Missing the boat on food safety messages in cookbooks: redux

From the food-safety-in-popular-culture files comes the paper that keeps on giving. Katrina Levine and I both chronicled our experiences around our British Food Journal paper exploring the food safety messages in cookbooks.

I’m still being asked by friends whether Gwyneth and I are on speaking terms (we would be, and I’d point her and her Goop towards science and data); the print version of the paper was published last week (abstract updated with page numbers and stuff here).

And Huffington Post Australia, always current, picked up the story yesterday.

Researchers analyzed 1,497 recipes from 29 cookbooks that appeared on New York Times bestseller lists in 2013 and 2014. Recipes were considered “correct” if they noted the proper endpoint temperature for a meat or animal product, per guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About 92 percent of recipes didn’t note a temperature at all. Some recommended other ways of measuring doneness, like cooking meat until its juices run clear or until it turns a certain color. Since these methods aren’t reliable, the study considered those recipes “incorrect.”

Some cookbooks offered both good and bad cooking advice, the study’s senior author Benjamin Chapman told The Huffington Post. For example, one recipe in Paltrow’s cookbook It’s All Good noted a correct endpoint temperature, but also instructed readers to wash poultry before cooking it ― a practice that can spread bacteria around the kitchen and is warned against by the USDA and other experts.

Celebrity cookbook authors should include safe cooking temperatures in their recipes more often, he added.

“We have the ability to list a science-backed indicator,” Chapman said. “And we’re missing the boat.”

The boat cliche seemed appropriate at the time. Me and the boys had just finished watching Showtime’s, The Beach Boys: Making Pet Sounds, and I was thinking of Sloop John B.

 

2 sick with botulism from deer antler tea in Calif.

As I sip tea and watch the Pacific waves roll into Coff’s Harbour from our 13th floor beachside apartment, resting for the next-of-so-far-12 hours on the ice at a weekend hockey camp we arranged for 36 kids from Brisbane, I ask myself: who the fuck drinks tea from deer antlers?

Lots of people.

Lots of North Americans make lots of money selling deer antler velvet to southeast Asians, especially Chinese, who value the ingredient in traditional herbal medicine.

Until it gives someone botulism.

Public health officials consider a single case of botulism a public health emergency, because it might foretell a larger outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

One adult in Orange County, California has a confirmed case of botulism, and another has a suspected case. Health types suggest the botulism illnesses may be connected with drinking deer antler tea obtained in March.

According to ProMed, velvet antler (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velvet_antler>) “is used as a drug in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that classifies many
similar substances from a variety of species under the simplified
Chinese name pinyin Lu Rong and the pharmaceutical name Cervi Cornu
Pantorichum. The 2 common species used within the TCM system are Sika
Deer and Red Deer. Within the TCM system it is prescribed by a doctor
to a patient in the use to treat yang deficiency syndromes. In Asia,
velvet antler is dried and sold as slices or powdered. The powder or
slices are then boiled in water, usually with other herbs and
ingredients, and consumed as a medicinal soup.

Velvet antler in the form of deer antler spray has been at the center
of multiple controversies with professional sports leagues and famous
athletes allegedly using it for injury recovery and performance
enhancement purposes. In mid-2011 a National Football League (NFL)
player successfully sued a deer antler velvet spray manufacturer for
testing positive for methyltestosterone in 2009 for a total amount of
5.4 million.[19][20] In August 2011, Major League Baseball (MLB) added
deer antler spray to their list of prohibited items because it
contains “potentially contaminated nutritional supplements.”

On January 30, 2013, a professional PGA Tour golfer was caught unaware
and openly admitted to the personal use of deer antler spray which
contained a banned substance at the time. A week later the World
Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lifted the ban on deer antler spray, but
with urgency, “Deer Antler Velvet Spray may contain IGF-1
(Insulin-like Growth Factor -1) and WADA recommends therefore that
athletes be extremely vigilant with this supplement because it could
lead to a positive test.” The consensus opinion of leading
endocrinologists concerning any purported claims and benefits “is
simply that there is far too little of the substance in even the
purest forms of the spray to make any difference,” and “there is no
medically valid way to deliver IGF-1 orally or in a spray.”

 

Mancini speaks: Central Atlantic States Association of Food and Drug Officials 101 Annual Educational and Training Seminar

Our resident non-aging television personality and food safety dude, Rob Mancini, writes that he’ll be speaking at the CASA Educational Conference on May 2nd, 2017 in Saratoga Springs, NY regarding his research on alternate modes of food safety training.

The importance of training food handlers is critical to effective food hygiene; however, there have been limited studies on the effectiveness of such training.

Food safety training courses are administered worldwide in attempts to reduce outbreaks in food service, retail and temporary food service establishments. However, food handlers often exhibit a poor understanding of microbial or chemical contamination of food and the measures necessary to correct them.

Studies suggest that the provision of a hands-on format of training would be more beneficial than traditional classroom-based programs. The delivery of such a program may assist in changing ones’ food safety behaviours and aid in the retention of knowledge that are necessary to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness.

Flipping burgers is a noble craft and needs to be done with a thermometer, otherwise people get sick

Trash-talking elites are part of the reason Donald Trump is now U.S. President.

In the new book, Shattered, journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes write that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was doomed to fail. “The portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff that turned ‘a winnable race’ into another iceberg-seeking campaign ship.”

Australians are also being drawn to the right, with their own versions of Aussie-first – the aboriginal population may have some thoughts on that – in which skilled 457 visas are being eliminated.

It’s not the political drift that is surprising – Australia is a country that, as John Oliver said, has settled into their intolerance like an old resentful slipper” – it’s the response from the Group of Eight universities who wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday complaining the new rules could be “extremely damaging” to academic recruitment.

Forgetting for a moment that a Group of Eight unis in a country with 23 million people is self-aggrandizing on a ridiculous scale, University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence (that’s like a university president, which is self-aggrandizing enough) told Fairfax Media, “They’re really not people flipping burgers. “If you are building world-class expertise in a cutting-edge area of science, you’re probably going to need to draw from a gene pool larger than 23 million.”

Spence, your knowledge of genetics sucks; I have a genetics degree.

In his letter to Mr Turnbull, Go8 chairman Peter Hoj said “the mere suggestion of Australia clamping down on academic mobility into Australia would be extremely damaging to academic recruitment in Australia.”

Here are my perceived limitations to academic recruitment in Australia:

  1. Get an Internet that works and is not dependent on hobbits spinning a hamster wheel. Every time it rains, the Internet goes down, because most of the connections are underground, where water pools.
  2. Offer something of value rather than appealing to money. It’s still not too late to life a life of substance.
  3. Bring Australia into the 21st century by changing laws on same sex marriage, abortion, parental leave and end-of-life.
  4. Stop casting aspersions about fast-food workers – the people who probably make your lunch Dr. vice-chancellors – and save the flipping burgers shit for your fancy club talk. Engineering geniuses still need to eat. Perhaps Australia could make it a priority that food is safe and doesn’t make people barf. The military figured this out centuries ago. Maybe universities can, eventually.

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.


 

Behavioral theory stuff, like food safety, isn’t simple

Food safety and public health folks are pretty good at writing proposals and getting funds to do research and usually because of a funder’s requirement to take something to the people, add on some component outreach throwaway activity to make something. Usually it is a brochure, or posters, or a website where the outputs of research are shared.

And they often suck. Because folks who are good at one type of research may forget that there are other disciplines where data gets generated on what works and why.

At one of my first IAFP meetings over a decade ago I sat through a 3-hour session of cleaning and sanitation in processing environments and each speaker ended their talk with the same type of message we all need to edumacate better. And no one mentioned evaluation.

There’s about 10,000 papers in the adult education, behavioral science and preventive health world that set the stage on how to actually make communication and education interventions that might work – many are based on behavioral theory – the kind of thing that comes from, experiments, data, critique, disagreement, repetition and replication.

The literature has some common tenants: know thy audience; have an objective; base your message on some sort of evidence; ground the approach in theory and evaluate.

A particular favorite of mine is the Integrated Behavioral Model. It takes the Theory of Planned Behavior, adds some bells and whistles and gives something for folks to base their materials on. It’s not simple.

The good stuff rarely is.

Today we picked up something in our feeds coming from a public health group in the UK, that says making good intervention are easy. They even have a fun name for it, the EAST framework (which stands for Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely).

The first principle of the EAST framework is to make the desired behaviour easy. Small food businesses can help make healthier eating easier by:

Harnessing defaults
We have a tendency to stick with the status quo or the pre-set option. For this reason ensuring the healthiest option is the default option is a powerful tool for changing consumption behaviour. The healthier default, for example, could be offering a food item like a default side-salad instead of chips, or it could be a default portion size, like a small coffee as the default rather than a large size.

Decreasing the ‘hassle factor’
We can be deterred from a behaviour by seemingly small barriers. Decreasing the hassle factor by, for example, placing healthier drinks at the front of the fridge and sugar sweetened beverages at the back may prompt people to select the healthier option.

Utilising substitution
It is easier for us to substitute a similar behaviour than to eliminate an entrenched one. For this reason, reformulation of products (such as cooking food in rapeseed oil, making fatter chips or using low-fat spread) allows customers to engage in similar behaviours (still buying chips) but for the behaviour to be healthier.

Sounds easy. Lets see it in practice. And evaluate it.

True life: Someone cares about our research (even the tabloids)

Katrina Levine, extension associate and lead author of Evaluating Food Safety Risk Messages in Popular Cookbooks writes,

If you have been following the discourse epic battle between Ben Chapman and Gwenyth Paltrow, you may be wondering why a celebrity wants anything to do with us.  Me too.

It all started a few years ago with a conversation about recipes and cooking, and just how little was said in recipes about handling food safely. I mean, “cook until done”? What does that even mean?

So with Chapman’s support, I set off on a mission – to look through recipes in cookbooks (29 books and over 1700 recipes) for evidence of safe food handling guidance – giving a safe internal temperatures and ways to avoid cross-contamination.

It took about a year to collect the data (remember, 1700+ recipes…), and another couple to finish the article, Evaluating Food Safety Risk Messages in Popular Cookbooks, just published in the British Food Journal.

Then the press release went out, and something notable happened. Someone, somewhere, decided it was worth sharing. So it got shared – and talked about – a lot.

And there was an opportunity here: Talking with the media and posting about our study has never been about bashing celebrities, but about a chance to get our messages out there while we are being listened to.

I’ve done a few interviews and while the journalists may want to talk about Gwyneth, and who was the worst, I get to interject stuff into the pop culture conversation like, use a thermometer; follow safe endpoint temperatures; and, keep your hands and food surfaces clean and sanitized.

This is a researcher’s dream – to have your work noticed, discussed, and sometimes understood – by lots of people.

Putting in the work was worth it because what we did got noticed. And people are talking about it. Maybe they’ll be changing what they do because of it.

I am living the dream.

Food Safety Talk 123: My mom was pissed

In this episode, Don and Ben talk about life hacks and things that might not be life hacks; Gwyneth Paltrow, cookbooks and Ben’s recent media experiences (and the perils of emailing while sitting on the toilet). Also in this episode the guys breakdown STEC in soy nut butter and Dixie Dew’s FDA 483 form plus a bonus on ROP cheeses.

Episode 122 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Our battle with Gwyneth: cookbook edition

The coverage of extension associate Katrina Levine’s research on cookbook food safety messages took an unexpected turn yesterday. Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘people’ weighed in.

By ‘people’ I think it’s the folks who published her cookbooks.

It started with a string of emails from some folks in the UK who saw the NC State press release about the research. After analyzing 1700+ recipes from cookbooks on the New York Times best seller list we found that safe endpoint temperatures only appeared in just over 8% of the instructions.

Not great.

A few journalists want to know who are the biggest offenders are (quick answer: it’s pretty well everyone we looked at – but not all the time).

One of the books included in our study was Paltrow’s It’s All Good. In a flurry of questions, and without being able to find all the recipes online, I sent one of the enquiring minds a recipe from another book, My Father’s Daughter as an example of what we were looking at, with this note:

“Here’s one from chef Paltrow that does not have a safe endpoint temperature included (165F or 74C).

Heat oven to 400°. Mix butter, garlic salt, paprika, pepper and salt in a bowl. Rinse chicken inside and out; pat dry. Insert fingers between skin and breast to separate the two. Rub seasoned butter over chicken and under skin. Tuck wings underneath bird and tie together with a piece of twine. Tie legs together with another piece of twine. Place chicken on its side in a heavy roasting pan and roast 25 minutes. Turn onto its other side and sprinkle with several tbsp water; roast 25 minutes more. Turn chicken on its back; roast 10 minutes more. Turn on its breast; roast until skin is crispy and chicken is golden brown, 10 minutes more. Remove from pan and let rest, breast side down, 15 minutes, before carving (remove skin).”

The Paltrow folks responded, through the journalist with this:

“The recipe for “Roast Chicken, Rotisserie Style” was published in MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER in April 2011. While it did not have an endpoint temperature included, the directions called for the chicken to be roasted at 400F for 70 minutes, which is ample time to cook a 3-4 pound chicken.

IT’S ALL GOOD, which was published in April 2013, does include endpoint temperatures. “Super-Crispy Roast Chicken” in IT’S ALL GOOD is baked for 1-1/2 hours at 425 degrees and the recipe advises “The chicken thigh should register 165 degrees F on a digital thermometer at the very least (I usually let it get to 180 Degrees F just to be completely sure it’s cooked all the way through the bone).”

So we went back to the data – and yep, we noted that the Super-Crispy Roast Chicken had a safe end point temperature. What they omitted was that the first instruction in the recipe was to wash the chicken; one of the steps that can increase the risk of foodborne illnesses.

There were these other recipes from It’s All Good that don’t have the safe endpoint temperatures (and tell the reader to do non science-based things like touch it, look for clear juices or color to ensure doneness):

The row (I think that’s the correct colloquial British term) made the front page of the Daily Mail (above, exactly as shown).

As for this comment, ‘the directions called for the chicken to be roasted at 400F for 70 minutes, which is ample time to cook a 3-4 pound chicken.’

Maybe, show me the data. Lots of variables that can impact the final temperature – starting temperature of the chicken, thickness, oven heat calibration.

Isn’t it just easier to tell folks what the safe temperature is and tell them to stick it in?

Food and Wine points out exactly what we found. It’s not just Gwyneth.

But for once, let’s cut Paltrow some slack. Out of the whopping 29 best-selling cookbooks these experts analyzed, only nine percent of them included specific temperature information. She’s in good company. Meanwhile, only 89 — 89! — of the 1,497 recipes included in the study were deemed instructionally safe.

Honestly, none of this seems too egregious, and we almost wish Paltrow didn’t have to deal with the PR headache.

Oh well.