 - 12:17pm by Doug Powell

    The use of video is changing public perceptions of foodborne illness outbreaks. At least that’s what we hypothesized after the 2006 E. coli in spinach outbreak. But check it out for yourself. Next time, get the head of CFIA or FDA on camera, explaining the basis for going public.

    As of Monday, Oct. 20, 2008, there were a total of 141 cases, of which 28 are lab confirmed for E. coli O157:H7, which includes cases being investigated by six other health units in Ontario. The case numbers are down because further information has shown that 18 people are not part of this outbreak.

    Does that mean there were 18 people who were sick that were part of another outbreak?

    At this time, all of the 141 cases are linked to one location - the Harvey’s Restaurant in North Bay.

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  • Posted: October 20th, 2008 - 11:38pm by Doug Powell

    I cringe every time I’m called an expert.

    I know a little bit about how to coach girl’s hockey, I know how to make graduate students cry, I know a few other things involving chocolate. I’m amazed at what I don’t know about food and food safety.

    But we’re all experts cause we all eat.

    The Boston Globe asked some alleged experts about their food concerns.

    Dr. Anita Barry of Hingham, director of the infectious disease bureau for the Boston Public Health Commission, says she focuses on washing all produce and she only uses plastic-made cutting boards because wooden ones can have germ-trapped cracks.

    Washing produce removes little in the way of pathogens – has to be minimized on the farm – and wooden cutting boards are fine.

    Zach Conrad of Brighton, a former co-odinator at the nonprofit Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C., believes that today's organic farmers take greater care around sanitation and safety issues.

    Sorry Zach, absolutely no evidence for that.

    Lilian Schaer has a unique theory on why there is an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with a Harvey’s restaurant in North Bay, Ontario.

    “At Harvey’s, frozen beef patties are grilled once you place your order - and there is plenty of room for error in that process, especially if the restaurant is busy, there isn’t enough staff, or staff aren’t trained or supervised properly.”

    So why aren’t there other outbreaks at Harvey’s across Canada? Lilian also says farmers are great and bad handling is where things go wrong. Today she called E. coli O157:H7 a virus. Lilian is a communications specialist, apparently trained at Guelph.

    Gina Mallet reacted to the Michael Schmidt raw milk conviction today by saying

    “Michael Schmidt's raw milk has never been found to have listeria or e coli, none of his customers have turned up in intensive care.  People who buy raw milk know there's an outside risk of a pathogen in unpasteurized milk.

    "But no one who ate the listeria laced deli meat and now, the  e-coli burgers from a North Bay Wendy's knew they were dicing with death when they ate processed and fast food. … Fact is, and the government knows it, that the dirty human hand is a greater danger to our food than not pasteurizing milk.”

    It’s a Harvey’s in North Bay. And Gina, you don’t know if Schmidt’s milk has made someone sick or not. It’s OK to say, I don’t know. The dirty hand? Sure, but I follow the poop, some of which is on the hand, some elsewhere.

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    Food Safety Policy  |  Comments
  • Posted: October 20th, 2008 - 10:31pm by Doug Powell

    All you Brits shopping at Ann Summers sex shops -- the UK’s leading adult toys & lingerie pleasure retailer -- stay away from the chocolate body spread.

    The U.K. Food Standards Agency said today
    it found traces of melamine in the novelty chocolate spreads, which were manufactured in Zhongshan, China, and imported into the country by Scobie (Llarn) Ltd.

    "We've never had to put out an alert before on (body spread) - chocolate-flavoured or otherwise," the agency said on its website.

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  • Posted: October 20th, 2008 - 10:44am by Doug Powell

    An organic farmer accused of ignoring a court order to stop selling unpasteurized milk was found guilty of contempt of court Monday morning in Newmarket, Ont.

    Michael Schmidt has run a co-operative organic dairy farm near Owen Sound, Ont., for more than 20 years.

    Contempt charges were sought by York Region officials, who fear there are health risks for people consuming the raw milk, including the risk of spreading salmonella, E. coli and listeria.

    Schmidt also still faces 20 charges laid by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Grey-Bruce Health Unit. That trial is expected to begin in early 2009.

    A table of raw dairy outbreaks is available at http://www.foodsafety.ksu.edu/articles/384/RawMilkOutbreakTable.pdf

    and an updated one here.

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  • Posted: October 20th, 2008 - 7:35am by Doug Powell

    Steve Carleton dubbed himself "Number 6" because when he was overcome with fierce stomach cramps last week and admitted to a northern Ontario hospital, health-care workers started numbering the beds.

    While he jokes now that he "beat the rush," the 22-year-old North Bay police constable turns serious when recalling his bout with E. coli during an outbreak that, as of Sunday, may have sickened upwards of 159 people, mostly in his home town.

    "It was like I had razor blades rolling around in my stomach, it was so excruciating," Carleton said.

    "The pains were enough (that) you couldn't stay in bed or sit down, because you'd sit down and it'd hit you again and you'd be up and it'd give you that urge and you'd have to run to the washroom again."

    Carleton spent four, IV-drip-fuelled days recovering in hospital. He said he had earlier eaten a bacon cheeseburger at one of the busiest Harvey's restaurants in the area.

    "I consider myself pretty fit, and a healthy all around person," said Carleton, who exercises several times a week. "I couldn't imagine an elderly person, or even a young child, being able to fight their way through it."

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    E. coli  |  Comments