Robert Mancini

About Robert Mancini

Robert Mancini hosted and provided research for the television series “Kitchen Crimes” for Food Network Canada, H.G. T.V. (U.S.) and Discovery Asia. He is currently a certified Public Health Inspector in Manitoba and the health protection coordinator/specialist in food safety for Manitoba Health. He holds a Master’s Degree in Food Safety through Kansas State University. He enjoys playing with his 3-year old boy, violin, and running.

Australian man experiences thunderclap headaches after eating world’s hottest pepper

I grew up with hot peppers, love them, only thing is I can’t tolerate them. I remember going to these massive Italian weddings when I was younger and my dad used to bring his own hot dried peppers from home, stuff them in his pocket and when the pasta came out so did the heat. The heat on these peppers was nothing like the one an Australian man ate at a hot eating pepper competition.

James Gorman of the The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

If you eat a really hot chilli pepper, you expect pain. A lot of pain.
In addition to the feeling that you have just put a live coal in your mouth, you may weep, vomit and wonder where in your life you took a wrong turn.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
You don’t expect a headache so intense and immediate that it sends you to the emergency room. But that’s what happened to a 34-year-old man who turned up at a New York hospital with what clinicians call a thunderclap headache.
His problems began when he ate a whole Carolina Reaper — the hottest chilli pepper in the world, according to Guinness World Records — while participating in hot-pepper-eating competition.
He immediately started experiencing dry heaves — not unknown in the hot-pepper-eating world. But then a pain in his neck and head came on like … a thunderclap.
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It passed, but over the next few days he experienced more thunderclap headaches — that is the clinical term — so he sought medical attention.
Scans of his head and neck showed the kind of constriction in some arteries that can cause intense headaches, doctors reported in BMJ Case Reports. The scientific term for this temporary narrowing of arteries is reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome.
Dr Kulothungan Gunasekaran, one of the report’s authors, now at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said that for some reason the man must have been particularly sensitive to capsaicin, the heat-producing ingredient in peppers. The Carolina Reaper is a popular pepper, and many people eat them and experience nothing worse than the desire to cut out their own tongues.
“I was discussing the case with a nurse who had eaten three Carolina Reapers,” Dr Gunasekaran said.
The Reaper has been measured at more than 2 million Scoville heat units, the accepted scale for how hot peppers are. Measurements vary, but a really hot habanero might come in at 500,000 Scoville units.
The patient was fine, with no lingering damage, but thunderclap headaches are not to be dismissed. For one thing, there is the pain, which seems to surpass even the normal effect of the peppers.
Dr Lawrence C. Newman, a neurologist and director of the headache division at NYU Langone Health, said: “On a 1 to 10 scale, it’s off the charts.” And it can indicate the kind of stroke that results from bleeding in the brain.
It happens instantaneously. If that kind of headache hits you, it makes sense to seek medical attention “whether you’ve bitten into a pepper or not,” Dr Newman said.
The new study does suggest that capsaicin, being investigated for its role in alleviating pain and lowering blood pressure, can have unexpected effects on certain people.
Cayenne pepper pills and a capsaicin patch, sold in China and Turkey, have been blamed in medical reports for two non-fatal heart attacks in young men, the result of spasms in arteries.
But “we are not advising anything against the Carolina Reaper,” Dr Gunasekaran said.
The Reaper was bred to reach record levels of heat. Reached by telephone at the PuckerButt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, South Carolina, the Reaper’s creator, Ed Currie, offered mixed advice on pepper consumption.
On the one hand, he said, “people who eat whole Reapers are just being stupid”. But “Smokin’ Ed”, as he calls himself, also gave the impression that was not such a bad thing. “We eat them all the time,” he said, with no ill consequences beyond pain.
Mr Currie indulges in other competitions of suffering. For instance, he said, he had recently taken the Death Nut Challenge, which involves eating insanely hot peanuts. He has a partnership with a company that produces them.
“I knew beforehand I shouldn’t do it,” Mr Currie said. “I was in pain for two hours.”
For the average person interested in spice, not suffering, he advised using small amounts of any really hot pepper in food preparation, as they were intended.
So if you happen to go beyond your limits — having, say, entered a hot-pepper-eating competition?
“Citric acid seems to work the best to alleviate the pain,” he said. “Don’t chug milk because you’ll just throw it up.”

 

Compelling food safety messaging

I am always fascinated with the garbage hygiene/food safety messaging that I come across during my travels. The same boring food safety posters over and over again and yet there they are, plastered on the wall doing absolutely nothing. Have we lost complete creativity or are some organizations convinced these actually work?  They don’t, they are not compelling and people are not going to pay attention.  The intention is admirable but we need to do better.

Ben and Doug devised infosheets as a means to grasp people’s attention and these were tested for validity and work. We are striving to develop Barfblog TV using comedy and behavioral science to convey messaging which could also potentially be used for corrective action plans or monthly food safety messaging at the retail level. The possibilities are endless, let’s be creative.

 

Kids stricken with food poisoning at a school camp

Nothing is worse than when your child is ill. My son was recently sick with norovirus resulting in a plethora of explosions from both ends. My wife and I took the necessary precautions to avoid getting sick-frequent handwashing and sanitizing cause I realize how contagious this virus can be. Thankfully it worked.

A number of kids were ill at a school camp from food poisoning and one child was prescribed antibiotics. Let’s hope that tests were undertaken first to determine that the cause was bacterial and not viral…..

Riaan van Zyl reports

At least two Fairlands parents are upset with the way a primary school dealt with a food poisoning incident that occurred when their son went on a school camp.
The children were supposed to go on the camp from 5 until 9 March. But on 8 March, the school informed the father that his son and approximately seven other children were on their way home because “they were sick”. When the father went to fetch his son, he immediately took him to the doctor who informed him that the boy had food poisoning. Not only was the boy prescribed strong antibiotics but as a precautionary measure he was also treated for listeriosis.
What upset him and his wife is the delay in informing the parents that their children were ill. “If the children already started getting sick on Tuesday, why were we not informed and why were the children not taken to a doctor and only sent home on the Thursday?” His son also told him that about 30 children became ill, but then he found out that it allegedly was closer to 60 plus two adults.
He is now demanding answers but said the principal is giving him the runaround.
The school declined to comment and referred the Record to the Gauteng Department of Education.

Nebraska basketball team hit with food poisoning

 

I used to play basketball when I was younger and was MVP in high school. Now I would be lucky if I could dribble the ball properly.

I guess it would be hard to practice when you’re on the verge of barfing.

10/11 Now reports

The Nebraska Wesleyan men’s basketball team had to battle food poisoning Monday, as only nine players practiced with several sick, including Head Coach Dale Wellman.

Wellman said he was forced to sleep in his office while he tried to prepare for the national semifinals.

The Prairie Wolves think it was actually the meal before their Elite 8 win that caused over half the team to get sick.

Nebraska Wesleyan advanced to the Final Four over the weekend and will play on Friday in Salem, Virginia.

That will be the program’s fifth Final Four appearance.

Apparently you shouldn’t eat lunch at your desk

I just did but made sure to keep my food in my Tupperware and washed my hands before eating. Love it when I see these stories and studies trying to panic the masses with bacterial names and how many there are per square inch….

The risk is low.

Brinkwire reports:

See why your desk at work is 400 times dirtier than your toilet
Here’s something that’ll put you right off your lunch.
Your desk at work has 400 times more germs than your toilet, according to a study by the University of Arizona.
And the research also reveals two-thirds of office workers are at risk of making themselves ill by eating at their desks.
Nasties such as e-coli (found in poo), staphylococcus aureus, pseudomonas aeruginosa and helicobacter pylori were among the harmful bacteria found breeding on work desks, the Bristol Post reports .
An average desktop contains 20,961 germs per square inch – not counting the 3,295 on the keyboard, 1,676 on a mouse and a staggering 25,127 on the phone.
Hygiene experts reveal dirtiest place in the house – and it ISN’T the toilet
People in sales and marketing are the worst for cleanliness with over a fifth (22%) admitting that they only clean their desk once a month.
The printer is also a place that could use a good clean; the study commissioned by Printerland.co.uk found that an average office printer contain 1,676 germs per square inch. 
And the office kitchen isn’t much better where 2,483 germs per square inch can be found on the handle of the kitchen kettle in a shared office compared to just 49 found on a toilet seat.
Even the tap – despite being surrounded by water – conceals 1,331 germs per square inch.
Of course you reduce the number of germs on your desk by using antibacterial wipes and sprays.
Lorry driver Wayne enjoys new life after 12st weight loss
Catherine Bannan, HR manager for Printerland.co.uk, said: “It’s pretty shocking that there are more germs on your desk than on a toilet seat.
“But hopefully our visualisation will show people why it is so important to clean regularly so as to avoid getting ill and spreading infections unnecessarily amongst your colleagues.”

Food supplier fined £180k for rat infestation and unhygienic conditions

Food supplier fined £180k for rat infestation and unhygienic conditions

During the course of my career I have seen many rats in a variety of food outlets. In one instance, I recall finding rats droppings in a restaurant kitchen and heard a loud noise in the food storage room. I walked in with my flashlight and still have nightmares from what I saw, thought it was a cat….Pest control is important to prevent unwanted contamination to the food supply. Evidently, East End Foods thought differently.

James Ridler of Food Manufacture reports

East End Foods has been fined £180k for a rat infestation
Indian cuisine supplier East End Foods has been fined £180,000 for food safety offences, after an infestation of rats was discovered at one of its warehouses in Birmingham.
During a visit on 16 January last year, environmental health officers found rat droppings throughout both floors of the building, plus evidence of gnawed food and packaging.
Inspectors also found that cleaning at the premises was poor, and discovered yogurt past its use-by date.
A Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice, a schedule of work necessary to be carried out to remove imminent risk of injury to health and an application for a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order were served on East End Foods.
The premises was revisited twice on 19 and 23 January 2017 and was allowed to reopen after inspectors were satisfied that the company had taken steps to improve conditions at the warehouse. The site has since closed.
Pleaded guilty
East End Foods pleaded guilty to three offences under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 during a hearing at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 4 January this year.
The offences included a failure to put adequate procedures in place to control pests and a failure to ensure food premises were kept clean and maintained in good repair and condition.
The company had also failed to ensure that at all stages of production, processing and the distribution of food were protected against contamination, which was likely to render the food unfit for human consumption.
East End Foods was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,453.30, plus a £170 victim surcharge, at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 1 March 2018.
‘Not in accordance with usual standards’
An East End Foods spokesman said: “The company regrets that the conditions at the former wholesale unit were not in accordance with its usual high standards. The company has fully cooperated with the Council.
“The case did not concern any of the company’s food processing facilities, which continue to operate to the very highest standards of quality and cleanliness.”
A rat infestation also forced sandwich manufacturer CK Foods in Bedale, North Yorkshire – trading as Country Kitchens – to close part of its factory for three days last month.
Meanwhile, food manufacturers face a new generation of mutant rats resistant to conventional poison, according to the British Pest Control Association.

 

A robot will be cooking your food at CaliBurger

Food safety is behavior-based but what if a robot is doing the cooking for you?

Kevin Smith of Pasadena Star News reports:

CaliBurger has a new chef, but he won’t be needing a bathroom break. Or a smoking break. Or any breaks.
The “chef” is Flippy, an industrial robotic arm manufactured by Fanuc and brought to life by Miso Robotics‘ cloud-connected artificial intelligence platform. The automated kitchen assistant begins work this week at the Pasadena restaurant, and the technology is on track to be expanded to all 10 U.S.-based CaliBurger locations by the end of the year.
CaliBurger has another drive-through location in the Bakersfield area, and a Santa Clarita restaurant is opening soon.
How it works
David Zito, co-founder and CEO of Pasadena-based Miso Robotics, explained how the technology works:
“This combines thermal vision, 3D and computer vision data, and we use machine-learning algorithms,” he said. “It’s really a deep-learning technique where we can take all of that data and train Flippy to see what’s happening on the grill. He can react to it to make sure he’s cooking the burgers consistently every time.”
When a kitchen worker arranges patties on the grill, Flippy can detect where they are. The robot knows the temperature of the grill as well as the temperature of each patty, so he can turn them over at the right time and remove them from the grill when they are properly cooked, Zito said. That lets the kitchen staff know when to place cheese on top or when to dress the burgers.
The technology also enables Flippy to switch from using one spatula for raw meat to another for cooked meat. The robot can also clean spatulas while cooking and wipe the surface of the grill with a scraper, Zito said.
The process is precise, efficient, food-safe — and above all, consistent, he said.
The mind of a grill chef
“Over time, we can train Flippy to have the mind of a grill chef,” Zito said. “John has had struggles to staff the grill, and that’s an important role when you’re making the CaliBurger, their signature dish,” he said, referring to John Miller, chain chairman and CEO of the chain and related companies.
“But this is not about labor replacement. It’s about augmenting the staff that’s in the kitchen,” he added.
The robotic arms sell for $60,000 to $100,000, depending on the specific tasks a restaurant needs it to perform. Miso also charges a 20 percent fee per year for the use of its cloud-connected learning platform.
“It continually learns,” Zito said. “It gets better over time.”

The rest of the story can be found here

E. coli spread in cattle caused by water troughs

Krishna Ramanujan of the Cornell Chronicle reports:

A major study led by Cornell researchers reveals for the first time that water troughs on farms are a conduit for the spread of toxic E. coli in cattle, which can then spread the pathogen to people through bacteria in feces. The study was published Feb. 7 in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Water troughs appeared in our mathematical model as a place where water can get contaminated and a potential place where we could break the cycle,” said Renata Ivanek, associate professor of epidemiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the paper’s senior author. The hypothesis was then tested in the field – with surprising results.
People commonly acquire infections from shiga toxin-producing E. coli through cow feces-contaminated beef and salad greens. The main shiga toxin-producing strain, E. coli 0157:H7, causes more than 63,000 illnesses per year and about 20 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Though cows carry and spread E. coli 0157:H7 when they defecate, the bacteria do not make them sick.
“Farmers do not see a problem because there are no clinical signs in cows; it is totally invisible,” Ivanek said.
A vaccine to reduce bacterial shedding in cows exists, but the beef industry has little incentive to use it, partly due to cost, and the industry does not benefit from labeling beef as “E. coli safe,” Ivanek said. So Ivanek and a research team of 20 co-authors conducted a study to identify other ways to reduce the bacteria’s prevalence in cattle, which can vary over the year from zero to 100 percent of cows in a feedlot carrying the bacteria, with rates generally rising in the summer.
The researchers ran mathematical modeling studies to see if they could pinpoint areas in the farm where infections might spread between cattle. They found that water in a trough, especially in summer months, could heat and promote pathogen replication, causing more cows to acquire the bacteria when they drink. The researchers hypothesized that frequently changing the water in the summer could keep the water colder, limiting bacterial growth.
On most farms, water troughs automatically refill when they get low enough, and farmers can adjust the water levels so they refill more often. This tact saves water and keeps it fresher while ensuring cows still have enough to drink.
The group ran control trials in a feedlot over two summers. This involved reducing the water volume in troughs in randomly selected treatment pens and leaving the volume unchanged in control pens. They expected that reducing the water levels in troughs would prevent the spread of E. coli. Instead they found that it increased spread; in the treatment pens, the odds of finding shiga toxin-producing E. coli in cows was about 30 percent higher than in the control pens.
“Our modeling studies did pick up the right parts of the system,” Ivanek said, “but the mechanism that we postulated is the opposite from what we thought.”
More study is needed to determine why more water in troughs reduced E. coli in cows, but Ivanek questions whether the lower volume made it easier for cows to swallow debris at the bottom of tanks, or whether a fuller tank reduced E. coli concentrations.
The study will trigger more research on environmental sources of E. coli spread in cattle, Ivanek said.
Next steps include repeating the results in other feedlots, evaluating the effectiveness and cost benefit of using more water to reduce E. coli, investigating how seasons and temperatures play a role in prevalence of E. coli, and understanding the actual mechanisms that led to the results.
Wendy Beauvais, a postdoctoral researcher in Ivanek’s lab, is the paper’s first author. Co-authors included researchers from Texas A&M University, West Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University.
The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health and the Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation.

 

Restaurant closed due to a cockroach infestation

I have always been curious to see what others thought on the following:
How many chances should the Health Department give a food service/retail establishment that has been chronically shut down before permanently having their business license rescinded?
I’m not talking about the minor violations that are encountered during a routine inspection, more of the deliberate critical infractions that can severely impact public health. As practicing food safety professionals, where do we draw the line? Inspections are a snap shop in time and food safety resonates upon behaviors for positive change. But what do we do with those select few places that simply don’t care and abide by the mentality that if I am fined, well it’s the cost of doing business? I’ve heard this and I’m sure others have as well. I would love to hear what Barfblog readers have to say regarding this matter.

A vile cockroach-infested restaurant has been shut down after revolting insects were discovered throughout the dilapidated building.
The pests were found hiding in the fridge door seal, preventing it from closing properly, and crawling around exposed foods, food containers and over kitchen surfaces.
Guildford Magistrates’ Court heard stomach-turning evidence of how owner Amjad Parvez Butt had been seen coughing over food, then failing to use soap when washing his hands.
Mr Butt was charged with seven counts of food safety and hygiene regulations contravention, all of which he pleaded guilty to.
Under routine inspection on June 27 last year, an environmental health officer from Rushmoor Borough Council visited the Lali Gurash Nepalese restaurant in Aldershot.
In the initial report, read to the court on Wednesday (February 14), the officer said: “When I arrived, I witnessed Mr Butt coughing while preparing food – he then washed his hands without using soap.”
The general first impression was that Mr Butt was not preparing food safely and an in depth inspection began.
After examining the fridge, it became apparent the door would not close properly due to a number of cockroaches living within the door seal.
The officer also noticed the building had structural damage, including a hole in the wall, through which clear daylight could be seen and gaps in the flooring near the waste pipes.
Further evidence of insect activity was discovered in the basement, around food preparation areas and in the proximity of exposed onions and potatoes.
During the inspection it also became apparent that Mr Butt had not been filling in the mandatory safer food, better business (SFBB) checks that RBC enforces, with the last entry filed more than five weeks prior to the visit.
The restaurant was closed and Mr Butt was ordered to arrange for a pest control team to install traps throughout the building.
A few days later, officers returned to discover a full life cycle of cockroaches in the traps, indicating that they had been present in the area for a minimum of six weeks.
Officers consistently monitored the progress of the restaurant until July 20, when, in the absence of any infestation, it was deemed acceptable for re-opening.
During the scheduled three-month re-visit, Mr Butt was asked to produce his SFBB documents, which he was unable to do, and the restaurant was once again closed.
In court, with the assistance of a translator, he explained that he was unable to read and write and claimed that his daughter was going to complete the checks for him but was away on holiday at the time.
The 53-year-old said: “When I first noticed the cockroaches I bought some spray and contacted pest control but they never got back to me.
“When I was told to close the restaurant and destroy the food, I did.
“I have lost a lot of profit and it is the first time this has happened – I ask for forgiveness.”

The rest of the story can be found here

New class of antibiotics may be capable of killing superbugs

When I was younger my mother got me a job in a hospital as a nurse’s aide while I finished my studies at university. As part of my duties I had to ensure patients that had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were well taken care of. I was in my second year of University at that time and was vaguely familiar with this bug. Then came vancomycin resistant Enterococcus (VRE).
I left.

Anne Stych of Biz Women reports

Scientists studying microorganisms living in soil have discovered a new class of antibiotics that could kill deadly superbugs without triggering resistance.
The discovery leads researchers to believe there’s “a reservoir of antibiotics in the environment we haven’t accessed yet,” said Sean Brady, an associate professor at Rockefeller University in New York, who led the study.
The research, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, said the newly-discovered antibiotics kill superbugs including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a potentially deadly infection that is resistant to several antibiotics.
A team led by Brady discovered the new class of antibiotics, called malacidins, while cloning and sequencing DNA from microorganisms in soil samples contributed by people across the United States, The Washington Post reported.
They were looking for microorganisms with a known gene that acts as an “on/off” switch and makes it more difficult for microbes to develop antibiotic resistance, per the Post.
The World Health Organization (WHO) last month called antibiotic resistance a “serious situation” worldwide in both low-income and high-income countries.
The organization’s research showed that resistance to commonly-used antibiotics varied widely among the 22 reporting countries, with resistance to penicillin in bacterial pneumonia cases ranging from zero to 51 percent, while E coli bacteria antibiotic resistance levels ranged from 8 percent to 65.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year at least 2 million people in the United States become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. At least 23,000 people die as a direct result, while many more die of conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.
Worldwide, deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections are predicted to reach10 million a year by 2050, per the Post.
“Some of the world’s most common — and potentially most dangerous — infections are proving drug-resistant,“ said Dr . Marc Sprenger, director of the WHO Antimicrobial Resistance Secretariat. “And most worrying of all, pathogens don’t respect national borders. That’s why WHO is encouraging all countries to set up good surveillance systems for detecting drug resistance that can provide data to this global system.”
Researchers said although the discovery is promising and reveals the untapped biodiversity of our ecosystem, it will take years for the new class of antibiotics to be developed for practical use.