Brian Evans, executive vice-president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, wrote in the Globe and Mail this morning that the only part of a July 24 meeting between officials from Maple Leaf Foods and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that concerned listeria centred around consistency between Canada's approach to import testing and monitoring, and that of other countries.
Michael McCain of Maple Leaf said the same thing in a March 4, 2009, press release, "While we welcome open discussion of the outbreak in any and all reviews to ensure appropriate lessons are drawn from this tragedy, we take the strongest possible exception to any inference that we withheld information from the public."
But CFIA and Maple Leaf -- especially Maple Leaf if it’s the world-class thingy it claims to be – need to publicly state, for the record, who knew what when, instead of continuous damage control every time someone asks a question.
Evans also writes today that,
These consultations had nothing to do with the listeria outbreak that was brought to light several weeks later and to which the agency responded quickly and professionally.
No one can judge whether the agency responded quickly and professionally because a detailed timeline of who knew what when is simply not available. If McCain really valued “open discussion of the outbreak” they would publicize their own listeria test results leading up to the public recall in an outbreak that killed 20.
Every year I provide an intro food safety culture/stuff lecture to the veterinary students at Kansas State University. Always a good time in Pat Payne’s class, and the students have usually worked in food service and have stories to tell. This morning, the students even applauded when I trashed Chipotle for advertizing about the hypothetical risks associated with hormones rather than the things that make people barf – E. coli, salmonella, hepatitis A and norovirus.
The students all have computers, wireless access, cell phones, blackberries – there is no way to BS anyone; they are checking in real time.
I put up the slide below that Ben made a few weeks ago, to illustrate where food safety ranks in overall food culture concerns, and a student came up to me after class and said,
“I called the number. They don’t have anything about Phelps anymore. Your slide is out of date.”
Well played, sir.
At least they seemed to get a kick out of my line,
“Subway didn’t drop Phelps cause they know a lot of stoners eat subs.”
Restaurant disclosure systems, like letter grades in L.A. or coloured cards in Toronto, communicate restaurant inspection results to patrons. This week Durham Region in Ontario launched DineSafe, a food safety inspection disclosure program that uses coloured cards to communicate inspection scores. Green, yellow or red cards must be posted at food establishments, similar to the disclosure system in Toronto.
According to newsdurhamregion.com, during the first day 30 restaurants were inspected, with only two receiving yellow cards, and the remainder receiving green cards.
On Monday March 2, the first round of inspections under DineSafe resulted in two yellow cards, for the Akashia Japanese and Korean restaurant on Kingston Road West in Ajax and Wie Geht's Amigo on King Avenue East in Newcastle.
Ken Gorman, director of environmental health for Durham, said the Ajax restaurant received a yellow because of the level of cleanliness of food contact surfaces, food storage issues which could result in possible contamination and temperature abuse. The Newcastle restaurant's citations included food not being stored at the proper temperature, lack of paper towels and soap at the food and hand sink areas and sanitation problems with the floor, walls and equipment.
Both restaurants have been re-inspected and received green cards.
Gorman indicated he expects about 80 per cent of establishments will earn a green this year, and things are going well with the new program. He continued,
"Some people are very excited ... one got their green sign and they were cheering and clapping.”
In Durham Region the frequency of restaurant inspection is based on risk. High risk establishments are inspected three times per year, moderate risk twice a year, and low risk once a year. Overall inspection scores determine the colour of the sign issued to an establishment, green indicating a pass, yellow indicating substantial incompliance with provincial rules, and red indicating establishment closure.
Mansour, I couldn’t have said it better myself: “The contributions of third-party audits to food safety is the same as the contribution of mail-order diploma mills to education,” said Mansour Samadpour, a Seattle consultant who has worked with companies nationwide to improve food safety.
The Ponzi scheme that is third-party food safety audits is starting to collapse. Watching Jon Stewart on the Daily Show last night, the questions he asked to a N.Y. Times reporter about the financial mess could have easily been mapped to the food safety mess (see video below).
The N.Y. Times will report in tomorrow’s editions that the American Institute of Baking auditor who gave the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Georgia a superior rating before the peanut-salmonella shitstorm, was an expert in fresh produce and was not aware that peanuts were readily susceptible to salmonella poisoning — which he was not required to test for anyway. Oh, and PCA paid for the audit which Kelloog’s then blindly accepted.
The auditor even wrote in a Jan. 20 e-mail after the salmonella outbreak became public, that, “I never thought that this bacteria would survive in the peanut butter type environment. What the heck is going on??”
That’s why there’s FSnet and barfblog and hundreds of other food safety resources out there; he never heard of Peter Pan and salmonella in 2007?
In 2007, Keystone Foods, the Pennsylvania plant that makes Veggie Booty, received an “excellent” rating from the American Institute of Baking. But the audit did not extend to ingredient suppliers, including a New Jersey company whose imported spices from China were tainted with salmonella.
“The only thing that matters is productivity,” said Robert A. LaBudde, a food safety expert who has consulted with food companies for 30 years, adding that “you only get in trouble if someone in the media traces it back to you, and that’s rare, like a meteor strike.”
Dr. LaBudde said a sausage plant hired him five years ago to determine the species of bacillus plaguing its meat. But the owner then refused to complete the testing. “I called them ‘anthrax sausages,’ and said they could be killing older people in the state, and still they wouldn’t do it,” he said, declining to name the company. ...
Before the salmonella outbreak, Costco had rebuffed repeated proposals by the organization to inspect all its food suppliers. “The American Institute of Baking is bakery experts,” said R. Craig Wilson, the top food safety official at Costco. “But you stick them in a peanut butter plant or in a beef plant, they are stuffed.”
Costco, Kraft Foods and Darden Restaurants are among a group of food manufacturers and other companies that use detailed plans to prevent food safety hazards. They also supplement third-party audits with their own inspections and testing of ingredients and plant surfaces for microbes.
Some people will do anything for a quick buck. Fake health inspectors in the Greater Toronto Area have been targeting mom and pop food stores in purchasing food safety tests. If managers do not comply, they would be faced with severe health code violations. Now I have heard everything. Health inspectors are required to present valid identification prior to inspecting an establishment. If something does not look right, contact your local health authority. Food and water tests should also be performed in an accredited laboratory and not on site.
The Toronto Star writes this morning Mom-and-pop food stores and restaurants across the GTA are being scammed by fake health inspectors pushing unnecessary food and water tests, authorities say.
Dozens of convenience store and restaurant owners, most of them new Canadians, have told Peel, Halton and Toronto health departments that they were contacted by a "food and water safety technician" wanting to sell them $30 to $40 safety tests.
The so-called technicians reportedly say the tests are mandatory, and hand out what looks like "old meat plant inspection forms" from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said Matt Ruf, Halton Region's manager of food safety.
Halton and Toronto officials said the people typically identify themselves as representatives of the Canadian Food Safety Institute or the Canadian Food Safety Resource Centre, which the institute founded according to the website www.cfsrc.com.
The CFSI "is not an agency we would deal with," said Rob Colvin, manager of healthy environments for Toronto Public Health.
So far, only a handful of business owners – including two in Toronto – have paid for the tests, officials said.
The cases started emerging first in Peel and Halton in mid-January, then in Toronto about three weeks ago, Colvin said.
Jalal Hadibhai, who owns the Down Under convenience store in Yorkville, said a woman called Monday, saying she would send a technician the next day to perform E.coli tests in the store.
She wanted $39.95 in cash or cheque, he said.
Hadibhai called Toronto Public Health to ask if the tests were legitimate and was told no, he said.
In the end, no one came to the store.
"I would have asked for I.D.," the store owner said. "I would never give them cash."
Sgt. Brian Carr said Halton police are looking for a woman who attempted to sell the tests in a Hasty Market in Oakville yesterday.
She allegedly told the manager that without the tests he could face fines for health code violations.
The woman presented a business card indicating she was from the CFSRC, police said. The organization has addresses in Mississauga and Ottawa.
"There's no such unit out there," Carr said. Messages left for the CEO of the safety institute were not returned.
A toll-free number listed on both organizations' websites is out of order.
It's unclear how many people are involved, but "it seems there's a whole team of people out there," said Colvin.
Mark Nesbitt, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long- Term Care, said restaurant and store health inspections lie "entirely in the hands of local public health units."
Any private inspections purchased by business owners would be non- binding and, he added: "Buyer beware."
eatmedaily.com reports that UCLA French professor Laure Murat will present, “Queering Ratatouille: A Rat Reclaiming French Cuisine” this afternoon. Having just returned from the NeMLA (which Doug lovingly calls NAMBLA) annual meeting in Boston, my first thought was ratatouille is the perfect dish to represent queering. Then I realized this is a talk about a gay rat in a cartoon.
Ratatouille is a relatively safe dish from a food safety perspective. It’s a combination of vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, green bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions and the like, simmered or roasted together until the flavors meld into a gorgeous Mediterranean flavor. Any unsavory microorganisms should be amply cooked out by the time it is ready to serve.
While New Zealand’s Flight of the Conchords charmed the critics lat year, the best television show in recent times is Australia’s Summer Heights High. And while the show is set in Melbourne, a school in Australia’s Northern Territory has, according to The Courier-Mail, been battling sewage in its canteen sink, water contaminated with dog poo, and piles of rubbish that are causing public health risks.
The school, at Palumpa, near Wadeye in the Northern Territory, has been in the news because students have been forced to wade through a crocodile-infested billabong to get to classes and the school "bus" - a Toyota TroopCarrier - has been stalked by a crocodile.
The new findings are contained in a Health Department report, completed last month, which was obtained by the Northern Territory News.
The Northern Territory News also revealed that two Palumpa children were airlifted to Royal Darwin Hospital this week suffering gastro.
I can’t imagine prison is the ideal place to get sick, what with the lack of privacy when it comes to toilet facilities. I’ve experienced the wrath of norovirus, and it involves sitting on a toilet with your head in a garbage can for several hours. I consider myself at least fortunate to have had it happen in the privacy of my own bathroom, and not a shared dorm or prison cell.
Inmates at an Idaho prison were not so fortunate, reports The Olympian.
An outbreak of norovirus at the Idaho State Correctional Institution has prompted state officials to keep visitors and volunteers away from the facility.Central Health District officials say four inmates have confirmed cases of the highly contagious disease and at least three more cases are suspected.
In a separate story, Australian prisoners have been on a hunger strike after claiming fellow prisoners put poop in their lunch. From the WAtoday story,
The general manager of a Sunshine Coast prison has personally guaranteed the safety of prison meals after inmates went on a hunger strike amid claims their food was being laced with human faeces. Inmates were placed into lockdown after refusing to eat anything other than bread and milk following complaints about a tainted Sunday lunch served to them by other prisoners working in the facility's kitchen on February 22...
Norovirus is common in confined living spaces, like prisons or dorms, as it is easily transmitted by exposure to poop, vomit or blood. Symptoms usually persist for 48 to 72 hours, and in extreme cases can lead to hospitalization from dehydration.
The best way to prevent the spread of norovirus is through proper handwashing, especially after using the washroom. And eating off of a toilet seat likely isn’t the best way to avoid the spread of illness.
The satirical rockumentary Spinal Tap contains a scene where Nigel complains about the backstage food and the little pieces of bread (below). They also insist on blue M&Ms only.
Fox News is reporting that an Atlanta woman took a bite of a blue peanut M&M and discovered what a local biologist says is a vertebra from a small mammal.
Potts is not currently pursuing a lawsuit against Mars, the global giant that owns M&Ms, but the issue kept gnawing at her, so on Tuesday she said she took the object to Professor Larry Blumer, director of environmental studies in the biology department of Morehouse College in Atlanta, for an examination.
"It's definitely bone, and it came from some type of mammal," Blumer told FOXNews.com. "This isn't [a] tail vertebra — it's something higher up, and the reason I'm certain for that is because it's hollow. The nerve cord would run through there."
On Wednesday upon learning of the incident, Mars issued a statement noting that food and product quality is of "paramount importance to Mars."
Does anyone else notice the sanitized crap that spews forth from various industry associations? I know that being in an association means striving for the lowest common denominator, but why, in 2009, 11 years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration first proposed Good Agricultural Practices for fresh produce, and hundreds of outbreaks later, is the United Fresh Retail-Foodservice Board patting itself on the back for endorsing the importance of efforts to harmonize produce food safety audits to reduce cost and duplication of efforts, while enhancing overall safety?
Maybe I’m missing something but shouldn’t this have been initiated about 10 years ago? I’m all for exposing the Ponzi scheme that is food safety audits and the burden that repeated and replicated audits place on individual growers. I fought for audits that make sense to buyers when I chaired a Canadian Horticulture Council committee on the topic back in 2002ish. They didn’t like the recommendations of my committee because they wanted money from the federal government.
How’s that working out for ya?
At some point, the folks growers elect to represent them will ask, why would I pay hundreds of dollars to attend a conference that should have happened at least 10 years ago? How did we growers get into this mess of multiple audits? Why didn’t you tell the retailers what they needed to know, instead of the retailers imposing some stupid standard on growers?
Let the dancing begin – the wordplay salsa, the Ottawa shuffle, the Rideau skate.
Whatever it’s called there’s a lot of wordsmithing this morning as Canadian Press reports that listeria was discussed at a July 24, 2008 meeting between suits from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Maple Leaf, despite previous denials that listeria was ever mentioned.
CFIA and Maple Leaf now say they initially denied Listeria came up at the July meeting because it was not mentioned in the context of Canada's outbreak, which at that date had yet to be confirmed by lab tests.
So media outlets are running with the story, even though CFIA executive vice-president Brian Evans has a perfectly solid explanation that there was "absolutely no discussion" during the meeting about Listeria being linked to one of Maple Leaf's Toronto processing plants.
"Discussions focused on ensuring consistency of import monitoring with other jurisdictions for microbial pathogens, including Listeria.
"As the executive vice-president of CFIA, I have had countless conversations about Listeria and microbial control with industry. This kind of general conversation about food safety is par for the course during meetings with industry."
That’s probably true. But CFIA and Maple Leaf -- especially Maple Leaf if it’s the world-class thingy it claims to be – need to publicly state, for the record, who knew what when, instead of continuous damage control every time someone asks a question.
Notes from the July meeting, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, show that while Mr. Evans and Mr. McAlpine (of Maple Leaf) did talk about hog and pork operations, they also discussed "food safety in relation to Listeria."
Further information is blanked out in the documents released by the CFIA.
Way to build consumer confidence. Stop being reactive and take control of the situation. Or maybe there is something to hide.
Whenever a group says the public needs to be educated about food safety, biotechnology, trans fats, organics or anything else, that group has utterly failed to present a compelling case for their cause.
I cringe, and remember a Lewis Lapham column I read in Harper’s magazine in the mid-1980s about how individuals can choose to educate themselves about all sorts of interesting things, but the idea of educating someone is doomed to failure. Oh, and it’s sorta arrogant to state that others need to be educated; to imply that if only you understood the world as I understand the world, we would agree and dissent would be minimized.
Yet millions are wasted weekly on such campaigns.
Industry, government, academia, activists, they all resort to the same language when it comes to providing information: them folks need to get edumacated.
There is a dearth of scientific studies applying proven risk communication concepts to issues of microbial food safety. There is, however, an abundance of academic, industrial and government pronouncements on how to improve communications activities related to food safety, based on anecdotal evidence and almost always citing the need for “educated consumers” or “a better-educated public.”
Such proposals invoke a one-way, authoritarian model of communication that is characteristic of scientists and engineers in general. Further, exactly how this mythical consumer will become better educated remains a mystery. What is known is that the traditional approach of scientists clearly explaining the facts is “naive—and probably a recipe for failure. ... Effective communication “Too often, risk communicators are more concerned with educating the public, rather than first listening to them and then developing communication policies.”
So it’s not surprising that the organic industry is also lacking in imagination and has launched a national consumer education and marketing campaign.
The Organic Agriculture and Products Education Institute (Organic Institute) has launched "Organic. It's worth it."
"The mission of this campaign is to answer consumer questions about organic with the clear message that organic is worth it in every way from health care and economics to farming and the environment. It will increase consumer trust, knowledge and purchase of organic products," said Christine Bushway, president of the Organic Institute and executive director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), the sponsor of the campaign.
Designed to be of service to families with young children at home, the campaign especially seeks to reach new mothers, the primary gateways to organic, according to OTA Marketing Director Laura Batcha, who developed the campaign with Haberman, the Minneapolis brand public relations firm, on behalf of the Organic Institute.
"Helping mothers make the connection between the personal health of their families and the health of the environment is key to this education and marketing initiative," explained Batcha. "It gives them the rationale they need to make the organic purchase."
Of course, as the N.Y. Times points out this morning, organic has nothing to do with food safety. It’s a production standard, and a porous one at that. But consumers believe that organic is healthier and safer, according to surveys. The organic industry will never come out and say it’s safer, but they hint at it through marketing (see above).
So it’s a shock to some that Peanut Corporation of America plants in Virginia and Texas were certified organic, revealing the same Ponzi scheme of inspection and auditing that failed to catch Salmonella problems in the plants.
As the Times states,
Although the rules governing organic food require health inspections and pest-management plans, organic certification technically has nothing to do with food safety. …
A private certifier took nearly seven months to recommend that the U.S.D.A. revoke the organic certification of the peanut company’s Georgia plant, and then did so only after the company was in the thick of a massive food recall. So far, nearly 3,000 products have been recalled, including popular organic items from companies like Clif Bar and Cascadian Farm. Nine people have died and almost 700 have become ill.
The private certifier, the Organic Crop Improvement Association, sent a notice in July to the peanut company saying it was no longer complying with organic standards, said Jeff See, the association’s executive director. He would not say why his company wanted to pull the certification.
A second notice was sent in September, but it wasn’t until Feb. 4 that the certifier finally told the agriculture department that the company should lose its ability to use the organic label.
To emphasize that reporting basic health violations is part of an organic inspector’s job, Barbara C. Robinson, acting director of the agriculture department’s National Organic Program, last week issued a directive to the 96 organizations that perform foreign and domestic organic inspections that they are obligated to look beyond pesticide levels and crop management techniques.
Potential health violations like rats — which were reported by federal inspectors and former workers at the Texas and Georgia plants — must be reported to the proper health and safety agency, the directive said.
Wow. Organic inspectors have to be told by the feds that rats may pose a health risk and should be reported.
Arthur Harvey, a Maine blueberry farmer who does organic inspections, said agents have an incentive to approve companies that are paying them.
“Certifiers have a considerable financial interest in keeping their clients going,” he said.
OMG. Organic, like other food systems, is about making money.
Is there a better way? Yes, market microbial food safety and hold producers and processors – conventional, organic or otherwise – to a standard of producing food that doesn’t make people barf. That’s something shoppers will support, instead of being told they have to become better educated about someone else’s limited perspective.
University campuses are often the first mainstream pressure point to be hit with food fads. So it’s no surprise the Los Angeles Times reports this morning that a growing number of colleges are finding that campus farmers markets are a great fit, tapping into students' interest in sustaining the planet with an appealing combination of food, music and lots of people hanging out.
The University of Southern California held its first market in February 2008, the result of meetings between students and university officials that began in fall 2007.
Scott Shuttleworth, the university's director of hospitality said that having at least one farmer at the market was important to give shoppers a chance to talk with someone about "eco-friendly agriculture and organic and natural farming practices."
I’m not sure at what point only local, natural types who hang out at farmers markets cornered the language on “sustaining the planet” but it happened a while ago – and without discussion. As usual, what was lacking from the coverage was any discussion of microbial food safety standards; even suggesting such basics can bring the wrath of a tyrannical religion.
The author of the blog, Conkey’s Tavern, who’s a fan of local, as am I, agreed the other day with the idea of data: water quality results, data on soil amendments, evidence of compliance with handwashing and safe handling.
I’ve seen the funky commercials, and heard of its wonders from Ben, but an article in Twist Image is what really opened my eyes to the awesomeness of the iPhone; and how just one of the applications could be used in food safety communication.
Scan the barcode of any product in any store using your mobile phone and you can find out what people say about it, where you can get it cheapest, or you can even order it online right from your phone.
What kind of technology drives this? It must be some serious photo recognition software? This is all SnapTell says about it on their website: "SnapTell has created core patent pending proprietary technology for image matching that works with databases of millions of images. Our technology works effectively on pictures taken with any camera phone in the world, including ones that have VGA cameras or relatively low resolution (320x240) cameras. Also, our robust matching engine can handle pictures taken in real life conditions that may have lighting artifacts, focus/motion blur, perspective distortion and partial coverage. The technology works in a wide variety of real life scenarios including print advertisements, outdoor billboards, brand logos, product packaging, branded cans, bottles and wine labels."
Regardless of how it's done, there is no doubt that this adds many new and fascinating layers both to marketing and the in-store retail experience.
Now that’s cool. But how much cooler would it be if consumers could also receive food safety information regarding a product? During the peanut butter recall, instead of scanning the FDA list of recalled peanut products, what if consumers could have snapped a picture using a cell phone and receive up to date information on whether a certain granola bar was recalled? The iPhone has an application with restaurant take-out options, but what if the SnapTell application allowed users to snap a picture of a restaurant and instantly receive the latest inspection score?
Technology is changing the way consumers send and receive food safety information, from using cell phones to take pictures of mice in grocery stores, to reading barfblog. Using the latest technology to communicate food safety and recall information can benefit everyone. It allows consumers to instantly receive the information they desire, and in the recall example, could allow grocery stores to be certain they have pulled recalled product from store shelves.
Though the SnapTell application is currently only available for iPhone (as far as I know), I’m sure similar functions will appear on other phones soon, and hopefully someone will create an application to satisfy consumer food safety needs.
In yet another example of America’s slide toward Idiocracy, a Florida woman called 911 after paying for 10 Chicken McNuggets and told that no deep-fried chicken bits were available and would she like something else because all sales are final.
My husband just sent me a link with a recipe for some amazing broccoli – The Best Broccoli of Your Life, in fact.
It was a blog post by The Amateur Gourmet, lauding the cooking style of The Barefoot Contessa.
The Barefoot Contessa loves roasting. Specifically, she loves roasting vegetables at a high temperature until they caramelize.
As the recipe for roasted broccoli is relayed, The Amateur Gourmet reveals a secret that the Contessa doesn’t share:
[D]ry them THOROUGHLY. That is, if you wash them.
I saw an episode of Julia Child cooking with Jacques Pepin once when Pepin revealed he doesn't wash a chicken before putting it in a hot oven: "The heat kills all the germs," he said in his French accent. "If bacteria could survive that oven, it deserves to kill me."
By that logic, then, I didn't wash my broccoli; I wanted it to get crispy and brown. If you're nervous, though, just wash and dry it obsessively.
USDA agrees that, "It is not necessary to wash raw chicken. Any bacteria which might be present are destroyed by cooking." Though the temperature is measured in the food – not the oven.
You can be sure chicken is safe if a tip-sensitive digital thermometer reads 165 F in the thickest part of it.
Not much is said about temps for vegetables, though. I vaguely remember the test for ServSafe certification a few years ago suggesting they reach 135 F, but that’s not even out of the 40 F – 140 F “danger zone” and I have no science to back it.
I have seen the science on the internalization of pathogens in some produce and in such cases washing will not make vegetables any safer to eat.
So I might just cook it unwashed. Or I might be “obsessive.” Either way, I’ve got what I need to make an informed decision; it’ll be my choice and not my ignorance that leaves the possibility for pathogens in.
Nebraska Health and Human Services says the initial testing links the outbreak to source-alfalfa sprouts from a local grower, CW Sprouts in Omaha.
Public health workers have been interviewing individuals involved in the outbreak, as well as people in a control group that helps interviewers determine the food source. The interviews led epidemiologists to conclude that sprouts were reported in a high number of food histories of ill people, thus there was a strong association with sprouts.
Nebraska's chief medical officer Joann Schaefer held a press conference Tuesday releasing the following information:
- As of Tuesday, the state health department had confirmed 14 cases of Salmonella in Nebraska.
- The cases were reported from Feb. 2 to Feb. 23.
And in a great example of good communication, the health authorities said that there really wasn't much a consumer could do once they had the product (other than cook it):
While the health department recommended consumers wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption, Schaefer acknowledged that doing so likely would not have prevented the most recent outbreak. Schaefer said officials believe the salmonella was probably within the alfalfa sprouts, and therefore, could not be washed off.
"The company does all sorts of washing procedures in its plant," Schaefer said. "It's state of the art. It's probably one of the cleanest facilities we've seen."
A clean facility doesn't do a whole lot if the seeds come in contaminated. The warm and humid environment that sprouting plants grow in provide a fantastic situation for pathogens to thrive. Pathogens have been shown to attach and survive within the layers of the sprout, making washing virtually useless.
The FDA offers the following advice to all consumers concerning sprouts:
Cook all sprouts thoroughly before eating to significantly reduce the risk of illness.
Sandwiches and salads purchased at restaurants and delicatessens often contain raw sprouts. Consumers who wish to reduce their risk of foodborne illness should specifically request that raw sprouts not be added to their food.
Homegrown sprouts also present a health risk if eaten raw or lightly cooked. Many outbreaks have been attributed to contaminated seed. If pathogenic bacteria are present in or on seed, they can grow to high levels during sprouting even under clean conditions.
A selection of past sprouts-related outbreaks can be found here.
It was reading week (the Canadian equivalent to spring break) a few weeks ago, and through my Facebook creeping I saw that many of my friends traveled south for vacation. Nothing quite evaporates the stress of midterm exams like tanning and over-consuming alcohol.
Unfortunately for dozens of vacationers at a Cape Verde island resort, fun in the sun was accompanied with stomach cramps and diarrhea, reports the Yorkshire Evening Post.
A group of 40 sunseekers want compensation after a stay at the Riu Garopa and Riu Funana hotels on the Cape Verde islands, off the west African coast, left them seriously ill. A further 70 people who were also affected have sought legal advice. Solicitors at Irwin Mitchell say calls are still coming in and they expect the number of complaints to hit 200.
Some guests who were there between August and October last year claim food at the hotels was undercooked, uneaten meals were re-served, and food was often left uncovered and unprotected from insects.
One of the sick vacationers, Barry Taylor, who stayed at the Riu Garopa in September with his wife, said,
"I've never experienced illness like this before. It was horrendous. It ruined our holiday and we're still suffering from some of the symptoms today, more than four months after the trip.”
"The standards at the Garopa were disgraceful. There was a smell of sewage hanging around the place and there were huge cockroaches everywhere – in the dining room, the bedrooms, down the corridors. My wife managed to get into the town to get medication that a doctor prescribed but because there was so many people ill they had run out."
The cause of illness is believed to be Shigella, often contracted through consumption of contaminated food or water. Fecally contaminated water and unsanitary handling by food handlers are the most common causes of contamination with Shigella. In the past salads (potato, tuna, macaroni), raw vegetables, dairy products and poultry have been implicated as vectors for illness.