Mental health

When I was a kid, we used to spend about every other weekend at my grandfather’s place in Cookstown, Ont., where my father grew up after being in Wales for 15 years.

I usually barfed on the way there, and the way back.

I was about 12-years-old, my sister was 10, and the grandparents decided to take us to Seaworld or whatever it was called in Niagara Falls.

That was when I first detected the Alheimers.

I didn’t know what it was then, just knew he was confused because instead of taking the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) exit in Toronto, he  took the Queensway Blvd. exit to some suburban area.

I said this is wrong, but he was set.

Eventually he found his way back to the proper highway and we went off to Niagara.

Seven years later, I was visiting him in a care facility and he had no idea who he was.

My grandma did the same thing, and eventually ended her life voluntarily.

I carried her into the emergency ward.

Mental health issues are common to many of us.

I only hope that sharing will provide optimism to others.


Farm machinery eating peoples’ arms and legs: Machinery still biggest cause of UK farm deaths

My grandfather, the one who ran the Massey-Ferguson dealership in Cookstown, Ontario, Canada, lost two-or-three of his fingers from the knuckle up due to farm machinery (that’s me and sis).

But when I was about 10, he would send me inside a combine to put pliers on a nut while the others loosened a bolt – from the outside.

I only remember how damn hot it was.

In the UK – gramps was from Newport, Wales — machinery and transport continue to be the main causes of life-changing and life-ending injuries on farm.

Four in 10 of all farmworkers who have lost their lives over the past decade were related to workplace machinery or transport, said NFU vice-president Guy Smith.

Mr Smith, who is also chair of England’s Farm Safety Partnership, said that while the most recent figures from the Health and Safety Executive showed a reduction in the number of deaths through machinery and transport, one death was one too many.

Helen Banham, a dairy farmer from Skegness, Lincolnshire, lost two fingers on her right hand in a life-changing accident with a bottling machine four years ago.

She was going about her daily routine when a bottle dropped through the machine. Instinctively, and without thinking of turning off the bottling line, she reached into the machine to grab it.

Her hand became trapped in the machine and her thumb was severed, while a spike penetrated the palm of her hand.

While pulling her hand free she ripped it open, severely and irrevocably damaging the tendons in her third finger.

Mrs Banham said: “It was our wake-up call. The milk business was taking so much of our time and we were really up against it. We couldn’t afford to take on any more staff, costs were rising and the prices we could charge just weren’t covering our costs.”

Australian citizenship

It’s a trifecta of citizenships for me and Sorenne – Canadian, American and now Australian — and a deux-fecta for Amy as we attended our citizenship ceremony on Saturday morning.

citizenship-sep-16We didn’t even know it was Australian Citizenship Day (a U.S. thing too, which is ironical because the three of us are also Americans), but there were 492 of us in a community centre — with another 500 of supporting friends and family, although we decided to keep ours a personal affair — who were welcomed to the Australian family.

Special thanks to Amy and Sorenne, and many others, who have stuck with me while I adjust to the next phase of our life.

We’ll be celebrating tomorrow, in sub-tropical Brisbane, by spending the day at the arena, playing and coaching ice hockey.

And many thanks for all the kind messages we received in response to our citizenships.

We are quite fortunate, and grateful.


(before and after pics; are we different? that’s a softball question lobbed up there for your amusement)


It’s not a virus or bacterium, it’s a parasite: 7 positive, 16 sick with crypto after visit to Welsh petting farm

A Monmouthshire farm has cancelled a series of open day visits for primary school children following the outbreak of a diarrhea-causing virus.

powell.namePublic Health Wales along with Torfaen and Monmouthshire councils are continuing to investigate an outbreak of cryptosporidium associated with Coleg Gwent’s farm in Usk.

Seven people have tested positive for cryptosporidium and 16 others are suspected of having the bug after regular attendance at the farm or contact with those who have.

Heather Lewis, consultant in health protection for Public Health Wales, said: “We are continuing to work with Coleg Gwent, who have written to all students who may have been on the farm in March.

“As a precaution, Coleg Gwent have also cancelled a series of open days which were due to take place with invited primary schools from Tuesday, April 12 to Friday, April 15.”

A spokesman from Public Health Wales said: “Good hand washing after coming into contact with farm animals, their bedding or dirty equipment including clothing is of the utmost importance in preventing infection with cryptosporidium.

“There is no reason for anyone to avoid visiting petting farms as long as they ensure that anyone who has touched animals, thoroughly washes their hands with hot water and soap immediately afterwards and before eating, as hand sanitisers or alcoholic gels should not be solely relied upon.”

Handwashing is never enough.

‘They’re barfing again at Chipotle’ Company did the right thing in closing outlet with sick staffers

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc received praise for its handling of potential Norovirus infections at a Boston-area restaurant, as sick employees stayed home and the burrito chain quickly cleaned the restaurant.

norovirus-2Shares of Chipotle fell as much as 6.1 percent early, then gained back some ground after the head of the Billerica, Massachusetts public health department said the restaurant was cleaned and would reopen on Thursday. The stock closed down 3.4 percent at $506.63.

Reuters caught up with me at the Brisbane airport as me and the fam were about to leave for a 3-week tour of North America.

The closure of the Chipotle in the Boston suburb was seen as a partial test of a new food safety system rolled out after a series of illnesses hit the fresh burrito chain last year.

That workers stayed home in particular was a good sign, said Doug Powell, publisher of the food safety site “It is an indication that the system is working,” he said. But customers may focus only on the sickness, not the company response. For burrito fans, “It’s just – ooh, they’re barfing at Chipotle again,” Powell said.

The company response was not a test of new measures to ensure ingredients are safe and avoid E.coli, he added.

John Patriquin /Staff Photographer; Tuesday, 1/25/11. Danny Leon (on right) and Julia Calder (center) serve customers at Chipotle restaurant in South Portland.

John Patriquin /Staff Photographer; Tuesday, 1/25/11. Danny Leon (on right) and Julia Calder (center) serve customers at Chipotle restaurant in South Portland.

Chipotle food scares last year include two E.coli outbreaks linked to its restaurants that sickened more than 50 people in 10 states, as well as separate outbreaks of norovirus, a highly contagious virus known as the “winter vomiting bug”, in Massachusetts and California that involved more than 350 diners.

Three employees are suspected to have norovirus in Billerica, the town’s Board of Health said. Earlier in the day, local Public Health Director Richard Berube told reporters that one of the three had been confirmed to have the virus.

Berube said Chipotle has been “very proactive” and remaining staff at the burrito restaurant would be screened for norovirus, he added.

Berube, the company and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health all said no customers were known to be sick.

“They did the right thing,” said Howard Penney, who covers the chain for Hedgeye Risk Management. However, he argued that Chipotle was still a “broken company” and that it would take years to return to its peak performance.

Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said the company closed the restaurant after employees called in sick.

Powell: I have a bad case of nostalgia

Today, I am 53-years-old, been married to Amy for nine years, and it’s my mom’s birthday.

dp.lab.apr.2005That’s a lot for one day.

I’ve been looking back, only with an eye to going forward (that’s the lab in Guelph, about early 2005, right; I’ve since been told it was summer 2001; first lesson of professoring — surround yourself with good people).

Three years ago, about this time, I submitted a proposal to my employer, Kansas State University, to take a 20 per cent cut in pay, develop a MOOC in food safety risk analysis (and three other courses), and continue with research and outreach.

I also wrote that “I have promoted K-State and collaborations throughout many countries, particularly New Zealand, Australia, Canada, France, UK, Egypt and Afghanistan. Regarding the latter, I have provided several food safety training sessions for the U.S. military for troops being deployed to that region. Through the bites-l listserv, and media coverage, I have attracted significant attention to the food safety activities at Kansas State University.”

The bosses at Kansas State University determined I had to be on campus, so I was dumped.

Full professors can get dumped for bad attendance.

Like a breakup with someone you really loved, it was messy and takes time, about three years.

But I’m over it.

Irony being ironic, or karma being karma-like, the Manhattan (Kansas) paper re-ran a story today, my birthday and anniversary and my mom’s birthday, from the Topeka paper about my global activities, billing me as a former and retired K-State prof.

I’m not dead yet.

It’s a wonder of the electronic world that journalists from anywhere can find me, but a university that aspires to – something – can’t. now consists of about 11,580 posts and 60,100 subscribers in over 70 countries. Chapman refers to as a repository of food safety stories.

I like that.

barfblog daily has 4,855 subscribers in over 70 countries.

The barfblog twitter feed has 3,601 subscribers, and Chapman has a bunch more.

doug.amy.coffs.oct.15In October, website analytics showed that was visited 573,000 so far in 2015, by 413,000 unique users resulting in over 813,000 page views. This represents a 6% increase in visits, 4% increase in visitors and 6% increase in page views over last year.

Chapman also produced and posted 14 Food Safety Talk ( Podcasts during this past year

Food Safety Talk podcasts have been downloaded over 4300 times in the past year (with an average download rate of 340 per episode).

I love what I do, and I love that Amy kicked me out of complacency – nothing would have been easier than to stay at K-State.

And she’s got me playing hockey again, just like she said she would in our self-written wedding vows at City Hall.

In Manhattan (Kansas).


Former Kansas State professor (me) uses blog to track stories of foodborne illness

For former Kansas State University professor of food safety Doug Powell, E. coli isn’t an illness that only appears on his radar during an outbreak like the one traced to Chipotle this fall by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

dp.sweet.potato:feb.14Powell, who in 2013 moved with his wife to Brisbane, Australia (actually it was 2011; it was 2013 when Kansas State decided to dump me for bad attendance), compiles stories of foodborne illness daily on his blog, Writing about it is his life’s career, he said by phone Friday, from Brisbane, to Samantha Foster of the Topeka Capital-Journal (that’s in Kansas, irony can be pretty ironic sometimes).

“Forty-eight million people get sick from the food and water they consume in the U.S. every year,” Powell said. “If we can make a little bit of a dent in that, then that’s a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.

When Powell started the blog — before Google and other developments made such information more readily available, he said — its purpose was to provide information so people could make informed choices. He said he doesn’t try to preach what to do or not do.

“When I started this 20 years ago, it was largely about parents saying, ‘We never knew,’ ” he said. “I wanted to make sure there was never a case where they said that.”

In a blog post Friday, Powell wrote about a Jefferson County family whose child became infected with a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli — the most virulent type of E. coli. The 8-year-old Meriden boy’s symptoms progressed from severe diarrhea to a point at which his kidneys began to shut down, Powell wrote.

doug.amy.wooli.oct.14According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, 106 cases of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli had been reported across the state this year as of Tuesday. Of those, 11 were reported in Shawnee County. Compared with 2014’s statistics, this year’s are slightly higher, with 90 cases reported statewide, four of which occurred in Shawnee County.

“We don’t know definitively why there are more reported cases this year compared to most previous years,” said KDHE spokeswoman Cassie Sparks. “It could be the actual incidence is slightly higher. It could also be with the increased attention in the news lately, that physicians are testing more frequently, so more cases that are occurring are being identified.

“Infectious diseases also tend to cycle. In 2011, we had 108 cases reported for the year, so that was a little higher than usual as well.”

Powell said some research has shown physicians are more likely to check for a specific disease if it has been in the news. If they were to check for everything, that would be expensive and time-consuming, he said.

“When there’s something in the news, it triggers doctors to look harder for it,” he said.

Though Powell said the source of the Meriden boy’s E. coli isn’t clear and doesn’t seem to be part of an outbreak, isolated incidents are frequent and often tragic, sometimes causing lasting problems, he said.

KDHE’s annual reports, available online, state that E. coli occurs when susceptible individuals ingest food or liquids contaminated with human or animal feces. Outbreaks have been linked to eating undercooked ground beef, consuming contaminated produce and drinking contaminated water or unpasteurized juice. Person-to-person contact, especially within daycares or nursing homes, also can spread the disease, according to the reports.

powell.coffsPowell said he personally won’t eat many raw foods, including sprouts, oysters and unpasteurized milk. Produce, however, is problematic. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet, he said, though at the same time, they are the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S.

Farm food safety programs are critical to keeping the poop out of the produce, Powell said.

“That entails paying attention to what you’re adding to your soil, whether it’s raw manure or other things,” he said. “It means knowing your source of irrigation water, because often … there’s been a flood situation and it’s coming from a cattle farm loaded with E. coli, and that becomes the water for the produce.”

Good hand-washing also is critical for farm employees, Powell said, because once produce is contaminated, soap and water do little to stop the bacteria.

“It has to be prevented on the farm, as much as possible,” Powell said.