Cooking pork to control Hep E: Use a fucking thermometer

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture very publicly began to urge consumers to use an accurate food thermometer when cooking ground beef patties because research demonstrated that the color of meat is not a reliable indicator of safety.

USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety at the time, Catherine Woteki, said, “Consumers need to know that the only way to be sure a ground beef patty is cooked to a high enough temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present is to use a thermometer.”

At the time, I said, no one uses a meat thermometer to check the doneness of hamburgers. The idea of picking up a hamburger patty with tongs and inserting the thermometer in sideways was too much effort (others insist the best way to use a tip sensitive digital thermometer is to insert into the middle of the patty at a 45 degree angle).

I was wrong.

Shortly thereafter, I started doing it and discovered, not only was using a meat thermometer fairly easy, it made me a better cook. No more extra well-done burgers to ensure the bugs that would make me sick were gone. They tasted better.

By May 2000, USDA launched a national consumer campaign to promote the use of food thermometers in the home. The campaign featured an infantile mascot called Thermy that proclaimed, “It’s Safe to Bite When the Temperature is Right.”

Seventeen years later, the converts are minimal. Canada came to the thermometer table a few years ago,  Australia is doing a slow policy creep, but the UK is still firmly committed to piping hot.

The UK Food Standards Agency recently published the sixth, chief scientific adviser’s Science Report, entitled Data Science. No mention of thermometers except to determine refrigerator temperatures or included as packing on food.

Science-based policy depends on whose science is being quoted to what ends. The fancy folks call it value judgments in risk assessments; Kevin Spacey in the TV series House of Cards would call it personal advancement.

So last week, when UK media reports dubbed Hepatitis E the Brexit virus, with the potential for 60,000 Brits to fall sick annually from EU pork, the UK Food Standards Agency once again reiterated how fucking unscientific they are.

“Following media reports this morning we wanted to remind consumers of our advice about cooking pork thoroughly. We always advise that whole cuts of pork, pork products and offal should be thoroughly cooked until steaming hot throughout, the meat is no longer pink and juices run clear.”

The National Pig Association — it’s a thing, “recommends that consumers follow the advice from the Food Standards Agency that pork and sausages should be cooked thoroughly until steaming hot throughout, with no pink or red in the centre, to greatly reduce the risk of infection.”

Back to science instead of a rainbow fairy tale on safe cooking procedures, in May 2011, USDA recommended pork, and all whole meat cuts, only have to get to 145 degrees internally, not the 160 the agency had previously suggested, followed by a 3-minute rest.

The U.S. pork board for years promoted pork be cooked with a “hint of pink.”

This has more to do with breeding efforts to produce leaner pork.

But HEV is a different beast.

Public Health England reported the number of severe cases has almost trebled since 2010, with 1,244 reported in 2016, compared with 368 six years earlier.

The virus causes a flu-like illness and in severe circumstances, could cause death.

This strain has been linked to pig farms in France, Holland, Germany and Denmark and is only killed in meat if people cook it for longer than usual.

Dr Harry Dalton, a gastroenterologist at Exeter University, told a conference on neurological infectious diseases HEV had become a major threat and that no one should eat pink pork and that pregnant women and transplant patients should not eat pork at all.

He also said the virus is heat resistant and survives being cooked until the meat is heated to above 71C (160F) for two minutes.

Looks like some research is required, not that the Brits would change their no pink policy. Maybe they’re homophoblic.

With Memorial Day on Monday in the U.S. and a bank holiday Monday in the U.K., whatever that is, USDA yesterday once again stated, “The best and only way to make sure bacteria have been killed and food is safe to eat is by cooking it to the correct internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer.”

Recent research by USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that only 34 percent of the public use a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers – and that’s self-reported, people lie on surveys.

Use a fucking thermometer and stick it in.

(If you don’t like profanity, don’t read, but if you want to read, your IT censors may figure you can’t handle such dreadful language, and messages are getting blocked. You may want to have a word with your IT folks.)

Trump’s expected pick for USDA’s top scientist is not a scientist

Catherine Woteki, served as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for research, education and economics in the Obama administration.

She recently told Pro Publica “This position is the chief scientist of the Department of Agriculture. It should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there.”

Trump expects to appoint Sam Clovis — who, according to sources with knowledge of the appointment and members of the agriculture trade press, is President Trump’s pick to oversee the section — appears to have no such credentials.

Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work.

Morningside College sounds like painting with Dali (below) on SCTV’s Sunrise Semester.

Clovis advised Trump on agricultural issues during his presidential campaign and is currently the senior White House advisor within the USDA, a position described by The Washington Post as “Trump’s eyes and ears” at the agency.

Clovis was also responsible for recruiting Carter Page, whose ties to Russia have become the subject of intense speculation and scrutiny, as a Trump foreign policy advisor.

Neither Clovis, nor the USDA, nor the White House responded to questions about Clovis’ nomination to be the USDA’s undersecretary for research, education and economics.

Clovis has a B.S. in political science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, an MBA from Golden State University and a doctorate in public administration from the University of Alabama. The University of Alabama canceled the program the year after Clovis graduated, but an old course catalogue provided by the university does not indicate the program required any science courses.

Clovis’ published works do not appear to include any scientific papers. His 2006 dissertation concerned federalism and homeland security preparation, and a search for academic research published by Clovis turned up a handful of journal articles, all related to national security and terrorism.

I can’t make this shit up.

Seek and ye shall find: E. coli O103 found in Waco beef

Waco, Texas will always have a special place in the barfblog.com family.

Amy was a French professor there for one year. She was required to follow a dress code, one that didn’t include beach shorts and loud Hawaiian shirts.

Her car was randomly shot at driving to work one day – which is why she volunteered to go to Iraq as part of a teaching mission, correctly reasoning it couldn’t be much more dangerous than Waco.

Chapman did a duck and hide under the table at a Waco restaurant as one of the regular booms went off to scare away starlings.

I’ve been told many times I look like David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidians religious sect,

Waco is also home to rare strains of E. coli.

H & B Packing Co., Inc., a Waco, Texas establishment, is recalling approximately 73,742 pounds of boneless beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The boneless beef items were produced on March 6, 2017. The following products are subject to recall:

60-lb. box containing boneless beef with case code 69029 and production date 03/06/17.

Multiple combo bins containing 73,682-lbs of boneless beef with case code 69029 and production date 03/06/17.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. M13054” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to food manufacturers within the state of Texas.

The problem was discovered when FSIS was notified by the State of Texas’ Meat Safety Assurance Unit about a positive non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli sample.

There have been no confirmed reports of illnesses due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O103 because it is harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism.

should seek emergency medical care immediately.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in customers’ freezers.

Customers who have purchased these products are urged not to use them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

Waco is also near George W. Bush’s ranch retreat, as Harold and Kumar found out.

The chill started in Kansas, I live in Australia: USDA scientists have been put on lockdown under Trump

For the many who have asked, barfblog.com is on hiatus while I chill and focus on other things.

But some things deserve a wide audience.

Buzzfeed reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture has banned scientists and other employees in its main research division from publicly sharing everything from the summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets as it starts to adjust to life under the Trump administration.

According to an email sent Monday morning and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department told staff — including some 2,000 scientists — at the agency’s main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.

“Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents,” Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email shared with BuzzFeed News.

“This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,” she added.

Indeed, the last tweet from ARS’s official account was sent the day before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Though the terse internal note did not explicitly mention the new presidential administration, department scientists around the country interpreted it as a message from Trump that changes were coming to the department.

The memo was also met with some confusion. When asked if the notice constituted a halt on the publication of academic articles, one regional director told scientists that research papers could be published in academic journals and presented at conferences, but that all media interviews must be approved by the office of communications in Washington.

In a statement on Tuesday to BuzzFeed News, the department acknowledged sending an internal email that halted the release of “informational products like news releases and social media content” on Monday. “Scientific publications, released through peer reviewed professional journals are not included,” he added.

“As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency, ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America,” Christopher Bentley, a spokesperson for ARS, said in the statement.

The Netherlands thing is hilarious. Thanks, Amy.

Veal products recalled due to possible E. coli O26 and O45 contamination

Gold Medal Packing Inc., a Rome, N.Y. establishment, is recalling approximately 4,607 pounds of boneless veal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O26 and O45, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

veal-cutsThe veal trim and top bottom sirloin (TBS) products were produced and packaged on August 16, 2016, and October 25, 2016. The following products are subject to recall: [View Label (PDF only)]

60-lb. boxes containing “BONELESS VEAL”.

2,387-lb. bin containing “TBS”.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 17965” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The “BONELESS VEAL” items were shipped to a warehouse in California and the “TBS” items were shipped to distributor locations in Pennsylvania.

The problem was discovered during routine sample testing. There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O26 or O45, because they are harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism. Most people infected with STEC O26 or O45 develop diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by testing of a stool sample. Vigorous rehydration and other supportive care is the usual treatment; antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended.

Is ‘best if used by’ better than ‘best before’

Kristen Leigh Painter of the Star Tribune reports date labels on food don’t quite represent the peril that people think.

use_by_egg1For years, foodmakers have put sell-by and use-by dates on a number of products. But some food experts and environmentalists have argued that people are throwing out perfectly good food because of those dates. And now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed.

The department’s food safety division released new industry guidance that recommends that manufacturers use the phrase “best if used by” rather than “sell by” or “use by” when putting dates on food.

Infant formula is the only food product required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to date its products to ensure the nutrient levels match what is on the nutrition label.

No other products require dates, but manufacturers put them on labels to signal to retailers and consumers when products taste best. The USDA estimates that nearly one-third of all food is thrown away uneaten, something the agency is trying to reduce through better policies or simple packaging changes.

“Research shows that this phrase conveys to consumers that the product will be of best quality if used by the calendar date shown,” the USDA wrote in its guidance. “Foods not exhibiting signs of spoilage should be wholesome and may be sold, purchased, donated and consumed beyond the labeled ‘Best if Used By’ date.”

Because the U.S. has no uniform date labeling standard, a variety of terms are used. A “sell-by” date is not a safety issue but is meant to help a retailer know how long to display a produce for sale. A “use-by” date is also not a safety issue, but is the last date recommended to consumers for peak quality.

This guidance is part of the Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency’s goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030, an initiative announced last year.

The USDA says food can be consumed after its “best if used by” date so long as there are no signs of spoilage.

“Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten,” wrote the USDA.

The exception is pathogenic bacteria, which is undetectable. If an unlucky consumer purchases a food product carrying this pathogen, however, the expiration date won’t protect them regardless.

Silver Springs Farms recalls more beef for possible e. coli O157:H7 adulteration

Silver Springs Farms, Inc., a Harleysville, Pa. establishment is recalling approximately 7,970 pounds of ground beef and burger products, as well as an undetermined amount of sandwich steak products that may be adulterated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

silver-springs-e-coliThe ground beef items were produced on August 19 and 20, 2016. The exact production dates for the various sandwich steak products are unknown at this time, but are believed to have been produced between August 19 and September 19, 2016. The following products are subject to recall: [View Labels (PDF only)]

20-lb. cases containing 4 packages of 5-lb ground beef 80/20.

10-lb. packages of “Camellia Beef Pattie 80/20,” with package codes 6235 and 6242.

10-lb. packages of “Silver Springs Farm Beef Pattie 80/20,” with package codes 6242 and 6237.

10-lb. packages of “Silver Springs Farm Beef Pattie 80/20 Flat,” with package code 6237.

10-lb. packages of “Silver Springs Farm Gourmet Beef Burger Flat,” with package code 6235.

10-lb. packages of “Silver Springs Farm Gourmet Beef Burger 80/20,” with package code 6237.

10-lb. packages of “Silver Springs Farm Gourmet Beef Pattie 80/20,” with package code 6242.

various sandwich steak products produced by the recalling firm.

There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Silver Springs Farms recalls beef products due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination

Silver Springs Farms, Inc., a Harleysville, Pa. establishment is recalling approximately 740 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced.

silver-springs-e-coliThe ground beef items were produced on August 19, 2016. The following products are subject to recall:

20-lb cases containing 4 packages of 5-lb ground beef 80/20.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 4771” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to a distributor in Virginia.

The problem was discovered during a routine verification sampling performed by Silver Springs Farms, Inc. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Seek and ye shall find: Beef products recalled due to possible E. coli O103 contamination

Caviness Beef Packers, a Hereford, Texas establishment, is recalling approximately 2,100 pounds of boneless beef trim products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.  

caviness-beef-packerssThe 2,100-lb. Combo Bin of “boneless beef trim 84L” products were produced on September 14, 2016 and further processed into ground beef products by another establishment. The recalling establishment has control of all but 320 pounds of ground beef products.

10 lb. chub – 73% Regular Ground Beef products with a “Use By” or “Freeze By” date of October 10, 2016 and bear UPC number 52846-48935. 

2-3 lb. tray pack of – 73% Regular Ground Beef products with a “Sell By” date of September 28, 2016 and bear UPC number 2-01656-00000.

1.5 lb. tray pack of – 73% Regular Ground Beef products with a “Sell By” date of September 28, 2016 and bear UPC number 2-01654-00000.

The products subject to this recall were further processed by a firm other than Caviness Beef Packers, “EST. 675” and may not bear the establishment number “EST. 675”, on products available for direct consumer purchase. These products were shipped to retail locations in Texas.

The problem was discovered when FSIS was notified of a USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) sample that tested positive for E. coli O103. Because the company works with the AMS Commodity Program, AMS did routine microbiological testing. This shipment of beef was never intended for the National School Lunch Program (NLSP) and no sales were made to the NLSP. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O103 because it is harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism. Most people infected with STEC O103 develop diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by testing of a stool sample. Vigorous rehydration and other supportive care is the usual treatment; antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended.

7 sick: Multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 linked to beef products from Adams Farm

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, multiple states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coliO157:H7 (STEC O157:H7) infections.

adams-farmSeven people infected with the outbreak strain of STEC O157:H7 have been reported from four states.

Five ill people have been hospitalized. No one has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, and no deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence indicate that beef products produced by Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, Massachusetts is a likely source of this outbreak.

On September 24, 2016, Adams Farm Slaughterhouse recalled beef, veal, and bison products due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

The products subject to recall have establishment number EST. 5497 inside the USDA mark of inspection and include several lot numbers and cuts of meat. The full list can be found on the USDA website.

These items were shipped to farmers’ markets, retail locations, and restaurants in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and eastern New York. The products may have been shipped to neighboring states.

We recommend that consumers, restaurants, and retailers do not use, serve, or sell the recalled meat products.

Don’t cook recalled meat products and eat them. Throw the meat out or return it to the place of purchase. If you throw it away, put it in a sealed bag in the trash so that children, pets, or other animals can’t eat it..

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 27, 2016 to September 4, 2016. Ill people range in age from 1 year to 74, with a median age of 25. Fifty-seven percent of ill people are female. Five ill people have been hospitalized.

Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence indicate that beef products produced by Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, Massachusetts is a likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. All five (100%) of the five people reached for interview reported eating ground beef in the week before they became ill.  Preliminary traceback information indicates that ill people ate ground beef which had been produced by Adams Farm Slaughterhouse.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health collected leftover ground beef from an ill person’s home and from a restaurant for testing; that beef had been produced by Adams Farm Slaughterhouse. Test results showed the outbreak strain of STEC O157:H7 in both samples of the leftover ground beef.