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  • amreenj 3:00 pm on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Expired, Fast Food, , , Scandal   


    In July 2014, the parent company of Shanghai’s Husi Foods, OSI Group LLC., recalled all products made by its Shanghai unit as reports arose regarding the quality of their meat and poultry. Investigators suggest that Shanghai Husi Foods, has been selling beef, chicken and pork beyond their expiration date, by repackaging them as freshly packaged products. This isn’t the first time OSI has found themselves in hot water, with similar allegations being brought forward regarding a U.S. based plant by a former employee.

    Shanghai Husi Foods - China

    Shanghai Husi Foods – China

    OSI is the major distributor of meats to large international corporations such as McDonalds, YUM! Brands Inc. (KFC/ Pizza Hut), and Starbucks Corporation.

    Considering that there are approximately 2000 McDonalds restaurants in China alone, serving thousands daily, the potential impact of this lapse in food safety, could be catastrophic. Michael B. Griffiths, a Shanghai –based qualitative research director at TNS China Co. fears that “this recall may spoil any remaining goodwill consumers have for fast –food restaurants.” According to distributors McDonalds restaurants in Hong Kong and Shanghai are serving a “limited menu” of fish burgers, having pulled Chicken McNuggets, the McSpicy Chicken Filet, and grilled chicken salads off the menu, as these products may contain expired and/ or contaminated meats.

    Although no illnesses have been reported, Yum! Brands Inc. will no longer do business with OSI in China, USA and Australia. A McDonalds spokes person also stated that the have stopped sourcing products from Shanghai Husi Foods. The company is in the process of conducting a thorough internal investigation into the possible failures that may have occurred.

    The consequences of meat production failures can be severe and are highly dependent on practices that occur at the processor, distributor, retail, and consumer levels. Failure at any level is unacceptable and can lead to significant economic and health consequences especially in foods with a limited shelf life.

    The date marking requirement is put in place and strictly enforced due to the potential of pathogenic organisms to grow at refrigerated temperatures including, Listeria monocytogenes and Yersinia enterocoloctica. Other microbiological contaminates include: Campylobacter spp., E.coli O157, VTEC, Salmonella , and BSE. These pathogenic bacteria can cause illness with symptoms including but not limited to: diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea, highlighting the importance that the date of expiration be accurate.

    Meat Safety Video

    According to the CDC, businesses should check for the following when receiving fresh meats:

    1. Check that the vehicle is clean and temperature controlled

    2. Check that the meat products are held at the appropriate temperature (41 degrees Fahrenheit)

    3. Reject deliveries if: there is evidence of temperature abuse, off odour or colour, or if meats have a slimy/ sticky texture

    OSI Group LLC, is a United States based company with 55 manufacturing plants in over 16 different countries. With the globalization of the food supply market, it is becoming increasingly prevalent for major corporations to obtain their products from outsourced processors and distributors. With this in mind, consumers and retailers must be cautious when purchasing meats and should only do so from trusted distributors. Furthermore, it is important to know WHERE in fact these products are coming from such that in case of an outbreak, measures are in place that, allow retailers to retrace their steps.

    The bottom line…

    Regardless of the date of expiration on these products, consumers (including those that are commercial) should ALWAYS check for signs of spoilage and take the appropriate measures to ensure that these products are discarded.

    For more information regarding Food Safety, feel free to check out: http://www.cdc.gov/features/befoodsafe/

    Works Cited
    Bora, K., International Business Times ( 2014). http://www.ibtimes.com/china-food-scandal-osi-group-recalls-shanghai-husi-made-meat-brings-new-management-team-1640430
    Bloomberg News. (2014)http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-07-28/mcdonald-s-supplier-recalls-meat-in-expired-food-scandal
    Centre for Disease Control. (2015). Food Safety Training. http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/training/videos/presentations/foodprot.pdf
    Center for Disease Control (2015). Fighting Bacteria http://www.fightbac.org/food-poisoning/causes-symptoms/
    Kansas State – Meat Safety Video (2015). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qced9Du_3gc
    Wang, S. (2015). Lecture 14 : Meat Safety. FNH 413 Food Safety

    • ColleenChong 5:55 pm on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Amereenj thank for sharing this scandal. It’s surprising how such a big company would do something like this, which not only caused a huge loss in profit for the company but most importantly their established reputation they once had is ruined. This topic is controversial and I think it is wrong that the company is repackaging meat and selling them as “fresh” products. It can cause issues such as bacterial/pathogenic growth since it is not monitored. Although meat products has been kept beyond their expired date I think the raw meat products should be tested to see if it is still safe. If it is then meat can be incorporated in ready-to-eat processing plants because they will be further treated by heat to reduce the wastage of food. However, the meat products should not be repackaged and placed back on to shelf without processing because the untreated meat may still pathogenic bacteria to grow if present. I the company needs to find the people who are responsible for this action and give an apology to the public.

    • TamaraRitchie 8:58 am on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Repackaging meat and selling it as fresh is ethically wrong. I do think that best before dates are put in place for consumers to safely consume meats without any chance of spoilage, therefore there are days after the best before date when meat is still safe to eat. I agree with Colleen that if meat still is safe it should be incorporated back into ready to eat products as they will been cooked properly at the processing plants. It seems like this could be an issue due to cost, companies like Mcdonalds etc are paying very little for their meat products in order to keep their cost down as well. Makes you wonder what other corners they may be cutting.

    • NorrisHuang 4:59 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I have heard about this before and I remember in addition to repacking the meat, there was also a video about how the staff in that company picked up meat which dropped onto the floor accidentally and put it back to the production line. They also ground up the defect products with the normal ones and sell them as one. And I believe repacking meat happened in Canadian supermarket (lobslaw) as well that staff in the supermarket dipped the meat in blood to make it look “fresh”. These news are horrible but I guess as consumers we have to always be on alert when purchasing and make smart choices. Stricter government regulations should also be in place.

    • elaine chan 1:57 am on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      What a scandal! With situations like this, it makes it harder for the general public to maintain trust on the food industry. I can see how it can be more cost efficient for the company to resell their meat like this; however, I don’t feel that it is ethical to do so, esp when the products are way past its expiration date. It’s fortunate for them that there hasn’t been any reported illnesses related to this incident, but as mentioned in the article, if the environmental conditions allowed pathogen growth, the situation could have gotten a lot more serious, impacting the health of many individuals. I think it is a good idea to reduce food waste, so like Colleen mentioned, if the product has been tested to ensure that it’s still safe for consumption, it is okay for resale, but not to be labelled as ‘fresh’, because realistically speaking, that’s a lie.

    • flyingsquirrel 10:54 am on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This actually makes me think of the grocery stores here in how they display their food. Although they don’t market their meat as ‘fresh’ like what this company did, does anyone notice that sometimes they hide the soon-to-expire meat in between fresh meat in the package? For example, I once went to buy ground beef and found that under the layers of new meat, I found browning meat that needed to be cooked quickly or else the whole package would spoil. It is technically not expired but this kind of practice is potentially risky. I understand that food waste and cost is a concern as food quality demand goes up, however it would be nice to be transparent and at least notify consumers and sell at a reduced price instead of manipulating information to sell expired goods for the sake of profit. In the long run, good trust (between consumers and companies) makes good business. It’s very unfortunate that this company has lost many big contracts and potential buyers. I hope this event will serve as a good wake up call to producers and buyers when it comes to deciding what gets put on the shelf for what price.

    • FeliciaYuwono 2:23 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Wow, what surprises me is that this probably a global phenomenon, if I could say it that way. I’m from Southeast Asia and when I first came here, I thought I could at least lay more trust on the system, but apparently I’m now just as worried as I was before. Just a few days ago, my friend showed me a video of CBC Marketplace about grocery stores cheating on expiry dates on bakery products and meat products, and it really suggests that some people only care about financial profits because there is no incentive on maintaining consumer safety (at least in the short run). The problem is that the way we live right now makes it inconvenient to not shop at grocery stores which provides one-stop-shopping for everything we need — so if you suspect that the meat you bought is tampered, the best way is to cook it thoroughly out of the danger zone temperature. Here is a helpful chart of meat cooking temperature from Health Canada: http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/healthy-eating-saine-alimentation/safety-salubrite/tips-conseils/cook-temperatures-cuisson-tbl-eng.php

      Here are some links if you’d like to read more:

    • Leigh Renwick 8:00 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is a great article; an important reminder that we should always approach buying meat with cation. Looking for signs of spoilage is important. Too often we take meat that we buy at restaurants for granted as being safe for consumption. I’m surprised that a company would think that they could get away with something like that! Truly despicable.

    • Anisha Parmar 9:20 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is so disgusting and I agree with so many of the comments above. This is ethically wrong and makes me think what other companies are doing this.

    • Tanzil Mulji 9:31 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This makes me curious about how many other companies in the meat industry are using similar practises. And also makes me want to consider never eating meat again.

    • Zeeshan Somji 9:46 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      What an insightful article! Really makes you reconsider all of the “food” we are putting into our bodies every day.

    • Jalila Devji 9:56 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      That’s really disappointing! You would hope that when you go to places like this the least you can expect is your food to be safe! I guess the best thing to do really is to be more mindful of what we’re eating and check for signs of spoilage ourselves. Thank for this great eye opening article!

    • Kiely Landrigan 10:36 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is interesting to consider the food safe practices of large chain restaurants such as McDonalds and Starbucks. Is it more the responsibility of the manager of the branch (who often will be a relatively under trained staffer that has just been around long enough) or the corporation to ensure food safe practices? Good article to get you thinking!

    • Gurinder Cheema 1:05 am on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is a great article! It’s scary to think of this happening, especially since I normally wouldn’t think anything was wrong with food before its expiry date. It really makes you question how much you can trust our food industry. Thanks for bringing awareness to this scandal.

    • meggyli 12:16 am on December 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is a great article! China has always been popular, or in this case, unpopular for their reputation of producing and selling sub-par or even downright unsafe food items. As a Chinese I’m embarrassed to say this article just barely scratches the surface of the atrocities of what is going on over there, such as sewage oil, and pork that has been injected with water, to name a few. Judging by the population and the popularity of MacDonald’s and Starbucks in China, it’s a miracle that no sicknesses have been reported so far. This really makes us question what is really safe out there for consumption.

    • YaoWang 11:19 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I knew about this scandal when I was in China for my summer break last year. Every day, I read about it in newspapers, watched about it on TV and heard people talking about it almost everywhere. Chinese people were really disappointed about this, we even tried to avoid dining out for some time because you never know if there are other companies doing the same thing without being caught. I just hope the government and the official media will look more into the food industry in China.

  • TamaraRitchie 10:34 am on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Ebola, , , , reservoir   

    Should we add Ebola to the List of Foodborne Pathogens? 

    In developed countries the threat of contracting Ebola from food sources is null, but in areas of Africa it is a real threat. Throughout late 2014 and early 2015, Ebola was widely publicized as the virus moved from Africa to the United States although Ebola has been a constant problem in Africa for years. 


    Ebola Virus

    Ebola is a virus that is generally spread by direct contact with body fluids or blood of an infected person, but in Africa it may also be spread while consuming, hunting or preparing Bushmeat. Bushmeat is an umbrella term that groups together meat from wild animals such as bats, antelope, rats, monkeys and other nonhuman primates.The main reservoir of the virus appears to be fruit bats. It is either through the consumption of fruit bats, or cross contamination between fruit bat droppings and other bushmeat animals that causes Ebola to be transmitted through food.

    Bushmeats are main sources of food for some and often seen a treat for others at markets and roadside stands. These types of meats are usually dried, salted or smoked in the open African heat alongside other butchered animals. This is a breeding ground for other bacteria and cross contamination can easily occur with other bacteria of concern such as E. Coli and Salmonella. The consequences of Ebola are high, one strain tied back to fruit bats in the Congo area found that 40% of infected patients died. Ebola causes hemorrhagic fever, headaches and can result in death. 

    Ebola can be destroyed by heating to 60 degree Celsius for 60 minutes or at higher temperatures of 72-80 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes according to the CDC. While heating Ebola has been found to inactivate and destroy the virus there is still the issue of cross contamination, as seen in the following picture the spaces used to cook and prepare the meat appear unhygienic and less than ideal. It is also difficult to know if the meats have been cooked to the proper temperatures as most would not have access to thermometers. The ones that are at highest risk of contracting the virus from animals are those who are hunting and gathering these animals as many are bitten or scratched or come in contact with blood during these processes.


    Varying smoked bushmeats at a market

    The likelihood of contracting the disease from human contact is much higher than from bushmeats. Hundreds of thousands of varying types of bushmeat are consumed annually throughout Africa and this will likely continue as it is a source of nutrition and part of their culture. It is recommended that steps be taken while hunting and gathering to reduce infection such as avoiding blood and fluids from animals, wearing gloves, not consuming predeceased animals and keeping raw foods away from cooked. These steps will not eradicate all cases of Ebola in Africa but it may help decrease the amount of outbreaks.

    If you would like to learn more please watch the video below.



    DRC: Bushmeat blamed for Ebola outbreak. (2012, August 23). Retrieved November 11, 2015, from http://www.irinnews.org/report/96160/drc-bushmeat-blamed-for-ebola-outbreak

    Hogenboom, M. (2014, October 19). Ebola: Is bushmeat behind the outbreak? – BBC News. Retrieved November 11, 2015, from http://www.bbc.com/news/health-29604204

    Information on the Survivability of the Ebola Virus in Medical Waste. (2015, February 12). Retrieved November 11, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/healthcare-us/cleaning/ebola-virus-survivability.html

    MacNeil, A. (2010, December 1). Proportion of Deaths and Clinical Features in Bundibugyo Ebola Virus Infection, Uganda – Volume 16, Number 12-December 2010 – Emerging Infectious Disease journal – CDC. Retrieved November 11, 2015, from http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/16/12/10-0627_article


    • kathykim 4:13 pm on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Tamara, I did not expect that ebola would be termed as a food-borne pathogen, but thinking about it, it is!. The main source of disease infection I heard from news was that Africans eat raw bat meats and drink their blood, and this is their cultural practice of diet. Also, when people die of ebola, Africans contact with the dead body which is also a part of their funeral culture.. I think such cultural factors have been risk factors for the transmission of ebola. I wonder though, why ebola has occured just recently, when such cultural practices were still done in the past.

    • laurenrappaport 1:28 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Its interesting to hear that the original source of Ebola is from animals. Over the past year or so, all we’ve been hearing about in the news is how infectious it is between humans ignoring the fact that the initial contamination is from something we may consume. Although these types of foods are not commonly consumed here in North America, with all the travel and trade it has become of major concern. Its funny that we have only recently started hearing about Ebola issues when this has been going on in Africa for many years. However, only recently when people in North America and Europe have become infected is when this issue has been brought to the news.

    • wen liao 3:53 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is an interesting article. This term I am taking a virology course and currently we are discussing about the Ebola virus (EBOV). Relating to this article, the 2014 EBOV epidemic is actually initiated due to the consumption of bats, as bats are asymptomatic of EBOV. Fortunately for us, vaccines are available now for EBOV (and it was initially designed by the National Microbiology Lab of Canada in Winnipeg. YEAHHHH). This vaccine is under review now and it has shown great efficacy against EBOV infection. Furthermore, this vaccine can be mass produced by engineering tobacco plants so that it can be produced on site in African.
      Personally, I do not think EBOV should be considered as a foodborne pathogen. Although the infection of native African population by EBOV is due to the consumption of bushmeat, bushmeat is not a common source of food for them. They eat it because they do not have other food choices.

    • angel519 5:15 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is interesting to know that Ebola is originated from animal source. Places like Africa where most people live in poverty and food supply is limited, they have no choice but to eat Bushmeat which contains microbes or viruses that have never been encountered by the human population. Even though the source of the virus is identified, becasue of poverty and the brutal environment it is difficult to stop the people from hunting other bushmeat. And this might causes another outbreak of foodborne diease in the future due to the consumption of asymptomatic bushmeat.

    • CindyDai 6:34 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I was quite shocked to know Ebola can be considered as food pathogens. The horrifying Ebola outbreaks in Africa and America earlier this year did attract a lot of public attention, and not many news mentioned how to prevent Ebola at household level. It is good to know that Ebola can be destroyed by heating, which means it shares the same food safety practice with many other foodborne pathogens. We should always be prepared to fight with foodborne pathogens and be aware of the horrible consequence of incorrect food handling.

    • Stephanie Chen 7:28 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As Ebola is generally known to spread through direct contact with infected blood and body fluids, it is quite interesting that it can be regarded as a food-borne pathogen. Through the image and the video, it can really be seen that there is immense potential for contamination through the various steps of preparation, cooking, and consumption of bushmeats. While the virus can be eliminated through heat processing of the food, it may be still be a great challenge to regulate hunting and gathering practices to reduce risk of outbreaks.

    • EmilyLi 5:01 pm on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is a very interesting post. It change the mainstream view that Ebola virus is transmitted by human infected blood and body fluid. The fact that the Ebola virus can be destroyed by heat is a wonderful fact to know and hopefully this fact would be helpful in preparing the bushmeats. However, in area such as Africa there may not be enough resources to implement regulations that the hunters, gathers, and street vendors to follow to reduce and prevent the outbreaks.

    • Carissa Li 12:49 am on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Ebola as a foodborne pathogen really caught my eyes to this post! I never thought it could be transmitted through food since the news only emphasize on direct contact with blood. The fact that how they are selling the bushmeats in the market of course is the main reason for cross contamination but i think the utensils they use to prepare the meat is also one of the reasons for cross contamination. I think the reason why Ebola is that savage is also due to people consuming bushmeats on a daily basis. In this case, Ebola can be spread widely in Africa.

    • mustafa akhtar 12:15 am on December 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I remember back in 2014 when we first heard about the ebola outbreak, and this catalysed the kicking in of many survellience agencies across the globe. Your view is that the cultural practises in Africa may help spread Ebola, but other countries that don’t sell bush meet or don’t have customary funeral practises, still seem to have been concerned for the spread of outbreak. Is ebola as viable outside Africa?

  • HelenMa 4:39 pm on November 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    New Standards for Produce Safety in US Passed 

    The United States Food and Drug administration has finalized the Food Safety Modernization Act as of the mid November 2015. This is a list of standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce for human consumption for domestic farms that grow produce for human consumption. It regulates the production as well importation of produce in the U.S. It is designed to prevent foodborne illnesses caused by tainted produce that affect millions of American every year. The CDC estimates that plants account for approximately 40% (23,500 cases) of annual hospitalization and 25% of annual deaths (363 cases) due to domestically acquired food borne illnesses.
    In the released documents from the FDA, the agency establishes “Science based minimum standard for safe growing, harvesting, packaging and hold of produce, meaning fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.”

    The final rule focuses on six major routes of contamination:
    1. Worker training and health and hygiene
    – Prevent contamination of produce and food contact surfaces by infected person
    2. Agricultural water
    – To ensure water quality used for produce
    – Establishes 2 sets of criteria for microbial water quality
    – Both are based on presence of generic E. coli
    – Testing – untreated surface water & ground water
    3. Biological soil amendments
    – Raw manure – sets recommended interval between harvesting manure and application
    – Stabilized compost
    – Microbial standards – set limits on detectable amount of bacteria
    4. Domesticated and wild animals
    – For animals that may graze on or near land that produce produce for consumption.
    -Farmers are required to take all measures reasonably necessary to identify and not harvest produce that is likely to be contaminated
    5. Sprouts
    – Have been major source of foodborne illness between 1996-2014
    -43 outbreaks – 2,405 illnesses and 171 hospitalizations
    -3 deaths
    – Include first documented outbreak of listeria monocytogenes associated with sprouts in the US
    – Frequently contaminated
    – Prevent the introduction of dangerous microbes into/onto seeds/beans used for sprouting
    – Testing water/environment
    6. Equipment, tools and buildings
    – Establish standards – prevent sources and inadequate sanitation from contaminating produce

    The majority of farms are required to comply with the standards in two years.
    Final rule were also passed on foreign supplier verification programs (FSVP) for importers of food for humans and animals. Importers are required to ensure that the food imported to the US has been produced in a manner that meets US safety standards through hazard analysis. Hazard analysis requires the importer to identify and evaluated reasonably foreseeable hazards for each type of food it imports and determine any hazard that require control.
    The hazards are:
    1. Biological – parasites & disease causing bacteria
    2. Chemical – pesticides & drug residues
    3. physical – glass


    • BarbaraCorreiaFaustino 12:13 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      That was an interesting article! I wonder if those new regulations will decrease the number of foodborne illness outbreaks related to produce, and I hope that this solution actually works. Even though the results are only going to appear in two years, after all the farmers comply with these new standards, I hope that by then there will be less produce outbreaks, especially related to sprouts.

    • Carissa Li 1:06 am on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I would say this is a pretty complete regulation as in preventing foodborne pathogen outbreak. This is because it covers almost all of the transmission routes that pathogen can take to contaminate people. It is quite interesting to hear that sprout actually account for the most foodborne illnesses since I never think of it to be that harmful. I think the reason behind it is that bacteria on the sprout are usually harder to destroy by thermal processing (cooking). Therefore, regulation on sprouts is very important on preventing any outbreaks. Hope this updated standards can really improve the surveillance on produce and outbreak number will diminish!

    • YaoWang 11:05 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I think it’s a good idea for the government to establish such acts to ensure food safety. From previous week’s posts we realize that fresh produces are usually very vulnerable to varies food-borne pathogens. Therefore, it is the government’s responsibility to introduce such regulations to the country. At the same time, I’m wondering to what degree will these acts decrease the number of food-borne illnesses in the states.

  • ayra casuga 1:18 pm on November 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , coriander, , shigella, Sweden,   

    Southeast Asian Imported Coriander had caused 40 cases of Shigellosis in Sweden 


    In late October 2015, Southeast Asian imported coriander has caused an outbreak of Shigellosis in Sweden. The severity of this outbreak had caused forty reported illnesses in three areas (twenty-nine from Vastra Gotaland, ten from Skane, and three from Halland). There was the same proportion of adult male and female who had fallen ill and no reported deaths.

    Shigellosis is an acute bacterial infection caused by a group of Shigella bacteria. It is linked with “poor sanitation, contaminated food and water, and crowded living conditions”(Vyas, et al., 2014). Some symptoms include acute abdominal cramping, fever, bloody stools, watery diarrhea, and nausea (Vyas, et al., 2014). The severity of Shigellosis is mild as healthy individuals are able to surpass this illness with no chronic issues. However, the severity increases for malnourished children and immune-compromised individuals.

    Coriander is a type of herb commonly used to complement a variety of foods and recipes as it adds a spicy flavor component that many find appealing. Therefore, it is commonly found in restaurant dishes where, in this case, has been the likely source of the illnesses reported in Vastra Gotaland and Skane. The Public Health Agency of Sweden had interviewed the people who were sick as part of their outbreak investigation and had found that there was a connection between different restaurants.

    In addition to interviewing those who were sick, the Public Health agency of Sweden used “Whole-Genome Sequencing of the Shigella bacteria from the people who fell ill after visiting different restaurants” (Whitworth, 2015). Whole-genome sequencing is a type of molecular subtyping method used to reveal the complete genome of an organism in order to identify pathogens isolated from food samples (FDA, 2015). First, a sample is taken from a patient and is then cultivated in order to isolate bacterial DNA. After, the bacterial DNA found in the specimen becomes processed using an automated bench-top sequencing system. In other words, the bacterial DNA becomes processed in order to determine the order of nucleotides within its genome. Finally, this information can then be analyzed and compared to central data storage of known DNA bacterial sequences, in this case is the Shigella bacteria (Wang, Lecture Slide 18, 2015).

    As a result from implementing a whole genome sequencing method, the Public Health Agency of Sweden did not detect the Shigella bacteria in any samples that were taken. Although the samples taken of the people ill showed close to identical bacterial strains, which suggests that their illness had most likely came from a common source. In addition, the coriander could not have been analyzed as it had disappeared from the marketplace before the outbreak became known. However, upon interviewing the people who were ill, it has been determined that coriander had been a common denominator found in the restaurant meals. This analysis has leaded the Public Health Agency of Sweden to conclude that the source of illness is the imported coriander from Southeast Asia.

    This outbreak is a great example of the level of difficulty it is to find the cause of an outbreak when the cause is most likely an ingredient in a meal. Because the whole-genome sequencing indicate negative results for the presence of Shigellosis raises a lot of questions for the conclusions made by the Public Health Agency of Sweden. However, through their findings it is highly likely that the cause of the outbreak is from the coriander, but it is yet to be determined whether the illness is, indeed, Shigellosis. In order to ensure that similar outbreaks like this do not occur again, more stringent policies can be implemented to ensure that imported produce has come from the cleanest foreign companies.

    Discussion Question: From what we have learned in class about the outbreak investigation method in Canada, would you agree with the Public Health Agency of Sweden to conclude that the source of illness had come from the Coriander? If not, what methods could they have further done to accurately determine the source of the Shigellosis bacteria?

    References –
    Witworth, J. (2015, November 25). Shigella outbreak traced to imported coriander. Retrieved November 26, 2015, from http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Food-Outbreaks/Sweden-finds-coriander-to-be-source-of-shigellosis

    Wang, S. (2015). Lecture Slide 18: Molecular Subtyping. FNH 413 Food Safety

    Vyas, M. (2014, May 12). Shigellosis. Medline Plus. Retrieved November 26, 2015, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000295.htm

    FDA (2015, March 5). Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) Program. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Retrieved November 26, 2015, from http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/WholeGenomeSequencingProgramWGS/

    • Michelle Ebtia 12:16 pm on November 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      The conclusion made by the Public Health Agency of Sweden seems to me to be based on guesswork rather than hard data. The article reports that analysis of the coriander samples showed no positive results for the pathogen, however the outbreak was still attributed to that same batch of produce! This reminds me of the case with Spanish cucumber and fenugreek seeds from Egypt that was discussed in class.
      I think more investigation is needed to attribute the illness to one specific food, based on scientific findings. If no evidence emerges, then the case could be reported as unresolved, similar to numerous outbreaks in Canada.
      It is also very interesting to know that despite using the most comprehensive and advanced method available (Whole Genome Sequencing), these complications may arise in practice!

    • csontani 9:45 am on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      That would be so hard for the company who exported to products cause they might be exporting products to many other countries and might forced them to recall the products and the outbreak might not even be because of their products. But the Public Health Agency of Sweden should have make another hypotheses because their data results did not supported their original hypotheses and shouldn’t conclude their investigation based on guesses. That would not be fair for the company who exported the coriander.

    • NorrisHuang 4:14 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I wonder why the Public Health Agency of Sweden used whole genome sequencing as their first and only investigation method though, because WGS is the most expensive one. Since WGS is the one with highest discriminatory power, I think instead of using new methods, the agency can test for more samples and see if they were able to find positive samples. If not, then probably coriander is not the real cause of food-borne illnesses?

    • angel519 5:28 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I like how your blog links to the process outbreak investigation that we’ve learnt in class. I personally think that the Public Health Agency of Sweden should not conclude that the coriander originated from South East Asia is the source of the outbreak. This is because no samples of the coriander were tests, which means they have no evidence to suggest that the coriander contains the strains of Shigella that matches with the infected patients. However, as mentioned in the blog, the suspect coriander can no longer be found in the market. From this I’ve learnt that it is a struggle that a real outbreak investigation could encounter.

    • MarinaMoon 1:53 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with above comment that the Public Health Agency of Sweden should not have concluded the outbreak of coriander to be originated from South East Asia. Although it is a very likely source of the outbreak, without enough data to evidently state the outbreak cause, it should not have confirmed its case. If it wasn’t from the coriander from South East Asia, it will put the farmers into extra steps and cost that were not necessary if the investigation included further research. Also, this would put the farmers of South East Asia with bad reputation which they are not responsible for. From the article, I realized how it is very hard to trace back food sources for contamination and that preventing it from happening in the first place is the best strategy.

  • cheryl lau 8:29 pm on November 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Eastern Canada, , Potatoes, ,   

    Case of Food Terrorism? Metal Needles and Nails Found in Potatoes in Atlantic Canada 

    Metal Needles Found In Russet Potatoes

    Metal Needles Found In Russet Potatoes

    Eastern Canada —Earlier this year in May, an employee of a grocery store found something suspicious as he was stocking bags of potatoes. To his horror, he discovered metal sewing needles and metal nails had been deliberately inserted into the potatoes. Unfortunately, the residents of Eastern Canada were no strangers to such observations. In October of the previous year, there were several reported cases of sewing needles found in potatoes as well. This incident prompted relevant farms and the federal government to reevaluate their current food safety protocols and to determine if the existing equipment used for detection are adequate to uphold the standards for consumers’ safety.

    October 2014 —Metal needles were found in potatoes by customers, which were traced back to farms on Prince Edward Island. After a period of investigation, it was found that these potatoes had most likely originated from Linkletter Farms in Summerside, PEI. The CFIA has been working with the RCMP to find the culprit responsible for this horrible crime, but so far there have been no promising leads. Luckily, there were no reports of illness or injury.

    After the first incident in the fall, Prince Edward Island had already increased the sensitivity of its food safety measures to detect metal pieces. However, shortly after they implemented these procedures, they found more sewing needles in their facility in December of 2014. Fortunately, the tampered foods were discovered prior to distribution, so no recall was required for this time.

    May 2015 — Loblaws voluntarily recalled Russet potatoes belonging to Famer’s Market Brand and Strang’s Produce after an employee noticed needles in the tampered products. These products have been distributed to several stores within the company and they have since then recalled the potatoes from their shelves. However, this problem which was thought to be halted and contained in Prince Edward Island earlier this year, has now dispersed to Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The similarities of this food safety incident and the ones from late last year has brought more concerns to the involved parties. Fortunately, the metal materials were found before anyone got seriously sick or injured.
    Determined to find the culprit, Prince Edward Island’s potato industry has increased the reward for any information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for this heinous crime. From the previous $100,000, the reward increased to $500,000. Furthermore, the RCMP has released information stating that the tampered potatoes did not originate from the farm involved in the October incident.

    The repercussions of this incident has shown in the decrease of the public’s confidence in potatoes. The Canadian government realized that this is a disaster to the agricultural businesses in Atlantic Canada. They helped by providing $2 million in an effort to aid those farmers who have been devastated during this food terrorism act. The government also thought it was worthwhile to allocate funds to install new metal detection equipment to prevent such threats from occurring in the future.

    At this point, these cases still have not been solved.

    Personally, after following this story, I too have lost a bit of confidence in the safety of Canada’s food supply.

    Even though these tampered potatoes have not reached Western Canada, knowing that these dangerous metal pieces made it into stores intact, how do you feel about the safety of the foods we eat?


    October 2014

    May 2015

    • Mandy Tam 9:44 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I know a lot of companies installed metal detector in their food plants. They also make metal detector as one of the critical control point. In my experience in food plant though, what on paper and what actually happen might be different. This is why GMP is such a hard thing to implement in the food plant. A lot of production workers often ignore the warning signal of the metal detector, never hold the product, and never inform the HACCP team on what happen. I think most of the time, supervisors often emphasis speed over safety, therefore, workers have the pressure to finish all the orders in that day and result in such behaviors. Better surveillance within the plant should be implemented so companies will not ignore safety for money. Also, companies should emphasis more on training workers on the knowledge of food safety so they will be more aware of it.

    • elaine chan 12:37 am on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Definitely a very different and interesting article! I agree with Mandy’s point above, of how better surveillance, such has incorporating metal detectors into their production process can help better prevent such incidents from happening. However, oddly enough, as mentioned in the article, even after more strict metal detection systems were implemented into the production area, needles were still found after distribution! This, I find it particularly strange. It’s a good thing that these needles are able to be seen by the naked human eye, so that when a worker at the grocery store or a customer picks up the potato, they can see that it’s been damaged and know that it’s not safe for consumption. But I do worry, what if later on, it’s something else that’s placed inside a produce that cannot be readily seen by the human eye? Would implementing metal detectors at the level of supermarkets be helpful? This whole situation does seem a little funny to me though, because someone out there is actually taking the time to sneak around and deliberately place sewing needles into different potatoes. They must really have a lot of time to waste!

    • shinnie 4:37 pm on December 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Can you imagine biting into a potato and finding out there is a needle in there? Ouch. I agree with Elaine, it is fascinating to learn that people would deliberately adulterate produce by inserting needles and nails (I will never understand them). I don’t think this kind of situations can be prevented at all– I mean if someone deliberately (key word is deliberately) tries to contaminate a farm full of produce with a pathogen (not metal nails/needles in this case), who is going to stop them? Personally, I believe it is more important to add security to the farm boundaries (i.e gates, password/key locks) rather than implementing changes to the production process system itself (actually, I think there are already steps implemented in food processing to control biological/chemical/physical hazards). As Mandy and Elaine have mentioned, surveillance cameras are very helpful, or maybe security guards as well? I feel that only people with authority can access the farm and if anything happens to the produce that is due to adulteration, they can hold certain people responsible. I am also thinking, nails and needles can be inserted into all kind of roots, including carrots, lettuce, radish……

    • RainShen 9:39 pm on December 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is very scared to know that metal needles can be found in the food products… When I worked in a bakery plant, every production line has a metal detector to check every box and ensure they are all metal-free before they go to the market. I wonder if those plants do have metal detectors on-site or not. If it’s food terrorism, it is more scared! I think the only way to lower the incidents is to set up metal detectors in the farm or plant for the final products, but it is hard to say after the products have been distributed. What customers can do might be checking the food products carefully before cooking and consuming. I may keep my eyes on the fresh produces from now on.

    • JorgeMadrigalPons 10:25 pm on December 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting title and article! It is surprising that this was not detected before in the farm-to-fork food chain. It is alarming and concerning that this kind of contaminations occur. The corresponding parties should take preventive actions to avoid this in the future. Like stated in the article, it makes people loose their confidence on consuming products.

    • CindyDai 12:38 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is very interesting to know that, in addition to biological hazards, physical hazards caused by hazardous extraneous material also count for a large portion of “food terrorism”. Compared to foodborne pathogens, extraneous material could be more easily identified and eliminated by food manufacturers from food products. Metal detectors should always be implemented as one of the final steps in food processing plants to prevent possible metal pieces due to equipment damage. It requires everyone’s effort to fight against the “food terrorism”.

    • EmilyChow 2:41 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I can’t believe someone would deliberately tamper with produce of all things. We often purchase food from the supermarket with the belief that the food has been properly inspected and had completed safety processing and tests, but we do not really consider what could happen to the food between the time of processing to the time it reaches the supermarket. Perhaps there should be another processing or screening procedure before the items are placed on supermarket shelves to further ensure the safety of the products?

    • DeniseZhang 7:20 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I actually have experienced this personally. That was a Korean restaurant, I ordered hot-stone rice then I found a small piece metal “net” (which I believe was part of the tap filter) in rice. I was so disappointed, because I liked that restaurant so much. Thankfully I did not eat that spoon of rice without looking at it that day. Even though they apologized and served me a new dish, but my mood of eating was ruined :(. I do wish I will never experience that again, finding a hair in food is even more acceptable than finding a thing that might hurt or kill me.

    • MichelleLui 8:14 pm on December 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Many farms lack security control over their premises which leads to food tampering. Farms and facilities should put in security measures such as preventing unauthorized entry to secure area, verifying background checks on employees and enforcing visitors’ policies. They should also put in adequate physical security such as fences, gates, good lighting and video surveillance cameras.

  • Susanna Ko 11:17 pm on November 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: barfblog, , , , ,   

    Recall of Potato Products Due To Small Metal Fragments 

    From May 8th to May 12th, several large UK retailers issued a recall for over 50 potato salads, coleslaws, and ready-to-eat meals. Retailers affected included Sainsbury, Waitrose, Morrison’s and Tesco. To give you a scale of the impact of this recall, Sainsbury is UK’s second largest retailer, and Tesco is one of the world’s biggest retailers. The recall affected multiple brands of the nationwide retailers, and is found in over 43 ready-to-eat savoury pies and quick meals, and at least 6 potato salads.

    The cause of the recall? Small pieces of metal were found in the potato products, and originated from a single supplier. Further investigation identified that a piece of the equipment broke during processing, resulting in metal fragments possibly being dislodged.

    To give you an idea of how scary this is, here is a picture of an affected product:

    Look familiar? You may have grabbed something similar to this to eat on the go from the grocery store. The products affected by this recall are ready-to-eat convenient meals. People choose this product as a quick and easy meal option. I know that I eat quick meals while I multitask with homework, and I may not be paying attention to what is hidden inside of it. Plus, convenient pre-packaged potato salads could be a popular item to bring to family potlucks or work lunches…. kind of scary, isn’t it?

    But they’re just small metal fragments, what’s the worst that can happen? Well, further explanation of the risks associated with the metal pieces could not be found on the UK Food Standards Agency or in the recall notice. Which is a shame, because somebody could swallow the fragment and mistakenly believe it to contribute to their daily intake of minerals. Small metal fragments can cause lacerations and internal injuries to the mouth, gastrointestinal system, and internal organs. Ouch!

    An article from Food Safety Magazine stated that metal fragments are considered as “hazardous extraneous material” under Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (or HACCP for short). We all know just how important HACCP is in the prevention of food safety hazards. But why wasn’t metal detection a critical control point during the processing of the potatoes? Not to be critical or anything, but isn’t preventative maintenance part of a certain prerequisite program of HACCP?

    I know what I’m going to be more careful with now. A news article from Daily Mail (which is a popular UK online magazine) reported that product was still found on the shelves of Tesco during the weekend. The recall was announced on a Friday. Seems like there was some mis-communication.

    Or do what the comments say (in the Daily Mail news article) and just make your own potato salad.

    Daily Mail. 2015. Still on Tesco’s Shelves… potato salads recalled in metal fragments Scare: Safety row erupts as food containing stainless steel is left for customers to buy after warnings of recall are missed. Available from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3075221/Still-Tesco-s-shelves-potato-salads-recalled-metal-fragments-scare-Safety-row-erupts-food-containing-stainless-steel-left-customers-buy-warnings-recall-missed.html#comments. Accessed 2015 November 25.

    Food Standards Agency. 2015. Potato Products Recall. Available from http://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2015/13955/potato-products-recall. Accessed 2015 November 25.

    Food Safety Magazine. 2003. The Dirty Dozen: Ways to Reduce the 12 Biggest Foreign Materials Problems. Available from
    http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/aprilmay-2003/the-dirty-dozen-ways-to-reduce-the-12-biggest-foreign-materials-problems/. Accessed 2015 November 25.

    • wen liao 3:52 pm on November 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      HAHA I like the last sentence, which usually solves most of the problems. As it is in most of the cases, we learn from the mistakes. I wonder what caused the metals to remain in prepared food. I am wondering about the side effects of ingesting these small metal fragments. In addition, as there is no metal detector available for potato products processing line, how did they find out the metals in the first place?

    • laurenrappaport 1:46 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great article Susanna! It was a very interesting read but also very concerning. I lived in the UK for 6 months, and shopped at some of the mentioned grocery stores all the time! Its especially concerning as some of these food products are given to kids for lunches or snacks and they are less likely to identify the metal fragments in their foods. Metal detection during production should be implemented to ensure this sort of issue does not happen again. In addition, equipment maintenance should be a key part of the quality assurance program which would have prevented this issue in the first place.

    • dgozali 3:43 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I like how you related this to what we learned in FNH 403 about the HACCP plans and CCPS. this shows the importance of having a good HACCP plan in place as any step that was overlooked can cause a really big impact if something goes wrong. There was probably no metal detection system in place to check the final product, or maybe the metal detector was faulty and was not fixed by the employees.

    • Silvia Low 3:36 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is disturbing. What affects me the most is that the metal fragments were found in children’s food. I feel that anything that goes near children should be handled with extra care and be more diligently inspected prior to distribution just because these are children! But it is nice to hear that no one was harmed (for now at least).

    • cvalencia 5:17 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      What an eye opener! I wonder how they detected the small metals inside the packages though? was it because someone actually tasted it or saw it when they opened the product? It is also very dangerous to the consumer, and to think that it is also marketed more towards the kids, rather than the adults, is even more concerning. This company definitely needs to re-evaluate their food processes in their facility to ensure that nothing like this happens again.

    • meggyli 11:56 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This article is very much like the frozen pizza assignment some of us did for FNH 403 as a way too look at successful HACCP Programs and the hazards involved in food production. There may have been many ways in which the metal fragments remained in the final packaged and distributed products, for example, the metal detection wand was broken at the food plant, or it was the result of a careless quality control practitioner. Either way, I think the company needs to revisit their HACCP Plan and find the cause of the problem ASAP. This also goes to show that these things really do happen in the real world, and it is also important for consumers to properly check their shopping cart before purchasing, and to properly check their food containers before consuming.

    • AngeliMalimban 10:00 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting stuff Susanna! Like Lauren said, this stuff is given to kids, especially since potato salad is very soft and easy to swallow/digest for kids. I noticed that whenever my aunts or uncles give food to my little cousins, they always chop it up for them to prevent them from making a mess by cutting it themselves. That would probably be a great way to detect huge metal fragments in food… but since this is potato salad, that is not the case. And as for HACCP – I agree with Meggy and I hope that they actually do revisit their HACCP plan to find out who or what could be responsible in this case. This goes to show that even with HACCP in place, there are still such little things that can go unnoticed…

    • Ya Gao 10:42 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I read the label in the article carefully and saw it is a kid’s meal. The recall is especially important for vulnerable people like kids. They are less likely to notice those hazardous extraneous material when they are eating and ingesting small metal fragment can cause fatal consequence. Since this recall is a huge one. I believe this supplier to be huge as well with massive production every day. It is curtail for a HACCP plan to be in place and actually work. A metal detector is definitely a CCP that the company needs to work on immediately.

  • Jasmine Lee 1:00 am on November 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Product Recall due to Undeclared Allergens 

    Product recalled due to undeclared allergens (CFIA, 2015)

    Mustard, sesame, soy and wheat not declared on label. (CFIA, 2015)

    Early this year on January 19th, the Canadian Federal Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a notice to recall Mann’s Mediterranean Style snap peas due to not declaring the presence of allergens, specifically mustard, sesame, soy and wheat in the toppings and dressing. The allergens were first identified by the manufacturer and they had immediately halted distribution to their exclusive Walmart and Sobeys retailers across Canada. Fortunately, there had not been any reported hospitalizations or deaths, but individuals with hypersensitivities were advised to dispose or return the product to the retailer. Given that the best before date was January 25th, remaining products should have reached the end of its shelf life by the end of the week.

    Mechanism and Characteristics of Food Allergies

    Food allergy is a health concern that should not be overlooked. According to Soller et al.’s cross-sectional study (2012), adverse reactions to one or more allergens were self-reported by 6.67% of Canadians. Unfortunately, these numbers are expected to increase (Hengel, 2007).

    Food allergies are classified as a category of hypersensitivity where the immune response recognizes and abnormally believes the offending food or component to be harmful. The mechanism of an allergic response commences when the ingested allergen, which is typically a protein, crosses the intestinal barrier to the bloodstream and is recognized by circulating lymphocytes or white blood cells. These immune cells trigger the release of IgE antibodies that bind to mast cells. Through antibody-receptor interactions, inflammatory mediators, i.e. histamine, will be secreted to the surrounding tissues and result in adverse symptoms involving the skin, gastrointestinal, respiratory and/or cardiovascular systems. Initial exposure to the allergen is usually asymptomatic, but subsequent exposures may result in a quicker and more severe response. This is because some IgE-coated mast cells are already present and bind immediately to the same antigens to release histamine. Allergic symptoms may appear immediately after a few minutes or can be delayed up to 24 hours. They can be mild and localized to one or more body systems, such as nausea and vomiting from the gastrointestinal system. Alternatively, symptoms may progress in severity to affect all body systems, resulting in anaphylaxis or death. (Taylor, 2006)

    Fact or Myth: Consuming processed foods reduce the risk of developing allergenic reactions.

    Adding to the complexity of allergies, food processing will interfere with the allergenic capacity. IgE antibodies tend to bind well to a particular region on antigens, known as epitopes. These may be linear amino acid chains or 3D conformational structures. The binding affinity of IgE antibodies may be reduced during processing. For instance, high heat denatures the 3D conformation and fermentation cleaves the amino acid sequences. At the same time, allergenic capacity may be promoted as some epitopes are no longer hidden by the protein’s 3D conformation and can bind to IgE. Additional structures and IgE binding sites may be created from protein and peptide modifications during processing. Overall, further studies are necessary to develop a clearer answer for processed foods. (Hengel, 2007).

    Prevention Strategies

    Given the importance of allergens and potentially life-threatening consequences, CFIA is enforcing mandatory labelling for the top 10 allergens: wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, sulphites, eggs, seafood, mustard, milk and sesame. Food manufacturers also need to take precautionary measures to avoid cross-contamination at the plant and practice proper product labeling. Consumers should periodically review the list of product recalls on the CFIA’s webpage. While there are currently no approved treatments, individuals with severe allergies should follow a strict diet and carry an EpiPen in case of a sudden reaction. Overall, prevention and awareness are pertinent to reducing food allergies.

    What are your thoughts on the prevalence of food allergies? Do you think processed foods may be associated with the upward trend of food allergies?

    Check out the following references and video (particularly about unpasteurized milk from times 14:40-15:13 and parasitic worms on allergies from times 23:09-25:44).


    CFIA. (2015). Food Recall Warning (Allergen) – Mann’s brand Mediterranean Style Snap Pea Sensations recalled due to undeclared mustard, sesame, soy and wheat. Retrieved from http://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/newsroom/food-recall-warnings/complete-listing/2015-01-19/eng/1421730513089/1421730556698

    Health Canada. (2012). Food Allergies and Intolerances. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/allerg/index-eng.php

    Hengel, A. J. (2007). Food allergen detection methods and the challenge to protect food-allergic consumers. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 389(1):111-118.

    Soller, L., Ben-Shoshan, M., Harrington, D. W., Fragapane, J., Joseph, L., St. Pierre, Y., Godefroy, S. B., La Vieille, S., Elliott, S. J. & Clarke, A. E. (2012). Overall prevalence of self-reported food allergy in Canada. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 130(4):986:988.

    Taylor, S. (2006). The nature of food allergy. In S. J. Koppelman & S. L. Hefle (Eds.), Detecting Allergens in Food (pp.3-20). Boca Raton, FL:Woodhead Publishing Limited, Boca Raton.

    • ColleenChong 12:03 pm on November 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Jasmine, I really like how you were able to incorporate the topic of allergens into to your blog. Allergens are a major source of recalls, specifically undeclared allergens. It is good to see how proactive CFIA is with recall and was done so before anyone in the public was affected. It seems like food allergy seems to be increasing but It might be the fact that there’s better technology to help detect the cause of allergy in individuals. The list of allergens seems to be slowly growing, which may also increase the number of individuals who may have allergens. I think processed foods is associated with an upward trend of food allergies because many companies that process allergens may also use the same equipment to process foods without allergens. The residual allergen may be transferred into the second process. To prevent this properly cleaning and sanitation is essential. But the best solution would be having one process line with allergen containing food and the other one without.

    • TamaraRitchie 9:35 am on November 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is nice to see the CFIA being so quick to get this product off the shelves. I feel with a product such as snap peas, many people would not assume there would be any allergens in the product. As we learned in class and as you explained above allergic reactions can be very severe and lead to death. It is just as important for the CFIA to be on top of allergen recalls as it is for food borne illnesses. Both types of illness can be extremely harmful to the public. Overall I hope in the future we can have more research on what is causing the upswing of allergens. I am very curious as to what is causing it, it may be an increased in processed foods or it may be something we have not even thought of yet. I would not be surprised if the increase of processed foods were in some way contributing to the increase in allergens.

    • catherine wong 3:32 am on November 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Since allergens can cause such severe illnesses or death as Jasmine mentioned above, it is kind of reassuring to know that CFIA is working hard and efficiently in taking products with undeclared allergens off of store shelves. I actually wonder how they found out about the undeclared allergens. Did the producer test their products for allergens or did they look over their production records for that day and found that they did not clean their equipment between switching from producing a product with allergen to a product without that allergen? I do agree with Colleen that during production, having one process line just for the allergen would be the best to reduce contamination. Even though a designated allergen line would cost money and not all processing plants can afford that which is why the cleaning process is so important for them. With all the undeclared allergen recalls that CFIA always has on their website, I feel that a designated allergen line in plants might be worth it because undeclared allergens is a very serious matter.

    • Stephanie Chen 6:57 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As the incidence of food allergies seems to be on the rise, particularly in children, it is critical for allergen labelling to be strictly enforced. I feel that a designated allergen line could still have potential cross contamination within a plant. We often see products with labels such as “may contain [allergen]” or “processed in a plant that also uses [allergen].” It may be in the best interest of those with known allergies to avoid these foods altogether (though snap peas may come as a surprise). On another note, it is really interesting that you presented the fact of myth concerning the potential link between processed foods and allergy development. I also wonder what factors could be associated with the increase of allergens, whether genetically, environmentally, or even due to the changes in the foods we eat?

    • EmilyLi 2:19 pm on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      In my opinion this is a very informative post. It is great to know that CFIA is so quick and efficient with the issuing the recall. Allergen in food had been a concern especially for parents with severe allergic children. I think that it’s great that the CFIA is strict on the labeling to ensure consumers health safety. However the factor we may need to bring to attention is the genetically modified foods. Genetically modified food consist of genetic material that wasn’t originally found in the food. This may alter the different protein that a certain food product can contain thus initiating a allergic reaction. I wonder how we could put a standard or have a regulations for this kind of foods.

    • flyingsquirrel 3:59 pm on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting how you brought up that processing the foods may render them less likely to cause allergic reactions through changing protein composition (through processes such as heat etc.). This would explain why some people are able to eat certain foods they are normally allergic to as long as it is deep fried. One hypothesis at the moment as for why there seems to be a higher number of people allergic to foods may be due to over protection. This idea comes from the increasing amount of mothers keeping their children from being exposed to said products at an early age (thus not allowing them to build better immunological systems that can tolerate the food proteins). Therefore popular foods associated with allergies in certain demographic areas (ex. peanuts in the west) will be avoided most often, this may end up bringing adverse effects and perpetuate the development of food allergy that one is trying to avoid. I don’t know how true this idea is, but it makes you re-think what to give children to eat.

    • KristinaRichmond 8:17 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great article! I also found it interesting how processing can change the allergenic potential of food. I think this would be a good area for further research since food allergies can be so severe and life-threatening, and it’s easy to get accidentally exposed if you’re not the cook or really diligent about reading labels. I think one problem with processed foods is that they can be quite complex and contain many different (and sometimes unusual) ingredients, so I think it’s good that the CFIA enforces labelling for the top 10 allergens.

    • RainShen 9:03 pm on December 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As we learned in this course, food allergy would be fetal sometimes, so it is very critical to state all the allergens in the food product, especially for those highly processed foods. Sometimes the ingredients in the dressing or sauce, or even contacting with other foods in the same production environment will cause food allergy for the consumers. Comparing to food safety, food allergy does not have very strict rules for the manufacturers to state every allergen that might be possible contained in the products so sometimes it might be a big concern for costumers, especially for children and infants. Since food allergy is not dose related, even a very small amount of the allergen may cause very severe results. However, according to your post, CFIA recalled the suspected products before any hospitalizations or deaths happen. In my opinion the food inspection of CFIA is very sufficient in this way.

    • yichen25 1:47 am on December 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Food allergy is very prevalent to those who are not able to develop a clinical tolerance towards the food protein that has been ingested. Failure to develop a clinical tolerance will lead to a series of hypersensitivity reactions which can be be potentially life-threatening if not treated immediately. Besides, the application of food processing as mentioned above has the ability to interfere with the binding of the antibodies to the antigens. However, more research should be done to further confirm the effect of food processing in the allergenic capacity. As for now, I personally think that both labeling of the food allergens and listing out the ingredients in the food product are very effective to inform consumers on the presence of allergenic compounds in the food product.

    • WinnieLiao 7:45 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      As learnt in other courses as well as in this course, allergens indeed can induce many severe or fatal issues and contamination of these foods with allergens would definitely require a recall. Thankfully in Canada CFIA is quick to react and is helpful in facilitating recall of these food items. The consequences of food allergic reactions can range from mild to severe; I’ve seen red spots and rashes developing on people’s skin after ingesting these foods with allergens. Also it’ interesting to know that food processing steps can expose the epitopes promoting the binding with IgE. However, the processing can also decrease the IgE binding affinity with antigens. Besides the food processing procedures, I wonder if there are other factors that can potentially bring in allergens from other food sources and how these outbreaks associated with allergens can be traced.

    • CandiceZheng 3:01 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      First of all, it is great to know that CFIA and the manufacture realized the problem very quickly and issued the recall so efficiently that there were no reported hospitalizations or deaths. This is a very informative post that introduced a lot of information related to food allergen, and I really like the subtitles that makes the post very clear and organized. In addition, I like the discussion about how food processing would alter the allergenic potential of food in various perspectives.

  • Ya Gao 8:53 pm on November 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Scombroid poisoning, , seafood toxin   

    7 Customers Showed Symptoms of Scombroid Fish Poisoning after Eating in a Sydney Café 

    Seven people fell ill and showed symptoms of scombroid poisoning after eating from the same food outlet in the Sydney CBD, Soul Origin café, in late February 2015. The tuna, which was served in sandwiches at the café, was suspected to have caused scombroid poisoning.


    source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-26/scombroid-fish-poisoning-linked-to-sydney-cafe-tuna/6263120

    The New South Wales (NSW) Food Authority in Australia investigated that the canned product “John Bull Tuna Chunky Style in Sunflower Oil”, which Soul Origin café used, is a product of Thailand and imported into Australia by a Victorian company. This minor brand was used predominately in catering; it was not generally available to the public. The outbreak was not widespread and all affected product was removed from the market immediately.


    source: http://ausfoodnews.com.au/2015/03/11/canned-tuna-food-safety-scare-linked-to-thai-factory.html

    The NSW Food Authority tested the leftover tuna salad at the café to have 3950 micrograms of histamine per kilogram of tuna. The test result was well above the acceptable limit of 200 micrograms histamine per kilogram of fish.

    Scombroid poisoning is an allergic-type reaction to elevated levels of histamine in fish. It occurs when an enzyme produced by naturally occurring bacteria in certain fish species (including tuna, sardines, mackerel, swordfish, and marlin) convert histidine in the fish to histamine. Elevated levels of histamine amino acids in the fish produce cause the food poisoning. The temperature abuse of the fish produce at the catching or processing stage is usually the cause of the scombroid poisoning. The presence of high level of histamine in fish shows that decomposition of fish produce has occurred. The histamine toxin is not inactivated by ordinary cooking methods, and the contaminated fish will not necessarily appear spoiled.

    Symptoms of histamine poisoning occur quickly, usually within 30 minutes or a few hours upon ingestion of contaminated fish. The symptoms typically last for a few hours. However, in some cases, they can last for several days. Common symptoms of histamine poisoning including peppery or metallic taste sensation, tingling of mouth and lips, skin rash or itchy skin, headaches, and dizziness; nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur in some cases. People with scombroid poisoning may be treated with antihistamines. Scombroid poisoning is rarely fatal, but it was thought to have killed a Australian mother and daughter, Noelene and Yvana Bischoff, while they were on vacation in Bali in January 2014. However, the case is extremely rare.

    Here is the news article on the tragedy happened in Bali:

    Histamine poisoning is rare, and there have been less than 10 outbreaks of histamine poisoning with 187 people diagnosed with the poisoning in Australia over the past 10 years.

    Since histamine is not destroyed by heat treatments, buying seafood from reputable sources to ensure the product is kept refrigerated when it is being transported and stored becomes the best way to protect us against scombroid poisoning.

    News sources & Reference:
    Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2015. Scombroid Fish Poisoning Linked to Sydney Café after Four Customers Fall Ill. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-26/scombroid-fish-poisoning-linked-to-sydney-cafe-tuna/6263120

    Australian Food News, 2015. Canned Tuna Food Safety Scare Linked to Thai Factory. Retrieved from http://ausfoodnews.com.au/2015/03/11/canned-tuna-food-safety-scare-linked-to-thai-factory.html

    Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 2012. Food Safety Facts on Scombroid Poisoning. Retrieved from http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/information-for-consumers/fact-sheets/food-poisoning/scombroid/eng/1332280657698/1332280735024

    Daily Mail Online, 2014. Australian Mother and Daughter Who Died in Bali Hotel Room Victims of Rare Fish Poison. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2551853/Australian-mother-daughter-died-Bali-hotel-room-victims-RARE-fish-poison-combined-asthma.html

    Food Standards Australia New Zealand, 2015. Histamine (Scombroid) Fish Poisoning. Retrieved from http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/safety/Pages/Histamine-(Scombroid)-fish-poisoning.aspx

    New South Wales Food Authority, 2015. Update: NSW Food Authority Investigation into Scombroid at Sydney Café. Retrieved from http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/news/media-releases/mr-26-Feb-15-scobroid-sydney-cafe#.Vk_Ii0ujZ4U

    • ColleenChong 8:14 pm on November 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting article! I really like how you were display two cases of Scombroid fish poisoning to display the common reason that this food-borne illness occurs. From the two articles storage and transportation temperatures of fish seems to be crucial since it is due to bacteria converting histidine to histamine. As you have mentioned that the production of histamine is often due to the decomposition of the fish. I think that it is important that Health authorities do increase monitoring of quality of imported fish and histamine levels. Although the cases of scombroid poisoning seems to be rare it might occur without detection because the symptoms of poisoning is common with other illnesses. I think increasing the surveillance of Scombroid fish poisoning would be beneficial to the public because it is a preventable food-borne illness through proper manufacture, retail and consumer practices.

    • Susanna Ko 12:27 am on November 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      That is really unfortunate because the high levels of histamine are not reduced with cooking, so it’s really about the handling of the raw fish prior to processing it. I thought that the food processing plant would test their raw and finished products on the histamine levels. One would think that regulations and HACCP would prevent this kind of occurrence, especially in ready-to-eat hermetically sealed canned foods.

    • amreenj 3:19 pm on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great article! It is scary to see how much histamine there really was in the left over tuna, having 3950 micrograms/ kg is well over the acceptable limit of 200 micrograms/kg and could lead to severe complications as a result. Often with temperature abuse, it may be difficult to tell that this has occurred unless there are distinct/ obvious signs such as spoilage, odour, or colour change. I would think that there would be measures in place to firstly prevent this from happening, secondly to prevent this type of fish from being packaged, and thirdly that once opened chefs are able to detect that there may be something wrong with a fish (ie. if there is odour etc.). Histamine reactions can be fatal and as such, extra precautionary measures must be in place to prevent such things from occurring.

    • Mandy Tam 9:35 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This article provides a lot of good information about seafood poisoning. I have learn a lot.

      I know CFIA tracks histamine level in all imported fish products from the tour I have in FNH 326 in CFIA. CFIA has a specific import inspection program and one must get a fish import license to permit to import and sell fish in Canada. If someone is selling fish to restaurant or retail store without permit, he/she might be on conviction by indictment. The person might need to face jail time or/and paying a fine. Therefore, there is extensive tracking in Canada. I wonder what is the regulation/ surveillance Australia has on preventing fish poisoning from imported food. Anyhow, this is a very lucky case that no one died because of the outbreak.

      Link to CFIA:

    • elaine chan 12:08 am on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Interesting article! I liked how you provided a detailed explanation as to what scombroid poisoning is, and its relation to histamine levels. I find it really amazing how a product containing 3950mg of histamine per kg of tuna was even allowed to be distributed for sale, when it’s way over its acceptable limits. It makes me question whether the manufacturer of this product performs quality control testing to ensure that their product is safe for consumption. Thankfully, this product was not for sale that’s available to the general public, or else its consequences would have been much, much more severe. However, it still caused a food borne outbreak that I felt could’ve been prevented through more strict quality control measures. I hope that the cafe does not suffer a major customer loss from this incident because they are the innocent victims. They are the consumers, and typically in cafes or restaurants, products such as canned tuna, are purchased with the assumption that they are safe and ready for consumption. I feel that both Thailand and Australia should implement more strict surveillance to ensure that exported and imported food products are safe for the general population for consumption.

    • flyingsquirrel 4:35 pm on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      What I find interesting about this article is that it shows that it is not just bacterial pathogens that produce toxins that are harmful once consumed (for example Clostridium botulinum, dinoflagelettes ). There are many naturally occurring endogenous substances that are potentially toxic in high amounts and I am glad this article brings that into light. I think many people in general that do not work or study in food safety will often overlook this and it is important to be aware that proper storage of foods is not only important for preventing bacteria proliferation, but also for preventing unwanted enzyme activity to keep foods delicious and safe. I think one reason why the monitoring of the tuna products imported seems inefficient may be due to the fact that it is not sold in the mass public market. Perhaps allocated resources left for inspecting certain products were unequally distributed based on the size of the target market?

    • YaoWang 12:17 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It’s interesting that people can get sick by eating “allergic” fish. But it’s unfortunate to know that we can neither get rid of the histamine through normal cooking methods nor distinguish between fresh and spoiled fish. Apparently the problem can be caused by many microorganisms, rather than just the pathogens and therefore, is of great concern. So, I’m wondering what we could do to prevent such food-borne illnesses in the future?

    • CandiceZheng 2:37 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for sharing the seafood poisoning case with us! And I personally feel it is very unfortunate that although we understand that histamine level can indicate the degree of seafood decomposition, for the normal population there is no easy way to differentiate whether there is high level of histamine on the seafood. As indicated in the post, the leftover tuna salad at the café have 3950 micrograms of histamine per kilogram of tuna, which is well above the acceptable limit of 200 micrograms histamine per kilogram of fish. However, people still couldn’t observe any unusual appearance from these tuna. In this case I think it is very important to have some quick and easy way to examine the histamine level on seafood. For example, using something like pH test strips that are cheap, easy to use, and handy for the general population to use to test the histamine level on seafood in order to prevent further poisoning issues.

    • DeniseZhang 7:37 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      According to the food chemistry courses that I am taking this term, histamine is a product from decarboxylation reaction of histidine. On immunological aspect, histamine can cause inflammation in human bodies (which is good while fighting pathogens), and it can also lead to hypersensitivities (a.k.a. allergy) in human bodies. I did not know that we have histamine poisoning issue in our life. Even though it is an extremely rare case, I do believe that we need to pay attention to it as undesirable inflammation is annoying. I really wish food provides can know more about those potential risks in foods, so that we can have foods more safely.

  • BarbaraCorreiaFaustino 3:48 pm on November 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cheese, Dairy, , , , , ,   

    Another multistate Listeria outbreak: this time from contaminated soft cheese 


    Recalled soft cheese products. Source: CDC

    An outbreak regarding soft cheese contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes finally arrived to a conclusion after five years of investigation. Starting in June 2010, thirty cases of listeriosis caused by the consumption of a specific type of cheese happened throughout the United States. Most of the cases were reported in California, but there was also a great number of cases happening specially in the eastern portion of the country, occurring in nine other states. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, aside from California, there were also cases in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Washington, and overall the outbreak resulted in 28 hospitalizations and 3 deaths, two in California and one in Ohio. Five illnesses were pregnancy-related, and one resulted in miscarriage.

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention was able to link all those cases together using whole genome sequencing, which is a molecular subtyping method that is recently becoming more used by publich health authorities to identify foodborne pathogens. This method relies on sequencing the nucleic acid of the target microorganism and detecting the differences in that nucleic acid sequence.


    People infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes by contaminated soft cheese. Source: CDC

    Whole genome sequencing, as its name suggests, is a method that provides a nearly complete sequencing of bacterial nucleic acids, and that is what makes it a very accurate method, since it becomes much easier to compare and differentiate between serotypes of a specific bacteria. The first generation was not very user-friendly for the detection of foodborne illnesses outbreaks, as it was a very time-consuming, labor-intensive and expensive method. However, nowadays the development and improvement of next-generation sequencing methods have made these tools more available and affordable for laboratories, making it easier to use them routinely and ensuring not only precise, but also fast results, and at a reasonable cost. These methods are rapidly becoming more accepted by public health and regulatory agencies, and in the next few years they will probably replace the most commonly used method currently, which is pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Compared to the latter, whole genome sequencing methods have a higher discriminatory power for outbreak detection and allow for the sequencing of different pathogens in the same batch.

    The whole genome sequencing methods provide better discrimination between the subtypes, and therefore it can distinguish isolates that have a similar or equal PFGE profile, therefore improving the detection of a possible outbreak. This is what happened in this case, as the public health agencies could not properly connect all the cases that happened throughout the country with only one pathogen for over five years, and the whole genome sequencing showed that five rare DNA fingerprints of Listeria monocytogenes were related, connecting serotypes identified in this last August with serotypes found in the cases from around five years ago.

    The types of cheese involved in this outbreak were soft cheese, including Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Mediterranean and Mexican-style cheeses. The contaminated products likely responsible for the outbreak were from the brands Karoun, Arz, Gopi, Queso Del Valle, Central Valley Creamery, and Yanni, all of which were manufactured by Karoun Dairies, Inc. This company announced a voluntary recall of the products from those brands and stopped the production of other cheese products that might be contaminated with Listeria on September 16, 2015.

    Even though the incident was not very recent, a lot of restaurants and people may still have cheese products from those brands as the recall happened this year, and they are advised not to serve or consume these products as they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. It is very important that people don’t consume them, as listeriosis is a very severe disease, specially for children, the elderly and immunosuppressed population.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Soft Cheeses Distributed by Karoun Dairies, Inc. (Final Update). Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/soft-cheeses-09-15/index.html

    Zuraw, L. (2015). Final Update: 3 Deaths, 30 Illnesses in Outbreak Linked to Soft Cheese. Retrieved from: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/10/1-death-24-illnesses-in-listeria-outbreak-linked-to-soft-cheese/

    Wiedmann, M. (2015). Use of Whole-Genome Sequencing in Food Safety. Retrieved from: http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/junejuly-2015/use-of-whole-genome-sequencing-in-food-safety/

    • cvalencia 10:47 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t really consume a lot of soft cheeses, but it is interesting to know that there is a risk associated with it. Listeriosis is a very serious problem, especially for high-risk individuals (immunocompromised people and pregnant women). I heard of a case where a mom-to-be had a miscarriage because of eating soft cheese contaminated with Listeria, while on vacation.. Sad how these things can happen, so everyone should be aware of such risks.

    • Carissa Li 2:58 am on December 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is pretty cool how we can still investigate the same pathogen DNA from 5 years ago to identify its type using whole genome sequencing. As we all know, soft cheese is under category 1 according to the regulation from Health Canada, so it can grow throughout the stated shelf life. Listeria is known to be tolerant at low temperature, that’s why it is not surprising that it can grow on soft cheese. This case happened around 5 years ago so I think the risk of having Listeria contaminated soft cheese from this industry is not that high now if no new cases occur after that. But of course being caution is priority to not having any chance of getting sick!

    • MichelleLui 9:05 pm on December 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Good summary of recalled soft cheese and how it relates to the techniques learned in class. Soft cheese belongs to Category 1 RTE foods. Consumers should be educated on the risk of consuming food listed under Category 1 RTE foods. Especially the high risk groups, such as children, elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune system.

    • mustafa akhtar 12:25 am on December 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I am happy that the surveillance methods available in the industry are growing and developing. However, coupled with this, it is very important that we educate the public as well. It is not uncommon to hear of miscarriages happening because of consumption of soft cheese. As they say, prevention is better than cure.

  • Stephanie Chen 11:37 am on November 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Listeria Seizes the Oppor-tuna-ty! Denmark investigates outbreak linked to smoked fish products 


    August 2015. Four people sickened by Listeria in fish products linked to fish company, Hjerting Laks, in Denmark. Earlier in May, five cases of Listeria with two deaths were detected in Denmark. Two out of the five were of the same strain of Listeria that caused 40 cases and 16 deaths in deli meats in 2014. Although the current outbreak is not linked to the one last year, one of the five in May was traced back to Hjerting Laks.

    Unique culprit. While all tested samples did not reveal to have Listeria above the accepted limit, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) found that Listeria isolates from the patients and samples taken from the company’s production area, equipment, and official food samples gave a DNA match after whole genome sequencing. The Listeria monocytogenes ST6 sequence pattern specific to this outbreak has not been detected in samples from other sources.

    Suspect: smoked fish. The source of infection in exact products has not been confirmed by the DVFA, but smoked salmon was suspected due to patients’ common consumption prior to illness. An outbreak of Listeria connected to Hjerting Laks was related to smoked halibut in November 2014, after which changes in the production processes were made. Hjerting Laks states that the bacteria from the current outbreak may have originated from raw materials supplied by sub-contractor.

    “We have ordered the company to change its routines with regards to production and own-check scheme,” says Annette Perge, head of unit in the DVFA. “Tightened supervision” has been placed on the company, and DVFA has advised customers to discard related fish products or return them to the place of purchase.

    Listeria monocytogenes. A gram positive, facultative anaerobic bacterial species capable of causing infections that may lead to symptoms of fever, muscle aches, and diarrhea. Populations including those with compromised immune responses due to age, pregnancy, and disease are typically at higher risk for listeriosis, with possible deadly effects on fetus and newborn infants. The primary route of transmission for this pathogen is through food, and especially in ready-to-eat foods that support bacterial growth of L. monocytogenes.

    But smoked fish? Yes, smoked fish. Smoked seafood including salmon, trout, tuna, oysters, etc., are manufactured in two primary forms: cold-smoked and hot-smoked product. Typical temperatures used for cold-smoking (22-28°C) are inadequate to inactivate L. monocytogenes, but levels of the pathogen present on raw salted fish are usually reduced by 90-99% during the cold-smoking steps of salting, drying, and smoking. Hot-smoking involves initial drying at 30-40°C, then smoking at 60-70°C followed by a second drying procedure. However, products may be contaminated after both cold and heat treatment in the processing environment while products are sliced and vacuum packaged. It also doesn’t help that Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures and is relative resistant to heating, acidic and high salt environments, as well as other inhibitory compounds used on foodborne microorganisms.


    See diagram. Production process has multiple opportunities for contamination. (Where else do you see places for Listeria to sneak in?)


    Recommendations for persons at high risk (weakened immune system) from the CDC:

    • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish (e.g. casserole)
    • Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel, is most often labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.” (These are typically found in the refrigerator section or sold at seafood and deli counters in grocery stores)
    • Canned and shelf stable tuna, salmon, and other fish products are safe to eat

    Reduce risk for listeriosis from smoked fish by… Using ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible (product’s shelf-life shortens upon opening the packing). And remember to practice good hygiene in the kitchen!


    News sources:

    Listeria traced to Hjerting Laks despite fish products passing tests. (Aug 2015). http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Food-Outbreaks/Denmark-investigates-four-Listeria-cases-linked-to-fish-producer

    Denmark investigates new Listeria outbreak. (May 2015). http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Food-Outbreaks/Listeria-sickens-five-and-a-factor-in-two-deaths


    Joint FAO/WHO Activities on Risk Assessment of Microbiological Hazards in Foods. Case Study: Listeria monocytogenes in Smoked Fish (including digram). Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/agns/pdf/jemra/Listeria.pdf

    Report of the FAO Expert Consultation on the Trade Impact of Listeria in Fish. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/x3018e/x3018e05.htm

    Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Whole genome sequencing. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/pdf/whole-genome-sequencing-and-listeria-508c.pdf

    Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for preventing Listeria poisoning. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dfwed/pdfs/tips-preventing-listeria-508c.pdf

    Image retrieved from http://www.rivertea.com/blog/7-healthy-breakfast-recipes-for-every-day-of-the-week/

    • Michelle Ebtia 1:00 pm on November 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This was a really interesting report! I do like smoked sockeye and always choose hot-smoked variety, however, after reading about the chances of cross-contamination post-production, I think I will avoid consuming them prior to further cooking and heating.
      Since the current measures seem to be rather ineffective, I did some research to find out about alternative methods for prevention and came across a paper that reports a novel approach in controlling the growth of Listeria spp on smoked salmon, through inoculating it with Carnobacterium maltaromaticum. The authors conclude that “the bioprotective culture C. maltaromaticum can extend the commercial shelf life of both hot and cold smoked salmon”, as it outcompetes the growth of the pathogen. However, I couldn’t find any reports of this method being put to practice by food manufacturers.

      Work Cited:
      Smith, D. (2012, July). Biopreservation: Control of Listeria monocytogenes Growth in Hot and Cold Smoked Salmon by Carnobacterium maltaromaticum CB1. In 2012 Annual Meeting. Iafp.

      • Jasmine Lee 2:02 pm on November 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        I really like the clever use of wordplay in your title. It highlights the opportunistic nature of Listeria monocytogenes to persist and grow in susceptible ready-to-eat foods. Given that L. monocytogenes is ubiquitous in the environment, I am not surprised that it would appear in fish, especially smoked salmon. There are Canadian regulations which require manufacturers to ensure sufficient lethality of their treatments and inactivation of their target microorganisms. If there are deviations in these standards, then the pathogen may remain and continue to be a problem. Furthermore, the smoking process is dependent on the smoke reaching the contaminated surface. The pathogen may be embedded in the flesh of the fish, where the smoke cannot make contact. Time and temperature abuse of the raw materials may also promote bacterial survival. As beautifully illustrated in your flowchart, I agree with the multiple routes of entry and carriers which contribute to the pathogen’s survival. The food matrix may be another factor since salmon is high in lipids. Fat is known to protect L. monocytogenes, which will present another challenge to eradicating this pathogen. As a consumer, I will probably reduce the consumption of this product or research more about the company before taking smoked salmon to the checkout.

    • AngeliMalimban 2:26 pm on November 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I read a small article saying that Listeria does not normally survive the smoking process. However, it can still grow while being stored if it is done so improperly. It can grow heat-resistant endospores if it is not smoked to a high enough temperature either (source: http://foodsafety.wisc.edu/assets/pdf_Files/smokingyourcatch.pdf). Smoked fish can also be found in shelf-stable storage (I commonly see these at Canadian souvenir stores) where it is ready to eat. This can also have an equal risk of contracting L. monocytogenes, but there may be a common misconception that shelf-stable foods are safer to consume and that the likelihood of disease could be less.

      I actually LOVE smoked salmon, especially when I go get sushi (where they serve smoked salmon on top of sushi). It’s pretty scary because sometimes I just see the fish wrapped at room temperature on the sushi bar… it makes me wonder if it is actually refrigerated or left out there for the whole day. This is also consumed raw – and I should probably heat/cook it instead.

    • WinnieLiao 3:58 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      First thing to point out is that your layout is easy to read and your wording is short and precise! I personally don’t like eating smoked salmon not only because of the fishy taste but also because of the salty and preservative content. The smoked salmon products I have seen in supermarkets are usually those vacuum packed. Just from looking at the product, I assume the producer processed their food by controlling water activity, using of preservatives and eliminating air. Knowing that Listeria is a relatively “resistant” bacteria that often is salt tolerant, dessication tolerant and facultative anaerobic, I can understand why it would survive so well in smoky salmon! Also another issue that comes to my mind, is that some First Nations people make their own homemade smoked salmon, which can be a possible food safety concern.

    • CindyDai 12:24 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I agree what Winnie has said. There are a lot of other safety hurdles used in smoked fish industry to suppress pathogen growth. Lowering water activity, adding preservatives and vacuum packaging are all examples of other hurdles used. Since Listeria has high adaptation to tough environments, only multiple hurdles used simultaneously could ensure the effectiveness. However, as learned in lectures, sub-lethal treatments could cause increased resistance to other safety treatments, so the combination of safety hurdles must be well planned and proved by scientific test results.

    • Ya Gao 11:46 pm on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      The traditional preservation method, smoking, may not be safe for food processing if the raw material or the procedure after food processing is problematic. I love smoked salmon from deli area in Costco a lot personally. Although I cook them occasionally, I prefer eating them raw right away from the package. I will be more cautious in the future.

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