Monthly Archives: July 2012

E.coli, Antibiotics, and Urinary Tract Infections

When one hears “E.coli,” in reference to food safety issues, the average consumer might think of outcomes like diarrhea or stomach cramps. It may be a surprise for many customers and food industry workers that E.coli can also mean urinary tract infections (UTIs).

This is indeed the case. E.coli is responsible for 80-85% of all urinary tract infections, generally (Nicolle 2). A cystitis (bladder infection) occurs when the lower urinary tract is affected. Keeping this in mind, a recent study in Clinical Microbiology and Infection brings some attention to “a multidrug-resistant clonal group” that “may be responsible for community epidemics” of UTIs in the public today (Skjot, et. al). Within the food industry and amidst consumers, links between UTIs and E.coli may become more of concern due to a report on ABC News pertaining to the rise of “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotics, and that are “transmitted to humans in the form of E. coli” in chickens.

The report declared that “more than 8 million women are at risk” of developing “difficult-to-treat bladder infections” from E.coli in meat sources, especially chicken. Maryn McKenna, a reporter for the Food & Environment Network, thinks the research indicates that: “we may in fact know where it’s coming from. It may be coming from antibiotics used in agriculture”  Yet, not everyone agrees with this interpretation of the existing research.

The National Chicken Council reacted with a swift denouncement of the ABC report and the research utilized within the report.  In their statement, Randall Singer, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota declared:

“The studies in question make the assumption that humans carrying these E. coli acquired them from poultry. The strains did not originate in poultry and likely entered these farms from sources originating in human communities. Perhaps most importantly, the potential transmission of antibiotic resistant E. coli to humans says nothing about why these E. coli are antibiotic resistant in the first place. The resistances observed in these E. coli are common globally and are unlikely to be attributed to chickens given the few antibiotics available for use in poultry in the U.S.”

However this dialogue concludes, a new level of discussion has been reached in the debate concerning antibiotics in the meat industry. Nelson-Jameson offers antibiotic test screening kits that can assist your operation in determining the presence and concentration of antibiotics, a sure subject of discussion among consumers in the meantime. For more information on antibiotic test screening kits click here.

Print Sources:
Nicolle LE. “Uncomplicated urinary tract infection in adults including uncomplicated pyelonephritis.” Urol Clin North Am. 2008 Feb; 35(1):1-12, v. Review.
Skjøt-Rasmussen L, Olsen SS, Jakobsen L, Ejrnaes K, Scheutz F, Lundgren B, Frimodt-Møller N, Hammerum AM.
“Escherichia coli clonal group A causing bacteraemia of urinary tract origin” Clin Microbiol Infect. 2012 Jun 9. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2012.03961.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Understanding Food Safety Numbers: “For every step forward, there’s a few steps back.”

Recent CDC reports have shown a 23% general decrease in the number of incidences of food poisoning involving six main bacteria. Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157, Yersinia and Vibrio collectively dropped when numbers from the late 90s were measured against numbers from 2010. Such a decrease in percentage is encouraging to some experts and critics, but the number, according to some other sources may not be as promising as it first appears. Why is this the case? Apparently, the quantitative measurement has quite a bit of qualitative data behind it that is driving the debate.

There are a few considerations that should be taken into account when looking at these numbers. Opposed to a knockout win for American food safety, Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University states that the numbers indicate some mixed results: “For every step forward, there’s a few steps back.” A report from discussed the fact that the data does reflect an overall drop, but it also leaves out some varieties of E.coli associated with foodborne illness, such as  norovirus, as it is not a bacteria. The numbers may look quite good compared to the information collected in the 1990s, but when compared to information from 2006, the numbers have stagnated, which “may indicate that progress in reducing foodborne illnesses — which are largely preventable through following proper food safety practices — has slowed in recent years.”


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Minimizing Risk: Lockout/Tag-out Programs

We all understand risk.  We take a risk each day we get into the driver’s seat of our car. We take a risk when we start up the mower to cut the grass. However, we fasten our safety belt and put the phone down when we get into the car; we wear durable shoes and eye protection when we mow. This allows one to, at least, help minimize the risk involved. The same reality exists in the food and dairy industry workplace, and a key to preventing employee injury in these facilities is to have a standardized lock-out/tag-out program.

“Lock-out” and “Tag-Out” (LOTO) programs, for those that may not know, are programs to prevent unexpected startups of machinery and/or the release of hazardous energies during day-to-day operations and maintenance. This is done with easy-to-see locks and/or tags that prevent the use of specific machines and operations. The simple ability to alert all personnel to work being done and to indicate parts of an operation that need to remain untouched is cited as preventing “an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year”.

One only has to do a quick search in general news and trade publications to see that the system is far from universally implemented. Companies continue to draw undesirable headlines discussing steep fines, safety violations, and the loss of life and limb for workers in these environments. Some of these headlines are due to outright negligence; they can also be the result of a lack of proper awareness and training.

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The Bipartisan Politics of Ice Cream

Feeling hot? Feeling tired of political squabbling? Feeling licked by it all? Here is some refreshing political news for this summer. Back in 1984, a political decision was reached that was duly able to shake up the nation. July is, by presidential decree, National Ice Cream Month!

That’s right…in 1984 then-President Reagan declared that July should be officially designated as “National Ice Cream Month.” Since then, a rare showing of steadfast bipartisan support has remained frozen in place and has kept this federal observance alive and well. In addition, the third Sunday of each July is officially recognized nationally as “National Ice Cream Day.” This year, July 15th will be the big day.

The American passion for ice cream is well documented. Americans do their share to keep the industry afloat. Consumption peaks in July, but Americans make room for ice cream the other eleven months of the year, too. With an average of 20 quarts consumed by each American, it seems that Democrats, Republicans, and everyone else alike have taken President Reagan’s call to celebrate ice cream, “with appropriate ceremonies and activities” quite seriously beyond this one month of marked celebration.

For those 90% of the American population that eat ice cream, consider hoisting a cone or knocking back a turtle sundae in honor of the frozen treat this July and the American penchant for enjoying it. Finally, here is a political move many of us can agree on. Sit back and enjoy a scoop or two of red velvet or blue raspberry, and delight in some momentary political harmony. Let our unified brainfreeze begin.