Food Safety Confessional: Connie still thaws meat in the sink (so do I)

Connie, someone I’ve never met but she’s a food safety professional from Guelph (that’s in Ontario, Canada, and it’s a small community) writes:

I’ve been a food safety professional for going on 20 years, I still thaw meat in the sink (sometimes in hot water if I’m really rushed) and in my house, we wash hands after we eat.

I’m a firm advocate of not killing our immune systems by trying to sterilize our homes; according to my research, the illness and deaths that occur now are more frequent, widespread and worse in the effects than ever in the past (Peanut Corporation of America excluded for obvious reasons).

 I don’t take any chances at work, I never would, but at home, sigh, we’re all still alive.

 If you’re ever looking for inspiration for a blog post look no further than the website IFSQN. It’s a great forum for discussion and assistance from experienced FSP but wow, there are some things posted that are positively frightening.

 I am currently advocating with the Canadian government to:
• change our national job description so people realize we are gd professionals and not place holders; and,

• institute a national standard for both auditors and CB (CFIA has accreditation standards, but I don’t think anyone is checking in on auditors).

 I personally believe that GFSI is the downfall of safe food, with people focused on being audit-ready and not on producing safe food.

Puking Veronica: The real indicators of a Norovirus outbreak in a university residence

Been there, done that.

Chapman wrote this back in 2009

Brae Surgeoner, Doug and I had a paper published in the September 2009 Journal of Environmental Health about some research we conducted in the Winter of 2006. The study came about because a whole bunch of kids in the University of Guelph’s residence system started puking from an apparent norovirus outbreak. There were lots of handwashing signs up and we wanted to know whether they changed hygiene behavior (especially if kids were using the tools available when entering the cafeteria). Turns out that the kids weren’t doing as good of a job at hand hygiene as they reported to us.

NC State’s press release is below (the Kansas State release is here):

As public health experts warn of potential widespread outbreaks of H1N1 flu this school year, a new study from North Carolina State University shows that students do not comply with basic preventative measures as much as they think do. In other words, the kids aren’t washing their hands.

“Hand washing is a significant preventative measure for many communicable diseases, from respiratory diseases like H1N1 to foodborne illness agents, such as norovirus,” says Dr. Ben Chapman, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences and food safety extension specialist at NC State. The new study, which examined student compliance with hand hygiene recommendations during an outbreak of norovirus at a university in Ontario, finds that only 17 percent of students followed  posted hand hygiene recommendations – but that 83 percent of students reported that they had been in compliance. Norovirus causes gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhea. Every year there are 30 to 40 outbreaks of norovirus on university campuses, affecting thousands of students.

Chapman, who co-authored the research, says this is the first study to observe student hygiene behavior in the midst of an outbreak. Previous studies examined self-reporting data after an outbreak – and the new research shows that the self-reporting data may be inaccurate.

“Typically, health officials put up posters and signs and rely on self-reporting to determine whether these methods are effective,” Chapman says. “And people say they are washing their hands more. But, as it turns out, that’s not true.

“The study shows that while health authorities may give people the tools we think they need to limit the spread of an outbreak, the information we’re giving them is not compelling enough to change their behavior. Basically, it doesn’t work. But we do it again with every outbreak, and we’re doing it now with H1N1.”

Chapman says the study shows that health officials need to target specific audiences, such as students in a particular dorm or who eat at a particular cafeteria, and tailor their information to those audiences. For example, telling them where the nearest washrooms are, or pointing out where hand sanitizer units are located. “The more specific the information is for an audience, the better off you are,” Chapman says.

Chapman adds that health authorities also need to use language appropriate to their target audience. “For example, don’t refer to something as a ‘gastrointestinal illness,’” he says, “instead, tell them ‘this could make you puke’ or ‘dude, wash your hands.’ The idea is to craft compelling messages that create discussion in that audience. Make them talk about it.”

Chapman also says that health officials should take advantage of social media, such as text messaging and Facebook, to raise awareness. “If your audience consists of students,” he explains, “you should use media that students use.

“Campuses need to expect outbreaks will happen and plan accordingly. Have the response tools in hand.”

The study, “University Students’ Hand Hygiene Practice During a Gastrointestinal Outbreak in Residence: What They Say They Do and What They Actually Do,” was co-authored by Chapman, Dr. Douglas Powell of Kansas State University and Brae Surgeoner, a former graduate student at the University of Guelph. The study was published in the September issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

Lacey Burkholder, Katherine Allensworth, Haley Schaffter

https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1815&context=honors_research_projects

Illness contributes to a decrease in student class attendance which can lead to increased academic stress. Decreasing the spread of illness among those living in residence halls is essential to academic success. The purpose of this systematic review was to identify interventions implemented in residence halls on college campuses to reduce the spread of illness. The PICO question directing the research for this study asks, “How do interventions affect the spread of illness in university residence hall populations?”. The research conducted was completed by means of a systematic review of literature including 20 peer reviewed articles published between 1999-2017 from the databases CINAHL Plus, PsychInfo, and PubMed. Findings from this review revealed a focus on three interventions used to decrease illness among college students living in residence halls: (1) hand washing, (2) lifestyle initiatives, and (3) education. Of the three, hand washing and educational measures were found to decrease the spread of illness, while lifestyle initiatives were found to have no direct correlation to the spread of illness.

Food safety confessional: Tell us your stories

I did not create this idea, nor will take credit (unlike lawyers, the credit belongs to Michele and Josh, just like the barfblog name belongs to Christian) but will run with it, using the barfblog forum.

Food safety professionals, we all know everyone messes up.

As we say in therapy, everyone has problems, especially the ones who think they don’t.

So rather than say food safety is simple, we’ve always said it’s hard.

And to show we’re all human, we professionals should confess to our failings (and like therapy, no last names will be used and establishing relationships is discouraged, and no physical contact with the counselliors).

I’ll start, e-mail yours to me or Chapman and we’ll get it posted.

I got religious about using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer for cooking about 2000, in the same way a reformed cigarette smoker is against cigs.

I didn’t like the religion. But there were times I was grilling and didn’t have a thermometer.

Usually I just cooked the shit (literally) out of it.

But I know there were occasions where I undercooked stuff, because of time and drunk pressures.

I also know I have left stock on the counter for days, creating a wonderful colony of Staph. Usually I throw it out, but not always, because I’m still a struggling grad student at heart, and would never turn down anything that was free.

Look forward to hearing from youse.

Loblaws apologizes over viral photo of mouse in bag of bread at a Hamilton No Frills

There was this time about 15 years ago, and I was the scientific advisor for a group of food safety heads at Canadian supermarkets. We’d met once or twice a year, and the first four hours would be devoted to, no one takes my job seriously unless there’s an outbreak.

I could relate.

I guess they kept me on because we did good work when BSE was discovered in Canada in 2003: the only country where beef consumption increased after a mad cow disease warning, partly due to me standing in the snow at 6 am on a Guelph street doing national TV, lots due to Sarah and her team managing the phone lines and providing me with soundbites.

I get the sense Loblaws and its various spin-offs aren’t so vigilant

as they might have been before.

First it was piles of meat thawing in a shopping cart. Now Loblaws is apologizing to customers of a Hamilton No Frills after a photo went viral of a mouse in a bag of bread at the store.

The picture of the tail end of a mouse — visible through the plastic bag surrounding a loaf of D’Italiano bread in a shopping cart — was posted to the website Reddit on Wednesday. The photo had attracted more than 180 comments by the next day.

In a statement, Loblaws public relations director Karen Gumbs apologized to customers — but also assured them the city’s public health department checked out the No Frills location and has “no concerns.”

“The store has taken a number of steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again, including working closely with their third-party pest control team, and inspecting bakery items daily,” she said.

Uh-huh.

No they don’t: Netherlands study says consumers read food hygiene warning labels on poultry, and surveys still suck

Tony McDougal of Poultry World reports that researchers wanted to see how the label impacted consumer perceptions on risk and food-handling behaviour in the light that poultry meat is an important source of foodborne infections, such as campylobacter, salmonella and E.coli.

A random sample of 1235 adults from a representative internet panel received an email linking to the study questionnaire. Information was gathered about knowledge of safe food-handling regarding poultry, their current food-handling behaviour and intention to change after reading the label, as well as influencing factors.

The results, published in the October edition of the journal Food Control, found that respondents of households with people aged 65 or older, with safe food-handling practices and who judge foodborne infections as severe, were more prone to have read the label.

The study also found that after reading the label during the survey, the intention to change behaviour did not differ between the readers and previous non-readers.

The report’s authors, from the Dutch Centre for Infectious Disease Control, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, concluded that “a label is a relatively easy and reasonable way of informing and educating consumers about safe food-handling.

“The majority of the respondents had read the label on poultry meat and scored it as important, useful and reassuring. Therefore investigating the feasibility and possible benefits of a similar label on other meat products could be worthwhile.”

Does not account for the fallibility of self-reported surveys (we all wash our hands); does not account for multi-languages in the diverse cultures we all prepare food; does not account for cross-contamination.

Consumers should not be the CCP on your brand.

Get it together.

Everyone’s got a camera: Toronto man complains of ‘unsanitary’ meat storage at real Canadian superstore

Michael Pearl says he goes grocery shopping every Sunday at the Real Canadian Superstore near Dufferin Street and Steeles Avenue West.

But on Oct 5, he says he got a disturbing sneak peek behind the deli counter.

“It just seemed like it was a very unsanitary way of storing meat,” Pearl told CBC Toronto.

Pearl was planning on purchasing some steaks but changed his mind when he saw a pile of raw meat in a shopping cart behind the counter.

“Fifty or 60 steaks in there, sitting in the cart without any wrapping that I had seen,” he said. “It just seemed very, you know, very unhygienic and it looked disgusting, to be honest with you.”

Pearl says he took out his phone and snapped a picture, which he brought to a woman he says claimed to be the store manager.  

“I showed her the picture. She seemed aghast at it all,” Pearl said.

In addition to that, Pearl says he sent the photo to the Toronto Board of Health, and filed a complaint with them.  

“They got back to me and said they were going to be looking into it.”

Loblaw Companies director of public relations Karen Gumbs also saw the picture and gave a statement to CBC Toronto, saying this “absolutely should not have happened” because it does not follow the company’s food safety procedures.

“The store immediately addressed this with the colleague,” Gumbs said. “We’ve reminded all departments of our protocols to ensure nothing like this happens again.”

Pearl says he will continue to shop at the Real Canadian Superstore because it’s close and convenient.

When asked if he plans to buy meat from the deli counter again he simply said, “Yeah, why not?”

Could this be the most Canadian food safety story?

Delta passenger who found dog feces on his seat claims he was given two paper towels and told to clean it up himself

Delta, the airline, sucks.

That’s my experience.

Others too.

Last Thursday, a passenger onboard a Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta to Miami stepped in poop while boarding the aircraft.

Stacey Leasca of Travel and Leisure reports that according to the passenger, when he brought the feces to the crew’s attention he was reportedly handed two paper towels and told to clean it up himself.

Delta Airlines confirmed to Business Insider that passengers did indeed begin boarding the aircraft before cleaning crews were done servicing the plane. The airline also noted that during the previous flight “an ill service animal” had an incident.

“It was feces, and it was everywhere. It was on my seat. It was on the floor. My feet were in it,” passenger Matthew Meehan told WSB-TV 2 Atlanta. He explained that he stepped in fecal matter and his fellow passengers refused to sit in their seats until it was cleaned up.

But, when he asked flight attendants for supplies he was handed “two paper towels and one of those little bottles of Bombay Sapphire.” And the Delta manager wasn’t much of a help either.

“She said to me, ‘Well, that’s not my problem.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry?’ She says, ‘Well, if the cleaning crew didn’t clean your seat, I don’t have any control over that,'” Meehan explained.

In the statement, Delta additionally apologized and offered a refund and compensation to customers affected by the flight.

And now for the meaningless boilerplate quote attributed to some bureaucrat or PR flunky:“The safety and health of our customers and employees is our top priority, and we are conducting a full investigation while following up with the right teams to prevent this from happening again,” Delta Said. Upon landing, the plane was also taken out of service and has since been disinfected.

Surveys still suck: US consumers don’t trust industry food safety efforts

Why should they?

The food safety efforts are hidden behind layers of bafflegab that consumers don’t care about, with their crying kids at the grocery store, and their partners who don’t understand the stress they are under and all sorts of modern angst.

Tom Karst of The Packer writes that a new survey from food and marketing agency Charleston Orwig found that more than a quarter of consumers said they do not trust the vigilance of the food industry’s safety efforts.

In a blog post called “Food Safety in America – Time to Bolster Consumer Confidence,” the agency reported a survey of 500 consumers found:

When asked if they trusted the food industry for safe food, 48% said they do trust the food industry and 27% said they did not;

More than 77% of consumers say that cooking a meal in their own kitchens is the best way to ensure it is safe to eat; 

Restaurants were deemed the second safest, with more than 59% of consumers considering this to be a reliable option;

Just 29% of respondents consider food trucks or public vendors safe and almost 42% considering this option potentially unsafe; 

Asked to compare food safety now versus a decade ago, about 35% of consumer said food is safer and 32% said it was less safe;

The survey said 59% of consumers said they assume food from individual farmers, food manufacturers or restaurants is safe if they have not heard about a specific problem;

The survey said that having had a food-borne illness did not make a person think food was less safe than participants overall; 

49% of consumers said grains, beans and pasta are the safest foods, followed by fresh fruits and vegetables at 42%;

Leafy greens and lettuce were tied with processed food as the next category of highest concern with 45% of consumers rating them risky, according to the survey; and

55% say meat and poultry are the riskiest to eat; the blog post speculated the divide could be tied to people’s overall perception of what makes up a healthy diet.

I had David Bowie’s Modern Love linked to this post, but just couldn’t do it, because I don’t like David Bowie. Instead you get Pete.

If you’re not too busy farming read this: Draft Guidance for industry: Standards for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of product for human consumption,

The purpose of this draft compliance and implementation guidance document is to help covered farms comply with the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule, which establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce.  Entitled “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption,” the rule is part of FDA’s implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). 

The draft guidance provides a broad range of recommendations on how to meet the requirements for most subparts of the rule. It also outlines how to determine whether produce or farms may be eligible for exemptions from certain requirements, or from the rule in its entirety.  

Specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited, and in some cases, specified using the word must. The use of the word should indicates that something is recommended, but not required. The use of the word including means options that are not limited to the described items.

You are encouraged to submit comments on the draft guidance within 180 days of the publish date to ensure your comments are considered while FDA works on the final version of the guidance.

In addition to the draft guidance, there is an At-a-Glance overview of key points in each of the nine chapters described below, as well as a glossary of key terms. The overviews summarize important aspects of each chapter.  It is recommended that you review the draft guidance itself for complete information.

Frank Yiannas headed to FDA

Bob Brackett, who was the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s point man during the E. coli spinach outbreak of 2006 ( and did a great job), told me once it was always part of the plan to work in academia, government and industry, and he’s done it.

Much praise from this critic.

 

Frank Yiannas, the vice president of food safety for Walmart and an outspoken proponent of blockchain, is leaving retail to take a post at the Food and Drug Administration.We visited Frank when he was at Disney, Frank visited us when we were in Kansas, we went shopping together at Walmart, as food safety nerds do.

 

I have a lot of respect for Frank, and hope the bureaucratic screws don’t wear him down.

He always said, where can I get the most bang for my food safety buck (OK, those are my words) but I’m fairly sure Frank would go along with that encapsulation.

And the Susies in our lives.