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

I don’t go to restaurants much anymore: Too many fake beliefs, not enough science

Beginning in April, 2011, 190 people were sickened with Salmonella Heidelberg linked to partially-cooked chicken livers throughout six U.S. states.

There have been endless outbreaks, especially of Campylobacter in the UK linked to similar products.

Stephen Luscombe, who runs the Golden Ball in Lower Assendon, UK, admitted serving undercooked calves’ liver in 2015.

Two diners suffered food poisoning and others suffered symptoms after eating a dish containing the meat at the restaurant.

Luscombe was fined £4,434, ordered to pay £5,284 costs and a victim surcharge of £120. 

Luscombe admitted serving food on the premises that was unsafe as it had been inadequately cooked and failing to implement and maintain legally required food safety procedures, including those for the safe cooking of high risk foods. 

Magistrates heard South Oxfordshire District Council, the environmental health authority, was asked to investigate after a member of the public suffered campylobacter food poisoning after eating at the restaurant.

Environmental health officers carried out an immediate unannounced inspection and found that the diners had been offered a set menu including calves’ liver for the main course.

They found the calves’ liver had been cooked at too low a temperature.

The restaurant was found to have no protocol to ensure high risk items, such as liver, were cooked according to recommendations from the Food Standards Agency.

It also failed to complete required monitoring records for almost three months, meaning it was failing to meet its legal requirements for food safety. 

6 sick with Campy linked to raw milk in UK

Six cases of campylobacter have so far been linked to people consuming unpasteurised milk from Low Sizergh Barn Farm in Kendal.

low-sizergh-barn-farm-in-kendalSouth Lakeland Council said it had launched a joint investigation with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The farm said it was co-operating with the inquiry and had suspended sales of raw milk from a vending machine.

Public Health England (PHE) also asked anyone who had bought raw milk from the farm or visited its tearoom in the past two months to complete an online questionnaire.

The farm, which began offering unpasteurised milk from its vending machine in March, sells about 70 litres a day.

In August the farm won a National Trust fine farm produce award for its unpasteurised milk.

Duty calls: Tweet when you barf (maybe FSA should tell Heston)

This is what is infuriating about food safety government types: they have the budgets, they have the knowledge, but they don’t have the wherewithal to confront an issue on a public scale.

heston-blumenthalThey can say, oooohhh, we use social media to track when people are barfing but they do no evaluation of their alleged interventions.

Telling people to wash their hands doesn’t mean people will wash their hands.

Elizabeth Cassin of BBC writes if you’re suffering with projectile vomiting and watery diarrhea, reach for your phone and post an update.

While it won’t ease your suffering, a tweet or two could help researchers track the spread of the winter vomiting bug (which the rest of the world calls Norovirus).

The UK Food Standards Agency has been using social media to track levels of norovirus, a highly contagious illness which spreads via food and through person-to-person contact. The symptoms usually last for one to two days, with the person remaining infectious for a further two days.

If you’ve ever had, it you know what it means: vomiting, diarrhea, pain, and the general feeling of having been run over by a car.

In 2013, the Foods Standards Agency started looking at new ways to track the virus. They analysed Google searches but found that social media was a better source of data. “It’s more about the immediacy… what’s happening in their lives right now,” says Dr Sian Thomas.

On the other hand, “if you’re in hospital or a nursing home and you’re sick, then they might take a sample and send it to a laboratory for analysis,” she says.

The FSA compared this official sample data with the volume of relevant tweets and concluded that “there’s a really good correlation between the number of mentions on Twitter of ‘sick’ and a range of search terms, with the incidents of illness as defined by laboratory reports.”

“Our current estimate is that between 70-80% of the time, we are able to accurately predict an increase the next week.”

If the team predict a national outbreak, they plan to run a digital campaign explaining how to look after yourself.

“The intervention is really quite basic,” she notes. “It’s about washing your hands, it’s about looking after yourself, and not coming in to contact with other people while you’re sick.”

Norovirus can be dangerous for children or the elderly. Fortunately for healthy adults though, the illness is usually a minor, if messy, inconvenience.

 

FSA idiots: Cooking until the juices run clear is a bad way to tell if the meat is done

It’s sorta sad when the PhD boffins at the UK Food Standards Agency get stood up by Cooks Illustrated.

chicken-thermWorse when they fail to acknowledge the error of their ways, but still earn the big bucks.

Cooking a chicken until its “juices run clear when pricked” is pretty standard poultry advice but, according to Cook’s Illustrated, it’s not a very dependable way to tell if your chicken is properly cooked.

As reported by Claire Lower of Skillet, though myoglobin (the molecule that gives meat its pink or red hue) does lose its color when heated, the temperature at which the color change occurs can vary depending on a whole bunch of factors. In fact, when Cook’s Illustrated tested this theory, they found the color of the juice had very little to do with the temperature of the meat:

But when we cooked whole chickens, in one case the juices ran clear when the breast registered 145 degrees and the thigh 155 degrees—long before the chicken was done. And when we pierced another chicken that we’d overcooked (the breast registered 170 degrees and the thigh 180 degrees), it still oozed pink juices.

The takeaway? Get a thermometer, use it, and never under-cook or overcook your chicken again.

Stick it in and use a thermometer.

barfblog-stick-it-in

 

UK regulator types on antimicrobial resistance in food

In 1969, the Swann report recommended strict oversight and restrictions on the use of antibiotics used in human medicine as growth promoters in agriculture. That was in the UK, and 37 years later, the UK Food Standards Agency has published a systematic review of the available evidence on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in food. The review looked at research on the presence of AMR in bacteria in a number of different foods sold at retail.

fda-antibiotics-agricultureThe research has confirmed the need for extra surveillance of AMR in food at retail level, to support the wider programme of work currently underway across government to help reduce levels of AMR.

The study was produced by the Royal Veterinary College, on behalf of the Food Standards Agency, and looked at the areas where consumers are more likely to be exposed to AMR in bacteria from the food chain. Researchers examined published evidence between 1999 and 2016 for pork and poultry meat, dairy products, seafood and fresh produce sold in shops.

FSA action includes:

Working to encourage the adoption of clear transparent reporting standards that help consumers have access to and understand information about the responsible use of antibiotics in the food chain. 

Continued focus on improving the scientific evidence base relating to antimicrobial resistance in the food chain through supporting relevant research and improving surveillance. 

Setting up an independent group to advise us on responsible use of antibiotics in agriculture to support the above work.

Background

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major public health issue worldwide. It is a complex issue driven by a variety of interconnected factors enabling microorganisms to withstand antimicrobial treatments to which they were once susceptible. The overuse and/or misuse of antibiotics has been linked to increasing the emergence and spread of microorganisms which are resistant to them, rendering treatment ineffective and posing a risk to public health.

People can become exposed to AMR bacteria through a number of routes such as human-to-human spread, animals, through the environment and food chain. There is currently uncertainty around the contribution food makes to the problem of AMR and the types of AMR bacteria found in foods on retail sale in the UK. There is a need to consider the literature in this area to gain a better understanding of the potential risk to consumers through contaminated foods and also to identify the key evidence gaps.

Research Approach

The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in retail pork, poultry meat, dairy products, seafood and fresh produce that could pose a risk to UK consumers. For this purpose a systematic review was undertaken following the PRISMA guidelines (Liberati et al., 2009) through which current existing evidence present in scientific databases and grey literature is collected and assessed. A protocol, which describes the methodology used, has been made accessible through the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO). The protocol is available at http://www.york.ac.uk/crd/. Please search PROSPERO using registration number CRD42016033082.

ab-res-prudent-may-14Research questions were developed taking into consideration current evidence for relevant resistant foodborne pathogens and commensal bacteria observed in animals, food and humans in European countries published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (EFSA, 2015), feedback provided by experts and findings from scoping searches of the literature (i.e. PubMed).

Key recommendations: 

There is a need to standardise the selection of antimicrobials for antimicrobial susceptibility testing panels, harmonising criteria for assessment of resistance per bacteria/drug combination for surveillance purposes, using a standardised definition for multidrug resistance (MDR) and the adoption of random sampling and adequate study design for epidemiological studies.

Identification of a core set of relevant antimicrobials when developing and implementing prospective testing for surveillance systems for determination of AMR in the food chain.

Surveillance priorities could be set using a risk-based approach, taking into account the importance of antimicrobials used for treatment in both humans and animals, and continued surveillance of the incidence and emerging resistance (including MDR) in commensal bacteria (Enterococcus spp. and E. coli) should be encouraged.

Data on AMR bacteria from British and imported pork meat in the UK are limited and dated. Further research and surveillance efforts are needed to ascertain AMR levels in both foodborne and commensal bacteria in pork meat in the UK.

There is evidence of increasing levels of resistance to antimicrobials in foodborne bacteria (i.e., Campylobacter spp.) from poultry meat in the UK. Research and surveillance efforts should be continued to monitor AMR trends in both foodborne and commensal bacteria in British and imported chicken and poultry meats in the UK.

There is a lack of information on AMR bacteria in foods of animal origin other than meat at retail level. In recent years, there have been growing numbers of outbreaks associated with milk and dairy products (cheese, butter, yogurt), seafood (fish and shellfish) and fresh produce (fruit, vegetables and salads) at national and international levels but there is scarce, scattered evidence of resistance and MDR occurrence in foodborne and commensal bacteria in these food products and its implications for public health. These gaps should be addressed also using a risk-based approach following evidence of resistance in food items as well as the extent of expected consumer exposure using consumption and import volumes.

Data on antimicrobial usage in food-producing animals in the UK are important to explain the occurrence and dynamics of AMR, resistance genes and MDR phenotypes in a defined geographical area. More complete information should therefore be collected on the type of production system from which food samples originate to assess the impact of animal husbandry practices as risk factors for resistance.

There is a need for more studies to quantify the contribution of both domestic and imported foods to AMR occurrence. Information on country of origin for imported products should be collected.

Priorities should be set according to the importance of a food item in terms of exposure of consumers. Consumption data will be essential for assessing the risk of exposure of British consumers.

Finally, further research and surveillance are needed to establish and quantify the risk of transmission of AMR against critically important antimicrobials in organisms from foods of animal and non-animal origin) to humans.

A systematic review of AMR bacteria in pork, poultry, dairy products, seafood and fresh produce at UK retail level

August 2015-October 2016

Food Standards Agency

https://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/foodborneillness/b14programme/b14projlist/fs102127/a-systematic-review-of-amr-in-pork-and-poultry-dairy-products-seafood-and-fresh-produce

Be careful: Pet food – raw, frozen, processed – can be contaminated

My new best friend – Ted, the dog – came from a breeder in Toowoomba, about 90 minutes away, atop Australia’s Great Dividing Ridge.

ted-grass-nov-16He weighs less than our cats, but is feisty and loves a walk.

Or a run.

The breeder (we went to the local shelters, but they had dogs that were not deemed appropriate by our townhouse body corporate) so we got the little one rather than make a rush decision to buy an $800K house so we could have a bigger dog.

Besides, this one’s got personality.

The breeder insisted that dogs do better on a raw meat diet.

I just wanted to get the dog, go visit our friends, and go home, so didn’t belabor the point.

But any raw product carries the same risk of Salmonella and E. coli and other things that are not fun to inflict on your dog.

Natures Menu is recalling its ‘Country Hunter 80% Farm Reared Turkey with Wholesome Fruit and Veg’ frozen pet food, because the product contains Salmonella.

The UK Food Standards Agency is issuing this product recall notice because we are responsible for animal feed regulations and their enforcement through local authorities.sorenne-ted

Make it mandatory: Voluntary restaurant inspection ratings are silly

According to new research by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), only a third (34%) of us regularly check food hygiene ratings before eating in a restaurant or takeaway. With an estimated 4.3 million meals expected to be eaten out over this festive period, FSA is urging people to check a restaurant’s food hygiene rating before booking this Christmas.

respect-authorityThe research, released ahead of the expected Christmas spike in restaurant bookings, found that although food hygiene and safety were of concern for 37% of people, only 6% said that they actively consider the food hygiene rating when deciding where to eat. Other priorities included:

quality/type of food (58%)

own experience of the place (32%)

location/convenience (23%)

good service (21%)

price (20%)

appearance (20%)

recommendation (19%)

Mark O’Neill, senior advisor, local authority policy and delivery, Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland said: ‘We are pleased to see that so many food businesses in Northern Ireland are already compliant with the Food Hygiene Rating Act, which came into operation in October, making it mandatory for food businesses to display their hygiene ratings. This means that around 90% of businesses should now be displaying hygiene information on a green and black sticker somewhere easy to spot outside of their premises. We expect that consumers will be pleased with this development as our recent survey showed that 95% of people in Northern Ireland believe that businesses should have to display their ratings, which now they do.

We are now urging people to look for hygiene ratings and choose restaurants which score three or above this Christmas.

Food fraud: UK unit may get more powers

The UK National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) should be given additional powers and resources to boost its ability to tackle food crime and protect consumers, a review has recommended.

horse-food-fraud-simpsonsCarried out by officials from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) under the oversight of an independent steering group, the findings are to be considered by the FSA Board at its next meeting on Wednesday 23 November.

The NFCU was set up in 2014 in the wake of the horsemeat incident, when beef was supplemented by cheaper horsemeat in a large-scale fraud across Europe. It was agreed that a review of the NFCU would take place after two years.

This follows implementation of the first phase of the unit’s work which has involved building the intelligence and evidence picture of the risks and the nature of food fraud and food crime in the UK.

The review recommends that the NFCU is made an arms-length body of the FSA, with investigatory powers, providing the agility and freedom to make day-to-day law enforcement decisions.  Currently, the unit has no investigatory powers and instead works with partners including local authorities and the police to tackle food crime.

If the FSA Board accepts the review’s recommendation, the next stage is to develop a business case and consult with other government departments on more detailed delivery options. There will also need to be in depth consultation with devolved governments and stakeholders in Wales and Northern Ireland, to ensure that a future NFCU takes into account devolved enforcement arrangements and the need for local political accountability. This further work would be completed by the end of March 2017.

I don’t see color, it doesn’t matter: UK hamburger edition

Don’t burger up your bank holiday.

Get it? Don’t bugger it up? Burger it up?

barfblog.Stick It InThose bureaucrats at UK’s Food Standards Agency are really yukking it up, focused on stupid jokes rather than evidence-based communications.

FSA has long been in its own undersirable class when talking about food safety risks, and class is so very important to the Brits.

FSA is great is talking at people rather than talking with people (a huge difference, like educating versus providing information).

FSA’s idea of risk communication is to commission a meaningless survey – people lie, especially about food and drink – which found that despite 71% of people stating that they are concerned about food poisoning, over a third (36%) of Brits would eat a burger that isn’t fully cooked through. More than one in 10 said that they actually prefer burgers cooked this way.  When cooking them at home 81% of those admit to undercooking them. So we at the FSA are encouraging all those who are getting their barbecues out this weekend to ensure they cook their burgers all the way through – until steaming hot throughout, there’s no pink meat in the middle and the juices run clear.

Those scientifically meanginless terms – steaming hot, no pink – have featured prominently in FSA foodsafetytalk for years, with steaming hot replacing piping hot.

Lead FSA policy thingy said something that is not worth repeating because it ignores the risks associated with needle-tenderized steaks.

And we’ve been over this so many times before.

The BBC repeated the advice verbatium in its latest version of PR blowjobs rather than something resembling journalism.

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

And now this.