Good Ebola (and foodborne illness) advice: don’t eat poop

We used to use don’t eat poop as a secondary barfblog tagline. Then it was don’t eat uncooked poop.  New York TV, anchor Errol Louis of NY1 has resurrected the advice in reference to the city’s first Ebola case:

If you came across some strange mucus or feces or something out there on the street, on the subway, or anywhere else, don’t eat it. Don’t let it get into your body, don’t touch it.

Good call.


US pro football player barfs on field before play

I loved playing linebacker in high-school football.

After all those years of kids shooting pucks at my head covered only with a lousy plastic face mass as a goalie in hockey, it was somehow, equitable.

Lawrence Timmons.vomitI never barfed during a football game (but did before hockey games).

I was watching the Pittsburg Steelers-Houston Texans football game Tuesday morning (Monday night football across the pond) in the background as Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons starting barfing before a play in the second quarter.

Down 13-0, Timmons lined up in his usual spot at inside linebacker when he began to vomit before the snap.

As Timmons jogged off the field he continued to vomit, grossing out the Monday night audience.

Some fans even posted a Vine of Timmons getting sick, just in case you missed the chance to be grossed out.

As for Steeler fans, things got better as they erased a 13-0 deficit and won 30-23.

Canadian says McDonald’s coffee contained dead mouse

Ron Morais of Fredericton says he got more than he bargained for when he picked up a cup of coffee from a local McDonald’s restaurant on his way to work.

dead-mouseHe was contendedly sipping his coffee that he got Monday from the Prospect Street location until he got to the bottom of the paper takeout cup.

“I always take the lid off to get my last sip of coffee. And when I took the lid off, there was a little bit of a surprise in my coffee cup. It was a dead mouse,” Morais said.

Morais said that wasn’t all that was in the cup. He said the mouse left “a few little, shall we say, presents” at the bottom of it.

Morais then showed a few of his co-workers what he had found.

“Unless I had been there and seen Ron drink all that coffee down to the last drop, I would have been, like, ‘You’re lying,’” said one colleague, Brad Patterson.

Jennifer LaHaye, another co-worker who saw the mouse, recalls Morais’s reaction.

“’Oh my God, there’s a mouse in my coffee,’ is what he says. I turn around and look at him. The first time I looked, I actually looked and it’s really, he’s not joking,” LaHaye said.

“Like is he OK — and after that, I got green to the gills.”

Jason Patuano, the communications manager for the eastern region for McDonald’s Canada, issued a corporate statement that underscored how seriously the chain takes food safety.

“We take allegations involving cleanliness and sanitation very seriously,” the statement said.

“Upon learning of this situation, the local franchisee immediately began an investigation, including working closely with the local public health authority who conducted an inspection this [Tuesday] morning following receiving a complaint.”

More tampered Canadian potatoes discovered

CBC News reports that tampered potatoes from P.E.I. have reached other parts of Atlantic Canada.

Potato Head2Over the last few days, police received three reports of tampered potatoes, one in Neil’s Harbour, Nova Scotia, one in Musgrave Harbour, Newfoundland and one in Chance Cove, Newfoundland.

All the potatoes contained a metal object. 

Police believe the potatoes originated from Linkletter Farms in P.E.I.

In all three of the most recent instances, the foreign metal objects were discovered prior to consumption and no one was injured.

With the latest reports, this makes five reports so far of metal objects found in potatoes packaged at Linkletter Farms.

All the tampered potatoes were on a voluntary recall list issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, October 7.

Skipchen – translated as garbage bin kitchen – takes dumpster diving sorta commercial

Dumpster diving, or freganism, has been around for a while but the current movement gained momentum through restauranteur (and Against Me! drummer) Warren Oakes’ magazine, Why Freegan?

Although we’ve detailed the movement a few times, a twist on things UK Chef Dylan Rakhra has a different take on things – a dumpster-diving driven restaurant, Skipchen, where the menu changes every day based on ingredients that are available. According to the Guardian Skipchen’s suppliers are of the public kind, “Some of the food is donated but most is found: on farmland, outside mainstream restaurants and, most commonly, in supermarket skips.” Skips are garbage bins. Skipchen chef Dylan Rakhra with the crab and prawn salad

After Skipchen closes, its teams of volunteers go on the prowl to “intercept” foodstuffs that have passed their sell-by dates and, though they are perfectly safe and edible, are discarded by the major stores. “We get the food from anywhere and everywhere that has food going to waste,” said Sam Joseph, co-director of the Real Junk Food Project, which has launched Skipchen in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol.

Joseph accepts that it is not legal to scavenge from supermarket skips but he argues that it is the right thing to do. “If edible food is going in the bin that’s wrong. “We really need to get it to people. We have cases of malnutrition rising in the UK. This isn’t something happening over in Africa. People here are struggling to feed themselves nutritiously. The real crime is the supermarkets throwing that edible food in the bin. That’s what we need to change.”

Joseph said the teams of “skippers” watch as supermarket workers bin food and pluck it as soon as they can. “I am really conscious of food safety and food hygiene,” said Joseph. We get the food out and into a refrigerator straight away. They don’t use food that has gone beyond its best-before date whereas we will.”

Customers are invited to pay what they want and can eat for free if they are struggling financially. “I think it’s a brilliant idea,” said Sullivan. “It’s a scandal that so much food goes to waste.”

Where the movement falls apart is giving the dumpster-salvaged food away to needy folks who may not be provided with enough information to make risk/benefit decisions: this food is free, but because we don’t know how it was handled, and can’t cook many toxins out of it, it might make you barf.

Food Safety Talk 68: We Found It In Wild Pig Feces

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.  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.keith-richards-pic-wireimage-184790458

In Episode 68, Don bravely participated without a microphone boom.  Ben feels good despite his messy office.

Ben mentions that he is currently obsessed with the Rolling Stones and likes the Shine a Light Film, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, (the song not so much the Whoopi Goldberg spy comedy film), and the song Salt of the Earth from the Stones album Beggars Banquet.  They then discuss movies every kid needs to see before they turn thirteen such as Indiana JonesGhostbustersE.T., and Diary of a Wimpy Kid and classic kids books including The Hardy BoysEncyclopedia BrownThree InvestigatorsKey to the Treasure, and A Wrinkle in Time.

The guys then discuss their recovery after IAFP, as a follow-up to FST 66. As president of IAFP Don was very busy at the conference with meetings, breakfasts, committee responsibilities, and other assorted duties.  He made the conference manageable by shirking his student poster responsibilities, not going to any talks, and skipping PDG meetings. He did however give a talk on based on a paper he has been working on with his CDC and EHS-Net (pronounced S-net) colleagues.

The guys then drift to other podcasts, especially Alton Brown’s series and in particular one he did with William Shatner.  If you like podcasts, food, Alton Brown, or William Shatner, this stupendous podcast is highly recommended for you.

Thirty-five minutes in they decide that they should talk about food safety and get to Outbreak Flashback about a 2008 Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that affected over 1400 nationally (as per Michelle Danyluk‘s suggestion. Initial CDC epidemiology analysis indicated the illnesses were associated with eating tomato dishes and FDA issued a health advisory on tomatoes.  This NEJM article shows the case control studies that layout why the CDC initially thought the source was tomatoes. After tomatoes were removed from the market the illness continued and with additional data available the CDC later concluded that jalapeño and Serrano peppers were the likely source.  Epidemiologic analysis was confounded by the fact that many illnesses were from restaurants where peppers were in dishes that contained multiple ingredients.  Additionally the production and supply chain was very complex as is shown in the FDA’s traceback diagram. A key aspect of this outbreak is that it significantly harmed reputation and sales of the tomato industry, which estimates $400 million lost dollars as a result of the FDA’s erroneous health advisory. Talk turned to growers seeking indemnification or financial compensation for situations when the government agencies are incorrect about outbreaks.

  The guys then discuss a voluntary recall by Wawona Packing Co. on fresh peaches and stone fruit.  A receiving company in Australia detected the presence of Listeria monocytogenes.  This later led to a recall of baked goods in Wegman’s supermarket chain presumably because Wegman’s baking process is not validated. There are a surprisingly high number of comments posted to the Wegman’s article in Food Safety News which caused the guys to consider if the public health implications of this recall are more significant than first thought.  For Listeria monocytogenes (LM) there are not a lot of outbreaks but rather sporadic cases; CDC estimates in 2013 there were 0.26 LM illness cases per 100,000 people in the US (for every case reported there are 2 cases not diagnosed).  The guys then discuss food safety gaps common in fresh produce including poorly executed washing processes and traceability deficiencies.

 In after dark the guys discuss that Dean Richard Linton, Dean of the NCSU College of Ag, has selected the 2014 Dean’s ice cream which is dark chocolate, tart cherries, chocolate chunks and marshmallow swirl.

Don’t change diapers in the dining room or kitchen

As a dad of a couple of messy boys, I’ve changed diapers in weird situations: in parking lots, hockey arena restrooms, on a plane. But never on the table in a fast food restaurant.

According to Gawker and Consumerist coverage, Chad, a dad in the midwest, ripped off a nasty letter to Chipotle (who got it right) after a manager asked him and his wife to stop changing their son’s diaper on a table in the dining area.

Chad, the dad in this incident, admitted in his letter that changing a diaper in a place where people eat is “unsavory,” but he still feels the Chipotle staff showed an “inability/unwillingness to empathize with parents who find [the car] a less convenient alternative even on a beautiful day like yesterday, much less a subfreezing day as we undoubtedly will have in [this region] this winter.”pootl0dmgw

Typical Chad.

He went on to say that the employees’ horrified reaction toward a dirty diaper on a table—where, again, human beings typically consume food—tipped him off that they must not have kids of their own. If they don’t install changing tables, he says, he’ll be taking his business (and his baby’s business, obviously) to Qdoba.Hard to say which fast-food Mexican chain he’s actually threatening with that one.

A rep for the company sent this rather reasonable response to the complaining father:

I can completely understand that it’s a hassle to find a way to change your daughter, and agree, that there are simply no alternatives as convenient as an actual changing table. We are currently in the process of retrofitting locations with changing tables, but I understand that this is not a very timely solution. … As you can understand it might be disconcerting for other customers to see a child getting changed directly on the tables, and we want to provide all of our customers with an exceptional experience.

Yeah, and kids diapers can leave pathogens all over the tables. Which may not be getting a clean/sanitize between customers. A 2007 outbreak of foodborne illness, leading to 4 hospitalizations, was linked to an employee changing the diaper of a diarrhea-stricken toddler in the kitchen of a Maryland Chuck E. Cheese.


Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes,

Food safety and food quality are not the same, especially when you are in a dumpster searching for food to eat.Unknown-10

NPR’s The Salt covered Maximus Thaler, a “semi-professional dumpster diver with a moral purpose” and his organization, The Gleaners’ Kitchen.

You look at the food and you smell the food … using your senses is really important,” Thaler says.

While vegetables may get mushy and cheeses might mold, it’s nothing that Thaler can’t cut off or cook up. He says the only thing that’s really risky is meat.

“I would never eat a rare steak out of the dumpster,” he says. “Don’t take the meat that’s obvious discolored,” he advises. Eggs, on the other hand, are fine, he says, as long as they don’t smell absurdly strong of sulfur.

“There are complex systemic reasons why there is so much food waste in this country, but at their core is the fact that most Americans have forgotten what good food is.” He argues that humans have evolved to know what good food is, and we don’t need the Food and Drug Administration or sell-by dates to tell us that.

The dates on food packages are certainly flawed but it isn’t because of the FDA. No federal agency regulates the dates on packaging, except for baby formula. Manufacturers and retailers add various kinds of dates to their foods—and use sell-by, best-by, or use-by to help consumers make choices about the quality, not safety, of the items.

Humans have no special ability to smell Salmonella, or E.coli, or any other pathogen that might be reason a grocery has tossed the food into the dumpster (and neither do dogs). Every item Thaler mentioned (vegetables, cheese, meat, and eggs) has been recalled due to pathogen contamination or foodborne illness risk within the last 5 years. Just because he hasn’t gotten sick does not mean the food is zero risk.

I agree with Thaler’s suggestion that more food is wasted than it should be—and certain grocery stores are better than others at donating their barely-damaged fruits and vegetables to food pantries and food banks.

It’s not that I think dumpster diving is intrinsically bad. It’s that the advocates often fail to adequately address certain issues, like food safety.

Chinese restaurant serves noodles laced with opium poppy

A Chinese noodle vendor in northern Shaanxi province has been detained for 10 days after admitting he added powdered poppy plant — from which opium is made — to his dishes to keep customers coming back, Chinese media has reported.

china.noodle.opiumThe owner said that he bought 4 catty (2kg) of the substance for 600 yuan ($98) in August. He said he added it to his food to make it taste better and to improve his business, the Huashangbao paper reported.

The opium-laced noodles came to light after police stopped a vehicle driven by a 26-year-old man and tested him for drugs not long after he had consumed a bowl of the noodles.

The man was detained for 15 days on charges of drug abuse and was not released until family members told police how they had also eaten at the same restaurant and tested positive for the drug.

The paper said the risk of becoming a drug addict from the laced noodles, even if eaten continuously for a long period of time, was unlikely.

It added that lacing food with opium poppy was not uncommon in China, with similar cases in 2010 and 2012.