Updates from October, 2015 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • EmilyChow 7:24 pm on October 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    China has Zero Tolerance for Listeria monocytogenes 

    Did you know that China has a zero pathogen standard that needs to be met for meat imports? Whether raw or cooked, meat and poultry from Canada shipped to China must contain no amounts of Listeria monocytogenes. How would this affect China’s food market and food availability?

    Listeria monocytogenes is a facultative anaerobe, meaning that this bacterium is able to survive in environments absent of oxygen. It also has the capability of growing in temperatures ranging from 0 to 40 degrees Celsius. This allows Listeria monocytogenes to grow and to survive on refrigerated and frozen foods respectively. In Canada, presence of the bacteria on food is permitted as long as the detected amount is below 125 CFU/g for category 1 RTE foods and less than 100 CFU/g for categories 2A and 2B. These values were established because foods with less than these detected amounts of L. monocytogenes have low risk of causing illness. In fact, most foods consumed in Canada are usually tainted with L. monocytogenes. According to Health Canada, there is a 0-10% frequency of L. monocytogenes found in RTE foods.

    Food from Canada that is exported must comply with the regulations of the country receiving the food, in this case, China. According to the China National Standards (GB 29921-2013), meat products cannot contain any amount of Listeria monocytogenes for every 5 samples tested. If meat and ready-to-eat (RTE) food producers want to export their products to China, they need to apply procedures that would completely eliminate L. monocytogenes from the food. To ensure that cross contamination does not occur, exporters need to follow proper equipment maintenance, sanitation, and handling procedures; however, this may be difficult for Canadian producers to achieve if we export our meat to countries with such requirements because meat can be contaminated through packaging and shipment processes. In addition, there is difficulty in eliminating the bacteria from foods due to the resistant qualities of L. monocytogenes such as sanitizer, acid, and desiccation tolerance, as well as its ability to attach and remain on surfaces.

    China’s zero tolerance policy for the presence of L. monocytogenes in meat poses as an issue for other countries wanting to import their meat into China. If China buys meat from Canada and the meat gets tainted during exportation, China destroys the meat. This waste and reduction in food imports is not only harmful to both economies, but also to the food supply in China. Moreover, implementation and regulation of stricter laws is costly.

    Compared to previous years, the presence of L. monocytogenes in foods has been increasing. The number of incidences of foodborne infection due to L. monocytogenes reported in China is similar to the numbers from different countries. Since China’s food market is rapidly developing, along with an increase in the population, there is a demand for pre-made, RTE foods. This increased consumption may also mean that there is more risk of infection, but there may also be a lack of supply due to the restrictions on imports. According to the WHO, the likelihood of developing listeriosis depends on multiple factors including how the food is stored, how many times contaminated food is consumed, and the amount of pathogen on the food. Rather than having the zero tolerance policy, perhaps China can consider educating consumers on basic food safety principles.

    Considering the risk of infection and the loss of trade, do you think the zero tolerance policy is necessary?

    Works Cited

    China National Standards (26 Dec 2013). Food Safety National Standard Limit of Pathogens in Food Products. Retrieved from http://cexgan.magrama.es/MODULOS05/Documentos/GB29921-2013-PatogenosEnAlimentos.pdf

    Feng, Y., Wu, S., Varma, J. K., Klena, J. D., Angulo, F. J., & Ran, L. (2013). Systematic review of human listeriosis in china, 1964–2010. Tropical Medicine & International Health, 18(10), 1248-1256. doi:10.1111/tmi.12173

    Health Canada (1 Apr 2011). Policy on Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Foods. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/alt_formats/pdf/legislation/pol/policy_listeria_monocytogenes_2011-eng.pdf

    Wu, S., Wu, Q., Zhang, J., Chen, M., Yan, Z. A., & Hu, H. (2015). Listeria monocytogenes prevalence and characteristics in retail raw foods in china. PloS One, 10(8), e0136682. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0136682

    • yichen25 10:33 pm on October 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I personally think that the zero tolerance policy shouldn’t be enforced in China. There are definitely some pros and cons when it comes to zero tolerance policy of Listeria monocytogenes. The pros being that the meat that arrived in China is much safer for consumption as there are no traces of Listeria monocytogenes, which further decrease the risk of foodborne diseases. However, in this case, the cons outweigh the pros. This is because the implementation of zero tolerance policy will result in less international meat trading between China and other countries and also contributes to more meat wastage as all the imported meats that doesn’t fulfill the requirements will be sent for disposal. China should definitely consider loosening their tolerance policy for Listeria monocytogenes to find a balance that will benefit them the most.

    • JorgeMadrigalPons 12:56 am on November 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with yinchen25. China may be loosing more with this zero tolerance policy. Population in China is really large, thus they must have an efficient food supply system. I think it could be better if the Chinese government focused on informing its citizens about the potencial problems of eating RTE. It is known that Listeria monocytogenes tends to target immuno-compromised individuals, like children, pregnant women, or elderly people, therefore, I think that cutting RTE meats from these individuals diets could prevent potential infections.

    • angel519 3:50 pm on November 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I am surprised to know that China has such a strict policy on import meat produce. I think having a zero tolerance for Listeria monocytogenes is a good approach of preventing foodborne illnesses caused by L.monocytogenes. However, since the number of incidences in China is similar to the numbers from other countries, the governmnet should pay more attention on inspections of post-import activities such as transporting and processing. Even if the imported produce has no L.monocytogenes, inappropriate manufactor practices will introduce the pathogen to the produce. The whole process from import to consumer should be inspected and regulated strictly to be able to achieve zero tolerance and reduce in L.monoctyogenes induced illnesses.

    • DeniseZhang 9:31 pm on November 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I am from China and I did hear a lot of food safety issues in China these years. Maybe it’s due to this “zero tolerance policy”, Listeria is actually not the most reported cause of food-borne illness in the news that I have heard of. I do think a strict regulation is necessary, as there are more and more food safety issues are revealed and reported, food safety becomes a big concern to most of Chinese, as least to those who care about the quality and the safety of the food. After years hearing sever consequences caused by unsafe foods, people were kind of scared and try to seek out foods that come from more reliable source. Therefore I think a strict regulation on Listeria can provide a safety barrier for people in China not just physically but also mentally. Yes, there might be loss in economics, (please don’t judge) but I think food safety is more important for people.

    • wen liao 4:09 pm on November 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is very interesting that China has such a strict policy on L. monocytogenes while China is one of the countries that has the most food associated outbreaks. However, I do think that it is a good policy especially considering the current status of Chinese food industry. In China, there are many aspects of food production and processing that is not strictly supervised and controlled, which lead to a lot of foodborne outbreaks that should be avoided. For example: the melamine adulteration in infant formula posed a large scandal over Chinese milk industry. Although it is a very strict rule that L. monocytogenes is zero tolerated in China, I have to say that it is better to be safe than sorry.

    • NorrisHuang 4:17 pm on November 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I kind of have mixed feeling about this “zero tolerance policy” because it is being enforced in China and still China has similar number of listerosis cases as the other countries, wouldn’t it be worse if this policy is no longer administered? But I also agree that this policy does affect international trade. Grew up in China, I don’t think much of the food safety cases are related to microorganisms. More of them are related to food adulteration and addition of illegal food additives. And I am also surprised to know that China has such a strict policy on microbial aspect of imported food.

    • Michelle Ebtia 10:30 pm on November 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is certainly as good as it can get in terms of food safety and risk elimination rather than mitigation. However, as noted by other readers, the costs associated with this policy might outweigh the benefits, e.g. loss of trade. Also, from an international trade perspective, one might wonder if this policy is in place in an attempt to limit the RTE import to china, for example in support of local food production. This assertion might be backed up by a study (Shi et al. 2015) that found 6.87% of RTE food samples in China are contaminated by Listeria anyway!

      Work cited:
      Shi, W., Qingping, W., Jumei, Z., Moutong, C., & Zéan, Y. (2015). Prevalence, antibiotic resistance and genetic diversity of Listeria monocytogenes isolated from retail ready-to-eat foods in China. Food Control, 47, 340-347.

    • teewong 11:47 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I can understand where China is coming from when they imposed the zero pathogen tolerance policy on import foods. RTE foods stand for “ready to eat”, meaning no prior preparations (ex. thermal processing, freezing) are needed prior to consuming, therefore, the chances of getting infected from eating RTE foods are very high! I agree with @emilychow that China should enforce more on educating the public more on food safety preparations, however, in RTE foods, there is really very little we could do to eliminate the pathogen since they are way too tiny to be seen with bare eyes. The most we could do is to throw away the product if it looks spoiled. Listeria monocytogene is also a tricky pathogen since it could grow at refrigerated temperature. I feel it is totally reasonable that they pose a food safety regulation on imported foods.

  • AngeliMalimban 7:06 pm on October 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Listeria Monocytogenes in Adolf’s Deli Meats and Whole Foods Curry Chicken 

    American Thanksgiving is coming up, which is a prime time for meat producers as they will be selling a lot of turkey, ham, chicken, and many other meats that most families traditionally consume on Thanksgiving. If families are tight for time to prepare food, or have a lot of people to prepare food for, some will resort to getting Ready-to-Eat meats from the deli, such as ordering deli turkey breasts or deli ham.
    With the purchase of ready-to-eat (RTE) meats comes the risk of Listeriosis, as RTE meats are one of the favourite breeding grounds for L. monocytogenes.

    On October 29th, 2015, and still currently, American consumers have been warned about meat that could be potentially contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. This particular outbreak was attributed to smoked kielbasa, hams, Canadian Bacon, bone-in pork loins, and liverwurst that were produced on October 20th, 2015 that was produced by Adolf’s Meat Products in Connecticut. About 224 pounds of meat have been recalled.

    In another incident, a Whole Foods supplier in Massachusetts is recalling curry chicken products, such as their salad, salad wraps, and salad roll-ups that could also possibly have been infected with L. monocytogenes. Customers who have purchased these items are told not to consume them and to return the products straight to the store.
    This problem was confirmed during FSIS sample testing, although there have not been any cases or adverse reactions reported due to consumption of these meat products.

    L. monocytogenes favours growth in refrigerated to room temperature (4 to 37 degrees C), which is the reason why they are so prevalent in these meats that are eaten on their own without cooking. It is also present in many raw foods such as milk, ice cream, and produce. Despite this, most of the big outbreaks in Central/Eastern North America have been attributed to RTE meats. To put statistics into the prevalence of L. monocytogenes in the USA, 1600 illnesses and 260 deaths happen annually due to the contamination of food. Per 100,000 people, 0.26 cases are estimated. Despite these statistics, listeriosis has declined by 42% in 2013 compared to 1996-1998. An example of a major outbreak was the big Listeria outbreak at a Maple Leaf foods branch in Toronto in 2008, which resulted in 57 cases of illness and 23 deaths. This outbreak cost the company $20 million dollars, and 23 of their products were recalled. L. monocytogenes proved to be a forced to be reckoned with as the company had lost not only the money, but their image as well.

    In North America, Listeria is considered to be an increasing threat to human health due to antimicrobial resistance, its ability to grow in refrigerated temperatures, and its large prevalence in the environment. Listeriosis can be fatal in those who are elderly and those that are still young children. Luckily this was found before the outbreak actually had caused illness in a consumer, however, it is still early to tell as the outbreak was very recent.

    It is important that consumers understand that they must be vigilant when consuming RTE meats. Although hot dogs, luncheon meat (SPAM), and deli meats are convenient because they are already pre-cooked, the risk of contracting listeriosis is very real.
    Hopefully this thanksgiving, those who choose to purchase RTE meats to serve at dinner cook it very thoroughly past 40 degrees C. It is advised that they use thermometers and put it into the deepest part of the meat to ensure that this temperature is meat. If there are any leftovers (which is definitely bound to happen) they should divide them into shallow containers to promote rapid cooling.

    What do you think about this outbreak? Do you think that the government and companies generally do a good job in recalling products and preventing illnesses? How do you consume your RTE meats?







    • ayra casuga 3:57 pm on November 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting blog. I think because the meats are sold as “read-to-eat”, people usually do not think to apply more cooking preparations for it. I feel like thats what makes eating “ready-to-eat” foods so risky because we have to put a lot of trust to the food manufacturers that they’re consistently implementing stringent food safe procedures when preparing their ready-to-eat products. Especially because Listeria Monocytogenes is a very resistant bacteria.

    • Silvia Low 6:38 pm on November 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Reading about listeria in RTE meats really scares me as i regularly purchase my lunches from places such as subway, deli stores, sandwich stores, etc. The employees working there seem to adequately clean up their stations but I dont think they understand why it is important that they clean it well or the repercussions that come from foodborne pathogens such as l.monocytogenes. Or maybe i’m wrong and theyve all been trained very thoroughly about common deli meat pathogens. Who knows.

    • EmilyLi 6:19 pm on November 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is an engaging blog post. I like how this instance didn’t cause any major problem in the population. This could be due to the rapid detection and efficient recall procedure from both the company and government to prevent any death and illness. I think the role that government plays in recalling food is very important. This is because that companies may not have enough resources to spread the word rapid enough, and I think with the government helps the recall process is faster. Also that many people trust government officials with providing legitimate facts. After learning about that ready to eat food are not the safest to be consume, I had been cooking some of the ready to eat products, such as ham. However some ready to eat food products such as salad, wouldn’t taste the same and as good if I cook it, so recently I been staying away from those foods.

    • WinnieLiao 10:45 am on November 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with Ayra about the fact that “ready-to-eat” “reminds” people that the meat is well prepared and that further cooking preparations are unnecessary. However this can probably contribute to why L.monocytogenes can be so prevalent in deli meats. Nowadays people are fond of sandwiches, since they are easy to make and “everything into one”. This gives rise to more opportunities for exposure. In terms of government, I think they have been doing quite a good job in quickly recalling the products and acting quick in the investigations. Even though there has been many outbreaks, I will continue to consume these products, and try my best to reduce the chances of getting foodborne illnesses by preventing the cross contamination of deli meats with other foods. Keep proper sanitation when handling the food and consuming it asap are also my goals!

    • CindyDai 5:27 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Outbreaks in RTE foods really caught my attention. Nowadays people are so used to the concept of “grab and go”. Consumers trust the safety of RTE foods and do not usually perform any more processing before consumption. Therefore, food vendors and government surveillance agents have huge responsibility to ensure food safety and establish an efficient problem-detecting system. As consumers, we should also try to prevent cross-contamination by separating RTE food from raw food. Any leftover RTE food products should be reprocessed or discarded.

    • CandiceZheng 3:31 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is not surprised that RTE meats are the most favorable breeding grounds for L. monocytogenes, as RTE meats do provide an environment for Listeria growth, while people simply eat RTE meats without any further processing. Since Listeria are able to grow under refrigeration temperature, keeping deli meats in the fridge does not prevent the growth of Listeria at all. However, nowadays consumers trust the fridge so well and believe that proper refrigeration temperature would solve everything. As a consequence it is very essential to raise people’s awareness about this issue and especially for the immune suppressed population like pregnant women, further thermal processing of deli meat might needed to ensure food safety. As listeriosis in pregnant women would be a very serious issue.

  • csontani 1:13 pm on October 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Denmark, , , ,   

    Another Visit by Listeria in Denmark 

    In May 2015, Statens Serum Institut (SSI) detected another five cases of Listeria in Denmark. The five cases showed up in one week, which makes it unusual if there was only one source. The source of the cases is still undetermined; with deli meats being the most suspected, as it is the cause of last year’s outbreak. All five people had the underlying illnesses and two have died since.


    Listeria is one of the low-key food pathogen in Denmark, but it is considered to be one of the deadliest. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) declared that Listeriosis cases have increased by 8.6% between 2012 and 2013, and have been increasing for the past five years. Overall, the number of cases reported in Europe is low but the main concern would be the fact that each infection that occurred is the most severe and has the highest death rate.

    It seems that Listeria has been coming back to Denmark for the past 3 years. In September 2013, 5 people were diagnosed with Listeriosis and the case continued on until August 2014 where approximately 38 people were sickened and 15 deaths. This particular outbreak was considered to be the deadliest food pathogen outbreak in Denmark. The main cause of this outbreak was the contaminated deli meat used to prepare Rullepoelse (picture above). The company that distributed the deli meat was shut down after the source traced back to them last year, but has reopen again this year. However, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) have ruled out that company as the source of this year’s outbreak.

    SSI stated that two out of the five people infected with Listeriosis this year are infected by the same strain that caused last year’s outbreak. As of now, the SSI is still trying to trace back the source for the cases they’ve found and is trying to sample the possible food source that they could think of. They have not found any more new cases and are hoping to not have another outbreak just like last year. However, with the current number of cases, it is very difficult for them to figure out the source of Listeria.

    In order for the health agency to trace back the source of the contamination, they need an adequate amount of cases to easily determine the source. This is kind of an issue for Denmark where in one year they would only detect a small amount of cases, which they can’t use to find the source easily, and the case would continue the following year with a greater number of cases.

    It might be possible that in the near future, the department responsible for food safety can create a better sampling and detection technologies that could help them to trace the source of contamination with a small amount of cases available. With your knowledge about Listeria, what solutions would you suggest them? Would you think that better detecting and sampling technologies would make a big difference to the country? Comment below!

    Denny, J., McLauchlin, J. (2008). HUMAN LISTERIA MONOCYTOGENES INFECTIONS IN EUROPE – AN OPPORTUNITY FOR IMPROVED EUROPEAN SURVEILLANCE. Retrieved from: http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=8082

    EFSA. (2015). Campylobacteriosis cases stable, listeriosis cases continue to rise, say EFSA and ECDC. Retrieved from: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/150128

    SSI. (2014). Listeria outbreak – suspected source: deli meats. Retrieved from: http://www.ssi.dk/English/News/News/2014/2014_08_listeria.aspx

    Whitworth, J. (2015). Denmark investigating new Listeria outbreak. Retrieved from: http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Food-Outbreaks/Listeria-sickens-five-and-a-factor-in-two-deaths

    Whitworth, J. (2014). Listeria from deli meat kills 12 in Denmark. Retrieved from: http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Food-Outbreaks/Joern-A.-Rullepoelser-closed-as-Denmark-investigates-Listeria-outbreak

    • shinnie 3:06 pm on October 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for this blog post. It is interesting to compare the mortality rates of the same pathogen from different geographical areas– the mortality rate is much lower in the U.S. and in Canada as compared to Denmark. I wonder why? Perhaps it is because our health care system is better, or maybe our surveillance of pathogen is also more developed? I am assuming they are using a case-control study to identify the source of the outbreak –and the weaknesses of this source attribution method is evident in the Denmark outbreaks.
      I feel that people in Denmark should push the notion that high-risk people should avoid eating Category 1 foods all in all, although it limits the variety of the foods someone can consume. But, better safe than sorry right? Looking at the pathogen safety data sheets from PHAC, it is so interesting to note that outbreaks from Listeria Monocytogenes were from different food types in the past! For example, from vegetable products in the early 1980s, to dairy products in the mid 1980s and early 1990s, to ready-to-eat meat and poultry products in the late 1990s to early 2000s. How did that evolve?!?!

    • dgozali 8:51 pm on November 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Perhaps one of the solutions for this problem is to have better food production practices and more routine quality checks in the processing facility. It is better to improve the prevention strategies in the production plant than to work backwards to determine the cause only after the outbreak has happened. Nevertheless, it is still important to improve on pathogen detection methods to trace the source of Listeria before more people fall ill.

    • elaine chan 1:15 pm on November 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is definitely unfortunate to hear that the number of reported Listeriosis is increasing throughout the years in Denmark. What I find interesting though is that the cause of the outbreak is from the same strain of Listeria, but from different sources. This could possibly suggest that this particular strain has better survivability; hence, it’s able to survive, persist and cause subsequent outbreaks in Denmark. I agree with dgozali’s idea on focusing to better improve the prevention strategies. Rather than waiting and trying to work backwards to determine the cause, which will cost more time and more outbreaks to determine the answer, it is more practical focus on what can actually be done, prevention. It will be important for food manufacturing facilities to implement more strict sanitization and processing conditions to ensure the elimination of Listeria survival. At the same time, it will also be equally important to improve sampling and detection methods at the food production level to ensure that if Listeria is present, it can be readily detected and subsequently stop production to prevent the outbreak.

    • flyingsquirrel 5:50 pm on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      If there were small outbreaks in two consecutive years of the same strain of Listeria, could the contamination been at a different level aside from the manufacturers? Perhaps there is something going on at the stores that sell the deli? I wonder what places they have checked for cross-contamination because if it is the same strain, there could likely be a common point of contact between all the deli meats involved.

    • Carissa Li 12:26 am on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is very surprising how Listeria is affecting Denmark compare to its influence on the US. From the outbreak investigation lecture we learnt that finding more cases is very critical since it helps us to understand more about the time frame, size and the source of contamination. I would say a better detection method will help the case a lot since it can help identify which food is being contaminated with Listeria and narrow down the suspecting food list.

  • cvalencia 11:48 pm on October 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Multistate Listeria Outbreak from Contaminated Caramel Apples 


    It’s that time of the year when children (and children at heart) go out in their best costumes, knocking on neighbors’ doors with baskets full of candy in hand. It’s that time of the year when candy shops are full of consumers wanting to get their hands on sweet treats. A well-known treat for the fall and Halloween season is the candy apple: whole apples (usually Granny Smith apples) in sticks smothered with chewy caramel and colorful toppings. Never did it occur in any of our minds that such treats would be a source of illness: until now.

    In January 6, 2015, Bidart Bros., an apple producer from Bakersfield, California, recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples they produced from their facility. The firm did so after an inspection and testing of their facility showed contamination of Listeria monocytogenes. Three clients of Bidart Bros. who are caramel apple manufacturers (Happy Apples, California Snack Foods, & Merb’s Candies) also announced the recall of their products due to L. monocytogenes contamination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Association in the investigation of the outbreak. Listeria was isolated from infected individuals, and analysis was conducted through pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing. These laboratory methods confirmed the presence of the pathogenic L. monocytogenes in the infected individuals.

    Map of persons infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes, by state of residence, as of December 29, 2014 (n=32)

    Source: CDC

    The Listeria contamination caused a multistate outbreak, reaching 12 states across the United States. A total of 35 cases has been reported, with 34 cases causing hospitalization. Based on the report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 illnesses were pregnancy-related, while 3 cases involved meningitis in children (aged 5-15 years old) who consumed the contaminated caramel apples. A total of 7 deaths were reported, with Listeriosis contributing to 3 of those deaths.

    So how did L. monocytogenes survive and grow in caramel apples, a food in which the pathogen is not expected to grow? At the outset of the Listeria outbreak, many assumed that the cause of growth was the caramel coating on the apples, or the coating process itself. Although testing of the Bidart Bros. apple packing facility revealed the presence of L. monocytogenes on surfaces that directly contacted the apples, further investigation by experts was conducted to understand the mechanisms through which Listeria was able to grow on the caramel apples.

    Dr. Kathleen Glass, Associate Director of the Food Research Institute in the University of Wisconsin, conducted a study to replicate the process and conditions undergone by the caramel apples during production.Dr. Glass hypothesized that inserting sticks into the apples released juice on the otherwise dry surface of the fruit, and subsequent coating with caramel trapped the pathogenic bacteria inside the finished product. This, in turn, created a favorable environment for L. monocytogenes to grow in the caramel apples. In the experiment, apple samples were inoculated with L. monocytogenes before dipping in caramel. One group contained sticks inserted into the apples while the other group did not have sticks inserted. Experimental results revealed that both groups of stick-punctured caramel apples (refrigerated and non-refrigerated) showed significantly greater L. monocytogenes growth than non-punctured caramel apples. This study indicates that extra precautions need to be taken in processing of such foods, since the interface between different components of the product may provide favorable conditions for growth of pathogenic bacteria. Even though foods are considered to be unfavorable for pathogen survival and growth, food safety measures still need to be taken to prevent future outbreaks.

    Listeria monocytogenes has an infectious dose of 105 to 107 CFU in high risk individuals (eg. children, pregnant women, older populations, and immuno-compromised individuals). The pathogen is known to have adaptations to survive in the environment. L. monocytogenes is able to grow at refrigeration temperatures, and has the ability to form biofilms, thereby enhancing the pathogen’s survival in the environment. Listeriosis is the bacterial infection caused by the pathogen L. monocytogenes. Symptoms of the disease include diarrhea, fever, muscle aches, confusion, and loss of balance. Severe “invasive” cases of listeriosis may result in bacteremia, septicemia, and meningitis in high risk individuals.

    How do you think this incident affects the apple industry in Canada? Should we now be extra careful in eating caramel apples? Comment below and share your thoughts!

    Click on the “Cinnamon Caramel Apple Pumpkin” photo (from Darla of Bakingdom.com) to grab the recipe and have a great Halloween!

    Interested in knowing how caramel apples are commercially made? Watch the video below:


    Andrews, J. (2015). IAFP 2015: Experts May Have Determined How Caramel Apples Caused That Listeria Outbreak.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Commercially Produced, Prepackaged Caramel Apples Made from Bidart Bros. Apples.

    Glass, K.A., Golden, M.C., Wanless, B.J., Bedale, W., & Czuprynski, C. (2015). mBio: Growth of Listeria monocytogenes Within a Caramel-Coated Apple Microenvironment. American Society for Microbiology.

    Ryser, E.T. & Marth, E.H. (eds.). (2007). Listeria, Listeriosis, and Food Safety (3rd Edition). Boca Raton, Florida: Taylor & Francis. pp 85-110.

    • ayra casuga 11:38 am on October 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I like how you incorporated Halloween in your blog! This is a similar topic discussed in lecture on L. Monocytogenes. Especially the idea that a wooden stick puncturing the apples may have been the biggest determinant in Listeria growth. I find it interesting that having that stick punctured in the apple can enhance Listeria’s survival to a degree where it has caused such a negative impact on the population.

      • laurenrappaport 4:17 pm on October 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Super interesting to learn a bit more in detail about something that was mentioned in class! Candy apples are not something people usually consider a risky food to eat so its a bit concerning how much harm this contamination has caused. Although a large chunk of people who were harmed by this contamination were either pregnant or immunocompromised, everyone still needs to be careful about the foods they are eating. I dont think however that the Canadian market will be affected by this outbreak. Most people’s food choices are not that heavily influenced unless an outbreak is occurring close to them or directly affects them in some way. Furthermore, if we became concerned with every food that has been linked to an outbreak or has the potential to be contaminated I think there would be very little food left for us thats safe to eat!

    • TamaraRitchie 4:39 pm on October 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is interesting how one small step in the Candy apple production could cause a food safety issue. Its important as students in the food science field to understand how every person, thing and process in a food plant could be a chance for bacterial contamination. I found it very interesting that the small amount of juice that is expelled during the process when the sticks are pushed into the apples was enough to allow for growth of Listeria on the Candy apples.

      I do not think this will have much effect on the Candy apple industry in Canada. I do not think a lot of people hear about food recalls outside their country. I think if we tried to avoid all foods that have had outbreaks in the past their would be very little we would eat. I think it is important for the general population to be aware of food safety risks, and the fact that any prepared foods may carry a food safety risk, although in countries like Canada these risks are monitored and should be small.

    • BarbaraCorreiaFaustino 11:10 am on November 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I really liked how you related your post to Halloween! Even though it’s surprising that 35 cases were reported, with most of them resulting in hospitalizations, I also believe that this outbreak won’t have a big effect on the Canadian apple industry, especially since the outbreak didn’t happen in Canada. I believe that the Canadian apple producers and authorities should be worried about how the wooden stick puncturing process can enable L. monocytogenes survival and growth, but I don’t think the general public will be very concerned about this topic.

    • KristinaRichmond 5:25 pm on November 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great article! I think this case is a good example of how well L. monocytogenes can adapt and survive in unexpected places. Hopefully people in the food industry can learn from this outbreak and consider how important food safety practices are even in supposedly low-risk foods. I think this is especially important regarding listeria since it can have such devastating effects in vulnerable populations. In this case it’s disturbing since caramel apples would be particularly attractive to children.

    • elaine chan 2:04 pm on November 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting article! It’s unfortunate that a sweet treat like this, adored by children and adults, can result in an outbreak nightmare like this. I could be wrong, but what I am curious about is how a treat that’s been considered safe for consumption throughout all the years that it’s been available for consumption, is now causing problems in terms of food safety. Could this be an indicator of an increased survivability of the Listeria species? Another point that I’m curious about is the time of consumption and storage in relation to pathogen survival and growth. Since inserting sticks into apples introduces a favourable environment for pathogen growth, and the pathogen requires time to replicate and grow to infectious dose, would consuming the apple product right after production decrease the possibility of infection? And so I wonder, would it be safer for consumers to purchase freshly made caramel apples as opposed to pre-made ones? Overall, I don’t think that this outbreak would negatively influence Canada’s apple industry since this outbreak is specific to the production process of caramel apples. However, I do think that the individuals with higher risk of infection, such as children and pregnant women, should be cautious when consuming such products.

  • mustafa akhtar 10:14 am on October 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Football team and friends at Durand High School effected by Campylobacter Jejuni 

    September 24, 2014: At least 22 members of the football team were reported sick, some hospitalized, after the team potluck at the Durand High School in Wisconsin. Lab tests have confirmed suspicions of the pathogen to be Campylobacter Jejuni. Wisconsin Department of Health said that unpasteurized milk served at the dinner was the cause of the outbreak. More than 50 Durand High school students were forced to stay home due symptoms that included Diarrhea, cramps, fever, and stomach pain.

    Read more about the news break here: http://www.weau.com/home/headlines/NEW-INFORMATION-Campylobacter-infection-found-in-one-Durand-patient-276958321.html

    The potluck is a yearly tradition at the high school usually held at the nearby school. Dinner included Chicken Alfredo, Kool-Aid, water, and raw milk with chocolate syrup added.

    The Wisconsin Department of Health (DHS) interviewed all players and coaches of the football team (ill and unwell) in order to assess symptoms, as well as find the root of the problem. Consumption of raw milk appeared to be the isolated as the only food item associated with the illness. Symptoms lasted for about a week and ranged from mild to severe. Other complications include meningitis, urnary tract infection, arthritis, and sometimes, Guillian –Barre syndrome.

    One of the students, Brianna, reported unusual pain in her hips and knees, limb weakness, as well as numbness for which she was hospitalized.

    Reportedly, other students were hit hard by the symptoms as well, many suffered from bloody diarrhea and noticeable weight loss.

    More about the investigation:

    According to the Health Canada website, people infected with C.jejuni can experience an array of symptoms. Some may not get sick at all, but still be able to spread the disease. Others may experience a severe flu, while some may be hospitalized.

    The outbreak affected the football team so much so that the high school cancelled the Sept 27th football game against Amery High School.

    Campylobacter Jejuni, the pathogen identified as the cause of this outbreak, is found in digestive systems of cattle, poultry, and animal feces. The DHS collected samples of manure from the farm where the raw milk was produced, and the bacteria strain was found positively correlating the bacteria to the illeness. People with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk of complication including arthiritis, meningitis etc.

    Public Health Canada website:

    The state-law prohibits sale of unpasteurized milk products to the public to contain bacteria that may promote food borne illnesses. Moving forward, the school recommends fewer dinners like potlucks, as the food quality is difficult to control. The effects of this have been particularly eminent to the student population.


    • ayra casuga 4:01 pm on November 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Nice blog! It’s really sad when you hear stories about school-related events get affected by food-borne illness outbreaks and yet it occurs so frequently. I think its a good idea to ban the sales of unpasteurized milk in secondary schools because it may not be handled/distributed safely because the people in those events may not be aware/or taught how to ensure food safety in those products. In addition, some students may be highly sensitive to unpasteurized milk and these types of issues really reflect on the schools policy.

  • catherine wong 1:27 pm on October 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Fried Rice, , , ,   

    Listeria Monocytogenes Recall in Australian Fried Rice: No Ending 

    In Australia, there was a recall on September 3, 2015 due to pre-packaged fried rice from the company JL King & Co due to Listeria monocytogenes. Both packagings of 1kg and 450g were on the recall. As of now, there is still no information about the source of contamination, how many or if there were any consumers who got sick. The best before date for this product was September 15, 2015, which was only 12 days from the date the recall was announced. (Australian Competition Consumer Commission, 2015)

    Similar to most other ready to eat foods that Listeria monocytogenes like to grow in, the shelf life is quite short and some consumers consume the ready to eat products right after purchasing. Other products such as canned foods that Clostridium botulinum can grow in, the shelf life can be up to 2 years which gives plenty of time for recalls as those consumers may not consume them immediately after purchase. The recalls for ready to eat foods such as the pre-packaged fried rice can serve the purpose of taking the food off store shelves to prevent future consumers from getting sick. However for the consumers who have consumed contaminated products before any recall notification, some of them may not even get sick due to the natural microflora present on their intestinal surfaces.

    The ones who are most susceptible to falling ill from Listeria monocytogenes are pregnant women and their unborn or newborn children, seniors and the immunocompromised. For pregnant women in the first three months of pregnancy, being sick with Listeria monocytogenes can cause a miscarriage. If the bacteria is contracted later on in the pregnancy, premature birth, stillbirth or the birth of a severely ill child may happen. The immunocompromised are much more likely to get sick but according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, people suffering from AIDS are 300 times more susceptible to being infected by Listeria monocytogenes compared to healthy individuals. (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2012)

    Listeria Monocytogenes luckily cannot grow in all ready to eat food products as long as the food product falls under one of the following three criteria according to Australia’s Food Standards (Food Standards, 2014):
    1. pH less than 4.4, no matter the water activity value
    2. Water activity less than 0.92, no matter the pH value
    3. pH less than 5.0 and water activity less than 0.94

    However, if Listeria monocytogenes is present it can survive in acid conditions and in products with low water activity for a long period of time, especially for refrigerated products. Even if the product has gone through a drying process, Listeria monocytogenes may survive. (Lawley, 2013)

    If the ready to eat food product is frozen and is consumed frozen, thawed but still eaten cold or heated before consumption then it is most likely safe from Listeria Monocytogenes. (Food Standards, 2014) If the ready to eat food product does not fit with the above criteria, then heating to an internal temperature of 74°C before eating can help in minimizing the chance of Listeria monocytogenes surviving in the food. (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2012)

    With all the conditions Listeria monocytogenes can grow or survive in ready to eat products, I feel that one of the better ways to minimize the risks of getting ill from Listeria monocytogenes is to heat ready to eat products except for frozen products before consuming. Although this might be difficult for ready to eat foods that are generally eaten at room temperature such as sandwiches.

    Are there any other methods that you think are sufficient in eliminating Listeria monocytogenes?


    Andersen, L. (2015) Listeria and Bacteriocin-Producing Starter Culture. Retrieved from http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/08/listeria-and-bacteriocin-producing-starter-cultures/#.Vi3XUmSrToB

    Australian Competition Consumer Commission. (2015). Product Safety Recalls Australia. Retrieved from http://www.recalls.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1076441

    Food Standards. (2014). Supporting document 1 – Guidance On the Application of Microbiological Criteria for Listeria Monocytogenes. Retrieved from

    Lawley, R. (2013). Food Safety Watch. Retrieved from http://www.foodsafetywatch.org/factsheets/listeria/

    Public Health Agency of Canada. (2012). Listeria. Retrieved from

    • ColleenChong 5:16 pm on October 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I am glad you brought up that listeria monocytogenes can survive acid and low water activity environments, just as Trish has mentioned in her presentation. Although L. Monocytogenes is a heat sensitive microorganism once it contaminates processing equipment it will be a major issue because it can form biofilms, which protects the pathogen. Contamination usually occurs after post-processing as you mentioned ready to eat products. I think the general public does not need to be too concern when consuming these products. However, young children, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals should be careful. If possible the susceptible population to try to avoid these foods in general because the serious consequences can result in listeriosis or even death.

    • Jasmine Lee 2:56 pm on October 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with Colleen that Listeria monocytogenes may have been introduced to this product through post-processing contamination. Potential sources may be due to unsanitary premises, unclean air ventilation, contaminated packaging and/or temperature abuse. Even though this product may pose a serious health risk for immunocompromised individuals, I find it rather surprising that there are no further details available since the date of the recall. Since Listeria monocytogenes is ubiquitous in the environment, I strongly believe multiple methods are necessary to control the presence of this pathogen. These measures may include reassessing the company’s HACCP program to reinforce proper sanitation practices, frequent microbiological monitoring and appropriate storage temperatures. A combination of rapid pathogen detection methods should be utilized because some techniques, such as PCR, may detect false positives. Alternatively, the company could look into reformulating the product to include more hurdles, such as adding antimicrobial agents and increasing lethality of the heat treatment. Applying different treatments and storing susceptible food components in separate packages (combined by the end user during consumption) may lower favorable conditions for bacterial growth. These methods may also extend the product’s shelf life.

    • RainShen 1:01 pm on November 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Comparing to other pathogenic microorganisms, Listeria monocytogenes can be resistant to many stresses during the processing and before consumption which causes it becomes one of the biggest concern for consuming the ready to eat food. I agree that the best way to eliminate L. monocytogenes in the high risk ready to eat food is heating the product to at least 74C. However, the manufacturer of the ready to ear food should improve their food safety system as well which may include sanitation procedure, regular equipment checking, personnel hygiene etc, especially that L. monocytogenes can form biofilm on the surface of the equipment, so regular microbiological testing will be necessary in the ready to eat manufacturing company. Complete final products checking and testing will be needed to ensure the absence of L. monocytogenes in the ready to eat foods.

    • MarinaMoon 2:50 am on November 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As Listeria monocytogenes is one of the pathogens that can withstand many hurdles during food production and storage, it should be especially cautious and have very strict regulation system regarding production that is easily susceptible to Listeria Monocytogenes contamination. However, in this article in particular, I believe that these pre-packaged fried rice would be mostly consumed by healthy individuals probably those who do not have the time to make one themselves such as college students and workers. Thus, although we should be concerned and pay close attention to be able to prevent further contamination, I don’t think it would result in severe outbreaks like some other pathogens. As elderly, pregnant women and infants are most vulnerable to contamination, I do not think this particular product would create such a disaster. Nonetheless, I think better sanitation in the production environment and more strict regulations could possibly lead to prevention of this pathogen.

    • cvalencia 5:07 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great article on Listeria! I think that it is surprising to find this pathogen in pre-packaged, since most of the time they are found on high-risk foods such as soft cheeses and deli meats. This just goes to show that we must take extra precaution to ensure food safety, even in unexpected food items such as the case for this food item. Also, it shows that we have a long way to go in food safety to ensure that cases like these don’t happen in the future

    • Ya Gao 9:24 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is interesting to learn the specific details about how Listeria affect vulnerable people like pregnant women and their unborn or newborn children, seniors and the immunocompromised. And it is shocking to see how AIDS change life by looking at the number “people suffering from AIDS are 300 times more susceptible to being infected by Listeria monocytogenes compared to healthy individuals”. Ready to eat food can be a great threat since people tend not to process them at home after purchasing and consume them directly. A better controlling on production, distribution and retailing of ready to eat food products is important to protect these vulnerable people from getting harm.

    • MichelleLui 10:59 pm on December 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Good information on Listeria Monocytogenes. Contaminated ingredient is mostly likely the starting agent to the contamination as there has to be an introduction of Listeria Monocytogenes into the processing facility or food. There could be other contaminants such as rodents due to poor pest control program at the processing facility. Just browsing through their website, it looks like they process many items, including dairy and produce. Good sanitation standard procedures should be in place to prevent cross contamination. The firm should monitor their suppliers by testing their ingredients and packagings for pathogens or indicator organisms.

  • FeliciaYuwono 11:49 pm on October 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Blue Bell, Ice Cream, , , , ,   

    Listeria Outbreak Associated with Blue Bell Ice Cream 

    Blue Bell Creameries recently did product recall for the first time in their 108 years of company’s history caused by an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes. There were in total 10 cases in 4 states & 3 deaths affected by the outbreak. They have 3 production facilities and all of them were contaminated with Lm: one in Texas (which is the headquarters), and two auxiliary production lines in Oklahoma and Alabama. In this post, I’m focusing on what happened in the Oklahoma facility.

    The first 5 Listeriosis cases that were reported in Kansas early March 2015. They were all hospital inpatients and immunocompromised, and 3 of them actually died, which made up the total deaths for this outbreak. In late March 2015, using PFGE and Whole Genome Sequencing, Kansas Department of Health and Environment found out that the same strains of Lm found in the patients were traced back to unopened Blue Bell Creameries’ 3 oz. Institutional/Food Service Chocolate Ice Cream cups served in the hospital, which were manufactured in the Oklahoma production facility. Interestingly, this product was distributed to 23 states and only sold in schools, nursing homes, and hospitals, which mainly accomodate individuals at risk. This suggests that there were probably unreported cases of listeriosis linked to the Blue Bell Creameries’ products.


    In May 7, 2015, the FDA released findings from Blue Bell Creameries’ production facility in Oklahoma. In this report, there are 12 observations being made but I’m only going to outline several points.


    This report mentions that the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry established a requirement of 20 CFU/mL of Lm or less in finished products of frozen dairy desserts. In March 2015, 275 CFU/mL Lm was found in the finished product half-gallon Dutch Chocolate Ice Cream, more than thirteen times the recommended levels. Now, if we assume that there is 275 CFU/mL of Lm in a 3 oz. (88mL) Institutional/Food Service Chocolate Ice Cream cup, then there is in total 24,200 CFU of Lm in one cup. However, several hospital patients fell ill after consuming the particular product, which means that the amount of Lm in that product is at least at an infectious dose of 0.1 to 10 million CFU for at risk individuals. Based on these assumptions, Lm might continue to grow under freezing temperatures, but more research needs to be done on this subject. Another possibility is that some finished products of the chocolate ice cream already had enough Lm in it to infect at risk individuals, therefore any more Lm growth would not make any impact.


    This report also mentions that the plant’s production line is not designed to prevent cross-contamination from drippings and condensate from pipes and tank lids. The lids on top of the tanks containing post-pasteurized Dutch Chocolate Ice Cream were not closed tightly, hence condensate from another product line installed horizontally right above it drips into the tanks, which makes a potential source of Lm contamination. Additionally, a worker was observed spraying the top of the lids and switching lids between other post-pasteurized Dutch Chocolate Ice Cream tanks, which may contribute to Lm cross-contamination in the tanks. The rest of the report states that lack of employee hygiene and inadequate facilities for cleaning and sanitizing equipments might be some contributing factors to the growth of Lm in their products.


    Now, if you were to be part of Blue Bell Creameries’ quality control team at the Oklahoma production facility, what would you do? What recommendations would you offer to make the production line safer?

    • wen liao 9:19 am on October 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is definitely amazing how Listeria can survive and still being infectious in made ice-creams, considering it is an environment low in temperature and water activity. As we have discussed in class before, ice-cream is considered as one of the products where there should be no growth of Listeria what’s so ever. Thus the problem here definitely are due to the ingredients. Since ice cream production are considered as low Listeria risk, people work here might pay less attention on sampling and checking on listeria load, which might be the cause of the problem. Therefore, it is important that people working in food industry pay extreme attention on what they are doing to ensure food safety.

    • YaoWang 1:39 pm on October 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      We all know that Listeria is a main concern in ready to eat meat products, but it’s amazing to know that it can be a problem even in ice cream. Normally, since ice cream provides low temperature and low water activity, we assume there shouldn’t be Listeria present. I’m very curious about how listeria can survive and may even grow under such environment. But this recall reminds us that even though the food is of less possibility of certain microbial contamination, the manufacture must still follow proper handling techniques to avoid potential cross contamination.

    • amreenj 7:18 pm on October 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Wow! As we have previously learned, ice cream is considered a Category 2B food, which is a ready to eat foods in which Listeria monocytogenes cannot grow. So the occurrence of Lm. in ice cream is surprising. Im interested to see if they can actually trace the source of the Lm. and report back their findings. The worse part is that it was given to individuals whose immunity is low (ie. high risk groups- longer term care facilities, hospitals) and thus the impact could have been so much worse. Having preparing sanitation and handling protocols is imperative to recurring the risk of food borne illnesses. As we can we that failing to do so can lead to contamination in even the most unlikely of places/foods!

    • mustafa akhtar 10:18 am on October 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I am so surprised that they ONLY distributed this product to schools, nursing homes, and such. I wonder if any research was put into developing the product at all. If not, then atleast the product shouldn’t have been sent to places where immunocompromised people reside.

    • Susanna Ko 4:55 pm on October 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think it shows that people must be diligent when deciding on the food menu for certain populations such as elderly or immunocompromised. Also, it’s surprising that the company survived so far without failing an inspection. Was it because it was categorized as a low-risk food, meaning that it is inspected less frequently? Also, how many spontaneous abortions occurred from pregnant women consuming this product because they wanted to enjoy a special treat? It’s really unfortunate.

    • Stephanie Chen 6:00 pm on November 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is really quite sad that even a delicious treat such as ice cream can harbor foodborne pathogens, and with a company that must have had good reputation for so many decades. Bluebell also explained that the reason they did not test their ice cream after positive tests of Listeria in their plant in previous years was because Listeria was found on non-food surfaces that did not come in contact with ice cream products. It was also not required at the time to report Listeria findings to the FDA. This shows that practices in the industry need to be routinely evaluated and food safety regulations should be strictly enforced.

    • meggyli 10:11 pm on November 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Another interesting class-related blog! We learned in class that ice cream belongs in a category 2B food where the chances of Listeria growth/contamination is really rare. Similar to the above caramel apple blog, this just goes to show that we can never be too careful. It always causes the most damage to our health and economy when it’s the most unexpected food that contracts a pathogen. Who would have thought that something like ice cream which inhibits most microbial growth due to its cold storage temperature could cause something as severe as stillbirths & spontaneous abortions.

    • Mandy Tam 9:02 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think a lot of time when people think of outbreak in related to Listeria Monocytogenes are related to ready to eat meat or deli product. I think this article provides a great example that Listeria growth could happen in other foods as well.
      North America very emphasis in HACCP and GMP in food plants but there are still many problems. I think what will help food plant to improve food safety in the future is to have a database approved by government agency where companies can share and excess information in regard of good plant design and HACCP program information in all food type. Therefore, it avoids problems caused by bad equipment design or inexperience HACCP team.
      Anyhow, great article and it provides a lot of insight in term of Listeria Monocutogenes!

    • cheryl lau 3:19 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting article! I am also surprised that this is the first time that the company has recalled their products due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination from the conditions mentioned in the FDA report. Condensed water from pipes in food manufacturing is often a problem if not dealt with. These problems usually present over time, I am surprised that the plant allowed production to continue. Perhaps the quality control personnel should ensure that the workers realize the risk involved from contamination due to irregular working conditions. The workers could then report to the supervisor when the equipment is not functioning at the optimum level to prevent these outbreaks from happening.

  • Silvia Low 4:34 pm on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Europe: Salmonella Stanley Strikes Again! Find out why S. Stanley keeps refusing to back down. 

    SalmonellaTurkeys Stanley, as friendly as this particular strain of salmonella may sound, is no friend to the European member states at all. S.Stanley may as well be a multi-national celebrity as it has been making headlines across Europe for various food-borne outbreaks since 2011.

    After a string of salmonella outbreaks that affected 7 European states and more than 400 patients, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and other authorities finally initiated investigations on the source of the culprit strain in 2012. Evidence from the investigations led to a suggested source of turkey meat and without slowing down, the notorious S.Stanley continued to make various headlines up until 2014. Now, S.Stanley has re-emerged in clusters throughout 2015 and is taking over a new wave of Austrian turkey supply.

    Between 1 January and 8 October 2015, 141 cases of non-travel related infection with S. Stanley were identified in eight of the nine Austrian provinces. At least 36 of these cases have been traced back to turkey kebabs made with turkey meat supplied by a single retailer located in Slovakia. More trace back by National authorities indicate that the Slovakian retailer sources its turkey meat from a facility in Hungary. This same facility was linked to a S.Stanley cluster back in 2014. Furthermore, recent investigations using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) molecular typing indicate that the 2015 salmonella isolates have the same unique pattern as S.Stanley from the 2011 to 2014 outbreaks.

    So what is the secret to S.Stanley’s everlasting presence?

    Antimicrobial Resistance.

    Since the early 1990s, antimicrobial resistant salmonella strains have emerged and become serious public health concerns. Antimicrobial resistance occurs when pathogenic cases are routinely treated with antimicrobial therapy but result in not eliminating the more resistant bacteria strains. The subsequent result is resistant bacteria strains reproducing, and the antimicrobial treatment becoming ineffective.

    The same strain of Salmonella Stanley has consistently been recognized from 2011-2014 due to its pattern of resistance to nalidixic acid antibiotics. That was up until now, where the 2015 strain of S.Stanley has been identified as having low-level resistance to ciprofloxacin in addition to nalidixic acid antibiotics.

    To prevent further cases of antimicrobial resistance cases, the single most important action is to change the way antibiotics are used. Mostly, the use of antibiotics in people and animals are unnecessary especially in mild cases of infection. Treatment guidelines should be reviewed regularly while considering bacterial resistance patterns.

    Here are some simple tips to prevent Salmonella from spreading in your home:

    • Clean surfaces regularly and wash your hands often especially after coming into contact with animals and animal products.
    • Separate raw and cooked, ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross contamination.
    • Cook food to the right temperature. Checking the colour and texture of meat is not enough to ensure it is safe. Instead, use a food thermometer to check internal food temperatures.
    • Refrigerate foods below 4°C. Germs can grow in many foods within 2 hours and even quicker during the summer.


    Works Cited

    CDC. (2014). Antibiotic Resistance and Food Safety. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/antibiotic-resistance.html

    CDC. (2015). About Antimicrobial Resistance. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/about.html

    ECDC. (2015). CDTR Week 41, 4-10 October 2015. . COMMUNICABLE DISEASE THREATS REPORT. Available at: http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/communicable-disease-threats-report-10-oct-2015.pdf

    Whitworth, J. (13 October 2015). New Cases reported in multi-year, multi-country Salmonella outbreak. Food Quality News. Available at: http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Food-Outbreaks/Turkey-production-chain-at-centre-of-Salmonella-concerns

    WHO. (2013). Salmonella (non-typhoidal). Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs139/en/

    WHO. (2015). Antimicrobial resistance. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/

    • ayra casuga 9:57 am on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting and intriguing blog! I found it very interesting to see recent real-world cases of antimicrobial resistance playing a large role in the prevalence of food-borne illnesses. I was surprised that the same strain managed to make its way to Australia considering that the outbreaks mostly occurred in Europe. Especially since these Australian outbreaks were non-travel related. Perhaps it was though some sort of international trade or shipment of these products. After reading this blog, I was wondering if the EU are going to add an extra antimicrobial (ciprofloxacin) into their food supply since S. Stanley is resistant to nalidixic acid? If so, wouldn’t that cause an emergence of another, possibly more infective, strain of Salmonella that would be resistant to the new antimicrobial?

    • EmilyChow 7:06 pm on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Nice post! It’s interesting to see that just one strain of salmonella could have such a lasting impact in one particular part of Europe. Since it’s emergence in 2011, it’s amazing how S. stanley had continuously been responsible for so many outbreaks. Because the last outbreak was specific to one place, Austria, and also to one source, turkey, it makes me wonder how the food safety regulations are implemented in Europe. Over 9 months in 2015 is quite a period of long time. Are the warnings and regulations the same in Europe as they are here? Perhaps this continuous emergence of salmonella is not only attributed to antimicrobial resistance but also due to how the meat is handled?

    • Michelle Ebtia 11:59 pm on November 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very well written, nicely organized blog!
      As mentioned in the report, the single most important factor that needs to be taken into account while discussing antibiotic (AB) resistance is its use in animals and people. However, as more than 80% of all AB used in the US are fed to farm animals (Levy et al. 1976), the most effective way of controlling the emergence of AB resistant strains of pathogens can be limiting their use in animal farming.
      A very promising corrective measure that has taken place recently, is FDA’s initiative in banning/limiting the use of such drugs as growth promoters in farming practices. According to Kuehn (2014), AB’s that are currently prescribed for treating bacterial infections in humans, can no longer be administered to animals, without the supervision of veterinarians, and the manufacturers of the drug are also required to mention in their labeling that the use of their product as growth enhancer is illegal. I really hope this initiative would help resolve the issue of AB resistance!

      Works Cited:

      Kuehn, B. M. (2014). FDA moves to curb antibiotic use in livestock. JAMA, 311(4), 347-348.

      Levy, S. B., FitzGerald, G. B., & Macone, A. B. (1976). Changes in intestinal flora of farm personnel after introduction of a tetracycline-supplemented feed on a farm. New England Journal of Medicine, 295(11), 583-588.

  • EmilyLi 1:50 am on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , bread, , , ,   

    “Banh mi” in Vietnam 



    Recently, on Oct. 20th 2015, there was a Salmonella outbreak in the Quang Binh province, which located in the north- central coast of Vietnam. The outbreak affected 224 local people, who showed symptoms such as stomach ache, vomiting, fever and diarrhea. The Salmonella bacteria were found in “Banh mi” supplied by the “Vuong Tien Thanh Bakery”. “Banh mi” is a Vietnamese snack introduce by the French during the Colonial Period. It consisted of a baguette, usually filled with variety of meats, pickled vegetables and chili peppers.


    According to the Quang Binh province Hygiene and Food Safety department, samples taken from the bakery and the contents of the victims’ stomach both tested positive for the bacteria Salmonella. Most of the consumer infected with Salmonella developed symptoms within 72 hours and rushed to the local hospital. This was the biggest case of food poisoning seen in the province.


    About a week prior to the detection of Salmonella bacteria in “Banh mi”, the bakery had supplied bread to “Tan Phat Sport Company”. 20 of the worker. who consumed the bread suffered from vomiting and diarrhea.  “Vuong Tien Thanh Bakery” had five branches, which 3 were suspended after the incident.


    A little background in Vietnamese food culture and the snack food item “Banh mi”. “Banh mi” from the journal article “An Outbreak of Foodborne Salmonellosis Linked to Bread Takeaway Shop in Ben Tre City, Vietnam” was referred as stuff bread. In the article it was mention that in 2013 media reported multiple incidents where people had been hospitalized with acute gastroenteritis due to consumption of stuffed bread. They found that “Banh mi” usually included the ingredients pork bologna, pork pate, salted and dried pork and raw egg mayonnaise. Many of these items were found to have Salmonella species as well as E. coli growing.  Most of the stuff breads were brought from street food stalls and vendors. At these vendors poor hygiene was found: some had cooked food and raw food place very close together, some had cooked food kept at room temperature for long period of time.


    Vietnam is a lower middle income country, where development and industrialization are still taken place. The food culture there is still very traditional, which comprised of traditional foods with traditional methods of making the food. Traditional practices of preparing the food are not necessary food safe or hygienic. Vietnam is also one of the Asian countries known for its delicious and inexpensive street food. To regulate and improve food safety laws for street food vendors in Vietnam, in 2011 laws were passed providing guidelines on operating street food stalls.


    The guidelines are:street-food-vendor

    1. Stall must be away from polluted place.
    2. Clean water must be used to cook and clean kitchen utensils
    3. Origin of the produce used to make food must be clear
    4. Vendors must have a waste collection system in place
    5. Vendors can only make use of a specific list of additives


    Many other Asian countries are also known for the inexpensive and impressive variety street foods. What would be your opinion on regulation on street food? How can we blend traditional practices with modern implications?


    Thank you so much for your time.

    Emily L. 


    Reference links:






    • cvalencia 10:25 am on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is interesting since I’ve always wondered how safe the street food are in countries such as China, Vietnam, and in the Philippines. Having grown up in the Philippines, my parents didn’t allow me to buy food from street vendors as the safety of the food they sell is questionable. In my knowledge, there hasn’t been a report of an outbreak associated with street foods there, probably only because of poor reporting and monitoring strategies in place. My parents once contracted Hepatitis A from eating street food, so they are extra careful in letting us, their children, consume any of these foods. Great current events article!

    • csontani 3:55 pm on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is very interesting to read since I’ve never actually read a news regarding outbreaks in many Asian countries. I grew up in Indonesia where the street foods are famous for being really good but dirty, and I think that food safety is not a big deal in those kind of countries. I wonder if street food vendors can really follow the guidelines, especially for number 1 since it is quite hard to have a food stall on the side of the road and trying to avoid the pollution, unless they have more budget to invest more for their business. I really think that the government should manage their food safety regulation better to prevent more outbreaks especially in countries where they have inexpensive and “dirty” foods.

    • meggyli 9:39 pm on October 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with the charms of street food. Even though we all know that it’s relatively unhygienic, there is just something about street food, such as in night markets, that attracts us. Theoretically speaking street vendors should be making the food in a completely enclosed area with the exception of a pass-through window to hand out the food to prevent contamination of food. However in all my summer evenings at night markets here and in China alike I find that very few street vendors are actually following these regulations, and I have also seen some unsafe food practices and/or food handling as well. Personally I think street food is a cultural trademark and should be maintained as such. As for the safety and quality regulations for street food I think it is challenging to control the premises while keeping the costs down. Instead, it should be based on a mutual trust and understanding between customer and vendor: the vendor should not sell contaminated, spoiled, or adulterated foods to customers; and the customers should trust that the food vendors are selling are safe to eat. Environmental Health Officers may want to inspect these places more frequently and be given the authority to shut down a street vendor that practices unsafe food handling.

    • dgozali 10:30 pm on October 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting read! Growing up in south east asia, street food was part of my daily life and I’ve definitely witnessed some unhygienic practices in some stalls. Nevertheless, people would still consume street food as it is usually seen as the authentic cuisine of that country. Especially for tourists, in order to have a complete experience, they would often give the local street food a try. Because of this i think that it is becoming increasingly important to maintain a standard of food safety in street food stalls. Although it may be difficult to implement in the beginning, it is a step that must be done.

    • TamaraRitchie 8:38 am on October 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think food is an important part of many cultures. If too harsh regulations, guidelines and fees were put in places for street vendors it may cause some people to decide not to cook their foods. Although it is important to have some food safety precautions in order. When consuming street food there is automatically more chance for cross contamination due to the area in which the food is being cooked. I think the main issues is when travelers go to these regions and eat the street food and become sick. For locals who eat the food semi-regularly would be less likely to become sick from the food because their bodies are use to consuming it. When travelers consume the same foods their stomachs are not accustomed to it and could become sick. I believe it should be a personal choice as to weather you eat at food carts/street vendors.

    • mustafa akhtar 10:23 am on October 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with Tamara – Street food seems to be an important part of Vietnamese culture. Too many regulations would only deter such vendors. I think change needs to come from the supply side and not from the vendors. Regulations such as use of sanitary practices at the farm would benefit more in the sense that it would target the root of the problem.

    • carissarli 12:41 am on November 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I experienced food poisoning when I was a child. I remember eating street food in my home town and the hygiene there wasn’t good at all since I recall insects flying around the food but I didn’t really care about that because the food just attracted me! I had a severe stomachache and diarrhea afterwards and it was a nightmare. My parents did not bring me to the hospital so I am not sure what bacteria was acting on me. I also think getting the regulations straight cannot really help on improving the hygiene because they don’t have an indoor area that protect their food from getting infected. I will suggest the Food Safety Department from Vietnam to increase the inspection and supervision on street food vendors in order to remind them to improve their food hygiene.

    • KristinaRichmond 4:46 pm on November 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I agree that street food is culturally important, but maybe some simple practices could be implemented to help minimize the risk to consumers. I read another article about a similar problem with street food in India, and by educating vendors about their water source and cross contamination they were able to stop an outbreak. So maybe a few simple changes in their preparations could help.
      I thought it was interesting as well that one of the contaminated food sources was bread, as we usually hear about Salmonella more commonly in poultry or vegetables.

    • Stephanie Chen 6:18 pm on November 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Street food indeed plays a significant role in many cultures and was also a part of my daily life growing up. It is not surprising to see that people may be infected from foods consumed from these stalls as hygiene can often be neglected and safe food practices poorly carried out. It may also be difficult to enforce regulations on these food stalls. I agree with Tamara that it is especially unfortunate when tourists get sick after consuming must-eat foods that are authentic to specific regions. While guidelines may improve food safety in street food, people must eat them at their own risk!

    • CindyDai 2:51 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      In most Asian countries, street food is cheap and tasty, which becomes popular among people easily. However, street food is usually a blind spot of food safety surveillance. Many food vendors dispose garbage in open lid bins or throw it on the road. They rarely use hand gloves and usually forget to wash hands before and after handling raw or cooked food. Better hygiene status and food practices should be achieved by asian street food vendors. There is a need of generating food safety awareness amongst street food vendors.

    • AngeliMalimban 6:48 pm on December 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Banh mi is definitely up there for one of my top favourite foods (next to sushi of course). A lot of the street food vendors in Asia, from my experience in the Philippines, are not even aware of food safety. In fact, a lot of people live in such conditions that food safety is not really a top priority when it comes to making food. The culture surrounded in the Philippines is more surrounded by “whether or not food will make the table” as opposed to if food is actually okay for people to consume. I think that if there was education at the home level for the importance of food safety, and the serious consequences of foodborne disease, people will start to finally understand. It can then build up with the street vendors (who often don’t have permits/just sell outside of their own house) so that they can have safe practices.

    • DeniseZhang 7:55 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I actually loved eating street foods when I was studying in middle school. I believe young kids loves eating everything that is not regularly cooked at home. Street foods are cheap and delicious, young kids therefore can afford and enjoy such foods. However, as I have grown up, I now understand why our parents did not allow us to eat street foods. The safety of street foods are not guaranteed and no one actually know how did they prepare the ingredients. Used oil and harmful food additives might be used to enhance the flavour. I love how these foods taste but I do not really appreciate how did they become that tasty. I guess sometimes delicacy comes with risks just like eating raw seafoods 😀

  • RainShen 8:44 pm on October 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cucumber, , , ,   

    An Outbreak of Salmonella Poona Infections: Think Twice Before Eating That Cucumber 

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a very serious strain of salmonella called Salmonella Poona, which has affected 767 people as reported until October 14, 2015 by consuming contaminated cucumbers. Among 36 states, 205 cases reported from California, which has the highest number of infected people in this salmonella outbreak. Four deaths have been reported from California, Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma. More than gettyimages-175696368half of the infected people are children younger than 18 years old. FDA investigations have identified that the contaminated cucumbers were imported from state of Baja California in Mexico and distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce. The company has issued a recall of all cucumbers sold under its Limited Edition label, which are those Slicer cucumbers imported from Mexico, during the period from August 1, 2015 to September 3, 2015. However, the shelf life of this type of cucumber is 14 days and some customers may store the cucumbers and do not notice the recall of these contaminated cucumbers. Moreover, it usually takes 2 to 4 weeks for the case actually reported as part of the outbreak since the person is exposed to salmonella, which means there will be more illnesses reported later on. CRbPX0_VAAA47iN

    Children, elderlies, and people with suppressed immune systems are more likely to get salmonella
    infections and the infection can be fatal. Salmonellosis causes abdominal cramping, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. According to CDC, 8% of reported infections had long-term impact, such as chronic gastroenteritis, osteomyelitis, and septic arthritis.

    People mostly hear about salmonella when it comes to poultry, egg and beef, not vegetables, but any type of food might be contaminated by salmonella bacteria. Research shows that 13% of the source attribution of salmonellosis is vine vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Cucumber, as a delicious and refreshing vegetable, is usually eaten raw, which increases the risk of getting infected by salmonella. Salmonella grows optimally at 37 °C and pH of 6.5 to 7.5. However, most salmonella serotypes can grow in the range of 7 to 48 °C and are able to survive under freezing for a relatively long period of time. They can also survive under very acidic and dry condition. An efficient way to eliminate salmonella in the food is heating to an internal temperature of 72 °C for at least ten minutes.

    Nevertheless, going back to the salmonella outbreak linked to cucumbers in US since September 2015, fresh cucumbers are usually not cooked before consumption, which means it would not go through the heating process, so it is very difficult to eliminate the pathogens during the preparation. The question is: how to safely prepare your produce? According to FDA, there are some precautions to take each time before eating the produce:

    1. Clean your hands by washing them for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation.

    2. Wash your produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking — home-grown veggies included.

    3. Scrub firm produce like cucumbers with a clean produce brush.

    4. Dry produce with a clean towel to further reduce bacteria from spreading.

    Furthermore, avoiding cross-contamination is also very critical. Raw meat, poultry, and produce need to be separated in the grocery shopping cart and the refrigerator. For the preparation, different cutting boards can be used for different types of food, especially for separating cooked and raw food.

    Eating raw food always links to high risk of getting infected by the foodborne pathogens. Personally, I always eat cucumbers raw, since produce is not a very big concern for salmonella infection. As I heard this outbreak, I started to re-consider if I should cook them before eating. I feel like cooking is the safest way to prevent from getting infected.

    Suggestions by FDA – “how to safely handle raw produce and fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices”


    What do you think? How would you prevent yourself from being harmed by eating raw produce?

    • shinnie 2:11 am on October 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Wow, similar to Karen’s research, it’s amazing to see how Salmonella can still survive on the surface of cucumbers which, I’m pretty sure has low water activity (on its surface) and acts as a barrier against pathogens. This blog post definitely highlights how important it is for consumers to adopt safe and proper cleaning procedures when working with raw fruits and vegetables. There are a few things to consider. If the cucumbers are not properly washed and finished all at once (i.e. leftovers and stored in the fridge), the few Salmonella bacteria on the surface will have access to the nutrients inside the cucumber and start growing, reaching the infectious dose. This is similar for bulk-making of squeezed vegetable juices, if not finished all at once. The FDA’s video provides some good advice, but cooking in my opinion (and yours too!) is by far the safest route in pathogen elimination; however, it is impossible to thermally process all foods we eat. I am not sure if this procedure is valid but I like to soak raw fruits and vegetables in soapy water before I eat or use them to make juices. I would always wash them very very thoroughly, every single crevice, no matter how lazy I am. I am honestly developing a fear of eating raw foods now.

    • ColleenChong 8:10 pm on October 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting article Rain! I agree with Shinnie, this article is highlights Karen’s research on Salmonella’s ability being able to survive under low water activities conditions. As we have learned in Karen’s presentation that Salmonella is able to adapt in stress conditions; which results in cross-protection. This makes salmonella a major concern in the food industry, especially animal products and raw foods. The video that you have provides value information to public on cleaning their produce properly to reduce the risk of consuming salmonella contaminated foods. However, in my option young children, elderly and immuno-compromised individuals should avoid consuming raw foods; unless washed thoroughly with soap because they are susceptible to serious long term illness. As for myself I am accustomed in consuming raw foods and I have been exposed to them for a long period of time. Also my immune system is quite strong, so I am no too worried. But I am guilty of no washing my produce properly, I usually just give them a quick rinse. From this video I l learned to wash my produce properly and I will try to do so from now on.

    • catherine wong 10:07 pm on October 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is certainly unsettling to hear about these cases of Salmonella in produce that can be eaten uncooked. I also am in the same boat as everyone else so far that maybe eating products fully cooked is the way to go from now on. The 4 precaution steps before eating produce by the FDA is new to me, I never knew that using a clean produce brush to scrub firm produce is one of the ways to make sure the product is clean. Although with that then one has to always make sure that the brush is clean as well and that introduces another way for contamination if the brush is not clean enough. When consuming raw foods, it is hard to completely make sure that it would be safe for consumption as there is no kill step and that would always be one of the risks associated with eating raw foods. There are some foods that I love eating raw and I do not think that I could give it up even with knowing all the risks. It might decrease the amount of times I will be eating it but I would not be able to avoid it completely.

    • Jasmine Lee 11:46 pm on October 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I love snacking on raw cucumbers and not having them in my sandwiches is unthinkable! Despite the Salmonella outbreak, I may consider reducing rather than avoiding the consumption of raw cucumbers. Like Rain mentioned, most of the patients were young children and immunocompromised individuals. As long as we maintain good health and microflora, the immune system should be able to remove the pathogen from the body. For precautionary purposes, I always wash my vegetables well under warm running water. I do not believe that soap will be more effective than water in terms of eliminating bacteria. Applying dish soap may in fact introduce more food hazards. The soap may be absorbed into the food and the residues will be consumed. I also avoid preparing salads in advance and leaving washed produce in the fridge overnight. The nutrients and enzymes from the diced vegetables may provide suitable conditions for growth of spoilage and pathogenic organisms, especially if the produce was not washed thoroughly.

    • elaine chan 12:12 am on October 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It’s unfortunate to see how many individuals have fallen ill, and even 4 deaths, due to this Salmonella outbreak. I agree with Colleen’s point on how young children, elderly and immunocompromised individuals should refrain from consuming raw produce, for the safety of their health. With a product like cucumbers, that’s commonly consumed in its raw form, it’s difficult to manage and prevent the spread of the bacteria on the consumer level. Especially when the consumers rely and trust on the safety in consumption of the product from its distributors. I definitely think that precautions should be considered when handling raw produce at home, but I also feel that precautions should also be considered during the transportation and distribution process. This will help limit the chances of an outbreak like this from occurring, and ensure the safety of produce being sold at markets. Going through FDA’s recommended precautionary procedures, I wondered how practical it can be…Could the simple process of running cucumbers under water, or scrubbing with a brush, be sufficient to remove the Salmonella bacteria from the produce? And subsequently be safe to consume in its raw form? Even if these precautionary procedures are practiced at home, how do we ensure that these practices are also implemented in food preparation facilities for raw produce like cucumbers?

    • JorgeMadrigalPons 9:15 am on October 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It catches my attention to know the recalled cucumbers were imported from Mexico, since I am an exchange student from there, and my studies are related to agri-food production. The passed summer, I did an internship as a quality control assistant in an asparagus production field in Guanajuato state. I noticed that during harvesting, there is very few food safety measures taken. This is a major area of opportunity for Mexican agronomists, since most of the production targets exportation to the US & Canada. Applying food safety measures at the very beginning of the food chain (field production) can greatly help reduce pathogen contamination, just like in this salmonella recall case of Mexican cucumber.

    • Michelle Ebtia 10:43 am on October 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Considering the benefits of eating raw fruits and vegetables, and the fact that cooking or any type of thermal processing may reduce their nutrient content through leaching in the cooking medium (Leong and Oey. 2012) I would not cut back on consuming them, but prefer to adopt two strategies to minimize the associated risk: first, I can make sure I wash the produce thoroughly, and second, I would avoid consuming those that are considered very high risk in general (e.g. raw sprouts) or those that have been implicated in an ongoing or very recent outbreak!

      Leong, S. Y., & Oey, I. (2012). Effects of processing on anthocyanins, carotenoids and vitamin C in summer fruits and vegetables. Food chemistry, 133(4), 1577-1587.

    • MarinaMoon 4:36 pm on October 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It’s fascinating and scary at the same time that salmonella can withstand such various stresses. While I was reading through the article, I wanted to mention that there are ways Koreans eat cucumber by fermenting and pickling it in an acidic condition. However, as soon as it mentioned that it could even survive very low acidity I thought it would be impossible to safely consume cucumbers other than not consuming contaminated ones. I’m still curious what will happen to fermented vegetables in terms of pathogen survival. Overall, I would try to avoid those easily contaminanle fresh vegetables during the times that are easily contaminated, especially look out for outbreaks announced by CDC and FDA and other food safety agencies.

    • MichelleLui 2:50 pm on November 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very informative article. With the increase consumption of produce, the industry and government sectors must work together to ensure the food safety compliance of the growers and processors. Importers must source their produce from a GAP certified supplier. Random sampling for micro analysis should be carried out by both the importers and regulatory agency for verification purpose. It’s great you brought up the consumer food handling practices. As the trend of consuming raw food on the rise, consumers will also need to be aware of the food safety risk involved in the consumption of raw produce.

    • WinnieLiao 10:30 am on November 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It’s interesting to know that cucumbers can also be contaminated with Salmonella on its surface. As a raw cucumber lover, this article definitely helps me to gain knowledge about handling cucumbers. These methods can also be applicable to other vegetables and produces as well. I usually wash my hands and the cucumber thoroughly with water, but never used a scrub for surface cleaning! This article also reminds me to clean and wash in small portions, firstly as to reduce the chance of contaminating other cucumbers, second as to reduce the possibility of bacterial growth if there happens to be any leftover portions!

    • cheryl lau 3:15 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This blog post was very informative. With the increased cases of contaminated produce, my household has also started follow the practices listed above. We separate our groceries depending on if the food will be consumed raw or if further preparations are necessary. We barely eat salads as well. However, when vegetables are heat treated, they typically lose a lot of nutrients. It has been a constant struggle between the convenience of eating a raw healthy snack and the ensuring the safety of the food being consumed. Lately, there has been more research on technological advances to address the problem of contaminate produce. One approach that I have come across utilizes bacteriophages in sanitizers that can be sprayed on and be fit for human consumption. Perhaps these approaches can be
      Improved so that consumers can feel safe and not be as reluctant when eating salads.

    • CandiceZheng 3:17 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for your informative blog! Cucumbers, same as many other vegetables, have very short shelf life. As stated in the blog, only 14 days. However, with traditional microbial testing method, this is pretty much the time required to get a result. Also, as mentioned in the blog, some customers may store the cucumbers and do not notice the recall of these contaminated cucumbers. In this case the food safety is a huge concern, and it is essential to develop some rapid detection method to detect the pathogenic microorganisms in food matrix and report any hazard on time.

    • teewong 12:00 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It fascinates me how salmonella can be found in cucumbers because i’ve only heard of it being present in eggs and poultry. What really shocks me is how vulnerable we are when it come to these types of vegetable because like you said we usually eat it raw, therefore, the likelihood of us killing the bacteria in high temperatures is really low unlike other vegetables we cook. On top of all that, it is very unfortunate that because it takes some time to find out where salmonella came from from the ill, the chances of the company recalling cucumbers back is slim to non as people would’ve already consumed it. Therefore, your statement that many more reports of ill people from salmonella are to come, it really disturbs me that those people are just waiting for the illness to take place. On the other hand, this information is very valuable to me as I will probably cook most of my food and vegetables from now on.

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