The apparent international rise in foodborne virus outbreaks attributed to fresh produce and the increasing importance of fresh produce in the Australian diet has led to the requirement to gather information to inform the development of risk management strategies.
A prevalence survey for norovirus (NoV) and hepatitis A virus (HAV) in fresh Australian produce (leafy greens, strawberries and blueberries) at retail was undertaken during 2013–2014 and data used to develop a risk profile. The prevalence of HAV in berries and leafy greens was estimated to be <2%, with no virus detected in produce during the yearlong survey. The prevalence of NoV in fresh strawberries and blueberries was also estimated to be <2% with no virus detected in berries, whilst for leafy greens the NoV prevalence was 2.2%.
Prevalence of a bacterial hygiene indicator, Escherichia coli, was also investigated and found to range from <1% in berries to 10.7% in leafy greens. None of the NoV positive leafy green samples tested positive for E. coli, indicating it is a poor indicator for viral risk.
The risk was evaluated using standard codex procedures and the Risk Ranger tool. Taking all data into account, including the hazard dose and severity, probability of exposure, probability of infective dose and available epidemiological data, the risk of HAV and NoV foodborne illness associated with fresh Australian berries (strawberries and blueberries) sold as packaged product was deemed to be low. The risk of foodborne illness from HAV associated with leafy greens was also deemed to be low, but higher than that for fresh berries, due mainly to the potential for recontamination post-processing if sold loose. The risk of foodborne illness from NoV associated with leafy greens was deemed to be low/moderate. Despite the prevalence of NoV in leafy greens being low and the inability to discriminate between infective and non-infective virus using PCR based methodologies, the fact that NoV was detected resulted in a higher risk associated with this pathogen-product pairing; compounded by the higher prevalence of NoV within the community compared to HAV, and the potential for leafy greens to become contaminated following processing if sold loose.
Estimating risk associated with human norovirus and hepatitis A virus in fresh Australian leafy greens and berries at retail 26 August 2019
While I was grocery shopping one day at my regular store, I noticed that one of the doors to the dairy refrigerator case was missing. There was no sign or notice to explain the gaping hole where the door should have been in front of the shredded cheese, nor was any attempt made to compensate for the absent door, such as by relocating the items in that section or putting up a temporary covering.
After first being a bit confused when trying to reach for a non-existent handle, these questions popped into my head:
• how can the food in this section be at a safe temperature, as well as the foods on either side of it? and,
• doesn’t this missing door affect the ability of the case to maintain its temperature?
I’m a food safety nerd. Most people just want to shop and get on with whatever they are doing, but I’m subconsciously always looking for food safety behaviors. The person standing behind me was probably more interested in which brand was the least expensive or which package looked the freshest, or just wanted me to get out the way so they could buy their cheese and leave.
Does the lack of a door on a normally enclosed refrigerator case pose a food safety risk for dairy the products in that case? Depends on whom you ask. The average consumer (interpret this as you choose) often doesn’t see the same food safety risks when shopping in grocery stores compared to food safety folks.
Our group from North Carolina State teamed up with John Luchansky and Anna Porto-Fett at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service to investigate this difference between consumers and food safety folks in food safety risk perception when shopping at grocery stores. We conducted a national survey and several focus groups where, instead of just describing a situation, we showed pictures of a food safety situation someone could actually encounter while shopping. In addition to asking questions about whether each photo was safe or unsafe, we wanted to know about the actions, if any, people would take to do something about a situation they thought was unsafe. We prodded them further with questions about how their perceptions of safety would affect their shopping behaviors.
We found that consumers and food safety folks don’t always see the same food safety risks. There were some situations consumers perceived as risky but that weren’t actually risks, like seeing an insect on the floor. There were also some risks that food safety folks saw but consumers missed, like food not properly stored within the refrigerated area.
I was explaining our study to a friend the other day, and she flat out told me, “I look for food quality when I’m shopping – is it fresh, is there mold or signs of damage, does it look ok?” This is exactly what we found. Consumers are looking for those quality aspects, but aren’t always seeing the warning signs that the safety of the food could be at risk. The viruses, bacteria, and other things that cause foodborne illness such as Listeria monocytogenes, might be present on foods in the grocery store at high levels by not storing soft cheeses at the proper temperature, allowing bacteria to grow more quickly.
Our research team will be taking this one step further to better understand the mind of the shopper and see things through their eyes. Everyday consumers will become our secret shoppers, and we plan to arm them with the information they need to be food safety detectives every time they shop. #citizenscience for the win.
Katrina Levine, Mary Yavelak, John B. Luchansky, Anna C. S. Porto-Fett, and Benjamin Chapman
Journal of Food Protection
August 2017, Vol. 80, No. 8, pp. 1364-1377
To better understand how consumers perceive food safety risks in retail food store settings, a survey was administered to 1,041 nationally representative participants who evaluated possible food safety risks depicted in selected photographs and self-reported their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. Participants were shown 12 photographs taken at retail stores portraying either commonly perceived or actual food safety contributing factors, such as cross-contamination, product and equipment temperatures, worker hygiene, and/or store sanitation practices. Participants were then asked to specifically identify what they saw, comment as to whether what they saw was safe or unsafe, and articulate what actions they would take in response to these situations. In addition to the survey, focus groups were employed to supplement survey findings with qualitative data. Survey respondents identified risk factors for six of nine actual contributing factor photographs >50% of the time: poor produce storage sanitation (86%, n = 899), cross-contamination during meat slicing (72%, n = 750), bare-hand contact of ready-to-eat food in the deli area (67%, n = 698), separation of raw and ready-to-eat food in the seafood case (63%, n = 660), cross-contamination from serving utensils in the deli case (62%, n = 644), and incorrect product storage temperature (51%, n = 528). On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 was very unsafe and 5 was very safe, a significant difference was found between average risk perception scores for photographs of actual contributing factors (score of ca. 2.5) and scores for photographs of perceived contributing factors (score of ca. 2.0). Themes from the focus groups supported the results of the survey and provided additional insight into consumer food safety risk perceptions. The results of this study inform communication interventions for consumers and retail food safety professionals aimed at improving hazard identification.
Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that consumption of raw or undercooked meat products is one of the major sources of infection with T. gondii. The goal of this study was to develop a framework to qualitatively estimate the exposure risk to T. gondii from various meat products consumed in the United States.
Risk estimates of various meats were analyzed by a farm-to-retail qualitative assessment that included evaluation of farm, abattoir, storage and transportation, meat processing, packaging, and retail modules. It was found that exposure risks associated with meats from free-range chickens, nonconfinement-raised pigs, goats, and lamb are higher than those from confinement-raised pigs, cattle, and caged chickens. For fresh meat products, risk at the retail level was similar to that at the farm level unless meats had been frozen or moisture enhanced.
Our results showed that meat processing, such as salting, freezing, commercial hot air drying, long fermentation times, hot smoking, and cooking, are able to reduce T. gondii levels in meat products. whereas nitrite and/or nitrate, spice, low pH, and cold storage have no effect on the viability of T. gondii tissue cysts. Raw-fermented sausage, cured raw meat, meat that is not hot-air dried, and fresh processed meat were associated with higher exposure risks compared with cooked meat and frozen meat.
This study provides a reference for meat management control programs to determine critical control points and serves as the foundation for future quantitative risk assessments.
Qualitative assessment for Toxoplasma gondii exposure risk associated with meat products in the United States
Journal of Food Protection, Number 12, December 2015
Miao Guo, Robert L. Buchanan, Jitender P. Dubey, Dolores E. Hill, Elisabetta Lambertini, Yuqing Ying, Ray H. Gamble, Jeffrey L. Jones, and Abani K. Pradhan
During my brief time at IEH Laboratories (short for Institute for Environmental Health, it wasn’t a good fit for me), Mansour Samadpour asked me what the biggest food safety issue was, as we strolled through an antique shop.
Ferrières provides extensive documentation of the rules, regulations and penalties that emerged in the Mediterranean between the 12th and 16th centuries.
But rules are only as good as the enforcement that backs them up.
And increasingly, that falls to the private sector (as it should; they make the profits).
Craig Wilson, Costco’s vice president for quality assurance and food safety, told the N.Y. Times he uses government guidelines “as a minimum standard, and I always try to go above and beyond that.”
According to the Times article, Samadpour makes his way through the supermarket like a detective working a crime scene, slow, watchful, up one aisle and down the next. A clerk mistakenly assumes that he needs help, but Mr. Samadpour brushes him off. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
He buys organic raspberries that might test positive for pesticides and a fillet of wild-caught fish that might be neither wild nor the species listed on the label. He buys beef and pork ground fresh at the market. He is disappointed that there is no caviar, which might turn out to be something cheaper than sturgeon roe. That’s an easy case to crack.
On this visit, he is shopping for goods he can test at his labs to demonstrate to a reporter that what you see on market shelves may not be what you get.
While he’s out of the office, he receives a call and dispatches a team on a more pressing expedition: They need to buy various products that contain cumin, because a client just found possible evidence of peanuts, a powerful allergen, in a cumin-based spice mix. The client wants a definitive answer before someone gets sick.
Suppliers, manufacturers and markets depend on Mr. Samadpour’s network of labs to test food for inadvertent contamination and deliberate fraud, or to verify if a product is organic or free of genetically modified organisms. Consumers, the last link in the chain, bet their very health on responsible practices along the way.
Mr. Samadpour, who opened IEH’s first lab in 2001 with six employees, now employs over 1,500 people at 116 labs in the United States and Europe. He refers to his company, one of the largest of its kind in the country, as “a privately financed public health organization.”
“Ten years ago, it would have taken millions of dollars to sequence a genome,” Mr. Samadpour says. “Now it takes $100. We do thousands a year.”
Business is booming — partly because IEH clients consider testing to be a gatekeeper defense in a multitiered food economy without borders. “We’re a lot more concerned about imports,” Mr. Samadpour says, because of “lack of accountability, lack of infrastructure, lack of a culture of food safety.”
While the lab focuses primarily on safety issues like the cumin-and-peanut inquiry, there are enough fraud calls to support specialties among the lab technicians, like Kirthi Kutumbaka, referred to by his colleagues as “the emperor of fish” for his work on a seafood identification project. Once a fish is filleted, genetic testing is the only way to confirm its identity, making it a popular category for fraud.
IEH’s clients are primarily vendors who supply retailers and manufacturers, and they generally prefer to remain anonymous for fear of indicating to consumers that they have a specific worry about safety.
Costco is one of the retailers that use IEH’s services, and the company doesn’t mind talking about it.
“We have to inspect what we expect,” says Wilson, meaning that products have to live up to their labels, particularly items in Costco’s own Kirkland Signature line.
Costco has a smaller margin of error than most food retailers; the company stocks only about 3,500 so-called S.K.U.s, or stock keeping units, while most retailers offer as many as 150,000. A single misstep is a far greater percentage of the whole. That’s why, in addition to retaining IEH, it operates its own 20-person testing lab.
“We’re not typical,” Mr. Wilson says. “We have one ketchup, one mayonnaise, one can of olives, Kirkland Signature olive oils and a couple of others.” Since 2003, the United States Department of Agriculture has required the testing of beef used for ground beef, resulting in a 40 percent reduction in cases of E. coli traced to beef consumption. Costco, which processes 600,000 to 700,000 pounds of ground beef daily, does extensive micro-sampling of the meat at its California facility, Mr. Wilson says.
The company expects its suppliers to absorb testing costs and gets no resistance, given the size of the resulting orders. Costco sells 157,000 rotisserie chickens a day. As Mr. Wilson put it: “If vendors get a bill for a couple hundred bucks on a $1 million order, who cares? They don’t.”
The sheer volume also enables Costco to demand action when there is a problem. After a 2006 outbreak of E. coli tied to Earthbound Farm’s ready-to-eat bagged spinach, in which three people died and more than 200 became ill, Mr. Wilson, one of Earthbound’s customers, instituted what he calls a “bag and hold” program for all of Costco’s fresh greens suppliers. He required the suppliers to test their produce and not ship it until they had the results of the tests.
Earthbound responded to the outbreak with a “multihurdle program that places as many barriers to food-borne illness as we can,” says Gary Thomas, the company’s senior vice president for integrated supply chain. Earthbound now conducts 200,000 tests annually on its ready-to-eat greens.
Not everyone was as quick to embrace change; some growers were concerned about losing shelf life while they waited for results. Mr. Wilson was unmoved by that argument. “If you can test and verify microbial safety, what do I care if I lose shelf life?” he says.
About five years ago, Mr. Wilson decided it was time to send an employee to Tuscany to collect leaves from Tuscan olive trees. Costco now has an index of DNA information on “all the cultivars of Tuscan olive oil, about 16 different ones,” he says. “When they harvest and press, we do our DNA testing.”
Mr. Samadpour says that in multi-ingredient products, the source of trickery is usually hidden further down the food chain than the name on the package. “It’s not the top people who get involved in economic adulteration,” he says. “It’s someone lower down who sees a way to save a penny here or there. Maybe it’s 2 or 3 cents, but if you sell a million units, that’s $20,000 to $30,000.”
David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology at the 111-year-old United Fresh Produce Association, echoes the position of the Food and Drug Administration: Testing is not a sufficient answer for his members, who include anyone engaged in the fresh produce industry, “from guys who come up with seeds to growers, shippers, fresh-cut processors, restaurants and grocery stores, everyone from beginning to end,” from small organic farms to Monsanto.
Their common ground, he says, is a commitment to food safety — but members disagree on how to achieve it, including Mr. Gombas and Mr. Samadpour, who are both microbiologists. “Microbiological testing provides a false sense of security,” Mr. Gombas says. “They can find one dead salmonella cell on a watermelon, but what does that tell you about the rest of the watermelon in the field? Nothing.”
Testing has its place, he says, but as backup for “good practices and environmental monitoring,” which includes things as diverse as employee hygiene and site visits. “I’m a fan of testing,” he says, “if something funny’s going on.” Otherwise, he has taken on the role of contrarian. “People think testing means something. When I say it doesn’t, they smile, nod and keep testing.”
Mr. Samadpour says sampling “can reduce the risk tremendously but can never 100 percent eliminate it,” but he will take a tremendous reduction over a food crisis any day. The government’s “indirect” stance, which mandates safety but does not require testing, allows companies to interpret safe practices on “a spectrum,” he says, “from bare minimum to sophisticated programs,” and he worries about safety at the low end of that range.
He says consumer vigilance is the best defense against the selling of groceries under bare minimum standards.
That’s all nice, but consumers have heard this before, only to be eventually disappointed. Over time, or bad economics, or both, someone will cut corners. The best producers should be marketing the authenticity of their products and make the testing to validate those claims available for public review.
Market food safety and authenticity at retail. The technology is apparently there.
Kids call me coach, others call me asshole, all fine by me.
Dr. Bob and Dr. Dan exist, and probably many others in the misguided belief they are enhancing the public understanding of science, when it’s just demeaning and arrogant.
Dr. Bob says during grower food safety events, “we often talk about why having a food safety program is important and how it is critical to have a program to protect your own business, protect your customers and, ultimately, public health. We talk about emerging science, the importance of foundational food safety programs such as sanitation practices and worker hygiene and how to identify and manage potential cross-contamination hazards on the farm and in the packinghouse.
“After going through this information and basically laying out the why, how, and what of food safety, often some brave soul in the audience will raise their hand and ask, So what score do I need to get in order to pass the audit? And that’s when the frustration sets in. How did passing an audit become a substitute for actually building a risk-based food safety program?”
Oh, Oh, Dr. Bob, I can answer that.
Because back in the late 1990s, as fresh fruit and vegetable outbreaks took on national prominence, retailers decided, we want third-party audits, rather than food safety programs promoted by grower groups.
I chaired a national committee in Canada about 2002 to look at the issue, came up with a solution that would be advantageous to growers and consumers, and was then overruled behind the scenes so the grower groups could keep their Canadian Food Inspection Agency funding (and the bureaucracy).
I walked away.
Thirteen years later and Dr. Bob is wondering how this happened?
The U.K. FSA has declared war on Campylobacter, a pathogen that I had my own run-in with in 2009. Food safety coverage often impacts purchasing choices and market researchers in the U.K. suggest that chicken sales have dropped over last year. According to meatinfo.co.uk , the market for whole chicken sales has dropped almost 4%.
The latest sales statistics, released by consumer knowledge company Kantar Worldpanel, indicate that the focus on the bacteria has affected whole chicken sales. Spending for the 12 weeks ending 7 December decreased by 3.8% compared to the same period last year, while the volume sold decreased by 6.8%.
Market researcher Mintel said: “Concerns about cooking safely with raw chicken are likely to have been heightened by the campylobacter scandal. While many people may simply be extra careful when preparing and cooking chicken, it may also deter some consumers from buying raw chicken to eliminate risk.”
However, a number of retailers suggested that the their chicken sales had not been affected by the scare, including Marks & Spencer and Lidl. A Lidl spokesperson said: “Our poultry sales have remained steady, as we continue to work in partnership with our suppliers to reduce the levels of campylobacter in raw chicken.”
One of the companies that has helped develop a way to flash freeze the surface of birds to kill campylobacter bacteria after slaughter, Bernard Matthews, said that retailers had been resistant to the extra cost, which is about 4-5p per bird.
However, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Asda and Sainsbury’s all told the Guardian they were supporting the trials of technology which rapidly chills or steams the surface of a chicken to significantly reduce levels of campylobacter.
Tesco said it would be helping to fund a full-scale trial of rapid chill technology with one of its suppliers from January to test feasibility on a commercial scale.
Andrew Large, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, which represents the largest producers and processors, said the industry was focusing on about 10 measures that looked promising, but he warned that there was “no silver bullet” to end campylobacter contamination.
The results to date show:
18% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter above the highest level of contamination
70% of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter
6% of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter with only one sample at the highest level of contamination (>1,000 cfu/g)
* Above 1,000 colony forming units per gram (>1,000 cfu/g). These units indicate the degree of contamination on each sample.
In total, 1,995 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens have now been tested, with packaging also tested for most of these samples. Data show variations between retailers but none are meeting the end-of-production target for reducing campylobacter.
This 12-month survey, running from February 2014 to February 2015, will test 4,000 samples of whole chickens bought from UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers.
Campylobacter is killed by thorough cooking; however it is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year. Poultry is the source of the majority of these cases.
But-just-cook-it doesn’t cut it and fails to account for cross-contamination.
In response, a number of retailers have introduced ‘roast in the bag’ chickens which help limit cross-contamination by minimizing the handling of the raw chicken in the home.
The FSA advises that the data for individual retailers have to be interpreted carefully. Confidence intervals are given for each retailer and the ‘others’ category. These show the likely range of the results allowing for the number of samples taken.
At this half-way stage in the survey the results show, taking the confidence intervals into account, that Tesco is the only one of the main retailers which has a lower incidence of chicken contaminated with campylobacter at the highest level (>1,000 cfu/g), compared to the industry average. Asda is the only main retailer which has a higher incidence of chicken that is contaminated by campylobacter at the highest level, compared to the industry average. However, the results suggest that none of the retailers is achieving the joint industry end-of-production target for reducing campylobacter.
And what FSA chicken advice would be complete without a recommendation to “make sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut in to the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.”
This is ridiculous advice from a supposedly science-based agency: use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.
Meanwhile, The Guardianrevealed this week that Tim Smith, the former boss of the FSA who left the regulator to become a director of Tesco, is said to have contacted a senior official in the Department of Health in June to warn that the FSA’s plans could provoke a major food scare, in an apparent breach of the terms approved by David Cameron for his move to industry.
And Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at London’s City University, told The Guardian the results are schocking and that “public should refuse to buy poultry until this is sorted out. This is a public health scandal easily on a par to those of the 1980s and 1990s and reminds me of the outrage over food adulteration and contamination in the mid 19th century. Have we really sunk back to that level?”
Dear British public, be outraged, act, withhold your money until you can have confidence in what you consume. This may not be orthodox public health strategy but it is definitely what history shows works when standards are as dire as these results show them to be.
The British Poultry Council (BPC) told The Grocer that media reports that supermarkets are knowingly selling chickens contaminated with Campylobacter may mislead consumers, and that “cooking it properly and observing good kitchen hygiene” will take care of the problem.
It’s easy to blame consumers. What are producers doing to reduce risk?
An article in today’s (19 November) The Times cited BPC data that showed 24% of a randomly tested sample of 5,000 batches of chicken had tested positive for the highest levels of campylobacter contamination.
The results were similar to those revealed in August in the first batch of quarterly results from a 12-month survey currently being undertaken by the FSA on the prevalence and levels of campylobacter contamination on fresh whole chickens and their packaging. The FSA survey showed 16% of birds at the highest level of contamination of more than 1000 colony forming units per gram, and 26% at between 100 and 1000 cfu/g.
BPC CEO Andrew Large said The Times article was based on a small sample of testing, designed to assist members of the Joint Working Group on Campylobacter in their operations.
“As the data is neither comprehensive nor statistically robust, it will not be useful for consumers and risks being misleading,” he warned, adding: “Consumers have a key role to play as good kitchen hygiene will remain a cornerstone of preventing foodborne illness.”
A spokeswoman for the British Retail Consortium said, “As long as campylobacter is present in the food chain, and we don’t yet have the solution for that despite our best efforts. We need to maintain the very strong message that all raw chicken should be handled with appropriate care and releasing incomplete data could dilute that message to consumers and lead to confusion.”
The FSA will next week issue the second set of quarterly results of its campylobacter survey, when it will also name-and-shame” retailers with the worst record for campylobacter-contaminated poultry.
(And this is from the last time I saw the Stones, in 1981; didn’t need to go again in Brisbane the other night.)
The Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS) is a collaborative, integrated program designed to track antimicrobial resistance (AMR) among enteric bacteria isolated from various livestock commodities along the food-producing continuum (“farm to fork”) and in humans.
Objective: To provide a summary of the prevalence and trends in AMR among select bacteria isolated from raw, fresh chicken, pork, and beef in 2012 at the retail food level and to link these data with other findings from CIPARS.
Methods: Meat samples were collected from randomly selected geographic areas across Canada weighted by population for subsequent isolation of bacteria and interpretation of the associated AMR profiles. Salmonella, Campylobacter and generic Escherichia coli (E. coli) were tested in chicken, and E. coli was tested in beef and pork. Data were analyzed for 2012 and temporal and regional trends were examined between 2003 and 2012 by province/region.
Results: Overall, resistance levels to Salmonella in retail chicken varied widely by region and year. For example, ceftiofur resistance to Salmonella in retail chicken was significantly lower in 2012 than in 2004 in Ontario and in Québec; however among all regions sampled, resistance to Campylobacter in retail chicken was relatively low in 2012 (<16%) with the exception of tetracycline resistance. In 2012, ciprofloxacin resistance to Campylobacter in chicken declined in British Columbia but significantly increased in Ontario, compared to 2011. In 2012, β-lactam resistance to E. coli in retail beef remained low (≤1%) and was also relatively low comparable to previous years in pork.
Conclusion: In Canada, as is the case worldwide, there is evidence of resistance to medically important antimicrobials among bacteria from retail meats. Resistance among organisms isolated from poultry, beef, and pork at the retail food level is characterized by wide variation over time and across different regions.
Public Health Agency of Canada, CCDR, Volume 40 S-2
B. Avery, E. Parmley, R. Reid-Smith, D. Daignault, R. Finley, R. Irwin
If you thought that the Internet and social media were passing fads and could be ignored as marketing tools, Dan’l Mackey Almy said think again.
“It’s main stay,” said the president and chief executive officer of Irving, Texas-based DMA Solutions. “What will change is Facebook will go through phases and Twitter will go through phases. What we have to do is figure out how to use those tools to reach those audiences.”
Mackenzie Michel, marketing manager, agreed.
“If marketing is important to your company…then digital marketing absolutely is an essential part of that,” she said.
Vicky Boyd of The Packer writes their comments came during the morning educational workshop, “Competitive Marketing in the Digital Workshop,” Aug. 17, at the PMA Fresh Summit.
But the choice isn’t either digital or more traditional media, which include television, radio and billboards, Almy said.
Instead, companies should choose from among all media to find the best mix to reach their audiences.
I’d add, sell safety at retail: because some producers and companies are better.