Ben Chapman

About Ben Chapman

An assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. He's interested in learning from and sharing stories from outbreaks. Through using new methods and messages, Ben hopes to compel folks from farm-to-fork to change food safety behavior and create a culture of food safety.

It was the buns, with Salmonella, in the buffet line

In January 2014 over 30 patrons of Maple Grove MN’s Old Country Buffet fell ill with salmonellosis. Following the illnesses, health authorities investigated the pathogen source and according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal are pointing to contaminated dinner rolls as the most probable food. Rolls are a non-traditional foodborne illness source – but a massive norovirus outbreak was linked to Japanese bread earlier this year.old-country-buffet-300x224
The rolls were likely cross-contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis from raw chicken used in the restaurant (or maybe an asymptomatic food handler or pooled eggs? -ben), Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz said.
“Most outbreaks are preventable: They occur] because a food worker came in ill, or because of cross-contamination. … It’s just a question of what steps should have been taken,” Schultz said. “Contamination doesn’t just happen.”
South Carolina-based parent company Ovation Brands (formerly Eagan-based Buffets Inc.) could not be reached for comment.  After the outbreak became known the company said it retrained the entire Maple Grove staff and stepped up food safety inspections.
A final report will be issued as soon as next week.

Charlotte Papa John’s manager diagnosed with hepatitis A

Food business owners should worry about hepatitis A. Individuals can shed the virus without showing symptoms and even an infected handwashing superstar will result in lineups outside the business or at the health department while patrons get their post-exposure shots. Even with the costs associated with turnover, I’d probably vaccinate my staff.29334616_1381404884

According to WBTV, a Charlotte, NC Papa John’s manager has been diagnosed with the virus after traveling out of the country resulting in thousands being exposed.

During a press conference on Thursday evening, officials said the employee was a manager at the Papa Johns restaurant who contracted Hep A while traveling out of the country.

The employee was diagnosed on Monday or Tuesday of this week.

“The Mecklenburg County Health Department is working with the State Health Department and our Public Information Office on coordinating messages about what residents who ate food from the restaurant should do,” the email states.

If you ate at the restaurant between March 28 and April 7, officials say you should get a hepatitis vaccination. The vaccine is effective if you were exposed within the last 14 days and could prevent you from getting sick.
If you ate food from this location between March 24 and March 27, officials say the vaccination would no longer be effective. In this case, you should be aware of the symptoms and notify your physician if you see them.

There will be a vaccination clinic for people at the Cabarrus County Health Department and Mecklenburg County Health Department on Friday from 4 pm to 8 pm.


Potential outbreak at Muskegon sports bar

Muskegon, MI birthplace of the Detroit Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader and punk rocker Iggy Pop is also home to what looks like a foodborne illness outbreak. According to Mlive, patrons of Bonicki’s Bistro reported illnesses to owner Norm Spyke as well as the local health authorities.395394_237923292949867_1801694089_n

Officials at Public Health – Muskegon County are asking recent patrons of a Muskegon Township sports bar to fill out a survey to gather data for a foodborne illness investigation.

Jill Montgomery Keast, the health education supervisor at Public Health – Muskegon County, said the agency is in the early stages of determining the type and cause of an outbreak that occurred at Bonicki’s Sports Bistro, 1891 East Apple Ave.
Keast said the department received at least six calls from local customers who fell ill between April 3 and April 6. 
“We were in full compliance as far as I know. They are looking into the matter,” Spyke said.

Bonicki’s achieved compliance with the Michigan Food Law on Jan. 8, according to the latest inspection data available online at The records show that sanitarians cited the restaurant for priority violations related to ice and food storage that were eventually corrected.

On the Bonicki’s Sports Bistro Facebook page is a message from the ownership:

Contrary to some news organizations poor reporting skills
The Muskegon County Health Department has been here and has checked us on everything, they found nothing wrong with how we store, prepare, cook, or serve our food.
During this time please remember the people that work here, for many of them this is their only job, bad press effects everybody. 
#shoplocal #lovemuskegon

Getting sick from food sucks too.

Crown Princess cruise ship hit with fourth norovirus outbreak in four years

Earlier this year Time Magazine included Princess Cruise Line’s ship, the Crown Princess on a list of the 13 worst cruise-related norovirus outbreaks.


4. Princess Cruises, Crown Princess (January 2010)

Total number sick: 396

In 2010, there were 14 outbreaks of illnesses on ships , including this one. Eight were attributed to norovirus.Crown Princess

5. Princess Cruises, Crown Princess (February 2012)

Total number sick: 363

The cruise, which embarked just a month after another outbreak on the ship, returned to Ft. Lauderdale two days early as passengers started falling ill.
Something is up with that ship as AP reports that 37 patrons of the Crown Princess are yet again barfing onboard.
Princess Cruises spokeswoman Karen Candy says about 37 passengers on the Crown Princess reported being sick while the ship was in San Francisco on Monday.
Candy says the ship’s staff began intense disinfecting of surfaces, and all sick passengers are being encouraged to remain in their rooms.

Las Vegas’ Firefly has food safety problems again

In June 2013 Las Vegas’ Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar was linked to over 250 cases of salmonellosis. Investigators fingered cross-contaminated chorizo as the likely source. At the time of the outbreak owner Tabitha Simmons was quoted as saying, “It’s just sad because we’ve been vilified and we did not want anyone to get hurt. We certainly weren’t managing our restaurants poorly.” firefly-300x300

Uh huh.

According to Fox 5, Las Vegas health inspectors gave another Firefly location 38 inspection demerit points resulting in a C grade in March.

The owners of Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar acknowledged on Tuesday it received a “C” rating when inspectors for the Southern Nevada Health District inspected the eatery at 11261 S. Eastern Ave. in Henderson on March 31.

Of the 38 demerits it incurred, Firefly was flagged for violations including those for handwashing, improper refrigeration of food, food improperly cooked at the proper temperature and failure to properly store food from potential contamination, according to SNHD’s website.

In a statement from Firefly owners John and Tabitha Simmons, the March 31 inspection was random. The owners also said the eatery was cited for 1-day-old expired food in the refrigerator.

The owners went on to say they corrected the violations within hours of the inspection. A subsequent inspection the following Friday, April 4, brought the restaurant’s rating back up to an “A,” the owners said on Tuesday.

Sure looks like they are managing their restaurants poorly, food safety-wise.

Vibrio outbreak prompts changes in oyster handling

I’ve only once had raw oysters, on a trip to New Zealand while in graduate school where some Kiwi food safety folks urged me to try the delicacy.

They were slimy.

I determined that the taste benefit wasn’t worth the risks for me.

According to the Vineland Gazette, a 2013 outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, linked to Katama Bay (MA) oysters prompted the Massachusetts Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Division of Marine Fisheries and the Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Health, Food Protection Program to develop a plan to limit Vibrio risks.SUN0705N-Oyster7

A Vp control plan takes effect next month that will require faster cooling and delivery of oysters, changes in handling methods for harvesters, specific requirements for icing and new rules for record keeping among commercial oyster growers.

Backed by the state Division of Marine Fisheries, the rules will be in effect from May 19 through Oct. 19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended last year that Massachusetts develop a plan to control Vp during the warm weather months to prevent illness. 

U.S. National Guard and Navy called in to help child suffering from salmonellosis

Dealing with an ill toddler while away from home is stressful; being 900 miles offshore in a wind-powered boat with a kid who has picked up Salmonella is scary.

According to NBC San Diego, the California Air National Guard and U.S. Navy are involved in a complex rescue mission to help a sick baby on a boat off the coast of Mexico.


The one-year-old girl, her 3-year-old sister and her parents from San Diego set sail two weeks ago for the latest leg of their trip around the world.
The family is sailing aboard a 36-foot boat named the “Rebel Heart,” blogging and posting pictures online.
On Thursday, the Bay Area’s 129th Rescue Wing received a call from the U.S. National Guard about a “seriously ill” girl aboard the boat located about 900 nautical miles off the coast of Mexico.
Two rescue helicopters took off Thursday to join the rescue mission.
After a five-hour flight, a team of four “Guardian Angel” pararescuemen jumped into the open ocean to board the Rebel Heart.
After checking the girl’s vitals, the crew determined the girl was in stable condition.
NBC 7 has learned the baby may suffer from some type of salmonella and has been given antibiotics. 

From the low-moisture-foods-with-Salmonella files: black peppercorn edition

Sprouts Farmers Market have, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) press release have recalled some black peppercorn products due to Salmonella after internal testing revealed the bacterial contamination.ucm391994

Sprouts Farmers Market, Inc. (the “Company”) is recalling Organic Black Peppercorns sold under the Sprouts brand name from all stores. This product has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The recalled Organic Black Peppercorns were distributed to Sprouts Farmers Market stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. No illnesses have been reported to date.

The product comes in a 2.12-ounce, clear glass jar marked with lot #3287 on the bottom of the container and with an expiration date of October 2016. Each container is identified with an individual label showing the Sprouts Farmers Market company logo, the description: Organic Black Peppercorns.

Sprouts Farmers Market initiated the recall after a sample taken during routine testing by the FDA revealed the presence of Salmonella in one lot of Organic Black Peppercorns. 

For a good primer on Salmonella in low moisture foods check out this presentation from FDA’s Jenny Scott.

The consequences of unsafe home canning are scary

With the first ramps making their way to New York restaurants, the North Carolina spring is here.

As the top two-thirds of North America thaws out, the bottom third is gearing up for the home canning season. If done incorrectly (without acid or pressure as a control step) things can get scary.canned-tomatoes

According to ASIA-plus, 33 residents of a Tajikistan village have contracted botulism from a risky batch of home canned tomatoes, tragically leading to a 10-year-old’s death.

The boy was one of 33 residents of the Qahramon village in Sughd’s Asht district who have contracted botulism poisoning by eating home-canned tomatoes. According to the Sughd Center for Sanitary and Epidemiological Supervision, four of them were in the intensive care unit.

“On March 21, some 95 residents of the village of Qahramon gathered to celebrate the Navrouz holiday and 33 of them contracted botulism poisoning by eating home-canned tomatoes,” said the source.  “On March 23, they were taken to the Asht central district hospital, where they were vaccinated (I think they mean treated with antitoxin -ben) against botulism.”
It’s unclear from the report whether the product was just straight tomatoes or had other low acid foods (like peppers or onions added). Modern varieties of tomatoes are lower acid than some of their predecessors - making them a borderline low-acid food. Canned tomatoes require some added acid (lemon juice or vinegar are most common) to keep the Clostridium botulinum spores from germination, outgrowth which can then lead to bot toxin formation.

Food Safety Talk 58: Where’s my wallet?

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.1396369706543

In Episode 58 the guys started the show admiring Ben’s new computer, and his House of Clay beer, before talking about Don and Victoria Backham’s treadmill desksRicky Gervais bathtub photosdressing up like a realtor, and confidence intervals.

Don and Ben then welcomed Bill Marler to the show. Bill’s notoriety started with the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak (documented in the book Poisoned). The discussion moved to the Jensen farm legal case, in particular, the criminal aspects of unknowingly shipping contaminated food and the involvement of service providers, i.e. auditors. The guys also discussed the impact on apportioning liability as a result of the recent North Carolina limiting farmers liability law. The conversation then turned to Salmonella and Foster Farm’s chicken and no one could understand why there hadn’t been a recall.

The guys then discussed Listeria and cantaloupes, including CDC’s recommendations and Don’s paper on “Modeling the growth of Listeria monocytogenes on cut cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.”

After a short detour via the AVN Awards, Bill got the chance to explain why he generally doesn’t take on norovirus cases and the lengths he goes to before taking on a case, using the Townsend Farm Hepatitis A outbreak as an example. The conversation then turned to auditors and what the impact of the Jensen Farm litigation case might be.

After saying farewell to Bill, Don and Ben talked about podcasting, including Lex Friedman, and Libsyn’s Rob Walch.

In the after dark the guys chatted about House of CardsTrue Detective, Ben’s quirky Aussie accent, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 andLost.