Not dead yet: Future of barfblog.com

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

That famous quote, often wrongly ascribed to Albert Einstein, is believed to have originated with Narcotics Anonymous in 1981 (the same year I began university).

In addition to helping raise five daughters, providing endless relationship entertainment to the folks I played pick-up hockey with back in Guelph (that’s pre-Amy, who is playing pick-up as I write this), helping teach lots of kids how to skate, influencing lotsa students (good and bad, not much in-between), pissing off lotsa bureaucrats and industry types, publishing lots of peer-reviewed stuff that still gets cited daily and almost 15,000 barfblog.com posts, I did news.

Food Safety Network news, long before wannabes.

For 26 years I’ve done news.

And always referenced the evidence, or lack thereof.

Until others do the same, they’re just plagiarists.

I combined my background in molecular biology with some journalism experience, and I carved out a path in food safety.

The vision I always had for food safety information, all those years ago, was what I heard about daily – and often directly: How the hell was I supposed to know?

We mined the world (I used Compuserve to get access to the AP wires and others back in the days before Google, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s MMWR would take six months to arrive by mail, when those who needed to know should have had the information as soon as possible).

I am intensely loyal to the kids, er, students, that flourished and maybe we’ll write a book; or maybe not.

I did my best, even when my best wasn’t good enough.

I still love it – I haven’t been paid in over two years — but someone else should be in charge.

I have early-onset dementia, I have other health issues, so rather than submit any more family members to, I’ve got to do news, I am going to step away while I can.

Of the 15,287 barfblog.com posts, I authored (or cut and paste) 13,070 since 2005. That’s 86 per cent, or an ice hockey goalie save percentage of .8549, which isn’t great (should be over .91) but doesn’t exactly suck, because this isn’t hockey.

It’s something different.

And time for me to do something different.

I may still write, maybe about food safety, maybe about other things, maybe about the probability of monkeys flying out of my butt.

But for now, I’ve got other priorities.

Ben can figure out what to do and what he wants to do.

It’s been an honor and a privilege to share your computer screens, maybe even your brain space, and improve food safety, one tip-sensitive digital thermometer, one less serving of raw sprouts, and one calling out of bullshit advice, at a time.

Peace and love.

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Why whole genome sequencing is important for food safety

In 1999, I gave a talk to hundreds of farm leaders in Ottawa and told them that DNA fingerprinting – via PulseNet – would revolutionize foodborne illness outbreak investigations and that farmers better be prepared (the pic is from a 2003 awards ceremony where I was acknowledged for my outreach and extension efforts, the hair was fabulous).

Twenty years later and whole genome sequencing is even further piecing together disparate outbreaks.

Joanie Stiers of Farm Flavor writes that Michigan’s laboratory toolbox now includes whole-genome sequencing, allowing public health officials to stop the spread of foodborne illness faster than ever.

Since January of 2017, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has actively used whole-genome sequencing to precisely identify illness-causing pathogens and defend against widespread outbreaks of foodborne diseases.

MDARD’s Geagley Laboratory works in tandem with laboratories in the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s GenomeTrakr network, which allows global collaboration in the fight against foodborne illness.

“With food now being distributed worldwide, illness can be spread from anywhere in the world,” says Ted Gatesy, laboratory manager of the microbiology section at Geagley Lab, which houses the whole-genome sequencing. “Using whole-genome sequencing, an illness can be tracked, for the most part, to the point in the food chain where it originated.

Washing does almost nothing, except remove the snot from the 3-year-old who sneezed on it

This is a risk communication embarrassment.

Stop Foodborne Illness published this thing the other day, about Rylee & Rusty (not sue if those names were chosen by focus group).

Anyone who writes in all caps is compensating for something, just like I’ve always told my daughters, anyone who says trust me is immediately untrustworthy.

One day when Rylee and Rusty were walking home after school, Rusty pulled an apple out of his bag and started to take a bite. Rylee, grabbing his arm asked, “Hey! Did you wash that?” “I dunno. My mom probably did,” Rusty replied completely puzzled. “HOW old are you?” Rylee asked. “You know food safety is everybody’s responsibility,” she exclaimed with exasperation. “Oh Rylee!” Rusty replied with a shrug of his shoulders, “Why are you making such a big deal out of this?” With her hands on her hips Rylee scowled at him and raised her voice, “WHY am I making a BIG DEAL?!” “Yeah, why?” he asked, calm as ever. “You have heard of E. coli O157:H7, right?” For a minute there Rylee sounded like Ms. Coffman, but then she said, “I sit next to you in science class every day Rustin Archibald Brown. Have you not been listening?” Rusty replied with an uncertain, “No?” “Well,” Rylee said, “E. coli is a kind of bacteria that can make you really sick. So sick, in fact… that if you had to choose between cleaning your room or being sick from E. coli, you’d pick cleaning your room any day of the week!” “That’s pretty sick,” said Rusty, “I hate cleaning my room.” Rylee continued, “Your stomach feels like an elephant is standing on it, you’re puking your guts out, and… well, let’s just say ya make a big mess in the bathroom.” “What did she just say?” he thought to himself. Clutching his stomach Rusty groaned, “Yuck! RY-LEE, stop!” Rylee paused for just a second to take a breath and then Rusty cut in, No more.

BS: Academics feel the invisible hand of politicians and big agriculture

Another takedown piece on conspiracies rather than science.

I got lots of money from big ag and was never compromised in my evidence-based writings.

70 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, not a lot, but not bad, since they get cited daily, somewhere (thanks to Amy for keeping me up to date, I admit I’m somewhat humbled but also don’t care; I know what we did).

Kate Cox and Claire Brown of The Guardian write that in a windowless conference room epidemiologist Steve Wing was frantically blacking out chunks of his own research.

Wing had been working on a study looking into the impacts of industrial-scale hog operations on health for the University of North Carolina. But the state’s Pork Council had caught wind of the research, and filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) to gain access to his findings. “They went after Steve, asking him to turn over any documentation. They went directly to the university and got the lawyers to try and make him hand it over,” says Naeema Muhammad, one of Wing’s community partners.

I consulted on risk communication activities for the U.S. National Pork Board back in the 1990s or thereabouts. I received no money.

The others on the advisory committee were honest and devoted to their research.

Academia don’t pay much (and when it does, they find a reason to dump ya).

Me, I always spoke my mind and never felt any industry pressure – the only pressure I got was from green groups culminating in death threats taped to my lab door.

We had to involve the university cops, which was somewhat hilarious because a couple of grad students had bailed me out of jail or other situations (should be a grad student requirement).

Yes I took money. Yes we did good research that was published in peer-reviewed journals (and sometimes won awards). Yes, like my four Canadian daughters, those students have gone on to have remarkable and varying lives.

Look how young Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn are in this Stax Records clip.

Trump gets his news here: Fox News host says he has not washed his hands in 10 years ‘Germs are not a real thing’

To the chagrin of his co-hosts, Fox and Friends presenter Pete Hegseth told the show’s audience Sunday morning that he hasn’t washed his hands in a decade.

Katherine Hignett of Newsweek writes the revelation came after co-hosts Ed Henry and Jedediah Bila questioned Hegseth’s off-camera consumption of pizza left out after National Pizza Day Saturday. Hegseth had argued that pizza “lasts for a long time.”

Bila then quipped Hegseth “might take a chomp out of” anything on a table “that’s not nailed down”—including mugs.

“My 2019 resolution is to say things on air that I say off air… I don’t think I’ve washed my hands for 10 years. Really, I don’t really wash my hands ever,” Hegseth continued, prompting laughter from his co-hosts.

“Someone help me,” Bila said. “Oh man.”

“I inoculate myself. Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them. Therefore the’re not real,” Hegseth said.  

“So you’re becoming immune to all of the bacteria,” Bila replied, rolling her eyes. “My dad has that theory too.”

Hegseth later shared a Tweet in support of his unusual concept of health and hygiene with the hashtag “DontWash.”

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that handwashing is a vital way to prevent the transmission of disease. By washing your hands—especially after using the bathroom—you prevent the spread of harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli that can persist in tiny, invisible particles of human feces

It’s also important to wash your hands after handling raw meat, as this can harbor germs leftover from animal feces.

“A single gram of human feces—which is about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs,” the CDC reports.

Filion, K., KuKanich, K.S., Chapman, B., Hardigree, M.K., and Powell, D.A. 2011. Observation-based evaluation of hand hygiene practices and the effects of an intervention at a public hospital cafeteria. American Journal of Infection Control 39(6): 464-470.

Background

Hand hygiene is important before meals, especially in a hospital cafeteria where patrons may have had recent contact with infectious agents. Few interventions to improve hand hygiene have had measureable success. This study was designed to use a poster intervention to encourage hand hygiene among health care workers (HCWs) and hospital visitors (HVs) upon entry to a hospital cafeteria.

Methods

Over a 5-week period, a poster intervention with an accessible hand sanitizer unit was deployed to improve hand hygiene in a hospital cafeteria. The dependent variable observed was hand hygiene attempts. Study phases included a baseline, intervention, and follow-up phase, with each consisting of 3 randomized days of observation for 3 hours during lunch.

Results

During the 27 hours of observation, 5,551 participants were observed, and overall hand hygiene frequency was 4.79%. Hygiene attempts occurred more frequently by HCWs than HVs (P = .0008) and females than males (P = .0281). Hygiene attempts occurred more frequently after poster introduction than baseline (P = .0050), and this improvement was because of an increase in frequency of HV hand hygiene rather than HCW hand hygiene.

Conclusion

The poster intervention tool with easily accessible hand sanitizer can improve overall hand hygiene performance in a US hospital cafeteria.

Wilson, S.M., Jacob, C.J. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Behavior-change interventions to improve hand hygiene practice: A review. Critical Public Health 21: 119-127.

http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a934338802~db=all~jumptype=rss

Despite the role of hand hygiene in preventing infectious disease, compliance remains low. Education and training are often cited as essential to developing and maintaining hand-hygiene compliance, but generally have not produced sustained improvements. Consequently, this literature review was conducted to identify alternative interventions for compelling change in hand-hygiene behavior. Of those, interventions employing social pressures have demonstrated varying influence on an individual’s behavior, while interventions that focus on organizational culture have demonstrated positive results. However, recent research indicates that handwashing is a ritualized behavior mainly performed for self-protection. Therefore, interventions that provoke emotive sensations (e.g., discomfort, disgust) or use social marketing may be the most effective.

Evidence-based barf: Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop on new Netflix show

My friend, Timothy Caufield, a prof at the University of Alberta and author of, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything? will get loads of material from this after the Goopster confirmed with ABC News that she had signed a deal with Netflix that would see 30-minute episodes of a docuseries focused on physical and spiritual wellness.

CULVER CITY, CA – JUNE 09: Gwyneth Paltrow speaks onstage at the In goop Health Summit at 3Labs on June 9, 2018 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for goop)

Set to air later this year, Paltrow and Goop chief content officer Elise Loehnen will co-host the show and talk to experts, doctors and researchers. The pair already have a popular podcast series.

Paltrow started the company more than 10 years ago and has been criticised for promoting products like jade eggs, that Goop alleged improved vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance and chi, but which health practitioners warned were dangerous.

Other health practices Paltrow and Goop have promoted include vaginal steaming, bee sting facials, bio frequency stickers (to “rebalance the energy frequency in our bodies”) and earthing.

She was married to that singer from Coldplay, and they suck.

Speaks volumes.

Going public: Norovirus ‘sweet spot’ at Pennsylvania college

“It hit me like a train wreck.” This is how one of the many infected students described his symptoms of what is likely norovirus.

Stool tests performed on those who are ill haven’t confirmed this diagnosis, but Director of Health Services Dr. Goldstein said that norovirus is “likely” the culprit of the students’ symptoms, which include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Resident Advisors on campus have reported 103 cases of students having contracted the debilitating stomach bug as of Wednesday evening, according to Goldstein, Director of Health Services.

Goldstein first notified the campus community about the virus in a campus-wide email sent Monday, Feb. 4 at 2:40 p.m., but didn’t name the illness as norovirus at that time.

Some students, however, felt this email did not come soon enough. Haley Matthes ‘19 voiced her frustrations and warned students to be aware of its spreading in a post in the Lafayette College Class of 2019 Facebook group on Feb. 2.

“I’m just tired of the school waiting for a campus-wide sickness to escalate to a point where they need to send out a bulletin [or] cancel classes,” Matthes said in a follow-up email.

Matthes was also upset that extended hours weren’t offered at Bailey Health Center.

Several students in the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity have also had the virus. According to Mikey Burke ‘21, approximately 12 to 15 members of the fraternity had contracted the virus as of Tuesday, although he said he expected that number to grow.

“I think it just spread really quickly throughout the house, it originated there and spread to a lot of the brotherhood, I live in McKeen and only hung out at the [Phi Psi] house for a couple hours…and got sick,” Burke said in an email.

Bobby Longo ‘21, another Phi Psi fraternity member to have the virus, said he believed the email warning on Monday was “too late.”

“Norovirus is an extremely contagious stomach virus that spreads like wildfire. After the first or second case on campus we should have been notified… it ramps up as people go from class to class spreading it,” Longo said in an email.

According to Goldstein, his level of concern about the virus was raised when the health center began receiving phone calls and emails from concerned students and parents, as the health center was “not overwhelmed” by the number of students coming to Bailey about the virus. 

Goldstein said he wanted to find a “sweet spot” of not raising a level of hysteria but also communicating with the students. He decided to send the campus-wide email more based on “the feedback from students,” Goldstein said.

“I think what’s happening is students are self-treating and getting through this without needing to see a provider, but the numbers are pretty significant on campus. The students communicating with me was a good thing,” he said.

According to Goldstein, reports from Resident Advisors and Bailey total a little over 150, but Goldstein said there may be overlap among these reports, if for example, a student both went to Bailey and reported their illness to their RA.

While Goldstein said that the discussion of the school closing “hasn’t happened yet,” he believes certain social gatherings will be cancelled if the virus continues spreading rapidly. One event, the Lunar New Year dumpling making party hosted by ISA and ACA, was cancelled on Tuesday as a result of the spreading sickness.

University students’ hand hygiene practice during a gastrointestinal outbreak in residence: What they say they do and what they actually do
01.sep.09
Journal of Environmental Health Sept. issue 72(2): 24-28
Brae V. Surgeoner, MS, Benjamin J. Chapman, PhD, and Douglas A. Powell, PhD

Abstract
Published research on outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness has focused primarily on the results of epidemiological and clinical data collected postoutbreak; little research has been done on actual preventative practices during an outbreak. In this study, the authors observed student compliance with hand hygiene recommendations at the height of a suspected norovirus outbreak in a university residence in Ontario, Canada. Data on observed practices was compared to post-outbreak self-report surveys administered to students to examine their beliefs and perceptions about hand hygiene. Observed compliance with prescribed hand hygiene recommendations occurred 17.4% of the time. Despite knowledge of hand hygiene protocols and low compliance, 83.0% of students indicated that they practiced correct hand hygiene during the outbreak. To proactively prepare for future outbreaks, a current and thorough crisis communications and management strategy, targeted at a university student audience and supplemented with proper hand washing tools, should be enacted by residence administration.

Healthcare types: Contrary to what you’ve been taught, use social media

Joshua Mansour, M.D., a board-certified hematologist and oncologist in Stanford, California doing work in the field of  hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cellular immunotherapy (left, exactly as shown), writes in this contributed piece, from the beginning of medical school, one of the first things instructional videos that we had to watch during orientation was about social media and what not to do.  There began this stigma and it was frowned upon to use social media if you were a healthcare provider. 

There are the obvious things that physicians should not do, such as post private information about patients, show a patient’s face without their permission, or exploit medically sensitive information.  But no one tells you what you can do and possibly what you actually should do. 

There is a new wave that has now taken over that we as a healthcare community and a community as a whole should support, especially if it is meant to help others. Most recently I have approached social media in a different way and gone out to explore what is available as a tool to help others.  What I’m finding has been mind-blowing and I am very excited to see where it continues to progress in the future. 

People are sharing their journeys, inspiring others, raising awareness.  There is a whole community of individuals working as a team to help others.  It is incredibly inspiring. 

Before recently I had thought of social media as being full of people only posting pictures of fun trips or nights out, throwing out their opinions out into the open for people to see.  We now have social impact movements, live videos with question and answers for students, people showing their tough times and how they are overcoming them.  People are reaching out to others for encouragement, collaborations, and progress. Using it to spread the message.  With the busy days of many healthcare professionals, it is difficult for them to find the time to engage with social media and with others.  There are many healthcare providers that are making an impact and finding the time to do it.  

What we need to start teaching in medical school and in other schools in not only what not to do on social media, but how to use social media in a positive light.  This is something that is happening and only continuing to grow.  It is time to get on board but shine the light in a positive manner.  Teach students from early what to do instead of only what not to do.  You never know they may be able to influence people in a way like never before. 

Recently I have recently been able to connect with others across the world and learn new things about medicine and how it is practiced in those locations.  This will help me evolve as a physician as well and has helped my patients. 

When it starts to fall apart it really falls apart: McCain Foods closes California facility responsible for 2018’s largest food safety recall

On Oct. 14, 2018, McCain Foods initiated a creeping crawling outbreak of processing vegetables from its Colton Calif. plant that lasted six weeks.

Now that plant has been closed.

Early in Jan., 2019, Sam Bloch of New Food Economy wrote that the Colton facility produced commercial ingredients—the invisible mortar of the food system.

You might not know McCain, but you’ve probably eaten its food. The multi-billion-dollar foodservice corporation, based in Toronto, Ontario (that’s in Canada), manufactures frozen foods—primarily potatoes, but also fruits and vegetables, pizzas, juices, and various oven meals—in 53 plants around the world.

(Bloch writes that McCain brags that one in every four French fries eaten globally is McCain. Bloch could have done a little digging and found that the McCain family are an on-going soap-opera of Machiavellian proportions, in Canadian terms, rivalled only by the Seagram family who made their fortune running booze to the U.S. during U.S. Prohibition. Oh, and the McCain family also killed genetically-engineered Bt potatoes which would have offered some chemical relief to the steams and environment, especially in Eastern Canada, but that’s another story. Back to the veggies).

In October a number of grocery stores, from Whole Foods to Walmart, pulled thousands of branded salads, wraps and burritos, from their shelves, out of concern over roasted corn and onion ingredients that may have been contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

Combined, the McCain recalls will affect over 99 million pounds of food.

Now Bloch writes McCain has closed its Colton, California plant, which had processed the vegetables, including chopped onions, peppers, and roasted corn, and sold them as ingredients to commercial kitchens and food manufacturers all over the country. The recalls spread to what seemed like every aisle of the supermarket, from prepackaged salads at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to cheese dips and frozen Kashi grain bowls. The total amount of product affected exceeds 100 million pounds, making it the largest recall of 2018, and perhaps of recent memory.  

McCain announced the plant’s closure on January 11, which, according to a statement from the company, will result in layoffs for 100 employees. In an email to The New Food Economy, Andrea Davis, a McCain spokeswoman confirmed the recall influenced the decision to close the plant,but said there were other factors involved.

“The product mix produced at the Colton facility does not support the changing needs of our portfolio,” Davis wrote. “While the recent recall was one consideration, the decision to permanently close the facility was ultimately a business decision.”

It is not clear exactly when the plant will be closed, and McCain representatives could not be reached for further comment by press time.  

The facility in question had a history of food safety violations.

Of course they did.

Spot the mistake: How things went wrong for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver

I never was a disciple of the Jamie Oliver ministry, or any other celebrity chef that knows shit about food safety (which is most of them, see the abstract from our 2004 paper, below).

Alexis Carey of The Courier Mail writes that when Jamie Oliver first landed on our TV screens back in 1999, he soon won over millions of fans thanks to his delicious recipes and cheeky, boyish charm.

Countless television appearances and cooking programs quickly followed his original series, The Naked Chef, along with cookbooks, advertising deals, charity campaigns and even his own chain of restaurants.

But today, a string of controversies coupled with multimillion-dollar losses has meant the shine has well and truly started to come off the 43-year-old Brit.

So how did it all go so wrong for one of the world’s best-loved celebrity chefs?

According to Aussie public relations expert Catriona Pollard, Oliver’s downfall was caused by a series of classic PR blunders including overexposure, a disconnect between his actions and his personal brand and a failure to address a number of controversies head-on.

Over the years, the father-of-five built a restaurant empire under the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, starting with the launch of Jamie’s Italian in 2008, followed by the Recipease cooking school and deli chain in 2009 and barbecue chain Barbecoa in 2011.

But in September 2017, Oliver was forced to inject $22.7 million of his own cash into Jamie’s Italian to save it from collapsing.

All Recipease outlets were closed by late 2015 and last February Barbecoa Ltd went into administration.

Ms Pollard said one possible reason behind those failures was the mismatch between Oliver’s “average Joe” identity and the up-market feel of his eateries.

The collapse of Oliver’s restaurants have affected his own personal brand.

“You can buy one of his books for $20, or watch his TV show for free. But a lot of his restaurants sold expensive meals … which didn’t really stack up for people,” she told news.com.au.

She said there was also a divide between Oliver’s relatable image and his staggering fortune, estimated to be around $441 million.

“His personal brand is very much the ‘everyday lad’, but that doesn’t convert to a businessman who is so wealthy. There’s a disconnect between his everyday persona and his wealth,” she said.

Ms Pollard said it had also been a mistake to link his name so closely to his restaurants, as their failure was now inextricably linked to his personal reputation.

Last year Oliver was accused of hypocrisy after signing a lucrative, $9.1 million deal with oil giant Shell to revamp its service station food offering.

But as Oliver had long been a supporter of climate change action, many considered a partnership with an oil company to be a serious betrayal.

Ms Pollard said Oliver’s decision to ignore the growing furore added another blow to his reputation.

Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.