Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour. They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.
After establishing that Joni Mitchell is not dead and Nova Scotia is New Scotland the guys jump into food safety of microgreens. There is a wide range of microgreens available. One microgreen company Fresh Origins describes over 400 different types of greens products and has a cursory mention food safety on their website. The guys attempt to clarify the confusing world of sprouts, microgreens, and hydroponic techniques. There is a difference between sprouts and microgreens; Sprouts are sprouted seeds whereas microgreens are often sprouted once and then harvested repeatedly. There are also many different hydroponic designs where plants are rooted in a non-soil substrate and fed by circulated nutrient containing water. Hydroponic production can be done safely but does not guarantee safe food. A lot of circulating nutrient rich water allows bacteria to grow and move around. As with sprouts, the seeds used for microgreens combined with the growing conditions, does create risk of pathogen growth as described in this paper (STEC survival in microgreens).
The guys talk Listeria in produce and the challenges of risk assessments. Don is going to a Produce Safety policy conference where he will give a talk on assessing public health risk for product associated Listeria monocytogenes exposure. A 2003 risk assessment ranked Listeria in produce as low risk however produce recently affected by listeria are caramel apples, cantaloupe, and stone fruit and this shows that risk assessments can become outdated. New information is always becoming available, for example, Listeria growth on the outside of cantaloupe at room temperature. The data is also getting more applicable as researchers now appreciate the importance of using relevant strains.
Ben and Don discuss consumer recommendations lagging behind food safety science. For example the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board a ‘sliced melon should be stored in the refrigerator until it is ready to be eaten’ while data support a recommendation more similar to deli meats. Something like: if you don’t know your refrigerator’s temperature, eat deli meats and sliced cantaloupe within 2 days; if you know it holds food below 41F, you have 4 days.
The guys talk about food retail and Ben gets on a rant about how when people talk about food safety culture they don’t quite get it. Ben describes a frustrating situation he encountered at a food safety meeting: food safety nerds reporting that decision makers respond to perceived risks more strongly than public health risks. Like one retailer spending more resources on hairnets than norovirus control because hair is what their CEO perceives as an issue.