Government regulation is coming to US sushi

Cynthia LaBelle-Tun,  president of Edo Sushi Express. writes in Food Safety Magazine that she has been involved in the sushi industry since 2000 when my husband, Thihan Tun, and I opened Tun Asian Foods. We were an exclusive on-site sushi provider for Stop & Shop Supermarkets between 2002 and 2005. In 2005, we parted ways with Stop & Shop and decided to change our focus to delivery sushi in the New England region. Since then we have worked to provide safe and delicious food to businesses throughout the region.

sushi.riceOur strong focus on food safety came about due to our decision to focus on delivering fresh sushi. We already had a basic on-site Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan and Standard Operating Procedures, but delivering fresh sushi requires special handling due to perishability issues. This caused Edo Sushi Express to begin the long road to a deeper understanding of sushi food safety. One of the results of this road was the law in Connecticut changing the way the health department looks at sushi rice.
Sushi is a traditional Japanese food that has been incorporated into the American cuisine, and as it has grown in popularity throughout the country, the health authorities in states and municipalities have had to grapple with the issue of food safety. Sushi is a Japanese word that means “seasoned rice.” And it is the sushi rice that concerns many health officials. The concern for health officials is the growth of bacteria that will normally begin growing in food held at room temperature within 2 hours.
In the United States, very few people die from eating sushi. Death from eating bad sushi is usually attributed to fugu, a type of poisonous fish rarely eaten in the United States. People do get sick from eating sushi, but the cause for illness is usually poorly handled fish. An example of this occurred earlier this year with a Salmonella outbreak caused by raw tuna. Salmonella is caused when food is exposed to feces. It is highly likely that the fish processor, in China or Indonesia, washed the tuna with dirty water. Raw fish to be used in sushi must be handled with care. Salmonella bacteria will not die if the fish is frozen, it will only stop growing.

Surely some mistake: US catfish rule exemplifies government waste

David Acheson, president and CEO of The Acheson Group LLC, a global food safety consulting firm, writes in Forbes that last week was a sad day for food safety in the United States as the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) published a final rule on the inspection of catfish.  This new rule exemplifies government waste, the politics of food safety and the inherent dysfunction between the FDA and the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service.

airplane.shirleyThis story goes back to 2008 when the Farm Bill transferred regulatory authority for the safety of catfish from the FDA to the USDA.  But why would this change in regulatory authority happen? Was FDA doing a bad job with regulating catfish? Was catfish such a high risk food that it needed the continuous inspection approach of the USDA?  Did FDA feel the need to off load some inspectional responsibilities because the Agency could not cope with the workload.   The answers are no, no and no. So why the move?

To date neither Congress, FDA nor USDA have come up with a sound reason as to why this move was made.  So why was this decision made? To the best of my understanding the decision was based on the belief that US catfish farmers would be better protected from overseas competition by putting all catfish regulation under USDA.  Being regulated by USDA will consume more time and resources for those that slaughter and process catfish. It will require more effort by the industry to be responsive to the on-site and shift by shift inspections of USDA. But if one assumes that this more severe and costly oversight can be met by the domestic producers but might be too much for those importing catfish, then maybe there is an economic advantage to the domestic catfish growers in that the foreign suppliers will just give up and stop importing catfish to the US. 

Street food in Brazil; and The Beatles

The aims of this study were to assess the compliance of street foods sold in an urban center in a major capital of Brazil with international standards for food safety and to provide data that could be used for the elaboration of specific legislation to ensure the safety of street food.

brazil.street.foodThe study investigated demographic profiles of street vendors and hygiene practices used in critical points of food production for products sold. Direct observations and structured interviews were conducted among vendors at stationary locations in the downtown area. Forty-three participating vendors were mostly males who generally completed only elementary school. Among observed food safety risks: 12% of the vendors did not provide ice at the point of sale for perishable ingredients; 95% did not wash hands between food and money transactions and restroom breaks; 91% did not have hair coverings and 100% of the vendors did not have access to a water supply. The interviews revealed that 12% of the vendors did not provide proper cold holding during transportation; 33% did not wash their hands at all, whereas 24% only used water to wash their hands; and 33% never took the required food-handling course. The study indicates a need for improvements of the environmental conditions at these sites to prevent foodborne diseases. Specific local and national laws for street food need to be created to protect the consumer, and continuous training of vendors could help address the lack of food quality and safety.

And for no particular reason, today in 1966, The Beatles began recording sessions for Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album cost $75,000 to record.

Food safety and hygiene practices of vendors during the chain of street food production in Florianopolis, Brazil: A cross-sectional study

Food Control, Volume 62, April 2016, Pages 178–186

Rayza Dal Molin Cortese, Marcela Boro Veiros, Charles Feldman, Suzi Barletto Cavalli

Are they really ‘dynamic, interactive and arousing adolescents’ interest’ Food safety risk communication in games

Raising consumers’ awareness about food safety issues is one of the primary objectives of Italian public health organizations.

SophiaLorenNew dynamic and interactive tools, based on web applications, are already playing a leading role in health promotion campaigns targeted at adolescents. Among the web-based tools specifically designed for young people, educational videogames have proved especially effective in furthering learning and disseminating information, as they arouse adolescents’ interest and curiosity.

When a number of cases of hemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS) were reported in 2010, particularly among children, the Italian Ministry of Health stressed the need to implement communication initiatives aimed at raising consumers’ awareness of the potential risks associated with raw milk consumption at home.

The pilot study described in the article is a relevant example of educational projects implemented in Italy, oriented to transmit knowledge about food risks to young consumers (aged 16–18). To provide correct information on safe milk handling practices and to reduce health issues, including serious ones, the videogame “A mysterious poisoning” was developed. This tool was administered online to 359 upper secondary school students from four different provinces in Italy. The videogame covered all stages of the milk supply chain, from stable to table, and enabled players to identify the crucial moments when milk can be contaminated and to discover safe milk handling practices. By completing a series of tasks, students helped a detective discover the cause of a food poisoning outbreak. This videogame provided an opportunity for students to test their knowledge of the product and to receive more detailed and accurate information. Data collected through two structured questionnaires that were administered before and after the controlled use of the videogame showed that this serious game was capable of changing players’ perception of risk exposure and their cognitive associations, particularly increasing their levels of knowledge about the risks associated with raw milk consumption.

Food safety and young consumers: Testing a serious game as a risk communication tool

Crovato, A. Pinto, P. Giardullo, G. Mascarello, F. Neresini, L. Ravarotto

Damn frozen berries: 4 sick from hep A in NZ

I love the frozen berries. And fresh. I’m a berry monster. The neighbors ask what to plant by the curb, and my suggestion is always the same: berries.

Frankenface__10753.1400688271.1280.1280However the frozen kind have taken a hit over the past couple of years as over 10,000 have been sickened worldwide with hepatitis A.

The protocol in my house has been to microwave any frozen berries so they are boiling for over 2 minutes and then refrigerate so they’re ready in the morning.

I still don’t know if this is a sufficient risk reduction strategy, but I’m sure someone with a microbiological lab will figure it out, because not everyone lives in sub-tropical Brisbane and has year-round access to fresh berries.

The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Director General has issued a statement warning of a potential risk associated with imported frozen berries following four human cases of Hepatitis A thought to be linked to packaged imported frozen berries.

The Ministry has instituted a surveillance programme, including additional testing, focused on imported frozen berries.

The Ministry’s Director of Plants, Food and Environment, Peter Thomson says the safety of consumers is MPI’s number one priority in taking the new measures.

“Our investigations to date have not revealed a specific cause, but there is an association with consuming imported frozen berries. Recent outbreaks in other countries also suggest this link.

“We are giving a very high priority to instigating a testing programme that will provide increased surveillance of imported frozen berries. This will include previously imported stocks held by food companies here.

“In the meantime the general advice about food safety applies. People should wash their hands before eating and preparing food. Anyone who is concerned should briefly boil any frozen berries before eating them, or ensure cooking exceeds 85 degrees Celsius for one minute. 

“Elderly persons and those with chronic liver damage should avoid frozen berries that have not been heat treated.

“If you are concerned about a potential risk to your health, or the health of others, you should seek advice from your medical practitioner, or call the Ministry of Health’s Healthline (0800 611 116).

Australia has a raw egg problem and why newspapers (they still exist here because the Internet sucks) would publish such recipes is baffling

The Courier Mail out of Brisbane published a column by Frances Whiting extoling the virtues of her grandmother’s raw egg nog recipe.

egg.farm_“She would have been rather chuffed to know that her words of hope still resonate with people today, particularly today.”

I have no idea what chuffed means, and no idea what Australians are talking about almost all of the time.

Basic Eggnog Recipe

6 eggs

1 cup sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp nutmeg

¾ cup rum

¾ cup brandy

2 cups milk

2 cups whipping cream

Beat eggs until frothy, add in sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, then stir in rum and brandy. Add milk and cream, stir vigorously. Pour into jug. Makes 1½ litres.

Why ruin perfectly good foods like eggs and rum?

Raw eggs are risky.

A table of Australian egg outbreaks is available at

Whole genome sequencing – it’s all the rage

I returned to the University of Guelph in about 1989 for a press thingy, and asked a former genetics prof (who was an asshole; drinking game, they all were) what was this PCR stuf.

kary.mullisHe didn’t tell me how a dude on acid figured it out, but it was now routine.

Today, whole genome sequencing is all the rage, and all I can remember is, another six months of graduate school for you, Powell, go tape those gels.

Our rudimentary DNA sequencing back in 1985 involved a particular skill with masking tape so the gels wouldn’t leak.

And a lot of radioactive phosphorous.

And phenol-based extraction, which has left my one pinky finger smaller than the other.


 Whole genome sequencing (WGS) has emerged as a powerful tool for comparing bacterial isolates in outbreak detection and investigation. Here, we demonstrate that WGS performed prospectively for national epidemiologic surveillance of Listeria monocytogenes has the capacity to be superior to our current approach using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), multilocus sequence typing (MLST), multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA), binary typing and serotyping. Initially 423 L. monocytogenes isolates underwent WGS and comparisons uncovered a diverse genetic population structure derived from three distinct lineages. MLST, binary and serotyping results inferred in silico from the WGS data were highly concordant (>99%) with laboratory typing performed in parallel. However, WGS was able to identify distinct nested clusters within groups of isolates that were otherwise indistinguishable by our current typing methods. Routine WGS was then used for prospective epidemiologic surveillance on a further 97 L. monocytogenes isolates over a 12-month period, providing a greater level of discrimination to conventional typing for inferring linkage to point source outbreaks. A risk based alert system based on WGS similarity was used to inform epidemiologists required to act on the data. Our experience shows WGS could be adopted for prospective L. monocytogenes surveillance, and investigated for other pathogens relevant to public health.

 Prospective whole genome sequencing enhances national surveillance of Listeria monocytogenes

J Clin Microbiol. 2015 Nov 25. pii: JCM.02344-15.

Kwong JC, Mercoulia K, Tomita T, Easton M, Li HY, Bulach DM, Stinear TP, Seemann T, Howden BP.

Stalls in Singapore told to stop selling Chinese-style raw-fish dishes

Food stalls have been ordered to stop selling Chinese-style raw-fish dishes until they can comply with stipulated guidelines, after investigations by the Ministry of Health (MOH) found a definite link between eating these dishes and Group B Streptococcus  (GBS) infection, which can potentially cause permanent disability and even death in severe cases. date, two persons have died from GBS infections this year, said MOH today (Nov 27), without providing details. One of the cases was not linked to the ongoing outbreak, and the other is being investigated.

MOH said it has been notified of 355 cases of GBS infections so far. Of these, about 150 cases had the Sequence Type (ST) 283 strain which causes Type III GBS disease. In comparison, there were, on average, 150 cases of GBS infections per year from 2011 to last year.

The consumption of Chinese-style ready-to-eat raw-fish dishes was found to be associated with Type III GBS disease, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a joint media briefing yesterday with the MOH and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). MOH had said previously it has not found any links between the GBS infection and the consumption of Japanese raw meat or fish dish sashimi. Examples of popular Chinese-style raw-fish dishes are “yusheng”, which is usually eaten during Chinese New Year, and raw-fish porridge.

Over 70 stalls selling Chinese-style raw fish dishes have been identified by the authorities. NEA met with the owners of some of these stalls to brief them on its directive and guidelines, which include buying fish from suppliers which can provide certification on the health of the fish from authorities in the country of origin. Other measures include proper cold chain management, such as keeping fish for raw consumption chilled at the right temperature, and proper hygiene practices like using separate kitchen tools for preparing raw fish.


Thanksgiving Australia style, 2015 edition

We’ve tried Thanksgiving a few times in Australia.

We did the Canadian one because it was earlier and not so hot, we did the U.S one. and it’s too hot, so after four years we found a model that may have worked.

amy.thanksgiving.nov.15Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. No religion, just good food to celebrate the harvest. We have traditionally hosted friends, family and students to share the feast each year.

So this year we adapted to Australian weather, and had about 30 people – that includes a bunch of kids – to a park.

We have fabulous parks.

The kids had a great playground and an area for rollerblading, scooters, whatever, the breezes from the river were good, and we did it picnic style.

I cooked the turkey and duck the night before – to a microbiologically safe temperature as determined by a tip-sensitive digital thermometer — and then refrigerated overnight.

Saturday morning, I carved up the birds – and underestimated the popularity – and made a casserole-based stuffing. Amy made potato salad, our friends brought sides, it was a relaxing four hours.

The hockey parents talked hockey gossip, the neighbors talked town home gossip, I stayed out of the way and tried to make sure everyone was fed.


kids.thanksgiving.nov.15They all said they had never had anything like stuffing, so that was sorta cool.

We took a hockey kid home for 24 hours so his Canadian dad could play baseball.

Cause that’s how we roll.

And look how happy Hubbell is (hard to see).

Then we played hockey Sunday am.

22 sick with E. coli: Cross-contamination from Reno Provisions

Following the recent news that a local E. coli outbreak came from a dessert item made by restaurant Reno Provisions, owner Mark Estee released a personal statement on Wednesday.

cross.contaminationEstee said that he and his employees were “deeply saddened” when they heard that the outbreak was connected to their chocolate mousse, citing that “our first and foremost concern is always the safety of our guests.” He said that they will assist the affected families as they recover.

Estee also expressed his gratitude for the professionalism of The Twisted Fork restaurant, which had originally been linked to the outbreak after they sold the chocolate mousse to their customers. He said that he also respects how quickly the Washoe County Health District was able to investigate the source of the illness.

According to the statement, the E. coli made its way into the kitchen through the cross-contamination of meat and dessert processing equipment.

“Our food production records allowed us to quickly identify that the wrong mixer was used to blend meat, transferring contaminants to the dessert,” Estee said. “This was an isolated incident that violated our preparation protocols.”

Under the guidance of a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) consultant, the restaurant has reviewed its food safety standards and retrained each employee and will continue to do so.