Repeated outbreaks have shown that all food is not safe: there are good producers and bad producers, good retailers and bad retailers. As a consumer, I have no way of knowing.
Tell consumers about salmonella-testing programs meant to reduce risks; put a URL on egg cartons so those who are interested can use the Internet or even personal phones to see how the eggs were raised. Boring press releases in the absence of data only magnify consumer mistrust.
Government has a role, but there are too many outbreaks and too many sick people. It's time for producers, retailers and restaurants to market microbial food safety and compete using safety as a selling point.
Marketing food safety at retail has the additional benefit of enhancing a food safety culture within an organization – if we’re boasting about this stuff I guess we really better wash our hands and keep the poop out of food. Maintaining a food safety culture means that operators and staff know the risks associated with the products or meals they produce, know why managing the risks is important, and effectively manage those risks in a demonstrable way. In an organization with a good food safety culture, individuals are expected to enact practices that represent the shared value system and point out where others may fail. By using a variety of tools, consequences and incentives, businesses can demonstrate to their staff and customers that they are aware of current food safety issues, that they can learn from others’ mistakes, and that food safety is important within the organization.
“This legislation means that parents who tell their kids to eat their spinach can be assured that it won’t make them sick.” Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa who, as chairman of the Senate health committee, shepherded the legislation through months of negotiations.
“This is history folks, watch live on CSPAN.”
“Tallying the votes... the suspense is killing me.”
“The Senate has surpassed the number of votes needed to pass the most sweeping change to food safety laws in 7 decades.”
A variety of bloggers functioning as stenographers
"Size correlates directly with risk. When we have the kind of E. coli outbreaks we've got where it impacts many, many, many states and thousands of families, that's risk. When we've got a producer that's raising lettuce that's looking at the guy who's going to eat it right square in the eye, that's a different level of risk entirely." Sen. JonTester
Most apt statements:
“Senate passes S. 510 Food Safety Modernization Act after Dierksen cafeteria offers imported steak tartare and raw spinach lunch special.”
Chris Clayton, blogger
Posted: November 30th, 2010 - 12:31pm
by Doug Powell
It's an important day for food safety types because new research shows E. coli O157:H7 can enter beef cuts like steak during mechanical or blade or needle tenderization, as it’s called.
The idea is that small needles are inserted into steak to inject tenderizers. All hamburger should be cooked to a thermometer-verified 160F because it’s all ground up – the outside, which can be laden with poop, is on the inside. With steaks and roasts, the thought has been that searing on the outside will take care of any poop bugs like E. coli and the inside is clean. But what if needles pushed the E. coli on the outside of the steak to the inside?
Previous work has shown similar results, and the new research in the Journal of Food Safety confirms that E. coli O157:H7 can enter the interior of beef cuts like steaks during the tenderization process. The new work does not assess whether cooking on a grill can kill off the internalized bacteria but does refocus attention on a lingering food safety issue, almost one year after an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in needle tenderized beef sickened at least 21 people in 16 states.
Luchansky et al. wrote in the July 2009 JFP that based on inoculation studies, cooking on a commercial gas grill is effective at eliminating relatively low levels of the pathogen that may be distributed throughout a blade-tenderized steak.
Quantitative analysis of vertical translocation and lateral cross-contamination of Escherichia coli O157:H7 during mechanical tenderization of beef
Journal of Food Safety
Lihan Huang, Shiowshuh Sheen http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-4565.2010.00273.x/abstract
ABSTRACT Quantitative vertical translocation and lateral cross-contamination of Escherichia coli O157:H7 during mechanical tenderization of beef meat were investigated using a restaurant-style meat tenderizer, which was first used to tenderize a surface-inoculated sample, and then an additional four uninoculated samples. It was observed that the vertically translocated bacteria (in log10 cfu/g) was directly proportional to the logarithm of the tenderization depth, with an average translocation coefficient of 3.14 ± 0.66 log10 cfu/g per log10 mm of depth. For lateral cross-contamination, the bacterial counts recovered from the top layers of the first four pieces of meat decreased by approximately 0.5 log10 cfu/g after each tenderization. There was no decrease in the bacterial counts recovered from the top layers after the 4th tenderization. More tenderization studies were needed to quantitatively analyze the trend of lateral cross-contamination. However, it is evident that both vertical translocation and lateral cross-contamination can occur during mechanical tenderization of meat.
Foodborne illnesses caused by consumption of undercooked non-intact beef meats contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 are an emerging public food safety concern as evidenced by a major outbreak recently. This study investigated both vertical translocation and lateral cross-contamination of E. coli O157:H7 during mechanical tenderization of beef. The results from this work can aid quantitative assessment of risks caused by non-intact beef meats.
Posted: November 30th, 2010 - 10:57am
by Doug Powell
Police said today a criminal investigation is under way in Sweden to determine how an intestinal parasite ended up in the town of Ostersund's municipal water supply, sickening more than 2,000 residents.
As more local authorities roll out the scheme over the coming months, more ratings will be published online.
The bright green and black food hygiene stickers showing a rating from zero to five will soon be a feature of shopping centres and high streets, as the FSA, in partnership with local authorities, rolls out its Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The aim is to reduce the one million cases of food poisoning suffered by people each year (I prefer the one in Welsh, upper right).
At the top of the scale is ‘5’ – this means the hygiene standards are very good. At the bottom of the scale is ‘0’ – this means urgent improvement is required. A different scheme, with similar aims, is being rolled out by local authorities in Scotland.
Questions remain for the U.K. system: why numbers; is the scoring system based on actual food safety hazards; what research guided FSA in these decisions; will it ever be published? And the color. What's with the puke green?
Posted: November 29th, 2010 - 5:34pm
by Doug Powell
What’s one of the most requested types of public record maintained in Las Vegas? Food establishment inspections.
Today, the Southern Nevada Health District announced it was posting inspection reports on its website, giving people a look at how their favorite eateries have been graded and which received the most demerits from inspectors.
Violations are listed on the site, such as inadequate plumbing or poor pest control.
FOX 5 News reports a quick search showed that more than 10,900 of the 11,245 establishments listed have been given an “A” following their last inspection.
The list includes bars and restaurants, as well as grocery stores and retailers.
The launch of this new feature allows the public to view health inspections for all permitted food establishments in Clark County and is available at www.SNHD.info.
Information provided on the site includes inspection reports for all food establishments with active health district permits and archived reports as far back as 2005.
These records provide a snapshot of the day and time of the inspection and new reports are posted within five business days of when they are completed. Food establishments are inspected annually or more often if it is deemed necessary. Risk factors that have the potential to contribute to foodborne illness are more heavily weighted in the inspection demerit process than items related to design, maintenance or general sanitation.
Inspection findings can result in an “A” grade, a downgrade to a “B” or “C” status, or for an extremely excessive number of violations or an uncontrolled imminent health hazard, a facility closure.
Posted: November 29th, 2010 - 8:51am
by Doug Powell
When a coroner ruled last week a lack of food hygiene standards at a Welsh butchery was the cause of 5-year-old Mason Jones’ death but there was insufficient evidence to prove “a serious and obvious risk of death,” Sharon Mills was stunned.
Ms Mills, 36, from Deri, near Bargoed, said she and partner Nathan Jones, Mason’s father, are considering calling for a change in the law which meant Bridgend butcher William Tudor – the man responsible for the 2005 outbreak during which more than 150 people were infected with potentially deadly E. coli O157 – escaped a manslaughter charge.
Last week’s verdict followed a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2007 not to pursue a manslaughter case because there was not a realistic prospect of conviction.
“Last Thursday after the inquest I woke up and I felt like I had lost Mason all over again. It’s been us versus the system and it’s a hard system to beat.”
Ms Mills said despite the support of some officials, she believes the pace of change in improving food safety systems has been painfully slow following the 24 recommendations for improvement put forward by expert Professor Hugh Pennington after the public inquiry.
Posted: November 28th, 2010 - 7:22pm
by Doug Powell
By Saturday morning after the Thursday Thanksgiving feast, the turkey frame and whatever else had been reduced to turkey-flavored stock. I left the stock in the fridge for the fat to separate, and Amy, Sorenne and I went to Wichita, Kansas for an adventure weekend – a hockey game.
From what I can figure, there’s the National Hockey League (NHL, the pros), the American Hockey League (AHL, farm teams to the NHL), and then feeder semi-pro leagues like the Central Hockey League, where the Wichita Thunder ply their trade. 18 of the 22-member roster hails from Canada.
The game was reasonably entertaining, although the intensity level varied dramatically.
Aspects of a hockey game in Wichita:
• in honor of the birthday of late, great guitarist Jimi Hendrix, the Star Spangled Banner was performed Hendrix-style by a local dude;
• the brand-new In Trust arena in downtown Wichita was an outstanding venue, with sparkling restrooms and excellent handwashing facilities;
• there is a dance squad associated with the team called the Lampton Lightening, sponsored by Lampton Welding, and they performed after the second period (left);
• even though it is Manvember – the month of November is supposed to represent manliness at its peak, so no shaving – there were more bad moustaches on the players than the cast of a 1970s porn movie; and,
• not a single fight. I was expecting Slap Shot style goon hockey. It wasn’t bad. Wichita beat first-place Colorado 5-3.
Posted: November 28th, 2010 - 3:26pm
by Doug Powell
ABC News reports a Dominos pizza shop in Sydney's west has been described as having committed one of the worst breaches of food safety and hygiene in the Australian state of New South Wales.
The store in Quakers Hill has been fined almost $120,000 after investigations by the state's Food Authority, following reports from customers who suffered food poisoning.
Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan says conditions inside the store were appalling, stating,
"They had evidence of significant infestation of cockroaches and also very poor hygiene of cleanliness habits. I'm told by our experts at the Food Authority that they're a prime candidate for spreading foodborne illnesses and that's why they've been given such a big fine. There are always people who don't do the right thing unfortunately and we need to make sure that we can protect people from foodborne illnesses. Things like food poisoning are not insignificant. There are people every year who die of food poisoning and food-related diseases."
Obtaining human milk from the Internet or directly from individuals raises health concerns because, in most cases, medical information about the milk donors is not known. The Canadian Paediatric Society does not endorse the sharing of unprocessed human milk.
There is a potential risk that the milk may be contaminated with viruses such as HIV or bacteria which can cause food poisoning, such as Staphylococcus aureus.
In addition, traces of substances such as prescription and non-prescription drugs can be transmitted through human milk. Improper hygiene when extracting the milk, as well as improper storage and handling, could also cause the milk to spoil or be contaminated with bacteria and/or viruses that may cause illness.
Breastfeeding promotes optimal infant growth, health and development and is recognized internationally as the best method of feeding infants. However, unprocessed human milk should not be shared.
Posted: November 25th, 2010 - 9:43pm
by Doug Powell
Fresh from the Michael Pollan school of “don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” comes Joel Salatin of Virginia, telling Australian farmers that industrial-scale agriculture has created problems for farmers who want to slaughter on farm and sell locally.
"What's stimulating it is squiggly words, 30 years ago who heard of campylobacter, who heard of listeria, e-coli, salmonella, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, avian influenza.”
From wiki, not the greatest source but certainly sufficient to quickly counter the claims of Salatin:
The genus Salmonella was named after Daniel Elmer Salmon, an American veterinary pathologist. While Theobald Smith was the actual discoverer of the type bacterium (Salmonella enterica var. choleraesuis) in 1885, Dr. Salmon was the administrator of the USDA research program, and thus the organism was named after him.
The verotoxigenic forms of E. coli were discovered in the late 1970s, and first identified as a source of human disease in 1982.
Campylobacter, listeria, E. coli and salmonella are all natural. So is small pox. Doesn’t mean I want it.
“It will adopt a work plan to boost competitiveness and to promote best contractual practices in the European food sector, extending the work of the previous High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food Industry to the whole supply chain. Vice President Antonio Tajani is leading …”
The organization sounds mildly interesting, in a caste-sorta way:
The work of the Forum will be developed along a three-tier structure, namely:
The High Level Forum (Ministers, CEOs, Presidents of associations, etc),
the Sherpa group which mirrors the memberships of the Forum and which will have as main task the preparation of the work of the Forum in close cooperation with the Commission services, several expert platforms (working groups), namely:
Business to business contractual practices in the food supply chain,
Food price monitoring tool,
Competitiveness in the agro-food industry,
Posted: November 25th, 2010 - 8:53pm
by Doug Powell
Food safety sage Carl Custer (left, exactly as shown) shares his version of turkey time today from Bethesda, Maryland:
My nephew comes over with three gallons of peanut oil and a brined turkey to use my tamale steamer/turkey fryer. Instructions say 350°F oil for 52 minutes. At 35 minutes I pull it out and check deep thigh temperature with a Comark PDT 300.
It's 175°F. ¡Ay carumba! Into the kitchen and double check deep breast temperature: 145! Male puppy! Back to the fryer for another 10 minutes.
Deep breast temperature in several places is now >170°F.
Earlier, a brine injected turkey goes into the grill/smoker at 7:00 a.m. Yawn.
It's cold and drizzly so difficult to keep air temperature >200°F even with tarp and wind shields. Pull turkey at noon; it's 150°F. Put into a 350°F oven with an 8 cm "L-shaped" probe. I wrap the probe with a wet paper towel so it doesn't act as a "potato nail" and give a false high reading. An hour later it's 160°F and coasting up to 168°F.
Mmmm mmmm good and safe.
Time may be on your side but temperature is better.
Carl also notes the raw birds were handled with latex gloves, and sinks were washed with detergent & paper towels, followed by 70% ethanol.
Texas Aggie food microbiologist, Carl Custer, sojourning in Merryland for past 38 years, smokes turkey (and other animal parts) following scientific principles.
Poultry should be cooked to an end-temperature of 165F or 74C, as measured by a tip-sensitive digital thermometer. The problem with 15-pound turkeys is that the breast was creeping up to 140-150F, while the stuffing and other parts were languishing at 120. Foil over the breast helps, but it’s always a problem; and why gravy was invented.
This isn’t perfect, and cross-contamination is always a concern, but I removed the two turkey breasts, ensured they were fully cooked, scooped out the stuffing and brought it to a safe temperature in the microwave. The remainder of the bird went back in the oven.
A delicious meal was had by all. To avoid problems with Clostridium perfringens, I took the remainder of the turkey apart within an hour, the good meat in the refrigerator, the rest into the stock pot – turkey stock is really one of the best parts of the (subsequent) meal.
Posted: November 25th, 2010 - 1:33pm
by Doug Powell
I’m a fan of the stuffing. Not the stuff in the box but whatever’s leftover in the fridge.
Included this year are some freeze-dried chestnut slices I got for Amy last year – she’s a fan of the chestnuts – that never got used. For guidance, I use Google searches to find various recipes (my students, tiring of me asking to find this or that, finally showed me how to use Google about four years ago), and then I improvise, generally adding more vegetables.
This year, the stuffing contains leftover multigrain wheat bread ends, cubed and baked. Butter, onion, garlic, white wine, sage (lots), rosemary, zucchini squash, red pepper, celery, and chestnuts. Half goes into the cavity of the bird, the other half is baked in a dish separately for our vegetarian guests.
Cross-contamination is the big concern. Again, I prefer to handle the bird in the roasting pan to limit bug flow in the kitchen. Being prepped and having everything near the sink helps. Be the bug.
Safely back in the roasting pan, hands washed and counters cleansed, the turkey goes into a 450F oven for 30 minutes, a tin-foil teepee is used to cover the breast and the temperature is lowered to 325F. The bird is regularly brushed and injected with a citrus-based glaze.
There was at least an inch of melted turkey juice and water at the bottom of the roasting pan. Whoever said place a frozen bird on a plate in the refrigerator to thaw has never done it. There would be salmonella-and-campylobacter-laden liquid everywhere, most likely on the fresh produce in the crisper drawer.
As I picked up the bird to begin removing the packing, there was a splash, and a few tablespoons of liquid splattered on the floor. Oops. Then there was a package of gravy mix in the cavity, covered in all sorts of bacteria. Got that into its own container, and the neck into the stock pot. Got me and the surrounding area cleaned up.
The bird is continuing to warm up at room temperature for another hour and then into the oven. The chestnut stuffing has to cool a bit.
Next, more cross contamination follies as the bird gets stuffed.
Posted: November 25th, 2010 - 10:11am
by Doug Powell
Although Coroner David Bowen said butcher William Tudor’s disregard for food hygiene sparked an E. coli O157 outbreak that claimed the life of 5-year-old Mason Jones in 2005, the “horrific catalogue” of breaches was not enough for him to record the verdict as unlawful death.
While disappointed, Mason’s mom, Sharon Mills, told the South Wales Echo she was grateful Mr Bowen called for tougher enforcement of food hygiene laws and better regulation of food businesses.
“We are determined to ensure that lessons are learned from the tragic death of Mason Jones. We have provided guidance to local authorities that aims to ensure that each intervention in a food business – whether advice, inspection or enforcement – moves it towards full compliance with the law.
“We will shortly issue a public consultation on extending the use of Remedial Action Notices to all food premises. These notices would allow local authority enforcement officers to require a process or activity in a food business that poses a significant risk to human health to be stopped immediately, and would not allow it to recommence until specified action to reduce the risk had been taken.”
Posted: November 25th, 2010 - 9:25am
by Doug Powell
Today’s lesson in risk communication: don’t brush off reporters with crazy gestures involving a cookie, and don’t whine, “I’m still eating my cookie.”
You’ll get fired.
Professor Stephen Duckett, , 60, who had been headhunted from Australia in 2009 to take charge of the newly created Alberta Health Services, was fired after preferring to munch on a cookie rather than answer media questions as he left a meeting of senior healthcare advisers in Canada.
Following a recent meeting in Edmonton, Dr Duckett refused to talk to waiting media about the health crisis in the Canadian province of Alberta.
The Age reports that at one stage, as he tried to outpace the media, he prodded the cookie towards the face of a female reporter and said the only thing he was interested in was eating his cookie.
He was quickly dubbed the "Cookie Monster" after a video of the incident went viral showing him nibbling on the biscuit and repeatedly telling the pursuing media "I'm eating my cookie."
The former La Trobe University academic issued an apology the day after the incident on November 19, saying he deeply regretted his behavior and said he respected journalists' right to ask timely questions in the public interest.
Board chairman Ken Hughes told reporters that Dr Duckett was sacked because his ability to be effective in the role was compromised and the cookie video was "one of the elements" that led to the decision.