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.

CDC: 11 ill and one death linked to Dole salads; products pulled

I spent the past couple of days in a room with some excellent fresh produce food safety colleagues making extension materials for industry folks; we talked a bit about Listeria monocytogenes and cut leafy greens.

Irony is ironic sometimes.Bagged-Salad-by-Justin-Sullivan-Getty-Images-300x200

The process of growing, harvesting, cutting, washing and packaging leafy greens can be problematic when it comes to Listeria monocytogenes. Sanitizers in wash water helps reduce cross-contamination. Once the pathogen is in the bag, there’s not much a consumer can do (other than cook it).

CDC says 12 cases of listeriosis, including a death, are linked to Dole products packaged in a Springfield, OH plant. Routine sampling and whole genome sequencing helped solve the mystery of the cluster (which had been investigated since September).

Twelve people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria have been reported from six states since July 5, 2015. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Indiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (4), New Jersey (1), New York (4), and Pennsylvania (1). WGS has been performed on clinical isolates from all 12 ill people and has shown that the isolates are highly related genetically.

Listeria specimens were collected from July 5, 2015 to December 23, 2015. Ill people range in age from 3 years to 83, and the median age is 66. Sixty-nine percent of ill people are female. All 12 (100%) ill people reported being hospitalized, and one person from Michigan died as a result of listeriosis. One of the illnesses reported was in a pregnant woman.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence available at this time indicates that packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio and sold under various brand names are the likely source of this outbreak.

State and local health departments are interviewing ill people about the foods they may have eaten or other exposures in the month before their illness began. Of five ill people who were asked about packaged salad, all five (100%) reported eating a packaged salad. Two (100%) of two ill people who specified the brand of packaged salad eaten reported various varieties of Dole brand packaged salad.

As part of a routine product sampling program, the Ohio Department of Agriculture collected a Dole brand Field Greens packaged salad from a retail location and isolated Listeria. This packaged salad was produced at the Springfield, Ohio Dole processing facility. In January 2016, WGS showed that the Listeria isolate from the packaged salad was highly related genetically to isolates from ill people. This information linked the illnesses to Dole brand packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.

On January 21, 2016, Dole reported to CDC that it had stopped production at the processing facility in Springfield, Ohio. The company also reported that it is withdrawing packaged salads currently on the market that were produced at this facility. The withdrawal does not affect other Dole products.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat, restaurants do not serve, and retailers do not sell packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.

These packaged salads were sold under various brand names, including Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar, and President’s Choice. The packaged salads can be identified by the letter “A” at the beginning of the manufacturing code found on the package.

The U.S. cases may be linked to the Canadian Lm outbreak, based on the product, distribution and timeline, but there’s not much info from officials to confirm the connection.

Dole’s recall notice can be found here.

Storm’s a comin’: my snow kit includes thermometers and beer

As the U.S. East Coast prepares for snowmageddon 2016, my friend Andrea Weigl of the Raleigh News & Observer called me to chat about food safety steps when the power goes out. I mentioned the need to check temperatures. And that we stock up on beverages.1920543_10152192564303431_259801825_n

▪ Once your power goes out, start tracking time. Refrigerators built within the last 20 years actually do a good job keeping food cold even without power. Keep the door closed as much as possible. After eight hours, check the food’s temperature with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer. (If you don’t own one, now might be a good time to buy one.) 

▪ You do not want food to be above 41 degrees for more than 4 hours. That’s when bacteria can grow and make people sick. 

▪ Fill empty space in your freezer with ice to help frozen food last longer. 

▪ Foods you should worry about include meat, cooked foods, sliced melons, sliced tomatoes, sprouts, soft cheeses and dairy products excluding yogurt. Foods that you don’t have to worry about include uncut fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, rolls, bagels, cakes without cream or custard, cookies, muffins, hard cheeses, condiments and dressings. 

▪ If the food temperature is worrisome, transfer food to ice- or snow-filled coolers. Just be sure to keep coolers in a cool place, away from direct sunlight. 

So what does Chapman stock up on in preparation for storms? 

Beer and wine, he told us. 

Now that is some very good advice.

Seven ill with listeriosis in Canada; prepackaged leafy greens investigated

Bagged leafy greens are a common ingredient in our weekly dinners – I’m a fan of the 50/50 spinach spring mix combo as a base for a steak, blue cheese, pear and walnut salad. But eating anything raw, like leafy greens is a trust-based activity. I trust that the folks who grow, cut, wash and package salad mix know how to manage the risks.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections in five provinces. To date, the source of this outbreak has not been confirmed. However prepackaged leafy greens, salad blends, and salad kits are food items being investigated. This notice will be updated as new information becomes available.

At this time, the risk to Canadians is low, but given that Listeria can cause severe illness to some high-risk groups, Canadians are being asked to review and follow proper safe food handling practices in an effort to prevent illnesses.
Currently, there are seven (7) cases of Listeria monocytogenes in five provinces related to this outbreak: Ontario (3), Quebec (1), New Brunswick (1), Prince Edward Island (1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (1). Individuals became sick between September 2015 and early January 2016. The majority of cases (71%) are female, with an average age of 81 years. All cases have been hospitalized, and one person has died, however it has not been determined if Listeria contributed to the cause of death.

Massachusetts fermenter known for its unpasteurized tempeh wins award

According to the Berkshire Eagle, lacto-fermented vegetables are all the rage. But I’d be concerned about how food safety is managed.

Hosta Hill, a Berkshires-based maker of lacto-fermented vegetables and unpasteurized tempeh, has been honored with a 2016 Good Food Award for its Gochu Curry Kraut, a variation on traditional sauerkraut featuring Indian and Korean influences.IMG_9896

“We’re thrilled to be recognized for the second consecutive year by the Good Food Awards,” Elling, a Berkshires native and graduate of Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington, said in the press release announcing the award. “We love that they say we ‘celebrate the kind of food we all want to eat: tasty, authentic and responsibly produced’ because it acknowledges the complete method behind the meal. To have our handmade ferments, featuring sustainably grown ingredients from right here in the Berkshires, reach a national audience and be mentioned in the same sentence as so many of these other great companies is an incredible honor.”

Does responsibly produced include vetting their starter culture suppliers and asking them to test their products for Salmonella. And telling the folks who use the unpasteurized tempeh that they need to handle it like raw meat?

Not the best idea: serving smoked salmon to hospital patients

I’m not a huge smoked salmon fan, but when there’s not much to choose on a breakfast buffet, I’ll grab some with a bagel and cream cheese.

With its history of Listeria monocytogenes risks, I wouldn’t serve smoked salmon to someone who was immunocompromised.shutterstock_187930064

Or a hospital patient.

According to EJ Insight, a 79-year-old hospital patient in Hong Kong has listeriosis following a smoked salmon sandwich.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) epidemiological investigations revealed that the patient had consumed high-risk foods including sandwiches with smoked salmon provided by the kitchen of the private hospital in late December, Ming Pao Daily reported.

The patient has been confined at the hospital since Sept. 12 last year for several chronic diseases. She developed fever and her body conditions deteriorated since Jan. 1.

While a sample of smoked salmon collected from the hospital kitchen tested negative for Listeria monocytogenes, the patient’s blood culture yielded the bacteria.

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department subsequently collected five smoked salmon samples and 19 environmental samples from the factory of Elegant Fine Food Limited, the food supplier, on Shipyard Lane in Quarry Bay.

Four of the samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogene, while all environmental samples were negative.

The CFS has ordered the food supplier to immediately recall all of its smoked salmon products while all of its existing stocks were confiscated. Its production lines have been suspended for sterilization.

A CFS spokesperson said investigations are ongoing.

Why is this on a hospital menu?

Canadians go to Cuban resorts and report getting sick

In 2004 I visited the Dominican Republic, a popular Caribbean destination for Canadians attempting to escape the winter cold, wet and grey. Dani and I took advantage of her spring break and Millennium Scholarship (probably not what they were meant for) and spent a week sitting on the beach, eating buffets and playing scrabble.

It was pretty fun.100B8930

My food paranoia was focused on ice cubes, foods held at the wrong temperature and fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t think I ate anything that wasn’t fried and stuck to beer all week. Dani wasn’t nearly as ridiculous as I was (she rarely is) and she tried lots of stuff.

The week was a success; not only did we get some Vitamin D, neither of us had any foodborne illness symptoms.

Not quite what recent Canadians visiting Cuba have reported, according to Global News.

Unsanitary washrooms, unsafe food handling practices, unrelenting stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea: these are some of the complaints being reported about popular Canadian vacations destinations in Cuba promoted and operated by Sunwing Vacations of Toronto.

“It’s very severe, and I am struggling a week later,” said Amanda Klein of Medicine Hat, Alta., who recently returned from Cuba and says she is still experiencing stomach problems.

Klein, 26, spent a week with her boyfriend and two other Canadian couples at the Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Hotel in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba between Jan. 5 and 12.

But within days of the Canadians’ arrival, Klein says five of the six guests were violently ill with vomiting and diarrhea.

Klein says the group stopped eating at the all-inclusive resort–which they booked through Sunwing Vacations–after witnessing troubling food-handling practices.

“Numerous staff put their hands in food, licked their hands and put their hands in the food we were supposed to eat,” she said.

Klein is among a growing number of Sunwing customers who contacted Global News to complain about becoming ill at the Memories Paraiso Azul resort. Many have posted their accounts of poor conditions and illnesses on Facebook and on GlobalNews.ca.

But, Sunwing says it’s is not aware of a significant problem at the resort in Cuba.

“To date the hotel management team at Memories Paraiso Azul has advised us that they have not been made aware of any such cases,” said Jacqueline Grossman, senior director of marketing for Sunwing Vacations.

Grossman says the health and wellbeing of its customers is the company’s “primary concern.”

She acknowledged, however, that travelers have reported illnesses to Sunwing.

“In the past week our customer service department has received information from 10 clients complaining of gastro-illness during their stay at this resort over the last month,” Grossman said.

Sunwing travellers say they got sick at other resorts in Cuba in the last month, too.

Food Safety Talk 86: Low viscosity vomit

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.1453228104586

In an effort to get caught up and get some shows out, we have elected to post today’s show notes in a more old school style. Episode 86 is here.

Balding head glare on TV: Chipotle edition

Chipotle is going to close their doors for a day to talk food safety. I’m skeptical that will change the food safety culture – but investors seem to be convinced.

I talked to CBS about it today.

Air driers suck; just ask local graffiti artists

I snapped this pic today (below, exactly as shown). IMG_0401-1

I don’t like blow dryers because the literature shows they accumulate microorganisms from toilet aerosols, and can cause contamination of hands as they are dried by the dryer (Coates et al., 1987; Knights, et al., 1993; Redway,et al., 1994). In 2010, Anna Snelling and colleagues at the University of Bradford (UK) also showed that drying with a blow dryer can recontaminate hands and rubbing with paper towel was the most effective method to reduce pathogens.

Handwashing and food service food safety guru Pete Snyder at the St. Paul-based Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management summarized key aspects of handwashing and drying . Pete says that after hands are washed and rinsed, they must be thoroughly dried and cites data that shows 1-2 log reduction of pathogens from drying. Water and soap loosen the attachment of pathogen to hands. A rinse step dilutes what has been loosened but drying (and the friction associated) is the next step that matters – and the bugs have to go somewhere; I’d rather have paper towel instead of shit bacteria blown all over my pants.

Coates, D., D. N. Hutchinson, and F. J. Bolton. 1987. Survival of thermophilic campylobacter on fingertips and their elimination by washing and disinfection. Epidem. Inf. 99:265-274.

Knights, B., C. Evans, S. Barrass, and B. McHardy. 1993. Hand drying – A survey of efficiency and hygiene. The Applied Ecology Research Group, University of Westminster. London, UK.

Redway, K., B. Knights, Z. Bozoky, A. Theobald, and S.Hardcastle. 1994. Hand drying: A study of bacterial types associated with different hand drying methods and with hot air dryers. Applied Ecology Research Group, University of Westminster. London, UK. 14. Brodie, J. 1965. Hand hygiene. Scot. Med. J. 10:1:115-125.

Cruising and noro

I’ve never been on a cruise. Sometimes we talk about taking one, hopping from island to island and relaxing on the open seas.

And then comes another round of norovirus outbreaks. Lots of news coverage, throwbacks to the poop cruises and pictures of the CDC Vessel Sanitation program officials boarding ships.

Restaurants are linked to 64 per cent of norovirus outbreaks. CDC says that cruise ships get a lot of the attention but only account for only about 1 per cent of norovirus outbreaks.

But not everyone goes on a cruise.

In 2013, according to the Florida-Carribean Cruise Association 11.7 million North Americans (out of a total of ~530 million residents) went on cruises.

In this week’s MMWR, the good folks at the CDC released an analysis of cruise-related noro. MSMajestyOfTheSeasEdit1

From 2008 to 2014, the rate of acute gastroenteritis on cruise ships decreased among passengers from 27.2 cases per 100,000 travel days in 2008 to 22.3 in 2014, while the rate among crew members was essentially unchanged. The rate among both passengers and crew members was higher in 2012 compared with the preceding and following years, likely because of the emergence of a new norovirus strain. Among 73,599,005 passengers on cruise ships during 2008–2014, a total of 129,678 (0.18%) cases of acute gastroenteritis were reported during outbreak and nonoutbreak voyages; among 28,281,361 crew members, 43,132 (0.15%) cases were reported. Only a small proportion of those cases were part of a norovirus outbreak.

Cases of acute gastroenteritis illness on cruise ships are relatively infrequent. Norovirus, the most common causative agent of outbreaks, accounted for 14,911 cases among passengers and crew members during 2008–2014, 0.01% of the estimated number of norovirus cases in the United States during the study period. To further reduce acute gastroenteritis on cruise ships, travelers should practice good hand hygiene, especially after using the toilet and before touching the face or eating; persons experiencing diarrhea or vomiting should promptly report their illness for proper assessment, treatment, and monitoring.