Yesterday, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a largely useless, but still widely published, news release entitled “Independence Day: Drills for the Grill.” See News Release, While notable for a cheery and reassuring tone, the information provided is, at best, unhelpful, and, at worst, is dangerously misleading. In addition to providing little in the way of substantive food safety information about how to “safely” grill a burger, the FSIS news release deceitfully soft-pedals the real risks posed by ground beef, generally, and outdoor grilling in particular. For example, the new release clumps together hamburgers, steak, chicken, hot dogs, and ribs as if all can be treated in the same way, and pose the same relative risk—which is blatantly false. And also, how can anyone at FSIS expect to educate the public about safely grilling ground beef (the real risk here) without once mentioning E. coli O157:H7, the primary risk?

  Take, for example, the introductory quote from FSIS Administrator, Alfred V. Almanza, who states: “Safe food handling is always important, but during the warm summer months — peak grilling season — there is an increased need for awareness of safe food handling practices.” Well, Mr. Almanza, why is that? Could it be because numerous research studies have shown that the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 in cattle rises significantly during the spring, and peaks during the summer months? See, e.g., Edrington, et al, 2006. Seasonal shedding of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in ruminants: a new hypothesis. Foodborne Pathog Dis 3:413-21; Hancock, et al., 1994. The prevalence of Escherichia coli O157.H7 in dairy and beef cattle in Washington State. Epidemiol Infect 113:199-207; Hancock, et al., 1997. A longitudinal study of Escherichia coli O157 in fourteen cattle herds. Epidemiol Infect 118:193-5; and Hussein, et al., 2005. Prevalence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli in beef cattle. J Food Prot 68:2224-41.  Why not level with the public and tell them that ground beef simply tends to be more dangerous in the summer, and that is when a higher than average percentage of E. coli O157:H7 infections occur?  Of course, that might make the USDA look bad, and could further depress the sales of ground beef.

(Please click on Continue Reading to view the rest of this article.)Continue Reading How to Safely Cook a Burger (NOT according to the USDA)

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar held a press conference today to announce new proposed leglisation to "promote a more rapid and effective national response to outbreaks of foodborne sickness." 

According to Klobuchar, the new act would, among other things:

  • Enhance the  Centers for Disease Control’s  (CDC)  foodborne disease surveillance system.
  • Direct CDC to provide more support to state health

A tip of the meat-thermometer to Herb Weisbaum for an excellent column on how stores could to a better job of notifying customers about recalled products.    Mr. Weisbaum points out that stores are the last line of defense in our food safety system.  He also points out that they often fail. 

California State Senator Dean Florez

David Smith of Journal and Courier reports that food-borne illness comes from consuming food or beverages that have been contaminated with a pathogen, such as a virus, a bacterium or a parasite.
Careful food preparation at the correct temperatures can kill microorganisms or prevent those that survive from multiplying and making the consumer ill.
Richard Linton, a Purdue University professor of food safety who has written two textbooks on the subject, said two crucial temperatures are 41 degrees and 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Within that range, dangerous bacteria can grow,” he said.Continue Reading Learning the ABCs of food safety

John Seewer of reports that big retailers such as Wal-Mart are encouraging growers to embrace new technology that allows them to more closely track produce with bar codes and scanners. Growers are using bilingual videos and posters to train seasonal workers on proper hygiene. Some small farms are treating the water they use to scrub veggies.
Throughout the food chain there’s more attention to food safety within the last five years because there’s more worry about how an outbreak of illness could cost growers and wholesale buyers millions of dollars.Continue Reading From field to fork, farm food safety a growing issue