Raw and risky: do rewards outweigh risks?

U.S. President Obama may want to think again about those burger outings he does.

five.guys.obamaObama likes Five Brothers Burgers and Fries, where, “kitchen rules include no timers in the kitchen (because good cooks know when food is done).

Maybe use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer?

Misti Crane of The Columbus Dispatch writes that those who run kitchens commonly run afoul of food-safety sticklers when it comes time to eat.

Most chefs will likely tell you that a burger cooked to a safe temperature is a burger they would rather not order. And they probably aren’t pushing themselves away from the bar when an icy tray of fresh-shucked oysters arrives.

Food-safety experts shake their heads at such culinary daredevils, but the risk-takers shake their heads right back. Food is pleasure, they say, and rules can stand in the way.

“I like my meat running around the block,” said Columbus restaurateur Tasi Rigsby. “I eat everything. I ate sushi when I was pregnant.”

Mike Suclescy, who co-owns the Thurman Cafe, said most of the burger lovers who visit his German Village restaurant prefer theirs cooked below 160 degrees, the temperature at which E. coli bacteria are killed, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines.

Most people go for medium or medium-rare, he said.

“I don’t think a whole lot of people worry about it here at our place,” he said, adding that a 12-ounce Thurmanator takes a good eight minutes per side to cook to well-done.

Doug Powell, a former food-safety professor and publisher of the website barfblog.com, worries a lot about the safety of children and said he doesn’t take any food-safety risks when it comes to him or his daughters.

barfblog.Stick It InMany people who routinely eat raw shellfish or rare beef are quick to point out that they’ve never been harmed in a lifetime of dining.

“You could play the numbers game, and I hear these arguments all the time,” Powell said. “But if it happens to you, the numbers become irrelevant because the only number is one. These illnesses can cause lifelong damage.”

In the case of oysters, for instance, reported illnesses are relatively rare but can be deadly.

Last year in the United States, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 12 outbreaks linked or possibly linked to oysters — 52 people were sickened, and three were hospitalized. The CDC database does not include individual illnesses or deaths linked to oysters, nor does it include those who are sickened and never seek medical care.

The CDC estimates that there are 3,000 food-related deaths per year in the United States and that 128,000 people are hospitalized.

“It’s up to the consumer, but they just have to be knowledgeable and be educated and understand that they are potentially at risk,” said Carol Zubovich, a specialist in the food-protection program at Columbus Public Health.

Restaurants that serve foods considered risky, including undercooked or raw meats, fish and shellfish, have the highest level of scrutiny by food inspectors, she said.

Rigsby said she’s especially selective about the meat, seafood and eggs she eats, and she and her husband, Kent Rigsby, are discriminating about whom they buy from and how they prepare their food.

The beef is all grass-fed, for instance. And the oysters are shipped in fresh from the East Coast and shucked to order. Neither of those things guarantees safety, experts caution, but it gives many people greater peace of mind.

Powell said he doesn’t buy the safe-sourcing argument.

“I know there’s a lot of food porn out there that says if you source it from the right place, it will be safer, but I don’t have any microbiological evidence of that,” he said. “I will not eat raw sprouts. I will not drink unpasteurized juice; and I generally cook my seafood, meat or protein. I wouldn’t touch raw dairy.”

Columbus Public Health’s Zubovich doesn’t go for potentially risky foods, either, and she mostly dines at home, she said. “Since getting into this line of work, I don’t eat out at a lot of restaurants.”

China arrests six from OSI unit in food scandal

Chinese authorities have formally arrested six employees from a unit of US food supplier OSI Group, the parent company over a scandal involving expired meat sold to fast food giants.

transparency-300x199Authorities have previously announced the detention by police of six officials of Shanghai Husi Food Co, a subsidiary of OSI which operated a factory shut down by the city in July for mixing out-of-date meat with fresh products. OSI’s clients in China previously included McDonald’s and KFC.

“OSI Group confirms that 6 employees of Shanghai Husi have now been arrested following detention by authorities,” the company said in a statement provided to media. “OSI Group will continue to cooperate fully and in good faith with the authorities,” it said, but did not identify the six. 

Sprouts still suck, even with social amplification

I know lots about the social amplification of risk as promoted by Kasperson, et al., but I’m not sure the author a new paper examining that theory in Germany’s 2011 E. coli O104 outbreak involving sprouts does.

sprout.santa.barf.xmasLots of risk communication background, not much in the way of what to do. But, you can decide.

The social amplification of risk framework highlights the role which the news media play in risk communication by interacting with other agents in amplifying risk. However, the precise ways in which the media and other social agents actually amplify risks in public debates are unclear. In this article we draw on insights from the sociology of news to examine whether and to what extent social agents and news media amplify an emerging health risk. We use the debate about the Escherichia coli outbreak in Germany in 2011 to examine three issues: the amount of risk reporting by news media and social agents in their function as news sources; their evaluation of risk; and how they contribute to the escalation of risk, also known as ripple effects. In this article we draw on data from a content analysis of press releases from public health authorities and affected stakeholders and of news items in leading German news media. We found that the affected stakeholders were amplifying the risk to the greatest extent. We also found that there was a shift over time in the use of dominant frames. At the start of the debate the risk was framed as a public health issue and linked to medical-scientific progress. As the debate developed, more attention was given to political and economic consequences of the outbreak and the original health risk event was layered by other risk-related events.

Social agents and news media as risk amplifiers: a case study on the public debate about the E. coli outbreak in Germany 2011

Health, Risk & Society, August 20, 2014

Juliana Raupp


jimmy.john's.sproutsWe did our own take on the sprout-related literature a couple of years ago and concluded:

• raw sprouts are a well-documented source of foodborne illness;

• risk communication about raw sprouts has been inconsistent; and,

• continued outbreaks question effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance.

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-8-1-14.xlsx.

Sprouts present a unique food safety challenge compared to other fresh produce, as the sprouting process provides optimal conditions for the growth and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria. The sprout industry, regulatory agencies, and the academic community have been collaborating to improve the microbiological safety of raw sprouts, including the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), establishing guidelines for safe sprout production, and chemical disinfection of seed prior to sprouting. However, guidelines and best practices are only as good as their implementation. The consumption of raw sprouts is considered high-risk, especially for young, elderly and immuno-compromised persons.

From November 2010 into 2011, an outbreak linked to raw sprouts in the U.S. and involving sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s sickened 140 people. This was the third sprout related outbreak involving this franchise, yet the owner of the Montana Jimmy John’s outlet, Dan Stevens, expressed confidence in his sprouts claiming that because the sprouts were locally grown they would not be contaminated. By the end of December 2010 a sprout supplier, Tiny Greens Farm, was implicated in the outbreak. Jimmy John’s owner, John Liautaud, responded by stating the sandwich chain would replace alfalfa sprouts with clover sprouts since they were allegedly easier to clean. However, a week earlier a separate outbreak had been identified in Washington and Oregon in which eight people were infected with Salmonella after eating sandwiches containing clover sprouts from a Jimmy John’s restaurant. This retailer was apparently not aware of the risks associated with sprouts, or even outbreaks associated with his franchisees.

In late December, 2011, less than one year after making the switch to clover sprouts, Jimmy John’s was linked to another sprout related outbreak, this time it was E.coli O26 in clover sprouts. In February 2012, sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s announced they were permanently removing raw clover sprouts from their menus. As of April 2012, the outbreak had affected 29 people across 11 states. Founder and chief executive, John Liautaud, attempted to appease upset customers through Facebook stating, “a lot of folks dig my sprouts, but I will only serve the best of the best. Sprouts were inconsistent and inconsistency does not equal the best.” He also informed them the franchise was testing snow pea shoots in a Campaign, Illinois store, although there is no mention regarding the “consistency” or safety of this choice.

sprout.apple.aug.14Despite the frequent need for sprout-based risk communication, messaging with industry and public stakeholders has been limited in effectiveness. In spite of widespread media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks, improved production guidelines, and public health enforcement actions, awareness of risk remains low. Producers, food service and government agencies need to provide consistent, evidence-based messages and, more importantly, actions. Information regarding sprout-related risks and food safety concerns should be available and accurately presented to producers, retailers and consumers in a manner that relies on scientific data and clear communications.

Erdozain, M.S., Allen, K.J., Morley, K.A. and Powell, D.A. 2012. Failures in sprouts-related risk communication. Food Control. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.08.022



Nutritional and perceived health benefits have contributed to the increasing popularity of raw sprouted seed products. In the past two decades, sprouted seeds have been arecurring food safety concern, with at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people. A compilation of selected publications was used to yield an analysis of the evolving safety and risk communication related to raw sprouts, including microbiological safety, efforts to improve production practices, and effectiveness of communication prior to, during, and after sprout-related outbreaks. Scientific investigation and media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks has led to improved production guidelines and public health enforcement actions, yet continued outbreaks call into question the effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance. Raw sprouts remain a high-risk product and avoidance or thorough cooking are the only ways that consumers can reduce risk; even thorough cooking messages fail to acknowledge the risk of cross-contamination. Risk communication messages have been inconsistent over time with Canadian and U.S. governments finally aligning their messages in the past five years, telling consumers to avoid sprouts. Yet consumer and industry awareness of risk remains low. To minimize health risks linked to the consumption of sprout products, local and national public health agencies, restaurants, retailers and producers need validated, consistent and repeated risk messaging through a variety of sources.

41 sickened with Salmonella at Michigan festival

Reading Summer Festival Days lasted from July 31 to Aug. 3, but the outbreak came from one event.

Reading Summer Festival Days“There were eight laboratory-confirmed cases and 33 probable cases” among the more than 250 people who attended an alumni reunion dinner Aug. 2, CHA health officer Steve Todd said. After being notified of the illnesses on Aug. 11 Todd put his department to work to contact attendees.

The community invited back all those who had attended Reading schools from across the state and country. Two members of the class of 1942 were present.

About 150 were found and interviewed by phone. “Several of the individuals either had been seen by a doctors or were hospitalized,” Todd said.

Many were in their 70s.

Because notification came nine days after the event there was little food to test. 

Naked sushi is happening in Vancouver (that’s in Canada), and, yes, it’s what you think it is

Ever heard of nyotaimori? It’s the Japanese practice of serving sushi on a naked body. It’s real, beyond that one scene from the first “Sex and the City” movie. And, for a price, you can now have your sushi served on a naked model in Vancouver. 

naked-sushi-4-620x936Naked Sushi, a catering and events company that supplies this unique service, just launched in Vancouver, reported VancityBuzz. The company employs models to lie very still, sometimes for hours at a time, while partygoers pluck sushi off of their naked bodies with chopsticks. 

A variety of maki and nigiri is arranged strategically on the model’s body on their stomachs, legs, chest area, etc. You can also order bento boxes and a variety of appetizers. And prices vary based on what kind of sushi you want, and how long you’d like your naked sushi model to stay at your party. 

Was it the cabbage? 15 sickened by E. coli O111 linked to Minnesota Applebee’s; know thy suppliers

Green, whole head cabbage was the likely source of E. coli O111 illnesses traced to eating at Applebee’s restaurants in Minnesota this summer, state health officials said Friday.

applebees.ricky_.bobby_Fifteen people were sickened by the produce, which was likely contaminated before it was distributed to restaurants, the department said. Health investigators interviewed 14 who were taken ill: 13 ate at nine Applebee’s restaurants in Minnesota; one ate at a Yard House restaurant.

Many of the cases involved people eating the oriental chicken salad at Applebee’s. This particular strain of E. coli O111 had not been seen in the United States previously, the department said.

Applebee’s pulled the item off its menus and returned it after tapping a different source for the ingredients.

Minnesota investigators traced the cabbage to a common supplier outside of Minnesota and continue to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate its source. “The FDA examination of the potentially involved farms is still ongoing. Single cases of illness that match the outbreak strain have occurred in three other states,” the department said.

Shrimp sashimi sold in Hong Kong Thai restaurant contaminated with Salmonella

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) announced today (August 28) that a sample of shrimp sashimi taken at a Thai restaurant was found to be contaminated with a pathogen, Salmonella. The CFS has ordered the restaurant concerned to stop selling the affected product, and to review and improve the food production process.

Shrimp-SushiA CFS spokesman said, “The CFS took a sample of the shrimp sashimi from a licensed general restaurant in Kowloon City for testing through its regular Food Surveillance Programme. The test result showed that Salmonella was found to be present in 25 grams of the sample, contravening the ‘Microbiological Guidelines for Food’ which state that Salmonella should not be detected in 25 grams of food.”

Saks Restaurant and Bar owners in Australia assure public the food is safe after cockroaches in kitchen fail

Saks Restaurant and Bar at Marina Mirage owners were forced to spend more than $55,000 on cleaning and structural changes after Gold Coast City Council food safety officers busted them for failing several inspections last year.

Saks-Restaurant-BarInspectors discovered dead and live cockroaches in the commercial kitchen, uncovered seafood and surfaces covered in grease, grime, dirt and mould on three separate inspections in September 2013.

Council solicitor Nick Hatcher yesterday told the Southport Magistrates Court 15 cockroaches had been found under the refrigerated pizza unit, near the pizza oven, at the washing up sink and in the dry storage area.

He said the restaurant had been given a clean bill of health in April this year but a single dead cockroach was found during a surprise inspection last week.

Saks pleaded guilty through lawyer Michael McMillan to one count of failing to comply with a requirement imposed by the Food Standards Code.

Mr McMillan said his clients took over the business a year ago but were “just accountants” who had little experience in the hospitality industry and were “not up to speed”.

The council asked for fines up to $25,000 while Mr McMillan said a lesser fine of up to $15,000 was more fitting as the business had no previous breaches and had already suffered adverse publicity this week.

“They take a lot of pride in what they do and they are very upset about how this negative publicity will affect them,” he said.

He said the owners wanted to reassure customers that the restaurant was now fully compliant.

“Saks is open for business and people can be assured that all the food stuff they eat there are safe and staff are doing all they can to make customers’ happy,” he said.

But Magistrate Ron Kilner expressed disgust at the owners slow compliance with council orders. “Members of the public were put at risk of salmonella poisoning … due to the poor hygiene at the restaurant,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is, they didn’t shut the doors — they kept the restaurant open for business, presumably making money while not complying.