Heston still don’t know food safety, and Aust. viewers thought he was on acid

In late February 2009, complaints from customers who suffered vomiting, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms began pouring celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s UK restaurant, the Fat Duck.

A report by the UK Health Protection Agency concluded that 529 patrons paying a ridiculous amount of money for food-porn styled dishes were sickened with Norovirus – this at a restaurant that only seats 40 patrons per night — introduced through contaminated shellfish, including oysters that were served raw and razor clams that may not have been appropriately handled or cooked.

Investigators identified several weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant that may have contributed to ongoing transmission including: delayed response to the incident, the use of inappropriate environmental cleaning products, and staff working when ill. Up to 16 of the restaurant’s food handlers were reportedly working with Norovirus symptoms before it was voluntarily closed

Last night, Heston appeared on Australian current affairs program, The Project, and left hosts and viewers scratching their heads.

Appearing on the show to promote the announcement of the world’s 50 best restaurants, Blumenthal was asked a simple question by Waleed Aly but gave the world’s most confusing answer, with some viewers joking he might have been on “acid.”

“What is it that makes a great restaurant?” Aly asked.

“This might seem a little tangential,” Blumenthal replied, which turned out to be the understatement of the year.

“Human beings became the most powerful species on the planet because through being able to imagine things that don’t exist we created shared beliefs. So all the things that happened after humans: religion, money, language, cultures, social media, fairy tales, they are very human being.

“The reason that happened was the brain trebled in size for lots of reasons but primarily through eating cooked food. It broke the food down and our gut changed and this [touches head] is on top of our body to protect, because this [touches neck] is where the next generation are prepared for life.”

Blumenthal’s answer was met with blank stares from The Project panelists, but the celebrity chef pushed on.

“And so the thing, we should be called omnivores or herbivores, we’re coctivores … we are interdependent beings,” he said.

“We’ve been able to work collectively in numbers larger than any other creature and our efficiency in group learning has become quicker, quicker, quicker, quicker. We don’t have to climb a mountain to get water every day, we don’t have to kill an animal to the death to feed our children.”

The Project’s resident smarty pants, Waleed Aly, interjected and said, “That explains why we like restaurants, but how do we tell the good ones from the bad ones?”

And Blumenthal was off again.
“We have two universes,” he said.

“We have our internal universe, our human being and we have our human doing. We have our feelings and our emotions and then we have getting on in life … The problem that’s happening is we are confusing the two things. We are thinking that our happiness is going to be developed by a numerical system … thank god we have because that’s what’s got us to where we’ve got to.

(Hang in there, it’s almost over)

“There’s a palliative care nurse that wrote a piece in The Guardian last year, the most common things, regrets people had while they were passing away and it was they wished they lived a life true to themselves,” Blumenthal said.

“If every human being had an ambition not to have that feeling, and that’s because our new brain that came from eating cooked food … starts to fade and then our raw emotion comes through and we realise, actually, this is about emotion. Food is about emotion.”

Food is also about sustenance, enjoyment, socializing, and not making one barf.

Heston is a master of both food and words to make one barf.

Rain day

In Canada we have snow days.

In Brisbane, we have rain days.

All schools are closed along the coast as cyclone Debbie drifts down to us. These are the first pics from the damage further north.

People in southern Ontario forget how to drive at the first hint of snow.

People in Brisbane forget how to drive when it rains.

Fortunately our house that is sliding down the hill is standing still — for now.

I loves me my fruit: It may explain my big brain (sic)

Passion fruit and mangoes are enough reason to move to Australia.

Sure, there are American versions, but not like these.


Bret Stetka of Scientific American writes that compared with other mammals, and along with those of a few other notably bright creatures—dolphins, whales and elephants among them—the brain to body-size ratios of monkeys, apes and humans are among the highest.

For decades the prevailing evolutionary explanation for this was increasing social complexity. The so-called “social brain hypothesis” holds that the pressures and nuances of interacting and functioning within a group gradually boosted brain size.

Yet new research suggests otherwise. A study conducted by a team of New York University anthropologists, and published Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution, reports diet was in all likelihood much more instrumental in driving primate brain evolution. In particular, it appears that we and our primate cousins may owe our big brains to eating fruit.

I love my fruit.

In Guelph, I was the hockey coach who always ate a grapefruit during the game. I still do when I coach in Australia, but more towards the sweeter fruits.

That must be why I’m so smart (not).

Much of the research exploring the social hypothesis has rendered inconsistent results. And as many in the field have noted, a number of oft-cited studies in support of the theory suffer from small sample sizes and flawed design, including out-of-date species classification. The new work is based on a primate sample more than three times larger than that used in prior studies, and one that used a more accurate evolutionary family tree.

In over 140 primate species, the study authors compared brain size with the consumption of fruit, leaves and meat. They also compared it with group size, social organization and mating systems. By looking at factors such as whether or not a particular primate group prefers solitary to pair living or whether they are monogamous, the researchers figured they should theoretically be able to determine if social factors contributed to the evolution of larger brains.

And it appears they could not. Dietary preferences—especially fruit consumption—seems to have been much more influential. The researchers found that fruit-eating species, or frugivores, have significantly larger brains than both omnivores and “foliovores,” those that prefer eating leaves. “These findings call into question the current emphasis on the social brain hypothesis, which suggests larger brains are associated with increased social complexity,” explains Alex DeCasien, a doctoral candidate in anthropology and lead author of the study. “Instead, our results resurrect older ideas about the evolutionary relationship between foraging complexity and brain size.”

 

Cookbooks Give Readers (Mostly) Bad Advice On Food Safety

Cookbooks could be a much better source of food safety information than they are. So could online recipes (like those from Epicurious, Allrecipes.com and foodnetwork.com.

Katrina reminded me today that those are next.

The NC State University press release on our cookbook paper came out today.

For Immediate Release

March 27, 2017

A recent study finds that bestselling cookbooks offer readers little useful advice about reducing food-safety risks, and that much of the advice they do provide is inaccurate and not based on sound science.

“Cookbooks aren’t widely viewed as a primary source of food-safety information, but cookbook sales are strong and they’re intended to be instructional,” says Ben Chapman, senior author of a paper on the work and an associate professor of agricultural and human sciences at North Carolina State University.

“Cookbooks tell people how to cook, so we wanted to see if cookbooks were providing any food-safety information related to cooking meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, and whether they were telling people to cook in a way that could affect the risk of contracting foodborne illness,” Chapman says.

To that end, the researchers evaluated a total 1,497 recipes from 29 cookbooks that appeared on the New York Times best sellers list for food and diet books. All of the recipes included handling raw animal ingredients: meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.

Specifically, the researchers looked at three things:

Does the recipe tell readers to cook the dish to a specific internal temperature?
If it does include a temperature, is that temperature one that has been shown to be “safe”? For example, cooking chicken to 165°F.

Does the recipe perpetuate food-safety myths – such as saying to cook poultry until the juices “run clear” – that have been proven unreliable as ways of determining if the dish has reached a safe temperature?

The researchers found that only 123 recipes – 8 percent of those reviewed – mentioned cooking the dish to a specific temperature. And not all of the temperatures listed were high enough to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

“In other words, very few recipes provided relevant food-safety information, and 34 of those 123 recipes gave readers information that wasn’t safe,” Chapman says. “Put another way, only 89 out of 1,497 recipes gave readers reliable information that they could use to reduce their risk of foodborne illness.”

In addition, 99.7 percent of recipes gave readers “subjective indicators” to determine when a dish was done cooking. And none of those indicators were reliable ways to tell if a dish was cooked to a safe temperature.

“The most common indicator was cooking time, which appeared in 44 percent of the recipes,” says Katrina Levine, lead author of the paper and an extension associate in NC State’s Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences. “And cooking time is particularly unreliable, because so many factors can affect how long it takes to cook something: the size of the dish being cooked, how cold it was before going into the oven, differences in cooking equipment, and so on.”

Other common indicators used in the cookbooks included references to the color or texture of the meat, as well as vague language such as “cook until done.”

“This is important because cooking meat, poultry, seafood and eggs to a safe internal temperature kills off pathogens that cause foodborne illness,” Levine says. “These temperatures were established based on extensive research, targeting the most likely pathogens found in each food.”

A list of safe cooking temperatures can be found here.

“Ideally, cookbooks can help us make food tasty and reduce our risk of getting sick, so we’d like to see recipes include good endpoint cooking temperatures,” Chapman says. “A similar study was done 25 years ago and found similar results – so nothing has changed in the past quarter century. But by talking about these new results, we’re hoping to encourage that change.”

The paper, “Evaluating food safety risk messages in popular cookbooks,” is published in British Food Journal. The paper was coauthored by Ashley Chaifetz, a former Ph.D. student in Chapman’s group at NC State who now works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. The work was supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture under grant number 2012-68003-30155.

Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Evaluating food safety risk messages in popular cookbooks”

Authors: Katrina Levine and Benjamin Chapman, North Carolina State University; Ashley Chaifetz, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Published: March 17, British Food Journal

DOI: 10.1108/BFJ-02-2017-0066

Abstract:

Purpose: Medeiros et al. (2001) estimate 3.5 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. annually are associated with inadequate cooking of animal foods or cross-contamination from these foods. Past research shows home food handling practices can be risk factors for foodborne illness. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the communication of food safety guidance, specifically safe endpoint temperatures and cross-contamination risk reduction practices, in popular cookbook recipes.

Design/methodology/approach: Recipes containing raw animal ingredients in 29 popular cookbooks were evaluated through content analysis for messages related to safe endpoint temperature recommendations and reducing cross-contamination risks.

Findings: Of 1,749 recipes meeting study criteria of cooking raw animal ingredients, 1,497 contained a raw animal that could effectively be measured with a digital thermometer. Only 123 (8.2%) of these recipes included an endpoint temperature, of which 89 (72.3%) gave a correct temperature. Neutral and positive food safety behavior messages were provided in just 7.2% (n=126) and 5.1% (n=90) of recipes, respectively. When endpoint temperatures were not included, authors often provided subjective and risky recommendations.

Research limitations/implications: Further research is needed on the effect of these results on consumer behavior and to develop interventions for writing recipes with better food safety guidance.

Practical implications: Including correct food safety guidance in cookbooks may increase the potential of reducing the risk of foodborne illness.

Originality/value: Popular cookbooks are an underutilized avenue for communicating safe food handling practices and currently cookbook authors are risk amplifiers.

Some talk, some do: Kansas just sucks

Three movies encapsulate and reverberate throughout my life: The World According to Garp, Wonder Boys, and American Beauty.

I’ve reached my American Beauty moment, and may I go on and have such a fruitful career as Kevin Spacey has since 1999.

I’m an unemployed former food safety professor of almost 20 years, who coaches little and big kids in hockey and goofs around.

I’ve enjoyed the last few months – despite the angst of moving into a house that may slide down the hill at any moment given the Brisbane rains – but with 80,000 direct subscribers and students and media still contacting me daily, I feel a connection.

I just gotta figure out how to get paid.

(If you see any adverts on barfblog.com, like Amy did this morning, it is not authorized. Chapman and I are quite happy to say what the fuck we want and call people on their food safety fairytales).

And I would like to publicly apologize to Amy for dragging me to Australia, and all the bitching I did about shitty Internet, and how I lost my career (at the mall).

It’s looking much better now.

Kansas State University took whatever opportunity they could to get rid of me, for the salary, for the controversy, for whatever. Wasn’t too long after that Kirk-2025-Schultz bailed for Washington state. The provost queen is still stuck there.

As full professor, Kansas had become boring and I hated doing admin shit.

And there was no ice.

When people in Australia ask me about President Trump (two words that never sound right together, like Dr. Oz – thanks, John Oliver) I say, look at Kansas, that is what will happen to America.

The N.Y. Times seems to agree.

In an editorial today, the Times wrote:

Kansas can only hope that reports are true that the Trump administration will let its governor, Sam Brownback, escape the disaster he created in Topeka for a quieter United Nations agricultural post in Rome. And global humanity can only hope for the best.

Mr. Brownback, a Republican first elected on the Tea Party crest of 2010, used his office as a laboratory for conservative budget experimentation. His insistence that tax cuts create, not diminish, revenues has left the state facing a ballooning deficit plus a ruling by the state Supreme Court that Kansas schoolchildren have been unconstitutionally shortchanged in state aid for years, with the poorest minority children most deprived.

The court ruled this month that they would shut the state’s schools if funding wasn’t made equitable by June 30. It found reading test scores of nearly half of African-American students and more than one-third of Hispanic students were deficient under aid formulas favoring more affluent school districts.

Mr. Brownback played no small role in the long-running school crisis by leading the Republican Legislature to limit school aid after enacting the largest tax cuts in state history, for upper-bracket business owners. Characteristically, the governor’s reaction to the court mandate was to further undermine schools by suggesting parents “be given the opportunity and resources to set their child up for success through other educational choices.”

If that’s the governor’s parting contribution to the school crisis before his flight to a Trump diplomatic appointment, Kansas parents and school administrators cannot be too surprised. They have been experiencing the deepening budget crisis firsthand in shortened school hours and resources as the state suffered two credit downgrades. Public protest led to a number of Brownback loyalists voted out last year, with legislative newcomers igniting a budget revolt against the governor. He barely survived a showdown last month, by vetoing a $1 billion tax increase.

The tax push seems likely to be renewed, since the state faces a two-year $1.2-billion deficit plus the school funding mandate. For that obligation, state education officials have estimated it might require $841 million over the next two years. The court fight was prompted by a slide in school aid that began in the recession under Mr. Brownback’s predecessor, Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat. But it spiraled once the Brownback tax cuts drained state coffers.

It seems unfair that Mr. Brownback might abandon the mess he created, especially since Mr. Trump never ceases to renounce life’s “losers.” But Kansans have learned the hard way that they need to be free from the benighted Brownback era, and maybe Mr. Brownback has, too.

I wish nothing but the best for my Kansas colleagues, and a slow, endless angst for administration assholes who put money above values.

There was a time I thought being a prof meant something.

But we don’t need no institution.

More to come.

Soul-sucking: Town house living ain’t for me

We’ve moved into my grandparents’ home circa 1967 (the last time the Leafs won the cup).

The walls are cigarette yellow, the plants are overgrown, but I got Internet.

We love this neighbourhood, and will do our fiscally-able best to improve the place.

Living in a townhouse is convenient, but soul-sucking.

Where I live and write, the place has to have soul.