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. »

Retailers need to turn over a new leaf

My op-ed on Salmonella and lettuce got published this morning by the Brisbane Courier-Mail so here it is again.

lettuceLettuce is overrated.

I prefer a cut-up variety of fibre-rich vegetables.

A few years ago I toured my local Coles supermarket with the two heads of food safety – both now gone.

We spent about 2 hours going through the store and I pointed out labeling problems, lack of hygiene, and asked, how were consumers supposed to know what food was safe?

Now there is a problem with bagged lettuce packaged up and served at Coles, Woolies, and elsewhere, with 28 people sick.

This is nothing new.

But it’s tragic that people continue to get sick from the food that should nourish them.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet.

Because they are fresh, anything that comes in contact has the potential to contaminate.

That means food safety starts on the farm.

Washing produce may make you feel better, and government agencies advocate washing, but with fresh produce, washing does little.

It may remove some of the snot that a 3-year-old sneezed on it, but microbiologically, not much else.

The key is to have programs in place to reduce contamination.

Twenty years ago, my lab started working with Canadian farmers to limit contamination on fresh produce farms.

Of particular importance: quality of irrigation water, manure, and employee handwashing.

You see a bird, I see a Salmonella factory. We can’t kill all the birds, but we can take appropriate steps to reduce risk.

Fresh produce has been the leading cause of foodborne illness in North America for two decades.

Right now there is an outbreak of Listeria on Dole packaged salads in Canada and the U.S. that has killed two and sickened 20.

Are packaged salads the villain?

Yes and no.

There has been much debate in the food safety community over whether pre-packaged salads are a good thing or a bad thing.

I agree with a scientific advisory committee in the U.S. that said pre-packaged salads are safer because your sink is a pool of germs.

But only if the companies producing the stuff – and making the profit – can prove it.

During one of my many trips to Coles, I asked the store manager if he washes pre-packaged greens.

He replied, “Of course, why wouldn’t I, my wife does it.”

Oh, Australia.

There are no labels with recommendations on pre-packaged salads in Australia.

There are no guidelines.

There is no public disclosure.

If 28 people got sick, there’s a lot more for it to bubble up to Australian media.

Retailers should be clear about practices and sourcing.

And they should market food safety.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety in Canada and the U.S. who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia. And coaches ice hockey.

Chipotle, are you listening? ‘Food businesses in Ireland must recognize that the legal onus is on them to make sure that the food they sell or serve is safe to eat’

The Food Safety Authority served two enforcement orders on food businesses last month.

barf.o.meter.dec.12The first was a closure order served on Earl’s Delicatessen restaurant at the School of Architecture at University College Dublin in Clonskeagh. The order was lifted two days later.

A prohibition order was also served on Sheahans Butchers in Church Street, Kerry.

During the month of January, two successful prosecutions were carried out by the HSE on Kelleghan Catering Food Stall in Tallow, Waterford and Millbridge Meats butcher in Kimmacrennan, Donegal.

Commenting on enforcement orders served in January, Dr Pamela Byrne, chief executive of the FSAI said food businesses need to be vigilant at all times in relation to food safety to ensure full compliance with food legislation.

“Food businesses must recognise that the legal onus is on them to make sure that the food they sell or serve is safe to eat,” she said. “This requires ongoing compliance with food safety and hygiene standards.”


Surveys still suck: US consumers definition of food safety expanded, so provide them info

Health and wellness, safety, social impact, experience, and transparency are all factors 51 percent of consumers weigh when determining which food items to purchase, according to a joint study from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and consulting firm Deloitte.

survey-saysThe study, “Capitalizing on the Shifting Consumer Food Value Equation,” [PDF] found these new factors influence purchasing decisions in addition to traditional drivers like taste, price, and convenience.

There’s a shift in the way people think about food safety. “Americans no longer define the concept of food safety based on near-term risks to their health,” a joint news release said.

According to the survey, 75 percent of consumers include health, wellness, and transparency in their definition of food safety. Other factors consumers included in their definition of food safety: free from harmful ingredients (62 percent); clear and accurate labeling (51 percent); and fewer ingredients, processing, and no artificial ingredients (42 percent).

“Today’s consumers have a higher thirst for knowledge than previous generations and they are putting the assessment of that information into their value equation,” said GMA Operations and Industry Collaboration Senior Executive Vice President Jim Flannery. “Brands that win with consumers will likely be those that provide the information they seek, well beyond what is on the label.”

South Africa doesn’t have capacity to forecast, track a foodborne disease

A University of Pretoria (UP) food safety expert warns South Africa does not have adequate capacity to forecast and track a foodborne disease.

140818supermarket-jpgProfessor Lise Korsten has told a parliamentary workshop food safety is compromised due to a lack of integrated regulation.

Korsten says providing quality produce to poor communities remains the biggest challenge to food security.

She adds that the lack of an independent regulatory body to ensure food safety further compounds concern around the level of toxins in some food.

Korsten says while several policies have been drafted, no integrated system exists to curb foodborne diseases.

She adds industry and government need to be transparent and accountable regarding food certification.

UK restaurant owner jailed for food hygiene ‘one of the worst cases in 20 years’

The owner of a restaurant that was so filthy a food safety officer said it was one of the worst cases he has seen in more than 20 years has been jailed.

Alomgir-QureshiAlomigir Qureshi, 47, was also sentenced for employing an illegal immigrant at his Chai Wallah restaurant on Yarm High Street and for breaching a suspended sentence he received in 2013 – also for employing failed asylum seekers.

Qureshi, of Brisbane Grove, Hartburn, Stockton was jailed for a total of 21 months at Teesside Crown Court earlier today (Friday, January 29).

Richard Bennett, prosecuting for both the Crown and Stockton Borough Council, told the court that the council’s food safety officers were tipped off by a member of the public who had been served chicken which was raw in the middle and another person who was concerned that the chef’s clothing “appeared filthy”.

Inspectors found dirty tea towels thrown over eggs and dough as well as dirty food preparation and storage areas, shelves and pipework. Mr Bennett said: “In the opinion of the inspectors there was a total disregard for food safety and no evidence of any good hygiene practice.”

Chipotle closed for wankfest

That was a boring super bowl, full of gimmicks and a quarterback pushing Bud Light as his soundbite, but it won’t be as boring as Chipotle’s two-hour wankfest when they close their almost 2,000 outlets for a food safety pep talk.

kenny.diarrheaIt’s not food safety, it’s a marketing gimmick (which is how Chipotle has been getting money all along).

Chipotle is closed for the next couple of hours.

And they’re going to show how much they know about food safety risk communication.

Or how bad their PR consultants are.

The meeting will go over an improved farm-to-fork food safety program, which the chain implemented in January. It includes paid sick leave to make sure employees will stay home when they’re sick, DNA-based testing of ingredients before they’re shipped to restaurants and some changes in food preparation protocols.

Why didn’t they do this before?

Because there’s money to be made in marketing hucksterism.

Ask Dr. Oz.

About 500 people got sick last year from outbreaks due to Norovirus, E. coli O26 and Salmonella,, including an entire basketball team at Boston College. Some of the sickened diners have sued Chipotle. Profits plunged 44% in the fourth quarter compared to the year before. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the company for possible criminal activity.

Oh, they’ll also be launching a new website today, according to the aptly named Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief creative and development officer.

“The creative for this campaign, with one small exception, does not mention food safety or the recent incidents,” he said. “Instead, it reinforces our commitment to high-quality ingredients and great-tasting food.”

Market food safety. High-quality ingredients don’t mean shit (literally and metaphorically).

Beating up on Chipotle and hucksterism gets tiring. So let John Oliver do it.

Rare burger porn – more from Australia

Medium-rare means nothing. It’s temperature that counts for safety.

hillburgerBut why not listen to actor Les Hill who says he has roamed the earth on a worldwide odyssey to hunt down, and build, the ultimate burger.

Meet the Hillburger — the result of a passion which has become a fledgling business for the 42-year-old actor, foodie and former chef.

Hill’s Burger Bible

  • “If you can’t fit it in your mouth, it’s not a burger, it’s a food pile.”
  • “It should cooked medium rare — anything else, you lose the taste.”

Risk reduction is better than zero tolerance: USDA finalizes new food safety measures to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry

While you’re scarfing down wings and that beverage Americans call beer during the Super Bowl, be content to know that the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has framed new rules with an aim to lessen salmonella and campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products. The FSIS has updated its microbial testing schedule at poultry facilities and will start the provision of online updates of individual companies’ food safety performance.

buffalo.wild.wingsThe new rulings demand that the companies have to reduce the frequency of contaminated chicken parts to 15% or less. The new standard has also levied limits for turkey and ground meat products. Alfred Almanza, the USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food safety, was of the view that after a year of testing, the USDA will start posing the test results from every poultries.

“[This] is not a good thing for them, if they’re failing. So those are pretty significant deterrents, or incentives for them to meet or exceed our standard”, affirmed Almanza. But as per some, there is a lot of guesswork required in the calculation.

As part of this move to make chicken and turkey items that Americans frequently purchase safer to eat, FSIS has also updated its microbial testing schedule at poultry facilities and will soon begin posting more information online about individual companies’ food safety performance.

Nosestretcher alert: With 74 now sick from Salmonella in bagged lettuce, spokesthingy says, ‘it’s safe.’ Where’s the data

Australians have been assured prepacked lettuce on retail shelves is safe to eat as the number of salmonella cases linked to some products grows.

lettuce.skull.noroFresh Produce Safety Centre technology manager Richard Bennett said consumers shouldn’t worry about potentially tainted lettuce unless it had been sitting in their refrigerators (disclaimer — I gave a talk for this group a couple of years ago; weren’t interested in hard questions).

“Any product on the retail shelf now is fresh, safe and healthy,” Mr Bennett told AAP.

Mr Bennett said Australia was a leader in food safety and systems were usually able to prevent outbreaks of disease.

No, most of it doesn’t get reported.

The Australian Fresh Produce Safety Centre, a bastard child of the leafy greens marketing thingy or whatever they’re called in California, is following the same playbook of saying everything is OK, why are you looking at us?

Consumers deserve better.