50K+ direct subscribers

This is a picture of two furry cats and a cute kid. The Internet loves these.

Apparently the Internet is also good for food safety stuff.

I was introduced to Doug by Lindsay Core, a friend who had previously worked for him. Lindsay knew I was desperately looking for a job, and didn’t tell me much else; she just said “I think you two will get along.”sorenne-cats-aug-15

I didn’t really know what that meant, and had no other prospects.

I emailed him, we had an electronic conversation about molecular biology, and he hired me to pull news, alongside a crew of other students.

Pulling news way back then meant that we surfed through the tubes of the interweb for anything food risk-y (microbial food safety, BSE, GMO foods, animal disease) and the stories become the content for daily listservs that was sent out to over 10,000 folks interested in the public discussion. Powell had been doing this 1993.

With the advent of Google and other web apps listserv newsletters became passe and engagement was where we wanted to go.

When self-publishing was all the rage we decided to start a forum to share foodborne illness stories. Every time we talked to someone on a plane, train or automobile and they found out what we did (food safety stuff) they would proceed to share their worst illness story. We wanted to capture those stories, except most people don’t want to be bothered writing, so we did it for them.

But it needed a name.

After one not particularly notable midday pick-up hockey session we had a few beers  with some government- and professor-type friends and brainstormed names.

A creative undergraduate student, Christian Battista, came up with barfblog, and it stuck.

We write it all as one word, in lower case, because capital letters in email are a waste of time.

images-1The idea and technology morphed barfblog away from a just a forum and we created a space to take current news items and highlight what we thought was important – based on the literature and our experiences.

It’s collaborative, a space for discussion and engagement, with a benevolent editorial dictator.

Last week, around the same time we hit 11,000 posts, we surpassed 50,000 subscribers. That’s a lot of folks interested in food safety stuff.

We may not be able to compete with cat pictures, but we know microbial food safety – the things that make people barf.


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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.