Bad seafood destined for Year’s Eve dinners seized by Italian authorities

Italian authorities have seized some 500 tons of bad seafood and shellfish believed to be largely destined for New Year’s Eve dinner parties.

Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia said Wednesday that worms were found in some of the fish seized across Italy between Dec. 10-23. In other cases, mussels defrosted months earlier were passed off as fresh, and fish coming from Asia was passed off as domestic.

Zaia described the food as "garbage" including brine jellyfish, and said organized crime was likely behind it.

N.Y. Times sucks at food safety: stick a piece of metal in a burger and lick it, rather than a thermometer, to tell if it’s done?

In the continuing saga of bad food safety advice in the N.Y. Times – and the elevation of food pornography over food safety – the Times today ran a piece about the perfect burger.

In interviews with dozens of so-called chefs around the U.S., not one mentioned the use of a tip-sensitive digital thermometer to ensure a final, safe temperature of 160F, or that color is an exceedingly lousy indicator of doneness or food safety (that’s Ben, right, exactly as shown, grillin’ up some Canada Day burgers)

The story does say, “testing for doneness is always a challenge for the home cook. Seamus Mullen, the chef and an owner of the Boqueria restaurants in the Flatiron district and SoHo, uses a wire cake tester. (Any thin, straight piece of metal will work as well.)

“We stick it in the middle through the side. If it’s barely warm to the lips, it’s rare. If it’s like bath water, it’s medium rare. The temperature will never lie. It takes the guesswork out of everything.”

Rather than putting E. coli O157:H7 on your precious testing lips, stick a thermometer in. You’re already sticking a piece of metal in so why not a thermometer?

Ben has just added to the Mark Bittman history of spewing out food safety nonsense that I have been tracking for at least two years.

The Times also published the whopper by Nina Planck, who at the height of the fall 2006 E. coli O157:H7 spinach outbreak, wrote in the Times that E. coli O157:H7 "is not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. … It’s the infected  manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater  and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on  neighboring farms."

This falsehood is routinely repeated, most recently in the entertaining but factually-challenged movie, Food Inc.

The natural reservoirs for E. coli O157:H7 and other verotoxigenic E. coli is the intestines of all ruminants, including cattle — grass or grain-fed — sheep, goats, deer and the like. The final report of the fall 2006 spinach outbreak identifies nearby grass-fed beef cattle as the likely source of the E. coli O157:H7 that sickened 200 and killed 4.

In my own unique version of how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people, I called Bittman and celebrity food porn doofus Jamie Oliver idiots for their advice on how to cook chicken and their ability to cross-contaminate an entire kitchen within seconds.

N.Y. Times, you are furthering your descent to irrelevancy.

Bad bird advice for the holidays

The Brits and their piping hot. The Canadians and their 185F.

No one knows where this advice comes from, yet every holiday, the soundbites are trotted out like a recurring nightmare. It’s like a song by Journey or Styx or Bryan Adams – Don’t Stop Believing, I’m Sailing Away, Summer of ’69 — it keeps playing and it’s horrible.

The UK Food Standards Agency
came out with a computer screen saver yesterday that I couldn’t get to work, and just as well – it says “cook your turkey properly until the juices run clear.”

Color is a lousy indicator: use a digital tip-sensitive thermometer and stick it in.

Nevertheless, the communication experts at the Food Standards Agency say:

“These are the three main ways to tell if poultry is cooked:

* the meat should be piping hot all the way through

* when you cut into the thickest part of the meat, none of the meat should be pink

* if juices run out when you pierce the turkey, or when you press the thigh, they should be clear.”

Piping hot reminds me of Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Provide some scientific validation for these statements. And is it really so hard to recommend using a thermometer?

In Canada, where the laws of physics are somehow different, Health Canada continues to recommend cooking all the crap out of the bird until 185F. The U.S. changed its advice to 165F years ago. When asked why, Canadian government types won’t talk. It’s a secret. But then again, Canada has no Parliament. It goes away. Just keep on believing.

Bird flu may kill badminton grand prix

The Times of India reports today that avian influenza may cost India its first grand prix badminton tournament.  The story says:

Bird flu outbreaks in China had made India ban import of all premium goose feathers of Chinese origin to manufacture shuttlecocks.
In a last-minute bid to save India the blushes, BAI president V K Verma has shot off letters to secretaries in the animal husbandry department and the ministries of health and agriculture, as well as to the Sports Authority of India, urging them to review the ban.

Interesting fallout from the animal disease outbreak.

Food poisoning fells Thai badminton star

The Malaysia Star reported last week that Thai number one Boonsak Ponsana has been forced out of the Malaysian Open badminton tournament after coming down with food poisoning on the eve of his departure for Kuala Lumpur.

Coach Udon Luangphetcharaporn said Boonsak’s condition was not serious but he was weak and not in a good condition to play in the season-opening Super Series tournament at the Putra Stadium, adding, "It’s unfortunate he is unable to play as he needs to fight for points to improve on his world rankings."

The 25-year-old law student enjoyed a memorable season last year, winning the Singapore Open and the World University Games gold medal. He is the highest ranked Thai at number 12 in the world rankings.