From the duh files: Your chicken is no longer pink. That doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat

The New York Times followed up on the chicken study and how to tell if it’s done that I wrote about last week with a meandering story about color, texture, and stupidly recommends using pop-up thermometers.

Me and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many others have been saying the same thing for over 20 years: Use a fucking tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

That is all.

Blue Bell’s Ex.-CEO charged in conspiracy to cover up Listeria outbreak

Christopher Mele of the New York Times writes the former chief executive of Blue Bell Creameries was charged with conspiracy in connection with his repeated efforts to cover up what became a deadly outbreak of listeria in some of the company’s products in 2015.

In addition, the company pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products and agreed to pay a total of $19.4 million in fines, forfeitures and civil payments — the second-largest amount ever paid to resolve a food safety case, officials said. (Chipotle Mexican Grill last month agreed to pay a $25 million fine related to charges stemming from more than 1,100 cases of foodborne illnesses.)

Prosecutors charged that Blue Bell, which is based in Brenham, Texas, about 75 miles northwest of Houston, distributed ice cream products that were manufactured under unsanitary conditions and contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Three deaths and 10 hospitalizations across four states were tied to the 2015 outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The former chief executive, Paul Kruse, who was also Blue Bell’s president, directed a scheme to cover up the discovery that some products tested positive for listeria, according to court papers. He directed a company employee to stop a testing program for listeria even after two samples sent to a lab came back positive, court records said.

Further, Mr. Kruse did not order the recall of the affected products despite Blue Bell filing a report to federal regulators that it was recalling them “as quickly as possible,” court papers said.

For a period of more than two months in 2015, Mr. Kruse learned from state and federal officials as well as third-party labs that test samples of at least seven company ice cream products made at two different plants had tested positive for listeria, court papers said.

Yet, prosecutors contend, he repeatedly minimized, ignored or tried to cover up the problem products, which included Blue Bell Great Divide Bar and Chocolate Chip Country Cookie, despite concerns raised by company employees and customers, including a Kansas hospital and a Florida school.

For instance, he directed employees to tell customers that there had been an unspecified issue with a manufacturing machine rather than that samples of the products had tested positive for listeria, officials said.

On Feb. 17, 2015, Mr. Kruse rejected sending a draft news release about two products that tested positive for listeria, the withdrawal of those products and a warning to consumers about the potential health consequences. Mr. Kruse instructed the company executive who brought him the proposed release that it was unnecessary, court papers said.

Chris Flood, a lawyer for Mr. Kruse, said on Friday that his client was innocent of the charges.

Blanching fruit and vegetables not good enough to control Listeria

A multi‐country outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes ST6 linked to blanched frozen vegetables (bfV) took place in the EU (2015–2018). Evidence of food‐borne outbreaks shows that L. monocytogenes is the most relevant pathogen associated with bfV.

The probability of illness per serving of uncooked bfV, for the elderly (65–74 years old) population, is up to 3,600 times greater than cooked bfV and very likely lower than any of the evaluated ready‐to‐eat food categories. The main factors affecting contamination and growth of L. monocytogenes in bfV during processing are the hygiene of the raw materials and process water; the hygienic conditions of the food processing environment (FPE); and the time/Temperature (t/T) combinations used for storage and processing (e.g. blanching, cooling). Relevant factors after processing are the intrinsic characteristics of the bfV, the t/T combinations used for thawing and storage and subsequent cooking conditions, unless eaten uncooked.

Analysis of the possible control options suggests that application of a complete HACCP plan is either not possible or would not further enhance food safety. Instead, specific prerequisite programmes (PRP) and operational PRP activities should be applied such as cleaning and disinfection of the FPE, water control, t/T control and product information and consumer awareness. The occurrence of low levels of L. monocytogenes at the end of the production process (e.g. < 10 CFU/g) would be compatible with the limit of 100 CFU/g at the moment of consumption if any labelling recommendations are strictly followed (i.e. 24 h at 5°C). Under reasonably foreseeable conditions of use (i.e. 48 h at 12°C), L. monocytogenes levels need to be considerably lower (not detected in 25 g). Routine monitoring programmes for L. monocytogenes should be designed following a risk‐based approach and regularly revised based on trend analysis, being FPE monitoring a key activity in the frozen vegetable industry.

The public health risk posed by Listeria monocytogenes in frozen fruit and vegetables including herbs, blanched during processing, 20 April 2020

EFSA

DOI: 

10.2903/j.efsa.2020.6092

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/6092

Coronavirus communication and trust

The global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has already had an enormous impact and will surely have profound consequences for many years to come.

The authors reflect on three risk communication themes related to the pandemic: trust, tradeoffs, and preparedness. Trust is critically important during such a rapidly evolving event characterized by scientific uncertainty. Reflections focus on uncertainty communication, transparency, and long-term implications for trust in government and science. On tradeoffs, the positive and unintended negative effects of three key risk communication messages are considered (1) stay at home, (2) some groups are at higher risk, and (3) daily infections and deaths.

The authors argue that greater attention to message ‘tradeoffs’ over ‘effectiveness’ and ‘evaluation’ over ‘intuition’ would help guide risk communicators under pressure. On preparedness, past infectious disease outbreak recommendations are examined. Although COVID-19 was inevitably ‘unexpected’, important preparedness actions were largely overlooked such as building key risk communication capacities.

COVID-19: Reflections on trust, tradeoffs, and preparedness, April 2020

Journal of Risk Research

Dominic HP Balog-Way and Katherine A McComas

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340958173_COVID-19_Reflections_on_trust_tradeoffs_and_preparedness/references?utm_medium=email&utm_source=researchgate&utm_campaign=re413&loginT=iZBjE6QqKQDtgm9mIth3elm18k_fuz-NWD_VJXbuMq0_VSlbSUu0QyWSAb06_bTWyEX92MLG8X_6SgQ&pli=1&utm_term=re413_p_pb&utm_content=re413_p_pb_p4&cp=re413_p_pb_p4&uid=nL3zUTnj0PdkgYxg8hJW1mCbrq7iJZlhMSga&ch=reg

When our eldest daughter was about six-weeks-old in 1987, my ex and I took her to a Grateful Dead concert at an outdoor amphitheater north of Toronto. We sat at the back. The dead did this Buddy Holly song as part of their encore and it was fabulous.

Rates of FBI going nowhere

Is unconditional love a real thing? Is it possible to maximize an individual’s goals and relationships at the same time? Is microbial foodborne illness still a thing?

Unconditional is a subjective word that means different things to different people.

Rather than going for the safe middle in conflict resolution, I have a therapist who says, go for the jugular: have a great relationship and go after great goals (note: it helps if you tell your partner what you want in terms of the relationship and goals).

Microbial foodborne illness rates in the U.S. have been stagnant for 15 years. It’s a thing, but it’s not clear who cares.

The Washington Post stated back in the day, “Between 1998 and 2004, illnesses reported by CDC that were caused by E. Coli, listeria, campylobacter and a few other bacteria decreased by 25 to 30 percent, perhaps because of improvements in the handling of meat and eggs. Since about 2004, however, the rate of these illnesses has basically remained steady.”

There’s lots of new media toys out there, but it’s the high-tech version of signs that say, “Employees Must Wash Hands.” Reposting press releases – especially in the absence of critical analysis — is a waste of bandwidth and resources. And there is no evidence it results in fewer sick people.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reiterated the incidence of most infections transmitted commonly through food has not declined for many years.

Incidence of infections caused by Listeria, Salmonella, and Shigella remained unchanged, and those caused by all other pathogens reported to FoodNet increased during 2019. Infections caused by Salmonella serotype Enteritidis, did not decline; however, serotype Typhimurium infections continued to decline.

New strategies that target particular serotypes and more widespread implementation of known prevention measures are needed to reduce Salmonella illnesses. Reductions in Salmonella serotype Typhimurium suggest that targeted interventions (e.g., vaccinating chickens and other food animals) might decrease human infections. Isolates are needed to subtype bacteria so that sources of illnesses can be determined.

I’ve been harping about the need for new messages and new media for 15 years – even did a road trip in 2009 with a number of talks stressing this point – with apparently little effect.

So maybe I’ll focus on relationships and being the best partner, father and person I can be.

Peace and love.

Preliminary incidence and trends of infections with pathogens transmitted commonly through food—foodborne diseases active surveillance network, 10 US sites, 2016-2019, 01 May 2020

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report pp.509-514

Danielle M. Tack, DVM1; Logan Ray, MPH1; Patricia M. Griffin, MD1; Paul R. Cieslak, MD2; John Dunn, DVM3; Tamara Rissman, MPH4; Rachel Jervis, MPH5; Sarah Lathrop, PhD6; Alison Muse, MPH7; Monique Duwell, MD8; Kirk Smith, DVM9; Melissa Tobin-D’Angelo, MD10; Duc J. Vugia, MD11; Joanna Zablotsky Kufel, PhD12; Beverly J. Wolpert, PhD13; Robert Tauxe, MD1; Daniel C. Payne, PhD1

https://www.cdc.gov/mmw/volumes/69/wr/mm6917a1.htm?s_cid=mm6917a1_w&deliveryName=USCDC_921-DM26943

Swedish city dumps chicken poop on park to deter holiday celebrations

Officials in a Swedish city said they are dumping more than a ton of chicken poop on a popular park to deter revelers from gathering to celebrate a popular holiday.

The city of Lund, which annually draws crowds numbering in the tens of thousands to celebrate Walpurgis Night in its central park, said chicken manure is being spread across the park to prevent revelers from gathering to celebrate the Thursday night holiday amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walpurgis Night, a spring festival that has roots in ancient pagan tradition, is celebrated annually on the last night of April.

Gustav Lundblad, chairman of the Lund council’s environmental committee, said the chicken poop serves multiple purposes.

“We get the opportunity to fertilize the lawns, and at the same time it will stink and so it may not be so nice to sit and drink beer in the park,” Lundblad told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

He conceded the effort might have some unintentional side-effects for nearby residents.

“I am not a fertilizer expert, but as I understand it, it is clear that it might smell a bit outside the park as well,” Lundblad said. “These are chicken droppings, after all. I cannot guarantee that the rest of the city will be odorless. But the point is to keep people out of the city park.”

Brucellosis and raw milk, again

In December 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) were notified of a New York patient with brucellosis caused by infection with Brucella abortus RB51, the live attenuated vaccine strain of B. abortus used to prevent brucellosis in cattle (1). Brucellosis is a serious zoonotic infection caused by the bacteria Brucella spp. The most common sign is fever, followed by osteoarticular symptoms, sweating, and constitutional symptoms (2). Without proper treatment, infection can become chronic and potentially life-threatening (2).

The patient had consumed raw (unpasteurized) milk from dairy A in Pennsylvania.* In July 2017, Texas health officials documented the first human case of domestically acquired RB51 infection associated with raw milk consumption from a Texas dairy (3). In October 2017, a second RB51 case associated with raw milk consumption was documented in New Jersey; the milk source was not identified at the time.

To determine the RB51 source for the New York case, PDA conducted an environmental investigation at dairy A in December 2018. PDA collected individual milk samples from all cows, excluding those known not to have been vaccinated against B. abortus, and from the bulk milk tank, which included milk pooled from all cows. All milk samples underwent polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and culture; whole-genome sequencing (WGS) was performed on patient and milk sample isolates. PDA conducted a traceback investigation of any cow with a milk sample that tested positive for RB51. PADOH worked with the raw milk cooperative that distributed dairy A’s milk to notify potentially exposed consumers and distributed notifications through Epi-X§ to identify cases.

Dairy A sold only raw milk and did not provide RB51 vaccination to cows born there (16 of the 30-cow herd). The remaining 14 cows were born outside the dairy and had inadequate vaccination records to determine whether they had received RB51. Because these cows might have been vaccinated, milk samples were collected from them. RB51 was detected by PCR and isolated in milk samples collected from the bulk tank and a single cow (cow 122). WGS identified two distinct RB51 strains shed by cow 122: one matched the 2018 New York patient’s isolate (3 single nucleotide polymorphisms [SNPs] different) and one, unexpectedly, matched the 2017 New Jersey patient’s isolate (1 SNP different). The two different RB51 strains were also shed from different quarters of cow 122’s udder.

Traceback revealed that cow 122 had received RB51 in 2011 and was purchased by dairy A in 2016. During 2016–2018, dairy A distributed raw milk potentially contaminated with RB51 to 19 states; PADOH notified those states’ public health veterinarians. PADOH provided a letter with RB51 information and brucellosis prophylaxis recommendations to the cooperative, which they distributed to dairy A customers. No additional cases were identified. Cow 122 was excluded from milk production, and serial PCR testing of bulk milk samples were subsequently negative for RB51.

Isolation of two different RB51 strains from different quarters of a cow’s udder has not previously been reported. These infections highlight the need to prevent RB51 infections. Raw milk consumption is also associated with serious illnesses caused by other pathogens, including Campylobacter spp., Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli, and Salmonella spp. (4). During 2007–2012, the number of raw milk outbreaks in the United States increased; 66 (81%) of 81 reported outbreaks occurred in states where raw milk sale is legal (5). Pregnant women, children, older adults, and persons with immunocompromising conditions are at greatest risk for infection.

To eliminate infection risk from milkborne pathogens, including RB51, all milk should be pasteurized. Because limited information is available about intermittent or continuous RB51 shedding among dairy cows, more research is needed to more fully understand this emerging public health threat for milk consumers. States can also consider the United States Animal Health Associations’ recommendations regarding the need for RB51 vaccination in areas where B. abortus is not endemic in wildlife.

Notes from the field: Brucella abortus RB51 infections associated with consumption of raw milk from Pennsylvania—2017 and 2018, 17 April 2020

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

Joann F. Gruber, PhD1,2; Alexandra Newman, DVM3; Christina Egan, PhD3; Colin Campbell, DVM4; Kristin Garafalo, MPH4; David R. Wolfgang, VMD5; Andre Weltman, MD2; Kelly E. Kline, MPH2; Sharon M. Watkins, PhD2; Suelee Robbe-Austerman, DVM, PhD6; Christine Quance6; Tyler Thacker, PhD6; Grishma Kharod, MPH1; Maria E. Negron, DVM, PhD1; Betsy Schroeder, DVM2

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6915a4.htm

More Tragically Hip, with fellow Kingston, Ontario (that’s in Canada) native Dan Aykroyd blowing the harp.

You think that chicken is done? It’s not done (or it’s burnt)

About one third of foodborne illness outbreaks in Europe are acquired in the home and eating undercooked poultry is among consumption practices associated with illness. The aim of this study was to investigate whether actual and recommended practices for monitoring chicken doneness are safe.

Seventy-five European households from five European countries were interviewed and videoed while cooking chicken in their private kitchens, including young single men, families with infants/in pregnancy and elderly over seventy years. A cross-national web-survey collected cooking practices for chicken from 3969 households. In a laboratory kitchen, chicken breast fillets were injected with cocktails of Salmonella and Campylobacter and cooked to core temperatures between 55 and 70°C. Microbial survival in the core and surface of the meat were determined. In a parallel experiment, core colour, colour of juice and texture were recorded. Finally, a range of cooking thermometers from the consumer market were evaluated.

The field study identified nine practical approaches for deciding if the chicken was properly cooked. Among these, checking the colour of the meat was commonly used and perceived as a way of mitigating risks among the consumers. Meanwhile, chicken was perceived as hedonically vulnerable to long cooking time. The quantitative survey revealed that households prevalently check cooking status from the inside colour (49.6%) and/or inside texture (39.2%) of the meat. Young men rely more often on the outside colour of the meat (34.7%) and less often on the juices (16.5%) than the elderly (>65 years old; 25.8% and 24.6%, respectively). The lab study showed that colour change of chicken meat happened below 60°C, corresponding to less than 3 log reduction of Salmonella and Campylobacter. At a core temperature of 70°C, pathogens survived on the fillet surface not in contact with the frying pan. No correlation between meat texture and microbial inactivation was found. A minority of respondents used a food thermometer, and a challenge with cooking thermometers for home use was long response time. In conclusion, the recommendations from the authorities on monitoring doneness of chicken and current consumer practices do not ensure reduction of pathogens to safe levels. For the domestic cook, determining doneness is both a question of avoiding potential harm and achieving a pleasurable meal. It is discussed how lack of an easy “rule-of-thumb” or tools to check safe cooking at consumer level, as well as national differences in contamination levels, food culture and economy make it difficult to develop international recommendations that are both safe and easily implemented.

Cooking chicken at home: common or recommended approaches to judge doneness may not assure sufficient inactivation of pathogens, 29 April 2020

PLOS One

Solveig Langsrud, Oddvin Sørheim, Silje Elisabeth Skuland, Valérie Lengard Almli, Merete Rusås Jensen, Magnhild Seim Grøvlen, Øydis Ueland, Trond Møretrø

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0230928

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0230928

Don’t drink hand sanitizer or bleach: Poison center calls up 20% during pandemic, CDC says

A preschool-aged girl was taken to the hospital after she drank an unknown amount of hand sanitizer out of a 64-ounce bottle, fell and hit her head, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said.

Her blood alcohol level was .27% — over 3 times the legal limit in most states, according to the CDC. The little girl recovered and was released 48 hours later, but her case illustrates the sharp increase in poisoning reported during the rise of the coronavirus in the United States.

Between January and March there were 45,550 poisonings reported to U.S. poison control centers , which is a 20% increase from years passed, the CDC reported. The rise in cases directly correlates with increased media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Children ages 5 and younger, who were poisoned by disinfectants like hand sanitizer, made up nearly half of calls involving disinfecetants in that time period, the CDC reported. Over 80% of calls involved people ingesting disinfectants, according to the CDC.

In response, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is calling on the manufacturers to add a bitter ingredient to sanitizers so people will be less likely to drink them.

People are also calling more to report poisonings involving cleaners like bleach — more than 28,000 calls in that three-month period involved cleaners, News 4 San Antonio reported. The CDC cited a case where an adult woman soaked her produce in bleach, vinegar and hot water, and ended up in the hospital because she inhaled the toxic fumes.

The CDC says people should not wash produce with anything other than water, not even soap.

Researchers say they can’t show a direct link between chemical exposures and the coronavirus pandemic yet, but the correlation is alarming, Science Alert reported. The biggest surge in calls to poison control centers occurred at the beginning of March this year, according to Science Alert.

In Oregon, one of the most reported issues was people mixing bleach with water in a random container, like a soda can or water bottle, and leave it out in the open, KOIN 6 reported. Another household member will drink the solution, thinking it’s just water, according to KOIN 6.

After President Trump’s suggestion that ingesting cleaning products or applying a “very powerful light” to the body to kill the coronavirus, Lysol, the Centers for Disease Control, lawmakers, doctors, and Twitter users warned people not to do so. 

“I see the disinfectant where it knocks [the coronavirus] out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during a daily White House coronavirus briefing last week. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it’d be interesting to check that.” 

No, it wouldn’t. And by Friday, Lysol, the CDC, and others stepped in to emphasize that you should not drink or inject disinfectant. 

The CDC tweeted, “Household cleaners and disinfectants can cause health problems when not used properly.” While Lysol took a more firm stance in response to “recent speculation and social media activity.” 

“As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstances should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion, or any other route.)” 

When pressed about the remark during a bill signing last Friday, Trump claimed, “I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.”

Kids bored during the coronavirus lockdown have been warned to steer clear of the toxic TikTok “nutmeg challenge”.

Just a teaspoon of the cooking spice can “cause significant stomach pain, vomiting, racing heart, confusion, drowsiness, agitation and hallucinations,” say poison experts.

One girl who filmed herself swigging 12g of nutmeg from a cup said it “didn’t taste bad”.

In an update “three hours later” on its effects she claimed: “I can’t move my head.

“It’s like superglued to the wall; I’m so confused, oh my God.”

The New South Wales Poisons Centre in Australia warned parents about kids ingesting the potentially lethal spice on TikTok and social media.

On Facebook, it described the video sharing service’s nutmeg challenge as a “dangerous game”.

And in Ireland, a warning has been issued on fly infestations ahead of the summer months. Due to the current lockdown restrictions, many buildings, such as offices, shops and some homes, may be empty, allowing pests to proliferate.

Really: Is it safe to spin-dry leafy greens in a washing machine?

Back when we started on our TV cooking video paper about 2000, we were appalled to watch a British celebrity cook drying carrots in the dryer.

Some of the nearly 1,000 small farmers in New England who grow leafy greens apparently dry the fresh veggies after a triple dip in water in a conventional home washing machine.

The spin cycle of a retrofitted washing machine wicks the water off the greens to dry and keep them fresher longer. This discovery by farmers offered a way to automate the drying process without investing in a prohibitively expensive, commercial-grade spinner. 

An important question lingers about this practice, which University of Massachusetts Amherst food scientists hope to answer: Is it safe?

“This has been a common practice among small producers of greens,” says Amanda Kinchla, a UMass Amherst extension associate professor of food science. “There are no regulations against this, but there is no data right now on the risk.”

Kinchla, a co-director of the USDA-funded Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety, and UMass Amherst food science colleagues Lynne McLandsborough and Matthew Moore have received a $71,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study and address the microbial safety risks of processing leafy greens in washing machines. The Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety, led by the University of Vermont, promotes food safety education and technical support to small- and medium-size producers and processors in the northeast region.

The UMass Amherst team is building on work at the University of Vermont Extension, where the agricultural engineering program has been conducting workshops and creating posters for farmers on how to follow a hygienic design to convert washing machines into greens spinners and use them safely.

“My work is more impactful if I can address real-world stakeholder issues and leverage what already has been done,” Kinchla says.

Andrew Chamberlin, UVM Extension agricultural engineering technician, explains that bacteria and grime have the potential to accumulate if farmers don’t know how best to spin the greens and clean the machines. “We are trying to share best practices for food production,” he says.

For example, placing the greens in baskets that fit inside the machine results in fewer points of contact, reducing the risk of contamination, compared with putting the greens directly into the washing machine.

Kinchla’s team has converted four washing machines, based on Chamberlin’s directions, to study in the lab how contamination may occur, what kinds of microbes are present and how best to safely maintain, clean and sanitize the machine.

“We are examining whether the spin cycle on a washing machine has any more risk than commercially available, post-harvest leafy greens spinners,” Kinchla says.