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 153: While They Are Poopin’

Don and Ben talk about human pathogens in produce and trying to define baseline for prevalence (which is complicated, and it depends). The conversation then goes to a discussion on Don’s appearance on Do By Friday and where podcasts fit into extension and outreach. The show ends on some listener feedback and the guys trying to figure out the history of consumer-focused storage time/temperature guidance.

Man in the bathroom checking internet with iPhone 5s smartphone, always connected.

Episode 153 is available on iTunes and here.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Raw (or undercooked) is risky: BC oyster edition

I’m not a huge oyster fan  I’ve only eaten raw ones a couple of times and steamed are a bit chewy. I’ll eat them baked or fried.

Raw oysters have been linked to over 170 cases of noro
in Canada – oysters from the same harvesting area we’re distributed to the US too.

One of my favorite noro outbreaks (for the science, not the illnesses) was this one linked to steamed oysters. Lightly steamed doesn’t reduce noro risk that much.

And BC oysters had a similar outbreak last year.

This is satire

It’s a big story when The Onion weighs in:

Saying that it would be a nice break from the health-conscious diet, a local E. coli bacterium announced Tuesday plans to treat itself to a little beef after weeks of eating nothing but salad. “Lately, I’ve been on this kick of just having romaine lettuce for every single meal, but it can’t hurt to cut myself some slack once in a while with a raw steak or a little ground chuck, right?” said the Escherichia coli strain, noting that while its regimen of salad mixes and hearts of romaine had made it feel much healthier and stronger, it was about time to reintroduce some protein into its diet. “I can’t wait to bite into a nice room-temperature hamburger, or maybe some uncooked beef sausages. Man, I’ve been craving beef for so long now that I’ll basically take whatever I find lying around.” The bacterium went on to justify the indulgence by saying that the added energy would come in handy during its upcoming trips to Iowa and Nebraska.


It’s also a hockey blog

The Maple Leafs are the unofficial team of barfblog. With both Doug and I from the Toronto area we’ve followed their play from the hockey hotbeds of Brisbane and Raleigh and email each other (along with Leaf’s fan and friend of the blog Steve Naylor) during a lot of games.
Last night there were a few exchanges.

The best of which was from Doug, ‘You should know by now, once the Leafs show up, they’ll disappoint.’ That’s what happens when the team hasn’t won a cup in 51 years.

It’s fun to watch a game that I’m emotionally invested in.

It’s not as much fun when my team loses.

Oh well. Training camp for next season starts in September. The trip to the Yonge St. parade will have to wait another year.

Handling eggs that have been recalled

When there’s a recall of 200 million eggs there’s a food waste/risk conversation. Telling folks to just cook them isn’t the full story. What about cross-contamination? How about a family with an immunocompromised individual? If there’s something special about the eggs (and by special I mean that they’ve led to over 20 illnesses) I don’t really want to have to make the call to handle it extra special. I like to think that I take lots of precautions with eggs (cooked until set, careful to not cross-contaminate) but what if I make a mistake. 

It’s not worth the risk. Take ’em back. That’s what I told Rachael Rettner from Live Science:

Having that [contaminated] product means I have to make no mistakes” when preparing the food, he told Live Science. In addition to undercooking, there’s a risk that consumers could cross-contaminate parts of their kitchen with Salmonella if they aren’t careful. “I would rather just not have that product … knowing it’s a risk of contamination,” 

Food Safety Talk 150: Rambunctious Ramble in the Jungle

The show opens with Ben recounting of his thoughts on Temple Grandin’s talk in North Carolina, and the Humboldt Broncos tragedy.  Don mentions his shout out on Do By Friday.  Ben starts off by the nominal food safety talk regarding sock microwaving and the Cold Pressure Council seal. Don counters with the NJ Panera outbreak which seems to be part of FDA outgoing multistate outbreak of E. coliO157:H7. Next up are blockchain and Canadian food recalls.  Listener feedback covers restaurant grading, killing lobsters, glitter, flour heating, milk spoilage, farmers market and recipe safety.

Episode 150 is available on iTunes and here.

Falconry as an option for pest control on farms

I’m a fan of the creative approach to using falcons to control wild pests on farms; with the caveat of balancing tradeoffs.

Back when I was doing on farm food safety stuff in greenhouses in Ontario (that’s in Canada) I had many farmers tell me that cats controlled the mice. They often asked what what’s worse – cat poop and feline tracking pathogens on their feet, or rodents everywhere. I never really had a good answer (and suggested traps for the the rodents). Today I saw an article form New Food Economy on using falcons as pest control on ranches and farms, with the click-worthy headline of ‘Could falcons prevent the next salmonella outbreak?’

Not if it’s linked to chicken eggs.

Maybe there’s some merit to the controlling-the-wild-with-the-trained approach, but in the absence of falcon diapers (as Don Schaffner suggested on Twitter) what’s the risk benefit tradeoff related to adding falcon poop into the mix. Maybe vaccination is the key (but I don’t know).

Wildlife biologist Paula Rivadeneira knows feces can be funny. Informally known as Paula the Poop Doctor (@PaulaThePoopDr on Twitter), she’s no stranger to the poop-based pun. Her SCATT lab—that’s Super Cool Agricultural Testing and Teaching lab to you—is a mobile research center inside a bus-sized RV, one she uses in Arizona’s crop fields to makes scat (animal droppings) scat (go away). But she also knows when poop stops being funny: if it gets into the food supply.

A simple, everyday fence can help dispel rodents and ground-based mammals. But how do you keep wild birds away from the open, vast expanse of a crop field? Over the years, farmers have struggled to find workable, cost-effective methods. Netting is too expensive and cumbersome. Chemical repellants can have taste and human health implications. A range of options exist to frighten birds away, from old-fashioned scarecrows and taped distress calls to deafening noise cannons, “exploders,” and sirens, but none are consistently reliable.

Which is where Rivadeneira comes in. As a specialist for the University of Arizona’s cooperative extension, it’s her job to find new ways to keep crop fields safely poop-free. Recently, she’s been at the forefront of a surprising new food safety initiative, one that—somewhat counterintuitively—entails bringing more birds onto agricultural lands. Rather than barricade, poison, or blast interlopers away, she’s helping farmers police their fields with the aid of an unusual ally: trained falcons.

Blame the consumer, cruise edition

‘The simple fact is that if people washed their hands, there would be no norovirus,’ that’s what Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley said in an  interview in Business Insider published this week.

Nope. It’s not that simple. Handwashing is a factor, but so is showing up ill, so is how surfaces are cleaned and sanitized (and with what compound). Norovirus isn’t just a handwashing or cruise patron problem. And if it was, and  was so simple we wouldn’t see 20 million + illness annually in the U.S.

The article has another gem, 

But personal hygiene isn’t always enough, according to Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. In addition to physical contact, the illness can also spread from an infected person’s respiratory system, which means that simply breathing the same air as an infected person can leave you vulnerable.

Huh? The virus can be aerosolized and then deposited on surfaces dozens of feet away from a vomit event – but it’s not a respiratory illness.

Humboldt Broncos tragedy

I often tell people that all I really know is hockey, food safety and family; everything and everyone important to me falls in one of those buckets.

This weekend I travelled to St. Paul, Minnesota to watch the NCAA Frozen Four (the national division 1 championships) with a hockey buddy, and couple of his former teammates. As my friends and I sat at a brewery talking about the games we had seen the night before, I checked Twitter and read short blurbs on the developing story of the Humboldt Broncos’ terrible bus crash.

Reports of fatalities and the individuals lost populated my timeline throughout my weekend.

All I could think of is all the teams I have been part of, back to when I was just a kid until now. Those experiences have meant so much more than competition and sport.

It’s exactly why I got into coaching.

The image to the right, three teammates, with bleached-blonde hair (dyed in team unity for the playoffs), lying in hospital beds, linking hands will always be with me.

This tragedy is overwhelming.

Food Safety Talk 149: Free-range, Grass-fed Raised Unicorns

This episode starts with a discussion on running really long relay races and unplanned home repairs.

Don and Ben then edible cookie dough validation (or lack thereof), sour milk pancakes and backyard chicken eggs. The episode ends on a discussion of moldy, fermented rice used as a meat flavor enhancer, glitter beer and Listeria in frozen corn.

Episode 149 is available on iTunes and here.

Show notes so you can follow along at home: