Fake fish from plants; sous vide safety concerns?

Alastair Bland, a freelance writer based in San Francisco who covers food, agriculture and the environment, writes for NPR that San Francisco chef James Corwell wants to “create a great sushi experience without the tuna.”

tomato.sushiTo make this Tomato Sushi, he skins and removes the seeds from fresh Roma tomatoes. Then he vacuum seals them in sturdy plastic bags and cooks them in hot water for about an hour — a technique called sous-vide.

The process firms up the tomatoes and creates a texture similar to tuna. Corwell throws in a few more ingredients (he won’t divulge what they are), and slices them up. When eaten with sushi rice, nori, ginger, soy sauce and wasabi, they’re delicious.

Corwell is not the only entrepreneur experimenting with fish-like alternatives to seafood. (His product is so far available at one retail market in San Francisco and via mail order.) But with issues like overfishing, bycatch and high mercury levels gaining traction with consumers, it may only be a matter of time before demand kickstarts a faux-fish movement on the heels of the plant-based protein revolution already underway.

Corwell of Tomato Sushi was first convinced of the need to shift away from eating the bigger tuna species after visiting Tokyo’s celebrated Tsukiji fish market in 2007. He was stunned by the hundreds of frozen bluefin carcasses sprawled across the warehouse floor.

“The way I learned to cook with big slabs of meat [and fish] isn’t going to be possible in the future, and that’s nothing to be scared of,” Corwell says.

Tuna isn’t his only focus. Corwell has created an eggplant-based rendition of unagi and a granular seasoning blend meant to taste like dried, salted bonito flakes. Through the use of fermented ingredients and yeast, caramelization and lots of stovetop test runs, Corwell says he hopes to develop many more vegan sushi products.

“[Tomato Sushi] is the just the tip of the iceberg,” he says.

Daddy, why is there airport security? More than 2300 turtles seized at Jakarta international airport

While traveling recently with daughter Sorenne, she asked why she had to go through security at the airports.

Pig-nosed-Turtle-seizure-580I tried to explain, but probably failed.

Maybe this turtle story will help.

Authorities in Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport have foiled a bid to smuggle an astonishing 2,350 Pig-nosed Turtles out of Indonesia this week, highlighting the continuing pressure on a species sought after for its rarity and exotic looks.

The turtles, found only on the island of Papua (shared between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea) and Australia, were packaged in boxes falsely labeled as mangrove crabs and were bound for Shang Hai, China, via Singapore, where they would have been sold as pets or, in some cases, for consumption.

The seizure, made on 17th January by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries via the Fish Quarantine Inspection Agency, is not the first of its kind.  In January 2014, Indonesian officials seized more than 8,000 baby Pig-nosed Turtles hidden in suitcases suspected to be destined for Singapore and China.  Shortly after that, on 12th January 2014, authorities in Hong Kong intercepted a shipment of some 2,700 Pig-nosed Turtles coming from Jakarta, Indonesia, falsely declared as live tropical fish. 

“Pig-nosed Turtles are being absolutely hammered for the lucrative, but illegal pet trade” said Dr Chris R. Shepherd, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.  “It is highly unlikely this species can withstand such enormous offtake.”

Australian Open tennis player from New Jersey vomits during match

American tennis player Christina McHale was caught spewing her guts onto the court at the Australian Open multiple times during her match Monday but still managed to win her first round match.

Video of the 22-year-old from Teaneck, New Jersey bending over and throwing up multiple times, which ESPN replayed in slow motion, is being viewed by many online. But the tennis star did have a sense of humor about it after the gutsy match ended.

“That was one of the craziest matches of my life… Sorry for the overshare! Thanks for your amazing support, so happy :) #ausopen15″ she posted on Instagram.

McHale, who is ranked 54th by the WTA, rallied back from the incident and defeated Stephanie Foretz, of France, 6-4, 1-6, 12-10.]

Synthetic marijuana found in Rosca de Reyes bread that poisoned dozens

Gustavo Arellano of OC Weekly writes that a Santa Police Department investigation determined that the drug used in a rosca de reyes cake that poisoned at least 40 people across Orange County was synthetic pot.

rosca de reyesThe police investigation matched the MacGruber-esque Orange County Register, who obtained a sample of the tainted bread and sent it off to a laboratory to beat the cops–because, you know, this is such a pressing issue to the Reg’s Mexican-hating audience. Specifically, the paper said that the ingredient was spice. Since this Mexican only knows booze, I will now consult the stoners on staff for further details.

The LA Times reported earlier that for years, Cholula’s Bakery has been part of the fabric of the dense immigrant neighborhood along the railroad tracks in Santa Ana.

There are colorful pastries for quinceañeras and graduations, trays of doughy Mexican sweet bread, and during the holidays the wreath-like three kings bread — rosca de reyes — is in constant demand.

But now the bakery has been closed and a criminal investigation opened after more than 40 customers reportedly became ill — some hallucinating, some doubled over in pain — after eating the holiday bread that celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men.

Police who have collected samples said the bread, which is distributed to other stores in Orange County and Long Beach, was laced with a synthetic form of marijuana. Health records show Cholula has a history of hygiene-related violations, and there are no immediate plans for reopening the business.

Still, the bakery’s closure has interrupted a long-running relationship with residents and workers along 17th Street, a boulevard jammed with taquerias, discount stores and auto body shops.

Before police announced Thursday that the contaminant had been identified as a “synthetic cannabinoid,” theories abounded on what had made so many people sick.

Ramirez said tests at the hospital where he went that evening revealed the presence of methamphetamine in his urine. The Orange County Register reported that it obtained a sample of the tainted bread and that a lab it hired determined it was “spice” — a powerful synthetic form of marijuana. And a Los Angeles-area food consultant, Jeff Nelken, suggested the culprit might even be the plastic Jesus figurine that is inserted into each of the cakes.

L.A. Times says smart knife is on its way

This week, Neil Young, the greatest rock and roller of all time, released his version of the iPod, the Pono, at CES. The L.A. Times, equally enthralled by electronics buzz, predicts the future in food tech. Stuff like a smart fridges that generate shopping lists for you and suggest meals based on its contents.

And a magic negative ion shooting, bacteria fighting knife. I look forward to the efficacy data.

These ideas may seem far out, but they’re already being worked on: A smart knife that tests food’s freshness, nutrient content and bacteria level when you cut into it and keeps it fresher by infusing it with negative ions.


Poop emoji: Fecal fashion available through a junk mail near you

Emojis have become one of social media’s ways to entertain its users in its quest to draw people’s attention and there are tons of them.

fecal.fashion.emojiFaces with all sorts of expressions, different colored hearts, smiley devils, aliens, stars, hearts, musical notes, even fire are available by only a few taps on a smartphone’s virtual keyboard.

Which one seems to be catching on? Smiling poop.

In the design on a shirt being pitched by junk emails, the individual pile of poop with big eyes and smiles is triangular. Six piles with points coming together make a hexagon. Five of the emojis are smiling, but one is frowning. 


Nova Scotia health inspectors apologize to breastfeeding farmers’ market vendor

From the no-risk-assessment-in-sight files, the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture has apologized to Tanessa Holt, owner of Food Noise, after citing her for food safety violations for breastfeeding while selling food.

According to media reports and her Facebook page Holt’s risk management strategy wasn’t good enough for the initial inspector.tanessa-holt

Holt writes:

I recently received a call from a food safety representative informing me that I cannot nurse my child at my booth as it is a violation of the food safety regulations.

I explained that there is a handwashing station behind my booth, I have gloves for handling food and that I am always more than covered when nursing. Further, my food is served in closed containers.

Despite this I was informed that I will have to have someone else sit with me the entire day to handle food if I nurse my child even once during the day while at the market.

CTV News reports in a follow-up that Holt received an email from higher-ups apologizing for the misunderstanding.

“I am happy to receive an apology, because I thought it was outrageous to begin with,” she told CTVNews.ca.

Holt has been selling dry food items, including granola and oatmeal, at several markets in the Halifax area since last August.

Holt explained that her food is served in containers, that she uses gloves and a nearby hand washing station, and that she covers up while nursing. Still, she was told that she would have to get another person to handle the food if she is breastfeeding her son.

As that is not a feasible option for her, she had decided to pull out of the farmers’ markets altogether.

In the apology, the department said that the message from the food safety inspector was a “misunderstanding,” and Holt was welcome to breastfeed her son at the market so long as she followed proper hand-washing procedures.


I’m missing something here: NJ school closed due to staff with C. difficile?

According to NBC 10, Perth Amboy’s William McGinnis Middle School is closed for cleaning and sanitizing as a staff member was found to have C. difficile.

Perth Amboy’s William McGinnis Middle School remains closed while it undergoes an extensive cleaning after an adult who works there was diagnosed with a germ that causes infectious diarrhea.LP_img_ClosedSchool

The school was closed as a precaution on Friday after the woman was sent home on Thursday. The district says she has an intestinal bacillus known as clostridium difficile.

The district did not release her name or say what her job is.

The district says it has hired a company to completely disinfect the school and classes are scheduled to resume on Thursday.

Closing a school for C. difficile is a new one to me.

Maybe they mean norovirus, I dunno.

In a 2009 review of C. difficile infections, Rupnik, Wilcox and Gerding suggest that the pathogen is out there (environmentally and in food) but risk factors for acquiring the pathogen include the use of antibiotics and hospital stays. Not going to a school where someone has the bug.

Hospitalization is a risk because it brings together multiple major [C. difficile infection]  CDI risks, including exposure to antibiotics, a spore-contaminated environment, inadequate hand hygiene by health care workers and a highly susceptible elderly population of patients

Possible community sources for CDI include soil, water, pets, animals used for food, meats and vegetables. There is no conclusive evidence that C. difficile contamination of food has led to clinical CDI in humans.

I wonder if they will be using hydrogen peroxide to disinfect (it’s not too common outside of healthcare).