Taxes, folks and WKRP

Like any good American, I spent the early hours of the Australian morning to finalize and submit my 2017 U.S. taxes.

Wasn’t too hard, I don’t get paid, but we have to declare any foreign income to avoid future troubles with the IRS.

The Canadian one is next and then will be starting on the Australian one, where the tax year runs from July 1 rather than Jan. 1.

Filing in the U.S. is joint for me and my partner, but separate in the other countries.

I get confused.

And when I get confused, I watch TV (was WKRP in Cincinnati a great TV show or the greatest?).

Or go to the supermarket.

When I started in the food safety stuff, my friend Gord told me, pay attention to the farmers.

Those that produce the food.

I agreed, did that for years, then expanded further to customers, the people that actually buy food.

Yesterday I went to my supermarket-lab after a few hours in the city.

Half of the meat section was cleared out.

I asked if they had a power outage, but the young dude said, nah, it’s all monitored at HQ, the temp went down so we had to pull the stock to the back cooler.

OK, cool, way to be responsive, until a manager walked by, tapped the worked on his shoulder, meaning get back to work or stop talking to the food safety dude, or both.

At the checkout, I overheard a number of staff had called in sick.

That prompted me to ask, are you told to stay at home when you’re sick, and they both said yes, until the one said the other was sick, and at work.

They said it’s a great policy but lousy in action.

I learn so much just goofing around.

It came out of the sky: Frozen airplane poop – blue ice — raises questions in India town

A rumble in the sky and a loud thud a few seconds later shook villagers in Gurugram’s Fazilpur Badli on Saturday, leaving them wondering what had happened.

Rajbir Yadav was in a wheat field when a “large rock” made its way to the ground, forming a one-foot crater.

Was it a missile, a bomb or a meteor?

A terrified, befuddled Yadav sprinted to the village head, another villager, Sukhbir Singh, said.

The news spread like wildfire and a few minutes later, a large number of the villagers had circled the frigid “rock”, which later turned out to be human excret – a human poop.

While the elders wracked their brains to make a good guess, the children brimming with curiosity declared it was a gift by the aliens.

“It is a white, holy stone gifted by the aliens,” a child exclaimed.

Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Pataudi, Vivek Kalia told PTI a few people approached the district administration, and a team comprising officials from the Meteorological department and the National Disaster Management Authority was formed under Kalia.

The team found the “celestial gift” the whole village was talking about the entire day was “blue ice”, a term used for frozen toilet waste leaking from aircraft, Kalia said.

What to do when the turkey hits the floor

Long-time friend of the and fellow WKRP groupie, Michéle Samarya-Timm, MA, HO, MCHES, REHS (right, exactly as shown) of the Somerset County Department of Health — Jersey represent – has once again contributed her Thanksgiving thoughts, which are shared below. Michele is one of the thousands of front-line public health folks who do a great – and largely thankless —  job in spite of frequent silliness from political overseers.

micheleFood. It’s the focal point of any celebratory gathering – birthdays, barbecues, parties, holidays — and often necessitates a fair amount of activity before the culminating moment of actual eating.  No doubt about it, planning, purchasing, preparing and serving a family feast takes a copious amount of physical and emotional energy when striving to assure a picture-perfect event for all.   In the hierarchy of meaningful meals, Thanksgiving may just be the poster-child of a culinary Everest.  It’s a family event that memories are made of…especially when things go wrong.

Picture this:  you are preparing a beautiful 20-pound bird, in hopeful anticipation of a Norman-Rockwell moment, where everyone around the Thanksgiving table will “oooh” and “ahhh” at your culinary prowess – when suddenly, and in slow motion, the turkey falls to the kitchen floor and masterfully executes an Olympic-style slide across the linoleum in a smearing trail of poultry juices.  You stand there, a witness to the carnage, in a speechless (or expletive-driven) moment of WTF…followed by the OMG rush of “what do I do now?”

How one addresses such a surreal moment and its potentially disastrous aftermath (your in-laws are in the next room after all), is reasonably predicated on your Martha-Stewart-like creativity or knee-jerk responsiveness. Turkey disasters are such common and comic occurrences that kitchen fiascos have been fodder for Thanksgiving themed sitcoms throughout the past few decades.   If you find need for a little humor these days, turn to classic TV,  to digest the Thanksgiving food-handling practices in such shows as Mad About You, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Friends.

However, in the real world, how does one handle a turkey-hit-the-floor occurrence?

If the turkey is raw, wash off any crumbs, pet hair, or visible dirt that the moist skin has picked up Continue with fully cooking the turkey, and verify safe cooking using a probe food thermometer. As oft quoted by food safety expert Larry Pong, even poop cooked to 165 degrees F is safe to eat!  Follow up by judiciously washing and sanitizing the sink and any surrounding areas that might be contaminated by wash spray.

If cooked turkey hits the floor – well, that’s another story.   The widely cited 5-second rule is an old-wives tale.  The USDA’s Consumer Advisor “Ask Karen” recommends consumers discard food that falls to the floor or comes in contact with unclean surfaces, and goes on to note that food can be contaminated as soon as it touches the floor or dirty surfaces.  There is no scientific evidence that proves food is safe from bacteria, viruses and parasites if it stays on the floor for less than five seconds.   This has been corroborated by Don Schaffner and the food safety researchers at Rutgers who found the ‘five-second rule’ is a significant oversimplification of what actually happens when bacteria transfers from a surface to food, as bacteria can contaminate instantaneously. Rutgers identified that the amount of moisture present, the type of surface, and how long the food is actually on the floor all contribute to cross-contamination and the potential for foodborne illness.

tdy_tren_fails_151126-nbcnews-ux-1080-600Decisions, decisions.  You could cut away the contaminated section.  You could return the bird to the oven for recooking, an additional germ-killing step, assuring the surfaces contaminated are heated to greater than the safety-threshold of 165 degrees F.  (You can’t over-cook a turkey – that’s what gravy is for!)   You could discard the contaminated food.  Or you could just focus on eating the sides.   Regardless, come clean by advising your guests – food contamination, and food safety should not be kept a secret.

At the crux of it all, in your home, you are the one in charge of deciding if you want to eat or serve dirty food.   Many folks, not understanding the risks, will.   Consider however, those who are very young, very old, or immunocompromised as they are all at higher risk of getting sick.   Do you really wish to chance it?   No one intends to cause Thanksgiving Day food disasters, so be careful in the kitchen, and follow the core steps of Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.   A little fore-thought and care can avoid the worst.

Perhaps the ultimate of all turkey disasters was brought to us in Turkeys Away, a classic episode of WKRP, a 1970’s era sitcom about Cincinnati-based radio station, with an eccentric cast of workers.   The well-meaning, but clueless Station Manager arranges his own Thanksgiving Day promotion, to a disastrously comedic conclusion for everyone — especially the turkeys.  It’s worth a view, its worth the laugh, and may just help foster food-safe Thanksgiving memories for years to come.

As God is my witness, I will cook my turkey to 165F!

Michéle Samarya-Timm is a public health educator with Somerset County (NJ) Department of Health.  She is a champion for handwashing, food safety and getting agencies to communicate food safety in a language everyone can understand.

WKRP in reality ‘Barbaric’ tradition of throwing live turkeys from planes continues in the Ozarks

We were going to do Canadian Thanksgiving in Australia, but too much hockey (the ice kind, including world women’s hockey day, which garnered international attention for Brisbane – that’s Sorenne at the front with the candy-cane stick, and Amy behind her) and the lack of turkeys at this time of year, meant a postponement until the end of November (we’re American too, eh?).

womens-hockeyBut it didn’t stop the people at the annual Turkey Trot Festival in Yellville, Ark., from throwing a live turkey from a moving airplane 500 feet above the ground on Saturday.

If history is any guide, one of three things will happen next.

Option 1: The bird drops like a rock and dies on impact.

Option 2: The animal awkwardly flutters to the ground, where it’ll be mobbed by excited townspeople who jostle for control of the frightened animal before it’s slaughtered.

Option 3: The bird catches a stiff, serendipitous breeze and glides into the sunset to freedom.

Anywhere else, you might call it animal cruelty, or maybe the “annual turkey sky death lottery.”

In Yellville (pop. 1,204), they call the turkey drop “an Ozark Mountain tradition” — one that has more or less remained intact for 71 years.

Due to protests and weather concerns, the drops were put on hold from 2012 to 2014. But they’re back and resumed like old times on Friday, and many locals are rushing to defend the practice.

Terry Ott, a county judge, downplayed concerns about the well-being of the birds during an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

turkeys-cant-fly“They’re not going to crash,” Ott told the paper. “They’re birds. They can fly.”

He added that the event is “important to the community” and “brings in a lot of money.”

Max Brantley, a senior editor at the Arkansas Times, decried the practice in a blog post earlier this week, calling the drop “inhumane.”

“They could probably get a good crowd in Yellville for a drawing and quartering, too,” he wrote. “Here’s an idea for sport: A drop of frozen Butterball turkeys from 500 feet over the cheering crowd.”

Brantley went on to quote Yvonne Thaxton, a professor of poultry science at the University of Arkansas, who told the Democrat-Gazette that the birds naturally remain at an altitude of 100 feet or less. The turkey drop occurs at an altitude of 500 feet, the paper reported.

“Placing turkeys in an environment that is new to them is stressful,” she said. “In the case of an airplane, the noise would also be a stress-producing fear reaction.

“Dropping one from 500 feet is a horrific act of abuse,” she added. “There is no justification for this practice.”

Mark Hutchings, a biologist supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, told the Democrat-Gazette that wild turkeys are adept fliers.

We’ve been inundated with wild turkeys in Kansas and Brisbane.

I’ve never seen one fly.

Although I love that this clip end with CCR’s, It Came Outta the Sky.

Have your people call mine: Let’s Do Lunch, Inc. dba integrated food service voluntary expands recall

Let’s Do Lunch, Inc., dba Integrated Food Service (IFS), is expanding the scope of their June 19, 2016, voluntarily recall of certain ready-to-eat sandwiches because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported to date.

WKRP- Herb's jacketThe recall is being conducted in response to additional environmental testing following the initial investigation. There were no positive findings in any food products or on food contact surfaces. IFS initiated a thorough cleaning and disinfection process, followed by extensive testing, and also has engaged outside food safety experts to review the company’s processes and policies. The company is working closely with FDA officials and has voluntarily expanded the recall to include products produced between 5/18/16 and 6/16/16. The products were distributed to foodservice distributors in eight States. No retail products are affected by this recall.

The schools and foodservice distributors were located in the following states: CA, MI, NC, NM, OH, PA, TX, VA, WA. On the IFS website, customers will find a list of school districts that received the products being recalled. The list will be updated daily as further information becomes available.

Cops beware: Detroit sandwich maker hit with order over safety

A Detroit company that has supplied sandwiches to police departments, gas stations and small stores for more than 50 years has been ordered to stop until it complies with food safety rules.

herb.tarlet.kiss.cookA federal judge signed an injunction Thursday, weeks after ruling in favor of regulators and against Scotty’s Inc. The company was accused of violating safety rules, especially in its handling of tuna sandwiches. The customers are in Ohio and Michigan.

Inspectors found mold on ceiling tiles and a lack of appropriate hand-washing, among other problems. The government says Scotty’s didn’t have a food hazard analysis plan in place.

A message seeking comment from Scotty’s attorney Jerome Moore wasn’t immediately returned Friday.

9 kinds of salmonella found in peanut butter from NM plant

In a 1979 episode of television standout, WKRP in Cincinnati – which anchors many of my personal value choices — Mr. Carlson had to fire beloved former baseball manager Sparky Anderson from his radio hosting gig because he sucked at it.

Sparky didn’t suck at life, or baseball, but he sucked at radio.

Sparky: Derek, this indoor soccer’s a new sport. Could you tell us about it?

Derek: Oh yah. It’s beautiful. It’s soccer played indoors like in a hockey rink. Sort of soccer-hockey.

Sparky: Boy, that’s an interesting combination. What are the rules?

Derek: I don’t know really. I don’t care.

Sparky: I see. How does your team look?

Derek: Well, mostly Venezuelan.

Maybe the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sucks at things.

They need resources, they need people, but if consumers expect them to be the on the food safety travel team, that may be unrealistic.

In Jan. 2009, 691 people were sickened and nine died across 46 U.S. states and in Canada from an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium linked to the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and led to the recall of over 3,900 peanut butter and other peanut-containing products from more than 350 companies.

FDA went in afterwards and found lots of problems; but nothing before the outbreak.

As details emerge about another Salmonella-in-peanut-butter outbreak from a Sunland plant in New Mexico which has sickened at least 41, people are wondering, WTF?

JoNel Aleccia of NBC reports the Sunland plant, also the largest producer of organic peanut stuff in the U.S., sent potentially tainted lots out the door even after its internal testing found at least nine different types of salmonella in peanut and almond butters, Food and Drug Administration officials said. Two of the 11 lots included the outbreak strain of the bacteria.

The pathogens were also found  throughout the peanut plant operated by Sunland Inc. in Portales, N.M., where FDA inspectors found salmonella in 28 environmental samples between mid-September and mid-October.

The company denies this.

The month-long FDA inspection of the Sunland plant that supplied peanut butter, nut butters and other nut products to major retailers including Trader Joes, Whole Foods and Harry and David found dirty equipment and slipshod food safety and cleaning practices.

Specifically, the company failed to clean production and packaging equipment between runs of nuts such as peanuts, which contain allergens. In May 2011, the firm received a complaint that a child had developed anaphylactic shock after eating almond butter that contained peanut allergens, the FDA said.

The 11-page report documents employees improperly handled equipment, containers and utensils, failed to wash their hands and had bare-handed contact with ready-to-package peanuts.

They also noted that the company left trailers full of raw, in-shell peanuts uncovered outdoors, where they were exposed to the elements, including rain and animals.

“Birds too numerous to count were observed flying over and landing on the peanuts in the trailers,” the report finds.

Inspectors found that Sunland’s own internal testing program documented at least nine and up to 13 types of salmonella in peanut butter products the company produced and distributed.

The place was a dump. And apparently little regard for microbial food safety basics.

But do retailers Trader Joe’s and Wal-mart buy from anyone? Did they send their people out to check on the peanutty stuff? Did they rely on some sort of auditor? Where are those reports? And why does FDA always uncover a food safety shitstorm after people get sick? They didn’t. There’s a history going back to 2003 of FDA citing problems with Sunland.


Sick sells; gross ads disgust consumers into action

Science is only now catching up with the late 1970s wisdom of Herbert “Herb” Ruggles Tarlek, Jr.

During one episode, Herb, the outrageously dressed salesthingy on the awesome television series, WKRP in Cincinnati, proclaims that tasteless sells. That’s why he’s so good at advertising.

USA Today reports a five-year study to be released Tuesday by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business found that, again and again, advertisements that try to simply "scare" consumers into actions — such as buying protective sunscreens or avoiding dangerous drugs — are far less effective than ads that also "disgust" consumers into taking the action. The best way to elicit disgust: Display totally gross images (see our infosheets).

"If you really want to get people to act, disgust is much more powerful than fear," says Andrea Morales, an associate marketing professor at Arizona State University who oversaw the study to be published in the June issue of the Journal of Marketing Research. "It may seem counterintuitive, but it works."

Perhaps that’s why consumers have seen a recent slew of commercials with high gross-out factors.

A TV spot from the New York City Department of Health featured images of a soft drink turning into gobs of fat as a guy gulps it down. (Department officials say sugar-rich beverage consumption dropped 12% after the campaign.) A recent Febreze TV spot shows blindfolded volunteers sitting in an ultra-filthy room — but fooled into thinking that they smell something pleasant, thanks to the household odor killer. And a commercial for Colgate Total toothpaste shows a mouthful of icky-looking germs.

From 2006 to 2011, Morales and her colleagues oversaw five different studies. In each case, ads with the highest gross-out factor elicited far more cases of viewer willingness to take action than those without.

In one study, 155 undergraduate students viewed an anti-methamphetamine print ad showing a young man whose face is covered with open sores. It scored far more consumer interest than an ad with the same written copy, but which replaced the photo of the pock-marked young man with one of a coffin.

While consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow agrees with the premise — disgust attracts attention — she’s not sure it always works. "Disgust is a hard-wired self-preservation emotion designed to keep us from doing things like eating spoiled food," she says. But, she asks, "Will our protective reaction against assaults of any kind cause us to avoid paying any attention to the ad?"

Safe Tables Our Priority webinar tonight; Risky Foods How to Protect Yourself

Be careful.

Question everything.

Me and Michael Batz (right, pretty much as shown) will be sharing our food safety thoughts in a STOP webinar tonight from 8:30 — 9:30 p.m. EST.

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

Handwashing studies offer conflicting results

I’m confused with these conflicting handwashing studies.

And, as Les Nessman of WKRP in Cinncinatti said, when I get confused, I watch television. It somehow makes things simple. Television is never confusing.

This morning it was alcohol-based sanitizers didn’t do much to limit the spread of the H1N1 virus, but worked well against cold viruses (the sanitizers also sorta suck against norovirus).

Later today, it was the results of another of those creepy make-grad-students-hang –out-in-public-bathrooms studies, to see if people actually wash their hands, which found that 85 per cent of adults washed their hands in public restrooms, the highest number since the studies began in 1996.

But it’s a far cry from the 96% of adults who say they always wash their hands in public restrooms, based on a separate telephone survey conducted at the same time.

Men do a lot worse than women overall — just 77% scrubbed up, compared with 93% of women.

The study was sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute (formerly the Soap and Detergent Association). It involved discreetly observing 6,028 adults in public restrooms in August to see whether they washed their hands.

Great. More people are attempting to wash their hands. But are they doing it correctly? Does any attempt count, or only if handwashing is done according to government prescriptions. What is the best way to wash hands? Can’t people with PhDs agree?


A study by researchers at the University of Bradford and published in the current Journal of Applied Microbiology evaluated three kinds of hand drying and their effect on transfer of bacteria from the hands to other surfaces: paper towels, traditional hand dryers, which rely on evaporation, and a new model of hand dryer, which rapidly strips water off the hands using high velocity air jets.??

In this study the researchers quantified the effects of hand drying by measuring the number of bacteria on different parts of the hands before and after different drying methods. Volunteers were asked to wash their hands and place them onto contact plates that were then incubated to measure bacterial growth. The volunteers were then asked to dry their hands using either hand towels or one of three hand dryers, with or without rubbing their hands together, and levels of bacteria were re-measured.

The researchers found the most effective way of keeping bacterial counts low, when drying hands, was using paper towels. Amongst the electric dryers, the model that rapidly stripped the moisture off the hands was best for reducing transfer of bacteria to other surfaces.

Yet tomorrow’s N.Y. Times reports it’s a draw, and that “the best available evidence suggests that as far as germs go, the method of drying is less important than the amount of time invested: the longer the better.”

So my pants would be fine as long as I used them enough.

Dr. O. Peter Snyder at the St. Paul-based Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management summarized key aspects of handwashing and drying in a paper available at, Snyder says that after hands are washed and rinsed, they must be thoroughly dried.

Blow dryers should not be used because they accumulate microorganisms from toilet aerosols, and can cause contamination of hands as they are dried by the drier (Knights, et al., 1993; Redway,et al., 1994).

Snyder notes that it is also apparent that many individuals do not dry their hands thoroughly when using a blow drier; hence, moisture, which is conducive to microbial growth, remains on hands, or people dry their hands on their clothing.

Proper handwashing requires access to the proper tools – and that means vigorously running water, soap and paper towel.

We’ve reviewed the literature on handwashing and how best to motivate people to wash hands, and conclude in a paper to be published shortly that,

“Although the role of hand hygiene in preventing infectious disease is well recognized, studies repeatedly show that compliance remains low. … Education and training have been cited often as essential to developing and maintaining hand hygiene compliance but, with few exceptions, this approach has not produced sustained improvement. … Hand hygiene was enhanced by provoking emotive sensations of discomfort, unpleasantness and disgust. Evidence suggests handwashing is a ritualized behavior mainly carried out as self-protection from infection and that patterns of handwashing behavior are likely established in childhood. Therefore, interventions that focus on culture, perception and behavior change may prove to be the most successful. How that success is measured must be carefully considered, as there is no standardized method for measuring hand hygiene compliance and current techniques have significant limitations.”