Lots of # movements going on that are covered in the evening news and daily papers. So my middle of night musing was – we should have a # about food safety. I googled #SafeFood this morning and found out there is one on Twitter, CDC, Instagram, World Health Organization and many others. Guess this would have been a great idea a few years back! In reading the posts, I was pleased to see and read the level of food safety advocacy! Still, I don’t think this will make the evening news. Why not? There is no celebrity currently wanting to champion this message. I am guessing there is at least one famous person who has become ill from eating contaminated food at least once in their lifetime. Estimates are that each year, 1 of every 6 Americans becomes ill from a foodborne illness. Anyone famous wanting to be the next Voice of SafeFood? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
Articles about a proposal in the UK to add an upcharge to beverages served in disposable cups led to the catchy headlines about a latte levy. In actuality, the proposal is an effort to reduce the cup clutter and steer customers to reusable containers for their beverages. Similar efforts were effective when plastic bags were targeted with a surcharge to customers who forgot their reusable grocery bags. The hospitality industry uses a lot of disposables. It seems that more and more lodging facilities have moved toward plastic or paper cups in the rooms rather than the glasses with the protective paper lid (remember those?) There were a few TV exposes on how housekeepers would simply wipe these rather than carting to a dish machine for proper cleaning and sanitizing. Even if it is just me in the room, I end up using quite a few of the cups. Multiply one room’s use by the entire facility, or by the chain, or by all rooms in the country, and the impact grows. Ironically, the same hotels ask customers to care for the environment by reducing use of linens. Will making someone pay change behavior? I learned in human resources class many moons ago that money is not a motivator per se (Hertzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory; rather it contributes to overall job satisfaction). Recent research findings have been mixed about use of monetary incentives to encourage healthy behaviors. So, whether a “latte levy” catches on remains to be seen. Stay tuned!
I read in news last week that Panera Bread had voluntarily recalled all cream cheese products with an active shelf life (package expiration date of on or before April 2, 2018) sold in the United States. Wow – with 2,000 locations, that is a lot of cream cheese! The decision to recall all of the 2 and 8 ounce packages was made because one 2-ounce variety on one production day tested positive for a disease causing strain of the Listeria bacteria (Listeria monocytogenes). Further, all manufacturing in the associated facility was stopped. Even though no related illness has been reported, Panera Bread took the position that because Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in the young, the elderly or those with weakened immune symptoms, it was best to exercise an abundance of caution. Even those in good health may experience fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea. And there is potential for miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. The incubation period can be as long as 70 days, so if you have eaten Panera Bread cream cheese, monitor yourself – it may not be flu symptoms you are experiencing!
Panera’s conservative approach may be a corporate lesson learned from the Blue Bell ice cream contamination in 2015. From a risk management perspective, the proactive approach appears successful as a google search today showed no new information posted since the widespread alert was announced January 28th. (Of course, there are still more than two months for an illness to appear). From a financial perspective, this was a hit but facing the potential head on and exercising this “abundance of caution” certainly seems to have avoided backlash, as seen by other retail entities that didn’t face the music as quickly. Am I going to avoid Panera? Nope – in fact their full disclosure and proactive stance raised their rating in my book. Sometimes caution is a good thing!
With all the hype about clean labels and of course Super Bowl, I found it interesting that there is a game (inspired by social media) called the Tide Pod Challenge. Some of you may recall issues the detergent manufacturer Tide experienced when the colorful pods were first introduced – young children thought it was candy. But now, the latest craze (especially among teens), is to post video proof of consumption. Many of these videos have gone viral – thus upping the “one-up” competitive gamesmanship among peers. A spike was reported in mid-January by the Poison Control Center and the following week, the CEO of Proctor and Gamble weighed in and enlisted support from parents and NFL Patriots player Rob Gronkowski told teens this wasn’t a good idea. Yet just yesterday, an article by Amanda Harding in Culture Cheat Sheet reported the practice continues with a very colorful still shot of a teen taking a bite out of a Pod. While it would seem common sense that the equivalent washing one’s mouth out with soap would not be pleasant, the thrill of victory appears to be a keen motivator to stomach a little poison. I don’t get it.
Super Bowl hype is beginning! Unfortunately, the Vikings will not serve in dual role as hosts and competing team in this year’s event, but the show will go on! Lots of talk about x’s and o’s and offense and defense – the value of a game plan is well recognized. So, what is the game plan to protect safety of food? If you are someone in the food biz, do you have strategic plays and routine end runs to mitigate risk – or is your team continually throwing Hail Mary passes hoping for a miracle play? A good plan is one the entire team knows about and acts on. While creativity is not a bad thing, it has its time and place. Going rogue in the work place leads to chaos. A fundamental part of any food safety plan is standard operating procedures, aka SOPs. SOPs serve as the framework for plan. Think about where clothes in a closet would end up if there were no hooks and hangers. (Ok, maybe you have kids who ignore the hooks and hangers and still pile their clothes on the floor, but the point is the organizational framework is there). SOPs are not difficult to create. FoodHandler® Corporation is kicking of the 2018 SafeBites Webinar series with a session about SOPs, presented by yours truly. Tune in to learn more. These are free but advance registration is needed.
I am not aware of a Hallmark Card commemorating Cold and Flu Season but I think it is safe to say it has arrived. At least it did in my world last week. I was traveling via plane so of course exposure was ramped up. One can wonder if it is any wonder that people get sick! If someone is fortunate to have sick leave, then hopefully they take advantage of it and STAY HOME rather than try to be a hero (in their minds only cause bet you co-workers think they are a villain). But what about all the workers who don’t have sick leave? How many try to tough it out and not leave their co-workers short staffed? And if they don’t work, they don’t get paid. It is unfortunate sick leave is not universal because there are some real potential health risks. The Rules don’t allow for someone to be working with food if they have certain symptoms, such as fever or diarrhea, and they are supposed to report these symptoms to their manager. This season can be especially trying for everyone in the world of foodservice because the service component means people. And the bench reserves can get depleted pretty quickly. What can one do about it? Live in a bubble? No, but taking as many safe guards as possible when purchasing food prepared away from home is just common sense. Cold and flu viruses do spread quite easily so by washing your hands after leaving public spaces and after touching ANYTHING, and before eating can lower the odds you will become sick. Even then, the cosmos may have other plans for you. This was my first illness in 14 years; while I guess I’ve been lucky to date, I still wish the stars had not aligned the way they did as I would have been happy with an extension. Stay well! Eat Safe!
Here we are over one week into 2018 – still holding true to your resolutions?
There have been plenty of news articles about how to keep one’s resolutions – all with similar themes. One of these is making the “new thing” a routine. Our research here at Iowa State University as well as from other teams is that making it (whatever it is for you) a habit improves adoption. At home, you may have a morning routine or keep your car keys in the same place; by working safe food handling practices into your daily routine it becomes a habit. For example, when entering the house after shopping or wherever, I wash my hands. It is a routine same as brushing my teeth before going to bed. The idea is if you wanted to increase exercise; scheduling time to do so into daily routine makes it happen. My resolution of “controlling the condiments” is to avoid finding archived catsup from 2014! Someone I work with mentioned she uses a sharpie to mark dates of condiments when she purchases these for her home. This is a technique used by commercial foodservices (or should be as it is a best practice to ensure inventory rotation) -using at home is a great idea. To be effective in adopting this idea, I will need to expand the weekly routine purge of older items in the fridge to include the shelves on the door. I will also need to keep handy a sharpie marker. Stay tuned whether this resolution sticks.
Happy New Year Everyone! This is the “turnover” time of year – getting rid of unwanted “stuff” and ringing in new resolutions, etc. It can be hard to track age of food stuffs this time of year with multiple cooking events and family gatherings. Just the other night, I reheated a leftover cooked pork chop to serve with dinner, but then at the table realized it had been over a week ago that we had first served it! (A consumer advisory was noted to those at the table). Maybe it is a sign of my own age, but it seems time is passing much too quickly. In sorting through the fridge at the family vacation place this morning, I saw opened condiments that had been purchased over a year ago, likely on the last extended trip. USDA recommends a six month use period. Granted, certain types of condiments (like high acid foods) can keep longer, but using others (like blue cheese salad dressing) over a year later is, in my opinion, being too much of a risk taker. I also found the opaque plastic container storing the leftover ham from four nights ago; time to debone that and place in freezer and/or make a soup. My New Year’s resolution is to store leftovers in clear containers. Hopefully that will keep them visible! What is YOUR SafeFood New Year Resolution?
With so many food events, this time of year means LEFTOVERS! Yea! To avoid food waste, freezing some of the goodies makes sense. The bonus is you have go-to foods (think of these as your own convenience brand) ready to thaw, reheat and enjoy. To ensure safety and quality of these bonus foods, proper freezing techniques (when and how) need to be followed. First, let hot food cool a bit before preparing for the freezer. Placing a big container of “hot hot” food into the freezer (or refrigerator for that matter) places an extra burden on the unit to pump out the hot air. Most home refrigerators and freezers do not have the horsepower capacity to do so. Foods don’t have to cool completely as you want to avoid time the food spends in the temperature danger zone (which is between 41 F and 135 F). But ten minutes or so to dispense some of the heat helps cool. Then, portion food into smaller, freezer safe containers and refrigerate – it is obvious I hope that small batches of food will cool more quickly than a big quantity. If product is still hot when place in refrigerator, keep container lid open to allow air circulation for a short time. Then, you can transfer to the freezer. What happens during the freezing process is ice crystals form. If ice crystals are large, because it is a large block of product and takes longer to freeze, this harms quality of food item for re-service – the texture gets soggy and mushy. Also, be sure product is double wrapped to protect from freezer burn AND remove as much air as possible. You can reuse plastic grocery bags to enclose the freezer container. So, if you are fortunate to have leftovers, after the first service portion into a freezer bag or container. Squeeze out excess air and place in refrigerator. After a few hours (or the next morning) double wrap and place in your freezer. I find it helpful to write on the outside bag what is frozen. In foodservice, some operations keep a perpetual inventory of what is in the freezer. If you find you are serious about extending shelf life of foods, consider a sheet of paper stuck with magnet to front of freezer unit that identifies what and when items were store. Happy Freezing
This adage takes on new meaning when the results from a recent survey reported on in Feedstuff Foodlink found that nearly half of consumers say they will pay more for a produce brand that advocates for a held belief. More than half of respondents said they would quit buying a brand that didn’t align with their values. Specifically, respondents think produce brands should advocate for the environment, social issues, and local organizations. And if that isn’t enough, consumers said they want to know how to maximize their purchases with value added information. So, how should a fruit or vegetable grower interpret this? Clearly it isn’t enough to produce a safe, high quality fruit or vegetable item – producers (or the marketing arm of the farm organization) needs to communicate who they are, what they do, and how they do it. While I think it is self-evident a farmer has a vested interest in land stewardship (it is hard to grow safe quality products with poor quality soil and water), this survey clearly indicates consumers want to be told this information. While number of consumers surveyed and methodology used is not included in the report, findings support the increasing numbers of farmers markets and the trending for local food systems with the food with a face movement. Perhaps this isn’t surprising when we recognize the disconnect most consumers have with where and how their food is produced. As this survey showed, clearly people are willing to put their money where their mouth is!