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Canada Day and Fourth of July food safety fun

Barfblog by Ben Chapman, July 1, 2018

Today is my ninth Canada Day in Raleigh.

In previous years we’ve sought out Canadian beers; found the best poutine in town; skated with the Canadian club of the triangle; and curled.

This year is a bit lower-key: I’m hanging out in the backyard, watching Don Cherry talk about the opening day of free agent signings in the NHL (right, exactly as shown).

As I get a bit older I think more about what I miss about Canada, what I don’t, what it means to me to be Canadian and why I choose to live in the U.S.. There are lots of similarities and differences between the two countries.

Some stuff is easy to explain, others, like an emotional connection to The Tragically Hip and Jr. hockey, is a bit tougher.

The combination of Canada Day and July 4th (just a couple of days apart) is one of my favorite times of year. The traditional signal of summer vacation season in both countries and – and a bunch of cookouts, grillouts, bbqs, or whatever you want to call it.

The seasonal lede is also often used for talking food safety.

Cooking a bunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, folks coming to a backyard party or hanging out around the pool is something that many can identify, north and south of the 49th parallel.

The preliminary results of some work that I was part of is making the rounds this weekend with the grilling hook, which is kinda cool. Over the past 18 months a team of us planned and carried out a series of observations in kitchen settings asking regular people to come in, cook a couple of turkey burgers, prepare a salad and some salad dressing in front of a series of cameras while students and staff coded what took place – stuff handwashing, thermometer use, cross-contamination.

The project was built on concepts that were developed more than a decade ago when I visited the a creative food safety group in Cardiff, Wales (then UWIC, now Cardiff Met) who were all about observations. Following that trip, Sarah DeDonder, Brae Surgeoner, Randy Phebus, Doug and I adapted the approach to look at handling of frozen chicken entrées.

I’ll wait for a couple of weeks until some of this work is presented at the 2018 International Association for Food Protection annual meeting to share more results- and publication for all the fun details, but here’s some good highlights from USDA.

“As a mother of three young children, I am very familiar with the mad dash families go through to put dinner on the table,” said Carmen Rottenberg, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA. “You can’t see, smell or feel bacteria. By simply washing your hands properly, you can protect your family and prevent that bacteria from contaminating your food and key areas in your kitchen.”
The preliminary results of the observational study, conducted by USDA in collaboration with RTI International and North Carolina State University, showed some concerning results.

* Handwashing: the study revealed that consumers are not washing their hands correctly 97 percent of the time.

* Most consumers failed to wash their hands for the necessary 20 seconds, and
* Numerous participants did not dry their hands with a clean towel.

* Thermometer use: results reveal that only 34 percent of participants used a food thermometer to check that their burgers were cooked properly.
* Of those who did use the food thermometer, nearly half still did not cook the burgers to the safe minimum internal temperature.

* Cross contamination: the study showed participants spreading bacteria from raw poultry onto other surfaces and food items in the test kitchen.
* 48 percent of the time are contaminating spice containers used while preparing burgers,
* 11 percent of the time are spreading bacteria to refrigerator handles, and
* 5 percent of the time are tainting salads due to cross-contamination.