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.


Inevitability of reproduction – TV cooking show edition

In 2004, my laboratory reported (and by reported I mean published in a peer-reviewed journal) that, based on 60 hours of detailed viewing of television cooking shows, an unsafe food handling practice occurred about every four minutes, and that for every safe food handling practice observed, we observed 13 unsafe practices. The most common errors were inadequate hand washing and cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat foods.celebrity_chefs4

The abstract is below.

Once the paper was published, it made headlines around the globe.

And then it started getting replicated. Texas, Europe, a few other places, and now Massachusetts.

Compliance With Recommended Food Safety Practices in Television Cooking Shows

Nancy Cohen, Rita Olsen

Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2016 Aug 28. pii: S1499-4046(16)30715-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2016.08.002. [Epub ahead of print]


Examine compliance with recommended food safety practices in television cooking shows.


Using a tool based on the Massachusetts Food Establishment Inspection Report, raters examined 39 episodes from 10 television cooking shows.


Chefs demonstrated conformance with good retail practices for proper use and storage of utensils in 78% of episodes; preventing contamination (62%), and fingernail care (82%). However, 50% to 88% of episodes were found to be out of compliance with other personal hygiene practices, proper use of gloves and barriers (85% to 100%), and maintaining proper time and temperature controls (93%). Over 90% failed to conform to recommendations regarding preventing contamination through wiping cloths and washing produce. In only 13% of episodes were food safety practices mentioned.

Conclusions and Implications

There appears to be little attention to food safety during most cooking shows. Celebrity and competing chefs have the opportunity to model and teach good food safety practices for millions of viewers.

 Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.

Chefs don’t know shit about food safety: Trend for eating chicken livers ’pink’ could put lives at risk

Another one for the duh files.

chicken.liver.pateUK researchers found the fashion for serving chicken livers “rare” may expose people to potentially fatal Campylobacter food poisoning. 

The study investigated the cooking times for chicken liver included in a number of popular current recipes. 

Many of the recipes recommend serving chicken livers pink and cooking them for times insufficient to kill off Campylobacter – the most common cause of food poisoning in Britain which is responsible for more than 250,000 cases each year. 

Researchers from Manchester, Bangor and Liverpool universities found that up to 52 per cent of 141 chefs from a range of professional kitchens questioned wanted to serve chicken livers so rare that they would not reach 70C, the temperature necessary to kill the pathogen Campylobacter. 

Dr Paul Cross, of Bangor University, said: “Chicken livers are served in many pubs and restaurants around the country, and the trend seems to be for them to be served ‘pink.’ 

“The research asked over a thousand members of the public and the chefs about their preferences, and whether they could identify safely cooked meats. 

“The public were not able to identify safely cooked chicken livers by sight.

“Almost a third of the public participants identified livers as ‘safe’ which in fact had predicted Campylobacter survival rates of between 48 per cent and 98 per cent.” 

Study co lead author Professor Dan Rigby of Manchester University, said: “As people are eating their steaks and other joints of red meat rarer, that trend seems to be extending to higher risk meats such as chicken livers and beef burgers. 

“We found that many chefs were able to identify cooked livers that reached the temperature necessary to kill the pathogens, but their preferences for the taste and texture of pink livers may be overriding their knowledge of food safety. 

“In contrast the public were consistent in their choices – they tended to select dishes to eat that they thought met safe cooking guidelines. This is a concern, because the public were also poor at identifying by sight whether a cooked chicken liver had been cooked sufficiently to be safe.” 

The study showed that chefs also overestimated the public’s preference for rareness. 

The study highlighted that almost half the members of the public questioned (48 per cent) agreed that cooking programmes on TV and recipes in magazines had influenced the public to serve meat pinker in the middle. 

Of course the British public believes thia, because their regulators won’t say, use a damn thermometer.

barfblog.Stick It In


I don’t see color, it doesn’t matter: UK hamburger edition

Don’t burger up your bank holiday.

Get it? Don’t bugger it up? Burger it up?

barfblog.Stick It InThose bureaucrats at UK’s Food Standards Agency are really yukking it up, focused on stupid jokes rather than evidence-based communications.

FSA has long been in its own undersirable class when talking about food safety risks, and class is so very important to the Brits.

FSA is great is talking at people rather than talking with people (a huge difference, like educating versus providing information).

FSA’s idea of risk communication is to commission a meaningless survey – people lie, especially about food and drink – which found that despite 71% of people stating that they are concerned about food poisoning, over a third (36%) of Brits would eat a burger that isn’t fully cooked through. More than one in 10 said that they actually prefer burgers cooked this way.  When cooking them at home 81% of those admit to undercooking them. So we at the FSA are encouraging all those who are getting their barbecues out this weekend to ensure they cook their burgers all the way through – until steaming hot throughout, there’s no pink meat in the middle and the juices run clear.

Those scientifically meanginless terms – steaming hot, no pink – have featured prominently in FSA foodsafetytalk for years, with steaming hot replacing piping hot.

Lead FSA policy thingy said something that is not worth repeating because it ignores the risks associated with needle-tenderized steaks.

And we’ve been over this so many times before.

The BBC repeated the advice verbatium in its latest version of PR blowjobs rather than something resembling journalism.

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

And now this.


Safefood Queensland, you awake? Noosa eatery brags about medium-rare USDA certified organic burgers

A friend of Amy’s from her PhD days at the I-was-there-when-Tom-Brady-was-there University of Michigan and her family came over last night for dinner.

austin.powers.meat.2.verThey’d been on the road a long time, so I figured a U.S.-styled meal of steak and two veg would be welcomed.

It was.

After a day of cleaning and cooking – seriously, me and two other semi-house dads I hang with at the kid’s school should jump on the food porn train with all the shopping and cooking we do and the discussions we have about how to make a slow-cooked chicken curry while also talking about the shit guys say on mic’d up hockey – Amy went off with her friend and family and I got to write.

Yet only a couple of hours into the adventure, I get this from Amy:

We went to a place for lunch in Noosa. I was going to get a burger but read that “All our burgers are USDA certified organic and served medium-rare.”

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

Only way to tell if something is microbiologically safe.

And the prices are outrageous.

There’s so much shit out there.


20 sick with trichinosis in Siberia linked to bear meat

Robert Herriman of Outbreak News Today reports the number of people infected with the parasitic disease, trichinosis, has grown to 20 people in the Irkutsk region of Siberia, Russia, according to a report (computer translated).

Cartoons_Yogi_BearThe public health investigation reveals that the hunters contracted the parasite in May after preparing smoked bear meat which was consumed. Shortly after consuming the not fully cooked meat, they complained of feeling bad and went to the hospital.

Use a thermometer: At least 8 sick from E. coli linked to Son of a Bun’ burgers in Ireland

The proprietors of Cork burger restaurant ‘Son of a Bun’ have said that they are ‘devastated’ by the temporary closure order served upon the business last week.

DKANE 05/10/2015 REPRO FREE Proprietors Niall and Amanda O'Regan at the opening of Son of a Bun, Cork’s newest burger restaurant, creating 31 new jobs on the site of the old Crowley’s Music Store on MacCurtain Street.  The newly renovated 4,500 sq ft restaurant can seat 84 people and offers a selection of mouth-watering burgers using only the best Aberdeen Angus beef, sourced locally in Bandon, Co. Cork.  The burger restaurant is also the first one in Ireland to be approved by the HSE to serve burgers pink. Pic Darragh Kane.

The order follows a HSE investigation into an outbreak of E. coli in the city, which has identified eight cases in adults to date. The HSE said all affected are currently well.

“A Cork food business has been identified as a common link between the cases,” the HSE confirmed yesterday.

Son of a Bun owners Niall and Amanda O’Regan said it was an issue in relation to “structural issues” with the premises.

However in a statement the couple also revealed that “four staff have tested positive to carrying bacteria linked with E .coli”.

The closure order was served last Wednesday, June 29 and the restaurant was shut over the weekend.

While a notice on the door of the premises cited “necessary construction works” as the cause of the closure, it did not make any reference to the closure order.

However the restaurant yesterday issued a statement confirming it had received the closure order.

“Following a complaint, Son of A Bun restaurant has been working with the FSAI to ensure the integrity and quality of food safety at the premises in Cork,” the statement read.

barfblog.Stick It InWhen it opened last October, the owners said Son of a Bun was “the only restaurant approved by the HSE to serve burgers cooked pink”.

However a spokesperson for the HSE yesterday said that it does not award approval to restaurants wishing to serve rare or medium-rare burgers.

And did the bureautypes say that back in Oct.? Did they say anything during subsequent inspections?

Son of a Bun opened last September and has proven a huge hit with burger fans in Cork. It became well-known for its ‘pink burgers’, served rare and medium rare at customers’ requests.

It is understood that Son of a Bun will no longer serve the ‘pink’ burgers when the MacCurtain St restaurant reopens.

Color is irrelevant. Use a thermometer and stick it in.

EFSA advises on meat spoilage during storage and transport

Continuing in the advice vein, the European Food Safety Authority is trying to balance safety and quality when transporting meat. had previously advised on the implications for meat safety if two parameters – time and temperature – varied and provided several scenarios for ensuring safety of meat during storage and transport of meat. The Commission subsequently asked EFSA to consider what implications such scenarios would have for the growth of bacteria that cause meat to spoil.

“If the sole consideration was safety, policy makers would have more options on the table to pick from. However, scenarios that are acceptable in terms of safety may not be acceptable in terms of quality,” said Dr. Marta Hugas, Head of EFSA’s Biological Hazards and Contaminants unit.

Current legislation requires that carcasses are chilled to no more than 7C and that this temperature is maintained until mincing. The European Commission wants to revise this legislation to provide industry with more flexibility and asked EFSA’s scientific advice on safety and quality aspects.

Experts also said that effective hygienic measures during slaughter and processing help control contamination with spoilage bacteria.

Why color sucks: Eating pink chicken

Joe Sevier of Epicurious had unknowingly done me a favor, telling his food porn audience it’s OK to eat pink chicken, if it is temped for safety.

Suck on that Food Standards Scotland.

scotland.pinkchicken-fss_largeWe’ve been trained as a society to treat pink poultry like anathema. Some cooks even go so far as to overcook chicken on purpose. But what if I told you some pink poultry is safe to eat? Would you believe me?

Amazingly, it’s true. When I spoke to Dr. Greg Blonder, a physicist and co-author of Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, he explained why some pinkness will never fade. And if no amount of checking the chicken’s temperature will assuage your squeamishness, he offered some tips to avoiding pink poultry before you even bring it home from the store.

What causes cooked meat to turn pink?

“The majority of chickens sold in stores today are between six to eight weeks old,” says Blonder. Young chickens have hollow bones that are thinner and more porous than their older brethren. When cooked, “the purple marrow—so colored due to the presence of myoglobin, a protein responsible for storing oxygen—leaks into the meat.” This reaction, in effect, stains the bone; the color of the meat adjacent to it will not fade regardless of the temperature to which it’s cooked.

What about pink flesh nearer the surface? Certain cooking techniques—especially ones that use lower cooking temperatures, such as smoking—exacerbate the pink meat reaction. That pink smoke ring that’s a telltale sign of good barbecue? Myoglobin again. In fact, you don’t even need smoke to achieve that smoke ring.

barfblog.Stick It InWhy is my chicken bloody in the first place?

Actually, it’s not. Blonder notes, “all commercially-sold chickens are drained of their blood during processing.” The pink, watery liquid you’re seeing is just that: water. The moisture that seeps from the chicken while it’s waiting for you to buy it mixes with that old rascal myoglobin, causing the pink “juices” that you see pooling around the packaged bird—it’s called myowater, FYI.

That same substance is what gushes forth when you cut into a cooking chicken to see if the juices run clear. Unfortunately, that’s a long-held measure of doneness that can’t be trusted. The only way to know if your bird is cooked through: a good quality thermometer. (Here’s the Epi favorite.) To check the temperature, stick the probe into the meatiest part of the bird—checking both the breast and thigh is a good idea. You’re looking for a finished temperature of 160ºF to 165ºF. Accounting for carry-over cooking and the size of whatever it is you’re cooking, that could mean pulling the chicken off the heat anywhere from 150ºF to 155ºF.

Whatever, pink meat still freaks me out

There are a couple of things you can do to avoid pink meat altogether.

First, debone the meat before it’s cooked. Without a myoglobin-y bone around to stain it, your chicken breast will be as pristinely white as possible.

Second, change the pH. A lot of factors are at play here, notes Blonder, and even the way an animal is slaughtered can significantly change the pH level (i.e. acidity) of its meat. Higher pH—i.e. lower acidity—means higher myoglobin and higher myoglobin means pink had better be your new obsession. If you’re not Steven Tyler, opt instead to marinate your meat in a marinade with a lot of citrus or vinegar. Introducing the meat to a high-acid environment will lower the pH and reduce the risk of that anxiety-inducing rosy hue.

Scotland, your overpaid food safety communications types got some explaining to do. If you can’t even get cooking chicken right, how can anyone believe your so-called science-based approach to food safety issues?

And every generation will have its Aerosmith. They aren’t the Stones or Floyd.