‘You can tell by the way I use my walk I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk’ Demographics suck

I’ve never been one for survey-dictated demographics. Born at the end of the baby boom, too early for what ever came next, all I know is I had to suffer through disco in high school.

chipotle.slide.jan.16Despite some grammatical mistakes, I sorta got it right when talking about Chipotle.

NPR says the WastED salad has been available at Sweetgreen restaurants, making use of the restaurants scraps – broccoli leaves, carrot ribbons, roasted kale stems, romaine hearts, roasted cabbage cores, roasted broccoli stalks and roasted bread butts all mixed with arugula, Parmesan, spicy sunflower seeds and pesto vinaigrette.

I wanna barf.

Both consumers and food purveyors are focused on removing GMOs, artificial ingredients, preservatives, antibiotics and growth hormones from food. Even fast-food outlets are using more eggs from cage-free chickens and dumping ingredients that have been genetically modified.

Millenials – now more numerous than Baby Boomers – have a huge impact. The corporate food world is keenly interested in how and what this large group of consumers eats. And they do buy and eat differently than older generations. They order ingredients online, learn to cook from You Tube as well as cookbooks and websites. They care about the environment, ethical treatment of animals and community. They frequently use food delivery services rather than going to the supermarket, and order meal kits that deliver prepared ingredients.

Do they care about food safety?

Surveys still suck: And what would those educational programs be?

Foodborne illness is a global public health issue.

shuttle.bus.vomitYoung adults may work in foodservice while they are university students, and their habits may later shape the practices and well-being of their children. The objective of this study was to establish baseline data and assess the food safety knowledge of 18- to 26-year-old Univ. of Maine students.

Demographic questions and the previously validated Food Safety Knowledge Questionnaire (FSKQ) were placed online. Of 123 people who responded to the email recruitment notice, 104 Univ. of Maine undergraduates aged 18 to 26 years completed the survey. The average score among all participants was 60% correct (53 points out of a possible 89 points). Survey questions that required participants to identify common sources of foodborne pathogens had the lowest average percent correct (31%). Less than 50% of participants were able to correctly identify several high-risk foods, including sliced melon, raw sprouts, and unpasteurized fruit juice.

Our findings indicate a need for educational programs for 18- to 26-year-old Univ. of Maine students in regards to common sources of foodborne pathogens and proper handling of fresh produce and that food safety knowledge among university students has not improved since publication of a national survey using the FSKQ in 2006. Effective educational programs are needed to ensure that young adults understand food risks and appropriate food handling practices.

Assessing the food safety knowledge of University of Maine students

Journal of Food Science Education, Volume 15, Issue 1, pages 14–22, January 2016, DOI: 10.1111/1541-4329.12076

Chelsea C. Ferk, Beth L. Calder, and Mary Ellen Camire


Surveys suck: Consumers don’t accurately report what they do in kitchen

Research utilizing both survey and observational techniques has found that consumers do not accurately report their own food handling behaviors. The goal of this study was to objectively observe conditions related to food safety risks and sanitation in domestic kitchens in an urban environment.

survey-saysSubjects (n = 100) were recruited from Philadelphia, PA. Homes were visited over a one-year period by two trained researchers using a previously developed audit tool to document conditions related to sanitation, refrigeration, and food storage.

Potential food safety risks identified included evidence of pest infestation (65%), perishable food stored at room temperature (16%), storage of raw meat above ready-to-eat foods (97% of homes where raw meat was present), and a lack of hot running water in the kitchen (3%). Compliance with correct refrigeration practices was also low, with 43% of refrigerator temperatures ≥ 41°F, and only 4% of refrigerators containing a thermometer. Consumers of minority race/ethnicity were more likely to have evidence of pest infestation in the home, lack a dishwasher and lack a cutting board in the kitchen, while Caucasian consumers were more likely to have an animal present in the kitchen during the audit visit.

 Visual audit of food safety hazards present in homes in an urban environment

Food Protection Trends, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 290-301, July 2015

Patricia A. Borrusso, Shauna Henley, Jennifer J. Quinlan



Surveys still suck: Consumer-reported handling of raw poultry products at home

Salmonella and Campylobacter cause an estimated combined total of 1.8 million foodborne infections each year in the United States. Most cases of salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry or with cross-contamination. Between 1998 and 2008, 20% of Salmonella and 16% of Campylobacter foodborne disease outbreaks were associated with food prepared inside the home.

barfblog.Stick It InA nationally representative Web survey of U.S. adult grocery shoppers (n = 1,504) was conducted to estimate the percentage of consumers who follow recommended food safety practices when handling raw poultry at home. The survey results identified areas of low adherence to current recommended food safety practices: not washing raw poultry before cooking, proper refrigerator storage of raw poultry, use of a food thermometer to determine doneness, and proper thawing of raw poultry in cold water.

Nearly 70% of consumers reported washing or rinsing raw poultry before cooking it, a potentially unsafe practice because “splashing” of contaminated water may lead to the transfer of pathogens to other foods and other kitchen surfaces.

Only 17.5% of consumers reported correctly storing raw poultry in the refrigerator. Sixty-two percent of consumers own a food thermometer, and of these, 26% or fewer reported using one to check the internal temperature of smaller cuts of poultry and ground poultry. Only 11% of consumers who thaw raw poultry in cold water reported doing so correctly.

The study results, coupled with other research findings, will inform the development of science-based consumer education materials that can help reduce foodborne illness from Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 1, January 2015, pp. 4-234, pp. 180-186(7)

Kosa, Katherine M.; Cates, Sheryl C.; Bradley, Samantha; Chambers IV, Edgar; Godwin, Sandria


Survey says (and they suck) Florida worried about food safety

Floridians rank the importance of food safety behind only the economy and health care, according to a new study from the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education.

st.petersburg.florida.waterskiIn the online public opinions survey surrounding food-related issues in Florida, 85 percent of respondents said food safety was highly or extremely important. Floridians in the study ranked food safety third out of 15 identified issues, followed by food production practices at No. 9 and genetically modified food at No. 14. PIE Center researchers developed the 15-item index to track trends on how Floridians rank the importance of the issues over time.

Joy Rumble, an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication and the PIE Center researcher who led the study (seriously, more titles?) said, “They’re really concerned about food safety. That was a really important issue for them. Although GMOs seem like a big deal in the media, when compared to the 15 issues, respondents are ranking GMOs toward the bottom.”


Doug Archer, associate dean for research with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and a food safety expert told Southeast AgNetd that foodborne disease statistics suggest that Floridians may give themselves more credit for their food-handling habits than they deserve. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Florida’s foodborne-illness rate led the nation from 1998 to 2008, but this may be at least in part attributable to the outstanding reporting system of the Florida Department of Health and the counties.

“Given our rate of foodborne illness, I don’t think what they think they do is actually what they do,” Archer said.

The PIE Center will host a webinar at 2 p.m. on Dec. 17 to dive deeper into the food survey topic. Rumble and Archer will discuss the survey’s food safety results.

Then on Jan. 28 at 1 p.m., the center will host a second webinar with Rumble and Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal genomics and biotechnology expert from the University of California, Davis, to discuss the survey’s findings on genetically modified foods.

Learn more about the webinars at http://www.piecenter.com/easy-as-pie/.

Really? Canberra health inspectors get a big tick for their helpfulness

I don’t like surveys.

I really don’t like taxpayer-funded surveys that give public servants a big thumbs up.

Stephen-colbert-thumbs-up-500x281So I’m skeptical when The Canberra Times reports that Canberra’s food safety inspectors have received a tick of approval from local business operators, with 81 per cent reporting receiving effective and helpful advice from a special expert unit, even though there were two raw-egg based Salmonella outbreaks over the past couple of years in Canberra.

Were the operators advised by health types to not to use raw eggs in aioli or mayo?

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher will release the survey results on Monday. More than 2500 registered food businessess operate in the territory, the majority small businessess.

Last month the government introduced legislation which would remove charities, sporting clubs and community groups from some food safety regulations, no longer requiring them to appoint a food safety supervisor when fund-raising.

If approved by the ACT Legislative Assembly, some businesses selling only packaged and non-perishable foods, including cereals , breads and long life milk will no longer be required to register with ACT Health.

The changes come after a sustained community backlash in November 2013, when all charity groups holding more than five sausage sizzles a year were required to complete the costly training. 

The legislation would also see the health minister given the authority to exempt food businesses from appointing safety supervisors on a case-by-case basis and business registration extended to up to three years, in place of annual registration.

But about those raw eggs? There’s government advice, and then there’s enforcement.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at https://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx.

Surveys still suck: UK FSA published self-reported food safety behaviors

Self-reported food safety behaviors are as reliable as Joseph Smith using golden plates to translate the book of Mormon.

joseph.smith.mormonBut, the UK Food Standards Agency keeps cranking them out, so here are the lowlights:

• Those most likely to report food safety practices in line with FSA recommendations are: women, aged under 65 years, living in Northern Ireland, of white ethnicity, married or cohabiting.

• People in households with young children (under the age of five) are more likely to report behaviors in line with recommended food safety practice than those with older or no children.

• Half of those who currently access information on preparing and cooking food safely, receive this information from retailers and food producers, with slightly fewer citing TV and radio, friends and family, or books and newspapers.

• Men and those in the oldest age group (65+ years) are most likely to say they do not currently look for information on food safety.

While there is likely to be a link between knowledge and reported food safety behavior, there is little evidence of an association between attitudes and reported behavior.

Maybe FSA should stop wasting money on this?

Good title for journal paper: Surveys suck

I decided despite my undergraduate degree in molecular biology and genetics to stop writing about genetically engineered foods 12 years ago.

I still do now and then, but the public discussion doesn’t go anywhere; it’s not a food safety issue and I don’t have much to add.

So while N.Y. Times columnists and other foodies get all expansive about GE food, like the story about how Cheerios is going GE free (I’d prefer GE Cheerios for my kids, if that’s what they were going to eat while daddy was asleep) or how some lawmaker in Hawaii discovered there’s not much to this GE story, I focus on people who barf and sometimes die.

That’s microbial food safety.

But, just when I thought I was out, they suck me back in.

Powell, D.A. 2014. Surveys suck: Consumer preferences when purchasing genetically engineered foods. GM Crops and Food 4 (3): 195-201

Many studies have attempted to gauge consumers’ acceptance of genetically engineered or modified (GM) foods. Surveys, asking people about attitudes and intentions, are easy-to-collect proxies of consumer behavior. However, participants tend to respond as citizens of society, not discrete individuals, thereby inaccurately portraying their potential behavior. The Theory of Planned Behavior improved the accuracy of self-reported information, but its limited capacity to account for intention variance has been attributed to the hypothetical scenarios to which survey participants must respond. Valuation methods, asking how much consumers may be willing to pay or accept for GM foods, have revealed that consumers are usually willing to accept them at some price, or in some cases willing to pay a premium. Ultimately, it’s consumers’ actual—not intended—behavior that is of most interest to policy makers and business decision-makers. Real choice experiments offer the best avenue for revealing consumers’ food choices in normal life.

Is it always men? Norway says target men to change their food safety behaviors

I don’t see gender. Except in bed. A group of Norwegian researchers has concluded that to improve food safety, target men, and a strategy is needed to change their behavior and attitudes.

Doesn’t that apply to anything?

Typically, the Norse found “people with higher education reported man.food.idiotpoorer practices than those with lower or no education.”

So the education model is broken. And surveys suck.

Journal of Food Protection
Røssvoll, Elin Halbach1; Lavik, Randi2; Ueland, Øydis1; Jacobsen, Eivind2; Hagtvedt, Therese1; Langsrud, Solveig3

An informed consumer can compensate for several potential food safety violations or contaminations that may occur earlier in the food production chain. However, a consumer can also destroy the work of others in the chain by poor food handling practices, e.g., by storing chilled ready-to-eat foods at abusive temperatures. To target risk-reducing strategies, consumer groups with high-risk behavior should be identified.

The aim of this study was to identify demographic characteristics associated with high-risk food handling practices among Norwegian consumers. More than 2,000 randomly selected Norwegian consumers were surveyed, and the results were analyzed with a risk-based grading system, awarding demerit points for self-reported food safety violations. The violations were categorized into groups, and an ordinary multiple linear regression analysis was run on the summarized demerit score for each group and for the entire survey group as a whole.

Young and elderly men were identified as the least informed consumer groups with the most unsafe practices regarding food safety. Single persons reported poorer practices than those in a relationship. People with higher education reported poorer practices than those with lower or no education, and those living in the capital of Norway (Oslo) reported following more unsafe food practices than people living elsewhere in Norway. Men reported poorer food safety practices than women in all categories with two exceptions: parboiling raw vegetables before consumption and knowledge of refrigerator temperature. These findings suggest that risk-reducing measures should target men, and a strategy is needed to change their behavior and attitudes.

Ooey, Ooey, Ooey, Ooey Allergies

The Wiggles, Australia’s highest-grossing and soon to be retired musical act, played a farewell gig last week after an 18 month reunion of their original lineup. The make-up album brought a song about allergies that Sam, our two-year-old, likes with the line, You can have a reaction to foods that you eat, it can be really serious with shellfish nuts and seeds.

I don’t have any food allergies that I know of, but I’ve had a couple of reactions to ASA (the compound found in Aspirin) resulting in a body full of hives for six weeks. That sucked, but it was just an inconvenience. Food allergy sufferers have reactions somewhere on a continuum between this nuisance and death. If The Wiggles are an indicator, the recognition and public discussion around allergens has increased but along with the attention comes a potentially dangerous attitude that an allergy isn’t severe, or the kid’s parents are overly protective.

And then comes the bullying. NJ.com reports that Dr. Eyal Shemesh and colleagues at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have published a study in Pediatrics that shows that kids with allergies are bullied at a higher rate than their peers, which might cause them to avoid interventions.

The suffering is often done in silence. Nearly half of parents surveyed said they were unaware of the bullying, though both the bullied children and their parents reported experiencing higher stress levels and lower quality of life.

“Parents and pediatricians should routinely ask children with food allergy about bullying,” said Dr. Eyal Shemesh, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Finding out about the child’s experience might allow targeted interventions, and would be expected to reduce additional stress and improve quality of life for these children trying to manage their food allergies.”

Food service staff, the front-line folks for allergy protection, can’t tell whether an allergic reaction is going to lead to patron’s slight discomfort or worse. Allergen control and food safety practices are similar, but at the root of both issues is the organization and employee’s recognition of risks, reduction methods and evaluating whether everyone is really doing it. In the June 2013 issue of Food Control, Ji Hee Choi and Lakshman Rajagopal discuss knowledge, attitude and self-reported practices of food service employees regarding food allergies. When asked on a survey, food service staff report that allergens are important – but they couldn’t always identify what the allergens of concern are, and seemed to not retain specific allergen knowledge from training.

From the discussion:
Respondents in this study were knowledgeable about what a food allergy is and how to handle customers with food allergies; however, most respondents were not knowledgeable about the top eight food allergens from a given list of allergens…
 Employees scored higher on attitudinal statements related to the importance of foodservice staff providing accurate information to customers with food allergies to prevent incidences of food allergy reactions. However, employees were not confident about effectively handling food allergy emergencies. Employees’ positive attitudes toward food allergies and handling patrons with food allergies might be explained by the possession of food safety certification, which could also be a proxy for training received. However, no significant differences in knowledge scores were observed between employees who had received food safety certification and those who were not certified. This indicates that while certification and training maybe crucial for improving knowledge, it might not always be the case, as employees might not retain the knowledge or the training may not have contained updated information about food allergies.

Training matters, but not much (if retention counts) – and self reported practices don’t always match real life. The studied staff know something is up with allergens (maybe because the consequences are high), but don’t know exactly what to focus on. The less-trusting patrons of a food business who are looking for verification that their food is allergen-free can explore a bevy of apps to track symptoms, explore product ingredients or do uh, colormetric assays to look for traces of proteins (test reliability might be problematic).

From NPR’s The Salt:

Ozcan’s lab on a phone looks like it could take care of the inaccuracy problem. But the prototype requires users to undertake a mini chemistry experiment. They would have to grind up the food, mix it in a test tube with hot water and a solvent, and then mix it with a series of testing liquids. That process takes about 20 minutes.