I don’t see gender: ‘Sitting on the fence: Biology, feminism and gender-bending environments’

Somehow, I was quoted in a Jan. 2000 publication of the Women s Studies International Forum, and received notification today.

“The story of endocrine disrupters is no different. Yet science has long been a slippery ally for environmental campaigners: on the one hand, it is the products of science and technology that seem to present problems through pollution, while on the other, campaigners must turn to science in order to demonstrate the problems (Powell and Leiss, 1997; Yearley, 1991).”

I didn’t write that, Leiss did, although I probably edited the sentence to make it coherent.

And some folks wonder why I didn’t want anything to do with a second edition.

At the time, this is what I sent Bill (without the pretty pic, upper right).

 

Food safety in hospitals: Chemotherapy patients may be ill because they aren’t aware of the food poisoning risks (and neither are the food service types)

It’s no secret I have my share of demons, but I’ve always shared them publicly, (whether you wanted to know or not; if you don’t, go start your own blog and stop reading mine).

Every Friday, on average, I am fortunate enough to go to a place called Damascus at the Brisbane Private Hospital, where a group of 10-15 of us sit and tell stories and get better.

Some people have been sober for 10 years.

Some are straight out of the detox ward upstairs.

I’m somewhere in between.

But I value this community of lawyers, doctors, vets – both the military and animal kind – financial planners and people who just got lost along the way.

When Bill Leiss asked me to write a second edition of my first book, Mad Cows and Mothers Milk, I quoted a Neil Young line: “Heart of Gold put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch.”

The ditch trilogy stands up strong 45 years later, and was featured during Neil’s solo show in Omemee, Ontario (that’s in Canada) a few weeks ago.

To add insult to injury, his next studio recording was the harrowing “Tonight’s The Night”, though with a perversity that was becoming typical of him the latter wasn’t released until after the subsequently-cut “On The Beach”. Both albums stand up strongly to this day. Both use the rock format as a means of redemption and rejuvenation, the very act of recording (no overdubs) serving as therapy. “Tonight’s The Night” and “On The Beach” were pretty free records,” Young pondered, lighting another unfiltered Pall Mall. 

“I was pretty down I guess at the time, but I just did what I wanted to do, at that time. I think if everybody looks back at their own lives they’ll realise that they went through something like that. There’s periods of depression, periods of elation, optimism and scepticism, the whole thing is…. it just keeps coming in waves. 

You go down to the beach and watch the same thing, just imagine every wave is a different set of emotions coming in. Just keep coming. As long as you don’t ignore it, it’ll still be there. If you start shutting yourself off and not letting yourself live through the things that are coming through you, I think that’s when people start getting old really fast, that’s when they really age. 

‘Cause they decide that, they’re happy to be what they were at a certain time in their lives when they were the happiest, and they say ‘that’s where I’m gonna be for the rest of my life’. From that minute on they’re dead, y’know, just walking around. I try to avoid that.”

I can’t swim, but the quote above encapsulates why I like being near the beach.

I’m no Neil Young, but I do have my passions, like safe food, so when Brisbane Private Hospital keeps serving funeral home sandwiches loaded with raw sprouts, I say something.

No change, though the hospital is serving an immunocompromised population.

As Ellen W. Evans, junior research fellow, Cardiff Metropolitan University, writes in The Conversation, chemotherapy treatment can reduce immune function and the body’s ability to defend against opportunistic pathogens. It is well documented that people undergoing chemotherapy are at an increased risk of infection, including those transmitted via food.

This is not just about suffering through a tummy bug. People who are already undergoing the gruelling side effects of chemotherapy can be made seriously ill simply because the food they are eating isn’t being handled properly at home. Added to that is the fact that foodborne infection could cause delays in treatment, and potentially increase patient mortality.

But the problem is not down to patients’ laziness. In our newly published research, we have found that they are not being given consistent information, nor do they recognise the serious risks that food can pose.

In our study, we investigated the availability and adequacy of food safety information available to UK cancer patients. We looked at online food-related resources, and conducted in-depth interviews with patients and their families on their food experiences during chemotherapy treatment.

Although some food safety information exists for chemotherapy patients, their access to it is limited. In total, we found just 45 resources online that related to food safety. These included 35 from the 154 NHS chemotherapy providers in England, Scotland and Wales, the Department of Health, and three from 184 identified UK cancer charities.

Looking at the content, 67% of the food-related information resources we identified included food safety advice – for example, “ensure eggs are thoroughly cooked”. Guidance on hand decontamination routines, such as hand washing, was most frequently included (49%). But information on how to reduce the risk of listeriosis, or safe alternatives to particular foods – such as unpasteurised dairy products, and raw or under-cooked meat – were lacking.

Most worryingly, we found that some of the online advice actually promoted potentially unsafe practices. For example, some suggested eating lukewarm food, when this temperature range can encourage bacteria growth.

The most comprehensive food safety resources that we found were tailored to the needs of neutropenic patients – those that have very low levels of white blood cells – but these are unlikely to be given to, or accessed by, all people undergoing chemotherapy.

An assessment of food safety information provision for UK chemotherapy patients to reduce the risk od foodborne infection

Public Health, December 2017, vol. 153, pg 25-35, E.W. Evans, E.C. Redmond, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2017.06.017

http://www.publichealthjrnl.com/article/S0033-3506(17)30220-2/fulltext

Objectives

Given the increased risk of foodborne infection to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy treatment, and the risk of listeriosis reportedly five-times greater to this immunocompromised patient group, there is a need to ensure the implementation of domestic food safety practices among chemotherapy patients and their family caregivers. However, information regarding the adequacy of resources to inform and enable patients to implement domestic food safety practices to reduce the risk of foodborne infection is limited. Consequently, this study aimed to evaluate the provision of food safety information available to UK chemotherapy patients.

Study design

In-depth semi-structured interviews and content analysis of online patient information resources.

Methods

Interviews with patients and family caregivers (n = 15) were conducted to explore food-related experiences during chemotherapy treatment. Online food-related information resources for chemotherapy patients (n = 45) were obtained from 35 of 154 National Health Service chemotherapy providers in England, Scotland, and Wales, the Department of Health (DoH) and three of 184 identified UK cancer charities. Identified food-related information resources were reviewed using a content-analysis approach to assess the inclusion of food safety information for chemotherapy patients.

Results

In-depth interviews established that many patients indicated awareness of immunosuppression during treatment. Although patients reported practicing caution to reduce the risk of communicable diseases by avoiding crowded spaces/public transport, food safety was reported to be of minimal concern during treatment and the risk of foodborne infection was often underestimated. The review of online food-related patient information resources established that many resources failed to highlight the increased risk of foodborne infection and emphasize the importance of food safety for patients during chemotherapy treatment. Considerable information gaps exist, particularly in relation to listeriosis prevention practices. Cumulatively, information was inconsistent, insufficient, and varied between resources.

Conclusion

The study has identified the need for an effective, standardized food safety resource specifically targeting chemotherapy patients and family caregivers. Such intervention is essential to assist efforts in reducing the risks associated with foodborne infection among chemotherapy patients.

Neil Young – 2017-12-01 Coronation Hall, Omemee, Ontario, Canada [720p] from JoeRay Skrha on Vimeo.

 

 

Neil Young, at home

If the Tragically Hip were the house band for my laboratory back in Guelph, then Neil Young was the spirit.

Right now, he’s performing an acoustic set in his childhood hometown of Omemee, Ont. (that’s in Canada, near Peterborough).

In 1981 or 1982, my uni girlfriend and I went and saw Neil do a solo acoustic set at Maple Leaf Gardens.

I was for always amazed that a single performer could captivate an audience of 20,000 for two hours.

About 2004, I took Chapman to go see him, to show the young fella how to rock.

I’m sure Neil has his demons and missteps, but at 72-years-old, and on stage in Omemee, these are signs of a life fully lived.

I always told – and still tell – students, colleagues, whoever,  you got ideas, get them out there.

Australian masterchef (I just threw up a bit in my mouth) Calombaris sued for Norovirus outbreak; sought solace from Heston-Norovirus-Blumenthal

The problem with celebrity chefs is they tend to be morons.

Food safety morons.

Their practices make people sick.

The only skill they have is describing cooking in prose equivalent to some soft-core porn Harold Robbins novel.

Avert your eyes, because the more attention they get, the more stupid their pronouncements.

(And yes, others have recently published about the food safety failings of celebrity chefs, but me and my gang did it first, 13 years ago, so all you posers, go find some authenticity, and go fuck yourselves.)

According to the Canberra Times, MasterChef star George Calombaris is facing legal action over food poisoning at his Hellenic Republic restaurant in Kew (some suburb in Australia).

 According to a writ filed in the County Court earlier this month, Mr Schreuder claims to have become seriously ill with norovirus encephalitis after dining at the Cotham Road restaurant on Mothers Day in 2014.

At the time, Hellenic Republic was forced to close its doors for 24 hours when dozens of patrons who’d eaten from a set menu complained of vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.

An investigation by the Victorian Department of Health subsequently found that a staff member was most likely responsible for the infection of norovirus – a common, highly contagious cause of gastroenteritis.

“Of the 300-plus diners we interviewed, around 90 reported illness, which could have been associated with eating at Hellenic Republic Kew,” a department spokesperson said in 2014.

Mr Schreuder is seeking damages for the injuries which he claims were suffered due to negligence and breach of contract by the restaurant in “causing or permitting the infected food to be served to him”. 

Risk perception is always irrational

David Ropeik, an author and risk-perception consultant, writing in the uber-cool Undark, says in 2011, the city leaders of Calgary, Alberta, bowed to public pressure and ended fluoridation of the local drinking water, despite clear evidence that the benefits of fluoridation vastly outweigh its risks. A recent study found that second graders in Calgary now have 3.8 more cavities, on average, than a similar group did back in 2004-05, when the water was still being treated.

mindfulness_poster_UKIn West Virginia, legislators in favor of shrinking government recently passed a law allowing sale of unpasteurized milk, despite convincing evidence that raw milk is a vector for pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. To celebrate, the bill’s sponsor shared some raw milk with his colleagues, several of whom got sick. The legislator says it was just coincidence.

Since the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, fear of radiation has prompted thyroid cancer screening for all children in the prefecture. The levels of radiation to which kids had been exposed were too low to pose significant danger, and the sensitive ultrasound screening technique is well known to find abnormal cells in most people’s thyroids, though in nearly all cases those cells will never cause cancer. As a result of this unprecedented scrutiny for an infinitesimal risk, hundreds of kids have had their thyroids removed unnecessarily, with far-reaching health implications for the rest of their lives.

Our perceptions of risk are products of cognitive processes that operate outside our conscious control — running facts through the filters of our feelings.

A Canadian couple is mourning the death of their 19-month-old son from meningitis. They hadn’t vaccinated him, and treated him with natural remedies like horseradish root and olive leaf extract, refusing medical attention until the boy was unconscious and near death. They are facing criminal charges.

For anyone outside the emotions that produced these choices, it’s hard not to feel frustration at hearing about them. It’s hard not to call them ignorant, selfish, and irrational, or to label such behavior, as some do — often with more than a hint of derision — “science denialism.” It’s hard, but it’s necessary, because treating such decision-making as merely flawed thinking that can be rectified with cold hard reason flies in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary.

In fact, the evidence is clear that we sometimes can’t help making such mistakes. Our perceptions, of risk or anything else, are products of cognitive processes that operate outside our conscious control — running facts through the filters of our feelings and producing subjective judgments that disregard the evidence. The behavioral scientists Melissa Finucane and Paul Slovic call this the Affect Heuristic; it gives rise to what I call the risk perception gap, the dangers produced when we worry more than the evidence says we need to, or less than the evidence says we should. This is literally built in to the wiring and chemistry of the brain. Our apparent irrationality is as innate as the functioning of our DNA or our cells.

mad.cows.mothers.milkBill Leiss and I called it a risk communication vacuum in our 1997 book, Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk.

Whatever it’s called, people do irrational things, against the reason of others.

Certainly I do.

And it drives people crazy.

Maybe it’s brain wiring – certainly the fad in addiction, perception and mindfulness research – but it all sounds like a way to make a buck.

And that’s fine, everyone needs a salary.

Facts are never enough, empathy is often lacking, story-telling is key, but these are just observations, the blunt force of armchair critics. Creators create, and get involved in the frontlines.

Put the words into actions.

Walk on.

 

Revisiting high school: when you dance, I can really love

The Springfield Academy in Calne, U.K., will reopen tomorrow after closing due to an outbreak of sickness and diarrhea among staff and pupils.

The school closed on Friday after 12 pupils living at boarding house for students on the site caught a sickness bug lasting between 24 to 34 hours.

Headteacher Trystan Williams said all the school’s residential houses had been deep cleaned by specialist agencies in order to make sure pupils could return safely.

The Brits have a thing about separating themselves from their teenagers, and suppressing their WASP feelings. I’ve been talking a lot with my older daughters of late and it’s been incredibly gratifying.

To all the Susie Bakers out there (my high school sweetheart, Chapman married his, I’m thrilled with what I have now) this note’s for you. Sue introduced me to Neil. She also introduced me to Harry Chapin and Cat Stevens, which didn’t go over so well.