In 1999, I gave a talk to hundreds of farm leaders in Ottawa and told them that DNA fingerprinting – via PulseNet – would revolutionize foodborne illness outbreak investigations and that farmers better be prepared (the pic is from a 2003 awards ceremony where I was acknowledged for my outreach and extension efforts, the hair was fabulous).
Twenty years later and whole genome sequencing is even further piecing together disparate outbreaks.
Joanie Stiers of Farm Flavor writes that Michigan’s laboratory toolbox now includes whole-genome sequencing, allowing public health officials to stop the spread of foodborne illness faster than ever.
“With food now being distributed worldwide, illness can be spread from anywhere in the world,” says Ted Gatesy, laboratory manager of the microbiology section at Geagley Lab, which houses the whole-genome sequencing. “Using whole-genome sequencing, an illness can be tracked, for the most part, to the point in the food chain where it originated.
Anyone who writes in all caps is compensating for something, just like I’ve always told my daughters, anyone who says trust me is immediately untrustworthy.
One day when Rylee and Rusty were walking home after school, Rusty pulled an apple out of his bag and started to take a bite. Rylee, grabbing his arm asked, “Hey! Did you wash that?” “I dunno. My mom probably did,” Rusty replied completely puzzled. “HOW old are you?” Rylee asked. “You know food safety is everybody’s responsibility,” she exclaimed with exasperation. “Oh Rylee!” Rusty replied with a shrug of his shoulders, “Why are you making such a big deal out of this?” With her hands on her hips Rylee scowled at him and raised her voice, “WHY am I making a BIG DEAL?!” “Yeah, why?” he asked, calm as ever. “You have heard of E. coli O157:H7, right?” For a minute there Rylee sounded like Ms. Coffman, but then she said, “I sit next to you in science class every day Rustin Archibald Brown. Have you not been listening?” Rusty replied with an uncertain, “No?” “Well,” Rylee said, “E. coli is a kind of bacteria that can make you really sick. So sick, in fact… that if you had to choose between cleaning your room or being sick from E. coli, you’d pick cleaning your room any day of the week!” “That’s pretty sick,” said Rusty, “I hate cleaning my room.” Rylee continued, “Your stomach feels like an elephant is standing on it, you’re puking your guts out, and… well, let’s just say ya make a big mess in the bathroom.” “What did she just say?” he thought to himself. Clutching his stomach Rusty groaned, “Yuck! RY-LEE, stop!” Rylee paused for just a second to take a breath and then Rusty cut in, No more.
Another takedown piece on conspiracies rather than science.
I got lots of money from big ag and was never compromised in my evidence-based writings.
70 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, not a lot, but not bad, since they get cited daily, somewhere (thanks to Amy for keeping me up to date, I admit I’m somewhat humbled but also don’t care; I know what we did).
Wing had been working on a study looking into the impacts of industrial-scale hog operations on health for the University of North Carolina. But the state’s Pork Council had caught wind of the research, and filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) to gain access to his findings. “They went after Steve, asking him to turn over any documentation. They went directly to the university and got the lawyers to try and make him hand it over,” says Naeema Muhammad, one of Wing’s community partners.
I consulted on risk communication activities for the U.S. National Pork Board back in the 1990s or thereabouts. I received no money.
The others on the advisory committee were honest and devoted to their research.
Academia don’t pay much (and when it does, they find a reason to dump ya).
Me, I always spoke my mind and never felt any industry pressure – the only pressure I got was from green groups culminating in death threats taped to my lab door.
We had to involve the university cops, which was somewhat hilarious because a couple of grad students had bailed me out of jail or other situations (should be a grad student requirement).
Yes I took money. Yes we did good research that was published in peer-reviewed journals (and sometimes won awards). Yes, like my four Canadian daughters, those students have gone on to have remarkable and varying lives.
Joshua Mansour, M.D., a board-certified hematologist and oncologist in Stanford, California doing work in the field of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cellular immunotherapy (left, exactly as shown), writes in this contributed piece, from the beginning of medical school, one of the first things instructional videos that we had to watch during orientation was about social media and what not to do. There began this stigma and it was frowned upon to use social media if you were a healthcare provider.
There are the obvious things that physicians should not do, such as post private information about patients, show a patient’s face without their permission, or exploit medically sensitive information. But no one tells you what you can do and possibly what you actually should do.
There is a new wave that has now taken over that we as a healthcare community and a community as a whole should support, especially if it is meant to help others. Most recently I have approached social media in a different way and gone out to explore what is available as a tool to help others. What I’m finding has been mind-blowing and I am very excited to see where it continues to progress in the future.
People are sharing their journeys, inspiring others, raising awareness. There is a whole community of individuals working as a team to help others. It is incredibly inspiring.
Before recently I had thought of social media as being full of people only posting pictures of fun trips or nights out, throwing out their opinions out into the open for people to see. We now have social impact movements, live videos with question and answers for students, people showing their tough times and how they are overcoming them. People are reaching out to others for encouragement, collaborations, and progress. Using it to spread the message. With the busy days of many healthcare professionals, it is difficult for them to find the time to engage with social media and with others. There are many healthcare providers that are making an impact and finding the time to do it.
What we need to start teaching in medical school and in other schools in not only what not to do on social media, but how to use social media in a positive light. This is something that is happening and only continuing to grow. It is time to get on board but shine the light in a positive manner. Teach students from early what to do instead of only what not to do. You never know they may be able to influence people in a way like never before.
Recently I have recently been able to connect with others across the world and learn new things about medicine and how it is practiced in those locations. This will help me evolve as a physician as well and has helped my patients.
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.
I’m all for legalization of marijuana and may have to move back to Canada because it’s legal for recreational use in the entire country.
Just kidding, I’m spoiled and couldn’t stand the snow; I like going to the ice hockey arena in flip-flops and shorts, like they do in Tampa.
But there are downsides to legalization.
Parents wouldn’t pack their kids’ lunches with whiskey and smokes, so why would a mom send pot-laced gummies in her’ kid’s lunch?
Probably forgot. I hear weed does that.
Jeff Truesdell of People reports an Ohio mom was arrested on child endangerment charges after her 9-year-old son brought marijuana-laced gummy bears from home to his elementary school, prompting alarm after 14 students who ate them became sick.
Cleveland police confirmed the arrest of the 27-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld by PEOPLE due to the nature of the charge against her.
The report of ill children brought officers and EMS workers to Anton Grdina School about 1:45 p.m. Monday. “Some of the students were complaining of upset stomachs but had no other signs of impairment,” a police report states.
“As a precaution today, we called EMS to examine several students to determine whether gummy bears shared with them by other students during lunch may have been marijuana-laced,” the school’s principal, Latosha Glass, said in a statement, reports News 5 Cleveland. “This precaution was taken because the packaging of the candy was not recognizable to us and appeared suspicious.”
The 9-year-old said his mom and aunt had thrown a party at their apartment on Sunday, where he said the gummies were given to him and other children by his aunt, who “had gotten drunk” and “was not in her right mind,” according to the police report.
After the boy was told to go to bed, his mother allegedly put the gummies on a table and told him not to touch them. But another child urged the boy to follow his mother into the kitchen and say he loved her, so the second child could take them, according to the report.
The children carried the gummies in their book bags to school on Monday. A school staff member cleaning up a room later found a zip-lock bag printed with wording that indicated the contents contained drugs. An EMS worker reported recovering the bag still containing three gummy bears and a plastic bottle containing several gummy worms and gummy bears.
Staff members at the school reviewed video footage to identify kids who were present when the gummies allegedly were handed out.
Those taken by EMS workers to a hospital for evaluation included four 5-year-olds, three 6-year-olds, one 8-year-old and the 9-year-old. The parents of five other students declined the EMS transport.
The agribusiness program Goldberg developed in 1955 continues to bring business leaders and policy makers from around the world together each year. Throughout his tenure, Ray has written over 100 articles and 24 books on the business of agriculture, including his very latest, Food Citizenship: Food System Advocates in an Era of Distrust.
He was interviewed by podcast host, Brian Kenny: Did you coin the term agribusiness?
Ray Goldberg: I did, together with John Davis. He was the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture under Eisenhower, and he became the first head of the (HBS) Agribusiness Program.
Brian Kenny: The case cites examples of foodborne illness outbreaks in the US. We’re coming on the heels of the recent romaine lettuce issue in the US, which has now occurred, I think, twice in the last few months.
Ray Goldberg: I can describe the romaine lettuce [event], because I talked to the produce manager this morning, and he tells me the cost to the industry was $100 million dollars.
The problem is that romaine lettuce itself, when cold temperatures occur, begins to blister, which make it more susceptible to listeria. When they tried to find the location of that listeria, it came from a dairy herd about 2,000 feet away from where that lettuce was grown. We have a rule that 1,200 feet is far enough, but they actually found listeria a mile away from where that lettuce was concerned, so he feels very strongly that they have to change the rules.
(They seem to be confusing Listeria with E.coli O157 in Romaine, but that’s Haaaaaaaaarvard.)
Brian Kenny: Which gets to another issue that the case raises, which is has the industry done well enough trying to regulate itself? What are some of the things the industry has tried to do?
Ray Goldberg: Under Danny Wegman’s leadership—he was the person in charge of food safety of the Food Marketing Institute that really looked at the whole industry—he got several members of the industry to sit down and create new rules with the FDA, the EPA, the USDA, and CDC, all of them saying we have to have better rules. Produce, as you know in the case, is the most valuable part of a supermarket but also the most susceptible to problems.
Brian Kenny: This gets a little bit to the topic of your book, Food System Advocates in an Era of Distrust. [What[ are the big ideas coming out of your book?
Ray Goldberg: The big ideas are two-fold, that the kind of men and women in the industry have changed from commodity handlers and bargaining as to how cheap they can buy something, or how expensive they can make something, to finally realizing that they have to be trusted. And because they have to be trusted, they have to start working together to create that trust. In addition to that, they realize that the private, public and not-for-profit sectors really need to work together. That’s why I tried to write a book to give people an inkling of the kind of men and women in this industry who really are the change-makers, who are changing it to a consumer-oriented, health-oriented, environmentally-oriented, economic development-oriented industry.
The educational methods enlisted to facilitate food safety certification included group meetings, instructional material delivery, individual farm instruction, and expert instruction. In addition, there were four challenges to food safety certification identified—the needs for motivation, information, clarification, and resources—along with strategies to address the challenges.
The program was found to be limitedly successful, producing ten GAP-certified operations. It was concluded that further evaluation of the educational methods is needed.
An educational program on produce food safety/good agricultural practices for small and limited resource farmers: a case study
Journal of Agriculture and Life Sciences vol. 5 no. 2
A new report into Australia’s 2018 strawberry tampering crisis, which caused catastrophic economic damage to the industry, has found food-tracing protocols need to be strengthened.
Lucy Stone of The Sydney Morning Herald reports the report also found that food safety expertise in the horticulture industry was “variable” due to there being many small businesses, with no regulatory or industry oversight particularly for strawberry farmers (uh, I’m right here).
The “fragmented nature” of the sector also complicated matters with no regulation tracking strawberry farm locations during the crisis, and the use of seasonal or contract pickers muddying traceability.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) was commissioned by Health Minister Greg Hunt to review the response to the strawberry contamination crisis, which began on September 9 when a man swallowed a needle hidden inside a strawberry.
Within days more reports had been made to Queensland Health and Queensland Police of similar incidents, sparking copycat actions of needles being hidden in fruit across Australia and New Zealand.
The crisis saw strawberry production nationally grind to a halt, with Queensland growers dumping thousands of tonnes of fruit that could not be sold.
Is there a better approach to both protect and enhance consumer confidence in the wake of an outbreak, tampering, or even allegations of such?
On June 12, 1996, Dr. Richard Schabas, chief medical officer of Ontario (that’s a province in Canada), 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, which was investigating a cluster of 18 cases of cyclospora illness among oil executives.
Turns out it was Guatemalan raspberries, not strawberries, and no one was happy.
The initial, and subsequent, links between cyclospora and strawberries or raspberries in 1996 was based on epidemiology, a statistical association between consumption of a particular food and the onset of disease.
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.
By July 18, 1996, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control declared that raspberries from Guatemala — which had been sprayed with pesticides mixed with water that could have been contaminated with 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 vigorously refuted the charges. The California Strawberry Commission estimated it lost $15-20 million in reduced strawberry sales.
The California strawberry growers decided the best way to minimize the effects of an outbreak – real or alleged – was to make sure all their growers knew some food safety basics and there was some verification mechanism. The next time someone said, “I got sick and it was your strawberries,” the growers could at least say, “We don’t think it was us, and here’s everything we do to produce the safest product we can.”
There is a lack – a disturbing lack – of on-farm food safety inspection; farmers need to be more aware of the potential for contamination from microbes (from listeria in rockmelon, for example) as well as sabotage.
There is an equally large lack of information to consumers where they buy their produce. What do Australian grocery shoppers know of the food safety regulations applied to the produce sold in their most popular stores? Do such regulations exist? Who can they ask to find the answers?
The Sydney Morning Herald also notes that in the report published on Friday, FSANZ made several recommendations to prevent similar crises in the future, including greater regulation for the industry.
The lack of a peak soft fruits regulatory body left the small Queensland Strawberry Growers Association “inundated with calls”, while national horticulture body Growcom later helping manage communication.
The crisis prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to announce legislation to extend the jail time for anyone convicted of food tampering to 15 years.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand made seven recommendations in its final report, including a recommendation that all jurisdictions review food incident response protocols.
A central agency should be engaged to manage national communication in future food tampering incidents, and communication between regulators, health departments and police should be reviewed, the organisation found.
Triggers for “activation and management of intentional contamination of food” under the National Food Incident Response Protocol (NFIRP) should also be reviewed.
This recommendation was despite the NFIRP not being activated during the strawberry contamination issue. The protocol is a national incident response that can be activated by any agency to manage food incidents.
“Due to the unique criminal nature of this case and associated investigation, the protocol was not triggered,” the report said.
The horticulture sector also needs a representative body to “support crisis preparedness and response”, and traceability measures to track food through the sector needed greater work.
“Government and industry should work together to map the current state of play and identify options and tools for enhancing traceability,” the FSANZ report recommended.
A single national website for food tampering should be set up to give the public clear information, the report found.
The report found greater regulation of the horticulture sector was needed and cited the complexity of small farm and distribution operations as making the investigation difficult.
A suggestion that strawberry farms should be fitted with metal detectors also raised concerns about cost and practicality, while tamper-proof packaging risked shortening shelf life, and criticisms about increased use of plastic packaging.
For 20 years, I have been advising fruit and vegetable growers there are risks: Own them: Say what you do, do what you say, and prove it. The best producers or manufacturers can do is diligently manage and mitigate risks and be able to prove such diligence in the court of public opinion; and they’ll do it before the next outbreak.
Secret filming by broadcaster TVN revealed the unwell animals being killed at a slaughterhouse situated 112km east of Warsaw.
Chris Harris of Euronews reports meat from the abattoir went to Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden.
“The priority today is to trace and withdraw from the market all the products originated from this slaughterhouse,” Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU commissioner responsible for food safety said in a statement.
“I call on the member states affected to take swift action.
“At the same time, I urge the Polish authorities to finalise as a matter of urgency their investigations, taking all the necessary measures to ensure the respect of the EU legislation including effective, rapid and dissuasive penalties against the perpetrators of such a criminal behaviour that could pose risk to public health and portrays an unacceptable treatment of animals.”
Polish police are investigating after the secret footage appeared to show sick cows dragged into the slaughterhouse and sold with little or no veterinary inspection.
Authorities reacted to the scandal by imposing controls in Polish abattoirs.
“This is the problem of just one company. It is unpleasant, and it is worth stigmatising.
“Fortunately, it is a small slaughterhouse and the other 99.9% of meat processing plants are good,” said Janusz Rodziewicz, head of meats lobby SRiWRP.
But Patryk Szczepaniak, the reporter who uncovered the scandal, said it was a nationwide problem.
Poland produces about 560,000 tonnes of beef a year, with 85% exported to countries including Britain, Spain, Italy and Germany.