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. »

Hundreds get food poisoning from free meal in Myanmar

 

I used to look like Buddhist, Richard Gere, but I’ve aged and he hasn’t.

A free lunch for villagers in southern Myanmar turned sour after it landed more than a third of the rural community in hospital with food poisoning.

Hundreds of villagers from Eain Ta Lone, west of Yangon, fell ill after eating fish stew served at a Buddhist ceremony to celebrate the ordination of local novices.

The entire 1,000-person village was taken to the nearest hospital, where 367 were admitted for treatment, said charity worker Wai Lin Aung, who helped to transport the villagers. ‘

Too much monkey business: Brisbane’s restaurant inspection sucks, city councillor’s parents fined for food safety breaches

The restaurant inspection system in Brisbane is hopeless beyond belief.

For a cow town that wants to profit from tourism rather than coal and cattle, they are beyond stupid about it.

At least we got good folks to coach the little kids in hockey.

The disclosure system is voluntary. If a restaurant gets two-stars-out-of-five, for example, they don’t put up the sign.

How is it that Toronto, LA, NYC and hundreds of other places figured out how to make restaurant inspection disclosure mandatory, yet Brisbane and most of Australia go on a faith-based system – which usually involves someone blowing someone.

According to the Courier Mail, the parents of a Brisbane city councillor have admitted breaking food safety laws enforced by the council, with inspectors finding cockroaches “happily living” in the carvery they run in a city foodcourt.

Paddington councillor Peter Matic’s parents Milovan and Milena Matic were slapped with fines after a council health inspector unearthed issues with cleanliness, maintenance and cockroaches at their Carvey and Seafood in the Myer Centre in January last year.

The couple were fined $3000 each after pleading guilty to failing to ensure the business complied with the food Act.

The company, Nano Investments Pty Ltd, also copped a $29,000 fine for five counts of failing to comply with the food standards code.

Kevin Cartledge, for Brisbane City Council, said officers inspected the eatery on January 19, 2016, and issued an improvement notice.

So a whole bunch of people ate at that shitshow after the Jan. 19, 2016 inspection, but no one bothered to tell customers.

It’s some perverse British legal system thing, that potentially puts consumers at risk for months after the failings are discovered.

When they returned two days later, the officers discovered the business was still breaching food safety laws, triggering a suspension the following day.

He said the most concerning element was the presence of a large number of cockroaches.

“You have, essentially, the perfect circumstances for cockroaches to live and breed,” he said.

“Given that there were adult and juvenile cockroaches in the premises, it clearly suggests that there was a life cycle and these cockroaches were happily living and feeding.”

He pointed out the company has had compliance issues in the past, and infringements notices had been served.

“This is a company that has been put well and truly on notice yet has still failed to comply with their requirements under the Act,” he said.

So why the fuck wouldn’t you make it public to warn unsuspecting consumers that the place was a shithole?

Too much monkey business.

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public. Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions. Information provision on its own is not enough. Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.

Steak tartare: A special kind of stupid

A favorite line in the ice hockey linesman course I take every year to be recertified is, “that player exhibited a special kind of stupid”

Cooks and purveyors of food porn exhibit their own special kind of stupid, especially around raw beef.

The N.Y. Times continues its long history of bad food porn-based advice because, they’re New Yorkers, and they are their own special kind of stupid: at least the uppity ones.

Gabrielle Hamilton writes in the New York Times Cooking section that a hand-chopped mound of cold raw beef, seasoned perfectly, at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon on New Year’s Day, with a cold glass of the hair of the Champagne dog that bit you the night before, will make a new man out of you.

Hamilton writes the recipe calls for 8-10 ounces highest-quality beef tenderloin … and to nestle each yolk, still in its half shell if using raw, into the mound, and let each guest turn the yolk out onto the tartare before eating.

Nary a mention of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli or Salmonella or Campylobacter.

Seattle’s Crab Pot source of foodborne outbreak

Any place called the Crab Pot should welcome foodborne illness, or other STDs.

King County public health investigated an outbreak of gastroenteritis with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea associated with The Crab Pot restaurant located at 1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle. Five people from the same meal party became ill after eating at the restaurant on 3/4/2017. We do not have laboratory confirmation of the etiology, but symptoms are suggestive of norovirus. Often in norovirus outbreaks no laboratory testing is done.

5 sick: Salmonella outbreak in Adelaide linked to pies

After five years I’m slowly starting to learn Australian.

But really, I can’t understand most of what the locals say.

I smile and wave.

Meat pies produced by a single manufacturer, the Pork Pie Shop in Victor Harbor, south of Adelaide has sickened at least 5 people with Salmonella.

Just cook it doesn’t cut it.

The business has stopped production of the pies and is working on a recall.

The pies are currently stocked by about 30 retailers, including independent supermarkets, delis and butchers across metropolitan Adelaide.

The five salmonella cases have involved people aged 54 to 80. Four of those people have been hospitalised.

The pies — which contain pork, aspic jelly and sometimes veal — were made by the Pork Pie Shop at Victor Harbor and distributed to dozens of supermarkets, delis and butchers across Adelaide, have so far been linked to five cases of salmonella food poisoning.

The five people affected are aged 54 to 80 years of age and of those, four have been hospitalised.

SA Health director of food and controlled drugs Dr Fay Jenkins confirmed five cases of salmonella have been linked to the products from the manufacturer so far.

“The business has since ceased the manufacturing of both products until further notice and is working to recall the pies,” she said.

“Both the pork pies and Ascot pies are stocked at around 30 businesses including independent supermarkets, delis and butchers across metropolitan Adelaide.

“We are working with the manufacturer to ensure the pies will be removed from supply from all stockists as soon as possible.”

Dr Jenkins said people should not consume either products.

“As a precaution, SA Health recommends anyone who has pork or Ascot pies in their home to contact the place of purchase to confirm if the product is from The Pork Pie Shop,” she said.

“If so, people should either discard the pie immediately or return it to the place of purchase.

“Products from other manufacturers will be safe to consume and there is no reason for people to be concerned.” 

23 sick: E. coli O157 from I.M. Healthy soy nut butter

And who produces this shit that someone slaps a label on? According to legal eagle Bill Marler, it’s Dixie Dew Soy Nut Butter.

What follows is a joint composition, like Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, except we can’t figure out how to post it appropriately, and despite years of asking journalists to make us look cool, we recognize our role in life (hockey coaches).

And since there will be no royalties to haggle over, it’s not a concern.

In 2007, CDC foodborne illness outbreak guru Rob Tauxe told a group of food safety folks that the next big thing for food safety was low-moisture ingredients.

Salmonella is hardy, especially when stressed through drying, so it sticks around for a while in dry ingredients.

The comments were post-Salmonella Tennessee in Peter Pan peanut butter and pre-Salmonella Wandsworth in Veggie Booty (and other outbreaks) and he talked about dried spices and flavorings and peanut butter-type products like hummus and tahini.

Since Rob’s talk, the food safety community has seen lots of Salmonella in low- moisture foods like nuts, spices, chia seed powder and food grade lime stone

Not a food, but the pathogen has even been shown to persist in playground sand.

There’s  been Listeria in hummus and pathogenic E. coli in flour, cookie dough and now soy nut butter (which sounds pornographic).

I.M. Healthy, one of the most ironic product names in the history of food, has been linked to at least 23 E. coli O157 illnesses (including 8 hospitalizations) in nine U.S states.

The good public health folks in Oregon found the outbreak strain in a sample of soy nut butter taken in one of the victim’s homes.

According to CDC,  in interviews, ill people or their family members answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill.

In 2009 when PCA was distributing Salmonella-contaminated peanut paste products to lots of manufacturers, lots of folks were asking questions about how the pathogen survived in the low-moisture environment and whether the outbreak was an indicator that the snack food industry was facing a larger issue. Since then there have been numerous low-moisture food outbreaks (here’s a review from Sofia Santillana Farakos and Joe Franks).

Friends of barfblog Larry Beuchat and Scott Burnett did some of the early work on peanut and Salmonella following an outbreak in Australia and showed that the  pathogen could survive for a long, long time:

Post-process contamination of peanut  butter and spreads with Salmonella may to result in survival in these products for the duration of their shelf life at 5 degrees C and possibly 21 degrees C, depending  on the formulation.’

The almond industry, partnering with the Almond Queen, and friend of barfblog, Linda Harris led the way addressing this issue about a decade ago. After numerous  studies examining Salmonella survival, movement, transfer, persistence and  destruction they’ve implemented a kill-step in their process. The peanut industry, in the wake of two outbreaks followed.

What will the soy nut folks do?

As the outbreak investigation unfolds, and the lawsuits pop up, lots of questions remain:

How much contamination was there (10 cfu/g? 1,000,000 cfu/g)?

Was it co-packed?

Did they have a sanitation clean break between lots?

Why was I.M. Healthy so specific about the recalled lots initially, and then expanded the recall?  Did FDA investigators feel the procedures weren’t effective?

Have they validated their sanitation procedures?

How well did the sanitation crew do their job?

Twenty-three people infected with the outbreak strains of STEC O157:H7 have been reported from nine states. A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the Case Count Map page.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 4, 2017, to March 5, 2017. Ill people range in age from 1 to 48 years, with a median age of 8. Twenty (87%) of the 23 ill people are younger than 18 years. Among ill people, 61% are male. Ten ill people have been hospitalized and seven people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

Illnesses that occurred after February 24, 2017, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of 2 to 3 weeks.

In interviews, ill people or their family members answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Twenty (87%) of the 23 people reached for interview reported either eating I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter at home (14 people) in the week before they became ill, attending a facility that served I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter (2 people), or attending childcare centers that served I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter and I.M. Healthy brand granola coated with SoyNut Butter (4 people). SoyNut Butter is a nut-free substitute for peanut butter.

Investigators have reported to CDC two more ill people who either developed HUS or had a diagnostic test showing they were infected with STEC bacteria. In interviews, both of these ill people reported eating I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter in the week before becoming ill. However, CDC is not including these people in the outbreak case count because no bacterial isolates, or samples, were available for DNA fingerprinting. Public health investigators use DNA fingerprinting to identify illnesses that are part of outbreaks.

Laboratory testing identified STEC O157:H7 in opened containers of I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter collected from the homes of ill people in California, Oregon, and Washington. Officials in California also isolated STEC O157:H7 in unopened containers of I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter collected from retail locations. Further testing using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) showed that the STEC O157:H7 in all of these containers of SoyNut Butter had the same DNA fingerprints as the STEC O157:H7 isolates from ill people.

The investigation is ongoing. CDC will update the public when more information becomes available.

Good rock and roll is straightforward, in your face. Bad recalls are slippery, slimey affairs, involving bureaurocratic fucks who can’t imagine life without a job rather than submitting a kid to lifelong kidney problems.

So on the 40th anniversary of AC/DC’s Let There be Rock, please, people, develop a public health spine.

Some talk, some do: Kansas just sucks

Three movies encapsulate and reverberate throughout my life: The World According to Garp, Wonder Boys, and American Beauty.

I’ve reached my American Beauty moment, and may I go on and have such a fruitful career as Kevin Spacey has since 1999.

I’m an unemployed former food safety professor of almost 20 years, who coaches little and big kids in hockey and goofs around.

I’ve enjoyed the last few months – despite the angst of moving into a house that may slide down the hill at any moment given the Brisbane rains – but with 80,000 direct subscribers and students and media still contacting me daily, I feel a connection.

I just gotta figure out how to get paid.

(If you see any adverts on barfblog.com, like Amy did this morning, it is not authorized. Chapman and I are quite happy to say what the fuck we want and call people on their food safety fairytales).

And I would like to publicly apologize to Amy for dragging me to Australia, and all the bitching I did about shitty Internet, and how I lost my career (at the mall).

It’s looking much better now.

Kansas State University took whatever opportunity they could to get rid of me, for the salary, for the controversy, for whatever. Wasn’t too long after that Kirk-2025-Schultz bailed for Washington state. The provost queen is still stuck there.

As full professor, Kansas had become boring and I hated doing admin shit.

And there was no ice.

When people in Australia ask me about President Trump (two words that never sound right together, like Dr. Oz – thanks, John Oliver) I say, look at Kansas, that is what will happen to America.

The N.Y. Times seems to agree.

In an editorial today, the Times wrote:

Kansas can only hope that reports are true that the Trump administration will let its governor, Sam Brownback, escape the disaster he created in Topeka for a quieter United Nations agricultural post in Rome. And global humanity can only hope for the best.

Mr. Brownback, a Republican first elected on the Tea Party crest of 2010, used his office as a laboratory for conservative budget experimentation. His insistence that tax cuts create, not diminish, revenues has left the state facing a ballooning deficit plus a ruling by the state Supreme Court that Kansas schoolchildren have been unconstitutionally shortchanged in state aid for years, with the poorest minority children most deprived.

The court ruled this month that they would shut the state’s schools if funding wasn’t made equitable by June 30. It found reading test scores of nearly half of African-American students and more than one-third of Hispanic students were deficient under aid formulas favoring more affluent school districts.

Mr. Brownback played no small role in the long-running school crisis by leading the Republican Legislature to limit school aid after enacting the largest tax cuts in state history, for upper-bracket business owners. Characteristically, the governor’s reaction to the court mandate was to further undermine schools by suggesting parents “be given the opportunity and resources to set their child up for success through other educational choices.”

If that’s the governor’s parting contribution to the school crisis before his flight to a Trump diplomatic appointment, Kansas parents and school administrators cannot be too surprised. They have been experiencing the deepening budget crisis firsthand in shortened school hours and resources as the state suffered two credit downgrades. Public protest led to a number of Brownback loyalists voted out last year, with legislative newcomers igniting a budget revolt against the governor. He barely survived a showdown last month, by vetoing a $1 billion tax increase.

The tax push seems likely to be renewed, since the state faces a two-year $1.2-billion deficit plus the school funding mandate. For that obligation, state education officials have estimated it might require $841 million over the next two years. The court fight was prompted by a slide in school aid that began in the recession under Mr. Brownback’s predecessor, Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat. But it spiraled once the Brownback tax cuts drained state coffers.

It seems unfair that Mr. Brownback might abandon the mess he created, especially since Mr. Trump never ceases to renounce life’s “losers.” But Kansans have learned the hard way that they need to be free from the benighted Brownback era, and maybe Mr. Brownback has, too.

I wish nothing but the best for my Kansas colleagues, and a slow, endless angst for administration assholes who put money above values.

There was a time I thought being a prof meant something.

But we don’t need no institution.

More to come.

Heaven on Earth rescue farm linked to crypto outbreak

Farm sanctuaries sound nice, former Daily Show host Jon Stewart and his partner run several.

But does Jon Stewart know microbiology?

Visitors to the popular Heaven on Earth animal rescue farm in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania (which Stewart is not affiliated with, that I know of), have come down with a variety of stomach illnesses linked to the farm, state health officials said Friday.

“At least five laboratory-confirmed cryptosporidium infections and at least six compatible illnesses have been associated with this farm,” the state Department of Health said Friday in a health advisory.

Hundreds of people may have been exposed to infected young goats and calves in the last four or five weeks since the public was invited to help feed the animals at the 3868 Bethman Road farm just east of Route 33, the advisory noted.

The Health Department is asking that all those who became ill after visiting the farm contact the department at 877-PA-HEALTH and consult their personal doctors.

Meanwhile, Heaven on Earth Farm owner Jahjah Melhem announced Friday the farm is no longer open to the public.

“In the past four years, Heaven on Earth Farm has had the pleasure of meeting so many of you. There has been a ton of love and support that visited the property at any given time,” Melhem says on the farm’s Facebook page. “We have decided that it is in our best interest to close the farm to the public so that we can focus on the well-being of the animals.”

He said he is working with the Health Department to determine the origin of the reported sicknesses. He said he isn’t sure anyone was infected at the farm, but it is possible.

“People come every day with their kids and we never had a problem,” Melhem said. “I’m fine. I’m here every day. Three or four women are here every day and none of them are sick.”

The farm has attracted 600 people since mid-February to help Melhem with 30 baby goats he rescued to avoid their slaughter. He asked for volunteers, he said, because the goats needed bottle-feeding four times a day.

On Thursday, a Health Department researcher told him she had three or four cases of people who visited the farm becoming sick later. Since then, the department has associated additional illnesses with the farm.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Petting-Zoo-Outbreaks-Table-4-8-14.xlsx.

Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions

Zoonoses and Public Health 62:90-99, 2015

G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman  and D. Powell

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/zph.12117/abstract?deniedAccess

Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the US caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.