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.

Fareway chicken salad now linked to 170 illnesses

As the foodborne epidemiologists used to say, ‘it’s always the potato salad’; usually referring to staph toxin outbreaks – where dishes sit out at room temperature either in the preparer’s home, during the transport, or before everyone lines up to eat.

Except, it’s not always the potato salad. Sometimes it’s the chicken salad.

CDC updated it’s page on their investigation into a salmonellosis outbreak linked to chicken salad sold at Faraway grocery stores.

Another 105 ill people from 6 states were added to this investigation since the last update on February 22, 2018. The newly reported ill people likely bought contaminated chicken salad before it was recalled. Public health agencies receive reports on Salmonella illnesses two to four weeks after illness starts.

On February 21, 2018, Triple T Specialty Meats, Inc. recalled all chicken salad produced from January 2, 2018 to February 7, 2018.

The recalled chicken salad was sold in containers of various weights from the deli at Fareway grocery stores in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota from January 4, 2018, to February 9, 2018.

This is gross: man urinates in women’s water bottle after being turned down for a date

This is disappointing and despicable. I hate to see stuff like this, on Women’s Day 2018, or any other day. There are some bad dudes out there.

A man who was upset that his co-worker rejected his romantic advances allegedly urinated in the women’s water bottle as revenge.

Conrrado Cruz Perez, 47, is facing two counts of adulterating a substance with bodily fluids, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the Pioneer Press.

Deputies responded to a Perkins restaurant in Vadnais Heights, Minn., last October after an employee claimed she was being harassed by a co-worker who was a baker at the eatery, the outlet reports.

Don’t kiss your guinea pigs; cute pets linked to Salmonella outbreak

Add the popular classroom pet, the guinea pig, to the list of kid-infecting-pathogen-factories with chicks, turtles, hedgehogs and puppies.

CDC reports today that whole genome sequencing has linked 9 cases of Salmonella Enteriditis to the furry rodents.

CDC began investigating in December 2017 when CDC PulseNet identified a cluster of three Salmonella Enteritidis infections that whole genome sequencing showed were closely related genetically.

A review of the PulseNet database identified six more closely related illnesses dating back to 2015. These illnesses were added to the outbreak case count. Nine people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis have been reported from eight states.Illnesses started on dates ranging from July 17, 2015 to December 15, 2017.
One person was hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that contact with pet guinea pigs is the likely source of this multistate outbreak.Four of the seven people interviewed reported contact with a guinea pig or its habitat in the week before getting sick. The outbreak strain of Salmonella was identified in a sample collected from an ill person’s pet guinea pig in Vermont.

Oh, and maybe think about Salmonella risks if you decide to eat guinea pig meat as well. In 2013, 81 people in Minnesota got sick after eating guinea pig meat sourced from an illegal back-room slaughtering operation.

I prefer my rodents talking and riding boats.

 

Soup sold at Belleville, Ontario farmers’ market recalled

When I was a teenager my mom would drag me out of bed a couple of Saturday’s every year and we’d go to the farmers’ market in Peterborough. Depending on the season, she’d shop for peaches, apples, strawberries or cucumbers. The goal was to freeze or pickle these foods for winter consumption. I don’t remember seeing much else at the market beyond produce, eggs or the local butcher. This was before I had embraced my food safety nerddom. Or knew what that was.

There probably was soup and other canned stuff floating around. I see canned stuff like pickles, jams and sauces that at the farmers’ markets I frequent. I don’t see a lot of low acid canned goods like mushroom soup. Stuff like that is tough to make commercially without a retort. And by tough I mean, against most local and federal laws.

In Belleville, Ontario (that’s in Canada, former home of the OHL’s Belleville Bulls) someone was selling some homemade mushroom soup. According to CFIA’s website, regulatory folks conducted a few tests (I read that as ‘tested the pH’) and now there’s a recall.

This stuff doesn’t look sketchy at all (right, exactly as shown).

Food Safety Talk 147: Only Robots In The Kitchen

Don and Ben start the episode talking about some notable weather, seeing each other in Atlanta, and food safety stories from the recently retired ranks. The conversation moves to listener feedback about contaminated supplements and spices, Japanese designers, thawing and using time as a public health control. The show ends with a discussion on sampling fresh herbs and Russian trolls’ attempt to cause confusion about a turkey-related non-outbreak.

Episode 146 is available on iTunes and here.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

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: