I don’t know any food microbiologists who eat raw oysters; they may exist, but maybe I only know the drunks and they know better than to play with Vibrio and its liver-specific toxins.
And every time we post something about raw oysters, producers and government-types say we have no idea what we’re talking about – and provide no data.
So this isn’t me, it’s from the Washington state department of health via Seattlepi, which is telling Washingtonians to thoroughly cook their oysters.
The department says that cooking shellfish until the shells open is not enough for kill harmful bacteria.
Summer’s warmer temperatures mean that levels of the bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus increase in state waters. Eating an oyster with the Vibrio bacteria can lead to diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and chills. It says that symptoms usually appear within 12-24 hours after eating infected shellfish and usually last from two to seven days.
The department recommends oysters should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees for at least 15 seconds to thoroughly kill the bacteria.
Yes, I temp my oysters with a thermometer. Because I know a few drunks and don’t want to kill them.
I received a bunch of my food safety education while working with fruit and vegetable farmers in southern Ontario (that’s in Canada). Sure, I learned lots of stuff in classes, but a lot of my training on practical ways to keep folks from barfing was in greenhouses, fields and orchards. Farmers deal with variability in weather, wildlife, prices and staff. Driving up and down dirt roads and walking through their systems led me to the conclusion that it takes a lot to surprise a producer.
One farmer who figured his staff were one of his biggest weaknesses, invested in a couple of portable restrooms that he was going to cart around to the orchards. He told his staff that they were expected to cease the convention of peeing against a tree. The staff didn’t like the idea of having to stop and walk back to the road where the porta potties were located. So they set them on fire and burned them down. The producer said calling the fire department was an unexpected outcome of his food safety program.
Another producer told me that he had installed fully stocked hands free restrooms in his greenhouse, put boxes of one-use gloves throughout his site and came in one day to see a staff member urinating on the outside of the restroom with his gloves on. Maybe not surprising is that he fired the employee on the spot.
Giving folks tools for risk reduction doesn’t always end up with the intended action. According to AP and USA Today teenagers are buying alcohol-based hand sanitizer, not as a bacterial reduction tool, but as a party drink precursor.
Teenagers are showing up in Los Angeles emergency rooms after drinking inexpensive liquid hand sanitizers to get drunk.
Cheap and easily accessible hand sanitizers contain 62 percent ethyl alcohol.
The Los Angeles Times says six teenagers have shown up in two San Fernando Valley emergency rooms in the last few months with alcohol poisoning after drinking hand sanitizer.
Some of the teens used salt to separate the alcohol from the sanitizer, making a potent drink similar to a shot of hard liquor. Distillation instructions can be found on the Internet.
Although there’s only been a few cases, county public health toxicology expert Cyrus Rangan says it could signal a dangerous trend.
Holidays are all about tradition. After five years in Kansas, Amy and Sorenne and I have settled into a routine of lamb (that was last night), fish, cognac and champagne and no barfing, except 2006, when Amy was so sick we got married.
There’s the television shows: It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Scrooged, endless children’s specials. TBS runs a 24-hour marathon of nothing but the quirky 1983 holiday entry, A Christmas Story. But for us, nothing captures the true meaning of Christmas better than the 2004 Trailer Park Boys Christmas Special.
In this scene (language warning), Ricky extols to the congregation in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (that’s in Canada), about the true meaning of Christmas.
“Sorry to interrupt, but I just had one of those brain-learning things pop into my head. … What is Christmas? I just got out of jail, which was awesome, you know, they don’t have presents and lights and tress, we just get stoned and drunk, it’s the best time. And I get out here and I’m all stressed out.
“… That’s not what Christmas should be, you should be getting drunk and stoned with your friends and family, people that you love. … That’s Christmas. … Getting drunk and stoned with your families and the people that you love. And if you don’t smoke or drink, just spend time with your families. It’s awesome. Merry Christmas.”
Or as Sorenne says, don’t make your friends and family barf with bad food safety.