Food Safety Talk 163: Grown on Chia Pets

The episode starts with the ongoing history of Canadian cuisine, landing on peameal bacon and how it came to be an Ontario delicacy. The guys go on to talk creamers dropping in hot coffee and contamination potential. The guys put out a request to listeners to send on listener’s food safety in everyday life (send pics). The guys talk date balls, chia and immunocompromised individuals. Ben tells a story about navigating the public health investigation world from a victims perspective and Don provides his insight. They both then go on to chat about risk communication in deception studies with human subjects. The episode ends on rapid listener feedback on double gloving (again), washing onions and cutting boards.

Episode 163 is available on iTunes and here.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

‘It depends and it’s complicated’ Schaffner on the 5-second rule

Friend of the barfblog.com shares his thoughts about the five-second rule, peer-reviewed research, and media attention. Thanks for doing this, Don.

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In March 2014 I got angry. I saw an article in the popular press indicating that researchers from Aston University in the United Kingdom had “proved the five second rule was real”  It was not the finding that made me angry as much as the science behind it. Or more properly the lack of science behind it.

don-schaffner-214x300We’ve been studying microbial cross-contamination in my lab for more than 15 years, and I have considered myself a quantitative food microbiologist for my entire career. Given those two observations, it’s only natural that I be interested in an article like this. But when I reached out to the University for more information I learned the research had not been peer-reviewed, and the best that they could offer was a PowerPoint presentation. A PowerPoint presentation is not science. Science proceeds through peer review. Like democracy it’s a terrible system, just the best one we have found so far.

After I got angry, I got busy.  And like any good professor by “got busy”, I mean that a graduate student got busy doing the actual  work of science.  I had a brand-new MS student starting in my lab, and she had funding from another source, but needed a research project. We worked together to design an appropriate series of studies that would advance our understanding of microbial cross-contamination while at the same time could generate a press release that might get a little bit of attention. Like any good scientists we built on the work of others. We acknowledged non-peer-reviewed work from other institutions that paved the way like high school student Jillian Clarke in Hans Blaschek’s lab at the University of Illinois. We also acknowledged the first peer-reviewed research from Paul Dawson’s lab at Clemson University.

Flash forward a couple of years, we submitted our article to one of the best journals out there that publishes food microbiology research, Applied and Environmental Microbiology and after peer review and appropriate revisions our article was accepted for publication.  I reached out to a colleague in the media relations department at Rutgers University, and we worked together to write a press release.

As you may have noticed, we have garnered extensive media attention with thousands of articles published around the world. The New York Times did a particularly nice piece interviewing me as well as my colleague Bill Hallman, and barfblog’s Doug Powell.  It has been a fun ride, but I’m looking forward to getting back to other things.  Just keeping up with the requests for interviews has been almost a full-time job, I have generally resisted the temptation to respond to commenters on the Internet, who complain about everything from the waste of grant funds (not the case, we used discretionary funds I raised myself), to suggestions that I studied the wrong thing.

But before we close the books on this one, I do want to respond to Aaron Carroll, a medical doctor who became interested in the topic when he co-authored a book on medical myths. Carroll insists that it’s not any of the factors we studied that are important, but rather how dirty the surface might be.  He is certainly correct in that the level of contamination, as well as the type of contamination are important (pro tip: coliforms don’t make us sick), but the degree to which those microbes transfer is also essential in determining risk. As I’ve said in many interviews, if there are no pathogens present on the surface, the risk is zero. The immune state of the person doing the eating also makes a difference. The risk for someone who is immunocompromised is higher than the risk someone who has a healthy immune system.

schaffner-facebook-apr_-14So as any listener to our food safety podcast will know, it turns out “it depends” and “it’s complicated.” The level of contamination, the type of contamination, the nature of the surface, the nature of the food, as well as the immune state of the person all matter in determining risk of eating food off the floor.

Longer contact times increase cross-contamination of Enterobacter aerogenes from surfaces to food

Applied and Environmental Microbiology; Appl. Environ. Microbiol. November 2016 vol. 82 no. 21 6490-6496

Robyn C. Miranda and Donald W. Schaffner

http://aem.asm.org/content/82/21/6490.abstract?etoc

Abstract

Bacterial cross-contamination from surfaces to food can contribute to foodborne disease. The cross-contamination rate of Enterobacter aerogenes on household surfaces was evaluated by using scenarios that differed by surface type, food type, contact time (<1, 5, 30, and 300 s), and inoculum matrix (tryptic soy broth or peptone buffer). The surfaces used were stainless steel, tile, wood, and carpet. The food types were watermelon, bread, bread with butter, and gummy candy. Surfaces (25 cm2) were spot inoculated with 1 ml of inoculum and allowed to dry for 5 h, yielding an approximate concentration of 107 CFU/surface. Foods (with a 16-cm2contact area) were dropped onto the surfaces from a height of 12.5 cm and left to rest as appropriate. Posttransfer, surfaces and foods were placed in sterile filter bags and homogenized or massaged, diluted, and plated on tryptic soy agar. The transfer rate was quantified as the log percent transfer from the surface to the food. Contact time, food, and surface type all had highly significant effects (P < 0.000001) on the log percent transfer of bacteria. The inoculum matrix (tryptic soy broth or peptone buffer) also had a significant effect on transfer (P = 0.013), and most interaction terms were significant. More bacteria transferred to watermelon (∼0.2 to 97%) than to any other food, while the least bacteria transferred to gummy candy (∼0.1 to 62%). Transfer of bacteria to bread (∼0.02 to 94%) was similar to transfer of bacteria to bread with butter (∼0.02 to 82%), and these transfer rates under a given set of conditions were more variable than with watermelon and gummy candy.

IMPORTANCE The popular notion of the “five-second rule” is that food dropped on the floor and left there for <5 s is “safe” because bacteria need time to transfer. The rule has been explored by a single study in the published literature and on at least two television shows. Results from two academic laboratories have been shared through press releases but remain unpublished. We explored this topic by using four different surfaces (stainless steel, ceramic tile, wood, and carpet), four different foods (watermelon, bread, bread with butter, and gummy candy), four different contact times (<1, 5, 30, and 300 s), and two bacterial preparation methods. Although we found that longer contact times result in more transfer, we also found that other factors, including the nature of the food and the surface, are of equal or greater importance. Some transfer takes place “instantaneously,” at times of <1 s, disproving the five-second rule.

Food Safety Talk 82: Late Breaking Golf

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.1444699495219

Ben and Don start the show by talking about the movie The Parent Trap. Don recommends the original version with Haley Mills instead of the remake with Lindsey Lohan. Ben shares that he often enjoys Amazon.com humorous reviews, like those found here. Ben and Don then reminisce about their recent visit to the Army and Navy club in Washington, DC for a meeting of the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance. The guys are looking forward to seeing each other again at the annual IAFP 2015 meeting in Portland Oregon*. Don shares that he has been listening to podcast called “The Dalrymple Report” featuring Canadian guitarist and Apple nerd Jim Dalrymple. Ben may listen on his next run.

After 30 min catching up, Ben and Don officially begin the podcast talking about an outbreak of salmonellosis linked to tuna fish where at least 53 people got ill. Don strongly recommends that infants and the elderly not eat sushi. While browsing the Internet for more information, Don concludes that FDA has a better site index compared to the CDC. Then the conversation continues with hand washing. An anonymous colleague contacted Don and Ben regarding the accessibility of hand sink and soaps for food handlers. Results showed an increase in violations of this time over time. The guys then talk about the Food Code in both North Carolina and the New Jersey.

Don introduces the Blue Bell ice cream outbreak into the discussion. He references a blog post from The Acheson Group about FDA 483 inspection reports. Ben mentions that because of the outbreak, Blue Bell laid off 37% of their employees. The podcast ends with a (belated) invitation to listeners to attend IAFP, in Portland, Oregon.

Food Safety Talk 75: 76 Trombones

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.1430350256159

The episode starts with Don very annoyed because he bought a microphone stand, carried it to various continents without using it, and now he cannot find it. In its absence he has resorted to using a hat.

 The podcast opens with discussion about making podcasts.  A listener asked how episode titles are selected in response to the title of Food Safety Talk episode 68: We found it in Wild Pig Feces. The process for podcast title selection is to look for random, out of context phrases from the show, text about them 30-40 times to select one, and lastly make sure it isn’t too long. One of Renee Boyer’s students, Lily Yang, also expressed interest in podcasting and Ben suggested she start with listening to lots of other podcasts. Recommended podcasts include Merlin and Dan’s Back to Work on 5by5 and the WTF podcast especially the episode with RuPaul.  Another resource is The Podcast Method website.

The focus of this episode was professionals making poor risk management decisions. A health inspector from the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture tried to stop a mother from breastfeeding in her farmer’s market booth despite the fact that she had proper hand washing facilities. Officials later apologized.  Ben and Don applaud the well-reasoned response the mother, Tanessa Holt gave.

Additional excitement brought to you by the ‘Theater of Public Health’ includes a middle school in New Jersey was closed because a staff member had C. difficile . Ben provides an historic example of risk management vs. communication virucidal footbaths were installed at airports in response to foot and mouth disease outbreak with the understanding that they were not effective.

The guys talk about how there is often a lack of data to inform risk, for example with the proposed use of hand sanitizer between handling money and then food. Or maybe the data does exist, but isn’t at the forefront of public health recommendations (the removal of tomato stem scar).  Ben and Don talk about gaps existing between regulations and practical ideas for implementation. Don found Rutgers dining hall did not have a vomit clean up plan and the Food Code is lacking specific best practices. One good resource for vomit clean up is here.

The conversation turned to public perceptions of food risks.  Food safety professionals are perhaps not proactive about correcting public misperceptions.  A counter example is South Dakota soybean producers who aim to correct misperceptions people have about GMOs and pesticides through a new advertising campaign.  Don talks about an interview question related to safest cuts of meat.  Regarding food safety ranking Mike Batz has created a top ten list of food-pathogen combinations. For better or worse, the Mother Jones article is here.

In recall news, Chipotle took a pork carnitas off of their menu because they suspend a pork supplier due to animal welfare concerns.

Lastly, Don received an urgent voicemail from the department administrator to sign a very important document and stated that ‘lack of planning on other peoples part does not does not constitute an emergency on my part.’

Food Safety Talk 71: Bungee Jumping vs. Skydiving

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.1422538910457

The fellows start the podcast by catching up on their travels, and Don talks about Brazil and Ben about Canada. Don also talked about his new podcast workflow using an app that converts webpages to PDF files and sends it directly to Dropbox.

Surprisingly, they immediately embark in a food safety conversation and Ben mentioned a recent C. perfringens outbreak in Maryland at a food safety conference where 266 people became ill presumably by eating Chicken Marsala. The actual food served was not sampled, however stool samples were positive for C. perfringens. This outbreak sparks a discussion of the work by food safety expert Frank Bryan. In response to an outbreak at a school, Frank performed an observation study, where he had the cafeteria staff redo everything identifying the risk associated with that outbreak.  The discussion turns to Denmark where three individuals died of Listeriosis after eating asparagus soup. Dr. Charles Haas tweeted the asparagus soup recipe has a dairy component and the soup may be served hot or cold which might be the risk associated with the outbreak.

Once again, they talk about cutting boards in response to Don’s Facebook post. There has been previous discussion about how many cutting boards a kitchen should have. Don who himself owns 10 cutting boards, raises a better question to how risk is managed, or when to throw away a used cutting boards. Dr. Cliver, a former professor at UC Davis, has done published on plastic and wooden cutting boards.  Ben recalled that Dr. Cliver compared raw milk and apple cider with bungee jumping and skydiving. While Don does not agree with this metaphor, he thinks that Dr. Cliver would have been a great podcast guest. Speaking of guests, the hosts updated their short list to include retired government scientists Jack Guzewich, and Carl Custer.  The show-noter for this episode also gives a shout out to Dr. Freeze who was not just an awesome podcast guest, but also an inspiration and role model for female food safety scientists.

Ben turns the talk to tech by mentioning an iTunes application that he uses to scan receipts and important notes, and Don counters with his PDF app of choice, which reminds him of his dislike of university reimbursement logistics. Don calms down to recommends music software that helps him focus.

The show wraps, up with discussion of a blog post by Doug Powell: “Who are you? Scientist, Writer, Whatever”, and Don adds that to be a good scientist, one must be a good writer, since one must write to publish, and doing experiments without publishing them is not science. Then they talk about how social media can be useful in helping in food safety, citing a restaurant in Alaska that was closed after a Facebook post led to health department inspection.

Food Safety Talk 57: My Own Tea Mule

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.1395011368356

The guys started the show by sharing some family traditions including watching Jeopardy and drinking Rooibos tea.

They then discussed some raw milk questions posed by raw milk producer. Don suggested that there was specific scientific evidence to answer many of them. He also wondered about the scientific basis of some of the information presented in a recent RMI webinar.

Don then shared that he’ll be podcast cheating again on an upcoming Raw Food Real Talk episode on cottage food. The guys then transitioned to a recent cheese related Listeriosis outbreak affecting members of the Hispanic community. While health authorities have released some information on illnesses and the product there are many questions that are still to be answered.

After a false start and then covering the last part of the IAFP History, the 2000’s, Ben put out a call to listeners for important outbreaks and food safety landmarks that Ben and Don could discuss in the upcoming Outbreak Flashback segment. It will be groovy. And have a disco theme.

The guys then turned to pizza and Alton Brown, who Don went to see live. Alton had dropped the pizza base before cooking it and that got Don worried about what message this was sending. Ben was amused by Alton’s Twitter feed and fascinated by his earlier career. While on the pizza topic, Ben found some really stretched science reporting of this research article. The press release reminded the guys of Betteridge’s law of headlines. The answer is always no.

The discussion of media reminded Don of this Andrew Gelman post about how to get your university press release reprinted by The Washington Post. Don concluded that the best practices for engaging people are also despicable. Ben suggested sometimes science-types need to go to where people are engaged and sort of play the same game. To quote Merlin Mann from 43 Folders: “Joining a Facebook group about creative productivity is like buying a chair about jogging.”

To finish off, Ben raised the issue of consumers not following label instructions, as was the case with E. coli in Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough. Ben wanted to know how consumers learn about products and how to use those products.

In the after dark the guys covered Picturelife, and Siri not having what Don was looking for, which he posted on Facebook.

Food Safety Talk 53: Raw milk Hamsterdam

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.

They dove in to follow-up with additional information they received from Cheryl Deem from the American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) on the spice story in FST 52. Cheryl explained why ASTA didn’t have a response to the FDA risk assessment as reported in this NYT article and shared a guidance document ASTA had prepared in 2011.

The discussion then turned to yet another pruno-related botulism outbreak in a Utah prison. Pruno has been discussed in FST 27 and the investigation of that outbreak has just been published in this paper, including the experimental Pruno recipe.

In the IAFP History segment, Don shared Manan Sharma‘s article on the 1970’s, which marked changes to food consumption, food safety and environmental trends, including HACCP and microwaves. After a short 1970’s detour to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus Vol 1, Ben marveled about the advances in microwave technology, including the magnetron. While Ben’s new microwave exceeded his cooking expectation, Trader Joe’s cooking instructions for Mac & Cheese fell short. In contrast to Trader Joe’s, who don’t have a social media presence, Don did like Publix who asked for a haiku on Twitter.

Don then shared his latest irritation with Fightbac.org. It was prompted by their latest campaign called Bac Down and their lack of understanding that Listeria monocytogenes can grow at temperatures as low 32 °F. The guys challenged listeners to send in their creative Bac-themed puns for great prices!

Ben then wanted to talk about Jeffery Arthur Feehan who tried to shoplift meat in his pants. But Ben wasn’t quite so worried simply because store employees put the meat back on the shelf (a big yuck factor!), but that Jeffrey took the meat to the restroom for his pants stuffing misdemeanor. Jeffrey’s comment to the judges reminded Ben of a famous Animal House quote.

The discussion then turned to a recent paper on raw milk consumption and illness. While the underreporting aspect got some publicity, Ben suggested that all the information wasn’t going to change minds. This had been highlighted in this article on Michigan consumers of raw milk and that’s got to do with raw milk proponents not trusting health officials. Ben discussed the “The Abuela project“, an example of an innovative approach to overcoming the difficulty of developing successful education campaigns. The challenge of course is how to develop a campaign when raw milk sales are illegal (as is the case in some states). Maybe a Raw Milk Hamsterdam is the solution?