Bullshit alert: Canadians sickened at Cuba resort, told everything is fine

Many Cuba-bound Canadian travellers are pissed – and barfing —  saying they want no part of visiting a resort that is the focus of a Global News investigation. As Sean O’Shea reports, travellers say they don’t want to become ill like so many who just returned from the resort.

Canadians with confirmed bookings to a Cuban resort where it’s believed norovirus made travellers sick say their tour operator hasn’t allowed them to switch to another resort or wanted to charge them.

“No, I don’t want to go there, I don’t want to be exposed to that … everyone’s health is at risk; that’s not fair,” said Kayla Halloran, a third-year Ryerson nursing student with a ticket to visit the resort with a friend later this month.

After seeing a Global News story on problems at the Memories Paraiso Azul Resort in Cayo Santa Maria Cuba, she contacted tour operator Sunwing Vacations to ask to be switched to another resort.

“They said I could change my resort to somewhere else but I have to pay a change fee plus a cancellation fee,” Halloran said.

Global News received a cascade of complaints from Canadian travellers who returned from the resort.

They said they had experienced diarrhea and vomiting during most or all of their vacations.

Some reported seeing feces wash up on the hotel beach, finding feces beside the swimming pool, and experiencing dirty washrooms with toilets that didn’t work.

Other travellers told Global News they visited the same property in April and that it was without fresh water for two days.

During that time, Canadians visiting said they had no access to clean linens or water to flush toilets; they said staff at the hotel had no means to wash dishes or sanitize food service areas.

But despite the problems, they said the tour operator continued to send travellers to the resort.

In a terse email Thursday, Sunwing marketing vice president Janine Chapman provided a statement to Global News for its television broadcast, prefaced with this unusual proviso:

Bullshit alert: “We will provide you with the below statement for this evening’s segment on the basis that it is read in its entirety, uninterrupted.”

As a matter of journalistic policy, Global News does not agree to such demands.

Maria Peragine says days after returning from Cuba, her family is starting to feel better.

But she says Sunwing ought to have stopped sending travellers to the Memories Paraiso Azul when it was clear people were getting sick.

“They knew about it and continued to allow guests to come to the resort,” said Peragine.

“I’m amazed at how they continue to lie.”

Jon Stewart: Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus threatens Super Bowl parties

Bad news snacking Super Bowl lovers, a number of food shortages across the country could impact football fans with a case of the munchies, Jon Stewart told “The Daily Show” viewers on Monday’s jonstewart2-618x400program.

“This year, the match-up is between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, two teams hailing from states that have legalized marijuana,” Stewart said. “Which makes this year’s shortage all the more tragic.”

However, some reporters are getting to the bottom of claims by Velveeta that there may be not enough of the processed cheese on store shelves to meet consumer demand. One newscaster noted that a visit to area supermarkets revealed that there was plenty of the gooey stuff to go around.

 “Are you implying that the makers of Velveeta would attempt to pass off as real some sort of blatantly artificial, clearly unnatural, synthetic creation?” Stewart asked. “You sir, clearly don’t know Velveeta.”

Threats to Super Bowl cheese dips everywhere aren’t the only food-related danger to the big game. An outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus has been reported in several states, potentially making pigs in a blanket a dicey proposition.

“Porcine diarrhea virus, we’ve all been there,” Stewart said.


Mad cow, mushy peas and horse; UK horrified by what it’s eating; what took them so long?

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has a long history of making fun of Brits. Last night, the crew took on the horse meat scandal, which is jon-stewart-35quickly becoming global, with a new segment called, “We may be —ked but at least god isn’t hurling rocks and loose horsemeat at us.”

The clip below, which won’t play in some countries, is fairly apt.

Today, the horse meat scandal spread to Asia where an imported lasagne brand was pulled from the shelves in Hong Kong, as Czech officials ordered similar action on frozen meals mislabelled “beef.”

A host of top players have been caught up in the spiralling scandal including Nestle, the world’s biggest food company, top beef producer JBS of Brazil and British supermarket chain Tesco.

Audits and inspections are never enough.

German officials, the same ones who oversaw an outbreak of E. coli O104 in sprouts in 2011 that killed 53, vowed tighter controls on meat products and stronger penalties for companies that violate food-labeling rules as more items marketed as “all beef” were pulled from supermarket shelves after testing positive for horse meat.


Not worth eating unless 50% chance of diarrhea: Bourdain does Daily Show

Witticisms like that have endeared fans of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, but barf and diarrhea is no fun, especially for kids.

Bourdain’s good with a quip, as he showed last night on The Daily Show, but still comes across like Hunter S. Thompson-lite.

Eater reports that Bourdain, whose job is "what people would do if they didn’t have to work," stopped by The Daily Show to talk about the upcoming season of No Reservations, premiering Monday.

Jon Stewart comments on the less-than-hygienic places Bourdain travels on the show — "I have gotten diarrhea from watching" — to which Bourdain replies, "If there’s not at least a 50% chance of diarrhea when you eat something, it’s almost not worth eating." Also, Bourdain says the worst food comes not from the poorest countries (that’s some of the best), but places where people just aren’t interested in food. Not liking food? Yeah, that’s like saying "I’m not interested in music, and you know, I’m not particularly interested in sex either."

Food can be adventurous and safe. So can sex.

The clip is at http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-april-5-2012/anthony-bourdain for those in the U.S. But it worked for me via Eater.

Daily Show does pink slime; skewers industry and government communication efforts

Political fodder is comedic gold.

Satirists, like others, also eat.

Jon Stewart loves cheeseburgers.

The ingredients of public outrage over pink slime melded like a savory stew last night on the Daily Show to produce a potpourri of insights on how not to chat with people who eat.

And it was so easy because the politicians and industry seem so hapless.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad held a press conference in Des Moines Wednesday afternoon to address concerns and educate the public about the processing of lean, finely textured beef, or LFTB.

"That’s why we’re going to have people from Iowa State University and Texas A&M and knowledgeable people from USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) counter the smear and counter the misinformation with the facts," said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

Facts are never enough. Otherwise rBST would be routinely used in dairy production, genetically-engineered foods would be flaunted not shunned, and irradiation would make pink slime redundant.

Science is never enough in the public arena.

Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, said education is especially important when a growing number of people are increasingly farther removed from agriculture.

"The reality is a very small percentage of America’s population produces 85% to 90% of what we consume.”

I’m not sure what being a beef farmer has to do with meat processing that involves centrifuges.

Stewart reasoned, "any food can be disgusting if you take its ingredients out of context." Perhaps the same thing was true of pink slime burgers?

Stewart cut to an animated news report that explained the process for making pink slime: Waste trimmings are gathered, simmered at low heat to make it easier to separate fat from muscle, then put into a centrifuge, sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria, compressed into bricks, flash-frozen and finally shipped to grocery stores nationwide, where it’s added to ground beef. Yummy!

He also expressed his admiration for the beef industry’s preferred nomenclature, "lean, finely textured beef." "It makes it sound like something rich beef-eaters can buy from Hammacher Schlemmer," Stewart said. "It’s the cashmere of beef."

Stewart also marveled at the irony of pink slime: "McDonald’s doesn’t think it’s an appropriate thing to eat? These are the people who molded a pork disc into a rib-shaped sandwich … that contains no ribs. Nobody knows how they did it! But this stuff, pink slime? That’s too fake for McDonald’s?"

I can provide references for everything I say – that educating people is about the worst communications strategy because it invalidates and trivializes people’s thoughts. But that stuff is boring.

Stewart says the same thing but in a way that is much more entertaining.

Whenever a group says the public needs to be educated about food safety, biotechnology, trans fats, organics or anything else, that group has utterly failed to present a compelling case for their cause. Individuals can choose to educate themselves about all sorts of interesting things, but the idea of educating someone is doomed to failure. And it’s sorta arrogant to state that others need to be educated; to imply that if only you understood the world as I understand the world, we would agree and dissent would be minimized.

Or as Stewart said, “You got rid of it because we found out it was pink slime.”

Proponents of pink slime or any other technology shouldn’t expect consumers to roll over and accept it. They need to promote, brag and saturate microbial food safety claims in the marketplace. Otherwise, any farmer, processor or restaurant can be held hostage by a mere accusation – regardless of the science.

Shoppers will support honest information, instead of being told they have to become better educated about someone else’s limited perspective.

The Daily Show segment is available for U.S. viewers at http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-march-28-2012/march-28–2012—pt–2.

Leslie Nielsen, food safety and lame ducks

Leslie Nielsen is still dead, but the food safety wonks in Washington are keeping the fans in stiches.

The U.S. Senate’s slapstick effort to pass food safety legislation is not going to result in fewer sick people. But it does set a tone, like restaurant inspection grades, that food safety is important, that elected officials may, sorta, be paying attention. And if it gets food safety on The Daily Show, then great.

For those who need reminding, food safety is not at the top of the legislative agenda.

“A food safety bill that has burned up precious days of the Senate’s lame-duck session appears headed back to the chamber because Democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House. … The debacle could prove to be a major embarrassment for Senate Democrats, who sought Tuesday to make the relatively unknown bill a major political issue by sending out numerous news releases trumpeting its passage.”
John Stanton, Roll Call

"The bipartisan bill, which would overhaul the nation’s food safety system, still has to go back to the House, so there’s plenty of time to screw it up. … staff members for the leading Democratic and Republican senators on the health committee actually got together and worked things out the way they used to do in olden days. Most of the negotiators were women, and while I am certainly not saying that made a difference, I am, sort of, just saying.
“Oh, my gosh! It’s so important,” said Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “I’m glad I rushed back from our break to work on food safety.”

Gail Collins, The New York Times

“Food Safety Bill will save the lives of thousands”
Environmental Working Group

And to Jon Stewart last night.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Food, the Bad and the Ugly
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor The Daily Show on Facebook

Effective communication: Lewis Black and the nanny state

As the U.S. Senate votes on a food safety bill this morning, and with the monotonous repetition of food safety rules for Thanksgiving, Lewis Black provides his own risk communication advice on The Daily Show for those who want to regulate smoking, airport screening, toys in fast-food meals, and banning circumcision.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black – Nanny State
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

Do handwashing signs make people safe?

Jon Stewart said in 2002,

“If you think the 10 commandments being posted in a school is going to change behavior of children, then you think “Employees Must Wash Hands” is keeping the piss out of your happy meals. It’s not.”

But that doesn’t stop a health department in Pennsylvania from proclaiming “free handwashing signs help keep petting zoos safe.”

Summer fairs and festivals can get free handwashing signs from the Allegheny County Health Department for their petting zoos and farm animal exhibits.

Signs are nice, but maybe the health department should be using their scarce resources to ensure there are suitable handwashing facilities at such exhibits. And that fair promoters know how to properly clean up poop.

Are third party food safety auditors as effective as financial ratings agencies?

I used to go on this annual golf trip that originated out of Guelph and ended up somewhere in Virginia or North Carolina about this time of year because it was relatively warm to people from Ontario and ridiculously cold to people in the south.

We got cheap rates.

I don’t golf much anymore. I like my wife.

One of the guys I used to regularly golf with worked for one of those financial ratings companies. He gave everyone golf balls. He was a bit tense last year, what with the financial meltdown and my endless taunting.

I thought of that person watching this bit from The Daily Show last night where Jon Stewart attempts to explain the underpinnings of the U.S. financial crapshoot.

And I couldn’t help think about the role of third-party food safety auditors in some of the spectacular (and tragic) outbreaks of foodborne illness in the past few years.

In the video below (takes a few minutes to get into it) use the words “food safety auditor” instead of third-party financial rating whenever it comes up.

Substitute money with safe food.

The Consumer Protection Agency is like the proposed single-food inspection agency; do people in Washington, D.C. really just play shuffle the chairs?

Substitute Peanut Corporation of America for Lehman Brothers, and Jimmy for AIB.

Sigh …

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
In Dodd We Trust
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Reform

Swine flu? I’ll have the oregano oil?

People will pay to protect themselves — or at least for the positive perception they are protecting themselves. Industry is all too happy to oblige with a variety of products of questionable value.

When faced with outbreaks of foodborne illness on fresh produce, sales of veggie washes go up. Salmonella in the kitchen? Bring on the antibacterial sanitizers. Now with swine flu dominating the headlines, twitterscape and Jon Stewart (see below) USA Today reports today that marketers are out in force — particularly on the Internet — with items ranging from 99-cent face masks to potions such as oregano oil that fetch $70 a bottle to third-party overnight shipments of Tamiflu for $135 per prescription.

Some major marketers are seeing an uptick in sales of items such as masks, latex gloves, anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. Consumer gurus aren’t surprised that so many treatments and protective devices related to swine flu — legitimate or not — are getting plenty of traction from retailers and marketers.

Jerald Jellison, a social psychologist said,

"When we’re faced with a potential threat, we tend to imagine the worst," says. That’s what marketers are capitalizing on. In a state of high need, with our rational powers diminished, we’ll take almost any action.”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Snoutbreak ’09 – The Last 100 Days
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor