“Thank you for barfing; no money for US food safety changes”, “Kids, kids, it’s Christmas, who wants stinky ham?”, “The food (safety) cycle: recall, forget, repeat.”
These are all recent headlines from barfblog.com, a blog devoted to news about food safety from Kansas State University’s Doug Powell, PhD, associate professor of food safety in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
No food safety incident worldwide is safe from being dissected, skewered and/or commented upon by Powell, including recent events such as Washington State’s Sally Jackson cheese recall due to E. coli and Jimmy John’s Salmonella-contaminated alfalfa sprouts that caused illnesses in several states.
I’m on Powell’s daily listerve bites-l (sign up at www.bites.ksu.edu) which delivers the most recent national and international news about food safety, government programs, outbreaks, technology, restaurant and grocery issues, and news of the weird such as baby mice found in a package of potato chips. Some of the stories are almost barf-inducing themselves, and they are all fascinating.
I asked Powell about the early beginnings of the barfblog. “The listserve has been running continuously since 1993; I started it when I was a graduate student, just after the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at Jack-in-the-Box,” Powell explains. “My science and journalism background prompted me to start sharing information like this to a broader audience.” barfblog started in 2005, as blogging emerged as an important communications medium, Powell says, but after being inundated with spam, he had to restart it in 2007 with better software, and it averages about three posts a day, every day.
I asked Powell if he believes livestock producers/veterinarians are more concerned now with the food safety of their products than in the past. “The best ones always have been; but any production system is only as good as its weakest link, so more of the outliers are paying attention to food safety,” he says.
Because he has his finger on the pulse of food safety issues, I asked him about trends in protein — meat, milk and eggs. “There are a lot of trends that get public attention — natu-ral/local/sustainable/hormone-free/GE-free — which all detract from microbial food safety issues,” he says. “Those are lifestyle choices, and more power to the producers who can make a living off it. I’m concerned with the things that make people barf. There should be more direct marketing/labeling of producer microbial food safety efforts at retail; then consumers could reward those producers who take food safety seriously.”
Food safety is of interest to me and I believe is of high importance to beef and dairy veterinarians and their clients. I’ve written about pathogens in raw milk, residues in meat and other food safety issues regarding our beef and dairy products. Reading even one edition of Powell’s bites-l e-mails shows that it’s obvious food safety is everyone’s responsibility, from the producer, distributor, market, chef and consumer. So eat safe! And, please wash your hands.