Fake grill marks aside, you could throw these sausages on the summer barbecue

Fake grill marks have the tendency for people to undercook things, when the only way to know is a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

sausage.dec.14Barbecue season is here and therefore sausages are on the menu. Sausages like these are popular at most barbecues, according to my daughter, and they are easy to grab and run. But they do come with some added extras such as preservatives, colors and fillers.

Outbreaks associated with cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew in the United States, 1973–2011

Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.

melon.berriesMelons have been associated with enteric infections. We reviewed outbreaks reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System during 1973–2011 in which the implicated food was a single melon type. We also reviewed published literature and records obtained from investigating agencies.

During 1973–2011, 34 outbreaks caused by a single melon type were reported, resulting in 3602 illnesses, 322 hospitalizations, 46 deaths, and 3 fetal losses. Cantaloupes accounted for 19 outbreaks (56%), followed by watermelons (13, 38%) and honeydew (2, 6%). Melon-associated outbreaks increased from 0.5 outbreaks per year during 1973–1991 to 1.3 during 1992–2011. Salmonella was the most common etiology reported (19, 56%), followed by norovirus (5, 15%). Among 13 outbreaks with information available, melons imported from Mexico and Central America were implicated in 9 outbreaks (69%) and domestically grown melons were implicated in 4 outbreaks (31%).

The point of contamination was known for 20 outbreaks; contamination occurred most commonly during growth, harvesting, processing, or packaging (13, 65%). Preventive measures focused on reducing bacterial contamination of melons both domestically and internationally could decrease the number and severity of melon-associated outbreaks.

Food safety remains priority in age of organic food

Even in an age when the consumption of organic food is booming, strict global food safety standards are needed to protect the consumers, a leading expert at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

organic-manure1Mary Kenny, officer of FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview that the safety of all foodstuffs, including organic food, remains a global priority.

“It means that food should be safe and free from chemical and microbiological contaminants. And the nature of food supplies these days means that it’s an international issue,” she said.



With this in mind, major food producers and exporters, including China, are constantly raising food safety standards, Kenny said, adding that, however, it is unclear to what extent the emergence of organic food is impacting food safety in China or elsewhere.

According to Kenny, even organic food may present certain safety risks. Therefore, it is vital to make sure that the right systems are in place and that food production and distribution is as risk-free as possible.

She noted for example that although organically sourced fruit and vegetables might have a lower risk of chemical contamination, the correct procedures to prevent microbiological contamination still have to be followed. As for meat and dairy products produced from organically-fed animals, they still carry the inherent risk of bacteria or parasites, which occur naturally in livestock.

“So we need to adopt the same food safety perspective to organic food that we adopt to other foods,” she said.

The conventional wisdom is that organic food is healthier and more eco-friendly than other food. However, Kenny said this does not mean that conventional foods should automatically be dismissed as having a higher risk.

“Conventional food production certainly uses more chemicals, such as pesticides,” she said. “But there are very strong and robust national and international systems to ensure the safe use of these chemicals and these are followed around the world.”

Maggots top NZ food complaints

Gingerbread wriggling with maggots, a sausage roll growing fuzz on it, a salmonella outbreak and the sale of four-year-old frozen oysters were among bought food complaints the Ministry of Primary Industries dealt with from Whangarei in the past three years.

sausage rollOf a dozen complaints in that period, there were four last year and only one this year.

One 2013 incident involved 11 food poisoning cases traced to contaminated butter, rather than an on-site food handling breach, at an undisclosed Whangarei outlet.

But with the season now here for sharing meals, cooking outdoors and carrying food over distances, authorities are warning people to maintain safe handling practices.

Most food poisoning cases stem from food prepared at home, not in the commercial sector, Whangarei District Council regulatory services manager Grant Couchman said.


C.J. Jacob and D.A. Powell. 2009. Where does foodborne illness happen—in the home, at foodservice, or elsewhere—and does it matter? Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. November 2009, 6(9): 1121-1123

Foodservice professionals, politicians, and the media are often cited making claims as to which locations most often expose consumers to foodborne pathogens. Many times, it is implied that most foodborne illnesses originate from food consumed where dishes are prepared to order, such as restaurants or in private homes. The manner in which the question is posed and answered frequently reveals a speculative bias that either favors homemade or foodservice meals as the most common source of foodborne pathogens. Many answers have little or no scientific grounding, while others use data compiled by passive surveillance systems. Current surveillance systems focus on the place where food is consumed rather than the point where food is contaminated. Rather than focusing on the location of consumption—and blaming consumers and others—analysis of the steps leading to foodborne illness should center on the causes of contamination in a complex farm-to-fork food safety system.

Food poisoning in Australia – the unwanted gift that keeps on giving

We’ll probably do the feast of the seven fishes again this year on Xmas Eve (it’s summer and it’s hot and the seafood is fabulous).

seven.fish.bbq.dec.11New South Wales Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, said the extra supplies of food typical of Christmas celebrations and the warmer temperatures of summer can be a recipe for disaster.

“The most common bacteria associated with food poisoning is salmonella and statistically salmonellosis notifications follow a seasonal pattern and increase in warmer months,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“The warm temperatures combined with the excess food over the festive period sitting on the table over long lunches that can be the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

“Added to that is that great Australian tradition of the Boxing Day leftovers, which can also present an increased food poisoning risk if not prepared and stored correctly.”

Ms Hodgkinson said fortunately, reducing those risks can be fairly simple.

“The NSW Food Authority recommends you follow a few common sense food safety rules – always observe good hygiene and remember to keep it cold, keep it clean, keep it hot and check the labels,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

The key to food safety over the hot Christmas period is temperature control, some handy hints are to:

  • Keep your fridge at or below 5°C, use a fridge thermometer to check that the temperature stays around 4 to 5°C
  • Make sure you have enough fridge space as fridges won’t work properly when they are overloaded or when food is packed tightly because the cold air cannot circulate
  • Freshly cooked food, not for immediate consumption, should have the temperature reduced as quickly as possible, keep food cool in the fridge or an esky
  • Hot food needs to be kept and served at 60°C or hotter, if you are reheating left overs ensure they are piping hot.
  • Throw out leftovers that have been sitting on the table for more than 2 hours

The Aussies are promoting thermometers; now if only the Brits would.



Idiocracy: The rise of the Food Babe

Idiocracy is a special kind of 2006 movie, vastly underrated but all too prescient.

Vani_Hari_from_Charlotte_Video_ProjectReal Clear Science writes that it takes a special sort of nonsense to land the top spot on our annual list of junk science. Last year, the honor went to the grossly misleading nature “documentaries” on Discovery and Animal Planet. This year, it goes to Vani Hari, better known as “The Food Babe.” And wow did she earn it.

Hari catapulted into the public spotlight this year by accusing Subway of using a “harmful” chemical found in yoga mats to make its bread fluffy. It’s true, the chemical in question, azodicarbonamide, is found in both yoga mats and bread, but as a food additive, it’s not dangerous in the slightest. Azodicarbonamide is merely guilty of having a hard-to-pronounce, foreign-sounding name. Nevertheless, Subway caved to her request.

“This is the worst example of pseudoscientific fearmongering I have seen in a while, and that’s saying something.” Yale neurologist and President of the New England Skeptical Society Steven Novella said.

Hari followed up her Subway victory by convincing the world’s largest brewers to disclose all of their “shocking” ingredients, including dried fish bladder. Never mind that dried fish bladder, also known as isinglass, has been used in beer for centuries with no ill effects.

Hari’s most recent fallacious foray was a misleading, viral image claiming that Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latté is full of dangerous, carcinogenic chemicals. It is not.

Transparency in the food industry is not a bad thing, but Hari’s resonant fearmongering, coupled with the way she massacres science, debases everybody’s intelligence. She preys on our most flighty, fearful, and irrational instincts. The public deserves better.

Food porn trumps food science, again: Carl’s Jr. to sell grass-fed burgers

For years, Carl’s Jr. has stuck to a tried-and-tested method to market its hamburgers: Enlist blond women (in one case, for equality, a brown-haired male) to peddle them—in slow motion—on TV. But it seems that sex is no longer enough to sell the American fast-food staple.

carls-jrOn Dec. 17, the California-based chain will roll out the All-Natural Burger at all of its 1,150 stores, most of them on the West Coast. It contains no hormones, no antibiotics, no steroids—and it’s sourced from free-range, grass-fed cows for the affordable price of $4.69 for a single patty and $6.99 for a double. Carl’s Jr. will be the first major fast-food chain to feature a “natural” burger on its menu, according to USA Today.

CKE Restaurants, the chain’s parent company, made the decision after the burgers proved popular at a trial run in Los Angeles last summer. Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr.’s sister brand, plans to test the menu item in the Midwest market soon.

As much as foodies or animal rights advocates might like to take credit, the company says the move wasn’t at all political.

“Our objective has never been to tell people what to eat, but to serve them what they want to eat,” CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder told USA Today.

Do you really want that holiday potluck?

I’ve got a new gig.

powell.food.safety.dec.15I’m the head of food safety for the school tuck shop that is run by volunteers at daughter Sorenne’s school.

The pay is lousy (non-existent) but the discussions are gold, and gets me back into what my friend Tanya deemed reality research – and that’s what my group has always been good at, going out and talking with people.

More practice than preaching.

The tuck shop serves meals for about 200 students, one day a week. It’s run by volunteers, and all profits go to the school.

It used to be run by a school employee, and the meals were purchased and then resold, at a loss. When that person moved on, some parents decided, we can do better that that.

Sorenne said she wanted relief from the drudgery of everyday school lunches, and I said, not until I check it out.

I put my hand up, and now am in charge of food safety.

Things happen that way.

But there were no state resources for volunteers running a tuck shop.

We’ve been making it up as we go.

The questions at my kid’s school can be expanded to the larger community, especially with holiday potlucks.

sorenne.hockey.dec.14I avoid the food at potlucks, church dinners and other community meals. I relish the social interaction, but I have no idea of the hand sanitation, the cooking methods, and other food safety factors that can make people barf and sometimes kill them.

Typically, health types will insist on some level of competency for people providing food, and they will get overruled by politicians who say things like, it’s common sense, and, we’ve always done things this way and never made anyone sick.

No one inspects the tuck shop I volunteer at.

But volunteers aren’t magically immune from making people sick.

The outbreaks are happening weekly at this point, tragically resulting in the death of an elderly woman in New Brunswick, Canada.

Over 15 years ago Rob Tauxe described the traditional foodborne illness outbreak as a scenario that ‘often follows a church supper, family picnic, wedding reception, or other social event.’

This scenario involves an acute and highly local outbreak, with a high inoculum dose and a high attack rate. The outbreak is typically immediately apparent to those in the local group, who promptly involve medical and public health authorities. The investigation identifies a food-handling error in a small kitchen that occurs shortly before consumption. The solution is also local.

Community gatherings around food awaken nostalgic feelings of the rural past — times when an entire town would get together on a regular basis, eat, enjoy company, and work together.

Public health regulations for community-based meals are inconsistent at best, and these events may or may not fall under inspection regulations. Additionally, in areas where community-based meals are inspected by public health there is pressure from the community to deregulate these events due to their volunteer nature.

Food handlers at CMEs are usually volunteers preparing food outside of their own home, often in a communal kitchen. They may not be accustomed to preparing food for a large group, the time constraints associated with food service, or even the tools, foods and processes used for the meal. These informal event infrastructures, as well as volunteer food handlers with no formal food safety training and a lack of commercial food preparation skills, provide a climate for potential food safety problems.

Foods prepared at home and then brought to CMEs also pose a hazard, as research has shown that poor food handling practices in the home often contribute to foodborne illness.

The tuck shop at Sorenne’s school has been running for six months, and we’re now on summer break, did a deep clean, and planning how best to go forward, in a way we can recruit future volunteers.

We also just ended the (ice) hockey season this past weekend and Sorenne told her teacher she wants to be a professional hockey player when she gets older.

There’s no money in that, or food safety, but it’s great to be part of a community.

I needed 40 hours of training to coach a rep girls hockey team in Canada, and 16 hours to coach in Australia.

I don’t need nothing to make people sick.

 Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University.

New chief executive for Food Safety Authority of Ireland

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today announced that Dr Pamela Byrne has been appointed Chief Executive and will take up office in March 2015, following the retirement of Prof. Alan Reilly. 

pamela.byrne.fsaiDr Byrne is currently Director of Regulatory Policy and Intelligence with Abbott Nutrition. Having previously held senior positions in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, she has extensive experience of the food regulatory environment, as well as expertise in risk assessment and food safety management at both national and international levels.

A native of Cork, Dr Byrne holds a PhD in Environmental Toxicology from University College, Cork (UCC); an MSc in Aquatic Resource Management from Kings College, University of London; a BSc in Zoology from UCC and a Higher Diploma in Environmental Law from the University of Aberystwyth in Wales.

During her time at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Dr Byrne gained a deep knowledge of the food sector as an environmental toxicologist and risk assessor, and was instrumental in developing Ireland’s research and innovation policy programmes in relation to food and the bio-economy. Dr Byrne also worked in the Cabinet of the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation – Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn.

Commenting on the announcement, Prof Michael Gibney, Chairman, FSAI stated that Dr Byrne brings an enormous breath of knowledge and expertise to the role of Chief Executive that will be invaluable in steering the FSAI to maintain its world class status, dedicated to protecting consumers’ health and interests in relation to Irish food.  

Do pop-up thermometers work? I don’t trust them

The Brits, known for there aversion of food thermometers – make mine steaming hot – have decide to promote a new Pop Up® disposable cooking thermometer timer device for use with all the turkeys being sold over the counter this year.

chicken.cook.thermometerThe timers are designed  to release a red button exactly when the bird has reached its optimum level of doneness at the thickest part of the meat, thus eliminating the annual ‘turkey guesswork’ and assuring a perfectly cooked and safe product.

I use a tip—sensitive digital thermometer because nothing can be more idiot-proof.

There was some group in Guelph (that’s in Ontario, Canada) that provided such advice 11 years ago,

But university beurotypes are forced to go after the easy dollar and cleaned me out for about $750K.

Whatever, I got to meet and marry Amy.

And then Kansas State University cleaned me out for $200K because, as a full professor, I got fired for bad attendance.

But back to the basics: do pop-up thermometers work?

Friend of the barfblog.com, Don Schaffner, provided a relevant reference:

Temperature histories at critical points and recommended cooking time for whole turkeys baked in a conventional oven

H.C. Chang, J.A. Carpenter, and R.T. Toledo

Time-temperature histories and cooking times were determined for turkeys bake at162.8°Cf rom4.44°Ct to an endpoint of82.2°C in the thigh joint or breast.Tur- keys(128)  infiveweightclassesfrom5.9to10.8kg(0.9kgincrements)were equallydividedintofresh,frozen,stuffed,unstuffed,and cooked shielded orunsheilded groups. The slowest heating point was either the wing joint or stuff- inggeometriccenter.Cooking time for unsheilded turkeys was 155min plus11 min/kg,unstuffed,and200minplus8.8min/kg,stuffed.

amy.thermometerMedian cooking loss was 23%.Shielding of breasts prolonged cooking time.The cooking end point of f82.2°C in the thigh joint provided adequate lethality against Salmonella in the slowest heating points of both stuffed and unstuffedbirds.


JOURNAL OF FOOD SCIENCE—Volume 63, No. 2, 1998