Antigenic Shift?

Posted by Emilee | Posted in Be Healthy, FYI, In the News | Posted on 14-04-2010

Whoa.  What are we talking about?!

Antigenic Shift is an intense term with an important meaning.  The long explanation is that “antigenic shift” occurs when two or more strains of a virus, or two or more different viruses, combine to create a NEW virus with the the defenses of the original viruses that it originated from.  The short definition is:  Antigenic Shift =  how Super Viruses are made.  So . . . why does this matter?  As you can tell from the incredibly complex chart at the top of this article, an Antigenic Shift is a molecular change that allows an illness to combine and move between animal species (i.e. “bird flu” and “swine flu”).

As you are most certainly aware, for the past year H1N1 has been an incredibly important global issue.  The “swine flu” originated in animals, mutated, and eventually moved to humans.  As the chart demonstrates, a virus can begin in a bird and move to a pig or human without any mutation.  But if the infected animal (or human) is then infected with another virus, the diseases can combine to create a super virus with the strengths of both types of viruses.

Every time you overcome a virus, it means your body has created antibodies (natural germ killers) that are equipped to destroy that specific type of virus.  When new viruses are created from other animals and humans are infected, the body has difficulty killing them.  Children, the elderly, and persons who are chronically ill have an especially hard time fighting new strains of influenza because their immune systems are already weak.

So what can you do?  The World Health Organization (WHO) advises the public to follow some simple advice:  wash your hands, and resist touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.  These two behaviors alone can keep you healthy when outbreaks occur.


Emilee Follett

Oysters and Norovirus

Posted by Emilee | Posted in Food Safety, Foodborne Illness, FYI, In the News | Posted on 12-04-2010

Federal health officials are warning the consumer public to stay away from oysters harvested in the “Area 7″ near Port Sulpher, LA.  Area 7 is located in the Gulf of Mexico, near the mouth of the Mississippi River.  After a dozen people became sick after eating raw oysters, the state health authorities notified the FDA that the oysters-in-question were contaminated with Norovirus–which causes acute gastroenteritis.  Gastroenteritis is a fancy word for “food poisoning” or “the 24-hour flu.”  Symptoms frequently include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and chills.

Oysters, and other shellfish, are animals that live underwater.  Because you eat their entire body (except the shell) you also consume the organs the animals use to filter impurities from the water.  Traditionally people commonly ate shellfish raw, but today many shellfish live in water that has been contaminated by harmful toxins that remain in the shellfish.  The meat can become harmful to humans if not cleaned and cooked thoroughly.  Once cooked, most shellfish are perfectly safe to consume.

Again, the FDA has warned people not to consume oysters from the Area 7 location in Louisiana.  If you are a food vendor and are unsure from where your shellfish originated, please contact the distributor.  If you serve oysters or other shellfish raw, please ensure you place a health notice on your menu to inform the consumer of any possible risks involved with eating raw shellfish.


Emilee Follett

Source:  FDA

Foodborne Illness and the Restaurant Industry

Posted by Emilee | Posted in Food Safety, Foodborne Illness, In the News | Posted on 17-03-2010

A recent Harris Polls sites that 42% of Americans say they have become sick from something they ate and 69% of those believe they know what made them sick.  They may not be correct, but perception matters–and could be potentially harmful to the food establishment or distributor that sold the food item.  Interestingly, 29% of those who believe they know what made them sick, have removed that food item entirely from their diet.  More than half of those advised others not to eat the item as well.

These numbers make it clear that when consumers become ill from what they believe to be foodborne illness, it can hurt your business.  It’s an issue to which everyone can relate, and people are finally starting stand up and take notice.  After last week’s shocking report that the United States spends $152 billion annually on foodborne illness, some very influential people in the restaurant industry began discussing some ideas on how to move forward.

National chain restaurants understand that too often, food code regulations can change from state-to-state and city-to-city.  It can be impossible to regulate the myriad local laws on a corporate level and yet the need for solid food safety training is more important now than ever.  In an age where bad press can be all over the internet in seconds, the restaurant industry depends on solid food handler education of basic food safety principles.  Juelene Beck of Juelene Beck and Associates (a restaurant-chain consulting firm) stated, “The biggest issue is still around basic training and more of an understanding by the operations people.  Having the servers and the people behind them understand better what the food-safety issues are is where the biggest steps can be made in food safety.”

Many health departments are grateful for the™ Online Food Handler Training Course because it is fully customizable to add local laws and regulations seamlessly into the course content.  Online training allows managers to ensure high-quality training with each employee–and the training can be done from the comfort of home.  Juelene Beck continues saying, “I have a problem with the business model that says we can’t afford to train people because of high turnover.  It’s so easy to mishandle food.  They need to train everybody who handles food.  Period.”  With more and more health departments approving online training, Ms. Beck’s wish is becoming easier for the food manager to grant.  Employees can be trained quickly and inexpensively online, increasing the number of trained staff in establishments across the nation.

Experts agree that change needs to be made, and most believe that better educated food handlers will increase consumer satisfaction and decrease the numbers of those who become ill. If your health department or food establishment would like to move their food safety training online, please contact us and we will be happy to work with you to ensure this critical matter receives the attention it deserves!

Emilee Follett

Foodborne Illness Costs US $152 Billion Annually

Posted by Emilee | Posted in Food Safety, Foodborne Illness, FYI, In the News, USDHHS | Posted on 12-03-2010

In a report published by the Associated Press, it was discovered that foodborne illnesses cost the United States approximately $152 billion annually!  The U.S. Senate has been debating legislation that would require more frequent government (health department) inspections of food establishments and manufacturers.  According to the debated legislation, the Food and Drug Administration would also have new authority to issue recalls.

Considering that roughly 76 million people become sick from foodborne illness–and about 5,000 die–the cost of researching and treating these cases have become a huge expense for the United States government.  In fact, the $152 billion annual cost determined in a recent study by the Produce Safety Project, was significantly higher than the $35 billion reported by the U.S. Agricultural Department in 1997.  Interestingly, this cost study only focused on research of a handful of specific pathogens.  The actual cost of researching every foodborne illness pathogen that people contract each year could be higher still.  The report also did not include the cost of food recalls to the industries involved.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn), called the costs “shockingly high . . . If people can’t engage in this issue because of the humanitarian aspect or the public health aspect, maybe they’re willing to listen because of the economic aspect.”

This study identifies yet another reason why food safety training is so important.  The more educated our managers and food handlers become about good food safety practices, the safer the public will be–keeping lives safe, and costs down.


Emilee Follett

Source:  Associated Press, Shannon Dininny

Kissing Frogs

Posted by Emilee | Posted in CDC, Foodborne Illness, FYI, In the News, Salmonella, USDHHS | Posted on 09-03-2010

Please dont let your daughters do this.

The US Department of Health and Human Services released an interesting article this morning about animals and their uncanny ability to give people salmonella–specifically birds, frogs,  snakes, turtles, and other amphibians.  Contact with these animals causes about 74,000 cases of salmonella each year in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).   Normally, salmonella is considered a foodborne illness, but children tend to handle these animals and then touch their mouths, eyes, and noses without washing their hands.  After the release of the animated film The Princess and the Frog, in 2009, dozens of little girls became ill with salmonella after feeling compelled to kiss frogs.  Even adults can become culprits of spreading salmonella this way when they clean aquariums and fish tanks in the kitchen, thereby contaminating areas where food is prepared.

Linda Capewell of the CDC recommends not having birds, snakes, or amphibians in homes with children under 5 years of age.  When children (and adults) handle these animals, they should wash their hands immediately–scrubbing with antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds in a steady stream of warm water.

Wash those hands!

Wash those hands!


Emilee Follett