December 2008

  • Posted: December 12th, 2008 - 2:54pm by Doug Powell

    Yesterday was the departmental Xmas potluck.

    I didn’t go.

    Not cause of the newborn, I just, on those rare occasions I get invited, avoid potlucks. There’s the ‘Hey, Food Safety Man, would you eat this,’ to which I politely smile and say sure, the biggest risk is not eating at all, cause I’m trying to be publicly polite, and meanwhile I’m not touching the sprout salad, the unpasteurized juices, the raw oysters (a big hit in Kansas) and the beef that’s been sitting at room temperature for 14 hours.

    Besides, once I start pontificating, I can’t shut up. Maybe I just like to hear myself talk.

    Some middle school students in Birmingham, Alabama, found out the hard way – meaning they barfed a lot – the risks of potlucks.

    The Birmingham News reports that nearly half of the students in a Smith Middle School language arts class became ill Friday after tasting meals that students had prepared as part of an assignment.

    Birmingham schools spokeswoman Michaelle Chapman said the students were to write about their favorite dish and how it was prepared. The teacher allowed them to make and bring the dish to class if they wished.

    Of the 18 students, 16 of them brought in dishes and eight students got sick after tasting them.

    After seeing this story, one colleague wrote his daughter’s principal, asking if there was a policy about bringing food into schools to share with others. I did the same years ago after my daughter was almost exposed to unpasteurized cider as part of a class trip to the farm.

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  • Posted: December 12th, 2008 - 2:04pm by Doug Powell

    My iPhone is a Blackberry with an iPod nano duct-taped to the back. Amy has an iPod Touch duct-taped to her Blackberry. iPhones are only available through AT&T, and we’re happy with T-Mobile.

    The Brits have a problem with vomit: people do it too often and in public, often outside the pub.

    So, as reported by The Register,

    Digital democracy charity MySociety has launched an iPhone app version of its successful FixMyStreet website. FixMyStreet encourages users to upload pictures of graffiti, fly tipping, dog fouling and other eyesores and hazards. It passes the information on to authorities, and claims about half the reports result in action.

    On iPhone, the process has been simplified by combining the picture with GPS data to instantly report problems over the air, rather than having to visit the FixMyStreet website and pinpoint the location on a map. The relevant council will be alerted automatically.

    I want an iPhone app for food safety violations so the authorities could be quickly alerted to food safety problems in restaurants, grocery stores, farms and my mom’s kitchen.


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  • Posted: December 11th, 2008 - 10:18pm by Ben Chapman

    Researchers at Kansas State published the results of a study of the barriers to food safety practices of food handlers.  Conducting focus groups with 159 food handlers, split into 2 groups, the researchers report that food handlers not only have a lack of food safety knowledge but also often a lack of understanding why employees should comply with food safety guidelines.

    Yep. Totally.  So what do we do about it?

    The recommendations the researchers provide are:
    -Provide regular food safety training to their foodservice employees;
    (sure, except training for knowledge change on it’s own doesn’t do much, as they state in their press release)
    -Educate employees about the consequences of improper food handling to improve attitudes toward food safety; (we prefer to use “compel” instead of educate, education is too limiting).
    -Place signs about consequences of improper food handling in food production areas; (kind of like our food safety infosheets?)
    And three food safety culture ideas -- (at barfblog we’ve been talking about food safety culture for a while, as have Frank Yiannas and Chris Griffith):
    -Encourage food safety compliance with verbal reminders and praise;
    -Be good role models;
    -Incorporate food safety practices into employees' daily routines to eliminate the perceptions that they do not have time to perform them.

    Hey this is great -- but what’s missing is the how. Just telling managers to make more time for food handlers isn’t very realistic. Food safety communications types, us included, need to get out and start testing food safety culture and measure behavior. And share the results so everyone can build on it.

    I presented some similar findings of food handler barriers at IAFP 2007 and some qualitative data on food safety practices at food service (highlighting time pressures especially) at IAFP 2008. I don’t think the solution to time pressures is telling the industry to slow down, or more "education". I think we need to engineer processes and equipment (like self sanitizing knives), look to new tools (like using sanitizer during busy times, instead of handwashing) -- and test them. If they work, and they don’t slow the kitchen down, it’s an easy sell.

    Our research in food safety culture needs to move to show me, don't tell me.

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  • Posted: December 11th, 2008 - 6:58am by Doug Powell

    Amy’s first meal after returning home with baby Sorenne? A snack spread of soft goat cheese with bite-sized pate and beet sandwiches, something I picked up from my Danish mentor, John Kierkegaard, back when I worked as a carpenter’s helper.

    Smoked salmon or turkey breast, with tomato slices and fresh basil was on the menu for breakfast. That should cover many of the potentially listeria-laden foods that pregnant women shouldn’t eat for nine months. But you won’t hear that from listeria expert Michael McCain of Maple Leaf Foods, who is still strangely silent on the tough questions.

    Amy’s mom was here for the birth and that turned out to be awesomely cool. But she did have to fly home through the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, which according to KNXV-TV, contains numerous restaurants with “major health violations.  In some cases, repeatedly failing to follow health code requirements. …

    “Famous Familigia in Terminal 4 received 17 major violations including ‘deli slicer soiled with food debris’ and 12 of 15 employees ‘without food service worker cards. …’

    “In October 2008, the Kokopelli Deli in Terminal 3 was cited after an employee ‘washed his hands then brushed his teeth with his fingers then went to work with food.’  In Terminal 4 at Flo’s Shanghai Cafe, employees were caught ‘cutting chicken with bare hand,’ ‘portioning peanuts onto chicken bare handed.’”

    If you’re waiting on an e-mail reply from me on anything in particular, you may be waiting awhile longer. And while my usual e-mail style is terse, typing one-handed means the responses will be terserer. It’s nothing personal, just a baby thing. Really. It’s not you, it’s me. Really.

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  • Posted: December 11th, 2008 - 4:35am by Doug Powell

    Have you noticed a trend? Blog posts at 4 a.m., bad baby metaphors, bad writing cause my brains are mush?

    Must be a baby in the house.

    The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA) writes on their website that there are suspicions that Hipp's fruit purée with banana and apricot may contain Colstridium Botulinum, following an outbreak of illness in Denmark.

    They are now recommending that all parents who have bought jars marked L35655, with a use-by date of 31.12.08 should throw them away.

    The Danish Food Safety Authority has sent the fruit purée for test ananlysis, and a final confirmation as to whether the food is poisonous will come at the end of the week.

    A quick trip to the Hipp Organic Baby Food web site finds lots of what isn’t in Hipp baby food like melamine or Irish pork, but no mention of botulism.

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  • Posted: December 10th, 2008 - 10:53pm by Doug Powell

    Don’t slaughter goats in the restaurant kitchen; don’t moon drive-through customers at the Dairy Queen, and don’t make your girls gone wild demo tape in the commercial dishwashing sink at the KFC where you work.

    Three Anderson, California girls (right) decided to go for a dip in the sink at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken, and one of the girls thought only her close friends who would never tell would see the pics so she decided to share on MySpace.

    The Redding Record Searchlight reports the photos had been filed under a gallery called “KFC moments.” Captions for the photos included “haha KFC showers!” and “haha we turned on the jets.” …

    Although the pictures were available to the public earlier today, all of the photos on the girl’s site were restricted to private viewers tonight.

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  • Posted: December 10th, 2008 - 7:05pm by Doug Powell

    If a so-called public relations expert says the only way your hotel and restaurant would recover from a PR disaster is to get “a makeover from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay,” just go ahead and pack it in.

    The Sydney Morning Herald reports that final tests on the gelato at the centre of the Coogee Bay Hotel poop scandal have come back inconclusive, with the DNA trace too weak to identify the person responsible for the murky affair.

    The NSW Food Authority has declared "case closed" after completing testing on a sample of gelato served to the Whyte family at the hotel on October 5, and which was found to contain faeces.

    The DNA trace was too weak to link to any one person, Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said.

    The hotel and the family reached a settlement last month, with the family being paid compensation believed to be about $60,000. Both parties have declined to discuss the matter in the wake of the settlement.


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  • Posted: December 10th, 2008 - 5:45pm by Doug Powell

    Some new New York restaurant is going to offer wine and beer in baby bottles to diners.

    The New York Times described the impending birth of La Cave des Fondus, an underground crib at Prince and Elizabeth Streets, as “a faithful homage to the Montmartre restaurant Le Refuge des Fondus, where Parisians enthusiastically suck down the house red and white."

    The owner of the Manhatten playpen said,

    “I wanted to set up my place exactly like the one in Paris. It’s such a fun place. Everybody loves drinking beer and wine from baby bottles - even my father thought it was fun - and I think New Yorkers will like it too. I checked with the health department and as long as we put the bottles in the dishwasher they have no problem with it.”

    Shouldn’t these geniuses be figuring out a way to deliver beer and wine through the breast? Everyone knows breastfeeding is best for babies.

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  • Posted: December 10th, 2008 - 7:08am by Doug Powell

    A pizza topped with a band-aid has landed a southern Sydney Dominos Pizza on an Australian state government's name and shame list of food safety infringements.

    The New South Wales Food Authority name and shame website currently contains 317 businesses with 502 fines issued.

    Primary Industries Ian Macdonald said the list was designed to stop individuals and companies that cut corners on food safety for consumers.

    "The fines have been for a range of breaches including dirty premises, allowing pests into food preparation areas and inappropriate temperature control of foods.”

    The website, has had over 1.4 million visitors since it was launched in July.

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  • Posted: December 9th, 2008 - 6:12pm by Mayra Rivarola

    A woman smuggled a sedated monkey under her blouse in a flight from Thailand to Los Angeles, pretending to be pregnant.

    Gypsy Lawson, 29, passed through U.S. customs with her mother and the monkey on Nov. 28, 2007.

    Lawson was arrested after boasting to a clothing store salesperson about her accomplishments. Both women were charged guilty of conspiracy and smuggling goods into the United States.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulates the import of animals on a federal level, although there are also state restrictions. The import of animals is highly regulated to prevent diseases and the introduction of an invasive species, or to protect endangered or threatened species.

    The rhesus macaque is not an endangered species, but it can transmit diseases.

    “The callousness and intent these people showed in carrying out their plan was egregious and placed at risk not only wildlife but potentially the health of other passengers on the plane and in their community,” said Paul Chang, special agent in charge of law enforcement for the Pacific Region of the FWS. “These animals are known carriers of viruses and parasites that can be transmitted to humans, although this particular animal tested negative.”

    All wildlife, including rhesus macaques, must be declared to CBP at the port of first arrival in the United States. When importing any wildlife, importers or their agents must file a completed Declaration for Importation or Exportation of Fish and Wildlife.

    The smuggling conviction carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years and a $250,000 fine.

    Despite fines that smugglers face, there are millions of animals smuggled across the border illegally, according to The $10 billion-a-year black market for non-native animals is second only to illegal drugs.

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  • Posted: December 9th, 2008 - 7:55am by Doug Powell

    As many as nine-out-of-ten chickens in Switzerland are infected with campylobacter, prompting the Federal Veterinary Office to call a crisis meeting of food and health experts, as well as poultry producers, for December 18.

    According to a report in the Sunday newspaper, SonntagsZeitung, the veterinary office was surprised by the results of the unpublished study, expecting only half as many chickens to have been infected with the bacteria.

    Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items.

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  • Posted: December 7th, 2008 - 2:12pm by Doug Powell

    I can hardly wait to lose the baby weight. Mine. I took sympathetic pregnancy a bit too far and really packed on the pounds.

    But now that Sorenne has arrived, this morning, as Amy was going into week 42, I can begin my walk-around-with baby exercise regime. Weighing in at 9 lbs. 9 ounces, she’ll be a good workout. Mother and baby are fine.

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  • Posted: December 6th, 2008 - 10:08pm by Doug Powell

    The New York Times wrote in an editorial Saturday that the Food and Drug Administration is right to focus on imported foods and it is encouraging that the agency has already hired staff for new offices in China and India that will try to ensure the safety of food products before they are exported.

    Yes, imported foods can be problematic. But so can homegrown foods. The silence surrounding California lettuce as a possible source of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in Michigan and Ontario is beyond disturbing. And the more fingers are pointed to imports, the fewer questions are asked about domestic supplies.

    The Times did get this part of their editorial right:

    “The goal is to root out tainted food — whether produced abroad or in this country — at the earliest stages of the production and distribution process while being ready to respond quickly if pathogens start reaching consumers.”

    They just couldn’t follow through with a meaningful statement and say, providing safe food actually depends on a culture of food safety from farm-to-fork, wherever that food comes from.

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  • Posted: December 6th, 2008 - 10:36am by Doug Powell

    A food safety friend wrote me over Thanksgiving to say that his wife was visiting family in Florida, and had gotten into an argument with mom over how best to thaw the Thanksgiving bird.

    “Her mother decided that there was no room in the fridge, so she did the next best thing, throwing the turkey into the swimming pool to thaw. It wasn’t heated, so the water was in the low 60s. The good news is that we convinced mom to rescue the bird from the pool. The bad news -- we did not get a picture of the floating turkey.”

    Then there’s my friend Steve, who is a moustache aficionado. The more we say he looks like an extra in Super Troopers, the more he defends the facial hair.

    Steve works for the Ontario government arranging hockey times for about a dozen different teams and reading FSnet. He also does something with fish.

    Steve noticed that a CSPI press release said to cook poultry to 180F, when the correct temperature is 165F. CSPI also parrots government by saying never thaw on a counter. Show us the data.

    Here’s Steve in action with some visiting Russian team. As Chapman correctly notes, this photo perfectly exhibits Naylor:

    • opposition has puck;
    • puck is in Naylor's defensive zone;
    • Naylor has his head down, breaking to the other blueline ready to get a pass; and,
    • Naylor is playing defense.

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  • Posted: December 5th, 2008 - 4:16pm by Doug Powell

    The folks at Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington, Ill., are making Christmas ornaments out of reindeer poop. Staffers call these things “magical reindeer gem ornaments.” They cost $5 each. …

    The poop is dried, clear-coated and rolled in glitter.

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  • Posted: December 5th, 2008 - 3:40pm by Doug Powell

    A text message proved effective in alerting thousands of students about last month's norovirus outbreak at Hope College.

    Hope College officials informed the Health Department they had a database that contained all of the students email and text messaging addresses. 3600 students were notified at once.

    Students were asked via text message to reply to an email detailing their symptoms and how long they were ill.

    The Health Department says in the end about 540 students responded. Officials say the information was crucial for determining a plan of action and slowing the spread of the virus.


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  • Posted: December 5th, 2008 - 8:48am by Doug Powell

    Everyone knows that beer is great. But sometimes the slogans used to sell it are even better.

    10. Blatz - How Mother and Baby "Picked Up"
    This advertisement actually says, "A case of Blatz Beer in your home means much to the young mother, and obviously baby participates in its benefits

    9. Schlitz - The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous
    Being famous for Schlitz is up there with being famous for dandruff

    8. Red Stripe - Hooray Beer!
    After three or four brewskis the little man in your brain isn't thinking about problems at work, your mortgage payment or the fact that your wife doesn't find you attractive anymore. He's just dancing around in his boxers and yelling, "Hooray Beer!"

     7. Mackeson Milk Stout - It looks good, it tastes good, and by golly it does you good.

    6. Carlsberg - Probably the Best Beer in the World.
    Hey, this beer might be the best one in the world. Or maybe it's not.

    5. Courage Beer - It's What Your Right Arm Is For
    God gave you two arms for a reason. Your right one is for shoveling Courage Beer into your face. And your left one is for everything else. (I'm pretty sure that's somewhere in the Bible.)

    4. Miller High Life - The Champagne of Beers
    Does it make sense to use another type of alcohol to try and sell your own brand of alcohol?

    3. Pabst Blue Ribbon - This One Has The Touch!
    I have an uncle who got a case of "the touch" after a case of Pabst. He's not allowed to come over for Thanksgiving anymore.

    2. Colt 45 - It Works Every Time
    Colt 45 wants to make it very clear. It will get you laid EVERY TIME you drink it. Not 1/3 of the time. Not 74% of the time. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Just ask Billy Dee Williams.

    1.    Schaefer - It's The One Beer To Have When You're Having More Than One


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  • Posted: December 4th, 2008 - 10:17pm by Doug Powell

    DNA fingerprinting is awesome.

    It takes the ambiguity out of parenthood, crime, and skin and fingernails in salad.

    A customer was eating at Pizza Express in West Wickham High Street when she bit into something hard and chewy.

    She removed it from her mouth and found something resembling a piece of human skin with part of a nail attached.

    DNA testing linked the half-inch piece of skin to the restaurant’s chef, Nicalau Vandley, who had cut his finger while chopping red peppers two days before the salad was served on January 1 this year.

    Pizza Express admitted selling food unfit for human consumption and was fined £7,500 at Bromley Magistrates’ Court December 3.

    How exactly the skin ended up in the salad is not known.


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  • Posted: December 4th, 2008 - 1:07pm by Doug Powell

    The manager of Stromboli Pizza in Allentown says a customer saw one of the restaurant cooks carving up a deer Tuesday. John Okumus says the venison wasn't intended for the store. He says he shot a doe during a hunt and left the carcass in the store's kitchen for pickup by a friend.

    Okumus says a customer complained to the city health department after seeing a cook mistakenly butcher the deer.

    The department investigated the incident but did not issue a citation.

    There are reasons animals are slaughtered in  slaughterhouses.  See the infosheet below.

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  • Posted: December 4th, 2008 - 11:05am by Doug Powell

    Yes, Mr. Kang, Chinese food can be cooked to food safety regulations.

    The Gainesville Sun reports that a Florida judge has recommended shutting down the Szechuan Panda Chinese Restaurant for repeated health violations that were not corrected over several inspections between December 2007 and March of this year.

    Administrative Law Judge Ella Jane Davis issued the recommended order Nov. 19 after an Aug. 5 hearing for owner Yu Zeng Kang to dispute a complaint filed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Division of Hotels and Restaurants.

    Daniel Fulton, senior sanitation and safety specialist with the division, inspected the restaurant five times between Dec. 19, 2007, and March 30, 2008. He reported repeat violations that included live roaches in food preparation and food service areas, dead roaches throughout the building, food stored at improper temperatures, an "unidentified slime" growing in a food container, food stored directly on the floor and improper utensils used to handle food.

    According to the judge's order, Kang responded through an interpreter that most of the violations were because "Chinese cooking was not conducive to meeting the regulations."

    Kang also testified that dead roaches were swept out every night, however the judge noted that those found the following morning remained until the nightly cleaning, the order said.

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