Chinese poop turns heads in Lawrence (Kansas)

Bryan Severns, a new food science student at Kansas State and a former chef, writes about the discussion prompted by his Chinese language Don’t Eat Poop shirt, and general hygiene at the Lawrence market:

On a beautiful sunny Saturday in Lawrence, the handwashing word was spread from the Farmers market, through the fabric store, to the Merc. The combination of Chinese characters and the Don’t Eat Poop web address were enough to spark conversations in food safety and educational techniques. The most common initial reaction is wide eyed disbelief that anyone would say that in public, but upon further explanation most people have stories of their own to relate, and the conversation is off and rolling.

In related news, it was nice to see a complete handwashing station set up at the Farmer’s Market. Actually saw it in action, very cool. I’m a total supporter of local producer markets, but quite often the sanitation is left up to individual participants, and most seem to barely get their product out on display, let alone take care of the clean up details. Big points to the Market Manager and city of Lawrence.

On a more general note, after spending three weeks and 3000 miles to get to KSU from Vermont, my wife and I are glad to be here and have a great time learning about the area. Thanks to all who have been friendly and helpful, Manhattan is a very welcoming city.

That’s me with the beard visiting our son at Coast Guard Station Fire Island, New York (below).


Why burn poop on a doorstep when you can cook it in a 7-Eleven microwave

Three high school students who thought they were being funny by sticking a bag of poop in a Sandy, Utah 7-Eleven microwave and cooking it for 10 minutes have been arrested.

Earlier this week, police released surveillance video of three teens who walked into the convenience store near 2200 East and 9400 South, took out a one-gallon plastic bag with human feces inside and put it into the microwave while the clerk wasn’t looking.

The boys left the store, and the clerk figured out what had happened when a foul stench filled the building. The store had to be closed temporarily because of the odor.

Sandy police Sgt. Victor Quezada said the surveillance video was broadcast by local news stations, investigators received numerous tips from callers, and that on Wednesday morning, five high school students were greeted by police as they arrived for school in the morning. Two of the boys eventually were released, while the other three, two aged 16 and a 17-year-old, were arrested for investigation of third-degree felony criminal mischief.

The 7-Eleven figured out the video surveillance thing, but USDA says it’s too complicated for slaughterhouses.

Polite people eat raw hamburgers?

Daryll E. Ray, who has a lot of titles at the University of Tennessee, writes in an op-ed promoting irradiation that,

"The most immediate thing a consumer can do is to make sure that all of the hamburger that they serve is cooked to a minimum of 160 degrees F and that they observe sanitary precautions in the handling of meat and meat products.

"On a recent trip, one of us ordered a hamburger at a major restaurant chain-the cooking instructions was “medium.” When the hamburger arrived at the table it was not just pink inside, it was raw. Being polite, we went ahead and ate the burger."

Like so many food safety gurus, Ray is preaching one thing and doing another. And like a lot of public policy types, he talks a good game but doesn’t really say anything. And certainly doesn’t do anything.

Fifteen years after Jack-in-the-Box, it’s time to stop being polite. Only if consumers demand safe food will the corporations — or mom-and-pop burger shops — actually pay attention and deliver. Ask hard questions. Demand safe food. And help create a culture that values safe food.

Here are some examples:

During the halfway point of a food safety golf tournament in Baltimore in 2005, a burley, 50-ish goateed he-man requested his hamburger be cooked, "Bloody … with cheese."
His sidekick piped up, "Me too."
I asked the kid flipping burgers if he had a meat thermometer.
He replied, snickering, "Yeah, this is a pretty high-tech operation."
The young woman taking orders glanced about, and then confided that she didn’t think there was a meat thermometer anywhere in the kitchen; this, at a fancy golf course catering to weddings and other swanky functions along with grunts on the golf course.
We ordered the burgers well-done.

Two iFSN researchers went to a local restaurant and ordered a hamburger. When asked how we would like them done, Doug asked, "What temperature is well-done?"
The server replied, "All our burgers are well-done unless the customer specifies."
The burger came out dripping blood, and still cold. So even though color is a lousy indicator of doneness, the burger was returned. And a lesson was given on doneness of burgers.

A graduate student and I were recently in Seattle, home of the infamous 1993 Jack-in-the-Box outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that sickened some 600 and killed four, and put microbial food safety firmly in the minds of American media, lawyers and even the President.
After arriving at the hotel in Seattle and wandering around a bit, we ended up back at this rather posh hotel. Upon ordering burgers, we were asked how we would like them, "Rare, medium, well-done?" We looked at each other, and I asked if they ever used a meat thermometer. The waiter looked befuddled.
We both ordered well-done.