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 Doug’s CV here. Download C.V. »

GAO: FDA sorta slow responding to produce industry

From the U.S. Government Accountability Office:

Although the United States has one of the safest food supplies in the world, foodborne illness is a common public health problem. Some of this illness can be linked to produce. In 2006, for example, an E. coli outbreak associated with baby spinach sickened 205 people and killed 3; in 2011, 147 people fell ill and 33 died as a result of eating melons contaminated with Listeria. Other produce-related outbreaks in recent years have involved cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, and packaged salads.

lettuce-skull-e-coli-o145The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has responsibility for ensuring the safety of produce, along with many other foods. Overall, FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of more than 80 percent of the U.S. food supply.

Because produce is often consumed raw without processing to reduce or eliminate contaminants, preventing contamination is key to ensuring safe consumption. In January 2011, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law, representing the largest expansion and overhaul of U.S. food safety law since the 1930s.1 FSMA, according to FDA, marked a historic turning point by focusing on preventing rather than reacting to foodborne illnesses. FSMA did so, in part, by requiring FDA to promulgate new rules that together provide a framework for industry to implement preventive measures and for FDA to oversee implementation. In response to FSMA, FDA developed seven foundational rules; among them was the rule entitled Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption—widely referred to as the produce safety rule.2 This rule, which FDA promulgated in November 2015, established the first enforceable national standards for on-farm growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of domestic and imported produce.3 Among other things, the rule established standards related to agricultural water quality; the use of soil amendments, such as raw manure; the presence of domesticated and wild animals; worker training, health, and hygiene; and sanitation of equipment, tools, and buildings. The rule includes staggered compliance dates depending on average annual produce sales of a business and other factors. For example, compliance for some of the largest businesses comes due beginning in 2017 and 2018, while compliance for certain smaller businesses is not due until 2020. FDA has been developing guidance and training for those affected by the new standards under the produce rule; the agency has also set aside funding for states to help them support implementation of the rule. In addition, the agency is hiring experts with backgrounds in science and policy to work in different regions of the country assisting state officials with implementation of the rule, according to FDA officials.

Some in the produce industry have expressed concerns about the new produce rule standards, including concerns about the scientific basis for standards in such areas as water quality. Some have also expressed concerns about the costs associated with meeting the new standards, particularly for smaller businesses. The Agricultural Act of 2014, also referred to as the 2014 Farm Bill, required that FDA ensure the final produce rule include “a plan to systematically…develop an ongoing process to evaluate and respond to business concerns.”4

The act included a provision for GAO to report, 1 year after the promulgation of the final produce rule and again the next year, on the ongoing evaluation and response process. This first report examines (1) how FDA evaluates and responds to business concerns regarding the produce rule and (2) how FDA plans to assess the effectiveness of its efforts to evaluate and respond to business concerns regarding the rule.5

lettuceTo examine how FDA evaluates and responds to business concerns regarding the produce rule, we reviewed the final rule, including FDA’s responses to public comments on the rule; reviewed relevant information on FSMA and the produce rule on FDA’s website; interviewed FDA officials involved in implementation of the rule; and interviewed representatives from two organizations assisting FDA with implementation of the rule.6 We also interviewed representatives from six produce industry associations and one large retailer for their views on any FDA efforts to respond to business concerns.7 We selected industry associations with large memberships, those representing both large and small businesses, and those representing differing types of produce. These interviews provided a sampling of views and are not generalizable to all produce industry associations, businesses, or others affected by the produce rule. To determine how FDA plans to assess the effectiveness of its efforts to evaluate and respond to business concerns, we interviewed FDA officials to learn about any ongoing or planned efforts.

We conducted this performance audit from August 2016 to November 2016 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

FDA has developed an information clearinghouse to evaluate and respond to concerns from businesses and other stakeholders regarding any of the FSMA rules, including the produce rule. Operational since September 2015, this clearinghouse, called the Technical Assistance Network (TAN), serves as a central source of information to support understanding and implementation of the FSMA rules. Businesses and other stakeholders—such as industry associations, academia, and consumers—can submit questions online or by phone or traditional mail. Phase 1 of the TAN, which is currently operational, evaluates and responds to questions related to the publication of FSMA rules. Phase 2, which FDA expects to begin in 2017, will evaluate and respond to questions from FDA and state inspectors working to ensure industry compliance with FSMA rules. FDA officials we interviewed told us the agency intends to maintain the TAN as a mechanism to respond to stakeholder questions and concerns even after the produce rule and other FSMA rules are fully implemented.8

We examined FDA data on TAN questions received by the agency from early September 2015 through early September 2016.9 During that period, FDA received 2,626 TAN questions, most of which had been submitted online.10 About 14 percent of questions (363) pertained to the produce rule, and about 60 percent of questions (218) pertaining to the produce rule came from those who identified as belonging to “industry/business.”11 According to FDA, the agency tracks TAN questions to help inform FSMA policy, guidance, and training. For example, officials at FDA told us that many of the questions it received related to the produce safety rule sought clarification regarding uses of water that meet the definition of “agricultural water.” FDA also received many questions seeking clarification on the requirements for collecting samples of agricultural water. Because of the large number of questions on both of these topics, FDA considers them high-priority areas to address in developing guidance. Specifically, FDA identified these topics as those most important to include in the first phase of its general compliance and implementation guidance for the produce rule, whereas other topics will be addressed in the second phase of the guidance.

In addition to addressing business concerns through the TAN, FDA officials told us they will continue to reach out to industry during produce rule implementation, just as they did while developing the rule. For example, FDA officials plan to meet with industry as they develop guidance documents, which provide direction on complying with produce rule standards. According to these officials, the guidance development process will provide another opportunity to hear and respond to business concerns. FDA may incorporate industry suggestions into the final guidance, as appropriate. Representatives from industry associations we interviewed generally praised FDA’s level of collaboration during the rulemaking process, noting that FDA had been willing to engage with them and address their concerns.12

FDA Is Developing a Survey and Other Metrics to Assess Its Information Clearinghouse

FDA officials we interviewed said the agency is developing a stakeholder survey to assess the effectiveness of its information clearinghouse, the TAN. FDA will send a copy of the survey to businesses and other stakeholders when providing responses to TAN questions submitted online. Most TAN questions are submitted online. Officials told us surveys will be sent starting in fiscal year 2017, after the required Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review is complete.13 FDA plans to implement the survey in two parts, according to officials. The first part will begin in early fiscal year 2017 and will solicit feedback from stakeholders about the web page FDA provides for submitting questions online. In late fiscal year 2017, FDA will begin soliciting feedback about the quality of information the agency provided in its responses to TAN questions. In addition, officials said the agency is developing metrics to measure overall success in implementing the produce rule and plans to begin using these metrics in January 2018, when compliance with most of the produce rule standards comes due for most large businesses. These metrics will be used to examine how effective the TAN is in responding to questions and will ultimately be used to assess whether additional training and outreach to business are needed to help implement the produce rule.

We asked representatives from industry associations and other organizations we interviewed about their experiences submitting questions to the TAN. These representatives generally told us that wait times for answers from the TAN can be long, and some had not yet received answers to their questions. For example, representatives from one industry association told us it took 4 months to get an answer through the TAN.

FDA officials told us that, as of early October 2016, the agency had responded to about 72 percent of all TAN questions received. Officials said FDA is currently studying how long it takes, on average, to respond to questions submitted to the TAN, and the agency is working to decrease its response time. Also, according to FDA officials, response times to TAN questions may be longer in some cases because agency guidance on the produce rule and other FSMA rules is still under development, and the agency does not want to provide information through the TAN that might conflict with the subsequent guidance. In addition, officials said that while simpler questions can often be addressed immediately by FDA staff that monitor the TAN, about 95 percent of the questions are more complex. These questions are forwarded to subject matter experts within the agency and, consequently, require more time for a response. According to FDA, median response time for questions forwarded to subject matter experts is 22 business days. FDA officials told us that if a question is still unaddressed after 30 days, FDA will send an automated message saying the agency is working on a response; a second automated message is sent after 60 days if the question is still unresolved.

FSA idiots: Cooking until the juices run clear is a bad way to tell if the meat is done

It’s sorta sad when the PhD boffins at the UK Food Standards Agency get stood up by Cooks Illustrated.

chicken-thermWorse when they fail to acknowledge the error of their ways, but still earn the big bucks.

Cooking a chicken until its “juices run clear when pricked” is pretty standard poultry advice but, according to Cook’s Illustrated, it’s not a very dependable way to tell if your chicken is properly cooked.

As reported by Claire Lower of Skillet, though myoglobin (the molecule that gives meat its pink or red hue) does lose its color when heated, the temperature at which the color change occurs can vary depending on a whole bunch of factors. In fact, when Cook’s Illustrated tested this theory, they found the color of the juice had very little to do with the temperature of the meat:

But when we cooked whole chickens, in one case the juices ran clear when the breast registered 145 degrees and the thigh 155 degrees—long before the chicken was done. And when we pierced another chicken that we’d overcooked (the breast registered 170 degrees and the thigh 180 degrees), it still oozed pink juices.

The takeaway? Get a thermometer, use it, and never under-cook or overcook your chicken again.

Stick it in and use a thermometer.

barfblog-stick-it-in

 

Everyone needs a story: ‘I don’t like Jews, but I like you’ ‘I like Englishmen, but I don’t like you’

David Leonhardt writes in this book review for the N.Y. Times that in the fall of 1969, behind the closed door of an otherwise empty seminar room at Hebrew University, two psychologists began a collaboration that would upend the understanding of human behavior. Those first conversations were filled with uproarious laughter and occasional shouting, in a jumble of Hebrew and English, which could sometimes be heard from the hallway.

statistical-noiseWhen it came time for the two professors to write up their papers, they would sit next to each other at a single typewriter. “We were sharing a mind,” one would say later. They flipped a coin to decide whose name would appear first on their initial paper and alternated thereafter. The two names were Amos Tversky — the winner of that coin flip — and Daniel Kahneman.

Their work revealed previously undiscovered patterns of human irrationality: the ways that our minds consistently fool us and the steps we can take, at least some of the time, to avoid being fooled. Kahneman and Tversky used the word “heuristics” to describe the rules of thumb that often lead people astray. One such rule is the “halo effect,” in which thinking about one positive attribute of a person or thing causes observers to perceive other strengths that aren’t really there. Another is “representativeness,” which leads people to see cause and effect — to see a “narrative” — where they should instead accept uncertainty or randomness.

The research of Kahneman and Tversky has become some of the most influential social science of the past century. It has helped to reorder economics by exposing the folly of economists’ belief in an unconsciously rational human mind. The work has also led to advances in medical diagnosis and patient behavior. It has affected eating habits, cellphone use by drivers, retirement savings and many other areas.

The work is also full of practical little ideas. “No one ever made a decision because of a number,” Kahneman has said. “They need a story.” Or Tversky’s theory of socializing: Because stinginess and generosity are both contagious, and because behaving  generously makes you happier, surround yourself with generous people.

One of the clearest places to see their work’s impact, although surely not the most important, is professional sports. Team executives have realized that some of their long-held assumptions about what makes a great athlete or a winning strategy turn out to be wrong. And they have adjusted. The adjustments have not always worked, and many of the old beliefs — say, the importance of fielding skill among catchers in baseball — contain wisdom. Yet the reformist movement has had many more wins than losses. One reformer is Theo Epstein, the executive who has overseen the demise of mythical curses on both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.

The changes in sports are known as the Moneyball revolution, after the title of a 2003 book by Michael Lewis, about the low-budget success of the Oakland Athletics. One review of “Moneyball” particularly caught Lewis’s eye, because it offered a criticism that had not occurred to him. Writing in The New Republic, two academics — Richard Thaler, an economist who had helped overthrow his field’s hyperrationality, and Cass Sunstein, a law professor — argued that Lewis had missed a larger story: The success of the A’s could trace its intellectual roots not only through the world of baseball’s analytical geeks but also back to the work of Kahneman and Tversky.

“Until that moment I don’t believe I’d ever heard of either Kahneman or Tversky,” Lewis now writes. “My book wasn’t original. It was simply an illustration of ideas that had been floating around for decades and had yet to be fully appreciated by, among others, me.” Lewis set about learning more about the psychologists, and the result is his latest book, “The Undoing Project,” a joint biography of Kahneman and Tversky, and a discussion of their ideas and complex relationship.

michael-lewisLewis is the ideal teller of the story. Dating to his 1989 debut, “Liar’s Poker,” about the Wall Street boom of that decade, he has displayed a rare combination for a writer. He immerses himself in big ideas — about finance, technology, sports and, ultimately, the human condition — and then explains them to readers with sophistication and clarity. But he is also a vastly better raconteur than most other writers playing the explication game. You laugh when you read his books. You see his protagonists in three dimensions — deeply likable, but also flawed, just like most of your friends and family.

Kahneman and Tversky are no longer obscure figures, thanks in part to Kahneman’s best-selling “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Yet their story is still not well known. They were both grandsons of rabbis from Eastern Europe, and both atheists. They were deeply affected by their service in the Israeli military — including in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, after they had already established themselves as academics. The experiences helped make Kahneman far more practical than he otherwise might have been, because he understood that psychology could save, or cost, lives.

For Tversky, military service sharpened the brazenness that became crucial to their collaboration. At one time, against the orders of a superior, he rushed over to a fellow soldier who had collapsed near an unexploded grenade and pulled the soldier to safety. “Once I did that,” he later told a friend, “I felt obliged to keep this image of hero.” His confidence and brilliance combined to make for a cutting sense of humor. After he had given a talk, an English statistician approached him and said, “I don’t usually like Jews, but I like you.” Tversky responded, “I usually like Englishmen, but I don’t like you.”

Tversky’s panache made him the more prominent of the pair, by a considerable margin, while they were doing their work. The gap aggravated tensions that existed between the two men despite what Lewis describes as a platonic love between them. Many of today’s readers, of course, know only Kahneman’s name. The back story is tragically affecting: Tversky died of cancer in 1996, at the age of 59. He received the diagnosis just after he and Kahneman had severed their friendship, only to repair it in Tversky’s last months.

For all of the personal anguish that their differences created, those differences also fueled their accomplishments. Tversky’s boldness helped the pair to take on strongly held beliefs in one field after another. Kahneman’s humility and insecurity were just as important to their success. He was unsparingly self-critical, which allowed him to understand his own mental errors — and, by extension, to diagnose widespread human errors that others had missed. Kahneman came to realize that when he was faced with results from studying 40 subjects, a typical sample in psychology, his instinct was to devise an explanation for the results. In truth, the most likely explanation was statistical noise.

I don’t see gender: Sorenne can be an engineer, artist, whatever; it’s mindnumbing to limit over 50% of the populations’ potential

On December 6th, 1989, a lone 25-year-old gunman walked into a class of engineering students at École Polytechnique, affiliated with the Université de Montréal, armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife, separated the men from the women, shot 28 people and killed 14 women – primarily engineering students – before turning the gun on himself.

montreal-massacre-victimsWhen he entered a second floor mechanical engineering class of about 60 students, he approached the student giving a presentation, he asked everyone to stop everything and ordered the women and men to opposite sides of the classroom. No one moved at first, believing it to be a joke until he fired a shot into the ceiling.

He then separated the nine women from the approximately 50 men and ordered the men to leave. Speaking in French, he asked the remaining women whether they knew why they were there, and when one student replied “no,” he answered: “I am fighting feminism.”

One of the students, Nathalie Provost, said, “Look, we are just women studying engineering, not necessarily feminists ready to march on the streets to shout we are against men, just students intent on leading a normal life.”

Lépine responded that “You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.” He then opened fire on the students from left to right, killing six, and wounding three others, including Provost.  Before leaving the room, he wrote the word shit twice on a student project.

The Montreal Massacre, as it is referred to, led to a self-examination of engineering programs across Canada. I benefitted from that, offering a course for engineers while working at the University of Waterloo, beginning in 1991.

court-hockeyThe more things change, the more they stay the same

Twenty-seven years later, the Ontario Hockey League has announced its mandatory program to teach players to respect women.

Probably because a lot of hockey players are goons – on and off the ice (not my friend Kevin, he’s just a goon on the ice).

I got five daughters, and I have and always will support them in whatever they do.

They all did and do play hockey.

Like engineering, it can be tough.

No one needs condescension, but clearing a few roadblocks can help.

One of the goals of the OHL Onside program, announced in Peterborough, includes teaching players to consider how their words and actions demonstrate respect.

I’ve had several chats with male adults and kids on the ice, in terms of comments made toward females.

And the other way.

Girls and women can give it back just as severe.

League vice president Ted Baker expects players and staff to buy into the curriculum, which will be taught by sexual assault experts in communities that have OHL teams.

“This will be something that will really be one of the pillars of our league,” he said.

The two-hour program will be delivered once-a-year. According to Lydia Fiorini, the executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre of Essex County, the culture is changing in sports, especially in professional leagues.

“You’re starting to see different shifts with regards to NFL players, NHL players in terms of their charges of domestic violence and the league really being really punitive as a result of those potential charges,” Fiorini said.

She hopes early starts for programs like this with feeder teams like the OHL will prevent some of those negative behaviours.

“Many times they witness a lot of things, but don’t know what to say,” Fiorini said. “This is an opportunity for them to start doing some preplanning in case they are confronted with those negative behaviours or stereotypes. So that they can actually speak out and actually work towards ending violence.”

A pilot project started last year with the Kitchener Rangers and the Peterborough Petes last year. 

gender

Scientist, artist, hockey player, swimmer: Happy Birthday Sorenne

Sorenne turned 8-years-old today, and this unique child is growing more comfortable and confident.

sorenne-powellFrom this, to third place in the science fair this year, to a party last Saturday (because mom just left for a French stuff conference in Adelaide), after which she crashed with her new BFF, Ted.

The Brisbane sky has been heralding the date of her birth, with some awesome light shows in the days before (and more to come).

sorenne-science-fair-aug-15What’s it like growing up with a father who writes and talks about food safety? Like dad, she’s got three citizenships – Canadian, American and Australian – draws unique pictures of pigs pooping, and says things at school that others may find inappropriate, but that I find totally cool.

sorenne-ted-dec-16(The clip below if from recycling day at her school, and she says, “Reuse chicken poop and turn it into fertilizer.” I had no input, she just picked it up from the ether around this house).

First we take Manhattan, then Berlin: Zoonoses in the food chain

I may have spoken at this in 1998.

quote-first-we-take-manhattan-then-we-take-berlin-leonard-cohen-87-88-65Or something else.

My parents warned me Germans would not get my sense of humor, and I hobbled around Berlin with my first affliction of what I later understood to be familial-associated gout.

The beer probably didn’t help.

Regardless, the occurrence of zoonotic pathogens and toxigenic bacteria in the food chain and the associated risk for humans were the focus of the4th Symposium for Zoonoses and Food Safety” at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in Berlin.

Around 250 participants were discussing strategies to combat zoonotic pathogens in livestock, their occurrence in foods of animal origin and the role of toxigenic bacteria for food safety.

“The sharp decline of salmonellosis in humans in recent years can be seen as a success of the measures taken to combat this pathogen in poultry flocks,” says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. “Accordingly, there is now more focus on other sources of human infection”. This includes the occurrence of Salmonella in pig farming and in reptiles kept as pets.

For this reason, the symposium also focused on how to reduce the spread of salmonella in pig herds and pork meat. To do so, the food chain was examined from feedstuffs all the way through to food retail. New goals and initiatives of the federal states were presented too. The possible role of household pets as a source of infection for humans was also thematised using the example of reptiles.

The risk posed to humans by other zoonotic pathogens was also looked at. New laboratory methods play an important role in estimating these risks and assessing possible infection chains. This was illustrated by describing the investigation of a listeriosis outbreak. Another current example is the appraisal of the gut bacteria Clostridium difficile as a zoonotic pathogen.

one-healthA second main focus of the symposium was toxigenic bacteria. These are bacteria whose metabolites can trigger illnesses known as food intoxications (poisonings) that can sometimes be severe. It is not the bacterium but rather the toxin produced by it that is the cause of the health impairment.

The number of cases of foodborne diseases through toxigenic bacteria reported on EU level is increasing continuously. With approx. 16%, overall food intoxications took third place in reported cases of foodborne disease outbreaks after viruses and salmonella in 2014.

The main focus of the symposium was on the significance, occurrence and detection of toxigenic Staphylococci, Bacilli and Clostridia. The results of outbreak investigations in Germany were presented among other things, along with suitable examination methods for detecting toxigenic bacteria in prepared foods. The experts also picked up on the question of whether more efforts have to be made to better estimate and minimise the risk posed by toxigenic bacteria in the future.

 

Spread the safe salad message – at retail

The Packer writs in an editorial that the produce industry is justified in being upset about the latest accusation of lax food safety practices, but also acknowledges the industry has a strong food safety message and should be eager to share it.

lettuceIt’s important that retailers and foodservice providers know the industry’s response to the most recent attack, this time from a United Kingdom study that raises concerns about salmonella in bagged salads

How to do that?

Because at retail, the person consumers are going to ask is some minimum-wage kid who is stocking produce when a shopper walks by.

Most people want to go shopping, not do homework.

They are an abundance of tools that have been developed to help support risk communication at retail.

On the front lines.

Where sales are won and lost.

Market microbial food safety at retail rather than offering boilerplates.

Surveys still suck: Australians identify ingredients hate list, so retailers can make a buck

Nielsen research has found almost half of Australian consumers wish there were more “all natural” food products on supermarket shelves.

trump-snake-oilA reflection of the way the question was asked.

Would you like all natural food products that contained dangerous microorganisms?

Probably not.

The findings from the Global Health and Ingredient Sentiment Survey show Australians are adopting a “back-to-basics mindset”, focusing on simple ingredients says Nielsen.

Close to nine in 10 respondents said they avoid specific ingredients because they believe them to be harmful to their own or their family’s health, while six in 10 consumers said they are concerned about the long-term health impact of artificial ingredients in their diet.

“Informed and savvy consumers are demanding more from the foods they eat and are happy to pay more if they believe it is better for them,” said Michael Elam-Rye, associate director – retail at Nielsen.

They are not informed; they are responding to what grocery stores, TV, the Internet and friends tell them.

But in a Donald Trump era, it’s a fact-free world.

Trump won because he told people what they wanted to hear.

People embrace natural foods and are anti-vaccine because someone is telling them what they want to hear.

It’s seductive.

And it’s big bucks for the purveyors of food porn – farmers, processors, retailers – especially retailers – and media outlets that make a buck telling people what they want to hear.

I get it. I’ve always said – since I was about 20-years-old – getting attention in the public domain is a mixture of style and substance. Scientists can work on their style, everyone else can work on their substance (and just because you eat does not make you an expert).

But substance has to win out, about 60-40.

It’s a peculiarity that society expects bridges and other engineering feats, along with medicine, to be exceeding current and revolutionary, yet many expect to produce food as in the old days.

trump-special-kind-stupidIt’s not peculiar: it’s advertising, messaging and manipulation.

John Defore writes about a new documentary Food Evolution, which defends the place of genetically engineered food in agriculture.

Neil deGrasse Tyson – who seamlessly blends the 60-40 suggestion of substance over style – and director Scott Hamilton Kennedy challenge enviro-activist orthodoxy, much in the same way I’ve been doing for 30 years.

But they’re more skilled at the style.

Food Evolution sounds on paper like it might be one of those hack-job rebuttals in which moneyed right-wing interests disguise propaganda as a documentary. Many on the left will likely dismiss it as such, which is a shame … the movie makes an excellent case against those who seek blanket prohibitions against genetically modified organisms — and … against those of us who support such bans just because we assume it’s the eco-conscious thing to do.

[I]t investigates the motives of some prominent anti-GMO activists — like those who are “very entrepreneurial,” finding ways to make money off fears the film believes are baseless, or like researcher Chuck Benbrook, whose work was financed by companies making billions from customers afraid of GMOs.

Hope bridges don’t start falling down because people want them more natural.

The folks who did the survey say, “This presents an opportunity for food manufacturers to increase share by offering and marketing products that are formulated with good-for-you ingredients, and an opportunity for retailers to trade consumers up with more premium priced products.”

snakeoilTell lies. Bend rules. Make a buck.

Trump is the embodiment for the times.

Top 10 ingredients Australian consumers avoid:

Antibiotics/hormones in animals products

MSG

Artificial preservatives

Artificial flavours

Artificial sweeteners

Foods with BPA packaging

Artificial colours

Sugar

Genetically modified foods

Sodium

I avoid dangerous microorganisms, which sicken 1-out-of-8 people every year.

That’s a lot of barfing.

And it’s not on the list.

Data says so: Australia does have a raw egg problem

Statistics show that the consumption of foods containing raw or minimally cooked eggs is currently the single largest source of foodborne Salmonella outbreaks in Australia.

garlic_aioliI based a large part of my research career on verifying the soundbite, ‘we have released guidelines’ or, ‘we follow all recommendations’ by arranging to have students see what actually goes on.

In October 2014, the New South Wales Food Authority released Food Safety Guidelines for the Preparation of Raw Egg Products (the Guidelines). Despite this, outbreaks continued to take place, particularly where business hygiene and temperature control issues were apparent. In addition, businesses and councils approached the Food Authority for advice on desserts containing raw eggs and other unusual raw egg dishes. As a result, the Guidelines were recently updated and give specific reference to Standard 3.2.2, Division 3, clause 7 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code to ensure that only safe and suitable food is processed.

To reduce the risk of foodborne illness outbreaks caused by Salmonella, retail businesses are advised to avoid selling food containing raw or minimally cooked eggs. The Guidelines give food businesses that do sell food containing raw egg specific safety steps for its preparation and clear guidance and advice on what they must do to meet food safety regulations. The revised Food Safety Guidelines for the Preparation of Raw Egg Products is available at www. foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/_Documents/ retail/raw_egg_guidelines.pdf.

raw-eggsOr as the Australian Food Safety Information Council now says, buy, don’t make aioli or mayonnaise.

This is nice but of no use to consumers at a restaurant who order fish and chips  with a side of mayo or aioli. I’ve already begun an ad hoc investigation – because I don’t want my family to get sick – and can say that out of the 15 times I’ve asked over the past few years – is the aioli or mayo made at the restaurant or bought commercially – the server invariably returns and proclaims, We only use raw eggs in our aioli or mayo.

Wrong answer.

Only once, so far, has an owner or chef said, we know of the risk, we only use the bought stuff. And they’re ex-pat Canadians.

Giv’r, eh.

A table of Australian egg outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-10-9-15.xlsx

Shiga-toxin producing E. coli: Another reason to avoid pigeon poop

Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli infections in humans cause disease ranging from uncomplicated intestinal illnesses to bloody diarrhea and systemic sequelae, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Previous research indicated that pigeons may be a reservoir for a population of verotoxigenic E. coli producing the VT2f variant.

pigeon-poop-shamelessWe used whole-genome sequencing to characterize a set of VT2f-producing E. coli strains from human patients with diarrhea or HUS and from healthy pigeons. We describe a phage conveying the vtx2f genes and provide evidence that the strains causing milder diarrheal disease may be transmitted to humans from pigeons.

The strains causing HUS could derive from VT2f phage acquisition by E. coli strains with a virulence genes asset resembling that of typical HUS-associated verotoxigenic E. coli.

Whole-genome characterization and strain comparison of VT2f-producing Escherichia coli causing hemolytic uremic syndrome

Emerging Infectious Diseases, December 2016, Volume 22, Number 12, https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2212.160017

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/22/12/16-0017_article