Raw and risky: do rewards outweigh risks?

U.S. President Obama may want to think again about those burger outings he does.

five.guys.obamaObama likes Five Brothers Burgers and Fries, where, “kitchen rules include no timers in the kitchen (because good cooks know when food is done).

Maybe use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer?

Misti Crane of The Columbus Dispatch writes that those who run kitchens commonly run afoul of food-safety sticklers when it comes time to eat.

Most chefs will likely tell you that a burger cooked to a safe temperature is a burger they would rather not order. And they probably aren’t pushing themselves away from the bar when an icy tray of fresh-shucked oysters arrives.

Food-safety experts shake their heads at such culinary daredevils, but the risk-takers shake their heads right back. Food is pleasure, they say, and rules can stand in the way.

“I like my meat running around the block,” said Columbus restaurateur Tasi Rigsby. “I eat everything. I ate sushi when I was pregnant.”

Mike Suclescy, who co-owns the Thurman Cafe, said most of the burger lovers who visit his German Village restaurant prefer theirs cooked below 160 degrees, the temperature at which E. coli bacteria are killed, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines.

Most people go for medium or medium-rare, he said.

“I don’t think a whole lot of people worry about it here at our place,” he said, adding that a 12-ounce Thurmanator takes a good eight minutes per side to cook to well-done.

Doug Powell, a former food-safety professor and publisher of the website barfblog.com, worries a lot about the safety of children and said he doesn’t take any food-safety risks when it comes to him or his daughters.

barfblog.Stick It InMany people who routinely eat raw shellfish or rare beef are quick to point out that they’ve never been harmed in a lifetime of dining.

“You could play the numbers game, and I hear these arguments all the time,” Powell said. “But if it happens to you, the numbers become irrelevant because the only number is one. These illnesses can cause lifelong damage.”

In the case of oysters, for instance, reported illnesses are relatively rare but can be deadly.

Last year in the United States, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 12 outbreaks linked or possibly linked to oysters — 52 people were sickened, and three were hospitalized. The CDC database does not include individual illnesses or deaths linked to oysters, nor does it include those who are sickened and never seek medical care.

The CDC estimates that there are 3,000 food-related deaths per year in the United States and that 128,000 people are hospitalized.

“It’s up to the consumer, but they just have to be knowledgeable and be educated and understand that they are potentially at risk,” said Carol Zubovich, a specialist in the food-protection program at Columbus Public Health.

Restaurants that serve foods considered risky, including undercooked or raw meats, fish and shellfish, have the highest level of scrutiny by food inspectors, she said.

Rigsby said she’s especially selective about the meat, seafood and eggs she eats, and she and her husband, Kent Rigsby, are discriminating about whom they buy from and how they prepare their food.

The beef is all grass-fed, for instance. And the oysters are shipped in fresh from the East Coast and shucked to order. Neither of those things guarantees safety, experts caution, but it gives many people greater peace of mind.

Powell said he doesn’t buy the safe-sourcing argument.

“I know there’s a lot of food porn out there that says if you source it from the right place, it will be safer, but I don’t have any microbiological evidence of that,” he said. “I will not eat raw sprouts. I will not drink unpasteurized juice; and I generally cook my seafood, meat or protein. I wouldn’t touch raw dairy.”

Columbus Public Health’s Zubovich doesn’t go for potentially risky foods, either, and she mostly dines at home, she said. “Since getting into this line of work, I don’t eat out at a lot of restaurants.”

Naked sushi is happening in Vancouver (that’s in Canada), and, yes, it’s what you think it is

Ever heard of nyotaimori? It’s the Japanese practice of serving sushi on a naked body. It’s real, beyond that one scene from the first “Sex and the City” movie. And, for a price, you can now have your sushi served on a naked model in Vancouver. 

naked-sushi-4-620x936Naked Sushi, a catering and events company that supplies this unique service, just launched in Vancouver, reported VancityBuzz. The company employs models to lie very still, sometimes for hours at a time, while partygoers pluck sushi off of their naked bodies with chopsticks. 

A variety of maki and nigiri is arranged strategically on the model’s body on their stomachs, legs, chest area, etc. You can also order bento boxes and a variety of appetizers. And prices vary based on what kind of sushi you want, and how long you’d like your naked sushi model to stay at your party. 

45 sick from Campylobacter linked to raw milk in Utah

Utah public health officials are investigating a few cases of sickness associated with raw or unpasteurized milk.

A few? Is there that many people in Utah?

colbert.raw.milkSo far, 45 cases of Campylobacter infection have been confirmed in people who had raw milk in the week they got sick.

Officials said the illness has been reported in Cache, Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, Utah and Weber counties.

Two cases have also been confirmed in California and Idaho.

The first case of the infection was reported May 9.

The Utah Dept. of Health said all 45 cases are linked to raw milk or cream purchased at Ropelato Dairy in Weber County.

The Utah Dept. of Agriculture suspended the dairy’s license to sell raw milk on Aug. 4 after several tests were positive for Campylobacter.

Larry Lewis with the UDAF said the dairy has been very cooperative in working with the inspectors and it will be allowed to sell raw milk again as soon as it consistently passes safety tests.

19 sick; E. coli O121 infections linked to raw clover sprouts (final update)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that this outbreak appears to be over.

clover.sprouts• A total of 19 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC O121) were reported from six states.

• The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: California (1), Idaho (3), Michigan (1), Montana (2), Utah (1), and Washington (11).

• 44% of ill persons were hospitalized. No ill persons developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and no deaths were reported. 

• Epidemiology and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicated that contaminated raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, LLC of Idaho was the likely source of this outbreak.

• Evergreen Fresh Sprouts is no longer using the seed lot linked to illnesses in this outbreak.

• Sprouts produced by this firm from this seed lot are likely no longer available for consumption given the approximately 14-day shelf life of raw clover sprouts.

Nosestretcher alert: Australian food scientist says just wash raw sprouts, they’re safe and great choice

And why just pick on the Brits. Misuse of science by allegedly science-based agencies is rampant, owing to personal and political preferences.

dr_lisa_szaboAccording to the New South Wales Food Authority (that’s the state where Sydney is located, that’s in Australia), “Science plays an important role in everything we do here and as this week marks National Science Week across Australia, our scientists are getting in on the action and inviting you to learn about the important role science plays in food safety and protecting you from food poisoning.”

Chief Scientist Dr Lisa Szabo was online yesterday from 1pm to 2pm to bust some food furphies and give you the low down on any food safety myths (who writes this stuff?).

In response to a question, Dr. Liz wrote, “You’re right when you say sprouts are healthy, they are a great choice. Just be sure to wash them thoroughly as they can be contaminated as seeds as well as during growth and processing with bacteria such as E.coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.

“If you’re under 5, over 70, are pregnant or already have a low or compromised immune system its better to be safe than sorry and avoid any type of raw or lightly cooked sprouts.”

Nonsense.

You ain’t gonna wash bacteria off sprouts, especially if they are internalized in seed.

Raw sprouts are one of the few foods I won’t eat, yet they are ubiquitous in Australia.

jimmy.john's.sprouts Erdozain, M.S., Allen, K.J., Morley, K.A. and Powell, D.A. 2012. Failures in sprouts-related risk communication. Food Control. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.08.022

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004707?v=s5

Nutritional and perceived health benefits have contributed to the increasing popularity of raw sprouted seed products. In the past two decades, sprouted seeds have been a recurring food safety concern, with at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people. A compilation of selected publications was used to yield an analysis of the evolving safety and risk communication related to raw sprouts, including microbiological safety, efforts to improve production practices, and effectiveness of communication prior to, during, and after sprout-related outbreaks. Scientific investigation and media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks has led to improved production guidelines and public health enforcement actions, yet continued outbreaks call into question the effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance. Raw sprouts remain a high-risk product and avoidance or thorough cooking are the only ways that consumers can reduce risk; even thorough cooking messages fail to acknowledge the risk of cross-contamination. Risk communication messages have been inconsistent over time with Canadian and U.S. governments finally aligning their messages in the past five years, telling consumers to avoid sprouts. Yet consumer and industry awareness of risk remains low. To minimize health risks linked to the consumption of sprout products, local and national public health agencies, restaurants, retailers and producers need validated, consistent and repeated risk messaging through a variety of sources.

From the Salmonella in low moisture foods file: Trader Joe’s almond butter edition

At the 2007 IAFP annual meeting in Florida, CDC foodborne illness outbreak guru Robert Tauxe told symposium audience that the next big thing for food safety was low-moisture ingredients. Salmonella is hardy, especially when stressed through drying, so it sticks around for a while. It might not grow much without available water, many low-moisture foods are also high-fat which protects the pathogen in the gut and leads to a lower mean infectious dose. Tauxe’s comments were post- Salmonella Tennessee in Peter Pan peanut butter and pre- Salmonella Wandsworth in Veggie Booty (and other outbreaks) and he talked about dried spices and flavorings and peanut butter-type products like hummus and tahini. And almond butter.91989-Raw-Crunchy-Unsalted-Almond-Butter

According to a message on the Trader Joe’s website, the retailer is recalling specific lots of two types of of almond butter.

We have been alerted by our supplier of Trader Joe’s Raw Almond Butters that there is a possibility that product with the specified date codes may be contaminated with Salmonella:

Raw Crunchy Unsalted Almond Butter

SKU 91989

USE BY 28DEC14 thru 18JUN15

Raw Creamy Unsalted Almond Butter

SKU 56995

USE BY 27DEC14 thru 18JUL15

 In accordance with our stringent health and safety standards, and as an extreme precaution, all of the potentially affected product has been removed from sale and destroyed.

Customers who have purchased any of these items with the specified code dates are urged to not eat them and to dispose of them or return them to any Trader Joe’s for a full refund.

No other Trader Joe’s products are included in this recall.

2 dead from Vibrio in raw fish in Korea

Health officials in Incheon are on alert after two vibrio sepsis patients died there while receiving treatment. They contracted the disease after eating raw fish.

Traw.fish.koreahis year, 10 cases of vibrio sepsis have been reported throughout the country, most of which occurred in South Jeolla Province.

According to the Incheon Metropolitan Government, a patient from Ganghwa-gun, surnamed Hwang, 53, died Aug. 14 at a hospital where he had been treated for severe abdominal pains and diarrhea.

Hwang was the second vibrio sepsis patient in Incheon to die, following another fatality in Bupyeong-gu.

The bacterium Vibrio vulnificus is commonly contracted through the consumption of raw or undercooked seafood. The resulting sepsis can cause abdominal pain and vomiting, among other symptoms.

State-sponsored jazz fail: unlocking France’s secrets to safer raw milk cheese?

Leave it to U.S. National Public Radio to glorify raw milk cheese from France, based on some secret manuscript that requires $20,000 to translate (Amy could probably do it for nothing, but I wouldn’t want to speak on her behalf).

UnknownWhat NPR left out was that some former raw milk cheese producers have switched to using pasteurized milk.

In 2007, while Amy and I were touring around France, she wrote, two of France’s (and thus the world’s) top lait cru Camembert producers, Lactalis and Isigny-Sainte-Mère, announced that they are forgoing the status of “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée” and switching to cheese made exclusively with heat-treated micro-filtered milk (not quite pasteurized but still an affront to purists).

Lactilis’ spokesperson, Luc Morelon said that although they recognize the importance of Camembert traditions, they’re making the change “[b]ecause consumer safety is paramount, and we cannot guarantee it 100 per cent. We cannot accept the risk of seeing our historic brands disappearing because of an accident in production.” In response to his critics Morelon added, “I don’t want to risk sending any more children to hospital. It’s as simple as that.”

Nice research, NPR.