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 146: Vegas Baby!

The show opens with a discussion of Don’s failed attempt to add an audio sound board to the show, followed by a discussion about the Winter Olympics. The food safety talk begins with listener feedback a viral Facebook post on hot air hand dryers, and the resulting New York Times article. Listener feedback continues with a discussion of the danger zone (both musical and bacterial). The final bit of listener feedback is related to the microbiological safety of homemade “Play Dough”, followed by a discussion of food safety in the news and a Salmonella outbreak linked to Kratom. Ben talks about his appearance on “The Doctors”, and then the guys talk about Salmonella in chicken salad and pet food, before concluding a brief discussion of upcoming travel.

Episode 146 is available on iTunes and here.

Show notes so you can follow along at home.

 

 

Hockey handshake lines at the olympics impacted by norovirus

A couple of times a week I play hockey with a bunch of amateur skaters. We play in a C league. That means we’re not very good. Most are out to have some fun and drink some beer after the buzzer.

Sometimes, there’s a player or two who got into it with each other (that’s a hoser hockey term for a push or a trip) who re-meet in the post-game handshake line.

The classy hockey players fist bump or slap hands and say ‘good game.’

Not everyone is classy. Leave it on the ice, we’ve all got to get up and get back to our normal lives the next day.

I’m talking to you, guy in the green helmet from my game last night. Don’t be so angry.

And don’t give me norovirus.

According to ABC News, the handshake lines are different during the Pyeongchang Olympics compared to other games after over 200 security folks and athletes have acquired the virus.

Officials have told players to fist-bump each other rather than shaking hands to prevent transmission of norovirus, which is highly contagious. U.S. defenseman James Wisniewski’s 62-year-old father tested positive for norovirus last week and is one of 49 of 283 confirmed Olympic cases still in quarantine.

“It’s something that you’re like, ‘Ah, really how bad can it get?’ And then all of a sudden bang, bang — a couple people close to you have it and you don’t really know how, you don’t know where,” Wisniewski said Monday. “You don’t want it going through your locker room, that’s for sure.”

I’m a doctor and I joined The Doctors to talk food safety

I don’t ask anyone to call me doctor; I find it a bit awkward and pretentious.

I guess the title matters to some folks. So much so that it’s the basis for a nationally syndicated talk show produced by another doctor, Dr. Phil. Today, an episode I taped with the good doctors about a month ago aired.

We talked oysters, sprouts, raw milk and undercooked beef for a few minutes. I got my plug in for using a thermometer (although I think I erroneously said meat instead of beef).

I tried not to look too goofy (not sure I accomplished that).

My face isn’t always washed out but I ended up doing the interview via Skype from my home office (with an antique Hespeler hockey stick in the background), in direct afternoon sunlight, instead of my planned location of a campus office. The locale change was due to the 5” of snow that hit Raleigh the day before. I wasn’t driving anywhere with the NC snow-excited drivers.

I’m also not the creator of Barf Blog. I just happen to host the barfblog collective. And contribute to it sometimes.

Oh well, can’t get it all right, but food safety made it into a couple of million homes this afternoon.

But there’s no way the segment was as impactful as the one previous to mine – it was about farting at the gym.

New food safety tools and messages deserve investigation

Nine years ago I had my most memorable bout with foodborne illness. I had Campylobacter and it was terrible. It all started with a trip to visit Doug in Kansas.
I gave a somewhat incoherent talk to an undergraduate food microbiology class while sweating; slept most of my visit away; went to a football game; left the football game at halftime; spent two nights rushing to the bathroom every hour to evacuate my intestines.
I wanted to blame Doug.
He brings out the best in people.
After a feverish trip home (diarrhea on a plane sucks) and crashing for the remainder of the weekend I went to my doctor to get things checked out. I described my symptoms, had a rectal exam (fun) and was given the materials needed for a stool sample. 
The idea of stool sample harvesting was way more fun than the actual act.
It’s amazing any foodborne illnesses are confirmed with stool samples because the process is a bit nuts. It took some thinking to figure out how to catch the sample without contaminating it with water or urine. The final decision was to use the bucket from our cleaned and sanitized salad spinner – which has since been retired – and place it in the toilet bowl.
I took the poop harvest and filled three vials to fill (one for C. difficile, one for parasites and another for other pathogens), and a bonus margarine-like tub for “other things.” The vials were easy, they came with their own spoons. After ten swipes across the base of the former salad spinner I was able to messily get the rest of the sample collected in the tub. Then came the clean-up.  This whole episode took me about 45 minutes.
I proudly returned to the doctor’s office with samples in hand. I asked her what percentage of stool sample kits come back filled with poop. She said about 10%.
That’s the problem with clinical confirmation of foodborne illness pathogens.
Patrick Quade and the iwaspoisoned.com group is trying to add to the toolbox of public health foodborne illness investigations, because not a lot of samples make it to public health so cases can be confirmed.
According to the New York Times, this is the era of internet-assisted consumer revenge, and as scorned customers in industries from dentistry to dog-walking have used digital platforms to broadcast their displeasure, the balance of power has tipped considerably in the buyer’s favor. This is especially true of IWasPoisoned, which has collected about 89,000 reports since it opened in 2009. 
Consumers use the site to decide which restaurants to avoid, and public health departments and food industry groups routinely monitor its submissions, hoping to identify outbreaks before they spread. The site has even begun to tilt stocks, as traders on Wall Street see the value of knowing which national restaurant chain might soon have a food-safety crisis on its hands.
Not everyone is happy about the added transparency. Restaurant executives have criticized IWasPoisoned for allowing anonymous and unverified submissions, which they say leads to false reports and irresponsible fear-mongering. Some public health officials have objected on the grounds that food poisoning victims can’t be trusted to correctly identify what made them sick.
“It’s not helping food safety,” said Martin Wiedmann, a professor of food safety at Cornell University. “If you want to trace food-borne illness, it needs to be done by public health departments, and it needs to include food history.”
I dunno. Maybe it will help as a supplemental data set. There are folks in local and state health departments subscribing to alerts that can lead to earlier and more focused investigations.
The end of my story is that I was diagnosed with campylobacteriosis. I became a statistic. I was administered a food history questionnaire. No answers on a source ever came back. New tools to crowdsource public health information can act as a an early warning system for outbreak and illness investigators.

Food Safety Talk 145: Cold Pizza for Breakfast

Don and Ben start this episode chatting about MacBook Pros (the computers, not the users) and closed Facebook groups with canning advice. Discussion went to a LifeHacker question of the day related to eating leftover pizza that wasn’t refrigerated. The guys talk about insights in academia, government and the food industry and how just degrees and training don’t make food good food safety; that experience and critical thinking matter. The show ends with a chat on leftover rice, overnight oatmeal and making podcasts.

Episode 145 is available on iTunes and here.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Food Safety Talk 144: They Look and Taste Like Green Turds

The guys jumped right into the food safety talk this week with a discussion of the Jimmy John’s sprout outbreak. From there the conversation turns to a whole lot of listener questions and feedback: Instant Pot, more on edible gold and silver, the safety of pots left on the stove as well as refrigerator leftovers, fiddleheads, proper spatula use, burger temperatures, and food safety gadgets. There’s a little bit of popular culture talk right at the end. Below are show notes so you can follow along at home.

Episode 144 is available on iTunes and here.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

 

 

Public health folks in Detroit offering free hep A shots for uninsured food handlers

One cost that’s been debated in food service for over twenty years is whether or not employers or public health folks should require food handlers to be vaccinated for hepatitis A. Jacobs and colleagues arrived at the conclusion that the public health benefit of vaccinating for hep A doesn’t equal the costs – but doesn’t factor in all the bad publicity, hassle and incident management costs.

How about free vaccines for uninsured food handlers. Sounds good to me. That’s what’s happening in Detroit after 692 hep A cases in southeast Michigan have occurred recently, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Food workers are being encouraged to get a Hepatitis A vaccine shot on Monday by the Detroit Health Department in the wake of an outbreak hitting southeast Michigan.
The vaccination clinic is scheduled for Monday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Samaritan Center, Kilpatrick Conference Room, 5555 Conner.

The Detroit Health Department is recommending that all food establishments in the city make arrangements for workers to get vaccinated. Food workers include those who work at restaurants, bars, fast food establishments and delis.
Food workers are encouraged to bring a photo identification and health insurance card if they have insurance. Uninsured food workers may be eligible for a free vaccine.
The department has extended its hours to 8 p.m. to accommodate workers with busy schedules.

Fish-linked botulism in Nigeria

I’ve chronicled my fear of botulism many times before. I still can stuff, but I really pay attention to what I’m doing.

Dried fish and botulism seem to go together. Five bot cases in Germany and Spain were linked to dried fish in 2016.

There were 90 illnesses and nine deaths in 2017 from foodborne botulism in Ukraine. That’s a lot. Fish were a factor in many of these illnesses.

According to Outbreak News Daily, two unlucky Nigerians have died from botulism after consuming fish.

Three family members contracted suspected foodborne botulism, resulting in the deaths of the father and mother, according to the  the Nigerian Centres for Disease Control (NCDC). Fish appears to be the common food source.

The event descriptions of the two fatalities is provided by the World Health Organization (WHO):

The woman, a 47 year-old, presented to King’s Care Hospital, Abuja, on 7 January 2018, with vomiting, fever, sudden blurring of vision, generalized body weakness, dysphagia and odynophagia, and left ptosis. She was semi-conscious. She was initially diagnosed with ischaemic heart disease, with esophageal stricture and central retinal vein thrombosis. However, her neurological symptoms worsened rapidly, progressing to complete bilateral ptosis, paralysis of her respiratory muscles, and respiratory failure. She was referred approximately 24 hours after admission and died in transit.

Her 49 year-old husband presented to the same hospital with nausea, dizziness, vomiting, progressive dysarthria, odynophagia and partial ptosis. He was transferred to Zenith Medical and Kidney Centre, where his symptoms worsened. He suffered progressive respiratory failure, which required a tracheostomy and ventilation, and died on 15 January 2018.

Their 15-year-old daughter also developed symptoms and was hospitalized as of last week.

All three cases had eaten fish at home in the previous 24 hours. Two further children, who stayed in the same house, are currently in Lagos and are being monitored remotely. A third child is in Karu, but monitoring has been hampered by uncooperative relatives.

 

Jimmy Johns linked to sprout outbreak again

I can’t remember if this is outbreak number 3 or 4 (oops, it’s number 5 according to the Chicago Tribune) but Jimmy Johns, the sub folks, have been linked to a bunch of salmonellosis illnesses through sprouts again.

I wonder if their PR folks regret this sprout marketing ploy (right, exactly as shown) from a few years ago. Skull. Crossbones. Eat at your own risk. Nudge. Nudge. Say no more.

Yeah. And there are illnesses again.

“Food safety and the welfare of our customers are our top priorities and not negotiable in our business,” said James North, Jimmy John’s President and CEO, in a news release, adding the company is working with the various agencies in the investigation.

Here’s a table of over 75 sprout-related outbreaks going back to 1973. We’ll add this one when there are more details.

Nudge. Nudge.