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.

Going public: Foody World Listeria edition

Listeria illnesses are tough because they often look like sporadic cases. Linking multiple individuals together, especially with the potential for a long incubation period, is tough. The mantra of share what you know, what you don’t know and be available for questions is one is essential in sharing public health information.

Who knew what, when, and what was the response are a common set of questions following any foodborne illness incident. These questions are being raised by Richmond News following Foody World’s link to six cases of listeriosis. foody-world

An outbreak of the potentially deadly Listeriosis disease at a Richmond grocery store – which is linked to the death of a customer – can be traced back three months.


The Richmond News learned on Tuesday that the first two cases of Listeriosis were reported and confirmed in late July, with another two in August and two more in October.

It was only last Friday, Oct. 14, that health officials were able to finally narrow it down to Foody World on Sexsmith Road, near Garden City Road and Sea Island Way.

“The incubation period for (the Listeria bacteria) could be a couple of months, so it’s difficult to investigate,” explained Claudia Kurzac, VCH’s manager for environmental health programs in Richmond.

A number of stores were named as being used by people in the first few cases that were reported, said Kurzac, making it problematic to accurately trace the source of the outbreak.

“Foody World came up, but so did many others and we had to look into all the others, as well,” she said.

“In early October, the fifth case was reported and only then were we able to narrow it down to Foody World.

“On Oct. 7, we carried out a detailed inspection of Foody World; preliminary results took a week and on the 14th we had it confirmed to be Foody World.”

It’s understood that the customers affected had all consumed processed meat, in particular pork and beef, from the store over the last few months.

Kurzac said the store’s management has brought in a professional cleaning company and are now working with VCH on the store’s procedures and policies. “Clearly, a lot of education is taking place,” she added.

“There will be a lot of testing before they will be allowed to re-open.”

Cleaning and sanitizing of deli slicers? Or is this maybe a supplier issue?

Saskatchewan crypto outbreak folks settle additional cases 15 years later

Make people sick, expect to pay; even after over a decade.

According to CBC, the city of North Battleford, the Saskatchewan government and the water folks have $3.3 million for minors who were ill in 2001.

A settlement agreement for minors who had water contaminated with cryptosporidium in North Battleford, Sask., 15 years ago has been given preliminary

Thousands of people got sick in March and April 2001 when the parasite, which can cause diarrhea and vomiting, was found in the city’s drinking water.

In 2003, 700 people were paid compensation from a pool of $3.2 million depending how sick they had been.

The newest settlement applies to those in an “infant class”, people who were under 18 when they got sick. The agreement still needs final approval from the courts on Dec. 1.

DC bartender and artist Chantal Tseng makes poop murals in bathrooms

According to the murals are about poop. Not made out of poop (sadly).screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-5-20-30-pm

Regular Washington imbibers may notice something if they take an extra minute in the restrooms at the new REI flagship store in NoMa: the name of one of D.C.’s favorite bartenders, Chantal Tseng, inscribed on a roll of toilet paper held by a cartoon bear on the wall.

Washington City Paper even included her in a piece it did on D.C.’s mixologists turned chalk artists — which is how the folks at REI found her when they were looking for artists for murals at the new store.

After the call, Tseng enlisted D.C.’s go-to chalk artist, Patrick Owens, for help on the project.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-5-20-47-pmTseng and Owens drew extra animals in addition to the bear, and added leaves, animal tracks and, yes, piles of poop to the mural, which is titled “Poop in the Woods: Droppin’ Deuces Wild.” Tseng likes to incorporate haiku into her drawings, so she added a thematic one written backward that can only be read in the bathroom mirrors: “Last chance to soap up/ before heading back out there/ think of the children.”

Yes. Think about the children. And all the other folks who might get poop from your hands onto their hands or in their food.

Global norovirus pandemic emergence: maybe it’s in the polymerase

The perfect human pathogen has fantastic fitness because of lots of things: small hearty virus particles, millions of particles shed per gram of feces/vomit; induces projectile vomiting and according to new research in mSphere, fa_polymerase_figure4maybe the lack of fidelity in norovirus polymerase increases transmission between hosts.

Viruses are awesome.

Norovirus Polymerase Fidelity Contributes to Viral Transmission In Vivo 




A. Arias, L. Thorne, E. Ghurburrun, D. Bailey and I. Goodfellow

Intrahost genetic diversity and replication error rates are intricately linked to RNA virus pathogenesis, with alterations in viral polymerase fidelity typically leading to attenuation during infections in vivo. We have previously shown that norovirus intrahost genetic diversity also influences viral pathogenesis using the murine norovirus model, as increasing viral mutation frequency using a mutagenic nucleoside resulted in clearance of a persistent infection in mice. Given the role of replication fidelity and genetic diversity in pathogenesis, we have now investigated whether polymerase fidelity can also impact virus transmission between susceptible hosts. We have identified a high-fidelity norovirus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase mutant (I391L) which displays delayed replication kinetics in vivo but not in cell culture. The I391L polymerase mutant also exhibited lower transmission rates between susceptible hosts than the wild-type virus and, most notably, another replication defective mutant that has wild-type levels of polymerase fidelity. These results provide the first experimental evidence that norovirus polymerase fidelity contributes to virus transmission between hosts and that maintaining diversity is important for the establishment of infection. This work supports the hypothesis that the reduced polymerase fidelity of the pandemic GII.4 human norovirus isolates may contribute to their global dominance.

IMPORTANCE Virus replication fidelity and hence the intrahost genetic diversity of viral populations are known to be intricately linked to viral pathogenesis and tropism as well as to immune and antiviral escape during infection. In this study, we investigated whether changes in replication fidelity can impact the ability of a virus to transmit between susceptible hosts by the use of a mouse model for norovirus. We show that a variant encoding a high-fidelity polymerase is transmitted less efficiently between mice than the wild-type strain. This constitutes the first experimental demonstration that the polymerase fidelity of viruses can impact transmission of infection in their natural hosts. These results provide further insight into potential reasons for the global emergence of pandemic human noroviruses that display alterations in the replication fidelity of their polymerases compared to nonpandemic strains.

Mighty Taco outbreak pathogen revealed; John McEnroe was wrong

Almost every time someone mentions B. cereus to me I respond with ‘you cannot B. cereus’ as an homage to tennis legend and tantrum thrower John McEnroe’s excellent autobiography. I don’t know if anyone gets the joke.

WGRZ news reports that over 160 Mighty Taco patrons were ill because of B. cereus in refried beans.mte4mdazndewnja3nzy5mtay

The bacteria Bacillus cereus was found in patient clinical specimens and in samples of refried beans from Mighty Taco restaurants, according to a statement from the DOH released Monday.

Bacillus cereus usually causes vomiting within 30 minutes to 6 hours after eating contaminated food, the department says, which is consistent with symptoms described by those who ate at Mighty Taco.

The FDA is looking into the refried beans supplier, Pellegrino Food Products in Warren, Pennsylvania.


Food World listeria victim dies

Listeriosis is a terrible disease, affecting mainly the elderly, pregnant women and infants – with about a 20% fatality rate. According to CBC, one of the six individuals who have contracted Listeria monocytogenes from a Richmond BC grocery store has died.  foody-world

As of Friday, at least six people had been hospitalized due to Listerialinked to Foody World, at 3000 Sexsmith Road in Richmond, B.C.

Vancouver Coastal Health warned customers not to consume any produce or ready-to-eat foods made in-house at the store.

The cause of death is currently unknown, the health authority said Monday.


Pepper leads to esophageal hole

When I was a kid my dad made me eat a bunch of spicy food. I’m not sure why, but if he ordered hot wings at a restaurant the convention was that I had to try one. I’m a fan of heat now – but ghost peppers aren’t something I want to try.shutterstock_220826371

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, a ghost pepper eating contest led to a whole in a competitor’s esophagus.

After eating a hamburger laced with ghost pepper puree, the man began vomiting and retching violently. Suffering from severe abdominal pain he was admitted to hospital where doctors discovered a 2.5-centimetre hole in his oesophagus.

The chili eater underwent emergency surgery and spent 23 days in hospital.

The ghost pepper, or bhut jolokia, was considered the world’s hottest chilli until 2013 when it was surpassed by the Carolina Reaper pepper.

Doctors writing in The Journal of Emergency Medicine have warned that the rise of food challenges may complicate diagnoses.

In this spicy situation, doctors initially assumed the man’s symptoms related to discomfort after his meal, before discovering the rupture in his oesophagus.



Foody World turns into Listeria World

A Richmond BC (that’s in Canada) grocery store has been linked to six cases of listeriosis resulting hospitalizations. Health authorities are, according to Global News, unsure of the source.

Vancouver Coastal Health says customers should not consume any produce or ready-to-eat foods made at Foody World.foody-world

The health authority says at least six people have been hospitalized with signs of infection due to Listeria.

Customers are urged to throw out any food that may have been contaminated including ready-to-eat meat products, sushi, produce and baked goods purchased from the store since July.

Health inspectors have closed the store and kitchen and say the store will be reopened once all health and safety standards are met.

Going public: The hepatitis A case that wasn’t

When there is a chance to protect public health you gotta go public with all the info you have, when you have it. Sometimes new information arises that changes things and makes it look like officials got it wrong – when they didn’t.

Last week, according to The Chronicle, a food handler tested positive for hep A – and it turned out to be a false positive.flat1000x1000075f

A reported case of Hepatitis A at the Chehalis Shop’n Kart last week has been ruled a false positive by county health officials, meaning a worker in the store’s bakery was not infected and baked goods they handled were not contaminated.

An initial press release from the Lewis County Public Health and Social Services last week said a bakery worker tested positive for the virus, which causes an acute liver infection.

But a release issued Friday said this test was a false positive, meaning there was never an infection or risk to customers.

Shop’n Kart owner Darris McDaniel said the containment procedure cost his store thousands of dollars in product they threw away, while also damaging its reputation.

“In the future, if anything would happen again, we would ask for another test right away, because this sent up a lot of bad signals for our business when in fact it wasn’t true,” he said. “We did take the proper steps and acted very quickly.”

Norovirus sucks; here’s what it does to the body

It’s the perfect human pathogen.

A 2015 CDC report on noro burden by Ben Lopeman describes the virus as “ubiquitous, associated with 18% (95% CI: 17-20%) of diarrheal disease globally, with similar proportions of disease in high- middle- and low- income settings. Norovirus is estimated to cause approxi­mately 200,000 deaths annually worldwide, with 70,000 or more among children in developing countries.”10849902_719581291471357_3442145704847569295_n1-300x3001-300x300

Express describes what happens when the virus infects.

The viral particles hit the stomach first, but it is only when they travel into the small intestine that the virus begins to multiply.

It enters the cells lining the intestine, making copies of itself and then the cells die, release more virus particles, and the process is repeated.

The immune system recognises that cells are ‘dying’ and as an immune response, antibodies travel to the small intestine and deactivate the virus. Experts say this is when the body will start to feel the effects of the virus – such as fever and nausea.

The virus causes the gut to become inflamed or irritated – which leads to vomiting and watery diarrhoea. This, medics say, is the body’s way of fighting the infection and trying to clear it from the body.