Long before Instagram and YouTube, the barfblog crew — I can’t believe I just wrote that, I never called my lab members the crew but I did call them the kids, even if I was the immature one — we were making food safety videos and taking pictures.
Just didn’t know what to do with them.
We had an entire website devoted to handwashing signs in bathrooms — as you do.
And then when I moved to Kansas in early 2006, it sorta got lost.
Someone in the lab was taking care of it and I was posting pictures of bathrooms from our trip to France, as we sat on the coast of Marseilles, but then the University of Guelph decided the sandbox wasn’t big enough for both of us so kicked me out.
I’ve done it, I’ve applied for jobs, but it makes me feel nauseous.
In a Cormey-Team America way.
My grandfather – the original Homer — was the asparagus baron of Canada.
100 acres that he sold at the door in Alliston, Ontario (that’s in Canada) in the 1960s and 70s, and my cousin is making a living with 40 acres outside Cambridge, Ontario (also in Canada – Barrie’s Asparagus).
There’s this guy at the University of Guelph who has been doing the PR thing for decades. I once asked his boss, a good scientist, do you know how much bullshit this guy is spinning?
And he said yeah, but that was what the system required.
(Oh, and to my Ontario farmer friends, I understand it’s been a bit wet. Adapt).
But this isn’t about asparagus.
It’s about the weird perversion that a bunch of groups have to educate consumers.
The U.S. just went through the dumbest electoral cycle in its history, and people want to be educated?
No it’s the rise of idiocracy.
In the past week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration got $3 million to educate consumers about genetically engineered foods, Cargill unveiled its Non-GMO Project partnership, which is stupid beyond belief (and knowing that Cargill’s Mike Robach, vice-president, corporate food safety, quality & regulatory is chair of the Global Food Safety Initiative’s board of directors makes me question the value of any food safety audit ever sanctioned by GFSI), and the National cattlemen’s Beef Association has produced “two fact sheets on beef production and processing, available to consumers seeking more information about their steaks and other cuts, and how they got to the plate,” to educate consumers makes me want to scream.
How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?
Whenever a group says the public needs to be educated about food safety, biotechnology, trans fats, organics or anything else, that group has utterly failed to present a compelling case for their cause. Individuals can choose to educate themselves about all sorts of interesting things, but the idea of educating someone is doomed to failure. And it’s sorta arrogant to state that others need to be educated; to imply that if only you understood the world as I understand the world, we would agree and dissent would be minimized.
There’s a shitload of academic literature about the value of story-telling, about providing information rather than educating, withholding judgement, but these assholes can’t help themselves.
They know better.
My farmer relatives who interact with people daily know a whole lot more than you.
Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety
D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman
Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.
In Dec. 2014, an outbreak of E. coli 055 was identified in Dorset, U.K. with at least 31 sickened. Public Health England (PHE) and local environmental health officials investigated and found nothing, other than cats were also being affected.
Tara Russell of the Bournemouth Echo reports a nurse who fears her family’s lives will never be the same again after contracting the deadly E. coli bug has accused health officials of a ‘cover up.’
Three years on, Isaac suffers with severe seizures, must be peg fed for 10 hours each night and will need a kidney transplant and Jessica endures crippling head pains, fatigue and depression as a result of the bug.
But though the families’ lives have changed irreversibly, they feel let down by the Public Health England (PHE) investigation.
Jessica, who completed the London Marathon to raise awareness of her family’s plight, said: “This illness has robbed us. We are no longer the same people. It’s very frightening how life can suddenly change in an instant and I’m sure if all the other families were sat around the table they would say exactly the same.
“If someone attempts to murder someone, that is taken very seriously. We have been close to death through whatever reason that may be, yet we feel it was not taken at all seriously and more and more and more people suffered.
“It feels like a cover up and we just believe there are too many questions that have been left unanswered.”
Isaac and Jessica became ill after the family had eaten together at a restaurant. Medics originally put symptoms down to gastroenteritis but they were later diagnosed with a severe life-threatening complication which attacked their kidneys, liver and brain and fought for life. Today Jessica said they face a daily battle for recovery.
“We were discharged within a day of each other and we were so naïve. We thought we’d get our lives back together. How wrong were we.
“I used to be fit and active, now there’s not a day I can say ‘I feel well today.’”
Isaac today suffers severe health and behavioural problems.
The investigation closed in March 2016 without the affected families being made aware and failed to find the source. The outbreak was only confirmed by PHE in response to enquiries made by the Bournemouth Echo in November 2014 after it struck a children’s nursery in Blandford – months after the initial outbreak.
Jessica said: “We’ve been in the dark throughout with absolutely no communication about the outbreak, investigation or what has happened since. If they’d have thought we were important enough to find the cause, little babies and children may not have been put through the same hell.
“All we can hope for is that lessons have been learned so no other family ever has to go through the same horrendous ordeal we are living. For us, every morning is a constant reminder that life for us will never be the same.”
This is normal in the U.K. where science-based agencies recommend cooking food to the standard of piping hot, and where 252 people were sickened with E. coli O157 in 2010 – 80 hospitalized, one death, possibly linked to potatoes and leeks – and the Food Standards Agency reminded people to wash their produce.
This is some fucked up shit.
Maybe that’s why I like John Oliver so much.
He says he’s British and has no human emotion.
It’s buried way, way down.
Russell of the Bournemouth Echo writes public health officials carried out a review of the E. coli outbreak in Dorset to ‘identify lessons learnt.’
Public Health England said it is a ‘learning organisation’ and ‘reflects on outbreaks’ however refused to reveal what these lessons were.
Dr Sarah Harrison, consultant in health protection at Public Health England South West said: “Our colleagues in Public Health England worked closely with partners to try and identify a possible common source of infection, but the investigations did not identify a single common source. It is very good news that there have been no further cases of infection with this strain in Dorset since the end of the outbreak in 2015, however we remain vigilant.
“PHE is a learning organisation and reflects on outbreaks to identify lessons learnt and to continually improve our response. A review of this outbreak was conducted at the time by staff involved in line with standard procedures.
“E coli VTEC can be a very serious infection and can be passed easily from person to person and young children are particularly easily affected. We know that the bacteria causing the infection can survive in the environment, so good hand hygiene is important to prevent the spread. Wash hands thoroughly using soap and water after using the toilet, before and after handling food and after contact with animals including farm animals. Small children should be supervised in washing their hands. Remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruit that will be eaten raw.”
PHE said the investigation at the time was extensive with involvement from many organisations.
A statement read: “Control measures included extended screening and exclusion of cases and high risk contacts. Public Health England and the Animal and Plant Health Agency put in place enhanced surveillance of faecal samples in Dorset laboratories and environmental sampling to help determine the extent of this organism in the community. The only link common to all the cases was that they either lived in or had close links to the county. The outbreak investigation closed in March 2016.”
As John Oliver would say, cool.
As Jessica Archer would say, fuck off you bureaucratic assholes who spend work time watching goats singing Taylor Swift songs on the the Intertubes.
An investigation launched after 300 children fell ill in the town of Rouen named the culprit as gone-off cheese served up by school canteens.
One parent said her child would be avoiding school meals after the scandal, telling local media: “I’d prefer to take them to a fast food place”.
Local authorities inspected the producers of the cheese – a soft, mould-ripened local variety called neufchâtel – but were unable to identify the origin of the contamination.
The children began to suffer headaches, vomiting and stomach aches after eating the cheese at 54 different primary schools and nurseries on 27 April.
A survey of 1,000 parents of children in the region, both those affected and not affected by the outbreak, found a “strong association between the consumption of the cheese and the appearance of digestive symptoms,” according to the local health board.
I was lying on the floor, ordered to remove my shoes, and asked: “What do I think of when I hear the term, GMO.”
This was about 1995, and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food – always a Ministry, stick with the gospel – had brought in some French marketing guru who apparently got famous selling coffee on the aroma, and he was now going to tell us how to sell genetically engineered foods.
We also got to sit behind one-way mirrors and watch people react to terms which, while voyeuristic, was completely dumb and cost taxpayers a few hundred thousand.
It was at that point I solidified my view of stop the bullshit, you wanna sell genetically engineered food, brag about it or go home.
Now, after a decade of disappointing results to reduce the number of people barfing from foodborne illness – nothing to do with GE foods — it’s time for fresh approaches.
Same as it ever was.
barfblog.com has no sponsors – government, industry or academic – so we’ll try a few things.
It won’t be polite.
People barfing and dying from a meal is unacceptable in a so-called advanced society.
And look for our new boy band (of writers) Food Safety Assholes.
My PhD is in food science, but it was really risk communication as related to food.
That was over 20 years ago.
Academics and consultants are still reinventing the wheel and still making a good buck at it.
Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will fund a campaign to promote genetically modified organisms in food under a bipartisan agreement to keep the government funded through the end of September.
People don’t want to be educated, they want to be compelled, with decent stories.
More than 50 agriculture and food industry groups had signed on to an April 18 letter urging the funding to counter “a tremendous amount of misinformation about agricultural biotechnology in the public domain.”
As David Brooks of the N.Y Times wrote about Donald Trump, he’s a “political pond skater — one of those little creatures that flit across the surface, sort of fascinating to watch, but have little effect as they go.”
Same with all the GMO social actors in this 20-year-old fairytale.
Been there, done that. The ditch is more interesting than the road.
A comparative study of communication about food safety before, during, and after the “Mad Cow” crisis
The Oxford Handbook on the Science of Science Communication, Matteo Ferrari, 2017
The “mad cow’ saga provides useful insights into the complexities that surround public communication on food safety issues. The first part of the chapter describes the most important scientific characteristics of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its human counterpart, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The second section offers an account of the unfolding of the public communication before, during, and after the BSE crisis, including the diverse positions adopted by different countries and the legal reforms enacted to improve risk communication. The final part provides an analysis of the key features of the mad cow crisis: the importance of trust and transparently, the uncertainties that can characterize scientific information, the effects of cognitive bias, and the role of cultural context. All these factors contributes to both the amplifying and downplaying-depending on the place and time- of the BSE risk in the public mind.
Trash-talking elites are part of the reason Donald Trump is now U.S. President.
In the new book, Shattered, journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes write that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was doomed to fail. “The portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff that turned ‘a winnable race’ into another iceberg-seeking campaign ship.”
Australians are also being drawn to the right, with their own versions of Aussie-first – the aboriginal population may have some thoughts on that – in which skilled 457 visas are being eliminated.
It’s not the political drift that is surprising – Australia is a country that, as John Oliver said, has “settled into their intolerance like an old resentful slipper” – it’s the response from the Group of Eight universities who wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday complaining the new rules could be “extremely damaging” to academic recruitment.
Forgetting for a moment that a Group of Eight unis in a country with 23 million people is self-aggrandizing on a ridiculous scale, University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence (that’s like a university president, which is self-aggrandizing enough) told Fairfax Media, “They’re really not people flipping burgers. “If you are building world-class expertise in a cutting-edge area of science, you’re probably going to need to draw from a gene pool larger than 23 million.”
Spence, your knowledge of genetics sucks; I have a genetics degree.
In his letter to Mr Turnbull, Go8 chairman Peter Hoj said “the mere suggestion of Australia clamping down on academic mobility into Australia would be extremely damaging to academic recruitment in Australia.”
Here are my perceived limitations to academic recruitment in Australia:
Get an Internet that works and is not dependent on hobbits spinning a hamster wheel. Every time it rains, the Internet goes down, because most of the connections are underground, where water pools.
Offer something of value rather than appealing to money. It’s still not too late to life a life of substance.
Bring Australia into the 21st century by changing laws on same sex marriage, abortion, parental leave and end-of-life.
Stop casting aspersions about fast-food workers – the people who probably make your lunch Dr. vice-chancellors – and save the flipping burgers shit for your fancy club talk. Engineering geniuses still need to eat. Perhaps Australia could make it a priority that food is safe and doesn’t make people barf. The military figured this out centuries ago. Maybe universities can, eventually.
Yup, food poisoning is always worth a chuckle. Nothing like a public health folk out there laughing at all the people barfing and undergoing organ transplants, if they’re not already dead.
But Chipotle, in its fourth makeover since hundreds got sick dating back to Nov. 2015, has decided that Jeffrey Tambor is best to persuade the gullible public that, once again, Chipotle’s food is made with integrity?
According to Austin Carr of Fast Company, it’s Chipotle’s biggest ad campaign yet. And depending on how you count, it’s also its third or fourth major brand rehabilitation experiment in the year and a half since its food-safety incidents first emerged. That speaks to the sizable challenges Chipotle is still facing as it seeks to recover its once-roaring restaurant sales—all while moving the conversation around its brand away from food safety.
But the conversation should all be about food safety.
Chipotle can’t make food safety the central point of its marketing, but it also knows that any initiative to tout its improvements or resell its brand will be viewed through the lens of its food-safety woes. “It’s a big marketing challenge,” Chipotle’s chief development officer, Mark Crumpacker, told me late last summer. “When you’re excited to go out to lunch, you’re not like, ‘Let’s go to the safest place!’”
The new web and TV spots, rolled out Monday, feature comedians Jillian Bell, John Mulaney, and Sam Richardson, who are shown in separate ads entering a house-size burrito where Tambor’s voice instructs them to “be real” because, well, “everything is real” inside a Chipotle burrito. The comedians proceed to make comical confessions, and the ads each end with a new Chipotle motto, “As Real As It Gets,” an apparent reference to the company’s recent strides in removing artificial flavors and preservatives from its ingredients.
Chipotle, instead, has initiated a significant number of changes to its food-safety program, but it has been more strategic about informing customers about them. “Our food safety is not something that I expect to drive lots of people into the restaurant, but I do think it might erase some people’s doubts and allow future marketing to be met with less objection,” Crumpacker said at the time.
Is Chipotle at the point yet where new efforts will be greeted with less cynicism? It’ll likely take another quarter before we’ll see if the campaign has an impact on sales. For now, Chipotle will have to depend on Jeffrey Tambor and company to convince shareholders that there’s always money in the burrito stand.
Twelve years after Chapman and I set out for Prince George, B.C., where Chapman announced his fears of both bears and jello-swim nights at the local college, and then went to Kansas State University, where I met a girl (who’s still my best friend and wife), where I got sexually advanced upon in an unpleasant manner by a professor dude, where I had lunch with the president, got a job offer, and enjoyed a great career, my former boss sent me this:
KState has changed its handwashing recommendations.
They disconnected the blow dryers in those groovy all-in-one handwashing units.
One reason I was offered the job is because I took the prez to the bathroom and showed him how shitty their handwashing recommendations were.
But that story is old.
No one should be recreating their past glory days (and if I ever quote a Bruce Springsteen song again, put me out of my misery).
Change does sometimes happen: usually not as fast as any of us would like.
I’m fortunate to have a partner for 11 years now who has repeatedly told me she loves me – just the way I am.
And she’s smart, and main breadwinner in our Brisbane household.
She also swears a lot more than she used too: blames it on being married to a Canadian hockey player, and taken up hockey herself.
Check your e-mail settings, I often go to your trash because I swears a lot.
Thirty years ago I had this feeling.
My hands felt just like two balloons.
By the summer of 1987, I was bored out of my mind studying Verticillium wilt in resistant and susceptible tomato lines – so much so that I would listen, not even watch, but listen, to Toronto Blue Jays games on the radio at night while I infected tomato plants in the lab and then extracted DNA.
It was a non-pharmaceutical sedative.
I decided to immerse myself in finding a bigger audience — newspapers, at the time.
When I was a gradual student back about 1986, I had started writing about science for the University of Guelph student newspaper.
Canadian daughter one was born and the next month I went to a scientific meeting to present some results about my Verticillium findings.
I spent most of my time in an outdoor patio at Carleton University, reading all I could about media and newspapers, and came up with a plan to start an alternative newspaper when I returned to Guelph.
Then I got hired as a section editor at the existing paper.
Then I became editor-in-chief.
And then I quit, and put my alternative paper plan into action.
Thirty years later, I’m going to revisit history and do sorta the same thing.
Not for ego, not for repetition, but for the same reason people wanted me to lead that other paper 30 years ago: a whole bunch of people asked me to do it.
For 25 years I have published barfblog.com and FSnet.
I openly shared this with everyone because that’s what I thought profs at public universities did.
But they had no trouble getting rid of full-professor me.
Amy and I had a visit a few months ago from a former student of mine from Ireland, who now lives in Sydney.
She told me later that I wasn’t in the right space to hear what she had to say those few months ago.
She was right.
But she recently told me, what you do is unique, people use your stuff all over the world, can you really just turn your back on all that?
People love food safety as long as it is free.
Universities have been good to me.
But what worked in the time of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (the first empiricist) may not work today.
Just like we don’t want medical treatments from 2,000 years ago, providing information and the notion of the commons should also fit today.
If you see any adverts on barfblog.com, please let us know. We don’t accept advertising. We’re idealistic that way (until we go broke).
Someone will eventually pay, but until then, I’m happy to embrace the Grateful Dead model of entrepreneurship: Build it and they will come.
Oh, and I am fully aware of the hypocrisy of Neil Young singing this note’s for you, after making millions.
But through the contributions of more experienced coaches, I’ve come to appreciate the value of the 24-hour rule.
It means think about it, and is it really so important?
I had my first parents’ meeting of the new ice hockey season (because I have to say ice hockey in Australia) and stressed the 24-hour rule: Don’t talk to me during practice or games, don’t talk to me afterwards, give it 24 hours.
In turn, I will wait 24 hours until I say something.
Sure, this sounds like trivial maturity, but when adults and kids go to arenas, and put all that gear on, crazy things happen.
I’m the coach – and have put in the 40 hours of training, just like the 7 years of PhD training — and I am to be calm, like supervising PhD students who are freaking out.
According to Elizabeth Henson of The Advertiser, a top Adelaide restaurateur, embroiled in a fiery keyboard stoush with a customer he called “dimwitted”, says it’s time eateries “give as good as they get” when the butt of scathing online criticism.
Victory Hotel and Star of Greece owner Doug Govan let rip on Facebook after patron Jodie Clarke described the hotel as “rude and obnoxious” and “so unaccommodating” — and another, Emma-Jade Fowler, described “terrible customer service” after a booking mishap at the weekend.
Mr Govan branded Ms Fowler “dimwitted” and argued that businesses should be able to defend themselves on social media.
But disgruntled Ms Fowler described the attack as bullying behaviour and said the Sellicks Hill hotel’s response was shameful and “disgusting.”
Let’s just accept that we’re all dimwitted to varying degrees.
The Victory Hotel’s Facebook page was forced to temporarily shut down after Ms Clarke wrote about her experience at the hotel on Saturday night after the eatery was unable to accommodate her and her friends.
“You are rude, obnoxious and so unaccommodating,” she wrote on Facebook.
“We had a group booking of 17 people, yes 17 people, and every single one … has walked away disgusted.
“And every single one of us will tell every person we know our story of your terrible service and unhelpful, rude staff. We will never be back.”
Ms Fowler wrote “terrible customer service, you should be ashamed Victory Hotel” in reference to the booking problem.
This comment elicited an outburst from Mr Govan, which he says he now regrets.
“Terribly dim-witted Emma-Jade not-sure-what-my-first-name-should-be Emma or Jade, don’t get involved in something you don’t know anything about,” he wrote.
“Imagine one of your friends told you the sun wasn’t going to come up tomorrow. Would you agree just because they were a stupid, dim-witted friend? No, you wouldn’t. If one of your friends said I went to a restaurant with 17 people and they couldn’t find my booking? Yes, if you were a dim-witted imbecile, yes, possibly.
“But if they told you the truth and said that they had screwed up their booking, maybe you wouldn’t be wasting your time writing crap. But maybe you just love seeing your name on social media.”
Ms Fowler fired back. “At the end of the day, this is bullying and it will be taken further,” she wrote.
“You should be ashamed of the way you have responded, it’s disgusting.”
The hotel shut down its Facebook page on Monday night after a barrage of comments from those involved, as well as others, were posted about the incident. It came back online yesterday and offered an apology “for any offensive comments made on Facebook”.
A link to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission complaints portal was included in the post.