John Cerveny: 1933-2016

I first met John Cerveny at the 1996 International Association for Food Protection meeting in Seattle in 1996.

john.cervenyI was a newly minted PhD, venturing out to the food safety world, and John quickly made himself known, and was quick with a quip and encouragement.

Two years later, I took the four daughters and wife to IAFP in Nashville. The kids become a recurring feature at IAFP for a few years, and John always greeted them with a big smile and often a toy Oscar Mayer wienermobile.

John Gerald Cerveny passed away on April 10, 2016.

He was born on June 23, 1933, in Racine, Wis., and was raised there with his sister, Jean, by his loving parents, John and Thelma. Following graduation from high school, John spent two years at the UW before he was drafted into the U.S. Army and eventually served for 16 months in Korea. After his military service, he returned to the University of Wisconsin in Madison obtaining a degree in Microbiology in 1958. Upon completion, John joined Oscar Mayer as a food quality and safety microbiologist. While at OM, he met Miriam (McKee) and they were married in the fall of 1960.

During John’s distinguished 37-year career at Oscar Mayer, he was instrumental in protecting the processed meat industry against food safety problems. During that time, he co-authored many significant publications and is acknowledged on three significant patents. After his official “retirement” in 1996, and during his time as an industry Food Safety Consultant, he remained actively involved in issues relating to food safety and was recognized as one of the country’s leading food microbiologists. Additionally, he had long standing relationships with many professional organizations including the International Association of Food Protection, the International Life Sciences Institute, the Institute of Food Technologists and the UW-Madison-Food Research Institute. Because of his lifetime of knowledge and experience in the area of meat and food safety, and many years of informally mentoring friends he met along the way, each of these organizations thoughtfully recognized his many contributions over the years.

John’s deeply modest nature once led him to remark that his greatest satisfaction was sleeping well at night knowing he had made a small contribution to improving food safety. His many friends and colleagues would say that his contribution and impact went well beyond his career.

Away from work, John enjoyed gardening, listening to a wide variety of music, reading, and people watching on the Union Terrace with popcorn and a local beer. John’s greatest joy was his family, and his fondest memories were family vacations to Wisconsin lakes and to the family farm in Iowa. More recently, he very much enjoyed visits to the West Coast and a variety of travel adventures with his kids and grandkids.

He is survived by his son, John (Raquel) and daughter, Sarah Grimm (Art); Miriam, his former wife and friend of many years; his sister, Jean Brackett; and his four beloved grandchildren who were the light of his life, Cayman, Cate Molly, Catalina and Kellan. He took particular interest in each child’s activities and was never surprised at their accomplishments, often stating that it was “in the genes”, with a twinkle in his eyes.

oscar.mayer.wienermobileJohn was a tireless volunteer and enthusiastically jumped in wherever he could. Some of his favorites were local literacy programs, a variety of activities at St. Luke’s Lutheran, and helping sell flowers with friends at the farmer’s market on the square. He will be greatly missed for his tremendous energy, bright smile, warm humor, generous spirit, insatiable curiosity, and the always predictable, “Say, I have a question for you…”.

John was a recipient for the IAFP Harold Barnum Industry Awards, the Harry Haverland Citation Award and Honorary Life Membership Award.  On May 5, 2016, he was to be inducted in the Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame.

John was a great friend and mentor to many in the food safety world, an excellent scientist, very humble, and led by example. He always encouraged others to make a positive impact being actively involved and taking a leadership role in their professional organizations and at work.

That Oscar Mayer toy wienermobile? It’s still around..

Chapman wins young researcher award from IAFP

It’s not often a graduate student will bail their professor out of jail.

powell.chapman.hoserOr talk about it.

Ben Chapman has learned many lessons along the way, from coaching hockey, to his own kids, and the much deserved Larry Beuchat Young Researcher Award from the International Association of Food Protection.

Thanks to Linda Harris, who was on my PhD committee, and Stan Bailey, who I’ve respected over the years, for presenting Chapman with the award.

  • With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements and evaluates food safety strategies, messages and media, from farm to fork. Through reality-based research, Dr. Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers and organizational decision-makers: the gatekeepers of safe food.
  • He co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk, and co-publishes
  • Chapman joined IAFP in 2002. Since then, he has chaired the Student PDG and the Food Safety Education PDG. He currently serves as Chair of the New Media Task Force. Dr. Chapman is also President of the IAFP Affiliate, Carolinas Association for Food Protection.

And happy birthday to Geddy Lee. Rush played at my high school in 1975.

But I’m really not that into them.


Many people now know my wife’s bra size.

That’s not what she’ll be mad about – they’re just boobs, and I’ve written about them before – but she may be mad I didn’t buy the bra I was supposed to get or that her shampoo I dutifully bought at Walmart was confiscated because I had to take a carry-on bag hubbell.skates.jul.13instead of checking it because I had to check the road hockey net (thanks, Ben).

This is how it went down at my talk yesterday:

“Hi, I’m Doug Powell and my wife has fabulous breasts.

“She has an even more fabulous mind, and that’s why I’m in Brisbane.

“I’m supposed to buy a bra, for her.

“You now know more about my wife’s breasts than the microbial safety of the food you ate for lunch.”

I was told that was too much information.

At today’s session, where I decided to be fairly family values – I was sitting beside the always classy Gary Acuff and his daughter was there – it was Don Schaffner who went all TMI.

We were doing a roundtable on communicating about food safety stuff, and the point was made about how just because everyone knows how to talk doesn’t make them good at it, and sometimes they should ask for help.

Schaffner said he had this consumer question one time and he wasn’t sure how to answer it, so he e-mailed me, and that I gave him a fabulous response in an e-mail while I took a dump (yes, the Internet sometimes works in Australia)

It was true, but TMI.

Thanks for the fun times in Charlotte.

Ethiopian food vendor at Santa Fe festival thought to be source of illnesses

I’m in Providence for the International Association for Food Protection’s annual meeting. It’s sort of like Comicon for the food safety nerds. I left for the conference yesterday and missed out on my neighborhood’s yearly block party. Dani told me that there was a bunch of great side dishes and a 130lb pig that was slow cooked overnight. And not a lot of temperature control.

Festivals, community dinners and temporary events have had their share of outbreaks  (Taste of Chicago in 2007, Folklorama in 2010 and numerous fundraisers and community dinners). With community dinners there usually a bunch of well-meaning folks who may not always know or follow best practices.

Often at festivals and other events there are folks at booths who are not full-time food handlers, dealing with lineups, makeshift heat sources and poor access to handwashing facilities. Sometimes folks get sick as a result.

According The New Mexican, health officials are investigating a cluster of illnesses associated with eating at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

Department of Health epidemiologist Joan Baumach said Thursday that the department has received reports of stomach illness from about 11 people, all of whom said they ate at the market. Baumach said Health Department staff are trying to determine if the illness was caused by a bacteria or virus while the Environment Department is trying to pinpoint the source.

Market organizers and several of those affected have said the sickness — the symptoms of which are diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever — is thought to have come from the Almaz Ethiopian Kitchen food booth.

“This booth was inspected,” said the market’s executive director, Charlene Cerny. “And [an employee] said he ate the thing that made people sick in the morning, so we are trying to figure out what happened. It’s really, sadly enough, a labor of love for the owner [Almaz Tesffimichal]. This is the only event she does all year.”

Frank Fiore, acting chief of the Environment Department Health Bureau, said all 23 of the booths that sold food or drinks at the market were inspected Saturday morning before the market opened.

A copy of the inspection report related to the Ethiopian Kitchen shows no violations. In fact, the sheet notes that the temperatures of the food at that time were all above 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which, Fiore said, most pathogens die. The sheet did contain the note “test strips needed.”

Baumach said her staff is analyzing stool samples and conducting laboratory tests for things such as salmonella or e.coli. The results of those tests should be ready in a day or two, she said."

Crossing borders: food safety style

Wal-Mart Frank brought along a piece of the past when he visited a few weeks ago – the program for the 2000 meeting of what is now know as the International Association for Food Protection where I gave the Ivan Parkin lecture to a room of 800 people – by video (right, sorta as shown).

I never got a program, so Frank thoughtfully brought one along and complimented me on the shape of my hair.

That was the first time I got stopped at a border for improper paperwork.

It’s happened again.

Australia is requesting new paperwork from the Canadians (who are hopeless, it’s been six months so far for a fingerprint check) so no Australian visa for me.

I put Amy and Sorenne and Mary Poppins on a plane to Brisbane, Australia last night because smarty pants Amy got herself a French professoring job at the University of Queensland and the new semester starts in a couple of weeks. (Mary Poppins is nanny Emma, who’s going for two weeks to help get things set up).

I’m staying at Kansas State, where I love it, racking up air miles and doing some of my K-State work remotely, if I ever get my Australian visa.

Chapman already invited me to tag along to IAFP. I may go.

Sarah goes shopping for raw frozen chicken thingies

I’m not going to the annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection this year. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the meeting, maybe I got other things going on.

Sarah DeDonder, a PhD student at Kansas State, is going, and will be presenting some work we did last summer.

The abstract for the presentation is below. Yesterday, Sarah shared the results of her latest shopping adventure. Food safety is so simple, yet I find myself further confused.

Sarah writes:

I recently moved from Manhattan to a small town north of Topeka.  Moving to Topeka has given me access to a whole new array of grocery stores not available in Manhattan. Yesterday I decided to venture out to the local Hyvee. 

My research focuses on frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken entrees.  It has become habit for me, once I enter a grocery store, to head to the frozen food section to see what products the store has available to their customers.  My trip to Hyvee was no different.  While roaming the aisles I came across the frozen food section containing the breaded chicken entrees.  I couldn’t help but examine how the products were placed and I intensely examined most, if not all, of the product labels on the uncooked breaded chicken entrees available to the consumer.  I quickly noted the product placement—fully cooked products were shelved directly next to uncooked products.  Also, stuffed chicken entrees still contained microwavable instructions.  I had hit the jackpot at this store.                 

Over the last ten years there have been a variety of outbreaks of salmonellosis linked to raw breaded chicken entrées such as chicken strips, nuggets, and stuffed chicken entrees.  Most of the cases implicated in the outbreaks prepared the entrees in the microwave. It is a quick and easy way to cook a product, but it isn’t the safest route to take in cooking a breaded chicken entree.  As a result of the outbreaks processors were encouraged to remove microwavable instructions from product packaging.  Most did, so it isn’t very often that one finds microwavable instructions still on the package.  Does this mean that consumers no longer cook these products in the microwave because the label states not to?  On yet another of my outings to the grocery store, my friend and I found the answer.  We were looking at the products available when a girl walked up.  We asked her, when she had the product in hand and the cooking instructions side up, how she would cook the product. She responded, quite confidently, just put it in the microwave. She then went on to explain to us it isn’t as crisp as cooking it in the oven, but it is quicker.  The product label in bold lettering stated, “DO NOT MICROWAVE.” 

Product labels are provided on product packing to provide guidance to the consumers.  Labels should contain concise cooking instructions and clearly convey to the consumer that a food thermometer should be used to check the final internal temperature of the entree.

In August, at IAFP, I will be presenting the findings from a study completed last summer where we observed and documented kitchen preparation practices of consumers using uncooked, frozen, breaded chicken products.  So if you are there and are interested you should come check it out.

Dedonder, S., Powell, D.A., Wilkinson, C., Surgeoner, B., Chapman, B., and Phebus, R. 2008. Beyond Intent — Direct Observation Of Meal Preparation Procedures In A Home Kitchen Setting.


Purpose – This study used a novel video capture system to observe the
food preparation practices of 41 consumers – 21 primary meal preparers
and 20 adolescents – in a mock domestic kitchen using uncooked, frozen,
breaded chicken products, and to determine if differences exist between
consumers’ reported safe food handling practices and actual food
handling behavior as prescribed on current product labels.

Design/methodology/approach – A convenience sample was utilized and all
participants were video-recorded preparing food in one-of-two model
kitchens at Kansas State University. Participants were asked to complete
a survey reporting food handling behaviors that would be typical of
their own home kitchen.

Findings – Differences between self-reported and observed food safety
behaviors were seen across both groups of consumers. Many participants
reported owning a food thermometer (73 per cent) and indicated using one
when cooking raw, breaded chicken entrées (19.5 per cent); however, only
five participants were observed measuring the final internal temperature
with a food thermometer despite instructions on the product packaging to
do so; only three used the thermometer correctly.

Significance – Data collected through direct observation more accurately
reflects consumer food handling behaviors than data collected through
self-reported surveys, and label instructions are rarely followed.

Originality/value – This study contributes to the overall understanding
of consumer behaviors associated with consumers’ intentions and actual
behaviors while preparing meat and poultry products, such as frozen,
uncooked, breaded chicken products.