O. Pete Snyder, food safety rock star

My very first thermometer came as a gift from Pete.

I was a newbie graduate student, full of hubris, trying my best to figure out how to communicate food safety to food handlers in restaurants. I started making these food safety infosheets (which have morphed into other things) and Pete was a concerned reader of FSnet (which morphed into barfblog).

After posting something that I likely put together in haste, he emailed me to share exactly how and why I got something wrong. He was gruff and to the point. It made me panic. I didn’t want to look stupid, and to this guy, who I didn’t know, I looked pretty stupid.

A couple of weeks later I posted something else, and he emailed me again; same thing, I was sloppy and Pete called me on it.

The third time, he emailed he asked for our lab phone number. He called and said that he could explain C. perfringens growth so much better with a conversation. We talked for 20 min. No small talk, just microbiology and food safety.

During that call I finally got it. He wasn’t being picky, or calling me out because of his ego. He was giving me feedback because he cared. And he cared that I got things right. In that conversation we talked about good thermometers and bad thermometers, I remember it really vividly.

A couple of days later my very own Comark PDT 300 showed up unannounced in the mail.

Since then, everything I write and everything I create goes through the Pete test in my mind – like, ‘What would Pete say about this? Did I get it right?’ I’ve passed the Pete test on to my graduate students as well.

Over the past decade, Pete and I had become friends, seeing each other at IAFP or the Dubai Food Safety Conference (at both places he was a star). He was so generous with his comments and accolades and asked lots of questions about my kids.

He was always the first person to wish me a happy birthday on Facebook too.

Pete was a giant. I was saddened to hear that he passed away last week. One of the last times I saw him I told him about the Pete test. He just chuckled and just wanted to talk microbiology. That’s the kind of guy he was.

I used my Comark PDT 300 on our dinner tonight and thought about Pete.

Oscar ‘Peter’ Snyder, Jr.

Snyder, Oscar Jr. ‘Peter’ Age 89 of Shoreview, passed away March 1, 2019 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Born in Washington, DC on February 23, 1930, Pete grew up primarily on the east coast and especially enjoyed vacationing at the family lake cottage in Beaver Lake, NJ. He was a career Army officer, with overseas assignments in Germany, Korea and Vietnam. He retired as a Lt. Col. after 22 years of service. He was a Bronze Star and Legion of Merit recipient. In 1974, he became an Associate Professor of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, and then in 1982 he founded the Hospitality Institute of Technology & Management (HITM), a food safety training, education & consulting firm. He was a passionate, lifetime proponent of safe food handling and the HACCP method of food preparation for organizations around the world. He especially enjoyed photography, traveling throughout Europe, and the music of Dave Brubeck. Pete also spent many years volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America and as an usher & lay reader at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church. He is preceded in death by his parents, Oscar & Louise, and sister Jane. Survived by wife of 59 years, Ella and sons, Tom (Anne), Scott (Lesley), Chris (Dawnette); grandchildren: Griffin (Andrea), Ryan, Andrew, Camille, Jasmine and great-granddaughter, Faith. Memorial service 11:00 am, Saturday, March 9, 2019, at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church with visitation one hour prior. Memorials in lieu of flowers to St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, 2300 N. Hamline Ave, Roseville, MN 55113; Feeding Tomorrow – IFT Foundation, 525 W. Van Buren, Suite 1000, Chicago, IL 60607; or IAFP Foundation, 6200 Aurora Ave, Suite 200W, Des Moines, IA 50322.

From the uh, no, that’s not evidence-based file: ‘You never want to cook a turkey frozen.’

Thanksgiving food safety coverage is saturating the Interwebs and some of it is good (evidence-based) some isn’t.

Here’s a gem from WVIB in Buffalo:Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 5.24.58 PM

“You never want to cook a turkey frozen,” said [James] Malley. Malley, who’s been a culinary instructor with the Buffalo Public Schools for 17 years, says it’ll be stuck in the danger zone – meaning it won’t be cooked all the way through to the proper temperature. “It will never cook thoroughly. It will never reach that point,” he said.

Uh no.

And Pete Snyder, the patron saint of turkey roasting (among other things) has an excellent, science-based HACCP SOP for cooking turkey from a frozen state. From Pete’s document:

Actually, cooking a turkey from the frozen state has benefits over cooking a thawed turkey. Cooking can be done in a roasting pan, but it is unnecessary. If one thaws a turkey in a home refrigerator, there is a significant risk of raw juice with pathogens at high levels getting on refrigerator surfaces, other foods in the refrigerator, countertops, and sink, thus creating a hazard and a need for extensive cleaning and sanitizing.

Food Safety Talk episode 47: But that’s not science

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds.  The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University.  Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.  food.safety.talk

After 47 episodes, we’ve finally figured out to cross-post content.

Show notes for Episode 47:

The guys started by talking about their office and home podcasting set-ups; how Don inspired his son Zac; podcast sponsorship (thanks Dr. Indian Clarified Butter); the Food Science short course at Rutgers; MC-ing; Ben’s wedding; and, customer service at Frito Lay’s and General Mills.

In the bug trivia segment the guys talked about the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, recently reviewed by Beniamino and colleagues. T. gondii was ranked the second worst pathogen in terms of quality adjusted life years (QALY) by Mike Batz (guest on FST 4) and colleagues, and recently featured on Back to Work.

The discussion took a short detour to food thermometers, including the PDT 300, iGrill, and ThermaPen, before coming around to the retiring Pete Snyder, from HI-TM. Pete is held in high regard by both Ben and Don, not only because he wasn’t afraid to ask questions, like Don did in the comment exchange to the Snapper barfblog article. Thanks to Pete’s guidance Ben is always seeking the primary information for creating his Infosheets.  A classic example of Pete’s drive for the scientific justification relates to the information produced on thawing poultry at ambient temperatures, which was picked up by barfblog.

Ben then talked about the CDC report on the tempeh related outbreak discussed in FST 18. He found it interesting that many of the illnesses appeared to be caused by cross-contamination rather than consumption of the contaminated, unpasteurized tempeh. Don was bummed that his own work wasn’t cited by the CDC, but he noted that Michelle’s recent work showed that cross-contamination was facilitated by moisture. This then turned into a broader discussion around managing risks in a food service setting.

Don then wanted to hear Ben’s thoughts about Bill Marler’s question on what cantaloupe and baseball have in common. Bill’s suggestion to change the incentives had the flavor of a Modest Proposal, but without the satire. Ben agreed that retailers and restaurants should be held responsible, as without them there isn’t enough pressure on the suppliers. The guys then discussed third party audits and the setting of supplier standards. Both agreed that the current system doesn’t work how it should and that proper data analysis could provide significant insights.

In the after dark the guys talked about Ben’s upcoming trip to Brazil, the PCV show, food safety a-holesMexican wrestling masks, the Conference for Food Protection councils, laws and sausages, and getting hurt at the doctor’s office.

Dr. O.P. Snyder announced his retirement today

From friend of the barfblog, Roy E Costa:

Dr. O.P. Snyder, “Pete” as he is known to his friends and colleagues, is recovering from heart surgery this summer and is progressing, but slowly. I know everyone who has worked with Pete or has been his student or client can attest to his zeal for food safety. Everyone in this field owes a huge debt of gratitude to Pete pete.snyderfor his many years of conscientious work, numerous publications, impressive presentations and research, not to mention his thought provoking comments on this list through the years.

One of the hallmark’s of Pete’s character has been his openness and willingness to share his profound knowledge of food science with anyone and everyone who asked. His website www.HI-TM.com has been a tremendous resource for anyone needing factual information on food safety.

I first met Pete at the annual education meeting of the Florida Association of Milk, Food and Environmental Sanitarians (now the Florida Association for Food Protection) in 1990, which he graciously agreed to attend at my behest as a speaker. I was impressed that a researcher and expert of his caliber would come to what was then a relatively small meeting of local sanitarians.

But Pete was like that, he was always willing to unselfishly extend himself. Through the years our friendship grew. As many of you know, I have not always agreed with Pete on issues of public health, but have always appreciated where he was coming from, and although the arguments in the past on this list between Pete and myself were sometimes a bit brutal, he never took it to heart or chastised me for the confrontations.

Big hearted, gracious and kindly are some characteristics that portray Pete, in spite of his sometimes tough exterior. All of us who know him understand that his strongly held positions, such as the need for self-regulation over government regulation, his dislike of some of the less than scientific rules regarding food safety, and insistence that only empirical scientific evidence be used when establishing public health policies, come from his dedication to this area and were never politically motivated.

So, its with fond regrets that we say farewell to a stalwart of food safety, the father of HACCP at retail and the best guide you could find when you needed the right answers to tough food safety problems.

All the best to you Pete, from all of us at this listserve. We will indeed miss you.

Hundreds of Dallas restaurants not inspected in years; broken system leaves food safety gap


An NBC 5 investigation finds that more than 200 Dallas restaurants have not been inspected in at least two years.

The city of Dallas has been scrambling to inspect hundreds of restaurants because of an NBC 5 investigation.

NBC 5 discovered that the city’s inspection system has broken down so badly that some restaurants haven’t been checked in years — not even once.

Wherever you eat, you never know what’s happening in the kitchen. That’s why cities have inspectors — to check for things that could make you sick.

Or at least that’s what we thought they were doing, until NBC 5 started asking questions and digging through city records.

Our investigation turned up a list of 241 restaurants the city of Dallas hasn’t checked since at least 2009.

NBC 5 followed health inspectors to one of those restaurants, a diner that hadn’t been checked in so long that the owner wondered if the city was ever coming back.

The people in charge of city inspections didn’t know so many were so overdue until NBC 5 pointed it out.

Peter Snyder, an expert in food safety with more than 40 years of experience in the restaurant industry, said what happens in Dallas is typical of many big cities he sees around the country (like Houston, which called on Pete’s expertise a few months ago). Cities have cut back on inspectors and are not able to keep up with the workload, and restaurant customers can end up paying the price.

"You can have massive foodborne outbreaks — which we’re having these days where somebody forgets to wash their hands, and you get hepatitis A in the salsa, and 60 people get sick," Snyder said.

Two years ago, Dallas had 23 restaurant inspectors.

But the city cut five positions, and then five more inspectors left in the last year and a half. They’ve never been replaced.

Today Dallas has 13 people to inspect more than 6,000 restaurants.

Tracey Evers, president of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association said, "There’s nothing that replaces that one-on-one interaction with the health inspector and the restaurant.”

In Fort Worth, NBC 5’s investigation also found restaurants that haven’t been checked in a long time.

NBC 5’s questions sent the city scrambling to inspect a list of about 50 restaurants it hadn’t visited in at least two years.

And when the inspectors finally went into some of those kitchens, records show they found critical health violations such as no paper towels in the restroom, broken refrigerator thermometers and workers who didn’t have proper training to handle food.

"Certainly we’d like to have more frequent contact and be able to go to these establishments on a more regular basis," said Scott Hanlan, of Fort Worth’s Code Compliance Division.

It now has 13 people inspecting 2,100 restaurants. But the same inspectors are also responsible for checking things such as swimming pools, food trucks and large special events that serve food.

Fancy food ain’t safe food, Chicago edition; does posting restaurant inspection results online do any good

Pete Snyder told the Chicago Tribune he’s not a fan of publishing the results of spot inspections online because "there is no evidence that posting does any good."

Instead, he favors a system where employees are trained by food service managers in controlling safety hazards, then demonstrate their mastery of the procedures to an inspector.

"This is the only effective full-control program," said Snyder, founder of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul, Minn. "The reason inspectors don’t do this and (instead) simply inspect for things is because it takes too long."

What evidence is there that Pete’s program does any good?

What evidence is there that all those food safety messages repeated ad nauseam, especially during the holidays, do any good? (None)

What evidence is there food safety training programs do any good? (it’s mixed, but fairly lousy; more on that in a month).

In Sept.. 2007, my friend Frank was running food safety things at Disney in Orlando, and asked me to visit and speak with his staff.

“Doug, I want you to talk about food safety messages that have been proven to work, that are supported by peer-reviewed evidence and lead to demonstrated behavior change,” or something like that.

I said it would be a brief talk.

There was nothing – nothing – that could be rigorously demonstrated to have changed food safety behavior in any group, positive or negative. Everything was about as effective as those, ‘Employees must wash hands’ signs.

Chapman finally showed a food safety message can be translated into better food safety practices at food service; but that took direct video observation. After exposure to food safety infosheets, cross-contamination events went down 20 per cent, and handwashing attempts went up 7 per cent. We controlled for various factors as best we could.

Pete is right in that “there’s no evidence that posting does any good” but only because there’s no evidence that most things do any good.

I want to figure out how to best collect evidence that is compelling and meaningful, right or wrong.

We’ve reviewed the literature, we’ve trialed a disclosure program in New Zealand, and compiled a lot of anecdotal evidence from restaurant patrons and managers who say public disclosure of inspection grades keeps everyone awake. It can’t be linked to lower or higher rates of foodborne illness, despite some attempts to do so, but public disclosure does seem to insert some consideration of microbial food safety into a national conversation of food that is dominated by porn.

I haven’t figured out how to measure that.

Snyder did say that a restaurant with multiple, back-to-back failed inspections is "an indication the manager isn’t paying attention."

Thousands of Houston restaurants overdue for health inspection

Dr. Pete gives good quote in a story from the I-Team at KHOU in Houston.

“They’re not following their own rules, and if they’re not following their own rules, they’re not protecting public health,” said food scientist Dr. Pete Snyder.

Just how often was the city not following its own rules? The I-Team found 4,009 restaurants, 65 percent of all Houston eateries, overdue for a health inspection.

And in hundreds of cases, the city was tardy by more than a year.

“Shape up and get their damn inspections fixed,” said Dr. Snyder, who was studying food safety and inspecting kitchens before we put a man on the moon.

As the founder and president of Minnesota-based Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management, he has educated thousands of executives, owners, chefs and employees on procedures for producing safe food.

He said delinquent inspections can undermine the entire regulatory process.

“Pretty soon the operator begins to believe that the health department is not real, they’re not going to punish him, and that’s bad,” Snyder said.

“Any restaurant in Houston that’s open for business is a safe place to eat,” said Patrick Key, Bureau Chief of Consumer Health Services.

At Ninfa’s in the 8500 block of the Gulf Freeway, Houston city inspectors closed the restaurant down in September 2010 after finding numerous violations. Those included live roaches, no soap in the kitchen sink, and food not safe for human consumption. The next day management corrected most of the violations, but was still written up for the treatment of roach activity.

It was due for another inspection in six months. But instead, the city waited more than a year. ?

?”You don’t let go of that restaurant until the restaurant has solved the problem,” Dr. Snyder said.? ?But repeat problems don’t always sound the city’s alarms either.

Consider the Triple J’s Smokehouse in the 6700 block of Homestead Road. It had 154 violations over the past three years. Its last inspection, November 2010, turned up equipment not washed, rinsed and sanitized, as well as potentially hazardous foods at unsafe temperatures. For that, the city should have checked up this past January, but has yet to do so.

There’s also KC’s Seafood and Grill in the 400 block of Maxey Road. City records showed it was a year and a half overdue for a health inspection, so we paid a visit with a food safety expert.

“Everything’s been corrected,” said the manager who identified herself as Debbie.

She told us everything was OK after a city inspector had finally shown up a few weeks before we did. But Dr. Snyder still found problems, from cooked food sitting out at room temperature, to problems with the kitchen sink.

“There’s no soap, there’s no paper towels, you couldn’t possibly use the hand sink to wash your hands in,” Dr. Snyder said, adding that hand washing is critical.

“That’s how half of the foodborne illness occurs,” Dr. Snyder said.

So the I-Team had some questions for that city bureau chief who said you should feel confident every Houston restaurant is a safe place to eat.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had enough staff,” said Patrick Key.

Key said the city just can’t keep up with its two requirements—annual inspections on all food permit establishments, as well as risk-based inspections on eateries with poor previous inspection scores.

But when the I-Team began digging, Key suddenly ordered 500 inspections at past due eateries. He said those were all done over the course of a week.? ?”90 percent of them got a score of one or two which are good scores,” Key said.

But for Dr. Snyder, good may not be good enough. Consider the Pho Saigon restaurant in the 2500 Block of Gessner, one of the 500 eateries the city had scrambled to inspect.

“They have bad cooling practices, they have bad hot holding practices, these are things that really make people sick,” said Dr. Snyder.

Dr. Snyder said the city should be saying this:

“We can’t have out-of-date facilities who are supposed to be inspected. We will have none of those anymore.”

As for Ninfa’s, the Gulf Freeway restaurant received a handful of non-critical violations on its most recent inspection last month. Additionally, Dr. Snyder gave the kitchen good marks during his tour of the restaurant.

PETE SNYDER: How to properly calibrate a thermometer

A reader asked, “Any recommendations on how to calibrate a digital tip thermometer for home use?”

So I turned to thermometer guru Pete Snyder of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Pete says:

The best way is to make a crushed/slush ice mixture of ice in a Wearing blender and put the tip of the thermometer in the middle of the ice and see what the thermometer reads.  If it reads between 30 to 34 F, it is calibrated and ready for use.  If it reads outside these limits, throw it away and buy a new one. 

Note, to get 32F, it has to be crushed ice.  If it is just packed ice cubes, it will probably not be any colder than 34F.  Don’t use the boiling point of water. It is never 212 because of altitude and barometric pressure.