Not dead yet: Future of barfblog.com

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

That famous quote, often wrongly ascribed to Albert Einstein, is believed to have originated with Narcotics Anonymous in 1981 (the same year I began university).

In addition to helping raise five daughters, providing endless relationship entertainment to the folks I played pick-up hockey with back in Guelph (that’s pre-Amy, who is playing pick-up as I write this), helping teach lots of kids how to skate, influencing lotsa students (good and bad, not much in-between), pissing off lotsa bureaucrats and industry types, publishing lots of peer-reviewed stuff that still gets cited daily and almost 15,000 barfblog.com posts, I did news.

Food Safety Network news, long before wannabes.

For 26 years I’ve done news.

And always referenced the evidence, or lack thereof.

Until others do the same, they’re just plagiarists.

I combined my background in molecular biology with some journalism experience, and I carved out a path in food safety.

The vision I always had for food safety information, all those years ago, was what I heard about daily – and often directly: How the hell was I supposed to know?

We mined the world (I used Compuserve to get access to the AP wires and others back in the days before Google, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s MMWR would take six months to arrive by mail, when those who needed to know should have had the information as soon as possible).

I am intensely loyal to the kids, er, students, that flourished and maybe we’ll write a book; or maybe not.

I did my best, even when my best wasn’t good enough.

I still love it – I haven’t been paid in over two years — but someone else should be in charge.

I have early-onset dementia, I have other health issues, so rather than submit any more family members to, I’ve got to do news, I am going to step away while I can.

Of the 15,287 barfblog.com posts, I authored (or cut and paste) 13,070 since 2005. That’s 86 per cent, or an ice hockey goalie save percentage of .8549, which isn’t great (should be over .91) but doesn’t exactly suck, because this isn’t hockey.

It’s something different.

And time for me to do something different.

I may still write, maybe about food safety, maybe about other things, maybe about the probability of monkeys flying out of my butt.

But for now, I’ve got other priorities.

Ben can figure out what to do and what he wants to do.

It’s been an honor and a privilege to share your computer screens, maybe even your brain space, and improve food safety, one tip-sensitive digital thermometer, one less serving of raw sprouts, and one calling out of bullshit advice, at a time.

Peace and love.

dp

Stick it in and use a thermometer

As Jimmy Buffett said on his 1978 Live album, sometimes I’m real sentimental, and sometimes I’m real trashy.

I can relate.

How many times can the UK Food Standards-thingy say cook poultry until piping hot, while Canada, the U.S. and now even Australia – apparently the most monarch-frenzied country in the world according to early-morning talk-fests – say, use a fucking thermometer.

Stick it in and use a fucking thermometer.

And now, research from the U.S. says that changes in lighting conditions to promote energy conservation may induce folks to eat undercooked turkey, please, pay homage to my late, great food safety pioneer Pete Snyder (and pardon my Minnesotan, but am married to one and she swears like a drunken sailor, after living with me for 13 years) and use a fucking thermometer.

Changes in Lighting Source Can Produce Inaccurate Assessment of Visual Poultry Doneness and Induce Consumers To Eat Undercooked Ground Turkey Patties

Journal of Food Protection, March 2019, Volume 82, Number 3, pages 528-534, https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-18-392

Curtis Maughan, Edgar Chamber IV, et al

https://jfoodprotection.org/doi/full/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-18-392

Undercooked poultry is a potential source of foodborne pathogens, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. The best way to avoid eating undercooked poultry is to use a food thermometer during cooking. However, consumers who cook poultry often use visual appearance for determining doneness, which relies on extrinsic factors, including lighting conditions. Because the United States recently mandated changes in lighting to promote energy conservation, this study evaluated the effect of lighting sources on consumer perceptions of doneness and willingness to eat cooked poultry patties. Consumers (n = 104) evaluated validated photographs of turkey patties cooked to different end point temperatures (57 to 79°C) and rated the level of perceived doneness and willingness to eat each sample. Evaluations were conducted under different lighting sources: incandescent (60 W, soft white), halogen (43 W, soft white), compact fluorescent lamp (13 W, soft white), light-emitting diode (LED; 10.5 W, soft white), and daylight LED (14 W). Lighting changed perception of doneness and willingness to eat the patties, with some of the energy-efficient options, such as LED and halogen making samples appear more done than they actually were, increasing the willingness to eat undercooked samples. This poses a risk of consuming meat that could contain bacteria not killed by heat treatment. Recent changes in lighting regulations can affect lighting in homes that affects perceptions of poultry doneness, requiring that educators place extra emphasis on the message that properly using a meat thermometer is the only way to ensure meat is cooked to a safe end point temperature.

MasterChef sucks at food safety

I blame celebrity cooking shows like MasterChef for the stupid things people do in their kitchens.

Raw egg aioli and mayo is bad enough, and leads to monthly outbreaks of Salmonella across Australia, but to decide that color is a reliable indicator of safety in chicken is stupid beyond belief.

Forget piping hot, forget color, get a thermometer.

I know food safety is 1% of the food discussion, while food porn is the other 99%, but this is just bad advice.

Our job is to provide people with evidence-based info and let them decide.

These people are preaching like a Baptist church.

According to Jamie Downham of The Sun, celebrity chef John, 55, revealed the pink uncooked flesh – which can deliver a devastating dose of salmonella – gagging: “Oh. Can’t eat that.”

Gregg and John were not impressed by Ottilie’s uncooked chicken

Undercooked chicken is often rife with foodborne illnesses that can leave people throwing up and confined to their beds for up to a week.

Viewers quickly dubbed the dish “chicken a la salmonella”, with John telling marketing manager Ottilie: “I think you’ve got to know when to stop. It’s all over the place.”

No where did the story mention using a fucking thermometer to ensure safety.

And these people are making meals for your kids, and they have no clue.

Use a thermometer, raw is risky: Large number of US consumers ignore advice

Providing consumers with recommendations on specific food safety practices may be a cost-effective policy option, acting either as a complement to or substitute for additional food safety regulations on food suppliers, but it would require a detailed understanding of consumer food safety practices.

Using data from the 2014 to 2016 American Time Use Survey–Eating and Health Module, we examine two food safety practices in which Government health and safety officials, as well as the broader food safety community, have offered unequivocal advice: meal preparers should always use a thermometer to verify that meat has reached a recommended temperature and consumers should avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk.

We found that 2 percent of at-home meal preparers in the United States served raw milk during a typical week; of which 80 percent lived with two or more people, 44 percent were married, 36 percent lived with one or more children, and 28 percent lived with at least one person age 62 or older, indicating the potential that at-risk populations are consuming raw milk.

While preparing meals with meat, poultry, or seafood, 14 percent of at-home meal preparers in the United States used a food thermometer. Meal preparers who use a food thermometer typically earned more, reported better physical health, were more likely to exercise, were more likely married, and had larger and younger households. Last, rates of food thermometer usage were higher for at-home meal preparers whose occupation was food-preparation related, suggesting food safety training or awareness at work may influence food safety behavior at home.

Consumer Food Safety Practices: Raw Milk Consumption and Food Thermometer Use

Rhodes, Taylor M., Fred Kuchler, Ket McClelland, and Karen S. Hamrick.

EIB-205, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, January 2019.

https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/91110/eib-205.pdf?v=675.4

Stick it in: Thermometer use

Temperature control prevents the rapid growth of foodborne pathogens during food storage and assures adequate heating to destroy pathogens prior to consumption. The use of thermometers is a recognized best practice among consumer and food worker guidelines; however, compliance with this recommendation is quite low.

Eighty-five studies from the past 21 years were reviewed and an analyzed for the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors associated with thermometer use and the motivators and barriers to cooking and refrigerator thermometer use among consumers and food workers. Barriers to thermometer were categorized into two major groups: ‘‘the belief that a thermometer is not necessary’’ and ‘‘the difficulty of selecting and using a thermometer.’’ Each group has its unique aspects. Four barriers were recognized in the ‘‘not necessary’’ group: (i) preference for alternative techniques, (ii) mainstream media and food professionals seldom serve as role models and often negate the need for food thermometers, (iii) limited awareness of potential health issues associated with current practices, and (iv) limited knowledge and awareness related to thermometer usage for specific food groups.

Six barriers were recognized in the ‘‘difficult to select and use’’ group: (i) difficulties in selecting the type of food thermometers, (ii) availability of food thermometers, (iii) lack of skills related to the usage of food thermometers, (iv) limited knowledge related to endpoint temperatures, (v) inability to calibrate food thermometers, and (vi) lack of knowledge about food thermometer cleaning and sanitation. These findings will facilitate the development and adoption of effective strategies to increase thermometer use and increase food safety education efficacy with a positive impact on public health.

Motivators and barriers to cooking and refrigerator thermometer use among consumers and food workers: A review.

Journal of Food Protection vol. 82 noi. 1 pg. 128-150

Yaohua Feng and Christine Bruhn

doi:10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-18-245

http://www.jfoodprotection.org/doi/pdf/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-18-245

365 burgers in a year, how many were cooked to 160F?

I like hamburgers, not enough to eat an average of one a day though. According to the Los Angeles Times, that’s what restaurant investor Lawrence Longo did in 2018. Added difficulty, he did it at 365 different restaurants.

When asked to describe the perfect burger Longo responded:

Not too much going on. Bun-cheese-meat-bun. If you have the right meat, the right bun, the right ratio, you don’t need any ingredients on that burger. The juices on that burger are all you really need.

I’d add that it was cooked to 160F and verified with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

 

Food Safety Confessional: Connie still thaws meat in the sink (so do I)

Connie, someone I’ve never met but she’s a food safety professional from Guelph (that’s in Ontario, Canada, and it’s a small community) writes:

I’ve been a food safety professional for going on 20 years, I still thaw meat in the sink (sometimes in hot water if I’m really rushed) and in my house, we wash hands after we eat.

I’m a firm advocate of not killing our immune systems by trying to sterilize our homes; according to my research, the illness and deaths that occur now are more frequent, widespread and worse in the effects than ever in the past (Peanut Corporation of America excluded for obvious reasons).

 I don’t take any chances at work, I never would, but at home, sigh, we’re all still alive.

 If you’re ever looking for inspiration for a blog post look no further than the website IFSQN. It’s a great forum for discussion and assistance from experienced FSP but wow, there are some things posted that are positively frightening.

 I am currently advocating with the Canadian government to:
• change our national job description so people realize we are gd professionals and not place holders; and,

• institute a national standard for both auditors and CB (CFIA has accreditation standards, but I don’t think anyone is checking in on auditors).

 I personally believe that GFSI is the downfall of safe food, with people focused on being audit-ready and not on producing safe food.

Stick it in: Australians urged to buy accurate thermometers

Me and Ben, my hetero lifemate, broke up.

He was worried about a blog post I wrote, with university types to answer to, I  disagreed, so the barfblog.com is now totally mine.

It’s expensive for an unemployed ex-prof, but I understand.

Ben can still post when he likes, but it’s about 5 per cent of the content.

And the offending post will soon be up again, and if someone wants to sue, go ahead.

I know what happened.

Sometime in 2004 I went to the Gold Coast in Australia with my soon-to-be-stalker girlfriend.

I went on one of the morning shows, and was going to talk about the importance of thermometers, and the government food agency type said, you can’t do that, Australians just use their fridges to keep beer cold.

The chef at the restaurant we filmed the piece in had a tip-sensitive digital thermometer in his front pocket and said he wouldn’t cook without one.

Eighteen years later, the Australian government, as part of Food Safety Week – shouldn’t it be every day – has endorsed the use of thermometers, rather than the British standard of piping hot.

Testing by Choice has found a number of meat thermometers on sale in Australia were out by 2°C. Food Safety Information Council is urging people to pick up an accurate meat thermometer, using Choice’s survey as a buying guide, after their own research found 75% of Australians surveyed reported that there wasn’t a meat thermometer in their household and only 44% of those with a thermometer reported using is over the previous month.

Epitaph ‘He tried to improve the world, one thermometer at a time’

Soon after Sorenne started at Junction Park State School, I started volunteering in the tuck shop, prepping foods for a few hundred kids on Fridays.

I put in some time, but then politics overtook my food safety nerdiness so I stopped.

But not before I left about 10 Comark tip-sensitive digital thermometers and advised, use them frequently.

While cooking breakfast this morning for 120 school kids, I ran into my friend, Dave, who is currently running the tuck shop, and he told me the thermometers get a regular workout each week, he had to change some batteries last week, and he took one home for cooking.

Now imagine that a tip-sensitive digital thermometer could be used to harness user data (and sell product).

Sapna Maheshwari of The New York Times writes that most of what we do — the websites we visit, the places we go, the TV shows we watch, the products we buy — has become fair game for advertisers. Now, thanks to internet-connected devices in the home like smart thermometers, ads we see may be determined by something even more personal: our health.

This flu season, Clorox paid to license information from Kinsa, a tech start-up that sells internet-connected thermometers that are a far cry from the kind once made with mercury and glass. The thermometers sync up with a smartphone app that allows consumers to track their fevers and symptoms, making it especially attractive to parents of young children.

The data showed Clorox which ZIP codes around the country had increases in fevers. The company then directed more ads to those areas, assuming that households there may be in the market for products like its disinfecting wipes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends disinfecting surfaces to help prevent the flu or its spread.

Kinsa, a San Francisco company that has raised about $29 million from venture capitalists like Kleiner Perkins since it was founded in 2012, says its thermometers are in more than 500,000 American households. It has promoted the usefulness of its “illness data,” which it says is aggregated and contains no identifying personal information before being passed along to other companies.

It is unique, Kinsa says, because it comes straight from someone’s household in real time. People don’t have to visit a doctor, search their symptoms on Google or post to Facebook about their fever for the company to know where a spike might be occurring.

“The challenge with Google search or social media or mining any of those applications is you’re taking a proxy signal — you’re taking someone talking about illness rather than actual illness,” said Inder Singh, the founder and chief executive of Kinsa. Search queries and social media can also be complicated by news coverage of flu season, he said, while data from the C.D.C. is often delayed and comes from hospitals and clinics rather than homes.

The so-called internet of things is becoming enmeshed in many households, bringing with it a new level of convenience along with growing concerns about privacy.

Clorox used that information to increase digital ad spending to sicker areas and pull back in places that were healthier. Consumer interactions with Clorox’s disinfectant ads increased by 22 percent with the data, according to a Kinsa Insights case study that tracked performance between November 2017 and March of this year. That number was arrived at by measuring the number of times an ad was clicked on, the amount of time a person spent with the ad and other undisclosed metrics, according to Vikram Sarma, senior director of marketing in Clorox’s cleaning division.

Being able to target ads in this way is a big shift from even seven years ago, when the onset of cold and cough season meant buying 12 weeks of national TV ads that “would be irrelevant for the majority of the population,” Mr. Sarma said. The flu ultimately reaches the whole country each year, but it typically breaks out heavily in one region first and then spreads slowly to others.

While social media offered new opportunities, there has been “a pretty big lag” between tweets about the flu or flulike symptoms and the aggregation of that data for marketers to use, he said.

“What this does is help us really target vulnerable populations where we have a clear signal about outbreaks,” Mr. Sarma said.

Imagine using similar for data for people cooking dinner tonight.

This is what we’re having (above, right; Chapman, about those thermometers?).

A short guide to food thermometers

Chapman still owes me food thermometers.

He says he’ll send them, he says he’ll come to Australia, but nothing.

And he’s supposed to be the co-author on my next book.

It’s so hard to get good help.

But I’ve recruited the best of the past and we’ll get something done if my brain hangs together.

Barbara Gordon of At Right writes that you can’t tell if a food is safely cooked by sight, smell or even taste. A food thermometer is the only way to ensure food is cooked to the proper temperature and harmful bacteria are eliminated.

(Tell that to the British Food Safety Agency and their piping hot directive).

A food thermometer is not needed just for meat and poultry. A safe minimum internal temperature must be reached to avoid food poisoning in all cooked foods. The “danger zone” for perishable foods is between 40° and 140° Fahrenheit. Perishable foods are no longer safe to eat if they have been in this danger zone for more than two hours (one hour in 90° Fahrenheit or above). A food thermometer also is needed after food is cooked to ensure the temperature doesn’t fall into the danger zone. This is especially important for buffet and potluck-style gatherings.