Salmonella soup – a bad Thanksgiving tradition

One of our food safety friends from Jersey, Michele Samaya-Timm, writes:

It’s November again, and the annual countdown to Thanksgiving is upon us.

therm.turkey.oct.13If you haven’t thought about defrosting the turkey, it might be a good time to get this started –unless turkey popsicles are on the menu.     

Planning this step safely in the refrigerator (as recommended)  is essential to food safety —  experts at USDA calculate the average safe defrost time is one day for every 4 pounds of poultry.   So that 20 pounder could necessitate a lead time of 5 days if the entire extended family is expected to show.   

Growing up in a nice blue collar neighborhood in central New Jersey, I became accustomed to turkey prep traditions that perhaps heralded my future of improving food safety.     

Every year on the Friday before Thanksgiving, my father would come home with a frozen turkey, compliments of his employer.   

 Usually a hefty 20-pound Tom, there was no room for it to safely sit in the modest sized Frigidaire without evicting the usual tenants of milk, eggs, condiments and leftovers.   So my mother did what any good housewife in the 70’s would do…she put the frozen poultry into a scrupulously clean mop bucket, filled it with cold water, and set it in the bathtub to defrost at leisure.  When bath time came for us kids, she would remove the bucket, comet the tub, and scrub us clean.   This would be followed by another bout of comet scouring, and replacement of the turkey bucket in the tub.    T

The process would be repeated every night  until Thanksgiving morn – by which time the bird had melted into a pool of Salmonella soup.   

Mom didn’t realize her turkey prep was flawed, or that she was putting her family at risk.  

In the hectic myriad of preparations, most food safety errors seem like a good idea to many folks,  often wrought out of desperation when a holiday — or one’s family — is looming.    A few of the defrosting debacles I have heard or witnessed are examples of this lapse in knowledge or judgment.       

Food safe defrosting cannot be safely accomplished in a bathtub, on the counter, or on a chair on the back porch.  Likewise, car engines and room radiators are not appropriate food prep equipment.  Hairdryers, clothes dryers, dishwashers and irons are appliances that should be used for their expressed purpose, and in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions (which will not include any mention of melting a holiday bird.)  Electric blankets, hot tubs and saunas are best used with non-feathered living companions.    And blowtorches might just result in a flurry of unexpected guests yielding Scott Air Packs and hoses.    No matter how you slice it, time, planning and good refrigeration are the best food defrosting tools.  

If you are reading this on Thanksgiving morning, looking for solutions to melt a sub-zero fowl,   consider cooking the bird from its frozen state.    It takes a little longer (about 50% more time, according to USDA), but safety first, right?  Just put out a few more appetizers and watch the game until it’s done.  Or you could forego the Norman Rockwell presentation and tableside carving part of your family meal by opting for a platter of turkey legs and parts —  a dissected bird  will defrost quickly and will get you to a safe internal temp of 165 degrees quicker, too.    Consider it handing down a tradition of healthy and food safe holidays.   

Looking back, I don’t recall if the turkey-bathtub-defrost process from my childhood ever resulted in unwanted stomach effects and lengthy hours in the bathroom post- holiday.    I do know that I have taken over the prep and cooking for Thanksgiving.  That way, I can assure lots of handwashing,  safe turkey defrosting (in the refrigerator!)  and put my food thermometer collection to good use.      Salmonella soup is one tradition I won’t hand down.   

Ever appreciative for the dedicated folks who regularly keep our food and water safe – (and also thankful that mom doesn’t know I write about her culinary practices on the internet. )  

Michele is Health Educator for Somerset County (NJ) Department of Health, currently focused on the (hopefully soon!) completion of a thesis in foodborne outbreak communications. 

 

Improving the food safety world, one blog post or conversation at a time

chicken.cook.thermometerUnlike the UK Food Standards Agency, which continues to insist on piping hot as a guide for consumers, the University of Illinois admitted they were wrong and updated their food safety advice for cooking turkeys.

With the help of some correspondents, I called out UI for recommending that turkeys be washed prior to cooking.

The head of UI Extension Communications e-mailed me today to say thank-you, and that their website has been updated with current best practices.

(He also said barfblog.com is “an outstanding resource” but I’m just doing what I do.)

Maybe cook from frozen, using a thermometer to verify safety? Campylobacter exploits chicken juice to flourish

A study from the Institute of Food Research has shown that Campylobacter’s persistence in food processing sites and the kitchen is boosted by ‘chicken juice.’

raw-chicken-bacteria-537x357Organic matter exuding from chicken carcasses, “chicken juice”, provides these bacteria with the perfect environment to persist in the food chain. This emphasises the importance of cleaning surfaces in food preparation, and may lead to more effective ways of cleaning that can reduce the incidence of Campylobacter.

The study was led by Helen Brown, a PhD student supervised by Dr Arnoud van Vliet at IFR, which is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Helen’s PhD studentship is co-funded by an industrial partner, Campden BRI.

The researchers collected the liquids produced from defrosting chickens, and found that this helped Campylobacter attach to surfaces and subsequently form biofilms. Biofilms are specialised structures some bacteria form on surfaces that protect them from threats from the environment.

“We have discovered that this increase in biofilm formation was due to chicken juice coating the surfaces we used with a protein-rich film,” said Helen Brown. “This film then makes it much easier for the Campylobacter bacteria to attach to the surface, and it provides them with an additional rich food source.”

Campylobacter aren’t particularly hardy bacteria, so one area of research has been to understand exactly how they manage to survive outside of their usual habitat, the intestinal tract of poultry. They are sensitive to oxygen, but during biofilm formation the bacteria protect themselves with a layer of slime. This also makes them more resistant to antimicrobials and disinfection treatments

Understanding this and how Campylobacter persists in the food production process will help efforts to reduce the high percentage of chickens that reach consumers contaminated with the bacteria. Although thorough cooking kills off the bacteria, around 500,000 people suffer from Campylobacter food poisoning each year in the UK. Reducing this number, and the amount of infected chicken on supermarket shelves, is now the number one priority of the Food Standards Agency.

“This study highlights the importance of thorough cleaning of food preparation surfaces to limit the potential of bacteria to form biofilms,” said Helen.

 Chicken juice enhances surface attachment and biofilm formation of Campylobacter jejuni

05.sep.14

Appl. Environ. Microbiol. November 2014 vol. 80 no. 22 7053-7060

Helen L. Brown, Mark Reuter, Louise J. Salt, Kathryn L. Cross, Roy P. Betts and Arnoud H. M. van Vliet; M. W. Griffiths, Editor

http://aem.asm.org/content/80/22/7053

Abstract

The bacterial pathogen Campylobacter jejuni is primarily transmitted via the consumption of contaminated foodstuffs, especially poultry meat. In food processing environments, C. jejuni is required to survive a multitude of stresses and requires the use of specific survival mechanisms, such as biofilms. An initial step in biofilm formation is bacterial attachment to a surface. Here, we investigated the effects of a chicken meat exudate (chicken juice) on C. jejuni surface attachment and biofilm formation. Supplementation of brucella broth with ≥5% chicken juice resulted in increased biofilm formation on glass, polystyrene, and stainless steel surfaces with four C. jejuni isolates and one C. coli isolate in both microaerobic and aerobic conditions. When incubated with chicken juice, C. jejuni was both able to grow and form biofilms in static cultures in aerobic conditions. Electron microscopy showed that C. jejuni cells were associated with chicken juice particulates attached to the abiotic surface rather than the surface itself. This suggests that chicken juice contributes to C. jejuni biofilm formation by covering and conditioning the abiotic surface and is a source of nutrients. Chicken juice was able to complement the reduction in biofilm formation of an aflagellated mutant of C. jejuni, indicating that chicken juice may support food chain transmission of isolates with lowered motility. We provide here a useful model for studying the interaction of C. jejuni biofilms in food chain-relevant conditions and also show a possible mechanism for C. jejuni cell attachment and biofilm initiation on abiotic surfaces within the food chain. 

UK food stores flock to roast-in-the-bag chickens

It’s the one recipe to which even rudimentary cooks like to add their unique touches – perhaps a herby garnish or a few strips of bacon.

roast.chicken.june.10But it seems the days of roast chicken prepared in the distinctive way that your family has always enjoyed it may be numbered (the bird, right, was cooked to excess of 165F before serving).

Supermarkets are, according to Valerie Ellliot of the Daily Mail, urging shoppers to buy chickens in sealed ready- to-roast bags, amid fears that people are no longer able to maintain basic kitchen hygiene.

The aim is to reduce the number of campylobacter food-poisoning cases caused by handling fresh birds.

Supermarkets are increasingly promoting chickens in roast bags that are opened only after cooking. There is no human contact with raw skin and a lower risk of poultry juices spreading bugs. In most cases, they are marginally more expensive – Tesco charges £6 for a 3.3lb bagged version against £5 for a plain chicken.

Asda launched roast-in-bag flavoured chickens in September last year. Six million have been sold, and they now make up 30 per cent of all its chicken sales. A turkey crown in a bag will be on sale for Christmas.

Marks and Spencer now sells two thirds of its chickens in bags and they are also sold at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Aldi, while Morrisons and Lidl intend to introduce them.

Restaurateur Mark Hix, who specialises in British cuisine, said: ‘I don’t think people should buy chickens in bags. That removes all the pleasure of cooking. Good hygiene is not difficult.’

cooked.chickenGood hygiene is difficult – it requires people to pay attention.

But it can be done. Just stop saying it’s simple.

Tom Parker Bowles, Mail on Sunday food critic asked, “has it really come to this? A nation so lacking in basic common sense that we’re not to be trusted to wash our own hands? A country so obsessed with ease and convenience that the birds we put in our ovens must be sanitized and shoved in a plastic bag?

“I’ve been cooking roast chicken for more than 20 years and have never once caught any nefarious bug. We all know that raw chicken is to be treated with care: separate chopping board, hands scrubbed with soap and all the rest.”

Yes, the ole’ I’ve-been-doing-it-this-way-all-my-life-and-never-got-sick line.

But people are getting sick.

A roast chicken is the cornerstone of any decent cook’s repertoire. I’m making one tonight, stuffed with 30 cloves of garlic, rosemary, sage, and other stuff, and then get to make stock for a couple of days (I’ve got a bunch of mushrooms to use, so I see a mushroom soup in the near future.

Maybe in addition to cooking food in plastic, which may have a role, there is a learning moment to talk about the prevalence of dangerous bugs and how they can best be controlled. And that involves using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, not pedantic piping hot advice.

Schweddy balls: NPR’s advice on ‘how to buy the safest meat and make the juiciest steaks’

U.S. National Public Radio is a continual target of satire and for good reason.

barfblog.Stick It In“Free range’ can be a bit of a misnomer,” Bridget Lancaster, executive food editor of the Test Kitchen, tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “When you see ‘free range’ or even ‘pasture raised,’ that doesn’t necessarily mean that the hens and chickens are out roaming free and having a party outside. … Unless you visit the chicken farm, you almost don’t know how the chickens are being raised.”

And eating their own crap.

She and Jack Bishop, editorial director of America’s Test Kitchen, edited a cookbook, and suggest consumers look for the organic label.

Why? Saying the farming practices are better is like saying medical treatment was better with leeches. But natural.

On why you shouldn’t pack your burgers too tight:

Lancaster: Every time you touch, grind, move, look at ground meat, it starts to release a protein that’s really, really sticky called myosin. … Basically, when you grind beef, you’re damaging the meat fibers — so the more you damage it or touch it or pack it, the more of that sticky protein is going to be formed. And the sticky protein sometimes might not be a bad thing — for instance, [for] something like meatloaf, where you want a bit more cohesion. But for a burger, where you’re going to bite into it, you want it to almost just hang together. …

We kind of bundle the meat into mounds and then very gently pack the meat into patties. By “pack,” I really mean it’s … hands-off — it’s like you’re cradling a newborn baby, almost. You have to be very, very gentle with it. The best part of that is the surface of the burger itself is not completely smooth — it’s got all these crags and crevices in it. So when you go to cook it, you’re going to have a really nice crust that forms on the sides of the beef.

Sounds groovy, but use a thermometer and stick it in, so the burger is safe and not overcooked.

Too scientific for NPR.

Squirts Stars, thermometers and gender stuff

In Canada we call the little kids that play hockey, Novices.

sorenne.coffs.horbor.14In Brisbane they call them Squirts.

Novice is better.

Whatever they’re called, mucho kudos to the Brisbane  Southern Stars Squirts (5-9-years-old) on winning all six games at the 4th Annual 3-on-3 tournament at Coff’s Harbour, NSW, during the school holidays (Oct. 4-6, 2014)

I was out a couple of games, but Sheldon (another Canadian) ably stepped up (and his wife helped me), and his daughter Noelle, who may actually be younger than Sorenne, rocked it. I spoke with the kids afterwards to address any concerns and they seemed cool.

We may have gotten outshot every game, but superstar goalie Ronan Hoy registered two shutouts and pulled us though every other game. Each team member was awarded a gold medal, and coach Doug Powell’s medal is already proudly hanging downstairs with old-timey hockey paraphernalia.

Cole Hardiman was a scoring machine while brother Liam was no slouch (thanks for your help, parents Susan and Brad), while Onrii and Didier Dalgity chipped in as well. John Kelly, Alex Wentz Luke McNamara, and Ethan Poole all knew their role and to watch little kids change on the fly, pay attention to offside, and spread out and pass the puck was gratifying when we haven’t really practiced it.

sorenne.stick.hit.oct.14I apologize if I missed anyone, just like when I wake up in the morning and apologize to my wife for anything that may happen, and apologize when I go to bed for anything that did.

And of course we don’t teach little girls to hit other players in the back of the calves where there is no padding; that would be unsportspersonlike.

I didn’t go to the BBQ but Amy did and took a tip sensitive digital thermometer. A coupe of the dads said “Really?”

It’s food safety 1978 here, and more about that next week.

Thanks to all the parents for their time and helping to build the sport.

In a related but sorta unrelated story, my friend Elizabeth Weise, one of the few remaining reporters at the The USA Today, sent out a note asking now that “Apple and Facebook include egg freezing as a benefit. I’m curious what working mothers might think of this. One woman I know said it made her feel as if these companies were in effect saying to employees that they should have kids later on, on their own time. She worried anyone who actually had kids would be seen as a slacker who wasn’t committed to the job. Any thoughts? I’d love to quote some real mothers in the story.”

Also, “Anyone have thoughts they’d like to share with USA Today on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s comment yesterday that women in tech don’t need to ask for raises, they should just trust the system to do well by them.

braun.sorenne.hockeyI can put you in touch with Beth.

How about another gender story? Most people know this– it’s a not a secret.

My comment to Beth was that as a father of five hockey-playing daughters – he’s a jackass.

We’ll work more on positioning for the rest of the season, as well as the basics.

Also, the girls-only session last week was a success. When we started the Guelph girls hockey league in about 1996, (that’s in Ontario, in Canada, a town of about 120,000), the girls came out of the woodwork and now is a vibrant league with house league, various rep teams, and probably some 1,000 girls playing.

girls.hockey.international.oct.14

dp

Dr. Douglas Powell

powellfoodsafety.com

barfblog.com

dpowell29@gmail.com

 

Reader’s Digest nosestretcher alert: 13+ things you shouldn’t eat at a restaurant

In its futile quest to compete in a 140—character universe, Reader’s Digest (Canada) included meat with the bone in as a restaurant no-no.

steak.tartareAnd I quote: “small cuts of meat, like bone-in pork or chicken breasts, are harder to cook thoroughly because their outsides easily char. This often translates to crispy on the outside and raw on the inside. Unlike undercooked beef—say, a rare burger or a steak tartare—undercooked pork and chicken are highly dangerous and could causes foodborne illnesses.”

Rare burgers and steak tartares are microbiological messes and shouldn’t be touched. Regardless of the cut, use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer and stick it in.

barfblog.Stick It In

Hockey, thermometers and disbelief

News has been a little slow because we spent the long weekend with 120 (ice) hockey players in Coff’s Harbour, a primarily fishing town about five hours south of Brisbane, and home to the big banana.

powell.coffsAnd a decent-sized rink, so it was a 3-on-3 games.

The Saturday night is a large BBQ for parents and players of all ages and, as usual, I volunteered to cook and brought a couple of tip-sensitive digital thermometers.

Unfortunately, I spent the night in the hospital for other reasons but, the show must go on.
temp.burgers.coffs..harbour.14Proving that even French professors can use a thermometer, by all accounts Amy was a food safety master.

Although a couple of the parents said, a thermometer, you’ve got to be kidding, Amy had all the answers.

The team I co-coached won gold.IMG_0038 But fun was had by all.powell.coffs.3

big.banana

Use a thermometer and stick it in, not a knife

Bad food safety advice from Tesco Ireland today on Twitter:

@safefood_eu tip: To check meat is fully cooked, stick a sharp knife in & check that there is no pink meat in the middle #homecooks

barfblog.Stick It InColor is a lousy indicator. There’s lots of references on barfblog. Why stick in a knife when you can stick in a tip-sensitive digital thermomter?

Shattered: UK FSA annual science report published

I saw the Rolling Stones in Buffalo in 1981. We stayed up all night, and drove from Guelph, crossing the border about 4:30 a.m. George Thorogood opened in the rain, and was awesome, followed by Journey, who sucked (hence the Journey effect) and then the Stones.

barfblog.Stick It InThe UK Food Standards Agency is the Journey of the food safety biz: they make other agencies look good.

Catherine Brown, the chief executive of the Food Standards Agency, writes in the annual science report that it demonstrates “science is at the heart of everything we do.”

It’s hard to take that seriously from a group that recommends piping hot, steaming hot, and cooked until the juices run clear.

There’s no mention of thermometers.

Brown also writes, “A fundamental principle in this process is to maintain a clear distinction between the independent, expert assessment of risk, and decisions on risk management.”

The U.S. got rid of that in 1997.

But Journey was popular back then.