Don’t eat poop, and if you do, cook it; American Meat Institute president on Colbert Report

After waking up in Brisbane Australia, we are now settled in Van Buren, Arkansas, just across the Oklahoma border after 30 hours of travel, on our way to a beach house in Florida.

It’s good to have free wireless Internet, 100 television channels and an all-you-can eat each inclusive breakfast in a suite with a king-sized bed for $83.

Life’s a beach (that’s Sorenne, left, at Surfer’s Paradise on Australia’s Gold Coast).

I especially missed my favorite Comedy Central programs while overseas, so settled down to a new episode of the Colbert Report, only to find J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, going mano-a-mano with Stephen Colbert and trying to answer the question, how does poop get into hamburger?
I’ll post the video as soon as it’s up at

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a Lobby – American Meat Institute
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Canadian listeriosis report released: tough questions unresolved

Beginning in Aug. 2008, an outbreak of listeriosis linked to Maple Leaf deli meats was identified in Canada; 22 people would eventually die and at least 53 sickened.

In addition to the already available myriad of reports and testimonials comes the 181-page final report of Sheila Weatherill (right, exactly as shown) who was appointed directly by the Canadian Prime Minister.

The Investigation identified four broad categories where improvements need to be made. There must be:

–  more focus on food safety among senior officials in both the public and private sectors;

–  better preparedness for dealing with a serious foodborne illness with more advance planning for an emergency response;

–  a greater sense of urgency if another foodborne emergency occurs; and,

–  clearer communications with the Canadian public about listeriosis and
other foodborne illnesses, especially at risk populations and health professionals.


After in-depth analysis and advice from food safety and public health experts, the Weatherill made 57 recommendations for improvements to Canada’s food safety system. The recommendations address:

–  the safety culture of food processing companies;
–  the design of food processing equipment;
–  government rules and requirements for food safety;
–  the need for food service providers to adopt food safety practices aimed at vulnerable populations;
–  government’s capacity to manage national foodborne illness emergencies.


Weatherill had a five-person advisory committee of food safety types including Bruce Tompkin, Mansel Griffiths and Michael Doyle. The full report is included below, but is painfully slow to scroll through, so these comments are based on a cursory reading; more details to follow. I did however find that Weatherill recommended precautionary labeling – warning labels – for vulnerable populations like pregnant women and old people. That’s a start.

Who knew what when?
The report presents a timeline of the listeria outbreak, but offers little in the way of analysis. In the past the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has placed import holds on fresh produce based on epidemiological and test results conducted in the U.S. But in the listeria outbreak of 2008 (if that’s what it’s going to be called) somehow, epidemiology and positive test results from an opened package of Maple Leaf deli meat weren’t sufficient to trigger a public health warning; CFIA argued the dead-or-dying person could have contaminated the unopened package of deli-meat, so they waited until the same DNA fingerprint was found in an unopened package, another three days of inaction. So why the different standards of proof for foreign and domestic foods? What exactly is CFIA’s policy on going public? CFIA could just publish something, rather than risk a full public inquiry to get answers; CFIA bureaucrats could just be accountable to the folks that pay their salaries.

The report also talks about the need to educate Canadians about listeria and food safety. I prefer inform to the indoctrination of education, but don’t let government types do it. David Butler-Jones (below, left), Canada’s chief medical officer of health, told Canadians at the height of the listeria outbreak,

“There are the usual things we should always be doing, like washing hands, storing and cooking food properly, washing fruits and vegetables well, and avoiding unpasteurized milk and milk products…”

No idea what this has to do with listeria and ready-to-eat foods.

Also, why long-term care facilities were feeding cold-cuts to a vulnerable population is baffling – unless food safety really isn’t taken seriously by all kinds of groups (gasp).

Finally, contrary to the complete bullshit statements of various politicians and bureaucrats in the early days of the outbreak, the system did not work.

Robert Clarke, the assistant deputy minister of the Public Health Agency of Canada, said Aug. 22, 2008, that the government’s actions in this case were quite rapid and an illustration of success.??????

“I’m glad we got hold of it early and now we’ll take serious steps working with the feds to put it behind us."??????

It was a disaster I’m sure you’d want to put in the past.

The issues raised are not going anywhere. And Maple Leaf, why wait for more government reports? Put warning labels on your products, make listeria test results public, and market your food safety efforts directly to consumers.

Welsh government responds to E. coli outbreak report; parents of Mason say it’s not enough

After the 2005 E. coli O157 outbreak which killed 5-year-old Mason Jones and sickened 160 schoolchildren in Wales, Professor Hugh Pennington led a public inquiry which revealed the futility of food safety training, government inspection, and pretty much anything to do with the so-called food safety system.

Yesterday, First Minister Rhodri Morgan announced
more of the same in responding to Pennington’s report in the Wales Assembly.

“We know already that the Food Standards Agency is to review the use of equipment such as vacuum-packing machinery for both raw and cooked products.”

Duh. It shouldn’t happen.

“The training of inspectors and their managers is also being examined, with the aim of making this more comprehensive, helping them develop a sixth sense of what is potentially catastrophic.”

So they can see dead people?

“Inspections will be unannounced unless there is a clear requirement otherwise.”

Just make the inspections unannounced.

Sharon Mills and Nathan Jones, the parents of Mason Jones (above, right) said they would like to see Mr Morgan take more direct action and impose measures on the authorities involved, instead of leaving them to correct their own mistakes, with Ms. Mills stating,

“It was a bit disappointing because there was nothing definite about what he said. I thought we were going to get some answers and there still aren’t any. I don’t think we are any further forward than we were before.”

Somewhere, Prof. Pennington, who also headed the inquiry after the 1996 E. coli O157 outbreak in Scotland that killed 21 and sickened over 400, is wondering how to escape this Groundhog-Day-esque cycle of outbreak-illness-death-report-repeat.

More Canadian listeria reports; more bureaucratic BS

The bureaucrats have been busy.

Three more Canadian government studies on the listeria outbreak of 2008
which killed 21 were quietly posted Friday afternoon while the House of Commons was adjourned – what the Canadian Press called a traditional dumping ground for news the government wants to bury.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency each released their Lessons Learned Report today, following a thorough review of the steps taken during last year’s tragic listeriosis outbreak.

Despite the fact that Canada has one of the best food safety systems in the world, and that outbreaks like the one in the summer of 2008 are extremely rare, it was clear that further improvements were needed.

Who writes this shit?

I already read one government report today and wanted to gouge my eyes out. I’ll need to spread these out over the weekend with viewings of old movies which make me feel secure and happy, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail which is playing right now.

Some early highlights from media coverage:

Despite having an emergency response protocol, the CFIA never did activate an emergency operations centre as laid out it the plan. Still, the report concludes: "In general, the CFIA exercised its inspection and other statutory powers during the recall process."

The CFIA report first congratulates federal agencies on their "timely and appropriate exchange of information."

But under the heading "Areas for Improvement," the report states that timely determination of an outbreak and timely notification of the public require "additional clarity at provincial and federal levels … as to protocols and leadership roles."

Conservative Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was the lead government spokesman during the crisis, and came under fire for making a tasteless joke about "death of a thousand cold cuts" during one internal conference call.

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett said she can’t understand why Ritz was given the role of communicating to concerned Canadians.

"It seems that there was interference, political interference, in what was clearly a public health outbreak that should have been managed by public health officials and done in a clear communication with the people of Canada.”

Bear visits Subway restaurant in Canada; Stephen Colbert terrified

Tap-dancing rats in restaurants seems so yesterday after a black bear visited a Subway restaurant during the early morning of Sept. 15, 2008, in the north coast town of Kitimat, British Columbia.

Rebecca Branton, who was in the back, told CBC News,

"I was just back there making soup … but I saw the door open and it was a bear. I grabbed my cellphone and ran to the back and locked myself in the bathroom and called my parents.”

The young bear’s every move was captured by nine video cameras in the shop, including how it managed to grab the handle of the front door and pull it open.

See for yourself as part of The Colbert Report the other night. The bear bit starts at about 2:30. The zombie piece is hilarious, though, so watch through to the end.

No word on whether a health inspector was called to give the OK on potentially contaminated ingredients.