‘Human cheese’ from celebrity skin bacteria

Of course Heston I-didn’t-sicken-550-people-wth-Norovirus Blumenthal would be vain enough to sign up to have cheese made from his skin – his groin area.

I’m a big fan of fermentations but am also a big fan of using knowledge and experience to improve on basic biological phenomena.

Bettina Makalintal of Vice writes that people have been fermenting for at least 9,200 years, and yet, not everyone’s convinced. The process requires bacteria, which can result in funky sights and smells, squicking some people out. Still, it’s safe to say that fermentation advocates have done a good job of turning people on to the magic of microbes: dry-aged beef is on high-end restaurant menus, and more and more people reap the illness flavor rewards of raw-milk cheese.

A new exhibit at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum called “Food: Bigger than the Plate” shows off not only a toilet made of cow manure and an edible water bottle, but also “human cheese.” The latter is made using human bacteria. And not just any human bacteria, but celebrity bacteria

Most cheese is made using starter cultures, bacteria that curdle the milk, and often, those starters come from a packet. For the V&A’s five “human cheeses,” however, that bacteria came from celebrities, who had their skin swabbed in the name of science and truly funky cheese: from baker and food writer Ruby Tandoh to chef Heston Blumenthal to Blur’s Alex James, a cheesemaker himself. (British rapper Professor Green and Suggs of the ska band Madness also contributed.) It’s “like a celebrity selfie in cheese form,” reads V&A’s blog.

The point, the museum says, is to challenge people’s “squeamishness” and to enhance “our appreciation of the microbial world.”

Turkey skin is the deliciousness part – and a Salmonella source

Turkey skin is used as a source of fat in finished ground turkey products. Salmonella-contaminated skin may potentially disseminate this pathogen to ground turkey. The objective of this study was to determine and compare Salmonella levels (presence and numbers) associated with the skin of turkey parts (i.e., drumstick, thigh, and wing).

turkey.tom.bradyOver a 10-month period, 20 turkey flocks expected to be highly contaminated with Salmonella based on boot-sock testing data of turkey houses were sampled. A total of 300 samples per type of turkey part were collected post-chill and were tested for Salmonella using the most-probable-number (MPN) and enrichment methods.

Overall, Salmonella was detected in 13.7, 19.7, and 25.0% of drumstick skin, thigh skin, and wing skin samples, respectively. Salmonella prevalence from wing skin was significantly higher (P < 0.05) than in drumstick skin, but the difference was not significant (P > 0.05) when compared with thigh skin. Salmonella was 2.4 times more likely to be present from thigh skin (odds ratio = 2.4; P < 0.05) when the pathogen was found from wing skin. Salmonella mean numbers from drumstick, thigh, and wing were 1.18, 1.29, and 1.45 log MPN per sample, respectively; these values were not significantly different (P > 0.05).

Based on our findings, the high prevalence of Salmonella associated with the skin of turkey parts could be a potential source for ground turkey contamination.

Salmonella levels associated with skin of turkey parts

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 5, May 2016, pp. 696-889, pp. 801-805(5)

Peng, Ye; Deng, Xiang Y.; Harrison, Mark A.; Alali, Walid Q.