The Brits have a way with language: townies wash their hands

Germs. You can’t get away from the blighters. If it’s not the teeming populations of camplylobacter that infest the cavities of supermarketchicken, it’s the E coli, salmonella and worse that disport themselves on our towels and dishcloths.

courtlynn.handwashAgainst these regiments of invisible enemies we deploy a vast arsenal of weapons-grade cleaning products. But while we’re spraying our surfaces with bleach and washing our dishes in Eucalyptus detergent, a shaming 60-odd per cent of us neglect to wash our hands after we’ve visited the loo, according to a Rentokil survey.

While confirming my conviction that you’re better off eating dinner at home, where at least the bugs are mostly familiar, this news has made me reflect on my own handwashing habits which are, I realise, completely perverse.

At home in London, I carry on like Lady Macbeth, washing my hands dozens of times a day. But at weekends, in the stableyard, I find myself cheerfully eating a sandwich from an unwashed hand that moments ago was feeding a horse a mint.

I’ve no idea whether it is my scrupulous townie cleanliness or my robust rural exposure to pathogens that means I’m almost never ill. But either way I view with misgiving Rentokil’s proposed solution to the handwashing recidivists. Stewart Power, its marketing director, predicts that one day every washroom will have a monitoring system “to give us a nudge to wash our hands”.

It’s bad enough being nagged by an electronic voice about an unexplained item in the bagging area. Just imagine the irritation of being slut-shamed by a disembodied nanny in the loo door.

Hepatitis A, vaccination, handwashing and all that stuff: we all need someone we can lean on

My latest from Texas A&M’s Center for Food Safety:

I experimented in university.

powell's.food.safety.world.feb.15Who didn’t?

My experiments in the 1980s involved tomato plants, Verticillium resistance, using a midwife to deliver our children, and saying no to the pertussis vaccine.

My ex-wife and I prided ourselves on our evidence-based approach to things, but as pertussis vaccine safety improved, so has my advice to the two oldest kids who have kids of their own: (or are about to): get vaccinated.

A couple of weeks after U.S. Senator Bozo declared that handwashing in food service places like Starbucks could be voluntary, I’ve contemplated that position and concluded sure: with a couple of conditions.

I co-wrote a paper that declared food safety inspections and audits were not enough.

What I have always said is this: government inspections are a minimal standard but necessary to hucksters accountable. The best will always go above and beyond what is expected.

Consumers should seek out those who market microbial food safety and steer clear of hucksterism.

But retailers are reluctant to market food safety.

And it’s the retailers who are the burden in this food safety stuff: they preach but they don’t practice.

In addition to the personal tragedies, every outbreak raises questions about risk and personal choice.

It’s true that choice is a good thing. People make risk-benefit decisions daily by smoking, drinking, driving, and especially in Brisbane, cycling.

But information is hard to come by.

I went to a supermarket in Brisbane, after taking my daughter to school, and was shocked to find Nanna’s berries – those linked to a growing hepatitis A outbreak — on the frozen shelves.

I asked the woman at checkout, weren’t those berries recalled?

nannas-rasberriesShe said, only the mixed ones.

I said, the raspberries and blueberries you’re selling are coming from the same source.

She shrugged and said, not in the recall.

They were recalled the next day.

With at least 14 Australians now confirmed ill with hepatitis A from frozen berries apparently grown in China, the case presents a microcosm of intersecting interests of global food, vaccination fears, poor handwashing and xenophobia (which Australians are particularly good at; as John Oliver said, “Australia is one of the most comfortably racist places I’ve ever been in. They’ve really settled into their intolerance like an old resentful slipper”).

The complacency of Australian regulators is astounding when compared to other Western-style food safety agencies.

There was limited notice of the recall from state and federal food safety agencies until they all turned up for work on Monday: people eat seven days a week.

The company involved, Patties Foods in Bairnsdale in regional Victoria, repacks frozen berries grown who knows where (China and Chile in this case, apparently).

For those worried about Hepatitis A:

  • Get vaccinated. It’s been mandatory in Canada and several U.S. states for five years. It was mandatory for us to emigrate to Australia four years ago. It should be mandatory for locals. If I ran a restaurant, I’d want everyone to be vaccinated.
  • Wash your hands. Hepatitis A is one of the few foodborne diseases that is only spread human-to-human. And, like most foodborne illness, it’s fecal-oral. The typical U.S. scenario is a 20-something goes to Mexico or the Dominican for a friends wedding (and where hep A is endemic), comes back and is serving salad to a few thousand people at their part-time job. But it’s not just the person is positive: The same person also failed to adequately wash their hands after having a poop, and ended up making your lunch. And was not vaccinated.
  • Know your suppliers. I’ve talked with a lot of parents at my daughter’s school in the past few days and they are all concerned. But usually for the wrong reasons. It is incumbent on the supplier – and the retailers who market this crap – to provide safe food. They’re the ones who make money.

Food porn is everywhere, but microbiology involves some basics: that’s why there’s vaccines, that’s why milk is pasteurized; that’s why we don’t eat poop (and if we do, make sure it’s cooked).

That’s why I have a bunch of tip-sensitive digital thermometers for my daughter’s school.

If someone wants to promote public disclosure of handwashing compliance and is able to prove it, great.

Otherwise, you’re just a talker, not a doer.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety at the University of Guelph in Canada and Kansas State University in the U.S., who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

dpowell29@gmail.com

0478 222 221

Hep A is fecal-oral: Rosa’s Restaurant cited with handwashing violations shortly before Hepatitis A outbreak

Any time there is an outbreak of Hepatitis A, it’s not just a lack of vaccination, not just about identifying those at risk and giving them a shot, it’s about poop.

hepatitis.ASpecifically, that person making your salad went #2 and failed to properly wash their hands.

The Trentonian reports that the month before a Rosa’s Restaurant employee was diagnosed with Hepatitis A — sending residents scrambling for vaccinations — the eatery was cited for numerous handwashing violations.

According to an Oct. 8 food inspection report obtained by The Trentonian through a public records request, the restaurant was listed as out of compliance for employees conducting handwashing in a timely manner, workers performing proper handwashing and the business providing paper towel for handwashing facilities.

Also marked as a violation, an employee was observed making sandwiches and handling rolls with his bare hands, while another worker was shredding and handling lettuce with his bare hands, the report states.

“Due to the number of critical violations, the person in charge is not demonstrating proper knowledge of food safety principles pertaining to this operation,” Hamilton Township food inspector Kelly A. Thomas wrote in her report, which gave the restaurant a conditionally satisfactory evaluation. “No proof of food handling certification was available on-site at time of inspection.”

In response to the October report and some of the continued handwashing violations throughout the years, restaurant owner Rosa Spera said in an email on Friday that her establishment has four handwashing sinks.

“On past inspections some of the signs reminding workers to wash their hands have been missing,” Spera stated. “Unfortunately, sometimes people remove the

After the first case of Hepatitis A was reported in late November, officials disclosed three other Hamilton area residents contracted the virus that had eaten at Rosa’s during the time period the worker was affected.

MrHankyHowever, township officials previously stated that it does not know with any certainty that any of the three cases had any link to or is a direct result of the original incident.

Spera said in the email it’s “unfortunate” that one of her workers got sick in November.

“When he did, he reported immediately to a doctor, not to work,” Spera stated. “When I learned of it, I took immediate action to take every precaution. With the guidance of the Hamilton Health Department, we threw away all open food and had the township observe our deep cleaning of all food areas.”

Jeff Plunkett, the township’s health officer, said in an interview on Tuesday, that the restaurant was closed for approximately seven to eight hours on Dec. 1.

“They had to remove the entire staff, bring an entire staff new that hadn’t worked there during that period of communicability when the gentleman was sick,” Plunkett said. “The entire place was clean and sanitized and witnessed by an inspector who was there the entire time.”

But even as the health inspector stressed the importance of wearing gloves on Dec. 1, Thomas stated in her report that she observed an employee slicing and handling bread with his bare hands. Two days later, Thomas stated she observed employees doing prep work scramble to put on gloves as she walked through the doors, while another employee put on gloves without washing his hands first, inspection documents read.

Name and shame, Victoria style

That’s Victoria, the Australian state, where 25 per cent of the name and shame offences in food service directly related to a lack of training.

trainingGrace Smith writes for the Australian Institute of Food Safety that once an eatery has been discovered to breach Standard 3.2.2 Clause 3(1) (b) of the Food Act S16 (1), their details are added to the register for twelve months where the public can access details about their misconduct. The clause demands that all food-based establishments are responsible for ensuring that the people who are supervising or undertaking food handling operations must have “knowledge of food safety and food hygiene matters”.

Some of the establishments that were charged with failing to comply with food safety training laws include:

Milk Torquay Pty Ltd: Fined $6000.00 as part of their aggregate order, with $10,000 costs.

High Street Bakers and Confectioners of Thornbury: Fined $40,700.00 as part of their aggregate order with $1,300.00 costs.

Dream Cakes Café of Oakleigh: Fined $5,000.00 as part of their aggregate order with $6009.35 costs, and $10,000 in another aggregate order with $6009 costs.

While it’s safe to say that these convicted vendors were found guilty of various breaches, including handwashing and cleanliness problems, it’s shocking to imagine that in 2014, restaurants, cafes, and eateries are still staffed by individuals ignorant of food safety matters.

The federal legislation in Australia currently states that all people who are responsible for handling food must undertake food safety training appropriate to their position. The law also requires that businesses comply with the Food Standards Code – a collection of individual food standards that was jointly developed by professionals in Australia and New Zealand. Providing people with food that does not meet this code is a criminal offence.

Furthermore, the state legislation in Victoria outlines that every business dealing with food must have a Food Safety Supervisor on staff who is reasonably contactable at all times. The Food Safety Supervisor must have completed a mandatory training course and is responsible for preventing, monitoring and dealing with food safety issues as they arise, as well as being responsible for the ensuring all food handlers are trained appropriately in food safety.

Republican senator says restaurants should be able to opt-out of mandatory handwashing

As Republican presidential hopefuls like Rand Paul and Chris Christie fall over themselves to claim the live-free-or-die vote by saying vaccinations should be optional, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis has gone further: laws requiring mandatory handwashing by food service employees are just regulatory burden.

handwashing.sep.12According to Daily Kos, Tillis made the declaration at the Bipartisan Policy Center, at the end of a question and answer with the audience. He was relaying a 2010 anecdote about his “bias when it comes to regulatory reform.”

“I was having a discussion with someone, and we were at a Starbucks in my district, and we were talking about certain regulations where I felt like ‘maybe you should allow businesses to opt out,’” he said, “as long as they indicate through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment literature, or whatever else.”

Restaurants can just opt-out and let the free market take care of business after word spreads of unsanitary conditions.

“That’s the sort of mentality that we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country,” he added. “We’re one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet.”

Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet joked that he was “not sure” he would shake Sen. Tillis’ hand when the discussion was over, causing the lawmaker and members of the audience to laugh.

With a check by Schaffner: How to avoid food poisoning at home

Science is about disagreements, revising knowledge and generating new evidence-based knowledge (someone will disagree with that).

Don-Schaffner-214x300Don Sapatkin of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently asked a number of food safety types about food safety at home. For fun, I asked friend of the barfblog and known bugcounter, Don Schaffner of Rutgers University (left, prettymuch as shown) his thoughts on the answers.

“Washing a sponge with soap doesn’t get rid of bacteria,” said microbiologist Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety (below, right). They grow at room temperature and get spread around anything else you wipe off. Put the sponge in a microwave for one minute to kill the salmonella and other bacteria,” he said.

Schaffner: Sort of true. Washing a sponge will probably remove some bacteria, but not all. Same with the microwave: it depends upon the microwave, the amount of moisture in the sponge, etc. A better practice may be to put your sponges in the automatic dishwasher, assuming you have one.

 Experts say most home kitchens are far dirtier.

Schaffner: Might be true, but science-based head-to-head comparisons are lacking.

 Cutting boards should not have hard-to-clean nicks and grooves (wood is better, Doyle said, because the resin has antibacterial properties).

Schaffner: Dean Cliver’s work showed wooden cutting boards to be safer, but the literature is far from clear on the matter.

 Washing chicken in the sink may sound hygienic but actually poses all sorts of risks.

Schaffner: Yup, this has good scientific consensus.

 “Every time you run your disposal in the sink you are generating a little airflow back up.”

michael.doyle.produce.07Schaffner: Yup, probably true.

 If you do wash chicken in the sink, clean it (the sink) with bleach (1 ounce in 1 gallon of water).

Schaffner: Giving bleach concentration recommendations always concerns me. The units are never the same, the knowledge about the type of bleach is never certain, and the type of surface being cleaned makes a difference (plates versus countertops).  I used to dream of creating a webpage that would definitively answer these questions, and do unit conversions. Now I have the same dream except it’s an iPhone app.

Craig Hedberg, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (below, left): “If you take this big mass of hot food and put it into a plastic container and put a lid on it, you are holding the heat in and slowing the cooling process, even if you put it in the refrigerator. You want to get it out of bacterial-growth range” – 40 to 140 degrees – “within a couple of hours.” Pouring it into containers no more than four inches deep speeds the process.

Schaffner: This is more or less correct, but I believe the correct depth of the food recommendation is 3 inches. It doesn’t really matter how deep the container is, it’s the depth of the food.

If food is not cooled fast enough, spores that survived cooking can germinate and grow bacteria. Reheating leftovers to 165 degrees for 15 seconds will kill them.

Schaffner: This is the general time temperature recommendation. I’ve never checked to see what log reduction it would give for Clostridium perfringens cells, but it’s likely sufficient.

Hedberg advises against washing prewashed bagged lettuce; E. coli and salmonella can adhere to cut surfaces and tiny pores. “If it’s contaminated, your washing it again would not eliminate the contamination,” he said. “If it is not contaminated, your washing may contaminate it.”

Schaffner: That is consistent with expert recommendations.

 Hands should be washed vigorously with soap before preparing food or eating; after handling raw meat, poultry, fish, or even raw produce; and after smoking, eating, or drinking.

Craig HedbergSchaffner: Also after pooping or changing a diaper, handling pets etc.

 Countertops, cutting boards, utensils, etc., should be cleaned with hot water after every use.

Schaffner: I also recommend soap.

 Cooking and holding temperatures should be checked, which means having working thermometers. (The fridge should be set between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit; the freezer, at zero or below).

Schaffner: They nailed this one.

 Everything should be clean: Garbage covered, or at least three feet from food-preparation areas; pets never allowed in the kitchen (and hands washed after petting).

Schaffner: I’m not sure where the three-foot recommendation comes from, and it’s probably not science-based. Does anyone really exclude their pets from the kitchen? When we had dogs their food and water dishes were in the kitchen. Good luck getting a cat to do anything you want to do.

To bring home cooks up to speed, the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension posts a quick home kitchen food safety best practices check-Up list: http://bit.ly/1xDO19F.

No handwashing for staff: UK food company ordered to pay nearly £30,000

A Bradford food company has been ordered to pay nearly £30,000 for its persistent failure to comply with “integral” hygiene regulations, such as providing handwashing facilities for staff.

handwash_south_park(2)Ahmer Raja Foods Ltd, which trades as Rajas Pizza Bar on Leeds Road, was fined the bulk of the money, £20,000, for refusing to comply with a number of improvement notices issued by Bradford Council’s environmental health team.

Noone from the company attended the hearing at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court yesterday, but 21 breaches of food hygiene regulations were proven in their absence, and the firm was told to pay a total of £29,895 within 28 days.

Harjit Ryatt, prosecuting on behalf of Bradford Council, told the court that on five visits to the premises between January 24 and April 9 this year, officers found a lack of wash basins for staff, food handlers not wearing the correct protective clothing, and food kept in dirty or broken containers.

Science! MIT experiencing gastroenteritis outbreak

The boffins at MIT Medical need a refresher course in handwashing following an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis on campus.

scienceAccording to associate medical director Howard Heller, MIT Medical saw two patients with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea at the beginning of the week and 16 during the day on Wednesday. MIT-EMS responded to a few more cases overnight, and as of noon on Thursday, a small number of additional patients with similar symptoms had come into Urgent Care. Heller notes that cases do not appear to be linked to any specific dorm or dining hall.

“This may or may not be norovirus,” Heller says. Norovirus, which causes a severe and acute form of gastroenteritis, can spread quickly, especially in dense, semi-closed communities. “But whether it’s norovirus or not,” Heller continues, “our response should be the same — paying extra attention to practicing good hygiene. Frequent and consistent hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of this type of virus.” 

Hand dryers, even the fancy ones, suck: new study

Paper towels are rare in Australian restrooms, and it’s the same in Japan.

But new research confirms what we’ve been saying for a decade: hand dryers spew bacteria into the air and onto people.

hand-dryerConventional (warm air) and high-velocity (jet air) dryers alike spread bacteria into the air, according to the study. Airborne germ counts near warm-air dryers were found to be 4.5 times higher than the counts near paper towel dispensers, and the counts near jet air dryers were a whopping 27 times higher.

It doesn’t take a lot to figure out what’s probably going on here. As study leader Prof. Mark Wilcox, professor of medical microbiology at the University of Leeds, told The Huffington Post in an email:

“While jet air dryers are good at hand drying, they achieve this by using air velocities of about 400 miles an hour … Unfortunately, this means that the dispersed water droplets (containing more or less bacteria/viruses depending on how hands were washed and how contaminated they were in the first place) will be fired longer distances and some will remain suspended in the air for many minutes (possibly hours).”

For the study, the researchers contaminated people’s hands with harmless Lactobacillis bacteria that normally aren’t found in bathrooms. Then they measured levels of the bacteria in the air at distances of up to two meters away from the dryer after the people had dried their hands.

“This research was commissioned by the paper towel industry and it’s flawed,” a spokesperson for dryer maker Dyson told The Telegraph.

Wilcox acknowledged that the study was funded by the European Tissue Symposium, an association of tissue paper producers. But the group “played no part in the results analysis,” he said, adding that he had no ties to ETS other than the financial support for the study.

The study was published in the Journal of Hospital Infection and presented at a recent meeting of the Healthcare Infection Society in Lyon, France.

 

Louisiana: school credits handwashing stations with drop in absences

Pink eye, stomach bugs, flu, strep throat: the list can go on and on with reasons students miss school.  When one local school took a deeper look at absences from the previous school year, they incorporated a simple action plan to minimize school germs. 

handwash_south_park(2)Throughout the school day, two handwashing stations at Immaculate Conception Cathedral School in Lake Charles are put to use.  It is all in an effort to reduce the spread of germs at the root of many absences, says ICCS Director of Development, Erin Lang.  “In order to best educate them, we need them here and well,” said Lang.

When Lang and other school administrators reviewed absentee data from the previous school year, they knew something more needed to be done to keep students at their prime.  “If a good number of students are absent from a class, a teacher is unable to continue with a lesson,” said Lang, “it can slow down the learning process, it makes it difficult for those students who are out for an extended period of time.”

Dr. Tyson Green with Imperial Health has two children who attend school ICCS.  He says the spread of germs is rapid on school campuses.  “Whether it’s bacterial or viral, you start talking about the flu, you start talking about stomach viruses and things like that,” said Dr. Green.  “They’re going to get these with cross-contamination if they don’t wash their hands.”

The solution came through handwashing stations.  “What we found as the best way to protect our faculty and our students was basic handwashing with plain soap and water,” said Lang.

The biggest procedural change for students this school year is that as soon they walk into the school building, they go straight to the handwashing stations.  That’s the first wash of the day.  Then every bathroom break gets another hand wash, along with every entrance and exit from the school’s cafeteria.

Lang says the absentee numbers are already showing the success of the additional scrubbing.  “We have looked at our absentee rates from last year to this year, from the start of school through November, and we are already down 12 percent,” said Lang.