Bad advice: Cook poultry thoroughly


The UK Food Standards Agency advises that poultry should be cooked thoroughly by ensuring it is steaming hot all the way through….NOPE. Use a thermometer and verify that the internal temperature has reached a minimum of 74C (165F). Stop guessing.

Following an article in The Mirror (9 September) which suggests that some people believe that raw chicken dishes are safe to eat, we are reiterating our advice not to eat raw chicken.
Raw chicken is not safe to eat – it could lead to food poisoning. Chicken should always be cooked thoroughly so that it is steaming hot all the way through before serving. To check, cut into the thickest part of the meat and ensure that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.
The article states that ‘if birds have been free range, kept in quality conditions, and processed in a clean environment, there’s not so much to worry about’; but this is not the case. All raw chicken is unsafe to eat, regardless of the conditions that the birds have been kept in.
Consuming raw chicken can lead to illness from campylobacter, salmonella and E coli. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. In some cases, these bugs can lead to serious conditions.

Thermometers, cats and the UK Food Standards Agency: Piping hot for the world?

I watched our veterinarian stick a thermometer into the ass of our cat(s) the other day while they were getting vaccinated for feline immunodeficiency virus (because they’ve now become outside roaming cats).

They didn’t care.

The UK Food Standards Agency is bragging that one of its own, Steve Wearne, got elected to the Codex Alimentarius Commission as vice-chair.

That’s an impressive bureaucratic achievement.

UK Food Minister George Eustice bubbled that, “The appointment of Steve Wearne to this important leadership role is testament to the strength and reputation of the UK’s food quality and safety standards. 

“This is a great opportunity to bring the UK’s renowned expertise to the table as the committee continues to pioneer global policy for food safety – increasing consumer confidence in the food we eat around the world.”

Heather Hancock, Chairman of the FSA said: ‘Steve’s appointment is a real vote of confidence in the UK’s leadership in modern, accountable food regulation. I’m delighted that he and the FSA will be taking such a significant role in setting the standards for food globally.’

I’m not.

This is an agency that ignores science and continues to tell consumers to cook things until they are piping hot, apparently because consumers are too low on the British caste system to understand how a thermometer works.

My cats know how thermometers work.

Safety and hygiene top UK concerns when eating out

The UK Food Standards Agency’s latest public attitudes tracker shows that the main food safety issue people continue to be concerned about is food hygiene when eating out. Other issues include food poisoning and the use of additives in food.

The Agency’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Food Hygiene Information scheme in Scotland, aim to reduce these concerns by encouraging businesses to improve hygiene standards and reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. The schemes help consumers choose where to eat out or shop for food by giving them information about the hygiene standards in restaurants, cafés, takeaways, hotels and food shops.

In this latest tracker survey, three new questions were asked to measure people’s awareness of food hygiene schemes. The results show that 19% of respondents had seen or heard about this type of scheme. When prompted, 21% of respondents reported that they had seen or heard about the ‘Food Hygiene Rating scheme’, 12% had seen or heard about ‘Scores on the Doors’ and 10% had seen or heard about the ‘Food Hygiene Information Scheme’.

This latest wave of research was undertaken in November 2011, with a total number of 2,076 respondents interviewed via the TNS consumer face-to-face omnibus survey.

Nosestretcher alert: food safety week in UK

It’s food safety week in the U.K.

So expect some communication nosestretchers.

The Food Standards Agency said more than half of those surveyed in Scotland believed they could tell if food was safe to eat by its smell or appearance.

But the agency says potentially dangerous food bugs such as E. coli and salmonella do not always make food smell "off" and do not affect the way it looks.

Yet the Food Standards Agency advice on cooking meat is until the juices run clear or it’s piping hot.

It’s a terrible risk communication strategy to tell people they are food safety dumb when the government advice – cook until piping hot or the juices run clear – is also dumb.

Welsh council says food businesses must have liability insurance, mandatory inspection disclosure; tells FSA to get on with it

In 2009 an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 at the Llay Fish Bar in Wrexham, U.K., left nine people seriously ill, including young mother Karen Morrisroe (right) who almost died when she caught the bug and complications set in. She spent seven weeks in an induced coma as staff at Wrexham Maelor Hospital battled to save her life.

Ramazan Aslan, the operator of the fish bar at that time, admitted six food hygiene offences brought by Wrexham Council, and at Mold Crown Court last month was sentenced to eight months in prison.??

Now, Wrexham Council is demanding to close a legal loophole after a committee heard the fish bar had no public liability insurance to cover victims for the stress and suffering they were caused because it was not a legal requirement.

The Leader reports the fish bar has since re-opened under new management.?? However, because Aslan had no assets to pay costs and was uninsured there was a question mark over who would pay the council’s £24,300 legal costs.?? At yesterday meeting councillors were told the Food Standards Agency (FSA) had now agreed to foot the bill, but members were shocked to learn from public protection manager Toni Slater that public liability insurance is not mandatory.??

Overton Conservative member Lloyd Kenyon said: “I am astonished that all businesses are not required to have this insurance. ??“Thankfully, nobody died in this outbreak of E.coli but they could have done.“ This is an outrageous situation and we should take it up with the Welsh Assembly Government immediately.”??

Geoff Lowe, Labour member for Acton, said: “I am astounded to find there is no legal requirement for businesses to have this insurance. Someone in Cardiff or Westminster has let the public down badly. They have a duty to legislate to make sure that this sort of thing is in place.”

??Wrexham Council operates a system of awarding stars from zero to five for hygiene standards at food outlets throughout the county borough. Although this can be checked on the council’s website it is not mandatory for establishments to display their star rating outside their premises. A number of councillors argued this should also be compulsory. The committee ruled that its views on insurance and star ratings should be passed on to the FSA.

No thermometers in UK holiday turkey advice

CBS Sunday Morning had a bit on 85-year-old Dick Van Dyke, still singing and dancing and acting his way into our hearts.

And all I could think of was piping hot.

The Brits, not ones to disappoint, issued their annual holiday turkey advice today, with nary a mention of thermometers.

“The Food Standards Agency is reminding people to follow some simple safety steps this Christmas when preparing their turkeys, to help keep the festive period free from the misery of food poisoning.”

If it was only so simple.

FSA gets it right when they say,

* Don’t wash your turkey before cooking. Washing is more likely to splash food bugs on to worktops, dishes and other foods. Proper cooking will kill bugs.

And they get it wrong when they say,

* Check the turkey is cooked properly by cutting into the thickest part of the meat. None of the meat should still be pink and any juices that run out should be clear. Finally, the meat should be steaming hot all the way through.

That’s what the gravy is for. Use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, and stick it in. 165F is sufficient.

Mason’s mum vows to fight for justice; FSA will try harder

Although Coroner David Bowen said butcher William Tudor’s disregard for food hygiene sparked an E. coli O157 outbreak that claimed the life of 5-year-old Mason Jones in 2005, the “horrific catalogue” of breaches was not enough for him to record the verdict as unlawful death.

While disappointed, Mason’s mom, Sharon Mills, told the South Wales Echo she was grateful Mr Bowen called for tougher enforcement of food hygiene laws and better regulation of food businesses.

Steve Wearne, director of the Food Standards Agency in Wales, said,

“We are determined to ensure that lessons are learned from the tragic death of Mason Jones. We have provided guidance to local authorities that aims to ensure that each intervention in a food business – whether advice, inspection or enforcement – moves it towards full compliance with the law.

“We will shortly issue a public consultation on extending the use of Remedial Action Notices to all food premises. These notices would allow local authority enforcement officers to require a process or activity in a food business that poses a significant risk to human health to be stopped immediately, and would not allow it to recommence until specified action to reduce the risk had been taken.”

UK food bureaucrat whines that communicating is tough

Try harder.

Because when communicating about science with the public, the U.K. Food Standards Agency really sucks.

So when some FSA-type (right, not exactly as shown) writes,

“We pride ourselves on being a science-based organisation and on putting the consumer first, so the big question we deal with on a daily basis is: how do you maintain scientific accuracy while making the science easy for people to understand?”

I may have just thrown up a little.

This science-based organization has apparently decided – against all available scientific evidence – that the best advice for cooking whole poultry is until it is “piping hot.”

This is scientifically inaccurate, and as a lowly member of the public, I don’t know what it means.

The FSA-type further writes:

“Effective communication is about thinking how messages are received rather than how they are sent out.”

Awesome. Can you provide the research which shows actual consumer behavior interpreting the message of piping hot?

And he further writes:

“To be heard and heeded, too, our advice needs to be succinct and easy to understand but also accurate. So, over to you, how do we get the balance right?”

FSA advice to cook poultry until piping hot is inaccurate – color is a lousy indicator, a tip-sensitive thermometer is required to ensure the bird has reach an internal temperature of at least 165F or 74C, and piping hot may be meaningful in a Mary Poppin’s movie but not in a microbiologically safe kitchen. There is no balance to strive for when the information is wrong.

Get the science right, then work on the flair.

UK Food Standards Agency survives; new focus should help get the science right; piping hot is not a standard

‘You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more.’

That’s what eventual U.S. President Richard Nixon said to the press after losing the election for Governor of California in 1962 (he became President in 1968).

“I leave you gentleman now and you will write it. You will interpret it. That’s your right. But as I leave you I want you to know — just think how much you’re going to be missing. You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference and it will be one in which I have welcomed the opportunity to test wits with you.”

And just like Nixon, the U.K. Food Standards Agency has come back from the political backwaters with, what the government calls, “a renewed focus on food safety.”

The Government recognizes the important role of the Food Standards Agency in England, which will continue to be responsible for food safety. The Food Standards Agency will remain a non-ministerial department reporting to Parliament through Health ministers.

In England, nutrition policy will become a responsibility of the Secretary of State for Health. Food labelling and food composition policy, where not related to food safety, will become a responsibility of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

This is tremendous news for food safety types as it was clear the Agency was being distracted by trying to be everything to everybody. Issues surrounding salt, fat, genetic engineering, labeling and others are largely lifestyle choices – they are not food safety issues, the things that make people barf.

Although the U.K. Department of Health needs new communications types when they begin a press release with,

“Public confidence in food safety issues will be protected, as the Government confirmed its intention to retain the Food Standards Agency (FSA) with a renewed focus on food safety.”

Public confidence is earned, not protected by a bureaucratic shuffling of the chairs.

Now that FSA is clearly focused on food safety, can they get rid of their nonsensical cooking temperature advice – piping hot – and focus on some evidence that will lead to fewer people barfing.

Otherwise, like Nixon, you’ll be back, only to get kicked around.

UK Food Standards Agency to be abolished by health secretary; was it due to ‘piping hot’ cooking advice?

On March 20, 1996, British Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell rose in the House to inform colleagues that scientists had discovered a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in 10 victims, and that they could not rule out a link with consumption of beef from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease.

Overnight, the British beef market collapsed and politicians quickly learned how to enunciate bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Within days, the European Union banned exports of British beef; consumption of beef fell throughout Europe; and the tell-tale triumvirate of uncertain science, risk and politics was played out—and continues—in media headlines. Beef consumption across the European Union (EU) dropped 11 per cent in 1996, and the BSE crisis cost the EU US$2.8 billion in subsidies alone to the beef industry in the first year.

Yet the March 20, 1996 announcement, rather than the beginning of the on-going BSE crisis, as it is now commonly called, was instead the culmination of 10 years of bureaucratic mismanagement, political bravado, and a gross underestimation of the public’s capacity to deal with risk.

In response to BSE and several other food poisoning outbreaks, the Food Standards Agency was created in 2000. I may have some of the details wrong because I’m going for speed at the moment and relying on wiki, but one of the key philosophical underpinnings of the new agency was that farming, food processing and food safety maybe shouldn’t be concentrated in one department. You hear the same thing when Washington-types talk about the need for a single food safety agency.

The Guardian reports tonight U.K. health secretary, Andrew Lansley, is to announce the abolition of the Food Standards Agency – which has fought a running battle with industry over the introduction of color-coded "traffic light" warnings for groceries, TV dinners and snacks – sparking accusations the minister has "caved in to big business."

As part of sweeping changes Lansley will reassign the FSA’s regulatory aspects – including safety and hygiene in the food chain – to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Meanwhile, its responsibilities for nutrition and diet advice and its public health remit will be incorporated into the Department of Health.

There’s lots of allegations about industry-pressure, and food dyes, and obesity and genetically-engineered foods, but not too much about food safety, except for a spokesman for cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s, who said,

"The FSA has done a very good job in terms of food safety and science but there was a feeling that perhaps its role was becoming far too broad.”

Whoa there. Dr Judith Hilton, Head of Microbiological Safety at the FSA, said in July 2007,

‘”The current UK advice that burgers should be cooked at 70°C for 2 minutes or equivalent is upheld by this ACMSF report. Advice to consumers remains the same – to follow manufacturers’ instructions and make sure that burgers are piping hot throughout, cooked until the juices run clear and there’s no pink meat inside.”

And I’ve made fun of the advice, because clear juices and meat color are lousy indicators of microbiological safety.

The move will lead to lots of proclamations about all things trendy for foodies, but won’t do much for food safety.