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. »

Love, Actually sucks (as a movie); Love is great in real life

I hate myself.

i-hate-myself-8Amy loves herself.

Maybe that’s why we get along.

High school was sorta traumatic, what with me killing a couple of friends in a car crash, doing jail time, and then going to university and hiding myself in my studies so that I eventually became a prof.

But I was always an asshole.

Over the years I’ve reconnected with some of those Brantford friends – facebook can be wonderful – and am grateful to learn what I never expected.

My high school friend Bob, who was always there for me, sent me a note the other day, saying, “And that’s why you are loved. If it helps I now cook all bbq with a thermometer-because of you-and the food is better; cross contaminated perhaps, but better tasting.

What an unexpected and kind thing to say.

Changing the world, one thermometer at a time (Chapman, I’m running out).

It’s really hard for me to accept love, for whatever reason.

But if I can coach hockey and be lineman for my first game, with people screaming at me, then maybe I can welcome some love too.


With the help of my technologically-enabled partner, I voted in the U.S. election today.

I’m now an Australian citizen and mandated by law to vote in Australia; Canada doesn’t seem to care much for my vote because I’m not a resident (and Justin’s cute, but can he deliver?)  but the U.S. sorta matters.

So I voted.

Everyone who’s eligible should vote too.

NZ food safety laws stopping early childcare centres from giving kids food, charges Council

Scientists, and other mere mortals, get lost in their public voice when they speak about things they have no clue about.

hockey-parentsI agree with the active citizen, participatory democracy, but there are people who take some (rudimentary) form of training, like food servers and hockey coaches, which is much more than the critics ever do, and the posers should just shut the fuck up.

So when Early Childhood Council boss Peter Reynolds says, new rules have made early childhood education centres less safe because most food poisoning and allergic reactions in ECEs are as a result of food prepared at home, I gotta say, you got a source for that?

New food safety laws are forcing childcare centres to stop providing food for kids, or increase fees, the Early Childhood Council says.

Centres were now finding themselves facing bills into the thousands of dollars in inspections and compliance fees, which is likely to be passed onto parents,

The Food Act 2014 came into force in March, and was designed to ensure all food sold in New Zealand is safe.

Many centres have “had enough”, he said, and were now opting out of providing food.

Good choice. You’re not a certified kitchen, and stop feeding kids. Or this NSFV.

Pinto defense: We meet all standards, after 1 dead and six sickened at Perth childcare

In the Aussie form of see, hear and speak no evil, evidence has emerged that a child has died following an outbreak of gastro at a lower North Shore (Perth) childcare centre.

see-no-evilSix children at Little Zak’s Academy in Artarmon — aged between 11 months and four years — developed high fevers and vomiting over the past week caused by rotavirus gastroenteritis, health authorities have confirmed.

But a seventh child died, with the causes so far unknown, although the death is not being directly attributed to the outbreak.

Northern Sydney Public Health Unit director Dr Michael Staff said four of the sick children had to be admitted to hospital.

“Tragically, another child who also attends the centre died in hospital on October 23, but at this stage it appears unrelated to the gastroenteritis outbreak,” he said.

He said they were working with specialist paediatricians to understand the cause of the child’s death.

Parents were tonight in shock over the news of the death.

pintoexplodingAn email from the local health district informing them of what had happened was only sent through this afternoon.

Michael Kendall, father to five-year-old Charlotte, said that he was “furious” and would not be bringing his child back to the child care centre.

He said the centre should have been shut down during the outbreak — and that he only just found out about what had happened.

“It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard in my life, I only found about it 15 minutes ago, I just heard that a child has died.

“If I knew my child wouldn’t have been here.

“I used to run a big centre down at the snow and our first priority was to take care of people especially kids, once you have an outbreak you’re supposed to tell the parents and shut the premises down.”

A spokesman for the centre said Public Health Unit advice was that “the outbreak appears to be under control and it is safe for children to continue to attend the Centre.”

Little Zak’s said in a statement, “Please be assured our Artarmon Centre is fully accredited and compliant with all health and regulatory requirements, and we endeavour at all times to operate to the highest standards of care and hygiene. As confirmed by the Northern Sydney Local Health District, we will continue to work closely with its Public Health Unit to ensure these high standards are maintained.”

Pinto defense.


Bigger the brag, bigger the burn: Chipotle Q3 income tanks as food safety issues take toll

I have a cousin who has carried on the family tradition and makes a living growing asparagus.

chipotle-ad-2In Ontario.

The family biz has gotten into all sorts of asparagus by-products and the farm has a large, devoted crowd of customers.

He proclaims his stuff is GMO-free.

Without going into the nuances of that statement, I said to him a few years ago while visiting, what happens if a super-great genetically engineered asparagus comes out that is beneficial to your farm, your income, and your customers?

He was too busy thinking about the present, and that’s fine.

But consumers’ attitudes can change in a heartbeat – or an outbreak.

Chipotle, the purveyors of all things natural, hormone-free, sustainable, GMO-free, dolphin-free and free from whatever apparently wasn’t free from the bacteria and viruses that make people sick.

And when food folks go out on an adjective adventure to make a buck, they sometimes get burned by the realities of biology.

And the bigger the bragging, the bigger the burn.

So it’s no surprise that the depth of the damage from Chipotle Mexican Grill’s food safety issues showed up in yet another quarterly earnings report Tuesday in which net income fell 95% and missed estimates compared to the same quarter in its high-flying days a year ago.

The Denver-based company reported third-quarter net income of $7.8 million, a dramatic fall from $144.9 million a year ago. Per-share earnings totaled 27 cents, compared with $4.59 a year ago. That was well short of the $1.60 estimated by analysts polled by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Revenue sank 14.8% year-over-year to $1 billion during the quarter despite even though the fast-casual dining chain opened 54 new restaurants with only one closing.

To me, the amazing thing is that people still spend $1 billion a year at calorie-laden faux Mexican food.

Shares of Chipotle fell 2% in after-hours trading to $397.56. The stock has fallen about 38% in the last 12 months.

Chipotle restaurants are clearly struggling from the food safety issue that sickened customers last year and forced the temporary closure of some restaurants. Comparable restaurant sales — or sales of restaurants that have been opened at least a year — tumbled 21.9%. Comparable restaurant sales are estimated to fall again “in the low single-digits” in the fourth quarter, it said.

The company’s management is more optimistic for 2017, partly due to the lower base of comparison. Comparable restaurant sales will increase “in the high single digits,” it estimated Monday. And the company will open 195 to 210 new restaurants next year, after opening more than 220 this year. Per-share earnings next year will be $10, it estimated.

chipotle-diarrhea“We are earning back our customers’ trust, and our research demonstrates that people are feeling better about our brand, and the quality of our food,” Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle, said in a statement.

Not quite.

YouGov BrandIndex, a firm that tracks a brand’s reputation, regularly asks this survey question: Is Chipotle high or low quality? Before all the bad food outbreaks, Chipotle scored a very healthy 25 (on a scale of -100 to +100) for quality. It plunged to -5 by February. It has recovered to 9 recently, but that’s still far from where it was.

Translation: Customers don’t see Chipotle as the golden brand it was before the E. coli outbreak.

Be careful, cuz.


NAACP members sue California hotel over ‘humiliating’ norovirus outbreak

NAACP members are suing an international hotel chain over a norovirus outbreak that sickened 127 people — everyone who ate the salmon — at the NAACP’s annual California conference at the upscale Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City in 2014.

Civil rights attorney John Burris listens as Alice A. Huffman, President of the California  NAACP, talks about her experience with the staff at the Hotel Sofitel at the law offices of John Burris in Oakland Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Civil rights attorney John Burris announces the filing of a lawsuit against Sofitel Corporation on behalf of 127 NAACP members including Alice Huffman. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

Civil rights attorney John Burris listens as Alice A. Huffman, President of the California NAACP, talks about her experience with the staff at the Hotel Sofitel at the law offices of John Burris in Oakland Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Civil rights attorney John Burris announces the filing of a lawsuit against Sofitel Corporation on behalf of 127 NAACP members including Alice Huffman. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

Civil rights attorney John Burris, one of the conference attendees who didn’t eat the fish, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday, on the two-year anniversary of the Oct. 25, 2014 gala of around 300 black dignitaries, community leaders and youth. Attendants described brunch the next morning as a “humiliating” “horror scene” with NAACP members age 5 to 80 getting violently ill in the hotel lobby while hotel staff ignored them and provided no aid.

A spokesperson for Sofitel Corporation could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

California NAACP President and conference organizer Alice Huffman said the members were treated “like dogs” by hotel staff.

“I get very sad when I think about what happened to our people and then I get very annoyed at the hotel and the indifference that they showed us,” said Huffman, who said she had enough problems with the hotel before the conference to make her wonder if race was an issue.

Former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, who said he was in a coma for two days after being struck by the virus, was among more than three dozen attendees who were hospitalized.

Blocking Campy’s ability to latch on

A team at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, has found a way to disable one sensor of Campylobacter jejuni, that stops it from being able to attach to its host and therefore cause gastroenteritis.

chickenThe findings were published in Nature Communications and show a wide range of possibilities for tackling various strands of gastro, lead researcher Professor Victoria Korolik said.

“We conducted the study in chickens by disabling this particular sensor (CcrG) and we found that it does reduce the level of colonisation,” she said.

“We found this sensor (CcrG) does not occur in all strains of this bacteria, only in about 10 or 11 per cent, but those strains tend to be those isolated from really sick people such as those that have meningitis as a consequence of gastro.”

Professor Korolik described the sensor as a type of “hand” that grabbed onto a specific molecule within the stomach of its host that could lead the bacteria to cells from which to colonise and cause gastroenteritis.

“This sensor grabs a molecule, it grabs it and holds it like you would a ball in your hand and that molecule tells the bacteria they are on the right track and moving towards the right cell,” she said.

“They also have a part that goes inside the cell and sends a signal – to go forward or turn around depending on what is happening.

“Because it can find the human cells efficiently and quickly, it can attack and cause disease.”

Professor Korolik said an antimicrobial drug that acted as a synthetic “ball” could block the sensor and prevent it from finding the cell.

“If you block the hand part of the receptor, the signal is stuck and the bacteria goes around in circle and can’t find its target,” she said.

“If we can design a ‘ball’ that is a better fit than the natural one then we can block the receptor – if the bacteria can’t find its direction because it doesn’t know what else is on the environment because it is blocked and it goes around and around and is eventually passed out.”

Professor Korolik said every bacteria has a variety of sensory structures that are separate from each other which allows one sensor of one bacteria to be targetted without impacting on existing gut flora.

Campylobacter jejuni bacteria is the most common cause of food poisoning in Australia and hospitalised more than 3200 people in 2014, according to Queensland Health.

More than 500 cases have been reported in Queensland in the past month, with the gastrointestinal disease impacting 16,436 across Australia this year so far, according to the national department of health.

Campy in organic and conventional layer chickens

Poultry is a major source of Campylobacter, which can cause foodborne bacterial gastroenteritis in humans. Additionally, poultry-associated Campylobacter can develop resistance to important antimicrobials, which increases the risk to public health. While broiler chickens have been the focus of many studies, the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter on layer farms has not received equal attention. However, the growing popularity of cage-free and organic layer farming necessitates a closer assessment of (1) the impact of these farming practices on the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter and (2) layers as a potential source for the transmission of these pathogens.

chicken-thermHere, we showed that the prevalence of Campylobacter on organic and conventional layer farms was statistically similar (p > 0.05). However, the average number of Campylobacter jejuni-positive organically grown hens was lower (p < 0.05) in comparison to conventionally grown hens. Campylobacter isolated from both production systems carried antimicrobial resistance genes. The tet(O) and cmeB were the most frequently detected genes, while the occurrence of aph-3-1 and blaOXA-61 was significantly lower (p < 0.05). Farming practices appeared to have an effect on the antimicrobial resistance phenotype, because the isolates from organically grown hens on two farms (OF-2 and OF-3) exhibited significantly lower resistance (p < 0.05) to ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, and tylosin. However, on one of the sampled organic farms (OF-1), a relatively high number of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter were isolated.

We conclude that organic farming can potentially impact the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter. Nevertheless, this impact should be regularly monitored to avoid potential relapses.

Antimicrobial-resistant Campylobacter in organically and conventionally raised layer chickens

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. September 2016, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/fpd.2016.2161.

Kassem Issmat I., Kehinde Olugbenga, Kumar Anand, and Rajashekara Gireesh

Perilous produce: FDA Import Alert 99-35

This import alert represents the Agency’s current guidance to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) field personnel regarding the manufacturer(s) and/or product(s) at issue. It does not create or confer any rights for or any person, and does not operate to bind FDA or the public.

lettuce-skull-e-coli-o145Produce is vulnerable to contamination with pathogenic microorganisms if exposed to insanitary conditions during growing, harvesting, packing, holding, or manufacturing, processing, or transportation. Multiple foodborne illness outbreaks have been linked to produce items that were likely contaminated as a result of insanitary conditions during growing, harvesting, packing, holding, manufacturing, processing, or transportation. Produce is of special concern because in many instances it is consumed without further treatment to adequately destroy or remove pathogenic microorganisms.

FDA may document insanitary conditions during an inspection of an establishment that grows, harvests, packs, holds, manufactures, processes, or transports produce. FDA may also use analytical evidence or epidemiological and traceback evidence to establish that a produce item was manufactured, processed, prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions.


Districts may detain, without physical examination, produce items from manufacturers, shippers, farms, packers and/or other entities (firms) identified on the Red List of this import alert.

Examples of evidence FDA may use to place a firm on the Red List include:

  1. Inspectional evidence.
  2. Epidemiological evidence and traceback evidence. This should include evidence implicating the particular produce item as a vehicle in a foodborne illness outbreak (including positive test results), traceback evidence demonstrating that the firm grows, harvests, packs, holds, manufactures, processes, or transports the implicated vehicle, and expert opinion that the outbreak was likely a result of insanitary conditions at the foreign firm (e.g., contamination likely resulted from insanitary conditions due to the typical modes of transmission of the pathogen implicated in the outbreak) or was related to a resident pathogen or systemic contamination at the foreign firm, or both.
  3. Analytical evidence. This should include evidence of a resident organism at the foreign firm and/or systemic contamination at the foreign firm, such as an expert opinion that the analytical evidence indicates insanitary conditions at the foreign firm or indicates a resident pathogen or systemic contamination at the foreign firm, or both. Examples include:

* A pathogen that matches an outbreak strain is isolated from an imported produce item;

* Microbial pathogens that are indistinguishable by one or more genetic tests are isolated from two or more lots of imported produce originating from the same foreign firm.


In order to be removed from the red list, the firm should submit documentation to FDA demonstrating that the firm has made all relevant corrections to overcome the appearance of adulteration, so that the agency will have confidence that future entries will be in compliance with the Act. Examples of such documentation may include:

  1. Documentation to show that inspectional observations or violations identified by FDA have been corrected. Firms whose produce items appear to be adulterated based on inspectional evidence should submit detailed descriptions of the specific steps taken to correct the violations along with documentation such as (as applicable) written plans, field records, packinghouse or facility records, training records, and photographs.
  2. Root cause analysis to identify potential sources and routes of contamination. Firms whose produce items appear to be adulterated based on analytical or epidemiological and traceback evidence should include a detailed root cause analysis to evaluate all aspects of their operations in order to identify potential sources and routes of contamination. The firm should also provide documentation to demonstrate that corrective actions to adequately control the sources and routes of contamination identified in the root cause analysis have been implemented.

cantaloupe-salmonellaFDA recommends that the firm’s submission be organized according to the following areas, as appropriate to the firm’s practices, processes, and procedures:

– Water adequacy for irrigation, agricultural sprays, cooling, and other uses;

– Soil amendment and biosolids;

– Animal management;

– Worker health and hygiene;

– Sanitary facilities, disposal of sewage and silage;

– Equipment cleaning and sanitation;

– Farm or facility sanitation;

– Transportation; and

– Programs to monitor produce safety practices, processes and procedures and to take corrective actions when measures fail or are not fully implemented.

The firm may wish to refer to FDA’s Guidance for Industry: Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, or similar guidance, to assist them in their root cause analysis and corrective action. Additional guidance for produce, including commodity specific guidance, may be found the FDA website at