This is a thing: FDA issues warning about snorting chocolate

For a while last year, snorting chocolate was a thing. It was peddled to folks in the club scene as an alternative to doing illegal drugs. Now, federal regulators have issued a warning to a company that distributes chocolate to be used for snorting (right, someone who looks creepily like Chapman, who would know as much about snorting anything as Woody Allen did in Annie Hall).

Known as Coco Loko, this is a powder mixed with other ingredients usually found in energy drinks. While not referring specifically to Coco Loko, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that inhaling chocolate powder can cause vocal cord spasms that make it hard to speak or breathe and may induce or aggravate asthma. It can also cause tightening of the muscles that line the airways in the lungs. Two of the ingredients — taurine and guanine — have not been evaluated for use through inhalation.

The powdered chocolate, sold by Orlando-based Legal Lean, debuted in mid-2017. The company’s website promises that Coco Loko will provide a blast of the feel-good chemical serotonin — similar to the euphoria produced by the club drug ecstasy. The company’s website cautions users to consume it responsibly, and that is isn’t intended for children or pregnant women.

We play but agree, cause many of us do hockey

After Chapman posted about the Humboldt Broncos’ terrible bus crash, I thanked him because, I didn’t know what else to say.

I’ve been playing, coaching and even sometimes administering local hockey for 51 years, and this stuff strikes deep into any parent who has swerved on a snow-covered Canadian road only to listen to the kid (me) complaining, ‘we need to get there.’

Chapman wrote, “I often tell people that all I really know is hockey, food safety and family; everything and everyone important to me falls in one of those buckets. …

“All I could think of is all the teams I have been part of, back to when I was just a kid until now. Those experiences have meant so much more than competition and sport.

“It’s exactly why I got into coaching.”

No. Chapman got into coaching because I was his graduate supervisor, and his responsibilities included helping to coach a 6-9-year-old girls rep hockey team from Guelph, and bailing me out of jail upon request.

(He will say he was coaching before, but it probably wasn’t as much fun).

In 2005, Chapman and I came up with, and the first post was about hockey and barfing.

The worst was when I was 10 or 11. I was playing AAA hockey in my hometown of Brantford Ont., and we were off to an out-of-town game. My parents (bless them) usually drove, but obligations meant I had to get a ride with a friend on the team. About half-way to the arena, I started feeling nauseous. I tried to ask the driving dad to pull over, but it came on so fast, I had to grab the closest item in the backseat, an empty lunchbox. 
I filled it.

And more.

Back in the 1970s, the coach’s main concern was that we win. I was the starting goaltender almost every game, while the backup sat on the bench. We had something to prove because we were from Brantford, the city that had produced Wayne Gretzky just a couple of years earlier and everyone was gunning for us. 

I tried to get myself together to play. No luck. We got to the arena and I promptly hurled. 

And again.

I couldn’t play, and, unfortunately, couldn’t go home. So the rest of the team went out for the game, as I lay on a wooden bench in a sweat-stenched dressing room, vomiting about every 15 minutes. 

Such tales are not unique.

Whenever I spark up a conversation with a stranger, and they discover I work in food safety, the first response is: “You wouldn’t believe this one time. I was so sick” or some other variation on the line from American Pie, “This one time, at band camp …”

But the stories of vomit and flatulence are deadly serious. In 1995, a 5-year-old died in Wales as part of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened some 170 schoolchildren. Four people in the Toronto region were sickened with the same E. coli several weeks ago after drinking unpasteurized apple cider. Over 20 people are sick with the same bug from lettuce in the Minnesota area. And so it goes.

How did my game end? I could hear the various cheers but was lost in dizziness and nausea and sweat, wondering when this would end. 
The trip home was uneventful; I was drained — figuratively and literally.
We lost.

Thanks to all the Australians I hung out with today and asked me about the Humboldt Broncos’ and hopefully I provided some insight into the role of (ice) hockey in the small and large communities throughout Canada.

Fermentations: A microbiological orgasm for food and drink

Third-year university in 1983, and things started to click.

I was bored, angst-ridden and wondering what am I doing here.

home-made preserves for the winter isolated on white background

home-made preserves for the winter isolated on white background

Then I took an industrial microbiology class.


(And no, Michael Pollan didn’t invent bragging about fermentations either).

The next year I took a virology class and suddenly realized: we humans are hosts on a microbiological planet.

The way these bugs move genes around, invade others, and have been crucial to the evolution of humans has intrigued me ever since.

Kim Painter of USA Today writes that Americans used to find yogurt yucky. But the creamy dairy food long ago joined beer and cheese on the list of our favorite things produced by fermentation — an ancient preservation process in which bacteria transform food and drink, creating new flavors and, many consumers believe, enhanced health benefits.

So maybe it’s not surprising that thousands of people now show up at fermentation festivals around the country to make sauerkraut and sample kombucha teas, Korean kimchi and Japanese natto. The same folks flock to pop-up “kraut mobs” and study books such as Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation, both by the movement’s guru, Sandor Katz.

“I would say that virtually every event I do these days is at capacity, and I’m not accepting every invitation. I can’t physically do it,” Katz says. He spoke from China, where he was on a quest for more fermentation wisdom.

Fermentation is the hottest trend in plant-based eating, according to recent survey of registered dietitians by The Monday Campaigns, a non-profit organization that promotes healthy lifestyles.

Jeremy Ogusky, a Boston pottery maker, sees it firsthand as founder of Boston Ferments, the host group for a summer festival that drew a few hundred people four years ago and 14,000 this year.  “It’s just grown every year,” he says. “It’s kind of crazy.”

And what about safety, especially for foods fermented at home?  After all, the process typically requires leaving jars of foodstuffs sitting out for weeks, without the final sanitizing steps used in standard canning. (Heat processing can be added for some foods, but purists generally frown on that.)

The history of fermentation, especially with vegetables, is mostly reassuring. When properly done, fermentation produces acids that kill most worrisome microorganisms, says my friend, who also shares a love of fermentations, Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University.

“We have lots of data showing that if you get the correct pH drop, the correct acidity level, you can create a really, really low risk product,” he says. But he says risks are not zero, and some cases of home fermenters making mistakes and creating unsafe foods have been reported. That’s why he urges people to use only long-tested recipes and techniques.


I love it when Chapman talks about low-moisture foods

A number of recent outbreaks related to pathogens in low-moisture foods have created urgency for studies to understand the possible causes and identify potential treatments to improve low-moisture food safety.

ben_chapman2Thermal processing holds the potential to eliminate pathogens such as Salmonella in low-moisture foods. Water activity (aw) has been recognized as one of the primary factors influencing the thermal resistance of pathogens in low-moisture foods. But most of the reported studies relate thermal resistance of pathogens to aw of low-moisture foods at room temperature. Water activity is a thermodynamic property that varies significantly with temperature and the direction of variation is dependent on the product component.

Accurate methods to determine aw at elevated temperatures are needed in related research activities and industrial operations. Adequate design of commercial thermal treatments to control target pathogens in low-moisture products requires knowledge on how aw values change in different foods at elevated temperatures.

This paper presents an overview of the factors influencing the thermal resistance of pathogens in low-moisture foods. This review focuses on understanding the influence of water activity and its variation at thermal processing temperature on thermal resistance of pathogens in different low-moisture matrices. It also discusses the research needs to relate thermal resistance of foodborne pathogens to aw value in those foods at elevated temperatures.


Influence of water activity on thermal resistance of microorganisms in low-moisture foods: A review

Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety

Roopesh M. Syamaladevi, Juming Tang, Rossana Villa-Rojas, Shyam Sablani, Brady Carter, and Gaylon Campbell


Chapman wins young researcher award from IAFP

It’s not often a graduate student will bail their professor out of jail.

powell.chapman.hoserOr talk about it.

Ben Chapman has learned many lessons along the way, from coaching hockey, to his own kids, and the much deserved Larry Beuchat Young Researcher Award from the International Association of Food Protection.

Thanks to Linda Harris, who was on my PhD committee, and Stan Bailey, who I’ve respected over the years, for presenting Chapman with the award.

  • With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements and evaluates food safety strategies, messages and media, from farm to fork. Through reality-based research, Dr. Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers and organizational decision-makers: the gatekeepers of safe food.
  • He co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk, and co-publishes
  • Chapman joined IAFP in 2002. Since then, he has chaired the Student PDG and the Food Safety Education PDG. He currently serves as Chair of the New Media Task Force. Dr. Chapman is also President of the IAFP Affiliate, Carolinas Association for Food Protection.

And happy birthday to Geddy Lee. Rush played at my high school in 1975.

But I’m really not that into them.

Nerds and nebulous: E. coli outbreak prompts recall of 1.8 million pounds of ground beef

Chapman had some good quotes in U.S. media yesterday about the beef recall from Wolverine Packing Company of Detroit, linked to E. coli O157 that has so far sickened 11 people in four states.

ben-newIt’s like we’re finally figuring out this time difference thing.

He told today’s the USA Today that the best way for consumers to reduce their risk is to avoid ordering undercooked burgers. Specifically, ask your server for a burger cooked to 160 degrees.

“If you just say ‘medium well,’ you might get 145 degrees or 170 degrees,” said Ben Chapman, a food safety professor at North Carolina State University. “The protection for consumers is being specific and maybe looking like a nerd.”

And he told Lynne Terry of The Oregonian, “Medium, medium rare, well done —  they’re all vague and nebulous. The best way is to ask that it’s cooked to 160.”

Chapman is currently involved in a USDA-funded study on E. coli in beef. He said some fast-food chains will only serve burgers that are cooked to 160 degrees following outbreaks, beginning with Jack-in-the-Box in 1993 when four children died and 600 were sickened by undercooked burgers tainted with E. coli O157:H7. But other restaurants put the onus on consumers. Sometimes servers warn patrons about the risk of food poisoning with undercooked burgers; sometimes they don’t.

Food safety whistle-blowers to get part of the fine in Taiwan

If Chapman could figure out a way to pay people, his #citizenfoodsafety would really take off.

In Taiwan, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is raising the reward for whistle-blowers and others who tip off the government to food safety violators, a day before a district court was set to hand down a ben.washingtonverdict in an edible oil case that has shaken confidence in locally-produced food products.

FDA Deputy Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) said that newly amended FDA regulations will allow anyone providing tips that lead to the discovery of violations to receive a 5 percent to 10 per cent cut of the fine imposed on the offender. The previous regulations only offered 5 per cent.

Food Safety Talk 49: Less Risky Bathroom Event

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds.  The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University.  Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.

Episode 49

The show started with Don and Ben sharing their love for iOS7 and iTunes Radio. Ben’s still on his Beach Boys trip, having recently watched Beautiful Dreamer.

The discussion then quickly turned to food safety follow up. Ben wasn’t happy with his Food Safety News interview on dishwasher cooking and the message that he might have sent. Don felt that a really important aspect was the multitude of variables that can change from one dishwasher to another and hence that it was difficult be safe.FoodSafetyTalk

The guys then discussed some listener feedback about safety of low sugar jellies, which was related to the work of one of Don’s master’s student. The listener commended the work on low sugar jellies, which will help provide important information to existing Cottage Food Guidelines. The guys then delved into the effects of water activity, pH, sugar contents for the safety of the preserving process and how some products, such as the Cronut Maple Jam, fall far outside the known safe zone. This got Ben onto the Toronto Public Health investigation update on the Cronut Burger outbreak, which was related to the already risky jam not being refrigerated by the producer or the vendor who purchased it.

Don then gave Amy Jane Gruber, from Just The Tip podcast, a plug for her participation in the Fare Walk for Food Allergy. You might even hear her on a future FST episode.

In the Food Safety History segment, Don shared the initial editorial from the journal of milk technology, which while written in 1937 still resonates strongly with today’s food safety activities.

Ben then described personal challenge he has urinating in his office building without getting splash back. This reminded the guys of the aerosolization in the bathroom and potential risk that this can pose.

Ben then recalled the UPI story about a Swedish man urinating on supermarket produce. While urine is normally sterile, Ben wondered about the risks. While Don couldn’t quantify the risk on the spot, he noted that in HACCP terms hand washing after a bowel movement was a CCP while after peeing it could be considered a GHP. But both agreed that sick workers just shouldn’t be at work.

The discussion then turned to raw milk cheeses, which was prompted by the Gort’s Gouda raw milk cheese related outbreak in Canada. Don noted that the rate of inactivation in a particular product was more important that just a ’60-day limit’ say. That’s because the final risk is integrally related to the starting concentration and the inactivation rate.

To finish off the podcast Don wanted to talk about the Food Safety News article on food date labels, which was based on this NRDC work. While Don agreed that date labels were confusing, he was also rather sceptical of the underlying work.

In the after dark, the guys talked about the new markdown format for the shownotes and planned their podcasting schedules for the next few episodes.