Updates from October, 2015 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • flyingsquirrel 6:30 pm on October 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , PHAC, ,   

    A Canada Exclusive: Salmonella Across the Country, Majority on the East-side! 

    Just last Friday on October 16th, news outlets have published an article about a recent outbreak on Salmonella, with reports starting from June 12, 2015. The Salmonella outbreak has spread over the country in 8 provinces by the 20th of September with the most cases reported in Ontario. Other provinces include British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec. Luckily, there has been no reported deaths.

    The source of outbreak is still unknown as of today, however many common food carriers of Salmonella pathogens include: poultry and poultry products (ex. eggs), beef, pork, nuts, and produce (ex. fruits and vegetables.

    A Study has shown that Salmonella can be a tricky pathogen as it can become resistant to standard sterilization procedures in food industries through cross-protection. Cross-protection occurs when a pathogen experiences sub-lethal conditions—in which it develops resistance to harsh environments—followed by conditions that would have otherwise killed it (Fong, 2015). In the case of Salmonella, lethal conditions include but are not limited to: pH <6.5, temperature>70 degrees Celsius, and water activity <0.93.

    This means that Salmonella can be found not only on food sources, but surviving on surfaces that have come into contact with the contaminated products! It is a very versatile pathogen, which means that the source of outbreak could be identified in any step of the food chain:

    1. Agricultural Sector
    2. Manufacturing/processing Sector
    3. Distribution and Transportation Sector
    4. Retail Sector
    5. At home/restaurants in which the foods are prepared and consumed

    2Salmonella can cause symptoms within 6-72 hours of ingestion. Common symptoms include: fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea, and vomiting which can last 4-7 days. In more severe cases, such as for those with compromised immune systems, are elderly, or are children, may have to be hospitalized and in the worst case scenario, death may occur. In some cases, people may be asymptomatic and spread the bacteria onto others by not practicing hygienic procedures (handwashing, keeping equipment clean, etc.). (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2015).

    This outbreak is a very curious incident as it has spread so far across the country, yet the source(s) is/are not pinpointed to exact foods or modes of process/transportation. With the largest cases found in Ontario and incidences tapering off towards the west, it would seem that the source of outbreak would be from the east. However there may also be a chance that the outbreaks are due to improper food handling methods at home. Another interesting finding is that over half of the effected are female.

    With such a large difference of outbreaks between the east and west, could there be a difference between provinces for public education in food handling procedures? Could there be any meaning behind why half of those affected were women?

    Before this reported outbreak, there had been another in January 2015. These incidents have been identified rather quickly. However there is an ongoing debate about whether inspection has become quicker and well executed, or if the increased frequency in outbreaks is due to recent cuts in finance for CFIA. More about the cuts can be read on from this article.

    What other underlying factors contribute to outbreaks?

    How should industry procedures change in order to minimize the effect of cross-protection?

    In addition, this link is very helpful with explaining the bacteria and names some organizations involved in food safety for those of you who are looking at the policies currently in place for protecting consumers.

    Any related and passionate comment is welcome!


    Works cited:

    Public Health Agency of Canada. 2015. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/phn-asp/2015/salm-0628-eng.php

    Image obtained on October 19, 2015 from http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/thumblarge_1666/16666999.jpg

    Fong, K. 2015. Environmental adaptation and stress response of Salmonella enterica in peanut oil, peanuts, and chia seeds. University of British Columbia.



  • yichen25 10:31 pm on October 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Brisbane, Eggs, , , ,   

    Australia: Unresolved egg problem 


    In the past week, a Salmonella outbreak was reported at the South Bank Surf Club in Brisbane, Australia where the restaurant was inspected after receiving some complaints from consumers who felt sick. After further investigation, it was found out that it was due to a bad batch of eggs which was provided by the supplier and the eggs were used in the sauces in seafood platter. As a major egg lover myself, it will be a terrible nightmare to know that you will end up sick eating your favorite food and not knowing the cause of it.

    In Australia, despite an overall decline in the national rate of foodborne illness cases each year, the number of Salmonella– related food-poisoning cases continues to increase drastically, posing a health threat to the local community. According to the statistics shown by the Victoria’s Department of Health Figures, there has been a 50% increase in Salmonella-related food poisoning since 2012 along with a doubling of Salmonella poisoning cases occurring in the past 12 months in Queensland with 1895 reported cases so far. A table of past raw eggs related outbreak in Australia was carefully tabulated which shows recurring food outbreaks occurring year by year revolving around eggs. This also indirectly implies the fact that the existing intervention strategies to combat against Salmonella were not as efficient in the prevention of raw egg contamination.

    For your information, Salmonella food-poisoning is one of the most common food-borne illnesses reported which is often associated with contaminated poultry products such as eggs. Salmonella can be naturally found in soil and water and contamination of Salmonella is prone to occur with unsanitary food handling and improper cooking of raw food items. Besides, ingestion of food contaminated with Salmonella can lead to salmonellosis which shows symptoms such as abdominal cramping, vomiting and diarrhea.

    In conjunction to the recent outbreak which points upstream to the reservoir, studies have shown that some Salmonella serovars, especially Salmonella enterica serovar have the capacity of infecting developing eggs within the oviduct. Therefore, contaminated eggs which serve as an ecological amplifier could then facilitate the dissemination of Salmonella into the food chain and further leads to human transmission.

    Besides the possibility of initial product contamination, it is also undeniable that proper food handling techniques are mandatory when it comes to the prevention of food contamination. To properly address that issue, new guidelines have been released by the Fresh Produce Safety Centre Australia New Zealand to spread more awareness and knowledge about the importance of proper food safety standards. In conclusion, I personally think that the Australian Government should properly educate the public about the importance of proper food handling techniques and how does it relate to foodborne illnesses. Also, strict policies in regard to proper food handling practices and maintenance of hygienic standards should be further enforced from farm to fork to minimize the occurrence of foodborne illnesses in Australia.

    Please leave some comments on your thoughts on the increasing Salmonella outbreak cases in Australia. Thanks.

    Yi Chen Teh


    • BarbaraCorreiaFaustino 9:23 pm on October 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting article! I wonder why there is that increase in Salmonella-related foodborne diseases, even though there is a decline in the number of overall foodborne diseases. Clearly the strategies that the Australian authorities are using to prevent food poisoning from other pathogens are not working so well to prevent food poisoning from Salmonella-contaminated food. So I’m glad that at least they released those new guidelines, which are very helpful, so that people will have more information on how to properly handle and prepare their food in order to prevent salmonellosis and, therefore, also prevent Salmonella outbreak cases in Australia.

    • NorrisHuang 10:31 pm on October 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I am also curious about why Salmonella infection is still so common while the rate of occurrence of other identified pathogens such as E.coli is decreasing. I don’t know much about guidelines in Australia but I checked on their government website and I don’t see much advices on how to prevent Salmonella infections whereas in the USA, for example, they actually request restaurants to use pasteurized eggs to make food that contains lightly cooked/raw eggs. I wonder if that is one reason of the increasing trend of Salmonella infections.

      ps. I am a big fan of gudetama too :p

    • Susanna Ko 6:56 pm on October 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Unfortunately I think that it is not uncommon to use raw egg in food dishes. For example, in asian hot pot, my friends add a raw egg to their soy sauce. In French cuisine, beef tartare with a raw egg. I guess egg adds flavour and texture to these sauces. Eggnog made with raw egg is deemed to be “true eggnog”. As you’ve pointed out, there are many risks involved with raw egg and Salmonella. The general population probably doesn’t know about the significant risk involved with raw eggs. However, if companies started bottling pasteurized/retorted versions of the sauces with (cooked) egg, then it might alleviate some of these issues.

    • YaoWang 1:17 pm on October 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I’m an egg lover too! It’s so bad to hear the news. But I’m curious why Salmonella–related food-poisoning cases still continue to increase drastically while the overall food safety environment is getting much better these years. And I’m wondering what are the proper handling techniques at home. Does that mean I have to cook the eggs thoroughly? The thing is I personally prefer medium raw eggs and I believe many people even consume raw eggs. Is it possible to have the producers to prevent initial contamination so that we can still eating eggs without much cook?

    • wen liao 10:41 pm on October 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      HA Salmonella is literally everywhere and they grow very fast! I remembered when I was in lab grow them, they can reach a OD value of 1 within just 16 hours! Therefore, it is important that food producers are following the guidelines for safe production. I am very curious about the Australia standards of raising their chickens as such. To be honest, with the technology we have now, I feel like it would not be hard if we really want to control the existence of Salmonella in the eggs. Japan for example. is a country that have a long history of consuming raw eggs. However, very seldom was Japan reported to host a large foodborne pathogen related outbreak, including Salmonella outbreak. They have a very established system for food safety surveillance. I believe that there must be some human errors that are causing this Salmonella outbreak in Australia.

    • Mandy Tam 3:02 pm on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Eggs produced from local farms or self raised are more popular nowadays because of the trend of organic foods, and getting food from local areas/ themselves. Although this seems to be a good idea, most of the fresh egg from local farms or self raised are not pasteurized like commercial production. Also, they do not go through microbe testing like most companies required. I wonder the suppliers for that restaurant is from a local farm or from a bigger company. It will be interesting to know because it can determine if the result of such outbreaks are due to bad manufacturing practices or lack of regulation in self raised chicken/ eggs and/or local farms.

    • angel519 4:56 pm on October 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is not surprising that the number of foodborne illnesses caused by Salmonella still remains high. As mentioned in the blog, eggs are one of the main source of Salmonella in the diet; and because eggs are so preferability to be eaten raw or half cooked, there is a higher chance of being infected by Salmonella. I agree that the government should emphasize the consequences of getting infected by Salmonella. And that the quality control and safety control of eggs should be addressed and strictly inspected.

    • laurenrappaport 6:17 pm on October 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Super interesting article! I cant believe that there are still so many cases of foodborne illness in relation to Salmonella. For some reason we cant seem to get rid of it! Its scary to know that you can get so sick on a food so commonly consumed in our society and around the world! As eating raw eggs or partially cooked eggs occur so frequently, people don’t really think about the consequences it may cause. The impacts of this are clearly highlighted in your article when you said that there has been a 50% increase in Salmonella poisoning over the past 3 year which I found so crazy! I totally agree that stronger government regulations should be implemented in Australia as clearly so many people have been effected by this. When it comes to the case of Salmonella in eggs I think education about proper handling and storage would be the most effective way to prevent contamination and the illnesses associated with it.

    • amreenj 7:43 pm on October 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Really interesting article! Like many of the people who posted before me, I am also really surprised that the occurrence of Salmonella related food poisonings have increased by a staggering 50%. What is confusing is that the occurrence of food-borne illnesses in general has drastically declined over the years. I wonder what would be causing this? It seems as though the strategies (food preventative measures) they have currently are working to some extent but perhaps they need to develop Salmonella -directed measures to better eliminate Salmonella related food borne illnesses!

    • Ya Gao 8:18 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I personally enjoy eating eggs that are not fully cooked, and it is scary for me to see that eating eggs rare will cause so much trouble. People tend to cook poultry products entirely to well done, but I saw most people having eggs not completely cooked, as sunny side up for example. Since it takes time for people to adapt to a new habit, I believe Australian government should focus more on regulating egg farms and improving their sanitary condition to reduce the cases of Salmonella-related food poisoning. 1895 reported cases in a year is a shocking number to see, and number of real cases must be much more because of the under-reporting situation that exists worldwide. Hope the condition in Australian egg farms will get better!

  • Michelle Ebtia 7:27 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Leafy Green Vegetables, , PHAC Outbreak Timeline   

    No Surprises in E. coli Outbreaks of Eastern and Central Canada: The Usual Food-Source, and PHAC’s Anticipated Race against Time! 


    The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) , the institute in charge of responding to public health emergencies and infectious disease outbreaks, published a final update on the E. coli outbreak that occurred between July 6 and September 4, 2015, in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Of the 29 cases reported, seven were hospitalized.

    According to PHAC, investigators identified E. coli O157 to be responsible for this outbreak, “with the use of enhanced techniques”, that enabled them to rule out 2 other reported cases with similar gastrointestinal symptoms, as not being related to the outbreak strain. The food-source associated with the outbreak has not been identified yet, but further investigations are underway.

    This is the second E. coli outbreak of 2015 in Eastern Canada, with the first occurring between March 13 and March 31 in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador; all the 13 cases that were reported had a matching genetic fingerprint of E. coli O157:H7.
    According to PHAC report, exposure to contaminated leafy greens (including all varieties of lettuces, in addition to other green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, arugula, or chard) was identified as the possible source of the outbreak. However, CFIA could not identify a specific food product as the single source of the pathogen, which illustrates the challenges associated with food-source attribution in outbreaks.

    Escherichia coli O157:H7, a Shiga toxin–producing E. coli (STEC) is the strain most commonly associated with outbreaks of bacterial gastrointestinal disease in the North America. The subpopulation most severely affected by the outbreaks have historically been young children, and the elderly, whereas in the latest Canadian outbreak discussed in this report, the majority of patients were young males (average age of 23); however, the report does not disclose the age distribution of the patients who were hospitalized due to the severity of their condition.

    The most common routs of transmission of E. coli pathogen, leading to outbreaks are generally identified to be contaminated food, water (drinking, irrigation or swimming), and environment, as well as person-to person and animal-to-person contact (Turabelidze et al. 2013).

    Analysis of outbreak data suggest that foods most frequently implicated in outbreaks in North America are ground beef, leafy green vegetables, and unpasteurized dairy products, as well as sprouts, unpasteurized apple cider, melons and other fruits, and salami (Neil et al. 2009). Therefore, the suggested association of the earlier outbreak to leafy green vegetables, is in line with the characteristics of outbreak food-sources in general.

    guiltyNumerous studies have specifically examined the survival and growth of E. coli on leafy vegetables. For instance, Parker et al. (2011) demonstrated E. coli’s “ability to multiply in the phyllosphere of whole lettuce plants” on shredded and intact harvested lettuce leaves, due to an up-regulation of genes involved in oxidative and osmotic stress, which also make the bacteria more resistant to antimicrobials commonly used in the fresh-cut produce industry. Therefore, the food industry needs to implement more effective strategies in handling raw vegetables.

    Examining the timeline of PHAC’s report on E. coli outbreaks, reveals that in both occasions, it took the agency over two months from the time of the first reported case, to come to a final conclusion about the strain and possible food source. A similar timeline can be observed in E. coli outbreaks from previous years as well (2012 and 2013). The use of new and improved methods, such as Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight (MALDI-TOF)-Based Peptide Mass Fingerprinting, as suggested by Chui et al.(2015) can contribute to a more rapid identification and fingerprinting of the pathogen, which can in turn, reduce the burden of outbreaks by early targeting of the attributed food source.

    How can we, as consumers, prevent outbreaks from happening? How do you evaluate the effectiveness of communication methods, and timeliness of response to outbreaks by PHAC?


    Works Cited:

    Neil, K. P., Biggerstaff, G., MacDonald, J. K., Trees, E., Medus, C., Musser, K. A., … & Sotir, M. J. (2012). A novel vehicle for transmission of Escherichia coli O157: H7 to humans: multistate outbreak of E. coli O157: H7 infections associated with consumption of ready-to-bake commercial prepackaged cookie dough—United States, 2009. Clinical infectious diseases54(4), 511-518.

    Parker, C. T., Kyle, J. L., Huynh, S., Carter, M. Q., Brandl, M. T., & Mandrell, R. E. (2012). Distinct transcriptional profiles and phenotypes exhibited by Escherichia coli O157: H7 isolates related to the 2006 spinach-associated outbreak. Applied and environmental microbiology78(2), 455-463.

    Turabelidze, G., Lawrence, S. J., Gao, H., Sodergren, E., Weinstock, G. M., Abubucker, S., … & Tarr, P. I. (2013). Precise dissection of an Escherichia coli O157: H7 outbreak by single nucleotide polymorphism analysis. Journal of clinical microbiology51(12), 3950-3954.

    • Jasmine Lee 8:01 pm on October 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      In my opinion, I believe that our nation’s food safety system has come a long way to reduce the outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7, bringing the incidence rate per 100,000 people down from 3.8 to 1.4 in nine years (PHAC’s graph from lecture notes). Regardless, we can and will continue to do better. I agree that two months is a considerably long time for PHAC to identify the causative agent and contaminated food source. However, this may be due to many factors that hinder the efficiency of the investigation, such as under-reporting, method availability and instrument sensitivity. Under-reporting from patients’ reluctance to visit the doctor may be the ‘rate limiting step’ in identifying the outbreak. I strongly believe more emphasis could be placed on educating the public about foodborne illness. While the food industry is doing its best to minimize the risk of transmissible foodborne pathogens, consumers need to be better informed about practicing proper hygiene and reporting their symptoms to their healthcare practitioners so that it would be on record. PHAC should work closely with the provincial health agencies, e.g. HealthLink BC, to deliver outbreak information to the public through posters, community workshops, public service announcements and social media. Consumers should also ensure that their produce are washed thoroughly prior to consumption, stored under refrigeration and discarded if the quality is doubtful. Outbreaks are inevitable unless policymakers, food producers and consumers all do their part.

      • Michelle Ebtia 9:52 am on October 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Jasmine,
        Thanks for your very thoughtful comment. I specially agree with your suggested methods of reaching the public through the use of community workshops and social media, and think they have a higher potential in raising awareness than what is being used now!

    • flyingsquirrel 8:41 pm on October 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is most concerning because the consumption of whole/raw leafy green vegetables is on the rise as people become more aware of health and weight balance. Common ingredients such as kale, lettuces, arugula, and spinach are often found in salad mixes sold to the masses on a daily basis. I agree with Jasmine that public education about how to handle foods to prevent illness is definitely one of the best ways to prevent outbreaks. Aside with working with provincial health agencies,I think a point of target that PHAC should address soon with provincial sectors, is how small-scale organic farms will be handled in terms of safety inspections, practices, and certificates. Although they are small compared to the big corp farms,they are essential in the Canadian market as popularity is increasing for pro-local and organic foods. Small-scale organic farmers do not completely follow the rigors of inspection due to financial issues and this topic is still being debated. How can all producers follow a standard guideline in inspection and safety of foods without financial restrictions?

      • Michelle Ebtia 9:57 am on October 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for your interesting comment! That is definitely a concern which needs to be addressed, considering on a greater scheme, the cost of illness for these outbreaks may well outweigh the expenses required for thorough testing and ensuring the safety of these food items.

    • meggyli 9:22 pm on October 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting article! We often associate E. coli with under-cooked beef or meat products but many people seem to forget about the leafy greens component that’s also a major part of our diet. In my opinion, as food practitioners we should also emphasize the importance of proper handling and cleaning of ready-to-eat or fresh foods in addition to the potentially hazardous or high-risk foods because not only are leafy greens a source of E. coli they are prone to causing Salmonella spp. as well! From the course notes we also saw that in the United States produce cause the most foodborne-associated illnesses, whereas meat and poultry causes the most foodborne associated deaths.

      • Michelle Ebtia 10:05 am on October 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Meggy,
        I agree that meat and poultry seem to be regarded by the general public as the major source of contamination with food-borne pathogens, which calls for a more effective strategy to be adopted in order to raise awareness about risks associated with produce! I think as Jasmine pointed out, community workshops and social media might be effective tools in educating the public about the topic.

  • MichelleLui 7:02 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , South Africa   

    E. coli found in South Africa drinking water 

    South Africa drinking water

    In March 2015, AfriForum, a South African civil-right organization, found E. coli in the drinking water of four local South Africa municipalities: Molteno-Inkwanca, Tarkastad-Tsolwana, Coligny-Ditsobotla and Vryheid-Abaqulusi. Under the South African National Standard for Drinking Water (SANS 241:2011) and the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, E. coli must not be detected (count per 100 ml) in any drinking water samples. Local communities were notified not to drink the water. The non-compliance municipalities’ water authority was told to investigate the source of contamination and implement corrective actions. Follow-up samples were taken and tested clean.

    E. coli is found in the intestines of human and animal. While most E. coli strains are harmless, some are pathogenic and can cause severe human illnesses. According to the study undertaken by WHO’s Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG),enteropathogenic E. coli was one of the top three enteric disease agents responsible for most deaths globally in 2010. Enteropathogenic E. coli associates with infantile diarrhea and it is the major cause of infant mortality in developing countries. Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), the most common cause of travel-associated diarrhea, can be found in less-developed countries. ETEC can also cause mortality for children under the age of 5.

    In Inkwanca Municipality: Integrated Development Plan 2012-2017, one of the remarks made on Molteno water supply concern was the need to upgrade the monthly raw water treatment system. Molteno raw water source is abstracted from Molteno Dam, the Jubilee Dam and a borehole in Denekruin Township. As the dams are open water sources, it may carry more of a risk for E. coli contamination than closed water sources. Precautionary measures such as restricting domestic, livestock or wild animals access to these dams should be taken. Surface water should also be in adequate distance from untreated manure and human sewage waste system. Borehole water can also be contaminated by agricultural livestocks effluent. It is important for the municipality to maintain and upgrade the raw water source treatment and purification work as recommended in the development plan.

    Both Ditsobotla and Abaqulusi have experienced water shortages due to the growth demand outstripping the water supply. The National Treasury advises that all municipalities should ensure that the water tariffs can cover the cost of maintenance and renewal of purification plants, water networks and water infrastructure expansion. To prevent low income households from opting for unsafe water sources due to the water tariffs, Free Basic Water Policy and water subsidies are implemented in some municipalities. To prevent reoccurrence of E. coli detection in drinking water, South African municipalities must put in a sustainable water supply budget plan in order to supply high quality potable water for households of all income levels.

    • ColleenChong 5:42 pm on October 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Michelle this article connects nicely with the Escherichia Coli topic we learned in class, particularly with Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, which causes up to 30% mortality in infants. This specific microorganism is a major concern in developing countries, such as Africa. This article explains that raw water carry a high risk of being contaminated with E.coli since the water may have been in contact with livestock and wild animals. I agree with you that the government should create a better plan in providing a safe water source for citizens across the nation. This is a great plan, however, it is costly and will require sometime before everyone is able to receive safe water. In the meantime, I think it is important to educate the people ways to obtain safe water. For example by treating it with chlorine or boiling water to kill off pathogenic organism that maybe in raw water.

    • carissarli 9:56 pm on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Katrina, I think you made a great emphasis on how E. Coli influence mortality rate in South Africa greatly. As Colleen mentioned, the use of chlorine can kill pathogenic organisms in raw water since it is a disinfectant. However, the use of chlorine can cause cancer due to the byproduct it produces. I suggest using ozonation instead since it does not produce any byproduct and it is very effective. There are several other disinfectants too which I found from a website: http://www.prominent.co.za/Applications/Disinfection.aspx.

    • kathykim 2:03 am on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As I read this posting, I immediately thought of the infant formula/milk feeding. The water shortage is problematic by itself, but if contaminated water is used to make infant formula, the result would be infections involving diarrhea, and this could be heavily contributing to the high infant mortality rate in developing countries. When there is no choice but to consume water that is available, I feel like the people would still drink the water even after they are advised not to do so. So I guess this all connects with poor living conditions and environments that make them more vulnerable to such infections…

    • BarbaraCorreiaFaustino 11:35 am on November 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I liked your article! I believe that South African authorities should try to correct this problem as soon as possible, and try to provide potable water to the population to avoid contamination with E. coli, with can lead to very serious consequences, especially in children. As said by the other commenters, it will take some time to build a good water infrastructure capable of providing drinkable water to people, so campaigns should also be made to teach the population how to make the water potable, boiling it for example. One very important point that you wrote is the availability of free potable water to low income populations, and I’m glad to read that there are a Free Basic Water Policy and water subsidies, and I hope they are implemented in other places as well.

  • KristinaRichmond 5:22 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , EHEC, , Japan, Naha   

    E. coli 0121 Outbreak Naha, Japan 

    E. coliOn October 2nd, an E. coli outbreak was reported at a childcare facility in Naha, Japan. The strain implicated in the infection was Enterohemorrhagic E. coli 0121. The first case identified was from a nurse who worked at the childcare center. Ten people in total became ill with mild gastrointestinal symptoms. Seven of the cases were children. The source of the infection is still unknown.

    Japan may be particularly sensitive when it comes to E. coli outbreaks, especially among school-aged children. Back in 1996, one of the worst E. coli outbreaks ever seen worldwide occurred in Sakai City Japan. Ultimately, an astonishing 9,451 people became ill from the bacteria, and 12 people died. Most of those affected by the outbreak were school children.

    The causative strain was identified as E. coli O157:H7; however, the source of E. coli was not identified until three years later when scientists conducted studies aimed at tracing the source. In their report they concluded that radish sprouts from a single farm were responsible for the outbreak. The sprouts had been shipped to various schools to be included in the children’s lunches.radish sprout

    This extreme example, and the more recent outbreak show the difficulties in attributing an E. coli outbreak to a particular source. Without knowing the origin of an outbreak, it is more difficult to get it under control, and can quickly get out of hand as seen in 1996 incident. This is an important idea to consider as last year alone Japan experienced 4153 cases of EHEC (according to the National Institute of Infectious Disease).

    Despite current conditions, there may be good news for future improvements to Japan’s E. coli testing. According to a study reported in Food Safety News, the global market for E. coli testing is predicted to increase by nearly one billion dollars by 2022, with Asia being the region expected to see the most growth. Technologies are being developed to make E. coli testing quicker and more cost effective.

    It will be interesting to see if faster, and more frequent testing can have any significant impact in preventing or minimizing future outbreaks. It is easy to wonder if Japan had had more funding or technology devoted to testing for E. coli back in 1996 if the outbreak would have reached the staggering number of cases that it did. Even now, this recent outbreak shows the continued difficulty in tracking the spread of E. coli infections. Luckily, this time the outbreak stopped at 10 cases.


    What do you think?

    Could faster and more effective methods of testing help prevent infections and stop major outbreaks?

    Also, even though the market is showing an increasing demand for E. coli testing should resources go to developing these technologies, or should money go to other areas along the food safety/disease prevention chain?


    • shinnie 6:12 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Kristina, interesting article! I know that E. coli O157:H7 is said to be one of the most common serotype implicated in foodborne illness in Japan (as well as North America) but it is quite shocking to learn that the Big Six established by the U.S. also cause many foodborne illnesses in other parts of the world. Aside from the O121 strain that you mentioned, I found through Dr. Wang’s slides that O111 has also caused an outbreak in Japan with 56 cases and 4 deaths– both of these strains belong to the Big Six! Granted, the O111 outbreak happened largely because of the patients eating a raw beef dish called “yukhoe” and we all know that not cooking food properly enables microbes to obtain “cross-protection” as well as thrive in mild environments. I think it would be interesting to see how much beef (huge E. coli reservoir) the Japanese population consumes on average, and maybe compare that number to Canada who is a gigantic beef producer and consumer (I think they mostly eat sea food?) and then we can establish whether or not it is worth the money to invest in these technologies. I also wonder what strains Japan health government tests for, and if the procedures they use are similar to the ones we employ in North America? I know currently Canada only tests for O157, but U.S. has already started testing for the Big Six in many beef products. I am thinking that Canada will start to adopt the same policies. To answer your questions, I definitely think that faster and more effective methods of testing will help prevent infections and prevent major outbreaks, but at the same time this requires a lot of resources and knowledge. If E.coli is one of the major pathogens causing illness, hospitalization, and deaths in Japan, I fully support implementing better technology for disease prevention for that purpose, but if another type of bacterium or toxin is at work, maybe it will be better to invest money on the technologies that test for those pathogens instead. All in all, I don’t think this will be difficult for Japan to do since the country is one of the most technologically developed!

    • csontani 7:21 pm on October 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      it’s definitely not a big surprise that E. coli can contribute to such an extreme outbreak. I personally think that Japan now has more fund to improve their food safety since they are more developed as a country. If they found a case of E. coli again in the future, they will definitely stop the spreading much faster if they have figured out a more efficient and faster way to detect the source for E. coli. Not only in Japan, but other countries should also consider improving their detection methods for E. coli since the Big Six is becoming more of a concern and not only O157:H7.

    • WinnieLiao 9:29 am on October 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It seems like other E. coli strains has “moved out” of the North American zone and starting to become an issue also in Asia. As Shinnie mentioned above, cattles are a main reservoir for E. coli. This can gradually become a concern for not only Japan but also US and Canada. Canada has large beef industry, and if E. coli problems are not resolved and taken into precaution, this may lead to an economic and reputation loss for Canadians in the future. Also we note that Japanese consume a lot of raw meats, from raw fish to raw beef. To me this means that many other pathogens other than E. coli can also make their way to the tables, causing protruding food safety issues. In the short term, I would consider faster and more effective methods of testing a good way of investigating food borne outbreaks in order to obtain the results faster and develop a coherent database. However, the result of preventing infections and stopping major outbreaks can only be accomplished in the long term, when resources become more available and preventive steps can fully be developed. I would also agree to the fact that funding should be put into the food safety/disease prevention program, especially in the training and education sector; food safety training for those working in the food plant, and public education for safe handling of foods purchased.

    • ayra casuga 10:15 am on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very intriguing article! This case definitely illustrates the severity of having an outbreak source directly linked to a vulnerable group for E.coli. More specifically, the fact that the E.coli infested radish sprouts were directly sent to schools for children’s lunches has caused the large amount of people becoming infected. Although this incident was terrible, the positive outcome is the fact that Japan is starting to pay more attention to food-borne illnesses and how to prevent another case similar or worse from happening again.

      As what Winnie had mentioned, I do believe that a good portion of their funding should go towards improving their food safety/disease prevention as a whole because of their reputation of eating a variety of their products raw. For example, the raw seafood they consume could easily be contaminated with seafood toxins. Therefore, the funding should not all go primarily to better E.coli control, but better standards towards all food products that are high risk for the majority of the population. Specifically for the case of children, I do believe more stringent cooking procedures are needed. Perhaps the school lunch program must ensure that all food products being served to children are properly cooked rather than left raw.

    • EmilyChow 7:29 pm on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great post! I find it interesting how it took 3 years for an advanced nation such as Japan to identify the source of the E. coli outbreak. Since Japan has such a large population density, many people can get sick every time there is an outbreak incident so I do think there is importance in developing fast testing methods to quickly identify the source in order to prevent any more people getting infected. On the other hand, I believe there would be a more significant impact if resources and funding went towards food safety and disease prevention. If more people were educated, especially those who handle foods in the processing industry or restaurant business, many incidences of food poisoning would not occur. Overall I believe both are important but it’s better to prevent infections from happening in the first place.

    • cvalencia 12:26 pm on November 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very informative article! I don’t know how big the population is in that area of Japan (if it’s like how it is in Tokyo), but the number of those who became ill is staggering. And we all know that children are very vulnerable in becoming ill from foodborne pathogens. This just shows how extra precautions should be taken to ensure the food is safe, especially if the food is going to be served to vulnerable populations, such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. It is also quite surprising that it took them a long time to discover the source of the illness. I guess with the rapid detection systems that we recently learned in class, it will be faster now to determine the source of illness. Do you know if E. coli has been a big problem in Japan? Or is this one the worst case that they encountered?

    • teewong 12:03 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Wow, I am surprised by the fact that they even found out the source of contamination after 3 years! I am glad though, because even though more than 9000 people were infected with the O157:H7, very little people died from this outbreak. However, it must have impacted and raised awareness in a lot of people that even fresh produce can cause tremendous harm! I feel that more technologies should be developed in testing pathogens in the producer side, so that they could eliminate the risk before they even reach the consumers. Consumers should also be educated with the food safety practices so the chances of getting infections could be minimized!

    • JorgeMadrigalPons 11:58 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It’s surprising that more than 9000 people got infected with sprouts from a single farm. With the technology nowadays, some new effective detection systems have been created. Hopefully, these new systems can detect outbreaks more rapidly, to prevent the spreading of outbreaks like the one discussed in your blog.

    • DeniseZhang 8:24 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think an outbreak can that easily be controlled without finding out the source of contamination. As long as the contamination is not eliminated, there are always chances for the outbreak to occur again. Fortunately that we have learned more about E.coli now. Now we know how to avoid and control its transmission, things will become much easier than before.

  • angel519 11:00 pm on October 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: breast milk, , ,   

    Breast Milk: a potential source of Escherichia coli 

    “Liquid gold” as known as breast milk is the natural way of providing energy and nutrients to young infants for healthy growth and development. World Heath Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding particularly colostrum (breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy) to new born within the first few hours of birth. Unfortunately, there are mothers with extremely vulnerable hospitalized babies (preterm birth, birth defects) are unable to provide adequate amount of breast milk to support their babies; or there are mothers that generally cannot produce enough breast milk. With the increase of Internet usage and online shopping, people have started to sell breast milk online.


    source: http://hamptonroads.com/2013/10/chkd-begin-work-breast-milk-bank-next-month

    An investigation done by the “BBC Inside Out” program took 12 samples of online bought breast milk around Europe for microbiological tests at Coventry University. The results showed that four of the samples contained pathogenic Escherichia coli, two of samples contained candida and one contained pseudomonas aeruginosa, which lead to death of four infants in neonatal units in Belfast in 2012. Even though the investigation had very small sample size, the test result indicated that online breast milk has the potential of containing pathogenic bacteria. Infants have immature immune system and devoid of natural gut microflora, which make them the most vulnerable population that has the highest risk of being infected by pathogenic bacteria. Small amount of pathogenic bacteria can cause severe illness or death of infants. Thereby, online breast milk from unauthorized websites should be banned to prevent foodborne illness from happening on those fragile babies.


    In Europe and other parts of the world, there are many authorized Milk Banks that offers pasteurized breast milk for premature babies or babies recovering from surgeries. To ensure the safety of donor milk, serological screening, medical history and lifestyle are done and checked before receiving donor milk. According to the European Milk Bank Association (EMBA), there are 210 active milk banks around Europe to support infants that need safe breast milk. A study on nutrients and bioactive factors in human milk indicated that heating process like pasteurization does have a certain degree of destruction on the functionality of bioactive protein components. However, it is not worth the risk of feeding infants with unknown source breast milk that is potentially pathogenic.

    Despite there are no outbreaks caused by E.coli in online sold breast milk, preventions should be done to avoid such incidence from happening.

    The following video shows a clear procedure on how milk bank handle donated breast milk. (Video from the Mother’s Milk Bank Northeast)

    Click link to see the video: http://milkbankne.org/for-healthcare-professionals/

    Angel Chen

    • yichen25 1:55 am on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I personally think that it is not a wise choice to purchase breast milk online as the milk source is not known and you have no idea if the breast milk is properly processed and pasteurized. With online shopping nowadays, it is difficult to determine the authenticity of the item and this applies to breast milk as well. Food fraud is more likely to happen online as the buyers are convinced based on the description and pictures given without seeing the real product. Also, even with proper pasteurization, breast milk still stands a chance of being contaminated with improper packaging, storage and delivery. Therefore, to avoid infants risking their lives for breast milk that might endanger their lives, it is best for local authorities to restrict the sales of breast milk on an online platform unless it is properly authorized.

    • CandiceZheng 1:39 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I’d say this is a brilliant angle for the food safety issues! As online shopping is becoming increasingly popular and everyone enjoys its convenience, lots of home prepared food come to the market without proper processing method, which might lead to lots of potential food safety issues. Nowadays the inspection agency should pay their attention to those online sources as well.

    • CandiceZheng 2:02 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Online shopping is a new angle for the food inspection agency to consider. Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular currently and we all enjoy the convenience. However, this also bring about a lot of home processed food and even things like breast milk, which poses a significant threat to food safety. Although it might be hard to regulate the selling of all those types of food online, the authorities should pay more attention to the food that potentially have more significant impact and probably ban the sales. For example, online breast milk are used to feed infants, who do not have a complete immune system yet. While by consuming contaminated foods normal individuals might only get mild symptoms, infants are very fragile and might get very severe problems.

    • catherine wong 5:38 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I also agree that purchasing breast milk online from an unknown stranger is very dangerous. If they were purchasing or receiving the breast milk from an authorized source such as a milk bank then it would be different because it technically should be treated and handled by professionals hopefully. I understand that some new mothers are unable to give their newborns enough breast milk and decide that the only way their babies can get benefits of colostrum is from other new mothers, but they have to understand that there are lot of risks associated with this. The mothers selling the breast milk may not even know that the milk contains harmful pathogens and since they are not trained on ways to keep breast milk safe through the packaging, handling and storage process, they really should not be selling it.

    • elaine chan 3:29 pm on October 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting article! Since breast milk comes from our own human body as a natural source of food for our babies, it’s understandable how some people can overlook the safety factor. Majority of the population may assume that since it’s a natural source, and under normal conditions, it would be fed straight to the baby, there will be no health hazards associated with purchasing breast milk from another source. I also agree that even though there are no reported outbreaks, preventative measures should be implicated to avoid its occurrence. Setting out regulations for the sale of breast milk would be a good solution to manage its distribution. However, regulations can only manage so much and the distribution of breast milk can still occur in secrecy. I think it will be important to educate mothers that are planning to either buy or sell breast milk. This will allow both sides to understand the risks associated and be more cautious about the breast milk they’re handling with for babies.

    • TamaraRitchie 9:00 pm on October 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Really interesting article. I had never thought about breast milk being a possible source of bacterial contamination as it usually goes directly from mother to baby, therefore minimizing the risk of cross contamination. I think it is great what is being done in Europe with having the Milk Banks that supply safe and fresh milk to babies who are in need. It is a great alternative for Mothers who want to supply breast milk to their babies but cannot do so for a number of reasons. I think it is very unsafe for breast milk to be sold online without any regulations or screening. I agree with Elaine Chan that it would be a great idea to educate mothers that are considering buying breast milk online. I believe if many of these mothers knew the health dangers associated with infants and bacterial contamination of foods that they would reconsider the purchase of breast milk from an online source.

    • RainShen 10:26 pm on October 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think purchasing human breast milk from unauthorized online stores is not wise at all. Newborns’ immune system is not nearly as effective as an adult’s or even an older child’s, and that it takes many months before a newborn can fight off infection as well as someone whose immune system is fully matured. Breast milk provides the babies with an added level of immune protection, because it contains large numbers of antibodies and other infection fighting cells, but it must be not pathogenic in the first place. It is very nice that these authorized Milk banks can provide safe breast milk, but if the breast milk has already been pasteurized, is it still providing those unique antibodies for the baby? Comparing to the commercial formula, is the pasteurized breast milk still much more beneficial for the newborns? I’m thinking that during the transportation or storage, there might be other contamination.

    • amreenj 7:01 pm on October 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      A really interesting article! Taking into consideration that breast milk is highly recommended as the primary food source for infants and that infants have a unestablished microflora it seems counterintuitive that breast milk would be a source of illness/death. However, purchasing dairy products online, seems rather unwise. We have learnt the importance of proper sanitation/ processing at various stages of the food processing/distribution continuum and that failing to do so can lead to serious harm. When buying products online, especially with low shelf-life foods, it is critical that they be stored (before/after/ during transport) at the correct temperature and treated appropriately. In knowing this, it should raise a red flag to potential consumers that plan on buying such products online (unauthorized online stores). On the other hand, the presence of Milk Banks, serve as a safer alternative, and make breast milk more accesible to those who perhaps can’t provide this to their infants.

    • MarinaMoon 2:28 am on October 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      In my opinion, I would never risk my baby to consume breast milk from another unknown source even if breastfeeding has many positive benefits to a baby. I think it is better to provide baby formulas which ensure of containing all of the nutrients that a baby needs as well as safety of the baby. Even if the breastmilk to be sold had been free of bacteria may become contaminated through out the process of transportation to handling of the milk. There is so many other factors that needs to be supervised which cannot be done online. On the other hand, the milk bank that provides pasteurized breastmilk that confirms safety seems like a better approach in allowing women who lack the ability to breastfeed to be able to give breastmilk to their child. However, as mentioned in the summary of article, the first thing that came to my mind was nutrient content of the pasteurized milk. I remember one of the article on this blog talked about raw milk to be more nutritious and beneficial to the body than pasteurized milk although it does have negative consequences such as presence of bacteria. Nevertheless, this evidence indicates that pasteurizing milk does in fact reduce the nutrient content of the product. This being said, I would rather feed baby formulas which compensates women who cannot breastfeed to be able to give their children the nutrients that they need.

    • YaoWang 2:56 pm on October 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      The article is really interesting! As online shopping is becoming more and more popular and convenient, people can buy almost whatever they can think of via the internet. However, I won’t buy food from any unauthorized sources online especially for vulnerable populations such as babies. I think in order to prevent people from risking their babies’ lives, it is more important for the government to make the authorized Milk Banks more available rather than just regulate online shopping environment.

    • cheryl lau 6:05 pm on October 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This article about breast is brings up interesting concerns as there is an increasing demand for these types of products. Whether or not people feel that selling breast milk is controversial does not take away from the fact there should be some sort of system to ensure the safety of these products. Since the breast milk is supposed to benefit babies, there should even more emphasis on ensuring that these products are not contaminated with foodborne pathogens. Breast milk sold online are sold at higher prices because of its claimed benefits and limited supply, therefore it should go without saying that consumers of these products would not mind if they paid a little more to have the milk tested before going on the market.

    • laurenrappaport 4:45 pm on October 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is such an interesting post! I had never considered breast milk to be a potential source of foodborne pathogens before reading this. As babies have not developed any sort of immune system or gut microflora this is something that should be of major concern. Selling un-testing breast milk online creates a huge risk factor for the health of the baby and I dont think it should be done without pasteurization techniques and testing. For mothers who cannot produce their own breastmilk the milk banks are an amazing alternative to providing their baby with the nutrients and introduction of microflora compared to the alternative of formula. Although there is a degree of uncertainty when you use the milk from the banks as the milk is coming form an unknown source, with the proper use of sanitation, preparation and storage it provides a great opportunity to babies to get the all the benefits even though it is not coming from their mother directly.

    • Stephanie Chen 1:37 pm on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This article gives an interesting insight to the issue of breast milk banks online. While the intentions may be good, buying breast milk from online sources really is a flashing red light to me. Multiple dangers may come with breast milk purchased from the internet, most importantly, health and safety risks for your baby. Each step of the collection, processing, testing (if any), and storage of breast milk may introduce a route of entry for pathogen contamination. Even if they are said to be pasteurized, you have no way of ensuring the process will eliminate all pathogenic factors in the breast milk. Moreover, the FDA recommends against feeding babies with breast milk acquired directly from individuals or through the internet. While understanding the need for alternative sources of milk for those who cannot breastfeed, personally, I believe the risks to infants’ health and safety outweigh any benefits that they may get from breast milk. Many types of formula are available for babies with medical conditions and may be the better alternative.

    • Silvia Low 4:50 pm on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think it is absolutely disgusting that people would purchase breast milk ONLINE for their infants. What is wrong with people? This activity should be completely banned and illegal. To me, this is equivalent to purchasing blood, kidneys, and other miscellaneous organs online. Why would people want this? I’m flabbergasted. “Recommendations” to not purchase online break milk from the FDA and other authorities are not enough. They should make this a criminal act. Especially if one day, by chance, death does occur from consumption of this product. Because, killing someone is a crime! Intentional or not!

    • EmilyLi 11:51 pm on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      In my opinion, since breast milk is considered to be the “gold standard” for infants, the intention and the availability of breast milk banks is wonderful. However, because the breast milk from the the milk banks are for vulnerable infants, milk bank facility should be run by under government authorities to ensure tight regulations. The facility should be able to provide health information of the donor mother for the safety of the consumer. I think breast milk bank provided another option for very vulnerable infants who are not taking formula well, but something like breast milk shouldn’t be order online and have it mail to you. The process of shipping may introduce more risk factor of the breast milk which can be life threatening to infants.

    • Mandy Tam 8:48 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great article and I remember we discuss this in class. I think nothing is better than breast milk to infant, however, food safety is very important as well. Like local farm market, I think government will have a hard time to control online selling as they are too “scatter” to track unlike large industrialize production.

      I think starting a register program and also recommend people to provide milk to such program are a great start since breast milk becomes more and more popular over formula.

      Anyway, I learn a lot from this post!

  • NorrisHuang 11:08 pm on October 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alberta, , , contamination, , , , , Vancouver,   

    Escherichia coli on fresh produce 

    Escherichia coli (E. coli) are gram-negative, rod-shaped bacteria that cause a great number of food-borne illnesses annually. For example, according to PHAC, there were 470 reported cases of E. coli O157:H7 infections in Canada in 2013, which was the third highest among all pathogenic bacteria. Although E. coli infection is often referred to as “hamburger disease”, these bacteria also contaminates fresh produce. Earlier this year (between March 13 and 31), there were several E. coli infections cases identified in Canada, majority (9 out of 12 cases) of which were reported in Alberta. More investigations by CFIA are underway, however, leafy greens are considered to be the most possible cause of infections. Depending on strains, consequences of E. coli infections vary. Most people suffer from stomach discomfort, diarrhea and vomiting. Those who are infected with pathogenic strains such as O157:H7 may develop more severe symptoms, such as kidney failure.

    In addition to bacterial contamination, a research done by a group of UBC researchers shows a concerning fact that 97% of E. coli isolated from leafy greens samples purchased from several farmers market in Vancouver were antibiotic-resistant. To be more specific, antimicrobial resistance of E. coli on fresh green, red, and romaine lettuce samples were evaluated. 58% of samples were resistant to amikacin, 48% were resistant to trimethoprim and 45% were trimethoprim-sufamethoxazole-resistant. Resistance to nalidixic acid, kanamycin, ampicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, cefoxitin, gentamicin and tetracycline were also found. Luckily, only 13% of samples were found to be contaminated with trace amount of E. coli and the microbiological quality of produce was acceptable according to Health Canada guidelines.

    You can read more about the 12 E. coli cases in Canada here: http://globalnews.ca/news/1942601/health-officials-suspect-e-coli-illnesses-linked-to-leafy-greens/

    The use of antimicrobial agent on food animal (e.g. chicken) is one possible cause of antibiotic-resistance in E. coli on fresh produce. Antimicrobial agent is used to promote growth of food animal. Nonetheless, only 10% of the drug would be absorbed by animals and the rest will be excreted. As the wastes are applied as fertilizers. Antibiotics are also introduced to the environment (e.g. soil, water) and vegetables. Antibiotics selects for drug-resistant bacteria on leafy produce, which leads to predominant of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Additionally, contaminated irrigation water, poor personal hygiene and inadequate food processing also adversely affect microbiological safety of greens.

    To protect ourselves from E. coli contaminations on vegetables, the following precautions can be taken:

    • Wash produce thoroughly before consumption
    • Clean and sanitize food-contact surfaces properly, including cutting boards, knifes, etc.
    • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap regularly during food handling
    • Keep raw meat and vegetables separated to avoid cross-contamination
    • Store food at refrigerating temperature (< 4 ͦC) to inhibit bacterial growth

    For more information about E. coli, see: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/fs-fi/ecoli-eng.php

    • Duncan 1:37 pm on October 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is a test of the blog’s comment system

    • Duncan 1:39 pm on October 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is a test of the blog’s comment system, take 2.

    • wen liao 2:51 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Haha this is like a very classical example about the effect of antimicrobial misuse as we have talked in class. I have also read similar articles talking about how the bacteria isolated from vegetables are resistant to one or multiple antimicrobials, which sounds quite scary to me, to be honest. However, although the issue with antimicrobial misuse has been prevalent for years and scientists have been addressing this problem at different scenarios, not very many people have taken it seriously. I have a friend who recently got flu, and his doctor prescribed him with antibiotics LOL….In addition although the stuff turkey season is almost gone, I till recall this news I read about how you should not wash store packaged turkey before you baked it in the oven. While wash the turkey with running water cannot remove the bacteria on the surface of the turkey skin, this action might spread the cells all over on the turkey causing more contamination. I don’t know if it would be the same case for your e. coli suggestions haha.

    • dgozali 9:07 pm on October 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think your article brought up a very important issue of growing antimicrobial resistance. Its quite alarming that a large proportion of E. coli found on leafy greens are resistant as most people consume these vegetables raw and some might not even bother washing them as they’re often labelled as a “ready to eat” food. Hence this makes it much easier for people to get sick from consuming these products. This reminds me of the recent outbreak at UBC’s centenniel celebration where many people got sick from eating the produce from the UBC farm. Perhaps the microbes were resistant strains as well. Either way, this is an increasingly prominent issue that should be taken more seriously!

    • CindyDai 10:42 am on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      The increasing antimicrobial resistance of E. coli indicates the increasing difficulty of controlling E. coli in food industry. To protect our families, handling food safely is crucial to eliminate any E. coli survived the factory processing in leafy greens. In the original news, there are a few more useful tips from PHAC on safe food handling. I learned that we should always reheat leftovers until steaming hot before eating. Especially for leafy greens, we should always keep them refrigerated and only take them out of fridge right before consumption. When there are E. coli outbreaks, cooking vegetables is a better choice. Food safety is in our hands!

    • ya gao 9:00 pm on October 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      After reading this post, I think it is important for government agencies like CFIA to realize the presence of antimicrobial resistant strains of E. coli on leafy green products. Although only 13% of samples were found to be contaminated with trace amount of E. coli and the microbiological quality of produce was acceptable according to Health Canada guidelines, it is a serious problem once breaks out. Leafy green products are usually considered as ready to eat foods and people consume them without heat processing step. With the increasing problem of antimicrobial resistant strains of E. coli on ready to eat foods, food safety may be threaten. CFIA should find a way to resolve this problem by controlling the use of fertilizer from animal waste, as well as doing sample testing on leafy green products more frequently.

    • AngeliMalimban 6:11 pm on December 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think it is interesting how people have a common misconception about how E. coli can only be found in raw beef. I remember my friend freaking out about my other friend preparing raw beef burgers, while she ate the salad that was from fresh produce. Could she have washed it well enough? Even then, it probably would still contain E. coli since it does not come out unless it is cooked.
      Salads are such a big fad in our society due to its nutritional value, but people should not be surprised if they get sick eating this. It’s also hard to cook vegetables because its nutritional value is best when raw, as most of the vitamins and minerals could dissolve in the water (if boiled) and let’s be real… it’s just SO much easier to eat vegetables raw so we do not have to go through the labour of cooking it!

  • elaine chan 12:51 am on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , raw milk, United States   

    Claravale Farm Raw Goat Milk Linked to Cases of Campylobacteriosis 

    Claravale Farm is a well-known dairy product distributor located in the state of California. The company lives up to their motto by producing “pure, natural and raw” dairy products for their customers, which includes raw, unpasteurized milk products. Among these raw milk varieties include goat milk, known for its nutritional and health benefits.

    With a nutrient profile similar to that of cow’s milk, goat milk’s additional health benefits is what draws a consumer’s attention. More notably, goat milk contains less allergenic proteins, easily digestible fats and proteins, and lower in cholesterol. For more information about the benefits of goat milk, please visit this site.

    Drinking goat milk does not seem to be quite a bad idea; however, consuming raw goat milk on the other hand, might be. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States warns consumers about the risks associated with drinking raw milk. Although raw, unpasteurized milk is nutritionally dense, it contains a wide variety of disease-causing bacteria, including Brucella, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Mycobacterium bovis, Listeria, and Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli. Any individual that drinks raw milk has the risk of consuming such bacteria; thus, increasing the risk of illness. The risk of illness from consumption is particularly high for infants and young children, elderly, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems.

    On June 2015, the Health Officials in Orange County, California confirmed three cases of campylobacteriosis linked with Claravale Farm, due to the consumption of raw goat milk. The three cases were three young children less than 5 years of age. One of the children was hospitalized, but fortunately, all three were expected to fully recover. Campylobacteriosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria, Campylobacter. Its symptoms are seen within two to five days after exposure, and typically include diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever. This infectious bacterium is commonly associated with contaminated water, poultry, produce, and in this case, unpasteurized dairy products.

    The risk of getting campylobacteriosis is not solely limited to consuming raw goat milk; it applies to other raw, unprocessed products as well. Earlier in year during March 2015, six individuals from North California were diagnosed with campylobacteriosis after drinking Claravale Farm’s raw milk. The farm’s raw milk and cream products were then subjected to a statewide recall when the California Department of Public Health tested positive for Campylobacter. A similar situation occurred previously in March 2012, where positive test results for Campylobacter led to a statewide recall of Claravale Farm’s raw products.

    Claravale Farm is a strong and passionate company that is proud of their raw products, as demonstrated by their statement found on their company website:

    “Raw milk is unique in that it is the only significant source of a complete food in our diet that is not processed in some form being eaten. For instance, the enzymes are all available, whereas in pasteurized milk, less than 10% remain. What this means, is that your body can more readily utilize all of the nutrition that is available in this milk. That’s good for you, and it’s great for your kids!”

    Truthfully, there is no ‘perfect’ milk product. Indeed, pasteurized milk lacks the enzymes and natural nutrient profile found in raw milk. However, pasteurized milk also lacks the wide range of disease-causing bacteria raw milk contains. It is the pasteurization process that helps eliminate such bacteria to produce a food safe product ready for consumption. Yet, it is also the pasteurization process that eliminates the beneficial enzymes and natural nutrient profile present in the raw milk. This can be an on-going debate, but ultimately, the decision is upon the consumer, you.

    What is your ultimate decision? Raw or processed milk?




    Interested in the taste difference between goat’s milk and cow’s milk?

    Curious about the effects of Campylobacter?


    • TamaraRitchie 11:38 am on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      While I believe that buying raw milk should be an individual choice and each individual should decide if the health benefits outweigh the risk of disease, I am not comfortable with the idea of individuals buying raw milk products and feeding raw milk products to their children. Children are more immunological acceptable to food borne pathogens and the outcomes of contracting a food borne pathogen can be more severe than in a healthy adult. For this reason I am against the sale of raw milk products because once in the consumers hand there is no way to control who he/she shares these raw milk products with.

    • CherylLau 3:29 pm on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Although I do agree that the choice is ultimately on the consumer whether or not to purchase raw milk products, however, I believe that responsibility falls on everyone to prevent cases of food bourne illness. Manufacturers should be responsible for upholding the regulations for such products to ensure that their goods are within certain quality standards. Consumers should make an effort to be well informed in the dangers associated with the products before purchasing and feeding them to people who are highly susceptible to food bourne illnesses. Raw milk itself has many benefits and it would be unfair to ban it from the market if it was deemed safe to consume.

    • CherylLau 3:49 pm on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Although I do agree that the choice is ultimately on the consumer whether or not to purchase raw milk and its products, however, I believe that the responsiblity falls on everyone to prevent food bourne illness. Manufacturers should uphold the regulations set for these types of products to ensure that their goods are within certain quality standards. Consumers should make an effort to be well informed and to be aware of the dangers associated with feeding these types of products to people who are highly susceptible to food boure illnesses. Raw milk products have many benefits as stated above, it would be unfair to exclude them from the market due to the chance of careless practices, as long as they are deemed safe to consume.

    • ColleenChong 11:22 am on October 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      A small portion of the population, such as dairy farmers, would have immunity to most of the bacteria found in raw milk since they been exposed to that environment for a period of time. But most people in the urban areas do not have this immunity and would have a much higher risk of getting sick, especially the elderly and young children. As for obtaining loss nutrients it can be complement with other food source. I am against the sales of raw milk to the general public because the risk is too high. Food safety is key to public health.

    • Cheryl Lau 2:46 pm on October 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Although I do agree that the choice is ultimately on the consumer whether or not to purchase raw milk and its products, however, I believe that the responsibility falls on everyone to prevent food borne illness. Manufacturers should uphold the regulations set for these types of products to ensure that their goods are within certain quality standards. Consumers should make an effort to be well informed and to be aware of the dangers associated with feeding these types of products to people who are highly susceptible to food borne illnesses. Raw milk products have many benefits over pasteurized milk products as stated above, it would be unfair to exclude them from the market due to the chance of careless practices that might cause food borne illness, even if they were deemed safe to consume.

    • cheryl lau 2:59 pm on October 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Although I do agree that the choice is ultimately on the consumer whether or not to purchase raw milk and its products, however, I believe that the responsibility falls on everyone to prevent the onset of food borne illnesses due to contaminated products. Manufacturers should uphold the regulations set for these types of products to ensure that their goods are within certain quality standards. Consumers should make an effort to be well informed and to be aware of the dangers associated with feeding these types of products to people who are highly susceptible to food borne illnesses. Raw milk products have many benefits over the pasteurized varieties as stated above, it would be unfair to exclude them from the market due to the chance of careless practices, even if they were deemed safe to consume.

    • Catherine Wong 3:38 pm on October 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I personally also feel that raw milk should not be available for purchase because of all that pathogens present causing harm that would have been killed off with pasteurization. However on the other hand, are we able to actually take away the choice to purchase raw milk from the consumers who are adamant on consuming it? If there is enough demand for it, producers would continue producing and selling it. For raw milk consumers, they should be educated on both the benefits and detrimental effects of consuming raw milk. I know people who are quite obsessed with consuming all natural products and actually try to promote drinking raw milk to others by talking about all the benefits and none of the harm. This is a problem especially if the people they are promoting to do not know about the pathogens associated with raw milk. For this aspect, I feel that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done with educating the general public on the line that needs to be drawn between wanting to consume less processed foods and to the point where it becomes a risk to human health.

    • catherine wong 6:22 pm on October 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      In my opinion, I feel that raw milk should not be readily available for purchase due to all the pathogens present, which could cause a lot of harm when pasteurization could have killed them off. However on the other hand, are we able to actually take away the choice from consumers who are adamant on purchasing and consuming raw milk? If there is enough demand for it, producers would continue producing and selling it. For raw milk consumers, they should be educated on both the benefits and detrimental effects of consuming raw milk. I know some people who really enjoy consuming unprocessed foods and are trying to promote drinking raw milk to others by talking about all the benefits, but none of the harm. This is a problem especially if the people they are promoting to do not know about the pathogens associated with raw milk. For this aspect, I feel that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done with educating the general public on the line that needs to be drawn between wanting to consume less processed foods and to the point where it becomes a risk to human health.

    • DonnaKong 11:09 pm on October 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Personally, I prefer consuming pasteurized milk not only because I am used to the taste, but for my own safety. However, like many have already stated, there are pros and cons to both types. As Catherine mentioned, banning the products may not be as easy as it seems because many who enjoy raw milk and would be devastated if there was a ban in place. Indeed the prohibition of raw milk would not be fair for consumers as it restricts their choices. I believe that for a product such as this, there should be a new policy in which there are warnings required on the label of the milk. Similar to how tobacco is sold in Canada, there should be warnings of possible risks that come with the product. The consumer is still given the option of purchasing the milk but they can be more informed of the consequences and be given specifications on who is less suitable to consume the product (children under 5, seniors, immuno-compromised, etc.). I am not sure if there should be an age limit required to buy this product, but I definitely think that informing risks will help people understand and react quicker should there ever be presence of campylobacter bacteria.

    • MichelleLui 11:16 pm on October 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As a consumer, I would drink raw goat milk from an approved producer, providing that its operations meet the established food safety guidelines of the government regulatory agency. There are many high risk food items out on the market and restaurants. I do think the supplier should provide sufficient food safety information on the products so the consumer can make a well-informed decision. As kids are one of the high-risk group to food poisoning, the company should emphasize the food safety risks associated with kids consuming raw goat milk. Especially when they sell their milk using statement such as “Great for your kids”.

    • Mandy Tam 4:11 pm on October 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I understand that Canada does not allow raw milk to be sale in the market. Therefore, I do not think there is a negotiate point in Canada rather raw milk should be consume or not. According to this article, raw milk seems to be allowed to sale in America. Therefore, it will be interesting to know what extra step America takes to prevent outbreak caused by raw milk. Also, it will be interesting to have a professional to share the difference in regulation/ microbe protocol in America.

    • dgozali 7:22 pm on October 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Although raw milk may have several health benefits such as digestible fats and lower cholesterol levels, the health risks are far greater. For this reason, I feel that raw milk should not be sold to consumers without stating the health risks associated with it. Ultimately, the consumer should be able to make a choice whether or not to take that risk. Furthermore, there should be an indication on the packaging regarding the risk groups such as children and immunocompromised people who may have a greater chance of falling ill from consuming raw milk.

    • MarinaMoon 4:42 pm on October 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As many have already stated, I also believe that raw milk should remain prohibited in Canada. Although there are many health benefits associated with raw milk, the negative consequences are too severe to risk the population to consume raw milk. Also, we live in a location where food availability is relatively abundant thus there are so many other alternatives where those nutrients can be consumed. I don’t think it is necessary to allow production of raw milk and risk the outbreaks that may result as a result. Also, as many are already adapted to and familiar with the taste of pasteurized milk, even if raw milk becomes available, I don’t think it would be consumed widely despite the nutritious aspects that it provides. Additionally, I would personally prefer to drink milk that I can trust its safety rather than milk that I need to be cautious of so many different diseases everytime I drink.

    • Rain Shen 12:23 am on October 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As a milk drinker, I personally prefer safe pasteurized milk rather than the nourishing raw milk. Food safety is the most critical point when I purchase food products. It is true that choosing raw milk or not is a very personal choice. Some raw food zealots are eating all kinds of food in raw. However, those beneficial enzymes and nutrients in the raw milk might be uptake from other type of food. Even if the enzymes and nutrients in the raw goat milk are unique , we can still uptake these nutrients from the supplements, but they are not that essential for our metabolism or health. On the other hand, there is a high risk to get sick or even severe diseases by consuming the raw milk. Not speaking of different kinds of negative effects of the following medical treatments for the sickness. In my opinion, it is not worth taking the risk to drink raw milk, which will be more likely to get infected by the bacteria in it. Government should prohibit the sale of raw milk to ensure the food safety of most people.

    • RainShen 12:59 am on October 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As a milk drinker, I prefer safe pasteurized milk rather than nourishing raw milk. The safety of the food will be the most critical point when I purchase food products. It is true that choosing to purchase raw milk or not is a very personal choice. Some raw food zealots are eating all kinds of food in raw. However, the enzymes and nutrients in the raw milk might be uptake from other kinds of food. Even if the enzymes and nutrients in the raw goat milk are unique, we can still uptake them from the supplements, but these nutrients are not essential for our body metabolism or health. Not consuming those nutrients won’t hazard our health. On the other hand, the bacteria in the raw milk will be more likely to cause sickness or even severe diseases. Not speaking of the negative effects of the following medical treatments. In my opinion, it is not worth taking the risk to consume raw milk which has the high possibility to threaten your health. Government should prohibit the sale of raw milk to ensure the food safety of most people.

    • teewong 12:28 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I suppose one of the biggest contradiction between raw and pasteurized milk is that what is the point of drinking milk when the all the available nutrients are depleted in a pasteurized milk? With most of the benefits swept away, is there really a need to drink milk? Of course, many people prefer drinking milk because they like the taste of it, so I suppose drinking fortified pasteurized milk (adding nutrients that were lost back into the milk due to pasteurization) would probably satisfy both the hazardous concerns and taste buds. I am not a milk drinker myself because I do not enjoy the taste very much and I have not tried raw milk before, so this issue does not really bother me. However, I do believe in consuming products in the most natural state and in the least processed way as much as possible due to their bioavailability. I believe that raw milk could help promote different types of microbiota to flourish in our gut, which could lead us to better prevent from contracting different types of diseases. If we strip away the nutrients from raw milk, I feel that it would just be useless and wasting our money on something that we do not necessarily need.

  • kathykim 1:28 am on October 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Camel, , , Qutar, Saudi Arabia   

    Camel Milk : a miracle food or a risky food 

    The practice of drinking fresh camel milk originated from Qatar tradition. Drinking fresh camel milk is practiced in semi-arid and arid areas of African and Asian countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and any other regions you can imagine people riding on camels.

    Camel milk got famous for its nutritious content along with its therapeutic effects in diabetes, autism, and allergies. The nutrient profile of camel milk is pretty impressive that it is actually more nutritious than cow’s milk. Camel milk is low in fat,  high in iron and other anti-oxidants. What is more, camel milk resembles the milk of human, which might indicate that it could be more suitable for our nutritional needs.  For such benefits, the demand for camel milk is increasing, as it is to be introduced in European market in the future.

    The bad news is, that consuming fresh camel milk can lead us to be infected with Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni), a leading foodborne pathogen around the world. Infection by C.jejuni can manifest a variety of symptoms including diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and even inflammatory bowel disease. The cause of the infection can be tracked back to the fact that the milk is consumed in the raw state.

    Since the regions where people have the tradition of fresh camel milk consumption are developing or semi-developed countries, they do not have proper refrigeration facilities during the milking process and transportation.  Moreover, milk is often kept in high ambient temperature, increasing the risks of C.jejuni growth.  The bacteria can get into the milk by cross contamination through feces or directly from the udder of the camel into the milk during milking. A study estimating the illness from the consumption of C.jejuni-containing milk showed that the more you drink, the more you are likely to get sick (obvious). However, one interesting finding was that men are more vulnerable of getting the illness from the bacteria than women.

    Despite of poor hygienic measures in camel milk production, no outbreak has been reported in Saudi Arabia area. A study notes that the survival of Campylobacter bacteria is low in the intestinal tracts of camels due to high concentration of hydrogen gas present in the rumen. Thus, camel milk may not be a major source of Campylobacter bacteria infections. Instead, pathogens like Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus were detected in larger numbers.

    Nonetheless, the fecal samples collected from the camels did contain Campylobacter, even though it was a very small number. Poor handling of the camel milk would result in higher chances of the bacteria growth. Pasteurization processes or acid fermentation are recommended as preventative measures.

    As people’s interest is growing in camel milk, more studies are to be done in the future to figure out the exact benefits of the food and the methods to prevent any foodborne pathogens including Campylobacter. For now, establishing a formal microbiological standards regarding camel milk should be prioritized, since there are none.



    Some interesting videos:

    Curious about the taste?

    Camel milk cures Autism!?


    Kathy Kim

    • csontani 12:44 pm on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is actually very interesting. I didn’t know that people would consume camel’s milk. If the nutrition content is similar to human’s milk, I wonder if the taste is similar as well? If businesses started processing camel milk and adding flavours to it, I think that it would become a big thing especially that it helps with diabetes, autism and allergies (what allergies though?).

    • Lauren Rappaport 6:33 pm on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I was not aware that camel milk had such a high nutritional content and even had some therapeutic benefit as well. However, consuming raw milk is a huge issue because of the risk of food borne illness associated with bacterial contamination of the milk. I wonder if camels milk were to be pasteurized if it would lose some of its nutritional value due to heat sensitive nutrients and thus its appeal?

    • Yi Chen Teh 11:00 pm on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I personally think that it is fine to consume camel’s milk as cow’s milk is not easily accessible everywhere especially in the Qatar and Saudi Arabia regions. However, people should be well educated in regard to the potential health consequences of consuming raw milk and effective intervention strategies should be introduced and enforced to combat against the growth of Campylobacter in camel’s milk. This can potentially be achieved by investing in more refrigeration facilities and also making it mandatory for all milk products to be pasteurized. In addition, I am just wondering besides acid fermentation, are there any other ways to prolong the shelf life of milk without the use of refrigeration facilities (since they do not have proper refrigeration facilities)?

    • Yi Chen Teh 11:11 pm on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I personally think that it is fine to consume camel’s milk as cow’s milk is not easily accessible everywhere especially in the Qatar and Saudi Arabia regions. However, people should be well educated about the potential consequences of consuming raw milk and effective intervention strategies should be introduced to combat against the possible growth of food borne pathogens in camel’s milk. This can be done by investing in more refrigeration facilities and making it mandatory to pasteurize all milk products before they reach the consumers.On another note, I am just wondering besides acid fermentation, are there any other ways to prolong the shelf-life of milk while adhering to the food safe standards without the use of refrigeration facilities (since most household residents couldn’t afford to buy a refrigerator)?

    • yichen25 11:12 pm on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I personally think that it is fine to consume camel’s milk as cow’s milk is not easily accessible everywhere especially in the Qatar and Saudi Arabia regions. However, people should be well educated about the potential consequences of consuming raw milk and effective intervention strategies should be enforced to combat against the possible growth of food borne pathogens in camel’s milk. This can be done by investing in more refrigeration facilities and making it mandatory to pasteurize all milk products before they reach the consumers. Lastly, I am just wondering besides acid fermentation, are there any other ways to prolong the shelf-life of milk while adhering to the food safe standards without the use of refrigeration facilities (since most household residents couldn’t afford to buy a refrigerator)?

    • jas900 11:50 pm on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Despite the health claims above, I am unconvinced that camel milk is a superfood. Management of diabetes depends on both physical activity and obtaining nutrients from a variety of food sources. With unregulated commercialization, there are many avenues along the food supply chain where pathogens, other than Campylobacter spp., could be introduced to raw milk. Health costs would greatly outweigh the nutritional benefits, which ultimately defeat the therapeutic purpose of camel milk. However, camel milk has the potential to be marketed as a nutritious alternative to cow milk after the fresh milk has been treated, e.g. pasteurization. Fortification could also be employed to compensate for the nutrients lost during processing.

      It was interesting that Kathy noted no reported Campylobacter spp. outbreaks in Saudi Arabia from camel milk. This could be due to poor surveillance programs or the lack of reporting. Since locals use camel milk as a nutritious and traditional food source, would they have a higher concentration of antibodies and appear asymptomatic to foodborne diseases?

      Jasmine Lee

    • amreenj 4:14 pm on October 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Really interesting post, Kathy! I have heard about the use of raw camel milk in some Middle Eastern countries for the treatment of many ailments including cancer. After doing some further reading into this topic, I found a few more articles which reported benefits from the consumption of raw camel milk. As we have learned, having no kill step (ie. no pasteurization) can allow for the growth of microbes that when consumed can cause sickness. I wonder if camel milk is also consumed by young children? Since children don’t have a fully established natural microflora, the microbes in camel milk may be able to establish and outcompete the natural bacteria present in the the GI, making the child severely ill. Are there any regulations surrounding this?
      I have to agree with Jasmine, it seems as though the potential harm that could be done, outweighs the benefits that may be seen as a result of the consumption of the milk. I am also wondering if the people who regularly consume this milk have some sort of resistance towards the bacteria preventing them from getting sick, perhaps a potential explanation for the low occurrence of FBI in Saudi Arabia.

    • SilviaLow 11:59 pm on October 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting blog! Personally, i think camel milk would be a successful dairy alternative in the developed world (if we don’t make it a taboo product!) since it is lower in fat, higher in iron, etc. than cow’s milk. Also, developed nations have more resources to process, pasteurize, store, market, etc. this product. On the other hand, perhaps the lower fat content is not as desirable for the health of the greater population of a less developed nation. This is especially true for infants who require higher fat content and not to mention that these potential bacterial contamination are most harmful to young children. I guess it’s true with the saying that “we want what we can’t get/don’t have.”

    • NorrisHuang 10:44 pm on October 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting. I haven’t heard about camel milk consumption before. I agree with Silvia that developed countries are better able to handle/process camel milk but I also wonder how that can be transported, for example, from Saudi Arabia to North America. I also read from another article that camel milk is low in lactose (compared to cow milk), which could make it popular among consumers who are lactose intolerant.

    • wen liao 2:30 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is actually a vert interesting article. I have never thought of drinking camel milk nor have I known camel as a potential reservoir for C. jejuni. I have tried goat milk before, and the taste was not very pleasing, so I wonder what does camel milk taste like? Like Norris said, if camel milk in low in lactose, it would be a really good source of nutrient for those that are lactose intolerant. However, I just have a question: in your article, you have only mentioned that C. jejuni was isolated from camel feces and that due to the presence of H2 in the camel gut, the concentration of Campylobacter is actually not too high. So what is actually the concentration of Campylobacter in camel milk and will it actually pose a threat to human? Besides, we know that Campylobacter is fragile when it is not in the animal gut.

    • KristinaRichmond 6:48 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting article! I was also not aware of the proposed therapeutic effects of camel milk, but I think this is an important factor to think about in terms of food safety because of the people who will be attracted to consuming it for these reasons. In our lecture we learned that most fatal infections occur in infants, the elderly or immune-suppressed people, so I think it’s highly likely that people looking for the therapeutic effects could also be among this vulnerable group of individuals. In that case, it would be important to have better food safety procedures or clear warnings of the risks of drinking the milk. It wouldn’t be good for people to drink the milk looking to help one disease only to get really sick from Campylobacter.

    • EmilyLi 12:37 am on October 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I found this to be a very interesting article. I wonder if camel milk can be a good nutritious food source if it is handled and processed adequately. Since it was mentioned that camel milk is similar to human milk in term of nutrients content, for the people who live in the Asian area may be unable to obtain cow’s milk for consumption, this may provide a good alternative. Campylobacter (jejuni) was consider a more “fragile” bacteria. I think processing intervention can easily get rid of the bacteria for safe consumption. However we still need to deal with the other bacteria related to foodborne illness in the camel milk.

    • shinnie 4:20 pm on November 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      They should really consider importing these milk to Canada! I’m sure health-focused Canadians would be interested in giving camel’s milk a taste. It has actually been reported that camels are a carrier of the coronavirus that is known to cause Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). As a fun fact, people actually also drink camel urine (can you imagine how it will taste?!) and the WHO is greatly against it and has been warning people not to do that. Camel milk is also a carrier of the Brucella bacterium and these bacteria can cause Brucellosis in humans. People are taking quite a risk drinking camel milk raw. To go back to our topic of Camypobacter, it’s best for young children, elderly, immunocompromised indivuduals to stay away from drinking raw camel milk because complications from campylobacteriosis can occur.

    • AngeliMalimban 9:42 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      My thinking is that it is probably cheaper to have camel’s milk than cow’s milk in those regions considering there are likely more camels around. I wonder why the governments there have not considered actually pasteurizing the milk considering it’s popularity.

      I also read another article about someone who ended up drinking camel milk for a month (https://au.news.yahoo.com/sunday-night/features/a/25468433/i-drank-camel-milk-for-a-month-heres-what-happened/). Like you mentioned in the article, this is popularly consumed raw, and the woman who did this challenge also mentioned that she was sold this raw. People believe that the effects are so much better if so – that could be why pasteurization has not been thought of [in terms of these two countries]. In the end, the woman claims that her digestion is a lot better and that it even shrunk her stomach appearance. Placebo effect or is it real? I guess we will never know unless we specifically study the science behind it.

    • EmilyChow 4:15 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting topic! In countries where camel’s milk is popular, such as Qatar, pasteurization may not be a priority because this milk is traditionally consumed raw and the people in these regions have perhaps developed immunity to possible infection of Campylobacter. In addition, pasteurization is costly and time consuming so this processing may not be feasible in these regions. I think camel’s milk would spark interest in consumers in North America since there are many nutritional benefits and it also serves as an alternative to cow’s milk! I have never seen camel’s milk sold in Canada but I assume that if the products were to be imported and sold in local grocery stores, there would be regulations to ensure that this milk is pasteurized. On the other hand, I wonder if the nutritional value of camel’s milk would change after pasteurization?

    • JorgeMadrigalPons 11:34 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting, I didn’t know camel milk was that popular. Although, consuming unpasteurized products is a a serious issue, contamination with pathogens is very likely to occur. In my opinion, it is better to consume less nutritious products, but safe, than consuming products that will cause diseases, like the milk with campylobacter.

  • meggyli 9:04 pm on October 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Debate: The Risks of Black Market Raw Milk against the Risks of its Legal Consumption in Australia 

    Raw milk is defined as milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Unpasteurized milk can become contaminated with pathogens such as salmonella spp., E. coli, and especially, Campylobacter jenuni. It has been a century-long global debate on whether or not the dangers of consuming unpasteurized milk is enough to justify its sales prohibition in major countries.

    Availability and regulation of raw milk vary from region to region. In Australia, the sale of raw milk for consumption purposes is illegal in all states and territories, as is raw milk cheese with the exception of hard raw milk cheese. However, this has been somewhat undermined by legally selling raw milk as bath milk or pet milk. Ironically, the container in which you can purchase bath milk from looks exactly the same as you would purchase pasteurized milk. Despite raw milk’s legislative ban, Australian cheese maker Bowden has remarked that, “whether it’s legal or not, people are buying and drinking raw unpasteurized milk.” Several incidents associated with drinking unpasteurized milk in Australia has reached the headlines, including the death of a toddler in 2014.

    Beverage? Cosmetics? Who knows!

    Some decades ago, the common practice when it comes to milk consumption was that you would walk over to your neighboring farm, pump some milk out of the grazing cows into a bottle, and drink it fresh. Drinking raw milk is considered by many health experts as the only correct way milk should be drunk, as the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus is still present in raw milk, along with many essential vitamins, including A, C, B6, and B12, as well as minerals and enzymes.

    Unfortunately, the sale prohibition on raw milk isn’t in line with all consumers in Australia, and whenever there are profitable goods for sale that’s banned by the government, the sales move underground and black markets come in. Black markets elevates the issues associated with raw milk consumption by sneakily packaging raw milk as cosmetic milk and selling them at local farmers’ markets or roadside stands. The concern with black market sales is that there is no transparency or after-sale support for the customers. Labelling for merchandise at these places are also not under strict regulations, so many consumers may not even be aware of what is exactly in the bottle they just purchased. In the end, it really comes down to understanding the risk consuming raw milk poses. Bowden advocates the legalization of selling raw milk under tight regulations, including consumption shortly after production, and possibly selling in conjunction with a bacteria-testing kit.

    The problem that can occur with consuming raw milk comes mostly from not treating it in the most hygienic and/or proper manner. Degeling from Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine (VELiM) remarked that large scale production could exacerbate problems, because “often the milk from a lot of cows are mixed together and it only takes one breakdown in the hygiene and bio-safety measures in the milking of one cow for the whole batch to be contaminated.” Currently, the Food Standards Australia (FSA) are beginning to recognize the increasing demand for raw dairy and are in the process of assessing the requirements that dairy plants would need to satisfy in order to safely produce and sell raw milk.

    Please click here for the original article if you are interested. 🙂

    So now the question is: should raw milk on day become legalized in Australia, or even in other countries? And if not, what steps can be taken to ensure the legislation will be enforced? What do you guys think?

    Meggy Li

    • SusannaKo 10:24 pm on October 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Personally I don’t think raw milk should be legalized in Australia. However, I know that there are a lot of raw milk advocates. To appease them, I would recommend a warning label, similar to those found on cigarette packages, that would say “consumption of raw milk is linked to diseases that cause kidney failure, gastroenterities etc”. Some steps that can be taken to ensure the legislation is enforced is to have farms registered (so a record can be kept), and have food inspectors search the web for “cow shares” in which there is raw milk available. Also, having information available on Government websites about the risks involved with raw milk consumption might help too.

    • Michelle Ebtia 10:14 am on October 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I personally know of parents who insist on feeding their infants raw cow’s milk, as they believe it would lead to less severe allergic reactions and better tolerance by their infants. However, studies suggest that there is no evidence to support this claim (Høst,1994). The bigger problem this would pose on the health of infants who are fed raw cow’s milk is the unregulated levels of pathogenic microorganisms present in the milk, as mentioned by Meggy. A quick research in the literature shows other types of raw milk are quite risky as well, for example it has been shown that raw goat’s milk can cause Toxoplasmosis in infants(Riemann et al. 1975). With such great risks and minimal benefits, it seems that the current ban on the sale and consumption of raw milk makes a lot of sense.

      Høst, A. (1994). Cow’s milk protein allergy and intolerance in infancy Some clinical, epidemiological and immunological aspects. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 5(S6), 5-36.

      Riemann, H. P., Meyer, M. E., Theis, J. H., Kelso, G., & Behymer, D. E. (1975). Toxoplasmosis in an infant fed unpasteurized goat milk. The Journal of pediatrics, 87(4), 573-576.

      • Carissa Li 12:09 am on October 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        When there is something being banned, there is always someone who try to break the law! Therefore, getting the regulation strict is a very important step to make in order to control the selling of raw milk to people. However, to really stop the consumption of raw milk, we need to let everyone knows why it is being banned. Some people don’t understand the potential risk of drinking raw milk since they never get any food poisoning which leads to people not following the rules. With good reasoning and education, people will understand the reason for setting laws and follow them.

    • Carissa Li 11:07 pm on October 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      When there is something being banned, there is always someone who try to break the law! Therefore, getting the regulation strict is a very important step to make in order to control the selling of raw milk to people. However, to really stop the consumption of raw milk, we need to let everyone knows why it is being banned. Some people dont understand the potential risk of drinking raw milk since they never get any food poisoning which leads to people not following the rules. With good reasoning and education, people will understand the reason for setting laws and follow them

    • Carissa Li 12:08 am on October 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      When there is something being banned, there is always someone who try to break the law! Therefore, getting the regulation strict is a very important step to make in order to control the selling of raw milk to people. However, to really stop the consumption of raw milk, we need to let everyone knows why it is being banned. Some people dont understand the potential risk of drinking raw milk since they never get any food poisoning which leads to people not following the rules. With good reasoning and education, people will understand the reason for setting laws and follow them.

    • Carissa Li 12:09 am on October 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      When there is something being banned, there is always someone who try to break the law! Therefore, getting the regulation strict is a very important step to make in order to control the selling of raw milk to people. However, to really stop the consumption of raw milk, we need to let everyone knows why it is being banned. Some people don’t understand the potential risk of drinking raw milk since they never get any food poisoning which leads to people not following the rules. With good reasoning and education, people will understand the reason for setting laws and follow them.

    • ayra casuga 10:51 am on October 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This article is very intriguing as the topic of selling raw milk has always been controversial. Primarily because although the risk factors are obvious (Food-borne pathogens), there is no general consensus of the benefits of consuming raw milk. Michelle’s comment about parents feeding their infants raw milk is very interesting as I can see how some people would find that absurd, while I can also see how one could rationalize feeding infants raw milk. Providing infants in a young age with raw milk may be able to strengthen their food bacteria tolerance by building their child’s microflora in their gut with a variety of bacteria. I remember learning in my MicBIO202 class that theres a correlation between children’s gastrointestinal system to be “too clean” and an increase in allergies present in children. So by exposing them to some harsher bacteria may be beneficial, although the risks are high.

      In terms of viability of selling raw milk, I believe that selling raw milk should be allowed, although the suppliers of raw milk must undergo more stringent regulations in their procedure. I believe that by banning raw milk will cause some small suppliers to want to sell it in the “black market”, which would be more dangerous as the supplier might not have prepared it in the cleanest way possible. With the high demand of raw milk, it is impossible to eliminate the demand by banning its supply, if anything that would increase the demand and producers would start selling it under the table.

      Therefore, I think a good solution would be that suppliers would need to have a specific license in order to sell raw milk and thus would obtain a special “raw milk certified label”. Analogous to how farmers would need a “Regulated organic license” in order to sell their produce as organic. That way, the suppliers would undergo strict regulations in order to maximize food safety in their raw milk products, and consumers would trust that their raw milk is produced by the highest quality.

    • cvalencia 4:27 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I also think the consumption of raw milk is quite dangerous, but I had a friend who visited Nepal, and lived there with the locals. She said that the family gave her raw cow’s milk to consume, and she did. Thankfully she did not get sick at all. I also think that it depends upon the person, whether they have been brought up drinking raw milk (and therefore have immunity against potential bacteria in it). However, I will personally not take the risk of consuming raw milk, especially with the associated risks involved.

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

      I think this post is really interesting. I personally appreciate the freshness of foods, therefore I like eating salads, raw oysters, sashimi, etc. However, when the same situation comes to milk, I will say no to unpasteurized or raw milk. I know that these fresh raw milk have a greater chance to contain pathogens and it has definitely more cons than pros.

      In the meanwhile, I somehow understand that the reason why the regulation of raw milk is not that restrict in Australia, as there is still large portion of people believe that drinking raw milk is better. Considered that, I think officials can make difference firstly by changing packages of raw milks and labelling them clearly. Then officials can work on letting public know more about the risks of consuming raw milk.

      Working step by step, I believe eventually people will start giving up drinking raw milk 😀

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