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.

Music festivals are great; for pathogens too

I was at a kids birthday party recently when a parent familiar with my Canadian heritage mentioned to me that the Tragically Hip’s 2016 tour would be a string of depressing events.

Maybe, I dunno.the_tragically_hip___gord_downie_iii_by_basseca-d5grhdt

Gord Downie, the Hip’s lead singer, has terminal brain cancer and their 10 city tour is a farewell, according to the band’s website.

So after 30-some years together as The Tragically Hip, thousands of shows, and hundreds of tours…

We’ve decided to do another one.

This feels like the right thing to do now, for Gord, and for all of us.

I’ve seen the Hip a handful of times, a few at outdoor festivals; each time it’s been more of a community gathering than a concert. Sorta like Canada’s version of the Grateful Dead or Jimmy Buffet experiences. Except with hockey, the Group of Seven and loons.

Doug’s post yesterday reminded me of the excitement at these festivals:

Heavy drinking; lots of other substances; the pit where sweaty bodies are smashed up against each other; and, folks using bushes and other places to poop and pee to avoid the lines at the port-a-potties.

And maybe it’ll rain and move the excrement around.

Here’s a great review of outdoor festival-linked outbreaks over the past couple of decades. Spoiler alert – there are well over 10,000 illnesses reported.Gautret_tab2

Is gastroenteritis just another name for norovirus?

Maybe it is. Maybe not. A Texas town has a bunch of sick people. The health department folks are investigating.

And, according to News West 9, they’ve released a weird consumer-focused message in the absence of linking illnesses together: wash your hands and your produce, especially melons.

Midland health officials are warning residents to wash their hands and their food following a recent increase in infectious gastroenteritis cases.Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.36.53 PM

City officials said the best defense against the illness is prevention by effective hand washing with plenty of soap and warm water and washing all vegetables and fruits, including melons.

City of Midland Health & Senior Services officials are interviewing patients within the community to help identify any common source of infection. Interviews that have been conducted to this point have not indicated that the illness is stemming from any particular food establishment.

If health officials believe they are looking at a foodborne norovirus outbreak, CDC has data showing 96% outbreaks are not from homes. Not sure produce washing is an effective risk management step.

It’s called barfblog: Tori Spelling pukes in front of James Franco

Tori Spelling, best known to me as the inspiration of Beverly Hills 90210’s protest song, ‘Donna Martin Graduates’ was on Extra TV telling her tale of projectile vomit in front of showbiz and art everything, James Franco.

After living out her marital problems on reality TV, Tori Spelling is set to return to television in Lifetime’s reboot of the camp classic “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?”

Tori worked on the remake with co-star James Franco, who was right in front of her when she vomited on the set. She admitted, “Sadly, that happened. It was so funny because I think he’s a genius. I was so excited to work with him. In 25 years in this business, I have never had a moment like this. I get on the set, my kids had the stomach flu and all of a sudden, I got it. We were filming all nights, this shoot, and it literally came out of nowhere, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t even make it to a bathroom.’ I tried to get out of there and I couldn’t and I just bent down and projectile-vomited in front of James Franco…”

If it was noro-induced, the puke plume might have hit Franco.

‘We found Salmonella in some of the cooked food from the restaurant, as well as in some raw food.’ That’s not good

In North Carolina folks vacation at the beach or in the mountains. The idea is to get a bunch of people together in a house and cook/eat/drink and recharge. In Ontario (that’s in Canada) people relax and party in cottages that line the hundreds of lakes north of Toronto.

I spent this past weekend in cottage country, as it’s known, celebrating my parents anniversary with a bunch of family and friends.IMG_0978

One of the popular Southern Ontario-to-the-cottage roads travels through Bradford. Home of a marsh, Chicago Blackhawk Brandon Mashinter, and over 20 confirmed cases of salmonellosis linked to St. Louis Bar and Grill.

According to 104.5 CHUM FM, the restaurant has been closed twice in the past three weeks due to illnesses.

22 cases have been confirmed by lab testing and another 18 people have symptoms that are consistent with Salmonella.

Dr. Colin Lee with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says the restaurant had to be closed on May 31st and then again on June 15th-16th to allow for food samples to be taken and proper disinfection.

“We found Salmonella in some of the cooked food from the restaurant, as well as in some raw food.”

In a statement provided to NEWSTALK 1010, St. Louis Bar & Grill says the safety and well-being of its customers and staff are its highest priorities. The company underlined that it has been working closely with the local health unit and that its Bradford location is open as normal.

“On two occasions (May 31 and June 15), we cooperated fully with the Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit to close the restaurant for inspection, sanitization and disinfection. On both occasions, the Health Unit was satisfied that there was no risk to public safety and cleared us to re-open within a few hours (May 31) and the next day (June 15).”

There is always a risk to public safety when food is involved. It’s up to restaurant operators to reduce the risks. Salmonella in raw and cooked food isn’t an indicator of good risk management.

Recall creep? Is this new? HelloFresh recalls frozen peas

There’s some great press release writing going on here, but not too many details.

HelloFresh of New York, N.Y. is recalling frozen peas due to notification from a supplier that the peas have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The peas were included in HelloFresh recipe kits delivered the week of June 11-15, 2016 and the weeks of March 12-25, 2016.Unknown

Currently, no illnesses or customer complaints have been reported to date, however, in an abundance of caution, the company has decided to conduct this voluntary recall. HelloFresh immediately informed their affected customers of the recall and advised them to discard the product.

Following the cooking preparation instructions printed on each individual case will effectively reduce the risk of exposure to this bacterium.

Also according to HelloFresh, ‘the pea is most commonly the small spherical seed of the pod fruit Pisum Sativum.’

Thanks for that.

Inquiring minds want to know if CRF Frozen Foods the supplier? If so, why did it take until 8 weeks to announce the recall? Was HelloFresh not going to recall the March products until they figured out they had used the same batch of recalled peas in their June products?

Oh, and show your validated consumer preparation instructions that lead to the effective reduction.

And CRF frozen veggies did lead to 8 illnesses including 2 deaths.


From the industry sponsored survey files: More paper towels and soap needed in restrooms

Ask a bunch of people about their bathroom habits and you get a bunch of answers. Maybe there’s some truth to the self-reported behaviors. Bradley Corporation the commercial washroom people report in a non-peer-reviewed survey that folks in the U.S. don’t always wash their hands (not new) that women self-report handwashing compliance rates higher then men (seen in observation studies) and there’s a lot of texting/Facebooking/Snapchatting in the stalls (sometimes in a creepy way).bathrooms-900x600

The Healthy Hand Washing Survey queried 1,062 American adults online Dec. 10-13, 2015 about their hand washing habits in public restrooms and concerns about germs, colds and the flu. Participants were from around the country, were 18 years and older, and were fairly evenly split between men and women (47 and 53 percent).

Some gems:

Americans take cell phone breaks in restroom stalls.
Using cell phones in restroom stalls is not off limits for the majority of Americans. Texting, checking/sending email, checking/posting on social media and surfing the web are the most common activities. Surprisingly, six percent of all survey respondents admit they’ve taken a photo in the stall while eight percent of men say they’ve checked their fantasy sports league.

They skip the suds….especially men.

While consumers look to businesses to improve their restroom cleanliness, they have room for improvement when it comes to washing their hands in these locations. Almost 80 percent say they frequently or occasionally see others leave a public restroom without washing their hands, especially in the men’s room. Men also admit they are less likely to wash up than women – 20 percent disclosed they skip washing because they “didn’t feel the need.”

They identify facility issues that get in the way of washing hands (there may be some bias in here, with a survey coming from a facilities company -ben)

Of those who acknowledge not washing their hands, most say there was a lack of resources in the wash area – no soap or paper towels. They also blame the sinks, which were either not working or simply appeared too unclean to use.

They think poorly of businesses with dirty restrooms.
An unclean restroom tarnishes the image of a business in consumers’ minds. Most Americans say that a messy restroom signifies poor management and shows the business doesn’t care about its appearance or its customers.

Clean restrooms don’t mean safe food.

Campy cluster linked to Alejandro’s Taqueria

I haven’t had much notable foodborne illness in my life. I’m good for some noro every couple of years and am usually on the mend within a day or so of explosive vomiting. In 2009 I got campy and the symptoms were bad. Every poop I had was like blowing water out of my colon. And I was doing that 8-10 times a day.

Campy is nasty.alejandrosLG

According to KCRA at least 30 patrons of Alejandro’s Taqueria in Fairfield, CA are experiencing what I did.

“We got an increased number of reports of campylobacter,” Solano County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Michael Stacey said.

It’s a complex word for a very serious bacteria that causes gastrointestinal infections. It can be found on food that hasn’t been properly cooked.

In Fairfield, 32 people have come down with campylobacteriosis.

“It appears, it was linked to eating at Alejandro’s,” Stacey said. “We’re not sure what food item could have been contaminated.”

Most of the people infected ate there between May 26 and 28, but the restaurant wasn’t shut down until June 8. The county said there may be more cases.

The county is investigating samples of cooked food it collected from Alejandro’s Taqueria on June 8.

When KCRA stopped by, employees were inside working but refused to come to the door.

History matters: Gordie Howe edition

One of the things that Doug and I often lament is for all of the focus on technology and progress, many food safety problems that pop up are recurring issues: not understanding how the bugs move/grow, poor management, poor execution or just not caring.

Same stuff almost every time.

A lot can be learned by paying attention to the bad stuff that has happened in the past.howe-gretzky

History matters in hockey too. Last night my kids stayed up with the hopes of seeing the Stanley Cup awarded live for the first time. Neither made it past the ten minute mark of the third, and San Jose forced a game six (so we have another chance Sunday).

During the game we talked a while about NHL players jersey numbers; Jack wears number 9 after finding out Gretzky wore that as a kid.

Gretzky chose that number because his idol Gordie Howe wore it.

Gordie died today at age 88.

From the Salmonella-in-low-moisture foods files: gummie vitamins edition

An ongoing challenge in my home is getting my kids to eat healthy foods. We’ve tried all the strategies (introduction, hiding, urging, yelling – okay, maybe that one isn’t so good) and we’ve made some progress.

As we work on nutrition, we supplement with vitamins, of the gummie kind.

At least the kids get some essential compounds everyday if all they eat is pasta covered in parmesan cheese.B008HF3RWS_2

According to a press release, some Nature Made gummies may be contaminated with Salmonella and Staph aureus because of a testing issue.

Pharmavite LLC is recalling specific lots of Nature Made® products detailed in the chart below due to possible Salmonella or Staphylococcus aureus contamination.

We are initiating this recall out of an abundance of caution to protect public health. Pharmavite is working closely with the FDA to implement this recall and we are notifying all retail customers and distributors to remove the product from store shelves immediately. No other products are impacted by this recall. The recalled products were distributed nationwide to various major retailers.

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that Salmonella and/or Staphylococcus aureus testing were not completed properly on these specific batch lots. Pharmavite has identified the cause of the error, is taking the matter very seriously and has implemented corrective actions to rectify the issue. Pharmavite cares deeply about the health and safety of consumers and we apologize for any inconvenience.

5 Things You Should Know About Grilling Burgers (To Avoid Getting Sick)

I do a lot of grilling, or barbecuing as it’s known in Ontario (that’s in Canada). One of the best things about living in North Carolina is I don’t often have to be outside in snow or sleet while I roast a pork tenderloin, beer can chicken or burgers.

One of my favorite grilling partners, Matt Shipman and I talked grilling and burger food safety this week and the results were posted at The Abstract.ben-new

For many people, the sound of burgers sizzling on the grill is enough to make their mouths water. Grilling burgers is a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends, whether it’s at a summer party in the backyard or tailgating in the autumn. But grilling burgers can also lead to vomiting, diarrhea and all the other health effects associated with foodborne illness.

To help you and your loved ones avoid barfing this grilling season, we talked to NC State University food safety expert Ben Chapman. And he gave us these five things to remember when it comes to making a delicious (and safe) burger.

1) Color Stinks. Most people think you can tell whether a burger is done by the color of the meat. Those people are wrong.

“A burger can be undercooked, and unsafe, but still be brown in the middle,” Chapman says. “Or a burger can be well cooked, and safe, but still be pink or red. Color is determined by a lot of factors other temperature.”

And you really want to make sure your burger is cooked properly. Ground beef has been linked to foodborne illnesses caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and Salmonella, while ground turkey and chicken have been linked to Salmonella and Campylobacter.

2) Temperature Rules. The only way to be sure your burger is safely cooked is to observe these basic rules related to time and temperature:

For beef and bison, burgers need to be cooked until their internal temperature reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit (and stays at that temperature for 15 seconds), or until the internal temperature reaches 160 °F;
For chicken and turkey, burgers need to be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
And that means you’ll need a thermometer; preferably, a digital, tip-sensitive thermometer.

“Dial-based thermometers are often inaccurate and unreliable,” Chapman says. “Plus, digital thermometers make you a better cook – you’re less likely to overcook your meat if you use one.”

In addition, you’ll want to make sure to check the temperature of your burgers at multiple spots, because temperature at different spots in a single burger can vary by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

3) Grind-It-Yourself Isn’t Safer. Some people think that buying steak and grinding their own burger is safer than buying ground beef. It’s not.

“The same pathogens we find in ground beef are also found on the outside of whole muscle beef,” Chapman says. “And with ground beef risks, because Shigatoxin-producing E. coli is considered an adulterant, the industry is looking for it much more closely. There isn’t data to show that grinding your own beef is safer, and if you grind something that isn’t intended to be ground you may actually increase your risk.”

4) All Ground Meat Carries Risks. But those risks vary. For example, STEC are much more common in ground beef than in ground poultry, whereas Campylobacter are much more common in ground turkey and chicken. Either pathogen can cause both acute and long-term illnesses – but illnesses caused by STEC are more likely to be fatal.

In other words: cook your burgers to a safe temperature. Especially if you’ll be serving those burgers to children, older adults, or people with a compromised immune system (like patients undergoing chemotherapy).

5) It’s Not Just Cooking. Even if you cook a burger properly, you could still get sick if you didn’t handle the raw meat properly. That’s because of “cross-contamination,” in which pathogens from the uncooked food are transferred to food that’s ready to eat.

“In general, foodborne pathogens have a 10 percent transfer rate,” Chapman says. “So, if there are 10,000 colony-forming units, or cells, in the raw meat you touch with your hand, an average of 1,000 of them would transfer to your hand. Then, if you touched a hamburger bun without washing your hand, you could transfer 100 of those cells onto the bun and – ultimately – into your mouth.

“To avoid cross-contamination, make sure the plate that carried the raw burgers is cleaned and sanitized before any other food touches it (including the cooked burgers),” Chapman says. “You also need to clean and sanitize any utensils that touch the raw meat, such as tongs or flippers, and make sure to wash your hands any time you touch raw meat.”

Now…who wants cheese on theirs?