Food Safety Scan for Apr 27, 2015

More Ohio botulism cases
Bacteria in frozen shrimp

More botulism cases, food suspects found in Ohio outbreak

Health officials in Ohio have confirmed botulism as the illness that sickened several people and killed one who attended the same church lunch in Lancaster, Ohio, on Apr 19, the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette reported on Apr 25.

Five more illnesses have been identified since the outbreak was first reported about a week ago, raising the total 29, according to the report, which said 20 of the cases have been confirmed and 9 are suspected.

The event linked to the outbreak was a lunch on Apr 19 at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church, which was attended by 50 to 60 people, some of whom started getting sick on Apr 21. The fatal case involved a 54-year-old woman.

Cassie Bala, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health said investigators are still exploring what food source was contaminated, but she said early lab tests yielded six positive specimens and narrowed the list of suspected foods to three: potato salad, spaghetti pasta salad, and macaroni and cheese, according to the report. She added that the results are preliminary and that because the food items were found and retrieved from trash bins, there is a chance of cross-contamination.

Botulism, which is caused by the botulinum toxin produced by Clostridium bacteria, can result from low-acid home-canned foods such as beans that have not been canned properly. According to earlier reports, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is assisting state health officials with the investigation and sent a large quantity of botulism antitoxin for treatment.
Apr 25 Eagle-Gazette story
Apr 22 CIDRAP News scan "Botulism suspected in 24-case church outbreak in Ohio"


Up to 60% of raw frozen shrimp found to harbor bacteria

A new report in Consumer Reports (CR) found that 60% of raw frozen shrimp and 16% of cooked frozen shrimp contained various types of bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and a number of the samples contained residues of antibiotics.

A total of 284 packages of raw frozen and 58 packages of cooked frozen shrimp were purchased from grocery stores in 27 American cities and tested for Vibrio, S aureus, Escherichia coli, Listeria, and Salmonella, as well as for antibiotic residue. The stores included chain, big-box, and "natural" markets. No never-frozen shrimp, which represents only a small portion of what US consumers purchase, was tested.

About 60% of the raw shrimp was found to contain bacteria, as was 16% of the cooked shrimp. The authors note that the cooking process should kill most bacteria, raising "real questions about how shrimp is raised, processed, and regulated," said Urvashi Rangan, PhD, executive director of the CR Food Safety and Sustainability Center, in the article.

Eleven of the 205 raw shrimp samples that were imported contained one or more antibiotics. And six farmed samples and one wild sample showed traces of MRSA.

About 94% of shrimp eaten by US consumers is imported, largely from Asian countries including India, Indonesia, and Thailand. The feeding of antibiotics to farmed shrimp in the United States is illegal, as is the import of antibiotic-fed shrimp. Only 0.7% of imported shrimp shipments were tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014, says the article.

The CR researchers term their findings a "cause for concern," but note that their testing of raw chicken breasts in 2013 found that 97% of samples contained bacteria.

CR sent a copy of the article to the FDA with the request that inspections of imported shrimp as well as overall regulation be increased.
Apr 24 Consumer Reports article

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