Food Safety Talk 111: The Meat Spot

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.slide-image-1

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.

Episode 111 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Food fraud is a reoccuring problem; expired milk powder resold

Substituting for cheaper, or expired inputs, or adding supplemental ingredients isn’t new in the food world. As long as there have been food, there has been food fraud.

Melamine in dog food, horse meat in beef lasagne or seagull meat mixed with other protein sources have all garnered attention and research. Food manufacturers in China, a huge and still growing food export market, have been fingered in multiple fraud cases. The latest incident, according to Stuff, centers around reselling expired milk powder.

Chinese police on Monday (NZT) arrested 19 people in Shanghai for selling about 300 tonnes of expired Fonterra milk powder, Shanghai Daily reported.

The suspects were allegedly managing a company, which was packaging expired products of the New Zealand dairy company – one of the most popular brands in China – into smaller packages for resale below market prices, according to media reports.

After a months-long investigation, the police discovered that one of the suspects sold the expired products to another company, who in turn allegedly resold almost 200 tonnes to distributors in Shanghai and in the Jiangsu, Henan and Qinghai provinces, who sold them on e-commerce platforms or in wholesale.

The authorities have seized 100 tonnes of these products and have shut down the websites selling them.

Fonterra spokeswoman Maree Wilson said on Monday night it supported the enforcement steps taken by Chinese officials.

“The Chinese authorities have acted strongly and swiftly to investigate and arrest the people they believe are responsible for this and we fully support their actions.
“Food safety is our top priority and we are committed to providing safe and high quality dairy products.

“We work actively with our direct customers to ensure the integrity of our products. This includes providing guidelines on how to manage expired product in a responsible way.

“In this case there appears to have been criminal activity much further along the supply chain.

“While we believe this is an isolated criminal incident, we are reviewing the case internally.”

Wilson said that, to Fonterra’s knowledge, the milk powder was not being resold with Fonterra packaging.


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.


First world problems: ‘People feel very strongly about their tomatoes’ Fruit flies are a factor in warm climates like Brisbane and Florida

Michael Pollan is an entertainer from a long line of American hucksters.

He’s not a professor, he’s a decent writer of food porn.

powell-tomato(Those with the least qualifications most actively seek the perceived credibility of a title.)

When his biggest soundbite is “I’d never eat a refrigerated tomato,” the absolutism shines through like any other spoiled demagogue.

Dan Charles of NPR fell into the gotta-be-cool trap without knowing shit, but eventually admitted it.

Charles says, There’s a laboratory at the University of University of Florida, in Gainesville, that has been at the forefront of research on tomato taste. Scientists there have been studying the chemical makeup of great-tasting tomatoes, as well as the not-so-great tasting ones at supermarkets.

“There’s a lot of things wrong with tomatoes right now,” says Denise Tieman, a research associate professor there. “We’re trying to fix them, or at least figure out what’s going wrong.”

These researchers studied this refrigeration question. They looked at what happened when a tomato goes into your kitchen fridge, or into the tomato industry’s refrigerated trucks and storage rooms.

Some components of a tomato’s flavor were unaffected, such as sugars and acids. But they found that after seven days of refrigeration, tomatoes had lower levels of certain chemicals that Tieman says are really important. These so-called aroma compounds easily vaporize. “That’s what gives the tomato its distinctive aroma and flavor,” she says.

The researchers also gave chilled and unchilled tomatoes to dozens of people to evaluate, in blind taste tests, “and they could definitely tell the difference,” says Tieman. The tomatoes that weren’t chilled got better ratings.

The scientists also figured out how chilling reduced flavor; cold temperatures actually turned off specific genes, and that, in turn cut down production of these flavor compounds.

Tieman speculates that someday scientists will figure out how to keep those genes turned on, even when chilled, so the tomato industry can have it both ways: They can refrigerate tomatoes to extend shelf life, without losing flavor.

tomatoThankfully, chilling didn’t seem to affect nutrition – the chilled tomatoes were just as nutritious as the non-refrigerated ones.

The new findings appear in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As significant as the results are, they probably won’t end the great tomato refrigeration debate.

“It’s not so clear cut,” says Daniel Gritzer, culinary director at, a food website. Two years ago, he did a series of blind taste tests with many different tomatoes, in New York and in California.

“Sometimes I found that the refrigerator is, in fact, your best bet,” says Gritzer.

That’s especially true for a tomato that’s already ripe and at peak flavor, he says. If you let that tomato sit on your counter, it’ll end up tasting worse.

Gritzer wrote a long blog post, detailing his results, and got a flood of reaction. “Some people wrote to say, ‘Hey, this is what I’ve always found, I’m so glad you wrote this,'” Gritzer says. “And then, a lot of people pushed back saying, ‘You’re insane, you don’t know what you’re talking about.'”

And when the hockey kids call me Doug, I say that’s Dr. Doug, I didn’t spend six years in evil hockey coaching land to be called Mister.

Food safety, Wal-Mart Frank style: Feeding 140 million shoppers a week

When Disney Frank decided to become Wal-Mart Frank, I asked him, why?

frank-yiannasHe said something along the lines of, I could influence food safety for a few million people that visit Disney each year, or influence food safety for hundreds of millions that shop at Wal-Mart.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for that.

Anyone can be an arm-chair critic, there’s few that walk the talk (and the line).

I’m one of a handful of people that have spoken with groups at both Disney and Wal-Mart over the years, and Frank and I don’t always agree, especially on how best to reach consumers, but there’s much respect.

Wal-Mart has 140 million shoppers in its stores in the U.S. every week. How does it ensure that its food supply is safe and healthy for all of those customers?

At The Wall Street Journal’s recent Global Food Forum, the Journal’s Sarah Nassauer spoke with Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Wal-Mart, for insight into the question. Here are edited excerpts of the conversation.

NASSAUER: Give us a sense of the scale of what you do.

YIANNAS: One hundred forty million Americans shop in our stores every week. We’ve got around 11,000 stores across the world, tens of thousands of food suppliers, over two million employees.

So we have a very carefully thought out food-safety plan that centers around five core initiatives. We work very hard to reduce risk very early in the food system. No. 2, you have to reduce the retail risk factors. When you have stores that actually prepare and handle food, make sure those procedures are right. Three, regulatory compliance. No. 4, manage emerging food issues. No. 5, driving global consistency, because consumers world-wide should have access to safe food.

frank-amy-doug-jun-11When we make a food decision, our first question is always, “Is it safe?” We then also believe in affordability. And then, is it sustainable? That’s about making sure we can meet today’s needs and ensuring that we don’t hinder future generations’ ability to have safe, affordable food.

NASSAUER: One thing from a merchandising standpoint that Wal-Mart is working on is trying to have a wider selection of small producers, organic food, sourcing locally. How does that change what you do? Is it harder to do food safety for 40 farms in Illinois versus a big producer in China?

YIANNAS: What we’ve adopted is a scalable food-safety approach. We were the first retailer in the U.S. to require our suppliers to adhere to something called the Global Food Safety Initiative benchmark standards. They’re very comprehensive standards that often exceed regulations in countries that we operate in.

But we realized that if you were a small, local supplier you wouldn’t be able to comply with that. So we took the standards and broke it down, so we have a scalable food-safety approach for small and developing suppliers.

NASSAUER: One thing you mentioned when we talked earlier was that what you think about is evolving. The perception of safety is something you’re thinking about more and more as new technologies become an issue. Tell us a little bit how that has evolved at Wal-Mart.

YIANNAS: We have to keep the customer in mind. When you make risk-management decisions, you just don’t make it from a scientific point of view. We start off with, what is the real risk?

We will never knowingly do something that’s risky.

Second, we ask ourselves, what is the regulatory requirement? We will never knowingly do something that doesn’t comply with law. But a third question is, what is the perceived risk?

Food-safety professionals and food professionals have been very dismissive of perceived risk. That probably wasn’t wise. We have to understand perception.

When I was growing up, food used to unite us. Hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. It united us as a people.

I realize society is polarized, but I think food shouldn’t divide us. You have people who say, “I want global food,” and some are like, “No, I want local food.” You have some people say, “Hey, I want natural food.” “I want processed food.”

My last name is Yiannas, pronounced appropriately. I’m of Greek descent. The Greeks have been processing food for a long time. I love my Greek yogurt. It’s processed. I love my Greek cheese. It’ s processed. I love my Greek wine. Processed. I love my bread. Processed.

We as leaders need to change and shift the conversation, and let food unite us.

Sounds like any other restaurant: Chorizo, comebacks, cocaine and customers barfing as the missing point about Chipotle

Fast Company has a series of articles about the rise and fall and … of Chipotle.

dark-side-moonThe core of the food safety stories seems to be that Chipotle milks its consumers, so has endless money to spend telling those consumers why it’s safe to eat at Chipotle without backing things up.

The protagonists in this opera involving a lot of barf and a dabble of cocaine, are former professor Mansour Samadpour of IEH Laboratories in Seattle, and Jim Marsden, a meat guy and former professor at Kansas State University.

I was a colleague of Marsden, worked for IEH for three months, and can fully agree with this statement regarding the merits of either’s approach to food safety at Chipotle: “If you’re in a courtroom and you listen to both sides of the argument, it’s hard to say that anyone is 100% correct. It’s all wrapped up in a lot of academic infighting and politics.”

Marsden and Mansour both know a lot of science. They know shit about consumers. History is filled with great hockey players who go on to be lousy coaches, or scientists who stray from their base of expertise and make fools of themselves. But that’s for Chipotle to figure out.

For a company that’s supposed to be supplying ethical ingredients (whatever that means) for over-priced shit, they seem to have picked the wrong argument.

What’s it going to take for customers to barf less?

Mark Crumpacker, the chief creative officer and marketing lead at Chipotle, saidIt’s great to be back” upon returning to the restaurant chain after a three-month leave of absence involving foodborne outbreaks, plummeting share value, and cocaine.

Since returning, Crumpacker’s team has launched a new ad campaign, in partnership with Austin-based agency GSD&M, highlighting the “royal treatment” Chipotle gives its ingredients.

gretzky-600That imagery alone is fairly drug-induced, and any notion that Chipotle is nothing but a business squeezing what it can out of suppliers while marketing overpriced shit is delusional.

 “Obviously our marketing is built on this idea of fresh, high-quality ingredients,” Crumpacker says. “So [the food-safety issues were] sort of like the ultimate insult to that position.”

Because there is nothing in fresh, high-quality ingredients that says safe: Adjectives are the language of hucksters (these are the greatest make-you-fat burritos, ever. They’re really great).

Crumpacker was central in helping the Mexican fast-casual chain foster a glossy aura around its brand, which became synonymous with fresh ingredients and an ethical value set.

Like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, I so much enjoyed their work when they were high.

The story also says Chiptole hired Burson-Marsteller, the crisis-management PR firm the bottom-feeders of PR hacks that has supported Chipotle since the outbreaks (for a cost, paid for by all you yuppies).

Anyone who hires B-M is corporate mainstream, not some hippies selling ethical burritos, whatever that means.

keith-richards-nobel-prize-chemistryAustin Carr of Fast Company asks in another story, is it now safe to eat at Chipotle?

Wrong question.

Was it ever safe to eat at Chipotle given their gross negligence of microbial food safety issues and vast embrace of marketing hucksterism.

Co-CEO Steve Ells says, “Justifiably, people really question our trust. You lose that trust. For how long? We’re working really, really hard to get that trust back.”

Multiple industry experts tell me that Chipotle did not take food safety seriously enough or invest sufficient resources into quality assurance (QA). “When this [outbreak] first broke, the leadership at Chipotle, and I include Steve and [co-CEO] Monty [Moran], were completely sideswiped and didn’t know what the hell they were doing,” says one source familiar with Chipotle’s food-safety measures. “They had not really considered food safety at the level that they should have.”

The question is not how bad Chipotle fucked up and how a chain of such size and profits bamboozle the American public, the question is who will be next? And will anyone pay attention when some voice in the forest says in 2007, these Chipotle types are not focused on food safety?

burson-marsteller-assholeBefore its E. coli incidents, a slew of sources tell me that the food safety and QA team overseeing the company’s entire supply chain included just four people, a low number for a chain of Chipotle’s scale and complexity. The company also split its safety teams, which some suggest created arbitrary divisions of responsibility within the organization. Heidi Wederquist, then Chipotle’s director of QA and food safety, oversaw supply-chain issues, but had little visibility into restaurant operations. Conversely, Tim Spong, who knew Moran in college and served as outside counsel for Chipotle before joining the company, managed safety, security, and risk at the restaurant level. “There is no way a team that small could properly manage all the food coming into that system,” says one former analyst at the company, who now works for a chain much smaller than Chipotle but with a QA team that’s twice its size. Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold disputes the visibility claims but confirms the rest, adding that the team was “strengthened” with additional hires after February 2016 and that the two groups have now been merged under Spong’s leadership. (Additionally, Jason Von Rohr, Chipotle’s executive director of supply chain, who was responsible for sourcing all of Chipotle’s ingredients, departed shortly after the E. coli outbreaks. Multiple sources indicate he had been planning to leave Chipotle and his departure was not a result of the outbreaks. He has since joined Amazon.)

Thanks for the org.chart.

All those people who paid a premium to barf thank you for the org.chart.

Originally, Chipotle followed the guidance of food-safety scientist Mansour Samadpour, who runs the Seattle-based consultancy IEH Laboratories. He’d initially focused the company’s food-safety program on a mix of supply-chain testing and what are called “interventions” or “kill steps,” which work to eliminate pathogens from ingredients. For example, he introduced blanching produce to Chipotle, a kill step whereby Chipotle workers put lemons, limes, onions, avocados, and jalapeños into 185-degree water for five seconds before preparing them for customers.

When Chipotle hired James Marsden in February 2016 to be its director of food safety, he shifted the company to adopt more of these interventions, while winding down Samadpour’s testing system. He expanded the company’s blanching system, for example, to include bell peppers.

One of Marsden’s first acts was to create an ordered list of the riskiest ingredients on the restaurant’s menu. At the top of his list? Chipotle’s beef. Though there likely wasn’t one smoking gun that caused the outbreaks, in terms of particular ingredients, sources indicate Chipotle had narrowed its investigation to a select few items, including onions, cilantro, and beef. Cross-contamination was likely, but because the company’s E. coli outbreaks were limited to around 60 infected people, some food-safety sources suggest it was more than likely Chipotle’s beef was the original culprit that carried the E. coli, since it is a cooked item (unlike, say, cilantro), which may have reduced how widespread the outbreak could have been.

Or, familiarity breeds contempt, and Marsden would be most familiar with beef.

spongebob-oil-colbert-may3-10Likewise, the company, which briefly moved the preparation and sanitation of lettuce to its central kitchens after the outbreaks, has since returned heads of romaine to its stores. How can it do this without risking another outbreak? For the lettuce at least, Chris Arnold, the Chipotle spokesperson, says the company has introduced a new “multi-step washing process” to reduce the risk of pathogens. Marsden boasted to me how Chipotle’s lettuce is safer now because it implemented what’s called “harvest testing,” meaning that it is tested in the field before being shipped to suppliers. But this is a baseline standard in the industry; the company was already doing harvest testing before the crisis.

And those bugs are hard to wash off.

A bunch of us figured out on-farm food safety 20 years ago, to prevent, as much as possible, bugs getting on things like lettuce.

No mention of that.

But lettuce ain’t beef.

Marsden has also unveiled his own testing system, to replace the solution initially implemented by Samadpour, the outside consultant from IEH Laboratories (who has since stopped working with Chipotle). This new system centers on “routinely” verifying the efficacy of Chipotle’s intervention requirements. Rather than having suppliers take and test more frequent samples of raw beef, for example, they can now test at far fewer intervals because the meat is precooked; they’re primarily doing this to ensure that kill steps, such as the sous-vide process of cooking steak, are working properly.

The company has suggested that it is now “doing more testing than we have ever done,” as Arnold tells me. Upfront, this new testing system requires resource-intensive validation studies, to ensure that the entire system is functioning correctly. But after these studies are performed, the company’s food will undergo substantially less food testing than it was under Samadpour. As with Samadpour’s testing program, there are complicated pros and cons to Marsden’s system, but as one neutral food-safety observer says, “If you’re in a courtroom and you listen to both sides of the argument, it’s hard to say that anyone is 100% correct. It’s all wrapped up in a lot of academic infighting and politics.”

This infighting is not purely academic. According to four sources familiar with the situation, Heidi Wederquist, Chipotle’s director of QA and food safety, disagreed with the direction of the company’s program. She has since departed Chipotle to join Samadpour’s IEH Laboratories. Her second in command, Chipotle’s former QA manager, followed her to IEH as well. (Arnold says he cannot comment on the reason for Wederquist’s departure. Wederquist did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this matter.)

Following the outbreaks, Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder and co-CEO, indicated to the public that the company would soon be 10 to 15 years ahead of the restaurant industry in terms of food safety.

More unsubstantiated bragging.

The program Marsden developed, centered on interventions, is a strong system, industry experts say, but it’s not exactly revolutionary. Kill steps are common in the restaurant industry, as is the type of testing Marsden adopted. If anything, this new food-safety system has raised questions about how fresh Chipotle’s food remains today.

The efficacy of Chipotle’s food-safety system is still left, to an extent, up to its crew workers, who are expected to properly wash items such as its lettuce; properly blanch much of its produce; properly handle and cook raw chicken; and properly follow in-restaurant hygiene protocols, such as hand washing, temperature logs, and other food audits. These 60,000 crew workers make an average of $10 an hour and the average Chipotle restaurant sees its headcount turn over at least once a year.

‘It depends and it’s complicated’ Schaffner on the 5-second rule

Friend of the shares his thoughts about the five-second rule, peer-reviewed research, and media attention. Thanks for doing this, Don.


In March 2014 I got angry. I saw an article in the popular press indicating that researchers from Aston University in the United Kingdom had “proved the five second rule was real”  It was not the finding that made me angry as much as the science behind it. Or more properly the lack of science behind it.

don-schaffner-214x300We’ve been studying microbial cross-contamination in my lab for more than 15 years, and I have considered myself a quantitative food microbiologist for my entire career. Given those two observations, it’s only natural that I be interested in an article like this. But when I reached out to the University for more information I learned the research had not been peer-reviewed, and the best that they could offer was a PowerPoint presentation. A PowerPoint presentation is not science. Science proceeds through peer review. Like democracy it’s a terrible system, just the best one we have found so far.

After I got angry, I got busy.  And like any good professor by “got busy”, I mean that a graduate student got busy doing the actual  work of science.  I had a brand-new MS student starting in my lab, and she had funding from another source, but needed a research project. We worked together to design an appropriate series of studies that would advance our understanding of microbial cross-contamination while at the same time could generate a press release that might get a little bit of attention. Like any good scientists we built on the work of others. We acknowledged non-peer-reviewed work from other institutions that paved the way like high school student Jillian Clarke in Hans Blaschek’s lab at the University of Illinois. We also acknowledged the first peer-reviewed research from Paul Dawson’s lab at Clemson University.

Flash forward a couple of years, we submitted our article to one of the best journals out there that publishes food microbiology research, Applied and Environmental Microbiology and after peer review and appropriate revisions our article was accepted for publication.  I reached out to a colleague in the media relations department at Rutgers University, and we worked together to write a press release.

As you may have noticed, we have garnered extensive media attention with thousands of articles published around the world. The New York Times did a particularly nice piece interviewing me as well as my colleague Bill Hallman, and barfblog’s Doug Powell.  It has been a fun ride, but I’m looking forward to getting back to other things.  Just keeping up with the requests for interviews has been almost a full-time job, I have generally resisted the temptation to respond to commenters on the Internet, who complain about everything from the waste of grant funds (not the case, we used discretionary funds I raised myself), to suggestions that I studied the wrong thing.

But before we close the books on this one, I do want to respond to Aaron Carroll, a medical doctor who became interested in the topic when he co-authored a book on medical myths. Carroll insists that it’s not any of the factors we studied that are important, but rather how dirty the surface might be.  He is certainly correct in that the level of contamination, as well as the type of contamination are important (pro tip: coliforms don’t make us sick), but the degree to which those microbes transfer is also essential in determining risk. As I’ve said in many interviews, if there are no pathogens present on the surface, the risk is zero. The immune state of the person doing the eating also makes a difference. The risk for someone who is immunocompromised is higher than the risk someone who has a healthy immune system.

schaffner-facebook-apr_-14So as any listener to our food safety podcast will know, it turns out “it depends” and “it’s complicated.” The level of contamination, the type of contamination, the nature of the surface, the nature of the food, as well as the immune state of the person all matter in determining risk of eating food off the floor.

Longer contact times increase cross-contamination of Enterobacter aerogenes from surfaces to food

Applied and Environmental Microbiology; Appl. Environ. Microbiol. November 2016 vol. 82 no. 21 6490-6496

Robyn C. Miranda and Donald W. Schaffner


Bacterial cross-contamination from surfaces to food can contribute to foodborne disease. The cross-contamination rate of Enterobacter aerogenes on household surfaces was evaluated by using scenarios that differed by surface type, food type, contact time (<1, 5, 30, and 300 s), and inoculum matrix (tryptic soy broth or peptone buffer). The surfaces used were stainless steel, tile, wood, and carpet. The food types were watermelon, bread, bread with butter, and gummy candy. Surfaces (25 cm2) were spot inoculated with 1 ml of inoculum and allowed to dry for 5 h, yielding an approximate concentration of 107 CFU/surface. Foods (with a 16-cm2contact area) were dropped onto the surfaces from a height of 12.5 cm and left to rest as appropriate. Posttransfer, surfaces and foods were placed in sterile filter bags and homogenized or massaged, diluted, and plated on tryptic soy agar. The transfer rate was quantified as the log percent transfer from the surface to the food. Contact time, food, and surface type all had highly significant effects (P < 0.000001) on the log percent transfer of bacteria. The inoculum matrix (tryptic soy broth or peptone buffer) also had a significant effect on transfer (P = 0.013), and most interaction terms were significant. More bacteria transferred to watermelon (∼0.2 to 97%) than to any other food, while the least bacteria transferred to gummy candy (∼0.1 to 62%). Transfer of bacteria to bread (∼0.02 to 94%) was similar to transfer of bacteria to bread with butter (∼0.02 to 82%), and these transfer rates under a given set of conditions were more variable than with watermelon and gummy candy.

IMPORTANCE The popular notion of the “five-second rule” is that food dropped on the floor and left there for <5 s is “safe” because bacteria need time to transfer. The rule has been explored by a single study in the published literature and on at least two television shows. Results from two academic laboratories have been shared through press releases but remain unpublished. We explored this topic by using four different surfaces (stainless steel, ceramic tile, wood, and carpet), four different foods (watermelon, bread, bread with butter, and gummy candy), four different contact times (<1, 5, 30, and 300 s), and two bacterial preparation methods. Although we found that longer contact times result in more transfer, we also found that other factors, including the nature of the food and the surface, are of equal or greater importance. Some transfer takes place “instantaneously,” at times of <1 s, disproving the five-second rule.

Tell me what I already know: Social media and organic food risks

With the increased popularity of organic food production, new information about the risks attached to food products has become available. Consumers need to make sense of this information, interpret the information in terms of risks and benefits, and consequently choose whether to buy these products or not.

social-media-willyIn this study, we examined how social media mediated interaction with another person impacts risk perception and sense-making regarding eating organic food. Specifically, we investigated how risk perception and sense-making are influenced by the specific message frame, the identity of the conversation partner, the perceived similarity and expertise of this partner, and the initial attitude of individuals.

An online interaction experiment, including a simulated chat in which we manipulated the message frame (gains vs losses vs uncertainty) and the conversation partner (expert vs peer vs anonymous) was conducted using a representative sample of Dutch internet users (n=310). Results showed that chatting with partners who were perceived to be expert was associated with lower levels of risk perception, while chatting with partners who were perceived to be similar was associated with higher levels of information need, intention to take notice, and search for and share information. Results also showed that initial attitude had a strong effect.

The more positive consumers were about eating organic food, the lower their risk perception and the higher their need for information, intention to take notice of, search for and share information following the chat. Implications for authorities communicating on food (risks) are discussed.

Social media mediated interaction with peers, experts, and anonymous authors: Conservation partner and message framing effects on risk perception and sense-making of organic food

Food Quality and Preference, DOI:

F Hilvera, M Kuttschreuter, E Giebels

23 years late, Chipotle gets food safety religion (or so they lecture)

I just registered for an Ice Hockey Australia Level 2 coaching course.

The course is rarely offered, and there’s only a couple of level 2 coaches in Queensland. It will take 25 hours of training to complete.

dp-sorenne-becThat’s on top of the 16 hours I put in for Coach 1 in Australia, and recertification every two years.

It’s similar to the Intermediate Level Coach status I had in Canada back in 2001, which was required to coach a rep or travel team.

It’s a lot of time, sitting in a classroom, and on the ice.

I view it as my church, my community service.

So when Chipotle makes a big deal saying all of its managers will be trained in food safety the ServSafe way, I shrug, and ask, why weren’t they before?

How far was Chipotle’s head up its own moralistic ass that it paid more attention to food porn – like hormones and GE foods – than to food safety, the things that make people barf?

Great, you’re going to require training. Anyone ask if the training is any good? Third-party audits? Nice soundbite but they’re just a paycheck. Handwashing every thirty minutes? McDonald’s have been doing that for decades (you’d think Chipotle would have picked that up when they were partnered with McDonald’s, but no, there was food porn to peddle).

The Chipotle announcement reads like a moralistic lecture, and that no one had discovered food safety before.

A year after the outbreaks, Chipotle is now getting into standard PR – which it should have done months ago (Chipotle, your communication advisors absolutely suck). The full page ad, the video, the push for food safety.

Guacamole, for instance, now takes advantages of the cleansing properties of the lemon and lime juices in the recipe. Before getting mixed, the chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapeños are laid on top of avocados and drizzled with citrus juices in one last effort to ensure food safety.

Some scientists may question such tactics, saying they have been supplanted by newer methods. But Dr. James Marsden, Chipotle’s new executive director of food safety, who had recently retired from teaching at Kansas State University (and the father of the actor James Marsden, best known as Cyclops in the “X Men” film series) said he was confident in them.

“We’re doing research and are going to publish papers on what we’re doing, so people can see for themselves that it works,” he said.

That’s all good, but they’re still moralistic assholes who expect people to pay a premium for their food sermons (journos, contact me for Marsden stories).

Chipotle founder and Co-CEO stepped in front of a camera in a bid to win over weary diners that still aren’t hankering for the chain’s once-popular tacos and burritos.

In a video that the Mexican burrito chain unveiled on Wednesday, a contrite Ells admits that last year, the fast-casual restaurant chain “failed to live up to our own food safety standards, and in so doing, we let our customers down. At that time, I made a promise to all of our customers that we would elevate our food safety program.”

chipotleadContrite is not the word I would use.

Looking to revalue Chipotle’s share price is more accurate.

Chipotle initially blamed the Centers for Disease Control and Australian beef for its woes. Today, it blamed social media.

“No one has ever had this kind of a food safety crisis in the era of social media,” Mr. Ells said.

I could list hundreds, beginning with E. coli O157 in spinach in 2006, you arrogant poser.

“Jack In The Box,” — a burger chain where more than 700 people got sick in 1993 after eating E. coli contaminated meat — “never had to deal with Facebook and Twitter,” he said.

When I coach, I’m always telling kids, and adults, stop blaming the refs, go score a goal, stop whinging.

What is fresh? Australian beef in the U.S.?

Is this guy stealing from Trump’s playbook?

It’s slogans and hucksterism.

Which Americans seem to go for.

And Mr. Ells, since you seem content on lecturing Americans about food safety, while blaming others, here’s a history lesson.

In the Fall of 1994, Intel computer chips became scrutinized by the computer geeks, and then the public.

Intel had delayed responding to allegations, and Wall Street analysts at the time said it was the result of a corporate culture accustomed to handling technical issues rather than addressing customers’ hopes and fears.

On Monday, Nov. 12, 1994, the International Business Machines Corp. abruptly announced that its own researchers had determined that the Pentium flaw would lead to division errors much more frequently than Intel said. IBM said it was suspending shipments of personal computers containing the Pentium chip

Mr. Grove was stunned. The head of IBM’s PC division, Richard Thoman, had given no advance warning. A fax from Thoman arrived at Intel’s HQ on Monday morning after the IBM announcement, saying he had been unable to find Grove’s number during the weekend. Mr. Grove, whose number is listed, called directory assistance twice to ask for his own number to ensure he was listed.

After the IBM announcement, the number of calls to Santa Clara overwhelmed the capacity of AT&T’s West Coast long-distance telephone switching centres, blocking calls. Intel stock fell 6.5 per cent

Only then, Mr. Grove said, did he begin to realize that an engineer’s approach was inappropriate for a consumer problem.

Intel took out full-page ads, apologized, and did better.

That was in months, not a year.

Mr. Ells, you can claim you’re in uncharted territory, that no one has experienced the woes like you have, that fresh is a meaningful term.

But it’s just a repeat.

Customers may expect you to have the humility to admit such failings when driven by the hubris of your own beliefs.

But hey, anyone who can get Americans to believe that 1,000 calorie burritos are healthy can do anything you damn well please.

And customers will bow down.

Investors. I wouldn’t touch it. But I said that in 2007.


Follow my lead: Food service needs safety champions

This paper addresses the challenge of reducing food safety errors in the foodservice industry.

dragnetResults of a survey of 255 full-time food service professionals supported our proposed causal chain of impact that runs from “leader behavioral integrity for food safety” (the extent to which leaders/supervisors consistently enact and enforce food safety rules) through the proportion of food safety errors reported, through “error management” (an integrated set of practices involving error detection, correction, analysis, prevention and learning), finally to reduced food safety violations.

Specifically, this study found the mediating effect of error reporting between leader behavioral integrity for food safety and error management; and the mediating effect of error management between error reporting and food safety violations.

Results suggest that ongoing support and incentivizing of supervisors’ behavior may be a critical supplement to skill-based training of employees in reducing food safety errors and thus violations. The study found that high leader behavioral integrity for food safety can improve error reporting and error management leading to a reduction in the risk of foodborne illness, which is the ultimate goal of a food safety training program.

It is recommended that managers serve as role models by following proper food safety practices and reporting errors themselves. A manager who consistently enacts food safety priorities and protocols conveys more clear information about positive organizational priorities for safety, provides clearer incentives for safety behaviors, models desired attitudes, and enhances employee trust and thus willingness to learn; which is critical for the success of food safety programs.

Reducing food safety errors in the United States: Leader behavioral integrity for food safety, error reporting, and error management

International Journal of Hospitality Management

Volume 59, October 2016

Priyanko Guchait, Jack A. Neal, Tony Simons