Posting graphical, concise food safety stories in the back kitchens of restaurants can help reduce dangerous food safety practices and create a workplace culture that values safe food.
It’s the first time that a communication intervention such as food safety information sheets have been validated to work using direct video observation in eight commercial restaurant kitchens.
“The food safety messages we’ve looked at are as effective as those ‘Employees must wash hands’ signs in bathrooms.,” said Dr. Douglas Powell, an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University and one of the co-authors on a new paper in the Journal of Food Protection. “They just don’t work.”
Powell and then graduate student, Ben Chapman, now an assistant professor of food safety at North Carolina State University, came up with the idea for food safety infosheets to promote discussion and improve food safety behaviors while playing hockey at the University of Guelph in 2003.
“Chapman and I were playing hockey a lot,” says Powell, “and there was a bar and restaurant that overlooked the one ice surface where we often engaged in after-hockey food safety meetings with our industry, provincial and federal government colleagues. We had all this food safety information, and the manager of the bar around 2003 was into food safety, so we thought, if daily sports pages are posted above urinals and on the doors of washroom stalls, why not engaging food safety information?”
As part of his PhD research, Chapman partnered with a food service company in Canada and placed small video cameras in unobtrusive spots around eight food-service kitchens that volunteered to participate in the study. There were as many as eight cameras in each kitchen, which recorded directly to computer files and later reviewed by Chapman and others.
Food safety inforsheets, highlighting the importance of handwashing or preventing cross-contamination, for example, were then introduced into the kitchens, and video was again collected. The researchers found that cross-contamination events decreased by 20 per cent, and handwashing attempts increased by 7 per cent.
Since September 2006 over 150 food safety infosheets have been produced and are available to anyone at www.foodsafetyinfosheets.com. The website has had a recent redesign, adding a search function, automatic email alerts and RSS feeds.
Katie Filion, who coded much of the video as an undergraduate student researcher, has moved from Canada and is now completing a Master’s degree with Powell at Kansas State University. She has just returned from a year of research with the New Zealand Food Safety Authority helping to design a national restaurant inspection disclosure system.
Dr. Tanya MacLurin, who collaborated on the research, was born on a farm/ranch in Kansas and received all her degrees from Kansas State University before joining the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Guelph in 1991, where she subsequently collaborated with Powell.
The study, “Assessment of food safety practices of food service food handlers : testing a communication intervention” was authored by Dr. Ben Chapman of North Carolina State University, Dr. Douglas Powell and Katie Filion of Kansas State University, and Tiffany Eversley and Tanya MacLaurin of the University of Guelph in Canada. The study is published in the June issue of the Journal of Food Protection.
“Assessment of Food Safety Practices of Food Service Food Handlers: Testing a Communication Intervention”
Authors: Benjamin J. Chapman, North Carolina State University; Douglas A. Powell, Katie Fillion, Kansas State University; Tiffany Eversley, Tanya MacLaurin, University of Guelph
Published: June 2010, Journal of Food Protection
Abstract: Globally, foodborne illness affects an estimated 30% of individuals annually. Meals prepared outside of the home are a risk factor for acquiring foodborne illness and have been implicated in up to 70% of traced outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called on food safety communicators to design new methods and messages aimed at increasing food safety risk-reduction practices from farm to fork. Food safety infosheets, a novel communication tool designed to appeal to food handlers and compel behavior change, were evaluated. Food safety infosheets were provided weekly to food handlers in working foodservice operations for 7 weeks. It was hypothesized that through the posting of food safety infosheets in highly visible locations, such as kitchen work areas and hand washing stations, that safe food handling behaviors of foodservice staff could be positively influenced. Using video observation, food handlers (n ~ 47) in eight foodservice operations were observed for a total of 348 h (pre- and postintervention combined). After the food safety infosheets were introduced, food handlers demonstrated a significant increase (6.7%, P , 0.05, 95% confidence interval) in mean hand washing attempts, and a significant reduction in indirect cross-contamination events (19.6%, P , 0.05, 95% confidence interval). Results of the research demonstrate that posting food safety infosheets is an effective intervention tool that positively influences the food safety behaviors of food handlers.
I'm all about investigating new messages and methods to communicate good food safety practices to foodhandlers with the aim of changing behavior. It's not enough to ask people whether they think they've changed what they do after being exposed to something -- behavior change needs to be measured. Behavior change-based evaluations messy, and can be a bit dicey gaining access to real working environments, but the results can be pretty cool. Last week I posted that a paper detailing the evaluation of food safety infosheets was published, and below is an NC State press release detailing some of the risk assessment data we collected.
How safe is the food we get from restaurants, cafeterias and other food-service providers? A new study from North Carolina State University -- the first study to place video cameras in commercial kitchens to see how precisely food handlers followed food-safety guidelines -- discovered that risky practices can happen more often than previously thought.
"Meals prepared outside the home have been implicated in up to 70 percent of food poisoning outbreaks, making them a vital focus area for food safety professionals," says Dr. Ben Chapman, assistant professor and food safety specialist in the department of family and consumer sciences at NC State and lead author of the paper. "We set out to see how closely food handlers were complying with food safety guidance, so that we can determine how effective training efforts are."
In order to get firsthand data on these food-safety practices, researchers placed small video cameras in unobtrusive spots around eight food-service kitchens that volunteered to participate in the study. There were as many as eight cameras in each kitchen, which recorded directly to computer files and were later reviewed by Chapman and others. What they found demonstrates the need for new food safety-focused messages and methods targeting food handlers.
"We found a lot more risky practices in some areas than we expected," Chapman says. For example, most previous studies relied on inspection results and self-reporting by food handlers to estimate instances of "cross-contamination" and found that cross-contamination was relatively infrequent. But Chapman's study found approximately one cross-contamination event per food handler per hour. In other words, the average kitchen worker committed eight cross-contamination errors, which have the potential to lead to illnesses, in the course of the typical eight-hour shift.
Cross-contamination occurs when pathogens, such as Salmonella, are transferred from a raw or contaminated source to food that is ready to eat. For example, using a knife to cut raw chicken and then using the same knife to slice a sandwich in half. Cross-contamination can also result from direct contact, such as raw meat dripping onto vegetables that are to be used in a salad.
"Each of these errors would have been deemed a violation under U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Code inspection guidelines. But more importantly, cross-contamination has the potential to lead to foodborne illnesses and has in recent outbreaks" Chapman says. "And it's important to note that the food-service providers we surveyed in this study reflected the best practices in the industry for training their staff."
The study also confirmed the long-held supposition that more food-safety mistakes are made when things are busier in the kitchen. "During peak hours, we found increases in cross-contamination and decreases in workers complying with hand-washing guidelines," Chapman says.
But the researchers do more than identify problems in the new paper; they outline solutions that can be applied to the food service industry. One suggestion is that food-safety training for kitchen staff needs to address the "team-like" nature of a commercial kitchen, rather than focusing on food handlers as individuals. "This study shows us that each food handler is operating as part of a system," Chapman says, "and the food-safety culture of the overall organization—the kitchen and the management—needs to be addressed in order to effect change. For example, the general manager of a restaurant could take steps to highlight the value his or her business places on food safety."
Other steps that can be taken to address food-safety concerns include the introduction of new tools and procedures designed to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. New tools could be as simple as installing hand sanitizer units in accessible areas of the kitchen, which may be effective for reducing the likelihood of transfer of some pathogens. New procedures may include overhauling existing food-preparation schedules so that cooks face less time pressure during peak hours—and are therefore less likely to make food-safety mistakes.
The study, "Assessment of Food Safety Practices of Food Service Food Handlers: Testing a Communication Intervention" was co-authored by Dr. Douglas Powell and Katie Filion of Kansas State University, as well as Tiffany Eversley and Tanya MacLaurin of the University of Guelph in Canada. The study is published in the June issue of the Journal of Food Protection.
The Utah County Department of Health (that’s in the U.S.) reports the Campylobacter outbreak that left more than 300 people in Saratoga Springs ill and triggered a boil order appears to be receding.
Joy Holbrook, a nurse epidemiologist with the department, said,
"We're thinking that the outbreak is decreasing out there. It has been several days since we've had any new cases from Saratoga Springs."
Health department officials still are looking for the source of the contamination, which is responsible for 21 confirmed cases of Campylobacter and more than 300 probable cases. Holbrook said the small trace of organisms required to cause sickness and infection can be difficult to detect.
I haven’t put on makeup, played video games or combed my hair while driving – because I never do any of those things – but I’ve done everything else in this pop survey released in May and discussed by my friend and his wife as they drove to Vermont and back.
• 72% eat food while driving.
• 35% have taken clothes off or put clothes on while driving.
• 29% have kissed others while driving and 15% have performed sexual acts while driving.
• 28% have sent text messages while driving.
• 23% say they’ve combed their hair while behind the wheel.
• 13% have put on makeup while driving.
• 12% have written or read e-mails while driving.
• 10% reported reading newspapers or magazines while driving.
• 5% confessed to having played video games.
• 5% say they have shaved while behind the wheel.
Roadside lemonade stands are from another era. But in California, business is booming, so police launched an investigation and charged two people with “hawking.” That’s the legal term.
“As a result of the operation two persons were issued citation for hawking infractions, 16 persons received citations for misdemeanor food violations, and one person received a citation for felony violation of dairy products. Three of the violators later returned to the area and were arrested and booked into the West Valley Detention Center for a Health and Safety Code.
“Samples of the food products that were confiscated will be tested at a State laboratory for any contamination. Food products confiscated from past details have tested positive for listeria, salmonella, E. coli, and other harmful bacteria.
This operation was part of an ongoing effort to address agriculture violations that present a significant health risk to the communities within San Bernardino County.”
The phoney inspectors sometimes threaten fines for failing to schedule inspections.
That's a warning sign, according to health authority officials, because inspections are nearly always unannounced, not scheduled.
If inspections are being scheduled, it’s probably a food safety auditor – zing.
The fraudsters try to extract detailed business and personal information from the restaurant operator for the purposes of identity theft, apparently for use in circumventing Craigslist's security settings.
Tim Shum, Fraser Health's regional director of health protection, said restaurants should ask to see the photo ID of anyone coming to their premises claiming to be an inspector.
Lifesoy Inc., a San Diego-based manufacturer of ready-to-eat soy products cited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for preparing, packing, and holding articles of food under insanitary conditions, has entered into a consent decree of permanent injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
The consent decree requires Lifesoy to stop manufacturing and distributing food products until the company registers with the FDA and complies with federal laws regarding sanitary practices.
Lifesoy made sweetened and unsweetened soy milk, fried tofu, fresh tofu, soybean pudding, and other soy products for human consumption. The government’s complaint further alleges that Lifesoy did not hold and store the foods under proper refrigeration conditions to prevent the growth of microorganisms.
The N.Y Daily News reports in another pop science study that of four iPads that were swabbed in two stores last month and then tested in a lab, two contained harmful pathogens.
One sample, collected at the 14th St. store, contained Staphylococcus aureus, the most common cause of staph infections, which can lead to an array of ailments, from minor skin infection to meningitis.
The second swab from that store only contained benign, skin-borne microbes, but in unusually high quantities, pointing to an extremely grimy iPad.
Dr. Philip Tierno, director of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center, said that iPads handled by a multitude of strangers are bacteria breeding grounds.
"We clean our products and our stores regularly throughout the day," said Apple spokeswoman Amy Bessette. "And we are committed to creating a healthy environment for our customers."
Tierno said exactly what bites-l news guru Gonzalo ‘Gonzo’ Erdozain said in April after visiting an Apple store in Kansas City: Apple should consider providing small disinfecting wipes to customers and installing small sinks or sanitizing gel dispensers inside its stores.
We visited with our neighbors yesterday and their baby, Luna Sofia, who is currently called baby Luna Sofia although that may pass, and the Columbian mother asked if I was going to watch the World Cup of soccer.
I said no, and tried to extol the virtues of ice hockey.When I think of watching World Cup soccer I have this image of Malcolm McDowell being rehabilitated in A Clockwork Orange.
But that doesn’t stop the civilized British soccer fans from using bad World Cup metaphors to spread their faith-based food safety.
Food Safety Week starts today, and with many people likely to have barbecues or be eating outdoors for World Cup matches, the Food Standards Agency is reminding everyone that food bugs can cause more misery than a penalty shoot-out.
In Sept.. 2007, my friend Frank was running food safety things at Disney in Orlando, and asked me to visit and speak with his staff.
“Doug, I want you to talk about food safety messages that have been proven to work, that are supported by peer-reviewed evidence and lead to demonstrated behavior change,” or something like that.
I said it would be a brief talk.
There was nothing – nothing – that could be rigorously demonstrated to have changed food safety behavior in any group, positive or negative. Everything was about as effective as those, ‘Employees must wash hands’ signs.
Sometime around 2001 things started to change in my lab at the University of Guelph. I’d gotten tired of genetically engineered food, had gone about as far as we could with the fresh produce on-farm food safety thing, and I wanted to focus more on the things that made people barf.
Chapman and I were playing hockey a lot – one of the advantages of having an on-campus office right beside two full-sized ice hockey surfaces (not the miniature size available in Manhattan, Kansas) – and there was a bar and restaurant that overlooked the one ice surface where we often engaged in after-hockey food safety meetings with our industry, provincial and federal government colleagues.
We had all this food safety information, and the manager of the bar around 2003 was into food safety, so we thought, if daily sports pages are posted above urinals and on the doors of washroom stall, why not engaging food safety information?
It took us awhile to become engaging, but we listened to criticism and made things better. We experimented with different formats in restaurants and on-line. There’s an entire paper describing all this but it hasn’t been published yet (accepted, but not published).
Meanwhile, Chapman took ownership of these food safety infosheets, they got translated into different languages depending on the capabilities of whatever students were around, and we had lots of e-mails from all over the world from people who like them and use them in the workplace.
But a bunch of e-mails doesn’t count as much in the way of evidence.
So Chapman (left, with Dani, 10 years ago at my place) partnered with a food safety dude at a company in Canada and they made things happen (we are forever grateful, dude, above right, exactly as shown, and you know who you are).
Katie and Tiffany had to watch hours of video, Tanya and me helped with the design, but otherwise it was Chapman, going to these sites at 5 a.m. to make sure the cameras were set up. I went once when visiting from Kansas, but otherwise, stayed out of the way, other than years of nagging to write it up, finish his thesis, and the weekly attempts to correct his horrendous spelling and grammar on the infosheets.
Since September 2006 over 150 food safety infosheets have been produced and are available to anyone at www.foodsafetyinfosheets.com. The website has had a recent redesign, adding a search function, automatic email alerts and RSS feeds. The new database is also sortable by pathogen, location and risk factor.
• why did Maple Leaf wait so long to issue a public recall of its killer products in 2008 when epidemiology clearly implicated the product;
• why aren’t listeria test results in Maple Leaf plants made public;
• why aren’t there warning labels on deli meats for at-risk populations, like pregnant women and all those old people that unnecessarily died; and,
• why aren’t Maple Leaf’s food safety efforts marketed at retail so consumers can choose?
Other companies that want to lead are already working in these areas, rather than wining and dining trendy bloggers.
“The Publix Deli is committed to the highest quality fresh cold cuts & cheeses. Therefore we recommend all cold cuts are best if used within three days of purchase. And all cheese items are best if used within four days of purchase.”
Chicken banned in the city sounds like the title of yet another bad Loverboy song (Canada has so much to apologize for in terms of bad music inflicted upon the world, see below; this song by Calgary's Loverboy came on the radio while driving back from Nebraska and Phebus said he liked it; there's no accounting for taste).
There are some new Fresh Express bagged salad commercials running on the television; they don’t mention anything about Salmonella or the many efforts Fresh Express takes to control dangerous pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli in its products.
Which is too bad.
There have been many reinterpretations of history regarding fresh produce and microbial food safety. We have argued the tipping point was 1996, involving both the Odwalla E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in unpasteurized juice, coupled with the cyclospora outbreak which was initially and erroneously linked to California strawberries (it was Guatemalan raspberries). This led to the first attempts at comprehensive on-farm food safety programs for fresh produce because, these bugs ain’t going to be washed off; they have to be prevented, as much as possible, from getting on or in fresh produce on the farm.
For the growers of leafy greens, things apparently didn’t tip until the 2006 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in bagged spinach from California that sickened 200 and killed four.
Ultimately, investigators showed that the E. coli O157:H7 was found on a transitional organic spinach field and was the same serotype as that found in a neighboring grass-fed cow-calf operation. These findings, coupled with the public outcry linked to the outbreak and the media coverage, sparked a myriad of changes and initiatives by the industry, government and others. What may never be answered is, why this outbreak at this time? A decade of evidence existed highlighting problems with fresh produce, warning letters were written, yet little was seemingly accomplished. The real challenge for food safety professionals, is to garner support for safe food practices in the absence of an outbreak, to create a culture that values microbiologically safe food, from farm-to-fork, at all times, and not just in the glare of the media spotlight.
One of the responses out of California was to create the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement – after 29 outbreaks, at the time, linked to leafy greens and after years of warning from FDA. The most noticeable achievement since the Agreement has been the containment cone of silence that has descended upon outbreaks involving leafy greens, and an apparent shift in FDA policy that sets epidemiology aside and requires positive samples in unopened product – a ridiculous standard since no one routinely tests for other Shiga-toxin producing E. coli like O145. That was referring to the Freshway Foods E. coli O145 in romaine lettuce outbreak earlier this year that sickened some 50 people near colleges in Michigan, Ohio and New York.
These are all confirmed outbreaks. Every day, I receive a couple of messages about people sick here and there, and the public health types have dozens of potential foodborne outbreaks under scrutiny at any one time.
When to provide public information is a contentious issue: the public has a right to know about outbreaks of foodborne illness and rapid provision of information may prevent additional illnesses, but going too early and too often can be like crying wolf – especially if health types get it wrong and businesses are unduly harmed.
An e-mail was circulated on May 12, 2010, asking food safety and public health types about a possible salmonella in lettuce outbreak in the Midwest U.S. with links to California.
On Thurs. May 20, lawyer Bill Marler speculated about a lettuce-related Salmonella outbreak in the "upper-Midwest, that appears linked to industry leader, Fresh Express. It is interesting that the Health Department and FDA remain silent on this one too.”
I didn’t publish anything because it was speculation – which I deal with everyday. We have guidelines for what we choose to publish or not. They are available at http://bites.ksu.edu/about-bites.
The recall notification is being issued out of an abundance of caution based on an isolated instance in which a single package of Fresh Express Hearts of Romaine Salad with a use by date of May 15 was confirmed positive for Salmonella in a random sample test conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
I immediately took to barfblog.com, having been sitting on all this lettuce-related poop for awhile, and asked, when was the sample test conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because there have been rumors of a positive circulating on the Intertubes? When was the positive confirmed? What strain of Salmonella is involved? Why go public now instead of earlier? How incompetent does the Fresh Express PR person have to be to ignore these questions in the press release? Sounds like the Sponge Bob leafy greens cone of silence.
Shortly thereafter, I got a phone call from Dr. Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota expert on infectious diseases and public health and a paid consultant to Fresh Express since 1999.
He didn’t like the post, and didn’t like the picture, which we use for every leafy green outbreak or incident (thank you Christian, former student who created it in my Guelph kitchen).
Osterholm and I bantered back and forth about going public and I stressed, if Fresh Express has a great food safety story to tell, they should tell it.
About 30 minutes later, Osterholm called me back and said, OK, Fresh Express says I can tell you whatever you want to know.
We talked at 6 a.m. central time the next day.
Osterholm repeatedly stressed how committed Fresh Express was to food safety and how that attracted him to consult for the firm. He talked about how the company had ‘boots on the ground’ rather than relying on outsiders for food safety audits, and that the safety culture trumped the legal culture that dominated other firms.
Good for them.
Osterholm stressed that Fresh Express tested irrigation water and product, but did not know if those results would be made public (although they were shared with regulators).
Osterholm told me he was informed a couple of weeks earlier – thereabouts to May 12, 2010 – there were eight people sick Salmonella typhirmirium linked to Fresh Express salad, but they had all consumed it several weeks earlier so there was no public health purpose in going public. The May 24, 2010 Salmonella recall was a completely separate incident. According to Osterholm, FDA types showed up at the Fresh Express office, didn’t know the Salmonella species, and yet Fresh Express executed a traceback and recall within hours and that showed how awesome the company was.
“Clearly having a salmonella positive in one of your bags is something you don’t want; here was a company that walked the talk, they had a traceback system and within hours could tell everyone about those fields.”
It didn’t say that in the Fresh Express press release, and it’s not up to me to tell their story.
On May 27, 2010, California’s organicgirl produce announced a precautionary recall of 10 oz organicgirl baby spinach with use-by date of May 22.
“organicgirl produce immediately conducted a traceability analysis and an appraisal of its food safety documentation, which were all in compliance. Additionally, organicgirl raw product testing records for the relevant time period did not show the presence of any pathogens.”
After talking with Osterholm, I sent an e-mail to the media relations folks at FDA regarding the May 24/10 Fresh Express Salmonella recall, and, after a few days, they responded:
Q. When was the sample collected i.e. when was the bag pulled?
A. May 5, 2010
Q. When was Fresh Express notified of the Salmonella positive?
A. May 21, 2010
Q. What kind of Salmonella was it?
A. S. Anatum
Q. Does FDA review and approve press releases such as the May 24/10 one from Fresh Express?
A. Recall press releases are reviewed at the District primarily.
I then sent a follow-up question, asking why so long between when the sample was pulled – May 5/10 – and the company informed of a positive – May 21/10.
FDA, Fresh Express and the leafy greens folks all sorta suck at this communications thing.
FDA is responsive to – who knows, and has no policy for when or how to go public. Oh, they have some things they tell journalists, like this story in the Packer, but it’s full of fudge-factors. I understand there are uncertainties, but, like any good risk assessment, you go public and admit uncertainties rather than trying to act all-knowing.
FDA types also made a big splash in May when their transparency plan was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The task force also said the FDA should regularly share basic information about facility inspections it conducts and the result of each inspection. Routinely sharing the information could give the public a clearer understanding of the FDA's role in protecting public health and would make firms accountable not just to the FDA, but to the larger public.
The information would also give other firms more information about the companies they choose to do business with, the group said. "Market pressures may create incentives for firms to correct violations quickly or prevent violations from occurring in the future."
OMG, FDA is talking about marketing food safety.
But Fresh Express, you’re an industry leader and this year’s winner of the International Association for Food Protection’s Black Pearl award for food safety leadership. Forget government, lead by example. Make your test results public, market food safety at retail so consumers can choose, and if people get sick from your product, you better be the first to tell the public.
A table of leafy green foodborne illness outbreaks is available at:
As of 11:00 PM EDT on June 2, 2010, a total of 35 individuals infected with a matching strain of Salmonella Newport have been reported from 11 states since March 1, 2010. The number of ill people identified in each state with this strain is as follows: AZ (2), CA (17), CO (1), ID (5), IL (1), MO (1), NM (1), NV (2), OR (2), PA (1), and WI (2). Among those for whom information is available about when symptoms started, illnesses began between March 1, 2010 and May 16, 2010. Case-patients range in age from <1 to 75 years old, and the median age is 36 years. Sixty-six percent of patients are female. Among the 30 patients with available hospitalization information, 7 (23%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
On May 21, 2010, J.H. Caldwell and Sons Inc. of Maywood, CA, recalled several brands of alfalfa sprouts distributed to wholesale distributors, restaurants, delicatessens, and grocery stores.
Recalled products might still be in grocery stores, restaurants, and consumers' homes. Recalled products should not be consumed. Consumers are advised to review FDA’s recall site for a list of recalled products.
Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking kills the harmful bacteria.
Request that raw sprouts not be added to your food. If you purchase a sandwich or salad at a restaurant or delicatessen, check to make sure that raw sprouts have not been added.
The glasses have been sold for $2 apiece at McDonald's restaurants across the country as a promotional tie-in with the movie "Shrek Forever After." Purchasers will be advised to keep them away from children and to return them to McDonald's for a refund.
The recall, which will be officially announced Friday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, was set in motion by an anonymous tip to Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) last week. She alerted the commission, which tested the glasses and confirmed the presence of cadmium in the paint used for the decorative characters. Cadmium is a carcinogen and can cause kidney, lung, intestinal and bone damage.
Speier's office said McDonald's voluntarily agreed to recall the glasses at the urging of the commission.
Seven years ago, after a couple of post-pick-up hockey discussions about placing food safety information on bulletin boards above urinals, food safety infosheets were born. The idea was to take stories pulled for FSNet (now bites.ksu.edu) and give them to food handlers because hey, who doesn’t like a good story. Targeted at the food service industry, food safety infosheets were intended to provide compelling food safety risk-reduction information and generate behavior change.
After churning infosheets out semi-weekly for a year, those who were receiving them provided anecdotes suggesting that they had become useful passive, postable communication tools.
Great. But we needed to actually measure that the infosheets worked. Too often fantastic communication ideas are implemented with no evaluation conducted (or severely limited evaluation) to confirm whether the tools actually do anything. Surveys, focus groups and other methodologies focusing on behavior change have a place in food safety research, but alone, tell us more about what individuals think than how they act. In a 2003 review of consumer food safety studies (Journal of Food Protection 66:130-161) , Liz Redmond and Chris Griffiths wrote:
The direct observation of human and animal behavior is believed by social scientists to be superior to other methods of data collection. This belief stems from the assumption that data gathered through the direct observation of actions reflect those behaviors directly rather than through intermediary means such as a questionnaire.
Observation is awesome because practices aren’t viewed through a filter. Video observation is more awesome because individual actions can be stopped, rewound, slowed down and viewed by multiple people from multiple angles. Using video observation to evaluate any behavior change that the infosheets might create became the focus of a three-year project that was published yesterday.
After striking up a relationship with a major international foodservice company around the use of infosheets,, their extremely open and progressive food safety dude allowed our team into their kitchens with our macbooks and webcams, let us to ask their employees for permission to record them working, and we were off. In a true demonstration of a good food safety culture, the company wanted to know how well their training programs and other tools (like the infosheets) might be working. No one expressed concern over what we might see – they wanted to know where they should concentrate resources.
We recorded 47 employees at 8 different sites making meals and snacks for a couple of days. Infosheets were posted weekly for seven weeks (including this one, Zappa picking his nose, exactly as shown; aptly known as the “Dirty Finger Al” infosheet) and then we went back with our voyeur tools and recorded again. We generated 348 hours of observation data (and about a year of video analysis).
The infosheets worked. After being exposed to the weekly postings, cross-contamination events went down (20%) and handwashing attempts went up (7%). There were some other gems that we were able to glean from the data including charting risky events by hour of the day and getting a better handle on the prevalence of cross-contamination.
Since September 2006 over 150 food safety infosheets have been produced and are available for download at no cost at www.foodsafetyinfosheets.com. The website has had a recent redesign, adding a search function, automatic email alerts and RSS feeds. The new database is also sortable by pathogen, location and risk factor.
Assessment of Food Safety Practices of Food Service Food Handlers: Testing a Communication Intervention
Chapman, Benjamin; Eversley, Tiffany; Filion, Katie; MacLaurin, Tanya; Powell, Douglas Journal of Food Protection, Volume 73, Number 6, June 2010 , pp. 1101-1107
Globally, foodborne illness affects an estimated 30% of individuals annually. Meals prepared outside of the home are a risk factor for acquiring foodborne illness and have been implicated in up to 70% of traced outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called on food safety communicators to design new methods and messages aimed at increasing food safety risk-reduction practices from farm to fork. Food safety infosheets, a novel communication tool designed to appeal to food handlers and compel behavior change, were evaluated. Food safety infosheets were provided weekly to food handlers in working food service operations for 7 weeks. It was hypothesized that through the posting of food safety infosheets in highly visible locations, such as kitchen work areas and hand washing stations, that safe food handling behaviors of food service staff could be positively influenced. Using video observation, food handlers (n = 47) in eight food service operations were observed for a total of 348 h (pre- and postintervention combined). After the food safety infosheets were introduced, food handlers demonstrated a significant increase (6.7%, P < 0.05, 95% confidence interval) in mean hand washing attempts, and a significant reduction in indirect cross-contamination events (19.6%, P < 0.05, 95% confidence interval). Results of the research demonstrate that posting food safety infosheets is an effective intervention tool that positively influences the food safety behaviors of food handlers.
The Columbian reports that Dianne and Larry Fletch had operated the day care for more than 20 years; their license was suspended in April while the state proceeded with an investigation.
The Department of Early Learning sent Dianne Fletch a seven-page letter explaining its decision to revoke her license. The letter was dated May 21, but the state announced the revocation on Thursday after receiving confirmation from the Fletches that they had received the letter, which had been sent by registered mail.
Larry Fletch said he and his wife will appeal the decision.
Fresh produce is yet again suspect as the Subway chain has voluntarily withdrawn lettuce, green peppers, red onion and tomatoes after a bunch of people got Salmonella at a bunch of Subway stores in Illinois.
Salmonella cases identified in this outbreak reported eating at Subway locations in 14 counties, including Sangamon, Schuyler, Christian, Bureau, LaSalle, Cass, Champaign, Peoria, Shelby, Warren, Macon, Ogle, Fulton and Tazewell. At this point in the investigation, no cases have reported eating at Subway restaurants in either northeastern or southernmost portions of Illinois. Illnesses are reported to have started between May 14 and May 25 and cases range in age from six-years to 88-years-old.
The specific type of Salmonella involved in this outbreak is a rare serotype called Hvittingfoss. Typically, only one to two cases of this type of Salmonella are seen in Illinois per year.
Epidemiology is an imperfect science; but it’s better than astrology, especially when people are seriously barfing.
Producers of food, big and small, have all employed various lines over the years to say, the evidence doesn’t really prove a specific food made a bunch of people barf or kill them. Governments have done the same thing in protecting various food-producing industries. The widespread standard of proof in the form of DNA fingerprinting was just being contemplated when I graduated with a molecular biology and genetics degree in 1985, and was dependent on a couple of other technologies, especially polymerase chain reaction of PCR amplification of small amounts of DNA.
But occasionally, the food detectives catch a break, and can definitively link a food product with sick people.
This has happened in Minnesota.
Laboratory testing conducted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) this week provided additional evidence that the Hartmann dairy farm, of rural Gibbon, was the source of a strain of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria that sickened at least five Minnesotans after they consumed raw, unpasteurized milk or other dairy products from the farm. MDH reported four cases of illness last week, and a fifth case has subsequently been confirmed in a young child who was not hospitalized.
MDH first discovered the outbreak through reports of E. coli O157:H7 illness from health care providers. The department conducted an investigation into the illnesses, which were scattered across the state, and found that the only thing the ill people had in common was consumption of dairy products from the Hartmann farm. This strong epidemiological link is now reinforced by the laboratory confirmation that the specific strain of E. coli O157:H7 found in the ill patients has also been found in multiple animals and at multiple sites on the Hartmann farm. This strain of E. coli has not previously been found in Minnesota. Furthermore, laboratory tests confirmed that cheese samples collected last week from the farm contained another form of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, demonstrating that an ongoing pathway of contamination existed on the farm. …
In addition to the cases linked to the Hartmann farm, MDH is investigating several other illnesses with a connection to products from the farm. MDA has embargoed dairy products on the Hartmann farm, prohibiting movement or release of the products off the farm.