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Romaine is off the table again because of E. coli poisoning, and the lettuce trouble reveals why outbreaks are so common

Romaine is off the table again because of E. coli poisoning, and the lettuce trouble reveals why outbreaks are so common

  • Romaine lettuce is banned from the table once again as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigates a multi-state outbreak of E. coli that has sickened at least 50 people across the US and Canada.
  • This is the third time in less than 12 months that romaine lettuce has been deemed unsafe to eat.
  • The problem shows how difficult it can be to control a supply of fresh, uncooked produce that touches dirt and changes hands countless times before it reaches consumers.
  • Still, fresh produce is not the most deadly source of pathogens that we eat. That prize goes to meat.

Once again, salad-eaters are being told to avoid romaine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Tuesday that it is investigating an E. coli outbreak that spans at least 11 US states and two Canadian provinces.

“Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away,” the CDC said, just two days before Thanksgiving. The ban comes as peak harvest season picks up at some of the nation’s busiest romaine farms in states like Arizona.

“At this time, no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified,” the CDC added.

Lettuce-related outbreaks are starting to feel like a wintertime tradition. Seven months ago, another E. coli outbreak in romaine killed five people and sickened near 200 more. A year ago, one person was killed in another leafy green outbreak that made 25 people ill. Here’s why this keeps happening.

There’s only one way that romaine gets contaminated with E. coli

E coli is a broad species of gut bacteria (you have some of it in your intestines right now), but the strains that public-health investigators have discovered in sick people’s feces recently are not the kind that keep us healthy. Instead, the E. coli in question – called O157:H7 – can make people develop bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and kidney failure. In severe cases, the gut poisoning can kill. It’s most dangerous for elderly adults and children.

An E. coli outbreak in lettuce can only mean one thing: the leaves have poop on them. The feces could come from livestock in a farm close to where lettuce grows, or they could come from washing the lettuce in water that’s not clean. The contamination could also come from one of the countless people who touch the lettuce before it reaches consumers’ mouths.

Read More: What is E. coli?

It’s pretty easy for bits of contaminated soil to get lodged into the folds of lettuce leaves. Although washing your produce at home can help reduce the chances of infection, it won’t eliminate your risk of getting sick. That’s probably why fresh produce accounts for nearly half of all foodborne illnesses in the US.

An easy way to reduce your risk of getting sick, though, is to cut down on the number of hands that touch your leaves before you eat them.

Tim Richter, a romaine farmer in Puyallup, Washington, told the Associated Press that he encourages his customers to buy their own romaine heads and then wash and chop them at home, rather than buying pre-chopped bags of lettuce. That way, the leaves touches fewer hands, knives, and countertops as they go from soil to table.

There’s probably nothing inherently bacteria-prone about romaine lettuce as compared to other fresh leafy greens. Outbreaks probably just affect more people and are easier to notice when tied to a leaf that’s commonly consumed. Lettuce is one of the most common veggies on American plates, and romaine’s share of the market has been growing steadily since it was introduced in the late ’80s. Romaine and leaf lettuce account for well over 60% of per capita lettuce consumption across the US, according to the USDA.

Uncooked leaves are not the deadliest thing on the menu this Thanksgiving

People infected with the O157:H7 strain of E. coli can develop “severe abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea, which may become bloody within 24 hours,” according to the Merck Manual.

“People usually have severe abdominal pain and diarrhea many times a day. They also often feel an urge to defecate but may not be able to,” the manual says. In severe cases, the illness can lead to kidney failure.

There’s typically no fever involved, and there isn’t much otherwise healthy people can do about the infection besides staying hydrated. It can take anywhere from one to eight days for the illness to pass.

Fresh produce is the most common source of food contamination, but food poisoning from meat and poultry is more deadly.

Taken together, meat and poultry account for 29% of the foodborne illnesses that kill people, while produce (fruit and vegetables combined) accounts for 23% of deaths.

In fact, veggies are not even the worst source of E. coli infections – beef’s track record is equally bad. Vegetable row crops (mostly leafy greens) and beef each account for roughly 40% of E. coli cases across the country, according to a 2013 CDC report.

Chicken and other poultry can also get people really sick – the birds are commonly a source of listeria and salmonella infections. This Thanksgiving, a salmonella investigation is underway for raw turkey that has sickened more than 160 people and killed at least one.

The good thing about meat is that correct preparation involves an easy “kill step” – cooking it to a high temperature ensures you won’t sick. But there isn’t a step like that for fresh greens. That’s why the CDC urges travelers not to eat fresh salad or unpeeled fruits in developing countries, where nightsoil (i.e. human manure) might be used as fertilizer and water used to rinse fruits and veggies may not be clean enough to drink.

Fortunately, these contamination concerns are less of an issue in the US. Americans consume, on average, nearly 25 pounds of lettuce per person each year. So a couple dozen cases of food poisoning this fall (while miserable for those infected) are still a drop in the proverbial salad bowl.

Malaysia Fashion Week 2018 to present both art and fashion on one stage

Malaysia Fashion Week 2018 to present both art and fashion on one stage

The upcoming Malaysia Fashion Week (MFW) 2018 will be focusing on art, apart from just style. A showcase titled “61 years of Malaysia” is set to be a highlight of the event.

There will also be an exclusive art exhibition by emerging artist, YAM Tunku Kamariah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Almarhum Baginda Al-Mutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj Puteri Johor.

The highlight will be a live painting of a huge 8 x 12ft canvas by 16 street artists. This gives the street artists an opportunity to express their own interpretation of the movement of Malaysia over the past six decades.

Running from Nov 19 to 25 at Publika, Kuala Lumpur, MFW 2018 however aims to continue promoting innovative fashion with international business matching and trade talks. Over 100 retail booths will be present.

Malaysia Fashion Week

Datuk Nancy Yeoh-Reissiger (right) and Bon Zainal.

According to Datuk Nancy Yeoh-Reissiger, the chairman of MFW, organising a fashion week for “entertainment” is now a thing of the past. She is looking to change the old mindset.

“We need real business – trade. Trade is the key word whether for domestic and international consumption. MFW has such made in-roads into both the US and China.”

She adds: “MFW will have its first showcase in Miami in July 2019 in conjunction with the Miami Fashion Week and will showcase all the things Malaysia is known for besides the sun – cruisewear, modestyle and menswear.”

“While Datuk Nancy is concentrating on marketing Malaysia to the world, I am tasked with preparing the Malaysian designers for the domestic market,” says the co-chair of MFW, fashion designer Bon Zainal.

MFW 2018 is organised by Stylo International, supported by the Ministry of Consumer Trade And Consumer Affairs, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation, Tourism Malaysia, Invest Selangor and the Kuala Lumpur City Hall.

Non-profit’s new coffee cart provides jobs for youth

Non-profit’s new coffee cart provides jobs for youth

For the past two years, a non-profit in San Ysidro, California, the United States, has trained some 40 youth to become baristas. The hope has been to equip them with skills and experience to land a job.

But there’s a problem: barista jobs are scarce in San Ysidro, which is home to a single Starbucks store and one Coffee Bean location.

Now, Casa Familiar, the social services non-profit that runs the barista programme, has opened a coffee cart to create jobs for young adults who complete the training.

In addition to providing jobs, the cart will help fill a “need” for more coffee shops in San Ysidro, said Estella Flores, Casa Familiar’s youth programme supervisor.

The cart, named El K-Fe (pronounced “el cafe”), is located outside the San Ysidro Health Center. The hope is the location will be one of more to open across the predominately Latino and low-income community. The cart has employed eight individuals.

The creation of jobs is important in San Ysidro, where about 36% of teens ages 16 to 19 are unemployed and about 27% of 20- to 24-year-old adults are jobless, according to US Census Bureau data.

Casa Familiar launched the barista training programme in 2016 to address common issues young job-seekers face when trying to land their first jobs, such as a lack of experience.

The idea was to give trainees “a little bit of a competitive edge”, Flores said.

Barista training, held at a kitchen at the San Ysidro Civic Center, includes coffee roasting and extraction, and milk steaming and foaming. Participants also make trips to local specialty coffee houses and roasters, such as Bird Rock Coffee Roasters locations in San Diego.

The three-month programme also includes workshops and one-on-one coaching on resume-building, interview skills and financial literacy. Casa Familiar selects San Diego residents between the ages of 14 and 24 who come from low-income families.

Flores said the barista training programme, which she oversees, allows youth to get a feel for the coffee industry and decide if it’s a line of work they’re interested in. Regardless, she said, the skills they gain, such as customer services and teamwork, can be applied in other types of jobs.

Casa Familiar also runs a training programme that helps youth become so-called art docents, or guides who lead art museum tours.

A former barista trainee, Francisco Dominguez, said the programme was “essential and really helpful”.

The 19-year-old was hired to work at Casa Familiar’s new coffee cart. It’s one of two jobs that helps him pay for college.

Dominguez, who attends Southwestern College, works at the cart for four hours between classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a full shift on Fridays.

He said the flexible schedule “works with the schedules of students in the community”.

Flores said Casa Familiar hopes to open other coffee carts across San Ysidro, perhaps at the non-profit’s art gallery, The Front, and a small-scale housing development that will break ground in December.

“There’s a lot of potential with the programme,” an optimistic Flores said.

Casa Familiar might also consider opening coffee carts at other San Ysidro Health clinics. The non-profit, which provides affordable health services, has other locations in National City, Chula Vista, El Cajon and elsewhere in San Diego.

“There aren’t coffee shops available near our San Ysidro facilities for our patients or staff,” San Ysidro Health CEO Kevin Mattson said in a statement. “El K-Fe does much more than fix that problem. Most people can remember their first job and how important the lessons they learned were to them. We are proud to invest in this project benefiting our community.”

Dominguez, who helped set up the coffee cart before it opened on Sept 14, said he wants to be around “a long time” – long enough to help the programme expand to other locations. – Tribune News Service/The San Diego Union-Tribune/David Hernandez

The Disgusting Food Museum features fly larvae-infested cheese & bull penises

The Disgusting Food Museum features fly larvae-infested cheese & bull penises

It makes sense that a country known for eating fermented herring would host a Disgusting Food Museum.

Sweden’s famously stinky fish dish, surströmming, has some serious competition from foods on exhibit, including a bull penis from China, frog smoothies from Peru and Scotland’s infamous boiled entrails in sheep’s stomach, haggis.

“Disgust is cultural. We like the foods we have grown up with,” says Andreas Ahrens, director of the museum in the southern city of Malmo. “Disgust is highly individual. The thought of eating a spider makes some people hungry but makes others want to vomit,” he adds.

Ahrens’ favourite exhibit? Casa Marzu, a fly larvae-infested cheese, because diners have to cover their eyes to avoid the jumping maggots.

Many of the exhibits feature real food, some of which visitors are allowed to taste. A special section dedicated to cheese allows visitors to sniff “the world’s stinkiest” – if they’re brave enough.

In exploring the idea of why certain foods are considered disgusting, curator Samuel West says he hopes people will be more open to other, more sustainable forms of food, such as insects or lab-grown meat.

“Which is more disgusting, eating a guinea pig or a regular pig – is there really any difference?” he asks. Cuy, or roasted guinea pig from Peru, is one of the exhibits at the museum, by the way.

The museum is open through Jan 27. Adult admission costs €18 (RM85), while children are free with an adult. – dpa


Great female artists reimagine the iconic Lady Dior bag

Great female artists reimagine the iconic Lady Dior bag

For the third edition of its Dior Lady Art project, the Dior fashion house has invited 11 artists from around the globe to reinvent its famous Lady Dior handbag. This year, the French luxury brand’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, chose to celebrate women in art with an all-female line-up of artists.

The Lady Dior handbag – named in honor of Princess Diana, who carried it on many occasions – proved a hit as soon as it was released in 1995. Embodying the spirit of the French fashion house, the bag, with its graphic codes, mostly comes finished with a “cannage” motif inspired by the Napoleon III chairs on which Christian Dior seated his guests at fashion shows. More than 20 years later, the bag has become a fashion icon, as well as a symbol of French craftsmanship, with various versions seeing the light of day.

Every year since 2016, the Dior fashion house has invited artists to create their own interpretations of the now legendary bag via its Dior Lady Art project. The collaboration was initially only open to British and American artists before going global. It takes a new turn this year with 11 women artists invited to turn the bag into a work of art.

Gold Leaves, Chains, Patchwork And Holographic Effects

Eleven women – visual and contemporary artists, photographers, painters and sculptors – have put their skills and creativity to work to turn the Lady Dior bag into custom works of art. For this edition, the French fashion house has tapped Olga de Amaral (Colombia), Polly Apfelbaum (USA), Burçak Bingöl (Turkey), Lee Bul (Korea), Isabelle Cornaro (France), Haruka Kojin (Japan), Li Shurui (China), Mickalene Thomas (USA), Janaina Tschäpe (USA), Morgane Tschiember (France) and Pae White (USA).

Highlights include a Lady Dior stitched with cotton leaves hand-finished in 24-carat gold by Olga de Amaral, and a black velvet mini bag embroidered with chains by Isabelle Cornaro. Li Shurui’s version in coated fabric is embossed and printed with a holographic effect, while the black patent calfskin version by Mickalene Thomas is embroidered with a multicolored patchwork of beads, threads and organza.

Watch out for various events from the Dior fashion house to mark this latest limited-edition creative selection. – AFP Relaxnews


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