Everyone’s got a camera: Shanghai edition

A new smartphone application released by the Chinese Food and Drug Administration means food safety issues can now be reported by uploading images straight to the app.

The center for complaints and reports of the FDA introduced the software recently to make such an operation easier. In the application, users can report five kinds of food safety issues including expired foods, inedible objects in foods, smoking in restaurants, food providers without certificates and unwanted promotion of health foods during business meetings or sightseeing trips.

After installing and signing up for the application, users can file a complaint by simply entering the name of the food vendor, the vendor’s address, the kind of food safety issue and the description of the problem. The user can complete the first three steps by entering text, or by submitting a photo or a GPS coordinate. A special procedure is set up for anonymous complainers, and their information will only be seen by personnel designated by the FDA.

According to the FDA, the application takes full advantage of the Internet and enables citizens to report infringements of food safety laws immediately and right at the place where the violation occurs. The software can provide important evidence for supervisors.


Indian food regulator launches mobile app for consumers’ complaints

Food safety regulator FSSAI has launched a mobile app through which consumers can raise their concerns related to quality of packaged food and the food served in ready-to-eat outlets.

FoodSafetyHelpline-features-minSince most of the times the form of food consumed is either packed or serviced, the app provides food safety tips and food safety laws as prescribed by the regulator through its regulations, says the description of the mobile app launched by FSSAI.

“FSSAI App will allow consumers to raise their food safety related concerns. Whether it is a Packaged Food or a Food Service Establishment, now consumers are empowered to know about the food business operators and get informed about the food safety information,” according to the description.

The app for Android smartphone users has built-in functionalities to locate the consumer’s geographical location and consumers can raise any food incidents witnessed along with the captured pictures. The app also empowers consumers to check many parameters on which the food safety is compromised for both packaged foods and food served in ready-to-eat establishments.

For served food, the consumer is given an option to rate the Overall Hygiene of the food service establishment. It also has provision for consumers to enter FSSAI issued license/registration number if available will provide accurate information about the food business operator’s adherence to food safety requirements.

MMWR Express app for iPhone and iPad now available

My second favorite bathtime pastime is  MMWR, otherwise know as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

image_thumb[9]And now there’s an app for that.

MMWR Express, is now available for free download in the Apple App Store for both iPhone and iPad. This application provides fast access to the blue summary boxes in the MMWR Weekly. Summaries can be viewed by publication date or by searching for a specific subject (e.g., Salmonella). It is the first iPhone/iPad app to provide MMWR content.

MMWR publications have been in existence since 1952, and today MMWR remains CDC’s primary vehicle for scientific publication of timely, reliable, authoritative, accurate, objective, and useful public health information and recommendations. MMWR readership, which extends around the globe, predominantly consists of physicians, nurses, public health practitioners, epidemiologists and other scientists, researchers, educators, pharmacists, and laboratorians.

This application is one of an expanding collection of mobile applications from CDC. Development of applications for other mobile operating systems is under consideration. When online, MMWR Express can quickly check for new content, ensuring that users always have the most up-to-date information. Users also can share content with others via e-mail, text message, Facebook, or Twitter. The free application is available at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mmwr-express/id868245971?mt=8

Smartphone-controlled toilet features remote lid, speakers, app

Parents are fascinated with baby poop and engage in Dickensonian descriptions with other people who don’t care.

Babies grow up and poop on the toilet: “Daddy, look at my enormous poop.”

As a four-year-old, Sorenne’s favorite saying, repeated about 10 times a day, seems to be, “I farted, excuse me.”

Once she hits puberty, this fascination will end, and I will be nothing more than an embarrassment.

As people age, poop again becomes conversational.

And then it’s Depends.

But leave it to the bacterially-adverse Japanese to develop smartphones that can control a toilet.

Created by Japanese company Lixil under its INAX brand of products, the Satis is a Bluetooth-capable commode that users can command via an Android app. The super-toilet enables hands-free flushing and toilet-seat lifting, among other actions, according to website Japan Trends.

Called “My Satis,” the app also lets users play music through the toilet’s speakers, and set up a toilet diary to monitor their regular washroom sessions. 

Magical food safety app launched, sort of

My favorite food safety-related app is Poop the World — it’s a bit like playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater with, uh, poops. The opening screen says, “Get started! Track your bowel movements in real-time, share with friends, and strive for recognition in a fun and civilized manner!” They had me at bowel movements. Achievement levels like The Daily Quad (4 poops in a day) and Sir Deuce-a-lot (20 poops in a week) are available.

KRQE Albuquerque provides a teaser of a yet-to-be-released iPhone app from a New Mexico-based company, Food Sentry, that is supposed to help shoppers make decisions about food risks. When a specific food is entered, the soon-to-be-released app draws from the company’s double-secret food probation risk database and ranks the relative risk associated with food’s country of origin.

“A lot of things will show up at grocery store that are less than rigorously produced or regulated,” says John Cousins, CEO of Food Sentry.

Subscribers pay $19 a year for access to import and recall alerts, along with a food rating system.

“We have about twelve language skills on staff with our analysis team, and they can search every day to find out what food may be of risk coming into the country and we do the same analysis domestically too,” Cousins says.

Apparently this app is supposed to help a shopper make decisions. I don’t see the utility, especially without knowing how Food Sentry creates their ratings. I want to buy food that has been grown/processed/handled in the safest way – what country it originates in doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether the company who handled it knows what to do and actually does it. And has data to back it up.

High school math word problems often include the phrase, show your work. At least the teacher is able to judge whether the concept is understood, even if the final answer is wrong,

The answer is important – but how someone gets there really matters.

Same with food safety.

Food Sentry doesn’t show their work.

Smartphone to brag about food safety?

My colleagues have wonderful toys.

I can’t complain, I prefer the 17-inch MacBook Pro because I write and edit and read a lot, but Chapman and Amy and Gonzo, they’re all about their iPads and iPhones and gizmos. They figure out how it works and then can explain it in Doug-speak if I need something.

So I’m not sure how Food Quality magazine ended up asking me about the new NEC smartphone app for tracking produce pedigrees, but I suggested, why not make an app to promote food safety.

“If you’ve invested a lot in food safety, why not brag about it?”

According to the Food Quality article, the technology works much like fingerprinting, because the visible characteristics of most produce are as uniquely identifiable as a person’s prints. Growers can snap a photo of their fruits and vegetables as they’re harvested and give them a unique identifier. When NEC tested the system on 1,800 Andes melons, it claims, the error rate was just one in one million.

According to a news release from NEC, the technology will eliminate the need for RFID (radio frequency identification) and barcodes and significantly reduce costs for produce businesses when it is released commercially within two to three years.

“I think it would be an ideal way to show people your organization’s food safety commitment before an outbreak happens,” Dr. Powell said. “People buy organic, local, natural, sustainable because they think it’s safer, but it’s not necessarily so.”

There may be an app for that: barcodes for background info on restaurant grades

I’ve always been a fan of layered levels of information: with food, most people just want to go shopping or eat out, others want minimal levels of info – like scores on doors for restaurant inspection, and some want the who-do-you-think-you-are routine for every tomato consumed.

So now that New York City has embraced letter grades on doors, and discovered people like having access to information, the health department is considering adding bar codes that can be scanned by cell phones, allowing diners to see the violations behind the establishment’s rating.

There may soon be an app for that.

Spokeswoman Erin Hughes told the New York Daily News, "The Health Department is exploring the possibility of putting bar codes on restaurant letter grades that would take consumers directly to a restaurant’s latest [inspection] results."

The Health Department puts the details behind the A, B or C grades online, but bar codes would make that information easily accessible at a restaurant’s door.
It’s among a host of efforts the city is considering as it looks for ways to put more information in people’s palms.

"People can communicate and get information in ways that they never could before," Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

Socializing for the holiday – food safety style

Michéle Samarya-Timm, a registered environmental health specialist with the Somerset County Department of Health in New Jersey (represent) writes:

Thanksgiving Day, as its name implies, is a time to give thanks. Many of us will travel far and wide to be with those who are important in our lives – you know – those whom we have been texting and Facebooking all year. In Thanksgivings past, socializing meant gathering with friends, family, loved ones and straggler students to share good food and good times. These days, being social around the holiday dinner table also takes on the meaning of regularly corresponding to all and sundry (a.k.a. our extended friends) about the food, the people, the football game, and the current goings on.

Modern technology and connectivity can be a wonderful thing for holiday fun.

Through sites like YouTube and Hulu, we can relive our favorite virtual Thanksgiving food safety moments –

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” (WKRP) www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FXSnoy71Q4

“I can’t cook a Thanksgiving dinner. All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast.” (A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving)

“If I cook the stuffing inside the turkey, is there a chance I could kill my guests?” (The West Wing).

Ever consider that the same modern technology and connectivity can also function as an essential ingredient to safely feed ourselves and others. No one wants to relive Thanksgiving dinner ad nauseum. Surely we all have stories about Thanksgivings that didn’t quite go as planned…Why take a chance that this year will top them all?

With electronic media and the web, we have everything we need at our fingertips, through on-demand videos, online metasearches, and virtual recipe collections. This year, put your laptops and iPhones to good use and avoid kitchen and food safety disasters by expanding your social network to include a few essential friends.

Share info on your favorite food safety apps with your loved ones – both those next to you and those virtually connected. Along with forwarding tidbits about Uncle’s Bob’s latest joke, or debating the aesthetic value of melting marshmallow peeps on sweet potatoes, you can help assure that while Thanksgiving gatherings may wreak havoc on the nerves, digestive systems won’t be affected.

Selected web apps:
Ask Karen: www.fsis.usda.gov/food_safety_education/ask_karen/index.asp
Butterball mobile site: www.butterball.com/tips-how-tos/turkey-experts/mobile-site
bites – Safe Food from Farm to Fork http://bites.ksu.edu/

Traditional phone:
Butterball Turkey Hotline: 1-800-288-8372
Reynolds Turkey Hotline: 1-800-745-4000
USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline: 1-800-535-4555
Doug Powell: deliberately unlisted ? 785-317-0560

Michéle Samarya-Timm is thankful for the many unnamed professionals who work to assure a safer food supply.