Sometimes if you’re nice to grad students, they are nice back – Chapman edition

Chapman bailed me out of jail on a bogus charge, and all grad students should go through the hell that must feel like: Oh, and because you’ve got a key, I can find a bright kid to pick the lock. It’s the basis of cryptography.

So me and Chapman and this student had a chat this morning about how she wants to do more work for us over the summer.

Don’t know if she’ll work out, I always figured the kids are moldable until about 5, after that it’s a crap shoot (mine have all turned out exceedingly well, despite their despicable parents).

For the first year Chapman worked in my lab, I didn’t know he existed, and now he’s the golden ginger boy of food safety.

The university may shut this idea down, so wat?

I always thought being a uni prof was to come up with novel ideas and be at home while raising kids.

Now it’s lotsa  talk about research excellence, while spending your time on bureaucrat bullshit.

If I had to spend another weekly faculty meeting with 30 or more profs making 6 figures arguing the merits of a 25K per year admin type , I wouldn’t go postal, I’d turn the gun on myself.

I’m still an optimist, despite all my bullshit negativity to the contrary, and will always be there for a student, or anyone else who wants to learn.

Well played, Chapman.

Chapman says amateurs shouldn’t cook on Thanksgiving

The idea of Chapman calling others amateurs is amusing.

P.J. O’Rourke wrote a National Lampoon column about how amateur drunks throw up on other people’s shoes. In Champan’s case, it would be other people’s rose bushes. That’s us, in 2000, at my house in Guelph. He barfed in the bushes.

But Chapman, food safety specialist and assistant professor of food science at North Carolina State University, did get quoted by a paper in Nebraska today saying,

"The biggest risk comes from undercooking. Color is not an indicator of safety or doneness. We see suggestions in recipes about making sure ‘the juices run clear’ but that’s a myth. You also have to worry about cross-contamination — which can happen when countertops, sinks or utensils aren’t being cleaned properly between use with raw meats and other foods."

And this was Chapman last weekend tailgating at the Kansas State football game. We left early because he had digestive upsets. Amateur.

Foodborne illness? There’s an app for that. Using new methods and messages to communicate about food safety

With the expansion and ease-of-use of non-traditional, Internet-based communication tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube and blogs, individuals are discussing high-profile food risks through various mediums. Because up to 60 per cent of adults use on online social networking site, an opportunity  exists to utilize these communities to engage individuals around foodborne risks by providing information and establishing relationships tailored to specific audiences. The rapid dialogue between individuals with common food safety interests can impact belief formation and affect food decisions. Using case studies of recent outbreaks and observational studies, a catalogue of mediums and audience strategies will be presented.

Ben Chapman somehow received his PhD from the University of Guelph in 2009 under the supervision of Doug Powell. He is now an Assistant Professor and Food Safety Specialist in the Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences at North Carolina State University, and part of NC Cooperative Extension. He will be speaking during Randy Phebus’ food science class on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009, from 12:30-1:20 in Weber 123 at Kansas State University. This talk is open to the public so any and all can attend.

For further information or to arrange a chat, contact
Dr. Douglas Powell
associate professor, food safety
dept. diagnostic medicine/pathobiology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS
cell: 785-317-0560
fax: 785-532-4039

bites barfblog and food safety: information procedures

People often ask me, “Doug, how do you choose the information that goes in Do you have a basis for any of your food safety rants on barfblog? Why are you such a jerk?

People often ask Ben, “Why do you write so much about vomit?”

People often ask Amy, “Why are you with Doug?”

When we ran the food safety information centre back in Canada, we had detailed procedures for how to answer questions, what information was provided and why. We don’t answer questions so much anymore, but we do provide a lot of information so I figured we better clearly understand what we do and why. This is more for us and all the students that come through my lab than it is for you. Really, it’s me, not you. is a unique comprehensive resource for all those with a personal or professional interest in food safety. Dr. Powell of Kansas State University, and associates, search out credible, current, evidence-based information on food safety and make it accessible to domestic and international audiences through multiple media. Sources of food safety information include government regulatory agencies, international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), peer-reviewed scientific publications, academia, recognized experts in the field and other sources as appropriate.

Throughout all bites activities, the emphasis is on engaging people in dialogue about food-related risks, controls and benefits, from farm-to-fork. bites strives to provide reliable, relevant information in culturally and linguistically appropriate formats to assist people in identifying, understanding and mitigating the causes of foodborne illness.

The listserv is a free web-based mailing list where information about current and emerging food safety issues is provided, gathered from journalistic and scientific sources around the world and condensed into short items or stories that make up the daily postings. The listserv has been issued continuously since 1995 and is distributed daily via e-mail to thousands of individuals worldwide from academia, industry, government, the farm community, journalists and the public at large.

The listserv is designed to:

•    convey timely and current information for direction of research, diagnostic or investigative activities;
•    identify food risk trends and issues for risk management and communication activities; and
•    promote awareness of public concerns in scientific and regulatory circles.

The bites listserv functions as a food safety news aggregator, summarizing available information that can be can be useful for risk managers in proactively anticipating trends and reactively address issues. The bites editor, Dr. Powell, does not say whether a story is right or wrong or somewhere in between, but rather that a specific story is available today for public discussion. is where Drs. Powell, Chapman, Hubbell and assorted food safety friends offer evidence-based opinions on current food safety issues. Opinions must be evidence-based – with references – reliable, rapid and relevant. The barfblog authors edit each other – viciously.

Breaking food safety news items that eventually appear in bites or barfblog are often posted on Twitter for faster public notification.

Food safety infosheets are designed to influence food handler practices by utilizing four attributes culled from education, behavioral science and communication literature:

•    surprising and compelling messages;
•    putting actions and their consequence in context;
•    generating discussion within the target audiences’ environments; and
•    using verbal narrative, or storytelling, as a message delivery device.

Food safety infosheets are based on stories about outbreaks of foodborne illness sourced from the bites listserv. Four criteria are used to select the story: discussion of a foodborne illness outbreak; discussion of background knowledge of a pathogen (including symptoms, etiology and transmission); food handler control practices; and emerging food safety issues. Food safety infosheets also contain evidence-based prescriptive information to prevent or mitigate foodborne illness related to food handling. And now, available in French, Spanish and Portuguese.

bites bistro videos
A nod to the youtube generation, but we don’t really know what we’re doing.

Ben Chapman profiled at NC State (this time with notes)

Chapman got his obligatory profile as new faculty in one of the North Carolina State University publications this week; this is the bites/barfblog version.

When Ben Chapman arrived at N.C. State University in January as the new food safety specialist in the Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences, he hit the ground running. …

Since arriving in North Carolina, Chapman has converted from a former Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan to a Carolina Hurricanes fan.

Carolina has a good hockey team and tickets are easy to get. Toronto sucks and tickets are impossible to get. Carolina has also won the Stanley Cup once in the past 42 years. Toronto has not.

He says that he spends much of his free time discussing the virtues of hockey with his wife and son (that’s Jack, below, left, at a Hurricanes game in about 4 years)..

Those who can, do. Others teach. Others talk. Others bore their families.

A player himself since age 4, he has even started playing hockey here in North Carolina with a group in Wake Forest.

If he’s been playing since 4 he really should be better.

Chapman has focused on finding the best ways to communicate food safety risk to the people who need to know. He is interested in how social media like Facebook and rapid communication technologies like Twitter might improve public safety around the issue of food risk.

It also helps to stay current on all the social media for fantasy baseball/football/hockey/cycling tips.

Chapman had a sense that the bathroom posters proclaiming that “employees must wash hands before returning to work” might not produce the desired results.

It was probably the sense of smell, coming from his hands.

Chapman even spent a semester working as a dishwasher in a restaurant to get a better sense of what the work climate was like.

I didn’t pay him enough as a graduate student and he had to moonlight.

Chapman noted that during busy times, employees tended to forget safe food-handling practices. “When it’s busy in a food-service operation, it gets really crazy,” he said.

That’s when the Pink Floyd is cranked.

In his new position, Chapman continues his quest to find the best ways of reaching food-service workers and consumers.

Go to a restaurant? A supermarket? It’s not like searching for a Holy Grail.

“We have a responsibility to get that information out there,” Chapman said. “The kind of things we’re doing here would have been hard to do in Canada — moving food safety forward.”

That’s what she said.

One way that Chapman has been moving food safety forward is helping agents develop training programs on home food preservation. Once a hallmark of extension programming through tomato clubs for girls, canning and other home food preservation techniques had largely fallen out of favor with consumers in recent years.

Ben Chapman: Defender of the can.

Simpsons, safety, aquavit, Ben and barf

Television’s The Simpson’s on Sunday began with a nice riff about foodborne illness loosely based on the Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella-fest, then quickly moved on to immigration and shared cultural values.

There was lots of aquavit.

I was first exposed to aquavit as a 16-year-old when I spent my first of five summers as a carpenter’s helper for two Danish homebuilders in Brantford, Ontario. I learned how to hammer nails efficiently using my 20-ounce Estwing, and I learned the Danish custom of drinking Aalborg aquavit – Danish schnapps, 45 per cent alcohol, I prefer the dill, above, right, over the caraway flavor – while eating pickled herring, and liver pate and beet open-face sandwiches.

Homer says, Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Amy and I still indulge occasionally, especially during losing Kansas State football games.

Ben Chapman first started working in my lab in the summer of 2000. I didn’t know he existed until I invited him and the other lab-types over to the house in September. I brought out the Danish schnapps, and Chapman, eager to make an impression, decided to go drink-for-drink with me. About an hour later, he vomited in my ex’s rose bush.

But, no shame. Homer got hammered by the Norwegians and their aquavit (see the second video below, reminds me of Ben), my friend John Kierkegaard, one of the Danish builders, could drink me under the table.

Chapman gets PhD

Irony is pretty ironic sometimes.

On the three-year anniversary of me officially starting at Kansas State University, two-years after the beginning of, and a year after going down the baby road yet again, Chapman finally gets his PhD, and all the staff at the remnants of the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph are fired.

Me, I just keep on truckin’ on. We’re working out the kinks with, and had yet another record number of visitors today. So for the best food safety news and analysis, visit often.

Meet iFSN: Ben Chapman

Doug is going broke.  Not personally, but iFSN is beginning to hurt for money.  Over my years as an undergraduate news puller and graduate student I’ve benefitted from you, our generous readership, and I figure it’s time to try and generate some cash and replenish the reserves for the next generation of iFSN.  Here’s my message: Please continue to give.

We do good work, always trying to chase down the most up-to-date food risk information from around the world, provide our pithy commentary and conduct reality-based research.  We’ve posed as shoppers in grocery stores, watched hundreds of hours of celebrity chefs, watched consumers prepare food and now have cameras up in kitchens to evaluate training interventions.  We really do care about this stuff.

Being around iFSN for as long as I have has given me an appreciation for all the behind-the-scenes labour that goes into our activities, and since Doug’s move to Kansas State we’ve attracted another fantastic crop of undergraduate and graduate students to help carry it out. iFSN is all about developing keen, creative and passionate students who are committed to reducing the risks of foodborne illness.  Past members of the iFSN family have gone on to be faculty members, industry leaders, and yes, surprisingly, some even work as regulators. So your support of the iFSN has a reach far beyond just our group.

Oh, and Doug gets grumpy when money gets low, so donations make our lives easier (and we can focus all the cool things we do).

We can’t offer you any DVDs of British comedies or Ken Burns documentaries like they do on PBS, but we can offer a very cool Don’t Eat Poop or barfblog tshirt in exchange for your support.  They are really stylish as well, so not only will you be helping iFSN, you’ll be dressing better (and I’ve met many of you, you need all the help you can get).  So please continue to give.