Enjoy the holidays and follow safe food practices

As Christmas fast approaches, it is time for family and friends to get together and share in the festivities. This year my extended family and I have rigged together a massive outdoor spit and intend on roasting different cuts of meat all day. My job is to lather the meat with rosemary infused olive oil and ensure food safety. The latter is a given since my family knows my background and my less than par culinary skills. I’ll leave the cooking to my father-in-law and kids, I’ll make sure we have thermometers on hand.

The Boston Globe reports

One of the most rewarding parts of throwing a holiday bash is hearing the next day from guests reminiscing about how delicious and fun the prior evening was for all. What you don’t want to receive are messages about an impromptu afterparty thrown at the local emergency room. Food poisoning is a horrific holiday present to give folks as it’s a gift that could keep giving . . . for days.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 48 million people get sick from food poisoning each year, with 128,000 of them having to be hospitalized. Bouts of nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea are not only unpleasant reminders that you ate some bad food, but this type of foodborne illness can accelerate to the point that is life-threatening. According to the CDC, 3,000 people die annually from food poisoning.
If children, pregnant women, older adults, and/or those with certain chronic conditions are on your guest list, they are even more susceptible to food poisoning because their immune systems might be weakened or not as strong as they need to be yet. To help you enjoy your holiday season without regret, here are five strategies to safeguard your guests:
Be mindful when making cookies and dough ornaments
If you are baking cookies or making raw dough ornaments at your party, you could be asking for trouble. While you shouldn’t eat raw egg-containing cookie dough or batter because of the increased risk of salmonella, that’s only part of the problem. According to the Food and Drug Administration, flour may contain bacteria that can also sicken you. In 2016, there was an outbreak of foodborne illness from bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121. Because of this, the FDA is now recommending that you don’t let children play with raw dough. If you or your guests come in contact with flour, make sure that all hands, work surfaces, and utensils are thoroughly washed when the baking and crafts are completed.
Alter Grandma’s homemade eggnog recipe
Sipping eggnog topped with ground cinnamon and nutmeg just screams holiday cheer. Unfortunately, making the traditional recipe with raw eggs will put you and your guests at risk. The CDC recommends that you swap out the raw eggs from the eggnog recipe for pasteurized eggs that can be found at many supermarkets. Even better, save yourself time and worry by buying pre-made eggnog that is already pasteurized. Just don’t tell Grandma. 
Roast a safe turkey or chicken — and don’t wash it first
In a study done by researchers at the CDC, poultry was found to be the most common cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States. The good news is that proper cooking will kill nasty bacteria. To avoid food poisoning, get yourself a reliable food thermometer and make sure that it is inserted in the innermost part of the thigh, wing, and breast of the poultry. If the thermometer reaches a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees, you are good to go. Contrary to popular thought, don’t wash the poultry before cooking it. Giving your bird a bath in your kitchen sink will not wash away the bacteria, but it could splatter it in the sink and contaminate surrounding surfaces.
Buffer the buffet table
When putting food out on a buffet table, you need to remember to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Cold foods, such as cooked shrimp and salads, should be placed on a pan of ice to help keep these items at 40 degrees or colder. Use heating trays to keep hot foods at 140 degrees to keep bacteria from multiplying to levels that can make folks sick. Better yet, only put out small portions of these foods at a time. When the platter is empty, replenish the buffet table with a new platter of food from the refrigerator or oven. When the party is over, perishable foods left at room temperature for two hours or more should be tossed.
Provide parting gifts that go the distance
If you are sending your guests home with leftovers, be mindful of the distance they have to travel. If they’ll be on the road more than two hours, perishables should be packed in a cooler with ice or cold packs that will keep the food at 40 degrees.


‘Pure greed’ UK couple who faked holiday sickness are jailed

A couple have been jailed for making fake holiday sickness claims in a landmark case.

Liverpool Crown Court heard Deborah Briton, 53, and partner Paul Roberts, 43, tried to claim compensation by stating they and their two children had fallen ill on holidays to Majorca in 2015 and 2016.

But the couple’s social media showed posts where they boasted of holidays full of “sun, laughter and fun”, reports the Daily Mail.

Briton sobbed as she was sentenced to nine months in prison after admitting four counts of fraud in the private prosecution, brought by holiday company Thomas Cook.

Roberts, who was sentenced to 15 months after admitting the same offences, cried and shook in the court throughout the hearing.

The court heard the couple, from Wallasey, Wirral, tried to claim nearly £20,000 ($33,800) for the fake gastric illnesses and would have also cost the holiday firm a further £28,000 ($47,323) in legal expenses had their claims been successful.

Sentencing, Judge David Aubrey QC said their claims had been a “complete and utter sham”.

He said the claims, made in August last year, must have required planning and premeditation.

He said: “Why? Pure greed. Seeking to get something for nothing.”

Fancy food ain’t safe food – Egypt edition

Lawyers are investigating after a UK pensioner was hospitalized for five days and diagnosed with Salmonella food poisoning after holidaying at a luxury Egyptian resort.

John Middleton claims he caught food poisoning while holidaying in Egypt.

John Middleton claims he caught food poisoning while holidaying in Egypt.

John Middleton, 65, went on a two-week break to the five-star Sunrise Select Royal Makadi resort with his family in September.

On the final day of his holiday, John, who booked his trip through tour operator Thomas Cook, woke in the early hours with crippling stomach cramps and severe diarrhea.

The retired factory worker was examined by the hotel doctor and given an injection in his thigh to help ease his symptoms for his flight home.

When he arrived home in Sherburn Village, he tested positive for salmonella, a bacterial infection which can be caused by food poisoning.

John said: “When you book a luxury resort that is exactly what you should get.

“I had to suffer the emotional and physical trauma of being severely ill during the flight home. When you return home from a holiday you want to feel rested and relaxed. Instead I had to be admitted to hospital for five days, and I am still suffering from symptoms months down the line.”


TSA says a little bit of gravy okay to take on a plane; a grenade is not

One of the greatest byproducts of having kids is that the grandparents visit us during the holidays. Traveling around Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a nightmare so I’m glad we’re not navigating airport gates and TSA security screening today with the millions of other modern-day pilgrims. If we were, I wouldn’t be taking food. According to TSA, food complicates the screening process.

When it comes to bringing items through checkpoints, we’ve seen just about everything. Traveling with food or gifts is an even bigger challenge. Everyone has favorite foods from home that they want to bring to holiday dinners, or items from their destination that they want to bring back home.

Not sure about what you can and can’t bring through the checkpoint? Here’s a sample list of liquid, aerosol and gel items that you should put in your checked bag, ship ahead, or leave at home if they are above the permitted 3.4 oz.

   * Cranberry sauce
   * Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
   * Gift baskets with food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings)
   * Gravy
   * Jams
   * Jellies
   * Lotions
   * Maple syrup
   * Oils and vinegars
   * Salad dressing
   * Salsa
   * Sauces
   * Snowglobes
   * Soups
   * Wine, liquor and beer
You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.

So are grenades, as Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips found out in Oklahoma City.

Post thanksgiving gravy, some creamy dips, or salsa aren’t the best things to transport without refrigeration, less than 3.4oz or not. Gravy has been linked to lots and lots of outbreaks, particularly those associated with Clostridium perfringens. Julian Grass, MPH, a surveillance epidemiologist at the CDC Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, and colleagues presented a summary of C. perfringens outbreaks at International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in March 2012.

C. perfringens outbreaks are often the result of improperly cooled food or food held at room temperature for extended periods.

Grass was cited as saying, “We thought it was particularly interesting that outbreaks peak during the holiday season, when people tend to gather in large groups to eat foods such as roasts, gravies, and poultry that are cooked in large batches or prepared ahead of serving.”

Grass told Medscape Medical News, “Our finding that meats are by far the most common vehicle of C. perfringens outbreaks speaks to the need for proper cooking, cooling, and hot holding of these foods.”

Pretty hard to properly hot- or cold-hold gravy during airplane travel. Jelly should be okay.

She Don’t Use Jelly from Slow•Nerve•Action on Vimeo.

Talking turkey: Provide evidence-based information and let folks make their own risk decisions

I still listen to a lot of punk rock and I don’t really like being told what to do. I’m not sure many folks do. The approach I use is to provide the best available evidence culled from the literature to help eaters calculate the risks and benefits of food choices. Present the info in a compelling way and then step back to let the individual do their thing.

Hopefully the choice results in the least amount of barf. Eating has risks, whether it’s raw oysters, sprouts, or Thanksgiving dinner. USA Today’s Elizabeth Weise deconstructs the risks associated with cooking turkey and all the fixin’s:

Step away from the sink, and no one will get hurt.

You don’t need to wash your turkey before you roast it, and doing so can be dangerous. A British study found that washing poultry in the sink can spray bacteria up to 3 feet away. And with one in 50 turkeys estimated to be contaminated with salmonella, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food-safety inspectors, you don’t want a mist of turkey juice on your relish platter.

Given this contamination rate, the chef’s job is to keep the raw turkey juices away from anything that isn’t going to be cooked to 165 degrees, the temperature required to kill disease-causing bugs (the ones of interest in poultry -ben). Unfortunately, too many people start their feast preparations by plopping their turkey in the sink and giving it a good wash. There’s no need to do that. It’s a holdover from long ago when poultry routinely arrived with bits of blood and pinfeathers still attached. Cooks were instructed to wash the carcass well and use tweezers to remove any feathers that didn’t get plucked. With today’s modern processing, none of that is necessary. You just want to get the turkey into its pan and into the oven with as little dripping and splashing as possible.

If it’s a lack of refrigerator space that’s impeding your thawing, Doug Powell, a food-safety scientist at Kansas State University, notes that in any Northern climate, you can simply put the turkey outside in the garage in a closed cooler to keep out pets and vermin. His department wrote a paper on the topic and found that as long as the temperature is below 40 to 45 degrees it’s perfectly safe.

Then there’s the big question of whether it’s safe to lick the beaters when you’re making dessert. According to the Food and Drug Administration, approximately one in 20,000 eggs is contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis, the most common type of illness-causing salmonella. Benjamin Chapman, a(n assistant) professor of food safety at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, says he’s content to “let others make their own risk decisions.”
But for himself and his family, the answer is no (at least when I’m around and influence the decision – ben).

Check out these videos for risk-reduction steps:
Thawing the Turkey
Turkey Preparation and Preventing Cross-Contamination
How to tell when the turkey is safe to eat
Handling the Leftovers

Clostridium in holiday meal sickens 34 in Thunder Bay

The Slovak Legion in Thunder Bay, Ontario (that’s in Canada, and it’s cold) hosted a Christmas meal on Dec. 14, 2010; at least 34 diners ended up barfing.

Clostridium prefringens (that’s perfringens – dp) has been identified as the bacteria that caused the illnesses. It was found in the cooked turkey sample and stool samples that were submitted for testing.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit notes almost all food-related outbreaks of C. perfringens are associated with inadequately cooled or reheated meals such as turkey dinners. Outbreaks are usually traced to large-scale food premises.

To prevent food-related illness:
• Educate food handlers on correct food safety practices
• Serve meat dishes hot, or as soon as they are cooked
• Do not partially cook meat and poultry one day and reheat the next
• Divide large amounts of food into smaller containers to allow rapid cooling

Try out our holiday meal food safety infosheet at foodsafetyinfosheet.com.


Cas fatal à E. coli lié au dîner familial de Thanksgiving

Translated by Albert Amgar

Une femme de 51 ans de Carthage dans le Missouri est décédée récemment d’une infection à E. coli O157:H7, après une réunion de famille. La femme est tombée malade ainsi qu’au moins 10 membres sur les 24 personnes de la famille qui ont participé à Thanksgiving.

Bien que les autres cas n’étaient pas aussi graves, trois autres membres de la famille ont aussi été testés positifs pour ce pathogène.

Selon les rapports des services de la santé, tous les cas étaient associés à de la dinde servie au dîner le 27 novembre 2010. On ne sait pas exactement si la source de E. coli O157:H7 était un aliment, une boisson ou un manipulateur d’aliments. Les officiels des services de la santé étudient les sources possibles en analysant les échantillons des aliments préparés.

E. coli O157: H7 se traduit souvent par une diarrhée sanglante, des crampes, des vomissements et de la fièvre. Dans certains cas, l’infection peut entraîner une déshydratation et une maladie grave qui affecte les reins, le syndrome hémolytique et urémique.
E. coli O157:H7 se trouve dans les intestins et les excréments des ruminants et d’autres mammifères.

Des éclosions antérieures ont été associées :
• à de la viande crue (en particulier la viande bovine) qui a été insuffisamment cuite ou qui a contaminée des aliments prêts à être consommés ;
• aux fruits et aux légumes frais ;
• à des personnes infectées manipulant les aliments ;
• à de l’eau contaminée et aux parcs animaliers pour enfants.
Que pouvez-vous faire ?
• se laver les mains et respecter les bonnes pratiques d’hygiène.
• nettoyer et désinfecter les ustensiles et le matériel entre son utilisation avec des aliments crus et des aliments cuits.
• Utiliser un thermomètre digital à pointe sensible pour déterminer quand les viandes ont atteint une température sécuritaire (74°C pour la volaille).

Pour plus de renseignements contactez Ben Chapman, benjamin_chapman@ncsu.edu ou Doug Powell, dpowell@ksu.edu

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.

Nuevo Folleto Informativo: Inocuidad alimentaria para las fiestas

Traducido por Gonzalo Erdozain

Resumen del folleto informativo mas reciente:

– Un brote reciente en Kansas, el cual infectó a 159 personas, ha sido conectado con una cena organizada por una iglesia, en la cual se sirvió pavo.

– Estudios recientes indican que al lavar el pavo, patógenos que pudieran estar presentes en el pavo, pueden “viajar” distancias de hasta 3 pies del lavadero, y contaminar alimentos listos para comer que estén a dicha distancia.

– La única forma de estar seguro si el pavo esta hecho o no es usando un termómetro digital para verificar que el pavo haya alcanzado una temperatura de 165°F (75ºC).

Los folletos informativos son creados semanalmente y puestos en restaurantes, tiendas y granjas, y son usados para entrenar y educar a través del mundo.

Si usted quiere proponer un tema o mandar fotos para los folletos, contacte a Ben Chapman a benjamin_chapman@ncsu.edu.
Puede seguir las historias de los folletos informativos y barfblog en twitter
@benjaminchapman y @barfblog.

Blowing (food) chunks on vacation

Amy, Sorenne and I are hanging out in Venice, Florida, and I do most of the cooking. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies from the neighborly Publix supermarket, and I even bought a digital, tip-sensitive meat thermometer from Target because I just feel naked cooking without one.

Others aren’t so fortunate, I guess.

A group called HolidayTravelWatch, somewhere in the European Union, has just published its top-20 appalling holiday complaints and problems. Included in this year’s list:

1. Family holiday to Egypt where a child was struck down by severe food poisoning, hospitalization and subsequent scalding in the hotel restaurant.

2. Family holiday to Turkey found that most of their group were ill, they were diagnosed as suffering with Salmonella and Cryptosporidium.

12. One family reported that they had returned from Turkey and their daughter had been diagnosed with Salmonella – they report that many people were ill at the hotel.

15. Holidaymakers to one hotel in Egypt reported sewage smells on the complex, gardens irrigated by stagnant water, food lukewarm, drinks served through a hatch and not via sealed bottles – they suffered severe gastric illness which still continues.

17. One family to Egypt suffered with food undercooked, poor chef hygiene practices (one chef was seen to handle bloody meat then touch other food), flies on the food in the pool bar, sewage smells in bathroom, cracks on the balcony and they are suspected as suffering with Cryptosporidium.

20, One couple’s trip to Egypt was marred by building work, diarrhoea on the public toilet walls, diarrhoea in the restaurant. They both suffered severe illness and weight loss – they are still ill.