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.

Food Safety Talk 176: Bug Book

The show opens with a discussion about privacy, whether you should cover the microphone on your computer, or how you can scare your kids using Alexa. The guys talked briefly about what they’re watching, Ben’s trip to Athens Georgia, and celebrity feet. From there the show moves into listener feedback talking about the safety of eating Canadian seaweed. Listener feedback makes a interesting segue into failure, and the things we can learn from it. The show returns to listener feedback with a discussion about citrus safety and infused water. For some reason Don wants to talk about smoke detectors, before returning again to listener feedback and “Contamination Corner”, and ways to learn about stuff you don’t know about (like filibusters). Ben and Don talk about an interview that Don did for Cooking Light, before Don wants to talk about fixing his broken software. Ben ends the show with a long discussion regarding safe cooking directions for frozen vegetables, and why no one can agree.

This episode is available at foodsafetytalk.com or on iTunes.

 

Show notes so you can follow along at home are below:

Food safety culture and Fonzie

I thought food safety culture was sorta cool when I came up with it, independently, in 2006 at IAFP, with Amy the French professor’s inspiration, but soon realized it was just another catch-phrase.

Sorry Frank and Chris.

Culture may mean not repeating the past.

So I chuckled with the onset of age and dementia when Issue 8 of the BRC Food Safety Global Standard, which came into force 1st February 2019, introduced a new clause requiring all companies to:

“Define and maintain a clear plan for the development and continuing improvement of a food safety and quality culture.” This plan must include defined activities for all areas impacting product safety with an action plan on how this is undertaken and measured, and a timeline for implementation. This plan also needs to be reviewed to ensure effectiveness.

A food safety culture is the “shared values, beliefs and norms that affect the mindset and behaviour towards food safety in, across and throughout an organisation.”

“Culture is an instrumental factor in nurturing an organisation’s food safety compliance and is regulated by senior management, most of whom recognise its importance, but often overestimate the level of employee commitment and underestimate the resources needed to maintain it. In reality it cannot be a one-off initiative but requires ongoing commitment to foster a sustained proactive food safety culture.”

Sure, the top-types need to set the tone, but culture is when everyone on the front-line knows microbial food safety.

I always advocated a bottom up kinda approach: the whole concept of food safety culture is empowering the weak links in the food safety system, from farm to fork. Top down will fail, besides, food safety culture jumped the shark years ago.

NSF have developed the food safety culture model which is a web-based application that allows you to undertake a food safety culture survey across your business. It provides comprehensive information to measure your food safety cultural maturity risk level on a risk-rated scale from 1-5.
Uh, OK.

Food safety types need to be more creative with the message and the medium.

How Henry Heinz used ketchup to improve food safety

Deborah Blum, one of my favorite writers, writes in National Geographic that ketchup—that cheerful red sauce sold in handy glass bottles—first came on the American market in the 19th century. But its ingredients were shockingly different than they are today.

Food advocates complained that the sauce was frequently made from tomato scraps thickened with ground pumpkin rinds, apple pomace (the skin, pulp, seeds, and stems left after the fruit was pressed for juice), or cornstarch, and dyed a deceptive red. One French cookbook author described the ketchup sold in markets as “filthy, decomposed and putrid.”

By the late 19th century, it would become less putrid, as manufacturers added chemical preservatives to slow decomposition in the bottle. But the real change—the invention of modern ketchup—occurred in the 20th century, and it’s a story of both politics and personality. It begins with an unlikely alliance between one of the country’s richest food manufacturers, Henry J. Heinz, and an underpaid federal chemist. The two men bonded over a mutual belief that unsafe and untrustworthy food was a growing national problem.

Harvey Washington Wiley’s position on the matter surprised no one. As chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chemistry bureau, Wiley had been pushing for food safety standards since the 1880s. At that time, his tiny department was the only federal division responsible for the country’s food quality. His chemists had exposed both widespread fraud—from gypsum in flour to brick dust in cinnamon—and a dismayingly reckless use of untested preservatives, ranging from formaldehyde to borax.

Heinz’s stance was a shock, especially to his fellow industrialists. He refused to fall in line with other US corporations, which were mostly moving to block any effort to establish food and drink standards. And to understand that, we need to take a look at the man himself as well as the successful businessman.

He was born in 1844 in Pittsburgh, the son of German immigrant parents. His parents, John and Anna Margaretha, were devout Lutherans; their children—Henry was the oldest of eight—were educated at a Lutheran school. Their mother insisted they live by Christian principles: “Do all the good you can. Do not live for yourself,” was one of her favourite sayings. It was also expected that the children would work hard and make a good living. That went without saying.

As a child Henry sold extra vegetables from the family’s kitchen garden to neighbours; by age ten he had his own garden and carried produce by wagon to local grocers. By the time he was a teen, he was delivering produce to the grocers by horse cart and also selling prepared horseradish in small glass jars. Many commercial varieties were sold then in coloured glass—sometimes for decorative purposes, sometimes because it obscured the contents. Young Heinz deliberately used clear glass so that customers could see the horseradish inside. By 1888, at age 44, he had his own food manufacturing business, the H.J. Heinz Company, and from there he never looked back.

Heinz’s company made some 60 products in 1896—and that would rise to 200 by the turn of the century. The company still offered horseradish but also pickles, ketchup, vinegars, chilli sauces, tomato sauce, mincemeat, fruit butters, baked beans, preserved cherries, mustard dressings, currant jelly, pineapple preserves, an assortment of mustards, canned pastas. Heinz was a master promoter—the company used everything from lighted billboards to painted wagons to displays at World Fairs to advertise its products.

But Heinz also believed that for promotion to succeed, the product itself had to be good, the manufacturer trustworthy. He allowed public tours of his Pittsburgh factory so that people could admire its cleanliness and well-treated workers. He built greenhouses to experiment with the best varieties of fruits and vegetables. He continued to use clear glass, rather than coloured, for his products. For his ketchup, he created one with an eight-sided base so customers could study the sauce from many angles.

And it was ketchup itself that would inspire him to go even further. …

In June 1906 the first two pieces of major consumer protection legislation in the United States—the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act—became law, laying the foundation for federal safety regulations.

And H.J. Heinz’s new, preservative-free ketchup was ready to go. As the company’s advertising campaign proclaimed, it was “recognised as the standard by Government pure food authorities.” It was also the new model for American ketchup—a thick mixture of politics, personality, a 20th-century acceptance that food safety matters, and of course, tomatoes.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Deborah Blum is director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT. Her books include The Monkey Wars and her latest, The Poison Squad.

Spot the mistake: How things went wrong for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver

I never was a disciple of the Jamie Oliver ministry, or any other celebrity chef that knows shit about food safety (which is most of them, see the abstract from our 2004 paper, below).

Alexis Carey of The Courier Mail writes that when Jamie Oliver first landed on our TV screens back in 1999, he soon won over millions of fans thanks to his delicious recipes and cheeky, boyish charm.

Countless television appearances and cooking programs quickly followed his original series, The Naked Chef, along with cookbooks, advertising deals, charity campaigns and even his own chain of restaurants.

But today, a string of controversies coupled with multimillion-dollar losses has meant the shine has well and truly started to come off the 43-year-old Brit.

So how did it all go so wrong for one of the world’s best-loved celebrity chefs?

According to Aussie public relations expert Catriona Pollard, Oliver’s downfall was caused by a series of classic PR blunders including overexposure, a disconnect between his actions and his personal brand and a failure to address a number of controversies head-on.

Over the years, the father-of-five built a restaurant empire under the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, starting with the launch of Jamie’s Italian in 2008, followed by the Recipease cooking school and deli chain in 2009 and barbecue chain Barbecoa in 2011.

But in September 2017, Oliver was forced to inject $22.7 million of his own cash into Jamie’s Italian to save it from collapsing.

All Recipease outlets were closed by late 2015 and last February Barbecoa Ltd went into administration.

Ms Pollard said one possible reason behind those failures was the mismatch between Oliver’s “average Joe” identity and the up-market feel of his eateries.

The collapse of Oliver’s restaurants have affected his own personal brand.

“You can buy one of his books for $20, or watch his TV show for free. But a lot of his restaurants sold expensive meals … which didn’t really stack up for people,” she told news.com.au.

She said there was also a divide between Oliver’s relatable image and his staggering fortune, estimated to be around $441 million.

“His personal brand is very much the ‘everyday lad’, but that doesn’t convert to a businessman who is so wealthy. There’s a disconnect between his everyday persona and his wealth,” she said.

Ms Pollard said it had also been a mistake to link his name so closely to his restaurants, as their failure was now inextricably linked to his personal reputation.

Last year Oliver was accused of hypocrisy after signing a lucrative, $9.1 million deal with oil giant Shell to revamp its service station food offering.

But as Oliver had long been a supporter of climate change action, many considered a partnership with an oil company to be a serious betrayal.

Ms Pollard said Oliver’s decision to ignore the growing furore added another blow to his reputation.

Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.

Time waits for no one: Dr. Clorox — Ralph Richardson — to retire

I can’t make this stuff up.

In 2005, I had a stalker girlfriend between wives, so me and Chapman went on a road trip starting in BC, where Chapman was convinced he would be eaten by bears at some jello-fest.

We went to Seattle and looked at Marler’s fancy offices, and then to Manhattan, Kansas, home of Kansas State University, where one of my recent PhD graduates had settled.

I’m proud that the few PhD students I’ve gotten through, and the dozens of MSc students, are innovators and create great work.

But back to the tale.

The day after we arrived, Chapman and I get invited to go speak with a Canadian studies group (paid for by Canadians that fund Americans to study Canadians) and Hubbell is there because she got some money to study Quebec.

I was tired, despondent, but Ben and another grad student were saying, look at her butt.

I was more interested in her brain.

I was an independent, she was (somewhat) married, but we worked through that.

In one week, I met a girl who I’ve been with for 13 years and moved to Kansas because the president offered me a job after having lunch.

The guy left with the mess of details was Dean of the Veterinary College at Kansas State, Ralph Richardson (the details of the job, not the new girl).

The other day, Dr. Ralph C. Richardson announced his plans to retire as Dean and CEO of Kansas State University’s Olathe campus before July 1. He has served there since August 2015.

“I certainly have mixed emotions about retiring, as I’ve never enjoyed my work more and am proud of what has been achieved at the Olathe campus in the last several years,” Dr. Richardson said.

 

“President Myers and Provost Taber are leading K-State forward in unprecedented ways. I love being part of their team and working with faculty and staff, my fellow deans and other university administrators. However, it is imperative to focus on succession planning, especially with the new budget model and strategic enrollment management initiatives coming on board. I want the new leader of the Olathe campus to be well prepared to embrace the opportunities that are coming to K-State through engagement with Greater Kansas City.”

Under Dr. Richardson’s leadership, K-State used the Olathe campus to expand its outreach and services to Greater Kansas City to elevate the university’s profile in academics, research and service in the region and generate new opportunities for students and faculty.

Dr. Richardson helped establish and oversee numerous partnerships that are being used to develop a recruitment and support infrastructure for Kansas City-based undergraduate students to attend K-State and working professionals to enroll at the university’s Olathe campus.

Before his appointment overseeing the Olathe campus, Dr. Richardson served as dean of the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine for 17 years. Under his guidance, the college experienced increased student enrollment; raised more than $72 million in private support for scholarships and seven permanently endowed professorships; introduced the Veterinary Training Program for Rural Kansas, which offers a debt repayment incentive for graduates to work in rural practices in Kansas; increased faculty and staff numbers, with many receiving national and international attention for their teaching, research and service efforts; aligned research and educational programs to meet the needs of the federal government’s National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, which is being built just north of the college; and much more.

Dr. Richardson joined Kansas State University in 1998, coming from Purdue University where he was a professor and head of the veterinary clinical sciences department and a 22-year faculty member of the university. At Purdue, he helped establish an ongoing comparative oncology program, utilizing naturally occurring cancer in pet animals as models for people. Before starting his academic career, Richardson served in the Army Veterinary Corps and worked as a private practice veterinarian in Miami.

Back to the story.

Ralph knew me because when he was at Purdue, he signed up to AnimalNet, one of those listserves that is now obsolete but was radical at the time.

When I met him in person, he was like an old friend, because if you get an e-mail from someone every day, they are like old friends.

After another week I went back to Canada, spoke with my four daughters, and decided, I should be in Kansas. Curt Kastner (the only uninvited dude who showed up at our city hall wedding, because we didn’t invite anyone except the witnesses, much thanks Pete and Angelique) called and said, can I arrange a conference call with Ralph?

I said, why don’t I show up in person?

Next day I was on a flight. I did a TV interview at the Toronto airport as I was departing, about a raw sprouts outbreak that had sickened at least 400 in Ontario (that’s a province in Canada), and within 24 hours, I was in Ralph’s living room, because he had broken his ankle or something while hunting, and was propped up on the couch.

I told him my vision of food safety risk analysis and research and outreach, and he told me he’d see what he could do.

I went and hung out with the girl.

In December, I decided to take the girl to Canada to see if my friends approved, because my solo judgement in such areas had proven awful.

They approved.

On my birthday, Dec. 29, 2005, me and the girl were in a grocery store in Guelph, and Ralph called. He said, we’d like to make you a job offer, how’s $100,000 U.S., plus lab start-up fees?

I was ecstatic.

Within months, me and the girl had bought our own house in Manhattan, Kansas, I was brimming with ideas, the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in spinach started in Sept. 2006 and I was splashed all over American media as someone who may know something about this stuff. Kansas State benefited, and the president would call me weekly and say, great job.

However, back in the veterinary college, the other faculty didn’t really know what to make of me: except Dean Ralph.

I got made a full professor in 2010, but the increasing bureaucracy was not to my liking.

I loved the other aspects of my job, and I loved my wife and family.

So when Dr. Amy Hubbell, formerly of Kansas State University, was offered a faculty appointment at the University of Queensland, I wasn’t gonna be the guy who said no.

It would have been real easy to stay in Kansas, but that wasn’t our style.

So Amy and Sorenne went off to Australia, and I eventually caught up.

I worked by distance at Kansas State.

But other profs started nitpicking.

Our first guest on the first day we moved into the first place we owned rather than rented in 2012 was Dr. Clorox (that’s what they called him in Korea).

Kansas State knew we were in Brisbane, I was still an employee of K-State, but no one bothered to reach out as K-State tried to set up a partnership with the University of Queensland.

I told Ralph that evening, no hard feelings if you have to get rid of me, universities can be small sandboxes with too many and too big egos.

I had presented options for on-line course in food safety policy, a massive open on-line course (MOOC) in food safety, take a 20 per cent pay cut and was repeatedly told my performance as a faculty member was above average – but I got fired for not being there to hold my colleagues hand during tea.

The bosses at Kansas State University determined I had to be on campus, I said no, so I was dumped.

Full professors can get dumped for bad attendance.

I love my wife and family. And that’s where my allegiance lies.

It’s been harder than I thought it would be, I’ve unfortunately expressed my rage to my wife at silly times in silly ways, my brain is degenerating for a variety of reasons, but I’m optimistic, and in addition to the Kastners, Dr. Clorox has been a big fan and a good friend.

Ralph, thanks for all you’ve done for Amy and I, enjoy that retirement, and try not to drive Bev crazy hanging around the house.