Throw It Out the Window: China’s endless food safety scares

Calum MacLeod of USA Today reports China’s authoritarian government struggles to reassure citizens than it can deliver the safe food they rank as a top priority.

In the city of Guangzhou, whose Cantonese cuisine is celebrated worldwide, more than 46% of residents are dissatisfied with food safety, and over 37% said they had suffered recent food safety problems, according to a survey released this month by the Guangzhou Public Opinion Research Center.

"There are two Chinas on the tip of the tongue," says Shanghai student Wu Heng, a fan of the series. "There’s the China shown on TV, with its traditional food culture and long history. Then there’s another China shown on my website, the current environment in which black-hearted enterprises make black-hearted foodstuffs and have a large market."

Wu, 26, became active in the food safety cause because of his favorite dish of braised beef and rice. Startled by a news report on fake beef, he was inspired to create an online food safety database that allows visitors to add the latest problems nationwide, often involving the illegal use of additives.

With his website, "Throw It Out the Window," Wu hopes more public awareness and pressure will produce bold steps to tackle China’s food safety crisis. His site’s popularity is soaring at a million-plus views a day, Wu says.

Food safety has already taken a turn for the better, says Wu Yongning, chief food safety scientist at the Ministry of Health in Beijing, who insists there are less serious incidents today than four or five years ago.

"There is greater media supervision now which exposes problems and makes the government play the role it should," he says.

Michelle Mazur: Punching the clock to go poop at work

Pooping is a natural phenomenon, but what happens when you have to go at work?  I was quite surprised that many people on the Internet seem to have strong options about this issue.  For example, a humorous email forward has been circulating around the Internet for a few years concerning how to poop at work.  There are also quite a few YouTube opinions about the issue.

No matter what method or etiquette is used, it simply must be done during the workday.  That leaves many wondering, how much time and money is spent doing your business in the bathroom? is a website that offers a handy calculator to help calculate a person’s annual earnings from pooping at work.

But not everyone is on board with being paid to poop.  Recently, Brown Brothers, a meat company based in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, has received quite a bit of bad press about their new bathroom policy.  The meat company supplying Tesco has been accused of "Dickensian employment practices" by making workers clock off when they go the toilet.

The Unite union is now calling on Tesco to intervene to stamp out the practice at Brown Brothers.  The company insists anyone wanting to be excused from the system has to provide medical evidence, the union added.

BBC reports the policy was part of a special pay deal agreed with workers and unions to ensure production ran smoothly. Staff received extra money as part of the pay deal which was aimed at focusing toilet breaks at set times of the day.

But employees are less than thrilled.  “We have to clock out, take off our wellies, overalls and hairnets, we have to run up stairs, have to come back in get dressed again,” one employee told the BBC.

One organization seems to be doing the exact opposite; they’ll pay people to poop.  The Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College held an event last fall entitled the “Low on Cash, High in Fiber Bash.”  Participants earned 25 cents for every time they “donated” to the cause.

Paid to poop or otherwise, wash your hands.

Trying to make food safety cool — International Food Safety Network year in review

We’re on a mission to make food safety a pop-culture phenomenon.

We is the International Food Safety Network — my lab (iFSN)  — and we provide research, commentary, policy evaluation and public information on food safety issues.
I edit three of the four daily listservs that are distributed to over 13,000 direct subscribers in some 70 countries (Ben Chapman has been editing AnimalNet since early in 2007). That information is redirected to millions around the world. The International Food Safety Network website was moved to ,in Jan. 2007 (a significant undertaking). A new website,, was created this year, as well as, with 550 posts since May 1, 2007, an average of almost 2 posts per day, and attracting over 100,000 visitors since May, 1.

In Feb. 2007, my previous institution, the University of Guelph, in Canada, decided — unilaterally — not to continue a partnership with Kansas State, and eliminated access to my staff and funds that I had established in Guelph (about $750,000). They even tried to shut down the web site, but I’d already moved it. Over the course of 2007, I have replaced five full-time research assistants and several part-timers paid out of Guelph with 12 part-time undergraduates at K-State and elsewhere, and one graduate student. You’ve heard from some of them in the past week; you’ll hear from the rest in future weeks. The quality and diversity of the students I have been able to attract has been invigorating to the entire iFSN operation. Let the hacks and posers fight over what is left; I’m moving forward.

iFSN had more media exposure than ever in 2007, with some 450 media hits, including the N.Y. Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post, USA Today, CBS Evening News, and repeatedly quoted in every major U.S., Canadian and Australian media outlet, as well as a few others. We were quoted on The Late Show with David Letterman and advised people to use their front porch as a cooler when the power goes out.

We gave talks all over the world, for various groups, including the National Restaurant Association, Walt Disney World, and dozens of public health groups and scientific societies.

Based on the primary activities listed in the chart below, I spend each and every day (including Sat., Sun. and holidays) editing 36 news items, posting 4 listservs, composing two blog posts, doing one or two media interviews, distributing a commentary once or twice a week, and giving a talk and editing an infosheet almost once a week. In my extra time I teach, apply for research grants, supervise research and graduate students, recruit undergraduate students, and write scientific papers.

We need your support to continue doing what we do. Give often, give a lot, at

Or contact me directly,

Have a great year

Doug Powell

500 barfblogs

Bryan Severns barfblogs; do you?

Bryan says that he uses "barfblog stuff all of the time in my Sani/Culinary classes as it takes the concepts and turns them into real life situations and issues."

That was the idea. We at the International Food Safety Network are always trying to figure out new ways to make food safety information meaningful.

If you barfblog, then tell me your best barfblog story and I’ll send you a barfblog T-shirt.

A culture of safe food needs barf stories.. And iFSN.

Give large. Give small. It’s all on-line at

Any problems, just e-mail me,

And if you benefit from our services, then we’re continuing with our payment model that darlings Radiohead stole from us: pay what you want.