Our battle with Gwyneth: cookbook edition

The coverage of extension associate Katrina Levine’s research on cookbook food safety messages took an unexpected turn yesterday. Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘people’ weighed in.

By ‘people’ I think it’s the folks who published her cookbooks.

It started with a string of emails from some folks in the UK who saw the NC State press release about the research. After analyzing 1700+ recipes from cookbooks on the New York Times best seller list we found that safe endpoint temperatures only appeared in just over 8% of the instructions.

Not great.

A few journalists want to know who are the biggest offenders are (quick answer: it’s pretty well everyone we looked at – but not all the time).

One of the books included in our study was Paltrow’s It’s All Good. In a flurry of questions, and without being able to find all the recipes online, I sent one of the enquiring minds a recipe from another book, My Father’s Daughter as an example of what we were looking at, with this note:

“Here’s one from chef Paltrow that does not have a safe endpoint temperature included (165F or 74C).

Heat oven to 400°. Mix butter, garlic salt, paprika, pepper and salt in a bowl. Rinse chicken inside and out; pat dry. Insert fingers between skin and breast to separate the two. Rub seasoned butter over chicken and under skin. Tuck wings underneath bird and tie together with a piece of twine. Tie legs together with another piece of twine. Place chicken on its side in a heavy roasting pan and roast 25 minutes. Turn onto its other side and sprinkle with several tbsp water; roast 25 minutes more. Turn chicken on its back; roast 10 minutes more. Turn on its breast; roast until skin is crispy and chicken is golden brown, 10 minutes more. Remove from pan and let rest, breast side down, 15 minutes, before carving (remove skin).”

The Paltrow folks responded, through the journalist with this:

“The recipe for “Roast Chicken, Rotisserie Style” was published in MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER in April 2011. While it did not have an endpoint temperature included, the directions called for the chicken to be roasted at 400F for 70 minutes, which is ample time to cook a 3-4 pound chicken.

IT’S ALL GOOD, which was published in April 2013, does include endpoint temperatures. “Super-Crispy Roast Chicken” in IT’S ALL GOOD is baked for 1-1/2 hours at 425 degrees and the recipe advises “The chicken thigh should register 165 degrees F on a digital thermometer at the very least (I usually let it get to 180 Degrees F just to be completely sure it’s cooked all the way through the bone).”

So we went back to the data – and yep, we noted that the Super-Crispy Roast Chicken had a safe end point temperature. What they omitted was that the first instruction in the recipe was to wash the chicken; one of the steps that can increase the risk of foodborne illnesses.

There were these other recipes from It’s All Good that don’t have the safe endpoint temperatures (and tell the reader to do non science-based things like touch it, look for clear juices or color to ensure doneness):

The row (I think that’s the correct colloquial British term) made the front page of the Daily Mail (above, exactly as shown).

As for this comment, ‘the directions called for the chicken to be roasted at 400F for 70 minutes, which is ample time to cook a 3-4 pound chicken.’

Maybe, show me the data. Lots of variables that can impact the final temperature – starting temperature of the chicken, thickness, oven heat calibration.

Isn’t it just easier to tell folks what the safe temperature is and tell them to stick it in?

Food and Wine points out exactly what we found. It’s not just Gwyneth.

But for once, let’s cut Paltrow some slack. Out of the whopping 29 best-selling cookbooks these experts analyzed, only nine percent of them included specific temperature information. She’s in good company. Meanwhile, only 89 — 89! — of the 1,497 recipes included in the study were deemed instructionally safe.

Honestly, none of this seems too egregious, and we almost wish Paltrow didn’t have to deal with the PR headache.

Oh well.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Science to back up anectodes

In the wonderful way the Intertubes can be used to reinforce pre-existing biases, a new paper in PLOS Currents Outbreaks validates what I – and anyone who knows anything about food safety – have been saying for a long time: Fancy food ain’t safe food.

heston_blumenthalIntroduction: Restaurant guides such as the Good Food Guide Top 50 create a hierarchy focussing on taste and sophistication. Safety is not explicitly included. We used restaurant associated outbreaks to assess evidence for safety.

Methods: All foodborne disease outbreaks in England reported to the national database from 2000 to 2014 were used to compare the Top 50 restaurants (2015) to other registered food businesses using the Public Health England (PHE) outbreak database. Health Protection Teams were also contacted to identify any outbreaks not reported to the national database. Among Good Food Guide Top 50 restaurants, regression analysis estimated the association between outbreak occurrence and position on the list.

Results: Four outbreaks were reported to the PHE national outbreak database among the Top 50 giving a rate 39 times higher (95% CI 14.5–103.2) than other registered food businesses. Eight outbreaks among the 44 English restaurants in the Top 50 were identified by direct contact with local Health Protection Teams. For every ten places higher ranked, Top 50 restaurants were 66% more likely to have an outbreak (Odds Ratio 1.66, 95% CI 0.89–3.13).

Discussion: Top 50 restaurants were substantially more likely to have had reported outbreaks from 2000-2014 than other food premises, and there was a trend for higher rating position to be associated with higher probability of reported outbreaks. Our findings, that eating at some of these restaurants may pose an increased risk to health compared to other dining out, raises the question of whether food guides should consider aspects of food safety alongside the clearly important complementary focus on taste and other aspects of the dining experience.

Taste and safety: Is the exceptional cuisine offered by high end restaurants paralleled by high standards of food safety?


Sanch Kanagarajah, Piers Mook, Paul Crook, Adedoyin Awofisayo-Okuyelu, Noel McCarthy

PLOS Currents Outbreaks. August 2016. Edition 1. doi: 10.1371/currents.outbreaks.007219ac3b9a2117418df7ab629686b6.

Taste and Safety: Is the Exceptional Cuisine Offered by High End Restaurants Paralleled by High Standards of Food Safety?

Spread the word: blogs help land-grant universities strengthen connection with public, others

 I’m a terrible negotiator.

When I took the job at Kansas State University in 2006, I was a tenured, associate professor, and they asked if I wanted to be considered for full professor. I said no, I haven’t done enough, and I’d rather earn the title than have it awarded.

What I didn’t know is that the achievement clock got a reboot: my previous papers didn’t really count, it was only what I had done at K-State.


I went up for full professor in 2009; that didn’t go so well. The usual complaint was levied by my departmental colleagues — we don’t really know what Powell does.

So I started producing a bunch of journal articles, and that was the best thing for me. I began to better appreciate the effort required to produce something and throw it out into the peer-reviewed world along with the revisions and continual improvement required. I’ve known these things for a long time, but it became more focused.

So why keep blogging?

It took a couple of years in which technology has outstripped much of what we thought, a lot of self-examination, and a lot of helpful comments from reviewers, but we finally attempted to answer that question in a new paper, Blogs, infosheets and new media as academic scholarship in food safety research, education and extension."

The article will appear in the journal, Innovative Higher Education, and is available online in advance of publication at http://bit.ly/vyzEhV.

Me and Chapman and former research assistant Casey Jacob argue blogs and other forms of social media are ideal tools to further the goals of academic institutions, especially the research, education and extension activities of land-grant universities like Kansas State.

In the article, Doug Powell, a professor of food safety in the department of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at K-State, says that researchers and extension personnel at educational institutions should be encouraged to use blogs and other social media to strengthen relations with public stakeholders and enhance their engagement with interested individuals, groups, and subject matter experts.

"We’ve been running barfblog.com for almost five years and more than 5,000 posts," Powell said. "Some posts are scientific, some are sad and some are silly. But we keep readers coming back while promoting the goal of a safer food supply. Rather than just respond, we help shape the public discussion of food safety issues."

The authors note that while being more transparent and nimble with results, blogs and other online communication can compliment rather than replace the rigors of peer-review. Blogs and other online communication forums do represent an additional mechanism for the rapid sharing of ideas, methodologies, research, findings and dialogue. They also say disclosure should be provided on the procedures used for sourcing and conveying information, and references should be cited when appropriate (ours is here: http://bites.ksu.edu/about-bites).

"It’s about building trust," Chapman said. "There’s an abundance of information online, some evidence-based, some not. Researchers who use blogs and other social media can build trust by pulling back the curtain on discovery and showing an interested audience how they investigated a problem, limitations and all."

Chapman can write his own version. Me, I got full professor, I love my job, and I love writing.

Powell, D.A., Jacob, C.J., and Chapman, B.J. 2011. Blogs, infosheets and new media as academic scholarship in food safety research, education, and extension. Innovative Higher Education, published on-line ahead of print, DOI: 10.1007/s10755-011-9207-

Abstract: Compiling a referenced article for publication in a peer-reviewed journal is traditionally the most respected means of contributing to a body of knowledge. However, we argue that publication of evidence-based information via new media – especially blogging – can also be a valid form of academic scholarship. Blogs allow for rapid sharing of research methods, results and conclusions in an open, transparent manner. With proper references, blogs and other new media can position academic research in the public sphere, and provide rapid, reliable information in response to emerging issues. They can also support other traditional goals of higher education institutions, serving as tools for teaching, learning and outreach.

Study looks at enhancing food safety culture to reduce foodborne illness

If providing safe food is a priority, why do large outbreaks of foodborne illness keep happening? Incidents like 2010’s salmonella-in-eggs outbreak sickened more than 1,900 across the U.S. and led to the recall of 500 million eggs.

A new study by a Kansas State University professor and colleagues finds how the culture of food safety is practiced within an organization can be a significant risk factor in foodborne illness.

Doug Powell, associate professor of food safety at K-State, said how businesses and organizations operate above and beyond minimal food safety regulations and inspections, or their food safety culture, is often overlooked.

"You’d think making customers sick is bad for business, yet some firms go out of their way to ignore food safety," Powell said. "Some places are motivated by money and efficiencies. The amount of regulation, inspection and audits just doesn’t seem to matter. And those ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ signs don’t really work."

Powell, along with Casey Jacob, a former K-State research assistant, and Ben Chapman, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University, examined three food safety failures: an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Wales in 2005 that sickened 157 and killed one; a listeria outbreak in Canada in 2008 that sickened 57 and killed 23; and a salmonella outbreak in the U.S. in 2009 linked to peanut paste that killed nine and sickened 691.

Their study "Enhancing Food Safety Culture to Reduce Rates of Foodborne Illness" is being published by the journal Food Control and is available in advance online at http://bit.ly/hDh9EE.

"Creating a culture of food safety requires application of the best science with the best management and communication systems," Chapman said. "Operators should know the risks associated with their products, how to manage them, and most important, how to communicate with and compel their staff to employ good practices — it’s a package deal."

According to the researchers, individuals focusing on food safety risks within an organization with a good food safety culture do the following:

* know the risks associated with the foods they handle and how those should be managed;

* dedicate resources to evaluate supplier practices;

* stay up-to-date on emerging food safety issues;

* foster a value system within the organization that focuses on avoiding illnesses;

* communicate compelling and relevant messages about risk reduction activities, and empower others to put them into practice;

* promote effective food safety systems before an incident occurs; and,

• don’t blame customers, including commercial buyers and consumers, when illnesses are linked to their products.

Source: Doug Powell, 785-317-0560, dpowell@k-state.edu

Enhancing food safety culture to reduce rates of foodborne illness

Snappy title, eh? But not bad for a peer-reviewed journal article in Food Control that was published on-line today ahead of print publication.

Almost two decades ago, E. coli O157:H7 killed four and sickened hundreds who ate hamburgers at the Jack-in-the-Box fast-food chain in the U.S. and propelled microbial food safety to the forefront of the public agenda. However, it remains a challenge to compel food producers, processors, distributors, retailers, foodservice outlets and home meal preparers to adopt scientifically validated safe food handling behaviors, especially in the absence of an outbreak.

Readers of barfblog.com will be familiar with the details surrounding the three case studies of failures in food safety culture documented in the paper: E. coli O157:H7 linked to John Tudor & Son in Wales in 2005; listeria linked to cold-cuts produced by Maple Leaf Foods of Canada in 2008; and salmonella linked to Peanut Corporation of America in 2009.

But anyone can be a critic, so we offer suggestions to enhance food safety culture, such as food safety storytelling through infosheets (Chapman, et al., 2010). And we end with my usual plea to actively promote food safety efforts, coupling a strong food safety culture with marketing to the world.

We conclude:

Creating a culture of food safety requires application of the best science with the best management and communication systems. It requires commitment by an organization’s leaders, middle managers and food handlers. It also must be supported and demonstrated by sharing information within the organization and with customers. The food safety failures of John Tudor & Sons, Maple Leaf Foods, Inc. and PCA are illustrative of an emerging recognition that the culture of food safety within an organization is a significant risk factor in foodborne illness (Griffith et al., 2010a; Yiannis, 2009).

Individuals focusing on food safety risks within an organization with a good food safety culture:

• know the risks associated with the foods they handle and how those should be managed;
• dedicate resources to evaluating supplier practices;
• stay up-to-date on emerging food safety issues;
• foster a value system within the organization that focuses on avoiding illnesses;
• communicate compelling and relevant messages regarding risk reduction activities and empower others to put them into practice;
• promote effective food safety systems before an incident occurs; and,
• do not blame customers (including commercial buyers and end consumers) when illnesses are linked to their products.

The best food producers, processors, retailers and restaurants should go above and beyond minimal government and auditor standards and sell food safety solutions directly to the public. The best organizations will use their own people to demand ingredients from the best suppliers; use a mixture of encouragement and enforcement to foster a food safety culture; and use technology to be transparent – whether it’s live webcams in the facility or real-time test results on the website – to help restore the shattered trust with the buying public.

I’ll add more as the paper becomes available, and if Chapman has anything witty to add (that takes time).

Enhancing food safety culture to reduce rates of foodborne illness

Douglas A. Powella, Casey J. Jacoba and Benjamin J. Chapmanb,
a Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
b Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences North Carolina State University, Campus Box 7606, Raleigh, NC 27695-7606, USA
Received 2 August 2010;
revised 29 November 2010;
accepted 7 December 2010.
Available online 24 December 2010.

A culture of food safety is built on a set of shared values that operators and their staff follow to produce and provide food in the safest manner. Maintaining a food safety culture means that operators and staff know the risks associated with the products or meals they produce, know why managing the risks is important, and effectively manage those risks in a demonstrable way. In an organization with a good food safety culture, individuals are expected to enact practices that represent the shared value system and point out where others may fail. By using a variety of tools, consequences and incentives, businesses can demonstrate to their staff and customers that they are aware of current food safety issues, that they can learn from others’ mistakes, and that food safety is important within the organization. The three case studies presented in this paper demonstrate that creating a culture of food safety requires application of the best science with the best management and communication systems, including compelling, rapid, relevant, reliable and repeated food safety messages using multiple media.

Keywords: behavior change; foodborne illness; marketing; organizational culture; risk communication