Shattered: UK FSA annual science report published

I saw the Rolling Stones in Buffalo in 1981. We stayed up all night, and drove from Guelph, crossing the border about 4:30 a.m. George Thorogood opened in the rain, and was awesome, followed by Journey, who sucked (hence the Journey effect) and then the Stones.

barfblog.Stick It InThe UK Food Standards Agency is the Journey of the food safety biz: they make other agencies look good.

Catherine Brown, the chief executive of the Food Standards Agency, writes in the annual science report that it demonstrates “science is at the heart of everything we do.”

It’s hard to take that seriously from a group that recommends piping hot, steaming hot, and cooked until the juices run clear.

There’s no mention of thermometers.

Brown also writes, “A fundamental principle in this process is to maintain a clear distinction between the independent, expert assessment of risk, and decisions on risk management.”

The U.S. got rid of that in 1997.

But Journey was popular back then.

Food safety for Father’s Day (in Australia)

The teacher looked at me as we arrived at school this morning: Sorenne, you’re with me, dad, take her backpack upstairs and meet us over for assembly.

sorenne.fathers.day.sep.14My mom taught kindergarten (what is called prep in Australia) for some 40 years.

I didn’t argue.

It was all about Australian father’s day, which is this Sunday, and out of about 30 parents in attendance, four were fathers.

I’m used to that.

The New South Wales Food Authority, which is the state below Queensland, decided to issue a presser to avoid food poisoning on Father’s Day this Sunday.

Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson said, “If you’re looking to fire up the barbecue for dad this Sunday, make sure you remember that safe food preparation is just as important when you’re cooking on the barbecue as it is in your home kitchen.

“Cross contamination is a common mistake when people are cooking outdoors. It is important to always use a clean plate for your cooked meat and to not reuse one that may have raw juices or marinade on it.

“Outdoor eating and the warmer weather can create an ideal environment for bacteria.”

Here’s a better tip: use a digital thermometer and take out the guesswork.

barfblog.Stick It In

Nosestretcher alert: steaming hot taxpayer-funded UK food safety nonsense

bites.stick.it.inYou don’t even need a temperature probe, just keep dad handy. Meat should be steaming in the middle, with no pink on the inside. Any juices should run clear.”

Nonsense.

And taxpayers pay for this.

I also wouldn’t use tongs on raw meat and then stick them in my apron.

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

Use a digital meat thermometer

Consumer Reports gets it only partially right when it says, “for perfect roasts, use a digital meat thermometer.”

barfblog.Stick It InInstead of perpetuating the fairytale that thermometers are only used for roasts, the self-proclaimed bishops of all things consumer should be preaching thermometer use in all kinds of foods.

Consumer Reports tested 46 meat thermometers and found 10 impressive enough to make our top picks list. Spoiler alert: They’re all digital.
 Most of the meat thermometers we tested were accurate within 2 to 4 °F of the reference thermometer and none was more than 5 °F off. Digital models generally performed better and were more accurate, consistent, and convenient to use than analog models. Analog thermometers were often more difficult to read, had the longest response times, and have few if any features. So go digital. 

Want to avoid an E. coli burger? Cook the outside and inside to 71°C (160°F) – regardless of color

It’s a beautiful thing, for a Brit publication to embrace temperature, even when their own overpaid food safety types won’t.

terrance.phillip.fartExcept the person giving the advice is Canadian.

Dietitian Cara Rosenbloom, writer of the Words To Eat By blog, said minced beef is one of the main carriers of E. coli, a harmful bacteria among the most common causes of food poisoning.

But, she said, spotting a burger riddled with the bacteria is difficult as the meat will smell and look normal.

‘While the surface of any meat can technically harbor E. coli, it is killed when you cook food at a high temperature.

‘If E. coli is on the surface of a steak, it is killed by the grill, even if the inside of the meat stays pink.

Needle tenderized?

‘It’s got wagyu and pork, so we cook it to medium’; burger illiteracy, Brisbane-style

Amy had some French academics visiting this week, so we went out a couple of times, and I cooked a bunch of seafood and steak.

hamburger.jul.14At the restaurant yesterday, I got a burger for lunch. The server didn’t ask how I wanted it done, so I asked, how would it be cooked.

“It’s got wagyu and pork, so we cook it to medium.”

More bullshit.

I said I wanted it 160F and he was baffled.

Food safety at its finest.

22 sickened: E coli outbreak at Scotland’s Hydro ’caused by under-cooked burgers’ at venue

We wish to assure the public that at this time we have no significant concerns in relation to catering for our patrons.”

That was the statement from SSE Hydro arena in Glasgow as the number stricken by E. coli O157 climbed in Feb. 2014.

big-grillEventually at least 22 people were stricken, and a new report concludes it was due to under-cooking of beef burgers at the venue.

Of the 22 confirmed cases, a total of 19 of those cases attended had eaten beef burgers at the SSE Hydro’s food stall, Big Grill, between Friday 17 and Sunday 19 January 2014.

The remaining three individuals were infected after having household contact with the initial cases.

An investigation by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) alongside other public health bodies found evidence “strongly suggesting processing errors leading to under-cooking as well as the potential for cross contamination” at The Hydro.

The report concluded: “Descriptive evidence gathered by environmental health officers strongly suggests processing errors leading to under-cooking as well as the potential for cross contamination in the preparation and serving of the beef burger products.

“These processing errors would provide plausible mechanisms for exposure to VTEC (a strain of E coli).”

Health inspectors then visited the popular music venue after reports of the infection to examine how food was prepared by staff.

They found that preparation of food at “The Big Grill” at the venue involved a lack of consistency in the searing and cooking process of burgers.

Inspectors observed inadequacy of temperature monitoring records and weaknesses in temperature monitoring of food to test how cooked items were by staff.

It was also discovered there was “an inappropriate cleaning and disinfection regime, and an absence of documented evidence of a hazard analysis” at the venue.

All of the 19 confirmed primary cases had eaten a six ounce burger served on a bread bun from the Big Grill stall.”

Food safety for summer – and the other seasons

When Liz Szabo of USA Today called me a few weeks ago, my immediate thought was, not another food safety tip story, because most of them are as exciting as watching soccer or listening to Springsteen.

barfblog.Stick It InBut, I changed my mind because anyone can be a critic – gotta come up with some solutions.

I told Liz, let me talk to some of my colleagues and we’ll take a shot at something decent, because food safety encompasses a lot of areas, and the older I get, the less I know.

(Below is an edited version of the story, with a few annotations from me.

Doug Powell doesn’t bring wine when he’s invited to dinner.

He brings a food thermometer.

(I do bring wine, and I sometimes forget the thermometer, like the trip we’re on now up at Rainbow beach and Fraser Island in Queensland). Consistency matters and I try, but sometimes, stuff happens.)

As a food safety scientist and creator of barfblog.com, Powell knows way too much about the dangers of undercooked meat to take chances on the barbecue.

colbert.soccerSo he brings a food thermometer to every summer cookout. “I don’t get invited to dinner much,” he says.

• Always use a meat thermometer, Powell says. With practice, people can learn to stick them in burgers without slicing the patties in half. “Pick the meat up with tongs and insert the thermometer sideways, or through the top,” Powell suggests. Beef hamburgers should reach 160 degrees to kill germs, says Benjamin Chapman, assistant professor of food safety at North Carolina State University and a food safety specialist at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Temperature matters far more than color when it comes to meat, Chapman says; even thoroughly browned burgers can harbor bugs. “I was not a popular person at a family cookout a few years back when I insisted we ‘temp’ the chicken as we grilled in the rain,” says Donald Schaffner, a professor and extension specialist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “But nobody got sick.”

• Slice your own cantaloupes. Although cantaloupes are loaded with vitamins, they’ve also caused some of the biggest outbreaks of food-borne illness in recent years. More than 260 people were sickened in a salmonella outbreak in 2012; nearly 100 were hospitalized and three died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cantaloupes spread disease more easily than watermelon or honeydew because their soft, bumpy skins soak up bacteria like a sponge, Powell says. Washing doesn’t help (much), and cutting amy.thermometer.05through the outer rind allows bacteria to infect the edible portion of the melon. While people don’t have to stop eating cantaloupes, they should keep sliced portions refrigerated, because cold temperatures slow bacterial growth. But stores are asking for trouble when they slice melons in half, wrap them in plastic and leave them at room temperature in the produce aisle, Powell says: “This is microbiological disaster waiting to happen.”

• Use a cooler — for cantaloupe, potato salad or other picnic foods. “Bacteria will grow if left out at warm temperatures long enough,” Powell says.

• But don’t be afraid of mayonnaise. The egg-based spread has gotten a bad rap, and some people have been afraid to take it on summer picnics. But “commercial mayo uses pasteurized eggs and has high levels of vinegar,” whose acid content helps control bacteria, Powell says. Homemade mayo, on the other hand, could be riskier. (See  http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx

• Don’t wash poultry and other meat. “It just spreads bugs,” Powell says.

kevin.allen.sproutSo are there any foods these three food experts won’t touch?

• Sprouts. Seeds and beans need warm, humid conditions to sprout and grow. So do bacteria, such as salmonella, listeria and E. coli. Raw or lightly cooked sprouts have caused at least 30 reported outbreaks of food-borne illness since 1996, according to FoodSafety.gov. Home-grown sprouts are no safer, because the bacteria can be found in the seeds themselves. So no matter how clean your house, bacteria can grow to dangerous levels. “Some providers test seed and provide sufficient controls, but consumers have no way of knowing which sprouts are good or not,” Powell says.

• Raw shellfish. Even a fancy dish such as raw oysters, served in high-end restaurants, can pose a huge risk, Powell says, because they can be exposed to raw waste while under water. “The bacteria Vibrio found on raw oysters produces a toxin that attacks vulnerable livers,” Powell says. “Raw shellfish is risky.”

• Raw milk  can also contain dangerous bacteria, including salmonella, listeria, campylobacter and brucella, according to the CDC. Younger children, old people and those with weak immune systems are most at risk. “Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting,” the CDC says. “Less commonly, it can mean kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders and even death.”

Go beyond piping hot? new UK food poisoning figures published

New research published by the Food Standards Agency gives the most detailed picture yet of how many people suffer from food poisoning in the UK every year and how much food poisoning can be attributed to different foods.

Ministry-Silly-WalksThe findings are important as official data for food poisoning cases significantly under-estimates how big the problem is, as only the most serious cases get reported. Most people do not seek treatment from their GP, and not all GPs carry out tests for specific pathogens, so these unreported cases are not captured in routine surveillance data.

The data from this study, coupled with data from official statistics, refines our previous estimates of the real burden of foodborne disease and so will help focus efforts to reduce levels of food poisoning in the UK.

The study found that:

There are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens. This figure would more than double if it included food poisoning cases from unknown pathogens.

Campylobacter was the most common foodborne pathogen, with about 280,000 cases every year.

The next most common pathogen was Clostridium perfringens with 80,000 cases, and norovirus was third with an estimated 74,000 cases.

Salmonella is the pathogen that causes the most hospital admissions – about 2,500 each year.

Poultry meat was the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning, with an estimated 244,000 cases every year.

After poultry, produce including vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, caused the second highest number of cases of illness (an estimated 48,000 cases), while beef and lamb were third (an estimated 43,000 cases).

The researchers were able to identify about half a million cases of food poisoning every year attributable to 13 specific pathogens. However, 10 million cases of infectious intestinal disease (IID) a year are not yet attributed to a specific pathogen. If these cases had similar rates attributable to food then this would bring the overall figure to in excess of a million cases a year.

Professor Sarah O’Brien, the study’s lead researcher from the University of Liverpool, said: ‘These findings will help the FSA to target its resources more effectively in tackling food poisoning. They confirm that the FSA is right to put campylobacter at the top of its priority list. It is the biggest food safety problem we have and more needs to be done to tackle it.’

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said: ‘This study is a very important part of the research we fund to increase our knowledge of food safety and the risks that all of us are exposed to. Reduction of campylobacter is our top food safety priority, and that is borne out by this research. We recently revised our campylobacter strategy and we, in collaboration with industry, must now push on to find the solutions that will stop so many people getting ill.’

The research is an extension of the IID2 study, published in September 2011, which estimated the numbers of cases of IID in the UK. The IID2 extension was commissioned by the FSA to use the data generated from the IID2 study, and other sources, to estimate the burden of foodborne disease in the UK.

It’s steaming hot, like road apples? How is that scientific? Campy campaign fails

While the Brits are busy congratulating themselves on their Campylobacter reduction campaign, the following video from the UK Food Standards Agency crossed my computer.


How can any agency talk science-based, while ignoring the science in public advice about cooking chicken.

And these elaborate videos ain’t cheap.

Way to be duped, British taxpayers.

“The only way to kill germs is to cook chicken thoroughly, making sure it’s steaming hot in the middle.

I’ll go with the Hip.