Thursday, December 18, 2014

As US Poultry Industry Braces for the Potential of Avian Flu, H5N2, People Not at Risk

Avian influenza has been found in wild birds on the US border.  USDA has not found it in in US poultry, but the strains H5N2 and H5N8 have been found in Canadian and European flocks.  While these strains are highly pathogenic to birds, they are not considered a risk to people.
Migratory birds such as ducks are a risk factor for spreading the virus to the US poultry population.  Once infected, the flock is often culled to eliminate further risk of spreading the virus.

Just this past year, the pork industry suffered the fate of the PED virus, or Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.  PEDV causes severe diarrhea in pigs and has a high lethality in piglets, but poses no risk to other animals or humans.   PED and Influenza are different types of viruses. PED is from the Coronaviridae family of enveloped, positive-stranded RNA viruses.  Influenza is an Orthomyxovirus.

H5N2, H5N8 avian flu viruses surface in US
Robert Roos | News Editor | CIDRAP News
Dec 16, 2014

US authorities today reported finding wild birds in Washington state infected with two different highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses, H5N2 and H5N8, raising questions about possible connections with recent H5N2 outbreaks across the border in Canada and with an Asian H5N8 strain that is now hitting European poultry farms.

In reports to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said H5N2 was found in a wild pintail duck, while H5N8 was found in a captive wild gyrfalcon that was fed on hunter-killed birds. Both birds were in Whatcom County, Washington, which borders the Abbotsford area of British Columbia, the site of recent H5N2 outbreaks in poultry.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Catered Office Party Is the Site of Staph Aureus Intoxication

Approximately 60 people became ill after attending an office party in Florida.  About 25 were taken to the hospital.  The catered event served turkey, ham, stuffing and green bean to some 700 people.   The caterer was identified as Kitchen Divas, which from the website, appears to be a legitimate operation.

The illness appears to be Staphylococcus aureus intoxication, and one would guess the level of toxin formed in the food would be pretty high because of the short duration from the time the product was eaten to the point when people become ill, and the fact they had to cart people to the hospital.

If this is the case, it would mean that one of the foods served was drastically temperature abused.

It sucks when staff parties turn into 'staph' parties.  We highlighted a similar event within the past month in North Carolina where more than a dozen postal workers become ill.  Makes you reconsider attending your company's holiday party, doesn't it?

WKMG Local 6 Orlando
Dozens sickened at office holiday party in Maitland
Officials say 30 taken to hospital for apparent food poisoning
Author: Shaun Chaiyabhat, Reporter,
Michelle Dendy, Web Editor,
Published On: Dec 10 2014 04:48:18 PM EST Updated On: Dec 12 2014 06:41:14 AM EST 


Authorities are investigating what caused nearly 60 people to fall ill at a large holiday party in a Maitland office building Wednesday afternoon.

Orange County Fire Rescue, Seminole County Fire Rescue and Winter Park Fire Department were called to the office building at 2301 Lucien Way roughly two hours after the building-wide catered luncheon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Report - Increased Outbreaks Associated with Raw Milk

In a survey looking at illness related to raw milk over a 5 year period, researchers concluded that the number of illnesses associated with raw milk has increased.  Basically, it is because more people are drinking raw milk.  There are now more states that allow for the sale of raw milk (currently 30).

There is a higher risk of foodborne illness from drinking raw milk.  If one chooses to drink raw milk, they should know that.

Emerging Infectious Disease

Volume 21, Number 1—January 2015
Increased Outbreaks Associated with Nonpasteurized Milk, United States, 2007–2012


Within this 6-year period, the number of outbreaks associated with nonpasteurized milk increased. The number of outbreaks caused by Campylobacter spp. nearly doubled. The average number of outbreaks associated with nonpasteurized milk was 4-fold higher during this 6-year period (average 13.5 outbreaks/year) than that reported in a review of outbreaks during 1993–2006 (3.3 outbreaks/year) (4). This increase was concurrent with a decline in the number of states in which the sale of nonpasteurized milk was illegal, from 28 in 2004 to 20 in 2011 (79) and with an increase in the number of states allowing cow-share programs (from 5 in 2004 to 10 in 2008) (8,9). The decision to legalize the sale of nonpasteurized milk or allow limited access through cow-share programs may facilitate consumer access to nonpasteurized milk (5). The higher number of outbreaks in states in which the sale of nonpasteurized milk is legal has been reported elsewhere (4).

The legal status of nonpasteurized milk sales in 1 state can also lead to outbreaks in neighboring states. In a 2011 outbreak of Campylobacter spp. infections associated with nonpasteurized milk in North Carolina, where sales of this product were prohibited, milk was purchased from a buying club in South Carolina, where sales were legal. Another outbreak of Campylobacter spp. infection in 2012 implicated nonpasteurized milk from a farm in Pennsylvania, where sales are legal; cases from this outbreak were reported from Maryland, West Virginia, and New Jersey, all of which prohibit sale of raw milk (10). All patients residing outside Pennsylvania had traveled to Pennsylvania to purchase the milk (10).

Outbreaks associated with nonpasteurized milk continue to pose a public health challenge. Legalization of the sale of nonpasteurized milk in additional states would probably lead to more outbreaks and illnesses. This possibility is especially concerning for vulnerable populations, who are most susceptible to the pathogens commonly found in nonpasteurized milk (e.g., children, senior citizens, and persons with immune-compromising conditions). Public health officials should continue to educate legislators and consumers about the dangers associated with consuming nonpasteurized milk; additional information can be obtained at In addition, federal and state regulators should enforce existing regulations to prevent distribution of nonpasteurized milk.

Report - Phthalates and IQ Levels in Children

A published study claims a link between lower IQ levels in children with higher levels of phthalates in their mothers during pregnancy.  But there have been other linkages to issues associated with development and reproductive health.  The chemical does not bioaccumulate in the body and does break down in the environment..

Phthalates are used in a large variety of products, from enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills, gelling agents,  adhesives and glues, detergents, packaging, children's toys, modelling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles. Phthalates are also frequently used in soft plastic fishing lures, sex toys, caulk, paint pigments, shower curtains, vinyl upholstery, adhesives, floor tiles, food containers and wrappers, and cleaning materials. Personal-care items containing phthalates include perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray.  Items made of PVC and cosmetics may be the primary contributors.

 So it is easy to see that people are commonly exposed to phthalates.  In one study, CDC has found that people had the metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine.

From the FDA webpage on the topic:
FDA reviewed the safety and toxicity data for phthalates, including the CDC data from 2001, as well as the CIR conclusions based on reviews in 1985 and 2002. While the CDC report noted elevated levels of phthalates excreted by women of child-bearing age, neither this report nor the other data reviewed by FDA established an association between the use of phthalates in cosmetic products and a health risk. Based on this information, FDA determined that there wasn’t a sound, scientific basis to support taking regulatory action against cosmetics containing phthalates.
Here is the link to the CDC website on the topic.

Like BPA, there is controversy around the real risk associated with phthalates.  And so what we can say is that where possible, we avoid risk.  This is not always easy because many of the items where phthalates are used, do not have regulations that require them on the label.  So on cosmetic items, especially fragrances, look for 'phthalate free'.  Use plastic with recycling codes 1, 2, and 5.  Throw out old plastic toys (pre-2010) or don't let little kids play with them (for you 'collectors').  Do not heat food in plastic containers.  Sex toys....won't go there.

Prenatal exposure to chemicals tied to lower IQ at age 7
By Kathryn Doyle

Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:20pm EST

(Reuters Health) - Children whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of phthalates, common chemicals in consumer products, in late pregnancy tend to score lower than other kids on intelligence tests at age seven, according to a new study.

Some soaps, nail polish, hairspray, shower curtains, raincoats, car interiors and dryer sheets contain phthalates, which are used as so-called plasticizers, or softening agents.

At present, the Food and Drug Administration does not have evidence that phthalates as used in cosmetics pose a safety risk, but six types of phthalates are currently banned from children’s toys, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Does BPA increase Blood Pressure? The BPA Controversy Continues

In the ongoing controversy on BPA, that chemical used in the lining of cans and in plastic containers, a Korean research team claims that BPA increases blood pressure. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) countered and said the study "inappropriately concerns and confuses consumers" in that the claim "is a gross overstatement of the findings, an incredible disservice to public health, and runs contrary to years of research by government scientists".

Huffington Post
BPA In Cans Tied To Increased Blood Pressure
Posted: 12/08/2014 4:31 pm EST Updated: 12/08/2014 5:59 pm EST
By Andrew M. Seaman

(Reuters Health) - People have small increases in blood pressure after drinking from cans lined with material that includes a common chemical, South Korean researchers say.

When can linings contained bisphenol A - more commonly known as BPA - systolic blood pressure (the top number) went up by about 5 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg), researchers found.

"I would like to recommend consumers use fresh foods or glass bottled foods rather than canned foods," said Dr. Yun-Chul Hong, the study's senior researcher from the Seoul National University College of Medicine. "I also hope manufacturers develop and use healthy alternatives (instead) of BPA for inner lining of the can containers."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Increasing Demand for Organic Food Challenges Certifying Inspector Capacity

USDA estimates that the double digit growth in organic food will reach $35 Billion in sales this year.

According to a report in the WSJ,  this has created challenges for the inspectors who certify those farms as organic.  There are 81 accredited agencies who certify farms and according to the report:

40% of these 81 certifiers have been flagged by the USDA for conducting incomplete inspections; 16% of certifiers failed to cite organic farms’ potential use of banned pesticides and antibiotics; and 5% failed to prevent potential commingling of organic and nonorganic products

It is  not an easy task....farms must keep accurate records in order to show compliance with numerous restrictions.  And these records must be maintained over a number of years to demonstrate that the food can be called organic.

But for the consumer, they are willing to pay more than double for organic foods.

Wall Street Journal - Business

Organic-Farming Boom Stretches Certification System
USDA Farms Out Inspections, but Thoroughness Is Questioned
Caelainn Barr Dec. 9, 2014 12:53 p.m. ET

The $35 billion organic-food industry has nearly tripled in size in the past decade, challenging the Agriculture Department’s ability to monitor the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock.

Sliced Apple Product Recalled Due to Positive Listeria Test

Del Monte is recalling approximately 3000 units of packaged sliced apples after the Ohio Department of Health found Listeria in testing retail product.  No illnesses have been reported.  The product identified in the recall is past its expiration date.

While the risk of a Listeria outbreak from sliced apples may be considered low due to lack of an associated outbreak, there have been recalls of sliced apples due to Listeria.  One recall occurred at a Washington company in 2013 and also at a New Jersey company in 2012.  Listeria has been shown to grow on sliced apples when those apples are temperature abused, or when certain spoilage organisms grow and cause fruit rotting (Conway, eta. 2000).  So while the shelf-life on this product is relatively short (approximately 12 days), there theoretically can be an issue in certain situations.


Business Wire
Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Fresh Cut Fruit Containing Gala Red Apple in a Few States in North East US Because of Possible Health Risk

December 10, 2014 12:39 AM Eastern Standard Time

CORAL GABLES, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. (“Del Monte Fresh”) announced today the voluntary recall of fresh cut fruit containing Gala red apples grown in Pennsylvania. The affected product was distributed to a limited number of customers in a few States in North East US and is being recalled because these apples have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.