Summer fun at Plum

 There aren’t too many jobs out there where employees are required to go through a decontamination shower each day before going home, along with a 30 minute ferry ride.  Yet that is just what I got to do during my summer at Plum Island Animal Disease Center.  The K-State College of Veterinary Medicine published a short write-up about it in their Sept issue of Lifelines.

Michelle Mazur and Stephan Gibson, both class of 2012, spent the summer working at Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). The opportunity was made available through a cooperative effort between the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Homeland Security. Each student spent 12 weeks working in the facility in Plum Island, N.Y., on an assigned project.

Michelle worked in veterinary pathology on a study investigating the pathogenesis of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in persistently infected animals, while Stephan assessed the usefulness of a lymphocyte blastogenesis assay for measuring the T-cell response of cattle to FMD vaccine trials.

Both students gained valuable laboratory experience as well as experience in working in a biocontainment laboratory. PIADC is classified as a biolevel 3 facility, and it is the only place in the U.S. where scientists can conduct research and diagnostic work on FMD.

In addition to working on their respective projects, Stephan and Michelle also had the opportunity to attend a two-week intensive Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician course. They heard a series of lectures describing the pathogenesis and characteristics of 20 different foreign animal diseases, and observed clinical cases and necropsies of each disease.

The FMD project opened my eyes to all the possibilities for vets in foreign animal diseases.  Here’s hoping the NBAF will break ground soon to open the job market a bit more.

Hendra virus claims fourth Australian

The Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) may see an increase in demand for research on the bat-borne Hendra virus (HeV). On Sept. 1, 2009, Hendra claimed Australian veterinarian Alister Rodgers (pictured right).  Dr. Rodgers is the second vet to die from Hendra, and the fourth of seven humans to succumb to the virus (below).

VIN (Veterinary Information Network) reports:
There is no known cure for Hendra virus (genus Henipavirus, family Paramyxoviridae). The disease gets its name from the Brisbane suburb where it was first isolated in 1994, from specimens obtained during an outbreak of respiratory and neurologic disease in horses and humans, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Humans become ill after exposure to the body fluids of horses infected with the virus. The natural reservoir for Hendra virus is suspected to be Australia’s flying foxes.

Veterinarians are more at risk to contract Hendra since they are the most likely to spend time with sick horses. A survey of 4,000 vets conducted by the CDC through the American Veterinary Medical Association found that even though vets were concerned about zoonotic disease, the concerns didn’t translate to better biosecurity practices. The results of this study highlight the need for veterinarians to put biosecurity practices into action and establish standard procedures to reduce infection of vets and their staff.

The Compendium of Veterinary Standard Precautions for Zoonotic Disease Prevention in Veterinary Personnel was published in the Aug. 1, 2008 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The 18-page document gives guidance on everything from isolating animals with infectious diseases to cleaning and decontamination. Its appendixes address zoonotic diseases of importance in the US as well as the characteristics of disinfectants.

The Australian Veterinary Association said:
Vets around Australia are mourning the death of Dr Rodgers.  It is absolutely devastating to lose another vet so soon, and we must do everything within our power to stop this from ever happening again. All indications are that Hendra is here to stay. It is probable that cases will emerge in states other than Queensland. Governments around Australia need to take this disease seriously right now and invest in measures to address the problem.

Learn more about Hendra through ABC’s Catalyst.

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.

Backyard bacteria and consumers: use a thermometer

I’m really proud of the folks who contribute to barfblog and

This morning, I wrote all the contributors from yesterday and said, I’m really proud, or good job, or something like that. The mixture of food safety content and personal experience on was excellent yesterday.

Debora MacKenzie at New Scientist magazine seems to have noticed as well, and writes in a blog piece this evening,

Doug Powell food safety expert at Kansas State University and editor of the excellent barfblog says that the only way to ensure the safety of ground burgers is to use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer to make sure the whole patty has reached the 71 ??C (160 ??F) needed to kill E. coli.

Like I said, I’m proud to have a lot of smart folks around me.

NEHA 2009 Annual Educational Conference training showcase materials

I’m in Atlanta for the National Environmental Health Association’s Educational Conference.

At 1pm today I’ll be presenting during the Food Safety Training Showcase (Courtland Rm at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta for those of you who are in town).

You can find the materials I’ll be presenting at

Bye bye, listservs

This is what I sent out to all the previous subscribers of my various listservs over the years. I’m grateful for all the support I received and still pissed that the University of Guelph just scooped up the leftover money for their paper clip fund. Seriously, I left $140,000 that all you great supporters provided for news, and Guelph just sucked it up. Why anyone would ever give them another dime is beyond me. But I’m just a widget; I get that.

The listserv you have been subscribed to no longer exists. All of the activities of the International Food Safety Network at Kansas State University have been consolidated under

The 9,000 or so direct subscribers to fsnet-l have been transferred to bites-l. We’re still working on a daily digest version, so will keep the istserv going for now.

It’s a listserv, and you can subscribe with instructions below.

The fastest way to get breaking food safety news is to subscribe to We’re also working on moving all the barfblog history to

The University of Guelph copyrighted the name, Food Safety Network in Canada, without telling anybody. And then they shut it down (no one ever talked with me, they just wanted the cash; what total assholes). I decided the name was old. A Network was cool before Al Gore invented the Internet in 1995, but now?

So everything is at

And everything is archived at and

You can subscribe to bites-l

To subscribe to the listserv version of bites, (subscription is free), send mail to:
leave subject line blank
in the body of the message type:
subscribe bites-L firstname lastname
i.e. subscribe bites-L Doug Powell

If you only want specific news, you can subscribe to RSS feeds to get just the news you want:

RSS (Rich Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.

If you only want stories about animal welfare, or norovirus, go to and click on that section. Then click on the RSS symbol, and add to your reader.

Dr. Douglas Powell
associate professor, food safety
dept. diagnostic medicine/pathobiology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS
cell: 785-317-0560
fax: 785-532-4039


barfblog, bites, and food safety

Foodborne illness can be an unpleasant experience or something more serious. The World Health Organization estimates up to 2 billion people get sick from food and water each year – 30 per cent of all citizens in all countries.

Dr. Douglas Powell, associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University, leads a group of individuals passionately committed to reducing the incidence of foodborne illness, through research, teaching and information. The group strives daily to be the international leader in comprehensive and compelling food safety information that impacts individual lives – and reduces the number of sick people.

The electronic publications, and, are comprehensive, current and compelling sources of food safety news and analysis, and help foster a farm-to-fork culture that values microbiologically safe food.

•    The effectiveness of food safety messages and media in public discussions of food safety issues, such as the risks of listeria to pregnant women, legislation surrounding raw milk, public availability of restaurant inspection data, and the safety of fresh produce, are evaluated through qualitative and quantitative methods.

•    Observational research methodologies are used to quantify individual food safety behaviors from farm-to-fork, to enhance handwashing compliance, thermometer use, food packaging information and interventions that can reduce the number of people that get sick from the food and water they consume.

•    A graduate program in food safety risk analysis – including food safety, language, culture and policy — is being developed and will include distance-education.

•    Courses are currently taught in Food Safety Risk Analysis, and Food Safety Reporting.

•    Dr. Powell is the publisher and editor of bites and barfblog, rapid, reliable and relevant sources of food safety information. Dr. Ben Chapman of North Carolina State University is the assistant editor.

•    bites and barfblog are produced by a cross-cultural team of secondary, undergraduate and graduate students as well as professionals who create multilingual and multicultural food safety and security information, including weekly food safety information sheets, and multimedia resources.

•    Research, educational and journalistic opportunities are available for secondary, undergraduate and graduate students through and

For further information, please contact:

Dr. Douglas Powell
associate professor, food safety
dept. diagnostic medicine/pathobiology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS
cell: 785-317-0560
fax: 785-532-4039


Dr. Benjamin Chapman
Food Safety Specialist
Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences
NC Cooperative Extension Service
North Carolina State University
Campus Box 7606 (512 Brickhaven Drive)
Raleigh, NC  27695-7606
919.515.8099 (office)
919.809.3205 (cell)

Chapman gets PhD

Irony is pretty ironic sometimes.

On the three-year anniversary of me officially starting at Kansas State University, two-years after the beginning of, and a year after going down the baby road yet again, Chapman finally gets his PhD, and all the staff at the remnants of the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph are fired.

Me, I just keep on truckin’ on. We’re working out the kinks with, and had yet another record number of visitors today. So for the best food safety news and analysis, visit often. food safety news, and more

The new web site is sorta ready to go.

I say sorta because it’s a work in progress that can be continuously updated and improved. The beta-version, warts and all, is now available.

The fastest way to receive food safety news is to subscribe to If something’s happening, we try to blog it, rapidly, and with analysis. barfblog can also be followed on twitter. is continuously updated throughout the day and night and other times. When sufficient news exists, I will send out a summary, much like the current FSnet listserv. You can subscribe to receive this daily (or more) summary on the front of, and can choose between html (pretty pictures and hyperlinks) or text-only formats. Or you can visit the website and see how it changes throughout the day.

If you only want to receive specific news, use RSS feeds.

RSS (Rich Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.

If you only want stories about animal welfare, or norovirus, go to and click on that section. Then click on the RSS symbol, and add to your reader. If you want to receive everything, click on the RSS feed on the homepage for

I will continue to send out news via the FSnet listserv for the immediate future while you all decide what news you want and how best to receive such news. The old site,, will remain alive as a repository and archives will be archived there, but otherwise will not be updated.

FSnet funding, format and future: bites

I knew it was time to change things when new students repeatedly asked, “what’s a listserv?”

The four listservs – FSnet, Agnet, Animalnet and FFnet – are going to be collapsed into a daily publication called bites (below, sorta as shown) by the end of the month.

The text versions of all four listservs, as well as FFnet, are going to disappear immediately, although they will still be available through the archives at

I have to focus my activities. And the level of sponsorship has declined. However, once bites is up and rolling, new opportunities for sponsorship will be available.

The best way to receive breaking news is to subscribe to RSS feeds for immediate news will be available once the site is up and running.