Gin is awful: Elephant poop gin is worse

There’s a reason the clones in George Orwell’s 1984 had gin available: Because it’s fucking awful.

According to Maya-Rose Torrao of Briefly, inventors Les Ansley and Professor Paula Ansley (sounds like a lab relationship that shouldn’t be) have created South Africa’s first ever gin made from elephant poop.

The two creators took inspiration from Mzansi’s gentle giants when they noticed that much of what elephants eat passes through their systems undigested

The creators of this unique drink explain, on their website: “The original idea for elephant dung gin came from marrying the love of Africa and its wildlife with the love of gin. We are both scientists—and therefore inclined towards novel ideas and problem solving—so when Paula had the idea we really wanted to see whether it would actually be possible. The more we explored the concept the more it opened up and the more excited we became.”

Not dead yet: Future of barfblog.com

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

That famous quote, often wrongly ascribed to Albert Einstein, is believed to have originated with Narcotics Anonymous in 1981 (the same year I began university).

In addition to helping raise five daughters, providing endless relationship entertainment to the folks I played pick-up hockey with back in Guelph (that’s pre-Amy, who is playing pick-up as I write this), helping teach lots of kids how to skate, influencing lotsa students (good and bad, not much in-between), pissing off lotsa bureaucrats and industry types, publishing lots of peer-reviewed stuff that still gets cited daily and almost 15,000 barfblog.com posts, I did news.

Food Safety Network news, long before wannabes.

For 26 years I’ve done news.

And always referenced the evidence, or lack thereof.

Until others do the same, they’re just plagiarists.

I combined my background in molecular biology with some journalism experience, and I carved out a path in food safety.

The vision I always had for food safety information, all those years ago, was what I heard about daily – and often directly: How the hell was I supposed to know?

We mined the world (I used Compuserve to get access to the AP wires and others back in the days before Google, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s MMWR would take six months to arrive by mail, when those who needed to know should have had the information as soon as possible).

I am intensely loyal to the kids, er, students, that flourished and maybe we’ll write a book; or maybe not.

I did my best, even when my best wasn’t good enough.

I still love it – I haven’t been paid in over two years — but someone else should be in charge.

I have early-onset dementia, I have other health issues, so rather than submit any more family members to, I’ve got to do news, I am going to step away while I can.

Of the 15,287 barfblog.com posts, I authored (or cut and paste) 13,070 since 2005. That’s 86 per cent, or an ice hockey goalie save percentage of .8549, which isn’t great (should be over .91) but doesn’t exactly suck, because this isn’t hockey.

It’s something different.

And time for me to do something different.

I may still write, maybe about food safety, maybe about other things, maybe about the probability of monkeys flying out of my butt.

But for now, I’ve got other priorities.

Ben can figure out what to do and what he wants to do.

It’s been an honor and a privilege to share your computer screens, maybe even your brain space, and improve food safety, one tip-sensitive digital thermometer, one less serving of raw sprouts, and one calling out of bullshit advice, at a time.

Peace and love.

dp

Food safety advice as herring egg harvest opens on Vancouver Island

Health officials are offering some food safety advice as this year’s herring egg harvest opens along a section of Vancouver Island’s east coast.

Hand-gathered herring eggs, known as spawn-on-kelp, are an important traditional seafood for many First Nations, but an outbreak of a cholera strain in 2018 forced closure of the harvest between French Creek and Qualicum Bay.

Island Health says in a news release that lab tests confirm a small group of people contracted the vibrio cholera bacteria last year after eating herring eggs from the affected region.

Officials say the bacteria are a “natural inhabitant” of the marine environment, are unable to produce the toxin found in more severe strains of cholera and are not from poor sanitation or sewage.

Until last year there had been no reported outbreaks, but a Health Canada and B.C. Centre for Disease Control review found salinity, acidity, temperature, sunlight and availability of nutrients can encourage the bacteria.

Water temperature above 10 C and sea water low in salt are two key factors in development of vibrio cholera, the review said.

Not bad for a bunch of southern Ontario boys (that’s in Canada).

Stick it in and use a thermometer

As Jimmy Buffett said on his 1978 Live album, sometimes I’m real sentimental, and sometimes I’m real trashy.

I can relate.

How many times can the UK Food Standards-thingy say cook poultry until piping hot, while Canada, the U.S. and now even Australia – apparently the most monarch-frenzied country in the world according to early-morning talk-fests – say, use a fucking thermometer.

Stick it in and use a fucking thermometer.

And now, research from the U.S. says that changes in lighting conditions to promote energy conservation may induce folks to eat undercooked turkey, please, pay homage to my late, great food safety pioneer Pete Snyder (and pardon my Minnesotan, but am married to one and she swears like a drunken sailor, after living with me for 13 years) and use a fucking thermometer.

Changes in Lighting Source Can Produce Inaccurate Assessment of Visual Poultry Doneness and Induce Consumers To Eat Undercooked Ground Turkey Patties

Journal of Food Protection, March 2019, Volume 82, Number 3, pages 528-534, https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-18-392

Curtis Maughan, Edgar Chamber IV, et al

https://jfoodprotection.org/doi/full/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-18-392

Undercooked poultry is a potential source of foodborne pathogens, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. The best way to avoid eating undercooked poultry is to use a food thermometer during cooking. However, consumers who cook poultry often use visual appearance for determining doneness, which relies on extrinsic factors, including lighting conditions. Because the United States recently mandated changes in lighting to promote energy conservation, this study evaluated the effect of lighting sources on consumer perceptions of doneness and willingness to eat cooked poultry patties. Consumers (n = 104) evaluated validated photographs of turkey patties cooked to different end point temperatures (57 to 79°C) and rated the level of perceived doneness and willingness to eat each sample. Evaluations were conducted under different lighting sources: incandescent (60 W, soft white), halogen (43 W, soft white), compact fluorescent lamp (13 W, soft white), light-emitting diode (LED; 10.5 W, soft white), and daylight LED (14 W). Lighting changed perception of doneness and willingness to eat the patties, with some of the energy-efficient options, such as LED and halogen making samples appear more done than they actually were, increasing the willingness to eat undercooked samples. This poses a risk of consuming meat that could contain bacteria not killed by heat treatment. Recent changes in lighting regulations can affect lighting in homes that affects perceptions of poultry doneness, requiring that educators place extra emphasis on the message that properly using a meat thermometer is the only way to ensure meat is cooked to a safe end point temperature.

Just cook it doesn’t cut it: 6-year-old in France dies from E. coli

(Thanks to our French colleague, Albert, who forwarded this)

Matthew, a child “full of life, very intelligent despite his disability ” according to his mother, Angélique Gervraud, died February 22, 2019 at the Children’s Hospital of Bordeaux. He had been sick for more than a month after eating an undercooked burger at the beginning of January 2019 says his mom in a forum posted on his Facebook page.

It’s probably poorly cooked mince that has contaminated Matthew, his mom is sure. “Matthew only ate that,” she explains. Matthew developed haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) usually linked to shiga-toxin producing E. coli.

And because food safety is simple – that’s sarcasm, which the French may not get —  the transmission of the disease can be avoided by simple actions, which advises the site Public Health France:

  • Cook meat thoroughly and especially minced meat at over 65 ° C(The Ministry of Health published a note to the attention of the professionals of the collective catering from February 2007, with the appearance of the first cases)
  • Avoid giving raw lai, and cheeses made from raw milk to young children. Prefer baked or pasteurized pressed cheese
  • Always wash your hands before cooking
  • Keep cooked and raw foods separately
  • Consume quickly and well warmed leftover food.
  • Do not give untreated water to children or the elderly.

In 2017, 164 cases of HUS were reported in children under 15 years of age. There are a hundred in France in general every year.

An ode to my other dad, Ken Murray

My friend, mentor, patron and lab Godfather, Ken Murray, died on Saturday, aged 95.

I’m going to inter-splice some personal notes with the official obituary, and this may not be the best writing because I am flooded with memories, but here it is (that’s Ken’s head in the middle of my 2005 lab, where we had gathered at their place, and I slept there because stalker girlfriend was on the loose).

After a long full life, lived with purpose and generosity, Ken Murray died peacefully in Guelph at Hospice Wellington in his 95th year on Saturday March 2, 2019. He is survived by his wife Marilyn, his daughters Susan Pearce (Richard) and Leslie Harwood (Fred), his grandchildren Andrew Harwood (Kristin) and Lauren Harwood, and his great grandson James Murray Harwood.

He was only at the hospice for a couple of days.

He is lovingly remembered by Marilyn’s children and the extended Robinson family. Ken was predeceased by his first wife Helen Volker (1995), his brother Donald (Margaret), sister Jean Shetler (Elmer) and parents George Murray and Vera Irwin. 

A son of the manse, Ken was born in 1924 in Chatham Ontario and grew up in small town Ontario – Buxton, Newbury, Zephyr and Keene. After serving two years in the Canadian Navy during the Second World War he enrolled in the Ontario Agricultural College in 1946, married Helen Volker from Kitchener in 1948 and graduated in 1950 with a BSc (Agriculture). His first job was as a salesman for J.M Schneider Inc. in Kitchener, and he retired in 1987 as president.

Wait, that’s modest. The dude was president of J.M. Schneider Inc. in Kitchener, Ontario (that’s in Canada) and both Ken and the company were pillars of the community, and Canada.

My ex and I lived on Queen St. in Kitchener, not far from Schneider’s, for seven years, and just down the road from the Schneider historical house (and there he is, far right, in this 2002 lab photo).

Schneider (which was swallowed by Maple Leaf in 2003) and Seagram in neighbouring Waterloo (which is now a museum) were essential for the surrounding agricultural areas in the mid-20th century to convert their commodities into products people wanted: booze and meat.

I first met Ken and Marilyn in 1995.

Someone at the University of Guelph said Ken Murray would like to meet with you.

In 1995, I was a cocky PhD student and about to be a father for the fourth time.

I rode my bike to a local golf club, met the former long-time president of Schneiders Meats, and established a lifelong friendship.

Fairly fancy surroundings, reminding me of my caddy days at the Brantford Golf and Country Club, where the caddies weren’t allowed in the Club but were allowed out on the course for a round before 8 a.m. on Mondays (I lived the movie, Caddyshack).

Within moments, Ken and I were talking about our families who had suffered from Alzheimer’s – his wife, my grandfather – the effect on others and how accommodation could be bettered.

It was a special moment, that had nothing to do with surroundings and everything to do with compassion and curiosity.

Ken had heard I might know something of science-and-society stuff.

Ken shared his frustration that food irradiation had not been approved for meats in Canada, and was curious about my interests in the intersections between science and society (by that time I had been teaching engineering students at the University of Waterloo in science, technology and values for five years; keeping 100 engineering students engaged in a 3-hour night class they didn’t want to take was a fabulous learning experience, for me).

Ken funded my faculty position at the University of Guelph for the first two years.

Sure, other weasels at Guelph tried to appropriate the money, but Ken would have none of it.

For over 20 years now, I’ve tried to promote Ken’s vision, of making the best technology available to enhance the safety of the food supply.

Following retirement, Ken played a leadership role for more than 20 years at the Homewood Health Centre, serving as President and Chair, creating the Homewood Foundation and sitting on the Homewood Research Institute Board (that’s me and Ken and Marilyn when I was awarded aggie extension-type of the year in 2003)

Raising beef cattle was a favorite pastime for Ken, both on his home farm in North Dumfries Township and later in Bruce County.

Ken lived his life following the example of his minister father. He loved and was proud of his family. He was committed to the communities where he lived. He believed in giving back. He revelled in meeting new people. He found joy in supporting local causes and participating in their activities and special events. 

He was an active church member in the communities where he lived: Trinity United, Kitchener; Knox United, Ayr; Ellis Pioneer Chapel, Puslinch Twp and Harcourt Memorial United, Guelph.

Many organizations in Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph and beyond benefitted from his leadership and support. The Universities of Guelph, Waterloo and Laurier have all benefitted from Ken’s generous spirit, particularly his support for student scholarships and awards and he has received numerous honors and awards in recognition of those contributions.

He received honorary degrees from the University of Waterloo (1995) and the University of Guelph (1996). And one of his proudest moments was in 2001 when he became a member of the Order of Canada.
In 1996, Ken married Marilyn Robinson, who has been his soulmate and loving partner for more than 22 years. Together they continued their love of volunteering, travelling and connecting with family and friends. 

When my ex and I moved into our newly-built house in Guelph in 1997, Marilyn showed up to our open house and I said, where’s Ken?

He’s on his way.

About 30 minutes later Ken showed up, driving his lawn mower with a load of firewood on the trailer.

When Lester Crawford, former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, camped with us for a couple of days in Guelph, Ken was there, asking questions.

When the Listeria outbreak hit Maple Leaf in 2008, in which 23 died, I asked Ken, any ideas?

Ken reminded me how he used to walk the Schneider’s plant every morning, talk to every employee, just like the best university presidents do instead of being locked away in some ivory tower, and he said, I always worried about those slicers.

The deadly Listeria was found hidden deep in those industrial slicers at other Maple Leaf plants.

But Ken (and Marilyn) seemed most delighted hanging out with the various characters in my lab (older version, left).

Ken had a curiosity and a genuine interest in the human condition, whatever one’s status, that is foundational and resonates with me.

A colleague said that Ken viewed me as a son.

I read that, I cried, and thought I could never be worthy enough.

That colleague wrote back, “Doug, being a son has nothing to do with worthiness, but, rather, love. However, you did him proud and never doubt that. If we start looking for faults, we all have long lists.”

I was so proud to know him,

And to continue to share with Marilyn.

A celebration of Ken’s life will take place at Harcourt Memorial United Church, 87 Dean Ave., Guelph on Saturday, March 30 at 1 pm. Burial will take place at a later date at the Ayr Cemetery, Ayr Ontario.
In lieu of flowers and in memory of Ken, please consider a donation to the Ken Murray Fund at the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation, Harcourt Memorial United Church, Guelph or Hospice Wellington. Cards are available at Gilbert MacIntyre & Son Funeral Home, 1099 Gordon St., Guelph (519) 821-5077, or donations and condolences may be made at www.gilbertmacintyreandson.com

Ken and I are landlubbers, not sailors, but this song resonates.

Did health-types get it wrong or a Canberra court: Ricardo’s Café cleared of Salmonella charges

The owner of a popular Canberra cafe has had charges against him dropped, relating to a salmonella outbreak that saw more than 100 people fall ill in 2017, and has also escaped conviction on an unrelated charge.

The owner of Ricardo’s, Rick DeMarco, 32, was cleared of the most serious charges spanning from an investigation in February 2017, which began after customers complained of food poisoning on social media.

The restaurant in Jamison was immediately closed after the reports and, in a statement at the time, Mr DeMarco admitted salmonella was found on a used dishcloth and tea towel, but nothing was found in any food or on any cafe equipment.

Hello? Cross-contamination? Epidemiology?

The ACT chief magistrate Lorraine Walker did not record a conviction against De Marco, after he pleaded guilty to one count of failing to comply with the food standards code.

However, the chief magistrate said there was no correlation between Mr De Marco’s plea of guilty to the individual charge and the salmonella outbreak.

The single charge against Mr De Marco related to breaches discovered by health inspectors. These were uncovered containers of food in a refrigerator and a single-use container being reused.

However, while the food was kept inappropriately, Mr De Marco’s defence barrister Jack Pappas noted the food was kept at the required temperature in the refrigerator.

He added that Mr De Marco’s two businesses, Ricardo’s Cafe and Space Kitchen in Woden, were significant contributors to the local economy by employing about 50 people and training apprentices.

Ms Walker said that the instances were not at the lowest end of offending, “they were pretty close”.

Ms Walker said it was an instance where, due to the nature of the breach and Mr De Marco’s good character, it was appropriate to not record a conviction.

There were 75 cases of salmonella confirmed by ACT Health during the outbreak in February 2017, with some people requiring hospitalisation.

Smell the glove: Americans don’t understand food date labels and surveys still suck

Note to journalists (if there are any left): Don’t reprint PR fluff like it’s news and don’t bury the lede.

“A good way to test your food is also a simple way: give it a sniff,” says Roni Neff, PhD. “If the date says ‘best by’ and it looks and smells okay, it’s probably okay to eat.”

Probably is not good enough, and smell is a lousy indicator of food safety.

A new survey examining U.S. consumer attitudes and behaviors related to food date labels found widespread confusion, leading to unnecessary discards, increased waste and food safety risks. The survey analysis was led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), which is based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

This study calls attention to the issue that much food may be discarded unnecessarily based on food safety concerns, though relatively few food items are likely to become unsafe before becoming unpalatable. Clear and consistent date label information is designed to help consumers understand when they should and should not worry.

Among survey participants, the research found that 84 percent discarded food near the package date” occasionally” and 37 percent reported that they “always” or “usually” discard food near the package date. Notably, participants between the ages of 18 to 34 were particularly likely to rely on label dates to discard food. More than half of participants incorrectly thought that date labeling was federally regulated or reported being unsure. In addition, the study found that those perceiving labels as reflecting safety and those who thought labels were federally regulated were more willing to discard food.

New voluntary industry standards for date labeling were recently adopted. Under this system, “Best if used by” labels denote dates after which quality may decline but the products may still be consumed, while “Use by” labels are restricted to the relatively few foods where safety is a concern and the food should be discarded after the date. Previously, all labels reflected quality and there was no safety label.

Neff and colleagues found that among labels assessed, “Best if used by” was most frequently perceived as communicating quality, while “use by” was one of the top two perceived as communicating safety. But many had different interpretations.

Lead author, Roni Neff, PhD, who directs the Food System Sustainability Program with the CLF and is an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering said, “The voluntary standard is an important step forward. Given the diverse interpretations, our study underlines the need for a concerted effort to communicate the meanings of the new labels. We are doing further work to understand how best to message about the terms.”

How best to message about the terms? Maybe use language properly.

Using an online survey tool, Neff and colleagues from Harvard University and the National Consumers League assessed the frequency of discards based on date labels by food type, interpretation of label language and knowledge of whether date labels are regulated by the federal government. The survey was conducted with a national sample of 1,029 adults ages 18 to 65 and older in April of 2016. Recognizing that labels are perceived differently on different foods, the questions covered nine food types including bagged spinach, deli meats and canned foods.

When consumers perceived a date label as an indication of food safety, they were more likely to discard the food by the provided date. In addition, participants were more likely to discard perishable foods based on labels than nonperishables.

But dates can be a lousy indicator: I’ve got deli meat in the fridge with a use by label about 2 weeks from now, yet once that package is opened, the stuff is good for 2-4 days. Publix gets it right.

Smell, like color, is a lousy indicator of food safety.

Probably because they weren’t on maps: Disgusted NZ Pizza Hut staff quit over food safety fears

The Otago Daily Times reports that three Dunedin Pizza Hut workers have resigned in protest after “disgusting” actions by a franchise owner who allegedly served expired food that had been thrown in a skip, extended expiry dates of chicken and seafood and refused to fix a broken mixer that leaked engine oil into dough.

New Zealand fast-food company Restaurant Brands said it was aware of the issues and was working through them as a “matter of urgency”. The Ministry for Primary Industries is also investigating.

The franchise owner has denied the claims.

I have no ill-feelings to NZ and my food safety brethren, others may not.