Who doesn’t buy canned beets from a gas station?

It was somewhere around 2000 when Chapman accompanied me on a two-week whirlwind tour of Australia and New Zealand, speaking on a variety of topics, sampling kangaroo, and initially staying at a bed and breakfast in East Gippsland on a large winery that the owner, Owen, and his wife, moved to after the heart attack in the city.

beetroot.slices.recall.oct.14We thought Owen might have another at the dinner table.

I’d been invited by an ex-pat Canadian and had a chat with about 50 local farmers in the town pub.

But this is about beetroot.

There are some universal truths of travel, and one is that nothing beats an Egg McMuffin at 5 a.m. upon arrival in Melbourne after 30 hours on the move.

We probably had three each.

But I noticed the lunch menu and the inclusion of beetroot on the Big Macs.

What was a beetroot? The part of the beet that grows in the ground that North American’s call beets.

HJ Heinz Company Australia Limited has recalled Golden Circle Beetroot Slices from Coles, Woolworths, IGA, convenience stores and some petrol stations nationally due to the potential for microbial growth. Food products with microbial growth may cause illness if consumed. Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice. The product can be returned to the place of purchase for a full refund.

That’s the only info available, but I’ve wanted to write for so long about beetroot.

(This is satire) Senate Passes Bill Mandating Hand Washing

Our foray into sharing satire news has backfired a few times. There was this one story about hot oil being spilled in the kitchen during, some uh intimacy, that garnered a bit of backlash for not being food safety enough. 201410006fullOften we get a few emails saying that what was posted wasn’t real news. This one is satire from cap News, and we know it. The folks at cap News even picked the perfect picture (at right, exactly as shown).

A new bill introduced in the Senate that requires Americans to wash their hands after using the bathroom or touching any surface that may contain germs has passed by a 78 to 22 margin and now heads to the House of Representatives where little resistance is expected. President Obama is reportedly already waiting at his desk to sign the bill into law.

“Uhh, this legislation is our first step in the battle against an Ebola outbreak here in the United States,” said Obama. “Between that, hand sanitizer, and coughing into the crook of our arms, we should be in pretty good shape to take this disease head on.”

Democrats and Republicans alike have stepped up in support of the proposal, saying it is a much cheaper alternative than diverting military funds to try to find a cure. Proponents point out that the implementation timeframe is much quicker as well.

“All we need to do is slap up some signs in restrooms across America and we’re good to go,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “Even here in the rotunda, although we’ll probably have to post them every two feet to get the message across.

“Yes, Sen. Vitter, I’m looking at you,” he added. “Do they not make soap in Louisiana?”

Critics of the bill call it unenforceable, saying that similar measures were unsuccessful in stopping the spread of cooties throughout the Midwest earlier this year. The Coalition of Republicans Against the President is calling for tougher legislation, pointing out that dutiful Americans washing their hands won’t matter if current laws continue to allow unhygienic immigrants across the borders.

“For our money, step one is closing down every Walmart, Denny’s and Bowl-a-rama because that’s where the dirty masses congregate with their germs and whatnot,” said CRAP Chairman Fitz McManus. “Those places are just a hotbed of Ebola waiting to burst.”

While passage is expected in the other chamber of Congress, sources say House Republicans plan to tack on a rubber glove rider for the illiterate portion of the population. The additional provision calls for a pair of latex gloves to be supplied to every person for whom restroom signage remains a literary challenge.

“You can’t trust Americans to read and follow a sign any more than you can trust them to wear around a pair of gloves,” said Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA). “We’re all dead either way, but at least we can say we came up with a backup plan.”

The Centers for Disease Control has announced its support of the bill, saying they wish they had thought of it first because “it has Nobel peace prize written all over it.”

“If this works, then we can get back to focusing our efforts on the zombie apocalypse,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “I don’t think signs will work with them.” 

Stay at home, thoroughly clean: Pennyslvania hospital implements improvements after norovirus affects 19 staffers

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recently improved its virus-detection process after a state Health Department investigation revealed the room of a patient suffering from norovirus in April was inadequately cleaned amid an outbreak among nurses there.

vomit.toiletThe Health Department report was based on an investigation completed in May after 19 nursing staffers working in the same unit fell ill with norovirus – a highly contagious but generally nonlife-threatening gastrointestinal bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea.

The report found that the room of a patient suffering from the virus in the same unit on the weekend of April 5-6 had not been properly cleaned with bleach as required by the hospital’s infection-control policy. All but three of the affected staffers had developed symptoms between March 11 and March 23, before the inadequate cleaning, according to the report.

The report said hospital procedures also were not properly followed in early March when a patient’s mother displayed norovirus symptoms March 8 while visiting. “There was no documented evidence that [Infection Control] was notified of this incident,” the report said. Whether that patient room was adequately cleaned is unclear in the report.

The Health Department investigation also found that staffers who were out sick with norovirus were not instructed to follow hospital protocol of staying home until they were symptom-free for 48 hours until March 27 – after the majority of the affected staff already had been ill. Only three additional staffers fell ill after that date, the report said.

vomit.infosheet.oct.08

14K tests, 98.7% compliance: Canadian annual microbiology report 2011-12

The Government of Canada verifies that food produced and/or sold in Canada meets federal food safety standards to ensure Canadians have confidence in what they buy. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) monitors and regulates food products that are produced domestically and moved inter-provincially, or are imported.

professor.fink.Simpsons.jpgWithin Canada, all food products must comply with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, which set out criteria for safe food and clearly prescribe restrictions on the production, importation, sale, composition and content of food.

The National Microbiological Monitoring Program (NMMP) is one of many tools utilized by the CFIA to verify that domestically produced and imported products meet Canadian standards. It is designed to sample and test a broad range of imported and domestic commodities for multiple hazards, including microbial hazards and extraneous material. The testing carried out under the NMMP covers red meat and poultry products, shell eggs and egg products, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables and processed fruit and vegetable products.

As CFIA focuses its monitoring activities towards specific food-related hazards that may impair the health and safety of Canadians, it is important to note that most testing is in commodities that are not further processed by the consumer as well as in raw food, that if not properly cooked, can lead to illness. It is generally accepted that proper precautions taken in the home will destroy any bacteria that may be present.

During the 2011/12 fiscal year under the NMMP, 14307 tests were performed on 5234 domestic and imported products. Specifically, 9049 tests were performed on 3678 domestic products and 5258 tests were performed on 1556 imported products to verify they were compliant with Canadian standards. Results indicated that domestic products were 99.0% compliant and imported products were 98.0% compliant. Overall, a 98.7% compliance rate for combined domestic and imported products was observed.

In addition to testing food products, wash water samples and surface swabs taken within the food production environment are used to verify that food products are produced under sanitary conditions. This type of environmental sampling was performed in domestic establishments to verify the operator systems’ ability to control the presence of pathogens within the processing environment. During 2011/12, there were 2300 tests performed on 1878 environmental samples which were assessed as 97.5% compliant.

The results of the 2011/12 NMMP sampling activities demonstrate that the products available in the Canadian marketplace are for the majority compliant with national standards. 

One hundred years of food safety extension

Ellen Thomas, PhD candidate in the department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at NC State writes,

When I was growing up, I made occasional trips with my dad to the local extension office to drop off soil samples (we lived on a farm). Up until about 5 years ago, this was really my only experience with Cooperative Extension. It wasn’t until I began graduate school that I was introduced to the far-reaching world of extension. This year marks 100 years of Cooperative Extension in the United States.10447625_692765530308_9060931799503108221_n A United States Department of Agriculture’s extension webpage details the Congressional acts that initially created extension, as well as the primary goals of extension today. I also dug into numerous universities’ cooperative extension pages to learn more about how extension has evolved over the past century, and found numerous examples of agricultural courses offered to consumers, research conducted to improve food safety and communicate those steps to consumers, and technologies developed to vastly improve efficiency and opportunity for growers.

Ellen took the lead on an article for Food Safety Magazine on detailing some of the history of food safety as it relates to the food industry, reprinted below.

Land-grant universities in the United States were established with the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. Their mission was to educate the public on subjects of agriculture, home economics and other practical tasks in the home—to literally extend research and help families across the country. While food safety was not initially within the mission’s scope, food safety has a strong and intertwined history within land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension.

In 1890, Professor Stephen M. Babcock at the University of Wisconsin invented a device that tested the butterfat content of milk quickly and efficiently. He shared this technology with the university and dairy industry throughout the state, creating an open and engaging relationship between the university and the public that continues to this day.

In the early 1900s, advocates began to call for better-quality milk, as well as bringing milk sanitation laws and training inspectors to be consistent in how they enforced regulations. This led to creation of the International Association of Dairy and Milk Inspectors in 1912 (the precursor to the International Association of Food Protection). One of the nation’s greatest challenges was how to obtain the most technical, up-to-date information, and to effectively communicate it to dairy farmers.

In addition to teaching and research, land-grant universities have a long tradition of connecting academics and research to the masses, originally in largely rural areas through a delivery mechanism known as extension; 2014 marks 100 years of the Cooperative Extension system in the United States. The Smith-Lever Act in 1914 further solidified the role of extension in land-grant universities by creating a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in which USDA would provide funds to each state to carry out extension work.

In North Carolina, strong extension programs emerged from canning clubs and corn clubs. These organizations were effective in providing useful information for those interested in home preservation, increasing crop yields, volunteerism and community fellowship. The clubs later developed into 4-H. The structure and overall group principles of 4-H were defined in 1919 at a meeting in Kansas City. Today, 4-H reaches 7 million American children and includes groups in rural, urban and suburban communities in every state; youth are exposed to a wide variety of topics in agriculture and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

During World War I, extension helped increase crop yields and home preserving, as well as the organization of groups to fill gaps in the labor force. Extension helped create farming cooperatives and provided instruction on home practices to aid families during the Depression. During World War II, extension dramatically increased food production as part of the Victory Garden program.

In the 1960s, Rutgers University extension agricultural engineer William Roberts revolutionized greenhouse farming with the innovation of pumping air between plastic films. Approximately 65 percent of commercial greenhouses throughout the world use this technology today. Further similar greenhouse technology developments continued under Roberts in the years that followed.

In 1969, President Lyndon Johnson began the Expanded Food Nutrition Extension Program (EFNEP) as part of his War on Poverty. Program assistants were trained to teach nutrition and food safety, and to promote overall wellness. EFNEP now operates in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, Northern Marianas and Micronesia. There are both adult and youth programs with the goal of promoting high-quality diets among audiences with lower incomes and limited access to resources.

The Master Gardener program began at Washington State University in the 1970s with the idea to train volunteers in horticulture to educate the public to reach a larger audience. The curriculum included culturing plants, fruits and vegetables, and grasses; how to deal with pests, diseases and weeds; and how to safely administer pesticides. The curriculum was administered by state- and county-based faculty. Over time, the program has grown, gaining more recognition; it is now sponsored across the United States and Canada. The program structure has also been extended to other portions of extension, such as food preservation.

In 1988, listeriosis, a highly infectious and potentially serious illness caused by the bacterium Listeria, was linked to hot dogs and deli meats. The tragic outbreak included 108 cases, with 14 deaths and 4 miscarriages or stillbirths. Researchers at Colorado State University conducted extensive experiments to characterize Listeria and explore methods of mitigating its prevalence in foods. High-risk groups, particularly pregnant women, were the focus, and suggestions for reducing risk, such as heating deli meats before consumption, were distributed in extension fact sheets nationally.

Kansas State University enjoys a strong relationship with a variety of meat producers, which has been building over the past few decades. Meat science faculty engage in research related to meat quality, sensory evaluation, meat safety, color stability, packaging and numerous other factors related to meat from slaughter to handling at home. The department offers courses on campus and through distance learning, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points courses throughout the Midwest and value-added services for meat processors. The department has been releasing papers on optimal equipment for small producers, handling wild game and other technologies since the 1990s.

With the increase of foodborne illness associated with produce in the 1990s and 2000s, the University of California, Davis, established the Center for Produce Safety in 2007, which integrates industry, government and academic research with the ultimate goal of maximizing produce yields while maintaining the best quality and safety of product. The center provides short courses, workshops and certifications for produce growers, related to quality, postharvest technology and safety, and has funded numerous research projects.

Extension faces many challenges and opportunities as the system moves into its second century. While state and federal appropriations and other funding streams have decreased recently, agriculture has also changed—less than 2 percent of Americans are farmers today. The Food Safety Modernization Act, with the goal of making food safer, will provide many food businesses with new regulations to comply with. Cooperative Extension will continue to play an integral part in assisting businesses (especially the small and very small) to assess and manage food safety issues—and help consumers understand what goes into making food safe. Extension programs across the country have also increased their social media presence, continue to provide evidence-based recommendations and conduct applied research that affects food from farm to fork. Extension has adapted to numerous changes over the past century, taking the lead in bringing new food safety technologies to agriculture and food production worldwide.

Epidemiology, just trying to do this jigsaw puzzle: Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 associated with lettuce served at fast food chains in the Maritimes and Ontario, Canada, Dec 2012

Background: Identification and control of multi-jurisdictional foodborne illness outbreaks can be complex because of their multidisciplinary nature and the number of investigative partners involved.

spongebob.oil.colbert.may3.10Objective: To describe the multi-jurisdictional outbreak response to an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Canada that highlights the importance of early notification and collaboration and the value of centralized interviewing.

Methods: Investigators from local, provincial and federal jurisdictions, using a national outbreak response protocol to clarify roles and responsibilities and facilitate collaboration, conducted a rapid investigation that included centralized re-interview of cases, descriptive methods, binomial probability, and traceback findings to identify the source of the outbreak.

Results: There were 31 laboratory confirmed cases identified in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. Thirteen cases (42%) were hospitalized and one case (3%) developed hemolytic uremic syndrome; there were no deaths. Due to early notification a coordinated investigation was initiated before laboratory subtyping was available. Re-interview of cases identified 10 cases who had not initially reported exposure to the source of the outbreak. Less than one week after the Outbreak Investigation Coordinating Committee was formed, consumption of shredded lettuce from a fast food chain was identified as the likely source of the illnesses and the implicated importer/processor initiated a precautionary recall the same day.

Conclusion: This outbreak investigation highlights the importance of early notification, prompt re-interviewing and collaboration to rapidly identify the source of an outbreak.

Canada Communicable Disease Report CCDR

Tataryn J, Morton V, Cutler J, McDonald L, Whitfield Y, Billard B, Gad RR and Hexemer A

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/ccdr-rmtc/14vol40/dr-rm40s-1/dr-rm40s-1-ecoli-eng.php

Don’t you eat that yellow snow — or wild mushrooms

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is advising people not to eat mushrooms they find growing in the wild as the foraging season begins.

Dont-eat-yellow-snow4Last year, 19 cases of poisoning relating to wild mushrooms were notified to the National Poisons Information Centre. 18 have already been notified this year, involving seven adults and 11 children.

Mushroom foraging can be done safely, but requires expertise in distinguishing poisonous varieties from edible ones.

Cooking poisonous mushrooms does not kill off toxic chemicals contained in the fungus itself, and the results can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and even liver failure.

“The high number of cases involving children in particular points to the need for parents and guardians to be vigilant and to teach children not to eat wild mushrooms,” said Ray Ellard of the FSAI.

“In our opinion, websites and books showing visuals of mushrooms are not sufficient to identify safe mushrooms and we would not recommend people to solely rely on these to determine the safety of a wild mushroom.”

Ebola: Now is the time for discreet barfing

Sometimes I can handle vomit like a pro. Landing from a three-hour flight and when the plane touched the tarmac, my daughter was spewing. I had the bag and calmly departed the plane.

Image10Other times, the smell is enough  to set me off like the pie-eating scene in Stand By Me (left, exactly as shown).

And it’s much more likely to be Norovirus than Ebola.

Barf stories are now everywhere with this ebola thing, and anyone who vomits better be discreet or they will end up wrapped in plastic.

Emirates Flight 237 was surrounded by emergency service vehicles at Boston Logan Aiport as haz-mat teams boarded the plane.

The flight originated in Dubai.

None of the people on board the jet were thought to have come from West Africa.

At 9:44PM passenger Tracy Barahona tweeted: “Ok just announced that all patients of concern have been removed from plane.”

A spokesman for the airport said the five passengers were “exhibiting flu-like” symptoms.

The ill passengers are believed to be Saudi Arabian.

The first lab tests of a Kansas City, Kan., man admitted to the University of Kansas Hospital on Monday indicate that he does not have Ebola, the hospital said Tuesday.

The man will remain in a hospital isolation unit until results of confirmatory tests by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention become available in the next day or two. Hospital officials are hopeful.

Is doggy doo-doo polluting your water?

The stuff is everywhere.We know we’re supposed to clean up after our best friends—but a lot of us don’t.

banner-petAccording to Take Part, scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have developed new DNA testing to determine how much doggie doo-doo is in our waterways—and what that means for our health.

Dog waste contains bacteria such as E. coli, Giardia and parasites. When we don’t pick it up, that bacteria can run off into drain systems for lakes, rivers and ocean, triggering waterborne disease such as stomach virus or diarrhea.

But how responsible are irresponsible dog owners for our oft-polluted waters?

“The extent of water fecal matter attributable to dogs is poorly understood, in part due to the lack of reliable technologies able to discriminate between dog and other sources of fecal pollution,” Cathy Milbourn, an EPA spokesperson, wrote in an email.

The study, she said, was done in the hopes of creating tools that could give scientists and watershed managers a way to identify dog fecal matter when present in bodies of water.

To test their methods, the scientists tested storm water samples from an urban rainwater garden often visited by domestic dogs.

The test identifies 12 genetic markers commonly found in most dog fecal bacteria samples—but not those found in human waste.

“Findings suggested that these new assays (tests) may be helpful for the identification and quantification of aquatic fecal contaminants originating from canines,” Milbourn wrote.

The results were published last month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology and is available for anyone—such as health departments, government officials or watershed managers.

But before we can point the finger at canines, Milbourn said there are a few caveats with the testing. Right now, the tests aren’t able to measure how much of the disease-causing agents could be affecting local waterways.

“It is important to note that the development and publication of these methods is just the first step in a series of research needed to characterize the extent of canine fecal pollution in waterways,” Milbourn wrote.

King Harvest has Surely Come: Everything you need to know about Canadian Thanksgiving

We decided to forgo the Canadian Thanksgiving this year for the first time – ever.

thanksgiving,south.parkTwo intense weekends of hockey, jobs, school, and turkey about $5 a pound (although they walk around the neighborhood and Amy could take one out with a crossbow and clean it in no time except they’re a protected species in Australia) means maybe I’ll use up the can of Spam.

And we’ll aim for the American one.

Funny or Die has its own take on my favorite celebration of the harvest.

In addition to being Indigenous Peoples’ Day, today is also another important holiday: Canadian Thanksgiving (or as they call it in Canada, “Canadian Thanksgiving”). To understand how our northern neighbor’s version of the holiday differs from our own, consume the following Fact Blast:

  • On Canadian Thanksgiving, Canadians make a big roast turkey, clasp hands, and tell each other how grateful they are to be a family, just as at every other Canadian meal.
  • Today is the traditional day for children to receive their first maple leaf tattoo.
  • A common table centerpiece is a cornucopia filled with free healthcare.
  • The holiday takes place two weeks after Canadian Halloween, which is the 31st of Canadian August, and always on a Monday, which is known as Canadian Thursday.
  • Canadian Thanksgiving is a national holiday, but all Canadians still go to work in case Americans need anything.
  • The holiday is always followed by “You’re Welcome, Eh” Day.
  • The Prime Minister ceremoniously pardons a turkey, and also every criminal.
  • The traditional Canadian Thanksgiving prayer goes, “Thank you Lord for all of Canada, except of course for Quebec.”
  • There is also pie, but it is made with the Canadian equivalent of pumpkins, chewing gum.
  • Canadian Thanksgiving marks the first day of Canadian Burning Man, an anarchistic (within reason) festival that culminates in a huge statue of “the man” being told politely “no thank you.”
  • Canadian Thanksgiving does NOT involve playing mean pranks on Native Americas, as U.S. Thanksgiving does.