More turtles, more Salmonella

 You see a cute reptile, I see a Salmonella factory.

turtle.kissThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control, multiple states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine investigated two multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with small turtles in 2015.

51 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella were reported from 16 states between January 22, 2015 and September 8, 2015.

15 ill people were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.

50% of ill people were children 5 years of age or younger.

Epidemiologic and laboratory findings linked these two outbreaks of human Salmonella infections to contact with small turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat.

All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy.

Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling turtles or anything in the area where they live or roam.

Since 1975, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale and distribution of turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches in size as pets because they are often linked to Salmonella infections, especially in young children.

Small turtles should not be purchased as pets or given as gifts.

CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory conducted antibiotic resistance testing on Salmonella isolates collected from seven ill people infected with one of the outbreak strains.

All seven isolates were susceptible to all antibiotics tested on the NARMS panel.

The outbreak is expected to continue at a low level for the next several months since consumers might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from reptiles, including small turtles. If properly cared for, small turtles have a long life expectancy.


Burger safety

A food safety friend went to a U.S. burger joint, and asked to have his burger cooked to 160F. counter person asked whether he’d like some pink.

He replied, No, I’d like it cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F.

Which color is equal to 160°F?

He didn’t know.

So, he settled for well done.

In frustration, my friend send this letter to HQ.

No response.

For a couple of decades the color of cooked ground beef has been known

to not be a reliable indicator of safety.  (1-4, 6-8)

Temperature is. (5)

Do your cooks use a thermometer?

Can your correlate the cooked color to an internal temperature for

each batch of ground beef?

As a septuagenarian, my immune system is not as robust as it once was.

And, my great grandaughter’s immune system isn’t as robust as it will be.

barfblog.Stick It InWe like safe burgers, not over cooked ones.

Can you help?


  1. Berry, B.W.1994. Fat Level, High Temperature Cooking and Degree of

Doneness Affect Sensory, Chemical, and Physical Properties of Beef

Patties. J. Food Science. 59 (1): 10-14, 19.

  1. Cornforth, D.; C.R. Calkins, C. Faustman. 1991. Methods for

Identification and Prevention of Pink Color in Cooked Meat. Reciprocal

Meat Conference Proceedings, AMSA 44:53-58.

  1. Hague, M.A.; K.E. Warren; M.C. Hunt; D.H. Kropf; C.L. Kastner; S.L.

Stroda; and D.E. Johnson. 1994. Endpoint Temperature, Internal Cooked

Color, and Expressible Juice Color Relationships in Ground Beef

Patties. J. Food Sci. 59 (3): 465-470.

  1. Hunt, M.C.; K.E. Warren; M.A. Hague; D. H. Kropf; C.L. Waldner;

S.L. Stroda; and C.L. Kastner. 1995. Cooked Ground Beef Color is

Unreliable Indicator of Maximum Internal Temperature. Department of

Animal Sciences, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-0201.

Presentation to American Chemical Society April 6, 1995.

  1. Line,-J.E.; Fain,-A.R.-Jr.; Moran,-A.B.; Martin,-L.M.;

Lechowich,-R.V.; Carosella,-J.M.; Brown,-W.L.. 1991.  Lethality of

heat to Escherichia coli 0157:H7: D-value and Z-value determinations

in ground beef. J-Food-Prot..54:762-766.

  1. Mendenhall, V.T. 1989. Effect of pH and Total Pigment Concentration

on the Internal Color of Cooked Ground Beef Patties. J. Food Sci. 54

(1): 1-2.

  1. Trout, G.R. 1989. Variation in Myoglobin Denaturation and Color of

Cooked Beef, Pork, and Turkey Meat as Influenced by pH, Sodium

Chloride, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, and Cooking Temperature. J. Food

Sci. 54 (3): 536-544.

  1. USDA-ARS/FSIS. 1998. Premature Browning of Cooked Ground Beef. Food

Safety and Inspection Service Public Meeting on Premature Browning of

Ground Beef. May 27, 1998. USDA, Washington, D.C.

Don’t leave home without it: A tip-sensitive digital thermometer

We spent the (Australian) Labour Day weekend at the 5th annual Coffs Harbour 3-on-3 ice hockey tournament, featuring teams from all over eastern Australia.

thermometer.stars.coffs.oct.15During a BBQ Saturday night for the Brisbane Southern Stars – the club we’re affiliated with – I played food safety nerd and whipped out my tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

I carry one in my knapsack wherever I go.

The team I coach, kids aged 6-9, took home gold in the Squirt division. (And yes, I like to be able to wear Australia’s national shoe, the flip-flop, to the arena).


Stick it in: No more pink in the middle for Worthy Burger after 7 sickened

Do you cook burgers to 155F and hold for 15 seconds?

Worthy Burger’s executive chef, Jason Merrill, responded, “Our customers are telling us what temperature they’d like their hamburger.”

barfblog.Stick It InBradley Tompkins, a health surveillance epidemiologist with the Vermont Department of Health, said the agency confirmed five cases and identified two “probable cases” of shiga toxin-producing E. coli.

In discussing the changes recommended to Worthy Burger, Tompkins said diners or people cooking at home should not rely on the color of their meat to determine if it’s done.

“We want people to be cooking their meat to the appropriate temperature, and checking that the meat has reached the appropriate temperature,” Tompkins said. “People go on color … we would encourage people not to do that.”

Among the changes Worthy Burger has made this month is to alter the wording for its signature Worthy Burger.

Where it once said “a 6 oz grass fed patty served pink in the middle,” it now reads simply “a 6 oz grass fed patty,” according to a menu on the restaurant’s website.

The restaurant has been celebrated in the localvore movement, and Gov. Peter Shumlin was seen eating there this spring.

UK says rare burgers OK given a plan; still say cook thoroughly, no thermometer


And the UK Food Standards Agency calls itself a science-based outfit.

hedgehog.dartsThe salaries sitting around the advisory table would be better spent on hedgehogs throwing darts at a food-safety-options board.

The FSA Board today agreed that the preparation and service of rare burgers in food outlets is unacceptable unless a validated and verified food safety management plan is in place.

But they don’t say what a validated and verified plan is, short of irradiation.

The FSA’s long-standing advice to consumers that they should cook burgers thoroughly to kill any bugs that may be present is unchanged.

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

The FSA Board had been asked to consider a range of controls businesses should make sure are in place if they are serving rare burgers. These include sourcing 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 and providing consumer advice on menus regarding the additional risk from burgers which aren’t thoroughly cooked.

hedgehog.suitThe FSA Board voted to support the new approach but with the following requirements:

  • businesses wanting to serve burgers rare pre-notify their local authority;
  • the Board is given reassurances on the controls that suppliers of mince intended for consumption rare or lightly cooked in burgers have in place;
  • effective consumer advisory statements will be required on menus where rare burgers are served;
  • the Board agreed the FSA should take a lead ensuring these statements are consistent; and,
  • an FSA communications plan is implemented to explain the risks and controls to the public infection rates continue to be kept under close review and any changes brought to the attention of the Board.

The approach agreed by the Board will improve consumer protection by making it clear to businesses the circumstances under which service of rare burgers is acceptable and the stringent controls that must apply, and supporting local authority enforcement where controls are not in place or are not applied consistently.

The controls are vague, not stringent.

In light of the Board’s decision, the FSA will continue developing guidance for local authorities, businesses and consumers.

More salaries sitting around a table. I’d rather pay hedgehogs.

barfblog.Stick It In


‘Some pink or no pink?’ Hamburger safety BS

My latest from Texas A&M’s Center for Food Safety:

HomePage_BURGERThe UK Food Standards Agency, created in the aftermath of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) mess, has sunk to new science-based lows and should be abolished.

This is not an evidence-based agency, but rather a lapdog for British arrogance.

For years I have criticized the FSA for their endorsement of piping hot as a safe cooking standard.

It is a regulators job to promote policies based on the best scientific evidence, not to appeal to cooking-show inspired public opinion.

For all the taxpayer-supplied millions provided to FSA the best they can do is appeal to the lowest common denominator.

FSA has published details of a proposed new approach to the preparation and service of rare (pink) burgers in food outlets.

The increased popularity of burgers served rare has prompted the FSA to look at how businesses can meet this consumer demand while ensuring public health remains protected.

hamburger.thermometerThe FSA’s long-standing advice has been that burgers should be cooked thoroughly until they are steaming hot throughout, the juices run clear and there is no pink meat left inside.

This long-standing advice is stupid, because hamburgers can appear pink yet safely cooked, or brown and undercooked. It has to do with myoglobin in the animal at the age it was slaughtered.

This research was published by Melvin Hunt of Kansas State University in 1998.

But FSA knows better.

They say controls should be in place throughout the supply chain and businesses will need to demonstrate to their local authority officer that the food safety procedures which they implement are appropriate. Examples of some of these controls are:

  • 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;
  • strict temperature control to prevent growth of any bugs and appropriate preparation and cooking procedures; and,
  • providing consumer advice on menus regarding the additional risk from burgers which aren’t thoroughly cooked.

Maybe British inspectors have special bacteria-vision goggles.

Professor Guy Poppy, Chief Scientific Adviser for the Food Standards Agency, said: ‘We are clear that the best way of ensuring burgers are safe to eat is to cook them thoroughly but we acknowledge that some people choose to eat them rare. The proposals we will be discussing with the FSA board in September strike a balance between protecting public health and maintaining consumer choice.’

Not once was a thermometer mentioned. And that’s standard procedure in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

It didn’t take the Daily Mail long to point out that under the proposal, people can eat burgers that are cooked rare and pink in the middle in restaurants, but not at home or on the barbecue.

barfblog.Stick It InThe move follows pressure from some gourmet burger, pub and restaurant chains who argue that the meat tastes better if it is still pink in the middle.

The proposal, which will have to be approved by the FSA board next month, will also lift the risk of prosecution of food outlets by council environmental health officers.

Officials at the FSA say consumers should be allowed to take an adult decision when eating out whether they want to eat a burger that is pink in the middle.
But it is also arguing that people cannot take this same adult decision when cooking burgers at home.

‘The FSA’s long-standing advice has been that burgers should be cooked thoroughly until they are steaming hot throughout, the juices run clear and there is no pink meat left inside.

These piping hot morons should not be taken seriously by any scientist and should be turfed.

Color sucks. Stick it in and use a thermometer.

 Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University.


UK national burger day: Idiocy on how to prepare and serve burgers safely

The Brits are forever complicating things.

barfblog.Stick It InAnd they’re supposed to be science-based, when they’re just rhetoric-based (with that charming but difficult to understand British accent; don’t get me started on Wales).

For National Burger Day, Big Hospitality provides 750 words of advice on what controls can be put in place to ensure that diners are not put at risk from the serving of pink or rare burgers.

It’s hard to blame this restaurant rag when the science-based UK government authority barfs out the same advice.

Color is a lousy indicator.

Stick it in: use a thermometer.

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

67 sick: Raw oysters can suck and yes, I’ve temped oysters on the grill

Canadian health types are now investigating 67 Canadian cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections in British Columbia and Alberta linked to raw shellfish. The majority of the illnesses have been linked to the eating of raw oysters.

oysters.grillThe risk to Canadians is low, and illnesses can be avoided if shellfish are cooked before being eaten.

In Canada, a total of 67 cases have been reported in British Columbia (48) and Alberta (19). One case has been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between June 1 and August 7, 2015 and all reported consumption of raw shellfish, primarily oysters. The investigation is ongoing to determine the source and distribution of these products.

The following safe food practices will reduce your risk of getting sick from Vibrio and other foodborne illnesses.

-Do not eat raw shellfish.

-Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating, especially oysters. Shellfish should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 74°C (165°F).

-Discard any shellfish that do not open when cooked.

-Eat shellfish right away after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.

-Always keep raw and cooked shellfish separate.

-Avoid eating oysters, or other seafood, when taking antacids as reduced stomach acid may favour the survival and growth of Vibrio species.

-Always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap after using the bathroom.

-Avoid exposing open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish. Wear protective clothing (like gloves) when handling raw shellfish.

-Wash your hands well with soap before handling any food. Be sure to wash your hands, cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils after preparing raw foods.


Recommend a thermometer? Australia says 6-2-2 a sizzling success in pork project

How hard is it to recommend a thermometer?

The study does not account for temperature variations of the grill or stove, so seemingly impossible to assess.

curtis.thermomet.pork.oct.24.14But, marketers be marketing.

Pork CRC and APL conducted a study (Pork CRC Project 3C-106) across three retail partners in metropolitan Adelaide to ‘test’ the 6-2-2 (i.e. 6 mins one side, 2 mins the other & 2 mins to rest) messaging for cooking pork steaks.

Pork CRC research has demonstrated experimentally in large studies that cooking temperature influences consumer perception of the eating quality of pork steaks, with over cooking markedly reducing eating quality. APL research in homes showed that 78% of bad eating experiences with pork were due to cooking failure and 53% of these were associated with the loin, which is the fresh pork cut most consumed by Australians.

The objective of the Pork CRC and APL study was to create awareness of the 6-2-2 cooking message to prevent cooking failure  It used different promotional activities, ranging from TV advertising through to retail labelling and the use of 6-2-2 stickers on retail packs.

barfblog.Stick It InThe bottom line was that the sale of pork steaks increased in all retail outlets. The increase in sales above what was expected (based on sales determined before the promotion and store history) ranged from 16% to 56%, depending on the promotional strategy used. Even better news was that the increase in sales of pork steaks was not at the expense of other pork cuts/products.

A major learning outcome from the project was that communicating the rewards associated with 6-2-2 is the best way to entrench the purchase of pork steak and avoid relying on a continuous advertising push.

The findings will form the basis of future advertising and promotional campaigns by APL, which will, hopefully, lead to further increases in demand for Australian pork.

Use a thermometer, color sucks: UK FSA says don’t serve your duck pink

Color is a lousy indicator.

But that doesn’t stop the taxpayer-funded UK Food Standards Agency from issuing nonsensical advice.

smoked-duck-breast1I’ve asked the UK food safety types why they don’t recommend that people use thermometers – as is the advice in the U.S., Canada and Australia – and the response is usually along the lines of, people can’t handle such complicated information.

A colleague received similar advice yesterday from the UK FSA.

Arrogant bullshit.

And not science-based.

The Telegraph reported today that duck should never be served pink as diners could be poisoned by a potential deadly bug more commonly associated with chicken, food officials have said.

While many upmarket restaurants recommend their duck dishes medium-rare, the Food Standards Agency said the poultry should always be cooked “thoroughly” at home.

It warned that the prevalence of the campylobacter bug among ducks was “not dissimilar” to the levels among chickens, where seven in 10 birds are infected.

The bacterium, which makes 280,000 ill every year, is only killed when meat is fully cooked.

On Wednesday the food watchdog said it was concerned that there was a public misconception that duck was different to chicken in that it could safely be served pink.

There’s a public misconception because the bureaucrats are not offering clear, evidence-based information.

Stick it in.