Food porn: People want rare hamburgers yet aren’t informed of risks

I love this paper.

The research is cool, but to me it culminates 16 years of Chapman becoming a better researcher.

ben-newI had a hand in the idea for the paper, but Chapman and his team did all the work.

I edited some stuf.

I was reminded last night of all the youthful energy me, and Chapman and Blaine and Lisa and Brae and Katie and Sarah and the reintroduced Carol – had when we did the bulk of our creative work.

Sorta like the Stones 68-72.

And yet that was the most turmoil in my life, as I went through a painful divorce, separation from kids, an interesting girlfriend and finally meeting Amy a few years later.

My line is graduate students should be able to bail their supervisor out of jail or drive me to the airport when (I) threatened with arrest.

Sorta like the Stones 68-72.

This is Chapman’s moment to shine, and although barfblog.com was named the number 1 food safety blog by someone pushing something today, it don’t matter much.

doug-ben-familyOften Chapman and I will send an e-mail to each other about some obscure reference in a post, with the comment, we only write for each other.

And the over 75,000 direct subscribers in over 70 countries.

Well done Chapman et al., couldn’t be prouder.

You too Blaine.

Assessment of risk communication about undercooked hamburgers by restaurant servers

Ellen M. Thomas, RTI International; Andrew Binder, Anne McLaughlin, Lee-Ann Jaykus, Dana Hanson, and Benjamin Chapman, North Carolina State University; and Doug Powell, powellfoodsafety.com

Journal of Food Protection

DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-16-065

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2013 Model Food Code, it is the duty of a food establishment to disclose and remind consumers of risk when ordering undercooked food such as ground beef. The purpose of this study was to explore actual risk communication activities of food establishment servers. Secret shoppers visited restaurants (n=265) in seven geographic locations across the U.S., ordered medium rare burgers, and collected and coded risk information from chain and independent restaurant menus and from server responses. The majority of servers reported an unreliable method of doneness (77%) or other incorrect information (66%) related to burger doneness and safety. These results indicate major gaps in server knowledge and risk communication, and the current risk communication language in the Model Food Code does not sufficiently fill these gaps. Furthermore, should servers even be acting as risk communicators? There are numerous challenges associated with this practice including high turnover rates, limited education, and the high stress environment based on pleasing a customer. If it is determined that servers should be risk communicators, food establishment staff should be adequately equipped with consumer advisory messages that are accurate, audience-appropriate, and delivered in a professional manner so as to help their customers make more informed food safety decisions.

I don’t see color, it doesn’t matter: UK hamburger edition

Don’t burger up your bank holiday.

Get it? Don’t bugger it up? Burger it up?

barfblog.Stick It InThose bureaucrats at UK’s Food Standards Agency are really yukking it up, focused on stupid jokes rather than evidence-based communications.

FSA has long been in its own undersirable class when talking about food safety risks, and class is so very important to the Brits.

FSA is great is talking at people rather than talking with people (a huge difference, like educating versus providing information).

FSA’s idea of risk communication is to commission a meaningless survey – people lie, especially about food and drink – which found that despite 71% of people stating that they are concerned about food poisoning, over a third (36%) of Brits would eat a burger that isn’t fully cooked through. More than one in 10 said that they actually prefer burgers cooked this way.  When cooking them at home 81% of those admit to undercooking them. So we at the FSA are encouraging all those who are getting their barbecues out this weekend to ensure they cook their burgers all the way through – until steaming hot throughout, there’s no pink meat in the middle and the juices run clear.

Those scientifically meanginless terms – steaming hot, no pink – have featured prominently in FSA foodsafetytalk for years, with steaming hot replacing piping hot.

Lead FSA policy thingy said something that is not worth repeating because it ignores the risks associated with needle-tenderized steaks.

And we’ve been over this so many times before.

The BBC repeated the advice verbatium in its latest version of PR blowjobs rather than something resembling journalism.

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

And now this.

 

Use a thermometer: At least 8 sick from E. coli linked to Son of a Bun’ burgers in Ireland

The proprietors of Cork burger restaurant ‘Son of a Bun’ have said that they are ‘devastated’ by the temporary closure order served upon the business last week.

DKANE 05/10/2015 REPRO FREE Proprietors Niall and Amanda O'Regan at the opening of Son of a Bun, Cork’s newest burger restaurant, creating 31 new jobs on the site of the old Crowley’s Music Store on MacCurtain Street.  The newly renovated 4,500 sq ft restaurant can seat 84 people and offers a selection of mouth-watering burgers using only the best Aberdeen Angus beef, sourced locally in Bandon, Co. Cork.  The burger restaurant is also the first one in Ireland to be approved by the HSE to serve burgers pink. Pic Darragh Kane.

The order follows a HSE investigation into an outbreak of E. coli in the city, which has identified eight cases in adults to date. The HSE said all affected are currently well.

“A Cork food business has been identified as a common link between the cases,” the HSE confirmed yesterday.

Son of a Bun owners Niall and Amanda O’Regan said it was an issue in relation to “structural issues” with the premises.

However in a statement the couple also revealed that “four staff have tested positive to carrying bacteria linked with E .coli”.

The closure order was served last Wednesday, June 29 and the restaurant was shut over the weekend.

While a notice on the door of the premises cited “necessary construction works” as the cause of the closure, it did not make any reference to the closure order.

However the restaurant yesterday issued a statement confirming it had received the closure order.

“Following a complaint, Son of A Bun restaurant has been working with the FSAI to ensure the integrity and quality of food safety at the premises in Cork,” the statement read.

barfblog.Stick It InWhen it opened last October, the owners said Son of a Bun was “the only restaurant approved by the HSE to serve burgers cooked pink”.

However a spokesperson for the HSE yesterday said that it does not award approval to restaurants wishing to serve rare or medium-rare burgers.

And did the bureautypes say that back in Oct.? Did they say anything during subsequent inspections?

Son of a Bun opened last September and has proven a huge hit with burger fans in Cork. It became well-known for its ‘pink burgers’, served rare and medium rare at customers’ requests.

It is understood that Son of a Bun will no longer serve the ‘pink’ burgers when the MacCurtain St restaurant reopens.

Color is irrelevant. Use a thermometer and stick it in.

25 percent of Hawaii restaurants received yellow, red cards

Two weeks after the state made its food inspections public, we’re digging deeper into the information posted online. The data is public, but the number of inspections and other figures are not simply listed.

All restaurants in Hawaii, the type of safety inspection it received, even the ingredients used in a meal that may have made a customer sick are included in the state’s new website.

“They want an explanation of why we saw certain things and why we did or did not do an action based on that,” said Peter Oshiro with the State Department of Health.

KHON2 spent days digging deeper, and found out DOH inspectors have checked out more than 4,800 locations across the state. They did 10,270 inspections, and have handed out more than 1,800 yellow or red placards.

The state is still in the process of entering more data, and told us Tuesday that 25 percent of food establishments received a yellow (conditional) card or red (closed) card.

“Is that a high number?” KHON2 asked.

“That’s a relative thing. I think what this shows is that 75 percent of establishments right now are fully compliant with rules and regulations,” Oshiro said. “Twenty-five percent yellow cards, we would like to see that down to 15 percent or below.”

To help, the state offers free food safety classes. It’s becoming increasingly popular since the introduction of the health department’s color-coded placard system.

Red-yellow-green for Calif.’s Contra Costa restaurants

Starting with the 20 on-site inspections completed laws week, Contra Costa’’s Environmental Health Department is now giving the 4,000-some restaurants, grocery stores, delis, conveniencemarts and gas station heat-lamp operations physical placards showing whether that establishment fully passes (green) or is on “conditional” status (yellow).

placard-types-400x455If major problems like vermin infestations, lack of hot water or improper storage temperatures result in an order to close, such establishments can be assigned a red placard until the problems are solved.

For Contra Costa Environmental Health Department Director Marilyn Underwood, it’s largely a matter of consistency. Alameda County, with the exception of the city of Berkeley, has since July 2012 used a color-coded placard system much like the one Contra Costa has adopted with green (pass), yellow (conditional pass) and red (closed) given to the county’s 6,000 restaurants, grocery stores and other places food is sold.

In 2014, Santa Clara County adopted a similar system showing inspection results for its 8,000 vendors. The only Bay Area county that doesn’t do this or something similar, Underwood said, is San Francisco.

“People here live in one area and commute to other areas, and we wanted a consistent look to what people see,” she said.

Also, having a vendor’s rating posted publicly should encourage them to clean up their acts, literally, and may result in more clients reporting problems they see.

To see more about the Contra Costa placard program, go to http://cchealth.org/eh/retail-food/placard.php

More information on the Alameda County program is available at www.acgov.org/aceh/food/grading.htm

Details on Santa Clara County’s placard program can be found at www.sccgov.org/sites/cpd/programs/fsp/Pages/Placarding.aspx

Everyone’s got a camera: California uni receives A rating after alleged raw chicken is served

The Cal State Fullerton Gastronome maintained an “A” food safety rating following an inspection conducted after reports of undercooked chicken.

According to the CSUF Food Facility Inspection Reports, conducted by the Department of Risk Management and Environmental Health & Safety, Inspector Justine Baldacci carried out the Feb. 24 inspection three days after students lodged complaints.

Baldacci also performed the Gastronome’s last inspection on July 28, 2015. The dining facility received a score of 95. The department scheduled a reinspection date for Nov. 20, 2015. However, no inspection report for November was filed on the CSUF Risk Management and Environmental Health & Safety website.

The most recent inspection report states that Baldacci inspected the facility following a report of allegedly undercooked chicken served to a customer.

cooked.chickenThe inspection found that “the processes, procedures and record keeping for batch cooking were reviewed with management and found to be adequate.”

The incident that caused the complaint took place Sunday, Feb. 21, when students said the chicken they were served for dinner was undercooked.

Elana Stein, 18, posted a picture of the chicken she said was undercooked on the Gastronome’s Facebook page and sent a complaint with the pictures of the alleged raw chicken to Rhonda Robinson, manager of the Gastronome.

Color is a lousy indicator of safety. Use a thermometer and stick it in.

barfblog.Stick It In

‘Some pink or no pink?’ Hamburger safety BS

Food safety friend Michéle writes:

As part of my daily public health mission, I track foodborne outbreaks and teach food safety. I do the latter to try to reduce the former.  Anywhere, anytime, anyway I can introduce it into conversation.  Because everyone should be served safe food.

hamburger-safe and unsafe-thumb-450x138-175Recently, on a rare night out, I was trying to order a hamburger from a small regional restaurant.

The conversation progressed like this:

Waiter:  Do you want that burger with ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink?’

Me:  Can you tell me what temperature equals ‘some pink’?

Waiter:  We don’t cook to a temperature.  We cook to ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink’.

Me:  Color is not an indicator of doneness.   Please ask the chef to cook my burger to 155 degrees F.

Waiter:  Our burgers have no dyes. We can only do ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink’.

meatwad.raw.hamburgerAs a food safety professional, I was concerned with this.   As I mentioned to the waiter, “some pink or no pink” is not an indicator of doneness.  Numerous meat chemistry factors play a role in influencing color and can result in premature browning, which is why color is not a reliable indicator.

So I reached out to the restaurant’s customer service representative via Twitter and email, asking about their beef procedures. Ever the educator, I even provided resources for them to review, in case it proved helpful to their response.   www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/ehsnet/plain_language/restaurants-ground-beef-handling-cooking.pdf

To their credit, the company seemed happy to respond and explain their hamburger handling processes, and I received a reply from their “Chief Strategy Officer.” Unfortunately their explanation of safe meat handling was NOT correct, and definitely NOT food safe:

From their email:

“The dangers in ground beef have to do with the grinding process, the potential contamination comes from the exterior of the animal. Steak is safe to eat raw because it is only the interior of the animal and it does not get ground up with any exterior parts of the animal. The bacteria cannot pass into the internal flesh unless it is ground in. We grind in house  so there is no surface coming in contact with our beef.”

The email goes on to explain:

“We don’t sell our hamburgers based on temperature because we hand-form our burgers and therefore they have different internal temperatures throughout the patty as there are different thicknesses. We cook our burgers based on time, less time for a pink and more time for no pink. The terms do somewhat relate to the color but are more ways to describe less cooked and more cooked.”

rare.hamburgerOuch!  That’s scary. Shouldn’t their cook terms be related to a number of degrees, not a hue of red?

Unfortunately, they are not alone. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many restaurants prepare and cook beef in ways that could lead to undercooking, and that about one-in-10 restaurant hamburgers are undercooked. Their recommendations are that establishments should measure the final temperature of ground beef using a thermometer or using standard cooking methods that always cook ground beef to 155°F for 15 second to prevent foodborne illness. FDA agrees.

Beef, even beef ground on-site, it not without risk. E. coli normally lives in the intestines of animals and the infectious dose is very low.  (According to BugCounter Don Schaffner dose response models for pathogenic E. coli indicate even a single cell holds the probability of causing illness.) E. coli on the outside of a  hunk of beef such as chuck, roast or steak can be mixed into the middle of a burger – the place that takes the longest to reach 155 degrees F and become safe.  Irradiation or cold pasteurization can reduce risk, but other food safety assurance steps must also be in place.

In the company’s discussion of their hamburger handling process, there is no mention of cross-contamination controls. Sanitation. Active managerial oversight. Strict supplier control. Microbial testing and certificates of analysis. Handwashing?

They did, however assure me that  “The FDA does allow for the sale of rare meat so long as you print warning about potential foodborne illness on your menu which we have.”  

True. But advisories and Disclaimers don’t make for a safer food product. Or negate an establishment’s responsibility to take the numerical temperature of food.   

Color is a lousy indicator.  Make safe food.  Stick it in.  Use a thermometer.

barfblog.Stick It In

 

 

Color placards for Calif. county restaurants hailed as ‘major new consumer protection initiative for diners’

“Whether you are grabbing a quick lunch or settling in for a fancy dinner, you want to know that the food was prepared in a kitchen that is clean and safe.” That’s how county Supervisor Joe Simitian summarized his push for a major countywide system that will eventually rate every one of the 8,000 dining places in the county and later all food trucks and caterers.

toronto.red.yellow.green.grades.may.11According to this editorial in the Mercury News, the San Jose area is going to adopt a Toronto-style red, yellow or green color sign in restaurant windows, and also put online the complete results of most recent inspections along with any past violations.

This significant public health program launched over the past year by the county’s Department of Environmental Health has been tested, vetted and analyzed at workshops along with a huge number of public comments. There are also on-going class sessions for restaurant operators and their staffs. And now it is ready for a rollout.

A variation of this program has been working for several years in many other jurisdictions including Sacramento, San Diego, Alameda and Los Angeles counties but our county has carefully tweaked it to fit locally. And it appears to have the support of the dining industry, according to DEH Consumer Protection Director Mike Balliett.

The three principal grades that will apply is the green card, which can be earned with a perfect inspection or nothing worse that one serious violation which was corrected immediately. The yellow placard denotes that two such violations have taken place. A red card, with a trio of serious flaws, will shut the restaurant down until corrections take place.

sylvannus.toronto.2005The website at sccgov.org/SCCDineOut will provide the food facility inspection results and also list the restaurants that have been shut down for food safety violations over the past six months.

The county’s 38 inspectors will begin using the placard and website system as they complete their regular inspections here in Milpitas and all the other cities. So the visual impact will be gradual although it will be sending important signals to all the other food service operations. In addition to restaurants, the new regulatory system covers markets, bakeries, liquor stores, bars, farmers’ markets, food services at fairs and festivals, ice cream and hot dog carts, food trucks, produce trucks and food vending machines.

Food safety ratings: Time to change system in Nebraska county?

Would you rather eat at a restaurant with food safety practices that are “fair” or “standard”? What makes a kitchen that’s “superior” better than a competitor that’s merely “excellent”?

barf.o.meter.dec.12Those are the four categories the Douglas County Health Department uses to rate restaurant food safety, and the ratings are the only information available online to the public about how restaurants perform in inspections.

Some members of the department’s Board of Health would like to replace that system with one that rates establishments with a letter grade — an A, B or C.

“It’s easily understood,” said Lawrence Albert, a food manufacturing industry consultant who is the health board’s vice president. He has raised the issue at board meetings but said it has not advanced past discussion.

The top county health official, however, doesn’t believe a change is needed to the current rating system.

“We know that our community feels pretty comfortable, and knows what it means” when they see “fair” or “standard,” said Dr. Adi Pour, county health director.

Some in the restaurant industry disagree.

“The public doesn’t understand how the grading

system works, and the media doesn’t understand how the grading system works, and that’s a problem,” said Jennie Warren, executive director of the Omaha Restaurant Association.

Warren said she’s glad the health department is evaluating its system and said the association will work with the department.

rest.inspection.grade.colorThis might help guide your work:

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009.

The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information.

Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874
.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as qr.code.rest.inspection.gradetools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

Grand jury green lights color-coded inspection system for Orange County eateries

Eleven years after Toronto came up with the red-yellow-green restaurant inspection grading system, an Orange County, California, grand jury on Thursday recommended the county adopt a health inspection system with green, yellow and red placards, instead of letter grades, to inform customers whether food-service establishments are complying with the health code.

The county is the only one among its neighbors without a letter-grade system, and Thursday’s report was the latest attempt to give consumers OC.color.gradeseasily recognizable information. Previous tries here met opposition from the restaurant industry, but this time may be different, officials say.

The Board of Supervisors has three months to respond to the recommendations.

“I’m not trying to put restaurants out of business,” said Supervisor John Moorlach, who recommended a similar system in 2008, “but I want to make sure they’re doing their best to get a good green tag in the window.”

Patrons can get a copy of the restaurant’s latest inspection report online (ocfoodinfo.com) or if they ask for it at the restaurant, but hardly anybody does, said Russ Bendel, the owner of Vine Restaurant in San Clemente.

Colored signs “definitely will help guests choose where they want to go if they have multiple options,” he said.

The grand jury recommends using the same three categories as today, but coloring them like traffic signals. This is “a more practical approach” than letter grades, the report says, without the “disruption and burden” and expense.

“Improving the visibility of the current unremarkable graphic to a more distinctive image is an overdue step forward,” the report says.

It criticized other counties for “operating without any conformity” in their letter grades – for weighing certain infractions differently.