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. »

Blame Qatar? No, blame poor food handling as 825 sickened at Mosul camp

The first time I understood the term displaced person, was from my carpenter friend John Kierkegaard who, in the Danish tradition, had a beer at morning coffee, one at lunch, and one at afternoon coffee.

John would often tell me, it tastes good, but the work is not so good.

He told tales of bicycling 20-30 km/h with full infantry gear during WW II, and how he migrated to Canada at the end of the war as a displaced person.

On June 12, 2017, at sundown, hundreds of residents of one of the many tent camps that have sprawled across the barren landscape around Mosul gathered for iftar, the evening meal to break the day’s Ramadan fast. They were treated to a meal of chicken, rice, soup, beans and yogurt — paid for by a Qatari charity and prepared by a restaurant in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region.

Within hours, hundreds fell sick, vomiting and suffering from diarrhea. Overnight, until about 4 a.m., ambulances and cars rushed victims to hospitals, said Alaa Muhsin, an ambulance driver from Baghdad who works at the camp.

The period between when the food was cooked and then transported to the IDP camps resulted in the food poisoning of over 825 displaced persons from Mosul in southwestern Erbil.

 

“After we carried out an investigation of the case, we found out the cause of the food poisoning was due to the long period between preparing and consuming the food as it was packed in plastic containers and transferred to the camps,” Erbil Governor Nawzad Hadi said on Monday in a press conference.

“There were no deliberate intentions to poison IDPs by those who cooked the food,” he added.

“The food itself was okay, but the delay between the preparation of the meals and their distribution, along with the improper storing of the food, was the reason hundreds of IDPs became ill,” Hadi emphasized, stating the case had been sent to court.

The Governor previously mentioned the food was cooked at 9:00 a.m. then transferred to the camp at 1:00 p.m. The food was later distributed between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m.

Following the incident, seven people were arrested, six from the restaurant where the meals were prepared and one from a charity organization.

The restaurant was also closed, Erbil police previously informed.

Hadi noted the food should be prepared at the camps and that premade meals are forbidden.

He thanked the Peshmerga and security members for quickly transporting 638 IDPs to hospitals in Erbil to receive prompt medical treatment, while the remaining were treated at the camps.

The Erbil Health Department’s Director-General Saman Hussein Barzinjy told Kurdistan24 the group which delivered the donation did not take into consideration health hazards related to food preparation and distribution.

At the time, Barzinjy mentioned one of the camp’s inhabitants had died from food poisoning.

However, a statement released on Tuesday apologized for the misinformation, assuring no one had died, adding the condition of the child who was thought dead was “stable.”

The Kurdistan Region is home to almost two million IDPs and refugees who fled from the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Two separate outbreaks send thousands of Turkish soldiers to hospital

The leading cause of immobilizing U.S. troops?

Foodborne illness.

My former dean was known as Dr. Clorox while serving in Vietnam.

I used to give these training sessions to food types headed for Iraq and Afghanistan from Fort Riley (in Manhattan, Kansas) and would sheepishly say, I have no idea what you’re going to face in terms of potable water, but bleach is your friend.

Prayer won’t make food safe, but science can help.

An outbreak of foodborne illness was first detected on May 23, 2017 at the training center of the First Manisa Infantry Brigade in western Manis in Turkey. Up to 1,000 were sickened, with one death and 46 hospitalizations.

Dr. Tur Yildiz Bicer, who is also a deputy of the main opposition group, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), visited the soldiers attended at the provincial hospital and the tests concluded that soldiers were infected with salmonellosis through game meat which was on the barracks menu.

“In the samples were traces of the bacterium Salmonella, which is transmitted through meat, especially poultry, If not well cooked or stored according to health regulations,” said the doctor, and recalled that the soldiers ate turkey meat the night the infection began.

On June 17, 2017, the Daily Sabah reported a total of 590 Turkish soldiers were hospitalized in the western province of Manisa following complaints of nausea and vomiting. It is the latest case of mass poisoning at military bases in Manisa that have been plagued by such incidents since late May. An investigation is already underway while police early Sunday arrested 21 employees, including executives of the catering firm that provides food to the base and others in the province.

The soldiers’ complaints at the 1st Infantry Training Battalion Command began following a dinner. The Manisa Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement Sunday that 731 soldiers were affected by the tainted meal.

The Manisa governorate announced yesterday that food services from the catering firm were suspended and meals will be provided to the base temporarily. Manisa Governor Mustafa Hakan Güvençer said a delegation from the Public Health Institute, the highest public health authority and a delegation from the Land Forces Command that oversees military bases hosting training for conscripts, were investigating the issue. Military compounds in Manisa function as two main training bases for thousands of conscripts who are dispatched to other cities after completing a month-long training course there.

Color sucks: Use a thermometer and stick it in for food safety

safefood Ireland has joined the UK Food Standards Agency in providing terrible advice about how to cook burgers.

A recipe for summer beef burgers (may a fine solstice greet our Northern and Southern friends) endorsed by safefood says:

“Before serving, ensure that the burgers are cooked thoroughly. Cut into them with a clean knife and check that they are piping hot all the way through, there is no pink meat remaining and that the juices run clear.”

Meanwhile, FSA issued a Safe Summer Food guide as UK picnickers head out in the sun (there’s sun in the UK?). The guidelines were in part based results of a self-reported survey, which is largely meaningless but something FSA likes to do.

The Morning Advertiser has more details on the hoops FSA seems willing to jump through to ensure the safety of rare burgers including:

  • sourcing the meat only from establishments which have specific controls in place to minimise the risk of contamination of meat intended to be eaten raw or lightly cooked;
  • ensuring that the supplier carries out appropriate testing of raw meat to check that their procedures for minimising contamination are working;
  • Strict temperature control to prevent growth of any bugs and appropriate preparation and cooking procedures;
  • notifying their local authority that burgers that aren’t thoroughly cooked are being served by the business; and,
  • providing advice to consumers, for example on menus, regarding the additional risk.

The advice from these self-proclaimed science-based agencies is at odds with, uh, science.

It has been known for over two decades that color is a lousy indicator of safety in hamburger.

The latest addition to this work comes from Djimsa et al. in the Dept. of Animal Science at Oklahoma State Univ., who wrote in the Journal of Food Science earlier this year that:

Premature browning is a condition wherein ground beef exhibits a well-done appearance before reaching the USDA recommended internal cooked meat temperature of 71.1 °C; however, the mechanism is unclear.

The objectives of this study were: (1) to determine the effects of packaging and temperature on metmyoglobin reducing activity (MRA) of cooked ground beef patties and (2) to assess the effects of temperature and pH on thermal stability of NADH-dependent reductase, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and oxymyoglobin (OxyMb) in-vitro.

Beef patties (lean: fat = 85:15) were packaged in high-oxygen modified atmosphere (HiOX-MAP) or vacuum (VP) and cooked to either 65 or 71 °C. Internal meat color and MRA of both raw and cooked patties were determined. Purified NADH-dependent reductase and LDH were used to determine the effects of pH and temperature on enzyme activity. MRA of cooked patties was temperature and packaging dependent (P < 0.05). Vacuum packaged patties cooked to 71 °C had greater (P < 0.05) MRA than HiOX-MAP counterparts.

Thermal stability of OxyMb, NADH-dependent reductase, and LDH were different and pH-dependent. LDH was able to generate NADH at 84 °C; whereas NADH-dependent reductase was least stable to heat.

The results suggest that patties have MRA at cooking temperatures, which can influence cooked meat color.

Effects of metmyoglobin reducing activity and thermal stability of NADH-dependent reductase and lactate dehydrogenase on premature browning in ground beef

Journal of Food Science, 2017 Feb, 82(2):304-313, doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.13606. Epub 2017 Jan 18.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28099768

Hucksterism gets richer: Amazon to buy Whole Foods in $13.4 billion deal

When you’re the second richest guy on the planet, what do you pick up when you go to the shops for a little retail therapy?

Buy Whole Foods for $13.4 billion (U.S.).

That’s what Jeff Bezos, the head of Amazon, with a personal wealth of $84.7 billion, did on Friday on his way home with some all-organic crap bread, cheese and ice cream.
I’d be more like Jimmy Buffett: “I went to Buckhead to get some ice cream and next thing I knew I was on I-75 headed for Florida.”

According to Michael J. de la Merced and Nick Wingfield of The New York Times the Amazon deal marks an ambitious push into the mammoth grocery business, an industry that in the United States accounts for around $700 to $800 billion in annual sales. Amazon is also amplifying the competition with Walmart, which has been struggling to play catch-up to the online juggernaut.

For Whole Foods, the deal represents a chance to fend off pressure from activist investors frustrated by a sluggish stock price. Whole Foods last month unveiled a sweeping overhaul of its board, replacing five directors, naming a new chairwoman and bringing in a new chief financial officer. It also laid out plans to improve operations and cut costs.

Forget all the organic, sustainable, dolphin-friendly products: Whole Foods is a cut-throat business that attracts gullible consumers to drop extra cash on food with a lot of adjectives.

A couple of centuries ago they would be called hucksters, or medicine-men.

With Amazon, Whole Foods gets a deep-pocketed owner with significant technological expertise and a willingness to invest aggressively in a quest for dominance.

Amazon has designs on expanding beyond online retail into physical stores. The company is slowly building a fleet of outlets, and much attention has been focused on its supermaket dreams. It has already made an initial push through AmazonFresh, its grocery delivery service.

The e-commerce giant has been testing a variety of other retail concepts. It has opened a convenience store that does not need cashiers, and has explored another grocery store concept that could serve walk-in customers and act as a hub for home deliveries.

Under the terms of the proposed deal, Amazon would pay $42 a share for Whole Foods, a 27 percent premium to Thursday’s closing price. After the deal was announced, shares of Amazon rose as much as 3.3 percent while other major retailers, including Target, Walmart and Costco Wholesale fell sharply.

Whole Foods, which was founded in 1978 in Austin, Tex., is best known for its organic foods. The company built its brand on healthy eating and staked its reputation on fresh, local produce, albeit with a high price tag.

But the company has increasingly faced fierce competition from rival supermarkets. National retailers like Costco, Safeway and Walmart have begun offering organic produce and kitchen staples, forcing Whole Foods to slash prices.

 

The miracle of poop

It’s a question that has perplexed scientists: does diarrhea have a purpose?

That is, is diarrhea is a symptom of disease, or does diarrhea actually help clear the bacteria causing an infection.

Cecile Borkhataria of the Daily Mail reports that scientists have found in sick mice, proteins caused microscopic leaks in the intestinal wall that let water in, making the mouse poop looser and limiting disease severity. 

The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), looked at the immune mechanisms that drive diarrhea.

Diarrhea can have many different causes, including infections, certain types of medications, too much caffeine or alcohol and many more. 

It happens when there’s an excess of water in the intestines, which is normally re-absorbed by the body. 

The intestinal wall is lined with cells, and some water can pass through the cells, holes in the lining or via junctions between the cells.  

‘The hypothesis that diarrhea clears intestinal pathogens has been debated for centuries,’ said corresponding author of the study Dr Jerrold Turner of the BWH Departments of Pathology and Medicine. 

‘Its impact on the progression of intestinal infections remains poorly understood. 

‘We sought to define the role of diarrhea and to see if preventing it might actually delay pathogen clearance and prolong disease.’

To conduct the study, the researchers used a mouse infected with a bacteria called Citrobacter rodentium – the mouse equivalent of an E. coli infection. 

Within two days of the mouse being infected, the researchers saw an increase in the permeability of the mouse’s intestinal barrier – leading to water entering the intestines, causing diarrhea.

This occurred well before inflammation cellular damage of the intestines. 

The researchers discovered two new proteins involved in causing diarrhea – interleukin-22 and claudin-2, which humans possess too. 

They found that when the mouse was infected, immune cells travelled to the intestinal wall and produced interleukin-22. 

Interleukin-22 binds to cells on the intestinal wall, causing the release of another protein called claudin-2. 

It’s claudin-2 that causes the leak in cellular junction in the intestinal wall, allowing water to enter it and cause diarrhea. 

The researchers tested three different kinds of mice – regular mice, genetically modified mice that produce large amount of claudin-2, and mice that didn’t make any claudin-2. 

The regular mice had diarrhea when they got sick, and the mice that made more claudin-2 always had diarrhea. 

The mice that didn’t make any claudin-2 had more e injuries to their intestinal lining, and they still had diarrhea because it seemed as though their immune system attacked the cells help make some diarrhea. 

In related poop news, Rob Knight, one of the founding fathers of gut microbiome research, in 2012, used the crowdfunding platform FundRazr to coax more than 9,000 volunteers into first donating money, and then sending samples of their poop through the mail. A team of researchers probed these samples for bacterial DNA to create the first census of the 40 trillion or so bacteria that call our guts their home.

Kyle Frischkorn of the Smithsonian quotes Knight, who directs of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California at San Diego, as saying, “You get an ongoing input of microbes from your environment—microbes you eat on food itself.”

One of the mysteries sparked by the American Gut Project was why two people who claimed to follow the same diet could have such different communities of gut microbes. For the study, volunteers had self-reported their diets, with the vast majority following omnivorous diets, and less than 3 percent each identifying as “vegetarian” or “vegan.” When researchers crunched the numbers, however, they found no discernible correlations between gut communities and those with seemingly similar diets. 

“Diet categories were completely useless and didn’t correlate with the microbiome communities at all,” says Knight.

In other words, the bacteria in poop were telling a different dietary story than the people making that poop. “You can be a vegan who mostly eats kale, or you can be a vegan who mostly eats fries,” Knight explains. “Those have totally different consequences for your microbiome.” Anyone can claim to be a die-hard adherent to the Paleo Diet, it seems, but the data suggested that the microbiome remembers all those midnight ice cream transgressions.

Knight realized that the results of the American Gut Project were missing something crucial: A deeper dive into the food we eat. Filling that gap would mean analyzing all the food going in, and seeing how it correlated with the patterns in what comes out. But while collecting poop was, in some sense, straightforward—each person “submits a sample” in the same way—tallying up all the many foods people eat would be a lot more ambitious.

Every time you ingest, you change the interior landscape of you. Because the bulk of bacteria in the microbiome live in the gut, when we feed ourselves, we feed them too. The chemistry of what we eat, be it fries or kale, alters the chemical landscape of the gut, making it more cozy for some and less hospitable for others. 

It gets livelier. Because microbes are everywhere—on the table, in the air, on the surface of the muffin you left out on the counter—you’re also adding new microbes to the mix. Some stroll through your body like polite tourists. Others stick around and interact with the locals. Every bite has the potential to alter the microbiome, and subsequently human health. But researchers have yet to figure out how.

That’s because, until now, we didn’t have the platform to embark on the massive endeavor of collecting and analyzing food samples from around the world. Thanks to the American Gut Project, Knight and his team aren’t starting from scratch. Initially, the researchers plan to collect 1,000 samples from every brick of the familiar food pyramid, and then they’ll open it for the public to submit whatever foods they’re curious about. 

“We know about calorie count, and about different food groups, but the whole world of the molecules and the microbes in our food is a black box,” says Julia Gauglitz, a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Microbiome Innovation who will direct a new project. As the old adage goes, “we are what we eat,” she says. And yet, when you get down to the microscopic level, “we know very little about what we’re consuming.”

Everything we eat is the cumulative product of the chemistry and microbes in the soil where it was grown, the factory where it was processed, and whatever you touched right before you ate it. Why is that important? Ultimately, the team hopes, demystifying the microbial patterns in our food will help us better engineer our diets to improve our health and ward off disease.

Knight draws a historical parallel to the discovery of essential nutrients. In the last century, researchers figured out that industrially processed foods had become nutrient-depleted. By artificially adding vitamins and minerals back in, deficiency diseases like rickets and beriberi were largely eliminated from the Western world. Similarly, understanding the health effects of the microbiome could allow us to engineer those missing microbes back into our meals.

“It’s fairly likely that our modern lifestyles are stripping out a whole lot of live microbes that we need to maintain health,” says Knight. “Getting an understanding of that could be as important as the understanding that vitamin C is necessary and making sure that everyone got enough of it.”

Ireland has ‘way too much iodine in milk’

This is a proactive approach to something us westerners don’t think about any more: the use of food supplements to ward off chronic disease.

Teagasc’s Dr. David Gleeson says the Irish dairy industry has lost markets in the EU due to the excessive levels of iodine in milk, adding, “We have way too much iodine in our milk.”

“A number of years ago when we had a deficiency of iodine, around 30 to 40 years ago, it was suggested that we should have higher levels of iodine [in our feedstuffs],” Gleeson said when explaining how the current issue developed.

And now, he said, there is too much iodine going into cows’ diets.

“About 12mg of iodine per cow per day is a safe bet. It’s 5mg per cow per day in other countries.

“We’re putting in 120mg in a lot of situations. Some of our feeds could contain 30mg/kg of iodine and farmers could be feeding 4kg of that. That’s 120mg per cow per day,” Gleeson said.

He also mentioned how some supplementary magnesium products contain added iodine and can result in iodine intakes of up to 90mg per cow per day.

Nutrition Australia says iodine is an essential trace element and an integral component of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are required for normal growth and development of tissues and maturation of our bodies. Iodine deficiency is the most common preventable cause of mental retardation in the world; obtaining iodine through the food supply is therefore paramount. Iodine deficiency has re-emerged in Australia with the introduction of new practices of sanitization in the dairy industry and a decline in use and consumption of iodised salt.

 

713 sick in WA; Blame food porn Salmonella cases ‘at record level’

I just read an interview about Bill Maher, who likes unpasteurized goat’s yoghurt and a raw egg shake.

Rocky was a movie, not real life.

For someone who comes off as somewhat intelligent (and a lot smirky) he knows shit about microbiology.

With his seed diet, he’s no better than the swarmy folks he skewers.

Western Australian health types have confirmed a surge in salmonella cases has now peaked, and have urged locals to manage their risk of infection.

The WA Health Department said there had been 713 cases of the infection by the end of April- nearly four-and-a-half times the level expected by officials at this time of year.

The confirmation follows three confirmed cases in Busselton over recent weeks linked with uncooked egg products including chocolate mousse, aioli and hollandaise sauce.

A department spokesperson said there had been a large spike in the number of cases, and health officials have advised WA residents how to manage their risk.

“Notifications of Salmonella gastroenteritis are currently at record levels in WA… two molecular subtypes, PFGE1 and PEGE43 are currently causing most of this increase.

These subtypes are most commonly found in uncooked eggs, and the department said investigations into a number of localised outbreaks found a strong correlation between the infection and eating raw or runny eggs.

The department also confirmed the increase wasn’t just in WA, with a number of states around the nation also experiencing localised outbreaks.

If you experience severe or prolonged symptoms you should visit a doctor.

A selection of egg-related outbreaks in Australia can be found here.

Why would anyone brag about AIB? Oh, it’s Missouri: Ozarks Food Harvest Bank earns superior food safety rating

According to the West Plains Daily Quill, Ozarks Food Harvest received high marks on its food safety inspection from AIB International. For six years, southwest Missouri’s only regional food bank has held this superior food safety certification.

Except AIB – based in Manhattan, Kansas – has given superior plus plus ratings to some of the worst food offenders in the past decade: Peanut Corporation of America (which supplied the idiots at Kelloggs), DeCoster eggs and dozens more.

When Ozarks Food Harvest first received this certification in 2012, it was only the sixth Feeding America food bank of 200 in the country to do so.

The auditing tragedy is bad people taking money from people trying to do good.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

2012, Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

Keep it cool: C. perfringens is not a friend; UK pub fined thousands

Nikkie Sutton of The Morning Advertiser writes that a carvery operator that provides food in a West Midlands pub has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds after 20 diners contracted food poisoning.

A 94-year-old woman and several children became ill after eating at the pub last year and informed Dudley Council of their food poisoning symptoms.

IP Carvery, which makes the food on behalf of the Park Lane Tavern, in Cradley, pleaded guilty to placing unsafe food on the market in a case brought by Dudley Council at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court on 18 May.

A public apology was made to the court on behalf of IP Carvery’s director. The court also heard the company had employed a food-safety expert to advise them, inspect their facilities and train staff.

The food business was fined £1,350 and ordered to pay costs of £2,483.55 to Dudley Council and a victim surcharge of £120.

At the the hearing, the court heard how the diners ate at the carvery in a two hour slot on Saturday 2 April last year and 20 customers were confirmed to have suffered from Clostridium perfringens, that can be caused by the inadequate cooling of large joints of meat, leading to the formation of toxic bacteria, which survives cooking and then grows in the meat while cooling. It can cause illness shortly after being reheated and consumed.

Two leftover samples of turkey taken home by customers were found to be contaminated with the bacteria.

Environmental Health officers also visited the pub and found inadequate storage temperatures of cooked joints, a lack of monitoring of cooling times and temperature of cooked meats and inadequate record keeping.