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Foods In The News

Post  justmecookin on Sun Oct 03, 2010 12:23 pm

E. coli outbreak sends ominous call for food-safety action

The video showing massive front-end loaders scooping up and piling mountains of toxic vegetables in Germany tells two stories at the same time.

One is the story of the deadly E. coli bacterial outbreak that started there May 2. As of Wednesday, the outbreak of a "super-bacterial" strain of Escherichia coli had killed 25 people and sickened more than 2,700 others. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says the outbreak is waning, but that is no reason to think the numbers won't increase before the danger passes.

In fact, the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's disease-control agency, warned consumers again not to eat cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and other salad ingredients such as vegetable sprouts. At the same time, Health Minister Daniel Bahr said the cause of the outbreak may never be determined.

The other story told by the video image of the heavy-duty vegetable-piling loaders is this:

If similarly overwhelming action was initiated on the front end of the food-safety process, such outbreaks of E. coli and other fast-spreading contaminants would be far less frequent than they are today.

Germany's highly regulated but decentralized food-inspection apparatus already has taken legitimate criticism for being inefficient and out of sync.

Similar criticism can be levied against the system used in the United States. The problems are well-known -- some stemming from inter-agency conflicts, some from the nation's anemic policies regarding imports, and some from an over-reliance on private industry to police itself.

A prime example of the Keystone Cops syndrome is this: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration controls fresh eggs while the U.S. Department of Agriculture controls chickens, egg grading and liquid eggs used in industrial food production.

You would be right to ask, why?

Efforts are under way to improve parts of the safety net without needlessly entangling safety-compliant producers. Still, common-sense consumers are left scratching their heads and wondering about a number of things:

Why is Congress preparing to reduce funding for food-safety efforts?

Why can't the U.S. Food and Drug Administration force recalls?

Why do we settle for a system that takes the decisions out of the laboratory and away from the scientists and hands the authority to judges who become the de facto food police?

Let's get away from the deadly business of shoveling out after the fact.

Let's fix the problems on the front end of this nation's food-safety system and commit to making continuous improvements to ensure consumers are confident "from farm to fork."


Last edited by justmecookin on Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:42 am; edited 1 time in total

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Scattered Health Model Draws Fire for Germany’s Response to E. Coli Threat

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:15 am

Scattered Health Model Draws Fire for Germany’s Response to E. Coli Threat

German states’ broad powers over health and safety may have slowed response to the E. coli outbreak, with no single federal agency responsible for tracking the bug and assigning the blame.

German officials have struggled to pinpoint the source of the infection as the number of deaths rose to 25 in three weeks, and were criticized for delays as well as targeting Spanish cucumbers and organic sprouts not yet proven to be the culprits. At least 2,743 people have been stricken since May 2, with most of the cases in or tied to northern Germany, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said yesterday.

The decentralized system may have compounded a lack of leadership, Baerbel Hoehn, a Green Party member and environment minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, told the N24 television channel yesterday. Each of the 16 states is responsible for tracking cases inside their borders. Federal authorities give advice to the states and to consumers.

“Clearly a more centralized structure is probably better suited to handle this,” Joerg F. Debatin, the medical director of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, the biggest hospital in the area affected worst by the disease, said in an interview yesterday. “But that really goes down to the roots of what the German political system is made up of.”

German states run their own police forces and education and health systems. The federal powers led to conflicts in recent years on issues from drives to introduce smoking bans to efforts to harmonize admissions procedures for universities.

Imposed after World War II, the system was modeled on the U.S. federal structure in part as a bulwark against centralized political power like that of the Nazi regime.

Consumer Protection

In the case of the E. coli outbreak, decentralization means officials from each state only asked for help from the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease-control agency, after establishing that people were getting sick. Institute investigators make non-binding recommendations, which states usually follow, Ina Klaus, a Health Ministry spokeswoman, said in a phone interview yesterday.

Then another federal agency, the institute for risk assessment, tells consumers what they should do to protect themselves. That agency was split from the health ministry more than a decade ago, Klaus said.

There’s no reason to change the structure, Health Minister Daniel Bahr said at a news conference in Berlin yesterday. Instead, cooperation between the agencies is important, he said.

“In a choir there are many voices, and nevertheless there’s harmony,” Bahr said.
Conflicting Numbers

For those following the epidemic, harmony sometimes sounded like cacophony. State health and agricultural ministers called their own press conferences. Individual states sent out their own updates about the number of infections and deaths. Figures reported in local media, tallying the states’ numbers, were often higher than the Koch Institute’s total.

Authorities in the city-state of Hamburg initially blamed Spanish cucumbers. On June 5, officials from the state of Lower Saxony said sprouts from an organic farm in their region played a role in the outbreak. Tests from the sprout farm aren’t yet complete, though so far show no evidence of the bacteria.

Officials at the Berlin-based Koch institute declined to comment on whether health authorities may have acted more quickly under a more centralized system.

“We are well networked with the state health authorities, and it always depends on someone on location being watchful,” Susanne Glasmacher, a spokeswoman for the institute, said in an e-mail.

Aussie Approach

In Australia, where health is predominantly a state responsibility, nationwide networks facilitate the sharing of laboratory data and information on communicable diseases, said John Mackenzie, a Melbourne-based microbiologist who chaired the World Health Organization’s emergency pandemic flu committee and who advises governments on outbreaks.

“All the health departments meet on a regular basis and whenever there is a problem, it’s known about very rapidly,” Mackenzie said in a telephone interview today. “A committee that keeps all the health departments in constant contact at different levels is really very important, and this process certainly does that.”

Different Definitions

The strain of E. coli in this outbreak produces a toxin that attacks the kidneys and blood vessels and can lead to a potentially fatal complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Different definitions for when patients got sick have made it more difficult to track the outbreak, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, in an interview.

“That shows the difficulties in the federal system, where the states don’t want to collaborate with the center,” said David Heymann, chairman of the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency and a former WHO assistant director-general for health security and environment.

If infections have stopped and new cases are being reported only in patients who picked up the bug weeks ago, the threat may be diminishing, Heymann said in a telephone interview from London yesterday.

“It could be that you will never find the source and the epidemic is on the downstream,” he said.

Officials in Germany yesterday reiterated that people shouldn’t eat lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and salad ingredients such as vegetable sprouts. Lower Saxony still sees a connection between the outbreak and the sprout farm in the town of Bienenbuettel, state Agriculture Minister Gert Lindemann told N24 in an interview.

‘Justified Optimism’

“It’s not the time yet to sound the all-clear, but after the analysis of figures and data at the Robert Koch Institute there’s reason for justified optimism that the worst is behind us,” Bahr said.

Germany may review its response after the outbreak to determine what could be improved, though there’s no need to change the structure of the existing system, Stefan Gruettner, social minister of the state of Hesse and chairman of a meeting of health ministers from the 16 states, said in an interview.

“We don’t need centralism,” Gruettner said. “Everything went well.”

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A U.S. Response to the European E. coli Outbreak

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:17 am

A U.S. Response to the European E. coli Outbreak
by Barbara Kowalcyk | Jun 09, 2011

My daughter Megan and I picked an interesting week to travel to Europe. We're in the Netherlands where I'm doing research for my doctorate in environmental health. We were here in the fall of 2010 as well. Unlike last fall, however, we haven't been able to eat raw produce this trip. At one point or another, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and sprouts have been implicated, but none has been confirmed yet as the source (and none may ever be). So, no salads for us or for our friends. In home kitchens and restaurants across Europe, vegetables are being cooked, in response to the tragic E. coli outbreak that has thus far claimed 24 lives and sickened over 2,000 people.

This outbreak is especially concerning given the high rate of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and the fact that so many victims are adult women. HUS in adults is uncommon -- children are at highest risk of developing this serious complication of foodborne illness. It suggests that this is a particular nasty strain of STEC (shiga-toxin producing E. coli). HUS is a horrible disease that is characterized by cascading organ failure and can result, as in my son's case, in death. Those who survive often suffer long-term health effects, including end-stage kidney failure, diabetes and neurological complications.

One of the most troubling aspects of the ongoing outbreak in Europe is that it involves a strain of E. coli that often flies under the radar in the United States. In recent years, public health officials and food safety advocates -- myself included -- have been increasingly concerned about this class of E. coli, which is often referred to as non-O157 STECs.

In fact, numbers released this week by the Centers for Disease Control show that the United States has about the same number of non-O157 STECs as O157:H7 STEC. This means that it is time to change the way we handle these deadly pathogens. In 1994, Mike Taylor declared E. coli O157:H7 to be an adulterant in meat and poultry products when he was Undersecretary of Food Safety at USDA. In recent years, USDA has repeatedly been asked to address this and declare the "Big Six" non-O157 STECs to be adulterants as well, but so far no action has been taken.

Worse, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently ruled that non-O157 STECs in beef products are not economically significant and delayed action on a proposal to declare them adulterants. I'm certain that Germany and Spain would disagree. Given the significant cost associated with STEC infection and its severe long-term health outcomes, these pathogens are clearly economically significant.

In Europe, the cost of this outbreak will likely run into the millions -- if not billions -- when you consider the impact on those sickened, the amount of public health resources used to track the illnesses and find the source, and the lost market share for the cucumber, lettuce, tomato and sprout industries. As this outbreak demonstrates once again, foodborne disease is economically significant -- especially in these hard economic times.

Every time I hear about one of these outbreaks, my heart breaks again for the families affected. I understand their pain and desperately wish that my efforts to improve food safety could have prevented these tragedies. While disheartened, I am all the more determined to prevent this from happening to others. I do not want those sickened to have suffered in vain. I hope their experiences will force the food industry and governments around the world to re-evaluate their food safety systems and move from the current reactive systems to a proactive one. Achieving that will take significant investments in food safety. With the current global economy, it may seem like we can't afford to do that right now, but the reality is that we can't afford not to.

Unfortunately, at a time when people around the globe are focusing on food safety, last week a key Congressional subcommittee proposed significant cuts to the FDA and USDA food safety budgets. If passed through Congress, these budget cuts will make it nearly impossible for FDA to implement the new, higher standards in the recently signed food safety bill or for USDA to take action on non-O157 STECs. The United States will be taking a giant step backwards.

It's always interesting to watch food safety events -- and U.S. politics in general -- unfold from Europe. Last fall, while I began my research project at the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, my family watched the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 and endured puzzled questions and disbelief that such solid legislation promoted such strife in the U.S. This time around there are more questions -- largely driven by reports that the United States feels that Europe is mishandling the outbreak investigation. I find this ironic since the U.S. doesn't really look for non-O157 STECs and we have had some highly publicized outbreaks that took months -- not weeks -- to solve.

Epidemiologic investigations are time-consuming and often lead public health officials down many different paths. Of course, the decentralized nature of Germany's public health system -- not unlike many U.S. states -- has not helped the situation. But, regardless of the errors that may have been made, I still think Europe -- especially Denmark and the Netherlands -- is ahead of the curve when it comes to food safety. The United States can learn from their experiences and should follow their lead. We can start by adequately funding food safety and declaring the "Big Six" non-O157 STECs adulterants.

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Gene Probe Yields E. coli Clue

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:42 am

Gene Probe Yields E. coli Clue

The culprit behind Europe's deadly Escherichia coli outbreak appears to be an evolved and extremely toxic version of a bug first identified in Münster, Germany, in 2001, according to genetic analyses done by two separate teams of scientists.

Identifying the bug's ancestor may help scientists identify the origin, spread and source of the disease. Such genetic comparisons could also help researchers explain the biological mechanism that makes the 2011 bacterium so virulent, while providing clues for future diagnostic tests or effective drugs.

Researchers said the quick genetic analysis will help unlock the mystery. "Everything we know so far indicates it is an evolved strain," said Alexander Mellmann of the University Hospital of Münster, who was involved in one of the genetic analyses. "If it was completely unknown, we'd struggle a lot more in our effort to fight it."

In addition to Dr. Mellmann's group, a separate team from BGI, formerly known as the Beijing Genomics Institute, and University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf compared the genetic material of the 2001 and 2011 strains. They found that seven genes crucial to both bugs' survival are identical, as are 12 virulence/fitness genes shared by both.

The 2001 strain caused fewer than five identified cases world-wide, and scientists never did identify its natural reservoir—where a new strain of the E. coli bug can originate, such as in cattle. But the genetic analysis showed that as the 2001 bug likely swapped genetic material with other bacterial strains, some big changes occurred.

Another 94 people have been infected with E.coli in Germany. That figure comes as European ministers meet in Luxembourg to hold emergency talks on the outbreak and how to deal with it. Video courtesy Sky News.

The 2011 version turns out to be resistant to eight classes of antibiotics, including penicillin, streptomycin and sulfonamide. The likely reason is that rapid evolution "resulted in the gain of more genes during the last 10 years" that conferred immunity against many more antibiotics, according to BGI.

Three more deaths from the bug were reported in Germany on Wednesday. So far, at least 26 people have died and more than 2,700 have been sickened by the outbreak in at least 13 different countries. Nearly all the cases can be traced back to Germany. Public health officials in Germany haven't yet succeeded in pinpointing the food source behind the outbreak; part of their investigation continues to focus on a bean sprout farm as a possible source of infection.

Regional authorities in Germany on Wednesday reported what could be a clue in the saga, saying they found the E. coli strain on some cucumber scraps in the town of Magdeburg, in Saxony-Anhalt, in north central Germany. This is the first time this strain has been isolated on a vegetable in Germany. Several members of a family fell ill on May 19, and one of them pointed to their eating cucumbers, according to reports.

Authorities searched the family's compost trash can and found the strain—though it is impossible to say how and when the bacteria were introduced to the waste, because it is two weeks old. Authorities can't rule out that the family may have been sickened and then transferred the bacteria to the cucumber scraps.

The discovery of the tainted cucumber scraps in Magdeburg is unlikely to be helpful in the search for a source, said Holger Paech, spokesman for the state of Saxony-Anhalt's health ministry. The family members were the only ones in Magdeburg who fell ill, and all other clues in searching for the source of their sickness have resulted in dead ends, Mr. Paech said.

The family had no connections to Hamburg or other areas which experienced more severe outbreaks. Authorities tested surface areas inside the family's kitchen, as well as samples from supermarkets where they shopped—all with no other positive identifications of the strain.

While the father in the family was only slightly ill, the mother and daughter were hospitalized. The mother has been released, but the daughter, a young adult, has complications and is still in the hospital. The state of Saxony-Anhalt has only reported 28 cases of E. coli infections in this outbreak, according to the Robert Koch Institute, which is funded by Germany's Federal Ministry of Health.

Saxony-Anhalt officials passed along the information and samples to the federal government. They will test it to see if the 0104 strain found on the cucumber waste is an exact match to the 0104 strain found in humans.

"We have no information for people—this really leaves us with more question marks than answers," added Mr. Paech.

Hamburg health authorities originally said the E. coli outbreak stemmed from a shipment of Spanish cucumbers, but later determined those were infected with a different strain of the bacteria. Authorities still don't know where the cucumber scraps in the sickened family's trash originated, and the Robert Koch Institute, has continued to point to cucumbers as one of the potential sources of the outbreak, along with tomatoes and lettuce.

The twin sets of genetic analysis of the 2011 bug were conducted at unprecedented speed thanks to a new kind of gene-sequencing machine used by both teams.

Most DNA sequencers use light beams to read the code of an organism's genome, and the process can take a week to complete. A newer machine, known as an ion torrent, does the job more quickly. For example, it took three days to complete the process of sequencing the 5.4 million letters of the latest bug's genetic code.

"It's a semiconductor device that senses chemistry, so it can directly read off the DNA," said Jonathan Rotheberg of Life Technologies Corp. of Carlsbad, Calif., which sells the ion torrent device.

The way that the genetic data of the 2011 E. coli strain were disseminated globally suggests a more effective approach for tackling public health problems. Both groups put their sequencing data on the Internet, so scientists the world over could immediately begin their own analysis of the bug's makeup. BGI scientists also are using Twitter to communicate their latest findings.

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Tons of fresh produce trashed in Germany

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:47 am

Tons of fresh produce trashed in Germany

Werder, Germany (CNN) -- Fruit and vegetable company Werder Frucht has to bring in additional workers these days or risk falling behind. But the workers are not busy selling the company's tomatoes: they are busy throwing red, ripe produce in the trash.

Workers empty crate after crate of vine-ripened vegetables into a giant garbage container on the company's premises in Werder near Berlin.

For the past four weeks -- since an E. coli scare caused European consumers to all but abandon eating raw vegetables -- demand in tomatoes has plummeted, says Petra Lack, Werder Frucht sales manager.

"At the beginning the demand dropped to about 10% of what we would normally sell, then it went to about 5%," Lack says. "Now the demand has stabilized at about 25% of the normal amount of tomatoes we would be selling."

Lack says a health warning from the German government urging people not to eat raw lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers has caused consumers to shy away from almost all vegetables.

"Things are awful at the moment," Lack says standing next to the giant garbage container full of tomatoes. "We hope this won't continue for the whole harvest season. But if the government keeps telling people not to eat lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers nothing will change."

This week Werder Frucht will destroy about 270 tons of tomatoes. The cost of the purge will be measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars, company officials say. The company is keeping track of all the tomatoes it must destroy with plans to file damage claims against the European Union to recoup some of the losses.

"It is a real shame," says Lack, "but we simply cannot sell these tomatoes. The consumers just aren't buying."

Werder Frucht criticizes the government for its handling of the outbreak of a deadly strain of E. coli in northern Germany. The outbreak has killed nearly two dozen people and will leave many others with lifelong impairments like kidney failure.

German authorities first issued a blanket warning for consumers to avoid eating raw lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Then authorities in Hamburg implied that Spanish cucumbers might be the origin of the E. coli stain, a claim later disproved. Now health officials are investigating a company in northern Germany that sells various types of sprouts, but so far lab samples have shown no traces of bacterial infection.

The number of new cases of infection has been falling significantly, German Health Minister Daniel Bahr said Wednesday.

Spain has threatened to sue Germany for compensation as its farmers say their losses are rising to hundreds of millions of euros. The German agricultural association says so far farmers in Germany have lost about €50 million euros ($73.4 million) in revenue since the outbreak.

On Tuesday the EU said it would pay €150 million ($220 million) to farmers in Europe and that amount is expected to rise in the coming days as some countries have hinted more is needed to cover the damages to their farming sectors.

But farming is also about pride and Andre Becker, who heads the tomato production in a greenhouse complex on the outskirts of Berlin, says he would rather see his produce on dinner tables than be compensated for tossing vegetables in the trash.

"We produce according to strict standards," Becker says as he is cutting ripe tomatoes off a vine. "We constantly monitor the water and the nutrients we give the plants and we have tested for E. coli -- all tests have been negative."

With a lot of sunny days, 2011 was promising to be a good year for tomatoes. The vegetables grow quickly and are firm, juicy and of a healthy red color. Becker says that makes it even more painful to throw so much of the crop away.

"Right now we have so much to do just harvesting to the tomatoes that we don't really talk much about the situation," he says. "But it really is a shame."

The workers at the greenhouse have to keep harvesting the tomatoes or risk destroying the plants. Normally the produce would wind up in grocery stores within a day. Now the vast majority wind up in an air conditioned warehouse and then in a garbage container.

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E. coli talks, and tests, rumble on

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:06 pm

E. coli talks, and tests, rumble on

Germany and Spain are set for further talks in Berlin as the handling of an E. coli outbreak sorely tests the countries' relations. The source of the bacteria, briefly thought to be Spanish cucumbers, remains a mystery.

Germany, Spain, the European Union and Russia are all set to concentrate on the E. coli outbreak Thursday, the source of which still remains a mystery.

The German and Spanish governments were set to meet in Berlin on Thursday morning, after a false accusation against Spanish cucumbers tested ties between the two countries. Later Thursday, the E. coli outbreak and Moscow's ban on European Union fruit and vegetable imports is likely to dominate the agenda at the EU-Russia summit in Nizhny Novgorod.

German authorities, now with European assistance, are still hunting for the source of the E. coli outbreak which has affected more than 2,500 people - almost all of them in northern Germany.

Fresh food finding

A half cucumber with some slices in the foregroundCucumbers are back in the news, but it's probably another red herring

For the first time on Wednesday, the correct strain of E. coli bacteria was identified on foodstuffs in Germany. However, the infected cucumbers were found in a garbage can in the state of Saxony-Anhalt at a home where three people had contracted the illness; authorities said they might have transferred the bacteria to the food, not vice-versa.

"We don't know and we probably won't ever be able to prove how the bacteria got there," said Holger Paech, state health spokesman.

Until this development, authorities had not yet found the correct strain of the E. coli bacteria on foodstuffs. The discovery of the wrong type of E. coli on cucumbers imported from Spain led to the ultimately erroneous warning about Spanish cucumbers being issued by the state government in Lower Saxony, the northern German epicenter of the outbreak.

Mystery source may never be known

Germany's agriculture and consumer affairs minister, Ilse Aigner, said in parliament Wednesday that investigations into suspect bean sprouts from an organic market farm in Lower Saxony were continuing, despite test results coming up negative thus far.

Aigner also told her colleagues in Berlin that "in 78 to 80 percent of such cases a contaminant is never found" because of the time lapse between contamination and the outbreak of the disease.

The European Union plans to introduce a 210-million-euro ($306.2-million) fund to compensate European fruit and vegetable producers, and EU governments will be asked to give the green light for funding at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.

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Re: Foods In The News

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:34 pm

BRISTOL, Va. --

A confirmed case of Escherichia coli reported by the Sullivan County Regional Health Department on Wednesday is the latest in a possible “outbreak” of bacterial infections that have so far sickened 11 Northeast Tennessee residents this month and killed a young girl from Southwest Virginia.

And as they search for information about these infections and how they were transferred, local health officials are reminding people to take preventative steps like properly cooking meat and thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables.

“We are recommending that everyone take precautions to avoid getting infected,” said David Kirschke, director of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office, which serves Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties from its Johnson City headquarters.

E. coli is a rod-shaped bacterium commonly found in the large intestines of humans and other warm-blooded animals. While most types or strains of E. coli are harmless and can actually help a person’s digestive process, several other types or strains are harmful to humans and can create toxins that attack the intestinal lining.

Those infected with one of these harmful strains typically suffer from severe abdominal cramping, bloody diarrhea and a low-grade fever for a period of about eight days. But the bacterium has been known to cause more serious problems like renal failure, anemia, and death when it infects the elderly or very young children.

According to the Washington County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Office, a 2-year-old girl from Dryden, Va., was rushed to Johnson City Medical Center’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit on Sunday after suffering with diarrhea and other symptoms common to an acute E. coli infection.

The girl died at the hospital, while her 4-year-old brother, who was suffering from similar symptoms, was rushed to another East Tennessee hospital for continued treatment. On Monday, the Virginia Health Department confirmed the presence of E. coli O157:H7 – one of the bacterium’s most common harmful strains – in the two children.

“That investigation is continuing as we speak,” Department spokesman Bobby Parker said when asked how the children were infected. “There are lots of ways it could have been transferred. I just don’t know.”

Parker’s confirmation of an E. coli O157:H7 infection came just one day before Kirshke and other health officials from the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office announced that preliminary test results showed 10 people living in four of the seven counties it serves have had an E. coli infection since June 1.

Kirshke said his office’s initial test results suggested E. coli O157:H7 may have infected two of the Northeast Tennessee residents who got sick. Seven of the residents appear to have been infected by a less severe strain, he said, while the test results did not provide any information about what strain infected the 10th victim.

No details were available Wednesday on the latest case in Sullivan County, but a release from the Health Department said Sullivan officials are working closely with Northeast Tennessee health officials to determine the cause of the infection.

The health director said these cases bother him because his local office typically runs across only seven or eight E. coli infections over the course of an entire year. The state of Tennessee sees about 90 E. coli infections each year, while the state of Virginia sees about 149 confirmed cases each year.

“We are treating this as an outbreak,” Kirkshke said, adding that his office is actively working to get more information on the types of E. coli that sickened the Northeast Tennessee residents and how they might have run across it. So far, he said, they have found no common thread between those who got sick in Northeast Tennessee or between them and the Dryden children.

Because of the high number of cases, Kirkshke and Parker both stressed that people should take a series of simple steps to avoid coming into contact with the bacterium – which most often spreads to humans through contact with another animal’s feces.

The two men said people should make sure to diligently wash any raw fruits or vegetables because the produce may have come into contact with an animal’s feces while it was in the fields. They should also make sure to cook meat – especially ground beef – to the proper temperature and scrub any surfaces that may come into contact with raw meat.

Parker also stressed that people should avoid swimming in ponds and lakes that are near places where cattle and other farm animals are kept. This is especially the case with children, who often take gulps of water when they go swimming.

Finally, Parker and Kirkshke said their offices have discovered no evidence that the outbreak they are dealing with in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia is in any way linked to an E. coli outbreak plaguing Germany since May 2.

According to the Associated Press, this outbreak so far has killed 24 people, sent hundreds to the hospital and infected almost 2,400 people. It’s being described as the world’s deadliest E. coli outbreak and has German officials stumped as to what may have caused the infections.

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German E. coli death toll rises further

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:26 pm

German E. coli death toll rises further

Berlin (CNN) -- German health authorities confirmed two more deaths due to a virulent bacteria outbreak, they said Thursday, bringing the total number of dead in Europe to 27. All but one were in Germany.

The rate of infection is slowing down, but the number of infections continues to rise, the Robert Koch Institut said. The number of people infected with E. coli now stands at 2,808, of whom 722 have the severe form of the intestinal illness.

The European Union on Wednesday agreed to pay 210 million euros ($307 million) to farmers who suffered losses due to the E.coli outbreak.

The figure is up considerably from the 150 million euros EU agriculture officials proposed Tuesday, and Dacion Ciolos, the EU's agriculture commissioner, said that figure may change again.

"This envelope will enable us to respond to the compensation requests for the period from May 26 through to the end of June," Ciolos said. "We will then take stock of the situation and see whether we need to adjust these figures."

Authorities in eastern Germany have found food infected with the bacteria for the first time, but they do not believe that the discarded cucumber was the source of the infection, they said.

The deadly strain of E.coli was found on a piece of cucumber in organic garbage in the city of Magdeburg in eastern Germany, a spokesman for the health ministry of the state of Sachsen-Anhalt told CNN Thursday.

But the garbage had been in the can for about two weeks, Holger Paech said.

"Because the trash was sitting for such a long time, it would have been enough if one of the people in the household threw a used handkerchief in the garbage and that might have infected the cucumber piece, for all we know," Paech said.

Three people were infected in the house where the bacteria was found on the cucumber.

Officials believe the outbreak originated at a bean sprout farm in northern Germany but have not found direct evidence.

There was no trace of E. coli in a pack of bean sprouts in a household in Hamburg, where a man had become infected, health authorities there told CNN Tuesday.

The sprouts came from the farm which officials believe could be the source of the outbreak. But initial tests showed no sign of E. coli there, agriculture officials in the German state of Lower Saxony said Monday.

Authorities said that does not mean their suspicions were wrong; they would not expect to find evidence of E. coli if the tainted sprouts were no longer in the supply chain.

And Wednesday, Lower Saxony agriculture officials said three workers at the suspect farm had diarrhea in early May and at least one has been diagnosed with the dangerous strain of E.coli.

Authorities have also found that a cafeteria in the town of Cuxhaven, where 18 people came down with the infection, had also received sprouts from the farm in question, said Natascha Manski, a spokeswoman for the state agriculture ministry.

Farmers in several European countries are seeking to be paid back for losses they suffered after being wrongly blamed for the outbreak. Farmers who grow cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and lettuce will be eligible to receive up to 50% of the average market price they would have received, based on figures from 2008-2010, the EU said.

Some producers could get up to 70 percent of market prices when funds from EU-supported producer organizations are included, Ciolos said.

The planned settlement still needs to be accepted by EU member states on June 14, Ciolos said. Spain alone has sought more than 400 million euros ($600 million) in lost farm exports of cucumbers, tomatoes and other produce from the past few weeks, and farmers in Belgium, France, Holland and even Germany say they have millions in losses, too.

There have been a handful of infections in a dozen other European countries, but they appear to be linked to northern Germany. The only person to die outside Germany died in Sweden but had recently visited Germany.

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Dutch find different E. coli, pull beet sprouts

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:32 pm

Dutch find different E. coli, pull beet sprouts

AMSTERDAM — Dutch authorities recalled red beet sprouts from three countries Thursday after samples were found to be contaminated with a strain of E. coli bacteria that was apparently less dangerous than the one causing Europe's deadly E. coli crisis.
German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner attends a meeting of the German Federal Parliament, Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, June 9, 2011. Germany's national disease control center says another person has died in the European E. coli outbreak and 160 more people have been reported ill, but that the rate of new sicknesses is continuing to decline. The Robert Koch Institute said Thursday that more than 2,800 people, more than 720 of whom are suffering from a serious complication that can cause kidney failure, have now been reported sickened in Germany, the country at the epicenter of the E. coli outbreak whose origin has not yet been found . (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The Dutch Food Safety Authority said laboratories were still trying to identify the Dutch strain, but there have been no immediate reports of serious illness from it.

But the agency said it was definitely not the same E. coli strain that has killed 27 people, sickened 2,900 others and left hundreds with serious complications, most of them in Germany. The cause of that outbreak, which began May 2, has so far eluded German authorities.

Only one grower, a company called Hamu, was found with contaminated beets, and other produce grown on its farms were cleared of suspicion, said Esther Filon, a spokeswoman for the Dutch regulation agency.

"It's not the same as in Germany. You can become ill, but as far as we know at this moment, it is not lethal," she told the Associated Press.

She said the authorities were trying to trace all shipments from the grower.

The agency said Hamu, based in the town of Kerkdriel 44 miles (70 kilometers) southeast of Amsterdam, had exported beet sprouts to Belgium as well as selling them on the Dutch and German markets.

There are hundreds of E. coli bacteria strains in nature, but only a few are deadly to humans and the bacteria is more commonly known as a source of food poisoning or severe stomach problems.

People naturally carry several harmless E. coli strains in their intestines and the bacteria is also widely found in cows, sheep and other mammals. Strains which are harmless to animals can sometimes be lethal for humans. Experts worry about E. coli's constant evolution, which may result in dangerous mutations for humans.

The European Union informed the Netherlands late Wednesday that contaminated beet sprouts had been found in Germany, and tests in the Netherlands confirmed it.

In Berlin, the Robert Koch Institute said one more person died and 160 more were sickened in the E. coli outbreak but the rate of new illnesses was declining. It said 2,808 people have been sickened in Germany, 722 of whom are suffering from a serious complication that can cause kidney failure.

The World Health Organization says 97 others have fallen sick in 12 other European countries, as well as three in the United States.

The Koch institute says new cases being reported have been dropping for several days but cautioned that could be due to the fact that consumers are following the advice of health officials and staying away from cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and vegetable sprouts — all of which are being investigated as possible carriers of the E. coli.

European Union farmers say that since the warning went out, they have been losing up to €417 million ($611 million) a week as ripe produce rots in fields and warehouses.

On Wednesday, the EU said it would offer farmers compensation of up to €210 million ($306 million) for the E. coli losses, though a final decision will not be made until next week.

Russia and Saudi Arabia have issued a blanket ban on vegetable imports from the European Union.

Spanish farmers have been among the hardest hit, after authorities in Hamburg issued an early warning that Spanish cucumbers could be the source of the E. coli. Further tests showed that while the Spanish vegetables did carry E. coli, it was not the strain behind the outbreak.

In Berlin on Thursday, Spain's Secretary of State for European Affairs, Diego Lopez Garrido said the compensation being offered so far by the EU is not enough.

He also said both Spain and Germany believe the Russian ban on EU vegetables is "inappropriate." Russia is a huge market for EU produce.

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E. coli Outbreak Prompting Experimental Treatments

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:58 pm

E. coli Outbreak Prompting Experimental Treatments
DAVID RISING, Associated Press

HAMBURG, Germany -- Faced with an unprecedented E. coli outbreak, a team of German doctors is trying something equally new: an antibiotic therapy that some fear could do more harm than good.

The treatment has shown initial success but there are worries about possibly fatal side effects.

Dr. Friedrich Hagenmueller, medical director at the Asklepios Hospital-Altona in Hamburg, the northern city at the epicenter of the outbreak, says that with patients' lives at stake the unorthodox therapy is worth trying. The world's deadliest E. coli outbreak has killed 24 people and infected over 2,400.

Most bacterial infections are treated using antibiotics. But officials at the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention typically recommend against using them in E. coli cases because of concern they might cause the bacteria to release toxins faster.

Both WHO and CDC say the use of antibiotics to fight E. coli may be warranted in exceptional cases, and do not say the treatment would necessarily lead to deaths.

The only conventional treatments for E. coli are drinking water and intravenous fluid replacement, but Hagenmueller says more aggressive methods are necessary because of the risk of triggering a condition that can cause deadly kidney failure and has hit an unprecedented 462 people in the outbreak.

With early signs of success, a handful of other German hospitals have started trying antibiotic treatment as well.

"The idea is to destroy the bacteria at the start," Hagenmueller said. "Hit it hard on the first day of the infection with an antibiotic."

Andrea Ellis, a WHO epidemiologist, said the agency recommended against using antibiotics to treat E. coli because it speeds the bacteria's release of toxins into the intestines and also could lead to kidney complications.

But Stephen Smith, a microbiologist at Trinity College in Dublin who is not connected to Asklepios, defended the hospital's methods and cast doubt on the link between antibiotics and faster toxin release, saying not all antibiotics had the same effect.

"This is a novel strain so maybe we need novel treatments," he said.

The first E. coli patients started coming to European hospitals in early May, and their numbers spiked mid-month. In Hamburg alone, more than 800 people have been sickened.

Though E. coli often hits children and the elderly the worst, this time most of the patients have been between ages 20 and 50, in top physical condition, and 77 percent of them women.

It's not yet known why the E. coli strain is affecting that particular group of people; one theory is they are most likely to be eating the vegetables it is believed to be carried on. European officials have yet to pinpoint the source of the outbreak.

Most of the 177 E. coli patients treated at Asklepios stabilized and were sent home a week after receiving conventional treatment.

But a large minority - about one-third - developed serious complications. Though the diarrhea calmed, many started collecting fluid - as much as 15 kilograms (33 pounds) - in their stomachs, legs and lungs, Hagenmueller said.

Others suffered epileptic seizures and neurological problems that robbed them of their speech. Liver problems have also been reported among the E. coli patients treated at the hospital. In the most serious cases, patients are exposed to a life-threatening attack on kidney function.

"Uncomplicated to complicated happens very quickly," Hagenmueller said. "Over the last three weeks each and every day there has been some surprise for us."

Doctors have often tried experimental therapies during outbreaks including SARS and Ebola when there were no good alternatives. In Hong Kong and Canada, doctors initially thought SARS patients were responding to a new drug regimen, but as they rolled it out in more patients, they found the treatment was toxic and in fact weakened patients' immune systems.

About two weeks ago, Hagenmueller decided to try antibiotics on Nicoletta Pabst, a 41-year-old homemaker, who was admitted with a severe case.

Pabst said she was willing to try anything.

"He explained everything to me and I was ready to try it out, anything to make me feel better again would have been right at the time," she said. "I was so sick."

Hagenmueller said there was only "weak scientific evidence" to support the theory that antibiotics could cause the bacteria to release more toxins in the body.

"Nicoletta Pabst did fantastically and she was a very serious case," he said. "She did so well that she went home in a week."

Last week, the hospital adopted antibiotics as its regular treatment for all new serious cases. A total of six Asklepios patients have been treated with antibiotics since the outbreak started.

"We've had five from last Friday and they are all progressing well, so I'm feeling a little optimistic, though the number five is too small to mean anything," Hagenmueller said.

Pabst said she was just grateful doctors are trying whatever they can to fight the outbreak.

"I think the key to my quick recovery was not only the antibiotics treatment but also that he gave it to me in a very early stage of the illness," she said. "And who knows, maybe that even prevented my getting HUS."

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Germany probes caterer as E.coli death toll rises

Post  justmecookin on Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:38 am

Germany probes caterer as E.coli death toll rises

BERLIN (Reuters) - German officials hunting the source of an E.coli outbreak said they were investigating a caterer that served some of the victims, as the death toll from the bacteria climbed to 30.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said authorities were putting "maximum" effort into tackling the outbreak, in an apparent bid to deflect growing international and domestic criticism over the government's handling of the situation.

The outbreak has infected more than 2,900 people in 12 countries. All cases have been traced back to the Hamburg area in northern Germany.

Authorities in the central Kassel region said they were investigating a caterer that delivered food to a birthday party near the town of Goettigen on May 28 where at least eight people fell ill.

At least two of the sick people had tested positive for E.coli and one for the more dangerous complication called haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), said the authorities.

"At the moment tests are under way ... Clearly the (catering) firm was shocked, but they are cooperating with us in a very constructive manner," said Markus Schimmelpfennig, deputy director of the Kassel region's health authority.

Frankfurt authorities on Thursday said a man who had travelled to Hamburg in late May had died in a city hospital, bringing the death toll from the outbreak to 30.

"COMPLICATED OPERATION"

"It is still a very complicated operation, finding the source, but I feel there is great agreement to work on it with maximum effort," Chancellor Merkel said at a news conference.

Authorities continue to focus on German-grown bean sprouts in the investigation, although cucumbers, once at the centre of suspicion, returned to the spotlight briefly after traces of the E.coli strain were found on the vegetables in Saxony-Anhalt.

Analysis of samples from restaurants, canteens and kitchens which prepared food eaten by patients has so far failed to yield conclusive evidence for the leading theory that organic sprouts from a farm in Lower Saxony state are behind the outbreak.

Late on Thursday, German media reported that the farm, which has been investigated by experts in white lab coats for several days and is banned from selling the sprouts, can still legally sell other vegetables.

A spokeswoman for the Lower Saxony consumer protection agency told Der Tagesspiegel daily the issue was being discussed while website Spiegel Online said authorities believed tomatoes and parsley had been sold after the farm was closed.

"At the moment it is being examined whether the company can be legally prohibited from selling (other) vegetables," the spokeswoman told Tagesspiegel.

Poland's farm minister said on Thursday his country's farmers were losing 10 million zlotys ($3.69 million) a day because of the E.coli outbreak and he criticised Germany's handling of the crisis.

"Because of loss of trust in Polish products and as a result of lower demand, Polish vegetable producers have already lost 145 million zlotys and are losing 10 million zlotys daily," the PAP state news agency quoted Marek Sawicki as saying.

"The trust was questioned because of the inept German sanitary services, irresponsible comments by a Hamburg senator and a lack of appropriate monitoring of the crisis by German officials and, partly, EU services," Sawicki said.

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Deadly E. coli found on bean sprouts

Post  justmecookin on Sat Jun 11, 2011 9:43 am

Deadly E. coli found on bean sprouts

German officials on Friday said they had found the first direct evidence of deadly E. coli bacteria on vegetable sprouts thought to have killed 33 people and left over 3,000 ill.

The discovery was made in a packet of sprouts in the garbage can of two sick people living in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state's Consumer Affairs Ministry announced.

This is "the first time an unbroken chain of evidence" has been found linking the enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) bacteria to a northern German sprouts farm, the ministry said.

The small organic farm, in the village of Bienenbüttel in Lower Saxony, has been ordered closed and all its products recalled.

The tests carried out by health institutes confirmed the presence of the virulent bacteria strain EHEC-0104 responsible for the current outbreak, the ministry added.

Two of three members of the family, living in Rhein-Sieg district, fell sick in mid-May.

North Rhine-Westphalia Consumer Affairs Minister Johannes Remmel welcomed the discovery, but said there remained "a small element of uncertainty" as the bacteria was found in an open packet of sprouts rather than an unopened one which would then have been uncontaminated by the garbage can.

Earlier on Friday, health officials said they were convinced that vegetable sprouts were to blame for the contamination, adding that the farm in Lower Saxony, which first came under suspicion at the weekend, was most likely the source.

"There's no other serious lead besides the sprouts," said Reinhard Burger, head of Germany's public health authority the Robert Koch Institute, at a press conference.

"People who ate sprouts were found to be nine times more likely to have bloody diarrhoea or other signs of EHEC infection than those who did not," he said.

The government Friday also lifted its earlier warning against eating raw tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers which had dealt a stinging blow to farmers at the peak of the fresh produce season in Europe.

Vegetable producers across the continent have for weeks complained about the warnings, which they say are costing them hundreds of millions of euros in lost sales. But German officials struggled for weeks to find cause of the EHEC infections, which can cause kidney failure.

"The number of new infections is declining," Burger said, referring to a drop in cases earlier this week.

But he warned that the "outbreak is not yet over", saying that some people were still falling ill after being contaminated several days ago.

After criticism of the government's handling of the crisis, the Agriculture and Health ministries said Berlin would review the response on the federal and state level.

German authorities had initially fingered cucumbers imported from Spain as responsible for the outbreak. But they later retracted the statement based on subsequent tests, infuriating Madrid and sparking threats of lawsuits.

But German Health Minister Daniel Bahr insisted that Germany had been right to warn against eating certain vegetables as long as the source of the contamination had not been pinpointed.

"Public health is the priority," he said.

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E. coli outbreak in Germany a global wake-up call

Post  justmecookin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 10:57 am

E. coli outbreak in Germany a global wake-up call
By ALFREDO G. TORRES
HOUSTON CHRONICLE
June 11, 2011, 3:48PM

During the past month, the news has been full of reports about a relatively rare and lethal form of the bacteria known as Escherichia coli or E. coli. Germany has experienced the largest outbreak of E. coli ever seen in Europe, with more than 2,000 cases of the illness and almost two dozen deaths.

National and international health alerts have been triggered to warn physicians and health agencies about the potential for the outbreak to spread.

What makes this outbreak so potent is that this bacterial strain is a hybrid possessing the perfect combination of lethal properties: the ability to efficiently colonize the intestine, cause persistent diarrhea and produce a potent toxin that targets the kidneys, leading to organ failure and death. Ordinarily, 10 percent or fewer cases develop the most severe symptoms.

In this outbreak, roughly 30 percent of patients develop the worst and deadliest symptoms.

Initial reports in Germany linked the outbreak to contaminated organic cucumbers from Spain but tests proved negative. A subsequent investigation found sprouts grown in Germany to be a more likely culprit. Investigators are still searching for the exact origins, a hunt complicated by the fact that the onset of diarrhea occurs about a week after infection, and the more toxic symptoms appear a week or so later, making it difficult to pinpoint the source.

The mystery of its origins, coupled with the severity of the cases, has people wondering if we are likely to see an outbreak of this pathogenic E. coli strain in the United States.

The current strain has never been associated with a large outbreak in the United States or any other country in the world. That noted, as in any other outbreak, the bacteria can disseminate as infected people travel to diverse destinations.

To date, there are four cases in our nation suspected of being linked to the European outbreak, all in patients who recently traveled to Germany.

At this time, there is no reason to believe that this outbreak will spread because no contaminated food products have been detected and transmission person to person is highly unlikely. In addition, our food safety regulations, even with their limitations, remain effective and, in general, protect citizens from contaminated food products.

An outbreak like the one in Germany is very difficult to stop because the type of E. coli that caused it is so rare. But people can take easy steps to make food, particularly vegetables, as safe as possible by washing them in chlorinated water, like the tap water in most neighborhoods or communities.

Because red meat, especially ground beef that is undercooked, has been the most common source of the toxic strains of human infections, it is important that all ground beef be thoroughly cooked to destroy E. coli bacteria.

This outbreak is a wake-up call around the world. It reminds us that pathogenic E. coli are constantly evolving as they exchange genetic material in the environment. If a bacterial strain with the right combination of virulence factors encounters a human host, the result can be lethal.

As a result, new outbreaks can occur in any part of the world at any time.



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CDC: Food poisoning from salmonella up in United States

Post  justmecookin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:01 am

CDC: Food poisoning from salmonella up in United States

ATLANTA (AP) -- More Americans got food poisoning last year, with salmonella cases driving the increase, the government reported Tuesday.

Illness rates for the most common serious type of E. coli fell last year. There was a rise in cases caused by other strains of the bacteria, although that bump may just reflect more testing was done for them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

An unusually aggressive strain of E. coli is behind the current large outbreak of food poisoning in Europe, mostly in Germany. That strain has never caused an outbreak in the U.S.

The CDC estimates that 50 million Americans each year get sick from foodborne illnesses, including about 3,000 who die.

The report released Tuesday is based on foodborne infections in only 10 states, or about 15 percent of the American population. But it has information that other databases lack and is believed to be a good indicator of food poisoning trends.

More than 19,000 cases of food poisoning were reported in those states last year. That was up from 17,500 cases in 2009, and about 18,500 in 2008.

Last year, there were 4,200 hospitalizations and 68 deaths in those states.

Year-to-year numbers can be misleading, especially from just a sample of states. Health officials note that the number of food poisoning cases have decreased by about a quarter since tracking began 15 years ago. Rates for most of the illnesses have also been relatively flat.

Not for salmonella, however. The bug caused the most illnesses of the nine leading food-poisoning causes last year. Salmonella cases haven't diminished in 15 years, and rose in the last few years by 10 percent.

"We've made virtually no progress against salmonella," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.

One of the largest U.S. outbreaks last year involved salmonella tainted eggs that may have sickened as many as 56,000, according to a CDC estimate. That probably contributed to the increase seen in Tuesday's report, said Dr. Christopher Braden, a CDC epidemiologist.

The Food and Drug Administration last summer put in place new rules that should significantly reduce illnesses caused by salmonella in eggs, the FDA's Michael R. Taylor said.

Officials hope to put the same kind of dent in salmonella that they did with E. coli O157. The bacteria became infamous in a 1993 outbreak linked to Jack in the Box hamburgers.

More regulation and testing of meat helped cut those E. coli cases in half -- from a rate of 2 per 100,000 people to less than 1 per 100,000 last year.

In the bad news department, health officials continue to see jumps in illness caused by a group of bacteria called vibrio, which are associated with shellfish. There were fewer than 200 vibrio cases reported in 2010, but that's more than double the numbers seen in the 1990s.

Vibrio cases are preventable. Flash-freezing and pasteurization of oysters could reduce the risk to consumers, Braden said.

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E.coli found in cabbage imported from northern Europe

Post  justmecookin on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:14 pm

E.coli found in cabbage imported from northern Europe

BANGKOK, June 11 -- E. coli bacteria was found in kohlrabi (commonly known as German turnip) imported from northern Europe, and it will take between three to five days for laboratory tests to determine whether or not the strain is hazardous, a senior public health ministry official announced today.

Dr Sathaporn Wongcharoen, director-general of Medical Sciences Department, said his department had found kohlrabi imported from northern Europe contaminated with E.coli during the laboratory tests, but it was still unknown whether it contained the deadly O104 strain.

The cabbage will be sent to the National Institute of Health for further tests and to determine whether or not the vegetable carries the deadly E.coli O104 and it is believed the final result could be known within three to five days, he said.

He said it is normal for E.coli bacteria to be found in fruits and vegetables as most strains are not deadly and that they could be easily destroyed in foods cooked at temperatures over 70 degrees Celsius.

People should not be panic, but are advised to wash their hands frequently, eat properly cooked foods and use serving spoons, Dr Sathaporn added. (MCOT online news)

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Authorities Investigating New E. Coli Find in Germany

Post  justmecookin on Tue Jun 14, 2011 1:17 pm

Authorities Investigating New E. Coli Find in Germany

Authorities have found E. coli bacteria on red lettuce from a farm in Bavaria but say it may not be the lethal strain that has caused 36 deaths. Officials remain convinced that beansprouts from a farm in northern Germany caused the outbreak -- but they're still not sure how the bacteria got into the sprouts.

The death toll from the outbreak of EHEC, the lethal E. coli strain that has hit Germany this spring, rose by one to 36 on Monday after an elderly woman died in the northern city of Hamburg. The epidemic has claimed 35 lies in Germany and one in Sweden.

Authorities confirmed on Friday that beansprouts from an organic farm in northern Germany were to blame for the outbreak and lifted their warning against eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and leafy salads. However, on Monday the Bavarian health and food safety office said it had discovered the bacterium on lettuce grown by a farm in Fürth near Nuremberg.

The office said one of 617 samples of fruit and vegetables it had tested for the EHEC bacteria in food retail outlets in Bavaria came up positive -- red lettuce of the Lollo Rosso variety. "So far there are no indications that it is the serotype O 104 found in northern Germany," the office said in a statement. And there is no epidemiological information to suggest a link with events in northern Germany."

The lettuce has been taken off the market and health officials are conducting checks at the farm and analyzing its distribution.

It will take a week to establish whether the bacterium is of the aggressive strain that can cause a severe complication called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) affecting the blood, kidneys and nervous system. But even if it isn't, it can still cause serious diarrhea.

Declining Infections

A spokesman for the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) said that a total of 9,000 food samples had been tested across Germany since the outbreak in early May, focusing on cucumbers, tomatoes, leafy salad and beansprouts. Given the intensity of the search, it wasn't surprising that other EHEC bacteria would be found that don't belong to the strain that has caused the outbreak, he said.

Meanwhile, health experts still haven't established how the deadly EHEC bacteria got into the organic farm in Bienenbüttel that supplied contaminated beansprouts to restaurants and cafeterias across northern Germany.

The BfR assumes that the seeds for the beensprouts may have been contaminated. But it is also possible that workers brought the bacterium into the farm.

Raw beansprouts are a notorious source of infection with dangerous germs including E. coli and Salmonella because of the warm, moist conditions in which they grow.

The number of new infections with EHEC has been declining significantly in recent days, officials said. By Sunday the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's national disease control and prevention agency, had registered a total of 3,228 people infected with EHEC.


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Germany: the E. coli blame game

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 16, 2011 8:33 am

Germany: the E. coli blame game

BERLIN, Germany — German farmer Gunter Gassmann turns his back when asked his views on the recent E. coli crisis.

He’s joking — sort of. After he agrees to talk to a reporter at a farmers’ market in Berlin on a recent afternoon, he says the media bear some blame for the plummeting sales of fresh produce.

“It’s all illogical,” he said. “It’s been blown out of proportion.”

Other farmers are similarly wary, one refusing to talk because she had been misquoted already by a German newspaper.

And that’s just the German farmers. Spanish cucumber growers are furious at losing what they claim is more than 200 million euros a week after officials in Hamburg, more than 1,000 miles away, wrongly blamed them for the E.coli outbreak and the news spread across the continent like wildfire.

With the outbreak subsiding, leaving 37 dead so far, Germany and Europe are pondering how they coped with the crisis and what lessons can be learned. What is becoming clear is that globalization — of media, medicine, technology and trade — though a blessing in most cases, has its share of pitfalls.

The outbreak of the rare O104:H4 strain of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) stemmed from both old and new problems. The E. coli is now assumed to have come from a small, rather traditional organic sprout farm that mostly supplied a relatively local area. Though the operation is old-fashioned, the sprout seeds were, in the modern style, mostly imported from overseas. And the E. coli bacteria itself enjoyed the very 21st-century advantage of antibiotic resistance.

The facts of 21st-century food production mean that such outbreaks are becoming more common, experts say. Large-scale industrial farming and the widespread use of antibiotics, combined with globalization — the movement of both people and food — are driving the increase in such outbreaks, said Stefan Kaufmann, director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin and author of "The New Plagues: Pandemics and Poverty in a Globalized World."

“Infectious diseases are clearly re-emerging in general; they are appearing everywhere and, I think in most of these outbreaks, small or larger ones, human activity is at least partly responsible,” Kaufmann said.

Since both foreign women and female citizens are banned from driving in Saudi Arabia, perhaps GP's reporter in Riyadh,...

Last week's winner requests a first-hand account on coping with Saudi Arabia's ban on women drivers. Caryle Murphy will have it ready by mid-June.

Half of the world’s antibiotics are used on farm animals — not to treat disease but to make them grow faster. Because bacteria such as E. coli, which are part of the normal gut flora, are continuously exposed to these drugs, resistant strains emerge.

The mass movement of people, animals and food means these resistant strains are more likely to cross paths with other strains, including those that produce Shiga toxin, which causes the deadly hemolytic uremic syndrome that can lead to kidney failure.

The rare O104:H4 strain is just such a marriage of strains.

“The EHEC story tells us that there is more than just mutation and replication [of the bacteria.] They also exchange information sexually, just as my son not only has my genetic information but also my wife’s,” Kaufmann said. “And the bacteria are very promiscuous. That is responsible for a lot of the drug resistance and for new virulence factors, which cause disease.”

Frederic Vincent, the spokesman for European Health Commissioner John Dalli, said the commission was “worried” about drug resistance and planned to make proposals by October based on an upcoming report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Food Safety Authority.

The other particular wake-up call from the consumer’s point of view is simply that vegetables can be killers as well as meat.

“Normally we don’t think that plants pose a problem for us,” Kaufmann said. “We know, both in the U.S. and in Germany, that hamburgers should be well-cooked. The lesson we learn from this is that not only meat, but also raw vegetables may be potentially threatening.

“We follow many precautions in animal farming, but not as many in vegetable farming.”

He said there needed to be more discussion of prevention, such as stricter controls of food production workers — similar to the kind of controls that exist for restaurant workers — and more widespread use of decontamination measures such as irradiation.

So has Germany handled the crisis well? Not when it came to communication, observers say. The most surprising failure was that, despite all the information technology at its disposal, officials were still using snail mail to notify federal authorities of suspected cases.

It typically took about a week for the federal authority, the Robert Koch Institute, to be notified of E. coli cases, because the hospital first had to notify state authorities who then passed the information on to the institute in writing.

“This clearly has to be changed,” Kaufmann said. “In a time when people Twitter and inform one another in real time, people know about it privately before the information has arrived at the Robert Koch Institute. ... The source would have been found faster with better reporting.”

At the same time, politicians in Germany were talking to the media, which undermined the European Union’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), through which member states alert each other of potential risks.

“We have to face the facts: It was in the press before the alert and the news reached Brussels,” Frederic Vincent said. “The Hamburg Minister of Health was publicly saying that Spanish cucumbers were suspected of being to blame. Then they sent the news to Berlin and then it made its way to Brussels.

“Everyone was commenting. Even though the Germans were doing their best, obviously on the co-ordination level there is room for improvement."

Not surprisingly, the media have received a share of blame — and not just from farmers. Stefan Etgeton, head of health and nutrition at the Federation of German Consumer Organizations said that the media had “not always been helpful” when it came to communicating risk without breeding panic.

For instance, after Hamburg authorities realized the E. coli they had detected on two Spanish cucumbers was not the O104:H4 strain, some media reported that Spanish vegetables had been given the all-clear, which was simply wrong, Etgeton said.

A survey released on Wednesday confirmed his view. Despite blanket coverage, less than a third of Germans said they felt well-informed about the crisis.

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Russia bans food products from 300 German companies

Post  justmecookin on Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:57 pm

Citing E. coli bacteria, Russia bans food products from 300 German companies

By Associated Press, Published: June 22

MOSCOW — Russian regulators are introducing a ban on meat and milk products from some 300 German companies, citing concern about E. coli.

The statement by the agricultural oversight agency Rosselkhoznadzor did not identify the companies but said the ban will begin Monday.

The agency’s chief, Sergei Dankvert, told the Interfax news agency Wednesday that the ban follows inspections of German imports that found bacteria related to E. coli.

Recently, an E. coli outbreak killed 39 people and infected more than 3,500, most in Germany, and it was traced to sprouts from a farm there. Russia responded by imposing a ban on imports of vegetables from the EU, which it lifted Wednesday.

Russia seems to believe that E. coli outbreak is now affecting German meat and milk products.



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German authority says E.coli outbreak is over

Post  justmecookin on Wed Jul 27, 2011 7:57 pm

German authority says E.coli outbreak is over

BERLIN, July 26 (Xinhua) -- German national disease control center said on Tuesday that the country's deadly E. coli outbreak has been over, as no new case reported in the last three weeks.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said the last case related to the E.coli outbreak was reported on July 4.

As a three-week-period would cover the disease's incubation time, diagnosis time and the time for the transfer of a case, this virtually means an end of the outbreak.

"The largest EHEC outbreak is over in Germany," said RKI President Reinhard Burger. "I pay tribute to people who have joined in the great work, making investigation and looking after the patients."

The RKI said Germany would keep watching the deadly EHEC O104: H4 intensively and asked people to pay attention to personal and food hygiene, as individual infection still cannot be ruled out.

This round of outbreak has claimed 52 lives and affected more than 4,000 people since early May.

The source of this disease was first believed to be cucumbers and tomatoes from Spain, and then was locked onto bean sprouts grown in a farm near Hamburg in the state Lower Saxony. Later European authorities said one batch of fenugreek seeds from Egypt was probably the source.

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Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak Is The Deadliest In A Decade; 16 Dead So Far

Post  justmecookin on Wed Sep 28, 2011 6:16 pm

Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak Is The Deadliest In A Decade; 16 Dead So Far

WASHINGTON -- Health officials say as many as 16 people have died from possible listeria illnesses traced to Colorado cantaloupes, the deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that 72 illnesses, including 13 deaths, are linked to the tainted fruit. State and local officials say they are investigating three additional deaths that may be connected.

The death toll released by the CDC Tuesday – including newly confirmed deaths in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas – surpassed the number of deaths linked to an outbreak of salmonella in peanuts almost three years ago. Nine people died in that outbreak.

The CDC said Tuesday that they have confirmed two deaths in Texas and one death each in in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Last week the CDC reported two deaths in Colorado, four deaths in New Mexico, one in Oklahoma and one in Maryland.

New Mexico officials said Tuesday they are investigating a fifth death, while health authorities in Kansas and Wyoming said they too are investigating additional deaths possibly linked to the tainted fruit.

Listeria is more deadly than well-known pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, though those outbreaks generally cause many more illnesses. Twenty-one people died in an outbreak of listeria poisoning in 1998 traced to contaminated hot dogs and possibly deli meats made by Bil Mar Foods, a subsidiary of Sara Lee Corp. Another large listeria outbreak in 1985 killed 52 people and was linked to Mexican-style soft cheese.

Listeria generally only sickens the elderly, pregnant women and others with compromised immune systems. The CDC said the median age of those sickened is 78 and that one in five who contract the disease can die.

Dr. Robert Tauxe of the CDC says the number of illnesses and deaths will probably grow in coming weeks because the symptoms of listeria don't always show up right away. It can take four weeks or more for a person to fall ill after eating food contaminated with listeria.

"That long incubation period is a real problem," Tauxe said. "People who ate a contaminated food two weeks ago or even a week ago could still be falling sick weeks later."

CDC reported the 72 illnesses and deaths in 18 states. Cases of listeria were reported in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The most illnesses were reported in Colorado, which has seen 15 sickened. Fourteen illnesses were reported in Texas, 10 in New Mexico and eight in Oklahoma.

The outbreak has been traced to Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo., which recalled the tainted cantaloupes earlier this month. The Food and Drug Administration said state health officials had found listeria in cantaloupes taken from grocery stores in the state and from a victim's home that were grown at Jensen Farms. Matching strains of the disease were found on equipment and cantaloupe samples at Jensen Farms' packing facility in Granada, Colo.

FDA, which investigates the cause of foodborne outbreaks, has not released any additional details on how the contamination may have happened. The agency says its investigation is ongoing.

The Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes from Jensen Farms were shipped from July 29 through Sept. 10 to Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

The recalled cantaloupe may be labeled "Colorado Grown," `'Distributed by Frontera Produce," `'Jensenfarms.com" or "Sweet Rocky Fords." Not all of the recalled cantaloupes are labeled with a sticker, the FDA said.

Unlike many pathogens, listeria bacteria can grow at room temperatures and even refrigerator temperatures. The FDA and CDC recommend anyone who may have one of the contaminated cantaloupes throw it out immediately and clean and sanitize any surfaces it may have touched.

About 800 cases of listeria are found in the United States each year, according to CDC, and there usually are three or four outbreaks. Most of these are traced to deli meat and soft cheeses, where listeria is most common.

Produce has rarely been the culprit, but federal investigators say they have seen more produce-related listeria illnesses in the past two years. It was found in sprouts in 2009 and celery in 2010.

While most healthy adults can consume listeria with no ill effects, it can kill the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It is also dangerous to pregnant women because it easily passes through to the fetus. Dr. Tauxe of the CDC said the type of listeria linked to the cantaloupes is not one that is commonly associated with pregnancy-associated illnesses, however. State and federal health authorities have not definitively linked any miscarriages, stillbirths or infant illnesses to the current outbreak.

Symptoms of listeria include fever and muscle aches, often with other gastrointestinal symptoms. Victims often become incapacitated and unable to speak.

Debbie Frederick said her mother knew something was wrong when her father, 87-year-old William Thomas Beach, collapsed at his home in Mustang, Okla. and couldn't get up. He died a few days later, on Sept. 1. The family later learned his death was linked to eating the cantaloupe and sued Jensen Farms.

"First you just kind of go into shock," said Frederick. "Then it settles in that he would still be alive if this hadn't happened. It's a life, for what?"

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Tainted cantaloupes reached NC

Post  justmecookin on Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:02 am

Tainted cantaloupes reached NC

September 30, 2011 12:46 PM

Cantaloupes from a farm in Colorado contaminated with listeria bacterium made their way to North Carolina, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria, has already killed 13 people in eight states, according to the CDC.

A total of 72 people from 18 states have been infected with listeria since July 31, the CDC reports.

Although the cantaloupes were distributed in North Carolina, as of Thursday, the state has had no reported cases of listeriosis being contracted from cantaloupes, said Gaston County Health Department spokeswoman Shannon Clubb.

The contaminated cantaloupes derived from Jensen Farms in Granada, Colo., and that state has seen 15 reported illnesses so far – more than any other state.

The recalled melons were shipped from Colorado between July 29 and Sept. 10, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Older adults, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women are at higher risk for contracting listeriosis, according to Clubb. She recommends people in those groups be “especially vigilant” about contacting their physician if concerned about their health.

Listeriosis can be treated with antibiotics and the early symptoms include diarrhea, fever and muscle aches, Clubb said.

“It is a bacteria. It’s not found naturally inside fruit,” Clubb said. “You find this bacteria in soil and water… and where does fruit grow? It would not be uncommon to find this on the surface of fruit.”

She said after touching a piece of fruit with listeria on the surface, the bacteria could be transferred by touching other surfaces.

“This really underscores the importance of washing your produce. Thoroughly rinse your produce under tap water,” Clubb said. “Rinse your produce and wash your hands before you cut it up. It’s important to use a clean knife.”

Recalling melons

The grocery store Aldi has voluntarily recalled all fresh cantaloupes from the Rocky Ford, Colo., growing region.

According to a corporate press release, Jensen Farms distributed the recalled melons in North Carolina.

Aldi operates stores in Gastonia, Belmont, Lincolnton, Denver, Shelby and Charlotte.

Aldi says that cantaloupes affected by the voluntary recall were sold individually in the fresh produce section of stores. The melons had green and white stickers on them that read “Product of USA – Frontera Produce – Colorado Fresh- Rocky Ford- Cantaloupe,” or a gray, yellow and green sticker that reads “Jensen Farms- Sweet Rocky Fords.”

If you purchased one of these melons at Aldi, you should discard it immediately or return it to your local store for a refund, the release says.

The CDC says that even if you’ve eaten contaminated cantaloupe, dispose of the rest immediately.

Consumers unsure about the source of cantaloupe they’re about to purchase can ask grocery market employees.

Cantaloupes bought from unknown sources should be discarded, according to the CDC.



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Kraft Recalls Velveeta Shells & Cheese

Post  justmecookin on Sun Oct 02, 2011 6:19 pm

Kraft Recalls Velveeta Shells & Cheese

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/09/30/kraft-recalls-velveeta-shells-and-cheese/

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Onion Listeria Recall Expands To Multiple States, Canada

Post  justmecookin on Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:17 am

Onion Listeria Recall Expands To Multiple States, Canada

Looks like the onions that led to the recall of several Trader Joe's products have continued to wreak havoc.

Gills Onions, which provides diced, slivered and whole-peeled onions and celery mix to several companies, has called a voluntarily recall on those products with a use-by date of August 3 or before, citing a possible listeria contamination.

Several outlets are reporting affected products, which now include items sold in some Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Weis, Publix and Wegman's stores across Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Washington, plus Canadian provinces Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

The FDA has a comprehensive list of products affected by the recall, and it's a doozy.

On its Facebook page, Gills Onions writes the expanded recall is a "precautionary measure" and that none of the concerned products have tested positive for listeria monocytogenes, nor have any sickenings been reported.

In a release on the company's website, Gills Onions president Steve Gill stressed his priority to conduct the recall effectively and efficiently:

“We’ve identified the problem, and we are taking aggressive actions, in addition to our normal food safety measures. These include the formulation of a panel of food safety experts and microbiologists with expertise in Listeria control, an expansion of the required microbial surveillance and sanitation programs, and continued testing.”

Listeria is a dangerous bacteria, and its subsequent infection, listeriosis, is known to kill 20 percent of all people it infects. Its incubation period can vary wildly, anywhere from three to 70 days. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk.

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Trader Joe's Recall: Chain Pulls Chicken Salad, Onion Products For Potential Listeria Risk

Post  justmecookin on Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:18 am

Trader Joe's Recall: Chain Pulls Chicken Salad, Onion Products For Potential Listeria Risk

Attention, Trader Joe's shoppers: a company that provides the onions for several of the grocery chain's house-branded products has discovered a possible listeria contamination, prompting several recalls.

Among them is a product labeled as "Trader Joe's BBQ Chicken Salad," made by Huxtable's Kitchen. More than two tons -- or 5,610 pounds -- have been recalled.

Food Safety News writes that Gill's Onions, which provides Huxtable's with the onions for its chicken salad, found that tests for a sample of its diced onions tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes last week. The recall went into effect on Friday.

FSN offers more details:

They bear establishment number "P-11079" inside the USDA mark of inspection, as well as a use-by date of July 30 or earlier. The items were produced between July 20 and 24 and were distributed to retail establishments in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Nevada and Texas.

The Daily News spoke with Gill's Onions spokersperson Amy Philtott, who said the source of the contamination is not yet known. However, the facility that processed the recalled onions has since been shut down and the company will redesign it.

Gill's Onions also provides the ingredient for several other Trader Joe's products. The store's website has a detailed list of those affected, which now all face recalls:

Arizona, California, Nevada & New Mexico Stores ONLY: Trader Joe's Diced Onions, Garlic & Shallots Blend Best by Dates of 7/15/12 through 8/1/12

Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon & Washington Stores ONLY:
Trader Joe's Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa & Wheatberry Salad
Use by Dates of 7/28/12 and 7/30/12

Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, Southern Nevada & Texas Stores ONLY:
Trader Joe's BBQ Chicken Salad
Use by Dates of 7/16/12 through 7/30/12

Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Southern Virginia Region Stores ONLY:
Trader Joe's Fresh Mild Salsa (16oz)
Use by Date of 8/9/12

Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Southern Virginia Region Stores ONLY:
Trader Joe's Balela

No illnesses have yet been reported in connection with any of the above products. They've all been removed from shelves and destroyed, but customers should remain vigilant.

Listeria is a deadly bacteria that causes a subsequent infection, listeriosis, which kills one in every five people it infects -- about 20 percent. Its incubation period can vary wildly, anywhere from three to 70 days. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk of contracting listeriosis.

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The difference between margarine and butter?

Post  justmecookin on Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:34 am

The difference between margarine and butter?

Both have the same amount of calories. Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams; compared to 5 grams for margarine. Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.

Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods. Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few and only because they are added! Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavours of other foods. Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years .

And now, for Margarine..

Very High in Trans fatty acids.
Triples risk of coronary heart disease ...
Increases total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol)
Increases the risk of cancers up to five times..
Lowers quality of breast milk
Decreases immune response.
Decreases insulin response.

And here's the most disturbing fact... Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC... and shares 27 ingredients with PAINT.

Open a tub of margarine and leave it open in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will notice a couple of things:
No flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it (that should tell you something)

It does not rot or smell differently because it has no nutritional value ; nothing will grow on it. Even those teeny weeny microorganisms will not a find a home to grow.

Why? Because it is nearly plastic . Would you melt your Tupperware and spread that on your toast?

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Re: Foods In The News

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