What a difference a grade makes

When I was about 10 or 11, playing goal in AAA hockey, I used to vomit before games I knew I was starting, Gump Worsley style.

There was this one time in a 3rd year cell biology class about a century ago, that I totally choked on an exam.

Guess I should have guessed I had anxiety issues back then.

I went to the prof the next day and she let me retake the exam and I aced it.

That’s the thing I’ve learned about anxiety, which is like playing goalie in ice hockey: sometimes you’re good, sometimes not so much: ya let in a goal, gotta get over it and keep your mind in the game).

Amy and I have a lot of shared values, but I can see that my anxiety is causing issues.

She’s going to a conference in the U.S. for a couple of weeks with the kid, and I’m going to a new rehab place (if what you’re doing ain’t working, try something different) with my trusted psychiatrist, beginning last Monday. It gives Amy some peace.

For at least three weeks.

I may write a little.

I may write a lot.

I’ve learned not to make predictions.

Can governments use grades to induce businesses to improve their compliance with regulations? Does public disclosure of compliance with food safety regulations matter for restaurants? Ultimately, this depends on whether grades matter for the bottom line.

Based on 28 months of data on more than 15,000 restaurants in New York City, this article explores the impact of public restaurant grades on economic activity and public resources using rigorous panel data methods, including fixed‐effects models with controls for underlying food safety compliance.

Results show that A grades reduce the probability of restaurant closure and increase revenues while increasing sales taxes remitted and decreasing fines relative to B grades. Conversely, C grades increase the probability of restaurant closure and decrease revenues while decreasing sales taxes remitted relative to B grades. These findings suggest that policy makers can incorporate public information into regulations to more strongly incentivize compliance.

Wiley Online Library

Michah W. Rothbart, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Thad D. Calabrese, Zachary Papper, Todor Mijanovich, Rachel Meltzer, Diana Silver

https://doi.org/10.1111/puar.13091

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/puar.13091

In Denmark food companies caught selling fake organic products escape prosecution

Bullshit.

The systematic kind.

Dutch News reports government and organic food label inspectors identified 68 companies which have been selling or trading products labeled as organic which broke the rules, RTL Nieuws.

 In some cases the companies earned tens of thousands of euros selling non-organic coffee, meat, chocolate and vegetables as organic even though they did not meet the proper standards, RTL said. The broadcaster bases its claim on an analysis of reports made to the two watchdogs covering the sector between 2015 and 2018. In total, 58 cases involved ‘misleading’ the public and the remaining 10 were more serious fraud offences, RTL said.

‘These are not incidents,’ VU University criminologist Wim Huisman told the broadcaster. ‘This shows that there is a substantial problem and that it is happening systematically.’

“People who buy organic food pay a higher price for produce which is animal and environment friendly” (more bullshit) food scientist Gertjan Schaafsma said. ‘If there is fraud, these people are being ripped off.’

A spokesman for the NVWA told RTL that the agency does not have enough staff to tackle all the fraud involving organic food. Priority, therefore, is given to cases which have implications for food safety.

Hucksterism: Alleged treatment drink making people sick

Spectrum News reports “Miracle” or “Master” Mineral Solution claims it cures all sorts of ailments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers to stop drinking the products immediately.

These products or other sodium chlorite products are making people sick.  They have a lot of different names, including Miracle or Master Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, MMS, Chlorine Dioxide (CD) Protocol, and Water Purification Solution (WPS). When mixed according to package directions, they become a strong chemical that is used in bleach. 

According to the FDA, a number of distributors are making false claims saying these supplements when mixed with citric acid is an antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial liquid that is a cure for autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, flu, and other conditions. But the FDA isn’t aware of any research saying these products are safe or effective for treating any illness. Bottom line the FDA says: Sodium chlorite products are dangerous and you and your family should not use them.

Food safety is not simple

If food safety is simple, why do so many get sick?

Because it’s not simple: it’s complex, constant, requires commitment and information must be compelling.

Government, industry and academics continue to flog the food safety is simple line, despite outbreaks becoming increasingly complex and in the complete absence of any data that the message works.

We’ve shown that food safety stories can work. And I’m not embarrassed to wear the Leafs hoodie, because they are at least watchable now, unlike the last 52 years.

Every summer (sure it’s winter here in Australia, but that’s an equator thing, and I still wear shorts 365 days of the year), tucked away in the back pages of every newspaper, it’s the same thing: bland pronouncements about how food safety is easy if consumers follow some simple steps, while the front page usually has another story about another outbreak of foodborne illness.
What’s so simple about outbreaks in produce, pet food and peanut butter? Once the products were home, there was nothing individuals could have done to prevent the subsequent illnesses and deaths. Are consumers really expected to cook all their fresh tomatoes and leafy greens to 165F to kill salmonella? Fry up peanut butter? Bake the cat food?
 Yet there are a multitude of well-meaning groups who preach to the masses that food safety begins at home.
Whether it’s a U.S. Department of Agriculture official saying in 2005 that, “Foodborne illness is very serious but easily prevented if foods are handled, prepared and cooked properly,” or a Canadian retail association saying in 2006 that “E. coli can be prevented through simple in home food safety practices such as washing thoroughly fresh produce in clean water for several minutes before consuming,” the it’s-simple message is pervasive, condescending and wrong.
 Food safety is complex, constant and requires commitment.
Produce, peanut butter and pet food demonstrate that messages focused solely on consumers are woefully incomplete. The World Health Organization recognized this back in 2001 and included a fifth key to safer food: use safe water and raw materials, or, source food from safe sources (http://www.who.int/foodsafety/consumer/5keys/en/index.html).
Consumers must recognize — and demand — that the first line of defense be the farm. Every mouthful of fresh produce, processed food or pet food is a consumer’s act of faith. Every grower, packer, distributor, retailer and restaurant must stop blaming consumers and work instead on developing their own culture that values and promotes microbiologically safe food.

Frank talks about sprouts

Frank didn’t waste any time after leaving Wal-Mart for government.

Good on ya.

But guidance is not enforcement.

My group learned that the hard way 20 years ago.

And they still serve sprouts to immunocompromised people in Australian hospitals despite a ridiculous number of outbreaks.

“Over the past 22 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has investigated 50 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with contaminated sprouts. Together, these outbreaks resulted in more than an estimated 2,600 cases of illness. Last year, there were two reported outbreaks associated with sprouts, resulting in more than an estimated 100 illnesses. Studies indicate that contaminated seed is the likely source of most sprout-related outbreaks, as this commodity is inherently more susceptible to these issues because they are grown in warm and humid conditions that are favorable for bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas.

“The FDA is committed to taking swift action to respond to outbreaks related to sprouts and keep our food supply safe, but we also know that measures to prevent issues from happening in the first place are an important element of protecting consumers. By studying outbreaks related to sprouts over the years, we have been able to recommend changes in the industry to help lower the incidence of sprout-related outbreaks. Today’s new draft guidance is another critical step, like the Sprout Safety Alliance or sprout-specific requirements of the Produce Safety Rule, the agency is taking to prevent illnesses related to sprouts.”

FDA today released a proposed draft guidance, “Reducing Microbial Food Safety Hazards in the Production of Seed for Sprouting,” intended to make the sprout seed industry (seed growers, conditioners, packers, holders, suppliers, and distributors) aware of the agency’s serious concerns with the continuing outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of raw and lightly-cooked sprouts.

Incorporating aspects of the Codex Code of Hygienic Practice for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Annex II, Annex for Sprout Production; the International Sprout Growers Association-Institute for Food Safety and Health’s “U.S. Sprout Production Best Practices”; and Good Agricultural Practices, the FDA’s draft guidance issued today provides the agency’s recommendations to firms throughout the production chain of seed for sprouting. It states that if a grower, holder, conditioner, or distributor reasonably believes that its seeds are expected to be used for sprouting, we recommend that the grower, holder, conditioner, or distributor take steps that are reasonably necessary to prevent those seeds from becoming contaminated. We also recommend that firms throughout the supply chain – from seed production and distribution through sprouting – review their current operations related to seeds for sprouting.

During the 60-day comment period for this draft guidance, stakeholders will be able to provide comments on the draft provisions. For more information on this guidance, as well as instructions on how to submit your comments, please visit Draft Guidance for Industry: Reducing Microbial Food Safety Hazards in the Production of Seed for Sprouting.

Informational nudges shaping food safety perceptions

The study examines the influence, and potential confluence, of message framing and issue involvement on consumer food safety perceptions. We assess the impact of gain and loss-framed messages and issue involvement on perceptions of two food safety enhancing technologies, cattle vaccines against E. coli and direct-fed microbials.

A survey with six information treatments was developed. Empirical results show that both loss-framed and gain-framed messages were persuasive in influencing safety perceptions of the two technologies under low issue involvement. Under high issue involvement, however, only the loss-framed message influenced consumers’ safety perceptions. High issue involvement also heightened concerns about foodborne infections.

Shaping food safety perceptions: The Influence of informational nudges

18.jun.19

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics

Kofi Britwum

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214804318302830

‘My family could have died’ Gold Coast man realizes his half-eaten McDonald’s chicken burger is raw after stopping to look at the pink and slimy meat

I always prefer the data of a thermometer, but yeah, this looks raw.

Gold Coast, Australia man has been left outraged after biting into a McDonald’s chicken burger only to find it was still raw half way through eating it.

Joseph Kim took to Facebook on Saturday to share photos of the uncooked burger which he claims could’ve potentially harmed him and his whole family.

Mr Kim said his daughter and wife had delivered his meal to his job after picking up lunch for their family at McDonald’s in Upper Coomera.

At first glance, he noticed his Chicken Crispy Clubhouse burger hadn’t been assembled properly, but didn’t think anything of it.   

Mr Kim proceeded to ‘dive’ right into his meal, getting half way through his burger before making the stomach-churning discovery

In a statement to the Gold Coast Bulletin, a McDonald’s spokesperson said they were ‘disappointed’ over the incident, while adding: ‘We take food safety very seriously and have strict processes and systems in place.’

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:

Are they judging jams? Blue-ribbon panel on the prevention of foodborne Cyclospora outbreaks

When someone says a blue-ribbon panel summarized results on the prevention of foodborne Cyclospora outbreaks, I think blue-ribbons is talking about jams or Holsteins at county fairs.

She was sick for weeks.

On June 12, 1996, Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. Richard Schabas, issued a public health advisory on the presumed link between consumption of California strawberries and an outbreak of diarrheal illness among some 40 people in the Metro Toronto area. The announcement followed a similar statement from the Department of Health and Human Services in Houston, Texas, who were investigating a cluster of 18 cases of Cyclospora illness among oil executives.

She was sick for weeks.

It’s the fog of outbreaks..

Like the fog my daughter played in last Sat. at the Gold Coast.

On June 12, 1996, Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. Richard Schabas, issued a public health advisory on the presumed link between consumption of California strawberries and an outbreak of diarrheal illness among some 40 people in the Metro Toronto area. The announcement followed a similar statement from the Department of Health and Human Services in Houston, Texas, who were investigating a cluster of 18 cases of Cyclospora illness among oil executives.

Dr. Schabas advised consumers to wash California berries “very carefully” before eating them, and recommended that people with compromised immune systems avoid them entirely. He also stated that Ontario strawberries, which were just beginning to be harvested, were safe for consumption. Almost immediately, people in Ontario stopped buying strawberries. Two supermarket chains took California berries off their shelves, in response to pressure from consumers. The market collapsed so thoroughly that newspapers reported truck drivers headed for Toronto with loads of berries being directed, by telephone, to other markets.

However, by June 20, 1996, discrepancies began to appear in the link between California strawberries and illness caused by the parasite, Cyclospora, even though the number of reported illnesses continued to increase across North America. Texas health officials strengthened their assertion that California strawberries were the cause of the outbreak, while scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said there were not yet ready to identify a food vehicle for the outbreak. On June 27, 1996, the New York City Health Department became the first in North America to publicly state that raspberries were also suspected in the outbreak of Cyclospora.

By July 18, 1996, the CDC declared that raspberries from Guatemala — which had been sprayed with pesticides mixed with water that could have been contaminated with human sewage containing Cyclospora — were the likely source of the Cyclospora outbreak, which ultimately sickened about 1,000 people across North America. Guatemalan health authorities and producers have vigorously refuted the charges. The California Strawberry Commission estimates it lost $15 million to $20 million in reduced strawberry sales.

Cyclospora cayetanensis is a recently characterised coccidian parasite; the first known cases of infection in humans were diagnosed in 1977. Before 1996, only three outbreaks of Cyclospora infection had been reported in the United States. Cyclospora is normally associated with warm, Latin American countries with poor sanitation.

One reason for the large amount of uncertainty in the 1996 Cyclospora outbreak is the lack of effective testing procedures for this organism. To date, Cyclospora oocysts have not been found on any strawberries, raspberries or other fruit, either from North America or Guatemala. That does not mean that cyclospora was absent; it means the tests are unreliable and somewhat meaningless. FDA, CDC and others are developing standardized methods for such testing and are currently evaluating their sensitivity.

The initial, and subsequent, links between Cyclospora and strawberries or raspberries were therefore based on epidemiology, a statistical association between consumption of a particular food and the onset of disease. For example, the Toronto outbreak was first identified because some 35 guests attending a May 11, 1996 wedding reception developed the same severe, intestinal illness, seven to 10 days after the wedding, and subsequently tested positive for cyclospora. Based on interviews with those stricken, health authorities in Toronto and Texas concluded that California strawberries were the most likely source. However, attempts to remember exactly what one ate two weeks earlier is an extremely difficult task; and larger foods, like strawberries, are recalled more frequently than smaller foods, like raspberries. Ontario strawberries were never implicated in the outbreak.

Once epidemiology identifies a probable link, health officials have to decide whether it makes sense to warn the public. In retrospect, the decision seems straightforward, but there are several possibilities that must be weighed at the time. If the Ontario Ministry of Health decided to warn people that eating imported strawberries might be connected to Cyclospora infection, two outcomes were possible: if it turned out that strawberries are implicated, the ministry has made a smart decision, warning people against something that could hurt them; if strawberries were not implicated, then the ministry has made a bad decision with the result that strawberry growers and sellers will lose money and people will stop eating something that is good for them. If the ministry decides not to warn people, another two outcomes are possible: if strawberries were implicated, then the ministry has made a bad decision and people may get a parasitic infection they would have avoided had they been given the information (lawsuits usually follow); if strawberries were definitely not implicated then nothing happens, the industry does not suffer and the ministry does not get in trouble for not telling people. Research is currently being undertaken to develop more rigorous, scientifically-tested guidelines for informing the public of uncertain risks.

But in Sarnia (Ontario, Canada) they got a lot of sick people who attended the Big Sisters of Sarnia-Lambton Chef’s Challenge on May 12, 2010.

Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, who has a lot of titles and once called me at 5 a.m. to tell me I was an asshole (maybe not the exact words, but the sentiment) and chair of the Holstein Blue-Ribbon Panel on the Prevention of Foodborne Cyclospora Outbreaks writes that the 1996 cyclosporiasis outbreak in the United States and Canada associated with the late spring harvest of imported Guatemalan-produced raspberries was an early warning to public health officials and the produce industry that the international sourcing of produce means that infectious agents once thought of as only causing traveler’s diarrhea could now infect at home. The public health investigation of the 1996 outbreak couldn’t identify how, when, where, or why the berries became contaminated with Cyclospora cayetanensis.

The investigation results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997. I was asked to write an editorial to accompany the investigation report.2 In my editorial, I noted the unknowns surrounding the C. cayetanensis contamination. The 1997 spring harvest of Guatemalan raspberries was allowed to be imported into both the United States and Canada—and again, a large outbreak of cyclosporiasis occurred. As in the 1996 outbreak, no source for the contamination of berries was found. Later in 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibited the importation of future spring harvests of Guatemalan raspberries until a cause for the contamination could be demonstrated and corrective actions taken. While the FDA did not permit the 1998 importation of the raspberries into the United States, the berries continued to be available in Canada. Outbreaks linked to raspberries occurred in Ontario in May 1998. When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-led investigative team published its 1997 outbreak findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 3 I was again asked to write an accompanying editorial.4 As I had done in my previous editorial, I highlighted how little we know about the factors associated with the transmission Cyclospora on produce and how to prevent it.

Unfortunately, the state of the art for preventing foodborne, produce-associated cyclosporiasis had changed little since the 1996 outbreak despite the relatively frequent occurrence of such outbreaks.

Thirty-two years after that first Guatemalan raspberry-associated outbreak — and a year after produce-associated cyclosporiasis outbreaks that were linked to U.S.-grown produce — we have taken a major step forward in our understanding of these outbreaks and how to prevent them. After Fresh Express produce was identified in one of the 2018 outbreaks, I was asked by the company leadership to bring together the best minds’ around all aspects of produceassociated cyclosporiasis. The goal was to establish a Blue-Ribbon Panel to summarize state-of-the-art advancements regarding this public health challenge and to identify immediate steps that the produce industry and regulators can take to prevent future outbreaks. The panel was also formed to determine what immediate steps can be taken for any future outbreaks to expedite the scientific investigation to prevent further cases and inform public health officials. The Blue-Ribbon Panel comprises 11 individuals with expertise in the biology of Cyclospora; the epidemiology of cyclosporiasis, including outbreak investigation; laboratory methods for identifying C. cayetanensis in human and food samples and the environment; and produce production. In addition,16 expert consultants from academia, federal and state public health agencies (including expert observers from the FDA, CDC, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and California Department of Public Health), and industry, including producers and professional trade association science experts. The collaboration and comprehensiveness of this effort was remarkable. Many hundreds of hours of meetings and conference calls took place to determine our findings and establish our recommendations.

This document, “Interim Report: Blue-Ribbon Panel on the Prevention of Cyclospora Outbreaks in the Food Supply,” summarizes the state-of-the art practices for the prevention of C. cayetanensis contamination of produce and priorities for research that will inform us as we strive to further reduce infection risk. Also, we make recommendations on how to more quickly identify and more effectively respond to produce-associated outbreaks when they occur. We greatly appreciate all the organizations represented on the panel and the expert consultants. The report does not, however, represent the official policy or recommendations of any other private, academic, trade association or federal or state government agency. Fresh Express has committed to continuing the Blue-Ribbon Panel process for as long as it can provide critical and actionable information to prevent and control Cyclospora outbreaks in the food supply.

Table: Summary of U.S. foodborne outbreaks of cyclosporiasis, 2000–2017
Year(s)* Month(s)* Jurisdiction(s)* No. of cases† Food vehicle and source, if identified‡
2000 May Georgia 19 Raspberries and/or blackberries (suspected)
2000 June Pennsylvania 54 Raspberries
2001 January–February Florida 39
2001 January New York City 3
2001–02 December–January Vermont 22 Raspberries (likely)
2002 April–May Massachusetts 8
2002 June New York 14
2004 February Texas 38
2004 February Illinois 57 Basil (likely)
2004 May Tennessee 12
2004 May–June Pennsylvania 96 Snow peas from Guatemala ⁂
2005 March–May Florida 582 ¶ Basil from Peru
2005 May South Carolina 6
2005 April Massachusetts 58
2005 May Massachusetts 16
2005 June Connecticut 30 Basil (suspected)
2006 June Minnesota 14
2006 June New York 20
2006 July Georgia 3
2008 March Wisconsin 4 Sugar snap peas (likely) ⁂
2008 July California 45 ¶ Raspberries and/or blackberries (likely)
2009 June District of Columbia 34
2011 June Florida 12
2011 July Georgia 88**
2012 June–July Texas 16
2013†† June Iowa, Nebraska, and neighboring states 162 Bagged salad mix from Mexico
2013†† June–July Texas 38 Cilantro from Mexico
2013 July Wisconsin 8 Berry salad (suspected)
2014 June Michigan 14
2014‡‡ June–July Texas 26 Cilantro from Mexico
2014 July South Carolina 13
2015 May–July Georgia, Texas, and Wisconsin 90 Cilantro from Mexico
2016 June–July Texas 6¶¶ Carrots or green cabbage (suspected)
2017 May Florida 6 Berries (suspected)
2017 May–July Texas 38*** Scallions (i.e., green onions)
2017 June Michigan 29
2017 June Tennessee 4†††
2017 June Connecticut 3
2017 July Florida 3‡‡‡

Hey kids, who wants rocks in their wraps?

CBS  reports that frozen breakfast wraps are being recalled because there might be small rocks in the bacon.

Ruiz Food Products is recalling more than 246,000 pounds of frozen egg, potato, bacon and cheese wraps because the bacon may be contaminated with small rocks, according to the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The recall affects the following products:

8-Pack family size film packages containing “EL MONTEREY EGG, POTATO, BACON & CHEESE SAUCE BREAKFAST WRAPS” with “Best if Used By” dates of 01/17/2020 and 01/18/2020 and lot codes 19017 and 19018.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 17523A” on the back of the package.

Ruiz Foods received three consumer complaints about foreign material in the wraps. The company also received a report of a potential injury from eating the product.

FYI, those wraps sound disgusting, without the rocks.