FSnet funding, format and future

I’m a writer.

And writers write.

I may be a scientist, and my group has produced some decent stuf, but really, I’m just a writer.

And writers write.

Some people shouldn’t write, like Bono of the ridiculously overrated band, U2. Bono is a terrible writer. It’s on display in last Sunday’s N.Y. Times at

I started FSnet, the food safety news, shortly after the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak in Jan. 1993. Sure, Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet, but those of us in universities had access, and I started distributing food safety stories.???

It all seems sorta quaint now, what with Google alerts and blogs and RSS feeds, but my goal was straightforward: during the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak, a number of spokesthingies said, they didn’t know E. coli O157:H7 was a risk, they didn’t know that Washington State had raised its recommended final cooking temperature for ground beef, they didn’t know what was going on.?????? So FSnet was conceived and made widely available so that no one could legitimately say, they didn’t know.

But times have changed. You’ve probably all missed my annual PBS-like funding plea. I’m grateful for the donations, but I can sense the funding model needs to change. Last year, Seattle lawyer Bill Marler stepped up – and I’m quite grateful — and covered the funding shortfall, but I don’t expect that to happen every year.

So, this is what I’m planning to do.

Over the next few weeks, a new web site, bites.ksu.edu will consolidate the existing food safety information resources of the International Food Safety Network – news listservs, blogs, infosheets, videos and others – and we’ll strive to become the pre-eminent daily international electronic food safety publication or portal with text, audio, video, blogs, and RSS feeds. And we’re going to sell advertizing. The bites.ksu.edu not-for-profit environment will additionally:

• provide research, educational and journalistic opportunities for secondary, undergraduate and graduate students in the multi-media electronic environment of bites.ksu.edu;

• develop, implement and evaluate a variety of food safety messages using various mediums to impact the safe-food behavior of individuals from farm-to-fork;

• provide an infrastructure to produce a series of multilingual public service announcements to further stimulate public interest in food safety and security and to raise awareness about specific emerging issues, especially during a crisis;

• host a dynamic and cross-cultural team of secondary, undergraduate and graduate students to create multilingual and multicultural food safety and security information, including weekly food safety info/tip sheets, podcasts and flash-based Internet animations and videos through bites.ksu.edu;

• provide training through a graduate emphasis in food safety, language, culture and policy (with distance education option); and,

• create employment and training opportunities for secondary, undergraduate and graduate students in conjunction with an international internship program to place students with regulatory authorities and industries who promote a food safety culture.

Should I keep the International Food Safety Network name? It’s a bit ponderous and creates confusion with the posers at the University of Guelph. bites is easier to deal with. What else should I keep or eliminate? I’m going to collapse the four listserves – FSnet, Agnet, AnimalNet and FunctinalFood Net into one daily e-publication. For those who want instant news, it will be provided through RSS feeds in the following categories. For those who can wait, a daily e-publication will be distributed, in html and text format.

The draft categories available for RSS feeds are:

E. coli
Hepatitis A
other food safety microorganisms
restaurant inspection
raw – milk, juice, food
Food safety communication
Food safety policy
Food allergies
animal disease
plant disease
genetic engineering
functional food
new science

I’m open to suggestions. If you feel I’m too much of an asshole to deal with, e-mail Ben at his new North Carolina State gig, benjamin_chapman@ncsu.edu, or Amy at ahubbell@ksu.edu.

For me, it’s more writing.

Cause writers write.

Food Safety Network year-in-review

I was walking around the vet college at Kansas State the other day with baby Sorenne strapped to me, and was telling anyone who would listen that Kansas State now had the foundation of a NCAA woman’s hockey program, if only they would build an arena in Manhattan.

Someone asked me, what is it you like about hockey, and I said it’s so fast and violent and requires skills like no other game. Don Cherry, right, agrees.

You can see that on display right now as Canada and the U.S. are playing in the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ottawa. I’m in Manhattan, Chapman is in North Carolina, and we’re both watching hockey on the NHL channel. Nerds.

Daughter Braunwynn, below, – herself a great skater and hockey player – arrives tomorrow for a visit.  And while I’m all nostalgic, here’s the year in review.

I’m not sure what to make of these statistics. Like media hits, I had thousands if all the media appearances are counted, and I’m not sure what to count anymore. And am too busy doing to count what I’m doing.

The listservs have peaked and I need to exploit new technology to get the news out. That will be happening soon enough. For this year, I developed 2 on-line courses which will start being offered in Jan. 2009, and got together 16 journal articles and book chapters. So I was doing that academic thing.

Top 10 food safety issues 2008 – the PR version

Researchers at Kansas State University’s International Food Safety Network use blogs, YouTube videos, food safety info sheets and other means to remind people about food safety hazards. The researchers are among more than 150 K-State faculty and staff active in the food safety and animal health arenas. Since 1999, K-State has dedicated more than $70 million to related research.

"During an outbreak, food safety is at the top of many people’s minds," said Doug Powell, scientific director of the International Food Safety Network at K-State, where he is an associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology. "The real challenge is to compel everyone, from farm to fork, to practice safe food habits before an outbreak occurs. It’s sort of boring, but it reduces the number of sick people."

Casey Jacob is a research assistant working with Powell. A May 2008 K-State bachelor’s graduate in food science and industry, Jacob compiled a list of the top 10 food safety issues of 2008 available at http://tinyurl.com/4q4efw

Salmonella-laden tomatoes and/or peppers topped Jacob’s list, highlighting the importance of being able to trace fresh produce to its source.

"Companies that can provide efficient traceability systems for their products provide an advantage to the retail food service sector during recall and outbreak situations," Jacob said.

Other top food safety issues on the list were melamine in Chinese infant formula, listeria in deli meats and soft cheeses, and E. coli O157:H7 linked to negligent butchers in the United Kingdom. Jacob said that these incidents demonstrated the importance of knowing one’s food suppliers, warning vulnerable populations of food safety hazards associated with certain foods, and establishing a culture of food safety among food handlers.

The list includes signs that restaurant inspection disclosure systems are on the rise.

"The food service sector should recognize that certain diners are interested in the information provided by inspection reports and summaries," Jacob said. "This increase in transparency highlights the importance of maintaining — or improving — compliance with food safety regulations during inspections."

The list also recalls how patrons are using cell phone cameras to document food safety issues. In Toronto, a passerby took a photo of rats on a countertop at one of the most prominent restaurants in the city’s Chinatown. Public health authorities shut the restaurant down.

"Everyone eats, and in a networked world, consumer experiences can really impact what people know about food safety," Powell said. "At the International Food Safety Network, we try to develop tools to help consumers share their wisdom with everyone in the farm-to-fork food chain and hope that leads to fewer people getting sick."

More information about the International Food Safety Network is available at http://www.foodsafety.ksu.edu/en/