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. »

12 sick: E. coli O121 outbreak in Canada

This is my dog chewing on kangaroo ribs.

ted-kangeroo-rib-jan-17Go with the protein that is available.

It’s about the same amount of effort the boffins at Public Health Agency of Canada put into announcing an outbreak of E. coli O121 that has sickened at least 12 people from B.C. to Newfoundland.

kangeroo-rib-ted-jan-17There have been 12 cases of E. coli O121 with a matching genetic fingerprint reported in three provinces: British Columbia (4), Saskatchewan (4), and Newfoundland and Labrador (4). The illness onset dates range from November to December 2016. Four individuals have been hospitalized. These individuals have recovered or are recovering. The investigation into the source of the outbreak is ongoing.

I’ll continue to bond with my dog.

Talking food safety: It don’t mean shit

I’ve stepped aside for two weeks and this has become painfully apparent: Most of everything I did in my 20-year academic career don’t mean shit.

it-dont-mean-a-thing-swingIt’s the food safety version of the liberal bubble.

I’ve been praised and criticized along the way for using new messages, new media and new ways of gauging food safety behaviour.

But it don’t mean shit.

We microbiologially-inclined folks look on with dismay as mere plebes engage in all kinds of risky food stuff, and then lament amongst ourselves at the uneducated public (I don’t, but many others do).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), long considered the holy tome for all things food safety, has just published its 10 Most Talked About MMWR Reports of 2016:

CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain — United States, 2016

Interim Guidelines for Pregnant Women During a Zika Virus Outbreak — United States, 2016

Prevalence of Healthy Sleep Duration among Adults — United States, 2014

Possible Association Between Zika Virus Infection and Microcephaly — Brazil, 2015

Interim Guidelines for the Evaluation and Testing of Infants with Possible Congenital Zika Virus Infection — United States, 2016

Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2016–17 Influenza Season

Possible Zika Virus Infection Among Pregnant Women — United States and Territories, May 2016

Sleep Duration and Injury-Related Risk Behaviors Among High School Students — United States, 2007–2013

Interim Guidelines for Prevention of Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus — United States, 2016

Neisseria gonorrhoeae Antimicrobial Susceptibility Surveillance — The Gonococcal Isolate Surveillance Project, 27 Sites, United States, 2014

For all the outbreaks, deaths, tragedies, and criminal behaviour, microbial food safety doesn’t even make the top-10 at CDC.

Food safety fairy tales would probably rate higher.

Producer groups, government, industry, your food safety communications budgets are ripe for hacking.

Because it don’t mean shit.

Be the bug: Toast edition

Guest barfblogger Rebecca Fischer writes:

toast-rebecca-ja-17I wanted toast.

 I watched from the diner counter as my server bare handedly took bread from the storage drawer, toasted it, cut it, and put it on a plate. The manager who had been answering phones and rubbing his face while adjusting his glasses also made toast and wiped his hands on a kitchen towel that then disappeared to wipe something else down.

No imagination needed to see how something like E. coli or Norovirus could be spread as I watched each bit of contact affect all the bread, knives and surfaces.

Am I neurotic? I tried not to have a stomachache.

 I just want toast.

Rebecca Fischer (laughingkat2@gmail.com) says she’s in the middle of a career change, following my passion for food by studying nutrition. Food handling has become a fascination, another excuse for people-watching, to see how experience and education affect awareness in kitchen behavior.

And I may be on hiatus but I’m a sucker for helping students who want to learn and kids –little or big — who want to play hockey.

All the news just repeats itself: Restaurant disclosure proposed for France

France’s Contrôle Sanitaire writes the publication of the results of health checks in the food sector (restaurants, canteens, slaughterhouses, etc.) is a legitimate expectation of citizens that contributes to the improvement of consumer confidence. Foreseen in the Future for Agriculture, Food and Forest Act of 13 October 2014, this measure is part of a move towards greater transparency of State action.

alimconfiance2To which a Brit tweeted @foodgov have been doing this for years, France is now copying the successful “Food Hygiene Rating” scheme.

Oh fuck it.

This is a good point to pause.

Restaurant inspection disclosure goes back to 1924, at which time letter grades were introduced to classify milk in the United States.

Toronto has been doing it since 2000.

So for a Brit to brag to a French about stuff that happened decades ago seems a bit silly, and time for barfblog.com to take a pause.

We don’t want to become recall.net and most of you 100K+ subscribers can figure out how to aggregate news on your own.

Chapman and I started barfblog on a plane trip to Prince George, B.C, where Chapman thought he would be eaten by bears and we saw advertisements for a college student jello thing, but decided we were too old to go.

We went to Vancouver to see our hockey goon friend Kevin Allen, and then to Seattle to see Marler.

Eventually we made our way to Manhattan, Kansas, where I was running away from an ex-wife, a stalking girlfriend and a whole lot of history.

I met a girl and Kansas State University hired me.

barf-o-meter_-dec_-12-216x300-216x3001-216x300-1-216x300-216x300-216x300This is all the messy stuff in how science gets done but not really reported.

After 45 years of working continuously – I started as a golf caddy at nine-years-old, and the movie Caddyshack is historically accurate — I’m going to give it a break

No retirement, no pension, just want to see what else is out there, and see what other ideas I can come up with for others to claim as their own.

Rock, or the barfblog, will never die.

But we need to get back ahead of the curve.

Indulge me some appropriate rock.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009. The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information. Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874
.


The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as tools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

Everyone’s got a camera: Mice run around Melbourne McDonald’s edition

Sophie Smith of the Herald Sun reports two videos showing rodents flitting freely around a busy McDonald’s restaurant in Melbourne’s inner-north have emerged.

mice1A disgusted customer, Firoozeh, claims she and friends saw several mice around a McCafe service area of the Collingwood restaurant at midnight on Boxing Day.

Footage uploaded to social media appears to show at least two vermin scampering along the floor between a service counter and a back bench with sink. Another shows one ducking in and out near a stool.

In another video, uploaded to Facebook by Todd Gilbey on December 2, mice scatter along the floor — and one even grabs a chip.

Firoozeh said there were “lots” of mice.

“It wasn’t like three or four mice,” Firoozeh said.

“We watched them for a while; they were coming in and out.

“There were so many and the guy was just coming and scaring them and telling us that, ‘You cannot take video’, because I asked to see the duty manager.”

Firoozeh, who asked the Herald Sun not to publish her surname, said the duty manager at the 24-hour eatery on the corner of Smith St and Victoria Parade became angered when she and her friends raised their concerns.

“He was aggressively stopping me from taking pictures and photos,” she said.

“I’ve never seen such a dirty McDonald’s.

“No-one is cleaning it and it’s supposed to be open for 24 hours. What’s going on?

“I don’t think it’s healthy at all. They were running around and no-one was doing anything.

“Children eat food there.”

Safety? Food on iPads

Olee Fowler of Eater reports a restaurant in New York City is employing Apple Watches to increase communication between staff; tablets on tables are replacing menus and servers at restaurants across the country; and apps are aiming to smooth out everything from ordering to payment to food delivery. Serving actual food on an actual iPad may be the next big thing in dining rooms across the globe.

food-ipadRestaurants in the United Kingdom have been using iPads as plates since 2015, according to the Daily Mail. Arzak, the San Sebastian restaurant that boasts three Michelin stars, has been serving food on iPads for a few years. Now, acclaimed San Francisco restaurant Quince is the latest to join the trend.

The 13-year-old, tasting-menu-only spot run by Michael and Lindsey Tusk, which just received its third Michelin star this year, is now incorporating iPads into its meals: The dish “A Dog in Search of Gold” is served on a iPad Pro in lieu of a plate. Understandably, this had some on Twitter scratching their heads a few days ago when it was first revealed. According to 9to5Mac, it’s an attempt by the restaurant to attract a younger audience.

The dish, which is made of white truffle croquettes on iPads playing videos of dogs on the truffle-hunt, raises questions about food safety and how thoroughly the iPads are cleaned in-between customers, which is something San Francisco has no regulations on at the moment.

Representatives for Quince did not respond to requests for comment.

‘Stay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be’ Police smash cocaine ring at Sydney Fish Market in Christmas Day raid

A former rugby league first grade player, a Bondi entrepreneur and a maritime worker are among 15 men arrested on Christmas Day in a multimillion-dollar cocaine ring bust.

sydney-cocaine-fishPolice will allege the men were importing cocaine via the iconic Sydney Fish Market and other NSW ports.

It’s alleged they used a shipping vessel named Dalrymple to ferry drugs between NSW ports and a larger ship stationed out at sea that held drugs smuggled from Chile.

About 500 kilograms of cocaine was seized from a dinghy at Brooklyn on the NSW Central Coast.

Several of the men were arrested on board the Dalrymple vessel as it docked at Sydney Fish Market on Christmas night.

The operation by NSW Police, Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force has been running for more than two-and-a-half years.

Police say they have seized 500 kilograms of cocaine and more than 600 kilograms of the same drug in Tahiti which they will allege was destined for Australia.

Authorities valued the total amount of cocaine seized at $360 million. 

Unwrapping a tamale drama on Christmas

At Amapola market in Downey, people stood in line for hours last week for the famous masa, the ground cornmeal for tamales — centerpiece of many a Christmas dinner.

getimage-ashxLoyal customers came from miles around for 30-and 40-pound batches that they would use in their elaborate holiday cooking ritual. But this year, they found themselves scrambling for doctors’ numbers, sending guests home hungry and rummaging through cupboards for backup plans.

At Maria Coronado’s house, dozens of guests made do with a desperate meal of spaghetti and nachos. The tamales had turned out gloppy, and her husband felt so sick after a few bites that he had to visit the doctor.

“We didn’t have dinner for Christmas,” said Coronado, 51, who has shopped at Amapola markets for 30 years and has always regarded their masa as excellent, well worth the drive from her home in Riverside.

She was back in line Monday, waiting for a refund of the $143 she spent, along with hundreds of others complaining of bad tamales, stomach cramps, fever, nauseated children — and ruined Christmases. Others were lining up at Amapola stores in Compton, Paramount and West Covina.

“We’re devastated,” said Carlos Galvan Jr., the company’s vice president and chief financial officer. “We’re not entirely sure yet what occurred.”

Galvan, whose father and grandfather started the market chain in 1961, said the bad tamales seem to stem from a problem with a 120,000-pound supply of raw corn purchased from a longtime California vendor, though he refused to provide the name. He said Amapola has since switched vendors.