Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Download C.V. »

Same-sex marriage and thermometers promoted in Australia: Welcome to the naught years

Australian politicians decided to be good politicians, not leaders – because pioneers get arrows in their back – and threw the issue of same-sex marriage to a public mail-in vote. The yes side won by a 2:1 margin, thereby undermining the foundation of Western society (or so some say).

I say, who cares, let same sex people enjoy the benefits and grief of marriage like the rest of us.

Australian food safety week is Nov. 11-18, 2017.

The organizers have been to my church, and the theme is not hockey, but, “Is it done yet? Use a thermometer for great food, cooked safely every time.”

Stick it in.

The theme last year was“Raw and risky.”

Uh-huh.

These PR thingies are increasingly meaningless.

Chapman is coming over in Jan. or so, once our renovations are done.

Bring another batch of thermometers, buddy.

If a group wants to promote thermometer use, give them away.

According to a self-reported bullshit survey, 70% of Australians don’t know that 75°C is the safe cooking temperature for high-risk foods such as hamburgers, sausages and poultry. 75% of Australians surveyed also reported that there wasn’t a meat thermometer in their household and only 44% of those with a thermometer reported using is over the previous month.

Check out our media release Australians clueless about safe cooking temperatures – Use a thermometer for great food, cooked safely every time.

What’s in your weed?

In Hawaii, one of the testing labs certified by the state to check the quality of medical marijuana said they found contamination in more than half of the samples from the black market.   

The lab, Steep Hill Hawaii, says over 50 percent of the black market product had contaminants that included mold, yeast, and pesticides. 

The lab says that doesn’t mean all homegrown products are bad, but patients should be aware of what’s in their medicine. 

“I personally was shocked to find out how much stuff was in black market cannabis that you would never expect. E. coli, which comes from fecal matter. Salmonella, which comes from raw egg and chicken. We found that on product we tested,” said Michael Covington, of Steep Hill Hawaii. 

In Canada, CannaDrinks may be all the rage in some parts of the world, but there are some serious health concerns surrounding new products being formulated.

Sure it sounds cool, to order some cannabis-infused drinks at the bar for you and your buddies. However, a leading food safety expert is warning that these cool drinks may be dangerous, and the public (apparently) needs to take note.

While a $245 million deal was penned between Constellation Brands and Canopy Growth last week, for a 10 percent stake of CP, Canada’s largest cannabis producer, to produce the new CannaDrinks, Rick Holley claims the drinks are problematic, “[Producers] could screw this all up if they don’t get into the mechanics of how to safely prepare and develop new food products,” he said, adding, “They could kill people!”

BNN reported that Constellation Brands told them via email that the company, “has a long-standing commitment to producing products with the highest quality standards and that comply with all regulations.”

According to Lawrence Goodridge, a McGill University food safety expert (Larry, you’re an expert), alcohol has the advantage of killing bacteria and toxins in sealed bottles or cans, whereas cannabis-infused products may not, “Because cannabis is a plant, there are certain concerns — like the possibility of pesticides used in production, or the type of fertilizer used, or the potential presence of heavy metals that could be toxic to humans,” said Goodridge, adding that, “Bacteria like e-coli or listeria that could be on the plant and that could make it onto the food, whether it is drinks or edibles, the risk is the same — but alcohol is special because we know that helps to kill some of those toxins.”

Also, Sikora et al. identified a case of Hepatitis A associated with cannabis use.

We identified a case of acute Hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection linked to cannabis use. The local Public Health department received report of a man in his mid-20s with a classic presentation of hepatitis – jaundice, abdominal pain, vomiting, general malaise, and dark urine – as well as elevated serum aminotransferase levels and a positive anti-HAV IgM. Upon questioning, he reported no contact with ill individuals, or travel outside his metropolitan area. His exclusive source of water was the local municipal supply. He reported consuming mainly pre-packaged lower risk foods from large chain-style supermarket stores and eating at several local restaurants. While administering the questionnaire, the investigator identified that the patient smoked cannabis. Upon request, the patient agreed to provide a sample of cannabis for testing purposes. A viral elution of fresh cannabis leaves was completed. The sequences derived from the patient’s serum sample and the eluate from the cannabis leaves were identical, but did not match any other HAV sub-genotype 1B sequences from Canadian isolates within the National Microbiology Laboratory database. Hepatitis A virus can survive >60 days when dried and kept at room temperature and low humidity; HAV can remain infectious in water at room temperature for 300 days. It cannot be concluded with certainty that the cannabis was the source of the hepatitis A; however, as other sources were excluded, or were of lesser probability, the association of cannabis with his disease acquisition remains strong.

 

Ready-to-eat meals may be popular but have risks

Eugene Boisvert of Au News writes that more than 40 per cent of ready-to-eat meals tested by South Australian health types contained an unsatisfactory level of bacteria, according to survey results published in the Eastern Health Authority’s annual report this month.

The SA Health survey said one of the tested meals contained 310 times the safe level of Bacillus cereus, and another had almost 13 times the safe level of E. coli, which comes from feces.

Out of 98 meals bought at local supermarkets and shops with a shelf life of 10 or more days, 42 had an unsatisfactory microorganism count.

Eastern Health Authority chief executive Michael Livori said more small businesses were trying to capitalise on the growing popularity of ready-to-eat meals without understanding the health risks involved.

“Most manufacturers who are normally in this business will (understand the risks) but there’s an increase in small businesses or retailers getting into this realm but not without risk,” Mr Livori said.

The SA Health survey and subsequent report, published in June, was sparked by Eastern Health Authority concerns about the standard of manufacturing processes of ready-to-eat meals.

The SA Health report recommended measures to prevent bacteria growing in ready-to-eat meals, including that they be heated to at least 90C for 10 minutes when being cooked.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Health Authority issued 10 businesses with prohibition orders in 2016/17, banning them from preparing, selling or transporting food until they cleaned up their act, compared with three in the previous two financial years.

Proper handwashing requires proper tools

Apparently, that’s just a throw-a-way tag line, at the end of an abstract for a paper, but my observations say it’s the most important. Have paper towels, not bacterial blow dryers; have soap; and have vigorous running water, not a trickle-down (as effective in economics as in handwashing).

Each year millions of children are enrolled in center-based childcare. Childcare employees are tasked with handling over half the children’s weekly meals. Proper food handling practices are crucial in mitigating this high-risk population’s risk of foodborne illness. The purpose of this study was to identify childcare food handling employees’ (n = 278) perceived barriers and motivators to follow recommended food safety practices. Six important barriers and 14 key motivators to following recommended food safety practices were identified. Important barriers pertained to time restraints, workloads, and lack of understanding of the importance of following proper food safety practices. Key motivators were focused on children’s safety, available supplies, communication, and food safety training/information. Employee and facility characteristics were shown to influence perceived importance of barriers and motivators to following food safety practices. Childcare directors should review scheduling and job duties of employees as the majority of identified barriers focused on “work pace” and “time restraints.” Directors should also attempt to increase food safety communication through practical situational training, written food safety policies, and use of food safety signage to increase understanding of the importance of proper food safety practices. Ensuring proper supplies are available is necessary.

Childcare food handling employees’ perceived barriers and motivators to follow food safety practices

Early Childhood Education Journal, pp 1-9, 24 October 2017, Joel Reynolds, Lakshman Rajagopal

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10643-017-0885-3

$150,000 fines for Australia noodle bizes

Three Sydney noodle manufacturing businesses have been collectively fined more than $150,000 in relation to various food safety and hygiene failures under the Food Act 2003 and the Food Standards Code following a targeted project by the NSW Food Authority designed to address a high-risk food sector where compliance was less than satisfactory.

The “Fresh Noodle Manufacturers Project” was designed to improve standards in the fresh noodle industry after the Food Authority became aware of compliance issues within the sector.

Over a period of four months NSW Food Authority officers conducted 25 inspections where they considered the use of preservatives, process and hygiene control, product labelling and temperature control.

The resulting enforcement activity included three prosecutions where one company was fined $11,000 and its director fined $2,800, a second company was fined $27,000 and the most recent result saw a Sydney manufacturer plead guilty to 19 charges and fined $113,000.

Dr Lisa Szabo, NSW Food Authority CEO, said while the wider community may not recognise noodles as a high-risk food, the intrinsic properties of fresh noodles mean that if they’re not kept within careful temperature control they become a breeding ground for the growth of microorganisms that can cause food poisoning.

“The NSW Food Authority is committed to ensuring people buying and eating food in NSW can do so with confidence and certainty that what they’re eating is safe,” Dr Szabo said.

“We target our efforts of investigation and risk management to where they are most needed in order to best protect the public and also reduce regulatory burden on those industry sectors who have a proven record of doing the right thing.”

The NSW Government’s Food Safety Strategy 2015-2021 has a goal of reducing foodborne illness by 30% by 2021 and a compliance target of 95% for all food businesses with food safety requirements.

 

Poop and food don’t mix: Irish edition

Niamh Towey of The Irish Times writes that an Indian restaurant in Co Donegal was served a food closure order last month after a pond of human excrement was found in an area where staff were preparing food.

An overflowing manhole had resulted in the pond of human excrement gathering beside a shed where the potato peeler was stored at Saffron restaurant and takeaway in Creeslough.

A report from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland said “human excrement was overflowing and ponding in an area beside the shed in which the potato peeler was located due to an overflowing manhole”.

It goes on to say staff “would be standing in the excrement” while using the potato peeler and thereby “carrying it into the food premises on their shoes”.

The report also found “dirt, mould and encrusted food” on windows, in sinks and on floors and doors throughout the premesis, while “food storage containers in the fridge were covered with black mould”.

Rats? We got no stinking rats: Australia restaurant reassures community it’s rat-free

A Chinese restaurant has exterminated a large rat after a video of the rodent in the shopfront window went viral yesterday.

The family business in Minto, NSW, has reassured the community the rat’s appearance was a freak incident after a resident’s video was shared hundreds of times in the space of hours, reported the Macarthur Chronicle.

Restaurant owner Emily Tang said the rat likely rushed through the door from the street at the start of the day.

“I opened the door and it maybe came from the streets, trying to get into the kitchen,” she said.

“Every night we close the door, put down material at the door to stop the rats. We have never ever had any rats like this before.

“We called the pest control man straight away and got rid of the rat. We have always had a good record with the health inspector.”

 

Everyone has a camera: UK Subway-manager-taking-bread-from-bin-to-serve-customers edition

Charlie Bayliss of the Daily Mail writes that horrific footage has surfaced of a Subway manager taking bread from a bin to serve to customers. 

Not sure it is horrific, but another reminder that everyone has a camera.

A concerned employee who had reservations about the food hygiene practices at the Central Park Subway in Rugby, Warwickshire, filmed the video earlier this year.

In the undercover footage, the unnamed manager reaches into the bin to pull out some bread after telling an employee: ‘We are already short of bread.’ 

The manager then places the binned bread onto a trolley before rolling it out of a back room.

Following the release of the video, Rugby Council sent an environmental health officer to the store where a number of food hygiene concerns were found. 

A spokesperson for Subway said: ‘Subway stores have very strict food safety and hygiene procedures to ensure that customers are served products to a high standard.

‘This video relates to a historic incident, which has been fully investigated. We are disappointed with the updated rating received by EHO and the store is challenging this.

‘The local store owner is looking forward to a follow up inspection.’ 

Uh-huh.

10 pupils in Bulgaria suffer from staph poisoning

Ten kids attending the “Petko R. Slaveykov” school in Yambol have been accommodated in the toxicology department of the city’s hospital, following a Staphylococcus aureus poisoning.

A visit by the regional health agency discovered lack of personal hygiene among the staff, low hygiene in the school’s canteen, and poor disinfection due to use of watered-down products.

The chairwoman of the health agency Dr. Gencheva explained that during the check-up health workers were able to isolate the Staphylococcus aureus from the pharynx of three of the staff members in the canteen

Health workers were also able to isolate E. coli from the working spaces and the equipment.

Flies, raw sewage among 19 violations found at Tennessee Red Robin

Crystal Chen of News 4 Jax reports just four months after opening its doors at the Strand near the Town Center, Red Robin failed an inspection with 19 health violations.

Red Robin is known for its burgers, brews and, of course, bottomless fries.

But that wasn’t the focus during a visit from the health inspector last week. 

The restaurant was cited for six high-priority violations, including live flies found in the kitchen, food prep area and bar.

Raw sewage was found on the ground near the back door, and a stop sale was issued for potentially hazardous food like fish and milk that were at the wrong temperature.

In a second visit, two days later, the restaurant only had two violations, both regarding paperwork.

The restaurant was not shut down, and this was its first failed inspection.

Management and the company’s media relations department have not  responded to requests for comment on the inspection report.