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

    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, , , , produce,   

    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: , , , produce,   

    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.

  • CindyDai 3:07 am on November 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cyclospora, Cyclosporiasis, , , , produce   

    Cyclospora Outbreaks are Hitting North America 

    Public health officials are warning about a series of Cyclospora outbreaks in US and Canada.

    Source: http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/fda-on-29-state-cyclospora-outbreak-tied-to-mexican-cilantro/#.VkWSAPlViko

    From May to August 2015, 546 peoples from 31 states in US became sick due to Cyclospora infection. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicated that this outbreak has been linked to imported fresh produce, including cilantro from the Puebla region of Mexico.

    Around the same time, a total of 97 Cyclosporiasis cases were reported in Canada, mainly in Ontario. Two cases were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported. The source of this outbreak was not identified.

    On October 17, CFIA announced that Costco Wholesale Canada is voluntarily recalling Alpine Fresh brand snap peas in Ontario due to possible Cyclospora contamination. At least 22 illnesses have been linked to the recalled snap peas.

    What is cyclospora?

    Cyclospora, a microscopic parasite, causes an intestinal infection known as cyclosporiasis. The parasite is typically found in imported fresh vegetables and fruits such as basil, cilantro, pre-packaged salad mix, mesclun lettuce, snow peas, and raspberries. People usually become infected with Cyclospora by ingesting food or water that has been contaminated with feces, and this parasite is most commonly found in tropical and subtropical countries. Cyclospora cannot be passed directly from one person to another.

    The life cyle of cyclosporiasis:
    Source: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/biology.html

    Why I haven’t heard of it before?

    The public may not be as familiar with Cyclospora as some other foodborne pathogens because Cyclospora only came to medical attention about 40 years ago. This parasite was once primarily a concern for developing countries, but since the 1990s there have been more and more Cyclospora outbreaks in North America linked to contaminated imported fresh greens.

    How serious is the illness?

    Cyclospora is generally considered as a low-risk foodborne pathogen. Infected people usually experience watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, fatigue, weight loss, and abdominal bloating, while some people do not get sick at all. The illness may last from a few days to a month. People who have previously been infected can become infected again. The combination of 2 antibiotics, trimethoprim (TMP) and sulfamethoxazole (SMX), is used to treat Cyclospora infection.

    How can it be prevented?

    According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), avoiding food or water that might have been contaminated with stool is the most efficient way to prevent cyclosporiasis. Contaminated food may not look or smell spoiled. Both washing fresh produce and treating it with chlorine or iodine are not sufficient enough to eliminate the parasite. Microbial food safety hazards for fresh fruits and vegetables, including Cyclospora, must be controlled by addressing good agricultural practices (GAPs) and good manufacturing practices (GMPs).

    Here is an educational video about Cyclospora:


    For more information, please check out (References):

    CDC, 2015. Parasites – Cyclosporiasis (Cyclospora Infection). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/

    CFIA, 2015. Food Recall Warning – Alpine Fresh brand Snap Peas recalled due to Cyclospora. Retrieved from http://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/newsroom/food-recall-warnings/complete-listing/2015-10-17/eng/1445121740221/1445121744219

    Cinnaminson N.J., 2015. Cyclospora Contamination and Infection Risks. Retrieved from http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=200735

    Food Safety News, 2015. CDC: Cyclospora Outbreak Linked to Mexican Cilantro Sickened 546 People. Retrieved from http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/09/cdc-recent-cyclospora-outbreak-linked-to-mexican-cilantro-is-over/#.VkWGv_lViko

    Mulholland A., 2015. Cyclospora outbreak: What you need to know about the parasite, illness. Retrieved from http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/cyclospora-outbreak-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-parasite-illness-1.2509552

    • WinnieLiao 11:11 am on November 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I really like how you organize the blog into Q and A! It makes the article so much easier to follow. Besides bacterial contamination in our food leading to foodborne illnesses, we probably often forget about other organisms such as parasites! Cyclospora is definitely one that is quite uncommonly known. I find the section on how serious the illness is and the prevention methods to be useful and informative! Regarding the ways of prevention, is there anything we can do as public to avoid the contamination? Would cooking for a certain amount of time be helpful in eliminating the parasite in our foods?

    • Stephanie Chen 5:39 pm on November 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting and informative article! The video is helpful as well. I agree with Winnie that many people may overlook contamination in food other than the commonly heard-of bacteria. It is scary to think that these fresh vegetables and fruits that we may consume often in our diet, such as basil, cilantro, and pre-packaged salad mixes may be a source of parasites like Cyclospora. We need to remember that contaminated food does not always show visible signs of spoilage. Safe handling of fresh produce still needs to be practiced to decrease the likelihood of getting an infection!

    • KristinaRichmond 6:15 pm on November 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I’d never heard of Cyclospora before, so thanks for the info! I think it’s interesting that the number of outbreaks has been increasing, and I wonder if it’s due to more contaminated food or just better testing and identification in recent years. It’s alarming that it’s found on fresh greens and isn’t killed by treated washing. I think this really ties into Justin’s lecture, and like you said addressing good agricultural practices.

    • flyingsquirrel 4:58 pm on December 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This is quite alarming because as eating fruits and vegetables becomes more important in public health, the demand for production of these popular foods (salad mixes, peas etc.) also goes up. Many of these foods are produced south of the border and even to Mexico! I read in an article a couple months back on the recall for cilantro because there had been some sort of contamination. The article reported that upon inspection of the farm in which the produce was grown, they found used toilet papers and human fecal remains. It just brings shivers down my spine to find that something that this could have been prevented. However this also brings to light the conditions of workers on the farm in which they do not have a proper toilet.

    • teewong 2:59 pm on December 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I feel that more people should be aware of how easily fresh produce could be contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites! Especially when it comes to vegetables that don’t require or are not meant to be cooked, it is really frightening to know that there’s very little that we could do as consumers to ensure our own food safety. Since chlorine wash technique is not a common method used in household, it means that there is even a higher chance for us to be affected by fresh produce than by consuming meat. I feel that prevention starting from the farm side is definitely a key in protecting the consumers. They should check their water irrigation system on a daily basis.

    • CandiceZheng 3:41 pm on December 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the informative blog! We’ve been discussing foodborne pathogens for the whole term and I have never heard about this pathogen before. I really appreciate your explanation about Cyclospora, which is very clear, informative, and well organized into Q&A format. It is quite shocking that there are many illnesses associated to the recalled snap peas, which is one of my favorite snack in my spare time. I’ve always considered it healthy and nutritious, but I never thought about the potential pathogen contamination associated with it.

    • YaoWang 12:25 am on December 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Just as what other people have mentioned above, the blog is really informative as I’ve never heard about the microorganism before. And the format of the blog is really easy for us to follow. Thank you Cindy. By the way, I think at this time, people should really be careful when handling fresh vegetables as they are vulnerable to many food-borne pathogens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Escherichia coli on fresh produce 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      This is a test of the blog’s comment system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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