Ben Chapman

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.

If Eggnog Has Eggs In It, Why Is It Safe To Drink?

Continuing with the egg-in-drink and holiday food safety trend, I had a chat last week with my friend Matt Shipman about eggnog. Matt, a science writer, public information officer at North Carolina State Universitycurator of The Abstract, and all around swell dude, writes:

Eggnog is a holiday treat, but it contains – surprise! – eggs. So how come it’s okay for us to drink it? Here are a few questions and answers about eggnog and food safety.

If eggnog has eggs in it, and eggs can carry Salmonella, why is it safe to drink eggnog? The eggs aren’t cooked, are they?

Actually, they are.Eggnog-848x477

“If you’re buying eggnog at the store, the beverage has likely been pasteurized,” says Ben Chapman, a food safety expert and researcher at NC State. “That means the egg-and-milk combination has been heat-treated to kill most of the harmful microorganisms that could make you sick, and reduce the ones that cause spoilage as well.”

Is it safe for me to make my own eggnog?

“Using regular eggs is risky, but you could use pasteurized eggs or egg products,” Chapman says. “Or you could effectively pasteurize your own eggs by slowly bringing the eggnog ‘base’ to 160 °F. The FDA offers advice on how to do that safely.”

Can I use alcohol to make my eggnog safe to drink, or to store at room temperature?

Only if you like really strong eggnog.

“Ethanol, the alcohol in beverages, should kill some of the pathogens that might be there,” Chapman says. “But the eggnog would still be subject to spoiling, as other hearty microorganisms can multiply and create off flavors.”

Chapman says that using alcohol as a protective measure isn’t a simple venture. Although wine and other clear alcoholic beverages haven’t been linked to foodborne illnesses, a 2010 investigation into exactly what components were protective in wine showed that ethanol on its own wasn’t enough.

Chapman says that in that particular experiment, ethanol provided a 1.5 log (that’s between 90 and 99 percent) reduction in Salmonella in 24 hours. That’s not good if you’re looking to make and serve eggnog, particularly since no reduction in pathogens was seen within the first 60 minutes after adding alcohol. “The cream also complicates things in eggnog as it has fat in it – and high fat environments like peanut butter and chocolate serve to protect Salmonella cells,” Chapman says.

What’s the deal with ‘aged’ eggnog?

You may be familiar with stories that have made the rounds about “aged” eggnog, and how it’s safe to drink eggnog containing raw eggs if you let it hang around for a few weeks. Many of these stories trace back to an experiment done at Rockefeller University (you can hear Science Friday’s 2008 story on it here). There are (at least) two things worth noting about the Rockefeller eggnog.

First, based on the recipe that accompanies that story, and some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations, the eggnog in question was ~14 percent alcohol – which may be high compared to many festive drinks. Second, the eggnog was refrigerated during the aging process. The cold temperature helps to limit microorganism growth and the hold time allows for the ethanol to penetrate and to act on the cells.

Chapman notes one other issue with the Rockefeller University data – it’s anecdotal. “Although it has made the rounds in the media as an answer to the holiday party drink favorite, the study hasn’t been evaluated by peer review.” Chapman goes on to say, “While it appears this specific recipe might work, we also don’t know what the threshold for alcohol content and egg/milk ratios would lead to similar Salmonella destruction. For example, whether an eggnog with 9 percent alcohol held in the fridge for one week would be safe.”

Would you like some eggs with your cocktail?

Katrina Levine, extension associate at NC State University writes:

The holidays are a time when we come together to celebrate and mingle over food and drinks, especially eggnog and other egg-containing drinks. Restaurants, bars, and your bartending neighbor often feature foamy, frothy egg cocktails this time of year, but are they all that they’re cracked up to be?

Back in the summer, it was a dark and stormy night when I entered the dimly-lit Raleigh speakeasy. A jazz band was playing a chaotic Charlie Parker-inspired song and the bar was packed with people sipping some exotic-looking cocktails. faceI approached the bar to order and out of the corner of my eye I saw the bartender whip out an egg and crack it directly into someone’s drink (me, right, not quite exactly as shown).

Raw egg-containing cocktails are an emerging trend in the local bar scene. Fizzes, flips, sours, and even eggnog often contain raw whole eggs, whites, or yolks. While they may be tasty, the risk of acquiring Salmonella from one of them is uncertain.

egg-breakConsuming raw or undercooked eggs has been linked to many foodborne illness outbreaks of salmonellosis. A recent Michigan outbreak sickening 32 and one in North Carolina in 2012 making 29 people ill were both likely caused by eating raw egg-based sauces. A major outbreak of salmonellosis in 2010 infected almost 2,000 people in 11 states (CDC, 2010). A table of raw egg-related outbreaks in can be found here. Hens that are infected with Salmonella Enteritidis, the most common strain in eggs, can pass on the bacteria directly to the eggs forming in their ovaries (Gantois et al., 2009). This is the mostly likely route of contamination (Gantois et al., 2009). There is not enough research to show which part of the egg has the greatest amount of contamination from this route, although the shell, membranes, white (albumen), and yolk can all become contaminated (Gantois et al., 2009).

Eggs can also become contaminated by penetration through the shell when exposed to things like feces contaminated with Salmonella (Gantois et al., 2009).  Because a shell is porous, the bacteria can still find ways to get through the shell and into the egg. The shell of the egg is more likely to become contaminated than the inside of the egg, and egg yolks are less likely than whites to contain Salmonella because the antimicrobial properties of the white can reduce or eliminate the bacteria (Gantois et al., 2009). But if the shell has Salmonella and it comes in contact with the egg, such as when you crack it, you could contaminate the egg inside (i.e., cross-contamination). Washing eggs won’t help you – it actually makes contamination more likely (USDA FSIS, 2011).

Salmonella Enteritidis is found in an average of 1 in every 20,000 eggs (Ebel & Schlosser, 2000). Contamination rates are also influenced by percentage of infected hens in a flock and time between infection and producing eggs (Braden 2006).

The U.S. produces about 80 billion eggs for consumers annually, roughly 30% of which are pasteurized  (USDA NASS, 2014; USDA FSIS 2013). If 1 in 20,000 have Salmonella Entertidis, that equals about 2.8 million contaminated eggs, some of which may end up at bars, restaurants, or home kitchens.

Ok, so say you’re lucky #20,000. What are the chances you’ll get sick? It’s unclear whether the risk of illness is impacted by adding Salmonella-containing egg into an alcoholic drink. The literature suggests that there are at least a couple of factors that may affect survival and destruction of the pathogen: pH and alcohol content.

Consuming alcohol along with a pathogen may have a protective effect. Epidemiologists showed in a 2002 outbreak investigation report that there was a protective effect among people who drank more than 40 grams of alcohol (that’s about 2 pints of beer or 2-3 glasses of wine) (Bellido-Blasco et al., 2002). The infection rate of those who had more than 40 grams was 54%, compared with 78% and 95% for those who had less than 40 grams and no alcohol, respectively (Bellido-Blasco et al., 2002).drink

In 2008, researchers at Rockefeller University investigated whether spiking eggnog would kill Salmonella, but their results were inconclusive (and weren’t published in a peer-reviewed journal). Even though the drink was made with 14% alcohol, it was initially packed with bacteria, no Salmonella was recovered after sitting in the fridge about 3 weeks (Rockefeller University, 2008).

Yet another study on wine examined the antimicrobial effects of unadulterated wine and the role of some of its constituents – total phenols, ethanol, and pH – on antimicrobial activity (Boban et al, 2010).  They tested intact wine, wine with the phenols removed, wine with the alcohol removed, ethanol, a low pH, and ethanol and a low pH combined, against Salmonella Enteritis and E. coli (Boban et al., 2010). Even though the pH and alcohol content were similar among all samples, intact wine had the highest amount of antimicrobial activity, while non-intact versions had lower antimicrobial activity (Boban et al., 2010). Ethanol alone and low pH alone had negligible antibacterial activity, but when combined had a greater activity (Boban et al., 2010). While the alcohol content and pH seem to have some sort of effect on the antimicrobial effects of wine, the effect can’t be attributed to the alcohol, pH, or any of the other components specifically (Boban et al., 2010).

Acidity is also a factor. Salmonella won’t grow below a pH of about 3.6-4.0 (Lanciotti et al., 2001; Perales & Garcia, 1990), so the overall concentration and combination of ingredients in the drink would have to be at 4.0 or below to kill the bacteria.

Different forms of alcohol may be more or less acidic (Lazar, 2011). Grape-based forms, like sherries and vermouths, are more acidic, while distilled spirits, like gin and vodka, generally have a neutral pH, because the distillation process removes the acidity. Other additions to the alcohol can impact pH as well. Citrus ingredients like lemon and lime juices are by far the most acidic with a pH of about 2-3 (Lazar, 2011). Several experiments have mixed an acid, like lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid, with mayonnaise made with raw eggs to see if it reduces Salmonella. Results show, though, that adding acid alone does not seem to reduce the bacteria to undetectable levels unless left to sit for at least an hour at 25°C (about 77°F) (Zhu, Li, and Chen, 2012). Warmer temperatures actually seemed to help kill more bacteria because cell membranes are more permeable, allowing more acid to enter bacterial cells (Zhu, Li, and Chen, 2012). Since most raw egg cocktails are kept cold and consumed quickly, a splash of lime juice probably wouldn’t be enough to lower the pH of the whole drink.

The bottom line is that the risk of getting a raw egg cocktail contaminated with Salmonella is low based on the egg contamination rates, but if you win the contaminated egg lottery, your grand prize could be a visit to the hospital. You’ll have to decide if you are willing to take the risk.

Opt for drinks that have already been pasteurized or that are made with a pasteurized egg product or pasteurized shell eggs – it’s the easiest way to reduce the risk of Salmonella.

References

Bellido-Blasco, J. B., Arnedo-Pena, A., Cordero-Cutillas, E., Canós-Cabedo, M., Herrero-Carot, C., & Safont-Adsuara, L. (2002). The protective effect of alcoholic beverages on the occurrence of a Salmonella food-borne outbreak. Epidemiology, 13(2), 228-230.

Boban, N., Tonkic, M., Budimir, D., Modun, D., Sutlovic, D., Punda‐Polic, V., & Boban, M. (2010). Antimicrobial effects of wine: separating the role of polyphenols, pH, ethanol, and other wine components. Journal of food science, 75(5), M322-M326.

Braden, C. R. (2006). Salmonella enterica serotype Enteritidis and eggs: a national epidemic in the United States. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 43(4), 512-517.

Chickens and Eggs 2013 Summary. USDA NASS. February 2014.

Ebel, E., & Schlosser, W. (2000). Estimating the annual fraction of eggs contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis in the United States. International journal of food microbiology, 61(1), 51-62.

Egg Products and Food Safety. USDA FSIS. August 2013.

Gantois, I., Ducatelle, R., Pasmans, F., Haesebrouck, F., Gast, R., Humphrey, T. J., & Van Immerseel, F. (2009). Mechanisms of egg contamination by Salmonella Enteritidis. FEMS microbiology reviews, 33(4), 718-738.

Lanciotti, R., Sinigaglia, M., Gardini, F., Vannini, L., & Guerzoni, M. E. (2001). Growth/no growth interfaces of Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella enteritidis in model systems based on water activity, pH, temperature and ethanol concentration. Food Microbiology, 18(6), 659-668.

Lazar, Michael. “The Electric Cocktail Acid Test.” Stirred, Not Shaken blog. December 28, 2011.

Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Enteritidis Infections Associated with Shell Eggs (Final Update). CDC. December 2010.

Perales, I., & Garcia, M. I. (1990). The influence of pH and temperature on the behaviour of Salmonella enteritidis phage type 4 in home‐made mayonnaise. Letters in applied microbiology, 10(1), 19-22.

Rockefeller University. “Rockefeller microbiologist tests safety of spiked eggnog.” December 19, 2008. http://newswire.rockefeller.edu/2008/12/19/rockefeller-microbiologist-tests-safety-of-spiked-eggnog/

Shell Eggs from Farm to Table. USDA FSIS. April 2011.

Zhu, J., Li, J., & Chen, J. (2012). Survival of Salmonella in Home-Style Mayonnaise and Acid Solutions as Affected by Acidulant Type and Preservatives. Journal of Food Protection, 75(3), 465-471.

 

 

 

New Brunswick community dinner linked to death and over 100 illnesses

When I was a kid my parents regularly took me to church dinners. Part of my family’s social schedule was the faith-based community events where folks got together over pancakes, spaghetti, shortcake and egg salad sandwiches. It never occurred to me that the organizers and food handlers weren’t professionals; they were the parents and grandparents of my friends.

And they happened to be making meals for a couple of hundred hungry community members.Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 10.38.22 PM

I guess they meant well, but I have no idea whether the volunteers worried about food safety or did anything to keep me and the others sick. Or that community dinners had been a traditional setting for  foodborne pathogen outbreaks. According to CBC news, over 100 members of a New Brunswick (that’s in Canada) community fell ill following a community Christmas meal, and tragically an elderly woman died. 

Roughly 100 people attended the community supper on Dec. 5, where a traditional holiday meal of turkey, vegetables, gravy and pies was served.

Within a few hours of the supper, several people became sick. One woman died and 30 other people reported signs of gastrointestinal illness, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Bessie Scott has been identified as the woman who died, and on Friday family and friends filed into a funeral home in Nackawic to say goodbye.

Alex Hoffmann and his wife were among those who fell ill after eating the tainted food.

“At two o’clock we both woke up with terrible bellyache. And then I had to go that night three times …,” he said.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the acting chief medical officer of health, said on Friday that public health officials have taken samples of the leftover food from the Christmas supper and are trying to determine the precise cause of the infections.

“But definitely the timeline of when those symptoms occurred was within 12 hours, so that is a pretty quick onset and so that in and of itself would tell us what kind of bacteria we are looking for,” Russell said.

“The most likely one that I discussed with Dr. Yves Leger [a local public health officer] is Clostridium perfringens.”

In 2011, the provincial government considered imposing food licensing and inspection requirements on not-for-profit events, such as church suppers.

But Madeleine Dubé, the health minister at the time, said the provincial government had received public feedback that “licensing and inspection requirements are too demanding for not-for-profit events.”

Environmental health specialists/health inspectors are the good guys, ensuring that organizers and volunteers have the right equipment in place and know what to do. Making turkey for hundreds is way different from making it for a family. A list of community dinner-linked outbreaks can be found here.

 

Outbreak of foodborne illness strikes Atlanta high school football banquet

Over 15 years ago Rob Tauxe described the traditional foodborne illness outbreak as a scenario that ‘often follows a church supper, family picnic, wedding reception, or other social event.’
 
This scenario involves an acute and highly local outbreak, with a high inoculum dose and a high attack rate. The outbreak is typically immediately apparent to those in the local group, who promptly involve medical and public health authorities. The investigation identifies a food-handling error in a small kitchen that occurs shortly before consumption. The solution is also local.football-banquet-2013
 
According to the Atlanta Journal Contsitution, it could also be a high school football banquet.
Dozens of Centennial High School football players and their parents were sickened after eating at a banquet Monday night, according to the school’s principal. But the exact cause of the gastrointestinal illnesses has not been determined.
 
Symptoms of the illness have included nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps, Principal Kibbey Crumbley wrote in a letter to a parents of students at the Roswell school.
 
“Unfortunately, these symptoms can be associated with many different viruses and bacteria that could possibly be related to food-borne pathogens,” Crumbley said. “The best means of controlling these types of illnesses is to stay home when sick, wash hands frequently and clean surfaces thoroughly after contact with an infected or ill individual.”
 
Students with symptoms were urged to stay home and to see a healthcare provider, Crumbley said.

Lost in translation? Dirty grills cause hep A and and you should wash your meat

Last week’s Consumer Food Safety Education Conference reminded me that even when folks (agencies, organizations, individuals) say that they are sharing evidence-based information with the masses, not everyone agrees on the science, or the message.

There will always be conflict (and that’s okay – harmonized messages look suspicious), what’s more important is that people share how they made their risk-based decisions.

And that’s not often done.x600

Like why does USDA suggest in their consumer messages that the danger zone for pathogen growth is between 40F and 140F, and FDA’s Model Food Code, which is well referenced says that the parameters are 41F and 135F?

ABS-CBN News story demonstrates that some folks in the Philippines are looking at different data related to risks.

According to microbiologist Dr. Windell Rivera, raw meat and poultry, the most common ingredients of grilled street food, can easily be contaminated by various bacteria.

According to Rivera, some cases could lead to Hepatitis A, or even kidney failure (the headline of the piece is ‘Cooking on unclean grills can cause Hepatitis-A’ – looking at the evidence in the literature, no it can’t -ben).

Rivera advised thorough washing of poultry and meat products using clean water prior to cooking, as not all bacteria can be killed by heat. Sauces must also be stored properly as they can be contaminated by bacteria if meat with saliva or microorganisms are dipped into them.

Experts added that when cooking and grilling, meat must be thoroughly cooked. Also, as much as possible, chicken must be separated from pork.

Washing meat prior to cooking is a bad idea. 

Bring holiday cheer, not norovirus, into care settings

As North Carolinians (and others) get into the festive season, kids (like mine) are visiting retirement residences and nursing homes to bring holiday cheer.

And they also might be bringing norovirus.Stop-norovirus-warning-sign

Today I brought Sam (below, exactly as shown) to a local care center so he and his preschool classmates could sing carols to residents.

Heightened to noro season and control measures I looked for messages around ill visitors. I didn’t see any but I did see some off-the-shelf hand sanitizer that wouldn’t do much to the non-enveloped virus.

In related news, BBC is reporting that Scottish hospitals are asking visitors who have recently been ill to stay away. Something that I’ll suggest to Sam’s preschool organizers.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) said people ignoring the advice could end up passing on symptoms to patients.

FullSizeRenderThe appeal is part of wider attempts to minimise the effects of norovirus in hospitals across the area.

Visitors are also being reminded about the “importance of hand hygiene when entering and leaving” hospitals.

Prof Craig Williams, lead infection control doctor at NHS GGC, said: “We understand that when a relative or friend is in hospital you want to offer them comfort and support by visiting them.

“Unfortunately visiting a loved one if you have experienced sickness and diarrhoea in the last 48 hours can have consequences for the person you are visiting. They would potentially catch whatever infection you have leading to their health being compromised.

“We are asking people not to visit friends or relatives in hospital if they have experienced any sickness or diarrhoea in the last 48 hours.”

Prof Williams added: “Norovirus is particularly prevalent during the winter and it’s not unusual to see this type of virus in the community.

Vomit cruise hits New Zealand; infection control steps shared

I’ve never been on a cruise vacation. The closest I’ve been is a river boat dinner voyage in New Orleans. Not quite the same thing. I can’t think of too many better places to conduct some reality research though. With the increased media scrutiny of infection control measures the cruise folks have had to step up their game and respond when an incident happens – and share what they are doing to keep an outbreak from spreading. That helps build trust (if they can verify that steps are correctly being followed).pr_dawn

According to the Otago Daily Times (NZ), when the Princess Cruise Lines’ Dawn Princess docked in Port Chalmers any affected passengers were not able to come in contact with others (on and off the ship – which was a concern for the kiwi media).

About 200 passengers have been confined to their cabins after the norovirus bug spread through the cruise ship while on a trip around New Zealand.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey said Dawn Princess had its own doctor on board and the ship’s crew were confident they could control the situation.

The cruise line spokesman said most passengers were unaffected by the outbreak and it took relatively few cases for stringent sanitation levels to be implemented to contain any spread of the illness.

The proactive onboard response included disinfecting high-touch surfaces such as railings, door handles and lift buttons; isolating ill passengers in their cabins; closing all self-service food areas; and encouraging passengers to use their own cabin bathroom facilities, he said.

Although he would not confirm if any passengers visiting Dunedin had norovirus, if they did it was standard protocol for the relevant public health authorities to be notified and those passengers would remain isolated in their cabins.

Fruitcake – Will It Last Forever?

Chris Murphy of Sloan (a top-5 band on the pantheon of Canadian rock and roll) pines on Action Pact that ‘nothing lasts for ever any more.’

Fruitcake might.

But as Schaffner says, ‘it depends’ on some a few factors.

My friend and colleague, Matt Shipman from NC State News Services tackled the question  of fruitcake preservation on The Abstract, the first of a series of holiday posts.

I’ve always thought that, in the event of a nuclear apocalypse, the Earth will be populated solely by cockroaches, those Styrofoam hamburger containers that fast-food joints used in the 1980s, and fruitcakes. Since this is the season for loved ones to inflict fruitcakes on one another, I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery: will fruitcakes really last forever?Fruitcake-848x477

As it turns out, the answer depends on how you define “fruitcake.” 

Most fruitcake recipes include dried nuts, dried fruit, and “candied” fruit or peel (meaning the fruit has been both dried and preserved in sugar). [Note: not all fruitcakes are made this way, see the safety note below.]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that fruitcake will last two to three months in the refrigerator without spoiling, and will maintain its quality if stored up to a year in the freezer. But it’s a federal agency’s job to think of the worst-case scenario. Could fruitcakes really last longer? (and FDA says that the water activity of a fruitcake, although there’s not a standard identity for one, is between .73 and .83 – ben)

“All of these dried and candied ingredients have what we call ‘low water activity,’ meaning they have very little moisture available,” says Ben Chapman, a food safety researcher at NC State. “Low water activity is important because many microorganisms, including foodborne illness-causing bacteria, need moisture in order to reproduce.

“In practical terms, this makes most fruitcakes extremely shelf stable, so they would be safe to eat for a long time – a really long time,” Chapman says. “But it might taste pretty bad.”

That’s because a lot of things can significantly affect the quality of the fruitcake.

For example, mold could grow on the surface of a fruitcake, or yeast could cause some of the sugars in the fruitcake to ferment.

“But some people wrap their fruitcakes in linen that’s been soaked in rum or other spirits to reduce the chance of mold or yeast problems,” Chapman says.

“However, rancidity may still be an issue. Fruitcakes contain a variety of proteins, from eggs to butter to nuts – even the fruit items. And when proteins are exposed to air, they can become oxidized, which can create rancid flavors and odors,” Chapman explains.

So, while you may be able to save that fruitcake forever, you should probably eat it now.

Safety Note: If a fruitcake has a significant amount of moisture (e.g., if it was made with fresh fruit) it is more likely to spoil or to give pathogens enough moisture to reproduce. In other words, it could make you sick if not kept refrigerated and eaten relatively quickly.

Consumer food safety efforts (or, environmental scans aren’t about camping)

I started out my career in food safety as an undergraduate student looking for some sort of direction or passion. It was post-y2k and I really just wanted to find something fun to do and stay in Guelph with all my friends.

After one night of expressing my disappointment of not getting a job as a councilor at a science camp, one of those friends, Lindsay Core, suggested that I contact this professor (Doug) who was interested in food safety – he might have a job. After a couple of emails he told me to show up to his lab to learn how to do the news.

I didn’t know what the news was. I figured I’d find out when I arrived.

Doug was running FSNet, a daily food safety listerv (the precursor to barfblog), and a couple of other lists. The news meant scouring the Internets for content that would be edited into those listserv postings. I showed up everyday as summer student, read everything I could and became really passionate about foodborne illness stuff.

NA-picThe rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

At the start of summer 2014, soon-to-be MS student Nicole Arnold (right, exactly as shown)  was helping out with a couple of projects that my group was running – and doing the news. One day I got a call from Shelley Feist at the Partnership for Food Safety Education about a research question: would we be able to gather some data on who was doing what in the world of consumer food safety education. I said I had a student who might be a good fit for her needs.

I emailed Nicole and asked her if she wanted to do an environmental scan.

As she stated this morning during a talk the 2014 Consumer Food Safety Education Conference, she thought I was asking her about a camping project.

After administering a questionnaire electronically and by phone to almost 400 front-line folks who are actively engaging with people in their communities about food safety stuff she answered Shelley’s questions: lots of different types of interventions are out there, most are delivering face-to-face; many programs are directed at high-risk populations; only about half measure whether their efforts had any impacts; and, there are some audience gaps.

Here’s the press release that the partnership sent out today about Nicole’s work. A paper will be submitted shortly, but in the interim preliminary analysis of the raw data can be found here.

Partnership for Food Safety Education Conducts First-Ever Analysis of Food Safety Education Initiatives across Sectors

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 4, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Federal government, cooperative extensions and public health agencies are identified as the most active organizations in educating consumers about safe food handling at home, according to an environmental scan report commissioned by the non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE). The analysis of current activity and initiatives in food safety education across different sectors was released today at the Consumer Food Safety Education Conference 2014 in Arlington, Va. and is available at teamfoodsafety.org.

The survey found that in today’s digital environment, most food safety education is done in person. According to the survey, 90 percent of the people that consider themselves food safety educators connect with consumers via face-to-face meetings and presentations. The next most-used channel is online, with 36 percent of educators using this method to connect with consumers.

“We conducted this environmental scan for the Partnership for Food Safety Education to better understand where health and food educators are focusing their consumer outreach activities,” said Dr. Benjamin Chapman, associate professor in the department of Youth, Family, and Community Sciences at NCSU. “Gathering data on educators’ delivery methods and target audiences allows the food safety community to see where gaps exist – and provide a roadmap for where to put resources in the future.”

Of the groups surveyed, the federal government was identified as reaching the greatest numbers of consumers through programs such as Food Safe Families, Cook it Safe and Fight BAC!®. Cooperative extensions represent the greatest number of educators who come in contact with consumers on the topic of home safe food handling.

Across the three most active groups, food safety education outreach has been predominantly aimed at reaching children/students and adults with children at home. Public health was found to be a primary sector reaching elderly populations. Low-income populations, pregnant women and people who buy food were secondary targets for food safety educators.

Another finding of the survey is that measuring the impact of food safety education programs is not always a top priority. Across all of the groups surveyed, half (52 percent) measure the impact of their programs, while the remaining 48 percent either do not conduct evaluations of these efforts or don’t know if there is an evaluation system in place. Those organizations that do measure effectiveness do so using tools such as pre and post surveys, tests/quizzes, audits/visits and surveillance.

“We all need to do a better job of measuring and then telling the story of the impact of food safety education on consumer health,” said Shelley Feist, Executive Director, Partnership for Food Safety Education. “Much of this year’s Consumer Food Safety Education Conference is focused on program evaluation and tactics for measuring program impact. Our hope is that the conversations and the tools shared in these sessions will make measurement a more attainable goal across the board.”

For those unable to attend the Consumer Food Safety Education Conference, several plenary sessions will be broadcast live on December 4-5 at www.teamfoodsafety.org/live.

Methodology

PFSE commissioned North Carolina State University to conduct the survey in 2014 to identify the most involved organizations, the audiences they serve, and the channels most frequently used to communicate safe food handling messages. For a complete description of methodology please visit: www.teamfoodsafety.org/scan

’Tis the season for holiday illnesses (apparently)

There’s a perception that there are more outbreaks around the holidays because folks don’t know how to cook turkey. The epidemiology isn’t all that strong around amateur bird preparation and illnesses –  but there are a lot of parties and potluck/covered dish dinners this time of year.

And it’s also noro season. img_1787

According to Planet Princeton, over 30 people reported illnesses to health authorities after eating at the Nassau Inn over Thanksgiving – and it looks like norovirus.

The Princeton Health Department received 30 reports between Thanksgiving and Tuesday of individuals experiencing gastrointestinal illnesses.

All 30 people ate at the restaurant at the Nassau Inn on Thanksgiving or the day after the holiday, Princeton Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser said. Many of the people also ate at other restaurants during the time period.

Laboratory testing has not yet confirmed the cause of the illnesses yet, but Grosser said the Norovirus is suspected in most or all of reported cases because of the symptoms and the time frame for the onset of symptoms and the recovery. 

“All the phone calls we received were similar in terms of where people ate, when people became ill (Thursday and Friday) and when they started feeling better (Sunday and Monday),” Grosser said.

An inspection of the restaurant at the hotel only revealed minor issues that can easily be rectified. Grosser said the issues did not cause the illnesses.