Blue Bell Ice Cream--a cautionary tale Unfortunately, yes, this is a possibility. See, Listeria monocytogenes lives in soil, decaying leaves, animal guts, raw milk, and lakes, ponds, and streams. It's also really good at surviving in cold places (refrigerator temperatures) and forming biofilms to avoid getting scrubbed off or killed by sanitizers (they can't easily … Continue reading Listeria in Ice Cream?
E. coli shows up in the news pretty regularly. Whether it's in hamburgers or lettuce or flour, the little rascal's appearance is generally accompanied by reports of ruined kidneys, hospitalization, and sometimes death. On the other end of the spectrum, we read that we all have E. coli in our guts-that it makes Vitamin B12 … Continue reading If E. coli is so Dangerous, How is it Ok it Lives in My Gut?
Summer: a time for lazing in the backyard, having picnics, and doing food safety research Note: I have every intention of keeping up this blog, but the truth is, I'm a little buried right now. I'm working on setting up a food safety minor in my department, on developing new courses, on planning summer research … Continue reading Summer Food Safety Research
from: https://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/yelp.jpg What does big data have to do with food safety? A lot, it turns out. Some food safety researchers mine Yelp or other social media to detect clusters of illnesses (a bunch of people posting negative reviews on a restaurant around the same time referencing illness is a good clue to look closer). … Continue reading Big Data and Food Safety Micro
The short answer is that viruses mutate really, really fast. For living creatures, such as bacteria, and especially for higher animals, the risk of mutating fast is high--the wrong mutation will literally kill them. Consequently, when a bacterium or higher creature's cell replicates, it proofreads the copied DNA to eliminate as many errors as possible. … Continue reading I Got the Flu Shot, So Why Did I Still Get the Flu?
"Scientist" invokes a lot of responses: Nerd/Geek Weirdo Really smart Socially awkward I have no idea what they're talking about... Has lots of funding (from my colleagues on the liberal arts side of campus) Thinks they're smarter than everyone else Cannot relate to "normal people" So what is a scientist, really? I offer a few alternative … Continue reading That Funny Creature, the Scientist
Deceptive advertising is as old as advertising. That said, modern consumers expect advertising on food to be accurate and honest, thanks to more than a hundred years of food safety and quality regulation. Unfortunately, accurate doesn't always mean honest. Take, for instance, an advertisement for "gluten free strawberries". Is it accurate? Yes, because strawberries don't … Continue reading pH Balanced Water, Gluten Free Strawberries and Other Marketing Scams
Yesterday, I got approved to teach a science communication ("scicomm") course next fall. There's a bit of irony to this--my SciComm experience is limited to this blog and Twitter, but they say there's no better way to become an expert on a subject than to teach it. I look forward to teaching this class, and … Continue reading Experiments in SciComm
Unfortunately, this post is prompted by real life events as I am currently sick with a gastrointestinal (GI) malady, and I would really like to figure out what caused it. So, first things first. What have I eaten recently? To the best of my knowledge, I have eaten the following over the last few days: … Continue reading Ugh, I’m Sick. It Was Definitely What I Had For Lunch, Right? Or, A Scientist Tries to Figure Out What Made Her Sick.
To be fair, I've never, to my knowledge, gotten sick from Thanksgiving dinner. However, it is entirely possible to become literally ill from Thanksgiving dinner. People have even died. So if you're looking for a cheery way to end Thanksgiving, here's how: Wash your bird in the sink.* Use the same cutting boards for everything.** … Continue reading How to End Thanksgiving Over a Toilet Bowl