Improving food safety, one thermometer at a time

Sorenne and I were walking home from school yesterday, sweating in the heat and humidity, and were waiting at a light with a young woman who had just got off work at an early childcare place that Sorenne used to attend.

I started up a conversation — it’s a long light – and she told me she had finished university and was taking a gap year, so had to pay the bills and was working.

I asked her what she was planning to do and she matter-of-factly said, “A PhD in clinical psychology.”

“That’s cool, I’ve got a PhD.”

“Oh, what in?”

“Food science, or food safety.”

“I remember you now. You were the parent who was always temping things with a thermometer when we had sausage sizzles.”

“Yup.”

“That was cool.”

Thanks to the barfblog.com community who has wrote back after my personal post about depression and the like.

The little things make a big difference.

Chapman, I need more thermometers.

 

17 new cases of Norovirus at the Winter Olympics

There’s a reason why people panic when they hear norovirus. It is extremely contagious and difficult to control. I’ve had it and the plethora of pain that accompanies it is not pleasant.

IOL reports:

Norovirus cases at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics have risen to nearly 200, organisers said on Monday, despite an intense battle to contain the outbreak.
Seventeen new cases have taken the total to 194, although 147 of those affected have already been released from quarantine, they said.
About 1,200 security guards were quarantined and replaced by hundreds of soldiers when the highly contagious bug first came to light last week.
Officials say they are doing everything they can to stop more people getting the virus, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting and can be spread by contaminated food and water.
Any illness spreading to the competitors would be a major embarrassment to hosts South Korea.

It’s a thing (in theatres Friday): Poop Talk

We were ahead of the curve on mass blogging about barf, we had Don’t Eat Poop T-shirts in four languages (Bill Murray got the Chinese one), but never had the resources to pull off a movie.

Carly Mallenbaum of USA Today asks, should humans be uncomfortable talking about something that everyone does, regardless of age, race, religion, income or gender?.

At least that’s what director Aaron Feldman hopes you do while watching his documentary, Poop Talk (in select theaters Friday in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and other cities, and on demand), which opens a dialogue about doo-doo with the help of dozens of scientists and comedians.

Guests include Dr. Drew Pinsky (who explains that being grossed out by feces has evolutionary purposes), a skittish Eric Stonestreet (the Modern Family actor says he can’t poop in a public restroom), a candid Nicole Byer (she talks about using a plane toilet while eating a burger), a wise Rob Corddry (he owns a tricked-out bidet) and the affable Kumail Nanjiani.

Yes, that’s the same Nanjiani who recently earned an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay for his personal love story, The Big Sick.

The critically acclaimed comedy contains it’s own poop scene, as Kumail tries to figure out why his girlfriend, Emily (played by Zoe Kazan), wants to go to a diner at 3 a.m. for, she says, “a cup of coffee.”

 “Why are you being so weird?” Kumail asks a shifty Emily, who finally reveals her hidden motive: “I have to take a huge (freaking) dookie!”

In Poop Talk, Nanjiani says there are plenty more scatological stories where that one came from.

There’s the joke his dad used to tell about how swallowing gum would make your poop become “a yo-yo.” Nanjiani hated that line, especially because as a child he avoided pooping at all costs.

“I figured (that poop is) all the stuff your body doesn’t need. So if I could figure out the formula and just eat what my body needs, it would all get absorbed into me and then I would never have to poop, right?” he says.

The comedian also recalls a time when he was eight years old. He was talking to another kid at a party, “and I noticed he had (pooped) himself,” Nanjiani says. “He looked me dead in the eyes and said, ‘That’s not poo; it’s party cream.’ “

Hosts on a viral planet: Ancient virus could be the reason humans can think

An ancient virus could be responsible for human consciousness, giving you the ability to think for yourself.

Researchers in the Dept. of Neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have linked a human gene responsible for conscious thought to a virus that was spread in the early days of humanity.

Two papers published in the journal Cell discuss the origins of the Arc gene, which packages up genetic information and sends it around nerve cells in little virus-style capsules.

Sean Keach of the New York Post writes these packages of information are believed to be critical to how our nerves communicate and could be responsible for our thoughts.

Elissa D. Pastuzyn, who authored one of the studies, said: “Evolutionary analysis indicates that Arc is derived from a vertebrate lineage of Ty3/gypsy retrotransposons, which are also ancestors to retroviruses.”

It’s believed that between 40 percent and 80 percent of the human genome was developed thanks to ancient viruses.

Viruses make active changes to your cells, injecting their own genetic code.

This can often be entirely useless — and sometimes causes harm, including the reproduction of more viruses — but occasionally we end up with useful modifications.

And it seems an ancient virus may have given rise to all human thought — thanks to the Arc gene.

Pastuzyn said that the virus was “repurposed during evolution, to mediate intercellular communication in the nervous system.”

James Ashley, who authored one of the studies, said: “The neuronal gene Arc is essential for long-lasting information storage in the mammalian brain, mediates various forms of synaptic plasticity and has been implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders.”

He added that mutations in the gene have been “linked to autism and schizophrenia,” which suggests that Arc has a pivotal role to play in how we perceive and react to the world around us.

Retrovirus-like Gag Protein Arc1 Binds RNA and Traffics across Synaptic Boutons

 Cell Volume 172, Issues 1-2, p262–274.e11

Arc/Arg3.1 is required for synaptic plasticity and cognition, and mutations in this gene are linked to autism and schizophrenia. Arc bears a domain resembling retroviral/retrotransposon Gag-like proteins, which multimerize into a capsid that packages viral RNA. The significance of such a domain in a plasticity molecule is uncertain. Here, we report that the Drosophila Arc1 protein forms capsid-like structures that bind darc1 mRNA in neurons and is loaded into extracellular vesicles that are transferred from motorneurons to muscles. This loading and transfer depends on the darc1-mRNA 3′ untranslated region, which contains retrotransposon-like sequences. Disrupting transfer blocks synaptic plasticity, suggesting that transfer of dArc1 complexed with its mRNA is required for this function. Notably, cultured cells also release extracellular vesicles containing the Gag region of the Copia retrotransposon complexed with its own mRNA. Taken together, our results point to a trans-synaptic mRNA transport mechanism involving retrovirus-like capsids and extracellular vesicles.

Raw pet food contaminated with Salmonella sickens 2 Minnesota children

Minnesota health officials say two children in the Twin Cities area got sick from salmonella poisoning after coming in contact with tainted pet food.

The Minnesota Department of Health said Friday that testing found the same salmonella DNA patterns in the siblings. One of the children was hospitalized last month with a painful bone condition.

An investigation found the children’s home contained Raws for Paws Ground Turkey Food, and that the pet food was contaminated.

The contaminated raw turkey pet food was produced on Oct. 12 and sold online on the Raws for Paws website. The product was recalled Feb. 8, 2018, by the manufacturer.

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:

Norovirus-contaminated raspberries likely caused deaths, sickened hundreds, in Quebec last summer

Frozen raspberries imported from China made hundreds of people sick in Quebec last summer and probably resulted in multiple deaths, according to a recent public health report. 

The infected fruits led to a wave of recalls in August 2017 by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency because they had been used by a variety of food processors such as brewers, pastry chefs and ice cream makers and had been cooked in hospital cafeterias and residences for seniors.

The raspberries were contaminated by Norovirus. At least 724 Quebecers fell ill, a number that may represent just “the tip of the iceberg” 

According to Dr. Yves Jalbert, director of public health protection at the Quebec health ministry, it is clear that there were deaths over this period. No specific number has been given. Public health officials in Quebec do not track the progress of each infected patient. 

107 dead, 852 sick from Listeria in South Africa: Suspects unknown

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), in Johannesburg, South Africa, reported 107 case patients have died from Listeria monocytogenes.

The agency, which is a division of the National Health Dept., said 852 listeriosis cases were confirmed between Jan. 1, 2017 and Feb. 5,2018, but so far, the source of the outbreak is not known. “Presently no food sources that are contaminated with the outbreak strain have been found, including amongst poultry and poultry products,” the agency said in a statement.

1 sick from Listeria linked to raw sheep milk cheeses from Spain

On February 5 the Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition has learned through the Coordinated System of Rapid Information Exchange (SCIRI) of the existence of an affected by meningitis in the Community of Madrid, as a result of intoxication food by Listeria monocytogenes presumably associated with the consumption of soft milk sheep cheese made by the company Ohian Txiki Koop located in the Basque Country. The affected one evolves favorably.

The cheeses allegedly involved are the following:

Gutizia, raw sheep milk cheese. 

Txuria , soft cheese from raw sheep’s milk. 

Beltza,  lactic cheese-curl of raw sheep’s milk.

These products have been distributed from the manufacturer to the Autonomous Communities of Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque Country. On February 7 there is evidence that from Madrid, there has been a small redistribution to Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Extremadura, Galicia, Valencia and Portugal, few units.

The removal of all batches of raw soft-ewe sheep milk cheese is being carried out. 

This information has been communicated through the system of the national alert network to the competent Authorities of the Autonomous Communities that are carrying out the appropriate actions, as well as to the competent Portuguese Authorities through the Rapid Alert Network System for Food and Feed. European.

As a precautionary measure, people who have some packaging of these products at home are advised, refrain from consuming them and if they have consumed them and if they present any unusual symptoms, it is recommended to go to a health center.

Australian student who sold monkey skull to ‘people from Pirates of the Caribbean’ fined

A few years ago, one of those Johnny-Depp-pirate movies — it may have been 5 — was filming down the highway at the Gold Coast.

The set was plagued by drama when it was discovered Depp and then wife Amber Heard had illegally brought two dogs into the country.

This prompted deputy premier Banaby-the-bloody-carp Joyce (right, not exactly as shown) to question Depp’s acting ability after the couple apologized, which shows how small Australia is because now Joyce is embroiled in his own scandalous activities, involving humans, not pets.

Behind the sideshow of movie making, divorce and apologies, a Canberra university student was on Thursday fined for illegally possessing and importing exotic animal remains into Australia, in a case that has shed some light on the shadowy world of wildlife trade.

Alexandra Back of the Canberra Times reports that for years, avid collector Brent Philip Counsell, 28, dealt in what a magistrate described as a “macabre” trade of skulls and animal specimens, once selling a primate skull to the people making the Pirates of the Caribbean movie in Brisbane.

In 2016 authorities from the department of environment raided Counsell’s home in Deakin where they found and seized about 100 animal specimens from the living room and bedroom.

Australian environment law makes it illegal to either possess or import protected exotic animal specimens without a permit.

Over several years, Counsell either illegally imported or possessed a small primate skull threaded on a necklace, the skulls of a brown bear and a gibbon, a taxidermy buzzard, water monitor lizard, and teeth from a bear and a hippopotamus tooth.

When he spoke to investigators, Counsell admitted possessing and selling species from his website wulfe.com.au, which he had since shut down.

One of the charges stemmed from an admission Counsell made to authorities after they had searched his home, that he had sold a primate skull to the “people” behind the Pirates of the Caribbean movie that was filming in Brisbane.

He tried to avoid detection, and prosecutors found on his phone articles that offered tips about how to send skulls overseas without being noticed by customs.