Get stuffed?

I wrote the below for NC State News.

As a Canadian in the U.S. I’ve fully embraced the holiday season that runs from Thanksgiving through December. I enjoy spending a day planning and shopping for an event-style meal, and then another day actually preparing and cooking it. I throw on some tunes (this year it will probably be Drake, for my Canadian roots, and the Avett Brothers as a nod to North Carolina) and with the help of the rest of the family I’ll roast a turkey, make mashed potatoes, green beans, squash, beets and a couple of other harvest vegetables.

And we’ll make a lot of stuffing.stuffing-header-825x464

Depending on your preference and food persuasion there are lots of different stuffing or dressing options.

A common question that pops up is whether it’s better to cook stuffing it in the bird to preserve moisture (and get flavored by the turkey juices) or prepare it as a separate dish. The concern is that if someone puts the stuffing in the turkey cavity it may become contaminated by the turkey juices and Salmonella and Campylobacter will migrate through the stuffing. Easier to recommend not messing with the cross-contamination instead of managing the risk. But what does the science say?

I’m a food safety nerd and take a science-based approached to my meals. Armed with a digital, tip-sensitive thermometer I’m happy to jam stuffing up inside of my poultry and use the probe to check the temperature. And I use 165 degrees Fahrenheit as a target for my bread-based stuffing.

There’s some history to that number; in 1958 Raymond Rogers and Millard Gunderson of the Campbell Soup Company published some work evaluating the safety of roasting frozen stuffed turkeys (a new product at the time). Using a known amount of Salmonella pullorum, nine turkeys and some then-fancy ceramic thermocouples, they found that they could get an 8-log (or 99.999999%) reduction when the deepest part of the stuffing hit 160 degrees Fahrenheit. They recommended 165 degrees to be conservative (and because some thermometers aren’t always very accurate).

From the manuscript (comments that still apply today): “The initial temperature and the size of the turkey influence considerably the time required to reach a lethal temperature in the stuffing. The lower the initial temperature of the turkey, the longer the roasting period required. Present recommended roasting procedures designating hours cooking time or which stipulate a thigh or breast temperature to be attained alone does not appear to be adequate bacteriologically.”

Inside the bird, outside the bird; meat or no meat: Use a thermometer.

For your holiday viewing, here’s a video devoted to minimizing risk from foodborne illness when cooking turkey. More food safety tips are available here.

Take a dump on Trump: Poo Haiku for World Toilet Day

 

 

Take a dump on Trump

I won’t change my toilet’s name

Your poo orange too.

trumptoiletSaturday is World Toilet Day, a serious effort by the United Nations focusing on the fact that one-third of the world’s population — or 2.4 billion people —  have no toilet at home. A third of those people are children. They are vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and other major problems because there is no clean way of going to the bathroom where they live.

Marylou Tousignant of The Washington Post writes the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other organizations want everyone in the world to have proper toilets and safe drinking water by 2030.

People living in present-day Scotland and Pakistan built the first indoor toilets about 4,500 years ago. Pipes carried the waste outdoors. Knossos palace, built 3,700 years ago on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean, had some of the first flush toilets. They used rainwater and water from nearby springs. A wooden seat kept users dry.

Medieval castles had toilets built high on an outside wall. There was a stone seat at the top, and gravity took care of the rest. Often the waste dropped into the castle moat. People living in towns, meanwhile, collected their waste in what were called chamber pots, and they emptied them by heaving the contents out a window. Public lavatories, which were not common at the time, were often just several toilet holes in a row built over a river.

In 1596, England’s Sir John Harington designed a flush toilet with a handle and a raised water tank. He said using it would leave rooms smelling sweet. He gave one to his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I, who didn’t like it. Instead, she used a pot in a box covered in velvet and trimmed with lace. The idea of an indoor flush toilet didn’t catch on until 200 years later.

The word “toilet” comes from the French “toile,” meaning “cloth.” It referred to the covering on a lady’s dressing table and, over time, to the dressing room itself and the primping that went on there. (Wealthy people in the 17th and 18th centuries often had rooms at home just for getting dressed.) In the 19th century, “toilet” got its modern meanings: the place where bathing and other private acts occur and the bowl into which human waste is deposited.

Over time, chamber pots and toilet bowls got fancier and fancier. One such pot, sold during the American Revolution, had an image of Britain’s King George III at the bottom of the bowl.

Thomas Jefferson, who used flush toilets while he was the U.S. ambassador to France in the 1780s, had three small rooms for toilets built at Monticello, his home in Virginia. But there is no proof that they were true flush toilets. And because most American homes did not have running water until a century later, the widespread use of flush toilets came later as well.

Chinese businessman Zhong Jiye will not give up the brand name on his Trump Toilet products, NBC News reports.

“We registered our company in 2002 and obtained approval from the trademark office in Beijing,” said Zhong, referring to Shenzhen Trump Industrial Company Limited, which mostly manufactures high-tech toilet seats. 

hanksy-dumptrump“If (U.S. President-elect Donald) Trump thinks our trademark violates his rights and interests, he can use legal methods because our company observes China’s laws,” CEO Zhong told NBC News, adding that he is prepared to defend his company’s legal rights to the Trump brand name.

In Chinese, the company name means “innovate universally.” 

Vicky Hallett of NPR reports that poetry may be one way of getting people to discuss diarrhea.

That’s the idea behind Poo Haiku, a competition created by Defeat DD, a campaign dedicated to the eradication of diarrheal disease.

Although everybody’s had the runs, it’s not something most folks talk about, says Hope Randall, digital communications officer for PATH’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, which created DefeatDD to bring together resources on vaccines, nutrition, oral rehydration therapy, sanitation and more.

Kat Kelley of the Global Health Technologies Coalition, which references a recent study published in The Lancet:

Just six pathogens

But eighty percent of kids’

Diarrheal deaths.

Randall herself penned an entry:

A vicious cycle,

Gut damage, malnutrition

We can halt the churn.

And from Doug Powell:

Take a dump on Trump

I won’t change my toilet’s name

Is your poo orange too.

(Depends whether the word orange is one syllable or two.)

Food Safety Talk 112: Magical little poop nugget

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.1479398141136

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:

This birthday themed episode features wide-ranging topics, many based on listener feedback. We briefly touch on election results, and then move (almost) right into food safety. Thanks to everyone for listening and for your feedback.

Morimoto restaurant linked to Salmonella

My roommate Owen and I used to watch Iron Chef, the original dubbed version, while we ate late night Chinese food after going to the bar. I always liked the Morimoto the best. He was sort of the Bill Belichick of the show. He never smiled and always had his game face on. Serious about fancy food.

Fancy food ain’t safe food though; according to the Napa Valley Register Morimoto’s Napa joint has been linked to six cases of salmonellosis.

Several people reported getting sick with salmonella after eating at Morimoto Napa last month, according to Napa County Public Health.

There are at least six confirmed cases of salmonella-related food borne illnesses in customers who dined at the restaurant on Main Street between Oct. 10 and Oct. 12, said Dr. Karen Relucio, the county’s chief public health officer.

Relucio confirmed that the restaurant has been cooperative. During their investigation, she said, officials found that the restaurant was very clean and organized with strict operating procedures.

I ate at Morimoto’s Disney Springs restaurant earlier this year and there was a lot of sushi and sashimi on the menu. Maybe it’s the frozen kind.

Dubai addressing shawarma risks

I’m on my way back to the US after a few days in Dubai teaching hotel, restaurant and other food business folks about stuff like sous vide food safety and measuring production parameters to reduce risk.

Bobby Krishna (below, left, exactly as shown), always the gracious host, showed me some cool stuff that Dubai is planning on launching as they prepare to host Expo 2020. One of the challenges the Dubai Municipality has tackled over the past decade as they modernize and add resources to their food safety system is balancing the traditional food stall/small business with addressing risks.

According to Gulf News, after a phase-in period, Dubai officials are enforcing new rules to make shawarmas safe again including proper facilities, temperature control and equipment sanitation.cwjw3kxxgaqy-q3

Almost 45 per cent of shawarma stands in Dubai will be closed, with Dubai Municipality enforcing its new rules for the sale of the popular Arabic delicacy in the emirate from November 1.

The six-month deadline given to 572 small and medium food outlets selling shawarma across Dubai to implement the new rules related to space, equipment and storage requirements aimed at enhancing hygiene and safety of the product ended on October 31.

Of these, only 318 have either made or are in the process of making the changes to their existing conditions as per the new guidelines to ensure the health and safety of consumers, the civic body said on Monday.

Sultan Ali Al Taher, head of Food Inspection Section at the Food Safety Department, said 146 establishments (25.5 per cent) among the 572 have completed the implementation of the new requirements before the deadline, 172 establishments (30.07 per cent) have begun the amendments and are still in the process of completing these.

The primary change that consumers can see will be the end of shawarma stands operating in an open area of an outlet. It is mandatory to move the shawarma stands indoors and ensure that they are not exposed to dust, dirt or any other external sources of pollution.

The regulations also make it mandatory to ensure proper refrigeration of raw materials, enough space for the storage of shawarma-making tools, separate facilities for defrosting frozen meat, thorough cleansing of vegetables and proper ways of waste disposal.

About a decade ago shawarma-style foods were linked to three outbreaks of E.coli O157 in Alberta, and I stopped eating them. Outbreak investigators found that traditional cooking practices including a rotating a cone of meat next to a heat source, were problematic, especially when the meat was cooked from frozen. A national committee was created to look at donair risks associated and the group recommended grilling post cone cut-off to ensure pathogen-killing temps.

Chipotle top cheeses make a lot of dough

According to Motley Fool, top execs at Chipotle made more money than lots of other food CEOs.

Even after their compensations were cut in half last year, its co-CEOs Steve Ells and Monty Moran earned nearly $14 million each.

Ells’ and Moran’s compensation packages are particularly egregious in the wake of its food safety crisis, which began last year with an E. coli outbreak at a number of its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest.ells-moran

To a certain extent, it’s to be expected that a company like Chipotle would have something like this happen at some point in its corporate existence. After all, it’s happened at virtually every other major food company in the United States, be it fast food chains such as McDonalds, Taco Bell, or Jack in the Box or grocery stores such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, or Costco.

But what’s important to appreciate is that Chipotle left itself especially vulnerable to food borne illness outbreaks. As Austin Carr points out in an incredibly detailed review of Chiptole’s crisis for Fast Company magazine, while the chain served the equivalent of the population of Philadelphia on a daily basis prior to outbreaks, it had only four people assigned to its quality assurance team, tasked with tracking the quality of ingredients sourced from suppliers.

Online food delivery app to stop selling dog, cat and other meat because food safety

I’m a fan of apps and the Internet disrupting business models – like Uber and airbnb have – but when it comes to food I like to have folks playing by the same rules. Online food sales can be a bit dicey.

This article from gbtimes has it all: meat of unknown origin. Questionable slaughter practices. Online food sales. Dog meat, cat meat, shark fins and bear pile (something may be lost in translation or is it pie? I can’t find anything on what this is).b27f7898991adeab760adc7b1e47e3df

Chinese food delivery app Ele.me has decided to remove foods containing dog meat and shark fins from its menu options, saying that the move was based on food safety and animal protection considerations.

The Alibaba-backed startup announced on Wednesday that it has removed 294 merchants selling dog meat products and deleted 7,733 meals containing dog meat from its mobile app platform during the last three days.

Ele.me said in a statement published on its Weibo account that it was not taking sides in the debate over whether dog meat was morally acceptable but was concerned about the food safety issues it poses to consumers.

“There are currently no regulations concerning dog meat slaughter and quarantine system in China, so most of the dog meat in the market comes from unknown origins,” the Shanghai-based company said.

“In the absence of quarantine, dog meat can carry parasites, rabies, viruses and other deadly pests, so there is a large food safety risk. This prompted us to make the final decision.”

Ele.me added that following the same logic, the company plans to remove foods containing shark fins, bear paws, bear pile, cat meat, snake meat and other potentially unsafe foods from its platform too.

The public health cost of a hepatitis A outbreak: scallops edition

A recent twitter exchange about corporate food safety folks really becoming compliance teams highlights that all this food safety stuff is nestled somewhere in a web of risk, cost and benefit. Risk and benefit come down to public health and business risk metrics – which can be fraught with limitations and assumptions.screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-7-11-13-am

Risk-based decision making is the mantra in food safety. Picking out an intervention is a starts with a numbers game: calculating the likelihood of an action (like handwashing) and matching that with the prevalence of a pathogen in the system. This is the stuff that gets the math nerds like Schaffner excited (me too). Businesses are faced with risk, cost and benefit decisions daily.

Food safety teams that focus just on compliance are trusting that the compliance folks got the science and risk correct. Sometimes they do. But lawmaking is slow.

The cost part of the equation somewhat straight forward.

One cost that’s been debated in food service for over twenty years is whether or not employers or public health folks should require food handlers to be vaccinated for hepatitis A. Jacobs and colleagues arrived at the conclusion that the public health benefit of vaccinating for hep A doesn’t equal the costs – but doesn’t factor in all the bad publicity, hassle and incident management costs.

Or costs to the public health system. According to KHON2 300+ cases of hepatitis A is costing hundreds of thousands of public health dollars.

The Hawaii Department of Health says it’s spent approximately $336,100 to investigate and respond to the hepatitis A outbreak.

images-1Here’s how it breaks down: $304,600 were spent on normal staff work hours, and an estimated $19,750 went to pay for 300 hours of overtime work.

The rest went to pay for vaccines and lab specimen shipments to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the health department tells us that was covered by federal grant funds.

It took a lot of work for health officials just to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, including an online survey, numerous interviews with people, and visits to businesses.

Although officials identified the source — imported frozen scallops — they’re still not done with this outbreak. They’re now looking into a hepatitis-A-related death.

“The woman was in and out of the hospital really since she became ill in July, and so there were times where she needed a liver transplant,” said foodborne illness attorney Bill Marler. “She sort of seemed to rally. She got to go home for a little while, and then she was back in the hospital with complications.”

The real-life diseases that spread the vampire myth

Whenever I talk about Kansas, I think of a couple of times Amy and I went off the regular roads, and saw all kinds of pioneer homesteads, long abandoned but probably built about the 1820s.

finger-of-godGiven the weather of Kansas, I would speculate, it’s no wonder so many crazy religions came from this place, because the finger of god – tornadoes – would descend without warning, super heat, super cold, and it wasn’t like anyone could go to Wal-Mart and restock.

It was probably terrifying.

I also recall how an astounding professor who’s class I got to TA for a couple of years – genetics for arts students – would begin every semester by citing Christian scripture and then describe the genetic ailment (he also said the Christian bible was a fairytale, because a woman – XX – could only have a female offspring and still be a virgin).

Vampires are the same way.

Stephen Dowling of the BBC writes diseases were frightening things before the age of medical science. Plagues and epidemics could appear without warning and cause death and misery (I’m thinking Jesus time and Kansas, 1820).

It wasn’t just plagues. Other diseases – perhaps passed on by animals or from genes lying dormant in their own bodies – could cause ailments that defied explanation.

People turned instead to the supernatural. Some of these diseases helped spawn one of the most enduring and widespread monster myths in civilisation – the vampire.

The vampire – an undead figure who rises each night from his unquiet grave to feast on the blood of the living – has appeared since the time of the Ancient Greeks. While some of the sage old philosophers we still admire today might have lived into their 70s, life expectancy in Ancient Greece was thought to be around 28; centuries before sanitation, refrigeration and antibiotics, diseases were more prevalent and were far more likely to take people to an early grave.

But without a microscope to study these tiny assailants, communities in older times saw the hand of the supernatural in many diseases.

Author Roger Luckhurst, who edited Oxford World’s Classic’s reprint of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, has researched the conditions which spread the belief in vampires, showing that the myth began to gain popularity in the early 18th Century. “The first mention of the word vampire in the English language is in the 1730s, in newspapers which carry reports from the edge of Europe, of bodies being dug up and looking bloated, and having fresh blood around their mouths. They report that these stories have come from peasants, but they make them sound very plausible.”

When calamity struck these rural areas – plague, cattle dying – many would point the finger at an undead spirit preying on the living. Often the first act would be to dig up the last person who had died in the village. And that leads us to another problem – medical science was in such infancy, that even telling if a person had died wasn’t exactly foolproof. Diseases such as catalepsy, which put people into a catatonic state so deep that their pulse was hard to detect, meant some were buried alive. If they awoke, some were driven so mad with fear and hunger that they would bite themselves – an explanation, perhaps, for some of the corpses found with fresh blood.

Most people in these communities kept animals; the villages themselves were usually close to forests and woodlands home to many other animals. Before vaccination was discovered, rabies, now virtually unknown in the European wild, was common. Once symptoms – which include aversion to light and water, aggression, biting and delirium – developed, death was inevitable. There is no cure.

“Rabies is obviously where we get the link to the werewolf, too,” says Luckhurst. “People were turned feral by this contact with animals. There is a degree of folk wisdom in the werewolf myth, a warning for people not to connect yourself too much to the natural world. You had to remember your humanity.”

There are many cultures around the world – in different continents and at different times – that share the myth of the bloodsucking undead. There are manananggal in the Philippines, and the peuchen of Chile; the Baobhan Sith of Scotland and the Yara-ma-yha-who of indigenous Australian tribes.

Essentially, the vampire myth comes from more than just disease, says Luckhurst. The vampire always seems to come from somewhere outside of the comforts of our own homes – be that a rural Transylvanian cottage, an English stately home or Ancient Athens.

“It always comes from somewhere else; in Ancient Greece the barbarians from beyond the Greek world were cannibals and bloodsuckers, and able to do all sorts of black magic that they were weren’t. In other places, it was the pagan tribes.” Even in South America, he says, the vampiric creatures the Incas believed in were from the wilds beyond their cities.

The vampire seems to be a vehicle not just for the diseases that we were not able to comprehend, but for all those strange, unmapped places and the people that live in them too.

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: