Use a f**king thermometer: Campy risk in Swiss Christmas meal

Celebrating Christmas in Switzerland can be a risky business.

Not only does the use of real candles on Christmas trees lead to a rise in call-outs for the fire brigade, but apparently eating a traditional Swiss Christmas dish can be dangerous too.

chinese-fondueChinese fondue – a fondue of raw meat cooked in a pot of hot broth, instead of bread dipped in cheese – is often chosen as the main meal by many Swiss at Christmas.

But according to the Swiss food hygiene office (BLV) this leads to a rise in the number of cases of diarrhea each festive season, caused by the presence of the bacteria Campylobacter in the meat.

Up to 8,000 people are affected by Campylobacter infections every year in Switzerland, costing the country around 10 million francs, the BLV said in a statement.

And each festive season the number of cases is considerably higher than average, mainly because Chinese fondue is traditionally eaten around this time of year, it said.

Now it has issued guidelines, including a handy video, on how to prepare the meat hygienically in order to cut down the risk of Campylobacter and thus avoid spending the rest of Christmas on the toilet.

Different plates and utensils should be used for raw meat, cooked meat and other raw accompaniments such as sauces and salads, it says.

Hands should be washed thoroughly before and after handling raw meat.

Meat should be well cooked, particularly poultry, which should be completely cooked through.

£13 for a MILF (burger): UK Meat Counter has some safety beefs, but do they verify safety with thermometer?

Cornwall Live reports the Meat Counter is one of those burger joints that are so much more than that.

rare-hamburgerLocated in Arwenack Street in Falmouth, the stylish American-style eatery known for its homemade burgers and chili fries has carved a name for itself on the culinary scene in the town and beyond.

There is an extensive menu to choose from including the £13 M.I.L.F. – a burger, pulled pork and chicken layered extravaganza with a fried Jalapeno on top.

Alongside its signature dishes, The Meat Counter offers a selection of American delicacies such as the ultimate bulldog (hot dog), local steaks and chips with all the trimmings.

It also has fine vegetarian options including The Filthy Shroomburger and Spiced Chickpea Burger.

It opened three years ago, employs 10 staff and has consistently received high reviews from punters, with 223 ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ reviews out of 262 on TripAdvisor.

However the Meat Counter was one of six restaurants in the Duchy to receive a zero hygiene score rating from Cornwall Council food inspectors following a visit in July.

The note from Cornwall Council inspectors was that the venue needed to improve its handling of food including preparation, cooking, re-heating, cooling and storage, along with a major improvement of the general cleanliness and condition of its facilities and building.

The zero rating also came with a ‘major improvement necessary’ warning for the management of food safety.

When Cornwall Live revealed the list of the 75 worst-rated restaurants in Cornwall, Martyn Peters, owner of the Meat Counter, said the score was by no means a reflection of the kinds of “kitchen nightmares” documented at other places.

stiflers-mom-paul-finchHe said that if issues such as cross-contamination or out-of-date food had been a factor in the company’s score, the kitchen would have been shut down immediately instead of simply being given the lowest rating.

He added: “On the contrary, the vast majority of the issues raised during that first visit were rectified within 48 hours, and we have continued to trade ever since.”

Mr Peters said the hygiene scoring rating from council food inspectors could do with greater transparency.

A restaurant, especially in an old building, can be penalised for having small cracks in the floor tiles or for its bins not being collected on the day of the inspection even though it is out of its control.

Structural faults inherent to old buildings can also play against a restaurant and may involve expensive work to fix.

Mr Peters added: “Any business worth its salt takes the condemnation of a zero rating very seriously and we’ve been working closely with our environmental health officer to address the issues raised during her first inspection.”

Assessment of risk communication about undercooked hamburgers by restaurant servers

Ellen M. Thomas, RTI International; Andrew Binder, Anne McLaughlin, Lee-Ann Jaykus, Dana Hanson, and Benjamin Chapman, North Carolina State University; and Doug Powell, powellfoodsafety.com

Journal of Food Protection

DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-16-065

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2013 Model Food Code, it is the duty of a food establishment to disclose and remind consumers of risk when ordering undercooked food such as ground beef. The purpose of this study was to explore actual risk communication activities of food establishment servers. Secret shoppers visited restaurants (n=265) in seven geographic locations across the U.S., ordered medium rare burgers, and collected and coded risk information from chain and independent restaurant menus and from server responses. The majority of servers reported an unreliable method of doneness (77%) or other incorrect information (66%) related to burger doneness and safety. These results indicate major gaps in server knowledge and risk communication, and the current risk communication language in the Model Food Code does not sufficiently fill these gaps. Furthermore, should servers even be acting as risk communicators? There are numerous challenges associated with this practice including high turnover rates, limited education, and the high stress environment based on pleasing a customer. If it is determined that servers should be risk communicators, food establishment staff should be adequately equipped with consumer advisory messages that are accurate, audience-appropriate, and delivered in a professional manner so as to help their customers make more informed food safety decisions.

 

FSA idiots: Cooking until the juices run clear is a bad way to tell if the meat is done

It’s sorta sad when the PhD boffins at the UK Food Standards Agency get stood up by Cooks Illustrated.

chicken-thermWorse when they fail to acknowledge the error of their ways, but still earn the big bucks.

Cooking a chicken until its “juices run clear when pricked” is pretty standard poultry advice but, according to Cook’s Illustrated, it’s not a very dependable way to tell if your chicken is properly cooked.

As reported by Claire Lower of Skillet, though myoglobin (the molecule that gives meat its pink or red hue) does lose its color when heated, the temperature at which the color change occurs can vary depending on a whole bunch of factors. In fact, when Cook’s Illustrated tested this theory, they found the color of the juice had very little to do with the temperature of the meat:

But when we cooked whole chickens, in one case the juices ran clear when the breast registered 145 degrees and the thigh 155 degrees—long before the chicken was done. And when we pierced another chicken that we’d overcooked (the breast registered 170 degrees and the thigh 180 degrees), it still oozed pink juices.

The takeaway? Get a thermometer, use it, and never under-cook or overcook your chicken again.

Stick it in and use a thermometer.

barfblog-stick-it-in

 

Food porn: People want rare hamburgers yet aren’t informed of risks

I love this paper.

The research is cool, but to me it culminates 16 years of Chapman becoming a better researcher.

ben-newI had a hand in the idea for the paper, but Chapman and his team did all the work.

I edited some stuf.

I was reminded last night of all the youthful energy me, and Chapman and Blaine and Lisa and Brae and Katie and Sarah and the reintroduced Carol – had when we did the bulk of our creative work.

Sorta like the Stones 68-72.

And yet that was the most turmoil in my life, as I went through a painful divorce, separation from kids, an interesting girlfriend and finally meeting Amy a few years later.

My line is graduate students should be able to bail their supervisor out of jail or drive me to the airport when (I) threatened with arrest.

Sorta like the Stones 68-72.

This is Chapman’s moment to shine, and although barfblog.com was named the number 1 food safety blog by someone pushing something today, it don’t matter much.

doug-ben-familyOften Chapman and I will send an e-mail to each other about some obscure reference in a post, with the comment, we only write for each other.

And the over 75,000 direct subscribers in over 70 countries.

Well done Chapman et al., couldn’t be prouder.

You too Blaine.

Assessment of risk communication about undercooked hamburgers by restaurant servers

Ellen M. Thomas, RTI International; Andrew Binder, Anne McLaughlin, Lee-Ann Jaykus, Dana Hanson, and Benjamin Chapman, North Carolina State University; and Doug Powell, powellfoodsafety.com

Journal of Food Protection

DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-16-065

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2013 Model Food Code, it is the duty of a food establishment to disclose and remind consumers of risk when ordering undercooked food such as ground beef. The purpose of this study was to explore actual risk communication activities of food establishment servers. Secret shoppers visited restaurants (n=265) in seven geographic locations across the U.S., ordered medium rare burgers, and collected and coded risk information from chain and independent restaurant menus and from server responses. The majority of servers reported an unreliable method of doneness (77%) or other incorrect information (66%) related to burger doneness and safety. These results indicate major gaps in server knowledge and risk communication, and the current risk communication language in the Model Food Code does not sufficiently fill these gaps. Furthermore, should servers even be acting as risk communicators? There are numerous challenges associated with this practice including high turnover rates, limited education, and the high stress environment based on pleasing a customer. If it is determined that servers should be risk communicators, food establishment staff should be adequately equipped with consumer advisory messages that are accurate, audience-appropriate, and delivered in a professional manner so as to help their customers make more informed food safety decisions.

Thanksgiving leftovers? Ship them to Shanghai

Liu Renzhi of CCTV reports that authorities and some restaurants in Shanghai’s Putuo District have set up shared refrigerators in various public spaces. The refrigerators look to serve the disabled and elderly in getting free leftovers. The initiative also aims to reduce the amount of waste at restaurants.

sorenne-tedMr. Wang got some free cake from a community refrigerator this morning in Changshou compound. He says it’s convenient.

“I like this idea. I can’t walk normally due to a stroke. Now I don’t have to go far for food or spend too much thanks to the community refrigerator,” he said.

“The locals come as soon as we open at 8:30 am. Most of them are in their 70s or 80s,” said Peng Hongjun, volunteer, New Puxiong Community in Putuo District.

Suppliers put about 30 boxes of food in the refrigerator every time. They include half-cooked dishes, milk and cake. And more food is added in the afternoon. There’s no limit of how much food one person can get. The food is often all gone within ten minutes of the refrigerator opening in the morning.

thanksgiving-leftoversWang said they’re working with food safety authorities to ensure the hygiene and quality of the food. Volunteers also write down the names and contacts of those who take food in case there are any food safety issues.

Thanksgiving is in the heart, or stomach: Clostridium perfringens outbreak associated with a catered lunch — North Carolina, November 2015

Yesterday, while picking Sorenne up from school I asked several of the attendees at our Thanksgiving feast in the park on Saturday, if there was any intestinal upset.

All clear.

doug-turkey-cater-nov-16I was especially concerned about C. perfringens, what with the prior cooking of the turkeys and the transporting to the park, and the outside temp of90F as we move into summer, but I would have heard by Sunday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that in November 2015, the North Carolina Division of Public Health was notified by the Pitt County Health Department (PCHD) that approximately 40 persons who attended a catered company Thanksgiving lunch the previous day were ill with diarrhea and abdominal pain. The North Carolina Division of Public Health and PCHD worked together to investigate the source of illness and implement control measures.

Within hours of notification, investigators developed and distributed an online survey to all lunch attendees regarding symptoms and foods consumed and initiated a cohort study.

A case of illness was defined as abdominal pain or diarrhea in a lunch attendee with illness onset <24 hours after the event. Risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated for all menu items. Among 80 attendees, 58 (73%) completed the survey, including 44 respondents (76%) who reported illnesses meeting the case definition; among these, 41 (93%) reported diarrhea, and 40 (91%) reported abdominal pain. There were no hospitalizations. Symptom onset began a median of 13 hours after lunch (range = 1–22 hours). Risk for illness among persons who ate turkey or stuffing (38 of 44; 86%), which were plated and served together, was significantly higher than risk for illness among those who did not eat turkey or stuffing (six of 14; 43%) (RR = 2.02; 95% CI = 1.09–3.73).

PCHD collected stool specimens from ill persons and samples of leftover food from the company that hosted the lunch. Stool specimens were tested for norovirus and bacterial enteric pathogens at the North Carolina State Laboratory for Public Health. Based on reported symptoms and short interval between the lunch and symptom onset, a toxin was suspected as the cause of the outbreak; therefore, five stool specimens from ill persons and 20 food samples were submitted to CDC for Clostridium perfringens detection.

debbiedownerthanksgiving_postStools were tested for C. perfringens enterotoxin (CPE) using reversed passive latex agglutination. Stool culture and enumeration of C. perfringens colony forming units (CFU) were performed for five samples of foods implicated by the epidemiologic investigation (one stuffing sample and four turkey samples). Because meat is the most common source of C. perfringens outbreaks (1), one ham sample also was analyzed, although consumption of ham was not associated with an increased risk for illness. CPE was detected in all five stool specimens. C. perfringens containing the C. perfringens enterotoxin gene (cpe) was recovered from all five stool specimens and from all four turkey samples; one turkey sample contained >105 CFU/g. C. perfringens was not recovered from samples of other foods. No other pathogens were detected in stool specimens. Collectively, laboratory results met CDC guidelines for confirming C. perfringens as the outbreak source (3).

PCHD environmental health specialists interviewed the caterer about food handling and preparation practices. The North Carolina Food Code requires that all commercial caterers operate in a facility that has been inspected for compliance and permitted by the regulatory authority (4). The caterer had previously maintained a permitted facility, but reported having prepared the lunch food served at this event in an uninspected, residential kitchen. Turkeys were cooked approximately 10 hours before lunch, placed in warming pans, and plated in individual servings. Food was then delivered by automobile, which required multiple trips. After cooking and during transport, food sat either in warming pans or at ambient temperature for up to 8 hours. No temperature monitoring was conducted after cooking.

C. perfringens toxicoinfection (a foodborne illness caused by ingestion of toxin-producing bacteria) is often associated with consumption of meat that has been improperly prepared and handled (1,2). Because diagnostic testing is not widely available, C. perfringens can go undetected as a cause of foodborne illness outbreaks (2,3,5). Diagnostic testing to assist with outbreak source identification is useful to corroborate epidemiologic information, document disease prevalence, and guide prevention recommendations.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and environmental evidence indicate that this outbreak was caused by consumption of turkey prepared by a commercial caterer operating in an unpermitted kitchen. Inadequate facilities, extended time between turkey preparation and consumption, and failure to monitor and control temperature before and during transport resulted in an anerobic environment conducive to C. perfringens spore germination and growth (6). Prompt local health department response, use of an online survey, and rapid collaboration between local, state, and federal public health agencies were instrumental in identifying the outbreak source quickly and preventing additional cases.

These findings confirm the need for commercial food preparers to adhere to existing food safety regulations (4), including use of permitted facilities and having a certified kitchen manager on staff. Caterers should be aware of the risks associated with improper storage of prepared food for long periods and the importance of temperature monitoring and regulation during food preparation and handling.

Get stuffed?

I wrote the below for NC State News.

As a Canadian in the U.S. I’ve fully embraced the holiday season that runs from Thanksgiving through December. I enjoy spending a day planning and shopping for an event-style meal, and then another day actually preparing and cooking it. I throw on some tunes (this year it will probably be Drake, for my Canadian roots, and the Avett Brothers as a nod to North Carolina) and with the help of the rest of the family I’ll roast a turkey, make mashed potatoes, green beans, squash, beets and a couple of other harvest vegetables.

And we’ll make a lot of stuffing.stuffing-header-825x464

Depending on your preference and food persuasion there are lots of different stuffing or dressing options.

A common question that pops up is whether it’s better to cook stuffing it in the bird to preserve moisture (and get flavored by the turkey juices) or prepare it as a separate dish. The concern is that if someone puts the stuffing in the turkey cavity it may become contaminated by the turkey juices and Salmonella and Campylobacter will migrate through the stuffing. Easier to recommend not messing with the cross-contamination instead of managing the risk. But what does the science say?

I’m a food safety nerd and take a science-based approached to my meals. Armed with a digital, tip-sensitive thermometer I’m happy to jam stuffing up inside of my poultry and use the probe to check the temperature. And I use 165 degrees Fahrenheit as a target for my bread-based stuffing.

There’s some history to that number; in 1958 Raymond Rogers and Millard Gunderson of the Campbell Soup Company published some work evaluating the safety of roasting frozen stuffed turkeys (a new product at the time). Using a known amount of Salmonella pullorum, nine turkeys and some then-fancy ceramic thermocouples, they found that they could get an 8-log (or 99.999999%) reduction when the deepest part of the stuffing hit 160 degrees Fahrenheit. They recommended 165 degrees to be conservative (and because some thermometers aren’t always very accurate).

From the manuscript (comments that still apply today): “The initial temperature and the size of the turkey influence considerably the time required to reach a lethal temperature in the stuffing. The lower the initial temperature of the turkey, the longer the roasting period required. Present recommended roasting procedures designating hours cooking time or which stipulate a thigh or breast temperature to be attained alone does not appear to be adequate bacteriologically.”

Inside the bird, outside the bird; meat or no meat: Use a thermometer.

For your holiday viewing, here’s a video devoted to minimizing risk from foodborne illness when cooking turkey. More food safety tips are available here.

‘Barf-proof yourself like a food-safety ace’

Amy says she’s going to get me a hat that says, Ace.

Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News writes:

article-barf-1024He rarely eats in restaurants. When he dines at friends’ homes, he’s been known to peek into his hosts’ fridge and cupboards. “It’s an annoying habit,” he tells the Daily News.

Meet Doug Powell (right, exactly as shown, in 2005, dissenters to the left please) a former professor of food safety and publisher of barfblog.com, which is all about food-safety issues. There are plenty of them. Last year there were 626 food recalls in the U.S. and Canada. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that food-borne pathogens sicken 48 million Americans — that’s one in six — hospitalize 128,000 and kill 3,000. Powell, who was raised in Canada, lived in the U.S. and now resides in Brisbane, Australia, has been there. He wrote about that in barfblog.  “More recalls are due to better detection and awareness,” he says. “The food is as dangerous as it’s always been, not more so.”

Between posting about recalls and E. coli outbreaks in the U.S. and beyond, Powell, 53, set the Daily News straight about everyday food-safety questions.

Now it’s okay to eat pork that’s rosy pink, right?

Nope. “Research has shown that color is a lousy indicator of whether meat is safe to eat,” says Powell. Same goes for requesting your chops or steaks “well done,” which is vague enough to put you in hurl’s way. “When I go to a restaurant and they ask me how I want my steak, I say, ‘140 degrees.’” He also carries a tip-sensitive digital thermometer in his backpack. He swears by one from Comark that’s around $16.

Raw sprouts are good for you, yes?

dp-chest-protectorMaybe not. “I never eat them,” says Powell. And that includes ones he could grow at home. Warm and humid conditions ideal for growing sprouts are an Eden for growing bacteria, like Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. In the past 20 years they’ve been connected to at least 30 outbreaks of foodborne illness (bring on your best shots, left, I got some new goalie equipment, 11 years later).

You should have two cutting boards in the kitchen — one for meat, the other for vegetables?

Powell uses one and “usually I use dish soap” to clean it. To sanitize, he uses a 10-to-one ratio of bleach to water.

(Nosestretcher alert: I already sent in the correction, which is somewhere between 250-400 parts water to I part bleach, or a tablespoon bleach per gallon of water.)

Is organically raised food safer than if it’s conventionally produced?

Nope. “Organic is a production standard and has nothing to do with microbial food safety,” says Powell. “Large or small, conventional or organic, safety is a function of individual farmers. They either know about microbial food safety risks and take steps to reduce or manage that risk, or they don’t.” Along the same line, “local” does not automatically mean safe, he adds.

Super-fresh sushi won’t make you sick will it?

“Raw fish houses an amazing microbiology profile that can make you sick,” he says. “It’s just not a good idea to eat it.”

Chapman says whenever someone calls him Ace, he responds with Ace of Spades, in a bad imitation of Lemmy’s voice.

Food Safety Talk 110: Drumsticks and Cornettos

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.1476367755101

They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.

Episode 110 can be found here and on iTunes.

This week’s episode has some audio quality issues towards the end. Listen to find out why. As usual, here are show notes so you can follow along at home.

Thermometers and hockey

“Do you always bring that thing with you?”

coffs-hockey-team-16“Don’t you?”

The thing was my tip-sensitive digital thermometer which is always in my backpack, which is always on my back, and the occasion was the annual BBQ at the annual Coffs Harbour 3-on-3 hockey tournament.

With 120 guests to serve, I always arrive packin’.

The meat was safely-temperature-verified-grilled, no bare hand contact was achieved through either tongs or gloves, and cross-contamination was minimal (the parents all know what I do, and they knew I’d be watching).

Amy and I played sous chefs for a couple of hours, prepping onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon.

Coffs Harbour Big Banana 3-on-3 Skirmish, now in its sixth year, started as a two club match-up between Newcastle North Stars and Southern Stars from Brisbane with Coffs Harbour as the halfway meeting point for the 3-on-3 ice hockey weekend.

doug-ref-oct-16The tournament has grown each year to now include nine clubs represented by 26 teams from NSW, QLD and ACT. Some 175 players ranging in age from 5-to-16-years-old in five different age divisions played in 80 games.

I coached, acted as medic, refereed for the first time since completing that 14-hour training and was called upon to be the badass coach when kids got unruly around the pool and BBQ area.

Amy did scorekeeping, merchandizing, and overall hockey mom stuff, like getting Sorenne prepared.

So many other people contributed in similar ways.

Great kids, great parents, it’s our church, but without the god stuff. There’s singing and dancing, but not so much the hymns. More AC/DC.