Thursday, October 23, 2014

Is Poor Nutrition Linked to Children's Bad Behavior?

In this month's Food Technology (October, 2014), the feature article A Diet for a Kinder Planet lays out some of the research that indicated a link between poor nutrition and bad behavior. 

It states that omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc and tryptophan may be essential for mental balance.  These are often lacking in the diets of children.  Because of this, they suggest that be a cause of antisocial behavior.

The omega-3 fatty acids an important component in brain tissue (considering the 60% of the brain's composition is fat....I guess it is not bad to be called a fat head).   "In particular, the omega-3 fatty acid docasohexaenoic acid (DHA) makes up a significant proportion of nerve-cell membranes and synapse in the central nervous system.."  One of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids is fish.

The article admits that the studies to this point only demonstrate a positive correlation and do not indicate causation.  This is an interesting read.

Food Technology (October, 2014)
A Diet for a Kinder Planet Toni Tarver | October 2014, Volume 68, No.10

Considered essential for good health, a wholesome diet and good nutrition may also help improve the behavior and mood of society at large.

Good nutrition is a prerequisite for proper development of the human body after conception, and it is considered a crucial factor in the prevention of chronic disease. It is widely accepted that cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and other manifestations of chronic inflammation can be controlled or averted with a nutritious diet. Consequently, the food and nutrition policies of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and other wealthy countries have focused almost exclusively on how diet affects physical well-being, recommending proper caloric and nutrient intakes for a healthy heart and healthy teeth, bones, and weight. However, these policies make little or no reference to the human brain, which is the most complex part of the body.

The brain regulates the functioning of vital bodily organs, is the center for intelligence and emotional response, and consumes approximately 20% of the body’s caloric energy. The brain is also responsible for the expression of personality, mood, and behavior—all of which define humanity. Yet wealthy countries with diverse and extensive food and nutrition policies focused on healthy bodily functions and physical well-being have largely ignored the importance of proper brain function and behavioral well-being. As a consequence, Westernized countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have experienced a precipitous rise in aggression, irritability, impulsivity, and other antisocial behaviors. Are these displays simply a consequence of the extensive free will enjoyed by Americans, Britons, and others, or is something else at play? A fascinating field of research suggests that depression, aggression, impulsivity, and other displays of antisocial behavior may be the result of nutrient deficiencies in the brain and that certain foods and the nutrients they contain may curtail the expression of antisocial behavior.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Serrano Chile Peppers Recalled Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination

 A North Carolina Company is recalling Serrano Chile Peppers after they received notice that the Michigan Department of Agriculture found a positive Salmonella sample in a lot. No illnesses have been reported.

Salmonella on peppers can be an issue because these peppers are often raw when making fresh salsa. Case in point is the 2008 Salmonella Saint Paul Outbreak where the CDC stated "the investigation showed that jalapeƱo peppers were a major source of contamination and that serrano peppers also were a source".  In this case, it is believed that the diced tomatoes served to support the growth of the Salmonella when that salsa was held at room temperature.

FDA Recall Notice
Bailey Farms Inc. Recalls Fresh Serrano Chile Peppers Because Of Possible Health Risk

Contact:  Consumer:  1-888-820-2545

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — October 21, 2014 — Bailey Farms, Inc. of Oxford, NC is voluntarily recalling 6,215 pounds of Fresh Serrano Chile Peppers, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditic and arthritis.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Opinion - Ebola in Dallas Gets Off Easy Compared to Food

This past week Ebola got a running start in the US because it was not quarantined well enough, resulting in two health workers becoming ill with the life threatening infection, and now the potential for contamination on a cruise ship. Could you imagine the level of outrage there would have been if a similar situation occurred in a food facility where an infected food worker contaminated a food that resulted in two life threatening illnesses? Could you imagine the media generated public beating food executives would have taken if this company had overlooked symptoms that were presented to them?

Perhaps those of us who work with the food industry are a bit sensitive. And this is not to say there have not been issues, because here has. But I don’t see the onslaught of press releases condemning CDC or hospital officials, especially from the lawyer types who are so skilled in getting their news releases into the mass media channels regarding foodborne illness outbreaks. Where is the Bill Marler equivalent for the healthcare industry? Where are the proposals for enhanced regulations with stricter environmental control in hospital settings?

A case in point is environmental control for nosocomial infections being linked to food. In a recent PBS Frontline series on infections caused by antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, the focus was on whether food related transfer was responsible for the increasing number of antibiotic resistant infections.  

I do not have a problem with trying to understand the risk of this link between antibiotic usage on the farm and how it is related to infections of the general public, but where is the investigation on whether those specific strains may be originating in the hospitals and health care facilities…places where those specific antibiotics are used , where there are plenty of high risk individuals, and where environmental control is not at the same level as we see in food plants.

In this Frontline report, a young epidemiologist travels to Central PA to study how MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is related to pig farms. The woman put up a map showing the number of cases in relation to the location of pig farms. The match was far from perfect, but there was some overlap. However, It would have been interesting to see the overlap between MRSA cases and individuals that visited area hospitals. Or the link between wrestling teams and those cases reported. (Yeah, there is some big time wrastlin’ in Central PA….unfortunately a sport that is conducive to the spread of MRSA).

Certainly the technology exists now, especially with whole genome sequencing, to traceback these cases seem in the general population to order to discover more definitive links. But rather, there seems to be a tendency to speculate, especially where that speculation can wrangle up some big news stories. Unfortunately, the food and food related industries, they seem to be the low hanging fruit for the picking.  

Fortunately, unlike some of these antibiotic resistant bacterial pathogens, Ebola is not a very hardy environmental pathogen and thus has not been linked to food…..yet.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NM Peanut Farmers Still Impacted by 2012 Peanut Butter Recall

The economic impact resulting from the 2012 Peanut Butter Salmonella outbreak is still being felt by the regional peanut farmers in New Mexico.  Farmers in this region had grown Valencia peanuts to supply to the Sunland Plant.  After the outbreak, the plant was shut down as the company went bankrupt. The plant was subsequently sold to another company, but the plant has yet to reopen.  And so the farmers have had to plant lot less peanuts, and have moved on to other crops.

These outbreaks go far beyond the cost of the recall.  There are the people who suffered from the Salmonella illness, plant workers who lost their jobs,  the transportation/warehouse providers who lost business, the impact on local businesses were the workers shop, and the suppliers, including in this case, the farmers, who lost their customer.

US News and World Report

New Mexico peanut industry slow to rebound following 2012 salmonella outbreak, production down
Associated Press Oct. 15, 2014 | 4:27 p.m. EDT
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — There will be significantly fewer peanuts pulled from the ground in eastern New Mexico this harvest season because of lingering fallout from the bankruptcy and sale of a peanut-processing plant that was at the heart of a 2012 salmonella outbreak and nationwide recall.

Peanut farmers are expected to bring in 6 million pounds less this year, according to forecasts released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That represents nearly a 30 percent drop in production in New Mexico from the year before.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ebola virus - A Short Primer on Virus Survival and Disinfection

Here is a short primer on Ebola - condensed from information from the CDC website - focusing on disinfection and survival in the environment.
Survival in the Environment
According to the CDC, under ideal conditions where there is organic material (such as blood), the Ebola virus was show to survive up to 6 days in the environment.  But these viruses are susceptible to drying, UV and disinfectants.  (I is important to point out that there have been limited studies.)
That said, without organic material, it will die off quickly, so it is not likely to be present on doorknobs and light switches or other items that people simply touch (without blood or other organic residue).

How does this compare to Norovirus which can survive in the environment for weeks to months?  There are two categories of viruses - non-enveloped and enveloped.  All viruses are comprised of by genetic material within a protein structure or capsid....but enveloped viruses also have a lipid envelope surrounding that protein capsid while the non-enveloped virus do not.  Ebola is an enveloped virus, and that outer lipid layer, so important for attachment and entry to the cell, is more subject to environmental conditions.  Norovirus, a non-enveloped virus, is more resistant.
According to the CDC, Use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered hospital disinfectant with a label claim for a non-enveloped virus (e.g., norovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus, poliovirus) to disinfect environmental surfaces in rooms of patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus infection. Although there are no products with specific label claims against the Ebola virus, enveloped viruses such as Ebola are susceptible to a broad range of hospital disinfectants used to disinfect hard, non-porous surfaces.
Basically, if it is good against the more hardy viruses like Norovirus, it will be fine against Ebola.

From the CDC Website (below)
When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with
  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola 
  • objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
  • infected animals
  • Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.
  • Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 yrs

NC Company Recalls Vending-Machine Packaged Sandwiches Due to Potential Listeria Contamination

A North Carolina company that produces packaged sandwiches for vending type operations is recalling a wide variety of sandwiches after NC State found sample(s) to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Ready-to-eat sandwiches like this normally have a short shelf life, and have not been subject to recalls, although these types of items can certainly be a vehicle.  Sanitation control in the processing environment is critical for controlling in order to prevent contamination, especially equipment like meat slicers, ingredient refrigerated storage, and cutting boards.

UPDATE 10/23/2014

The company decided to shut down the facility, laying off 84 employees.


FDA Recall Notice
Sunburst Foods Recalls Products Because Of Possible Health Risk
Contact: Consumer: 919-778-2151

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 12, 2014 - SunBurst Foods, Goldsboro NC is voluntarily recalling all of its SunBurst, Fresh Bites and Private labeled products which are currently in the market because these products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

CA Company Recalls Pumpkin Seed Pesto in Jars Due to Improper Processing

A California company is recalling Pumpkin Seed Pesto, packaged for the Williams Sonoma label, after it was determined that the product may have been improperly processed, making it a Clostridium botulinum risk.   No illnesses have been reported.

This is another case of products being recalled due to improper processing / C. bolulinum risk issues.  Last month, a WA state company recalled pasta sauce.  Then there was the other CA company that recalled pesto sauce after being linked to a botulism recall.  In these cases, strict process controls are needed in properly ensuring the low acid ingredients are treated (acidified, water activity lowered) in order to prevent C. bolulinum growth.