Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Download C.V. »

A book that will make you terrified of your own house

That’s the headline in the N.Y. Times, but as I try to tell my 10-year-old (seen here with one of her older sisters as a 4-years-old after the skating coach told her she had to wear figure skates and not hockey skates, and I said, I’m Canadian, your wrong, and when was the last time Russian women successfully competed in ice hockey) there are microbes all around us, we just have to try and understand them.

I’m still convinced we are all hosts on a viral planet.

And I figure Schaffner should review this book, but he’s a busy dude, so I’ll do it.

From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live by Rob Dunn is a collection of the myriad microbial life-forms that take up residence in a typical American showerhead, I’m starting to think maybe that young man was onto something.

With an army of collaborators, Dunn, a professor of applied ecology at North Carolina State University, took samples of the gunk inside hundreds of showerheads, and found a profusion of microbial fauna. Tap water itself, he writes in the chatty, informative “Never Home Alone,” teems with amoebas, bacteria, nematodes and crustaceans. As the water passes through the showerhead, these microbes lay down a kind of scaffolding known as biofilm to protect themselves from getting washed away with every ablution. They make the biofilm “out of their own excretions,” Dunn writes bluntly. “In essence, by working together, the bacteria poop a little indestructible condominium in your pipes.”

It gets worse. Filtered through that poop-biofilm, the water that washes over you, as you supposedly scrub yourself clean, might contain not only all those harmless amoebas and nematodes but a few bacteria that can be dangerous — in particular some species of Mycobacterium, cousins of the Mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis. And the pathogens are there because we provided the perfect breeding ground for them, when we tried to purify our tap water in the first place. Municipal water treatment plants use chlorine and other chemicals that kill off the bacterium’s natural predators, allowing Mycobacterium to thrive. Tap water that comes from a well, in contrast, has never gone through a treatment plant and has a rich microbial life. It might look more dangerous, but it’s actually safer, Dunn explains. All those organisms in well water are themselves harmless, and they tend to fight off the potentially dangerous ones like Mycobacterium — that’s how biodiversity works.

News from the showerhead biome is just one part of this fact-filled, occasionally disgusting, slightly alarming book. Dunn has been involved in an obsessive quest to document the tiny inhabitants of indoor environments, a project that involves teams of professional and amateur bug-watchers to take samples not only from showerheads but from door frames, refrigerators, hot water heaters, cellars, toilets, pillowcases, all sorts of surfaces from the places we call home. These workers swab and seal, swab and seal, and send their thousands of samples to Dunn’s lab in Raleigh, or to his other lab at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, for an ongoing microbial census.

UK family still waiting for answers one year after E. coli poisoning

The Yorkshire Post reports parents of two boys who be­came se­ri­ously ill af­ter con­tract­ing E.coli 0157 sus­pected to be from beef burg­ers are still wait­ing for an­swers from su­per­mar­ket gi­ant Sains­bury’s more than a year later.

Al­fie and Oliver Maude, then seven and three, from Rich­mond, North York­shire, came down with up­set stom­achs two days af­ter eat­ing the Taste the Dif­fer­ence Aberdeen An­gus burg­ers in Oc­to­ber 2017. Al­fie was ad­mit­ted to Dar­ling­ton hos­pi­tal two days later with ex­cru­ci­at­ing stom­ach pain and se­vere de­hy­dra­tion.

He was then rushed to New­cas­tle hos­pi­tal for dial­y­sis be­cause his kid­neys were fail­ing. Both boys had de­vel­oped a se­ri­ous con­di­tion, hae­molytic uremic syn­drome, al­though Oliver did not re­quire dial­y­sis.

Both will have to un­dergo reg­u­lar check-ups well into adult­hood to keep an eye on their kid­neys.

Mother Vicci Maude said she and hus­band Steve were be­sides them­selves with worry as their boys “puffed up and turned yel­low”. She said: “When the con­sul­tant came in she said some chil­dren don’t sur­vive this – ob­vi­ously it was the hard­est thing I’ve ever had to hear. They still find it very stress­ful hav­ing to go back to hos­pi­tal and hav­ing blood tests. I just feel they (Sains­bury’s) need to take some re­spon­sibiity.”

Food safety at universities

Been there, done that, in 2003.

My partner likes to search Google academia.

For the 70 or so papers I produced, I get cited pretty much every day.

It’s a great testament to the team I put together, and how much we worked.

Sure geneticists have 200 papers, but if they scroll something they get their name added to the publication list.

When I went searching for a place to my PhD in 1992, I interviewed with about 40 departments, and was grateful that Mansel shepherded me into food science at the University of Guelph.

The most bizarre meeting I had was at the University of Waterloo in some sort of biological engineering department, and all the three profs cared about was what the publishing order would be on papers.

What assholes.

Background: Food and beverage sanitation hygiene is a prevention effort that focuses on activities or actions that are necessary to free food and drinks from hazards that can interfere with or damage health.

Objective: This study aimed to identify personal hygiene, sanitation and food safety knowledge of food workers at the canteen university.

Methods: This was a descriptive study with observational approach. Thirty-four canteens were recruited using total sampling. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics with percentage.

Results: Findings showed that 11 canteens (32.3%) did not meet the standard for canteen sanitation, 24 canteens (70.6%) did not meet lighting standard, 29 (85.3%) did not meet ventilation standard, 18 (52,9%) did not meet the standard of clean water, 31 (91.2%) did not meet wastewater disposal standard, 23 (67.6%) did not meet the hand washing facility standard, 25 (73.5%) did not meet standard of waste disposal conditions, 28 respondents (85.3%) had good personal hygiene, 6 respondents (14.6%) had poor personal hygiene and all food workers had good knowledge on food safety (100%).

Conclusion: Personal hygiene, sanitation and food safety at the university canteen must be carried out continuously. Our findings can be used as a basis for creating healthy university canteen.

Personal hygiene, sanitation and food safety knowledge of food workers at the university canteen in Indonesia

Public Health of Indonesia, Volume 4, Number 2, 2018

Abdul Rahman, Ramadhan Tosepu, Siti Rabbani Karimuna, Sartiah Yusran, Asnia Zainuddin, Junaid Junaid

Yup An evaluation of the effectiveness of a university’s food safety training for hospitality service workers

Lisa Mathiasen1, CASEY J. JACOB2 and Douglas A. Powell2

1Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada

2 Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA


For the 500,000 Canadians employed by the food service industry, effective food safety information delivery is necessary. This research considered the effectiveness of food safety information provided to food handlers at the University of Guelph in Ontario. In-depth interviews were conducted with four of the University’s food service managers and the manager of Health and Safety to determine existing methods of food safety training and the knowledge and attitudes of managers regarding food safety. Managers’ perceptions of barriers to effective implementation of safe food handling behaviors by employees were also identified, and tools to overcome the perceived barriers were offered. Non-managerial food service employees at the University were surveyed to assess food safety knowledge, attitudes and self-reported practices.

It was found that the food safety training program used at the University of Guelph in the spring of 2003 provided an unbalanced overview of issues important to the safety of food. The study also found that managers and employees were familiar with four particular foodborne pathogens and the familiarity may be attributable to media coverage of foodborne illness outbreaks involving those pathogens. Self-contradictory attitudes of managers were identified, as well as manager misperceptions of employee attitudes. Communication of food safety concepts at the University of Guelph and other foodservice institutions may be enhanced through comprehensive food safety training programs, use of media stories as training tools, awareness of contradictions between manager attitudes and actions, and interactive communication between managers and employees.

I’ve asked Terry to adopt his piece on GE foods in Canada, for my upcoming book, tentatively titled Food Safety Fairytales.

Schaffner has also agreed, I didn’t ask Margaret, but had a good chat with her today, so now i’m formally asking.

The book will be peer reviewed, so everyone will get credit. It is made to be sold at airports. I was gonna write it myself, but figured out I needed a little help from my friends, and that it’s OK to ask for help.

That’s Katija and Ben, back in the day, when we would go golfing at 6:30 a.m.

Raw is risky, even milk

Dec. 29 is always a bustling day, with my birthday, my 12-year-wedding-at-city hall in Manhattan, Kansas, but most importantly, my mother’s birthday.

I was born on her 21st birthday

How lucky were you (that’s sarcasm)

But my 77-year-old mother, sitting a few days ago with my four Canadian daughters (3 grandsons missing) wouldn’t be there if her father, Homer, hadn’t got rid of the cows.

Mom lived.

It was about 1943, and my mother developed undulate fever from drinking unpasteurized raw  milk.

Homer turned the farm into potatoes (as you do in Alliston, Ontario, that’s in Canada), and then became the asparagus baron of Canada.

A New York resident recently contracted the RB51 strain of the Brucella abortus bacteria after consuming raw milk.

You see a cute reptile, I see a Salmonella factory: Dead lizard spotted in food, over 100 kids fall ill

Reshma Ravishanker and Bellie Thomas of the Deccan Herald report a calm Sunday night turned into a nightmare for the children at a remand home in Siddapura as several of them fell ill after consuming food in which they had spotted a lizard. As many as 103 children of Siddapura Balamandira were rushed to the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health (IGICH) in the early hours of Monday. While some had started gagging and had diarrhoea, the others were nauseated after consuming rice and sambar for dinner.

Fourteen-year-old Mayank (name changed) picked up a spoon of rice and sambar which was served for dinner on Sunday night. Just when he thought he was chewing on a piece of onion, an unpleasant taste made him spit it out. He had bitten into a dead lizard.
At the same time, another 10-year-old found a lizard’s leg in his plate. Chaos set in soon. About six fell seriously ill, but the staffers brought the others also to the hospital as a measure of precaution at 2 am.

Connecticut steakhouse temporarily closes amidst food poisoning fears

Kevin Zimmerman of West Fair Online reports that Barbarie’s Black Angus Grill in Danbury has voluntarily closed while the city’s health department investigates a possible outbreak of a food-borne illness.

The investigation came in the wake of several diners’ complaints of food poisoning after dining at the 5 Eagle Road eatery, which were first reported on Dec. 26. The Health Department emphasized that no evidence of food poisoning has been found yet.

Barbarie’s was last inspected by the Danbury Health Department on Aug. 15 and passed with a score of a 91, according to city health department records.

“The Barbarie name has been a part of Danbury for over 60 years,” the restaurant, which could reopen as soon as today, said in a statement. “Our main priority is the safety and health of our patrons. We are currently working alongside the health department to get to the bottom of this. At this time, we do not have any further information.”

Heterosexual man: Development of a phage cocktail to control the top 7 shiga -toxin E. coli serogroups on fresh produce

Sorenne is afraid of bugs.

I told her the other day how Surgeoner made his students (and kids) stick their arms into boxes filled with mosquitoes – mossies as they’re called here – to see what dose of DEET worked, while the kids got bitten.

She became more terrified.

That’s OK, I have lots of parenting failures.

As the consumption of fresh produce increases worldwide, Shiga-toxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC) outbreaks linked to contaminated produce are becoming more frequent. Biocontrol of STEC using phages can be a safe and effective way to reduce STEC on fruits and vegetables.

Purpose: 1) Evaluate the effectiveness of 7 bacteriophages to reduce viability of E. coli serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, O145, and O157 on lettuce and sprouts at 4, 10 or 25 °C and storage for 1, 24, 48, and 72 h; 2) to assess STEC phage effectiveness to reduce STEC compared to a conventional chlorinated water wash (150ppm for fresh produce, 1000 ppm for seeds); and 3) to determine if phage-insensitive mutants arise after phage treatments. Methods: 1) Phages either individually or as a cocktail (~108 log PFU/ml) were sprayed to control 105 log CFU/ml STEC spot-inoculated onto fresh lettuce and sprouts that were stored for 1, 24, 48, and 72 h at 2, 10, and 25°C. Samples were collected and bacteria enumerated on McConkey (STEC total numbers) and Rainbow agar (STEC individual serogroup numbers) after each storage period. STEC isolates were confirmed using latex agglutination tests specific for STEC, PCR, and Immunomagnetic Separation (IMS) to recover any surviving STEC serogroups. 2) A scale-up experiment with STEC phage cocktail and chlorinated water applied to lettuce, sprouts, and mung bean seeds (MB) was undertaken to further assess the effectiveness of STEC phage cocktail to reduce STEC on larger quantities of produce and to compare its effectiveness to chemical disinfection. Lettuce, sprouts, and MB were treated with: i) chlorinated water wash (150 ppm for lettuce/sprouts, 1000 ppm for MB); ii) STEC phage cocktail; and iii) a combination of chlorinated water and STEC phage cocktail. Phage cocktails were delivered by immersion. After treatment, lettuce and sprouts were stored for 1, 24, 48, and 72 h at 2, 10, and 25 °C. MB were stored in the dark for 24 h at 25 °C. Seeds were germinated in sterilized water and the survival of STEC isolates was assessed by plating on Rainbow agar. 3) To determine if phage resistant mutants developed during STEC phage treatment, isolated colonies surviving after exposure to phage were randomly picked and tested for phage sensitivity using a microplate virulence assay. OD was measured after microplate incubation for 5 h at 37 °C. Results: 1) In spot-inoculation experiments, the highest STEC reduction (3.7 log10 CFU/g) caused by the phage cocktail was observed at 2 °C after 72 h of storage on lettuce; whereas on sprouts the highest reduction (2.45 log10 CFU/g) occurred at 25 °C after samples were stored for 1 h. All STEC O157, O26, and O103 were killed by spraying phages on both lettuce and sprouts. Overall STEC phages reduced STEC by > 2 log10 CFU/g on fresh produce. 2) During scale-up experiments, the combination of STEC phage cocktail and chlorinated water achieved the highest STEC reductions on produce. On MB, the highest reduction in STEC (1.69 log10 CFU/g) was observed after treatment with the STEC phage cocktail alone. On MB germinated sprouts, the reduction in total STEC was < 1 log10 CFU/g in all treatments. However, none of the treatments eliminated all 7 STEC serogroups. 3) Regarding phage resistance experiments, no STEC mutants were recovered. Conclusion: Results showed that the phage cocktail was able to reduce STEC O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, O145, and O157 serogroups alone, or in combination with chlorinated water on lettuce, sprouts, and MB seeds without the development of phage resistant mutants. However, for MB, the STEC phage cocktail was not effective at controlling STEC populations during germination.

Is it BS? Restaurant issues an apology after customer finds a rat in their soup

I never liked Vancouver.

People in Brisbane, they think Canada ends at Banff and Vancouver is some idyllic Canadiana, but to me it’s junkie haven.

Never liked it.

And what kind of popular eatery would serve a rat in a customer’s soup?
Or have some bullshit where a customer would fake a ploy?

That’s the Vancouver I’m familiar with.

The customer posted a video of the rodent in their soup on Instagram.

The Vancouver Sun reports the customer posted the video on Instagram Thursday after they discovered the rodent in their soup at Crab Park Chowdery. The restaurant is well known for serving soups and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowls. Its owner, Ashton Phillips, says he does not understand how the rodent got into the soup and that the restaurant follows strict health code regulations. He added that a female customer was the one who found the rat in her soup.

We are doing everything we can to figure out what happened. You have to lid soup. This is a food safety measure and we always take it. It’s just impossible that a rat got in there. We are baffled.”