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.

The vomit machine lives on; norovirus can aerosolize during vomit events

I’ve been lucky to be close to some excellent projects, some of the stuff and knowledge created through these projects ends up mattering to food safety nerds – especially those who are making risk management decisions. Former NC State student Grace Tung-Thompson’s PhD project on vomit spray and norovirus is one of the most impactful. The work was carried out as part of the USDA NIFA-funded NoroCORE project led by my friend Lee-Ann Jaykus.VOMIT-BLOG-HEADER-698x393

I’ve talked to lots of Environmental Health Specialists, retailers and food service food safety folks about what Grace and fellow graduate student Dominic Libera put together and many respond with a weird level of enthusiasm for the barf project.

Mainly because a real question they struggle with is how far will virus particles travel from an up-chuck event – knowing this, and then cleaning and sanitizing helps limit the scope of a potential outbreak.  Grace’s work was published in PLOS ONE a while ago, we used it as a centerpiece for a Conference for Food Protection issue on vomit clean up in 2016 (which, maybe, could be included in the oft rumored 2017 Food Code) and the Daily Beast  covered the work today.

A couple of years ago, PhD student Grace Tung Thompson demonstrated something incredibly gross: When a person vomits, little tiny bits of their throw-up end up airborne. You could ingest them just by breathing air in the same room. As if that weren’t disconcerting enough, if the person got sick from a virus, there could be enough viruses in the air to get you sick, too. Just try not to think about that the next time the person in the row behind you throws up on an airplane.
So how do you get rid of airborne viruses? “There is no known technology that will eliminate norovirus if it’s in the air,” Jaykus said, “and there really aren’t a lot of technologies—safe technologies—that even are likely to work.” Her research team recently experimented with misting antiviral compounds into spaces as an alternative to disinfecting surfaces individually, and it worked, but not completely. This technique, known as fogging, can only be used in spaces that can be cleared out and contained, like bathrooms, for example. “I think we need that technology, and that technology is really, really important, but how the heck we’re going to develop it? I’m at a loss for words.”

From an individual perspective, the best you can do is get yourself far away from a vomiting incident; Jaykus recommends at least 100 feet. If you were in the middle of a meal at a restaurant and someone at the next table threw up, you’d probably be wise to stop eating, and to wash yourself and your clothes when you are able.

From the perspective of a restaurant owner, the best course of action is to do a really, really good job of the cleanup. Commercial vomit and fecal matter cleanup kits are catching on with bigger companies in the foodservice industry, says Jaykus. They provide personal protection, including disposable coveralls and respirator masks, in addition to the material required to pick up and wipe down the mess.

Storytelling has structure

Don’t just say people need to be educated. Figure out how to tell the risk story.

We’ve talked about storytelling a lot on barfblog. Doug and I published a couple of papers a few years ago on using narratives to impact food safety behaviors (here and here). Doug has always stressed the importance of not only being a good storyteller, but that there’s structure to a good story.

I just watched Don Schaffner give a talk on food safety risk assessment at the Dubai International Food Safety Conference and while some might consider it a dry concept, Don told two stories that exemplified how it all works.

A recent podcast name check caused me to check out Community and Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon and his storytelling circle (right, exactly as shown, from an excellent old Wired article).

And there’s this classic from Kurt Vonnegut.

 

Eating broken glass sucks; Trader Joe’s salad recalled

Friend of barfblog and mentor Tanya MacLaurin told me a story when I was in grad school that I still use when telling folks about physical hazards.

It goes sorta like this (or this is the version I remember):

Tanya was running food services at Kansas State and had a really big event with donors and university administrators. She came into the kitchen and saw her staff picking something out of a couple of hundred of salads that were prepped and ready to go our for service. Someone had broken a fluorescent light that was situated over the staging area and everyone was scrambling to pick out the glass.

A great risk manager, Tanya shut down the coverup operation.

Glass removal by eyesight isn’t a great critical control point.

In related news, a supplier of Trader Joe’s salads is recalling a whole bunch of prepared salads due to glass contamination.

Green Cuisine, a San Fernando, Calif. establishment, is recalling approximately 36,854 pounds of chicken and turkey salad products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically hard silica and glass fragments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The ready-to-eat chicken and turkey salads were produced from Nov. 4 – 15, 2017. The following products are subject to recall:

* 10.5-oz. clear plastic individual serving packages containing “TRADER JOE’S White Meat Chicken Salad with celery, carrots and green onions” with a “Use By” date of November 10 – 21, 2017.

* 11.0-oz. clear plastic individual serving packages containing “TRADER JOE’S CURRIED WHITE CHICKEN DELI SALAD with toasted cashews, green onion and a bit of honey” with a “Use By” date of November 10 – 21, 2017.

* 10.25-oz. clear plastic individual serving packages containing “TRADER JOE’S TURKEY CRANBERRY APPLE SALAD TURKEY BREAST MEAT WITH SWEET DRIED CRANBERRIES, TANGY GREEN APPLES, PECANS AND SAGE” with a “Use By” date of November 10 – 21, 2017.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “P-40299” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail locations in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Huffpo tells Bezos to check out food safety in search for host city for HQ2

Brian Castrucci writes that Amazon should look for a restaurant grading disclosure system in the potential locales for the new second headquarters of the online retailer. 

When your employees go out to lunch, I am sure you want them to do so without the threat of salmonella, E. coli, or some other food-borne illness. A wide spread food-borne illness could really hamper productivity and have a serious impact on the health of your employees. Cities can help guard against such outbreaks with policies requiring food establishments to publicly post safety inspection “grades,” which can empower consumers while also reducing foodborne illness rates and health care costs. Next time you are visiting one of the cities competing for your second headquarters, see how easy it is to find the restaurant inspection grade

Not bad advice. Check out this paper on the benefits and limitations of disclosure systems. 

The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information

Food Safety Talk 138: Ominous noises

This special pre-halloween episode features ominous noises, and we are not talking about the pinging noise from Don’s email in the background.  The show opens with discussion not of noise, but of the sights and smells of fresh compost around Ben’s office.  After a brief digression into favorite TV, podcasts and fan feedback, the talk turns to recent food safety publications on cutting board safety and water bottle sanitation, followed by best Reduced Oxygen Packaging Handling practices from listener feedback. Next Ben gets real time inspiration and the guys do some back of the envelope risk assessment on home preparation of black garlic before a discussion raw camel milk and the risks of fake cures.  The show ends with a discussion of turkey eggs and Canadian Thanksgiving.

Episode 138 can be found here and on iTunes.

Here are show notes so you can follow along at home:

Food Safety Talk 137: Grandma makes the best pickles

Don and Ben talk High Sierra and bricking a MacBook Air, Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, State Fair judging, pH test strips, mail order food safety and cold brewed canned coffee. They also do some listener feedback on food safe issues related to brewing beer.

Episode 137 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Bye Gord

The Tragically Hip have a unique space within the pages of barfblog.

They are kinda our house band.

Multiple posts have included references to their music, lyrics and videos. The music they created, meshes Canadiana, hockey and storytelling; sorta like what we try to do.

Gord Downie, lead singer of the band, passed away today after a battle with brain cancer. I’ve read a bunch of eulogies to Gord over the past couple of hours and nothing really captures his impact.

Tonight I’ll head to the arena, lace up my skates, race around the ice (somewhat terribly) as Hip songs play in my head.

That’s my tribute.

 

Chili cook off illnesses in VA

No one thinks their food is going to make anyone sick. After 15 years in food safety that’s what I’ve learned.

I’ve heard it from restaurants, processors, extension folks, event organizers. Whoever.
Turns out, that’s just wishful thinking.

If there’s an event, like say, a chili cook-off, and folks don’t know how pathogens get in food and grow, someone is probably gonna get sick.

Sorta like what happened last week in Chincoteague, Virginia.

According to Delaware.gov, Virginia regulators are looking into illnesses after a bunch of people got sick following a chili competition.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) began investigating a gastrointestinal disease outbreak shortly after a number of people who attended the event developed nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Illness in a Delaware resident who reportedly attended the event, may be linked.

VDH, reached out to neighboring states’ health departments, including the Delaware Division of Public Health, and asked for assistance in getting their residents to complete the survey, whether they became ill or not. The survey can be found at https://redcap.vdh.virginia.gov/redcap/surveys/?s=RPPDH7DWDF.

VDH estimates 2,500 attendees from multiple states were present at the cook-off. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional questions should call the Accomack County, Virginia Health Department at 757-302-4268.

Chili cook-off outbreak; we’ve been doing this for x years and no one has been ill

No one thinks their food is going to make anyone sick. After 15 years in food safety that’s what I’ve learned.

I’ve heard it from restaurants, processors, extension folks, event organizers. Whoever.

Turns out, that’s just wishful thinking.

If there’s an event, like say, a chili cook-off, and folks don’t know how pathogens get in food and grow, someone is probably gonna get sick.

Sorta like what happened last week in Chincoteague, Virginia.

According to Delaware.gov, Virginia regulators are looking into illnesses after a bunch of people got sick following a chili competition.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) began investigating a gastrointestinal disease outbreak shortly after a number of people who attended the event developed nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Illness in a Delaware resident who reportedly attended the event, may be linked.

VDH, reached out to neighboring states’ health departments, including the Delaware Division of Public Health, and asked for assistance in getting their residents to complete the survey, whether they became ill or not. The survey can be found at https://redcap.vdh.virginia.gov/redcap/surveys/?s=RPPDH7DWDF. VDH estimates 2,500 attendees from multiple states were present at the cook-off. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional questions should call the Accomack County, Virginia Health Department at 757-302-4268.

Texas Environmental Health Association and Austin

There are exactly five cities I could live in. Portland, Madison, Toronto, Raleigh.

And Austin.

I grew up in one of these, and currently live in another.

The only problem with Austin is a lack of hockey. 

Today I gave a talk to the Texas Environmental Health Association about a bunch of food safety stuff. Got to catch up with old friends and tell folks about some of the fun things we’re working on.

Also got to eat some brisket, listen to good music and drink some Texas beer.

Good times.