Category Archives: Article

What Is Fecal Coliform and Why Is It in My Coffee?


A small BBC investigation team discovered that iced coffee products from several coffee chains including Caffe Nero, Costa Coffee and even Starbucks were contaminated with a bacteria called fecal coliform.

So, what is fecal coliform? No, it’s not fecal matter.  “It’s a large group of bacteria that can be found in feces,” said Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist and an associate professor at North Carolina State University. “However, the bacteria can also be found in many other things in the environment, such as fruits and vegetables.”

Fecal coliform are bacterial “indicators”, meaning they indicate that something may be present that could make a person sick, but its presence doesn’t signify that someone will for sure get sick. The bacteria also acts as an aid for the digestion of food.

Chapman went on to say that it was unclear as to what type of testing the investigators used for the BBC report. In addition to this, if the investigators only looked for bacterial DNA, then we would have no indication if the bacteria was alive or dead.

“We eat dead bacteria all the time,” Chapman added. As a reference to the fact that dead bacteria aren’t going to make people sick.

Read more.



(2017). Faecal bacteria ‘In ice in costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero’. BBC.

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Miller, S. G., (2017). No, There Isn’t Poop in Your Iced Coffee. Live Science.

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Oram, B. (2014). Fecal Coliform Bacteria in Water. Water Research Center.

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Does Using the Right Type of Sponge Reduce the Risk of Infection? Yes, It Does!

It’s no secret that household kitchen sponges play a key role in cross-contamination and harbor bacteria, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli during food preparation, increasing one’s risk for infection. However, not all sponges handle foreign contaminates the same.

In this study, it was found that chlorine levels were reduced by 24% after 30 minutes when cellulose sponges were used, but no such reaction occurred when the polyurethane sponges were tested. Although if more effective disinfectants were involved, this result would be expected with the use of polyurethane sponges rather than cellulose sponges.

Polyurethane sponges showed signs of having lower numbers of bacteria, coliforms, Salmonella and E. coli present than cellulose sponges.  Thus, having a reduced risk of infection by almost 90% if pathogenic (disease-causing) E.coli were present in polyurethane sponges.

Overall, the antimicrobial polyurethane sponges used to clean biodegradable organics (or food debris) showed significant advantages compared to using antimicrobial cellulose sponges in order to decrease the risk of infection, and the amount of commonly used disinfectants required.



Chaidez, A., M. Soto-Beltran, C. P. Gerba, and S. H. Tamimi. 2014. Reduction of Salmonella infection by use of sodium hypochlorite disinfectant cleaner. Let. Appl. Microbiol. 59:487-492.

Chaidez, C., and C. P. Gerba. 2000. Bacteriological analysis of celluse sponges and loofahs in domestic kitchens from a developing country. Dairy, Food Environ. Sanit. 20:834-837.

Engelbrecht, K., D. Ambrose, L. Sifuentes, C. Gerba, I. Weart, and D. Koenig. 2013. Decreased activity of commercially available disinfectants containing quaternary ammonium compounds when exposed to cotton towels. Amer. J. Infect. Contr. 41:908-911.

Enriquez, C. E., V, E, Enriquez, and C. P. Gerba. 1997. Reduction of contamination in the household kitchen environment through the use of self-disinfecting sponges. Dairy, Food Environ Sanit. 17:550-554.

Enriquez, C. E., R. Enriquez-Gordillo, D. I. Kennedy, and C. P. Gerba. 1997. Bacteriologic survey of used cellulose sponges and cotton dishcloths from domestic kitchens. Dairy, Food Environ. Sanit. 17:20-24.

Agar Art Contest!

Thank you to everyone who created a log phase masterpiece, to our esteemed judges, and to everyone who voted for People’s Choice on Facebook! We received 117 amazing entries from 26 countries and 17 U.S. states. Special congratulations to our winners! View this year’s winners, as well as winners from last year and other notable 2015 and 2016 entries, in the Agar Art Gallery at Microbe 2016.

1st Place – The first race

The first race copy

Fertilization is the first competitive event of plant and animal life. It is a process involving the fusion of male and female gametes to form a zygote. Millions of spermatozoa race and compete to be the first to penetrate the egg, but only one of them finally meets the egg and creates a zygote leading to the development of an embryo.

In this artwork, I used four bacteria as paint and a selective agar medium as canvas. The red colored paint was Staphylococcus aureus, which is an opportunistic pathogen in both humans and animals. The green color was Staphylococcus xylosus, a commensal organism in human skin, the white was Staphylococcus hyicus, an animal pathogen responsible for grassy pig disease. The yellow colored organism was Corynebacterium glutamicum, a non-pathogenic but industrially important bacterium for production of amino acids such as L-glutamate and L-lysine. Other colors were from mixture of two or more of these four organisms.

Md Zohorul Islam, DVM
Graduate Student
Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Department of Microbiology and Infection Control, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark


To view 2nd and 3rd places, click HERE.

Food Allergy Training is Slowly Being Mandated Across the U.S.

As I’m sure most of you know, we have seen an increase in food allergies in the United States over the past two decades. The science and theories about why that is happening is a topic for another day. However, the rise in food allergies has had a major impact on restaurants and food service establishments. As we see an increase in food allergies, we need to see an increase in food allergy training. This is happening, slowly, in food service across the country. Over the past few years, more allergy training courses and certifications have been developed, and regulations for training and notifications have been put into place. But more needs to be done to educate and train food service employees around safely and successfully accommodating food allergies.

Let’s review some basic food allergy statistics. Approximately 15 million people in the United States have food allergies, including 9 million adults and 6 million children. The 8 most common allergies – including milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts – make up 90% of American’s food allergies. Keep in mind, though, there are many other foods that people may be allergic to. In fact, there are over 160 foods that have been identified as an allergen, including some spices. The CDC has found that between 1997 – 2007 there was an 18% increase in allergy rates in children. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include itching, swelling, stomach cramps, vomiting, dizziness, and even death. It is important that food employees get proper training to protect their customers from illness and, potentially, death.  Along with concerns about proper procedures for food allergens, we must also protect customers with food intolerances and sensitivities and those with Celiac Disease.

Food service employees need to understand the risks associated with food allergies and ways they can prevent allergic reactions from happening to their customers. Proper training is required to learn about the allergens, how to avoid cross-contact, the importance of labeling, and how to engage in open communication with the customers…

To read more from Total Food Service, click here.

Norovirus: Facts and Preventative Solutions

Quick Facts: 

  • 20 million people get sick from norovirus each year, most from close contact with infected people or by eating contaminated food
  • Norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the US
  • Infected food workers cause about 70% of reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food


What is Norovirus?

It is a virus that can make you miserable for 1-3 days and is thought to be the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis, which causes diarrhea and vomiting.

“Noroviruses are sometimes called food poisoning, because they can be transmitted through food that’s been contaminated with the virus. They aren’t always the result of food contamination, though” (WebMD).

People can become infected when they eat or drink contaminated foods and beverages. Other foods related to outbreaks are raw or undercooked oysters and raw fruits and vegetables. WebMD further states that, “you can get infected if you touch an object or surface that has been infected with the virus and then touch your nose, mouth, or eyes”.

Ways to Prevent Norovirus

According to FDA model Food Code and CDC Guidelines, all food service workers should follow the following guidelines:

  • Stay home when sick — for at least 48 hours after symptoms stop
  • Wear gloves — wearing single-use gloves avoids touching food with bare hands and possible contamination
  • Wash your hands — wash thoroughly, and wash often!
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables
  • Clean and sanitize all surfaces and utensils — sanitizing regularly with chlorine-based product or other sanitizers approved by the Environmental Protection Agency has been approved for use against norovirus
  • Cook food, especially shellfish, thoroughly — 140 degrees F is considered undercooked; avoid serving undercooked oysters and other shellfish




Staying Safe After Flour Recalls

On April 4, 2017, the Canadian Brand Robin Hood Flour was recalled for Microbiological – E. coli. The E. coli was identified during the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s food safety inspection. Robin Hood is in the process of removing the recalled product from the marketplace.

General Mills flour also took some heat when they had to recall several types of flour due to E. coli illnesses in 2016 as well.

General Mills made a statement to remind the public not to eat raw dough. “Do not eat uncooked dough or batter made with raw flour. Flour is made from wheat that is grown outdoors where bacteria are often present. Flour is typically not treated to kill bacteria during the normal milling process” (General Mills).

Food Safety Magazine reminds people that, “flour products have long shelf lives and recalled products could be in people’s homes for a long time. If you have any recalled flour products in your home, throw them away.”

Food Safety also lists safe food handling practices when it comes to baking with flour and other raw ingredients:

  • Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter, whether for cookies, tortillas, pizza, biscuits, pancakes, or crafts made with raw flour, such as homemade play dough or holiday ornaments.
  • Do not let children play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts.
  • Bake or cook raw dough and batter, such as cookie dough and cake mix, before eating.
  • Do not make milkshakes with products that contain raw flour, such as cake mix.
  • Do not use raw, homemade cookie dough in ice cream.
  • Follow the recipe or package directions for cooking or baking at the proper temperature and for the specified time.
  • Keep raw foods such as flour or eggs separate from ready-to eat-foods. Because flour is a powder, it can spread easily.
  • Follow label directions to refrigerate products containing raw dough or eggs until they are cooked.
  • Clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs or raw dough by washing your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs or any surfaces that they have touched. Also wash bowls, utensils, countertops and other surfaces with hot water and soap.

Most importantly, stay safe. Make sure to avoid the consumption of raw dough, keep flour sealed and sanitary, and remember to replace flour in your home every so often to keep the product fresh.


FDA Permits Three Exceptions From Sanitary Transportation Rule

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  has published three waivers  to the now final Sanitary Transportation rule mandated by the  Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

 The waivers are for businesses whose transportation operations are subject to separate State-Federal controls. They include:

  • Businesses holding valid permits that are inspected under the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments’ Grade “A” Milk Safety Program, only when transporting Grade “A” milk and milk products.

  • Food establishments authorized by the regulatory authority to operate when engaged as receivers, or as shippers and carriers in operations in which food is delivered directly to consumers, or to other locations the establishments or affiliates operate that serve or sell food directly to consumers. (Examples include restaurants, supermarkets and home grocery delivery services.)


To finish reading the article, read more at Food Safety Magazine.

Single-Service Container Testing

Did you know there’s regulations on the sanitation of your milk jug or the foil on your yogurt cup?

Single-service containers and closures have been used in the dairy industry for many years. There are standards established by the FDA to ensure the production of sanitary containers and closures for milk and milk products.

The standards set down specific requirements for the plants that fabricate the containers. This includes blow molders for your plastic milk gallon, the paper and laminators for milk cartons, the plants that produce the caps for that jug, the foil you peel off the yogurt cup or the creamer in the restaurant.

The standards cover everything about the plant and the manufacturing lines. They include requirements regarding the floors, walls and ceilings. There are standards for ventilation and the water supplies. They also cover personnel practices and hand-washing facilities, to name a few.

After a plant has been inspected and meets all of the requirements, the plant is certified and can produce caps and containers for the dairy industry. They are also inspected quarterly.

There are also bacterial standards for the containers and closures. The testing of the final product must be done by a laboratory that has also been inspected and certified by the FDA. The lab is then approved to perform the testing on the caps and jugs.

Daily Laboratories is an example of an FDA certified laboratory. 


PMO 2007: Appendix J – Standards: Fabrication of Single-Service Containers & Closures for Milk and Milk Products

Save Hide And Seek For The Playground: Why Kids Should See Their Veggies

When my daughter turned 1, a routine toe prick revealed that her iron levels were low. Because our family doesn’t eat much iron-rich red meat, the pediatrician advised that we feed our daughter spinach. Every. Single. Day. This was bad. My daughter had just entered a picky eating phase and leafy greens were “yuck.”

Things were going poorly until I made popsicles. These frozen treats were chock full of blended spinach, peanut butter, yogurt, carrots, other miscellaneous healthy stuff, and blueberries, which conveniently turned the entire concoction purple. My daughter devoured the pops.

Yes! Parenting win!

Hmm, says Gillian Harris, among the world’s foremost experts on picky eating in children and a consultant and clinical psychologist at the University of Birmingham in the UK, when I describe my pops to her over the phone. “You want the child to look at the vegetable, taste the vegetable, get used to the vegetable and eat that vegetable when they’re 7 or 8,” she says.

In other words, getting your kid to eat veggies through subterfuge — whether via awesome pops or in those now ubiquitous pouches that let children squeeze a mix of fruits and kale/carrot/parsnip/other vegetable into their mouths through a makeshift straw sets the bar too low. Your child must actually learn to like veggies, weird textures and all.

With research showing that low vegetable consumption early in life tracks to low consumption later, and with poor diet correlated with a host of diseases later in life, including weight problems, cardiovascular disease and cancer, getting kids to eat unadulterated veggies has far-reaching public health implications. Yet research suggests that a whopping 93 percent of U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 18 do not meet current recommendations for vegetable intake.

To continue reading the article from NPR, click here.

Food For Thought: The Federal GMO Labeling Law

For several years, legislative bodies throughout the country have struggled with the issue of whether to label food products as containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or bioengineered food. Congress and various states have wrestled with whether to require foods containing GMOs to be labeled as such, and, if so, what the label should look like.

In July 2016, Congress voted to pass a GMO disclosure bill, establishing national standards for food labeling when foods contain GMO ingredients (with certain exceptions). On July 29, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the bill into law (GMO Labeling law). While proposed federal legislation in 2015 would have made GMO labeling only a voluntary program, the new GMO Labeling law—the result of bipartisan congressional compromise—makes GMO labeling mandatory. The law also preempts individual state GMO labeling laws.

Although the GMO Labeling law provides information about the different ways companies will be permitted to disclose GMO ingredients, it leaves the specific regulations implementing the law to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish by July 2018. Therefore, some uncertainty about the details of the new law remains for food companies, industry groups and consumers. It also remains to be seen how, if at all, the new law and the buzz surrounding it will cause some companies to modify any prior decisions to label GMO-containing products. Additionally, will the law impact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s highly anticipated definition of the term “natural” in food labeling? Significantly, will the new presidential administration affect implementation of the law, and if so, how? The GMO Labeling law begins a new chapter of the GMO labeling saga, but the tale is far from over.

What Does the New Law Say?
The secretary of agriculture, as head of USDA, is tasked with promulgating the specific GMO labeling regulations, including determining 1) which foods will be considered “bioengineered” and subject to the labeling requirements and 2) the specific ways a company can disclose GMOs on its labels. But the GMO Labeling law requires that disclosure be made on a food label through one of the following ways: text, a symbol or picture, a hotline consumers can call to receive GMO information or a bar code that links to a website displaying GMO information for the product.

Read more at Food Safety Magazine