The best way to hide your weed: Food safety edition

In fake carrots, of course.

According to News One, over a ton of plastic carrots stuffed with pot, mixed in with a shipment of real carrots were seized by U.S. customs.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection came across $500,000 worth of marijuana disguised as carrots during a traffic stop at the Texas-Mexico border near the Gulf of Mexico.

According to NBCDFW, the discovery occurred last Sunday when agents noticed something peculiar about the tractor-trailer. After a detailed search, over a ton (3,000 lbs) of carrot-shaped packages were found mixed in with the real vegetable. Officials noted the marijuana hidden inside them held a street value of approximately $499,000.

“Once again, drug smuggling organizations have demonstrated their creativity in attempting to smuggle large quantities of narcotics across the U.S./Mexico border,” said Port Director Efrain Solis Jr., of the Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry.


Someone I know posted this on Facebook today: carrots being sold from a truck

Names and locations have been changed to protect, uh, identities.


So many questions.

Where did the carrots come from? Where did they go? How was $20 arrived at as the price? Does this fit into someone’s food safety plan?

In unrelated news, CDC estimates that about half of the foodborne illness in the U.S. is attributed to produce.

Home-canned carrots linked to North Carolina botulism case

A couple of weeks ago I ran into a barfblog reader who commented to me, ‘You’re really scared of botulism, aren’t you?’ This wasn’t a random question, it was related to a few things I had posted following over 20 illnesses linked to a potluck dinner at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church in Lancaster, Ohio.

Scared isn’t how I would describe it. Rattled and in awe of are probably better terms. The toxin blocks motor nerve terminals at the myoneural junction, causing paralysis. It starts with the mouth, eyes, face and moves down through the body. It often results in paralysis of the chest muscles and diaphragm, making a ventilator necessary. Months of recovery follow an intoxication.Carrots

Maybe I am scared.

There isn’t a whole lot of botulism in the U.S. every year, and not all of it is foodborne – (infant botulism is more common); over the past two decades, improperly home preserved foods are the main source.

Any case is notable.

Earlier this year there was a botulism illness in Ashe County, North Carolina that was

The case was first reported during a panel at the NC Food Safety and Defense Task Force annual meeting. Rose Hoban of North Carolina Health News captured the highlights.
It only took one bite.

Five days later, an Ashe County woman lay in the hospital, on a ventilator, unable to breathe.

Home canning food has a technical aspect to it that’s dangerous to ignore, said Ben Chapman from N.C. State University.

The woman, who’s name has not been released, told health officials she didn’t even swallow the carrot. She opened the home-canned jar of carrots, tasted one, decided it looked and tasted off, and spit it out.

But that was enough to give her botulism, sending her to the hospital for an 11-week stay.

She was lucky there was an off flavor, said Ben Chapman, a food-safety expert from N.C. State University.

“The toxin itself doesn’t have the sensory attributes that we associate with spoilage,” Chapman said this week at a presentation about the case during a meeting of the Governor’s Task Force on Food Safety and Defense that was held at the N.C. Biotechnology Center in Research Triangle Park.

Chapman said the procedure the woman had used to treat the carrots may have left some other bacteria behind that created the off taste. But her canning technique was not correct, which also left behind botulism spores in her carrots.

She was fortunate to have ingested a small enough amount that her hospital stay was relatively short compared to what happens in many botulism cases, Chapman said.

And he offered the story as a cautionary tale as we head into the main growing season when many people pull out pots and jars to preserve the fruits of the season.

It took several days for a possible diagnosis of botulism poisoning to show up in the woman’s medical record, said Nicole Lee, an epidemiologist from the state Department of Health and Human Services. The woman’s daughters and a friend told doctors that she canned her own food. Before she was intubated, the woman said she suspected the carrots.

But doctors also needed to rule out a stroke or other neurological problems. It took more than a week for doctors to tell state health officials that they suspected botulism.

“That immediately got our attention,” said Lee. “We had gotten wind that this person was canning her own food. We weren’t sure if these items were being sold in commerce or across state lines.”

“I was on my way to Morganton and I got a call to divert,” recounted Susan Parrish, a food regulatory supervisor for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Parrish, who monitors food outbreaks around the state, was given the carrots by one of the woman’s friends.

“They were in a quart jar,” said Parrish, who put on a biohazard suit to handle it. “Obviously, she had only tasted a bite, because the jar was full.”

A sample of the carrots was shipped to the Food and Drug Administration.

The results came back from the FDA “barely positive,” said the FDA’s Mancia Walker. “But with [botulism], barely positive is like a little bit pregnant.”

“This was a tragic mistake that can happen to anyone not using proper canning procedures,” he said, explaining that the woman had not pressure canned the carrots, which would have created temperatures high enough to kill botulism spores.

“There are very passionate people who are maybe not doing canning with science-based recommendations,” said Chapman, who has studied how people preserve food.

He said that when he’s asked canners where they learned to can, they tell him the knowledge has been passed down rather than learned in a home economics class or a workshop that’s strong on the science.

“We’ve seen in other cases where [a] family link perpetuates error,” said Chapman, who said there are plenty of books, classes and online instructions from agricultural extension services.

Biggest PR screw-up in NZ for 2014? Bad lettuce

The handling of a food poisoning scare involving carrots and lettuce has been deemed the biggest public relations challenge this year by a Wellington PR firm.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145The handling of the Yersinia pseudotuberculosis issue by the Ministry for Primary Industries beat the closure of regional flight routes by Air New Zealand and Roger Sutton’s resignation by the State Services Commission to make the top of the list.

“In a year of dirty politics, what really concerned New Zealanders most was dirty lettuce and carrots,” BlacklandPR director Mark Blackham said.

“Everyone had these vegetables in our fridges, yet no one in authority could say for some time whether they were a health threat.

Millions of people were affected and little information is a recipe for fear, rumours and anger.”

Dubai eateries to get award for best food safety practices

Enhancing food safety requires a mixture of carrots and sticks, persuasion and punishment.

Reinforcing positive behavior helps too.

Dubai Municipality has recently established an award for eateries that excel in measures and practices to ensure food safety, informed Khalid Shareef, Director, food Control department at the civic body.

“This award, we think, is first of its kind in the region. We aim to upgrade the levels of food safety prevailing in the establishments by creating an opportunity for healthy competition,” he further said.

It was over when she farted – there’s a car for that

Of the few websites I have in my RSS feeds for entertainment is, It Was Over When, all about how couples didn’t come to be. From yesterday:

It was over when she farted at the dinner table and kept on eating like nothing happened.


Aftermath: It ended the next day after I confronted her about the act. She tried to blame it on my dog.

The Japanese carmaker Mitsubishi has smelled the glove and introduced a new interior package it calls cocochi, in which the upholstery in the PX-Miev incorporates an anti-allergen coating that Mitsubishi says breaks down offensive odours and volatile organic compounds as well as deactivating allergens such as ticks and pollen.

And if fighting farts isn’t enough, each of the PX-Miev’s four seats is air-conditioned to ensure any remaining odours are quickly distributed and dispelled.

The PX-Miev’s obsession with smell doesn’t end there. The air-conditioning system pumps out aroma molecules as well as negative-ion and enriched oxygen to reduce fatigue and enhance comfort.


Swedish court rules that diarrhea no excuse for speeding

A court in Trelleborg, Sweden, has ruled that a woman’s diarrhea was not a sufficient reason for her to break the posted speed limit while driving.

The district court rejected the 49-year-old woman’s argument that she was forced to drive 53 mph in a 43 mph zone because of her digestive issues, Swedish news agency TT reported Thursday.

The court said the speed limit can only be broken in cases of emergency, which it defined as a danger to someone’s life or to prevent a serious crime.

The woman was ordered to pay her speeding ticket.

Clean the damn car once in a while and stop leaving food on the dashboard

I drove a Nissan Quest for about 8 years. Put on a lot of miles driving to Florida, saw a lot of vomit with four kids.

So for 6 a.m. hockey practices – and I was often the coach so I and whatever lucky kid was on that specific team had to be there at 5:30 or something stupid – I would often microwave an egg or two, slap it between some bread and away we’d go. I even sometimes put it on the dashboard.

Apparently I wasn’t alone. A poll by of 1376 car owners found that British motorists spend more than three years of their lives behind the wheel and over a quarter eat en route every week.

The poll also (…) revealed some startling hygiene calamities some drivers have faced.

Some motorist admitted finding dead mice, dog poo, fishing maggots, a three-year-old sandwich, a joint of beef, a partner’s [or] ex’s knickers, a used condom, child’s vomit in a door pocket, and mushrooms growing in the floor.

My van wasn’t that bad.

LA Salad company sues inspection agency over shigella-in-carrots recall

The Los Angeles Salad Company is, according to a Vancouver radio station, suing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency over this summer’s massive recall of baby carrots.

On Aug. 17, 2007, CFIA issued two warnings about LA Salad baby carrots sold at Costco because they may have been contaminated with shigella. The Agency said at the time that the carrots had already made four people sick, which triggered a subsequent recall in the United States.

The company now says that CFIA’s allegations weren’t supported by scientific fact and accuses them of shoddy testing. In documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court, the company is claiming damages due to a continued loss of business.