Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

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

Chinese whistle-blowers to get 60% of food safety fines

The Greater Kaohsiung Council has amended municipal food safety rules to offer whistle-blowers 60 percent of the resulting fines levied on convicted companies — the highest cash reward offered in the nation.

wbCouncilors from across party lines unanimously approved the amendment to food industry regulations, a move fueled by the revelation that Kaohsiung-based Cheng I Food Co has been selling substandard oil to food manufacturers in the latest food scandal to rock the nation.

Cheng I has been fined NT$50 million (US$1.67 million) on charges of violating the nation’s food safety laws. That means that if the new rules had been in effect and the news had been broken by an internal whistle-blower, he or she would have been eligible for NT$30 million in cash.

Similar rules in other cities, municipalities and counties pay between 10 and 50 percent of the fine levied on a convicted firm.

Democratic Progressive Party Kaohsiung Councilor Lian Li-jian, who initiated the move to amend the rules, said giving incentives to workers at companies that could be undertaking illegal practices would help deter unethical acts.

He said that the amendment passed by the council also contains provisions that ensure the safety and job security of workers tipping off the authorities.

The amended food safety regulations further require food makers to keep food storage and waste disposal zones separate at their factories.

12 bizarre foods confiscated from U.S. borders

From BonAppetit.com, people try to sneak in the darndest foods when they’re entering the U.S. From Argentine vicuña patties to Zambian baobab fruit, officials confiscate enough food at the border to throw a months-long (and rather exotic) feast (learn more about it right here).

chinese.beans.oct.14U.S. Customs officials provided BonAppetit.com a copy of their records from fiscal year 2010 to 2013 listing the kinds, quantities, and countries of departure for all the food items they seized from all commercial flights into America. Meanwhile, we sent photographers to LAX to document a day’s haul at the Customs checkpoint. Here’s what we found

My fav is the Chinese long beans which can be easily purchased in L.A.

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People barfing everywhere: Dozens sick at NAACP annual gala

Public health officials are investigating a possible case of food poisoning that left more than 50 attendees at an NAACP gala with terrible vomiting and diarrhea.

donald-sterling-naacp-honor-withdrawn__oPtTwelve people were taken by ambulance to hospitals and treated for dehydration, officials said. And several more drove themselves to hospitals Saturday night and early Sunday morning after getting sick during a banquet dinner commemorating the closing of the 27th Annual NAACP State Convention.

Among those hospitalized was former Oakland Mayor and Assemblyman Elihu Harris, said George Holland, an attorney who heads the civil rights organization’s Oakland chapter.

More than 300 people, including former San Francisco Mayor and keynote speaker Willie Brown, attended the banquet at the grand ballroom of the Sofitel San Francisco Bay Hotel in Redwood City, Holland said. He didn’t know if Brown had fallen ill.

Several people became sick after eating a dinner that included salmon and salad, Holland said. By 10:30 p.m. attendees were throwing up in the hotel lobby, while more than 20 firefighters and paramedics tended to them.

“It was a terrible scene,” Holland said. “Other hotel guests were very upset.”

Quite a few of the sick were teenagers attending the banquet, Holland said. A 5-year-old also fell ill.

Holland said his wife started vomiting early Sunday, and the illness hit him Monday morning. “I was shivering all day long,” he said.

Sofitel, which is part of a French luxury hotel chain, did not return a call seeking comment. Health officials were unable to produce records Tuesday showing whether the hotel has had similar issues in the past, said Robyn Thaw, spokeswoman for the San Mateo Medical Center.

Good ole’ timey science-off: what’s the best way to wash hands, do sanitizers have a role?

Science is about a world–view of a topic and providing the data to back up that view.

Biology is especially messy.aust.handwashing.oct_.151

International handwashing day was October 15, but I was busy making a mess.

In Australia, the feds have a nice poster and how paper towel is to be used to dry hands, and I’ve never been in a Western country that has more hand driers than paper towel dispensaries.

Proper handwashing requires proper tools.

Ludwig writes in the current issue of Public Understanding of Science (November 2014 vol. 23 no. 8 982-995) to propose a methodological externalism that takes knowledge about science to be partly constituted by the environment. My starting point is the debate about extended cognition in contemporary philosophy and cognitive science. Externalists claim that human cognition extends beyond the brain and can be partly constituted by external devices. First, I show that most studies of public knowledge about science are based on an internalist framework that excludes the environment we usually utilize to make sense of science and does not allow the possibility of extended knowledge. In a second step, I argue that science communication studies should adopt a methodological externalism and accept that knowledge about science can be partly realized by external information resources such as Wikipedia.

Style is important, but content rules.

In this corner, Dr. Keith Warriner of the University of Guelph (that’s in Canada), who writes there are many old-wives tails, rumors and stories that are so ingrained that we don’t know if they are fact or fiction. The list is so long that a popular TV show called “The Myth Busters” is totally devoted to applying science to verify if myths are true or false. The show is for entertainment but it is when myths or non-substantiated knowledge, are actually applied in regulations and guidelines with the thought that someone must have done the science at some point in time.

As many new mothers in the latter part of the 19th century will verify, hand washing has been an essential intervention for minimizing the transfer of pathogens in clinical, food and other environments. The recommended method for washing hands was developed in 1980’s and has not changed significantly through the years. But is the method supported by science?

Myth 1: Antimicrobial soap provides superior hand washing results compared to normal soap

It has been widely accepted that antimicrobial soap is preferred over normal soap for increasing the efficacy of hand washing. Of all the aspects associated with hand washing the comparison of antimicrobial vs. normal soap has been studied to the greatest extent. The general conclusion is that antimicrobial soap supports a marginal increase in the number of bacteria removed from hands. If high inoculation levels are applied to hands then the removal with antimicrobial soap is statistically significantly compared to normal soap. However, with natural skin microflora there is no difference between the efficacy of normal and antimicrobial soap.  

There has been recent research that has suggested that antimicrobial soap can detrimental through disrupting the balance of the skin microflora and irritating the skin. On this basis all the evidence would suggest that antimicrobial soap has no advantages over normal soap.

Myth: Busted

Myth 2: Warm or hot water is better for hand washing than cool water

The FDA have reviewed the recommended water temperature used for hand washing no less than three times. The results of the deliberations was that 110F (43°C) should be set as the recommended temperature in the belief a greater proportion of microbes can be removed. However, all the scientific evidence available suggests that water temperature has no effect on the removal of microbes in the range of 4 -49°C. However, other research in this area has illustrated that water temperature does influence the duration of hand washing with cold or hot water leading to shorter rinse times due to user discomfort.  

Myth: Busted

Myth 3: Paper towels are perform better than air dryers

The method used for drying hands following washing is one of the most contentious issues in the hand hygiene arena. The general thought pattern when devising the hand washing guidelines was that hands needed to be dried to prevent acquisition of contamination from surfaces. This is true to a degree but it should also be noted that hand drying can contribute significantly in reducing microbial levels on hands following washing.

The majority of papers published to date have been pro-paper towels and even the “The Myth Busters” returned the same conclusion. However, it should be noted that many of the comparative studies performed the researchers used hot air hand driers that generated a gentle breeze making the user resort to completing the drying process using ones pants. More modern high speed (air blades) driers certainly can dry hands to the same extent as paper towels within 20 seconds. When a comparison is made between air blades and paper towels there is no difference in terms of microbial log reduction or degree of hand dryness. Given that high speed hand driers are not universally available, the evidence would support the view that paper towels are indeed better that hot air driers.

Myth: True

So does it matter if hand washing protocols are not science based?

It is apparent that many aspects of the hand washing protocol are not based on hard scientific evidence but this does not mean it is the wrong thing to do. Still, by reconsidering if anti-microbial soap is really necessary then skin health could be improved. The savings on energy and water usage by reducing the recommended wash time and temperature could also have a positive impact. Regardless of this, we always need to consider the science when devising guidelines.

In the other corner we have Don Schaffner of Rutgers University (that’s in Jersey). Don writes that an Internet troll is defined by Wikipedia as “a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people… with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response…”. Doug knows the way to troll me is to send a link and ask me to blog about it (he really just wants to call me a troll).

An article from weau.com features the headline “Simple Sickness Prevention: Hand-Washing vs. Hand-Sanitizer”, and asks: what is more effective, old fashioned soap and water, or the alcohol based hand sanitizer?

Not a bad start. The story goes on to feature Doctor Jaime Marks, Assistant Professor of Medicine at UW-Health, who offers a variety of opinions on hand washing and hand sanitizer use.

Dr. Marks says it’s okay to use either hand-washing or hand-sanitizer.

Hmm. the FDA CFSAN Food Code 2–301.16(A)(3) would disagree, but I think I’m starting to like Dr. Marks…

If you notice your hands are soiled, you’ll want to wash your hands. Hand washing is at least 45–60 seconds, like singing through “Happy Birthday” twice in your head. With hand sanitizer, you’d want to use it for 20–30 seconds.

Whoops. That went off the rails quickly. Dr. Marks is certainly entitled to his opinion, but I’d like to see the scientific peer-reviewed basis for those statements. I’d waged they don’t exist. At least I’ve never seen them.

Dr. Marks continues…

Both are about equal as far as getting your hands clean as long as your hands are not soiled.

Hmmm. Dr. Marks wins me back. Sort of. In fact sometimes hand sanitizers even work when your hands are soiled.

The story concludes with some muddled statements about good bacteria and bad bacteria, building an immune response and getting a flu shot that don’t really hang together, but I’ll give Dr. Marks partial credit for trying. More credit next time if you cite the literature.

Or, according to The Smashing Pumpkins, “Emptiness is loneliness and loneliness is cleanliness and cleanliness is godliness and god is empty, just like me.”

Raw sprouts with Salmonella strike again; UK wedding guests win compensation

Wedding guests have won tens of thousands of pounds worth of compensation after beansprouts served at a reception caused a deadly outbreak of food poisoning.

wedding.crashersRene Kwartz, 82, died in hospital three weeks after contracting salmonella at a Jewish celebration in Prestwich in August, 2010.

Now 25 other guests who were also struck down with the bug have settled civil cases against caterers Shefa Mehadrin and suppliers Duerden Brothers.

Among them were Colin Thornton, 57, and his wife Rozanne, 53.

Colin, who used to live in Prestwich and now lives in Clitheroe, Lancashire, said: “You expect to go to a wedding reception and have a nice meal, you don’t expect this to happen to anybody.

“I feel very sorry for the family that booked it. They must feel terrible but it wasn’t their fault.”

He added: “It is very annoying that we’ve had to fight for four and a half years for this.

“A person’s life has been lost.”

The outbreak was traced back to a batch of beansprouts served raw in a salmon teriyaki dish.

Expert guidance recommends they are cooked to kill any bacteria.

The bride’s mum Norma Harris was among the others infected, along with the groom and best man.

At the time she said: “We are devastated. My daughter doesn’t want to see her wedding photographs. We are in bits.”

The settlements, negotiated by Slater and Gordon, are understood to range from £1,000 to £5,000.

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-8-1-14.xlsx.

Z Natural Foods recalls Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder due to possible Salmonella health risk

We all experiment in university. For me it was six months of vegetarianism, and I replaced chocolate with carob powder, as I was cooking everything from scratch.

salm.carobCarob tastes like dust.

Z Natural Foods of West Palm Beach, Florida is recalling 55 lbs of Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The recalled Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder was available for sale directly through Z Natural Foods website at www.ZNaturalFoods.com. It was not available in retail stores.

The Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder was available in a 1 lb and 5 lb standup resealable foil pouches either bronze (1 lb) or silver in color (5 lb) and marked with Lot # ZNCARB39513 and a Best By Date of 12/5/2016 at the bottom of the label.

No illnesses have been reported to date and we are issuing this recall purely as a precautionary measure. The potential for contamination was noted after learning that another customer of our ingredient supplier received a positive test for Salmonella. While sampling conducted by the manufacturer did not indicate the presence of Salmonella, we are recalling this product out of an abundance of caution. No other Z Natural Foods products are affected.

25 Japanese tourists isolated at Australia hospital

Twenty-five Japanese tourists have been isolated at a Sydney hospital after suffering from illness and vomiting.

vacation“Symptoms appear to be similar to food poisoning … it’s not confirmed but they are the kind of symptoms that we are looking at,” a southwestern Sydney local health district spokeswoman told AAP.

The tourists were on Tuesday isolated in part of Liverpool Hospital’s emergency department and measures to control any spread of a potential infection have been put in place.

10 sickened: Multiple human-to-human transmission from a severe case of psittacosis, Sweden, January – February 2013

You see a cute bird, I see a microbiological horror show.

UnknownWallensten et al. describe in Eurosurveillance, Volume 19, Issue 42, that  proven transmission of Chlamydia psittaci between humans has been described on only one occasion previously.

We describe an outbreak which occurred in Sweden in early 2013, where the epidemiological and serological investigation suggests that one patient, severely ill with psittacosis after exposure to wild bird droppings, transmitted the disease to ten others: Two family members, one hospital roommate and seven hospital caregivers. Three cases also provided respiratory samples that could be analysed by PCR. All the obtained C. psittaci sequences were indistinguishable and clustered within genotype A.

The finding has implications for the management of severely ill patients with atypical pneumonia, because these patients may be more contagious than was previously thought. In order to prevent nosocomial person-to-person transmission of C. psittaci, stricter hygiene measures may need to be applied.