On-farm food safety; yeah we did that in 1999

I had a nice chat with my Australian friend, Deon, of over 20 years.

He may even come and stay at the Brisbane house for a few days.

He did tell me, keep writing as long as you can, because I don’t suffer fools gladly, but the psche is coming back at 7:30 a.m. so I can get another brain scan and Amy can go do her work.

Food safety remains faith-based. So does my brain. Too many pucks to the head, starting in 1967.

Can you see the real me? Can ya? Can ya?

I was sitting with my friend Dave, as you do waiting for kids to be released from school yesterday, and I was telling him I’m going to back off the hockey head coaching thing, I’ve been doing it for four years, and Sorenne and I need a coaching break from each other.

Dave’s kid is taking to the ice for the first time in full hockey gear on Sunday, so I said I’d be there to help him.

Dave asked me why I was backing off, and I said, I had a lot of death about 35 years ago, it’s all on the Intertubes, but now I’m revisiting it, because I don’t have endless amounts of kids, I don’t have a job, and it’s making me evaluate what went on and who I am.

And I’m not the best person to be lead for the kids.

Dave: You can’t leave me hanging, what happened?

Doug (the 90 second version): In March 1981 I was in a car crash. I was driving and went through a house. My best friend was in the front seat with me and he died. There was one other person in the other car and he died.

I was in the hospital for two weeks and still have long-term pain related to the left side of my body, which was basically collapsed.

Then I went to jail for criminal negligence causing death, then my cousin, the only one of six children who survived a car crash before I knew him, died over a waterfall in B.C.

Then I got out of jail, went to visit my grandmother in Barrie, Ontario (in Canada) where she was caring for her husband who was dying of Alzheimer’s, and she took her own life.

I took her to the hospital with my uncle and she pretty much died in my arms.

And then death pretty much went away and I’ve been completely fortunate.

I have a fantastic support group I meet with most Fridays, lots of military, post-traumatic stress disorder types, oh, and the concussions I received playing goalie with a shitty piece of plastic for a mask have now become legendary.

Why do I share this?

Because it’s hard fucking work to get inside your soul.

It makes me a better writer.

It may even make me a better person, jury’s out on that one.

Don’t like it? Start your own blog, that is why I started the other University of Guelph newspaper, back when newspapers existed in 1986, because I got tired of listening to myself complain.

Or hit delete.

bites and barfblog: we help the next generation ask the right questions, and teach some writing basics

barfblogger and second-year Kansas State veterinary student Michelle Mazur stars in a Dec. 3/09 story from the American Veterinary Medical Association which calls “barfblog.com one of the sickest (and funniest) sites about food safety.”

Mazur said she stumbled into her job after a food microbiology class she took as an undergrad at Kansas State. She started as a news puller for barfblog.com and now she’s been writing for the blog for about a year, covering issues related to her veterinary-school studies like Brucellosis, her summer job on Plum Island Animal Disease Center, the dangers of salmonella on pet turtles, and even about therapy animals.

“The world has really opened up for me, writing for barfblog.com. Just pulling news for Doug for six months I learned so much. It exposed me to so much news, and it’s a great college job. I can start work at 4 a.m. after my studies.

“I’ve learned that there are ways we can improve food safety in this country. Those who produce must produce properly, and those that consume must consume properly.”

If you like what we are doing, please take the time to make a tax-deductible contribution to bites or barfblog by clicking on the DONATE button at either bites.ksu.edu or barfblog.com.

Sen. Florez of California needs an editor and a fact-checker

When I was about 13-year-old, my attempts at writing included starting sentences with, “Well, …”

At some point I received some direction from knowledgeable editors, and I read Strunk and White, The Elements of Style.

Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter (Kern County), the majority leader in the California state Senate wrote in the The San Francisco Chronicle yesterday that,

“Short of raising our own vegetables and meats, a worthy but impractical goal in a nation now more urban than rural, how can each of us ensure that what we eat is not only nutritious but safe?

"Well, we can begin by adopting the mantra of the Slow Food movement and make a habit of buying from our local farmers. … To make our food safer, we need to begin with the soil itself. We know that the modern factory farm is to blame for more and more virulent strains of microbes. All that corn and grain fed to cows have changed the chemistry in their guts, allowing harmless microbes to evolve into the deadly ones.”

Anyone raising their own food is equally capable of poisoning that food. Buying local does not mean safe. And to say that dangerous bacteria like E. coli O157:H7 evolved from factory farms and corn is to ignore science and hop on the most populist of bandwagons.


Sen. Florez also uses the ubiquitous “we” as in “We know …”

Who are these we? I wrote an entire book with a dude who I had to break of the “we” habit. And looks like I need to revisit my own rules about using “air fingers” or “dick quotes.”

Maple Leaf discovers the thesaurus

Amy and me and baby Sorenne are headed to Boston, leaving Manhattan (Kansas) at 3 a.m. tomorrow. And whatever stresses come along, it’s good to remember the basics.

Amy and me, we like to write, and we make each other better. We also surround ourselves with others who want to do things better.

Michael McCain (right, exactly as shown) may run a $5.5 billion a year company but Maple Leaf Foods has lousy writers. They’ve got the on-line thesaurus to find synonyms like stringent, thorough and rigorous, but the writers utterly fail to explain what this means.

Yesterday, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. reported a fourth quarter loss that narrowed on higher sales and helped by price increases, fluctuations in the Canadian dollar and contributions from acquisitions. Results, however, were impacted by the recall of meat products, contaminated with a strain of listeria bacteria, linked to the illness and death of several consumers.

Uh, 20 dead and at least 56 sick is not several consumers.

The same day, Maple Leaf announced that it is proceeding with a voluntary recall of approximately 1,100 cases of wieners produced at its plant in Hamilton, Ontario because the products were shipped in violation of the company’s rigorous food safety protocols. …

Under Maple Leaf’s stringent food safety protocols, the Company tests for listeria species, not Listeria monocytogenes. Six species of Listeria exist, but only one, Listeria monocytogenes, has any potential to impact human health. This is an extremely conservative approach as it treats any positive listeria test result with the highest level of corrective actions. Due to human error, a small quantity of wieners produced at the Hamilton plant that were quarantined under these routine enhanced procedures was inadvertently shipped to distribution centres and customers in Eastern Canada. All customers have been notified and product is immediately being removed from inventory or store shelves and returned to the Company.

Why is the Company capitalized? Will the Canadian economy shrivel if one questions the Company? And did Michael McCain call each customer?

"Unlike other situations, this event occurred as a direct result of human error and did not uphold our stringent industry leading protocols." said Michael McCain, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods. "Notwithstanding the exceptionally low risk this represents, Maple Leaf is committed to maintaining the most stringent standards and we intend to live by those standards so consumers can have absolute confidence in the integrity of our products. We are taking immediate action and will not condone anything other than strict adherence to our protocols."

That’s a lot of words to say we screwed up, again. But it gets better.

"As we have seen with the wide range of food products which have been recalled to date in 2009, as enhanced surveillance becomes more pervasive in the food industry, positive listeria findings and related recalls will occur more frequently. This should be regarded positively as it provides assurance that the industry and government are acting swiftly to protect public health", said Mr. McCain.

Who is we? What are these food products that have been recalled in 2009? The ones that contain peanut paste shit? Or just listeria ones? Who’s enhanced surveillance? Sara Lee’s Bil Mar unit had a listeria outbreak linked to hot dogs that killed 20 in 1998. Why is Maple Leaf bragging about enhanced surveillance 10 years and another 20 deaths too late?

Maple Leaf has implemented the most stringent food safety system in Canada.

Canada? Where they have visiting U.S. Presidents sign a guest book and worship their vengeful beaver gods with offerings of back bacon and doughnuts (go to 1:25 min in the video below).

As I said in the Toronto Star this morning,

"People, especially kids, eat … processed hot dog wieners all the time (without cooking them) or just give them a quick zap in the microwave."

Michael McCain, since you’re the face of Maple Leaf, do you let your kids eat processed wieners straight out of the refrigerator? Should there be warning labels on packages of hot dogs not to eat them without cooking to a sufficient internal temperature?

On the road …

That’s what Benji and I looked like when we started out on a road trip in Oct. 2005 that sooner, rather than later, landed me permanently at Kansas State.

Today I departed solo for a brief — very brief — stay in Melbourne, Australia.

So far I’ve made it to Dallas.

The flight was a mixture of blessings — I finally started into Anthony Bourdain’s 2001 epic, A Cook’s Tour, and the flight attendant gave me a free beer. Even had an empty seat beside me, a rare blessing on flights these days.

However the 60-something dude in front of me who couldn’t wait to get his seat back and thrash his head and overtly large body around like there was a giant lizard strapped to his face for the entire short flight was, uh, interesting.

The first two chapters of Bourdain’s book — killing the pig in Portugal and recreating his childhood summers in southwest France — were full of great writing, food and life. Amy will enjoy the French parts. Sounded like where we were this summer, writing …