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.

Good Ebola (and foodborne illness) advice: don’t eat poop

We used to use don’t eat poop as a secondary barfblog tagline. Then it was don’t eat uncooked poop.  New York TV, anchor Errol Louis of NY1 has resurrected the advice in reference to the city’s first Ebola case:

If you came across some strange mucus or feces or something out there on the street, on the subway, or anywhere else, don’t eat it. Don’t let it get into your body, don’t touch it.

Good call.

 

North Carolina firm recalls Serrano peppers

A 2008 Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak initially thought to be solely tomatoes was eventually linked to  a couple of types of peppers. According to a 2011 paper published by the investigation team  raw tomato-containing dishes (like salsa) were linked to three clusters of illnesses but jalapeño peppers at a shipper in Texas and agricultural water and Serrano peppers on a Mexican farm were all found to contain the outbreak strain.

Peppers hadn’t been implicated as a vehicle for illness in an outbreak until then. Since then buyers (like retailers and food service firms) have increased focus on all fresh produce – and have increased product testing. So have state health officials.220px-Serranochilis

According to a press release posted at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website,

A random sample was taken by the Michigan Department of Agriculture on October 13, 2014 from a warehouse in Lansing, Michigan. Bailey Farms, Inc. received notice that the sample tested positive for Salmonella on October 20, 2014.

Bailey Farms, Inc. of Oxford, NC is voluntarily recalling 6,215 pounds of Fresh Serrano Chile Peppers, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.
 
The Fresh Serrano Chile Peppers was distributed to Meijer, Inc. and customers may have purchased this product from October 14th to October 19th at Meijer stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
 
In addition this product was distributed to Publix Super Markets Inc., Merchants Distributors, Inc., Walmart, Food Lion, Flavor 1st Growers and Packers, US Foods, Military Produce Group, LLC.,C&S Wholesalers, John Vena, Inc. and Harris Teeter. Consumers who suspect they may have purchased Fresh Serrano Chile Peppers from the above listed companies between the dates of October 2, 2014 to October 21, 2014 should check with the above listed companies to verify if the product was subject to recall.
 
This recall is the result of the possibility that the remainder of these lots could be contaminated with this bacteria. We are working with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to investigate the root cause of the potential contamination.
No illnesses have been reported/linked to this recall.

Food Safety Talk 69: Laura Nelson and Jay Neal

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.photo-Training-Day-2001-1

The guys start episode 69 by discussing old movies that Ben has never seen, like Play Misty for Me and the Good  the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Talk turned to chimps, Bonzo and Bubbles (not this Bubbles). They then talked about some more recent TV shows like Californication, The Americans, Dr. Who, Intruders, Comic Book men. And yes, the food safety experts are excited about New Girl season 3 on Netflix. The topic shifted to edible marijuana issues in Colorado related to Salmonella contamination and then Don reviewed a book that he recently read, “The minotaur takes a cigarette break” to which he awarded 5 thermometers.

Don and Ben were then joined by special guests Laura Nelson and Dr. Jay Neal. Laura Nelson is Vice President of Business Development and Technical Services at Alchemy Systems, a food industry training solution provider and Jay Nelson is an Associate Professor at the University of Houston. The group had a discussion started on behavior-based food safety training including a survey that Alchemy commissioned, Global Food Training Survey Reveals New Emphasis on Worker Behavior. Laura also talked about an internal report looking at training staff  on food safety behaviors including an observation/coaching follow-up. The group talked about some of the common issues that the food industry encounters – staff may have been trained but the actual practices aren’t always happening. Laura spoke about how to get at the reasons behind why practices don’t occur – and that food safety culture is tough for some industry folks to define.

Jay talked about a training technique that includes breaking down specific processes into small pieces and how the literature is pointing to encouraging feedback and coaching along with positive reinforcement. Jay’s experiences are that managers are really important to culture and where their priorities are (sales, customer experience, food safety) will affect team performance. All four of them discussed ways to improve workers skills; Don pointed out that measuring behavior is very hard, and the group discussed some work that Jay had published in this area. Jay shared an amusing classroom social experiment where he teaches his students to empathize with non-english speakers. He assigned the students a recipe in a undecipherable font and only the manager has a clear recipe. They must try to cook together but they are not allowed to talk.

In After Dark, Ben introduced Don to the Sponge Bath, a weird way to keep kitchen sponges sanitized. Ben and Don promised to talk more on the topic in future podcasts.

(This is satire) Senate Passes Bill Mandating Hand Washing

Our foray into sharing satire news has backfired a few times. There was this one story about hot oil being spilled in the kitchen during, some uh intimacy, that garnered a bit of backlash for not being food safety enough. 201410006fullOften we get a few emails saying that what was posted wasn’t real news. This one is satire from cap News, and we know it. The folks at cap News even picked the perfect picture (at right, exactly as shown).

A new bill introduced in the Senate that requires Americans to wash their hands after using the bathroom or touching any surface that may contain germs has passed by a 78 to 22 margin and now heads to the House of Representatives where little resistance is expected. President Obama is reportedly already waiting at his desk to sign the bill into law.

“Uhh, this legislation is our first step in the battle against an Ebola outbreak here in the United States,” said Obama. “Between that, hand sanitizer, and coughing into the crook of our arms, we should be in pretty good shape to take this disease head on.”

Democrats and Republicans alike have stepped up in support of the proposal, saying it is a much cheaper alternative than diverting military funds to try to find a cure. Proponents point out that the implementation timeframe is much quicker as well.

“All we need to do is slap up some signs in restrooms across America and we’re good to go,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “Even here in the rotunda, although we’ll probably have to post them every two feet to get the message across.

“Yes, Sen. Vitter, I’m looking at you,” he added. “Do they not make soap in Louisiana?”

Critics of the bill call it unenforceable, saying that similar measures were unsuccessful in stopping the spread of cooties throughout the Midwest earlier this year. The Coalition of Republicans Against the President is calling for tougher legislation, pointing out that dutiful Americans washing their hands won’t matter if current laws continue to allow unhygienic immigrants across the borders.

“For our money, step one is closing down every Walmart, Denny’s and Bowl-a-rama because that’s where the dirty masses congregate with their germs and whatnot,” said CRAP Chairman Fitz McManus. “Those places are just a hotbed of Ebola waiting to burst.”

While passage is expected in the other chamber of Congress, sources say House Republicans plan to tack on a rubber glove rider for the illiterate portion of the population. The additional provision calls for a pair of latex gloves to be supplied to every person for whom restroom signage remains a literary challenge.

“You can’t trust Americans to read and follow a sign any more than you can trust them to wear around a pair of gloves,” said Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA). “We’re all dead either way, but at least we can say we came up with a backup plan.”

The Centers for Disease Control has announced its support of the bill, saying they wish they had thought of it first because “it has Nobel peace prize written all over it.”

“If this works, then we can get back to focusing our efforts on the zombie apocalypse,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “I don’t think signs will work with them.” 

Arizona school’s noro outbreak linked to over 100 ill

I was chatting with a couple of guys at a birthday party of one of Sam’s friends this past weekend and relayed that I do food safety stuff. One dude said “I hate this time of year: between the colds, pink eye and norovirus our kids pick up at school we’ll all be sick until Thanksgiving.”

‘Tis the season for school-related infections.norovirus-2-1

According to AZ Central, the so-called winter vomiting virus is making an appearance in the desert. Over 10%, at least 100 students, of Kyrene de la Colina, a Phoenix (AZ) elementary school called in sick last Thursday – definitely an outbreak.

Kyrene Elementary School District spokeswoman Nancy Dudenhoefer said the absences were reported to the Maricopa County Health Department after more than 10 percent of students who attend the Ahwatukee Foothills school called in sick on Thursday.

The district also sent notices to parents about norovirus symptoms and advised them to keep ill children home from school.

In the Tempe Union High School District, Bruce Kipper, principal of nearby Mountain Pointe High, also notified parents about norovirus symptoms.

Kyrene hired a company that specializes in removing norovirus to clean Colina and its school buses before the Friday morning bell. Colina and all other Kyrene schools were open on Friday.

Maricopa County Health Department spokeswoman Jeanene Fowler said norovirus outbreaks are common in schools. “Norovirus is very common,” Fowler said. The solution is “cleaning and getting kids to stay home if they are sick.” (cleaning and sanitizing, with chlorine-based compounds -ben)

Commonwealth Games athletes’ village outbreak report released

In July over 80 staff and volunteers were hit with a touch of the norovirus prior to the Commonwealth Games (the Olympics, sort of, except the only nations invited are part of the British, uh, commonwealth). According to Herald Scotland, HS Greater Glasgow and Clyde released a report (unfortunately we can’t locate it to mine it for other gems) that states that the lack of (and inappropriate) cleaning and sanitation of a specific washroom was to blame – and so was using ineffective alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead of handwashing.2014_Commonwealth_Games_Logo.svg

Now identified as the very common but debilitating norovirus, the bug was first reported on July 15. The Games opened on July 23.

The report said: “This outbreak did not have serious public health consequences. However, due to the timing of the outbreak, there was a risk to the success of the Games if the virus spread beyond the security staff and cases were reported among athletes and team officials.

“Because of the association with the Commonwealth Games there was immense media and political interest.”

The report reveals “deficiencies of cleaning” at the Athletes’ Village. It said: “Some areas of the Village were not covered by any cleaning arrangements. These included the pedestrian screening area, general security areas and one block of toilets being used by security staff.”

It found staff were using the “wrong type of alcohol hand gel, which would not have been effective against norovirus” rather than washing with soap and water.

It also discovered three different cleaning firms contracted at the site were using different products, including quaternary ammonium compounds, which do not kill norovirus. Staff, the report found, did not know how to report something that needed cleaned up.

Eighty of the 83 cases were security staff. No athlete was affected. 

Environmental health officers, meanwhile, checked temporary toilet blocks and found they were substandard. The report said: “In many cases, there were no hand washing facilities with only non-gold standard hand gels being provided.”

Games organisers said their catering, cleaning and waste planning regime was “fully compliant with all relevant industry standards” and insisted they quickly teamed up with health officials to overcome the bug.

Missing a restroom on a list of sanitation stops, using incorrect sanitizers (like quats) in the middle of an outbreak and having only alcohol-based hand sanitizers (that apparently weren’t VF481) isn’t industry best practice.

One hundred years of food safety extension

Ellen Thomas, PhD candidate in the department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at NC State writes,

When I was growing up, I made occasional trips with my dad to the local extension office to drop off soil samples (we lived on a farm). Up until about 5 years ago, this was really my only experience with Cooperative Extension. It wasn’t until I began graduate school that I was introduced to the far-reaching world of extension. This year marks 100 years of Cooperative Extension in the United States.10447625_692765530308_9060931799503108221_n A United States Department of Agriculture’s extension webpage details the Congressional acts that initially created extension, as well as the primary goals of extension today. I also dug into numerous universities’ cooperative extension pages to learn more about how extension has evolved over the past century, and found numerous examples of agricultural courses offered to consumers, research conducted to improve food safety and communicate those steps to consumers, and technologies developed to vastly improve efficiency and opportunity for growers.

Ellen took the lead on an article for Food Safety Magazine on detailing some of the history of food safety as it relates to the food industry, reprinted below.

Land-grant universities in the United States were established with the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. Their mission was to educate the public on subjects of agriculture, home economics and other practical tasks in the home—to literally extend research and help families across the country. While food safety was not initially within the mission’s scope, food safety has a strong and intertwined history within land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension.

In 1890, Professor Stephen M. Babcock at the University of Wisconsin invented a device that tested the butterfat content of milk quickly and efficiently. He shared this technology with the university and dairy industry throughout the state, creating an open and engaging relationship between the university and the public that continues to this day.

In the early 1900s, advocates began to call for better-quality milk, as well as bringing milk sanitation laws and training inspectors to be consistent in how they enforced regulations. This led to creation of the International Association of Dairy and Milk Inspectors in 1912 (the precursor to the International Association of Food Protection). One of the nation’s greatest challenges was how to obtain the most technical, up-to-date information, and to effectively communicate it to dairy farmers.

In addition to teaching and research, land-grant universities have a long tradition of connecting academics and research to the masses, originally in largely rural areas through a delivery mechanism known as extension; 2014 marks 100 years of the Cooperative Extension system in the United States. The Smith-Lever Act in 1914 further solidified the role of extension in land-grant universities by creating a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in which USDA would provide funds to each state to carry out extension work.

In North Carolina, strong extension programs emerged from canning clubs and corn clubs. These organizations were effective in providing useful information for those interested in home preservation, increasing crop yields, volunteerism and community fellowship. The clubs later developed into 4-H. The structure and overall group principles of 4-H were defined in 1919 at a meeting in Kansas City. Today, 4-H reaches 7 million American children and includes groups in rural, urban and suburban communities in every state; youth are exposed to a wide variety of topics in agriculture and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

During World War I, extension helped increase crop yields and home preserving, as well as the organization of groups to fill gaps in the labor force. Extension helped create farming cooperatives and provided instruction on home practices to aid families during the Depression. During World War II, extension dramatically increased food production as part of the Victory Garden program.

In the 1960s, Rutgers University extension agricultural engineer William Roberts revolutionized greenhouse farming with the innovation of pumping air between plastic films. Approximately 65 percent of commercial greenhouses throughout the world use this technology today. Further similar greenhouse technology developments continued under Roberts in the years that followed.

In 1969, President Lyndon Johnson began the Expanded Food Nutrition Extension Program (EFNEP) as part of his War on Poverty. Program assistants were trained to teach nutrition and food safety, and to promote overall wellness. EFNEP now operates in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, Northern Marianas and Micronesia. There are both adult and youth programs with the goal of promoting high-quality diets among audiences with lower incomes and limited access to resources.

The Master Gardener program began at Washington State University in the 1970s with the idea to train volunteers in horticulture to educate the public to reach a larger audience. The curriculum included culturing plants, fruits and vegetables, and grasses; how to deal with pests, diseases and weeds; and how to safely administer pesticides. The curriculum was administered by state- and county-based faculty. Over time, the program has grown, gaining more recognition; it is now sponsored across the United States and Canada. The program structure has also been extended to other portions of extension, such as food preservation.

In 1988, listeriosis, a highly infectious and potentially serious illness caused by the bacterium Listeria, was linked to hot dogs and deli meats. The tragic outbreak included 108 cases, with 14 deaths and 4 miscarriages or stillbirths. Researchers at Colorado State University conducted extensive experiments to characterize Listeria and explore methods of mitigating its prevalence in foods. High-risk groups, particularly pregnant women, were the focus, and suggestions for reducing risk, such as heating deli meats before consumption, were distributed in extension fact sheets nationally.

Kansas State University enjoys a strong relationship with a variety of meat producers, which has been building over the past few decades. Meat science faculty engage in research related to meat quality, sensory evaluation, meat safety, color stability, packaging and numerous other factors related to meat from slaughter to handling at home. The department offers courses on campus and through distance learning, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points courses throughout the Midwest and value-added services for meat processors. The department has been releasing papers on optimal equipment for small producers, handling wild game and other technologies since the 1990s.

With the increase of foodborne illness associated with produce in the 1990s and 2000s, the University of California, Davis, established the Center for Produce Safety in 2007, which integrates industry, government and academic research with the ultimate goal of maximizing produce yields while maintaining the best quality and safety of product. The center provides short courses, workshops and certifications for produce growers, related to quality, postharvest technology and safety, and has funded numerous research projects.

Extension faces many challenges and opportunities as the system moves into its second century. While state and federal appropriations and other funding streams have decreased recently, agriculture has also changed—less than 2 percent of Americans are farmers today. The Food Safety Modernization Act, with the goal of making food safer, will provide many food businesses with new regulations to comply with. Cooperative Extension will continue to play an integral part in assisting businesses (especially the small and very small) to assess and manage food safety issues—and help consumers understand what goes into making food safe. Extension programs across the country have also increased their social media presence, continue to provide evidence-based recommendations and conduct applied research that affects food from farm to fork. Extension has adapted to numerous changes over the past century, taking the lead in bringing new food safety technologies to agriculture and food production worldwide.

Salmonellosis outbreak linked to North Carolina church conference

Earlier this year, the Food Safety Summit, an annual gathering of food safety nerds dealt with an outbreak of foodborne illness amongst attendees. Over 100 became ill with C. perfringens  after eating a buffet meal. Conferences provide a nice environment for an outbreak – everyone eats sorta the same stuff and when things go bad, a lot of people get sick. salmonella

WSOCTV reports that Gaston County (NC) health officials are investigating an outbreak of salmonellosis that has been linked to a conference held Oct 1-5 at Living Word Tabernacle Church in Bessemer City.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, at least 50 attendees are reporting symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever.

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, seven cases of Salmonella were confirmed with a significant number of lab results pending and more samples being collected.

“Our public health staff is working closely with the church, the North Carolina Division of Public Health, and the community,” said Chris Dobbins, DHHS director. “Our priority is to identify those who have fallen ill, ensure they have received proper medical attention, and work together to identify a source so we can educate and prevent future outbreaks of this nature.”

Interviewing people about genetic engineering: Kimmel has a better production team

This one time, in graduate school, I visited an anti-genetic engineering event in Toronto with a fellow student and whiz video editor Christian. And took a video camera.  The idea to was to interview folks about why they were there. Doug always stressed lessons from the risk communication literature: knowing the audience is important. To do that it’s necessary to get out and talk to people. I was thinner, had more hair and a somewhat youthful face.

The event, Biojustice picnic, (formally known as, The 6th International Grassroots Gathering on Genetic Engineering) was held at the same time as the annual meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) annual meeting in Toronto, 2002.

Jimmy Kimmel repeated the activity last week with a different group of folks.

Hepatitis A outbreak investigated in Wales

According to BBC News, a cluster of hepatitis A cases in Cardiff, Wales may be linked.

Or maybe not.

I can’t tell. images-11

The children attend three different schools but there is no evidence at the moment of further transmission within the schools.

One case is known to have acquired the infection outside of the UK, say health officials.

Vaccination is being offered to around 20 close contacts of the three children who may be at risk.

A vaccination session will be held at 09:30 BST on Friday in the Loudon building, Loudon Square, Cardiff.

Only those who have been invited need attend.

All three schools, which are not being named, have received advice on the control and prevention of infection.