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.

National Chicken Council petitions FSIS for labelling law for frozen chicken thingies

Labels aren’t the same as risk communication. And it’s not clear how effective they are as behavior change vehicles.

Information and safe handling labels can provide the basics, if developed in a science-based manner, but as the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection said in 2014, risk communication folks should really be involved in message crafting and evaluating effectiveness.

The frozen chicken thingie outbreaks are starting to matter. Like these two in 2015.Barber-Foods-stuffed-chicken-breasts

In an effort to ensure safe eating experiences and address potential consumer confusion, the National Chicken Council (NCC) has petitioned the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for mandatory labelling of raw, stuffed chicken products that may appear cooked and ready-to-eat.

Specifically, NCC is requesting that the agency take the following actions:

Conduct a rulemaking to adopt a regulation requiring that not-ready-to-eat stuffed chicken breast products that appear ready-to-eat be prominently and uniformly labelled to clearly inform consumers that the products are raw and how to properly handle and cook them; and

Publish a Compliance Guideline explaining how to validate cooking instructions for not-ready-to-eat stuffed chicken breast products that appear ready-to-eat, which incorporates NCC’s “Best Practices for Cooking Instruction Validation for Frozen NRTE Stuffed Chicken Breast Products.”

“NCC increasingly is aware that some consumers may be uncertain of the proper handling and cooking methods for not-ready-to-eat stuffed chicken breast products that may appear ready-to-eat, and the proposed measures are necessary to ensure proper handling and cooking of these products,” said NCC President Mike Brown in the petition.

“This labelling would clearly inform consumers that these products are raw and require proper cooking while providing specific and uniform instructions on how to cook the products.”

FSIS has had labeling guidance out for a while. Making it a rule will help with consistency of info but it’s not a magic bullet.

Oh, and this:

Self-reported and observed behavior of primary meal preparers and adolescents during preparation of frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products
British Food Journal, Vol 111, Issue 9, p 915-929
Sarah DeDonder, Casey J. Jacob, Brae V. Surgeoner, Benjamin Chapman, Randall Phebus, Douglas A. Powell;jsessionid=6146E6AFABCC349C376B7E55A3866D4A?contentType=Article&contentId=1811820
Purpose – The purpose of the present study was to observe the preparation practices of both adult and young consumers using frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products, which were previously involved in outbreaks linked to consumer mishandling. The study also sought to observe behaviors of adolescents as home food preparers. Finally, the study aimed to compare food handler behaviors with those prescribed on product labels.
Design/methodology/approach – The study sought, through video observation and self-report surveys, to determine if differences exist between consumers’ intent and actual behavior.
Findings – A survey study of consumer reactions to safe food-handling labels on raw meat and poultry products suggested that instructions for safe handling found on labels had only limited influence on consumer practices. The labels studied by these researchers were found on the packaging of chicken products examined in the current study alongside step-by-step cooking instructions. Observational techniques, as mentioned above, provide a different perception of consumer behaviors.
Originality/value – This paper finds areas that have not been studied in previous observational research and is an excellent addition to existing literature.

EU provides millions to enhance food safety in Georgia

I can’t figure why the EU has such an interest in Georgia’s food safety. Why not Montana? Or Rhode Island? Or Oklahoma.

I know some good folks at the Georgia Dept of Ag. And UGA is there.

Oh, it’s a different Georgia. The one that’s a country in Europe at the intersection of Eastern Europe and West Asia.

Georgia will receive €50 million from the European Union to improve national food safety standards.

A special agreement will be signed today in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi that outlines the start of the second phase of cooperation to establish food safety standards in Georgia.

The cooperation launched under the EU-funded European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD), which promotes agriculture and rural development policies and reforms to stimulate employment and improve the living conditions of Georgia’s rural population.

The main goal of the cooperation was to improve food safety and quality standards in Georgia, and improve the ways these standards and monitored and controlled.

The first phase included reforming and strengthening Governmental structures and building the capacity and capabilities of small farmers in Georgia to reduce poverty in Georgia’s rural areas.

From the joint cooperation between ENPARD and the Government, about 1,000 cooperatives were established and registered in Georgia and 52 consultation centres were created around the country to improve farmers’ access to agricultural information.

Hockey road trip food safety: Listeria edition

I spent most of the day yesterday in a car driving from Raleigh to Buffalo en route to Toronto. We’re making the migration for a hockey tournament that Jack is playing in and doing food safety stuff along the way. Like snapping pictures of handwashing signs.

Somewhere in Appalachia I chatted with Live Science’s Sara Miller about frozen foods, Listeria and stuff that’s not ready-to-eat.

Listeria can live for a really long time in the freezer, said Benjamin Chapman, a food-safety specialist and an associate professor at North Carolina State University.10425873_10154932050770367_6908638488334872961_n

In fact, freezing is how scientists preserve bacteria when they want to study the organisms in the lab, Chapman told Live Science.

While Listeria is not ubiquitous, it is very common in raw foods, Chapman said. Most people ingest some Listeria daily, but not in high amounts, and those individuals are fine, he said. It takes, on average, thousands of Listeria cells to make a person sick, he said.

But when Listeria does make someone sick, “it’s one of the most fatal pathogens we have,” Chapman said.

Several CDC reports of Listeria outbreaks found that the infection’s mortality rate was between 15 and 20 percent among people who became sick enough that they had to be hospitalized.

To protect yourself against Listeria, frozen vegetables should be cooked before they are eaten, Chapman said. Heating the foods kills Listeria, he said.

In fact, frozen vegetables are not considered “ready to eat” products, meaning that the foods should not be eaten raw, Chapman said. Though eating raw, frozen vegetables may sound unusual, frozen kale, for example, is increasingly being used in smoothies, he said. And it’s not uncommon for pediatricians to recommend letting young children chew and suck on frozen veggies while teething, he added.

Chapman noted that microwaving these foods is not the best way to prepare them. That’s because microwaves provide very uneven heat distribution, Chapman said. The food will get very hot in some places and not hot in other places, he said. In other words, the bacteria might not be killed throughout the food.

He also recommended avoiding thawing frozen vegetables in the refrigerator. This can be risky, especially if a person leaves the food in the refrigerator for multiple days, he said. (sort of, this one didn’t translate very well as I was traveling through a mountain tunnel- thawing in the fridge is cool, leaving uncooked thawed frozen veggies in the fridge for a long time – like a week – especially if the temp is above 41F isn’t great -ben).

Hucksters abound: orangoutangs and gluten instead of real food safety

I learned so much from Dr. Jonny Bower, PhD’s KCRA segment on food safety for grilling.

Like preserving orangoutang habitats. Marinade to stay safe from acrylamide. Protect against gluten. Use a proprietary blend of probiotics. Add lots of spices.Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.46.38 PM

Too bad the good doctor didn’t mix in a thermometer. Or talk about cross-contamination.

I couldn’t get the video to embed, check out the full segment here.

Chipotle outbreak makes Boston College commencement address

Part of our approach on barfblog is to inject surprise and humor, or what some might call shock jockery, into food safety messages to compel folks to employ risk reduction practices.

Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don’t. Linking a norovirus outbreak with a tragic terrorist event isn’t the best idea. According to, United States Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz made the Chipotle/Boston Marathon bombing connection during a Boston College commencement speech.Screen-Shot-2016-05-23-at-10.38.40-AM-850x478$large

United States Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz is a native of Fall River, Mass., an alumnus of BC and a professor at MIT, which means he knows very well what it means to be a Bostonian.

But Boston College’s commencement speaker gave a special shout-out to the class of 2016 for being what he called “Boston College strong.”

“You were here for the terrible Boston Marathon terrorism events, the terrible snow storm, and, as I understand, the perils of fast food became also known to this class,” he said.

Those “perils” occurred in December during a norovirus outbreak at the Chipotle in Cleveland Circle. More than 140 Boston College students got sick after eating at the restaurant, including many members of the basketball team.

Michigan Carrabba’s outbreak confirmed as norovirus

Last week I was part of a panel with Aron Hall and Chip Manuel at the Food Safety Summit. For an hour and a half we talked burden, outbreaks, sanitizers, vomit and social media. The conclusion was there’s a bunch a noro in the U.S.; it sticks around for a long time in the environment; and, restaurants are a popular place for outbreaks. Like Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Delta Township, MI.635991863436297897-IMG-2401

The department announced the findings Wednesday afternoon, but it was not clear how many people were sickened in the outbreak. The agency said in a news release and on its Facebook page that more than 100 people became ill after eating at the restaurant over two days in May. But Greg Cabose, the agency’s community services supervisor, disputes the number of people stricken. He declined to give a total Wednesday, but earlier this week pegged the figure who became ill at closer to 30.

All of the people who were sickened ate at the restaurant on May 7 or May 8, the department said. Carrabba’s voluntarily shut down on May 10 after a visit from Health Department officials. The restaurant was cleared to reopen May 12 and there have been no sickness complaints since.

FSIS releases final mechanically tenderized beef labeling rule

I don’t order steaks at restaurants very often; it’s not for safety reasons, it’s because I can buy good ribeye or fillet and grill it at home.china_use_2

About once a week I make a spinach salad with pears, blue cheese and toasted walnuts served with sliced steak. I like to sear the outside to about 220F – and keep the inside around 130F. Something I can do with little risk if my meat is fully intact.

I don’t buy mechanically tenderized meat.

At least I don’t think I do. As a consumer, up until now I’ve been at the mercy of the butcher/meat counter. I ask questions. Folks tell me it’s not tenderized.

Soon, I’ll be able to look for a label. According to Meating Place, USDA FSIS’s final rule on mechanically tenderized beef labeling was just released.

The rule was two years in the making and requires that the product names of the affected products include the descriptive designation “mechanically tenderized,” “blade tenderized” or “needle tenderized.” Raw products that are destined for foodservice or home cooking have to include cooking instructions that recommend that mechanically tenderized beef be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees followed by a three-minute rest time.

The new rule is intended to address issues with the blades or needles used to mechanically tenderized meat cuts, which can introduce pathogens from the surface of the meat into the interior. If not fully cooked, then, the pathogens could make diners sick the same way a rare or medium rare burger can.
Consumers have been getting messages about fully cooking their burgers, however, whereas they are more likely to cook mechanically tenderized steak on the rare side, the same they way would with an intact cut.

About 11 percent, or 2.6 billion pounds, of beef products sold in the U.S. have been mechanically tenderized, according to USDA data. Deputy Undersecretary Al Almanza said the new rule comes in response to six outbreaks of illnesses linked to bacterial contamination in mechanically tenderized meat since 2000.

‘I’m a sympathetic vomiter and can’t handle the smell’ Dad texts mom after kid pukes

I used to be a sympathetic vomiter; like Lard Ass Hogan style.

And then I had kids, and cleaning up vomit became a daily event.

A few years ago Jack puked on a plane. The flight attendants responded quickly, and provided me with plastic bags to contain the pukey clothes and coffee pods to manage the smell. Because there are some sympathy yackers out there.

Like the dad who texted an excellent kid puke-driven narrative to his wife that went viral today.




It is called barfblog.

Romper writes about listeria, misses some context

Romper, a site targeting new moms (from the same folks who run Bustle) deconstructs recent listeria events and sorta misses stuff, but there are some gems for the nerds:

Listeria is a wild bacteria


As opposed to the domestic ones.

it’s possible that a listeria contamination happened before the veggies were frozen, hence that “voluntary recall” qualifier for companies.hqdefault


Want to ensure listeria doesn’t live…refrigerate.

Uh no. Not quite

If you feel icky about bacteria, forget about what your grandma said and toss that pasta. If not, go for it. Just microwave them at least.

Probably not the best cooking source because of the uneven heat.

At least they got this correct:

Different kinds of food are processed, cleaned, and distributed in many places.


Don’t like your inspection result? Change your restaurant’s ownership

It seems like a lot of work but NBC Bay Area reports there is a loophole in erasing inspection history – good and bad – change the ownership.

But a name change alone doesn’t change how the managers and staff address food safety.

“It’s not for me to make sense of it, it is what the law requires us to do,” said Stephanie Cushing, who heads the city’s restaurant inspection process as the Director of the San Francisco’s Department of Environmental Health.dohevhiomwpyri5adsqz

Cushing’s team of 30 field inspectors make daily checks at restaurants across the city to ensure they comply with health and safety codes, but she acknowledges those inspection reports are promptly removed from the city’s website once a restaurant files paperwork to indicate changes in ownership of the business, even if managers and employees remains largely the same.

Cushing’s team of inspectors are no strangers to a Chinese restaurant at 5238 Diamond Heights Boulevard. Even though the sign on the building says All Season, don’t expect to find that name anywhere on the city’s online database of restaurant inspection reports. A

ccording to city records, the business changed its name to Harbor Villa last year, as well as a change in ownership, which required the city to remove the inspection history for All Season restaurant from the city’s website.

While the restaurant listed new company officers in 2014, the Investigative Unit discovered that ownership was still under the same corporation.

Last year, the restaurant filed another change of ownership, and listed a new corporate name, but the two officers of that corporation stayed the same.

Even after the restaurant name change, Harbor Villa was forced to close on two more times for serious health and safety violations, including a cockroach infestation.

I dunno how many places go through the process and the paperwork of changing company officers and names, but it seems like managing food safety risks is probably easier. And better for business.