Ben Chapman

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.

Virginia Chipotle closed after reports of illness

According to multiple outlets, a Sterling VA, Chipotle restaurant has closed due to what looks like a foodborne illness outbreak. Folks are speculating that it might be norovirus. And by folks, I mean Chipotle.

Huffpo reports,

After voluntarily closing a restaurant in Sterling, Virginia, after multiple customers reported falling ill, Chipotle said it plans to reopen the burrito spot on Tuesday.

Eight customers who ate at the location between July 14 and 15 filed reports on the food safety crowdsourcing website iwaspoisoned.com, indicating they suffered symptoms like diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

According to the reports, at least two customers have been hospitalized. 

“Norovirus does not come from our food supply, and it is safe to eat at Chipotle,” Jim Marsden, Chipotle’s executive director of food safety, said in an emailed statement. “We plan to reopen the restaurant today.”

“We take every report of illness seriously,” Marsden added. “In accordance with our established protocols, our team is working to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, including voluntarily closing the restaurant yesterday to conduct a complete sanitization.”

Uh, Jim, noro can come from the food supply. Yours and others’. It has even been linked to lettuce distribution. It certainly sounds like this is localized (like most noro is), but seems a bit early for certainty statements like this. Oh, and noro can definitely be foodborne. Sure, there’s likely a lot of person-to-person transmission out there but a couple of years ago my man Aron Hal of CDCl (and colleagues) looked at foodborne noro outbreaks in the U.S. They state that on average, 365 foodborne norovirus outbreaks were reported annually, resulting in an estimated 10,324 illnesses, 1,247 health care provider visits, 156 hospitalizations, and 1 death.

Safe is a promise.

From Business insider,

Here are some of the reports from iwaspoisoned.com related to the Sterling restaurant. All the reports were made from Sunday to Monday:

• Friday 7/14: Daughter and friends went to Chipotle Saturday 7/15: stomach pains and nausea started in morning Saturday 7/15: violently sick, puking, diarrhea, severe pain, overnight into Sunday. Friends ill as well with one friend also in ER. Sunday 7/16: Hospital visit for dehydration, nausea, pain Monday 7/17: severe pain, trauma pain This is the worst that I have ever seen. Severe food borne illnesses can cause long-term damage to the gastro-intestinal track. This was BAD!

• I ate a chicken bowl at 6ish and the rest at 11 pm Friday and then woke up Sunday morning with diarrhea and was nauseous

• Wife and I ate chicken bowls Friday night. Puking brains out Saturday night and Sunday.

• Ate salad bowl on Friday at 1230pm, became ill at 3pm on Saturday. Three up multiple times, had fever, dizziness, etc. Salad bowl with chicken, Pico, beans, medium salsa, corn

• My husband and I both had chicken around 7:00 on Friday, July 14th. Over 24 hours later, we both started vomiting. We are still experiencing symptoms as of Monday morning.
Chicken bowl – around 6 pm on 7.15.2017

• My husband and I shared a burrito bowl last night for dinner around 6:30 PM. It had rice, chicken, corn, pico, sour cream, cheese, medium salsa. At around midnight my husband woke up vomiting violently. Less than an hour later I began vomiting as well. We have since continued vomiting in addition to having diarrhea, stomach pains, dizziness upon standing, and low grade fevers. Chipotle was the only thing we both ate yesterday.

• My Son and I both had burrito bowls and became violently ill within hours of each other. He was visiting from college. Chipotle was the only food item we both ate that day. Violent stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting. Violently ill. Same exact symptoms Burrito bowl. Steak, rice, green peppers and onions, guacamole, cheese. Violently ill.

Full disclosure, I’ve been collaborating with the iwaspoisoned.com guy, Patrick Quade over the past couple of years through NoroCORE.

Shares plummeted more than 5 percent after the illnesses were reported.

CDC updates backyard flock Salmonella outbreak numbers

Wow. Salmonella in backyard flocks is no joke. CDC reports that hundreds of people have become ill this year in 10 outbreaks. Kissing chickens is a bad idea.

Since the last update on June 1, 2017, 418 more ill people have been reported. The most recent illness began on June 20, 2017.

This is a Salmonella factory

CDC, multiple states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) are investigating 10 separate multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections in people who had contact with live poultry in backyard flocks.

The outbreak strains of Salmonella have infected a reported 790 people in 48 states and the District of Columbia.Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 4, 2017 to June 20, 2017.

Of 580 people with available information, 174 ill people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Chefs do the darnedest things

My experience as a dishwasher was short lived. When I was in grad school studying restaurant food safety I volunteered at a local restaurant. I wanted to know what it was like, even just a little bit, to be a food handler – figuring I’d be better at food safety if I understood the pressures of the job. I spent most of my time in the dish pit, listening to Tom Petty working with fun folks, who were into lots of different substances.

One day, one of my last, I was doing salad prep, and trying to wash my hands between handling lettuce (with bare hands) and dirty dishes. The chef yelled at me because we didn’t have time to waste – and I skipped the whole handwash process.

That’s my self-reported story. Researchers in the UK (Jones and colleagues) published a paper a couple of weeks ago about the self reported behaviors of chefs, managers and catering students. They didn’t fare much better than I had. And surveys have their limitations.

Foodborne disease poses a serious threat to public health. In the UK, half a million cases are linked to known pathogens and more than half of all outbreaks are associated with catering establishments. The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has initiated the UK Food Hygiene Rating Scheme in which commercial food establishments are inspected and scored with the results made public. In this study we investigate the prevalence of food risk increasing behaviours among chefs, catering students and the public. Given the incentive for respondents to misreport when asked about illegal or illicit behaviours we employed a Randomised Response Technique designed to elicit more accurate prevalence rates of such behaviours. We found 14% of the public not always hand-washing immediately after handling raw meat, poultry or fish; 32% of chefs and catering students had worked within 48 hours of suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting. 22% of the public admitted having served meat “on the turn” and 33% of chefs and catering students admitted working in kitchens where such meat was served; 12% of the public and 16% of chefs and catering students admitted having served chicken at a barbeque when not totally sure it was fully cooked. Chefs in fine-dining establishment were less likely to wash their hands after handling meat and fish and those who worked in award winning restaurants were more likely to have returned to work within 48 hours of suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting. We found no correlation between the price of a meal in an establishment, nor its Food Hygiene Rating Score, and the likelihood of any of the food malpractices occurring.

Ukrainian bot death linked to dried fish

In late 2016 six cases of botulism were linked to dried salted fish products in Germany and  Spain. According to 24.my.info a woman from the Kirovohrad region of Ukraine died from botulism also linked to dried fish (something may be lost in translation).

In the town of Novoukrainka of Kirovohrad region woman died from botulism after eating dried fish, which she bought personally in the store ATB city of Kharkiv. It is reported Kirovohrad regional laboratory center.

According to the report, the first symptoms of the disease in women appeared on July 6 near midnight, four hours after eating dried fish, which she (her words) bought personally in the store ATB city of Kharkiv.

Two trichina outbreaks in Alaska; it was the walrus

There’s not a lot of trichina in the U.S. food supply anymore. It used to be a much more important pathogen. In the 1940s, when the US Public Health Service started tracking the illness, there was around 400 cases a year. Now there’s about 20.

A couple of the more notable incidents were reported in MMWR last week – two outbreaks in Alaska linked to raw walrus.

During July 2016–May 2017, the Alaska Division of Public Health (ADPH) investigated two outbreaks of trichinellosis in the Norton Sound region associated with consumption of raw or undercooked walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) meat; five cases were identified in each of the two outbreaks. These were the first multiple-case outbreaks of walrus-associated trichinellosis in Alaska since 1992.

The walrus consumed during the implicated meal in the second outbreak had been harvested and butchered by patients F and I during the previous 1–3 months, and the meat had been stored frozen in unlabeled bags in their respective household chest freezers. The meat was prepared by patient H, who reported that she boiled it for approximately 1 hour, after which the exterior was fully cooked, but the interior remained undercooked or raw, which was the desired result; interviewed persons reported that many community members prefer the taste and texture of undercooked or raw walrus meat to that of fully cooked meat.

These outbreaks also highlight the importance of culturally sensitive public health messaging. In areas where wild game species are harvested for subsistence, traditional methods of collecting, handling, preparing, storing, and consuming meat often have great cultural significance; however, some of these methods can be inconsistent with public health best practices. Rather than promoting or proscribing specific methods, public health messages that focus on communicating risks and explaining the manner and magnitude of risk reduction that can be achieved using different approaches (e.g., alternative methods of preparing meat for consumption) enable members of the target population to make informed decisions that integrate their traditional practices with their awareness and tolerance of risks.

Kid slides through poop at McDonald’s play area

About once a month we take our kids to a local fast food place that my friend owns and let them run wild in the play area. They go in and out and part of my struggle as a parent is getting them to go wash their hands before they dive into their lunch.

A while ago I asked my friend about cleaning and sanitizing the playground and what happens if some kid pukes or poops in there. He told me that his routine staff works on the room every night using a bunch of cleaning and sanitizing compounds Not risk elimination, but definitely reduction. He also said that the poop/puke events are infrequent, but they do happen and his staff are trained on how to contain, look for spray/smear and what special compounds to use (and their concentrations).

We’ve never had one of our kids come screaming out with a bunch of puke or poop on their hands. Unlike Justina Whitmore, who according to Boston 25, had to deal with her kid being covered in human waste after playing at a McDonalds.

A New Hampshire woman is demanding an apology and is raising questions about the cleanliness of a Manchester McDonald’s after her son became covered in human waste in the play pen.
 
Justina Whitmore said that when she let her son play, she knew he may be covered in germs.
 
She said she never imagined her 5-year-old would emerge from the yellow slide covered in another child’s waste.
 
“I was still eating and the next thing I knew he came out and just stated there was poop all inside the slide,” she said. “When he came out, he was covered in poop.”
 
Gabriel said he was playing tag with another child, who apparently had a soiled diaper.
 
But it’s what happened after the incident that the mother finds even more outrageous.
 
There was no soap in the bathroom, and when she asked employees for help she said they just laughed at her.
 
“I went over to the counter and said, ‘Are you going to give me any paper towels or anything to help clean my son off,’ and they were just laughing and arguing about who should clean it up.”
 
For 10 minutes Justina said she was pleading for assistance only to have employees ignore her and take smoke breaks, or act like a child.

Playgrounds, particularly outdoor ones (with sand or surface bark) have been linked to outbreaks in the past. Pathogens can stick around and persist in soil (especially something hardy like Salmonella) and on fomites like slides (norovirus).

Food Safety Talk 129: Unusual Sized Dumper

Don and Ben are in IAFP preparation mode but take time to talk about the efficiencies of university settings; donairs, gyros, kebabs and other meat-on-a-cone offerings (and risks associated with the products); mice and norovirus; food safety is definitely competitive and iced coffee/fecal matter and the perils of using the fecal coliform assay.

Episode 129 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

There was a lot of Salmonella in peppers in 2016; some of it led to 36 illnesses

Last year someone I didn’t know called me about whether I had heard about people getting Salmonella from peppers. I hadn’t. It was around the same time there were a few recalls:

And that FDA had been sampling peppers for Salmonella.

I didn’t think much about it until this afternoon, when CDC published a report in MMWR about a multistate S. Anatum outbreak linked to imported hot peppers.

In June 2016, PulseNet identified a cluster of 16 Salmonella Anatum infections with an indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern from four states.* In April 2016, the same PFGE pattern had been uploaded to PulseNet from an isolate obtained from an Anaheim pepper, a mild to medium hot pepper. Hot peppers include many pepper varieties, such as Anaheim, jalapeño, poblano, and serrano, which can vary in heat level from mild to very hot depending on the variety and preparation. This rare PFGE pattern had been seen only 24 times previously in the PulseNet database, compared with common PFGE patterns for this serotype which have been seen in the database hundreds of times. Local and state health departments, CDC, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigated to determine the cause of the outbreak. Thirty-two patients in nine states were identified with illness onsets from May 6–July 9, 2016.

Local and state investigators visited restaurants where patients reported consuming peppers. They collected recipes for reported menu items, including salsa, and reviewed invoices to identify common ingredients. To identify the source of hot peppers, FDA conducted traceback (the process of tracing a food from point-of-service to its origin or manufacturer source) from three restaurants in Minnesota and Texas where patients reported eating. Two of the three restaurants received peppers from a consolidator/grower in Mexico (consolidator/grower B) (Figure 3), which exported Anaheim peppers to the United States in April 2016. Consolidators pool foods from different growers or growing locations; this designation is also used if some growers/growing locations are unknown.** The third restaurant received peppers from various firms in Mexico; however, this restaurant had received peppers from consolidator/grower B before this outbreak. Because of the complicated supply chain for peppers and the extensive mixing of peppers from different suppliers, repacking, and reselling of product, FDA was unable to identify a single source farm or point of contamination for peppers.

Too bad. Maybe this is what the call was about.

The data reported doesn’t point to human poop in iced coffee

That’s what I told Sara Miller of Live Science in reference to a BBC story on the safety of popular cafe drinks.

The original story Sara was asking about is from a BBC investigation into the safety of ice, iced drinks and coffee shop environments.

Samples of iced drinks from Costa Coffee, Starbucks and Caffe Nero contained varying levels of the bacteria, the BBC’s Watchdog found.

Expert Tony Lewis said the levels found were “concerning”. “These should not be present at any level – never mind the significant numbers found,” he added.

Cleanliness of tables, trays and high chairs at the chains was also tested at 30 branches. Seven out of 10 samples of Costa ice were found to be contaminated with bacteria found in faeces.

What is concerning to the expert? Fecal coliform.

I was introduced to fecal coliform when investigating wash water and vegetables at Ontario (that’s in Canada) greenhouses 15 years ago. We were looking for analytical methods to provide some feedback to producers. We sampled the water for coliform and generic E. coli – and the veggies for generic E. coli and Salmonella. We had initially started looking for coliform and fecal coliform but some smart produce microbiologists suggested the indicator group wasn’t telling folks much.

Or as Mike Doyle and Marilyn Erickson wrote in Microbe in 2006, ‘the fecal coliform assay should at a minimum be redefined to specifically qualify that it is not a reliable indicator of either E. coli or the presence of fecal contamination.’

Makes for good headlines. Doesn’t tell folks anything about risk. Or feces. Might as well sample for covfefe.

Chapman also noted that he’d be more focused on what’s going on in the coffee shops. For example, do employees wash their hands regularly and after handling potentially contaminated foods and products? Do they sanitize the equipment properly? These behaviors could be more indicative of the overall health risks the beverages and foods pose to consumers, he said.

In addition, it’s unclear what type of testing the investigators used for the BBC report. Knowing these methods would provide more useful information, Chapman said. If investigators looked only for bacterial DNA, for example, you wouldn’t know if the bacteria were alive or dead.

“We eat dead bacteria all the time,” he added, referring to the fact that dead bacteria aren’t going to make you sick.

We eat live bacteria all the time – and it doesn’t cause illness. I meant to say we eat dead pathogens all the time.

And if you want poop in your iced coffee, make it from kopi luwak.

Food Safety Talk 128: It’s the Esters, John

The show begins with a discussion of Ben’s recent travels. From there the discussion moves on to obligatory talk about beverages, Canadian and Philadelphia accents, Apple, and other podcasts. The food safety talk begins in earnest with the discussion about what is meant by the words ‘risk assessment’. From there the discussion turns to ‘food safety programs’, restaurant inspections and what customers might want to know, the humor of David Lloyd, and then back to meat safety and proper thermometer use. The show ends with The Onions humorous take on handwashing water temperature. The After Dark contains the usual nonsense including talk about music videos.

Episode 128 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home: