Thanksgiving in space

According to the food safety nerd historians (and every HACCP class) the world of food safety was revolutionized by a partnership between NASA and Pillsbury.

Jennifer Ross-Nazzal writes about the history in Societal Impact of Space Flight.

Concerned about safety, NASA engineers specified that the food could not crumble, thereby floating into instrument panels or contaminating the capsule’s atmosphere. to meet the outlined specifications, food technologists at Pillsbury developed a compressed food bar with an edible coating to prevent the food from breaking apart. in addition to processing food that would not damage the capsule’s electronics, the food also had to be safe for the astronauts to consume.

Thanksgivinginspac_3120060bAlmost immediately food scientists and microbiologists determined that the assurance of food safety was a problem. [Pillsbury microbiologist Howard] Bauman recalled that it was nearly impossible for companies to guarantee that the food manufactured for the astronauts was uncontaminated.

“We quickly found by using standard methods of quality control there was absolutely no way we could be assured there wouldn’t be a problem,” he said. To determine food safety for the flight crews, manufacturers had to test a large percentage of their finished products, which involved a great deal of expense and left little for the flights.

So HACCP was created.

Today, according to The Telegraph, American astronauts on the International Space Station are enjoying a risk-reduced and HACCP-inspired Thanksgiving meal including irradiated smoked turkey.

NASA Astronauts Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore cobbled together a festive feast by combining foods that are stocked on the station. 

The meal also includes candied yams, freeze-dried dressing, cranapple desert, mashed potatoes, green beans and mushrooms. 

Crew members get ‘bonus containers’ in which they are allowed to carry special items for specific holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

“The turkey they have available for Thanksgiving has been made shelf-stable by irradiation,” said Vickie Kloeris, ISS Food System Manager 

“So this product is ready to eat and they just warm it up and eat out of a packet with a fork.

Mine is still roasting.

Gross? Just how hygienic is Mumbai’s street food?

No matter the time of night or day, somewhere on the streets of Mumbai there is a plate of deep-fried, mashed-potato patties called vada-pav being served with green chutney; or a bowl of pav-bhaji, a spicy mixture of mashed tomatoes and vegetables garnished with a blob of butter, onion and a dash of lemon.

MumbaiAccording to the Public Health Association, only 53% of Indians wash their hands with soap after defecating; 38% do so before eating and only 30% before preparing food. Bacteria transmitted in food, like coliform, E coli, salmonella, shigella, staphylococcus aureus and pseudomonas, are major causes of infections such as diarrhea, typhoid, food poisoning, urinary tract infections and pneumonia. These bacteria are found in the feces of human and animals. They grow quickly if the food is kept in moist, warm conditions, and can enter human bodies if the vegetables or meat are not washed properly or there is faecal contamination during food production or handling. Bacteria can also reach your food through flies, exchange of cash with infected hands or through contaminated water.

Bean sprouts tainted with banned additive are again found in China

Bean sprouts are back in the news for all the wrong reasons. Not for the first time, Chinese inspectors have found bean sprouts tainted with a banned food additive, in this instance in a production center on the southern outskirts of Beijing.

sprout.chinaThe sprouts being produced at the site in Daxing district were treated with high levels of 6-benzyladenine, a plant hormone, to speed up the growth cycle and make them more attractive to buyers, The Beijing News reported this week. But the chemical can also harm consumers’ health, it said, causing premature puberty, disrupting menstrual cycles and contributing to osteoporosis.

Up to 20 tons of sprouts a day were sold to wholesale dealers in Beijing and in Hebei and Shandong Provinces, the newspaper said. Since the Beijing food and drug authorities conducted their spot check on Nov. 2, the Daxing site has been shut down and three associated vendors have been ordered to halt operations. The case remains under investigation, but no arrests have been reported.

From the uh, no, that’s not evidence-based file: ‘You never want to cook a turkey frozen.’

Thanksgiving food safety coverage is saturating the Interwebs and some of it is good (evidence-based) some isn’t.

Here’s a gem from WVIB in Buffalo:Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 5.24.58 PM

“You never want to cook a turkey frozen,” said [James] Malley. Malley, who’s been a culinary instructor with the Buffalo Public Schools for 17 years, says it’ll be stuck in the danger zone – meaning it won’t be cooked all the way through to the proper temperature. “It will never cook thoroughly. It will never reach that point,” he said.

Uh no.

And Pete Snyder, the patron saint of turkey roasting (among other things) has an excellent, science-based HACCP SOP for cooking turkey from a frozen state. From Pete’s document:

Actually, cooking a turkey from the frozen state has benefits over cooking a thawed turkey. Cooking can be done in a roasting pan, but it is unnecessary. If one thaws a turkey in a home refrigerator, there is a significant risk of raw juice with pathogens at high levels getting on refrigerator surfaces, other foods in the refrigerator, countertops, and sink, thus creating a hazard and a need for extensive cleaning and sanitizing.

U.K. restaurant fines are no joke; caterer fined £20k for outbreak

Wedding season for Dani and I lasted three years. Not our wedding (which was organized somewhat hastily) but the ones we attended and participated in for our friends. At one point we had attended 30 in 24 months.

We didn’t experience an outbreak though. According to Get West London a caterer contributed to what sounds like the worst wedding ever – over 400 guests came down with Bacillus cereus intoxication.

A food inspector in a chip shop

And U.K. health officials slapped a £20,111 fine on Royal Club and it’s owner is banned from running a food business for 5 years.

Ealing Council’s food safety team were first alerted by the father of the bride on September 24, 2013, who contacted them claiming that 90% of the 470 wedding guests were suffering with food poisoning.

However, the prosecution could only be based on the 93 guests who formally reported their symptoms of food poisoning to investigators.

Greenford catering company, the Royal Club, was given a £20,111 penalty by Ealing Magistrates Court on Tuesday November 25. The company’s sole director, Mr Biku Thapa, was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and is banned from being a director of any company for five years.

Inspections of the Royal Club kitchen revealed serious food hygiene violations. Only one member of staff was trained in food safety. Both the head chef and remaining staff had not received any food safety training at all. Inspectors also discovered that The Royal Club had no refrigerated vehicles in which to safely transport food to events.

U.K. nursery closed following E. coli O55 outbreak

500065432206023-1BBC reports that the Blandford Children’s Centre Nursery in Dorset (U.K.) was closed as health officials investigate a cluster of rare E. coli illnesses.

Vanessa Glenn, head of family support at Dorset County Council, which runs the nursery in Black Lane, said a child there was diagnosed with E. coli infection in mid-October.

She said it was closed for three days while deep-cleaning work was carried out.

Another child from the nursery was infected on Monday and it is currently closed pending the results of staff blood tests and child stool samples, she added.

She said there had also been another E. coli case involving a child from Blandford who had attended Shaftesbury Children’s Centre, although this is not part of the “cluster”.

Ms Glenn said: “While there is no indication of a direct link between the nursery and recent cases, we are working closely with Public Health England and local authority environmental health officers to help tackle the problem.”

She added parents had been “kept fully informed” and were being advised of the nursery closure.

“As some cases have occurred in people associated with a children’s nursery, letters have been sent to parents whose children attend the nursery and staff, informing them about E. coli O55 and the ongoing investigation,” PHE said.

A couple of years ago I collaborated with Clemson’s Angie Fraser on a set of USDA NIFA funded food safety and infection factsheets for childcare facilities including using exclusion of ill staff and children as an outbreak control measure. The sheets can be downloaded here and here.

Thanksgiving is my favorite U.S. holiday

After six years in the U.S. celebrating Thanksgiving, this holiday is by far my favorite. The Canadian version occurs on a Monday with two days of weekend buildup and back to real life immediately after the meal. The American iteration is way better: one day of eating up front and a three-day weekend for recovery.

With football on television for 15+hrs each day.

We’ve finally figured out how to do it right, getting any visitors into town on Tuesday and doing meal prep Wednesday. Some veggie dishes are already made and the turkey is ready to go in to the roast pan.

A couple of years ago Matt Shipman and I put together some Thanksgiving meal videos – sorta our goofy take on food safety for the holidays.

And here are some timeless food safety infosheets for the holidays.

Holiday meal food safety

Bathing birds is a food safety mess

Avoid foodborne illness during the holidays

 

 

 

E. coli O55 cluster in UK; some cases link to childcare

Since the early 80’s E. coli O157:H7 had been public enemy number one in the pathogenic foodborne E. coli world. Sample and hold strategies that came out of the meat-related E. coli focus was based on O157.

Then came the other STECs.1380655137600

And Europe’s O104:H4 fenugreek sprout-linked outbreak.

There are lots of of E. colis to worry about.

According to Heart 102.3, a cluster of E. coli O55 has been identified Blanford UK.

Since July, ten people have been diagnosed with this infection which can cause bloody diarrhoea and seven of those affected have developed kidney problems – called haemolytic uraemic syndrome – a serious complication of an E. coli infection.  There have been no deaths.

As some cases have occurred in people associated with a children’s nursery, letters have been sent to parents whose children attend the nursery and staff, informing them about E. Coli O55 and the ongoing investigation. 

Noëleen McFarland, Consultant in Health Protection at PHE Wessex, said: “We are working closely with colleagues in the North Dorset Environmental Health Department to identify possible sources of infection. It is an infection that can be passed easily from person to person and young children are particularly easily affected.

“Any infection with E. coli can be very serious. We have interviewed all of those affected or their parents and their close contacts to look for possible causes in the days before they became ill.  This information is being used in the ongoing investigation into these cases.”

Reading about HUS in kids is like a gut punch.