Microbial food safety education in China

I included this abstract because it was one of the two papers today that cited papers my lab and I produced, all those years ago. Google scholar alerts is wonderful, and tells me when one of the 70 or so peer-reviewed papers, book chapters and a book is cited by someone else. It averages out to about once a day, or 400 times a year. Certainly something we weren’t aiming for, but a pleasant reminder when I get one of those e-mails.

Millions of foodborne illness cases occur in China annually, causing significant social and economic burdens. Improper food handling has been observed not only among commercial food handlers but also among residential food handlers. It is critical to conduct a comprehensive scoping review of previous efforts to identify food safety knowledge gaps, explore the factors impacting knowledge levels, and synthesize the effectiveness of all types of food safety educational interventions for commercial and residential food handlers in China.

This review aims to analyze food safety education studies published over the past 20 years and provide foundations for developing more effective food safety educational interventions in China. A total of 35 studies were included in this review. Most studies reported that Chinese commercial and residential food handlers had insufficient food safety knowledge, especially in the areas of foodborne pathogens and safe food-handling practices. The factors impacting food handlers’ knowledge levels included education level, gender, income level, residency (rural vs. urban), the use of WeMedia, college students’ major, and food safety training experiences. Food handlers in the following demographic groups tend to have lower levels of food safety knowledge: lower education levels, the elderly, males, lower-income levels, rural residents, those who do not use WeMedia, those without food safety training experience, or college students in nonbiology-focused majors.

Many food handlers did not always follow recommended food safety practices, such as proper meat handling practices, handwashing practices, and cleaning and sanitation practices. Thirteen studies evaluated the effectiveness of educational interventions, and knowledge increases were reported after all interventions. The findings of this review provide guidance to researchers, educators, and government agencies in their future efforts to develop education programs emphasizing the importance of microbial food-safety content and behavior change regarding food safety and hygiene practices.

Moving forward to the future: A review of microbial food safety education in China

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease

Han Chen and Yaohua Feng



(the hair, the clothes, must be 1972 below)

Produce and on-farm risk management

Produce-associated foodborne disease outbreaks have increased worldwide highlighting the importance of proper implementation of risk management practices (RMP). We determined the relationship between environmental characteristics (i.e., physical resources) of produce farms and implementation of RMP.

Following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses principles, we identified 36 studies to include in our analysis. Most study data were collected through surveys administered to growers in developed countries. Quality assessment results showed that studies on this topic should be more rigorously conducted (e.g., powering sample sizes and training data collectors) to yield better quality evidence. Agricultural waters were the most common environmental characteristic assessed, with many farms using unsafe water sources. Hygiene aids (e.g., accessible handwashing facilities), were lacking across many farms. Animal intrusion RMP were the least commonly assessed environmental characteristic. Only one study tested the relationship between on-farm environmental characteristics and RMP implementation reporting a positive relationship between accessible handwashing and worker hygiene practices.

Grower knowledge and perception of RMP combined with cost and ease in carrying out RMP might influence the availability of physical resources for proper RMP implementation. These results can inform practical interventions aimed to increase adoption of RMP on produce farms.

The relationship between environmental characteristics and risk management practices on produce farms: A systematic literature review


Dilhani Nisansala Jayawardhana 1 , Loan Thi Thanh Cao 2 , Thomas A. Yeargin 3 , Kristen E. Gibson 3 and Angela M. Fraser 1,*


A review of crisis management

The purpose of this study is to provide a comprehensive systematic literature review (SLR) of factors influencing crisis management (CM). The study attempts to assess the main areas that have been linked to and studied CM, and the research outlets that have been provided these research.

The study adopts a qualitative approach and uses SLR method to collect relevant data. The study surveyed 223 studies from different research outlets, including the most reputed publishers; Emerald, Wiley, Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, SAGE, and Inderscience. The extracted articles are categorized into 8 areas based on their effect on CM. The most important factors are communication and social media, which have 66 studies with 4039 citations, leadership which have 40 studies with 2315 citations, followed by knowledge, governance, information technology, strategic planning, and professional entities, which have 38, 24, 23, 16, and 16 manuscripts with 2109, 1738, 301, 548, and 160 citations, respectively.

The current study provides an open insight for academicians and researchers on the main areas of CM investigated by prior studies. It provides a novel contribution and comprehensive understating through highlighting what has been done and what is left to be done in respect to crisis management.

Factors influencing crisis management: A systematic review and synthesis for future research, 2021

Cogent Business and Management

Yahya Maresh H. Hazaa , Faozi A. Almaqtari & Abdullah Al-Swidi



Co-occurrence, co-localization, co-selection: Antimicrobial resistance in agriculture

Antibiotic resistance is a worldwide health risk, but the influence of animal agriculture on the genetic context and enrichment of individual antibiotic resistance alleles remains unclear.



Using quantitative PCR followed by amplicon sequencing, we quantified and sequenced 44 genes related to antibiotic resistance, mobile genetic elements, and bacterial phylogeny in microbiomes from U.S. laboratory swine and from swine farms from three Chinese regions.

We identified highly abundant resistance clusters: groups of resistance and mobile genetic element alleles that cooccur. For example, the abundance of genes conferring resistance to six classes of antibiotics together with class 1 integrase and the abundance of IS6100-type transposons in three Chinese regions are directly correlated. These resistance cluster genes likely colocalize in microbial genomes in the farms. Resistance cluster alleles were dramatically enriched (up to 1 to 10% as abundant as 16S rRNA) and indicate that multidrug-resistant bacteria are likely the norm rather than an exception in these communities. This enrichment largely occurred independently of phylogenetic composition; thus, resistance clusters are likely present in many bacterial taxa.

Furthermore, resistance clusters contain resistance genes that confer resistance to antibiotics independently of their particular use on the farms. Selection for these clusters is likely due to the use of only a subset of the broad range of chemicals to which the clusters confer resistance. The scale of animal agriculture and its wastes, the enrichment and horizontal gene transfer potential of the clusters, and the vicinity of large human populations suggest that managing this resistance reservoir is important for minimizing human risk.

Agricultural antibiotic use results in clusters of cooccurring resistance genes that together confer resistance to multiple antibiotics. The use of a single antibiotic could select for an entire suite of resistance genes if they are genetically linked. No links to bacterial membership were observed for these clusters of resistance genes. These findings urge deeper understanding of colocalization of resistance genes and mobile genetic elements in resistance islands and their distribution throughout antibiotic-exposed microbiomes. As governments seek to combat the rise in antibiotic resistance, a balance is sought between ensuring proper animal health and welfare and preserving medically important antibiotics for therapeutic use. Metagenomic and genomic monitoring will be critical to determine if resistance genes can be reduced in animal microbiomes, or if these gene clusters will continue to be coselected by antibiotics not deemed medically important for human health but used for growth promotion or by medically important antibiotics used therapeutically.

Clusters of antibiotic resistance genes enrich together stay together in swine agriculture

Timothy A. Johnsona,b,f, Robert D. Stedtfelda,c, Qiong Wanga, James R. Colea, Syed A. Hashshama,c, Torey Looftf, Yong-Guan Zhud,e, James M. Tiedjea,b


mBio, Volume 7, Number 2, doi: 10.1128/mBio.02214-15


A review on antimicrobial resistance in agriculture is also available.

In this article, the current knowledge and knowledge gaps in the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in livestock and plants and importance in terms of animal and human health are discussed. Some recommendations are provided for generation of the data required in order to develop risk assessments for AMR within agriculture and for risks through the food chain to animals and humans.

Sophie Thannera, David Drissnerb,  Fiona Walshc


mBio, Volume 7, Number 2, doi: 10.1128/mBio.02227-1


Imagine if this applied to food reviews: UK hotel guests outraged by fine for leaving bad review

A British budget hotel that fined a couple 100 pounds (AUD$180) for writing a bad review about it online has agreed to pay them back and drop its policy of penalising guests who do that, officials said.

bad.reviewTony and Jan Jenkinson told the BBC they discovered the charge on their credit card shortly after they called the hotel as a “filthy, dirty, rotten, stinking hovel” on the travel website TripAdvisor.

The Jenkinsons said that when they questioned the charge from the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool, a seaside town in north-western England, it pointed out the “no-bad-review policy” in its terms and conditions.

Blackpool Council, which investigated the case, said the hotel has now complied with its request to remove the policy.

Risk factors for microbial contamination in fruits and vegetables at the preharvest Level: A systematic review

An abstract from the current issue of Journal of Food Protection:

The objective of this study was to perform a systematic review of risk factors for contamination of fruits and vegetables with Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli O157:H7 at the preharvest level. Relevant studies were identified by searching six electronic databases: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CAB Abstracts, AGRIS, AGRICOLA, and FSTA, using the following thesaurus terms: L. monocytogenes, Salmonella, E. coli O157 AND fruit, vegetable. All search terms were exploded to find all related subheadings. To be eligible, studies had to be prospective controlled trials or observational studies at the preharvest level and had to show clear and sufficient information on the process in which the produce was contaminated. Of the 3,463 citations identified, 68 studies fulfilled the eligibility criteria. Most of these studies were on leafy greens and tomatoes. Six studies assessed produce contamination with respect to animal host-related risk factors, and 20 studies assessed contamination with respect to pathogen characteristics. Sixty-two studies assessed the association between produce contamination and factors related to produce, water, and soil, as well as local ecological conditions of the production location. While evaluations of many risk factors for preharvest-level produce contamination have been reported, the quality assessment of the reviewed studies confirmed the existence of solid evidence for only some of them, including growing produce on clay-type soil, the application of contaminated or non-pH-stabilized manure, and the use of spray irrigation with contaminated water, with a particular risk of contamination on the lower leaf surface. In conclusion, synthesis of the reviewed studies suggests that reducing microbial contamination of irrigation water and soil are the most effective targets for the prevention and control of produce contamination. Furthermore, this review provides an inventory of the evaluated risk factors, including those requiring more research.

Journal of Food Protection®, Volume 75, Number 11, November 2012 , pp. 2055-2081(27)

Park, Sangshin; Szonyi, Barbara; Gautam, Raju; Nightingale, Kendra; Anciso, Juan; Ivanek, Renata

California restaurants decry ‘Yelp extortion’

Continuing with the gangster theme, mobster hacks are using the Internet to collect points.

The Sacramento Bee reported a few days ago that restaurant owner Sonny Mayugba was given an offer he almost could not refuse two weeks ago.

Not by a local gangster, but by a user of a popular online review site, Yelp.com.

Mayugba said the user threatened to blast the Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar at 2718 J St., which Mayugba co-owns, on Yelp because he believed he and his party got food poisoning from their meals.

Mayugba said it was impossible to prove whether the man got food poisoning from the restaurant but offered to give him a $60 gift card to a restaurant of his choice. The man said he deserved $100. If the restaurant did not pay up, he said he would write a bad Yelp review and report him to health authorities.

Is what happened to the Red Rabbit Kitchen an isolated case? Or has the growth in popularity of restaurant review websites – which allow anyone to write and rate restaurants from one to five stars – created a new way for some people to get preferential treatment.

Restaurant owners say online websites have changed consumer behavior as many people rely more on citizen reviews than on reviews of professional critics or advertisements. Yelp had a monthly average of more than 71 million unique visitors and 27 million reviews worldwide this year from January to the end of March, the company said.

In the end, Mayugba said, he refused to give the man anything and is not sure if the man posted a review on Yelp. But he said the experience made him rethink the value of Yelp and websites like it, which he said he loves.

"I was so upset," Mayugba said. "He was taking something that was inherently good to use it as a tool to extort a restaurant. It was just so wrong."

Kristen Whisenand, public relations manager for Yelp, said in an email that the website allows for users and business owners to flag reviews that violate the website’s terms of service. If it is determined the review is fake, biased or malicious, it will be taken down.

"More people trust citizen reviews these days," said Mayugba, who started a social networking website for the restaurant industry in 2007.

"Social media is a wonderful thing for the world, but when its integrity is compromised, what is it worth?

Slander applies to Internet: legal warning over food-poison allegations in UK

A warning for armchair epidemiologists: people who make unsubstantiated allegations about food poisoning in reviews on user-generated websites such as TripAdvisor could face legal action.

“It’s almost impossible to say with any certainty that food poisoning came from any one meal, so making these kind of threats could potentially be libellous,” said Mark Harrington, chief executive of Check Safety First, a company specialising in food hygiene checks.

Mr Harrington told The Telegraph that fake restaurant reviews are being used to blackmail hoteliers. “There have been many reports that customers have blackmailed hoteliers by threatening to post false food-poisoning claims on TripAdvisor. It is scandalous.”

The news follows the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) ruling that TripAdvisor can no longer claim or imply that all its reviews can be trusted.

Kwikchex, a reputation management company that brought the case to the ASA on behalf of hoteliers and restaurateurs, said there were thousands of such allegations of food poisoning in Britain and U.S.

“Almost none are reported to the proper authorities, let alone substantiated,” said a spokesman. “Sometimes the reviewer believes it is the truth, but has not reported it and has no understanding of gastro-intestinal infections.

“They usually just pick on the last place where they ate, when in fact the incubation period for such infections is usually one to two days and sometimes as long as a week.”

The spokesman added that this type of allegation can be used by competitors and disgruntled ex-employees to harm the business.

Can you cope? On-line reviews

Last May, it was reported that 195 of the 580 people served Easter Brunch at Luciano’s Cotton Club in Worcester, Mass. were struck by norovirus contracted from a sick employee, and the incident was chronicled on Yelp and a food safety site called barfblog.com.

“I would really drive home the point that they had a problem, investigated to determine what it is, and outlined a plan for what we’re going to do from now on,” said Gregory Charland, founder and chief executive officer of Charland Technology, a Hubbardston-based company offering a wide range of technology services. “Organizations should use problems like that to really do some soul searching and figure out how and why this happened. The overriding concept to underline is that they are never going to have their name in the news about this again.”

(Hint, and it’s in the blog post: don’t let sick employees work, even at an Easter buffet).

Alex Barbosa, the restaurant’s manager, declined comment.

That’s one anecdote in a story about on-line reviewing, which some love and some hate.

Alec Lopez dislikes consumer-driven review websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon.

The owner of Armsby Abey in Worcester, Mass. said, “I don’t read reviews often,” Mr. Lopez said. “I hate Yelp because it’s an unanswered forum for people to bitch. I feel like it’s a green light to voice your opinion without consequences.”

Worcester native Andrew Chandler, a 29-year-old medical student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, had an unpleasant dining experience at Armsby Abbey, and chronicled it on Yelp.

“I was really sad to have done it, but I think that when a place isn’t responsive or accommodating, people should know about it. I was hoping Armsby Abbey would read it and respond. I think it goes a long way if a manager explains what the circumstances were, and how they’ll prevent the problem from happening again. Today, online reviews can make or break a customer’s decision.”

In September, Harvard Business School professor Michael Luca released research that found a one-star rating increase on Yelp directly led to a 5 percent to 9 percent boost in revenue for independent restaurants, with comparable projections for independents in other industries. Despite the growing influence of Yelp and similar websites, business owners like Mr. Lopez continue to ignore — or worse, incorrectly address — negative feedback when it comes in the form of an online review.

With 61 million monthly visitors and 22 million reviews online by the end of the third quarter last year, Yelp is the most popular online review destination for everything from dentists to dieticians. Yelp’s popularity is proof that consumers trust reviews written by the average Joe, and enjoy contributing their own 2 cents.

Wilson Wang, chef and owner of Baba Sushi in Worcester, said he checks online reviews of his restaurant “all the time,” monitoring what diners like — and don’t like.

Mr. Wang, whose customers’ reviews currently rank Baba Sushi 4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp.com, said he doesn’t respond personally to people’s comments but rather sees such reviews “as a mirror” to reveal what could be done better. “We are on the high level and we are really proud,” he said last week.

Yelp and websites like it open the door for independent businesses with limited marketing budgets, giving them an opportunity to advertise through old-fashioned word of mouth in a high-tech world. They offer a safety net to consumers who, with a few keystrokes, can be reassured that trying something new — rather than falling back on the reliability of a chain — won’t be a waste of their money.

“Every time I’ve given a negative review and gotten some sort of constructive, non-judgmental response, I’ve made it a point to go back to whatever business it was and give them a clean slate,” said Amy Jamieson, a 42-year-old Yelp user and homemaker from Worcester. “If they’re willing to try again, so am I.”

Food, Inc. misses the mark: Food is a business

Two weeks ago I went to see Food, Inc. with a couple of food safety colleagues. Reference to the documentary pops up daily on blogs and listservs — most remark on how it will change buying patterns, it’s the modern-day version of The Jungle, and is a wake-up call to consumers about food.

I just don’t see it.

What I got out of the Food, Inc. experience (beyond some pretty decent popcorn) is that the food system is complex and that there are multiple influences — including business.

The documentary jumped around from issue to issue: chicken production is inhumane; food is controlled by corporations, corporations want to hide what they do from you; cheap food is bad for you; cheap food is unsafe; food could be produced more sustainably; corn is bad; corn is controlled by corporations; Monsanto is evil, etc.

It all spun out of control, concepts were oversimplified (like pathogenic E. coli appeared out of nowhere because of corn-fed beef and buying organic food is the way to go — but it also all comes from the big, controlling corporations, so maybe don’t buy it) and it left me empty at the end.

I guess I’m getting tired of the polarized representation of food issues, without the discussion of trade-offs or presentation of data.

The food safety story that was woven throughout the movie was of Kevin Kowalcyk, a 2-year-old boy who tragically died from an E. coli O157 infection linked to recalled ground beef. The horrible story needs to be told but the connection that was made to the other vignettes was tenuous. Kevin’s story deserves a movie all its own.

There were winners (Walmart looked great to me, especially around their frank discussion of organic foods) and losers (big chicken producers Tyson and Perdue who reportedly didn’t participate in the documentary). Being part of the documentary was a great opportunity for the big players to open up their doors and tell their stories.

Flashing text at the end of the movie spelled out the main message for those who weren’t following along: food buyers have choices. This definitely fits in with a lot of what we’ve written about, and isn’t new — encourage individuals to ask questions about where their food comes from (what conditions it is grown under , what the producer/retailer/cook/server knows about food safety). Demanding labels (as was mentioned) isn’t nearly enough — we should be provided with data and a chance to make an informed choice.