Spoiler alert: 15-minute “sexy” burger on Top Chef LCK

(Technical difficulties: Written by Amy Hubbell not me — dp).

In Episode 5 of Bravo’s Last Chance Kitchen, Top Chef’s online spinoff, Tom Colicchio challenged the three chefs to make their best burger in 15 minutes.

One chef chose lamb, one chose to grind pork belly and mix it with beef, and the other did a beef and pork patty.

The food safety nerd in me knew there would be no time for thermometers and wondered how 15 minutes could be long enough to do all the prep and properly cook the meat. Yet among the chefs, there is a lot of talk about fear of overcooking the burgers.

Watch the tasting from the 8-minute mark here: http://www.bravotv.com/last-chance-kitchen/season-5/videos/lck-ep-5-a-delicious-burger

raw burger TopChef LCKep5When Tom cuts into the center of Burger #3, the beef-pork mix, it is apparently raw inside. “It’s a little raw dog,” says one competitor. “No! I think that’s a pretty sexy slice right there,” retorts Tom as he gobbles it.

Colicchio eating burger

And the raw burger wins. Tom apparently hasn’t died from E. coli yet.

CDC: 888 sick, 191 hospitalized, 6 dead from imported cucumbers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that since the last update on November 19, 2015, 50 more ill people have been reported from 16 states.

cucumber.facialTwo additional deaths were reported from California, bringing the total number of deaths to 6. According to the California Department of Public Health, Salmonella infection was not considered to be a contributing factor in either of these 2 additional deaths.

Tennessee was added to the list of states with ill people, bringing the total number of states to 39.

The number of reported illnesses has declined substantially since the peak of illnesses in August and September; however, it has not returned to the number of reported illnesses that we would expect to see (about 1 every month during this time of year). The investigation into the source of these recent illnesses is ongoing.

CDC, multiple states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Poona infections.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations identified cucumbers imported from Mexico and distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce as a likely source of the infections in this outbreak.

Two recalls of cucumbers that may be contaminated with Salmonella were announced in September 2015 as a result of this investigation: Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce and Custom Produce Sales.

animal.house.cucumber888 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona have been reported from 39 states, an increase of 50 cases since the last update on November 19, 2015.

191 ill people have been hospitalized, and six deaths have been reported from Arizona (1), California (3), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (1). Salmonella infection was not considered to be a contributing factor in two of the three deaths in California.

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that the strains of Salmonella Poona from ill persons and from contaminated cucumbers distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce are closely related genetically.

WGS of isolates from people who became ill in October and November are also closely related genetically to isolates from people who became ill during the peak of the outbreak and to isolates from contaminated cucumbers.

The source of contamination for the cucumbers distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce has not been identified.

The number of reported illnesses has declined substantially since the peak of illnesses in August and September; however, it has not returned to the number of reported illnesses that we would expect to see (about 1 every month this time of year). The investigation into the source of these recent illnesses is ongoing.

cucumber.spain,MEPWhole genome sequencing results from recent illnesses suggest it is likely that there is a common source of ongoing contamination.

Interviews of persons who became ill after the end of September have not identified an additional food item linked to illness.

Investigations are under way to determine if cross-contamination within the distribution chain for the recalled cucumbers could explain recent illnesses.


LGMA silent on Listeria outbreak

About four times a day I’ll get a tweet from the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement – the folks who set themselves up after the spinach outbreak of E. coli in 2006 that killed four and sickened 200 – blowing themselves about how great they are, and how their products are so safe.

spongebob.oil.colbert.may3.10If you want that kind of PR, then you have to be to take the hits as well.

LGMA never talks about an outbreak linked to leafy greens (publicly).

To me, they’ve succeeded best at lowering the leafy greens cone of silence and intimidating public health types into delaying reports of outbreaks.

LGMA says essentially that epidemiology doesn’t matter, and product must be shown to have the same outbreak strain as someone who is sick.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145That happened with spinach in 2006, and it has happened again with Listeria in 2016 – 2 dead, 19 sick, Canada and the U.S., all linked to Dole pre-packed salads.

Sure, it was probably the plant in Ohio that processed the stuff that was the source of the Listeria (and when I think of Ohio, I think salad).

But where’s the tweet, LGMA?


Maybe? USDA says antimicrobial wash reduces health risks in fresh produce

An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, and his collaborators have developed an antimicrobial wash that reduces the risk of foodborne pathogens contaminating fresh produce.

usda.produce.washJoshua Gurtler and scientists at NatureSeal Inc. have found that a combination of lactic acid, fruit acids, and hydrogen peroxide can be used in a produce rinse for commercial food distributors. NatureSeal, based in Westport, Connecticut, already markets an anti-browning wash developed by another ARS team in the 1990’s for sliced apples and 18 other types of produce.

E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and other foodborne pathogens sicken approximately 1 in 6 Americans (48 million people) each year. A recent U.S. outbreak of Salmonella associated with cucumbers sickened over 765 people in 36 states and killed 4.

First Step+ 10 is designed to reduce those numbers, and is expected to be used in the commercial flumes and rinse tanks that wash fresh produce, Gurtler says.

The ingredients are all classified as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The wash also has been approved for use in Canada; is U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic; is biodegradable; and does not affect the taste, texture, smell, or appearance of produce.

To save water, some food processors reuse wash water, a practice that can contaminate produce in subsequent washes. Along with reducing the risk of contamination, the new rinse will cut back on waste water because processors won’t have to replace water in their tanks as frequently.

To test First Step+ 10, Gurtler inoculated fresh cut apples, baby spinach, cantaloupe rind, and cherry tomatoes with highly resistant outbreak strains of E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, and Salmonella. He soaked them in the wash for 5 minutes and then measured pathogen levels in the wash water and on the produce. The antimicrobial wash reduced pathogen levels on the produce by 99.99 percent. It also rid the wash water of 100 percent of pathogens, making it safer to reuse.

Along with securing FDA approval, Gurtler and his collaborators at NatureSeal have filed a patent application and presented findings at scientific meetings.

ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

Read more about this work in the January 2016 issue of AgResearch.

Raw milk legislation gains supporters in Wisconsin, but illegal to sell homemade muffins

An attempt to legalize the sale of unpasteurized milk direct from a farm to consumers has gained some traction in the Wisconsin Legislature, but opponents say they aren’t backing down.

sorenne.doug.muffinAssembly Bill 697 would allow a dairy farmer to sell raw milk, and raw-milk products such as butter and cheese, directly to consumers on the farm where the milk and dairy products were produced. Current law generally prohibits the practice.

AB 697, which now has sponsorship from at least 18 members of the Assembly and three members of the Senate, also exempts dairy farmers from needing a dairy plant or food processing license if the only milk products they process are raw-milk items sold on the farm.

In 2015, state officials suspended for 30 days the Grade-A milk production permit of a Durand dairy farm blamed for a raw-milk illness outbreak that sickened nearly 40 people.

Raw milk advocates say the risks to public health have been exaggerated and the decision to buy an unpasteurized dairy product ought to be left to the consumer.

Wisconsin is one of only two states to ban entrepreneurs from selling cookies, muffins and breads simply because they are made in a home kitchen.

“That means that even if you sell one cookie at a farmers market, to your neighbor, somewhere in your community, you can go to jail for up to six months or even be fined up to $1,000. That’s not only unfair, it’s unconstitutional,” attorney Erica Smith told Wisconsin Watchdog Wednesday on the Vicki McKenna Show , on NewsTalk 1310 WIBA.

Smith is with the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm that “fights against unreasonable government restrictions on individuals’ economic liberty,” according to the Virginia organizations website.

Prove that it’s safe.

‘Furry lump’ Woman discovers baby weasel in UK salad

A nurse was horrified when she tucked into her Asda salad and discovered a baby weasel.

weasel.jan.16Rifat Asghar, 42, was eating a carrot and sweetcorn meal from the supermarket for lunch when a colleague spotted a “furry lump”.

The advanced nurse practitioner inspected the two inch-long furball and was disgusted to discover a leg and tail – as well as what looked like an eye.

She took the salad back to the shop in Bradford, West Yorkshire, where she claims she was offered a £5 voucher. An investigation later revealed the “foreign object” was a baby weasel and staff offered Ms Asghar £100 in vouchers, which she turned down.

Supermarket bosses claim the furry animal must have been picked up in a field during harvesting and passed through the entire factory without being spotted.

‘Food safety is a top priority’ McDonald’s Canada edition

Doug Gallant of The Guardian writes that Kaylee Foote, 22, of Stratford didn’t feel like cooking after a busy day last Wednesday so she pulled into the drive-thru at McDonald’s in Stratford.

nuggetsShe ordered a Happy Meal for each of her two daughters: one meal was with a hamburger, the other with Chicken McNuggets.

Foote told her children to wait until the family got home before digging into the meals.

When the family sat down to eat, Foote’s five-year-old daughter quickly found her meal to be quite an unhappy experience.

“She just bit (into a McNugget) and spit it back out and said ‘this is gross,”’ said Foote, who recently graduated from the bioscience technology program at Holland College.

“I was mortified because working in the science field I know how bad salmonella can be (salmonella infection is usually caused by eating raw or undercooked meat).”

mclovinFoote says roughly half of the chicken nuggets was raw while the other half was cooked.

She immediately called the restaurant about the incident.

The person who took her call merely thanked her for the heads up.

There was no apology, no offer of compensation.

“It was pretty irritating, especially when it is raw chicken,” she says.

Foote’s brother took the raw chicken into the restaurant and spoke with the manager.

The manager reimbursed the family for the cost of the meals.

Fortunately, Foote’s daughter did not become ill after chomping into the raw chicken.

Still, Foote would like to know how the raw chicken ended up being served. She would also like to know what the restaurant did after learning of the incident.

In a statement emailed to The Guardian Monday, David McKenna, franchisee for McDonald’s restaurants in P.E.I., said food safety is a top priority.

“As a local franchisee, I take matters of this nature very seriously and have very strict policies and procedures in place to ensure my guests receive the highest quality products whenever they visit my restaurants,” says McKenna.

“I was disappointed to hear of this experience, and as soon as my restaurant team was made aware of the incident, we launched a full investigation. These incidents, while unfortunate, are isolated. In addition to the investigation, I have taken immediate action by reviewing the proper procedures with my team to ensure it will not happen again.”

No more bath milk BS: Australian dairy farmer shuts down

One of the main dairy farmers pushing for the introduction of legal raw drinking milk in Victoria has shut down his farm after sales dropped by 70%.

raw.milk.aust.sep.15The death of a three-year-old boy in 2014, which was linked to the consumption of unpasteurised bath milk, prompted changes to dairy licences in Victoria, including the mandatory addition of bittering agents to stop people drinking what was being marketed as cosmetic milk.

Reg Matthews, from Lakes Entrance in Gippsland, said he had now shut down his Miranda Dale Dairy and sold off his cows because he had not been able to recover from the changes.

“We had a five-year plan put in place, and that came to fruition in late 2014, just about the same time that the raw milk was discontinued,” he said.

Imports. Domestic. Plenty of food safety issues are home-grown: Salmonella at the market

Salmonella continues to rank as one of the most costly foodborne pathogens, and more illnesses are now associated with the consumption of fresh produce.

cilantro.slugs.powell.10 U.S. Department of Agriculture Microbiological Data Program (MDP) sampled select commodities of fresh fruit and vegetables and tested them for Salmonella, pathogenic Escherichia coli, and Listeria. The Salmonella strains isolated were further characterized by serotype, antimicrobial resistance, and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis profile. This article summarizes the Salmonella data collected by the MDP between 2002 and 2012.

The results show that the rates of Salmonella prevalence ranged from absent to 0.34% in cilantro. A total of 152 isolates consisting of over 50 different serotypes were isolated from the various produce types, and the top five were Salmonella enterica serotype Cubana, S. enterica subspecies arizonae (subsp. IIIa) and diarizonae (subsp. IIIb), and S. enterica serotypes Newport, Javiana, and Infantis. Among these, Salmonella serotypes Newport and Javiana are also listed among the top five Salmonella serotypes that caused most foodborne outbreaks. Other serotypes that are frequent causes of infection, such as S. enterica serotypes Typhimurium and Enteritidis, were also found in fresh produce but were not prevalent. About 25% of the MDP samples were imported produce, including 65% of green onions, 44% of tomatoes, 42% of hot peppers, and 41% of cantaloupes. However, imported produce did not show higher numbers of Salmonella-positive samples, and in some products, like cilantro, all of the Salmonella isolates were from domestic samples. About 6.5% of the Salmonella isolates were resistant to the antimicrobial compounds tested, but no single commodity or serotype was found to be the most common carrier of resistant strains or of resistance.

The pulsed-field gel electrophoresis profiles of the produce isolates showed similarities with Salmonella isolates from meat samples and from outbreaks, but there were also profile diversities among the strains within some serotypes, like Salmonella Newport.


Prevalence and characteristics of Salmonella serotypes isolated from fresh produce marketed in the United States

Journal of Food Protection, January 2016, No.1, pp. 4-178, pp. 6-16(11)

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-15-274

Shanker P. Reddy, Hua Wang, Jennifer K. Adams, Peter C. H. Feng


‘Bath milk’ claims will not wash: Raw milk stripped from NWS shelves

In Dec. 2014, four children in the Australian state of Victoria developed hemolytic uremic syndrome linked to Shiga-toxin toxin producing E. coli in unpasteurized bath milk produced by Mountain View farm. One child died, and another developed cryptosporidiosis.

868179-068aae70-8035-11e4-9659-e3748623bf5f-300x168The Victorian government quickly banned the sale of so-called bath milk, which although labeled as not fit for human consumption, was a widely recognized way for Australian consumers to access raw milk.

Now, the neighboring state of New South Wales has stripped raw milk marketed as ‘cosmetic’ or ‘bath’ milk from the shelves of a number of Sydney health food shops following recent inspections.

As part of ongoing actions to address the sale of raw milk, the NSW Food Authority has enacted a range of proactive monitoring and compliance activities, which included the seizure of approximately 68 litres of unpasteurised dairy products in the Sydney area.

Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, said retailers are on notice that claims the product is used for bathing will not wash.

“While there are no food businesses in NSW licensed by the NSW Food Authority to produce raw milk for cosmetic purposes, we know that some retailing businesses are sourcing this product from elsewhere to sell it,” Mr. Blair said.

“Raw milk is a high food safety risk – the sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal in Australia and this kind of farcical deception won’t be tolerated. It was apparent to the NSW Food Authority that the sale of raw milk products at these premises was not for cosmetic reasons.

“The NSW Food Authority will continue to address retail businesses selling raw milk as bath milk and the NSW Government is committed to working with other states in an effort to find a national solution to the broader issue of the sale of raw milk.”

colbert.raw_.milk_3-300x212Results from samples taken from the recent product seizures showed elevated levels of E. coli. Unpasteurised milk contains harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria that can result in illness or even death.

The NSW Government will continue removing raw milk from NSW shelves. Random checks of retailers will continue, in line with the Food Authority’s policy of escalated enforcement.

Another area of focus is the practice of ‘herd sharing’, where a person enters into contract and purchase shares in a herd or individual cow to receive raw milk produced by that herd.

Claims that this does not constitute the sale of food are false: the operation of a herd share arrangement can constitute food for sale under the Food Act 2003. Milk for sale in NSW needs to be licensed with the NSW Food Authority to ensure it is subject to the stringent safety requirements of the Dairy Food Safety Scheme.