Don and Ben started the show with the compulsory technology discussion. The guys were excited about being up-to-date with publishing previous episodes and that the show was attracting new listeners. Don noted that any listener who would like a Food Safety Talk fridge magnet should email him. He also requested that listeners rate the show and leave a comment on iTunes.
The guys then talked about the Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert, including The Flaming Lips, and their cover of the Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side of The Moon', She Don't Use Jelly and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
The discussion then turned to the efficacy of hand washing versus hand sanitizers. A question was posed by a North Carolina extension agent and was related to the recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with animal contact at a North Carolina fair. Don noted that the CDC recommends the use of hand sanitizers in hospitals as an alternative to hand washing, although FDA does not currently recommend this in restaurants. Don mentioned his publication on the efficacy of alcohol-based hand sanitizer during frozen burger handling. Don felt that hand sanitizers would be beneficial when there are no hand washing facilities available, though he also questioned the risk of petting zoos and whether they can be made safer. Ben cautioned that sanitizers may not work equally well for all microorganisms, but that it was still a good tool in the face of low hand washing compliance. Don agreed and stressed that the important point wasn’t the comparison of efficacy between sanitizers with hand washing, but the effect on overall public health.
The guys then turned their attention to recent XL Beef related E. coli O157 outbreak and recall. Don questioned the lack of common sense when E. coli O157 is detected in many combo bins on a single day. XL Beef simply followed the apparently standard practice of rejecting the affected combo bin as well as the one before and after, despite many combo bins yielding E. coli O157 detections. Apparently nobody had realized that XL beef had hit what FSIS refer to as a High Event Period.
Ben then talked about a recent interview where he was asked about the impact of centralized food processing on food safety and public health. Ben and Don agreed that mistakes in large organizations can result in large public health problems. However, they also thought it more likely for smaller companies to screw up, because it may harder for them to stay up-to-date, and that any subsequent illnesses are more likely to fly under the public health radar, or track back to the source.
The discussion then focused on the large norovirus outbreak in Germany which was linked to frozen strawberries and Ben highlighted the finger-pointing that goes on between companies or countries at such times. While epidemiology pointed at the strawberries, the Chinese government maintained that 'No viruses [were] found' on berries blamed for food poisoning, though Ben wondered which companies were actively looking for norovirus in food.
The guys then discussed the case of a 7 year old who died after kissing her grandfather who was sick with E. coli O157. It reminded Don of the book “Poisoned” and the earlier discussion of petting zoos – a combination of increased risk, young children and potential lack of hand washing.