Food Safety Talk 100: No buns in the bathroom

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.1459283728049

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.1461946810971

Episode 100 can be found here and on iTunes.

Here is a bulleted list of link to the topics mentioned on the show:

Trump, castes, and microbial food safety

Roberto A. Ferdman and Christopher Ingraham, reporters for the Washington Post, write there are few things as regrettable as a steak well done.

idiocracy_thumbCooking meat to the point of leathery toughness dulls the flavor, among many other things. “Forgive my snobbishness, but well-done meat is dry and flavorless,” Mark Bittman wrote in 2007, imploring people to serve hamburgers “rare, or at most medium rare.”

What Bittman actually said was, “if you grind your own beef, you can make a mixture and taste it raw,” adding that, “To reassure the queasy, there’s little difference, safety-wise, between raw beef and rare beef: salmonella is killed at 160 degrees, and rare beef is cooked to 125 degrees.”

This is food safety idiocracy: Using Bittman to prop up an argument is silly.

The authors continue by commenting on the gastro habits of Donald Trump, who apparently likes his steak well-done.

This, more than anything else Trump has ssaid or done, brings him into ridicule.

A 2014 survey by 538 found that fully one-quarter of Americans said they liked their steak done “well” or “medium-well.”  Is this Trump’s base? Hard to tell, since there weren’t enough steak-eaters in the 538 survey to break out demographic groups. But we can turn instead to a 2012 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair survey that asked 1,000 Americans how they liked their burgers done.

The results shock the conscience. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they liked their burgers well done, making that the most popular response. Another 29 percent liked medium burgers, 19 percent prefer medium-rare, and only 4 percent cook their burgers rare.

Digging into the demographics, a few interesting patterns stand out. First, preference for overcooked meat is strongly correlated with age. Forty-six percent of senior citizens prefer their burgers well done, compared to only 27 percent of those aged 18 to 29.

The less-educated are also more likely to prefer well done burgers – 47 percent of those with a high school education or less like their burgers well done, compared to only 25 percent of those with a college or advanced degree.

barfblog.Stick It InThere’s a similar relationship with income, with people in higher-income households less likely to overcook their burgers than people in low-income households.

These are the same demographics as anti-vaxxers, raw-milk connoisseurs and anti-GMO types.

And surveys still suck.

Hamburger should be cooked to 165F, steak 140F, as verified with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

No amount of flowery put-downs or caste-style insults will change the safety data.

Thermometers an afterthought: UK wants views on rare burgers advice

The UK Food Standards Agency has made a begrudgingly acknowledgement to thermometers, but still insists on color to tell if burgers are done.

barfblog.Stick It InThe growing popularity of burgers served pink has led the FSA to develop the advice on rare burgers. It is aimed at helping businesses meet consumer demand for rare burgers while keeping customers protected. Burgers that aren’t thoroughly cooked can contain bacteria that cause food poisoning if the right controls aren’t in place.

In September 2015, the FSA Board agreed a number of controls that food businesses serving burgers pink will need to have in place to demonstrate that they are maintaining customer safety. The new advice sets the options out and they include:

  • sourcing the meat only from establishments which have specific controls in place to minimise the risk of contamination of meat intended to be eaten raw or lightly cooked;
  • ensuring that the supplier carries out appropriate testing of raw meat to check that their procedures for minimising contamination are working;
  • sStrict temperature control to prevent growth of any bugs and appropriate preparation and cooking procedures;
  • notifying their local authority that burgers that aren’t thoroughly cooked are being served by the business; and,
  • providing advice to consumers, for example on menus, regarding the additional risk.

chipotle.BSThe draft advice is for caterers and local authorities only and the FSA’s long-standing advice to consumers is unchanged: burgers prepared at home should be cooked thoroughly until they are steaming hot throughout, the juices run clear and there is no pink meat left inside. If using a temperature probe or cooking thermometer, make sure the middle of the burgers reaches a temperature of 70⁰C for 2 minutes.

hamburger-safe and unsafe-thumb-450x138-175

Everyone’s got a camera: California uni receives A rating after alleged raw chicken is served

The Cal State Fullerton Gastronome maintained an “A” food safety rating following an inspection conducted after reports of undercooked chicken.

According to the CSUF Food Facility Inspection Reports, conducted by the Department of Risk Management and Environmental Health & Safety, Inspector Justine Baldacci carried out the Feb. 24 inspection three days after students lodged complaints.

Baldacci also performed the Gastronome’s last inspection on July 28, 2015. The dining facility received a score of 95. The department scheduled a reinspection date for Nov. 20, 2015. However, no inspection report for November was filed on the CSUF Risk Management and Environmental Health & Safety website.

The most recent inspection report states that Baldacci inspected the facility following a report of allegedly undercooked chicken served to a customer.

cooked.chickenThe inspection found that “the processes, procedures and record keeping for batch cooking were reviewed with management and found to be adequate.”

The incident that caused the complaint took place Sunday, Feb. 21, when students said the chicken they were served for dinner was undercooked.

Elana Stein, 18, posted a picture of the chicken she said was undercooked on the Gastronome’s Facebook page and sent a complaint with the pictures of the alleged raw chicken to Rhonda Robinson, manager of the Gastronome.

Color is a lousy indicator of safety. Use a thermometer and stick it in.

barfblog.Stick It In

Food is getting safer, but still might make you sick

Scott Canon of The Kansas City Star writes in a good food safety feature, go ahead and eat out. Or eat in (edited excerpts below).

produceWhether you dig into Mom’s casserole, feast on the local diner’s daily special or snarf up something from a mega-corporation’s drive-through, America’s meals may arrive as safe now as mankind has ever known.

Just not 100 percent.

Government rules continue to tighten. Various industries, fearful of lawsuits and the lost business that follows bad publicity, put more muscle into keeping things clean.

Yet experts also describe an increasingly elaborate system that tests the power to keep a meal safe.

“The marketplace is probably more complex,” said Charles Hunt, the Kansas state epidemiologist. “The produce that you get in the store today was in Mexico or someplace else just a few days before.”

The Chipotle chain saw multiple, high-profile problems last year. An E. coli outbreak traced to its restaurants in October. In December, the company also was tied to a norovirus incident in Boston, following outbreaks of the pathogen earlier in the year at outlets in California and Minnesota.

In the Kansas City area, more than 600 people got sick after attending shows at the New Theater Restaurant in January, and tests confirmed infections of the norovirus in at least some. It also struck at least 18 staff and patients at the University of Kansas Hospital’s Marillac Campus that month. And about a dozen people were hit with the same vomiting and diarrhea shortly afterward at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Overland Park.

Upticks in detections of outbreaks of food-borne illness, analysts say, likely reflect our increasing powers to spot them — not a growing danger.

In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration traced an outbreak of salmonella agona to a Malt-O-Meal processing plant in Minnesota. Ten years later, the same plant again shipped out cereal tainted with salmonella, sickening at least 33 people.

With the two incidents separated by a decade, any link seemed coincidental.

But a few years later, the FDA built a powerful tool for analyzing bacterial strains — Whole Genome Sequencing. It can identify down the lineage of any bacterium in its database. In this case it showed the new salmonella was the direct descendant of the earlier one.

barfblog.Stick It InIt turned out that the first outbreak stemmed from contaminated water used to clean the plant during a renovation. That same water was mixed in with mortar for the construction. Dangerous salmonella had been preserved in that mortar. Over the years, the surface of the mortar turned to dust, got wet and gave new life to that distinct family of salmonella.

Imagine the implications. The plant could prevent repeats by painting a sealant over the unlikely culprit — mortar in its walls.

But think of the child who becomes sick down the road with salmonella. The source could be any of thousands of ingredients consumed by an American kid in a normal day. But what if a doctor shares the salmonella sample with federal disease trackers? By looking at the particular genetic line, scientists can spot the family tree and the likely source.

“It tells you who’s related to who even over many years,” said Eric Brown, the director of the Division of Microbiology at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition.

Technology, food safety experts say, only goes so far.

The bigger payoffs come from diligence. That means, foremost, avoiding contamination from feces.

“Our food safety starts on the farm,” said Doug Powell. A former Kansas State University professor of food safety, he’s now the chief author of barfblog.

“It has to be systemic, repeated and relevant.”

For starters, farmers should not use manure on fresh produce. They need to know where their irrigation supply comes from and whether runoff during heavy rains travels from feedlots or other places where livestock or farm workers defecate. Washing those fruits and vegetables later down the line is necessary, but that often can’t overcome massive exposure to E. coli and other potentially fatal bacteria that thrive in poop.

Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who’s made a high-profile career filing lawsuits in food-borne illness cases, speaks with less alarm about the direction of Big Meat.

After years of restaurants and meat packers weathering expensive lawsuits and public relations disasters, he said, they’ve changed.

Take the slaughterhouse. Cattle arrive splattered with barnyard waste. For years, that created problems because the tainted hides would inevitably taint the skinned carcasses. But now, packing operations routinely steam-clean or treat the carcasses with an acid wash.

“You started to see an amazing turnaround and recalls linked to hamburger have fallen like a stone,” Marler said.

Meantime, he said, restaurants better recognize the business risk of not killing pathogens that cling to meat. Marler said big chains, in particular, devote increasing effort to thoroughly cooking beef, pork and poultry.

And federal rules on the required temperature for cooked meat have increased. Some chains, such as Taco Bell, now cook meat at centralized locations before shipping it to franchises. The local teenager preparing that food for customers still needs to be wary of temperature control, but much of the responsibility for safety has been standardized by corporate operations.

Produce, he and others say, poses a more difficult problem. Food that’s not cooked lacks the critical “kill step” to render harmless the bacteria that do slip through.

That, goes the critique, sets up a corporate culture that valued freshness over safety.

The company has responded by shutting down its restaurants repeatedly for special training days and saying its redoubled efforts to track the practices of its suppliers.

(Many have noted that much of Chipotle’s problems related to contamination from sick workers, not from its pursuit of freshness. More on that later.)

food-handler-card-skillsBut consumers have shown an increasing interest in the source of their food, preferring fresh over processed and local or organic over cheaper commodity ingredients. That’s tied, analysts say, to the belief that food made on a smaller scale and without the use of antibiotics in livestock or pesticides in crops is safer.

Some evidence suggests that such methods provide a more nutritious meal that may avoid long-term health risks. Yet they can pose new challenges in dodging food-borne pathogens in the short term, said barfblog’s Powell and others.

“Natural, organic, sustainable, dolphin-free — those are lifestyle choices,” Powell said. “There’s been no study that has conclusively said one way or another if it’s more likely to make you barf more.”

He worries it might. Smaller farms might not have the resources, or the sophistication, to keep soiled rain runoff from their vegetable patches. The farmer’s market customers or restaurants drawn to their farm-to-plate marketing, he said, might be less inclined to question safety.

“McDonald’s has it covered,” Powell said. “At the boutique places, I say I want my meat cooked to 165 degrees and they look at me like I just came off the turnip truck.”

 

Rare burger porn – more from Australia

Medium-rare means nothing. It’s temperature that counts for safety.

hillburgerBut why not listen to actor Les Hill who says he has roamed the earth on a worldwide odyssey to hunt down, and build, the ultimate burger.

Meet the Hillburger — the result of a passion which has become a fledgling business for the 42-year-old actor, foodie and former chef.

Hill’s Burger Bible

  • “If you can’t fit it in your mouth, it’s not a burger, it’s a food pile.”
  • “It should cooked medium rare — anything else, you lose the taste.”

Crappy bathrooms in NY’s JFK

It was Australia Day, 33 C, so why not coach an exhibition hockey game.

skate.like.a.girlWe travelled to Toowoomba yesterday, about 100 minutes from Brisbane, where one of my fellow coaches lives, and put the younger kids on a makeshift ice surface to drum up local interest in the sport (they’re trying to build an arena). http://www.chrismccooey.photography

Afterwards, many of the families went to a park, where the one grilling had remembered to bring his tip-sensitive digital thermometer, and another asked me about the bathroom.

I explained how 29 years ago, when I was editor of the Ontarion, the University of Guelph student paper, my first story in my new role was to rate the bathrooms at local bars.

It cost the paper thousands in lost advertising revenue because many of the bars didn’t like the results. The story was popular, and we made up the lost revenue in no time.

Christine Negroni writes in The Huffington Post that women arriving on oneworld flights into New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport have one word for the condition of the bathrooms in Terminal 8, “Ewwww.”

hockey.toowoombaKisha Burgos stopped at the bathroom in the baggage claim area and was shocked to see paper-strewn floors, filthy toilets and empty and broken paper dispensers in the stalls. “It’s bad,” she told me comparing it to the airports she visited in in Bangkok, Vietnam and Laos on her recent five week trip.

“Everything was really clean,” she said of the bathrooms in places one might not expect to find them. 

Airport workers know the secret is to use the toilets on the departure level because passengers are better cared for there. Keeping them happy encourages them to shop and dine while waiting to board their flights. Arriving passengers on the other hand, are in a hurry and on their way out.

The most customer-friendly airport is Singapore’s Changi where every bathroom has a touch screen survey enabling users to immediately register their satisfaction (is that before or after washing their hands?).

I reported back to the parent the bathroom had the essentials – running water, soap and paper towel (which isn’t that common in Australia).

As a coach, I like that – we had the basics covered.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/530692596955113/1090594804298220/?notif_t=group_activity

 

Brits still don’t know to use thermometers: Why you shouldn’t order a medium rare burger when eating out

I like my burgers at 165 F.

I don’t know what a medium-rare burger means, and neither do most of the people ordering and preparing hamburgers.

finger-testThere’s no definition, other than BS visual cues or B finger touching, or BS guesswork because, “we’ve always done it this way and never made anyone sick.”

More BS.

Worse is when the BS is coming from a publicly funded so-called science-based food safety agency – like the one in the UK.

According to the Mirror, experts say ordering a medium rare burger could contain dangerous bacteria that may lead to food poisoning or worse, be potentially fatal.

This is because bacteria, such as salmonella, listeria, campylobacter and E. coli, live on the outside of meat so searing steaks and cuts of beef and lamb would kill anything harmful, even when it’s still pink inside (unless it had been needle tenderized).

But as burgers are minced up those bugs that were on the outside are then on the inside and therefore should be cooked thoroughly, experts say.

The revelations were made as part of new four-part Channel 4 documentary Tricks of the Restaurant Trade, which explores the secrets of eating out.

Hugh Pennington, professor of bacteriology and leading expert of food poisoning, spoke to the programme and said he wants undercooked burgers banned.

“The problem with rare burgers is that you might fall ill from eating a bug that’s contained in the rare burger.

barfblog.Stick It In“You only have to eat about one bacterium to get a potentially lethal infection.”

In the episode aired tonight, the programme tested meat from some of the country’s top burger chains, with some shocking results.

A burger from Byron, a trendy gourmet burger restaurant, was found to contain Listeria innocua, the least dangerous strain of the bug but on rare occasions it can kill.

The chain said it was something they would be investigating.

A spokesman for Byron said ‘We have a comprehensive food management system to assure the safety of the food we serve.

‘We are proud of the quality of our beef and the rigour of these systems.”

You can say that with a straight face? Then show the burger-consuming public what the rigourous system actually is, instead of talking like a PR flunky.

It came after the Food Standards Agency released guidelines advising chains to warn about harmful bacteria.

The advice, released in September 2015, said restaurants should provide warnings on menus to vulnerable groups, like children, the elderly and pregnant women.

It also said only well done burgers should be served to children, especially the very young.

The programme sent in two young people, 11-year-old Abbie and 15-year-old Jamie, to three top burger chain restaurants to test the policy with some shocking results.

The first restaurant they tried was Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) where they were given no warnings on the menu and served a medium rare burger.

Next they went to Byron where the menu did contain a warning but staff still served the youngsters undercooked meat.

Finally they went to Honest Burgers where there was also no caution on the menu and the kids managed to get their hands on what appeared to be the rarest serving of the three.

GBK said that as of January 2016 the new FSA advice would be put on our menus, while Honest Burgers said it would add it on its next print run.

More BS.

Are you sure about that? Is that roast needle tenderized? Does it matter?

After a few days at the beach and being disappointed with restaurant food, it was good to be home, with my BBQ and a rib roast.

It was fairly delicious.

prime.ribBut the question arises, was it needle tenderized, potentially passing pathogens from the exterior to the interior and requiring a higher cooking temperature for safety.

I know the butcher where I purchased the meat, he knows what I do, and they cut the carcass up at the shop, so I believe him when he says it wasn’t needle tenderized.

All food purchases are faith-based.

Boneless beef rib eye roasts were surface inoculated on the fat side with ca. 5.7 log CFU/g of a five-strain cocktail of Salmonella for subsequent searing, cooking, and warm holding using preparation methods practiced by restaurants surveyed in a medium-size Midwestern city.

A portion of the inoculated roasts was then passed once through a mechanical blade tenderizer. For both intact and nonintact roasts, searing for 15 min at 260°C resulted in reductions in Salmonella populations of ca. 0.3 to 1.3 log CFU/g.

For intact (nontenderized) rib eye roasts, cooking to internal temperatures of 37.8 or 48.9°C resulted in additional reductions of ca. 3.4 log CFU/g. For tenderized (nonintact) rib eye roasts, cooking to internal temperatures of 37.8 or 48.9°C resulted in additional reductions of ca. 3.1 or 3.4 log CFU/g, respectively.

Pathogen populations remained relatively unchanged for intact roasts cooked to 37.8 or 48.9°C and for nonintact roasts cooked to 48.9°C when held at 60.0°C for up to 8 h. In contrast, pathogen populations increased ca. 2.0 log CFU/g in nonintact rib eye cooked to 37.8°C when held at 60.0°C for 8 h. Thus, cooking at low temperatures and extended holding at relatively low temperatures as evaluated herein may pose a food safety risk to consumers in terms of inadequate lethality and/or subsequent outgrowth of Salmonella, especially if nonintact rib eye is used in the preparation of prime rib, if on occasion appreciable populations of Salmonella are present in or on the meat, and/or if the meat is not cooked adequately throughout.

Microbiological safety of commercial prime rib preparation methods: Thermal inactivation of Salmonella in mechanically tenderized rib eye

Journal of Food Protection, Number 12, December 2015

Alexandra Calle, Anna C.S. Porto-Fett, Bradley A. Shoyer, John B. Luchansky, and Harshavardhan Thippareddi

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/iafp/jfp/2015/00000078/00000012/art00003

Say it ain’t so: Irish follow Brits on bad turkey advice

Safefood Ireland asks: Want to know the cooking time for your turkey to ensure the best (and safest) results?

turkey.calculator.dec.15This year it’s quick and simple. Just enter the weight of your turkey in the calculator, and it will calculate the correct cooking time to ensure your turkey is cooked to perfection.

Our calculated turkey cooking times are for use in electric fan assisted ovens only. See below for guidance on cooking turkeys using other oven types.

I’ll spare you the convoluted details.

Whoever thought a calculator with all the variables such as oven temp, time, etc. was simpler than sticking it in has probably never cooked a turkey. With a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

CurtisStoneAnd of course, the piping-hot-no-pink mantra: “As with cooking any poultry, always double check that the turkey is properly cooked before serving. Your turkey should be piping hot all the way through with no pink meat left and the juices should run clear when the thickest part of the thigh and breast are pierced with a clean fork or skewer.”

Curtis Stone from Coles in Australia gets it sorta right when he says, “Baste the turkey and continue roasting uncovered for about 1 hour longer, basting occasionally with more spice butter, or until a meat thermometer reads 75°C when inserted deep into the breast. If you don’t have a thermometer, insert a clean skewer into the thickest part of the thigh and if the juices run clear the turkey is ready.”

Just stick it in. Three times.

We’re having fish.

barfblog.Stick It In