FDA Frank: Digital prompts key to changing food safety behavior

Tom Karst of The Packer writes that teasing the details of a new era of smarter food safety, Food and Drug Administration deputy commissioner for food policy and response Frank Yiannas spoke Sept. 18 at the United Fresh Washington Conference.

Before coming to FDA last December, Yiannas was vice president of food safety at Walmart from 2008 to 2018.

And Disney in Orlando before that.

Yiannas said the FDA’s work on produce safety has been front and central to his work since he joined the agency.

He praised the industry for its contribution to food safety and said the public-private partnership on food safety efforts must strengthen even more in what he called a new era of smarter food safety that is set to begin in 2020.

“I was asked by the Commissioner to continue to lead our efforts on modernization,” Yiannas said. “We’ve come a long way since 2011, but there’s still work to be done.”

Tech-enabled traceability and tech-enabled outbreak response will be one area of focus for the new era of smarter food safety, Yiannas said.

While produce has an impressive safety record overall, he said there are weak points in the supply chain.

“What I have learned over the years, and especially from my vantage point with the world’s largest company, is that I do believe the food system’s Achilles heel is traceability and transparency,” he said.

He noted that in both the spinach-related foodborne illness outbreak in 2006 and the romaine-related outbreak in 2018, traceability was an issue.

“It seems eerily similar almost a decade later,” he said. “And we still are having to do these overly broad consumer advisories.”

Distributed ledger or blockchain technology can be part of the solution, he said, but that isn’t the focus.

“It is not about the technology— it is about solving some of our many public health challenges,” he said.

Helping efforts to create a culture of food safety among growers, food marketers, and consumers is another element of the new era plan, he said.

“What I’ve learned over the years, is that it’s impossible to make progress without changing and influencing behavior,” he said, noting the importance of “digital prompts” to encourage right behavior.

I agree.

But we have training and audits: Dirty crates and vans used to deliver food by Asda

Assif Majid of BBC News writes that Watchdog’s reporter was given no training on keeping delivery crates and vans clean.

The reporter witnessed spillages, but was told by senior drivers that there was no need to clear it up during the delivery round.

Asda says it has a “clean as you go” policy and staff get full training.

Both Asda employees and customers have contacted the consumer programme with allegations about the cleanliness of the store’s delivery crates.

One driver told the programme: “There’s no cleaning process in place. The crates are used over and over again, even after spillages. Most, if not all, are dirty, from food, and things like smashed eggs.”

Another driver told the programme they are so concerned about poor hygiene, they are worried about their own family eating food from the crates.

Asda said the findings were “isolated examples and the opinion of individual colleagues”.

It added: “The findings do not reflect the extensive policies and training they have in place, which are supported by independent third party audits.”

The supermarket also says Watchdog’s researcher did not receive the full role-specific training because he didn’t do enough shifts.

Chartered environmental health practitioner Barrie Trevena said: “Even if the food you’re putting in is wrapped, the packages then become contaminated and then when the customer handles the cans and the packages, then that’s going to contaminate their worktop and fridge.”

The company said it delivered almost half a million orders each week, using their totes more than 2.5 million times, and it was inaccurate and misleading to suggest that it did not have policies or training in place at a business level.

Inconceivable.

Surveys still suck: 8 in 10 people never shop for groceries online

According to Produce Retailer, online grocery shopping remains an option that most people do not use, according to a new poll.

Gallup found that 81% of U.S. consumers never order groceries online, while 11% do so at least once a month, according to a news release.

That’s nice.

I remember a line from a Kurt Vonnegut novel about how increasing technology would be silly because he wouldn’t be able to go to the bank and chat with his favorite teller.

I’m back home now after almost 3 weeks away, and it’s a shock.

Sure there’s booze and genetics, but there’s other stuff going on in my brain that we mere mortals just can’t diagnose at this time.

My brain will go to the Sports Bank in Sydney when I die.

But that may not be for a long time.

And I can’t imagine life without going to my Commons and laboratory – the supermarket – at least every other day.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by people and professionals who love and care for me. It’s quite humbling, but as Chapman has said, I’ve done my time and don’t owe anyone anything.

Ben, that’s not how it works.

I decided to change things up while my partner and daughter went to the U.S. for two weeks and I tried out a new mental health facility.

After almost three weeks I am revitalized, passionate, and engaged.

I’m writing, I’m exercising, I’m eating well, I’m heathy. These are the cornerstones of on-going functioning.

And I’m finally starting – if not to love myself – to better understand who I am, what’s actually important, and the awful, awful damage that alcohol and the pursuit of being important has done to myself and those around me.

And all those pucks to the head, the PTSD from the car crash, the four years of playing linebacker in football, and the numerous concussions from just falling down.

If it gets to on-line grocery shopping, cart me away.

Surveys still suck: Observing food safety behaviours is best, but this paper just confuses things

Every year, studies about food handlers’ food safety knowledge, attitudes, and practices are published. Some results of these papers have been rather controversial, especially those related to food safety practices.

The two most common methods for evaluating food safety practices – self-assessment and observation – are generally treated as interchangeable, but they can have different meanings. The objective of this study was, therefore, to differentiate between the observed and self-reported food safety practices of food handlers, verifying the effect of different variables in these food safety indicators through structural equation modeling, and examining the relationship between cognitive factors and these practices.

A questionnaire with 37 questions was given to 183 food handlers to evaluate their food safety knowledge, attitudes, self-reported practices, and risk perceptions. For the observed assessment method of evaluating the food handlers’ practices (observed practices), a checklist was developed, and food handlers were observed during one workday.

Two models were developed based on the results of these two assessment methods. In the first model a significant positive effect of knowledge and a negative effect of risk perception on self-reported practices were observed. Food handlers with high risk-perception about their practices reported less adequate practices. Positive food safety attitudes acted as a moderator dampening the positive effect between knowledge and self-reported practices. In the second model a significant positive effect of knowledge on observed practices. Attitudes strengthened the positive effect between knowledge and observed practices.

A direct effect of attitude on observed practices was not observed. In conclusion, self-reported practices and observed practices are different and should be used and discussed properly.

The differences between observed and self-reported food safety practices: A study with food handlers using structural equation modeling 23 August 2019

Food Research International

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https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2019.108637

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096399691930523X

Perfect poo and good health connect in teaching tool for children

A central Queensland professor is taking the taboo out of poo to teach children about the link between eating well and making healthy poo.

The ‘Poop it’ kit uses illustrated stories and rewards to educate four to eight-year-olds about what a healthy poo looks like.

It was developed by Professor Kerry Reid-Searl from CQUniversity, who partnered with paediatric nurses, academics, and undergraduate students.

The inspiration behind the project comes from the professor’s desire to take the embarrassment out of talking about what we flush down the toilet.

“Many people are ashamed or reluctant to talk about poo, yet there is such an important link between good health and poo,” she said.

“As a nurse I have encountered many children with bowel problems, and my understanding from the anecdotal responses from parents of these children is that the psychosocial impact can be significant.

“So this project is very much about giving children an awareness of a topic that probably fascinates them, but more importantly provides them with information that can influence their everyday being.”

What does a healthy poo look like?

It’s already a topic that gets kids giggling. But to make learning about what goes into making good and bad poo fun, the professor and her team created characters that illustrate the meaning behind the shape of the poo we make.

“There are seven different types of poos, from rabbit droppings right through to gravy-type poos, but the best healthy poo is a sausage-shaped poo where it’s like a sausage — smooth and brown.”

Personally, my family has no taboos when talking about poo or farts or burps – expected from someone who’s idea of community service is writing on barfblog.com – at least until Sorenne reaches puberty, which is soon, and then I’ll just be an embarrassment until she needs money, about 10 years later. If the 4 Canadian daughters are anything to go by (right, with my father, Jan. 2019 in Brantford) it’s a set pattern.

And it may be arriving sooner than expected. I just facetimed daughter S in Arizona where she is staying with her maternal grandmother for the night, and she blew me off after a couple of minutes to go chat with a friend in Brisbane.

Technology. Kids. Life.

Food Safety Talk 185: Hot Diapers

Don and Ben are joined by friend, listener and co-host of Do By Friday, Max Temkin. The show starts when Don surprises Ben with our special guest. Max brings the guys a bunch of great food safety questions about tomato paste and the nuances of expiration dates, sous vide, jerky and grinding your own meat. They talk about frozen berries, what triggers recalls and what they look for in a company or industry that is doing good food safety things. The episode ends on a story on how Cards Against Humanity became a food processor (sort of).

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Dumbing down: Mark Bittman is starting a food magazine at Medium

Mark Bittman is a food safety idiot.

This is nothing new, he’s been publishing his microbiological rubbish about the glories of eating raw hamburger, not using a thermometer and other shit for decades and that someone would give him a new gig is baffling.

He’ll now head up a new online magazine, Salty.

Nice title. My kidneys can’t handle that.

We’re doing practical stories that will help people see food in a way they haven’t seen it before,” said Bittman.

If I was going to reinvent myself, this would be the least creative way to go.

Salty, which is making its debut on Tuesday, will comprise recipes, stories related to food and more.

Repeat violations is a pretty good indicator of a food safety culture issue

My kids are terrible at remembering things. Everyday one of them forgets at least one of the following: homework; water bottle; to change his socks; to flush; brush their teeth.

There are many more.

As a parent it’s my job to keep reminding them – and it gets frustrating when the same things are done over and over.

But they are 8 and 10. And not running a food business. Their repeated mistakes don’t leave to foodborne illness risks for thousands of customers.

I read the FDA warning letters with fascination every time an email alert comes out. Today’s  highlight for me was that a food business, Reuben’s, cant seem to get stuff straight after repeated reminders from FDA inspectors. In 2005, 2008, 2009, 2016 and again last fall they had issues with facilities, pests and behaviors.

The investigators found the same stuff. That’s frustrating – and kinda shows that the business leadership doesn’t get it, or care.

When someone asks me about inspection results at a restaurant or a processor I tell them the limitations of the snapshot, what really matters is how has the business dealt with issues over time. Repeated issues without fixing shows a negative food safety culture in my books.

Here are some other highlights:

Several tiles were missing on the production floor. Water was pooling on the floor where tiles were missing/broken.

Chiles fell onto the dirty floor and were picked up by and placed into the rinse/cooling tank with other roasted chiles

Uncovered chile relleno products were observed in the walk-in freezer. The ceiling directly above the uncovered products displayed an accumulation of condensation drops and peeling paint.

We observed an employee push an uncovered rack of green chile from the walk-in refrigerator into the production area. The sides and top layer of green chile came in direct contact with an curtain which appeared to be soiled with red chile debris and grime.

O. Pete Snyder, food safety rock star

My very first thermometer came as a gift from Pete.

I was a newbie graduate student, full of hubris, trying my best to figure out how to communicate food safety to food handlers in restaurants. I started making these food safety infosheets (which have morphed into other things) and Pete was a concerned reader of FSnet (which morphed into barfblog).

After posting something that I likely put together in haste, he emailed me to share exactly how and why I got something wrong. He was gruff and to the point. It made me panic. I didn’t want to look stupid, and to this guy, who I didn’t know, I looked pretty stupid.

A couple of weeks later I posted something else, and he emailed me again; same thing, I was sloppy and Pete called me on it.

The third time, he emailed he asked for our lab phone number. He called and said that he could explain C. perfringens growth so much better with a conversation. We talked for 20 min. No small talk, just microbiology and food safety.

During that call I finally got it. He wasn’t being picky, or calling me out because of his ego. He was giving me feedback because he cared. And he cared that I got things right. In that conversation we talked about good thermometers and bad thermometers, I remember it really vividly.

A couple of days later my very own Comark PDT 300 showed up unannounced in the mail.

Since then, everything I write and everything I create goes through the Pete test in my mind – like, ‘What would Pete say about this? Did I get it right?’ I’ve passed the Pete test on to my graduate students as well.

Over the past decade, Pete and I had become friends, seeing each other at IAFP or the Dubai Food Safety Conference (at both places he was a star). He was so generous with his comments and accolades and asked lots of questions about my kids.

He was always the first person to wish me a happy birthday on Facebook too.

Pete was a giant. I was saddened to hear that he passed away last week. One of the last times I saw him I told him about the Pete test. He just chuckled and just wanted to talk microbiology. That’s the kind of guy he was.

I used my Comark PDT 300 on our dinner tonight and thought about Pete.

Oscar ‘Peter’ Snyder, Jr.

Snyder, Oscar Jr. ‘Peter’ Age 89 of Shoreview, passed away March 1, 2019 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Born in Washington, DC on February 23, 1930, Pete grew up primarily on the east coast and especially enjoyed vacationing at the family lake cottage in Beaver Lake, NJ. He was a career Army officer, with overseas assignments in Germany, Korea and Vietnam. He retired as a Lt. Col. after 22 years of service. He was a Bronze Star and Legion of Merit recipient. In 1974, he became an Associate Professor of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, and then in 1982 he founded the Hospitality Institute of Technology & Management (HITM), a food safety training, education & consulting firm. He was a passionate, lifetime proponent of safe food handling and the HACCP method of food preparation for organizations around the world. He especially enjoyed photography, traveling throughout Europe, and the music of Dave Brubeck. Pete also spent many years volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America and as an usher & lay reader at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church. He is preceded in death by his parents, Oscar & Louise, and sister Jane. Survived by wife of 59 years, Ella and sons, Tom (Anne), Scott (Lesley), Chris (Dawnette); grandchildren: Griffin (Andrea), Ryan, Andrew, Camille, Jasmine and great-granddaughter, Faith. Memorial service 11:00 am, Saturday, March 9, 2019, at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church with visitation one hour prior. Memorials in lieu of flowers to St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, 2300 N. Hamline Ave, Roseville, MN 55113; Feeding Tomorrow – IFT Foundation, 525 W. Van Buren, Suite 1000, Chicago, IL 60607; or IAFP Foundation, 6200 Aurora Ave, Suite 200W, Des Moines, IA 50322.