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.

Food Safety Talk 159: Hot Tongs

Don and Ben get together in a room in Salt Lake City with a few listeners and talk about their week at IAFP, online shopping, selling soup on Facebook, roundtables and Gary Acuff’s Ivan Parkin lecture. The guy’s discussion goes to a few items of listener feedback on grilling techniques, peanut grinders and restaurant ratings. They talk about Listeria in European frozen vegetables and intentional poisoning of co-workers. The episode ends on in-studio questions on communicating environmental sampling to produce processors and IAFP membership benefits.

Food Safety Talk 159 can be downloaded here or on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Canada Day and Fourth of July food safety fun

Today is my ninth Canada Day in Raleigh.

In previous years we’ve sought out Canadian beers; found the best poutine in town; skated with the Canadian club of the triangle; and curled.

This year is a bit lower-key: I’m hanging out in the backyard, watching Don Cherry talk about the opening day of free agent signings in the NHL (right, exactly as shown).

As I get a bit older I think more about what I miss about Canada, what I don’t, what it means to me to be Canadian and why I choose to live in the U.S.. There are lots of similarities and differences between the two countries.

Some stuff is easy to explain, others, like an emotional connection to The Tragically Hip and Jr. hockey, is a bit tougher.

The combination of Canada Day and July 4th (just a couple of days apart) is one of my favorite times of year. The traditional signal of summer vacation season in both countries and – and a bunch of cookouts, grillouts, bbqs, or whatever you want to call it.

The seasonal lede is also often used for talking food safety.

Cooking a bunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, folks coming to a backyard party or hanging out around the pool is something that many can identify, north and south of the 49th parallel.

The preliminary results of some work that I was part of is making the rounds this weekend with the grilling hook, which is kinda cool. Over the past 18 months a team of us planned and carried out a series of observations in kitchen settings asking regular people to come in, cook a couple of turkey burgers, prepare a salad and some salad dressing in front of a series of cameras while students and staff coded what took place – stuff handwashing, thermometer use, cross-contamination.

The project was built on concepts that were developed more than a decade ago when I visited the a creative food safety group in Cardiff, Wales (then UWIC, now Cardiff Met) who were all about observations. Following that trip, Sarah DeDonder, Brae Surgeoner, Randy Phebus, Doug and I adapted the approach to look at handling of frozen chicken entrées.

I’ll wait for a couple of weeks until some of this work is presented at the 2018 International Association for Food Protection annual meeting to share more results- and publication for all the fun details, but here’s some good highlights from USDA.

“As a mother of three young children, I am very familiar with the mad dash families go through to put dinner on the table,” said Carmen Rottenberg, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA. “You can’t see, smell or feel bacteria. By simply washing your hands properly, you can protect your family and prevent that bacteria from contaminating your food and key areas in your kitchen.”
The preliminary results of the observational study, conducted by USDA in collaboration with RTI International and North Carolina State University, showed some concerning results.
* Handwashing: the study revealed that consumers are not washing their hands correctly 97 percent of the time.
* Most consumers failed to wash their hands for the necessary 20 seconds, and
* Numerous participants did not dry their hands with a clean towel.

* Thermometer use: results reveal that only 34 percent of participants used a food thermometer to check that their burgers were cooked properly.
* Of those who did use the food thermometer, nearly half still did not cook the burgers to the safe minimum internal temperature.

* Cross contamination: the study showed participants spreading bacteria from raw poultry onto other surfaces and food items in the test kitchen.
* 48 percent of the time are contaminating spice containers used while preparing burgers,
* 11 percent of the time are spreading bacteria to refrigerator handles, and
* 5 percent of the time are tainting salads due to cross-contamination.

Food Safety Talk 157: 1000 Jars of Jam (Live from MSU)

Food Safety Talk 155: Diamond Dave

The episode starts with a discussion on old TV shows that the guys should have watched. Ben and Don then talk about food pantries and frozen chicken items that look cooked but are raw. The guys then chat cookie food safety, insurance policies, traceability and blockchain in Romaine. The conversation goes to a Twitter exchange started by FDA commissioner Scott Gotlieb that Don joined that got to J. Kenji Alt-Lopez (and back to Don) that ended with the grind-your-own-beef-is safer question. The episode ends with a discussion on kimchi fermentation and parameters need to safely make it in restaurant kitchens.

Download episode 155 here and on iTunes


Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Using observation to evaluate training: Canadian High School edition

A couple of old friends Shannon Majowicz and Ken Diplock and colleagues from Waterloo, (that’s in Canada) are doing good work looking at food safety stuff with high school students- evaluating training efficacy using observation. They published their work demonstrating some sustained food safety behaviors following a training program, this month in the Journal of Food Protection.

Kenneth J. Diplock, Joel A. Dubin, Scott T. Leatherdale, David Hammond, Andria Jones-Bitton, and Shannon E. Majowicz. 2018. Observation of High School Students’ Food Handling Behaviors: Do They Improve following a Food Safety Education Intervention?

Greenbank High School Birkdale Merseyside.

Journal of Food Protection: June 2018, Vol. 81, No. 6, pp. 917-925

Youth are a key audience for food safety education. They often engage in risky food handling behaviors, prepare food for others, and have limited experience and knowledge of safe food handling practices. Our goal was to investigate the effectiveness of an existing food handler training program for improving safe food handling behaviors among high school students in Ontario, Canada. However, because no schools agreed to provide control groups, we evaluated whether behaviors changed following delivery of the intervention program and whether changes were sustained over the school term. We measured 32 food safety behaviors, before the intervention and at 2-week and 3-month follow-up evaluations by in-person observations of students (n = 119) enrolled in grade 10 and 12 Food and Nutrition classes (n = 8) and who individually prepared recipes. We examined within-student changes in behaviors across the three time points, using mixed effects regression models to model trends in the total food handling score (of a possible 32 behaviors) and subscores for “clean” (17 behaviors), “separate” (14 behaviors), and “cook” (1 behavior), adjusting for student characteristics. At baseline, students (n = 108) averaged 49.1% (15.7 of 32 behaviors; standard deviation = 5.8) correct food handling behaviors, and only 5.5% (6) of the 108 students used a food thermometer to check the doneness of the chicken (the “cook” behavior). All four behavior score types increased significantly ∼2 weeks postintervention and remained unchanged ∼3 months later. Student characteristics (e.g., having taken a prior food handling course) were not significant predictors of the total number of correctly performed food handling behaviors or of the “clean” or “separate” behaviors, and frequency of cooking and self-described cooking ability were the only characteristics significantly associated with food thermometer use (i.e., “cook”). Despite the significant increase in correct behaviors, students continued to use risky practices postintervention, suggesting that the risk of foodborne disease remained.

Electrolyzed water: a pretty good review

An old friend of the blog emailed today looking for some info for someone he was working with who wanted to know about whether electrolyzed water, on it’s own, was a good replacement for sanitizers.

I came across this 2016 review paper in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.

Electrolyzed Water as a Novel Sanitizer in the Food Industry: Current Trends and Future Perspectives

SME Rahman, Imran Khan, and Deog-Hwan Oh

Abstract:

Electrolyzed water (EW) has gained immense popularity over the last few decades as a novel broad-spectrum sanitizer. EW can be produced using tap water with table salt as the singular chemical additive. The application of EW is a sustainable and green concept and has several advantages over traditional cleaning systems including cost effectiveness, ease of application, effective disinfection, on-the-spot production, and safety for human beings and the environment. These features make it an appropriate sanitizing and cleaning system for use in high-risk settings such as in hospitals and other healthcare facilities as well as in food processing environments. EW also has the potential for use in educational building, offices, and entertainment venues. However, there have been a number of issues related to the use of EW in various sectors including limited knowledge on the sanitizing mechanism. AEW, in particular, has shown limited efficacy on utensils, food products, and surfaces owing to various factors, the most important of which include the type of surface, presence of organic matter, and type of tape water used. The present review article highlights recent developments and offers new perspectives related to the use of EW in various areas, with particular focus on the food industry.

Michigan’s hepatitis A problem is a public health cycle

Next month I’ll be in Michigan talking food safety with Don at a live podcast recording as part of the Global Food Law Current Issues Conference.

Added to the list for our chat is a local issue, a massive hepatitis A outbreak. Tragically, according to USA Today, the outbreak has been linked to 27 deaths and hundreds of cases.

Wrapped up in this outbreak is the intersection of intravenous drug use; individuals in the homeless population; and, folks working in food service. Public health is complicated.

Most of those who have died in Michigan in this outbreak are 50 or older, Fielder said. And they died of liver failure, septic shock or other organ failure.

“Generally, it’s been people who are more sick or people who have less access to health care,” Fielder said. “You know, we’ve also seen a homeless component to this. We’re seeing this driven by a substance use disorder risk group.”

People who use illegal drugs account for about half of outbreak-related cases..

“It’s a very hard group to reach, and it’s a very hard group to get public health messaging to. There’s a lot of trust issues with government entities in general. So there’s a lot of outreach going out from local public health to … people they do trust in the community.”

As of Wednesday before Memorial Day, the hardest hit areas are Macomb County, north of Detroit, with 220 cases; Detroit itself with 170; elsewhere in Wayne County, where Detroit is located, with 144; and Oakland County, to the west of Macomb County where Pontiac is located, with 114 cases, according to the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services.

Part of the problem: As many as 35 restaurant workers in the Detroit area were found to have the virus and may have spread it unknowingly to diners. The virus is contagious weeks before a person begins to exhibit symptoms, which makes it extremely challenging for public health officials to manage.

It’s a bad day when your office is raided: Belgian food safety agency edition

In July 2017 Belgian food safety authorities publicly released information about a pesticide, fipronil, found in eggs leading to millions of eggs recalled.

The announcement came a month after the government knew about it.

‘Food safety recalls are always either too early or too late. If you’re right, it’s always too late. If you’re wrong, it’s always too early.’

That’s what Paul Mead was quoted as saying in response to when to go public with outbreak information over a decade ago. 

During foodborne illness outbreaks and incidents information is evolving – what people know, and when the share it can impact public health, and buyer decisions. Go public too late and stuff remains on the market. Go public too early risks making a wrong decision.

Doug, Sol Erdozian and I wrote a paper in the Journal of Environmental Health where we look at how to go public with food safety info.

There’s no magic answer; just have a plan and a set of criteria to look at when making the decision of what to share when. Talk about uncertainty. And don’t make it up on the fly.

And be prepared for folks to look for what you knew, when you knew it, and what you did about it after.

Like what happened in Belgium today. According to Reuters, FASFC had a visit from government prosecutors.

Belgian prosecutors said on Tuesday they had raided the premises of the country’s food safety agency over an insecticide scandal in eggs that rattled European consumers last summer.

“The judicial investigation concerns the spreading of false information about the fipronil contamination in eggs in 2017,” prosecutors said in a statement, adding the investigation was ongoing.

Last summer, German authorities blamed their Belgian counterparts for not communicating sooner about a possible fipronil contamination. Belgium’s farm minister denied the accusations at the time.

My leafy green conundrum

Caesar salad isn’t even the best salad.

It’s the kind of salad you expect at a sports team banquet or during lunch at an all-day meeting.

It’s a safe menu choice.

Except for the past month when foodborne illness outbreak investigators have focused on Romaine lettuce as the culprit of an outbreak of E. coli O157 linked to over 170 illnesses in 32 states.

E. coli O157 historically was once only associated with ground beef making it’s first appearance as what was thought to be a rare strain in 1982 after an outbreak was traced to McDonald’s. In 1993 over 500 illnesses and 4 deaths were linked to Jack-in-the-Box restaurants , an event that brought foodborne illness to the national stage. Fast forward 35+ years and the devastating pathogen has caused illnesses after being consumed in cookie dough, hazelnuts, alfalfa sprouts, soy nut butter, chicken salad – and a whole bunch of fresh produce including leafy greens.

The very type of food we should eat more of betrays us at a higher rate compared to other foods: Fresh produce is believed to be the source of almost half of all foodborne illnesses in the U.S.

Because it is consumed raw, anything that fresh fruit and vegetables come in contact with from the field to the home can really only increase risk. Washing and rinsing can remove at most 99% of what’s there. Microbiologically speaking, because there may be tens of thousands of cells on a leaf of Romaine, that’s not a whole lot. Often produce-related outbreaks are linked to poop getting into the food somewhere — wildlife on the farm; water used for irrigation or rinsing; soil and/or manure; or, the people who harvest, pack, handle and prepare it.

The problem with this outbreak is that the world of food safety sleuths have yet to figure it out. This one is particularly hard because the supply chain is a mess and  investigators are trying to piece together what the farms and packing facilities looked like, food safety-wise, retroactively. Partners in figuring out outbreaks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have only been able to trace the problem to a specific geographic location – Romaine that was grown in the Yuma, AZ region.

Having a good sense of the supply chain for food, so outbreaks and incidents can be solved, is something that the industry has struggled with for decades. Even with the increased use of electronic records and the promise of blockchain, the data that gets recorded and shared relate to location and how food safety is managed from production to distribution to the grocery store still relies on people to input it.

Better traceability is often held up as a magic bullet but can’t really stop outbreaks from happening alone. Being able to trace a product is wholly reactive. While it is part of a good food safety culture even a good traceability program doesn’t wipe raw poop off of foods.

What keeps food safe is vigilance by the food industry, learning from past outbreaks and focusing on carrying out best practices daily. Lots of food companies talk about food safety. Implementing it daily is much harder. It takes a system throughout the entire company from the front-line staff all the way to the CEO that values food safety. Everyone needs to understand why food safety matters, what their role is and care about the folks who eat their products.

Where I grew up, there was a small tailgate farmers market Saturday mornings in the parking lot adjacent to the grocery store. I never really wondered whether the food sold there was safe. I didn’t think a whole lot about food safety and regulation until years later. I figured that if someone could sell it, they must know what they are doing, and I didn’t have to worry about it.

Food safety is all about trust, and I had lots of it.

I still do.

But over 75 outbreaks linked to leafy greens since 1995 is eroding that trust.

 

Food Safety Talk 154: Poop Finger Quote

Today’s show opens with some quick beverage talk and then moves to a discussion of podcasting (and teleconferencing) gear.  A brief segue into pop-culture is followed by a deep dive into how to develop science-based advise to consumers.  The safety of bed-side water, the ongoing romaine outbreak, and Listeria in mashed potatoes round out the food safety news.  Listener feedback and a promo for the upcoming live podcast at MSU end the show.