Laws are like catfish sausages

I feel so much better about the safety of my catfish now. And have a better understanding of non-tariff trade barriers.

According to the New York Times, After years of delay, the Agriculture Department on Wednesday established tough new rules to inspect imported catfish, yielding to pressure from domestic catfish producers that risks retaliation from America’s trade partners.Untitled-4081.png

The rules come seven years after lawmakers from the South, at the request of catfish farmers in states like Mississippi and Arkansas, helped secure legislation in the 2008 farm law that moved inspections of catfish from the Food and Drug Administration to a more rigorous program at a new office within the Agriculture Department. Domestic producers of catfish called it a safety measure, but opponents said the new inspection program was a veiled trade barrier intended to limit imports.

 “The point of this process has been to ensure that the farm-raised catfish served to American families is safe and nutritious. The U.S.D.A. is in the best position to get this done,” said Senator Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi, who pressed to have the inspections moved.



The great Canadian cheese heist

My favorite Breaking Bad episode centers around a train heist. Spoiler alert: Walt, Jesse and company acquire methylamine by stopping a train in the desert and replacing the crystal meth precursor with water.

The theft nets them $15 million in chemicals.

A bit more than what three Ontario (that’s in Canada) criminals got when they stole a truck containing over 30,000 lbs of cheese, according to The Star.5x5_Dead_Freight_(02)

According to police, the suspects allegedly stole a parked tractor trailer ‘loaded’ with dairy near Hwy 7 and Vaughan Valley Blvd. in Brampton around 1:40 a.m.

They then managed to make it to the area of Hwy 7 and Hwy 427 in Vaughan before crashing the truck and taking off on foot. One of the suspects was later arrested driving another car and the other two were located trying to hail a taxi.

Police followed the truck using an installed GPS system and a canine unit was brought in to track down the suspects.

Although unsure of the exact amount, “there might’ve been between 30,000 and 36,000 pounds of cheese in the truck,” said Const. Andy Pattenden. “The truck was fully-loaded.”

He also noted that police have ‘no idea’ if the thieves were specifically targeting the cheese or not.

Maybe there’s a black market for cheese in Ontario.

Naked man charged with stealing Hungry Jack’s Whopper from car in Australia

Hungry Jack’s is to Australia what Burger king is to America. Owned by the same company, but some dude wouldn’t give up the name in Australia.

monty-brian-3_2738920kA naked man was arrested and charged after he allegedly stole a Whopper from a man’s car in Derby, 2400km north of Perth.

Derby police say the local man stole the Hungry Jack’s burger from a tradesman’s car parked in the remote town. The tradesman had organised for a friend to bring him several Whoppers from Darwin (no less than 1800km north-east) in the days prior to the alleged theft.

Police say one of the burgers was left in the car and the local forced his way inside and took it. When he was confronted by the tradesman, the offender removed all his clothes and walked away, police said.

Officers apprehended him in the street a short time later and charged him by summons with stealing and disorderly behavior.

Lifehacker covers the science of Thanksgiving

Lots of folks like to say that food safety in the home is simple. It isn’t. There are a lot of variables and messages have historically been distilled down to a sanitized sound bite. Saying that managing food safety risks is simple isn’t good communication; isn’t true; and, does a disservice to the nerds who want to know more. The nerds that are increasingly populating the Internet as they ask bigger, deeper questions.

Friend of barfblog, and Food Safety Talk podcast co-host extraordinaire, Don Schaffner provides a microbiological catch-phrase that gets used on almost every episode of our show to combat the food-safety-is-simple mantra; when asked about whether something is safe, Don often answers with, ‘it depends’ and ‘it’s complicated’. And then engages around the uncertainties.IMG_4138

Beth Skwarecki of Life Hacker’s Vitals blog called last week to talk about Thanksgiving dinner, turkey preparation and food safety and provided the platform to get into the  ‘it depends’ and ‘it’s complicated’ discussion. Right down to time/temperature combinations equivalent to 165F when it comes to Salmonella destruction.

Here are some excerpts.

How Do You Tell When the Turkey Is Done?

With a thermometer, of course. The color of the meat or juices tells you nothing about doneness, as this guide explains: juices may run pink or clear depending on how stressed the animal was at the time of slaughter (which changes the pH of the meat). The color of the bone depends on the age of the bird at slaughter. And pink meat can depend on roasting conditions or, again, the age of the bird. It’s possible to have pink juices, meat, or bones even when the bird is cooked, or clear juices even when it’s not done yet.

So you’ve got your thermometer. What temperature are you targeting? Old advice was to cook the turkey to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, but that was a recommendation based partly on what texture people liked in their meat, Chapman says. The guidelines were later revised to recommend a minimum safe temperature, regardless of what the meat tastes like, and that temperature is 165. You can cook it hotter, if you like, but that won’t make it any safer.

There’s a way to bend this rule, though. The magic 165 is the temperature that kills Salmonella and friends instantly, but you can also kill the same bacteria by holding the meat at a lower temperature, for a longer time. For example, you can cook your turkey to just 150 degrees, as long as you ensure that it stays at 150 (or higher) for five minutes, something you can verify with a high-tech thermometer like an iGrill. This high-tech thermometer stays in your turkey while it cooks, and sends data to your smartphone. Compare its readings to these time-temperature charts for poultry to make sure your turkey is safe.

The whole piece can be found here.

Goalies be goalies, and hockey rinks can be sources of CO

Maybe all that Zamboni CO got to me when I was a kid spending hours at the hockey arena.

mike.myers.zamboniI used to think I was fast enough to not worry too much about upper body padding.

I’m not fast enough anymore.

I played my first game in 10 years on Sunday, except for one in Guelph and one last year in which I let in 12 goals on what felt like 70 shots, and ripped my ACL.

We lost 3-1, but were outshot 22-10. I did OK. The team did great (I also coach this bunch of adults, and like any good coach, just want to see continuous improvement and having fun – and sweat).

In fortuitous timing, my fab partner Amy ordered me an early Xmas present which arrived today.

dp.chest.protectorThis is my 20-or 30-year-old chest protector, this is my new one.

And this is my happy face.

But public health takes place at the arena too.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported last week that on December 13, 2014, the emergency management system in Lake Delton, Wisconsin, was notified when a male hockey player aged 20 years lost consciousness after participation in an indoor hockey tournament that included approximately 50 hockey players and 100 other attendees.

Elevated levels of carbon monoxide (CO) (range = 45 ppm–165 ppm) were detected by the fire department inside the arena. The emergency management system encouraged all players and attendees to seek medical evaluation for possible CO poisoning.

dp.chest.protector.22The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS) conducted an epidemiologic investigation to determine what caused the exposure and to recommend preventive strategies. Investigators abstracted medical records from area emergency departments (EDs) for patients who sought care for CO exposure during December 13–14, 2014, conducted a follow-up survey of ED patients approximately 2 months after the event, and conducted informant interviews. Ninety-two persons sought ED evaluation for possible CO exposure, all of whom were tested for CO poisoning. Seventy-four (80%) patients had blood carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) levels consistent with CO poisoning (1); 32 (43%) CO poisoning cases were among hockey players. On December 15, the CO emissions from the propane-fueled ice resurfacer were demonstrated to be 4.8% of total emissions when actively resurfacing and 2.3% when idling, both above the optimal range of 0.5%–1.0% (2,3). Incomplete fuel combustion by the ice resurfacer was the most likely source of elevated CO. CO poisonings in ice arenas can be prevented through regular maintenance of ice resurfacers, installation of CO detectors, and provision of adequate ventilation.


Are those 450 illegal tamales in your pocket, uh, luggage; or are you just happy to see me?

I like tamales so I’m curious about what made the ones confiscated at LAX today so special that they were smuggled into the U.S.. And what food safety parameters they were being transported under.

According to USA Today, a traveler from Mexico was detained after authorities found 450 pork tamales in a suitcase.8d13067ed5bc1933880f6a7067005812

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday that the traveler’s customs form acknowledged the person was carrying food, but the traveler lied when asked if there was any meat.

A search turned up the individually wrapped pork tamales. The CBP enforces federal regulations on importing meat, which carry disease risks.

The traveler was assessed a $1,000 civil penalty for commercial activity with the intent to distribute.

Thanksgiving goofiness

My parents come from Ontario (that’s in Canada) every year to visit for Thanksgiving (or American Thanksgiving as it’s known to them). My mom likes to participate in the Black Friday shopping craziness; my dad likes to watch football. It’s just fun to have them around.

A couple of years ago my friend Matt Shipman and I put together some Thanksgiving meal videos – sorta our goofy take on food safety for the holidays. The content (unlike my hairline) is timeless.

And here are some food safety infosheets for the holidays.

Holiday meal food safety

Bathing birds is a food safety mess

Avoid foodborne illness during the holidays


Where’s the food safety? Food porn makes bucks for Instagrammers

Like many Instagram users, Natalie Landsberg, Gillian Presto and Emily Morse frequently posted photos of what they were eating. as their joint account @New_Fork_City took off, they found themselves with nearly 500,000 followers, and soon, free restaurant meals, gigs “curating” food for a music festival and an offer to create their own cookie-dough flavor.

The three 19-year-olds, who started the account in high school, are now in college, and their modest Instagram earnings aren’t footing their tuition bills yet. But their parents spent almost $15,000 to trademark the New_Fork_City name and create a limited liability company, “so down the road, if there is an opportunity to figure out a financial business model, the company is established,” said Ms. Presto’s father, Michael Presto.

Meet the professional food Instagrammers, courted by restaurants for their six-figure followings and stylish, sometimes over-the-top photography. Some have turned their accounts into full- or part-time professions, earning up to $350 for posting a flattering image, while others have parlayed their social-media savvy into free meals or public-relations jobs.'s.jr“There are people who decide on where they want to go out to eat by their Instagram feed, and that’s a fact that we in the hospitality industry just cannot ignore,” said Helen Zhang, director of media strategy at LFB Media Group, a public-relations agency that works with such restaurants as the Stanton Social and Casa Nonna.

Olivia Young, brand and communications director for the Altamarea Group, which operates restaurants such as Vaucluse and Osteria Morini, said the company has begun inviting some Instagram users for meals and plans to pay some to post photos.


It involves meat: Creative ways to score heroin

While a suspect believed to be involved in a fatal shooting during a failed bid to take over the drug trade in a Manhattan McDonalds snorted drugs in a precinct interrogation room from a bag he pulled from his own butt on Saturday, the Brits are more creative. Daly of Vice reports that two weeks ago, early on Sunday morning, Scott walked out of a supermarket on the outskirts of Leicester with two joints of beef, 14 packs of chicken breasts and four beef steaks stuffed into his coat and trousers. Making it to the street, he walked round the corner to a local garage and sold the lot for £30.

Scott used the cash to buy a couple of bags of heroin and a rock of crack, while the mechanics took some choice cuts take back to their families for Sunday dinner. Back in the supermarket, the shelves were restocked.

Scott managed to lift and sell all that meat without anyone noticing – well, until the shop’s sales and takings were tallied up at the end of the month – but many aren’t so fortunate; every couple of weeks there are reports of heroin users appearing in magistrates courts throughout the UK after being caught stealing meat. 

Shoplifting is on the rise, and considering a slab of pork belly in your coat pocket is a little less conspicuous than, say, a boxed and tagged digital camera, it’s no surprise the most recent Global Retail Theft Barometer study identified meat as one of the most commonly stolen items from supermarkets. It’s got so bad, in fact, that some places have resorted to tagging and boxing their meat because it keeps on walking out the door.

“Back in the day it was electric toothbrushes and razors, but now meat is the go-to product to steal,” says Scott, a 42-year-old heroin and crack user who’s taking me on a walk through Leicester’s city centre supermarkets. “I need to do all my shoplifting before 10AM – before I start rattling – so on the average day I’ll get up at 7AM. Some shops don’t bother with security until 10AM because they think all the heroin addicts are lazy and still in bed.”

trainspotting.foodWalking into a Sainsbury’s he quickly appraises the meat shelves, picking up a leg of lamb priced at £21. “This is what you want,” he says. “Stick this down your trousers, sell it down the pub and that’s a bag of heroin right there.” He puts it back on the shelf, although already we’ve got a security guard eyeing us up. “Legs of lamb are harder to get – popular with everyone, a joint of meat makes people feel good; they can bring it home to the family.” Next he scoops up 10 packs of high-end bacon: “This would just go down my coat. I’d tuck my body warmer into my belt so it doesn’t fall out.” He says he prefers the vacuum-packed bacon over the stuff sold in plastic trays because he can fit twice as many down under his coat.

“I have a few regular pubs I sell meat in; most of the pubs where I sell meat are estate pubs. In some of them the landlord will ask for first refusal before he lets me offer it to his customers. Sometimes I have to sneak in and sell it without the manager knowing.”

The selling of meat in pubs – these days mainly by heroin users – isn’t anything new, which is perhaps why it’s tolerated in many working class areas. One pub in London’s East End in the 1960s was known as “Dewhursts”, after the chain of butcher shops, because it sold so much meat that had been diverted from the docks.