on assignment: south africa

Johannesburg — A South African woman described her son as a “hero” after he died due to listeriosis and she was cleared of any symptoms.

Vuyani Moledi became pregnant with a boy while studying at The University of South Africa (UNISA).

She was seven months pregnant when she was rushed to the hospital and two days after her son was born he passed away. Testing during this time by doctors found he had listeriosis. She was discharged after three days in the hospital.

Vuyani Moledi

“What I keep telling everyone is that when I had the listeriosis it came out with my son, I was left with none of it whatsoever, I didn’t have any symptoms. That is why I say he is my hero as he basically saved my life. His name was Favour,” Moledi told Food Safety News.

“It was tough last year as I had just lost him. Since then we are trying to be positive. I am trying to be a better person like I would have wanted to be if he was here. So basically I am trying to live a positive life and not be depressed about what happened. I am getting there, I am much better than before,” Favour’s mother said.

“I was seven months pregnant with my son and I gave birth too early, it was unexpected. I lost my son because I ate food that I love. I ate products that I thought were good. We’ve been eating those products and nothing had happened. Why did we lose people we love because of products we thought were safe and healthy for people to eat? It is not fair because we have to live with the pain every day. You say to yourself: I wish I did not buy it, I wish I just left if there.”

The Listeria outbreak in South Africa during 2017 and 2018 infected more than 1,000 people and 200 deaths were linked to polony, a ready-to-eat processed meat, made at a factory in Polokwane by Enterprise Foods, which is owned by Tiger Brands. Polony is similar to baloney products sold in the United States.

Vuyani’s mother is a nurse and on her advice she went home to QwaQwa, a region of South Africa, and the pregnancy went well with the baby moving around a lot. The 27 year old planned to go back to school after giving birth.

In November 2017, Vuyani had Enterprise Brand products including Russians, viennas, polony and ham on numerous occasions. In early December she noticed a lack of appetite and developed a severe headache.

At seven months pregnant she started having contractions and her mum rushed her to Elizabeth Ross hospital in Phuthaditjhaba. Nurses checked the baby’s heartbeat and admitted her. After giving birth the baby was blue, tiny and not breathing or crying so he was put on oxygen to help him breathe.

They were transferred to Manapo Hospital, also in Phuthaditjhaba, and the baby was put in an incubator. After doctors ran blood tests the baby was transferred to ICU and connected to wires, drips and a ventilator.

Vuyani was called to go to the intensive care unit as staff were resuscitating her son but he ultimately died. A week later she got a message from a doctor saying her son died of Listeria monocytogenes. Vuyani was tested and learned she was negative for Listeria.

Moledi said she avoids polony now and was not previously aware of listeriosis.

“I had seen it on TV, at that time they didn’t know what the reason was for listeriosis, I didn’t really read about it. You know how we are as people when you see something you don’t really take it seriously as it is not happening to you at that time,” she said.

“It was one of those foods that was always in the fridge. Anytime I would make a sandwich I would use polony or in the morning I would have eggs, bread and Russians, just normal daily food. Sometimes I would eat them alone. Normally we are advised to cook it, so I would boil water put it in there and eat it. I don’t eat polony or any of those products anymore, I am so scared I have a fear of them.”

Tiger Brands must make sure polony is safe to eat now it has returned to supermarket shelves, said Moledi.

Vuyani Moledi

“My message would be in the future they need to make sure their products don’t have any bacteria that can harm people. For crying out loud these are products we trust and they are expensive so if you eat an expensive product you expect it to not have any diseases or bacteria in it,” she said.

“I want to eat something and feel safe and not feel like if I eat it what is going to happen to me? They should put more thought into making sure their products are safe for people to eat because now we have lost our loved ones just because of eating polony.

“I would like something to happen, something must be done about this situation because I feel like it is taken lightly. It is not like HIV, people died of polony, only a few not a lot so it is not being taken seriously, they are not making as big a deal about it as I would want them to. I would like it to be made a big deal as we lost our loved ones.”

Moledi said she received support via social media after her sister posted about what happened.

“The only support I had (after the death of her son) was my family, then my sister posted about it on Facebook and Instagram just to make people aware it is real and it actually does kill people. That is when I got support on social media. My sister was in Thailand but I never felt her absence, she video called me every day, there was never a time when I felt she was not here with me and my three brothers were also there,” she said.

“Losing a loved one, even if you didn’t lose someone due to Listeriosis but they still have those side-effects, try to find the positivity in the pain, I don’t know it that makes sense, but I tried to understand there must be a reason why this had to happen to me specifically, why I had to lose my son because of listeriosis. They should be strong and if they are religious they should pray about it or go for counselling as it helps.”

Moledi is now back at school doing public management and is determined to do something with her life with future plans including possibly living abroad in Europe.

Editor’s note: In early February, Joe Whitworth traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, for Food Safety News to interview some of the people who were affected by the Listeria outbreak. It’s been nearly eight months since government officials declared the outbreak over, but victims and their families continue to struggle to overcome its impact. In the coming weeks we will be publishing a series of stories to help ensure that the public’s voice is heard.

To read more of Whitworth’s coverage about the impact of the outbreak, please see:

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

on assignment: south africa

Johannesburg — The mother of a child infected with listeriosis while she was pregnant has described the heartbreak of not knowing what the future holds for her daughter.

Monthla Ngibeni gave birth to Theto Khutjo Ngibeni in December 2017. Two months later Theto was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt was inserted in her brain to drain accumulating fluid.

Hydrocephalus is a condition in which cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) builds up within the brain. CSF is needed to provide protection for the brain. Hydrocephalus occurs when there is a blockage which prevents excess CSF from draining away.

Thirty-seven-year old Monthla Ngibeni lives in Limpopo, Polokwane. The Listeria outbreak was linked to polony, a ready-to-eat processed meat, produced by Tiger Brands in its Enterprise Foods facility in Polokwane, South Africa.

Theto Ngibeni

Theto got infected while Monthla was pregnant. She was diagnosed with the disease at 18 days old. She was one of 1,060 confirmed cases and 216 deaths between January 2017, and July 2018. At the time she was having convulsions and vomiting. The pediatrician took Theto to the pediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU), tested her, and found infection with Listeria before admitting her for 10 days in January 2018.

Speaking from her hospital bed after a double hip operation, Monthla told Food Safety News that she didn’t know anything about listeriosis until giving birth to her daughter who then fell sick.

“For now we don’t know what the future holds for Theto, she is now one year and one month and she is not yet crawling, she’s not yet walking so her milestones are obviously delayed. Her development has been affected, she cannot even crawl and that breaks my heart. She doesn’t do what the other babies are doing,” she said.

“My future plan was to have a confectioner business of my own because I am good at baking so now all that has ended because I cannot bake anymore. Baking needs a lot of ups and downs, I cannot bake sitting down on the couch.”

The South African Police Service (SAPS) call center operator is married and has two other children, a 10-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl, with the latter sometimes struggling with the situation.

“The first kid is cool, the second one when we pass Enterprise in Polokwane, as it is near my house, she will point to that tiger (logo on the building) and scream like this: ‘I hate you Tiger, I won’t use anything from Tiger, I won’t even eat your Jungle Oats again, I hate you Tiger Brands. You killed my mother, you killed my baby sister.’ so you can imagine how the baby feels when she talks like that and she is still very anxious, she is only 6,” said Monthla.

“You know, my life since that January has been a mess, it has been chaos. We are not enjoying anything, financially we are strained, emotionally the trauma we went through is so painful. My other two kids, anything they see at home, you can imagine what they are going through.”

Monthla said she would crave polony and viennas when pregnant and have breakfast at home.

“Maybe eggs, bread and go to Enterprise and buy the polony and I would eat them, I liked to eat it and RTE products, not knowing that we are harming ourselves,” she said.

“I feel like my child has been denied the right to a healthy life, my child will suffer for the rest of her life because of polony and because of Enterprise. I pass Enterprise every day when I go to work, when we take the kids to school. It is so painful, it is unbearable.

“My wish is that Tiger Brands can compensate us and reopen their factories after the cleaning so our brothers and sisters do not remain jobless. If they do this, people will go and buy. I am done with it, even if it is not RTE, I am done with them. My advice to the people with a compromised immune system is they should just avoid RTE foods, they are very dangerous. My life is a mess, my child’s life is a mess, she cannot do anything yet. I don’t know what the future holds for us.”

Thato, who is only 1 year old, already has had four operations to remove and insert VP shunts due to blocking issues.

“I am so disappointed about this listeriosis. It has changed our lives very much. Once they diagnose a child with hydrocephalus it means it is a lifetime thing. She will have to live with those VP shunts for the rest of her life. She will have to go to special schools,” said Monthla.

“It is very hard on me as I am in hospital, she is currently with my mother at my house who is staying with her until I come back home. Even when I am home my mother will have to take care of me and Theto as well because we cannot afford to hire the nanny now.

“My mother helps me, she is old though at 76, so you say thank God there is somebody around the house. I am glad I still have a shoulder to lean on and also my supportive husband who is doing all that he can to make sure we have the life that we need.”

Monthla said the only support she has received is from family members.

“From Tiger I didn’t get any support. By the time Theto started being sick, the second and third time is the time I thought they would help with interim assistance in paying the medical bills but they didn’t.

“We are not coping at all. My family is trying to cope, they are trying to be strong for me, but we are not coping. It has been long, it is too much. We would like Tiger Brands to have mercy on everyone that has been infected or affected.”

Editor’s note: In early February, Joe Whitworth traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, for Food Safety News to interview some of the people who were affected by what the World Health Organization reports was the largest Listeria outbreak on record. It’s been nearly eight months since government officials in South Africa declared the outbreak over, but victims and their families continue to struggle to overcome its impact. We are publishing a series of stories to help ensure that the public’s voice is heard.

Click here to read Whitworth’s interview with Thomas Mogale, who lost his brother in the outbreak and is still unsure whether his niece knows her father has died.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

A mother of a food poisoning victim and the chief of the CDC’s Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch have joined the board of Stop Foodborne Illness, a nonprofit public health organization that assists victims and works to raise awareness about food safety issues.

The two new board members are Amanda Craten and Dr. Patricia Griffin, according to an announcement released Tuesday.

Craten is a mother, an educator, and a food safety advocate from Arizona. She experienced the impact of foodborne illness directly when the youngest of her three children, Noah, was a victim of the Foster Farms Salmonella outbreak in 2013. Her family has been fighting to make change in the food industry ever since. They were the first to take a poultry producer through civil trial and win.

“I am thrilled to help guide this increasingly visible and influential organization,” said Craten. “Food safety has made huge strides in recent years but there is still much work to be done. I want to encourage families who have survived foodborne illness to become architects of change. Stop Foodborne Illness is committed to that principle and hopefully, through our work, more and more families will join the fight to make food safe for everyone.”

Craten is a special education assistant for resources at Desert Palms Elementary School and is working toward her bachelor’s degree in special education and elementary education at Northern Arizona University.

“Amanda brings the critical knowledge that only comes from personal experience as well as such  enthusiasm for our mission to educate, influence policy, and collaborate with key stakeholders to make food safer,” said Lauren Bush, board co-chair of Stop Foodborne Illness. “We are so pleased to have her with us. She is a strong advocate for all families and her voice will be invaluable as we encourage everyone to become more engaged in this work with us.”

Griffin is chief of the Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The branch conducts surveillance for cases of illness and for outbreaks; does studies of human illness due to bacterial agents such as Salmonella and E. coli O157; tracks trends in these illnesses; and analyzes data on the relationship of illnesses to particular foods. Griffin has supervised epidemiologic investigations throughout the United States and overseas. She has authored or co-authored more than 235 journal articles, book chapters, and other publications.

“Dr. Griffin is one of our nation’s most outstanding and credible food safety leaders,” said Michael Taylor, Stop Foodborne Illness board co-chair and former FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine. “Her foodborne illness expertise will help guide our organization as we work to build our partnerships with all those in the public and private sectors who share our commitment to preventing foodborne illness.”

Griffin holds an adjunct appointment in the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. She earned her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, trained in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, trained in gastroenterology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, in mucosal immunology at the University of Pennsylvania, and in epidemiology with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS). She is board certified in internal medicine gastroenterology, is a Fellow of the Infectious Disease Society of America and a member of the American Epidemiological Society.

“Helping all parties understand the major sources of and trends in foodborne illness is one way that Stop Foodborne Illness can help foster informed decisions by industry and government on policies and strategies that result in safer food,” said Griffin.

Stop Foodborne Illness
Stop Foodborne Illness is dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens by promoting sound food safety policy and best practices, building public awareness and assisting those impacted by foodborne illness. For more food safety tips please visit www.stopfoodborneillness.org/awareness/. If you think you have been sickened from food, check this out and contact your local health professional.

For questions and personal assistance, please contact Stop Foodborne Illness’ Community Coordinator Stanley Rutledge at srutledge@stopfoodborneillness.org or 773-269-6555 Ext. 7.

Stop Foodborne Illness is on social media at:

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

A mother and her son who were among the 260 people sickened by bacteria-contaminated food served by the Golden Ponds Restaurant & Party House are suing for their injuries and damages.

Attorneys Paul V. Nunes of Rochester, NY, and Bill Marler of Seattle filed the lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs Natalie Woods and her son Connor Wynn against the Rochester restaurant at 500 Long Pond Road.

goldenponds_405x250Officials from the Monroe County Department of Public Health closed down the Golden Ponds after more than a fourth of its Thanksgiving Day guests became ill. An inspection revealed a walk-in refrigerator with food spills and mold, a damaged gasket preventing the door from closing, and mildew growing inside.

Health inspectors found a “very poor sanitary condition” and called for corrections to be made immediately. Later, on Dec. 5, inspectors returned and found tripe, sausage, potatoes, meatballs, Italian sausage, and Pollish sausage all stored outside the walk-in refrigerator.

Following several weeks of investigation, Monroe County officials found the bacteria Clostridium Perfringens served by Golden Pond was indeed responsible for the outbreak.

Marler, a nationally known food safety attorney, told reporters Clostridium Perfringens was the likely cause of illnesses as soon as the first diners were sickened in the hours after eating Thanksgiving dinner.

Woods and Wynn both had Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant, and suffered from stomach pain, cramping, and diarrhea by about 1 a.m. the next day. The plaintiffs are seeking damages based on strict liability, negligence and negligence per se.

They said Golden Ponds “owed a duty” to comply with statutory and regulatory provisions that pertained to their product, which was adulterated.

Monroe County health officials cleared Golden Ponds to reopen in late December. At that time owner Ralph Rinaudo told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper he had upgraded the restaurant’s kitchen, cleaned the restaurant and retrained staff in proper food-handling procedures.

John Ricci, a spokesman for the Monroe County Health Department, told the newspaper that Golden Ponds had been reinspected and found to have had a “huge turnaround.”

Editor’s Note: Bill Marler is publisher of Food Safety News.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Suzanne Kiner, food safety advocate and mother of one of the child victims of the infamous 1993 Jack in The Box E. coli outbreak, died Jan. 5, 2016, at age 67.

Kiner’s daughter Brianne was 9 years old in 1993 when she contracted what developed into a life-threatening infection from E. coli in a fast food hamburger. The girl was not expected to live, but she turns 33 this month.

Four of the 623 families whose loved ones got sick from the undercooked Jack in The Box burgers were not that lucky. The E. coli O157:H7 outbreak claimed the lives of four children, according to public health records.

Brianne Kiner spent six months hospitalized, part of it in a coma, following the E. coli diagnosis. During that time six lawyers met with her family at her bedside to discuss legal options. The Kiners hired Bill Marler, a virtually unknown trial lawyer in Seattle.

The $15.6 million settlement Marler won for Brianne Kiner and her family from Jack in The Box and its parent company Foodmaker Inc. was the largest of its kind when it was awarded.

The Jack in The Box outbreak and the investigation into it thrust foodborne illness onto the national stage with Suzanne Kiner, her daughter and other victims speaking out about the need for food safety regulations and protocols. A sea change in food safety awareness followed in the United States. Government increased minimum cooking temperatures for certain foods and defined E. coli O157:H7 and several other foodborne pathogens as unacceptable “adulterants” in food.

In a blog post Jan. 12, Marler described Suzanne Kiner as an “E. coli hero” and recalled her devotion to her daughter.

“During her daughter’s E. coli illness in 1993 she never left the hospital for over six months and seldom left her daughter’s bedside. She willed her daughter to survive and to recover as much as the E. coli bacteria would allow,” Marler wrote.

“I will always be humbled and honored that she hired me to represent the family against Jack in the Box.”

Most recently Suzanne Kiner lived in Mulkiteo, Wash. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper published her death notice Jan. 11. Neither the Seattle newspaper nor the Mulkiteo Beacon had any additional details as of Jan. 12.

Editor’s note: To mark the 20th anniversary of the Jack in The Box outbreak, Food Safety News published a Q&A with Brianne Kiner. Read it here.

Food safety attorney Bill Marler is also the publisher of Food Safety News.


(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

newCBKingCourthouse_406x250ALBANY, GA—Stewart Parnell’s mother decided to use a courtroom break on Thursday to verbally confront a female FBI agent coming out of a stall in the women’s bathroom on the third floor of the C.B. King Courthouse in Albany, GA. The approach was not welcomed. The agent, who appeared to be unarmed, was present to give testimony on the economic losses experienced by food industry recalls, lost sales, and a variety of other reasons in the aftermath of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) meltdown. “How do you live with yourself?” Mrs. Parnell reportedly asked the agent during the brief confrontation. It was a short exchange as the agent warned the older woman to “back down” as she left the bathroom without stopping to wash her hands. Mrs. Parnell was also said to have referred to the agent brandishing a weapon before a 10-year-old child, but it was not clear to what incident she was referring. The FBI agent, who was returning to the witness stand, reported the incident to Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Dasher, who, in turn, reported it to Judge W. Louis Sands as soon as court resumed. Dasher said it was the second time Parnell’s mother had verbally attacked someone associated with the prosecution. He said the first time was immediately after the trial, and her target then was a young paralegal or intern. Despite objections from defense attorney Thomas Ledford, who argued that something occurring outside the courtroom “has nothing whatsoever to do with these proceedings,” Sands said his reach extended to the outside walls of the courthouse itself, and that he expected courtesy and respect to be the rule for all concerned. Sands allowed Mrs. Parnell to remain in the courtroom for the remainder of the day, but court bailiffs appeared to pay her closer attention. During her testimony, the FBI agent seemed able to document about $144 million in economic losses directly to the PCA recall and shutdown in early 2009. The government subpoenaed loss records from downstream companies that used PCA peanut paste and peanut butter. Kellogg’s and ConAgra both experienced losses in the mid-$40-million range. The FBI analysis did not appear to include losses to planters from the drop in peanut prices in the wake of the Salmonella outbreak and recall. In addition, it was not clear that all of the companies forced to recall products with peanut butter or peanut paste were included. This was the second and final day of testimony in the restitution phase of the criminal cases against Parnell, his peanut broker brother Michael, and PCA’s former quality control manager, Mary Wilkerson. In response to questioning, it was revealed that Stewart Parnell owned half of PCA and one of three director slots. Michael Parnell had no ownership in either PCA or the two other related corporate entities that existed to oversee operations in Texas and Virginia. Attorneys were given 14 days from this coming Monday to brief restitution and other pre-trial issues, and they will then have seven days to respond to those briefs. After that, the Parnell brothers and Wilkerson will be scheduled for sentencing. The earliest sentencing could occur is the last week of this month. Two others likely to be sentenced around the same time are PCA’s former Blakely, GA, plant manager Samuel Lightsey and former plant operations manager Daniel Kilgore. They pleaded guilty before the others went to trial after reaching plea bargains with the government. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

The grandmother of a 4-year-old Oregon girl who died last September after testing positive for an E. coli infection is advocating legislation to require testing of children for the pathogen after four consecutive days of specific symptoms.

Sherri Profitt of Otis, OR, told KATU-TV that her granddaughter, Serena Profitt, should have been tested for E. coli much sooner than she was. A family friend, Bradley Sutton, 5, was also sickened and hospitalized at the same time, but he recovered.
Serena Profitt
Serena Profitt
The little girl initially developed symptoms about Aug. 29, 2014, and was first taken to a hospital in Lincoln City, OR, on Sept. 3. She later saw a pediatrician and was also treated at a hospital in McMinnville, OR. Finally, Serena was transferred to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, where she died on Sept. 8. Family members say she wasn’t tested for E. coli for several days despite her worsening symptoms. “My daughter-in-law was told don’t worry until the 8th day. That’s wrong. In eight days her kidneys were already shut down,” Profitt said. The source of Serena’s E. coli infection remains unclear, and test results were inconclusive. There was some speculation on the part of public health officials that droppings from the family’s goat were the problem, but that wasn’t certain either. Profitt recently contacted some Oregon legislators and asked them to write a bill requiring pathogen testing in situations such as her granddaughter’s.

House Bill 3540, sponsored by state Rep. David Gomberg  (D-Otis), would require Oregon health care workers to screen for pathogenic E. coli bacteria any patient younger than 18 “who presents with four or more consecutive days of unexplained diarrhea.” HB 3540 has been referred to the House Committee On Health Care for further action. Besides diarrhea (often bloody), symptoms of E. coli infection include severe stomach cramps and vomiting. Most people sickened by the bacteria get better within 5-7 days, but others, especially young children, can develop serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can cause kidney failure, permanent damage and death.

Because so many Asian consumers look to them for food safety cues, the influence of South Korean mothers is hard to overestimate. Just ask Wan Sik Kim, managing director of the food safety center at Seoul-based Maeil Dairies. He’ll tell you that no force in the country, not government regulators nor the competition, has more power over food safety in South Korea than the mothers of its children. And they are a demanding lot, rewarding only those producers who go well beyond doing 100 percent when it comes to food safety. That’s why, throughout Asia, consumers are known to follow the actions of Korean mothers regarding food and food safety. In the past decade, they’ve reshaped Asia’s baby formula market. Back then, the upscale South Korean woman who became pregnant was likely to choose the Abbott Laboratories product sold under the Similac brand because it was the choice of American women. But today, the infant formula market in South Korea and Asia has undergone constant and dramatic change. Maeil Dairies has emerged as a winner, especially in recent years, with its “Absolute W” and “Absolute Sensitive” brands of infant formula. To earn the trust of those ever-skeptical South Korean mothers, Maeil has become more involved with them than most in corporate America could ever imagine. Maeil’s embrace of South Korean mothers goes way beyond including them in surveys and focus groups. Here are a few examples: Breast Milk Sampling There is no dispute that mother’s milk is best, but it is not all the same. The Maeil Breast Milk Research Center takes samples of breast milk and conducts an analysis, providing the mother with a report and a free health check in the name of promoting the health and growth of babies. Baby Poop Analysis South Korean mothers have long been taught that baby poop reveals the current health of their babies. Maeil began inviting mothers to bring pictures of their babies’ stools to health fairs held in conjunction with Korea’s pediatric association and was overwhelmed. (Many skipped the photo and just brought in the filled diaper.) Baby poop analysis, mostly now via pictures, is part of the company’s routine service. It’s all caught up in South Korea’s embrace of technology, with its own Smartphone and iPhone apps, along with data on the website. Baby-Exclusive Dairy Farms Among 6,000 South Korean dairy farms, Maeil has selected 70 as the cleanest with the more stringent safety practices to be “Absolute Baby-Exclusive Milk Farms” to ensure that only the cleanest and healthiest milk will be used in its baby formula. Mom School New and prospective parents, especially mothers, are encouraged to attend Maeil’s “Mom School,” which teaches nutrition and other lessons surrounding pregnancy, childbirth and infant care. Maeil Child Center South Korean mothers are welcome to bring their infants along as they attend informational programs or seek one-on-one consulting services. Ever since the 2008 Chinese melamine scandal, Asia’s infant formula market has been on a bumpy ride. While not comparable to the melamine scandal, which saw 54,000 Chinese infants hospitalized and at least six deaths from drinking baby formula contaminated with melamine, China recently has been defending against potentially tainted imports. Earlier this year, the giant Fonterra Cooperative of New Zealand had to recall its milk from around the globe when a harmful bacterium was found in three batches of its whey protein. China has responded with import restrictions and plans to conduct foreign inspections to pick the facilities that will be permitted to export to that country. In preparation for the inspection of Maeil’s facilities, Kim has added a Chinese food safety expert to his staff of about 30 professionals. Maeil is connected electronically to China’s regulatory system for food and dairy products. And China, where the communist government has recently abandoned its so-called “one-child” policy, stands as a potential “baby boom” market as couples will be able to more easily have larger families. This stands in stark contrast to South Korea, where increasing prosperity runs counter to a decreasing birth rate. China’s milk market is also increasingly diversified. Organic milk and baby food have gained a foothold in China in only the past couple of years, with European and American companies rolling in to meet the demand. Kim, however, worries not about the coming inspection by China. He worries about those South Korean mothers. He says his team is built around doing everything possible to keep them safe. Maeil’s commitment to keeping infant formula, baby food, and its host of other products safe begins with the raw materials that go into each product, Kim says. The source of each component and where it falls on the supply chain are all continually traced and tracked. Since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the six-reactor Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan, radioactive testing has been added to the routine at Maeil. Kim says Maeil enforces it own strict standards because its South Korean consumers are “sensitive to food safety.” “Food safety is our number-one goal,” Kim adds. “It’s the base upon which we build everything else.” It remains to be seen how Maeil will take advantage of the new South Korea National Food Cluster known as Foodpolis, which is getting under construction near Iksan. Among the goals of Foodpolis is to expand the exports of South Korean companies such as Maeil. South Korea is the world’s eight-largest trading country, with a volume exceeding $1 trillion per year. Maeil spans the globe, exporting infant formula, baby food, special milk powder, beverages, fermented milk, soymilk and cheese to more than 20 countries. (Editor’s Note: Dan Flynn recently visited South Korea as a guest of Foodpolis, the National Food Cluster.)

Food Safety News is following the progress of three-year-old Kylee Young, who has just received a kidney from her mother, Jill Brown. In April 2012, Kylee was one of 19 people – 15 of them children – who fell ill with E. coli after drinking raw milk from a farm near Wilsonville, OR. Kylee was two years old when she developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious kidney disease associated with severe E. coli infections. She spent several months in the hospital undergoing dialysis. Her case was so severe that she had a stroke, which left her unable to speak or walk. At one point, her heart stopped and she had to be brought back to life. To help with bills that have accrued during the ordeal, Kylee’s friends and family have started a support page on Facebook and a fundraiser via GoFundMe. According to a Sept. 11 update on the Facebook site, Kylee continues to respond well to her transplant. Food Safety News has spoken with Jill Brown and will publish an article about the family’s experience once Brown feels well enough to continue with interviews.

The first reported case of human illness from E. coli O146:H28 was recorded this year in Switzerland in a two-day-old boy. While this strain of E. coli was known to be pathogenic because it produces Shiga toxins,  it had not previously produced symptoms in infected humans. Researchers speculate that the newborn contracted the bacteria from his mother during childbirth. This incident is one of only a handful of known mother-to-child E. coli cases, the first of which was recorded in France in 2005. The Swiss newborn was healthy immediately following his birth, according to a report on the illness published in the January issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases. Two days later, however, he began vomiting. At six days old, he developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) – a disease characterized by kidney failure. Over 90 percent of HUS cases are a result of E. coli infections. The newborn also experienced seizures as a result of his illness. Finally, at 11 days old, he was released from the hospital in good condition. After a sample of the baby’s feces tested positive for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), doctors concluded that this was the source of his illness. STEC was also discovered in a sample of the mother’s stool.  A DNA analysis of the strain found in the mother revealed that it was genetically indistinguishable from the one discovered in the newborn. “We postulate that the mother is a healthy carrier, who transmitted the STEC by the fecal-oral route to the newborn during delivery,” concludes the disease report. Researchers note that the type of Shiga toxin produced by this strain of E. coli is not one of the ones most commonly associated with HUS in patients.  This newborn likely developed HUS because his bowel was sterile at the time of delivery, allowing the foreign pathogen to multiply easily, uninhibited by other bugs. The authors say it is important to rule out atypical HUS (HUS that is not due to E. coli infection) when diagnosing newborns with the condition. “Even though infectious HUS is a very rare condition in this age group, the search for this entity is mandatory.”