Every hour of every day people around the world are living with and working to resolve food safety issues. Here is a sampling of current headlines for your consumption, brought to you today with the support of Alchemy Systems.

Vietnam vets suffer from rare liver cancer linked raw fish

Local men fish with nets in the Mekong Delta region of Western Vietnam.

A recent study shows some Vietnam veterans are dying from a slow-acting parasite linked to a rare liver cancer called cholangiocarcinoma. Veterans who ate raw or undercooked freshwater fish during their service in Southeast Asia could have been infected.

The parasite can lurk for decades before victims know they have a problem.

“The reporting found that about 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma have been seen by the (Veterans Affairs department) in the past 15 years. Less than half of them submitted claims for service-related benefits, mostly because they were not aware of a possible connection to Vietnam,” according to disabledveterans.com. ”

“The VA rejected 80 percent of the requests, but decisions often appeared to be haphazard or contradictory, depending on what desks they landed on, the AP found.”

An estimated 25 million people around the world are affected by these parasites. The tiny parasitic worms called liver flukes come from the fresh waters of Southeast Asia. When people eat fish that have these parasites, they become infected. The liver flukes grow to their full adulthood inside humans, and the irritation and scarring caused by the infection can lead to bile duct cancer.

Doo-doo and don’ts
Out of the 60 percent of five year olds in the U.S. who are enrolled in childcare facilities, gastrointestinal tract infections are about 2 to 3 more times as likely to occur than children who do not attend, according to a recent article by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Although Salmonella outbreaks rarely occur in childcare centers, “the highest incidence of invasive Salmonella infection in the U.S. occurs among children younger than 5 years of age,” according to the study. Salmonella, E. coli, norovirus and other pathogens can easily become foodborne in such settings when staff fail to follow proper hygiene procedures.

To reduce the chance of cross-contaminating surfaces and food, staff at childcare operations who change diapers should not be assigned to prepare or handle food, according to the research.

Many childcare operations argue that they do not have enough staff to  achieve this, however, the AAP says that if both tasks must be done by the same employees, food should be prepared before changing diapers. Also, staff should handle food only for the infants and toddlers in their own group and only after thoroughly washing their hands.

Hard surfaces, such as countertops, tabletops, and especially those which come in contact with food such as refrigerators and microwaves should be regularly disinfected and sanitized to destroy bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Anaphylaxis linked to red meat
Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that causes symptoms such as the constriction of airways and a dangerous drop in blood pressure, occurs in some people for whom triggers are never identified. However, researchers at the federal National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have found a link between allergic reactions to red meat and people who have been bitten by Lone Star ticks.

Though the connection is not yet fully understood, a recent report describes how standard allergy testing does not check for alpha-gel antibodies, which are present in red meat.

The study suggests that doctors have mistakenly diagnosed patients with “unexplained anaphylaxis” because unlike allergic reactions to foods such as peanuts or shellfish that usually begin from 5 to 30 minutes after exposure, reactions to alpha-gal can occur from 3 to 6 hours after red meat is consumed.

Dr. Dean Metcalfe, chief of the Mast Cell Biology Section in the Laboratory of Allergic Diseases in NIAID’s Division of Intramural Research, says the time gap between a meal and an allergic reaction is probably a big reason that alpha-gal allergies are often initially misdiagnosed. If someone has trouble breathing in the middle of the night, he says, “you probably are not going to blame the hamburger you had for dinner.”

A co-author of the study points out that the association between previous bites from Lone Star ticks and allergies to red meat is “increasingly clear.” But how these two events are linked and why some people with similar exposure to tick bites seem to be more prone to developing alpha-gal allergy than others, needs to be discovered.


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