Kansas veterinary medicine researchers develop new method to improve food safety

From a press release, as if you couldn’t tell:

Faculty members from the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine have developed a faster, more efficient method of detecting “Shiga toxin-producing E. coli,” or STEC, in ground beef, which often causes recalls of ground beef and vegetables.

“The traditional gold standard STEC detection, which requires bacterial isolation and characterization, is not amenable to high-throughput settings and often requires a week to obtain a definitive result,” said Jianfa Bai, section head of molecular research and development in the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

The new method developed by Bai and colleagues requires only a day to obtain confirmatory results using a Kansas State University-patented method with the partition-based multichannel digital polymerase chain reaction system.

“We believe the new digital polymerase chain reaction detection method developed in this study will be widely used in food safety and inspection services for the rapid detection and confirmation of STEC and other foodborne pathogens,” said Jamie Henningson, director of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

When ingested through foods such as ground beef and vegetables, STEC can cause illnesses with symptoms including abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some illnesses caused by STEC may lead to kidney failure and can be life-threatening.

“Some E. coli strains do not produce Shiga toxins and thus do not affect human health as much,” said Xuming Liu, research assistant professor. “Because cattle feces and ground beef can contain harmless or less pathogenic E. coli along with STEC, the most commonly used polymerase chain reaction cannot identify pathogenic E. coli strains in a complex sample matrix.”

The new digital polymerase chain reaction test was developed for research and food safety inspections that require shorter turnaround and high throughput, without sacrificing detection accuracy.

“While the current, commonly used testing method is considered to be the gold standard, it is tedious and requires many days to obtain results that adequately differentiate the bacteria,” said Gary Anderson, director of the International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute at the K-State Olathe campus.

The study, “Single cell-based digital PCR detection and association of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli serogroups and major virulence genes,” which describes the test design and results, was published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Some talk, some do: Kansas just sucks

Three movies encapsulate and reverberate throughout my life: The World According to Garp, Wonder Boys, and American Beauty.

I’ve reached my American Beauty moment, and may I go on and have such a fruitful career as Kevin Spacey has since 1999.

I’m an unemployed former food safety professor of almost 20 years, who coaches little and big kids in hockey and goofs around.

I’ve enjoyed the last few months – despite the angst of moving into a house that may slide down the hill at any moment given the Brisbane rains – but with 80,000 direct subscribers and students and media still contacting me daily, I feel a connection.

I just gotta figure out how to get paid.

(If you see any adverts on barfblog.com, like Amy did this morning, it is not authorized. Chapman and I are quite happy to say what the fuck we want and call people on their food safety fairytales).

And I would like to publicly apologize to Amy for dragging me to Australia, and all the bitching I did about shitty Internet, and how I lost my career (at the mall).

It’s looking much better now.

Kansas State University took whatever opportunity they could to get rid of me, for the salary, for the controversy, for whatever. Wasn’t too long after that Kirk-2025-Schultz bailed for Washington state. The provost queen is still stuck there.

As full professor, Kansas had become boring and I hated doing admin shit.

And there was no ice.

When people in Australia ask me about President Trump (two words that never sound right together, like Dr. Oz – thanks, John Oliver) I say, look at Kansas, that is what will happen to America.

The N.Y. Times seems to agree.

In an editorial today, the Times wrote:

Kansas can only hope that reports are true that the Trump administration will let its governor, Sam Brownback, escape the disaster he created in Topeka for a quieter United Nations agricultural post in Rome. And global humanity can only hope for the best.

Mr. Brownback, a Republican first elected on the Tea Party crest of 2010, used his office as a laboratory for conservative budget experimentation. His insistence that tax cuts create, not diminish, revenues has left the state facing a ballooning deficit plus a ruling by the state Supreme Court that Kansas schoolchildren have been unconstitutionally shortchanged in state aid for years, with the poorest minority children most deprived.

The court ruled this month that they would shut the state’s schools if funding wasn’t made equitable by June 30. It found reading test scores of nearly half of African-American students and more than one-third of Hispanic students were deficient under aid formulas favoring more affluent school districts.

Mr. Brownback played no small role in the long-running school crisis by leading the Republican Legislature to limit school aid after enacting the largest tax cuts in state history, for upper-bracket business owners. Characteristically, the governor’s reaction to the court mandate was to further undermine schools by suggesting parents “be given the opportunity and resources to set their child up for success through other educational choices.”

If that’s the governor’s parting contribution to the school crisis before his flight to a Trump diplomatic appointment, Kansas parents and school administrators cannot be too surprised. They have been experiencing the deepening budget crisis firsthand in shortened school hours and resources as the state suffered two credit downgrades. Public protest led to a number of Brownback loyalists voted out last year, with legislative newcomers igniting a budget revolt against the governor. He barely survived a showdown last month, by vetoing a $1 billion tax increase.

The tax push seems likely to be renewed, since the state faces a two-year $1.2-billion deficit plus the school funding mandate. For that obligation, state education officials have estimated it might require $841 million over the next two years. The court fight was prompted by a slide in school aid that began in the recession under Mr. Brownback’s predecessor, Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat. But it spiraled once the Brownback tax cuts drained state coffers.

It seems unfair that Mr. Brownback might abandon the mess he created, especially since Mr. Trump never ceases to renounce life’s “losers.” But Kansans have learned the hard way that they need to be free from the benighted Brownback era, and maybe Mr. Brownback has, too.

I wish nothing but the best for my Kansas colleagues, and a slow, endless angst for administration assholes who put money above values.

There was a time I thought being a prof meant something.

But we don’t need no institution.

More to come.

Powell: I have a bad case of nostalgia

Today, I am 53-years-old, been married to Amy for nine years, and it’s my mom’s birthday.

dp.lab.apr.2005That’s a lot for one day.

I’ve been looking back, only with an eye to going forward (that’s the lab in Guelph, about early 2005, right; I’ve since been told it was summer 2001; first lesson of professoring — surround yourself with good people).

Three years ago, about this time, I submitted a proposal to my employer, Kansas State University, to take a 20 per cent cut in pay, develop a MOOC in food safety risk analysis (and three other courses), and continue with research and outreach.

I also wrote that “I have promoted K-State and collaborations throughout many countries, particularly New Zealand, Australia, Canada, France, UK, Egypt and Afghanistan. Regarding the latter, I have provided several food safety training sessions for the U.S. military for troops being deployed to that region. Through the bites-l listserv, barfblog.com and media coverage, I have attracted significant attention to the food safety activities at Kansas State University.”

The bosses at Kansas State University determined I had to be on campus, so I was dumped.

Full professors can get dumped for bad attendance.

Like a breakup with someone you really loved, it was messy and takes time, about three years.

But I’m over it.

Irony being ironic, or karma being karma-like, the Manhattan (Kansas) paper re-ran a story today, my birthday and anniversary and my mom’s birthday, from the Topeka paper about my global activities, billing me as a former and retired K-State prof.

I’m not dead yet.

It’s a wonder of the electronic world that journalists from anywhere can find me, but a university that aspires to – something – can’t.

barfblog.com now consists of about 11,580 posts and 60,100 subscribers in over 70 countries. Chapman refers to barfblog.com as a repository of food safety stories.

I like that.

barfblog daily has 4,855 subscribers in over 70 countries.

The barfblog twitter feed has 3,601 subscribers, and Chapman has a bunch more.

doug.amy.coffs.oct.15In October, website analytics showed that barfblog.com was visited 573,000 so far in 2015, by 413,000 unique users resulting in over 813,000 page views. This represents a 6% increase in visits, 4% increase in visitors and 6% increase in page views over last year.

Chapman also produced and posted 14 Food Safety Talk (www.foodsafetytalk.com) Podcasts during this past year

Food Safety Talk podcasts have been downloaded over 4300 times in the past year (with an average download rate of 340 per episode).

I love what I do, and I love that Amy kicked me out of complacency – nothing would have been easier than to stay at K-State.

And she’s got me playing hockey again, just like she said she would in our self-written wedding vows at City Hall.

In Manhattan (Kansas).


Everyone moves on just takes awhile: Longest running Pizza Hut closing this weekend in Manhattan

A Pizza Hut in Manhattan (Kansas) that has been at its original location longer than any Pizza Hut in the nation will close this weekend in Manhattan.

Pizza-hut-logoCompany officials announced Tuesday the Pizza Hut in Manhattan’s Aggieville will close at 11 p.m. Sunday. It began operating there in 1960.

Pizza Hut was founded in 1958 by two Wichita State University students. After the original Pizza Hut in Wichita moved, the Manhattan location became the oldest still operating at its original site.

Acuff speaks, over and over and over (because it’s on video at bites.ksu.edu)***

Dr. Gary Acuff game a seminar at Kansas State University on Nov. 9, 2010, entitled, The End Game: What is Really Achievable in Pathogen Reduction.

The slides for Acuff’s talk are available at: http://bites.ksu.edu/ksu-seminar

The video is available at: http://bites.ksu.edu/sites/default/files/Gary-Acuff-Guest-Lecture-Nov-2010_0.mp4

Or under the video section on the front page of bites.ksu.edu.

Texas A&M University announced last month that Acuff was going to become director for the Center for Food Safety, and will lead expanded food safety efforts.

Prior to his appointment as Director of the Center for Food Safety, Acuff served as interim head and then head of the department of animal science from 2004 to 2010. And before that he taught undergraduate and graduate level courses and laboratories in food microbiology for 20 years and conducted research on the microbiological quality and safety of foods through his appointment with Texas AgriLife Research.

A past-president of the International Association of Food Protection, Acuff currently is chairman of a 10-member committee for the National Research Council, which evaluates food safety requirements for the Federal Purchase Ground Beef Program.

Will restaurant grades in New York mean fewer people barfing?

With any restaurant inspection disclosure system, one of the overriding objectives is a measurable reduction in foodborne illnesses. The question is: does putting an A on the front of a restaurant mean fewer people barf?

WNYC reports this morning that a 2003 study by two economists found that after letter grades were introduced in Los Angeles, there was a 20 per cent decline in hospital admissions for foodborne illness.

In the world of public health, that was a dramatic result. Yet this study is the only academic work to date that shows a connection between restaurant letter grades and rates of foodborne illness.

There’s a reason there’s only been one such paper: causation is not the same as correlation.

Katie Filion (left, pretty much as shown) gave a departmental seminar this morning – we’re both in diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in the veterinary college at Kansas State University — critiquing the paper and presenting some results from her year in New Zealand developing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system.

Filion said there was no accounting for different sources of, say, salmonella (pets cause it too), no accounting for whether food was contaminated at home, in the field or in a restaurant, and no accounting for statistical validity. There may have been a reduction of hospital admissions once inspection scores were posted, but that could have been due to increased awareness, a correlation of interest, but not causation.

A philosophy of transparency and openness underlies the efforts of many local health units across North America in seeking to make available the results of restaurant inspections. Such public displays of information may help bolster overall awareness of food safety amongst staff and the public — people routinely talk about this stuff. It’s all about that food safety culture.

The New Zealand stuff? Katie can talk about that after she defends her thesis.

Food safety information posted in restaurant kitchens can improve meal safety

Kansas State University came out with their version of the Chapman and me and other Blue Rodeo groupies study this morning.

Posting graphical, concise food safety information sheets in the kitchens of restaurants can help reduce dangerous food safety practices and create a workplace culture that values safe food, according to a new paper co-authored by Kansas State University’s Doug Powell.

The study, "Assessment of food safety practices of food service food handlers: testing a communication intervention," was published in the June issue of the Journal of Food Protection. It was authored by Ben Chapman, assistant professor of food safety at the North Carolina State University; Powell, associate professor of food safety at K-State; Katie Filion, master’s student in biomedical science at K-State; and Tiffany Eversley and Tanya MacLaurin of the University of Guelph in Canada.

It’s the first time that a communication intervention using food safety info sheets has been validated to work, Powell said.

Powell and Chapman came up with the idea for food safety info sheets to promote discussion and improve food safety behaviors while playing hockey at the University of Guelph in 2003. Chapman was a graduate student at the time.

"Chapman and I played hockey a lot, and there was a bar and restaurant that overlooked the one ice surface where we often had after-hockey food safety meetings with our industry, provincial and federal government colleagues," Powell said. "We had all this food safety information, and the manager of the restaurant was into food safety, so we thought that if daily sports pages are posted on the walls and doors of washroom stalls, why not post engaging food safety information in kitchens for restaurant employees to read."

As part of his doctoral research, Chapman partnered with a food service company in Canada and placed small video cameras in unobtrusive spots around eight food-service kitchens that volunteered to participate in the study. There were as many as eight cameras in each kitchen, which recorded directly to computer files that were reviewed by Chapman and others.

The work built on other direct food safety observational studies conducted at K-State and published in the British Food Journal in 2009.

Food safety info sheets, highlighting the importance of hand washing or preventing cross-contamination, for example, were then introduced into the kitchens, and video was again collected. The researchers found that cross-contamination events decreased by 20 percent, and hand-washing attempts increased by 7 percent.

The increases show the information sheets work, Powell said. "Food safety messages like ‘Employees must wash hands’ signs in bathrooms just don’t work," he said.

Since September 2006 more than 150 food safety info sheets have been produced and are available for anyone to use, http://www.foodsafetyinfosheets.com. The website has a search function and offers automatic email alerts and RSS feeds.

K-State’s Filion coded much of the video as an undergraduate student researcher in Canada. MacLaurin, who collaborated on the research, was born on a farm/ranch in Kansas and received all her degrees from K-State before joining the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Guelph in 1991, where she subsequently collaborated with Powell.

The paper and study abstract are available at:


More rats: rodents close Pennsylvania state capital cafeteria

The cafeteria in the Pennsylvania capital building where the governor and other state legislators hang out, form cliques and toss around tater tots, has not been inspected in four years – despite a state law requiring annual checks — and is now closed after an infestation of rodents was discovered.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner said Thursday he received assurances in 2005 that the state Agriculture Department would inspect the facility, and his auditors later received false assurances that it was being inspected regularly.

Last week, Agriculture Department inspectors finally arrived at the ground-floor cafeteria, a popular coffee and lunch spot. They found a "severe" rodent infestation, including an "excessive" amount of rodent droppings on food preparation equipment and in cabinets, utensil bins and elsewhere. The droppings indicate the presence of live mice and are considered an imminent health risk.

The ground-floor cafeteria is now closed and is not expected to reopen until January.

Meth doesn’t make for safe burgers

During a drive to Kansas City, MO I remember Doug telling me about the abundance of methamphetamine labs in the Midwest, and to keep an eye out for stray bathtubs on the side of the highway – I guess that’s where the meth is made.

Bathtubs and fast food kitchens it turns out. kfvs12.com reports that a Cape Girardeau, MO Sonic restaurant was closed after there were allegations of a shift manager manufacturing methamphetamine inside the kitchen.

Dennie Bratcher, 27, faces charges of burglary and manufacturing meth in the case. According to Cape Girardeau Police Sgt. Jason Selzer, officers found Bratcher, still wearing his Sonic uniform, inside the business after responding to a burglar alarm. Bratcher apparently worked a night shift but went back to the restaurant after closing time.

According to Selzer, Bratcher told officers he planned to make the meth on the roof, but he opted for the kitchen because it was too cold outside.

Environmental Public Health Specialist Amy Morris said the incident has forced the restaurant to completely restock the store,

"We’re talking everything from sugar packets to hamburgers, to straws to the ice cream in the machines."

Morris also stressed that the store would have to be "100% safe" before the store would be allowed to reopen.

Sonic officials have offered no comment.

Missouri-born Brad Pitt (right) would be so disappointed.