How do you poop? And could the way Americans wipe their asses be ready for a change

We’re about to go to France, so will once again experience the different toilet regimes.

27-toilet-paper-baby.nocrop.w536.h2147483647.2xDrake Baer writes in New York Magazine that at the turn of the 20th century, the way America pooped went through a revolution when the at-home flushing toilet became a standard part of people’s homes. But you needed a way to wipe that wouldn’t clog up plumbing like catalogues or corn cobs would. Enter the entrepreneurial brothers Clarence and Irvin Scott, who in 1890 gave the world toilet paper on a roll, wrapped individually for sale.

It was huge: Without TP, says New York University microbiologist and pathologist Philip Tierno, there’s “no standardization of hygiene.” You name it and it was used to wipe the anus. One review of toilet technology notes that lots of places use water, grass, animal fur, corn cobs, seashells, snow, or hands.

Now it appears another revolution is afoot. In the reaches of the Upper East Side, the bidet is coming in a big way. As detailed in breathless New York Times trend pieces like “The Cult of the Toto Toilet,” the next big Japanese import is looking to be a class of high-end toilet seats — the kinds with heated seats, deodorizers, and “tornado dual flush technology.” (Owners are evangelists. After his wife bought him an automatic toilet, NBA star Steph Curry said “that toilet just makes me happy in life. I bet if I did a case study on my performance since I got that toilet, you’d see the difference.”) In the words of Times reporter Steven Kurutz, the “need for toilet paper is virtually eliminated” thanks to an air dryer.

As soon as the price tag falls (substantially — they’re currently priced from $499 to $9,800), toilet paper could become much less of a necessity.

After all, as Poop Culture: How America Is Shaped by Its Grossest National Product author David Praeger tells Science of Us, toilet paper isn’t even the most hygienic approach to cleanup. If a bird poops on your arm while you’re walking down the street, you don’t smear it with a paper towel — you go to the bathroom and use soap and water.

There’s the sustainability critique, too. According to one analysis, Americans use 36 billion (!) rolls — or 15 million trees’ worth — of toilet paper a year, not to mention all the energy spent shipping the sheets around the world. That’s a lot of paper and energy literally being flushed down the toilet.

Toilet paper is more “a psychological comfort, not a true measure of cleanliness,” Praeger says. It’s a way of keeping our bodies separate from the waste they produce. But “sometimes the paper rips and you’re confronted with your own mortality,” he says, “right on your fingers.”

Australian kangaroo meat fails basic hygiene tests

Can’t blame imports on this one: Kangaroo harvesters in Australia have been discovered not adhering to the most basic of hygiene standards, documents obtained under freedom of information show.

kangerooInvestigations by the New South Wales (NSW)Food Authority have found numerous breaches of hygiene and safety rules that prevent cross-contamination of kangaroo meat, including carcasses hung from rusty hooks, lack of water and cleaning facilities, and live animals being allowed alongside dead ones.

Critics say the huge industry is still a wild west, with vast differences in the practices of different kangaroo harvesters, who hunt animals in the wild without the regulations of commercial farming operations.

But the head of the industry association has strongly rejected this claim, saying the overall rate of breaches is low and kangaroo undergoes more extensive testing for pathogens before it is sold than other meats.

Greens MP John Kaye, who obtained the information under freedom of information laws, said the potential for cross contamination in the meat meant no one could eat it without putting themselves at risk of infection.

“Poor hygiene practices have potentially devastating consequences for any food but game meat is particularly vulnerable,” he said. “No one should eat meat that was hung on rusty carcass hook, processed over a tray with old dried blood or exposed to other live animals with the risk of faecal and other contamination.”

“This so-called healthy alternative to other red meats could be riddled with pathogens.”

Five years ago Fairfax Media revealed independent testing had found dangerously high levels of salmonella and E.coli in kangaroo meat bought from supermarkets.

Daniel Ramp, a senior lecturer and director of the Centre for Compassionate Conservation at the University of Technology Sydney, said previously contamination levels had been found that were “way above safety standards”.

Rule on serving olive oil stirs ridicule and anger in Europe

Any food safety policy decision should be backed by both theoretical and actual epidemiological evidence.

This one failed.

As reported earlier, the European economy is reeling from austerity and joblessness, so, as the New York Times puts it, the European Union took olive.oil.dippingtime last week to focus on something rather smaller in scale: it approved a measure that would ban restaurants from serving olive oil in cruets or dipping bowls.

The reaction was severe. Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands condemned the measure, calling it “too bizarre for words” and not at all green.

Criticism was particularly harsh in Britain, often the first among critics of the European Union’s reach.

The olive oil rule was “exactly the sort of area that the European Union needs to get right out of, in my view,” Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said Wednesday after a meeting of the bloc’s leaders in Brussels. “It shouldn’t even be on the table,” he said, immediately begging forgiveness for the wordplay.

On Thursday, the European Commission announced in a hastily called news conference that the measure, meant to take effect on Jan. 1, would be rescinded. 

Hygiene certification on France’s restaurant doors: what does it mean?

Albert, our friend in France, has some things to say about restaurant inspections, the various certifications and what they really mean. Translation into English by Amy Hubbell.

This question was already raised in an article on food safety and communication in food service in May 2011. Now La Dépêche is reporting "Three tables certified for good behavior" (7 June 2012).

Is this about putting scores on doors in France?

Is it about a controlled inspection that has just certified the hygiene holy grail?

And well no… but let’s just see what it’s about:

“A master restaurateur and his team chose to take a year to prepare to get the hygiene certification logo from the Food Service Food Safety Association (ASAR), validated by the BVC (audit office and council). This means that this professional obtained a minimum of 70% compliance out of 330 evaluation points. “My team and I have been tested over an entire day,” explained the restaurateur. “It’s an extremely thorough evaluation that leaves nothing to chance in matters of hygiene and food quality. From maintenance of the kitchen up to the quality of referenced products and the state of the dining room. He added, “Nothing is possible without the willingness and training of the team. It’s a partnership.”

And then the newspaper asks this very touching question: “But why would they want to undergo such a drastic certification process?”

Doesn’t this “drastic certification process” with only 70% compliance also mean there was 30% non compliance?

In short, the answer is of interest:

“Simply because I believe that many restaurateurs call themselves professionals and are not. It’s also a choice to take a qualitative step for me and my clients who are reassured to know that they can come to … with peace of mind.” [Note: names of restaurants have been removed.] This hygiene certification attracts few restaurateurs in Toulouse mainly because of the personal investment and the financial cost. A pioneer in the field, … of the … Brasserie: “In this profession, rigor must be everywhere: from the way the personnel are dressed to the traceability of the food.” Another candidate for this strict evaluation: … manager and founder of … “This process is truly a constraint but it is a guarantee of our profession where close is never good enough.” “To undertake this evaluation, the company must free up a certain amount of money,” admits Patrice Rotat, head of the BVC for Toulouse who clearly stipulates that this evaluation does not replace the veterinary inspections.”

It’s an age-old problem. Hygiene has a price; we also know that it has no price, for the consumers/clients. You might as well get started…

It would be interesting to know, if with 70% compliance and, perhaps, 30% non compliance, what the veterinary services would have thought, as they are the ones who do the “real” inspections.

Seventy per cent compliance to get a safety certificate? Why not? Everyone has to make a living, but does the consumer know what this really means?

How can we distinguish a restaurant that obtained 100% compliance from one that only got 70% and puts up the same certificate? The reality of this type of certification, even if it is a step in the right direction, can also be challenged because the restaurateur says that he prepared with his team for a year. The inspection by this company, was it announced or was it impromptu? We don’t know. Nothing is said either about the next goal: more than 70% compliance?

Preparing for a year to obtain what seems to be normal hygiene says it all.

In the end, what should we take from this report, closer to marketing food safety than the culture of food safety, is that there is still work to be done in spite of the total number of inspections undertaken by the DGAL. This time, change is not for now.

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.

UK kebab shop owners fined for food hygiene breaches

The owners of a takeaway in Reigate, UK, have been hit with fines and court costs of £3,500 after breaching food health and safety rules.

The Reigate Kebab & Burger House in London Road, which has a food hygiene rating of zero out of five stars, was prosecuted by Reigate and Banstead Borough Council for "a string of serious food and health and safety offences."

The offences included allowing water to leak through a ceiling onto live electronics and storing and handling salad in a way that risked it being contaminated by raw meat.

Councillor Steve Farrer, executive member for safer communities, said, “Prosecution is always seen as a last resort, but unfortunately in this case it was brought due to the council’s previous measures failing to secure any long term improvement in food hygiene and health and safety standards. The council strives to ensure residents can expect the highest standards of food safety when eating out in the borough.”

Judge to Canberra restaurant: anyone going into restaurant business should know hygiene standards; Grand Court fined $8000

With no further news on the raw-egg-in-mayonnaise salmonella outbreak at a Canberra cafe and bakery that has sickened 13, attention in the capital today turned to the owner of a Chinese restaurant who was convicted and fined $8000 after breaching the territory’s food safety laws.

Health authorities shut down the Grand Court restaurant in October, 2010 for 11 days after finding grimy work surfaces and ”biological matter” all over the cool-room floor.

But the ACT Magistrates Court heard owner Michelle Foo, 28, had worked hard to clean up the restaurant and had been allowed to reopen after it passed a health inspection.

Foo had pleaded guilty to four charges of failing to comply with food hygiene requirements and unsafe food handling.

Her defence lawyer told the court that the evidence against his client was indisputable but said Foo was very remorseful for the offences and had since turned things around at the eatery.

The court heard Foo had previously worked for Woolworths and had no experience of running a restaurant when she bought the Grand Court in August 2010.

The restaurant was old and inadequate and staff did not follow appropriate hygiene practices.

A health officer inspected the premises after a customer complained about a cockroach in a takeaway bag.

According to documents tendered in court, the inspection uncovered dirty work surfaces, greasy walls, dirty equipment and a lack of proper food-storage containers.

Authorities shut the restaurant down amid fears it was ”critically unhygienic”.

The Grand Court had since been cleaned up and had passed every health inspection for the past year.

Magistrate Maria Doogan said it was difficult to accept Foo’s excuse that she was an inexperienced restaurateur, saying anyone who went into the restaurant business should know about hygiene standards.

Handwashing motivator: Study shows posters can help increase hand hygiene practices

A study by Kansas State University shows posters can make a difference when it comes to hand hygiene in a health care setting.

The research, based on observations of more than 5,000 patrons at a hospital-based cafeteria, shows that an evidence-based informational poster can increase attempts at hand hygiene. The study appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, and was funded by One Health Kansas, a project supported by the Kansas Health Foundation.

The research team included K-State’s Katie Filion, a December 2010 master’s graduate in biomedical science; Kate KuKanich, assistant professor of clinical sciences; Megan Hardigree, a 2008 master’s graduate in kinesiology; and Doug Powell, professor of food safety. Also on the team was Ben Chapman, assistant professor in the department of 4-H youth development and family and consumer sciences at North Carolina State University.

Hand hygiene is important before meals, especially in a hospital cafeteria where patrons may have had recent contact with infectious agents, KuKanich said.

"Few interventions to improve hand hygiene have had measurable success. This study was designed to use a poster intervention to encourage hand hygiene among health care workers and hospital visitors upon entry to a hospital cafeteria," she said.

Over a five-week period, a poster intervention with an accessible hand-sanitizer unit was deployed to improve hand hygiene at the entrance to a hospital cafeteria. An anonymous researcher was able to observe hand hygiene attempts from the adjacent dining area. The study included baseline, intervention and follow-up phases, with each consisting of three randomized days of observation for three hours at lunchtime.

Gains were modest, Powell said. During the 27 hours of observation, 5,551 participants were observed, with hand hygiene attempts increasing from 3.16 per cent to 6.17 per cent.

Hand washing compliance efforts have focused on increasing availability of proper tools for hand hygiene, education and training, and use of prompts such as visual reminders or peer pressure and the presence of others, according to Powell and KuKanich.

"Hand hygiene is still the best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Unfortunately, many of us don’t wash our hands as often as we should," KuKanich said.

"Those ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ signs in bathrooms may not be the most effective reminder," Powell said. "While improvements in this study were modest, we have set an evaluation framework to work with informational posters that use more graphical messages and reminders that use a shock-and-shame approach."

An abstract of "Observation-based evaluation of hand hygiene practices and the effects of an intervention at a public hospital cafeteria" is available at

Better understanding the brain for better hygiene

My friend in France sent me this story from Process Alimentaire and my best friend translated it.

Stephane Desaulty, a PhD student at CLLE-LTC University of Toulouse 2 is undertaking a thesis in cognitive psychology to increase the efficiency of good hygiene training in catering. It is reinforced by scientific expertise in food safety from the School of Industrial Biology (EBI).

Silliker is funding the research. For the consulting, auditing and analysis firm, part of Mérieux Nutrisciences this thesis is an opportunity "to identify new avenues for training."

The base for this research is in "fuzzy trace” theory. According to its inventors, experiences are simultaneously stored in our memory in two forms: first traces representing the details of events and also traces representing their general meaning. As such, this theory demonstrates that as expertise increases, the mental representation of risk does not become more complex. Quite the contrary, when making a decision the trained people would not rely on details, as would the novices, but rather on simple mental representations.

The thesis will focus on analyzing the memory representations in reasoning and decision making in a professional context as well as on analyzing possible differences between "experts" and novices. The goal? To identify the strengths and weaknesses of training programs. In the short term, this research should measure the suitability of proposed training and develop new learning tools.

Food worker delivers Morocco strain of shigella; sickens 52 in a Belgian cafeteria

On Nov. 13, 2009, a Belgian physician notified authorities about an apparent cluster of Shigella sonnei; ultimately, 52 cases were identified over two months, and most were linked to a canteen in a public institution building. Best guess is that a food handler who travelled to Morocco shortly before detection of the first laboratory-confirmed case, picked up shigella, and then transmitted it through food.

The details can be found in the current issue of Epidemiology and Infection, where researchers report on a matched case-control study to test an association between shigellosis and canteen-food consumption.

The three food handlers working permanently in the canteen responded to the questionnaire. Food handler A travelled to Turkey from 23 September to
4 October 2009. She started working on 7 October. She prepared sandwiches, washed dishes and served food. She fell ill on 20 October, and had been exposed to canteen food during the 4 days prior to disease onset. Food handler B travelled to Morocco from 23 September to 1 October. This person started working on 4 October and was involved in vegetable washing, preparation of hot meals, sandwiches, cold dishes involving vegetables and cleaning the canteen. He did not declare having fallen sick. Food handler C was also involved in all activities except in hot meal preparation. He had not travelled, been absent or fallen sick.

Of the 52 shigella cases found in 708 employees of a public institution in Flemish Brabant province, Belgium, between September and November 2009, seven cases were confirmed as S. sonnei. There was a common PFGE profile which resembled those from archived specimens from Morocco. Cases of
shigellosis were associated with canteen-food consumption.

Investigators worked with three hypotheses: (i) waterborne transmission through a contaminated water dispenser, (ii) person-to-person transmission or via surfaces (toilets), or (iii) foodborne transmission (through previously contaminated food or during the preparation process by a contaminated food handler).

Foodborne transmission through canteen food is supported by the results of the employee survey and by the matched case-control study. This led us to think that a food handler might have been the source of the outbreak. Food handler B returned from Morocco shortly before the appearance of the first confirmed cases. He did not report any symptoms and worked continuously since his return.

Foodborne transmission might have happened had he been an asymptomatic case. Healthy carriers can shed 102 Shigella c.f.u./g of feces during 1 month.
Thus, food handler B could have unintentionally acted as an intermittent source of food contamination during the period of faecal shedding. Conversely, food handler A, who had travelled to Turkey, could not be the source of the outbreak, since her onset of disease happened after the onset of symptoms of some confirmed cases.

The researchers recommend:
• washing hands with soap and water before eating and after defecation for employees and food handlers;
• preventing sick food handlers from working until full recovery or until negative fecal culture in the case of laboratory confirmation;
• maintaining surveillance of further possible cases of shigellosis through the institution’s prevention service; and,
• collecting information on the workplace when interviewing notifiable cases in order to detect infectious disease clusters early.

Shigellosis outbreak linked to canteen-food consumption in a public institution: a matched case-control study
Epidemiology and Infection
I. Gutiérrez Garitano, M. Naranjo, A. Forier, R. Hendriks, K. De Schrijver, S. Bertrand, K. Dierick, E. Robesyn, and S. Quoilin
On 13 November 2009, the authorities of Flemish Brabant, Belgium, received an alert concerning a potential outbreak of Shigella sonnei at a public institution. A study was conducted to assess the extent, discover the source and to implement further measures. We performed a matched case-control study to test an association between shigellosis and canteen-food consumption. Water samples and food handlers’ faecal samples were tested. The reference laboratory characterized the retrospectively collected Shigella specimens. We found 52 cases distributed over space (25/35 departments) and time (2 months). We found a matched odds ratio of 3·84 (95% confidence interval 1·02–14·44) for canteen-food consumption. A food handler had travelled to Morocco shortly before detection of the first laboratory-confirmed case. Water samples and food handlers’ faecal samples tested negative for Shigella. Confirmed cases presented PFGE profiles, highly similar to archived isolates from Morocco. Foodborne transmission associated with the canteen was strongly suspected.