Thermometers, they aren’t just for omnivores

That’s what I told Lydia Zuraw of Food Safety News when she and I spoke last week about my favorite kitchen tool, the tip-sensitive digital thermometer (below, exactly as shown). We chatted about cold spots, microwaving and checking internal temperatures in multiple spots.

I also told her that my very first thermometer came as a gift from the infamous Pete Snyder. It was during the testing of food safety infosheets and Pete had been providing feedback on specific kinds of thermometers and why. And Pete’s suggestions came with publications and references. One day my very own Comark PDT 300 showed up unannounced in the mail.231-xx7_z_a

 

“It’s a tool just like a frying pan,” says Benjamin Chapman, associate professor of food safety at North Carolina State University. “The more you cook, the more investment you put into your tools.”

As for dial thermometers, or bi-metallic stems, they’re “not great tools,” Chapman says. “They’re fine in a jam, but they do have to be calibrated.”246609-meatthermometers-comark-pdt300digital

They also aren’t as precise – as the dial provides an average temperature between the tip and a dimple, sometimes an inch away. That makes me nervous as the surface of a thick piece of meat may be 20 or 30 degrees warmer than an inch inside.

Cyclones, rain, and temperature-verified steak

During a morning of unrelenting and ongoing cyclone-related rain (yes, Brisbane gets weather too, not just Mass.) hockey skating and Chapman embarrassingly wearing a Leafs jersey (although my kid had one on this a.m., but Chapman should know better), I decided, why not barbeque for lunch.

145 F, rested for 10 minutes.

steak.rain.feb.15

Less talking, more doing: Horrible hygiene humbles Australian MKR duo Gina and Anna

My Kitchen Rules is Australian food porn.

According to Rebekah Carter of the Australian Institute of Food Safety, social media was just one of the locations to receive an outpouring of disgusted comments recently after mother-daughter duo Anna and Gina demonstrated a number of food safety faux pas on “My Kitchen Rules.”

mkr.ann.ginaThe first couple to be eliminated, Anna and Gina from Canberra made a dramatic exit from the popular television show. However, the response that followed their departure was even more striking.

Fans of the reality TV cooking contest flocked to the radio and grabbed their keyboards to express comments suggesting that the show’s contestants were in desperate need of some “lessons in kitchen hygiene”.

Alongside rejecting gloves for her Band-Aid covered fingers, viewers reeled at the image of contestant Gina double-dipping her spoon in the soup. One fan called into the Kyle and Jackie O breakfast show with the phrase “would you like some saliva with that?”

Meanwhile, the official Facebook page for My Kitchen Rules was over-run with queasy comments. Kelly Cockshell wrote “I’m sorry, but you don’t put the spoon back in after you taste test that is gross!!”

Kayla Dean commented “All teams before they start need to go through a health and hygiene course.”

And Robyn Champion agreed, saying “OMG no wonder the ragout tastes bad… did you see all that double dipping going on! Send them home!!!”

Not lovin’ it: UK father says his McDonald’s quarter pounder was completely raw

McDonald’s takes a lot of heat about their burgers, yet going back to the initial identified E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in the U.S. in 1982, they’ve somewhat fool-proofed the cooking system and taken steps to reduce risk.

mclovinSo any claims about inadequate cooking should be investigated before passing journalistic judgment.

A father who bit into his McDonald’s burger to find it was completely raw has vowed to never return to the chain.

Byron Thomas, from Northampton, ordered the quarter pounder with cheese meal for £4.69 on Monday evening, and took it back to his car.

But when the 28-year-old eagerly tucked into his dinner, he noticed a strange taste after he had his first bite.

He said he was sickened when he saw that apart from the light brown top layer, the rest of the meal was red raw.

Color is a lousy indictor of beef safety, but it’s promoted by the UK Food Standards Agency, so …

The father-of-two went back in to the branch at the Weston Favell Shopping Centre in Northampton to complain – but said the manager only offered to cook him another burger.

He then claims he was up from 4am on Tuesday being sick.

Mr Thomas, who lives with his partner Gail Mooney, 36, vowed never to eat there again.

Byron, who works as a health and safety trainer on the railways, refused to give the raw burger back to the manager at the McDonald’s branch.

He is now planning on contacting his local environmental health officer to make an official complaint.

royale.cheese.pulp.fictionMr Thomas, who has two sons Kenzie, three, and Kyson, six, and two stepdaughters Katie, 13, and Karley, 16, has also contacted McDonalds’ head office.

He added: ‘I went straight back in there but the manager didn’t look too bothered.

‘He just said ‘sorry I’ll cook you another burger’.

‘But I refused to eat that and refused to give him the raw burger because he wanted to take it away.

A McDonald’s spokesman said: ‘Food safety is our highest priority. We place great emphasis on quality control and follow rigorous standards in order to avoid any imperfections in our food.”

Here’s a possibly better answer: Bryon, we’re sorry, we’re really sorry, and we’ll do everything we can to find out how this happened.”

Some talk, some do: 101 burgers all temped for safety

Sorenne was in prep (kindergarten for North American types) last year when she asked, “Dad, can I order food from the tuck shop?”

“Not until I check it out,” said Dr. food safety dad.

doug.tuckshop.feb.15So I asked about, and, as these things go, was soon nominated to be the food safety advisor or something for the tuck shop.

I can say that having worked with the team of volunteers, led by Katherine, they didn’t need much help in the food safety and cleanliness area.

I’ve introduced some basic paperwork (like recording fridge and freezer temperatures), some posters on cooking and handwashing as reminders, and using tip-sensitive digital thermometers to determine whether food is cooked to a microbiologically safe temperature.

I’m a parent, and wouldn’t serve anything to my daughter that I wouldn’t serve at home (as Katherine likes to say). That’s why I individually temped all 101 beef and chicken burgers that I cooked Feb. 6, 2015, for tuck shop.

It’s what I’d do at home, and what I’d expect anyone else to do.

The menu’s up to Katherine and the other volunteers. I’m there to make sure that whatever they serve, it’s safe.

It is.

With a check by Schaffner: How to avoid food poisoning at home

Science is about disagreements, revising knowledge and generating new evidence-based knowledge (someone will disagree with that).

Don-Schaffner-214x300Don Sapatkin of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently asked a number of food safety types about food safety at home. For fun, I asked friend of the barfblog and known bugcounter, Don Schaffner of Rutgers University (left, prettymuch as shown) his thoughts on the answers.

“Washing a sponge with soap doesn’t get rid of bacteria,” said microbiologist Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety (below, right). They grow at room temperature and get spread around anything else you wipe off. Put the sponge in a microwave for one minute to kill the salmonella and other bacteria,” he said.

Schaffner: Sort of true. Washing a sponge will probably remove some bacteria, but not all. Same with the microwave: it depends upon the microwave, the amount of moisture in the sponge, etc. A better practice may be to put your sponges in the automatic dishwasher, assuming you have one.

 Experts say most home kitchens are far dirtier.

Schaffner: Might be true, but science-based head-to-head comparisons are lacking.

 Cutting boards should not have hard-to-clean nicks and grooves (wood is better, Doyle said, because the resin has antibacterial properties).

Schaffner: Dean Cliver’s work showed wooden cutting boards to be safer, but the literature is far from clear on the matter.

 Washing chicken in the sink may sound hygienic but actually poses all sorts of risks.

Schaffner: Yup, this has good scientific consensus.

 “Every time you run your disposal in the sink you are generating a little airflow back up.”

michael.doyle.produce.07Schaffner: Yup, probably true.

 If you do wash chicken in the sink, clean it (the sink) with bleach (1 ounce in 1 gallon of water).

Schaffner: Giving bleach concentration recommendations always concerns me. The units are never the same, the knowledge about the type of bleach is never certain, and the type of surface being cleaned makes a difference (plates versus countertops).  I used to dream of creating a webpage that would definitively answer these questions, and do unit conversions. Now I have the same dream except it’s an iPhone app.

Craig Hedberg, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (below, left): “If you take this big mass of hot food and put it into a plastic container and put a lid on it, you are holding the heat in and slowing the cooling process, even if you put it in the refrigerator. You want to get it out of bacterial-growth range” – 40 to 140 degrees – “within a couple of hours.” Pouring it into containers no more than four inches deep speeds the process.

Schaffner: This is more or less correct, but I believe the correct depth of the food recommendation is 3 inches. It doesn’t really matter how deep the container is, it’s the depth of the food.

If food is not cooled fast enough, spores that survived cooking can germinate and grow bacteria. Reheating leftovers to 165 degrees for 15 seconds will kill them.

Schaffner: This is the general time temperature recommendation. I’ve never checked to see what log reduction it would give for Clostridium perfringens cells, but it’s likely sufficient.

Hedberg advises against washing prewashed bagged lettuce; E. coli and salmonella can adhere to cut surfaces and tiny pores. “If it’s contaminated, your washing it again would not eliminate the contamination,” he said. “If it is not contaminated, your washing may contaminate it.”

Schaffner: That is consistent with expert recommendations.

 Hands should be washed vigorously with soap before preparing food or eating; after handling raw meat, poultry, fish, or even raw produce; and after smoking, eating, or drinking.

Craig HedbergSchaffner: Also after pooping or changing a diaper, handling pets etc.

 Countertops, cutting boards, utensils, etc., should be cleaned with hot water after every use.

Schaffner: I also recommend soap.

 Cooking and holding temperatures should be checked, which means having working thermometers. (The fridge should be set between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit; the freezer, at zero or below).

Schaffner: They nailed this one.

 Everything should be clean: Garbage covered, or at least three feet from food-preparation areas; pets never allowed in the kitchen (and hands washed after petting).

Schaffner: I’m not sure where the three-foot recommendation comes from, and it’s probably not science-based. Does anyone really exclude their pets from the kitchen? When we had dogs their food and water dishes were in the kitchen. Good luck getting a cat to do anything you want to do.

To bring home cooks up to speed, the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension posts a quick home kitchen food safety best practices check-Up list: http://bit.ly/1xDO19F.

Surveys still suck: Consumer-reported handling of raw poultry products at home

Salmonella and Campylobacter cause an estimated combined total of 1.8 million foodborne infections each year in the United States. Most cases of salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry or with cross-contamination. Between 1998 and 2008, 20% of Salmonella and 16% of Campylobacter foodborne disease outbreaks were associated with food prepared inside the home.

barfblog.Stick It InA nationally representative Web survey of U.S. adult grocery shoppers (n = 1,504) was conducted to estimate the percentage of consumers who follow recommended food safety practices when handling raw poultry at home. The survey results identified areas of low adherence to current recommended food safety practices: not washing raw poultry before cooking, proper refrigerator storage of raw poultry, use of a food thermometer to determine doneness, and proper thawing of raw poultry in cold water.

Nearly 70% of consumers reported washing or rinsing raw poultry before cooking it, a potentially unsafe practice because “splashing” of contaminated water may lead to the transfer of pathogens to other foods and other kitchen surfaces.

Only 17.5% of consumers reported correctly storing raw poultry in the refrigerator. Sixty-two percent of consumers own a food thermometer, and of these, 26% or fewer reported using one to check the internal temperature of smaller cuts of poultry and ground poultry. Only 11% of consumers who thaw raw poultry in cold water reported doing so correctly.

The study results, coupled with other research findings, will inform the development of science-based consumer education materials that can help reduce foodborne illness from Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 1, January 2015, pp. 4-234, pp. 180-186(7)

Kosa, Katherine M.; Cates, Sheryl C.; Bradley, Samantha; Chambers IV, Edgar; Godwin, Sandria

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/iafp/jfp/2015/00000078/00000001/art00025

Which cut of meat is least likely to make you sick?

I like Schaffner’s response: There is no such thing as risk-free meat, or risk-free food in general. Donald Schaffner, a professor of food microbiology at Rutgers University, told Kiera Butler of Mother Jones that if the food isn’t cooked sufficiently, or if the preparation area isn’t clean, it doesn’t matter whether you’re eating chicken, steak, or pork,” he says. “Food prepared in an unclean environment is always going to be high risk.”

GrilledSteak-main_FullI told her that requesting your meat “well done” or “medium” won’t save you from illness, either. Those terms are vague and subjective, says Doug Powell, a former professor of food safety and current publisher of the foodborne illness site barfblog.com “When I go to a restaurant and they ask me how I want my steak, I say ‘140 degrees,'” he says. “If they give me a funny look I get up and leave.”

Butler writes that every time you eat, you’re rolling the germ dice.

But some cuts are more likely to make you sick. In 2013, researchers from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) analyzed data about outbreaks, illnesses, and hospitalizations from foodborne pathogens in particular kinds of meat between 1998 and 2010.

Contaminated chicken sickens more people than any other meat. That’s partially because we eat so much of it—more than 50 pounds a year per person. But it’s also because of the way that chicken is prepared and cooked, says Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI’s director of food safety. Commercial chicken plants typically dip the meat in several baths before packaging, giving bacteria plenty of opportunity to spread. What’s more, says Smith DeWaal, it’s harder to cook away bacteria in chicken. “Chicken has creases and folds in the skin,” she says. “Pathogens can hide in those folds. A lot of other meat doesn’t even come with skin on.”

Ground beef is the second riskiest kind of meat. One reason for this, says Smith DeWaal, is that during grinding, “the pathogens on the surface of the meat get pushed into the center.” If that ground meat isn’t properly cooked—say, in the middle of a rare burger—the germs get a free ride into your digestive tract.

rowan.atkinson.steak.tartareSteaks, pork chops, and other whole-muscle meats are the safest bet. That’s because the cooking process can easily kill off bacteria on the cut’s surface, while the inside of the meat is essentially sterile, protected from any potential pathogens—in theory.

But steak isn’t as safe as it should be. According to the US Food Safety and Inspection Service, about 10.5 percent of steaks are subjected to a process called mechanical or needle tenderization, where metal blades or pins repeatedly puncture the meat before packaging. While this technique improves the meat’s texture, it also moves bacteria from the surface into the center of the cut, where the germs may survive cooking. The scary part: Processors are not required to label cuts that have been mechanically tenderized—so there’s no way to know whether your steak might have extra interior bacteria. Mechanically tenderized beef has caused several recent outbreaks, including one in Canada in 2012, which sickened 18 people and led to the biggest beef recall in Canadian history. In 2013, the US Department of Agriculture promised to require labeling on mechanically tenderized beef, but the agency is stalling on finalizing that rule.

Brisbane woman allegedly served raw chicken in ‘healthy choices’ McDonald’s wrap at Deception Bay

With all the Salmonella outbreaks going on in Brisbane (that’s in Australia) a woman claims she was served raw chicken from McDonald‘s at Deception Bay yesterday.

hero_pdt_snack_wrap_crispyPersonal trainer Gizela Tahuri, who had not eaten McDonald’s for two years previously, said the ordeal reminded her why.

“So much for healthy choices,” Ms Tahuri said.

“I bought a spicy mayo crispy chicken wrap.

“I probably had two large mouthfuls before I thought the chicken was really soft and it looked raw.

“I instantly felt like I was going to vomit.”

She discovered the raw meat after taking her chicken wrap home.

A McDonald’s spokesman said:

barfblog.Stick It In“We are disappointed that this has happened. We take food safety very seriously and have strict processes and systems in place.”

An investigation is currently under way with the restaurant, and we encourage the customer to contact us to help us to investigate fully.”