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.

Telling people there’s no risk is irresponsible

There’s some dumb stuff in this interview with author Jack Gilbert (who wrote, Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System) about eating dirt and the hygiene hypothesis.

I get it, expose your kids to lots of things, boost their immune system. But why say things like this:

Unless you dropped it in an area where you think they could be a high risk of extremely dangerous pathogens, which in every modern American home is virtually impossible, then there’s no risk to your child.

and

As long as they’re properly vaccinated, there’s no threat, and they will actually get a stronger, more beneficial exposure.

There’s always a threat. There’s no zero risk. There’s a pretty good chance that foodborne pathogens, that sometimes kill folks, are in every kitchen.

Chipotle is getting sued again

Another shareholder who didn’t believe the press releases. According to NOLA.com, 

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is facing another class-action lawsuit by a disgruntled shareholder over its alleged inability to keep its restaurants clean, a new hurdle for a company still trying to regain consumer and investor confidence after a food scare two years ago. The latest complaint follows Tuesday’s revelation (July 18) that one of the burrito chain’s Virginia stores had temporarily closed because of a suspected norovirus outbreak, and Wednesday’s news media reports about Texas customers complaining of rodents dropping from the ceiling.

In March, Chipotle won dismissal of a similar lawsuit brought by investors over stock price drops after several food-borne illness outbreaks in 2015 were traced to its restaurants. A judge concluded that the case was “long on text but it is short on adequately-pleaded claims.” Those plaintiffs are now trying to revive the case in Manhattan federal court.

In the case filed Thursday, shareholder Elizabeth Kelley said the Colorado-based company made misleading statements to bolster confidence that it had resolved the health and safety troubles from 2015, when it was forced to close all of its U.S. stores after hundreds of consumers got sick. Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

 

Pregnancy food safety messages should probably include Listeria

There’s a lot of pressure on moms-to-be. When I was a dad-to-be, I supplied some of that  pressure. Throughout Dani’s pregnancies I became the food police in our house — no soft cheeses or cold deli meats made it to Dani’s plate, most didn’t even make it in the house. Everything was been temped during cooking.

I read pretty well every paper I could on Listeria, and Doug and I discussed the merits of broad food surveys and listeria growth in blue-veined cheese. It was a bit ridiculous, but I hear that first time parents sometimes can be obsessive.

Over time I’ve become much less obsessive, have been better at employing risk communication even within my own home. My goal is to give folks info that can help them make risk decisions; not tell them what to do.

Tonight I read an article on food safety for moms-to-be. It started promising, except for the yelling (the headline, 4 STEP FOOD SAFETY GUIDE TO KEEP YOU SAFE DURING PREGNANCY) and went further downhill when all the blogger highlighted was the generic, sanitized messages of cook, chill, clean and separate.

Disappointing that there’s no mention of Listeria, the foods that are high risk for the pathogen – and how to manage the risks.

Missed opportunity.

Idaho food bank recalls foods after cooler temperatures reviewed

A few years ago an outbreak linked to a Denver homeless shelter made it into the barfblog new and notable category. Forty folks who depended on the emergency food were affected by violent foodborne illness symptoms after eating donated turkey. Fourteen ambulances showed up and took those most affected to area hospitals.

Earlier this year while speaking at the Rocky Mountain Food Safety Conference I met one of the EHS folks who conducted the investigation and temperature abuse of the turkey after cooking was identified as the likely contributing factor.

The very folks who need food the most were betrayed by the system they trust.

I can’t imagine how hard it is to be homeless or not have enough money to feed my family. Focusing on safe, nutritious food is moot if the money isn’t available to buy groceries. Or if there’s no home to take them too.

Volunteering as a food handler at a food bank, mission, shelter or soup kitchen and having a good heart and intentions doesn’t automatically lead to safe meals. An understanding of risks and having systems how to reduce them may.

Yesterday, a recall (we’re not recall net, others can do that) popped up as new and notable. The Idaho Food Bank recalled a few items that had been distributed to pantries  community meal sites and senior centers after someone reviewing cooler documentation saw that stuff was out of temp.

The Idaho Foodbank is recalling approximately 27,000 pounds of Coconut Beverage, Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Eggs, and Cheese Product.

These products are being recalled because they were not continuously maintained or stored at the required temperature due to a malfunction in the cooler. This could result in contamination by spoilage organisms or pathogens, which could lead to life-threatening illness if consumed. The Idaho Foodbank discovered the problem after reviewing cooler temperature records during high heat.

Affected Products were distributed in Southwest and North-Central Idaho

The Idaho Foodbank is committed to consumer safety and takes all product quality concerns very seriously. This recall affects less than 2% of the 1.5 million pounds of food IFB distributes statewide each month. We are recalling the products out of an abundance of caution, and are instructing consumers who received them not to eat these products and to immediately dispose of them.

Don’t know what temperature the coolers got to, or for how long, but that broccoli cheddar soup stuff is the type of stuff that could lead to botulism if temperature abused for a long time.

Ashley Chaifetz did a bunch of great work in this area a few years ago:

Evaluating North Carolina Food Pantry Food Safety–Related Operating Procedures

Ashley Chaifetz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Benjamin Chapman, North Carolina State University

Journal of Food Protection

Vol. 78, No. 11, 2015, Pages 2033–2042

DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-15-084

Abstract: Almost one in seven American households were food insecure in 2012, experiencing difficulty in providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Food pantries assist a food-insecure population through emergency food provision, but there is a paucity of information on the food safety–related operating procedures that pantries use. Food pantries operate in a variable regulatory landscape; in some jurisdictions, they are treated equivalent to restaurants, while in others, they operate outside of inspection regimes. By using a mixed methods approach to catalog the standard operating procedures related to food in 105 food pantries from 12 North Carolina counties, we evaluated their potential impact on food safety. Data collected through interviews with pantry managers were supplemented with observed food safety practices scored against a modified version of the North Carolina Food Establishment Inspection Report. Pantries partnered with organized food bank networks were compared with those that operated independently. In this exploratory research, additional comparisons were examined for pantries in metropolitan areas versus nonmetropolitan areas and pantries with managers who had received food safety training versus managers who had not. The results provide a snapshot of how North Carolina food pantries operate and document risk mitigation strategies for foodborne illness for the vulnerable populations they serve. Data analysis reveals gaps in food safety knowledge and practice, indicating that pantries would benefit from more effective food safety training, especially focusing on formalizing risk management strategies. In addition, new tools, procedures, or policy interventions might improve information actualization by food pantry personnel.

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).