Snake on subway makes for costly salmonella cleanup

Don’t take your snake on the subway.

That’s what Melissa Moorhouse of Allston, Mass. discovered after her three-foot boa slithered away from under her scarf and around her neck on the Red Line between the Broadway and Andrew stations in Boston.

Penelope the snake was discovered two weeks later in a subway car at the JFK/UMass station.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority decided it had to do a special sanitizing of the car to reduce the risk of salmonella, and then sent Moorhouse a cleaning bill of $650.

Oregon bill to exempt farmers’ markets ignores food safety

There’s always weird stuff going on with state legislators. Anyone who watches Big Love on HBO would know that polygamist and newly elected state representative Bill is just making a mess of things in the TV version of Utah.

In Oregon, Rep. Matt Wingard, R-Wilsonville, introduced House Bill 2336 to balance promotion of farmers’ markets with protection for food safety.

?“I believe we have adequately addressed the issues and you have a bill before you that allows farmers’ markets to continue to grow and thrive. … The principal ingredients must be grown and processed by their producer, it must list ingredients and the name and address of the producer, the producer is limited to $20,000 in annual sales, and it must carry a label that it is homemade and is not prepared in an inspected food establishment.”?

Faith-based food safety is in no one’s interest.

Will proposed food safety bill mean fewer sick people? Doubtful

Apparently I’m alone in thinking the proposed food safety legislation won’t make much of a difference – especially in terms of sick people.

While tomorrow’s USA Today gushes in a headline courtesy of a so-called consumer group that “Proposed food safety bill good for ‘everyone who eats,’” for me, it all just sounds like “The old Potomac two-step, Jack."??

"I’m sorry, Mr. President, I don’t dance."??

That’s what Jack Ryan as played by Harrison Ford said in the movie, Clear and Present Danger. And that’s why I repeatedly ignore what comes out of Washington.

The $1.4 billion food safety bill, which would give the Food and Drug Administration broader powers to inspect processing plants and recall tainted products, cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate, setting it up as a top measure for Congress to address in its year-end session.

What I told ABC News was this:

"Government sets minimal standards, which the best food producers, processors and retailers exceed daily, while talking heads blather. There are bad players in the system, which government is supposed to catch, but given the pervasive food safety outbreaks over the past 20 years, they don’t seem very good at it. Will the new bill mean fewer sick people? Doubtful."

Dr. Douglas Powell, associate professor, Kansas State University

ABC also asked a bunch of other food policy types, and they all agreed, one way or another, that passage of the bill was important.

It’s not that important. Dance?

Taco Bell implicated in two salmonella outbreaks sickening more than 150

The always colorful and geographically precise, Bill Keene, senior epidemiologist with Oregon Public Health, told The Oregonian yesterday that mystery Mexican-style fast food chain restaurant A is Taco Bell.

"It’s been clear for weeks that Taco Bell was the source for many of the illnesses. It’s equally clear that it’s not all Taco Bell. It’s also not a single Taco Bell restaurant."

The first cases appeared at the beginning of April and continued through the third week in July. Dozens were sickened in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, with a sprinkling of cases across the rest of the country. One person in Oregon — a woman in her 20s in Klamath County — got sick.

Keene said,

"It’s very striking to have two such similar outbreaks at roughly the same time and both of them affecting Taco Bell. The similarities might be a coincidence."

Although no one food or menu item has been named a culprit, Keene said epidemiologists think that lettuce, tomatoes or both were to blame.

"It’s not 100 percent sure it’s one or the other but those are the chief suspects," he said. "We’ve been unable to tease them apart because everyone eats both."

Keene said the food involved in the outbreaks was clearly contaminated before reaching Taco Bell franchises.

"It’s not something that they’re doing wrong. One of the products that they using in their food was contaminated."

The company did not return a phone call seeking comment.

CDC officials would not confirm that the company involved in the outbreaks was Taco Bell.

Naming a restaurant could have an economic impact on the company’s bottom line, said Kristen Nordlund, an agency spokeswoman.

The outbreak is also considered to be over though both the FDA and CDC are continuing to investigate.

"There’s no inherent reason for people to stop eating at Taco Bell now," Keene said.

MarlerBlog: Dave Theno had it right – Secretaries Vilsack and Sebelius should pay attention

Bill Marler writes:

Lauren Beth Rudolph (below, right) died on December 28, 1992 in her mother’s arms due to complications of an E. coli O157:H7 infection – Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. She was only 6 years, 10 months, and 10 days old when she died. Her death, the deaths of three other children, and the sicknesses of 600 others, were eventually linked to E. coli O157:H7 tainted hamburger produced by Von’s and served at Jack in the Box restaurants on the West Coast during late 1992 and January 1993. Roni Rudolph, Lauren’s mom, I have known for 16 years.

Dave Theno became head of Jack in the Box’s food safety shortly after the outbreak. I too have known Dave for 16 years. However, I only learned recently a significant fact about Dave – one that made me admire him even more – one that I think, not only that all leaders in corporate food safety should emulate, but one that both Secretaries Vilsack and Sebelius should pay attention too.

Dave and I shared the stage at the Nation Meat Association annual convention a few months ago. The NMA is an association representing meat processors, suppliers, and exporters. Dave, spoke just before I did and was rightly lauded as someone who takes food safety to heart. However, it was his story about Lauren Rudolph and his relationship with Roni that struck me. Dave told the quiet audience about Lauren’s death. Dave also told us that the death of Lauren and his friendship with Roni had changed him. He told us all that he had carried a picture of Lauren in his brief case everyday since he had taken the job at Jack in the Box. He told us that every time he needed to make a food safety decision – who to pick as a supplier, what certain specifications should be – he took out Lauren’s picture and asked, “What would Lauren want me to do?”

I thought how powerful that image was. The thought of a senior executive holding the picture of a dead child seeking guidance to avoid the next possible illness or death is stunning, but completely appropriate. I wonder if Secretaries Vilsack and Sebelius do anything similar when they do their work on President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group? If they do not, perhaps they should?

Secretaries Vilsack and Sebelius right now there are hundreds of families struggling right now due to illnesses and death related to food that you oversee that has been tainted with E. coli O157:H7.
Yesterday, I spent time with a family in South Carolina whose 4 year old ate cookie dough and suffered months of hospitalizations, weeks of dialysis and seizures. She faces a lifetime of complications. And, there is a woman in Nevada who is still hospitalized, who has lost a portion of her large intestine, was on dialysis until a few days ago. She faces months if not years of rehabilitation.

Both ate cookie dough that was watch over by Secretary Sebelius’s FDA.

Today I sat across the kitchen table with a family who lost their only daughter because she died from an E. coli O157:H7 infection from meat inspected by Secretary Vilsack’s USDA/FSIS. I then visited families in a Cleveland hospital whose children are struggling in their battle against Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome – again E. coli O157:H7 tainted hamburger is to blame.

Secretaries Vilsack and Sebelius you should be like Dave Theno. Run your departments like Dave ran food safety at Jack in the Box. Go meet these families. Sit across their kitchen tables. Go to their child’s hospital room and see more tubes and wires than you can count. Understand what these people have lived though. Take their stories into your heart. It is hard, very hard, but it will give you a real reason to do your jobs.

Bill Marler donates to International Food Safety Network

Fifteen years ago this week, Seattle lawyer Bill Marler and
Kansas State University professor Douglas Powell were drawn into the
food safety arena when the Washington Department of Health announced
that Jack in the Box restaurants were the source of a multi-state
outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections. Now, the two are teaming up to
further promote awareness of food safety.

Marler, who has represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other
foodborne illness outbreaks since representing more than 100 victims of
the Jack in the Box outbreak, has pledged to donate $25,000 to Powell’s
group, the International Food Safety Network — iFSN — at Kansas State
University. The group, which was formed in 1993 when Powell began
researching the impact and influence of food safety information on
farmers, processors, retailers, consumers and regulators, produces
several electronic mailing lists to disseminate food safety information
across the globe. In addition, Marler has pledged to match all other
donations made to iFSN in 2008, up to $25,000.

In thanking Marler for the donation, Powell said,

"All money donated to iFSN will be used to fund students in developing and carrying out a
variety of projects. These will focus on the use of new media and new
messages to compel individuals from farm-to-fork to take steps to
reduce the incidence of foodborne illness.

"Bill Marler is an outstanding advocate for food safety and understands
that microbiologically safe food just doesn’t happen," said Powell.
"Any lawyer can talk the talk. Bill walks the talk."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76
million Americans get sick and 5,000 die each and every year after
consuming contaminated food and water. The Jack in the Box outbreak in
the Pacific Northwest, which killed four and sickened over 600, was the
tipping point for American public awareness of the risks posed by
dangerous microorganisms in food.

Bill Murray charms them in Manhattan (Kansas)

A gentleman  (and a lady) is someone who never makes someone else feel uncomfortable. That’s what cool is. Not what music you listen too, not what clothes you wear, Not who’s the most popular. … But the person who looks you in the eye, who’s always there, that’s the person you’ll remember from high school.

That was the message actor Bill Murray delivered to Manhattan High School students, alumni and hangers-on like me and Amy in between the girls and boys basketball games tonight.

Murray was in town to pay homage to former Manhattan High School attendee Del Close, who was inducted along with three others to the MHS wall of fame tonight. Close was regarded as a founder of improvisational comedy favored by Chicago’s Second City, where he mentored a long list of Saturday Night Live alumni, including Bill Murray. The night before Close died in 1999, he held a live wake in his hospital room and declared he was tired of being the funniest person in the room. He bequeathed his skull to the Goodman theatre for a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Alas, poor Yorick, I hardly knew thee).

Murray was charming, heartfelt and funny as he paid homage to his late friend, and to the town of Manhattan (Kansas). His brother, Brian Doyle-Murray apparently lives in Manhattan (Kansas), although he’s in California working on a film, and there are stories of annual Murray brother sightings around town. Ask Kyle.

Afterwards, while Bill graciously talked to the locals, I got a chance to give him a barfblog and French Don’t Eat Poop T-shirt. He seemed amused (left).

Anyone who’s been here knows Manhattan (Kansas) really is in the middle of nowhere and really is in the middle of the contiguous 48 states. It’s not easy to get here. So yeah to Bill Murray.

Bill Murray coming to Manhattan (Kansas)

But the real news is that his brother, Brian Doyle-Murray, lives here, and his wife is a student in veterinary medicine at Kansas State.

Who knew.

He not only played Lou Loomis in Caddyshack, which made his brother Bill famous, he co-wrote the script with Harold Ramis and Douglas Kenney. What about that turn in Wayne’s World? And the numerous characters on the Canadian television version of Second City TV.

Anyway, the Manhattan Mercury reports that Bill  Murray is expected to be in Manhattan Friday to attend the induction of Del Close into the Manhattan High School Hall of Fame.

The story says that his fame began at the Second City comedy theater in Chicago, which is where he came under the guidance of Close. Close is regarded as the comic godfather of many Second City talents, including John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Chris Farley and others. Close was in the Manhattan High School class of 1952.

Doyle-Murray was cited as telling the Mercury today that he wouldn’t be able to attend the induction ceremony because of a movie commitment in California, but that Bill would be here.

The ceremony is scheduled to take place between the boys’ and girls’ games — about 7:15 p.m. — at Manhattan High, in the north gym.