Peppa’s II Restaurant in Hawaii Shut Down Due to E. Coli Outbreak

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Peppa’s II Korean BBQ restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii has been shut down after being linked to the illness of 7 people with E. Coli.  All of the details are unclear at this point, but it evidence suggests that cross-contamination and food handling errors are to blame at this point.

Janice Okubo, Health Department spokeswoman, stated that the management of the Peppa’s II Korean BBQ establishment located at 1240 S. King St. agreed to close and is cooperating in an attempt to correct the violations.

Of the 7 people who have become ill, 4 were hospitalized and one person remains in the hospital is serious condition.  At the current time, it is not known whether the person who remains in the hospital has developed HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome), which is a severe, life threatening complication that occurs in approximately 10% of those who become infected with E. Coli O157:H7.  HUS is the most common cause of acute kidney failure in infants and young children.  Adults, adolescents and the elderly are also susceptible; in fact, HUS in the elderly is often fatal.

The circumstances surrounding the closure of Peppa’s suggests that employees were not implementing proper food-handling procedures in the preparation of foods for customers consumption.  While restaurants do not close in every instance of foodborne illness outbreaks, on occasion they do.  When a restaurant temporarily closes, they often do so for an extensive environmental cleaning, which suggests that the restaurant is either a continuing hazard because of contaminated surfaces or because employees are not properly trained in food handling procedures.

Hawaii’s Health Department is continuing to investigate the 7 infections that broke out spanning a three-week period ending March 23rd. Frequently, E. Coli illnesses are associated with eating tainted foods such as spinach, lettuce, sprouts, undercooked ground beef or unpasteurized milk or juice.  Symptoms of E. Coli food poisoning include fever, vomiting and severe diarrhea.

Those individuals who suspect E. Coli food poisoning should seek medical attention at once, especially those at high risk of developing HUS.

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E. Coli Detection in Foods May Be Simplified Thanks to New Two-in-One Test

Monday, April 12th, 2010

A test that can be used on meats, fruits, vegetables and beverages to simultaneously detect both the toxins that E. coli bacteria use to produce stomach-flu like symptoms and the Escherichia coli bacteria itself is in development stages, according to scientists.  The 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society that was held in San Francisco, California a week ago is where the test was first described.

According to Dr. John Mark Carter, project leader of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Albany, CA, the test can be used in meat processing plants to allow in-house testing of products before they are sold.  Carter states that testing in-house would reduce product recalls, the frequency of foodborne illness, and also improve public health due to fewer cases of E. coli food poisoning.  At the same time, this testing would reduce annual costs for food testing.

In the past, protecting against the threats of both the toxins and the bacteria required two separate tests.  The E. coli O157 strain may exist in foods for hours and even days before improper storing of foods allow it to grow and produce the toxins that are the actual cause of foodborne illness.  Even after the bacteria are dead and gone toxins are capable of remaining in foods.

Luminex Corporations and the USDA are working closely together to eventually commercialize the E. coli test.  Hopefully, government agencies involved in food inspections and meat processors will quickly adapt the test for detecting E. coli bacteria and toxins before possibly tainted foods are distributed.

Current tests used to detect E. coli presence in beef products are time-consuming, requiring 3 to 5 days to produce results.  Researchers say the new two-in-one test reduces waiting time to just 24 hours.  The new test uses microscopic plastic beads which are 1/100th the width of a grain of sand and contain a fluorescent dye.  These beads are coated with antibodies which lock on to antigens and proteins that are present in E. coli and toxins.  The beads are mixed with ground beef or other food samples during testing and then separated and run through an instrument that identifies the beads that have E. coli antigens present.

E. coli food poisoning bacteria usually causes only mild symptoms in healthy individuals, but may lead to serious complications in those most at risk.  Young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems should seek medical attention if you suspect E. coli food poisoning.

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