Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Download C.V. »

Ya ain’t gonna wash it off, so breed it off: Salmonella growth on – not in – tomato plant surfaces

Foodborne illness-causing enteric bacteria are able to colonize plant surfaces without causing infection. We lack an understanding of how epiphytic persistence of enteric bacteria occurs on plants, possibly as an adaptive transit strategy to maximize chances of reentering herbivorous hosts.

wax.on.wax.offWe used tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) cultivars that have exhibited differential susceptibilities to Salmonella enterica colonization to investigate the influence of plant surface compounds and exudates on enteric bacterial populations.

Tomato fruit, shoot, and root exudates collected at different developmental stages supported growth of S. enterica to various degrees in a cultivar- and plant organ-dependent manner. S. enterica growth in fruit exudates of various cultivars correlated with epiphytic growth data (R2 = 0.504; P = 0.006), providing evidence that plant surface compounds drive bacterial colonization success. Chemical profiling of tomato surface compounds with gas chromatography-time of flight mass spectrometry (GC-TOF-MS) provided valuable information about the metabolic environment on fruit, shoot, and root surfaces. Hierarchical cluster analysis of the data revealed quantitative differences in phytocompounds among cultivars and changes over a developmental course and by plant organ (P < 0.002). Sugars, sugar alcohols, and organic acids were associated with increased S. enterica growth, while fatty acids, including palmitic and oleic acids, were negatively correlated.

We demonstrate that the plant surface metabolite landscape has a significant impact on S. enterica growth and colonization efficiency. This environmental metabolomics approach provides an avenue to understand interactions between human pathogens and plants that could lead to strategies to identify or breed crop cultivars for microbiologically safer produce.

Importance: In recent years, fresh produce has emerged as a leading food vehicle for enteric pathogens. Salmonella-contaminated tomatoes represent a recurrent human pathogen-plant commodity pair. We demonstrate that Salmonella can utilize tomato surface compounds and exudates for growth. Surface metabolite profiling revealed that the types and amounts of compounds released to the plant surface differ by cultivar, plant developmental stage, and plant organ.

food-art-tomatoDifferences in exudate profiles explain some of the variability in Salmonella colonization susceptibility seen among tomato cultivars. Certain medium- and long-chain fatty acids were associated with restricted Salmonella growth, while sugars, sugar alcohols, and organic acids correlated with larger Salmonella populations. These findings uncover the possibility of selecting crop varieties based on characteristics that impair foodborne pathogen growth for enhanced safety of fresh produce.

Environmental metabolomics of the tomato plant surface provides insights on Salmonella enterica colonization

Appl. Environ. Microbiol. May 2016 vol. 82 no. 10 3131-3142

Sanghyun Han and Shirley A. Micallef

2 dead, 30 sickened with Salmonella in 2015: Australian bakery will probably never pay fine

Shannon Tonkin of the Illawarra Mercury reports that the defunct Wollongong food company fined more than $60,000 in court last week will most likely never pay the penalty, with financial records obtained by the Mercury showing the business was $144,000 in the red at the time the offences occurred.

1462144920322-1Betta Maid was convicted of 10 charges under the NSW Food Act in Wollongong Local Court last week and fined a total of $63,000.

The court found the company was responsible for the spread of a rare strain of Salmonella through Illawarra Retirement Trust aged care homes on the South Coast and ACT between January and March 2015, resulting in the death of two residents.

Another 30 fell ill, with unhygienic food preparation surfaces, the presence of rodents (including feces), rusty equipment and unclean utensils to blame.

(I’d still like to know where the Salmnoella bovismorbificans came from. It’s commonly found in cattle and horses – dp).

Betta Maid was put under external management in early April after the matters came to light and has since been placed in the hands of a liquidator to be wound up.

Documents obtained through the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) show the company owed an estimated $212,000 to 34 different companies around the time of the outbreak, including $131,000 in unpaid taxes.

A summary of the business’ financial position, signed by then-director Udo Boschan, estimated the value of the company’s assets at only $68,000, leaving a shortfall of about $144,000.

Local businesses owed money include Hasties Toptaste Meats in Wollongong, radio station Wave Fm, Sydney and South Coast Food in Dapto and Cazmont Computers in Shellharbour.

However, the chance of any creditors recovering what is owed to them appears lost, with a more recent ASIC statement filed by the liquidator saying it did not expect any creditors to receive their money. It is understood this would also apply to the court fines.

betta.maid.bakeryMeantime, court documents have revealed Food Authority inspectors carried out a routine inspection of the Betta Maid facility at Unanderra two and a half months before the salmonella outbreak.

Several concerns and contraventions of food handling laws were identified at the time, including rust and significant damage to equipment, some of which was unclean.

The company was given a month to rectify the situation, however the outbreak occurred before a further inspection took place.

Inspections and audits are never enough.


Poop, not spices: UK chef prepared food after wiping bottom with bare hands; it’s a culture thing

A takeaway chef wiped his bottom using his hands before preparing food because he does not use toilet paper for ‘cultural reasons’, a court heard.

mahbub.chowdhuryMahbub Chowdhury, 46, from Swindon, was found to have a filthy bottle in the kitchen of Yeahya Flavour of Asia, which inspectors concluded was covered in faecal matter.

When questioned, he said he filled the empty milk bottle with water from the kitchen taps before using it to clean his backside after going to the toilet. ‘He did not use toilet paper for cultural reasons. Inspectors concluded the brown finger prints was faecal matter.’

Chowdhury prepared meat and fish curries at the takeaway, which was run out of a rented kitchen at the Nine Elms pub.

The chef, who no longer works at the takeaway, pleaded guilty to ten counts of breaching food hygiene regulations at Swindon Magistrates Court.

He was fined more than £5,000 last year for ten similar offences relating to food hygiene.

Mark Glendenning, defending, said the milk bottle was never examined and the marks could have been spices.


4 infants hospitalized, 4 others sickened due to E. coli outbreak on Kibbutz

Eight babies from Kibbutz Nir Or located near Gaza were infected with E. coli, four of which were hospitalized at Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva.

One baby is in serious condition, and two are suffering from kidney failure, according to reports.

The infection apparently originated from the petting zoo area of the Kibbutz. The Ministry of Health is currently performing tests and ordered to temporarily close the nursery where the children were infected.

‘We grind our patties in store every day’ so they’re safe, and other hamburger myths

Not sure who is worse here: the celebrity chef or the government regulators.

But they’re both wrong on the topic of shiga-toxin producing E. coli in hamburgers.

meatwad.raw.hamburgerThe stories pitch it as a “bun fight between health bureaucrats and burger bars over what makes a safe hamburger.”

And both sides are using erroneous information.

I don’t really care what people eat, other than what they feed to their kids, and that accurate information is provided.

A NSW Food Authority spokeswoman said council officers had approached the watchdog in recent months “concerned about the increase in businesses serving rare/undercooked burgers” and potential health risks.

The authority has sent revised “Hamburger Food Safety” guidelines to Environment Health Officers, attached to the state’s 152 councils.

“Mince meat should be cooked right through to the centre,” the instructions say, citing a temperature of 71C.

“No pink should be visible and juices should run clear.”

Color is a lousy indicator, as is juices running clear. The only way to tell if a burger is safe is to use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

Regulators, with all their talk of science-based activities, should know better.

The spokeswoman said if businesses wanted to cook using an alternative temperature, “they must be able to demonstrate that their cooking process is safe”. Burger bars that don’t meet the new guidelines face penalties up to $1540 per offence “for the preparation or sale of unsafe food”.

Sydney chef Neil Perry, who plans to open four Burger Project stores this year, cooks his patties to medium — about 60C. But he said the big difference is staff at his outlets grind meat fresh every day, making it safe.

“We can do medium-rare, which is about 55C, but we rarely get asked for that,” he said. “About 10 per cent of orders are for ‘well done’.”

Perry said the food guidelines serve as a “worst-case scenario” safety net.

“Those guidelines from the health department are important because a lot of burger places have their patties supplied by butchers and have already been minced,” he said.

Perry said bacteria starts growing as soon as meat is minced so chefs need to mince and cook on the same day and keep meat refrigerated at the right temperature:

“We grind our patties in store every day.”

So what?

Shiga-toxin producing E. coli are generally found on the surface of meat cuts (unless that meat has been needle tenderized). The process of mincing moves the outside to the inside, so rare is risky.

Those dangerous E. coli are also especially infectious, with as few as 10 cells thought to cause illness.

hamburger-safe and unsafe-thumb-450x138-175

Saying the wrong thing, celebrity chefs more than others

In grade 12, I ran for high school president (we had grade 13 back then, and that’s me, right, exactly as shown).

napoleon-couchThere were two assemblies, one for the juniors followed by one for the seniors, in which my opponent and I laid out our vision for the next school year.

I had been one of the entertainment co-ordinators on the previous council, and somehow exceled at bringing in bands and making money (a little).

There was this thing called live music back then.

Our high school, I’m told, hosted early versions of Rush and Max Webster, and I brought in local stalwarts, Goddo, and, the best named band in the area, Teenage Head.

My worthy opponent spoke first at the junior assembly, and I followed with my band-a-month pitch, and a proposal to paint the school logo over the centre of the basketball court.

The senior assembly began with the same speaking order, and I was stunned – flummoxed – when my competition lifted the school-logo idea.

I mumbled something in my pitch about how she had lifted the idea, and quickly realized no one cared.

It didn’t matter who was first, it mattered that the idea was out there (I won, barely).

So I’ve watched with mild bemusement as the various outlets fall over themselves to claim they broke the Dole-knew-about-Listeria-in-its-lettuce-plant story.

lettuce.skull.noroNo one cares, just that it’s out there.

What matters more is what Dole is going to do about it.

And they’re not talking (I’ll have some suggestions this week).

In a similar vein, researchers have updated our 2004 Spot-the-Mistake study about the food safety foibles of celebrity chefs.

That’s 14 years after we did the original work and 12 years after we published the results.

Now that it’s out there, I can say the new analysis fails for two reasons: The researchers cite dubious references about how the majority of foodborne illness happens in the home; and they use FightBac’s severely limited cook-clean-chill-separate mantra as a tool for scoring, ignoring the World Health Organization’s extra warning of source food from safe sources.

Anyone who has ever watched a TV or web-based cooking show knows that most of the content consists of a host gassing on about the small, sustainable, organic, natural, dolphin-free farm where the ingredients were acquired.

Food safety behaviors observed in celebrity chefs across a variety of programs

Curtis Maughan, Edgar Chambers IV, Sandria Godwin,

J Public Health, doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdw026

Background Consumers obtain information about foodborne illness prevention from many sources, including television media. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a variety of cooking shows with celebrity chefs to understand their modeling of food safety behaviors.

Methods Cooking shows (100 episodes) were watched from 24 celebrity chefs preparing meat dishes. A tabulation of food safety behaviors was made for each show using a checklist.

Results Proper modeling of food safety behaviors was limited, with many incidences of errors. For example, although all chefs washed their hands at the beginning of cooking at least one dish, 88% did not wash (or were not shown washing) their hands after handling uncooked meat. This was compounded with many chefs who added food with their hands (79%) or ate while cooking (50%). Other poor behaviors included not using a thermometer (75%), using the same cutting board to prepare ready-to-eat items and uncooked meat (25%), and other hygiene issues such as touching hair (21%) or licking fingers (21%).

Conclusions This study suggests that there is a need for improvement in demonstrated and communicated food safety behaviors among professional chefs. It also suggests that public health professionals must work to mitigate the impact of poorly modeled behaviors.

celebrity_chefs4 (1)And the original.

Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.

2 dead, 30 sickened with Salmonella in 2015: Australian bakery fined $63K,

From Jan. to March, 2015, two people died and an additional 30 sickened with Salmonella bovismorbificans.

1462144920322-1New South Wales Health traced the Salmonella to a bakery that supplied aged-care facilities across the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and the ACT.

The defunct bakery, Betta Maid, was fined A$63,000 in Wollongong Court last week, plus A$20,000 in court costs, for selling unsafe food and breaching hygiene standards.

NSW Food Authority CEO Lisa Szabo said, “This court result serves as a reminder to all food businesses why food safety systems are crucial, particularly those businesses serving food to the most vulnerable in our community.”

Charges brought against the company director, Udo Boschan, have been adjourned to May 26.

Betta Maid was ordered to shut temporarily in March last year, but announced in April it would close its doors for good and the company was placed into liquidation.

John Cerveny: 1933-2016

I first met John Cerveny at the 1996 International Association for Food Protection meeting in Seattle in 1996.

john.cervenyI was a newly minted PhD, venturing out to the food safety world, and John quickly made himself known, and was quick with a quip and encouragement.

Two years later, I took the four daughters and wife to IAFP in Nashville. The kids become a recurring feature at IAFP for a few years, and John always greeted them with a big smile and often a toy Oscar Mayer wienermobile.

John Gerald Cerveny passed away on April 10, 2016.

He was born on June 23, 1933, in Racine, Wis., and was raised there with his sister, Jean, by his loving parents, John and Thelma. Following graduation from high school, John spent two years at the UW before he was drafted into the U.S. Army and eventually served for 16 months in Korea. After his military service, he returned to the University of Wisconsin in Madison obtaining a degree in Microbiology in 1958. Upon completion, John joined Oscar Mayer as a food quality and safety microbiologist. While at OM, he met Miriam (McKee) and they were married in the fall of 1960.

During John’s distinguished 37-year career at Oscar Mayer, he was instrumental in protecting the processed meat industry against food safety problems. During that time, he co-authored many significant publications and is acknowledged on three significant patents. After his official “retirement” in 1996, and during his time as an industry Food Safety Consultant, he remained actively involved in issues relating to food safety and was recognized as one of the country’s leading food microbiologists. Additionally, he had long standing relationships with many professional organizations including the International Association of Food Protection, the International Life Sciences Institute, the Institute of Food Technologists and the UW-Madison-Food Research Institute. Because of his lifetime of knowledge and experience in the area of meat and food safety, and many years of informally mentoring friends he met along the way, each of these organizations thoughtfully recognized his many contributions over the years.

John’s deeply modest nature once led him to remark that his greatest satisfaction was sleeping well at night knowing he had made a small contribution to improving food safety. His many friends and colleagues would say that his contribution and impact went well beyond his career.

Away from work, John enjoyed gardening, listening to a wide variety of music, reading, and people watching on the Union Terrace with popcorn and a local beer. John’s greatest joy was his family, and his fondest memories were family vacations to Wisconsin lakes and to the family farm in Iowa. More recently, he very much enjoyed visits to the West Coast and a variety of travel adventures with his kids and grandkids.

He is survived by his son, John (Raquel) and daughter, Sarah Grimm (Art); Miriam, his former wife and friend of many years; his sister, Jean Brackett; and his four beloved grandchildren who were the light of his life, Cayman, Cate Molly, Catalina and Kellan. He took particular interest in each child’s activities and was never surprised at their accomplishments, often stating that it was “in the genes”, with a twinkle in his eyes.

oscar.mayer.wienermobileJohn was a tireless volunteer and enthusiastically jumped in wherever he could. Some of his favorites were local literacy programs, a variety of activities at St. Luke’s Lutheran, and helping sell flowers with friends at the farmer’s market on the square. He will be greatly missed for his tremendous energy, bright smile, warm humor, generous spirit, insatiable curiosity, and the always predictable, “Say, I have a question for you…”.

John was a recipient for the IAFP Harold Barnum Industry Awards, the Harry Haverland Citation Award and Honorary Life Membership Award.  On May 5, 2016, he was to be inducted in the Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame.

John was a great friend and mentor to many in the food safety world, an excellent scientist, very humble, and led by example. He always encouraged others to make a positive impact being actively involved and taking a leadership role in their professional organizations and at work.

That Oscar Mayer toy wienermobile? It’s still around..

Public safety ‘paramount’ yet UK restaurant inspections increasingly faith-based

Food hygiene inspections in the UK have fallen by 15% since 2003, research shows – with experts warning of risks to public health.

fsa.scores.doorsThe number of inspections, which are handled by local authorities, fell from 307,526 in 2003-04 to 260,765 in 2014-15, the study found.

The Food Standards Agency watchdog said the situation was of “growing concern”.

The Local Government Association said councils “work extremely hard” on food safety despite budgetary pressures.

Ministers said public safety was “paramount” and the “majority of local authorities have continued to balance their budgets and increased or maintained public satisfaction with services”.

The figures, obtained by Prof Steve Tombs for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, using freedom of information requests to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), show almost 47,000 fewer inspections were carried out in 2014 than in 2003.

The number of establishments prosecuted also fell by 35%, from 552 to 361, over the same period.

Prof Tombs, who is professor of criminology at the Open University, said “policymakers need to urgently address the radical reduction in local authority inspections and enforcement.”

The BBC’s 5 live Investigates programme has seen minutes of an FSA board meeting from January this year where concerns were raised over rising numbers of complaints and falling staffing levels.“The overall position is one of growing concern,” the agency warned.

“At a local level, there are a good number of authorities which are struggling to undertake interventions of food businesses at the required frequencies.”

The minutes also state that many local authorities “are not able to deliver a food service as set out in statutory Food Law Code of Practice”.

Debby’s 10-year-old daughter was admitted to hospital during a salmonella outbreak in 2014 which affected 54 people.

“She started complaining of severe stomach cramps. She had really bad diarrhea and she was having bad hallucinations.”

Investigators found poor hygiene procedures at a takeaway, which cannot be named for legal reasons, allowed potentially deadly salmonella bacteria to pass from eggs to other food.

The last full inspection of the premises was 20 months before the outbreak and it received a Food Hygiene Rating of two, which means that “improvement is necessary”.

In June 2013 an environmental health officer visited to provide “support and guidance”- and a year later the outbreak occurred.

“If I’d known that I would have kept away and we never would have bought anything from there,” said Debby, who does not want to use her full name.

The local authority involved said it visited in 2013 and “was confident that improvements were being made. A further inspection was imminent, as part of routine procedures, when the council received notification of the reported links to salmonella cases.”

33 dead after eating insecticide on sweets in Pakistan

Some 33 people including five children have now died in central Pakistan after eating sweets accidentally tainted with insecticide, officials said Sunday.

pakistansweetsgettyimages-471166594The mass poisoning occurred in the Karor Lal Esan area of Punjab province last month.

“The death toll from poisonous sweets has risen to 33 and 13 other victims are still in hospital,” district police chief Muhammad Ali Zia told AFP.

Local resident Umar Hayat bought the baked confectionery on April 17 to distribute among friends and family to celebrate the birth of his grandson.

Police were investigating how the chemicals were introduced into the sweets preparation process, he said.

Police last week said the worker may have inadvertently added pesticide to the sweet mix since there was a pesticide shop close by which was being renovated, and the owner had left his products at the bakery for safe keeping.