Gettin’ shiggy wit it: Increase of shigella-linked illnesses in St. Louis

STLtoday reports tonight that there appears to be an Shigella outbreak going on linked to child care centers in St. Louis. Shigellosis is characterized by fever, cramps and may result in bloody diarrhea, but most recover within a week without treatment.

There have been 67 cases of shigellosis from July 1 through Monday, compared to nine cases for all of 2008, according to the St. Louis City Department of Health.

Health officials said four day care centers and one school clustered in south St. Louis city reported illnesses. Officials did not offer other specifics except to say that children ages 4 and younger are most commonly infected.

City health officials sent the shigellosis alert to day cares and schools, where the shigella bacteria is typically spread when people don’t wash their hands properly after using the bathroom or changing diapers. It can also be spread through contact with food. Shigella bacteria can remain in feces for several weeks.


Grapples — will kids eat more fruit?

Daughter Courtlynn and her friend Emma discovered a product I’d never heard of or seen while grocery shopping today.

Grapple. "Looks like an apple. Tastes like a grape."

Apparently Grapples have been around for a few years. The bag of Braeburn apples I bought were $1.70/lb; the Grapples rang in about $4/lb.

Courtlynn said she liked the idea, but was underwhelmed after consuming one.

"Tastes like an apple."

Welcome to Wildcat country.

It’s delicious… It’s tailgating!

In college football, the Kansas State Wildcats opened at home tonight in Manhattan with a somewhat boring 34-14 victory over San Jose State. The Cats are full of surprises, and not always good ones. When you think they have the other team in check, they give up touchdowns, like in the 4th quarter tonight.

The same is true of K-State tailgating. We tailgated tonight in Cat Town with some of Doug’s lab members. First we ate brauts at the Veterinary Medicine tent, and then we found burgers at Animal Science. Angela asked me where the meat thermometers were, and I replied, “I’m sure they’re in that box with their cooking equipment.” We didn’t see one, so I proposed that maybe they had a standardized cooking procedure with pre-frozen patties and a clear cooking time charted out. Doug said that when they saw him arrive, the cooks called out, “Don’t worry. They’re done!” (We found out later that they use pre-cooked burgers; so indeed, they were done.)

We then went to a private tailgate party where the pregnant hostess, when introduced to Doug the Food Safety Professor, said, “We always try to keep things really safe here!” I didn’t look for thermometers there. By then my stomach was too full to even think about a cookie.

We’ve been thinking about tailgate publicity and reality research possibilities, like meat thermometers with Willie the Wildcat on them and final cooking temperature charts on stickers. Or tonight I thought it would be cool to have backpack coolers with cooking temps printed on them. We like slogans like, “Get‘r done,” and “Stick it in.” I also liked Andrew’s blogpost with the “Heat ‘em up, eat ‘em up” battle cry. But since we have a blog with, hopefully, a few readers, I thought I would put the question out to you. What would compel you to practice safe food handling at a tailgate? There are so many distractions, limited facilities, no running water in the parking lot, and plenty of people coming by and dipping into food unexpectedly. It’s delicious, and not just from the microorganisms’ point of view.  Please share your comments, questions, and ideas on tailgating safely.

Post a comment below.

[pictured is a KSU branding iron (not a thermometer) with this description: "Your sizzling hot Original Barbeque Brand Tailgate Tool can sear the pride of the K-State WIld Cats into most any food item. It’s for more than just meat! Buns, tortillas, potatoes, pie crusts, let your pride run wild!"]


The name of a popular series on Showtime, Weeds, is also now becoming a popular part of haute cuisine in France. On June 7, 2007, on France 2’s “Envoyé special” (a show like 20/20 or 60-minutes in the U.S.), one of the segments was dedicated to the use of “herbes sauvages” or wild herbs in France’s top 3-star restaurants. The reporters followed a member of the Radio France chorus who picked weeds right in Paris, tasted and explained them, and then carried them to her favorite 3-star chef. After demonstrating how fine tastes can come from these strangely exotic yet common weeds, they were off to a farm in Brittany where one woman specializes in growing weeds. She used to grow grains but when she recognized the profitability of this niche market, she switched. Her farm now has an annual income of over €200,000 a year – for picking, packing, selling and shipping dandelion leaves and the like. There’s even a workshop led in Switzerland where you can go around picking wild herbs in the mountains all day and then come back and learn how to make them into pesto and flan. Not to fear, the French are well aware that some herbs are toxic. But they put it into perspective: we eat potatoes, but the leaves are dangerous to eat. Same with rhubarb – never eat the leaves. One man was ready to pop a “bouton d’or” (buttercup) into his mouth when his instructor yelled out, “Non!” The 3-star chef assured that when he had questions about an item, he contacted his friend the horticulturalist to be on the safe side.

This program brought two things to my attention. The French think that the dangerous side of food is sexy, but there’s more to food safety than avoiding inherently toxic foods. At no point did anyone discuss the conditions in which the herbs were grown. As Doug and I wrote in our doggy-dining article … there is dog poop all over Paris and the rest of France. If there’s a patch of grass somewhere, it’s very likely that a cat or dog (or human) is also using this spot for relief. That’s quite a lot less sexy to think about than the perils of eating such refined foods as weeds. One aspiring chef said that everyone made fun of her … everyone asked her the same questions about knowing if the weeds were dangerous or not. She never mentioned if she thought that dog, cat, mouse, bird, or turtle poop might be on the herbs she’s putting primarily into fresh salads and uncooked sauces.