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.

Food Safety Talk 73: I Wish They’d Wash Their Hands More

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.Handwashing-Words-In-Shape-Of-Hand

This show starts with Don and Ben talking about the number-six item on their list of things to discuss for the episode:  Yosemite and how beautiful it is; Ben rates it at three thermometers, a rating system they invented.  Ben’s favorite thermometer is the Comark PDT300, even though someone sent him a ThermoWorks Thermapen which is Don’s favorite. Ben’s hockey team has been using thermometers when the grill sausages, this is what Ben’s contribution to the grill-outs.  Ben gets chirped for being the guy who brings the thermometer to the hockey grill. Ben is now supplying thermometers to other hockey guys.

Don talks about his lunch date with a podcast celebrity from the 5by5 network. Don tells the whole story about flying business class from Brazil to Texas then while in Texas, buying comic books and having lunch with Dan Benjamin.  Dan asked Don lots of food safety questions; they didn’t talk much about 5by5.  After this, Don attended the NoroCORE Food Virology meeting with Ben (the guys talked in real life, not just over Skype).

The conversation then turns to food safety culture and what that really means as it is in the literature.  Ben talks about a conversation he had about food safety culture with a person trying to develop a presentation on food safety culture for farmers. Don shares an email from Doug about food safety concerns at [insert big company name] that shared a Dropbox video of text and images displaying poor food safety. The guys then talk about the difficulties of creating a food safety culture when no one thinks it’s important. Ben talks about the many things that must be in place before a food safety culture can begin to be established.

Then conversation then transitions to how to talk about food safety risks. Ben suggests talking about risks frankly. The guys then discuss the uncertainties around risks and how to discuss them.  Discussing how quantitative risk assessments are performed and applied, and the issue of uncertainty messages, also come up in conversation.  Salmonella Hypetheticum then comes up in the conversation.

Don then brings up a book that he has been reviewing about food waste.  The same food waste topic has been featured on a television show that Don’s real life friend Randy Worobo was a guest on.  The issue of food waste and risk is discussed, with a focus on lower income persons and how to manage the need to save money against food safety risk decisions.  The use of fruits and vegetables that are past their optimum date to make infused vodka brings back memories of pruno-associated C. botulinum outbreaks.  Ben appreciates Don for working the math around food safety questions and the time and effort it takes to accurately answer without just ‘no don’t do that thing’.

Ben then brings up the issue of thawing a turkey on the counter the risks associated with that action.  Doug Powell has a paper in the Canadian Journal of Dietetics Practice Research about the calculations around thawing a turkey at room temperature.  Actually, it is ok to thaw a turkey at room temperature if you are within certain parameters.  This topic follows along with the possible Food Safety Talk tag line:  and it’s messy.

Next, Ben wants to talk about communication, but Don talks about the decision to eat fresh produce in Brazil, and other’s decision not to eat the fresh produce while visiting.  While at meetings Ben seems to focus on following the news and typing up Barfblog posts (some people are ok with that and will resist complaining; Ben does type rather loudly).  When Ben gets really into what he is writing, he lets out really loud sighs others have noticed, but Ben hasn’t noticed his inappropriate sighing.

Transitioning back to communication, Ben brings up a hepatitis A outbreak reported in Cumberland County Maine, but without a retail location identified. The State of Maine is taking some flack (could we call this chirping, see above) for their handling of this incident; the State of Maine tried to explain that this is because of a lack of personnel with specific expertise.  Maine has been in the news for other public health issues… a nurse breached a quarantine for Ebola by going for a bike ride.  Don suggests the public health system in Maine may be broken, Ben suggests this may be due to their having just eleven health inspectors for the whole state.

In the After Dark session, Ben reveals the most popular Food Safety Talk episode.  The guys aren’t sure which episode they just completed, 74?, 75?, whatever it takes.  Speaking of documentaries, Don recommends Jodorowsky’s Dune a documentary about a movie that was never made.

Health department links undercooked and reheated barbecue linked to Salmonella illnesses

Growing up in Canada, barbecue was an event, or an outside cooking appliance. In North Carolina barbecue is a food.

And for some, sort of a religion.

Barbecue is made by slow cooking pork (often a whole hog) in a smoker for hours until the meat is tender enough to be pulled off of the bones. The kind I like is tossed in a vinegar and pepper sauce (that’s Eastern North Carolina style) and served with a couple of vegetable sides.bbq-tom-vin-m__05901.1405326372.1000.1200

Kind of like what led to almost 70 cases of salmonellosis last fall at a conference in Bessemer City, NC. According to the Gaston Gazette, the heath department’s investigation fingered the pork dish as the likely vehicle for the pathogen.

The investigation began after multiple people sought treatment for a stomach illness in early October.

The local health department collected information and found that many of the patients had attended a conference between Oct. 1 and 5 at Living Word Tabernacle Church in Bessemer City.

A report released this week found that Boston butts prepared by a church member were the likely culprits.

The pork was cooked overnight in a smoker a day before it was served. Then it was returned to the smoker the day of the meals.

Some of the pork hadn’t cooked all the way through in time for lunch so it was cooked longer then taken to the church for dinner.

The church member who cooked the meat said it was cooked at 350 degrees the first night, but no cooking temperature was given for when the pork was put back on the grill the next day.

Three people were hospitalized.

The purpose of the health department study isn’t to cast blame. It’s to educate, according to health officials.

The church was not required to have a permit to serve the food because the meals were free, but proper food preparation and storage should always be observed, said Samantha Dye with Gaston County Health and Human Services.

New Food Safety Infosheet: Hepatitis A illnesses linked to frozen berries in Australia

Australian public health officials have identified an outbreak of hepatitis A and linked illnesses to consuming Nanna’s frozen berries sold by Patties Foods.

Food safety infosheet highlights:

–  Health officials have confirmed 20 illnesses to date.

– The berries were produced by Patties Foods, which has issued a recall on three products.Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 9.13.39 PM

– Officials expect cases to increase as the incubation period of the virus ranges from 15-50 days and those who are infected may not yet be showing symptoms.

Click here to download the food safety infosheet.

Thermometers, they aren’t just for omnivores

That’s what I told Lydia Zuraw of Food Safety News when she and I spoke last week about my favorite kitchen tool, the tip-sensitive digital thermometer (below, exactly as shown). We chatted about cold spots, microwaving and checking internal temperatures in multiple spots.

I also told her that my very first thermometer came as a gift from the infamous Pete Snyder. It was during the testing of food safety infosheets and Pete had been providing feedback on specific kinds of thermometers and why. And Pete’s suggestions came with publications and references. One day my very own Comark PDT 300 showed up unannounced in the mail.231-xx7_z_a

 

“It’s a tool just like a frying pan,” says Benjamin Chapman, associate professor of food safety at North Carolina State University. “The more you cook, the more investment you put into your tools.”

As for dial thermometers, or bi-metallic stems, they’re “not great tools,” Chapman says. “They’re fine in a jam, but they do have to be calibrated.”246609-meatthermometers-comark-pdt300digital

They also aren’t as precise – as the dial provides an average temperature between the tip and a dimple, sometimes an inch away. That makes me nervous as the surface of a thick piece of meat may be 20 or 30 degrees warmer than an inch inside.

UK restaurant gets hygiene award; practices shared with other restaurants

Some food safety coverage is incomplete, leaving the food safety nerds wanting more. According to The Star (the U.K. version, not the one the covers the Toronto Maple Leafs) a Sheffield Cafe is doing great things, stuff that others could learn from.

Steve Edmonds, manager of Beighton Village Trust, which runs the Beighton Lifestyle Centre café, said: “The food safety officer was very complimentary and even took away some of our practices to share with other such establishments.1079199562

“Our score is testimony to the pride our colleagues take in our café.”

What are the practices that the superstar cafe employs? If anyone knows, please share.

 

 

Bird feeders can spread Salmonella

My grandparents were all about birds; they had Audubon field guides and binoculars in multiple spots in their house. Whenever I visited them in Campbellford, Ontario (that’s in Canada) I always helped fill up their bird feeder with seed.

Who knows how much Salmonella I was exposed to.

According to the Press Democrat, backyard bird feeders are a source of Salmonella for  and sharing the seed is probably leading to the demise of some song birds. The pathogen spreads from the bird-to-bird – or the seed itself.blue-jay-dec08

Andrienne Faulkner loves feeding birds.

The 69-year-old Montgomery Village area resident spends about $700 a year on birdseed for the various feeders in the yard.

So when she spotted two dead songbirds in her yard last week — a finch near a garbage can and a pine siskin on her patio — she first thought West Nile virus might be to blame.

She made some inquiries, and was surprised to learn that it wasn’t West Nile that was killing the birds — it was her.

Well, not exactly. The direct cause is likely a salmonella outbreak sweeping through several Bay Area counties.

But by providing birds a place to eat and congregate, Faulkner and other backyard birders may be unwittingly helping spread avian diseases, like the salmonella outbreak now spreading through finch populations in the region.

“I want to feed them, but I don’t want to kill them,” said Faulkner, who said she plans to remove her feeders and clean them as recommended.

The outbreak started about a month ago with a sharp increase in the number of people reporting dead or lethargic songbirds, said Veronica Bowers, founder and director of Native Songbird Care & Conservation in Sebastopol, a rescue center focused on songbirds.

One of the birds taken to her center has since tested positive for salmonella, she said. State Department of Fish and Wildlife officials have alerted her and other rescue centers of outbreaks in Sonoma, Sacramento, Alameda and other Bay Area counties, she said.

In a somewhat related story, a bunch of parrots at the San Diego Zoo have been vaccinated for Salmonella, according to San Diego 6.

About one-third of the small parrots that reside in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s aviary have been vaccinated to protect against salmonella, which killed some of the flock, zoo officials said today.

“We recently lost some birds to salmonella,” said Bruce Rideout, director of the Wildlife Disease Laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global. “Although unfortunate, we were able to use this loss to take biological samples necessary for isolating the bacteria. These samples became the basis for the vaccine.”

Twenty out of the flock of 60 birds received both an oral and injectable vaccine at the park’s hospital over the past couple of days. The rest will be vaccinated soon, zoo officials said.

Celebrity Cruises Equinox has an outbreak; pathogen unconfirmed

According to CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program, the Celebrity Equinox has a bunch of ill folks on it and it will be back in port tomorrow for public health specialists to investigate.

Voyage Dates: February 13 – February 23, 2015

Number of passengers who have reported being ill during the voyage out of total number of passengers onboard: 95 of 2896 (3.28%)Unknown-9

Number of crew who have reported being ill during the voyage out of total number of crew onboard: 7 of 1209 (0.58%)

Predominant symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea

Causative agent: unknown

Actions: In response to the outbreak, Celebrity Cruises and the crew aboard the ship reported the following actions:

- Increasing cleaning and disinfection procedures according to their outbreak prevention and response plan,

- Making announcements to notify onboard passengers and crew of the outbreak, encourage case reporting, and encourage good hand hygiene,

vomit-cruise1-226x300- Collecting stool specimens from passenger and crew gastrointestinal illness cases for testing by CDC,

- Making twice daily reports of gastrointestinal illness cases to the VSP,

- Sending corporate management public health, hotel, housekeeping team to assist the onboard management with infection control response plan,

- Is consulting with CDC on plans for their comprehensive sanitation procedures in Fort Lauderdale, FL on February 23, 2015, including:

- providing additional cleaning crew to complete a thorough public and accommodation super-sanitization cleaning and disinfection,

- planning staged disembarkation for active cases to limit the opportunity of illness transmission to well guests, and

- planning for sanitation of terminal and transport infection control procedures.

Three CDC Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officers and one epidemiologist will board the ship in Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) on February 23, 2015 to conduct an environmental health assessment and evaluate the outbreak and response activities. Specimens are being collected and will be tested by CDC to determine the causative agent for this outbreak. 

Environmental health specialists: the salt of the earth

There are some good folks in state and local health departments throughout the world. Environmental heath specialists, public health inspectors, hygiene officers – whatever they might be called – are some of the most fun food safety nerds to hang out with. They’ve got a lot of street credibility, seeing more kitchens and food safety in action in a week than some researchers see in a career.

Delmarva now (of the Salmonella-famed Delmarva Peninsula) profiles how restaurant inspections have changed from visits focusing on broken tiles to teaching events and coaching visits. girl-food-temp

In Pocomoke City, at the Riverside Grill, Corey Reeves said her family-run restaurant welcomes visits from the health inspector, because they always teach her something. The restaurant, which opened in 2012, is owned by her parents, Mark and Leslie Reeves.

“Initially, you’re always nervous,” she said of a health inspection, “not because you’re doing anything wrong, but because the rules change constantly, as they should. The regulations change, the kind of bacteria they may be looking for each season. So that’s something new to learn about. It’s very informative.”

Gary Weber has owned Blue Dog restaurant in downtown Snow Hill for about five years.

“If they make their case and want something corrected, if there’s a need, then we correct it. Then they come back and follow up on it. They’re always very polite and very respectful of our business and our staff,” Weber said.

“But it keeps you on your toes,” he said, “and in the restaurants I’ve worked in, there’s a sense of pride if you can get 100 percent. Everybody strives for that. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t feel good about our health inspectors.”

Stu White has been with the health department for 18 years.

Today, inspectors are there not just to evaluate a facility, but to educate restaurant managers and staff. 

“If we ask that something be corrected, if there’s somebody who disagrees with what we’re talking about, then at that point, education thing comes in,” White said. “This is why we’re asking you to do it — not just because I want you to do it. There’s a specific reason. What you’re doing has the potential to make somebody sick.”

White said food safety regulations have evolved over time, under the leadership of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Years ago, we would go in and look more at the physical facility — was the place clean? Are the walls smooth and easily cleanable?” he said. “We didn’t pay as much attention to food safety or food handling at the time.”

Norovirus confirmed in PA university outbreak

There’s a lot of norovirus on campuses this time of year. A bunch of Virginia colleges dealt with the pathogen a couple of weeks ago, and it looks like N.C. State did too. According to mcall.com, the virus caused over 150 illnesses at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.

The vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain that affected 154 students at East Stroudsburg University last week was the result of a highly contagious virus, the state Health Department said Thursday.

The Department of Health has determined that there is now enough accumulated evidence to say the recent ESU outbreak is due to norovirus,” department spokesman Wes Culp said.

The illnesses swept through the campus so fast that doctors and medical staffs could not identify its cause with certainty, though doctors did suspect norovirus. The outbreak affected 2.5 percent of ESU students.

Here are some campus-specific food safety infosheets. Click on the pics to download.

Lots of support for restaurant that had food handler with hepatitis A

n a truly Canadian move, more than 70 owners, management and staff from Sudbury bars and restaurants ate and drank at a Sudbury, Ontario (that’s in Canada) Casey’s in a show of solidarity. In early February over a thousand patrons might have been exposed to hepatitis A after a food handler was diagnosed with the virus. According to The Sudbury Star, even the local health unit, the folks who ran the hep A shot clinics, hosted a retirement party for over 40 folks at the restaurant.default-1

Last week, Peddler’s Pub invited fellow establishments to join them in a show of support for the Kingsway bar and grill, which suffered a publicity setback last month when an employee was diagnosed with hepatitis A and patrons were urged to get vaccines through the Sudbury and District Health Unit.

“It’s one of those unfortunate things that can happen to any restaurant,” said Peddler’s marketing manager Cliff Skelliter. “Casey’s is such an important part of our community. A lot of people have jobs there and the owners are amazing, just absolute sweethearts.”

Dave Temmerman, co-owner of Hard Rock, brought a contingent of 14 people affiliated with his Elm Street pub.

“In times like this it’s nice to know who your friends are and stick together,” said Temmerman.

The public should have no fear of dining at Casey’s, he said, as standards of hygiene at this restaurant are as strict as any he’s encountered.

“I’ve worked in a lot of places, and it’s one of the cleanest I’ve worked in,” he said. “What happened to them is just a bad deal. People in the industry know it can happen to anybody, and it’s not because their place is dirty.”

Casey’s owner Marty Wills said the endorsement of counterparts means a lot.

“It’s wonderful what all the other restaurants have done,” he said. “They’ve been getting together and showing a little love, a little support for us, because they understand we didn’t do anything wrong.”

The hepatitis A that was detected in a Casey’s employee “was never created here,” said Wills. “She just happened to work here.”

Having a clean restaurant (whatever that means) doesn’t really matter; in this situation, risk is influenced by the food handler’s handwashing behavior. US FDA risk factor studies have shown that handwashing compliance in food service isn’t great. Requiring your staff to have hep A vaccinations would avoid stuff like this.