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. »

100 sick: Outbreak at Gozo Malta’s old people’s home, sounds like Gozer from Ghostbusters

A considerable number of patients currently residing in Dar Sant Anna, the home for the elderly in Victoria, Gozo, are affected with some form of stomach bug, the Malta Independent has learnt. 

This newspaper is informed that the security personnel at the residence were told not to let anyone inside because of the high risk of contagion. 

It turns out that out of the 100 residents, some 80 were affected by the bug, which is causing patients to experience stomach pain, vomiting and fever.

I miss Harold Ramis.

 

Tim, this one’s for you: Earthing Gwyneth Paltrow offers ridiculous depression cure

My friend Tim in Edmonton wrote a best-seller, Why Gwyneth Paltrow is Wrong About Everything.

If he’s working on a second edition, here’s a fairytale to add.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous new-age lifestyle site GOOP has delivered the goods once more, offering subscribers some rather unusual advice on how to combat depression.

A new post on the Paltrow-helmed website introduces readers to the concept of “earthing” — that’s going barefoot, in layman’s terms.

Walking around barefoot outside isn’t a sure-fire way to step on something sharp — it’s actually an incredibly powerful healer for mental and physical woes including depression.

“Earthing therapy rests on the intuitive assumption that connecting to the energy of the planet is healthy for our souls and bodies,” says the post, which insists there is a “scientific angle” to the theory, and that ‘GP’ (Gwyneth Paltrow herself) swears by the practice.

There is one caveat: You must do your ‘earthing’ outside. Walking around barefoot in your own home just won’t cut it.

“Walking barefoot in your home, where minimally conductive or nonconductive materials like concrete foundations and hardwood floors insulate us from the earth’s electric potential, will not have the same effect,” GOOP quotes an earthing expert as saying.

Is this GOOP’s weirdest advice to date? Honestly, how do you even quantify that anymore? This is a website that, this year alone, has advised women to stick jade eggs into their vaginas to balance their menstrual cycles, and told anyone dealing with a breakup to immediately burn all their underpants in a bonfire.

In the past, Paltrow’s blog has even claimed underwire bras could cause breast cancer. The American Cancer Society disproved that myth.

There is the problem of worms.

Can Jeffrey hey-now-Hank Tambor deliver the goods for Chipotle

Yup, food poisoning is always worth a chuckle. Nothing like a public health folk out there laughing at all the people barfing and undergoing organ transplants, if they’re not already dead.

But Chipotle, in its fourth makeover since hundreds got sick dating back to Nov. 2015, has decided that Jeffrey Tambor is best to persuade the gullible public that, once again, Chipotle’s food is made with integrity?

According to Austin Carr of Fast Company, it’s Chipotle’s biggest ad campaign yet. And depending on how you count, it’s also its third or fourth major brand rehabilitation experiment in the year and a half since its food-safety incidents first emerged. That speaks to the sizable challenges Chipotle is still facing as it seeks to recover its once-roaring restaurant sales—all while moving the conversation around its brand away from food safety.

But the conversation should all be about food safety.

Chipotle can’t make food safety the central point of its marketing, but it also knows that any initiative to tout its improvements or resell its brand will be viewed through the lens of its food-safety woes. “It’s a big marketing challenge,” Chipotle’s chief development officer, Mark Crumpacker, told me late last summer. “When you’re excited to go out to lunch, you’re not like, ‘Let’s go to the safest place!’”

I am.

Go do some more coke, aptly named Crumpacker.

The new web and TV spots, rolled out Monday, feature comedians Jillian Bell, John Mulaney, and Sam Richardson, who are shown in separate ads entering a house-size burrito where Tambor’s voice instructs them to “be real” because, well, “everything is real” inside a Chipotle burrito. The comedians proceed to make comical confessions, and the ads each end with a new Chipotle motto, “As Real As It Gets,” an apparent reference to the company’s recent strides in removing artificial flavors and preservatives from its ingredients.

Chipotle, instead, has initiated a significant number of changes to its food-safety program, but it has been more strategic about informing customers about them. “Our food safety is not something that I expect to drive lots of people into the restaurant, but I do think it might erase some people’s doubts and allow future marketing to be met with less objection,” Crumpacker said at the time.

Is Chipotle at the point yet where new efforts will be greeted with less cynicism? It’ll likely take another quarter before we’ll see if the campaign has an impact on sales. For now, Chipotle will have to depend on Jeffrey Tambor and company to convince shareholders that there’s always money in the burrito stand.

But, hey now: you judge.


 

People are getting sick E. coli O157 outbreak at Boston’s Chicken & Rice Guys

Megan Woolhouse of the Boston Globe reports an E. coli O157 outbreak shuttered three locations of the Chicken & Rice Guys, as well as its fleet of Middle Eastern food trucks, Boston health inspectors said Tuesday.

The department confirmed seven cases of E. coli stemming from the Chicken & Rice Guys Allston location, which supplies food to the chain’s other outposts. The problems led to the temporary suspension of its operating license, Boston Inspectional Services Commissioner William Christopher Jr. said.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” Christopher said. “People are getting sick.”

He added that he did not know the condition of any of the people who were affected.

The company’s four food trucks, which rotate locations around Greater Boston, were taken off the road Tuesday afternoon, said Phanna Ky, general manager of the chain’s Medford restaurant, the only location that remained open Tuesday evening.

Christopher said Boston does not have jurisdiction over the Medford location.

Chicken & Rice Guys officials could not be reached.

According to Boston Inspectional Services, the city received an anonymous complaint and opened an investigation Tuesday. Public health officials remained at the Allston site throughout the afternoon trying to determine a specific source of the outbreak, Christopher said.

He added that the department will meet with the chain’s owner on Wednesday morning to discuss a course of action.

Infant botulism claims 6-month-old Tokyo boy who was fed honey

The Japan Times reports that a 6-month-old boy in Adachi Ward, Tokyo, died late last month of infant botulism after his family fed him honey, according to the metropolitan government.

Metropolitan officials said it was the first death caused by infant botulism in Japan since 1986, when the government began compiling such statistics.

The officials warned that babies younger than 1 should not be given honey.

They said the Adachi boy died March 30. He developed a cough on Feb. 16, and was taken to a hospital by ambulance on Feb. 20 after going into convulsions and suffering respiratory failure. He was diagnosed Feb. 28 as having infant botulism.

The officials said the boy’s family had been giving him honey mixed in juice twice a day for about a month, and that they were not aware babies should not be fed honey.

The bacteria Clostridium botulinum was found in an unsealed honey container in the family’s house and in the boy’s excrement. A public health center confirmed that the boy’s death was caused by botulism poisoning.

Infant botulism can occur when newborns, who have immature digestive systems, ingest bacteria that produces toxins inside the bowels.

 

‘We meet all standards’ Fresh Express uses Pinto defense after dead bat found in salad

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working with the Florida Department of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to support an investigation of a dead bat that was found in a packaged salad purchased from a grocery store in Florida. Two people in Florida reported eating some of the salad before the bat was found. The bat was sent to the CDC rabies lab for laboratory testing because bats in the United States sometimes have been found to have this disease. The deteriorated condition of the bat did not allow for CDC to definitively rule out whether this bat had rabies.

Transmission of rabies by eating a rabid animal is extremely uncommon, and the virus does not survive very long outside of the infected animal. CDC is supporting Florida local and state health officials in evaluating the people who found the bat in the salad. In this circumstance, the risk of rabies transmission is considered to be very low, but because it isn’t zero, the two people who ate salad from the package that contained the bat were recommended to begin post-exposure rabies treatment. Both people report being in good health and neither has any signs of rabies. CDC is not aware of any other reports of bat material found in packaged salads.

On April 8, 2017, Fresh Express issued a recall of a limited number of cases of Organic Marketside Spring Mix. The salads were sold in a clear container with production code G089B19 and best-if-used-by date of APR 14, 2017 located on the front label. The recalled salads were distributed only to Walmart stores located in the Southeastern region of the United States. All remaining packages of salad from the same lot have been removed from all store locations where the salad was sold.

The company said in a statement it worked quickly with officials to remove the entire batch of salads from store shelves, and only one line of its products had been affected.

“Fresh Express takes matters of food safety very seriously and rigorously complies with all food safety regulations including the proscribed Good Agricultural Practices.”

Maybe install bat filters as the lettuce goes through a wash?

KState changes handwashing recommendations

Twelve years after Chapman and I set out for Prince George, B.C., where Chapman announced his fears of both bears and jello-swim nights at the local college, and then went to Kansas State University, where I met a girl (who’s still my best friend and wife), where I got sexually advanced upon in an unpleasant manner by a professor dude, where I had lunch with the president, got a job offer, and enjoyed a great career, my former boss sent me this:

KState has changed its handwashing recommendations.

They disconnected the blow dryers in those groovy all-in-one handwashing units.

One reason I was offered the job is because I took the prez to the bathroom and showed him how shitty their handwashing recommendations were.

But that story is old.

No one should be recreating their past glory days (and if I ever quote a Bruce Springsteen song again, put me out of my misery).

Change does sometimes happen: usually not as fast as any of us would like.

Crapping 40 times a day: UK couple left reeling after luxury holiday in Bulgaria

Claudia Tanner of the Daily Mail reports that an idyllic holiday turned into a health nightmare for a couple when they were struck down with salmonella poisoning at a luxury resort.

Paul Gallagher, 45, and wife Lesley, 48, were looking forward to a sun-drenched break in Sinemorets, Bulgaria, but their joy was short-lived when they both fell ill.

Three days into their stay, the pair suffered extreme vomiting, diarrhoea, sweating and stomach cramps in September last year.

Paul, a HGV driver, revealed how he spent the remainder of the week-long holiday going to the toilet 40 times a day.

The pair, from East Kilbride, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, claim food was left out for hours which attracted flies and the pool was dirty at the four-star Bella Vista Beach Club, where they had paid £620 for an all-inclusive stay.

Back home, Paul’s stools tested positive for salmonella – which is usually caused by eating contaminated food. Lesley was suspected of having the same.

The couple are now seeking compensation. 

‘Handle raw flour like raw meat’ 26 sick with E. coli O121 linked to Robin Hood All Purpose Flour

E.coli O121 has sickened 26 people that has now been linked to Robin Hood All Purpose Flour, Original, in Canada.

Health types advise Canadians not to use or eat any Robin Hood All Purpose Flour, Original sold in 10 kilogram bags with a code containing BB/MA 2018 AL 17 and 6 291 548 as these products may be contaminated with E. coli. For additional recall details, please consult CFIA’s recall notice. Restaurants and retailers are also advised not to sell or serve the recalled product, or any items that may have been prepared or produced using the recalled product.

This outbreak is a reminder that it is not safe to taste or eat raw dough or batter, regardless of the type of flour used as raw flour can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli.

But what do the health types really know?

Free from the shackles of government PRery, someone from Health Canada told ProMed a few days ago, a sample of Robin Hood flour was collected from one case’s home. The sample tested positive for E. coli O121 and had matching PFGE to the clinical  cases. Subsequently, a sample of Robin Hood flour collected from a retail location also tested positive for E. coli O121. Several cases reported contact with Robin Hood flour.
Isolates from the 2016 U.S. outbreak have been compared to the current outbreak in Canada by whole genome sequencing (via PulseNet  International); the Canadian outbreak strain is not similar to the U.S. outbreak. Comparisons will continue to be made on an ongoing basis throughout the outbreak investigation in Canada. 

Profs. Keith Warriner and Jeff Farber of the University of Guelph told CBC uncooked flour, such as that found in raw cookie dough, can host E. coli bacteria, and we may need to handle flour in the same way that we handle uncooked meat.