Top 5 Records presents: Top 5 food safety trends of decade

In the 1995 book, High Fidelity, written by Nick Hornby and adapted into the outstanding 2000 film of the same name, protagonist Rob is forever making top 5 lists. The one I most closely identify with is, Rob Gordon’s Top Five Bands or Musicians Who Will Have To Be Shot Come the Musical Revolution:

1. Simple Minds
2. Michael Bolton
3. U2
4. Bryan Adams
5. Genesis

Even though the Canadian government has apologized many times for Bryan Adams, he, and the others, all make my list of music that sucks.

This is the kind of meaningless, fun, Top 5 list that proliferate during end-of-year reflections.

When the folks at Kansas State University asked me for the Top 5 food safety events of the decade, I may have groaned or fell asleep. Eventually, I informally polled a dozen food safety friends around the world, and put together a list that will not be made into a movie.

My favorite response was from the expert-type who said something like, “it’s too bad they didn’t ask you to do this about the 1990s. The 2000s were sorta boring.”

Highlights from the past 10 years in food safety include fresh produce outbreaks and the creation of a food safety culture, said Douglas Powell, an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University.

"Those ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ signs don’t really work," Powell said. "But access to the right tools coupled with compelling messages have been shown to work. Most cases of foodborne illness are not acts of God; they’re rooted in human behavior."

Powell offers a look at five significant events and trends involving food safety from the past decade:

* Growing a food safety culture. Forget legislation, policy and training. The creation and establishment of a strong food safety culture within any farm, processor, retailer, restaurant and home is going to most effectively reduce the millions of Americans who get sick each year.

* Power to the people. Public disclosure of food safety information — restaurant inspection reports, in-plant video, public posting of test results — has increased throughout the decade and will continue.

* Fresh produce can make people sick. It’s not just meat. Hundreds of outbreaks related to fresh fruits and vegetables reached its peak with the 2006 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in fresh spinach that killed four people. Such outbreaks finally kick-started serious efforts to manage pathogens on produce.

* Forensic microbiology. The use of DNA technology and tools continues to deepen the understanding of foodborne illness and the array of foods involved in outbreaks such as pet food, pot pies, pizza, produce, pepper, cookie dough and many others.

• There are problems; there are solutions. The array of food safety solutions rolled out over the past decade demonstrates that when a problem is identified — E. coli in beef, salmonella in eggs, listeria in cold cuts — solutions are created and implemented. Food defense has been a significant priority since 9/11, and the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, NBAF, in Manhattan, along with K-State faculty, staff and students, will continue to provide a proud legacy of food safety solutions.

Come out swinging and have some evidence to back your amendments to the Top 5 food safety thingies of the decade. Although, like bad music, it’s just opinion.

Did I mention that U2 sucks?

Jack Black vomiting mystery

Dude, the urine sample ain’t going to tell anyone anything. It’s a poop sample you need to give the doctor. Because, as they correctly say on the TV show Scrubs, Everything Comes Down to Poo (see below).

Jack Black
, who’s been in a gazillion movies but is best remembered by me for his scene-stealing effort in 2000’s High Fidelity (right, exactly as shown) has been bedridden for a week – after contracting a mystery vomiting virus.

"Just last weekend, I thought I was knocking on death’s door. I have never had this thing before where it has to go out of you in all directions. I’m not going into the grisly details, but it was explosive. Simultaneous explosions. I was wondering whether it was the sushi I ate or whether I caught it from someone and the doctor said it was the latter."

Black, who was at home with his wife and two young sons, was terrified he might pass on his condition to little Sam, three, and Thomas, 12 months: "It’s harder when you’ve got two babies, because you’re exploding, then you’re washing your hands ’cause you don’t want to get them sick either. It’s a constant battle to stay clean."

And the star admits the most embarrassing incident came after he had seen a doctor, who ordered him to hand over a urine sample for testing.

Top 5 food safety myths

Top 5 Records presents Top 5 Food Safety Myths by Bee Wilson, the author of "Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud.”

• The American food supply has never been so dangerous.
Wrong. If you find it terrifying feeding your family now, try imagining yourself in Washington or New York from the 1850s to the 1900s. You try to buy vinegar; you are sold sulfuric acid. Your peas come greened with copper, giving you a dose of heavy metal poisoning with every bite. Spices are bulked with breadcrumbs or sawdust. Children’s candies are colored with poisonous lead. Canned goods are laced with copper, tin and toxic preservatives.

• Packaged food is safer.
Packaged food is potentially less safe than unpackaged food. It passes through many hands before it reaches the consumer, increasing the odds that it has been tampered with at some point along the way. Plenty of packaged food is mislabeled — as is the case with the formula scandal in China, which has affected well-known brands.

• People who buy organic food don’t have to worry.
As with any other culinary fetish, "organic" is a target for swindlers. There have been numerous cases of organic food fraud in recent years — mass-produced eggs passed off as "organic free-range," for example.

• Science makes our food less healthy.
We owe a huge amount to the quiet behind-the-scenes work of scientists — the food detectives who do their bit to uncover food fraud.

• Eating safely comes down to individual behavior.
If we all take personal responsibility for washing fruits and vegetables and cooking poultry until it’s piping hot, surely we’ll be safe? Not so. Food safety is largely a question of politics. The Chinese dairy scandal demonstrated what happens when a government fails catastrophically at regulating its food supply.