Promed is a wonderful thing, bringing to your desktop the latest information on human and animal disease occurring around the world. Most of the incidents reported don’t really come as a huge surprise e.g. Salmonella being present in minced poultry meat; nothing new there then. Sometimes it is something really novel and unusual, for instance Promed was the first medium that I saw heralding the white powder anthrax attacks in the USA. Personally, I like the ones that make you think and are a bit more enigmatic. An example is the current (July 2019) EHEC O26 outbreak in Iceland ( ) where there seems toRead More →

It’s been in the news yet again, another incident of people becoming infected by Listeria monocytogenes and sadly succumbing to the infection ( ). The source identified, as reported by the FSA, was sandwiches supplied to hospitals. In a way I think ‘nothing new there then’ as this has happened in the past; the epidemiology of listeriosis outbreaks in the UK seemingly intertwined with sandwiches (see a table produced in 2015 in ). Also remembering a Finnish listeriosis outbreak in which butter was the contaminated food, the scientist in you begins to ask whether it is terribly wise to supply sandwiches to people whoseRead More →

Nitrates or not? Surely another issue that needs a proper risk assessment Over the festive period there has been a lot of press reporting various individuals applying pressure to the meat industry to remove nitrates from processed meat products. Headlines have appeared such as this “’Vast majority of bacon contains cancer-causing chemicals, say campaigners urging the Government to take action on nitrates in processed meats” ( ). Indeed, this issue has been swirling around at least since I was an undergraduate in the late 1970s, and it is claimed that there is mounting evidence that nitrate is not a particularly desirable chemical to be presentRead More →

At one level the relationship between temperature, time and the death rate of pathogenic bacteria is well known. At a given (lethal) temperature a plot of the log of the surviving bacteria against time is a straight line with the time taken to decrease the population by one log10 unit known as the D (for decimal reduction) time, usually expressed given the temperature for which the D value applies, e.g. D70 = 1.2 minutes for the D value at 70°C for a given organism of 1.2 minutes. If the log of the D time is plotted against temperature, the temperature required to reduce the DRead More →

There is a distinct contrast to the way that fruits and vegetables are sold in the UK and New Zealand. In the UK, almost all of the supermarket produce comes packaged in a kind of plastic that inevitably bursts open when an attempt is made to liberate the contents such that they spill all over the kitchen floor and get bruised. In New Zealand, produce is generally sold in bins. You get to choose which individual fruits/veg you buy, pop them in a bag and get them weighed at the checkout. A crucial difference is that there is no “Best Before” date on the AntipodeanRead More →