Rare burger porn – more from Australia

Medium-rare means nothing. It’s temperature that counts for safety.

hillburgerBut why not listen to actor Les Hill who says he has roamed the earth on a worldwide odyssey to hunt down, and build, the ultimate burger.

Meet the Hillburger — the result of a passion which has become a fledgling business for the 42-year-old actor, foodie and former chef.

Hill’s Burger Bible

  • “If you can’t fit it in your mouth, it’s not a burger, it’s a food pile.”
  • “It should cooked medium rare — anything else, you lose the taste.”

5 things to know about foodborne illness

Julie Jargon of The Wall Street Journal reports that roughly one in six Americans, or 48 million people, get sick each year from foodborne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

happy-vomit1Approximately 128,000 of them are hospitalized and 3,000 die from the illnesses. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. CEO Steve Ells is making an all-out effort to revive his chain’s fortunes after contaminated ingredients caused a spate of such illnesses, as The Wall Street Journal reports in a Page One article.

Here are five things to know about foodborne illnesses, according to the CDC:

  1. Which food items account for the most illnesses?

Produce is the most common contributor to foodborne illnesses, accounting for 46% of them between 1998 and 2008, followed by meat and poultry, dairy and eggs and fish and shellfish.

  1. Which pathogens are most responsible?

Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S., followed by salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter spp. and Staphylococcus aureus. The bacteria behind the Chipotle outbreak are called Shiga toxin-producing E.coli 026.

  1. How dangerous is E. coli 026?

This strain of E. coli can cause diarrhea and vomiting and sometimes lead to kidney failure. No one who contracted this kind of E. coli infection in the Chipotle outbreak died or was diagnosed with kidney failure, though 21 of the 55 ill people were hospitalized. A smaller E. coli outbreak sickened five more. Kidney failure and death is more often associated with the E. coli 0157 strain, which was the pathogen in the 1993 Jack in the Box outbreak that resulted in the deaths of four children.

  1. Is the rate of foodborne disease outbreaks growing?

Infections of E. coli O157 in 2014 decreased 32% when compared with 2006-2008. There has been no change in the number of overall Salmonella cases in 2014 versus 2006-2008. Campylobacter infections increased 13% during that time.

  1. How can I prevent getting a foodborne illness?

Frequent hand washing and washing of surfaces where food is prepared is critical. Cooking food thoroughly is another key way to prevent contamination. A food thermometer should be used to determine when an item is done. Steaks, for example, should be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Food should be kept at a temperature of 140 degrees after cooking because bacteria can grow as food begins to cool. Microwaved food should reach 165 degrees or higher. Perishable items should be refrigerated promptly. And raw meat and eggs should always be prepared separately from other foods.



14 sick from E coli O157 in pork sausage in Calgary

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is warning Calgarians to take precautions to reduce the risk of E. coli following 14 confirmed cases in the region including two linked to a pork sausage sold by local retailers.

e.coli.porkAccording to AHS, tests confirm two patients who contracted E.coli O157:H7 had consumed Paolini’s Sausage & Meats Ltd.’s Hungarian Farmer’s Sausage.

“In the preparation of the product it was not processed adequately to be regarded as ready to eat,” explains Dr. Judy MacDonald, AHS medical officer of health for the Calgary Zone. “There was probably a misunderstanding, or a lack of understanding, about what to do with this product.”

Anyone who purchased Hungarian farmer’s sausage prior to February 2 should treat the sausage as if it contains raw pork and cook to an internal temperature of 71 degrees Celsius. MacDonald says Paolini’s provides sausage to more than 20 retailers and the name Paolini may not be evident on the product’s packaging.

On February 2, Paolini’s Sausage & Meats Ltd. production facility was closed and disinfected.

Don’t use antibiotics to treat STEC

Objectives Assess the disease severity of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 infection and factors influencing the development of typical haemolytic uraemic syndrome (tHUS).

e.coli.O157.strawberryDesign A retrospective cohort study using data collected through routine surveillance questionnaires between 2009 and 2012.

Participants 3323 symptomatic cases of STEC O157.

Main outcome measures Incidence of human STEC O157 and tHUS, proportion of cases reporting bloody diarrhoea, hospitalisation, tHUS and death. Odds of progression to tHUS and predicted percentage chance of developing tHUS based on case demographics, STEC O157 strain characteristics and clinical symptoms.

Results From 2009 to 2012, 3323 cases of symptomatic STEC O157 with completed questionnaires were reported, of which 172 developed tHUS (5.18%). Being aged 1–4 years (OR 8.65, 95% CI 5.01 to 14.94, p=0.004) or female (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.12 to 2.30, p=0.009), being infected with phage type (PT) 21/28 (OR 2.07, 95% CI 1.25 to 3.42, p=0.005) or PT 2 (OR 2.18, 95% CI 1.06 to 4.50, p=0.034), receiving β-lactam antibiotics (OR 4.08, 95% CI 1.43 to 11.68, p=0.009) and presenting with vomiting (OR 3.16, 95% CI 2.16 to 4.62, p<0.001) or bloody diarrhoea (OR 2.10, 95% CI 1.38 to 3.20, p=0.001) were found to be significant risk factors for progression to tHUS. The predicted percentage chance of developing tHUS varied from under 1% to 50% if all risk factors were present.

Conclusions The data from this study indicate the use of β-lactam antibiotics should be avoided in suspected cases of STEC infection in all age groups, particularly in those under the age of 5.

Disease severity of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 and factors influencing the development of typical haemolytic uraemic syndrome: a retrospective cohort study, 2009–2012

BMJ Open 2016;6:e009933

N Launders, L Byrne, C Jenkins, K Harker, A Charlett, G K Adak


Needle and damage done: beef roasts

Inactivation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in beef roasts cooked under selected cooking conditions was evaluated.

needle.tenderize.crEye of round roasts were each inoculated at five sites in the central plane with a five-strain cocktail of E. coli O157:H7 at ca. 6.3 log CFU per site and cooked to center temperatures of 56 to 71°C in a convection oven set at 120, 140, 180, or 200°C, in a conventional oven set at 120 or 210°C, and in a slow cooker set on high or low.

Prime rib roasts were each inoculated at 10 sites throughout the roast with the same E. coli O157:H7 cocktail at ca. 6.6 log CFU per site and cooked in the conventional oven set at 140 or 180°C to center temperatures of 58 to 71°C.

The number of sites yielding E. coli O157:H7 after cooking decreased with increasing roast center temperature for the eye of round roasts cooked in the convection oven or in the slow cooker at a given setting, but this trend was not apparent for roasts of either type cooked in the conventional oven. Reductions of E. coli O157 in both types of roasts were generally less at the center than at other locations, particularly locations closer to the surface of the meat. When eye of round roasts were cooked to the same center temperature in the convection oven, the reduction of E. coli O157:H7 increased with increasing oven temperature up to 180°C and decreased after that. The reduction of E. coli O157:H7 in replicate roasts cooked under conditions in which the organism was not eliminated during cooking mostly differed by >1 log CFU per site. However, E. coli O157:H7 was not recovered from any of the inoculation sites when eye of round roasts were cooked to 65, 60, 60, or 63°C in the convection oven set at 120, 140, 180, and 200°C, respectively; cooked to 63 or 71°C in the conventional oven set at 120 and 210°C, respectively; or cooked to 63°C in the slow cooker set at high or low.

For prime rib roasts, E. coli O157:H7 was not recovered from any of the inoculation sites in roasts cooked to 71 or 58°C in the conventional oven set at 140 and 180°C, respectively.

Inactivation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in beef roasts cooked in conventional or convection ovens or in a slow cooker under selected conditions.

J Food Prot. 2016 Feb;79(2):205-12. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-15-116

Gill CO, Devos J, Badoni M, Yang X


Give blood and get $5 off diarrhea burrito

diarrhea.burritoChipotle is apparently targeting its hipster university campus demographic – the people who  buy into Chipotle’s marketing BS – by offering a $5 off coupon for blood donations at Hoxworth Blood Center, which is associated with the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

barfblog.com readers, please forward any other dubious marketing attempts to dpowell29@gmail.com.


Is Blue Bell or Chipotle the food industry’s Volkswagen. Or both

My latest for Texas A&M University. Visit them at http://cfs.tamu.edu/2016/01/21/is-blue-bell-or-chipotle-the-food-industrys-volkswagen-or-both/

alices-restaurant-2-croppedVolkswagen’s top executive apologized earlier this month for his company’s role in its ongoing emissions cheating. CEO Matthias Mueller spoke at a Detroit restaurant on the eve of the city’s annual auto show, and said, I’m sorry.

Not much else.

I’ve been to that auto show, covering it as a journalist for a computer magazine 25 years ago, and it was deeply weird.

Scantily-clad women, sales-thingies hawking their new toys, a lot of back-slapping and back-stabbing.

As they say in Kansas, always smile when you twist the knife (because a straight stab usually isn’t enough to kill).

Blue Bell Creameries says that new findings of Listeria in one of its ice cream manufacturing plants are media misstatements.

And they’re still sorry.

When your product kills three people and your food safety strategy is shown to be woefully insufficient, that’s a bad soundbite.

Instead, share Listeria test results with the public, through a website or QR codes. How much does Blue Bell have left to lose?

Probably less than Chipotle.

The diarrhea burrito is not healthy eating, but Chipotle is still getting a free pass – not so for Chipotle shareholders, who have seen their investments decline by 47 percent in the past six months.

They’re really sorry too.

For whatever reason – money – Chipotle investors and apologists are willing to look beyond the company’s many failings.

If Chipotle really wanted to be a leader, they would have embraced microbiologically safe food and internal verification long before the 2015 outbreaks.

If Chipotle really wanted to be a leader they’d stop playing to consumer fears with their advertising.

If Chipotle really wanted to be a leader, they would embrace genetically engineered foods that require fewer and far less harmful pesticides.

Chipotle is a follower, sucking up dollars wherever it can.

In its latest PR rah-rah stunt, Chipotle is going to close all of its 1,900 outlets on Feb. 8 for a few hours “for company executives to be transparent about the status of the E. coli outbreak, and what Chipotle is doing to prevent it from happening again.”

“Chipotle emphasizes fresh, locally sourced ingredients. It was the first major chain to reject genetically modified food. Chipotle has embodied the notion of doing well by doing good.”

That’s not doing anyone any good.

It’s marketing BS.

Consumers aren’t so dumb or confused. Chipotle said same-store sales dropped a greater-than-expected 14.6 percent in the last quarter, and analysts have been scrambling to downgrade their ratings.

They’re going to wait until Feb. 8 to close all its restaurants so employees can learn about the gravity of its foodborne illness outbreak.

E-mail works.

Last week, company executives appeared at an investor conference in Florida in a bid to soothe unnerved shareholders, if not customers, and acknowledged 2016 would be a “messy” year for earnings. As reported in Wired, it helped. Shares in the company, once a darling of Wall Street, rebounded more than 12 percent and appear to be holding steady.

People can be dumb.

But food safety is nothing compared to the weight of investor portfolios, so of course, Chipotle had an investor smile and shake before it had a food safety meeting.

Anything to make a buck.

“During that whole time, all of our food safety and food handling practices were within industry standards,” Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesman, says. “These incidents have shown us what we need to do better in that area, and that is exactly what we are doing.”

The Pinto defense – that car that had a tendency to blow up when hit from behind — should not inspire investors.

And more testing won’t stop Norovirus.

“This plan should reduce the risk of similar risks to a level as near zero as is possible,” Arnold says.

There is no such thing as zero risk, no matter, how much testing, a topic I covered almost 20 years ago in my co-authored book, Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk.

That Chipotle is just discovering this concept is an embarrassment for all the investors who have lost money.

And a blight on microbial food safety.

Stop apologizing for Chipotle just because it may be hipster.

It isn’t.

Neither is Volkswagon.

50% of chicken breast Campy positive, irrigation water source of dangerous E. coli: FoodNet Canada 2014 short report

FoodNet Canada tracks illnesses of the gut, commonly known as food poisoning, in Canadians, and traces them back to their sources, such as food, water and animals. These data are analyzed to help determine which sources are causing the most illness among Canadians and help us track illnesses and their causes over time.

smallIn the 2014 surveillance year, FoodNet Canada was active in three sites (partially or throughout the entire year) in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. In each location, or “sentinel site,” enhanced human disease surveillance is performed in parallel with active surveillance for specific bacteria, viruses and parasites in the possible sources to which the ill may have been exposed.

The purpose of this report is to present the preliminary findings from the 2014 surveillance year in the sentinel sites. This report will be followed by a comprehensive annual report which will include more extensive analyses of temporal trends and subtyping information for an integrated perspective on enteric disease from exposure to illness.

With the expansion to three sites in 2014, FoodNet Canada is able to provide more valuable information on enteric disease in Canada. This information on enteric disease continues to be essential to the development of robust food and water safety policies in Canada.

  • In 2014, Campylobacterand Salmonella remained the most common causes of human enteric illness in the sentinel sites.
  • Campylobacterwas the most prevalent pathogen found on skinless chicken breast in all sites with close to one-half of all samples testing positive. Across all three sites,Salmonella is the most commonly found pathogen in chicken nuggets, with more than one-quarter of all samples testing positive. Salmonella prevalence on skinless chicken breast ranged across the sites from 15% – 26%. In ground beef, VTEC remains at a low prevalence. Pork chops appear to contain the pathogens of interest (Campylobacter,Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes) at relatively low levels.
  • Fresh-cut fruit sampling showed that these products are rarely positive for the parasites, viruses and bacteria tested.
  • On farm, Salmonellawas commonly found in broiler chickens in all sites. Salmonella was also found in turkey in the BC site, but at a lower prevalence than in the broiler chickens. In turkey in the BC site, Campylobacter was again the most common pathogen found in 2014, as in 2013. Campylobacter was also commonly found in beef and dairy manure samples in the ON site, as in previous years. Campylobacter prevalence in broiler chickens was variable across the sites, ranging from 8.7% – 22%.
  • VTEC was found in about one quarter of irrigation water samples in the BC and AB sites.
  • Results from the 2014 FoodNet Canada sampling year have demonstrated that retail meat products, particularly chicken products, remain an important source of human enteric pathogens. Some of this contamination is likely due to high levels on farm and other points along the farm to store continuum. Fresh-cut fruit does not appear to be an important source of enteric disease for Canadians, while irrigation water has the potential to be a source of VTEC in particular. Continued monitoring of human cases and potential sources in the sentinel sites is important to help further understand enteric disease in Canada and detect emerging trends. This information will help protect Canadians and help to develop future public health policy.

To obtain a copy of the full report, please contact: phac-FoodNet.Canada-aspc@phac-aspc.gc.ca

Why can’t it be posted on the Internet?

An E. coli hero dies

Bill Marler writes that Suzanne Kiner passed away late last week. During her daughter’s E. coli illness in 1993 she never left the hospital for over six months and seldom left her daughter’s bedside.  She willed her daughter to survive and to recover as much as the E. coli bacteria would allow.

kinner.jan.16I will always be humbled and honored that she hired me to represent the family against Jack in the Box.

Canadian, eh: Bottle feeding E. coli to calves to prevent food poisoning?

Scientists in Nova Scotia are trying to come up with a way to prevent cattle from hosting the toxic strain of E. coli that can make humans sick if they eat meat contaminated with the bacteria. 

martin-kalmokoffFood safety research scientist Martin Kalmokoff, who works at the Atlantic Food and Agriculture Research Centre in Kentville, said the research is trying to figure out why certain types of E. coli multiply in the guts of cows. 

The idea is eventually farmers will be able to feed to young calves a harmless type of E. coli in liquid form, either through a bottle or syringe, that will prevent the more toxic strains from flourishing. 

The hope is the mixture would out-compete the toxic E. coli O157 for space in the gut. 

“If you can prevent the cattle from carrying the organism, it would have obvious impacts in terms of food safety down the production line,” said Kalmokoff, who works for Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada. 

“Essentially you’d like to eliminate the pathogen from cattle completely, so when they go to slaughter you don’t have the opportunity of contaminating meat and meat products with this particular product.”