Tag Archives: CDC

FDA, CDC

Study Makes Connection Between Outbreak Data and Foodborne Illnesses

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA, CDC

Outbreak illnesses and sporadic illnesses have similar traits. In addition, outbreak data can be used to assess the foods that are most frequently connected to particular foodborne illnesses. This analysis, all according to a recent study by the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC), could aid in improving the progression of science as well as provide a better understanding of the role of sporadic foodborne illnesses and their relation to an outbreak.

Scientists from IFSAC published the paper, “Comparing Characteristics of Sporadic and Outbreak-Associated Foodborne Illnesses, United States, 2004-2011”, in a July 2016 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases. They collected data from the CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) and compared outbreak illnesses with sporadic illnesses.

Available on the CDC’s website, key findings of IFSAC’s analysis include:

  • Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, and E. coli O157 outbreak illnesses are not significantly different from sporadic illnesses with respect to patients’ illness severity, gender, and age.
  • Salmonella outbreak illnesses are not significantly different from sporadic illnesses with respect to illness severity and gender. For age, the percentages of outbreak and sporadic illnesses that occur among older children and adults are also similar. The percentage of outbreak illnesses in the youngest age category (0-3 years) was significantly lower compared to other age groups.
Dave Shumaker, GoJo
Retail Food Safety Forum

Navigating the Complexities of Common Foodborne Illnesses

By Dave Shumaker
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Dave Shumaker, GoJo

Did you know there are more than 250 different types of foodborne illnesses? And while that number may seem daunting, especially when one in six Americans become ill from consuming contaminated foods or beverages each year, there are a few foodborne germs that are responsible for the majority of illness outbreaks, according to the CDC.1 What are these illnesses? What are their symptoms? What can you do to help reduce the risk of an outbreak happening at your restaurant?

The CDC estimates that approximately 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness each year, with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. And of these numbers, there are two common illnesses that stand out—norovirus and Salmonella. In fact, these two pathogens account for nearly 70% of all foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States.

Norovirus

Norovirus is responsible for 58% of domestically acquired foodborne illnesses and nearly half of all foodborne disease outbreaks due to known agents.2 Of these instances, most norovirus outbreaks occur in a food service setting, particularly restaurants.

Oftentimes, infected employees are the cause of these types of outbreaks. For example, individuals who are exhibiting symptoms come to work and contaminate food by touching either ready-to-eat foods or food-contact surfaces with their bare hands, which can lead to cross contamination.

Norovirus spreads easily and quickly, so people can contract it by not only by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, but also from having direct contact with individuals who are infected with the virus or touching surfaces or objects that have norovirus on them as well. In addition, norovirus outbreaks can also occur from foods that are contaminated at their source.2

In this video about Norovirus, I discuss the actions you can take, which includes practicing good hand hygiene, to reduce the risk of a norovirus outbreak negatively impacting your restaurant.

Salmonella

Each year in the United States, Salmonella is responsible for 1 million foodborne illnesses, 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.3 In fact, the pathogen accounts for 11% of all foodborne illnesses in the United States.

People become infected with Salmonella by either eating contaminated food that has not been properly cooked or has been contaminated after preparation.4 Salmonella is often found in raw food products that come from animals such as eggs, meat, and unpasteurized milk and dairy products.

While Salmonella is fairly common, measures can be taken to help reduce the risk of infection, such as through proper cooking and holding temperatures. In addition, proper disinfection and sanitization of food contact surfaces (i.e., countertops and cutting boards) helps reduce the risk of cross contamination. Practicing good hand hygiene before eating, and before and after preparing food can also help prevent the spread of this bacterium.

No one ever thinks their restaurant will fall victim to a foodborne illness outbreak, but it can happen and these outbreaks are more common than you may think. It is critical for you to share information about foodborne pathogens and prevention with your staff. This type of education and training can have a significant benefit to your restaurant.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foodborne Germs and Illnesses. Accessed May 8, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Burden of Norovirus Illness and Outbreaks. Accessed May 8, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/php/illness-outbreaks.html
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella. Accessed May 17, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/
  4. Vermont Department of Health. Salmonella. Accessed May 23, 2016. Retrieved from http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/salmonella/Salmonella.aspx
Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel
Food Safety Attorney

Federal Government Takes Regulatory and Criminal Offensive Against Food Industry

By Shawn K. Stevens
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Shawn K. Stevens, Food Industry Counsel

There was been a significant uptick in the amount of foodborne illness outbreaks and food product recalls (there were more than 500 food product recalls last year), many of which have been caused by dangerous pathogens. As FSMA plays a role in addressing this alarming trend, FDA is making several policy changes that will only continue to intensify. The agency is conducting microbiological profiling both inside food processing facilities during routine inspections and testing large amounts of food at the retail level. In addition, it has launched criminal investigations against food companies distributing products that have the potential to cause human illness. In many of these cases, company executives did not have direct knowledge that their products were causing, or had the potential to cause, illness. Many investigations involve Listeria monocytogenes (LM) found in food processing environments or in food products in commerce. Under FDA’s new approach, the failure to eliminate sporadic LM findings in the environment can subject companies to criminal liability. The immediate challenge to the food industry is to find a more effective solution to identify and reduce pervasive pathogens in the processing environment using pathogen-reduction technologies, while simultaneously employing written food safety protocols that can provide additional protection against criminal sanctions.

PulseNet Makes Foodborne Illness Link

Following the conclusion of the infamous the Jack-In-The Box outbreak that sickened 600 and killed four people more than two decades ago, the federal government recognized that similar outbreaks were probably occurring throughout the country, but there were no viable means of detection. As a result, the CDC created the PulseNet database, a mandatory foodborne illness reporting system to detect and track outbreaks in real time. From there, when a patient tested positive for a pathogen of concern (such as Listeria Monocytogenes, Salmonella or E. coli O157:H7), his or her doctor had to report that finding to the state health department. Each state requests copies of the isolates and tests them for the specific genetic DNA fingerprint of the pathogen of interest. These fingerprints are uploaded to PulseNet, and when indistinguishable genetic DNA fingerprints are uploaded from multiple victims, the CDC can recognize that an outbreak is emerging. The agency shares this information with FDA and other federal, state and local health departments as they work to determine a common source. Despite the fact that most illnesses uploaded to PulseNet remain unsolved, the database has helped CDC and FDA solve hundreds of outbreaks that have affected thousands of victims.

My subsequent columns will look at the emerging challenges faced by the food industry, including recent federal criminal investigations, some solutions designed to assess environmental contamination and reduce pathogens, and strategies that you can employ to reduce criminal liability.

Chipotle Outbreaks Over, but Origin Remains Unknown

By Maria Fontanazza
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The CDC has declared the Chipotle E. coli outbreaks over. As for its origin(s), we may never know. Yesterday the CDC provided its latest and final update regarding the two outbreaks, stating that investigators used whole genome sequencing to dig a bit deeper, and isolates tested from those sickened in the second outbreak (sickened five people in three states) were not genetically related to isolates from the people who fell ill in the initial outbreak (55 sickened in 11 states, with 21 hospitalizations).

“We are pleased to have this behind us and can place our full energies to implementing our enhanced food safety plan that will establish Chipotle as an industry leader in food safety,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle in a company statement. “We are extremely focused on executing this program, which designs layers of redundancy and enhanced safety measures to reduce the food safety risk to a level as near to zero as is possible. By adding these programs to an already strong and proven food culture, we strongly believe that we can establish Chipotle as a leader in food safety just as we have become a leader in our quest for the very best ingredients we can find.”

While the outbreaks “appear” to be over, the fact that the source will remain a mystery is a bit unsettling. All the CDC can tell us is that the “likely” source was a common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill. Regulatory officials simply cannot trace a food or ingredient to the outbreak. “When a restaurant serves foods with several ingredients that are mixed or cooked together and then used in multiple menu items, it can be more difficult for epidemiologic studies to identity the specific ingredient that is contaminated,” according to the CDC’s final update on the outbreak.

The most recent reported illness started on December 1, 2015. No deaths were reported as a result of either of the outbreaks.

Today Chipotle released its Q4 2015 earnings, reporting a 6.8% decrease in revenue ($997.5 million) compared to Q4 2014. However, 2015 revenue increased 9.6% over 2014.

The problems are not over for the restaurant chain either. On January 28, Chipotle was served another subpoena that broadened the scope of the existing DOJ investigation. The company stated the following in a release, “The new subpoena requires us to produce documents and information related to company-wide food safety matters dating back to January 1, 2013, and supersedes the subpoena served in December 2015 that was limited to a single Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley, California. We intend to fully cooperate in the investigation.”

California Apple Packing Facility Linked to Listeria Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control has confirmed that two strains of Listeria monocytogenes found at Bidart Bros. facility in Shafter, CA, are identical to those in an outbreak that has sickened 34 in the U.S. and Canada, and killed at least three in the U.S.

Another four people who had the outbreak strains have died, and one woman who had the outbreak strain had a miscarriage. However, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Jan. 12 they are waiting for confirmation from state authorities that listeria was the cause of death in those cases.

Initially the outbreak was only associated with caramel and candy apples from companies that Bidart had supplied.

However, three of the 32 sick people in the U.S. reported eating whole or sliced “green” apples before becoming ill, according to the CDC. All but one of the sick people in the U.S. had to be hospitalized.

As of Jan. 10, 25 of the 28 sick people interviewed by health officials reported eating caramel or candy apples before becoming ill.

Bidart Bros. officials recalled their entire 2014 crop of granny smiths and galas shipped from its Shafter, facility, notifying customers in a letter on January 6. A special website, www.bidartapplerecall.com, has been set up to help people and companies related to the recall and outbreak.

So far, no details have been revealed about who received the apples from Bidart or what volumes were shipped. “Bidart Bros. is contacting all of their retailers with specific instructions as to how to return those apples to Bidart Bros.,” according to a news release from Bidart Bros. that was posted on the FDA’s website Jan. 9.

Public health warnings and recalls are in effect in Canada and several brands of caramel and candy apples are under recall, as is the entire 2014 crop of granny smiths and galas from Bidart Bros., according to the Canadian food Inspection Agency. Sliced apples marketed by Scotian Gold Co-operative Ltd. are also now included in the Canadian recall. The Scotian Gold sliced apple products were distributed to retailers in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, according to the recall notice.

The CDC report shows the first confirmed illness in the U.S. began on Oct. 17. As of the agency’s Jan. 10 report, the most recent confirmed case started Dec. 12. More cases could be confirmed because listeria can take up to 70 days to develop into a detectable infection. The testing and reporting process takes an average of two to four weeks, further delaying the reports to CDC.