Pat Quinn, ‘one of hockey’s most respected individuals,’ has died

Whenever I travel, people ask me what I do, and it inevitably evolves into discussions about food safety and hockey.

patquinnThe topics aren’t necessarily connected, other than commitment.

I’m thankful for my parents who spent endless hours at the ice rink so I could play, and I’m thankful for all the food safety types who let me play as well.

Pat Quinn, a Hamilton (that’s in Canada) boy, passed away yesterday and was widely praised as a respected hockey dude.

That’s about the best most of us can hope for, whatever our profession.

Quinn, a two-time Jack Adams winner for coach of the year, led both Philadelphia (1980) and Vancouver (1994) to the Stanley Cup Finals as a bench boss and was highly decorated internationally, winning gold medals at the U-18, World Junior, World Cup and — most famously — the Olympic level, guiding Canada to victory in 2002 at Salt Lake.

Quinn also served as the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Here’s the statement from Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden, who played for Quinn in Vancouver:

“We have lost a great man. It’s a sad day for hockey and for everyone who loves our game. On this difficult day I am thinking about Pat, his family and his friends, and how much he will be missed.“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for Pat. He was a great leader and always a teacher. He taught me how to be a professional on and off the ice. He taught me how to play hockey the right way, how to win, and about the importance of respect and loyalty.

“Pat’s impact on our city has been immeasurable. He was responsible for bringing hockey to the forefront in Vancouver. He brought the pride back to the Canucks and today his finger prints and impact are still felt within this organization.”

It’s what I’ve tried to instill in my five daughters. and food safety types around the world.

Proper cleaning and sanitizing matters; so does correcting infractions

Restaurants I want to eat at have some common attributes: tasty food, decent value and a good food safety culture. Food safety culture isn’t about having a training program – it’s about identifying hazards, understanding how to manage them and when deficiencies are pointed out, reacting by addressing problems.

I avoid places that have trouble responding to the help that local public health regulatory folks provide. Everyone can have a bad day, but having two or three consecutive inspections and not correcting the issues is a trend that says more about what an operator values.JS51071999

According to, Woodys Take Out received a formal caution by local regulators after not heeding inspectors’ warnings to address their food safety activities.

The offences, noted during visits on October 23 and November 3, included a lack of effective cleaning and disinfection of the premises and equipment such as chopping boards, handles and taps.

Food handlers were also found to not have been suitably trained in food hygiene procedures and demonstrated a poor understanding of effective cleaning.

There was also a failure to implement required food safety management systems.

The director of the company – which has branches in Farnborough, Aldershot, Blackwater and Yiewsley – accepted the cautions, admitting the offences on behalf of the company.

As part of this action, the takeaway voluntarily closed for one day to ensure that the premises were brought up to the minimum standard required by law.

Good cleaning and sanitizing takes having the right equipment, staff that know how to do it and an organizational value system that ensures it gets carried out. Dirty utensils and cutting boards in the prep area can lead to cross-contamination risks.

I have no idea what this means, but McDonald’s enlists orcs and elves to boost food safety in China

McDonald’s Corp. is enlisting the orcs and elves of the World of Warcraft in its fight to win over Chinese consumers scared away by food safety scandals. entice younger customers, McDonald’s designed Warcraft- themed outlets and gave away virtual items such as magic turtles tied to the popular online role-playing game, its first cooperation in China with a computer game.

The effort comes as the world’s largest restaurant chain seeks to recover from a food scandal in July, when its main supplier in Shanghai was accused of selling expired meat, leading China sales to plunge 23 percent. The crisis embroiled Yum Brands’ KFC and other eateries, forcing the chains to pull items off menus as they rushed to find alternative suppliers.

“I know of McDonald’s supplier issues, but I wanted to try out the latest Warcraft game before its release,” said 21-year- old Li Jialiang, a Warcraft fanatic who endured a 12-hour train ride from central Henan province to visit one of the themed restaurants in Shanghai.

Norovirus linked to over 80 illnesses at Emory University

Brae Surgeoner, Doug and I had a paper published in the September 2009 Journal of Environmental Health about some research we conducted in the Winter of 2006. The study came about because a whole bunch of kids in the University of Guelph’s residence system started puking from an apparent norovirus outbreak. There were lots of handwashing signs up and we wanted to know whether they changed hygiene behavior (especially if kids were using the tools available when entering the cafeteria). Turns out that students weren’t doing as good of a job at hand hygiene as they reported to us.

Norovirus awareness, including the limitations of alcohol-only-based hand sanitizers have come along way, but outbreaks at universities are still pretty commonplace. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Emory University has been experiencing an increase of noro-linked illnesses over the past week.norovirus-2-3

As of Friday, 89 students sought care for gastroenteritis at either the student health center or University hospital, according to Beverly Clark, University spokeswoman. Other students have been ill and treated themselves, Clark said.

Patient samples from last Wednesday, the first day of the outbreak, tested positive for the Norovirus, Clark said. The State of Georgia Lab and Emory Medical Lab each tested the samples, confirming the virus Friday night.

In a letter sent to the campus community Saturday, an Emory doctor said the exact cause of the outbreak has not been identified. But some campus dining food samples are being tested. Emory Dining Services sanitized with chlorine-based cleaners Saturday morning, according to Michael J. Huey, assistant vice president and executive director for the Emory University Student Health and Counseling Services.

“While most of us are not fond of the smell of chlorine, when you smell it on the Emory campus over the next few days, it is a good thing,” Huey wrote.

Food Safety Talk 70: A Quick Overnight Servicing

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.1415905212112

Episode 70 begins with Ben and Don talking about the fall weather and Ben’s podcasting from home (possibly sans pants). The discussion turns to travel and its potential impact on Don’s jury duty. Ben has never served on a jury, but has seen many movies about trials.  Don shares that he has seen some movies about trials, notably Capote and To Kill a Mockingbird.  Both guys are fans of the movie My Cousin Vinny, which is not a book.  The pop culture talk turns to television, and Ben mentions The Americans (spelled with a c, not k, but the c does look like a hammer and sickle in the show logo). Don has been watching Intruders, but he has barely been able to discern what the show is actually about.  Last Tango in Halifax is also good TV; with season two now available on Netflix. Ben wraps up the pop culture part of the show with a mention of a Farm Aid concert he attended with some other foodie-people and mentioned that Neil Young shared about his personal views on some farming issues at the concert.

The conversation moved to politics and cable news.  As a board member of the New Jersey Association for Food Protection, Don was part of a recent conference call regarding the organizing of a GMO foods discussion/debate with invited speakers, potentially including Robyn O’Brien. When Ben got his start in food safety, GMO foods were in the news and he mentioned a recent barfblog post on labeling of GMO foods and their unintended impacts on consumer choice. Ben talked about the summer reading program at NC State, and this years book Tomorrows Table, written by an organic farmer and a food biotechnologist.

Ben recently participated in an IFT sponsored twitter chat on the safety of packed lunches.  Ben noted the difficulty in answering complicated questions in only 140 characters over twitter and the stress of having answered so many questions in a short period of time. The discussion turned to an article about the temperatures of school lunches, and the importance of considering both time and temperature.  Don mentioned a good FightBac webinar that covered cross contamination, and plugged his recent appearance on Academic Minute that covered some of Don’s hand washing experiments.

Ben recently received a risk-type question during an interview, and he was keen to know what Don would answer (PhD students take note: Ben plans to ask this question at every qualifying exam he goes to!).  The question was: What is the riskiest food-related thing that you do? Don provides two answers: 1) he sometimes doesn’t wash his hands for 20 s with soap; 2) sometimes he doesn’t take the temperature of meat on the grill and just believes it is ‘probably good enough’. Ben’s answer included eating fresh restaurant salsa with lots of cilantro and eating a lot of berries.

Ben, Don and regular podcast guest Mike Batz are all trying to eat less and exercise more, and using technology to do it. Mike and Don are using Lose It; Ben is using My Net Diary and Runtastic.

Don announced that he has podcast cheated on Ben by participating on another podcast, Better Know a Jackal, and the discussion moves to podcasting workflows in general.  Don is now using an app to send webpage PDFs to Dropbox.

The conversation then transitioned to some humorous turns-of-phrase that Doug and Ben like to drop into barfblog articles. Ben was disappointed no one commented on a witty double entendre he included in a posting about finding vomit on an airplane. Ben has to repeat the line to Don a few times before laughter ensues.

To gain trust, put facts up front (but only comfortably facts)

If environmental groups can funnel millions into campaigns against genetically engineered foods, and develop databases on more than 80,000 items sold in groceries across the U.S. with details of ingredients and nutritional information, why is there no effort to provide microbial food safety information to consumers at retail – the bugs that sicken 48 million Americans each year?

imagesAccording to the N.Y. Times, analysis of food products aimed at educating (informing, please – dp) consumers about what they’re buying is increasingly common. Whole Foods, for instance, recently began rating some of the produce it sells as good, better or best based on a variety of criteria, and the Cornucopia Institute will soon introduce a yogurt scorecard, ranking a wide variety of yogurts based on whether, say, they use high-fructose corn syrup or carrageenans, among other things.

The yogurt analysis, which took more than a year, follows work the organization has done to rate organic eggs and organic milk, among other products and ingredients. “Yogurt is perceived and marketed as a healthy product, and its popularity has really taken off because of that perception,” said Mark Kastel, co-founder of Cornucopia. “But there are a lot of synthetic chemicals in many yogurts, and as much added sugar as some candy bars.”

I’d be more concerned about the mold (Chobani?)

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) responded by saying the methodology was void of the scientific rigor and objectivity that should be devoted to any effort to provide consumers with reliable nutrition and food safety information. 

But GMA isn’t about to start ranking foods by microbial safety – the stuff that makes people sick.

Retail Leader reports the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association recently launched a retail in-store program related to Facts Up Front, a voluntary initiative to display Nutrition Facts Panel information on the front of food packages. Facts Up Front labels display how many calories and how much saturated fat, sodium and sugar is in each serving. Some labels may also provide information about nutrients, such as fiber and calcium.

Nothing about the bugs that make people sick.

So while it’s nice that, as reported by The Packer, that the Safe Quality Food Institute has given Taylor Farms its Primary Producer of the Year award, no one who shops at retail would know about it.

Jason Kawata, director of quality assurance, using PR-approved flunky words, said, “There is no higher priority for Taylor Farms than food safety. We are committed to the highest levels of food safety day in and day out, and it’s an honor to be recognized for those efforts.”

In addition to adhering to Safe Quality Food Institute certification standards, Taylor Farms implements its SmartWash Solutions food safety and process control system in all facilities. Products are subject to a multi-stage wash with SmartWash, a safeguard against bacterial cross contamination.

Sounds great.

But how would anyone shopping for themselves or their families know?

Successful produce marketing requires digital tools – and selling safety at retail

If you thought that the Internet and social media were passing fads and could be ignored as marketing tools, Dan’l Mackey Almy said think again.

market.natural“It’s main stay,” said the president and chief executive officer of Irving, Texas-based DMA Solutions. “What will change is Facebook will go through phases and Twitter will go through phases. What we have to do is figure out how to use those tools to reach those audiences.”

Mackenzie Michel, marketing manager, agreed.

“If marketing is important to your company…then digital marketing absolutely is an essential part of that,” she said.

Vicky Boyd of The Packer writes their comments came during the morning educational workshop, “Competitive Marketing in the Digital Workshop,” Aug. 17, at the PMA Fresh Summit.

But the choice isn’t either digital or more traditional media, which include television, radio and billboards, Almy said.

Instead, companies should choose from among all media to find the best mix to reach their audiences.

I’d add, sell safety at retail: because some producers and companies are better.

Taiwan GDP growth misses estimates after food safety concerns

Taiwan’s economy grew at a slower pace than expected last quarter as concern over food safety damped spending at restaurants. domestic product rose 3.78 percent from a year earlier in the three months through September, according to the statistics bureau’s preliminary data released today, compared with the median 3.9 percent estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists and 3.74 percent growth in the previous period.

The discovery of tainted oil in local food has prompted Taiwanese firms including Wei Chuan Foods Corp. to recall products and Japan and China to ban food imports from the island. 

Calling Ian Betteridge: Are grocery store conveyor belts a significant source of foodborne illness?

I’m sitting at the NoroCORE annual meeting and listening to Aron Hall and others talk about sources of noro illnesses. Stuff like ill food handlers and bare hand contact in full service restaurants rise to the top as risk factors for the most prevalent food-related pathogens. Dirty conveyor belts, not so much.

Tove Danovich of Food Politic interviewed me a couple of weeks ago about issues related to conveyor belts in grocery stores wondering whether they a good source for illnesses?MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I told her that when it comes to outbreaks and pathogens, I’m not sure the data is there.

If you’re squeamish about the thought of unseen bacterium and pathogens, stop reading. A 2009 study found contamination on 100% of tested grocery store conveyor belts. Though they often seem clean, a lack of dust doesn’t mean they aren’t a breeding ground for bacteria. The question to ask ourselves us is whether these grocery store workhorses have the potential to make us sick.

The study, conducted by Dr. Zhinong Yan, took 100 samples from 42 grocery stores in Michigan. They were tested for “total aerobic bacteria count (TAC), yeast, mold, Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), and coliforms.” Coliforms are a rod-shaped bacteria that are commonly used as bacterial indicators due to their easy cultivation and large presence in fecal matter. If you’ve got coliforms, you’ve got stool (this is not true, the bacteria that make up the coliform group are naturally associated with lots of plants, without poop – ben). Dr. Yan also tested for more dangerous bacteria like MRSA, E. coli, salmonella, and listeria. Luckily, evidence of the most dangerous foodborne pathogens weren’t found.

What was detected, however, were high levels of just about everything else – including coliform bacteria. These belts might not give you stomach flu but probably needed a good round of sanitation. 

Enter the antimicrobial conveyor belt, a cover for your bacteria-covered black belts. Antimicrobial wraps both kill bacteria and are non-porous (read: can actually be cleaned). A somewhat ingenious advertisement from MessageWrap, an antimicrobial surface that can also display ads or other messages, shows that even a child can install it in under an hour.

Yet not everyone is sure that conveyor belts are breeding grounds for dangerous microbes. Benjamin Chapman, Food Safety Specialist, often works with consumers, grocery, and retail stores to curb potential risks. “When we look at conveyor belts, there are two components of risk: what’s the likelihood of pathogens being there and how they could be transferred to food,” he says. While he agrees that conveyor belts are difficult to clean and sanitize, that doesn’t automatically mean they should be a source of worry.

To put it simply, bacteria can be found in any environment – your bathroom, kitchen table, or cooking surfaces at home. Chapman has never found data to prove that conveyor belts are particularly good at transferring pathogens to food. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for the belt to be sanitized if the person in front of you has a package of chicken that’s leaking fluid. “If I see something, I’m going to do what I can do make it safer,” Chapman adds.

As for microbial wraps, they may not even get rid of potential contamination. As Chapman put it, “It’s not a magic bullet.” All conveyor belts have seams that are often particularly hard to sanitize and clean whether it’s a wrap or black PVC. If you’re going to find bacteria, that’s a good place to look.

So unless you’re shopping for groceries in a particularly dingy store, chances are good that you have little to worry about. “If there’s going to be food, there’s going to be bacteria,” Chapman says. We’d be sick forever if the mere presence of bacteria was enough to give us a foodborne illness.

Don’t avoid the grocery store just yet but be mindful of the state of the surfaces where you set your food. As for your mild case of bacterial OCD? Chapman may have put it best, “I’m not in the business of knowing how much people should be concerned about something.”

This last bit was in response to a question Tove asked “how concerned should people be?” My philosophy (stolen from many other smart people in the food safety risk analysis work) is that I want to present the risks and let people make their own risk management decisions. How concerned someone is (whether an individual or a food safety nerd at a food company) is a risk management calculation. It didn’t come out quite right.