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  • amreenj 3:00 pm on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asia, 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.

  • ayra casuga 1:18 pm on November 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asia, 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.

  • wen liao 3:31 pm on November 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asia, Bangladesh, china, food adulteration, formaldehyde, formalin, ,   

    Week 7–Something Fishy about the Seafood Industry: Watch out on What You Eat! 

    Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States has been alerted that detectable amount of formaldehyde (which is known to the public as “formalin”) contaminated frozen fish was found at national grocery retailers in Greensboro, North Carolina. Usually, some fish species naturally contain a trace level of formaldehyde as one product of their metabolites. However, this metabolic product is produced in such small amount that it is considered undetectable. The laboratory confirmed formaldehyde positive result of these frozen fish indicated that formaldehyde has been intentionally added. It is later discovered that these formaldehyde contaminated fish products were originated from China and Vietnam.

    Formaldehyde, which is not commonly used in North America, is rather routinely exploited as a perseverative for fish in some Asian countries. Research (Sotelo et al., 1995) has shown that formaldehyde can prevent fish protein denaturation during frozen storage, keeping the flesh fresh for a much longer time. This is ideal for long distance shipping and trading—for instance, exporting fish and fish products from Asia to North America.

    In addition, this is not the first and only time that fish and fish products that originate in China and Vietnam are formaldehyde contaminated. In 2013, however, formaldehyde was also identified from frozen fish products in grocery stores in Raleigh, NC, according to Food Safety News (2013). These formaldehyde contaminated fish also originated from China and Vietnam, and they constitute up to 25% of the entire seafood imports from these two countries.

    Moreover, besides China and Vietnam, other Asian countries also have issues with formaldehyde application to seafood and fishery industry. Bangladesh (Rahman et al., 2015) for example, has long been suffering from formaldehyde adulteration on their fish products. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (Liteplo, 2002), fish products have naturally occurring formaldehyde found in their flesh that ranges from 1 to 20mg/kg fish. However, the mean formaldehyde concentration in locally harvested fish in Bangladesh was 118.6mg/kg fish, about 6 times higher then the suggested value by WHO. This data strongly indicates that formaldehyde was intentionally added to the fishes, as unprocessed fish would not contain formaldehyde in such high concentration.

    The health risks associated with formaldehyde exposure are complicated. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI, 2010) short-term health effects from formaldehyde exposure include watery eyes, nausea, skin irritation, and etc. Long-term exposure to formaldehyde can significantly increase the chance of getting cancer. Especially, it can increase the risks of acquiring leukemia and brain tumor.

    Although not as frequently reported as other food safety related concerns, formaldehyde adulteration in fish and fish products is still a potential threat to public health. Its occurrence might be relatively rare, but its complication can be devastating. Especially in Asian countries, where the population density is high but the economical development is low, limited public resources can make the treatment of formaldehyde exposure hard. Therefore, it is essential that the governments of corresponding countries take serious responsibility, carefully monitor their food production systems, making sure no unqualified products slip through.

    • Sotelo, C., Pineiro, C., & Perezmartin, R. (1995). denaturation of fish proteins during frozen storage – role of formaldehyde. Zeitschrift Fur Lebensmittel-Untersuchung Und-Forschung, 200(1), 14-23.
    • Imports and Exports: How Safe is Seafood From Foreign Sources? | Food Safety News. (2013, November 10). Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/11/imports-and-exports-how-safe-is-seafood-from-foreign-sources/#.ViQNtyBViko
    • Rahman, S., Majumder, M., Ahasan, R., Ahmed, S., Das, P., & Rahman, N. (2015). The extent and magnitude of formalin adulteration in fish sold in domestic markets of Bangladesh: A literature review. International Journal of Consumer Studies. doi:10.1111/ijcs.12238
    • International Program on Chemical Safety, Liteplo, R. G., & W. H. Organization, (2006). Concise international chemical assessment document, number 40: Formaldehyde World Health Organization (WHO).
    • Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk. (2011, June 10). Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/formaldehyde/formaldehyde-fact-sheet

    • shinnie 12:43 pm on November 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Wow, people are definitely creative when it comes to preserving foods. I know formaldehyde is commonly used to preserve dead organisms or specimens, but it is shocking to learn that industries would go this far in extent to use a chemical that is known to be highly toxic to humans to prolong the shelf-life of their products. I did a bit of research on formaldehyde regulations in Canada and it appears that our government acknowledges there may be residual levels of formaldehyde in inactivated veterinary vaccines (particularly bacterins), not much about formaldehyde adulteration relating to seafood and fishery industry though! They are also commonly used to produce resins and fertilizers in Canada. CFIA recommended methods to test for formaldehyde include: acetyl acetone titration, ferric chloride titration and the basic fuchsin test.

      • mustafa akhtar 1:57 pm on November 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        i wonder how protein denaturation would occur by freezing. From my understanding, it would have to be a strong compound to break the di-sulfide bonds in the protein structure. Can someone elaborate exactly how the protein structure is affected by freezing?

        • wen liao 7:54 pm on November 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

          1. To put it simple: large ice crystals will form inside the cell during freezing, especially during slow freezing process. These ice crystals are so large that they will break the cellular membrane structure of the cells, causing destruction of the cellular structure and leaking of cellular components, which might result subsequent degradation of muscle protein…
          2. freezer burn

    • amreenj 1:57 pm on November 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It is scary to think that individuals may be consuming formaldehyde without even knowing it! This article goes to show the extreme lengths that people in the food industry may go to increase the shelf life of products. With the expansion of food trade to a global level, it is becoming more and more difficult to avoid such preservatives in our foods. As mentioned in the post the exposure to these chemicals (ie. formaldehyde) can have serious and significant impacts on ones health. I think that the government needs to have stricter rules when it comes to internationally imported foods as well as with the liberal use of preservatives. Each country has different laws and regulations regarding the use of preservatives/ chemicals and we should make sure that these rules align with our country’s as well.

    • catherine wong 2:48 pm on November 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is quite surprising that some people would actually use formaldehyde on food products that are to be consumed. I remember in my high school biology class where we were dissecting pigs and the pigs were preserved with formaldehyde. The formaldehyde on the pigs had a really strong distinct odour so I wonder if the cooking masked the smell so people would not know what was in it while eating. I also agree that since formaldehyde has such serious impacts on health such as the risk of cancer through long term exposure, the government should think about setting stricter regulations and testing in imported products. Setting regulations is hard and would probably take years but would be necessary to prevent such high levels of formaldehyde contaminated food products from being consumed and harming people.

    • laurenrappaport 11:04 pm on November 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It’s shocking to see what some people are using for the preservation of food! Especially when the longterm health effects are linked to cancer. Although this has not really been seen in North America, with all of the international trade that occurs in the food industry, it should be of major concern to everyone. I did not even think that a compound like this could be used as a preservative in food and that industries would use it knowing the negative health implications. I think that strict government regulations should be in place to test products for formaldehyde. As this compound naturally occurs in fish, it is important to test the levels to ensure the products are not further contaminated with formaldehyde to unsafe levels.

    • Silvia Low 8:35 pm on November 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Well this is scary. I really hope that our CFIA/import inspection authorities are careful in what they allow into our food chain. It makes me wonder how they even detected the formaldehyde in the first place. Did customers complain of a different taste, or were they getting sick? Or did they just decide to one day inspect their fish products specifically for formaldehyde? It’s just such a random substance to test for in food.

    • MarinaMoon 11:40 am on November 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It’s really scary what people would do just to make profit out of the products. There should be more strict regulations to restrict formaldehyde as well as other toxic products from being used as preservatives. What is the point of preserving food when it will result in negative consequences to people who consume them. This article indicates how food industries are more concerned about the presentation of the product than the benefits of the product to human health. Thus, we should take more consideration into what goes into the products that we will be consuming and also be ware that not all foods that has passed the inspection are safe to consume. On the brighter side, at least the researchers have identified the issue and hopefully would make amendments to prevent further use of formaldehyde as a preservative.

    • NorrisHuang 3:51 pm on December 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I guess it is not that easy to detect formaldehyde in fish by tasting or smelling because fish (especially for imported/frozen fish as they are not as fresh) has this “fishy smell” which may mask the formaldehyde. Therefore it is really necessary to have strict government regulations regarding the permitted level of preservatives in fish. And I guess one way to avoid eating contaminated fish is to try eat local?

    • teewong 2:44 pm on December 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      First of all, you’ve got a very creative title, i like it a lot. I must say though, i am not surprised to hear about the extent that people will go about the methods in preserving food products. Unless someone really points out that certain food contains a certain hazardous chemical, we wouldn’t really second think about what types of dangerous chemicals we are consuming. Speaking from personal experience, sometimes when i feel a little bit nauseous or when i have a tiny migraine/headache, i would blame the lack of sleep or the amount of stress i’m going through. Never would I think it would be the food that is causing me to react in such ways. From now on, I will be more careful about the food I eat and i’ll be taking down notes for maybe when I seem to have reactions towards the food i consumed.

    • EmilyLi 9:07 pm on December 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is very interesting. I like that this article brought up the chemical agent that affect food safety, which gets less spotlight than more of the bacterial pathogens. As mentioned above, I too am not surprise to know that people would go as far as using hazardous chemical to preserve the foods. I guess this way they would be able to keep the fish meat in a better conditions, so consumers would be more willing to pay a higher price for them. However, many would not know that the expensive fish they buy would contain chemical that could harm them. Also even with the symptoms mention in the article there could be more complications that may not be discover yet. In my opinion, to limit the use of hazardous chemical in food would be having the government to set regulations as well as efficiently reinforcing them.

    • AngeliMalimban 9:17 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is terrible to know that there are places in Asia that keep these practices in place. It makes me wonder how stringent the policies or the food inspectors of these respective countries are. I should be glad to live in Canada, where most of the fish is local or at least made within Canada (salmon, tuna, cod). Are there any other ways that fish imported from Asia last the long haul through to North America, Europe… etc?

    • EmilyChow 3:43 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I can’t believe producers would add formaldehyde to products that people consume! In terms of food safety, it must be difficult to test for so many different contaminants and additives for all foods that are imported from foreign countries, but it’s important to find an effective method that tests for most contaminants efficiently. If formaldehyde-added fish is able to make its way to North American grocery shelves, then it makes me wonder what other contaminated foods are in grocery stores that we are not aware of.

  • shinnie 5:18 pm on November 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asia, , Oysters, , skin lesion, V. vulnificus, Vibrio vulnificus,   

    Three Cases of “Flesh-eating”

    Bacterial Infections in Hong



    Three cases of necrotizing fasciitis— an infection caused by bacteria that destroys skin, fat, and the tissue covering the muscles in a short period of time—have been reported in Hong Kong during the month of July in 2015. Similar sporadic cases have also been reported in April and August of 2015 in Hong Kong. The affected include: an 82-year-old man and 78-year-old woman with underlying chronic illnesses and a 59-year-old man with good past health.

    Source: http://outbreaknewstoday.com/hong-kong-reports-3-necrotizing-fasciitis-cases-in-july-vibrio-vulnificus-the-culprit-51333/

    The causative agent is a rare but deadly pathogen, Vibrio vulnificus and its name literally translates to “causing wounds” in Latin. V. vulnificus is one of the three major species of Vibrio, with the other two being V. cholera and V. parahaemolyticus both of which are pathogens of humans.

    Vibrio vulnificus

    V. vulnificus is a Gram-negative, lactose-fermenting, opportunistic (similar to L. monocytogenes), and motile curved bacterium commonly found in marine and estuarine environments. It is a moderate halophile (requires salt for growth) and is frequently isolated from oysters, clams, crabs, and other shellfish in warm coastal waters. It is responsible for causing 95 percent of all seafood-related deaths and has a mortality rate of over 50% in North America. The mortality rates varied in Hong Kong, being 35% for septicaemia cases and 20% for wound-infection cases.

    V. vulnificus has the ability to cause wound infections, gastroenteritis, or a syndrome known as primary septicemia. Infections among healthy individuals are acute and do not have long-term consequences; ingestion of this bacterium causes mild symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain usually within 16 hours.

    In the immunocompromised population however, V. vulnificus can trigger further complications and has the potential to invade the bloodstream from an open wound or from the gastrointestinal tract, causing primary septicemia – a severe and life-threatening illnesses. This disease is characterized by fever, chills, septic shock that is soon followed by death. The three patients affected in Hong Kong had to either undergo amputation or excisional debridement.

    V. vulnificus (There are much worse pictures than this one!)

    Individuals are considered high-risk and vulnerable to infection if they have underlying chronic diseases or liver diseases [i.e. diabetes, cirrhosis, leukemia, lung cancer, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), AIDS- related complex (ARC), or asthma requiring the use of steroid]. They are 80-200 times more likely to develop primary septicemia than healthy individuals.

    The infective dose for healthy individuals is unidentified but for immunocompromised persons, septicemia occurs with doses of less than 100 total organisms. The incubation period is 1 – 7 days after eating and the duration of illness ranges from 2 to 8 days. Diagnostic methods are similar to those used to detect common foodborne pathogens and revolve around culturing of the organism from wounds, diarrheic stools, or blood. Methods such as the Quantitative Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification can quantitatively detect V. vulnificus in raw oysters with high speed, specificity, and sensitivity.

    Measures that can be taken to prevent illness include:
    • Avoid going into the ocean with open wounds (I think most people neglect this)
    • Avoid eating raw or undercooked shellfish
    • Before cooking: Discard any oysters with open shells
    • During cooking: Boil for 3-5 minutes after shells open.
    • After cooking: Discard any oysters with shells that did not open.

    There have been many sporadic cases of V. vulnificus in Hong Kong over the past decade. Although the Centre for Health Protection of Hong Kong offers various Internet resources on how to prevent V. vulnificus infections, many of the victims are the elderly and are less likely to be able to access this information. I believe that more focus needs to be directed to relaying information on opportunistic foodborne pathogens to the elderly and immunocompromised in a manner that is not via the internet, i.e. various clinics and hospitals should offer them pamphlets and communicate with them verbally. In 2013, Health Canada has collaborated with the FAO, WHO, and the government of Japan to produce expert recommendations to the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene regarding V. vulnificus. Appropriate methods to monitor environmental hygiene and hygienic production, etc. can be found in Codex Alimentarius Guidelines on the Application of General Principles of Food Hygiene to the Control of Pathogenic Vibrio Species in Seafood.

    Questions for thought:

    1. Is this pathogen present in other geographical areas?

    2. Which method(s) would be most suitable to detect the presence of this pathogen based on it transmission route?


    Codex Alimentarius (2010). International Food Standards. Guidelines on the Application of General Principles of Food Hygiene to the Control of Pathogenic Vibrio Species in Seafood. Retrieved from: http://www.codexalimentarius.org/standards/list-of-standards/

    FDA (2015). Vibrio vulnificus. Bad Bug Book: Foodborne Pathogenic Microorganisms and Natural Toxins Handbook. Retrieved from: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/CausesOfIllnessBadBugBook/ucm070473.htm

    Han, F., Wang, F., & Ge, B. (2011). Detecting potentially virulent vibrio vulnificus strains in raw oysters by quantitative loop-mediated isothermal amplification. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 77(8), 2589-2595.

    Lee, S. E., Kim, S. Y., Kim, S. J., Kim, H. S., Shin, J. H., Choi, S. H.. . Rhee, J. H. (1998). Direct identification of vibrio vulnificus in clinical specimens by nested PCR. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 36(10), 2887-2892.

    Ma, J (2012). Vibrio vulnificus in food. Food Safety Focus, 72. Retrieved from: http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/multimedia/multimedia_pub/multimedia_pub_fsf_72_01.html

    Stone, J. (2015). With Global Warming, Expect More Deadly Vibrio Cases. Pharma & Healthcare. Forbes. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2015/07/30/with-global-warming-expect-more-deadly-vibrio-cases/

    Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (2015). Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan. Retrieved from: https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/hidb-bdih/plan-eng.aspx?Org=0&Hi=85&Pl=403

    Vibrio vulnificus (2013). Vibrio Illness (Vibriosis). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/vibriov.html

    • elaine chan 3:37 pm on November 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Definitely an interesting, yet scary article! Commonly, food illnesses are related to gastrointestinal diseases, it’s my first time seeing how it can also lead to wound formation, and subsequently amputations and excisional debridements! This is definitely a wake up call for the food and marine industry to ensure the safety of their products for consumers. To determine whether or not this pathogen can be found in other geographical areas, I think it will be important to determine the pathogen’s favourable growth conditions and then evaluate which geographical areas has the potential of promoting the growth of such pathogen.

    • csontani 3:46 pm on November 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is definitely interesting to read! I’ve never heard of this pathogen before and it’s scary knowing what it can do to you. After reading this, the first question that popped in my mind was “is this pathogen a concern in where I’m currently living at?”. I certainly agreed with what you said regarding how the health agency should focus on older citizens who are immunosuppressed since they’re less likely to check the internet regarding the foods they’re eating. Maybe the food product packaging could have more information regarding the food and risks it may content or maybe health agency could talk to the senior care centre to give informations regarding these kinds of concerns.

    • angel519 10:24 pm on November 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Since we live at the coast where we also consume oysters, clams, crabs, and other shellfish, and we also consume imported shellfish from warm coastal water; it is a potential pathogen that could be present at B.C. I think it is necessary to have warnings and publicize the risks of consuming contaminated shellfish to the general public. And for the high-risk population, especially the elderly, grocery stores can have brochures and signs by the shellfish section to tell them how to properly cook shellfish, symptoms of infections and to seek doctors if feel unwell after consumption. It is also important to have regular inspections on shellfish to prevent infected products spreading in the market.

    • Jasmine Lee 1:35 am on November 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This pathogen is by far the most frightening of those that I have come across in this class. It is interesting to learn about a pathogen that thrives in environments with high salt levels. This is concerning since high osmolarity and low water activity are commonly used as hurdles for food safety and bacterial control. I also found it surprising that gender may play a role in regards to the pathogenicity of the V. vulnificus’ toxin. An article claimed that estrogen may assist in protecting against endotoxic shock and lowering the risk of mortality in individuals (Merkel et al., 2001). Furthermore, I agree with Angel that regular inspection of shellfish products and consumer awareness are critical for lowering the risk of exposure. It is also important to post signs along coastlines and have restaurants alert consumers about the associated risk with eating raw seafood. With many biological hazards in raw foods, I hope consumers are more diligent in terms of ensuring food safety and will make informed decisions for themselves.

      Merkel, S.M., Alexander, S., Zufall, E., Oliver, J. D. and Huet-Hudson, Y. M. (2001). Essential role for estrogen in protection against Vibrio vulnificus-induced endotoxic shock. Infection and Immunity, 69(10):6119-6122.

    • Susanna Ko 9:28 am on November 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I find this article really scary because I can see my parents falling victim to this. There’s a lot of canned seafood products (clams, oysters) on the market. Cuisine with oysters is probably very popular as well. My parents like to add canned oysters into their congee. Perhaps popular asian newspapers should have a food safety section. I know my parents will probably read it.

    • cheryl lau 3:20 pm on December 4, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This was a very scary article to read! However, I think it is necessary to point out the dangers we face when we expose ourselves to harmful microorganisms. Even though our bodies have defenses in place to fight invaders, they may not be as sound as we think. In this case, V. vulnificus caused serious consequences. I feel that most people in Hong Kong do not realize the serious affects that could follow from eating contaminated seafood. Specifically, the elderly or the people from our parents’ generation may not have been educated in food safety and I think these issues should be more prominent in the media.

    • EmilyLi 9:40 pm on December 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is a very interesting yet scary article to read. I think you title is very eye catching too. I personally like to eat seafood, and especially if you travel to coastal city like Hong Kong how could you resist the seafood there. Although in the article it mention that the pathogen is only high risk for immunocompromised individuals. However, with knowing that you are infected with a pathogen that is likely to breakdown flesh in your body is quite scary. Especially when you could catch those with just wound on you legs and going to the beach.

    • EmilyChow 3:25 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      It’s scary to think about these cases because they could potentially also happen here on the west coast of North America! This bacteria can possibly survive in pacific water conditions and contaminate the seafood we have here. In addition, seafood is imported and exported around the world so this is a concern for international seafood lovers. Since seafood can be enjoyed in different ways (canned, cooked, raw), it’s important to have strict processing regulations and make sure that such regulations apply for all pathogens, considering V. vulnificus is relatively rare.

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

    “Banh mi” in Vietnam 



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


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


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


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


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


    The guidelines are:street-food-vendor

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


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


    Thank you so much for your time.

    Emily L. 


    Reference links:






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    E. coli 0121 Outbreak Naha, Japan 

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

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

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

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

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

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


    What do you think?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Camel Milk : a miracle food or a risky food 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    Some interesting videos:

    Curious about the taste?

    Camel milk cures Autism!?


    Kathy Kim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Jasmine Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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