Recommend using a thermometer instead of piping hot: FSA food safety culture

Jose Bolanos of the UK Food Standards Agency writes in Organizations, culture and food safety, 2020that FSA has a longstanding interest in organisational culture and its impact on the capability of a food business to provide food that is safe and what it says it is.

However, while there has been some work carried out on assessing organisational culture in some regulatory areas, there has been limited progress in the development of a regulatory approach specifically for food safety culture.

And on it goes in bureau-speak.

Can’t take an agency seriously when they still recommend that meat be cooked until piping hot.

What is the temperature of your fridge?

I used to use these semi-disposable thermometers in my old-school fridge, but when we bought our Brisbane house we bought a new fridge which displays the fridge and freezer temps continuously (although I should check on how to validate).

The fridge also has an ice and water dispenser, which I used to have but lost in the divorce or move(s), it’s all a blur now.

 A transdisciplinary observational study, coupled with a web-based survey, was conducted to investigate refrigerated storage of food, in five European countries.

The investigated consumer groups in this study were: young families with small children and/or pregnant women, elderly people, persons with an immunodeficient system, and young single men.

The refrigerator temperature was monitored for approximately two weeks using a temperature data logger. Variables such as country, income, age of refrigerators, education, living area, refrigerator loading practices had no significant effect (p > 0.05) on the overall average fridge temperature, whereas consumers’ practices showed a significant influence (p < 0.05) on registered temperature values.

Compared to temperatures inside the fridges belonging to young families and young single men group, the temperatures inside refrigerators belonging to elderly was in the temperature danger zone (5–63 °C). The lowest temperatures were recorded in UK consumers’ refrigerators, whereas the highest were in French households. Presence of Listeria monocytogenes was confirmed in three refrigerators out of 53 sampled (two in Romania and one in Portugal).

The most vulnerable category to food safety risks is represented by elderly persons with low education, unaware of safe refrigeration practices and the actual temperature their fridges are running.

Time-temperature profiles and listeria monocytogenes presence in refrigerators from households with vulnerable consumers

Food Control vol. 111 May 2020

LoredanaDumitrașcua, Anca IoanaNicolaua, CorinaNeagua, PierrineDidierb, IsabelleMaîtrec, ChristopheNguyen-Theb, Silje ElisabethSkulandd, TrondMøretrøe, SolveigLangsrude, MonicaTruningerf, PaulaTeixeirag, VâniaFerreirag, LydiaMartensh, DanielaBordaa

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2019.107078

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095671351930667X?via%3Dihub

Toxo in Canadian deer hunters eating undercooked venison from Illinois

We conducted a recent investigation in Quebec, Canada, concerning Canadian deer hunters who went to the United States to hunt deer and returned with symptoms of fever, severe headache, myalgia, and articular pain of undetermined etiology. Further investigation identified that a group of 10 hunters from Quebec attended a hunting retreat in Illinois (USA) during November 22–December 4, 2018.

Six of the 10 hunters had similar symptoms and illness onset dates. Serologic tests indicated a recent toxoplasmosis infection for all symptomatic hunters, and the risk factor identified was consumption of undercooked deer meat. Among asymptomatic hunters, 2 were already immune to toxoplasmosis, 1 was not immune, and the immune status of 1 remains unknown. Outbreaks of acute toxoplasmosis infection are rare in North America, but physicians should be aware that such outbreaks could become more common.

Acute toxoplasmosis among Canadian deer hunters associated with consumption of undercooked deer meat hunted in the U.S.

Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 26, no. 2

Colette Gaulin , Danielle Ramsay, Karine Thivierge, Joanne Tataryn, Ariane Courville, Catherine Martin, Patricia Cunningham, Joane Désilets, Diane Morin, and Réjean Dion

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/2/19-1218_article?deliveryName=DM17555

Lamb mince as a source of toxo in Australia

Objective: Toxoplasmosis may follow consumption of undercooked meat containing Toxoplasma gondii cysts. Lamb is considered to pose the highest risk for contamination across meats. Red meat is often served undercooked, yet there are no current data on T. gondii contamination of Australian sourced and retailed lamb. We sought to address this gap in public health knowledge.

Methods: Lamb mincemeat was purchased at the supermarket counter three times weekly for six months. T. gondii was detected by real‐time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of DNA extracted from the meat following homogenisation. Purchases were also tested for common foodborne bacterial pathogens.

Results: Conservative interpretation of PCR testing (i.e. parasite DNA detected in three of four tests) gave a probability of 43% (95% confidence interval, 32%–54%) that lamb mincemeat was contaminated with T. gondii. None of the purchases were contaminated with Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella species or S. enterica serovar Typhimurium, indicating sanitary meat processing.

Conclusions: Australian lamb is commonly contaminated with T. gondii. Future studies should be directed at testing a range of red meats and meat cuts.

Implications for public health: Consuming undercooked Australian lamb has potential to result in toxoplasmosis. There may be value in health education around this risk.

Lamb as a potential source of toxoplasma gondii infection for Australians

December 2019

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

Abby C. Dawson, Liam M. Ashander, Binoy Appukuttan, Richard J. Woodman, Jitender P. Dubey, Harriet Whiley, Justine R. Smith

https://doi.org/10.1111/1753-6405.12955

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1753-6405.12955

UK still insists on steaming (rather than piping) hot to reduce Campy in chicken; scientists do a Picard face palm

The UK Food Standards Agency reports the top nine retailers across the UK have published their latest testing results on campylobacter contamination in UK-produced fresh whole chickens (covering samples tested from April to June 2019).

The latest figures show that on average, across the major retailers, 3.6% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination. These are the chickens carrying more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g) of campylobacter. 

Results

The sampling and analyses are carried out in accordance with protocols laid down by the FSA and agreed by Industry.

Background information

Contamination levels         July-September 2018          October-December 2018    January-March 2019           April-June 2019

cfu/g less than 10   58.8% 63.1% 55.4% 59%

cfu/g 10-99   26.7% 22.3% 25.3% 25.3%

cfu/g 100-1000         11%    11.4% 15.8% 12.1%

cfu/g over 1000       3.5%   3.1%   3.5%   3.6%

We have been testing chickens for campylobacter since February 2014 and publishing the results as part of a campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem. Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

In September 2017 we announced changes to the survey, with major retailers carrying out their own sampling and publishing their results under robust protocols laid down by the FSA. We are continuing to sample fresh whole chickens sold at retail, however, the focus is now on the smaller retailers and the independent market.

Chicken is safe if consumers follow good kitchen practice:

Cover and chill raw chicken – cover raw chicken and store at the bottom of the fridge so juices cannot drip onto other foods and contaminate them with food poisoning bacteria such as campylobacter

Don’t wash raw chicken – thorough cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter, while washing chicken can spread germs by splashing

Wash used utensils – thoroughly wash and clean all utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare raw chicken

Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, after handling raw chicken – this helps stop the spread of campylobacter by avoiding cross-contamination

Cook chicken thoroughly – make sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut into the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.

It’s a scientific embarrassment.

Piping hot: Publication of year 4 Campylobacter retail chicken survey

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the Year 4 report for the UK retail chicken survey which took place between August 2017 and July 2018. Samples were collected every quarter but after the first quarter only minor retailers were tested. The UK’s top nine retailers have carried out their own sampling since September 2017.

The report found that high level campylobacter contamination in UK chickens has decreased considerably, but remains high in smaller retailers, independents and butchers.

Rebecca Sudworth, Director of Policy at the Food Standards Agency, said:

“Retailers have achieved significant reductions in levels of campylobacter contamination since the retail chicken survey began in 2014. The FSA will continue to engage with industry and particularly smaller retailers, butchers and independents to build on this progress.” …

Make sure chicken is cooked thoroughly and steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut into the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.

Use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer and stick it in.

From the duh files: Here’s why consumers don’t use thermometers when cooking

I told Amy when I die and my brain is carved up in Sydney, my epitaph should be, improving food safety, one thermometer at a time.

I still feel naked when cooking without a thermometer.

According to a study conducted by researchers at Purdue University, few people use thermometers when they cook—even if they know how. 

One of the major reasons that consumers don’t use thermometers, researchers found, is because they tend to draw inspiration from outside sources—celebrity chefs, cookbook authors, magazines, restaurant managers, and food blogs. These outlets rarely ever mention or demonstrate the importance of cooking food to proper temperatures.

“We see that celebrity chefs simply rely on time estimates in their recipes or cut through the meat to show there is no blood or pink. That doesn’t always mean the food is safe, however,” says Yaohua “Betty” Feng, an assistant professor of food science at Purdue. “That affects the behaviors of home cooks and professional cooks. If their role models aren’t using thermometers, why should they? But if chefs preparing food on television or social media would include the use of a thermometer to ensure the food is thoroughly cooked, it would have an impact on their viewers.”

Feng worked with University of California’s Christine M. Bruhn to analyze 85 studies from over two decades to understand knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors associated with thermometer use. Despite it being considered a best practice in home and professional kitchens, thermometer use is low.

In one study, two-thirds of people reported owning a meat thermometer, but less than 20 percent used it all the time to check the temperature of chicken, and less than 10 percent used it all the time for hamburgers. About half of consumers say that thermometers aren’t necessary to check the doneness of egg or meat dishes.

Feng also noted that many people are unsure which type of thermometer to buy or how to correctly use them, including where to place the thermometer in the food, the correct endpoint temperatures, proper temperature calibration for the thermometer, and proper cleaning and sanitation. About 95 percent of people in one study did not clean their thermometers after use.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative supported this research. The results were published in the Journal of Food Protection in January 2019.

Piping hot is stupid cooking advice, that only the Brits could have come up with

I take pride in my Birmingham and Newport, Wales roots, as well as a lot of Ontario (that’s in Canada) but the UK government’s continued insistence that food be cooked to piping hot is not only unscientific, but just stupid.

This paper sounds nice, but will have no effect.

Chapman, I never got those Comarks, and need about 100 so I can keep improving food safety, one tip-sensitive digital thermometer at a time.

Improper cooking of meat contributes to many foodborne illnesses worldwide. The use of meat thermometers during cooking is recommended by food safety authorities in North America, but not yet in Europe. This scoping review investigated meat thermometer usage trends, consumers’ barriers and facilitators, and usage-enhancing interventions, with the aim of informing potential policy changes as necessary towards enhancing meat thermometers usage.

The study revealed that Europe is far behind North America in meat thermometer research and consumer use. The study results highlighted the increased compliance among mid-aged and higher socio-economic consumer groups. A considerable percentage of people do not use a meat thermometer, despite owning one and knowing its importance.

Barriers to meat thermometer usage among consumers included: cooking habits, non-practicality, and the influence of society and media, whereas responsibility to dependents and enhancing meat quality were strong facilitators. Intervention studies showed that knowledge gain does not necessarily translate to behavior change, unless consumers’ barriers and facilitators are addressed; hence behavioral theory-based interventions were most effective. The review concludes with recommendations for food safety authorities, starting with filling the research gap to understand consumers’ attitudes and behaviors, followed by implementation and scaling-up of evidence-based interventions, associated with cost-effectiveness studies.

Is scoping now a cool word?

Meat thermometer usage amongst European and North American consumers: A scoping review”

Dec.19

Food Control

Sarah Elshahat, Jayne V. Woodside, Michelle C. McKinley

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713519302737

E. coli found in Icelandic meat

Keeping with all things Icelandic, E. coli was found in 30% of lamb samples and 11.5% of beef samples in a test carried out by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST). The particular strain discovered is known as STEC, or shiga-toxin producing E. coli. This is the first time lamb and beef have been screened for STEC in Iceland.

The testing was carried out on around 600 samples of lamb, beef, pork, and chicken of both Icelandic and foreign origin between March and December 2018. The purpose of the testing was to determine the prevalence of pathogenic micro-organisms in products when they reach the consumer, and for this reason the samples were taken from shops.

Campylobacter and salmonella were not detected in pork or chicken samples, with the exception of a single sample of pork from Spain. MAST attributes this to improved preventative measures in slaughterhouses.

MAST points to several ways consumers can reduce the risk of infection from salmonella, campylobacter, and E. coli, including cooking meat all the way through and taking care to avoid cross-contamination. Most E. coli is found on the surface of meat, and therefore is killed by frying or grilling, but when meat is ground, the bacteria is distributed throughout. Therefore, hamburgers and other types of ground meat should be cooked through.

But what does that mean?

Use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

Just cook it doesn’t cut it: 196 sick from E. coli O103 linked to ground beef

The U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports several states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O103 infections linked to ground beef.

Ill people in this outbreak ate ground beef from many sources. Some ground beef has been recalled, but more product contaminated with E. coli O103 may still be on the market or in freezers.

Restaurants, retailers, and institutions should not sell or serve the following recalled ground beef products because they may be contaminated with E. coli O103 and could make people sick:

Grant Park Packing in Franklin Park, Ill., recalled 53,200 pounds of raw ground beef products on April 24, 2019.

Recalled products were sold in 40-lb. bulk cardboard boxes of “North Star Imports & Sales, LLC. 100% GROUND BEEF BULK 80% LEAN/ 20% FAT” marked “FOR INSTITUTIONAL USE ONLY” with lot code GP.1051.18 and pack dates 10/30/2018, 10/31/2018, and 11/01/2018.

Recalled products are labeled with establishment number “EST. 21781” inside the USDA mark of inspection on the boxes.

K2D Foods, doing business as Colorado Premium Foods, in Carrollton, Ga., recalledexternal icon approximately 113,424 pounds of raw ground beef products on April 23, 2019.

Recalled products were sold in two 24-lb. vacuum-packed packages in cardboard boxes containing raw “GROUND BEEF PUCK” with “Use Thru” dates of 4/14/19, 4/17/19, 4/20/19, 4/23/19, 4/28/19, and 4/30/19.

Recalled products are labeled with establishment number “EST. 51308” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Investigators continue to trace other sources for ground beef eaten by ill people in this outbreak, and more product contaminated with E. coli O103 may be recalled.

Cook ground beef hamburgers and mixtures such as meatloaf to an internal temperature of 160°F. Use a food thermometer to make sure the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. You can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it.

For hamburgers, insert thermometer through the side of the patty until it reaches the middle.

(Piping hot doesn’t cut it, UK).