News
for the month of January, 2012

Child dies in school from peanut allergic reaction

1st of January 2012

This story highlights the importance of allergen labeling as well as strict management procedures for allergerns.

It also really highlight the tragic consequences of getting it wrong.

Ammaria Johnson, a seven-year-old elementary school student in Chesterfield County, Virginia, died after suffering an allergic reaction at school.
According to Chesterfield police spokeswoman Elizabeth Caroon, the initial investigation revealed that the Hopkins Elementary School student, a first grader, died after she suffered an allergic reaction.
Johnson’s family said it was a reaction to a peanut product. Information Johnson’s mother told CBS 6 News she learned from the school principal and a doctor who treated the child.
Emergency crews were called to Hopkins Elementary Monday afternoon around 2:30 p.m. When the EMS crew arrived, the child was in cardiac arrest, according to a Chesterfield Fire Department spokesman Lt. Jason Elmore.
The child was pronounced dead a short time later at CJW Medical Center.
The child’s mother Laura Pendleton was distraught and she has many questions.
“She has an allergy action plan at the school,” said Pendleton, which authorizes the school to give her Benadryl during a reaction. “They didn’t do that,” she said.
At the beginning of this school year, the mother said she tried to give the clinical aid an Epipen for emergencies, but she was declined and told to keep it at home.
According to Chesterfield County School policy parents are supposed to provide the school medication for children with allergies.
A section of the allergy policy entitled Responsibilities for Parents/Guardians reads:
Provide the school with all daily and emergency medications prescribed by the student’s health-care provider, following school system medication administration policies. Keep medications up to date.
A spokesman for Chesterfield County school could not comment specifically about this case and instead refered to the county’s allergy policy which reads in part:
Because it is difficult to predict the time or severity of an allergic reaction, it is vital to be prepared to respond rapidly in order to maintain a safe educational environment for all students. Supporting the success of a student with a severe allergy requires a team approach and a coordinated plan, so that all team members understand their roles. Team members include the parent/guardian, student, school staff members, health-care provider, public health nurse and community.

A component of school emergency response plans, these severe allergy guidelines outline the roles of individuals responsible for the health and well-being of students with severe allergies, supporting inclusion of all students in school activities.
Pendleton also wanted to know how her daughter got access to the peanut product.

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Reigate take-away owners fined

3rd of January 2012

The owners of a take-away in Reigate have been fined more than £2,500 for a string of serious food and health and safety offences.

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council took action to prosecute the owners of the Reigate Kebab and Burger House in London Road after they continuously failed to comply with the minimum legal standards to keep diners safe.

The offences included water leaking from the ceiling onto live electrics, and the display and handling of salad items being such that they were at risk of being contaminated by raw meats.

Adem and Clare Eskisan pleaded guilty to eight offences at South East Surrey Magistrates Court.

A third defendant, Tuncay Eskisan, also pleaded guilty to a charge of obstruction of an authorised officer.

The court heard the offences at the take-away also included failing to provide hot running water to hand wash sinks, and failing to provide hot running water to sinks used for washing equipment.

Other offences comprised of a failure to maintain the ceiling of a food room in good order, with watermarks, mould and flaking paint presenting a risk to open foods, poor repair to internal and external surfaces of the walk-in freezer unit, and a poor standard of repair to the floor of a food room.

The business had also failed to put in place a documented food safety management system, to ensure the safety of food offered for sale.

Further, the court heard Tuncay Eskisan had knowingly provided false or misleading information to an authorised officer.

Adem and Clare Eskisan were fined a total of £2,600.

A borough council spokeswoman said the take-away had been given a Food Hygiene Rating of zero out of a possible five, and the council’s Environmental Health Officers were working closely with the business to ensure improved hygiene and safety standards are maintained.

Steve Farrer, borough council executive member for safer communities, said: “The council has worked hard to get this business to comply with the minimum legal standards over a number of years.

“We have taken a range of actions from the provision of considerable advice and coaching, to legal Hygiene Improvement Notices.”

Coun Farrer said: “Prosecution is always seen as a last resort, but, unfortunately in this case, it was brought due to the council’s previous measures failing to secure any long-term improvement in food hygiene and health and safety standards.”

He said: “The council strives to ensure residents can expect the highest standards of food safety when eating out in the borough.”

People can view the hygiene ratings of food outlets in the borough at the council’s website: www.reigate-banstead.gov.uk/foodrating

Full Story

Two Australians die after eating poisonous mushrooms

5th of January 2012

People still pick wild mushrooms and get it wrong!

Two people have died in a Sydney hospital after eating death cap mushrooms.
A third person is still being treated at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, a spokeswoman says.
Four people became ill after eating the poisonous mushrooms at a New Year’s Eve party in Canberra but one was discharged from hospital on Tuesday.
A 52-year-old woman and a 38-year-old man were among those being treated at RPA.
It is believed the four people had may have mistaken the poisonous mushrooms for mushrooms used in Chinese cooking.
The mushrooms are usually found in Canberra in autumn, near oak trees, but recent summer rain has spurred the growth of the mushrooms.

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Food allergies linked to hygiene hypothesis? ‘If fewer allergies is more infection, no parent would expose their child to more infection

7th of January 2012

A very interesting article about the increase of allergy issues, and a plausable theory to possibly explain it.

People from well-educated families are almost twice as likely to suffer from some dangerous food allergies as others — possibly because their bodies’ natural defences have been lowered by rigorous hygiene and infection control, suggests a new Canadian study.
The research from McGill University also found that immigrants were about half as likely to be afflicted by the allergies, perhaps reflecting differences in diet and environment between their countries of origin and Canada.
The study, just published in the Journal of Allergy, was meant to address an enduring medical mystery: Why have so many people in certain industrialized countries developed violent reactions to peanuts, shellfish and other foods in recent decades?
The link to higher education may be explained by what is called the hygiene hypothesis, the unproven idea that smaller families, cleaner homes, more use of antibiotics to treat infections and vaccines to prevent them have curbed development of the immune system, said Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, who led the research. That in turn could make some people more susceptible to allergy.
If the hypothesis does actually explain some food reactions, though, parents may not be able to do much about it, admitted the allergist at Montreal Children’s Hospital. The benefits of such health products as antibiotics and vaccines easily outweigh the risk of children developing serious allergies, said Dr. Ben-Shoshan.
“We can’t suggest we become dirtier and expose our children to more bacteria,” he said. “If the price of having fewer allergies is more infection, I don’t know any parent who would expose their child to more infection.”
The study’s findings are far from conclusive but they, and the hygiene hypothesis as an explanation, seem plausible, said Dr. Stuart Carr, president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. He also cautioned, however, that translating the knowledge into preventive action would be complicated.

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Deadly mushroom meal cooked in commercial premises- update

10th of January 2012

Health authorities in Canberra say the meal which contained death cap mushrooms that killed two people was prepared in a commercial kitchen.
The ACT Health Directorate says the food was for a private meal and no food containing the poisonous mushrooms was given to any member of the public.
A 52-year-old woman died and a 38-year-old woman died in hospital in Sydney yesterday after eating the meal.
A 51-year-old man remains in a critical but stable condition.

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Home fridge temperatures

12th of January 2012

I often mention home fridge temperatures when conducting food safety training. I have never had any more information than just a gut feeling that some fridges do not maintain safe temperatures at all times and may allow pathogenic bacteria to thrive.

Be honest with yourself, when did you last check the temperature of your fidge at home?

Do you leave the door open longer than it should be?

Do you put warm food into the fridge?

Do you overload your fridge?

All these occurrences can increase the chances of pathogenic bacterial growth in your fridge.

In commercial premises it is a requirement to check the temperature on a regular basis, to ensure all food is stored safely, so why do we at home think this does not apply to us?

I now have some concrete information from a study carried out by the New South Wales food authority in Australia.

It is not all bad news however.

For full study results

Miracle metal could usher in food safety revolution

12th of January 2012

Copper could usher in a food safety revolution within processing plants, according to the author of a new study that revealed the metal’s impressive ability to kill deadly E.coli pathogens.
Professor Bill Keevil, head of the Microbiology Group and director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit at the University of Southampton told FoodProductionDaily.com about the findings of research he co-authored for the November issue of the journal Environmental Microbiology.
The study examined the efficacy of copper used as an antimicrobial biocide against new strains of E.coli, and although it did not examine O104:H4 (the strain apparent in the spring epidemic in Germany and France), the authors found that all the strains investigated died rapidly on copper.

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Short, sharp shock treatment for E. coli

12th of January 2012

A short burst of low voltage alternating current can effectively eradicate E. coli bacteria growing on the surface of even heavily contaminated beef, according to a study published in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health. The technique offers an inexpensive and easy to implement approach to reducing the risk of food poisoning, which can occur despite handlers complying with hygiene standards.
Food poisoning is a serious public-health issue, especially with the emergence of lethal and highly virulent strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli O157:H7, for example). Infection with this bacterium causes serious diarrhea, dehydration, kidney problems and can lead to serious long-term problems or even be fatal in children, the elderly and people with pre-existing health problems. Tens of thousands of people are affected by E. coli infection each year through eating contaminated beef and other food products. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 2500 people are hospitalized and there are several dozen deaths each year.
Now, Ajit Mahapatra and colleagues at Fort Valley State University, in Georgia and Virginia Tech have demonstrated that applying a low-voltage alternating current to beef samples inoculated with large numbers of the potentially lethal E. coli O157:H7 can almost completely deactivate the bacterium, which is usually present on the surface of contaminated meat. The team points out that the level of contamination used in their tests far exceeded the contamination that would be seen in commercial carcasses after slaughter.
Previous researchers had demonstrated that electricity can kill bacteria effectively. The study by Mahapatra and colleagues proves efficacy against E. coli O157:H7 at low voltage and low alternating current. It offers a quick and easy way to decontaminate at-risk, but otherwise safe beef without recourse to microbicidal chemicals or other more complicated treatment processes.

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Belfast restaurant fined over food hygiene

13th of January 2012

The owner of a Belfast restaurant has been fined a total of £2,800 for food safety offences.

Rui Jian Ke, owner of the Imperial Chinese on the Belmont Road, was also ordered to pay costs of £66 in relation to seven offences.

It followed a routine food safety inspection by an environmental health officer from Belfast City Council on October 25, 2010.

Poor standards of cleanliness and food hygiene were found throughout the premises. A large build-up of grease, food and food residue was found on the floors, equipment and food containers.

The officer also found possible sources of food contamination with raw meats stored above uncovered ready-to-eat foods, and food stored on the floor of the kitchen and walk-in chiller.

The wash basin for cleaning hands was obstructed so couldn’t be used, and there were issues with correct temperature control of food and lack of refrigerated storage.

Food safety management documents were not complete and the level of food hygiene training among staff was also inadequate.

Colchester launches the FHRS

13th of January 2012

Colchester Borough Council has rolled out the Agency’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. More than 180 local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are now publishing over 140,000 ratings atfood.gov.uk/ratings.

Other local authorities will be rolling out the scheme over the next few months.

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme helps you choose where to eat out or shop for food by giving you information about the hygiene standards in restaurants, pubs, cafés, takeaways, hotels and other places you eat, as well as in supermarkets and other food shops.

Ireland Closes Record 64 Food Establishments in 2011

14th of January 2012
Documents obtained by the Irish Independent show that 2011 was the worst year for food safety at the retail level in Ireland since the current enforcement system went into effect in 1999.
The newspaper, using records obtained under the Irish Freedom of Information Act, reports that Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) last year closed a record 64 restaurants, pubs, and other retail food establishments because they poised a grave risk to public health.
The Independent said the documents revealed “gory details behind the closures.”  For example, it said maggots and mold were behind the April closure of the butchery section of Cahill’s food store in Cork County. Inspectors closed the facility after maggots were found on meat debris under the cutting plate.
It has yet to re-open.
Pests were frequently a problem, including rat and mice infestations.  Closure orders are typically lifted in Ireland as soon as the problems cited are addressed.
Two closures involved mixing staff accommodations with food businesses, including finding such personal items as hair brushes and razors in a kitchen where no shower or bathroom facilities existed, and filthy mattresses and personal toiletries in food store room.

Hand dryers might be better for the environment; worse for limiting disease spread

16th of January 2012

Something I always discuss in my training courses is the hand drier versus the paper towel.

The following blog argues the case for me, with the overriding conclusion that disposable paper towels are the safest way to dry your hands. Something I always strive to highlight during our discussions.

Doug Powell says “I like to write at Starbucks. There’s something about the background activity and lattes, mixed with Neil Young on my iPod, that helps me focus. I hit up a somewhat new outlet in Raleigh today and needed a restroom break. After washing my hands I looked around the bathroom for paper towels and all I could find was an air dryer (right, exactly as shown). I wanted paper towels because using them matters – drying friction helps remove pathogens.
I don’t like blow dryers because the literature shows they accumulate microorganisms from toilet aerosols, and can cause contamination of hands as they are dried by the drier”

He goes on to say “food service food safety guru Pete Snyder at the St. Paul-based Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management summarized key aspects of handwashing and drying in a paper available at, http://www.hi-tm.com/Documents/Safehands.html. Pete says that after hands are washed and rinsed, they must be thoroughly dried and cites data that shows 1-2 log reduction of pathogens from drying. Water and soap loosen the attachment of pathogen to hands. A rinse step dilutes what has been loosened but drying (and the friction associated) is the next step that matters – and the bugs have to go somewhere; I’d rather that be a paper towel instead of being blown all over my pants.
Pete also notes that it is also apparent that many individuals do not dry their hands thoroughly when using a blow drier; hence, moisture, which is conducive to microbial growth, remains on hands, or people dry their hands on their clothing.”

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Consumer views on targeted safety inspections

18th of January 2012

A new report published by the FSA shows that consumers are broadly in favour of reducing inspections on compliant businesses so that resources can be focused on those which are higher risk.

Under the proposed ‘Earned Recognition’ scheme, food businesses that are able to demonstrate a history of good compliance with the legislation, or that are members of a private assurance scheme, would receive a lighter touch in terms of the number and type of official inspections. The proposed changes will help to ensure consumer safety by concentrating resources where improvement is most needed, for example on businesses that are less compliant or higher risk.

The Agency commissioned a series of citizens’ forums to explore consumer’s views about proposed changes to the regulation of food businesses. Participants considered Earned Recognition a positive step for the Agency to take on the condition that these businesses were still regulated sufficiently and that the scheme was applied fairly across the food industry. Nine workshops were held with groups of approximately 10 people between June and August 2011.

The full report can be found at the link below.

http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/earnedrecog.pdf

Hull and South Tyneside launch the FHRS

31st of January 2012

Hull City Council and South Tyneside Council have rolled out the Agency’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. More than 180 local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are now publishing nearly 150,000 ratings at food.gov.uk/ratings.