Asia cancels tour as drummer Palmer sickened with E. coli

It is impossible to underestimate the awfulness that was the prog-rock band, Yes, and their bastard offspring, Asia.

The band Asia have been forced to cancel their upcoming U.K. tour after drummer Carl Palmer was diagnosed with a serious bacterial infection.

The Heat of the Moment hitmakers were due to celebrate their 30th anniversary on the road with a series of gigs, but they’ve pulled the plug on seven shows to allow Palmer time to recover from a severe case of E. coli.

Asian culture, food regs collide in Virginia?

The New York Times reports that in the rear of the Great Wall supermarket in Falls Church, Virginia, customers linger over razor clams, frozen conch and baby smelt arrayed at the fish counter. Crabs clamber over the ice. Below, sea bass circle in glass tanks. A girl in a stroller, eye level with a school of tilapia, giggles in delight.

But other tanks are empty. The bullfrogs, turtles and eels that Northern Virginia’s booming Asian population used to buy at the counter and take home to cook are nowhere to be found, seized last year by state agents who leveled criminal charges against two managers of the store accusing them of illegally selling wildlife.

The case, which is scheduled to go to trial in June, has put culinary traditions of Asian immigrants into conflict with state laws, illustrating what some see as a cultural fault line in the changing population of Northern Virginia. Asians make up 13.6 percent of the population of four Northern Virginia counties.

Lawyers for the store managers say that the law governing sales of live fish and other animals has not been updated to reflect advances in aquaculture, and that it is tilted against immigrants with unfamiliar cuisines and customs. In a court filing, they argue that the case “seems to be about the tyranny of the majority.”

It is clear that Kai Wei Jin, one of the managers charged, is unhappy about being in the middle of a criminal case. Mr. Jin, 25, fiddled uncomfortably with his phone during an interview, saying he just wanted to satisfy his customers.

“We’re not trying to break the law,” he said. “We just want to do business, and just support the culture.”

Lee Walker, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said that the laws were necessary to protect wildlife, and that charges were leveled only after a warning went unheeded.

“We really try to educate folks about the regulations before we ever try to bring charges,” he said. “In this case, every attempt was made to educate about what’s legal. And, unfortunately, action was not taken.”

The case arose early last year after what prosecutors called a “concerned citizen” made a report of illegal sales. Officials went to the store several times and bought red-eared slider turtles and largemouth bass, which they said was labeled “mainland rockfish.” They returned last April, seizing turtles, eels, bullfrogs and crayfish, and delivered a warning, prosecutors said.

When officials returned and found largemouth bass still for sale, they said, they sought charges against the managers. Both were indicted on four felony counts, but the prosecutor later agreed to reduce the charges to misdemeanors, which carry potential penalties of jail time and fines of up to $2,500.

Some of the species fall under a broad category of wildlife that cannot be bought or sold, while sales of largemouth bass are forbidden because it is a native game fish. Crayfish can be sold, but the store lacked permits, according to prosecutors’ court filings.

Lawyers for the store managers say that categorizing the fish and other creatures as wildlife does not make sense, because they were farm-raised for eating.

Receipts filed with court motions show, for example, that some of the turtles were raised in Oklahoma. The bullfrogs were shipped from the Dominican Republic. The bass and some eels came from a Pennsylvania fish farm.

A Great Wall store in neighboring Maryland makes for a study in contrast. The fish counter there has many of the creatures that have vanished from the Virginia store. Turtles labeled “farm-raised” paddle in one tank, selling for $9.99 per pound. At the counter, mesh bags bulge with live bullfrogs for $5.99 a pound.

Asian street food smarts

I know nothing about Asian street food.

When reporter Robyn Eckhardt from Malaysia skyped with me a couple of weeks ago, I repeatedly said, I know nothing about Asian street food.

In this part of the world the term "street food" (or "hawker food," as it’s referred to in Malaysia and Singapore) denotes not just a cheap and quick way to fill one’s belly. It also describes a repertoire of dishes prepared by experienced specialists, dishes rarely duplicated successfully in restaurant kitchens. Eating on the Asian street offers the opportunity to observe cooking techniques up close and to engage with strangers over a meal in a way that would be difficult in a proper brick and mortar eatery (right, vegetarian mi quang, a thick noodle common to Central Vietnam, served in a Ho Chi Minh City street stall. Credit: Dave Hagerman).

There’s just one problem: Asian street food makes a lot of travelers ill. The World Health Organization has designated the developing countries of Asia as among the most high-risk destinations for "traveler’s diarrhea," which means that more than 50 percent of visitors to most countries in the region have a chance of getting ill from what they eat.

barfblog publisher Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University, advises that the best way to avoid illness –- at home or on the road — is to put yourself in the place of whatever it is that’s going to make you sick in the first place: "Be the bug, whether virus, bacteria, or parasite. Imagine how they get into your food and how they move around."

Produce is often contaminated at the farm, from human or animal feces, and then carries its bugs to the street stall. Heat kills them. "You shouldn’t eat poop," is Powell’s blunt advice. "But if you’re going to eat it, make sure it’s cooked." Street food vendors have a particular challenge because they work in small spaces, facilitating cross-contamination between "clean" and "dirty" foods.

But street stalls also boast an advantage over restaurants: transparency. At a street stall everything is prepared right in front of the consumer, which makes it easier to gauge food safety.

Salmonella in spice, this time Green Cardamon

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Asian Food Imports are warning the public not to consume Green Cardamon described below because these products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

The following Green Cardamon packages, sold between January and March 2010 at Asian Food Imports store located at 275 Wyandotte Street West in Windsor, Ontario are affected by this alert. Green Cardamon is a product of Guatemala.

Product / Size / UPC
Green Cardamon / 100 g / 0 59011 41301 9
Green Cardamon / 200 g / 0 59011 41302 6
Green Cardamon / 400 g / 0 59011 41303 3

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.