Raw milk: save the family farm while making kids barf?

The N.Y. Times has a story running in tomorrow’s edition flaunting the value of raw milk as a way to save the family farm because a small percentage of people pay a hefty premium for the raw stuff.

The story lacks any mention of adverse health effects from raw milk , other than quoting an FDA type as saying, “raw milk should not be consumed by anyone, at any time, for any reason.”

Such proclamations are not particularly persuasive.

The story, like many others, notes that people want to know where their food comes from; but that doesn’t make food safer. Knowing how to control and minimize the spread of dangerous microorganisms makes food safer, whether it’s from around the corner or around the globe.

The Times story does however make mention of the Quebec listeria outbreak of 2008 that was traced to cheese made from unpasteurized milk, stating that “one person died; more than 30 became ill,” and proclaiming that the government went crazy recalling nearly 60,000 pounds, of cheese from hundreds of producers.

The Times story appears to be something about government out-of-control, although it’s a mish-mash.  And it fails to mention that the 2008 Quebec outbreak, led to 38 hospitalizations, of which 13 were pregnant and gave birth prematurely. Two adults died and there were 13 perinatal deaths. Recent research has demonstrated listeria can cause illness in fetuses and infants at much lower doses than previously thought.

An updated table of unpastuerized milk and cheese outbreaks is below.


N.Y. Times sucks at food safety: stick a piece of metal in a burger and lick it, rather than a thermometer, to tell if it’s done?

In the continuing saga of bad food safety advice in the N.Y. Times – and the elevation of food pornography over food safety – the Times today ran a piece about the perfect burger.

In interviews with dozens of so-called chefs around the U.S., not one mentioned the use of a tip-sensitive digital thermometer to ensure a final, safe temperature of 160F, or that color is an exceedingly lousy indicator of doneness or food safety (that’s Ben, right, exactly as shown, grillin’ up some Canada Day burgers)

The story does say, “testing for doneness is always a challenge for the home cook. Seamus Mullen, the chef and an owner of the Boqueria restaurants in the Flatiron district and SoHo, uses a wire cake tester. (Any thin, straight piece of metal will work as well.)

“We stick it in the middle through the side. If it’s barely warm to the lips, it’s rare. If it’s like bath water, it’s medium rare. The temperature will never lie. It takes the guesswork out of everything.”

Rather than putting E. coli O157:H7 on your precious testing lips, stick a thermometer in. You’re already sticking a piece of metal in so why not a thermometer?

Ben has just added to the Mark Bittman history of spewing out food safety nonsense that I have been tracking for at least two years.

The Times also published the whopper by Nina Planck, who at the height of the fall 2006 E. coli O157:H7 spinach outbreak, wrote in the Times that E. coli O157:H7 "is not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. … It’s the infected  manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater  and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on  neighboring farms."

This falsehood is routinely repeated, most recently in the entertaining but factually-challenged movie, Food Inc.

The natural reservoirs for E. coli O157:H7 and other verotoxigenic E. coli is the intestines of all ruminants, including cattle — grass or grain-fed — sheep, goats, deer and the like. The final report of the fall 2006 spinach outbreak identifies nearby grass-fed beef cattle as the likely source of the E. coli O157:H7 that sickened 200 and killed 4.

In my own unique version of how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people, I called Bittman and celebrity food porn doofus Jamie Oliver idiots for their advice on how to cook chicken and their ability to cross-contaminate an entire kitchen within seconds.

N.Y. Times, you are furthering your descent to irrelevancy.

Preparing pot pies and blaming consumers

The N.Y. Times repeated my year-and-a-half-old home-alone reporting and video shoot with ConAgra pot pies and other frozen thingies in a front-page feature this morning and reached the same conclusion: the cooking directions suck.

(BTW, the Times video accompanying Friday’s story also sucks, and they appear to use the wrong kind of thermometer — always be tip-sensitive)

The frozen pot pies that sickened an estimated 15,000 people with salmonella in 2007 left federal inspectors mystified. At first they suspected the turkey. Then they considered the peas, carrots and potatoes.

Threatened with a federal shutdown, the pie maker, ConAgra Foods, began spot-checking the vegetables for pathogens, but could not find the culprit. …

So ConAgra — which sold more than 100 million pot pies last year under its popular Banquet label — decided to make the consumer responsible for the kill step. The “food safety” instructions and four-step diagram on the 69-cent pies offer this guidance: “Internal temperature needs to reach 165° F as measured by a food thermometer in several spots.”

… attempts by The New York Times to follow the directions on several brands of frozen meals, including ConAgra’s Banquet pot pies, failed to achieve the required 165-degree temperature. Some spots in the pies heated to only 140 degrees even as parts of the crust were burnt.

And in a staggering example of corporate arrogance coupled with blame-the-consumer, Jim Seiple, a food safety official with the Blackstone unit that makes Swanson and Hungry-Man pot pies, said pot pie instructions have built-in margins of error, and the risk to consumers depended on

“how badly they followed our directions.”

That’s assuming people can read, that they can read English, that the instructions are microbiologically validated and that the instructions are clear – meaning there has been direct or video observation of consumers attempting to cook following the instructions.

Surfing, Spicoli and scissors

I started my Xmas shopping this morning. I got Amy a can opener, a corkscrew and some scissors. She was with me at Target when I bought them.

Having a two-week-old puts a different spin on things. Our neighbors invited us for a Christmas eve get-together, but Sorenne is sleeping, and that’s a good gift.

Maybe next year we’ll be surfing during the summer in Australia or New Zealand at Christmas. And if so, we’ll try not to swallow too much water.

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) and the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality have found that surfers unintentionally ingest 10 times more water than swimmers or divers, putting them at higher risk of contracting gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses when surfing in contaminated waters.

The study also suggests that because the water quality at Oregon beaches is significantly better than more popular surfing destinations, such as California, Hawaii, or Florida, the risk of GI illness is lower for people surfing the frigid waters of the Oregon coast.

How did stoner Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High grow up to be Harvey Milk?