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Grocery Health Packaged Food Science

Can Coronavirus Be Transmitted Through Food?

 The coronavirus pandemic has led to tons of information being published online on ways the virus can be transmitted. One question that continually pops up is whether food can be one of those sources of contamination.

So far, no research has come up that shows food or food packaging being able to transport or support the virus in any way. If you want to be extra safe, though, here’s a few tips and facts to know that should help reassure that buying, eating, and cooking food in these crazy times can proceed as close to normal as possible.

How The Virus Spreads In General

Coronavirus is a respiratory virus, and as such, tends to only spread via respiratory droplets in the air. This is why reducing contact and social distancing with others is crucial to limiting the spread of the disease. So far, this has been the only confirmed type of transmission for the virus.

According to preliminary (not peer-reviewed) research, the virus can be detected in the air for up to three hours, but can stay on other surfaces for longer. Packages and envelopes made with organic matter (ie. cardboard, paper) can hold it up for up to a day, while plastic takeout containers and stainless steel surfaces can retain for it as long as three days.

In terms of food and food packaging, the CDC has not yet detected any COVID-19 diagnoses that related to transmission via those sources. However, it should be stressed that they are still learning exactly how coronavirus spreads.

Is The Food I’m Eating Safe?

Generally, yes, the food we’re purchasing and consuming will be safe. This is especially true for anything we cook, as the coronavirus is fragile and is destroyed pretty easily by heat (cooking for > 150 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 3 minutes). Food has also been shown, as previously stated, to not be a transmission source for the virus.

The same can also be said for food packaging. However, since many transport containers (including cardboard and plastic) can be contaminated for up to a day, being safe and sanitizing both yourself and the containers prior to handling. Many stores and restaurants are on top of this already, with delivery drivers using gloves to handle food and grocers providing hand sanitizer at the door.

In terms of any food getting contaminated on the production end, that is highly unlikely. Again, food is not a known transmission vector, but all food (and food packaging) goes through processes to prevent pathogens and other disease-causing organisms from making its way into grocery stores. These include sterilizing of packaging, barring sick workers from showing up, and continual sanitation of any food contact surfaces.

Overall, purchasing and cooking food is going to be safe throughout the entire time this pandemic occurs. As long as everyone practices smart social distancing and diligently washes their hands, we’ll be able to mitigate the spread and, as many have put it, “flatten the curve.”

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Health Restaurants Science

The DISGUSTING Truth About Wearing Gloves While Handling Food

Photo: Pexels

When Chipotle’s recent norovirus outbreak was discovered to be the result of a sick employee, issues of proper food safety and handling began to be questioned. Chipotle had a food safety program in place that managers may not have followed, but one thing that was a certainty was that gloves were worn while preparing food. That tends to be the standard for most food service practices, as people believe that wearing gloves prevents contamination of food via touch.

However, it may come as a shock to you that wearing gloves may be one of the most effective ways to spread pathogens in a food service system. Timothy Fisher, a Fresh Foods Department Manager and Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate, broke down the reasoning to Foodbeast.

“People wearing gloves touch all sorts of things besides food and continue to use the gloves. Technically they should change gloves after they’ve touched anything that isn’t food related, and most health standards say you should also wash your hands before putting on new gloves. But that takes so much time!

Most consumers, and most entry level food workers have this belief for some reason that gloves mean clean. But proper hand washing techniques negate the transmission of illness. How many times have you seen someone take their gloves off nearby or over your food? Ever think about how powdery and sweaty their hands are? Ever think about how that glove snapping off is probably spraying micro bits of that person’s sweat and glove powder into your food? If you haven’t you will now.”

Food safety researchers are in agreement with Fisher here. A 2004 study from Food Safety Magazine also revealed that those who wear gloves will fail to notice punctures or tears 50% of the time, meaning there’s a good chance that thousands of bacteria or virus particles can get into whatever that person is touching, which includes the food being served to you at a restaurant.

Another massive issue is that increased glove usage leads to decreased hand washing practices. Many food service workers reported in another study that they don’t always wash their hands or change their gloves when they should, including in the handling of raw meat. Proper hand washing is key to managing and preventing food contamination. Gloves, however, have created a false sense of security with handlers that bacteria can’t get into the food and thus, they only wash their hands 27% of the time it’s recommended to, according to the CDC.

Gloves should be worn properly, and the FDA recommends wearing them for most food handling purposes. However, as Fisher states below, hand washing is paramount before wearing gloves.

“People need to wash their hands. Gloves are NOT a food safety measure if the hands wearing them aren’t washed, and if they touch lots of stuff in the process of your food being created. They have their place but really… they have created a belief in food service that just by wearing gloves everything will be clean, it is creating (in my professional opinion) a culture of uncleanliness because the average person thinks gloves actually replace hand washing!”

This “culture” that Fisher talks about has already taken root, unfortunately, so it’s hard to trust a restaurant’s hygiene practices when their entire staff wears gloves as a result. However, if everyone is properly washing their hands, food contamination is kept to a minimum, regardless of whether gloves are worn.

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Health News Restaurants

Trump’s Mar-A-Lago Hit With Serious Health Violations, But Stays Open

Well, that’s one fancy resort estate that I’d never want to eat at.

Donald Trump’s well-known, high-priced Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida was recently cited for a shocking ten health violations in their kitchen during a health inspection, according to CNBC.

Three of the violations were “high priority” faults that could actually contribute to the spread of foodborne illnesses by the restaurant, meaning that guests at the estate (and our current president) could get sick from eating at the Mar-A-Lago. These violations included raw and undercooked fish that hadn’t undergone proper parasite destruction and meats stored at temperatures allowing for microbial growth.

The lower priority violations were still disturbing, since they included a lack of hot water to sanitize employee’s hands, poorly maintained coolers to store the food in, and even a lack of the well-known “Employees Must Wash Hands” sign in a bathroom that they use.

While several of the violations were corrected on site, it’s disturbing to note that these dangerous food handling practices were being carried out at a site where Donald Trump has played host to several dignitaries during his first few months of presidency, most notably Xi Jinping, the president of China.

The carelessness shown by Trump’s Mar-A-Lago in properly maintaining their facilities and ensuring proper food handling is alarming for the high-end resort. There’s really no telling how long these violations were going on for, but anyone who dined at the resort prior to that inspection could have gotten sick.

That includes President Trump, President Xi, and any other notable persons staying at the Mar-A-Lago. Talk about a presidential welcome.

Here’s to hoping the changes they had to make during the inspection stay permanent or that President Trump finds somewhere else more sanitary to host distinguished guests.

The White House might be a good choice for that.

Categories
Culture Fast Food Opinion The Katchup

Fast Food Chains Have The Safest Food In The Country

If you ask someone what they think about the food at a fast food restaurant, it’s often perceived as dirty, low-quality, and unhealthy. The same can also be said for perception of the fast food restaurants and their health conditions as well.

As consumers, we demand food of high quality and cleanliness, both in terms of clean label and the prevention of food-borne illnesses. The problem is that fast food usually is considered a joke in those terms, especially when food-borne illnesses have occurred in the past at chains like Chipotle, Taco Bell, and Jack In The Box.

Fast food chains aren’t about that anymore, and many have strict manufacturing and food handling practices to ensure the health and safety of their food. McDonald’s, for example, changes their French fry oil at least twice a day to prevent it from binding together and forming unhealthy compounds as well as to preserve flavor.

UPROXX’s Steve Bramucci discovered this trade secret while on a trip in Australia. During Foodbeast’s podcast “The Katchup,” Bramucci recalls a trek he took across the entire continent while running on recycled oil, and how McDonald’s was the best to use because of that.

“It was so hard to get the right oil from the mom & pop shops ‘cause they were refrying their oil over and over and over, which is incredibly dangerous. We finally went to a McDonald’s… it was the cleanest oil I’ve ever seen. They change it out twice a day. It was like liquid gold. We would take 40 gallons of oil from a McDonald’s and store it on our roof. I can tell you, McDonald’s oil is really clean and really golden, so if these big companies can do it, the mom & pop shops need to be able, too.”

This isn’t just the case for McDonald’s and their French fry oil, it’s the case for many other fast food chains as well. Chipotle completely revamped their food safety handling practices following a rough year of food-borne illness outbreaks, and Jack in the Box made major changes to how they cook their food following the infamous E.coli catastrophe they endured in 1993. This outbreak actually caused the federal government to change their ground meat cooking temperature standards to improve consumer health safety.

Mom & pop shops and other small food businesses on the other hand, are much more susceptible to improper food handling and health concerns. Many of the most horrific health code violations on the internet aren’t even from fast food restaurants. They’re from small, local restaurants.

That doesn’t mean those risks and health concerns won’t happen, obviously. But food handling guidelines and practices in fast food restaurants have significantly improved over the years, so these incidences are becoming even more rare in fast food chains across America.

Fast food has much better handling practices and food safety than most mom & pop restaurants. So if you’re paranoid about getting food poisoning when you go out to eat, just order some fast food. It’s way less likely that you’ll get sick there.

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Health News

Four Facts To Know About Acrylamide, The Carcinogen In Your Toast And Fries

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Photo: Kingdom of Style

My dad loves to have a toasted bagel for breakfast. For as long as I can remember, he’s always toasted it to the point where it’s slightly blackened. Several of us in the family have told him that blackened baked goods aren’t good for his health and can potentially cause cancer.

This is due to a compound called acrylamide, a concerning carcinogen that caused the UK Food Standards industry to publish guidelines on how to toast bread and fry potatoes to avoid the compound.

Acrylamide has definitely been a compound of concern around the world, and is a well-known carcinogen. What exactly is this compound, though, and why is it present in our food? Here are some interesting facts on acrylamide to familiarize you with this cancer-causing compound:

 

Acrylamide isn’t added into foods, but can be produced by cooking foods.

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Acrylamide is formed when sugars naturally found in food reacts with asparagine, a common amino acid that is also found in our foods. Some specific foods, such as potatoes, grain products, and coffee beans, tend to be higher in asparagine content. These foods tend to produce higher amounts of acrylamide as a result when cooked. Higher temperatures (above 250 degrees Fahrenheit) and longer time periods of cooking will affect the level of acrylamide present, so toasting your bread for a shorter period of time or lower temperature will decrease acrylamide production.

 

Gentle cooking methods like boiling will help prevent acrylamide production.

Mashed Potatoes

Microwaving and steaming are also gentle cooking methods that won’t lead to the production of acrylamide. Boiling potatoes and steaming desserts are great ways to get your starch without the acrylamide that follows. Considering the British have both of these (mashed potatoes and puddings), they know what they’re doing when it comes to lowering cancer risk.


Starchy foods are more likely to form acrylamide, but meats can as well.

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High temperatures, long cooking times, and free asparagine are the key things you need to produce acrylamide. Grilled and smoked meats will definitely be higher in acrylamide as a result — especially when barbecue sauces and marinades are brushed on to add the sugars needed to produce more acrylamide.


The FDA recommends a healthy diet to combat acrylamide intake.

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Fried, roasted, and baked foods definitely have acrylamide and can cause cancer, but a healthy diet contains many cancer-fighting compounds that can combat the effects of acrylamide. Following the dietary health guidelines from the FDA is helpful in combating cancer. Of course, cancer can come from a one-time tiny dose or long periods of consumption of acrylamide, depending on the person. But, it’s always good to have a healthy diet to combat it regardless.

Hopefully, this sheds some light on the mysteries of acrylamide and why its such a taboo compound. And maybe, after my dad reads this, he’ll burn his bagels a little bit less in the morning.

Categories
Health Hit-Or-Miss News Opinion

How Donald Trump’s Presidency Will Affect Your Food

With the dust mostly settled following one of the most divisive Presidential elections in American history, we have our new president-elect: Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Reactions have already sprung up all across the world over what this means for America. Some of these reactions have considered the potential future for the food industry. We’ve taken a look at articles from the Wall Street Journal, Eater, and others to figure out what president-elect Trump’s plans outline for the future of your food.

 

The Cost of Food Will Likely Increase

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Photo: Publish Your Articles

Under Donald Trump, America is likely to see a continual increase in food prices – and not one that just results from inflation.

Trump’s policy to close the Mexican border would definitely increase food cost. Eater reported a study on economic effects of closing the border that would lead to massive drops in production of produce and meat.

Closing the border would also lead to an increase in wages that would see revenues for farmers drop as low as 40 percent, pushing the cost of food up 5 or 6 percent while decreasing the supply of fresh produce in markets.

Donald Trump’s additional plans to reduce SNAP funding, as reported by Food Revolution, would also increase the cost of food for Americans currently on SNAP and render fresh produce basically unaffordable for SNAP users.

Considering that many areas in America already lack access to fresh produce and are trapped in “food deserts,” this could present a major problem for nutritional and health quality in many lower-income areas of the United States.

 

Food May Become Less Safe and More Susceptible to Fraud.

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A tax plan released a couple of months ago by the Trump Campaign included a plan to slash the power of the “FDA Food Police”, as the campaign called it. Guidelines by the FDA on the planting, hygiene, production, and processing of food would be harshly limited.

These guidelines are intended to ensure the safety of food – fresh or processed – being sold to consumers. Without these guidelines, food-borne illness is more likely to develop as the ability to measure food safety would diminish with funding decreases.

Decreasing the FDA’s power would not only make food less safe – it would also make it more susceptible to fraud. With Trump’s policies imposing limits on facility inspections (where only 5-6% of facilities are currently inspected annually), food facilities would find it easier to adulterate foods with cheaper substitutes for lower cost.

 

GMO Labeling Efforts Will Likely Fail 

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Donald Trump has confirmed via Twitter that he supports GMO food and preventing the labeling of GMOs. While efforts like the Non-GMO Project aren’t governmental and consumers will continue to demand non-GMO, government efforts to require GMO labeling would likely backpedal under a Trump presidency.

 

Our Food Supply May Become Less Sustainable

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The sustainability of our food supply, and ability to adequately feed the world healthy and nutritious food in the future, are at risk under President Trump. His policy on climate change is that it is a hoax, and he aims to backpedal efforts to increase environmental protections – and maybe even scrap the EPA altogether.

Apart from this increasing the amount of pesticides that would be used on our foods, this would also mean that our soil quality would be impacted by severe weather conditions resulting from climate change. Droughts in California and Texas have already brought this issue to light, with the cost of beef jumping 34 percent in a four-year span as feed production decreased and cost increased.

These weather systems make more land unusable for food production, meaning that we have less land to feed an increasing population – and a higher price of food as a result.

 

There’s A Likelihood That Children’s School Lunches Become More Unhealthy

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Many of Donald Trump’s top food advisers are advocates of unhealthier food and don’t consider sustainability concerns. These advisers include Texas Ag Commissioners like Sid Miller, who ensured that Texan school children could eat all of the desserts and fried food that they wanted, and Todd Staples, who resigned over the implementation of “Meatless Monday” programs and called limitations on meat consumption “treasonous.” They clearly do not have children’s health in mind – which could lead to further increases on childhood obesity rates in America as healthy lunch programs would likely be slashed.

 

Donald Trump’s stances on food policy spell out a grim outlook on the future of food, with prices rising and sustainability and accessibility falling. One can only hope that the efforts of those fighting for a more sustainable and accessible future of food can prevent this future from taking hold.

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Fast Food

White Castle Reveals Its Health History To Avoid Chipotle-esque Disaster

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In the wake of Chipotle’s food safety problems, White Castle is taking the initiative to show customers they’re being REALLY careful with the way they prepare their food. With the release of White Castle Clean, you can now see everything about the burger chain.

On the website, patrons can see the entirety of the White Castle’s health scores. By launching the site, the company wants to promote transparency among all its restaurants.

Sure, White Castle doesn’t directly take a stab at Chipotle. However, has there been any other major chains that have been making the news for food safety issues?

Turns out the “White” in White Castle stood for cleanliness. Never would’ve guess.

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News

This Chipotle Location Made 100 People Sick In A Single Day

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Customers at a Californian Chipotle are paying a high price and it’s not for extra guac. About 100 patrons of the Simi Valley location reportedly got sick on Aug. 19 with symptoms including diarrhea, high fevers and chills. Many of those customers have been sent to the hospital.

CBS reports that one man had a fever of 101 degrees while tons of other patients came in with similar cases.

The store shut down for the day due to “lack of staffing,” which includes 17 of its own employees feeling ill. According to management, the store cleaned out the entire kitchen and replaced all the food with fresh ingredients.

An investigation from health officials says that it could be a combination of tiny factors leading to the illnesses. Apparently, the store had less-than stellar conditions that barely passed inspection, insects flying around, sanitary violations, equipment connected directly to the sewers, a shoddy bathroom and unlicensed workers handling food.

Why did it all happen on that one day though?