Country Tonk: Australian coroner criticises woman who made toxic ‘moonshine’ contributed to deaths of 3 people in 2015

The Deputy State Coroner has delivered a scathing report into deaths of three people in western New South Wales:

moonshine-australiaFound the consumption of “moonshine” contributed to their deaths

Woman who supplied homemade booze “targeted people with alcoholism”

Magistrate Helen Barry also said more people could die without tougher rules on the purchase of stills that are used to make alcohol.

An inquest found the illegal sale of homemade alcohol contributed to the deaths of the three residents of an Indigenous reserve near Collarenebri in February and March last year. They were aged in their 30s and 40s.

Norman Boney, his sister Sandra Boney and her partner Roger Adams consumed an unknown quantity of “moonshine” in the months before their deaths. It was supplied by another woman, Mary Miller.

Ms Miller denied selling the alcohol, but the coroner found “the overwhelming and only conclusion is that Mary Miller was in fact selling moonshine (homebrew) to the residents of Walli Reserve during the period of 2014 and 2015”.

Lavinia Flick, who was related to Mr Adams, earlier told the inquest the deaths had a huge impact on the community.

“The sadness that you feel, there are no words for it,” she said.

“Mary opened her shop the next day after they died like it was nothing.”

Ms Barry said it is impossible to disagree with Ms Flick’s conclusion that: “Mary targeted people with alcoholism. She targeted people with an addiction and disease. It was our people that were affected by it.”

The inquest was told distilling alcohol without a licence is illegal and easy to get wrong.

Professor Ian Whyte from the Department of Clinical Toxicology and Pharmacology at Calvary Mater Hospital in Newcastle gave evidence at the hearing.

“A relatively small dose can cause blindness and ultimately death.”

‘Gap in the legislation’ could have ‘fatal consequences’

The coroner said it was legal to purchase a still that holds less than 5 litres for the purpose of distilling water or essential oils.

But in practice, it can be used to illegally manufacture alcohol and “because there is no licensing requirement, that activity is likely to remain undetected unless there is a catastrophic event such as in the loss of lives such as those of Sandra, Norman and Roger”.

“Because of the gap in the legislation, there is the potential for fatal consequences.”

Ms Barry said she would send these findings to the Commonwealth Attorney-General and Minister for Finance for their consideration.

Toxo in cat poop threatens Hawaiian monk seals

Two wildlife issues have collided in Hawaii, pitting one group of animal defenders against another in an impassioned debate. The point of contention? Deadly cat poop and the feral felines that produce it.

hawaiian-monk-sealsFederal researchers believe feces from the legions of stray cats roaming Hawaii is spreading a disease that is killing Hawaiian monk seals, some of the world’s most endangered marine mammals. Some conservationists advocate euthanizing those cats that no one wants, and that has cat lovers up in arms.

“It’s a very difficult, emotional issue,” said state Sen. Mike Gabbard, chairman of a committee that earlier this year heard a proposal to ban the feeding of feral cats on state land. The panel abandoned the bill after an outcry.

“It struck a nerve in our community,” he said.

The problem stems from a parasite common in cats that can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that has killed at least five female Hawaiian monk seals and three males since 2001, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“While eight seals may not sound like a lot of animals, it actually has pretty large ramifications for an endangered population where there’s only about 1,300 seals in existence at this point in time,” said Michelle Barbieri, veterinary medical officer for NOAA’s Hawaiian monk seal research program. Scientists believe monk seals become exposed by ingesting contaminated water or prey.

Stray cats, meanwhile, have no predators in Hawaii and have ballooned in numbers across the state. Some 300,000 feral cats roam Oahu alone, according to marketing research commissioned by the Hawaiian Humane Society in 2015.

Respectable Leafy greens food safety hucksterdum

To finish my tri-part Rolling-Stones inspired critique of leafy greens bullshit –outbreaks are only confirmed with direct testing and Bill Keene would be rolling in his grave — the Leafy Green Marketing Agency has done what all bureaucracies do:

Made a website.

With a dollop of PR hackerdom and an underpinning of how to tell the story better – tell the story better — The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) has updated its website to provide easier access to news, information, and resources on leafy greens food safety and the program created in 2007.

The home page of the revised website takes users to the most current news item, highlights the organization’s current Twitter post, and is followed immediately by two of the most-visited sections of the website: the LGMA’s mandatory Food Safety Practices and its list of Certified LGMA Members.

With continual outbreaks involving dangerous pathogens on leafy greens., the California-based self-appointed Leafy Greens Marketing Association has been reduced to the tried, twisted and why not twerking, public relations strategy of telling the story better.

But good stories rely on good data, And consumers have no clue which companies are better at providing reduced E. coli or Salmonella spinach and lettuce.

Because they aren’t told.

Early research/North American outbreaks

Fresh fruits and vegetables were identified as the source of several outbreaks of foodborne illness in the early 1990s, particularly leafy greens (Table 1).

Date Product Pathogen Cases Setting/dish State
Apr-92 Lettuce S. enteriditis 12 Salad VT
Jan-93 Lettuce S. Heidelberg 18 Restaurant MN
Jul-93 Lettuce Norovirus 285 Restaurant IL
Aug-93 Salad E. coli O157:H7 53 Salad Bar WA
Jul-93 Salad E. coli O157:H7 10 Unknown WA
Sep-94 Salad E. coli O157:H7 26 School TX
Jul-95 Lettuce E. coli O153:H48 74 Lettuce MT
Sep-95 Lettuce E. coli O153:H47 30 Scout Camp ME
Sep-95 Salad E. coli O157:H7 20 Ceasar Salad ID
Oct-95 Lettuce E. coli O153:H46 11 Salad OH
May-96 Lettuce E. coli O157:H10 61 Mesclun Mix ML
Jun-96 Lettuce E. coli O153:H49 7 Mesclun Mix NY

Table 1. Outbreaks of foodborne illness related to leafy greens, 1992-1996

Powell, D.A., Jacob, C.J. and Chapman, B. 2009. Produce in public: Spinach, safety and public policy in Microbial Safety of Fresh Produce: Challenges, Perspectives, and Strategies ed. by X. Fan, B.A. Niemira, C.J. Doona, F.E. Feeherry and R.B. Gravani. Blackwell Publishing, pp 369-384.

So, as could have been predicted 20 years ago, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) has completely revised its website to provide easier access to a wealth of news, information and resources concerning leafy greens food safety, and this important program created in 2007

Why did it take the outbreak in the fall of 2006 to compel the leafy green types industry to embrace the kind of change the sector has heralded since 2007? And at what point will future evidence be deemed sufficient to initiate change within an industry in the future?


Shattered: UK FSA annual science report published

I saw the Rolling Stones in Buffalo in 1981. We stayed up all night, and drove from Guelph, crossing the border about 4:30 a.m. George Thorogood opened in the rain, and was awesome, followed by Journey, who sucked (hence the Journey effect) and then the Stones.

barfblog.Stick It InThe UK Food Standards Agency is the Journey of the food safety biz: they make other agencies look good.

Catherine Brown, the chief executive of the Food Standards Agency, writes in the annual science report that it demonstrates “science is at the heart of everything we do.”

It’s hard to take that seriously from a group that recommends piping hot, steaming hot, and cooked until the juices run clear.

There’s no mention of thermometers.

Brown also writes, “A fundamental principle in this process is to maintain a clear distinction between the independent, expert assessment of risk, and decisions on risk management.”

The U.S. got rid of that in 1997.

But Journey was popular back then.

Sticky Fingers: Oregon dismisses glove requirement for restaurant workers

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all show up at our first day of a new job as a 20-year-old and help create rock greatness – Honky Tonk Women.

Instead, most are told to wear gloves while participating in sandwich greatness something.
But in Oregon, they’ve decided to rethink the gloves thing.

Eatocracy reports that the no-bare-hands rule was originally supposed to go into effect on July 1, but Oregon public health officials delayed the decision because of public debate that these new safety rules were not actually safe.

The rule would have prohibited food handlers from contacting “exposed, ready-to-eat food” with their bare hands. Instead, any contact would have to be made with “suitable utensils,” including deli tissue, spatulas, tongs and single-use gloves.

Wednesday, regulators of Oregon’s Foodborne Illness Prevention Program announced that “…at this time, the ‘No Bare Hand Contact’ section of new food safety rules will not be adopted.”

Among the complaints raised by food experts: gloves give foodservice handlers a false sense of cleanliness, create more plastic waste (especially since plastic bags are banned in Oregon) and add a supplementary cost for restaurateurs.

Happy 50th birthday, Rolling Stones, especially the Taylor years.

Bad food safety reporting II: inconsistent and uncertain edition

NSF International issued the results of a survey involving 1,000 Americans that found consumers were inconsistent and uncertain about some food safety practices in the home.

That’s because food safety advice is inconsistent and uncertain. That’s normal. Food safety isn’t simple.

But this particular press release is inconsistent and uncertain within the press release.

The press release trumpeting the results states:

• Most Rewash Pre-Packaged Foods: Over half (60%) of consumers surveyed always re-wash pre-packaged fruits and vegetables (such as ready-to-eat salads), but it’s not necessary. Prepackage produce that is labeled as prewashed in a sealed container does not need to be rewashed.

The same press release subsequently states:

* Rewash Pre-packaged Foods: Consumers should always rewash pre-packaged produce that is in an open package or does not specifically state it is prewashed. Rewashing all pre-packaged produce is an additional precaution consumers can take to reduce the likelihood of consuming food contaminated with harmful bacteria.

Scientists have said the re-washing process is more likely to cross-contaminate the pre-washed greens with whatever crap was previously in a sink. The paper is in Food Protection Trends and available here.

The NSF study about inconsistent and incertain practices also contains a couple of other nosestretchers.

* Consumers Can Get Lazy When it Comes to Safe Hand Washing Practices: While 90% of consumers wash their hands after handling raw meat or poultry, a fifth (20%) of consumers aren’t using warm water and soap – which is considered the most effective combination when it comes to reducing exposure to bacteria that causes foodborne illness. Warm water may be helpful in removing grease and grime, it’s unnecessary for removing dangerous microorganisms. And 10 seconds is microbiologically sufficient.

“For example, consumers are taking great caution in the initial food preparation stages, as 78% of respondents knew the right way to defrost meat and poultry safely (such as defrosting in a refrigerator), but only 20% of them bother to use a meat thermometer to ensure food is properly cooked.”

Self-reported surveys of food safety practices are meaningless. Nowhere near 20 per cent of Americans use thermometers; it’s less than 1 per cent.

I won’t forget to put roses on your grave: Study says men exaggerate illness to gain sympathy

There are serious faults with studies based on self-reported surveys, but I’ve been around enough men to know that a new study which found nearly 50 per cent of men exaggerate minor ailments like cold symptoms to gain sympathy, is probably true.

I’ve driven all over North America with kids, babies and poop, but the worst bunch of cry-babies was when I drove to the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting in Atlanta in 1997 or somewhere thereabouts. The women in the van were fine, but the men were horrible crybabies who needed to stop more frequently than a breastfeeding baby. And you all know who you are.

The research led by Engage Mutual reveals that one in two men describe a common cold as flu and headaches as a migraine, and moan more than women. The study was carried out on 3,000 people.

The findings also revealed that women admit more than 57 percent of men become attention-seeking when ill, with 66 percent constantly moaning and groaning.

In contrast, men said that only 50 percent of women seek attention when they’re ill and 56 percent moan and groan.

As my favorite Stones song goes, take me down (high-school girlfriend) little Susie, while you’re talking to some rich-folks that you know. And is Mick Taylor not the best and most expressionless guitar player ever?

Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, hot sauce and macaroni

It’s no secret I’m a Rolling Stones fan, especially of the inspired work between 1968 and 1972.

Every generation has their Stones knockoff band. In the 1970s it was Aerosmith. The 1980s brought the Black Crowes. Not sure what the recreations were in the later decades, but they exist.

Turns out Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry is, at least according to the Baltimore Sun, a bit of a foodie.

Nightlife reporter Sam Sessa hung out with Perry for a while on his tour bus, and spent a lot of time talking about food.

“I had no idea he’s been a foodie for more than 35 years, and has his own line of hot sauces. He also told me he’s planning on launching his own brand of mac ‘n’ cheese in the near future, called Joe Perry’s Rock ‘n’ Roni.”

Does your own brand of mac ‘n’ cheese – or KD, as in Kraft Dinner  in Canadian-speak – make one a foodie?