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. »

Man’s five-star wedding anniversary celebrations in Jamaica ‘ruined’ by Salmonella

A man whose 30th wedding anniversary celebrations in Jamaica were ‘ruined’ when he collapsed in his hotel room after contracting salmonella is still showing symptoms six months later, according to his solicitors.

salm.jamacia.oct.15Ian Counsell, 51, from Haslingden, travelled to the five-star Riu Palace hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with his wife Christine, as a celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary in March but became ill.

He and his wife have now instructed expert travel lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the cause of his illness and the hygiene standards at the hotel.

98 sick from Salmonella; source not IDed at UK pub

Experts from the North East Public Health England (PHE) Centre and Stockton Council environmental health team have concluded their investigation into an outbreak of salmonella at the Anson Farm pub in Thornaby earlier this year.

anson.farmA total of 98 cases of salmonella were reported in people who had eaten at the pub between April 26 and May 20.

Dr Peter Acheson, consultant in health protection at the PHE North East Centre, said: “The outbreak control team has concluded that the source of the infection in customers and staff could not be decided with certainty, though the most plausible conclusion is that the organism was introduced via a foodstuff and then spread by cross contamination in the premises.”

Stockton Council will continue to investigate and consider food safety enforcement issues at the premises.

Following the outbreak, The Anson Farm had its food hygiene rating slashed from five to two stars.

The Greene King pub chain, which owns the Anson Farm , on Teesside Industrial Estate, described the downgrading as a “huge disappointment.”

Probably not as disappointing for those who barfed.

Campy up, E. coli O157 down: Foodborne diseases active surveillance network (FoodNet)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, or FoodNet, has been tracking trends for infections transmitted commonly through food since 1996. provides a foundation for food safety policy and prevention efforts. It estimates the number of foodborne illnesses, monitors trends in incidence of specific foodborne illnesses over time, attributes illnesses to specific foods and settings, and disseminates this information.

“FoodNet has matured and transformed over 20 years, and continues to evolve as technologies change,” says Dr. Olga Henao, FoodNet Team Lead.

The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, or FoodNet, has been tracking trends in foodborne infections since 1996.

FoodNet provides a foundation for food safety policy and prevention efforts by estimating the number of foodborne illnesses, monitoring trends of specific foodborne illnesses, conducting studies to understand the causes of these illnesses, and informing the public about its findings.

FoodNet began to collect information on two pathogen cases identified by CIDT in 2009 and expanded the collection to other pathogens in 2011.

FoodNet has conducted surveillance for laboratory-confirmed cases of infection in humans  caused by Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157,  Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia since 1996, Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora since 1997, and STEC non-O157 since 2000. FoodNet staff in state health departments contact clinical laboratories in the surveillance area to get reports of infections diagnosed in residents.

Special Studies

Although foodborne outbreaks are common, most foodborne infections are sporadic, meaning they are not related to an outbreak. We can only rarely determine how one person got an infection but, by studying a large number of people with the same type of infection, we can often determine risk factors for getting ill.

Major Contributions

FoodNet is the only U.S. system focused on obtaining comprehensive information about sporadic infections caused by pathogens transmitted commonly through food. The network’s contributions to food safety policy and illness prevention include:

Establishing reliable, active population-based surveillance to understand who gets sick and why;

Developing and implementing studies that determine risk and protective factors for foodborne infections;

Conducting population surveys and laboratory surveys that describe the features of gastrointestinal illnesses, medical care-seeking behavior, foods eaten, and laboratory practices; and

Improving our ability at the federal and state level to track and study foodborne illnesses and respond to new issues as they arise. 

About FoodNet

Surveillance in an area that includes 15% of the U.S. population (approximately 48 million people)

Collaboration among CDC, 10 state health departments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the Food and Drug Administration. (Image: U.S. map showing FoodNet sites.)

Principal foodborne disease component of CDC’s Emerging Infections Program

Provides the data necessary for measuring the progress in foodborne disease prevention.

30 sick: Church says, don’t talk about Salmonella

At least 30 people, including some who were admitted to area hospitals, were reported sick due to a salmonella outbreak after a community meal Sunday at a Parker County church.  

Speak-No-EvilChurch leaders are now asking members to keep details about the luncheon, as well as updates on the conditions of affected persons to themselves.

Youth Pastor Spencer Row said, “ At this time, we as church staff, believe it is in the church’s best interest to allow our conference to handle this situation. We have taken the necessary steps to provide assistance internally. We ask that you refrain from posting or sharing any further information about this situation, for the protection of our members and our church as a whole.

“Please continue to pray for everyone, and make known how much love we have for one another! It’s in times like these that the true strength of the church is revealed.”

Food safety morons.

Arrest in NZ infant formula poison threat

A 60-year-old New Zealand businessman has been arrested over threats to contaminate infant formula with 1080 poison.

fonterrababyfeature-300x204The Auckland man has been charged with two counts of blackmail, NZ Police Commissioner Mike Bush told a media conference.

He will appear in Manukau District Court on Tuesday afternoon.

The arrest comes after police executed five search warrants in Auckland and the Rangitikei district on Tuesday morning.

Anonymous letters were sent to Fonterra and Federated Farmers in November last year along with small packages of milk powder laced with a concentrated form of 1080.

They contained threats to contaminate infant and other formula with the poison unless New Zealand stopped using 1080 for pest control by the end of March.

More than 50,000 tests failed to reveal any contamination.

Australian police discover pig eating cannabis plants during drugs raid

Police say they are on the lookout for any high flying pigs after they found a feral pig eating a cannabis plant near Toowoomba last week.

pig.stonedThey first attended a house at Meringandan West last Wednesday where they saw a man inside an enclosed pen, upon closer inspection they also found a large pig eating what they described as a “green leafy material”.

Police will allege that they conducted a search of the address and found a 1.6m high cannabis plant along with 140.7 grams of cannabis.

Canberra-based ‘scores on doors’ scheme scrapped

Canberra, the capital of Australia on a former sheep farm because Melboune and Sydney were playing poppy pants about who should host the capital, has decided that public disclosure of restaurant inspection information is too silly to pursue.

doug.amy.coffs.oct.15Toronto figured it out, so did LA and NYC, but not good enough for Canberra.

The territory’s Chief Health Officer, Paul Kelly, said there were a “range of reasons” behind the decision, but the government had decided there would be “better paths to follow to get the same outcome”.

“Just to be clear, the outcome is that we want the people of the ACT or people visiting the ACT to be confident when they go to a restaurant they’re eating safe food,” he said.

Dr Kelly said alternative measures, such as translating ACT Health materials into different languages, “seem to be bearing fruit.”

Bullshit. Kelly probably caved to restaurant interests, especially when he won’t explain what those alternative approaches are. Some of us publish in peer-reviewed journals, some pontificate and genuflect to their masters.

garlic_aioli(3)The Australian Hotels Association ACT welcomed the decision, saying that it was in part thanks to improving food safety in Canberra’s restaurants.

Canberra, you want to be known for having four Prime Ministers in five years, or you want to be leaders. Food safety is low-hanging fruit, get on with it (and my Brisbane Stars kicked your butt at the Coffs Harbour ice hockey tournament.

Grow a pair.


More turtles, more Salmonella

 You see a cute reptile, I see a Salmonella factory.

turtle.kissThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control, multiple states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine investigated two multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with small turtles in 2015.

51 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella were reported from 16 states between January 22, 2015 and September 8, 2015.

15 ill people were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.

50% of ill people were children 5 years of age or younger.

Epidemiologic and laboratory findings linked these two outbreaks of human Salmonella infections to contact with small turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat.

All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy.

Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling turtles or anything in the area where they live or roam.

Since 1975, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale and distribution of turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches in size as pets because they are often linked to Salmonella infections, especially in young children.

Small turtles should not be purchased as pets or given as gifts.

CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory conducted antibiotic resistance testing on Salmonella isolates collected from seven ill people infected with one of the outbreak strains.

All seven isolates were susceptible to all antibiotics tested on the NARMS panel.

The outbreak is expected to continue at a low level for the next several months since consumers might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from reptiles, including small turtles. If properly cared for, small turtles have a long life expectancy.


Contrition after getting caught

My latest column from Texas A&M’s Center for Food Safety.

(I quite appreciate the freedom I have to delve into more substantive issues). 

The VW microbus: popular in an Arlo Guthrie song (Alice’s Restaurant), home to shag carpeting, and where people who came of age in the 1970s actually did that – in a VW microbus. 

But with news that Volkswagen rigged emission tests on some 11 million cars, the favored brand of professors and hipsters is collapsing.

And they’re not helping their cause.

At a corporate event to unveil the new Passat, the U.S. president of VW said, “Let’s be clear about this. Our company was dishonest. And in my German words, we have totally screwed up.

“Thank you very much for coming, enjoy the evening, up next is Lenny Kravitz.”

Or as comedian and British export John Oliver summarized:

“VW: Hitler trusted us, why won’t you?”

There’s a playbook for public contrition – even in the 140 characters of the Twitterverse — but it’s the day-in-day-out delivery that builds trust, in relationships with that person you met in a VW microbus or with global conglomerates.

Or that homespun ice-cream or peanut paste producer.

Blue Bell ice cream has done a lousy job of taking seriously their food safety responsibilities. Executives at Peanut Corporation of American, whose products killed nine and sickened at least 741 in 2009, received prison sentences varying from 28-to-three years for a not-so elaborate scheme to, as reported by USA Today and others over the years, “fabricate certificates of analysis in a scheme that falsely showed peanut butter from the Blakely, Georgia plant was free of Salmonella and other pathogens. In fact, there had been no testing of the product, or tests had confirmed contamination, prosecutors showed.”

Before the judge issued the sentences, former CEO Stewart Parnell said; “This has been a seven-year nightmare for me and my family. I’m truly, truly sorry for what’s happened.”

Parnell’s daughter said they never knowingly endangered customers, adding,

“No one thought that the products were unsafe or could harm someone. Dad brought them home to us. We all ate it.”

That’s from the contrition playbook. And it’s not enough.

Today, as the number of people sick with Salmonella from Mexican cucumbers continues to climb – 3 deaths, 671 people sick, the U.S. distributor has donated to a non-profit group’s campaign aimed at improving foodborne disease diagnosis and it urged other produce companies to do the same.

San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce partner David Murray said in a Sept. 25 statement, that the firm is “absolutely devastated” by the outbreak and is working with authorities in the U.S. and Mexico, as well as food-safety experts, to analyze its processes and fix any problems.

That’s from the contrition playbook. And it’s not enough.

Joe Nocera of The New York Times wrote recently about parallels between the peanut case and auto recalls, and while there are legal nuances about whether to go after corporations or individuals, that’s up for the lawyers to decide (The Untouchables couldn’t get Al Capone for murder, but they did get him for tax fraud).

Nocera writes the urge to prosecute corporate executives is the single most powerful deterrent imaginable — far more powerful than a fine, which is meaningless to a company like G.M.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat and a former attorney general of that state, said, “I guarantee you, one sentence like [Parnell’s] would change auto safety dramatically and enduringly.”

Get past the playbook of contrition and make data public, day-in-day-out, to earn people’s trust.

 Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.