The Revenge of the Poultry from Beyond the Gravy…

Salmonella and Campylobacter. Sigh. I have grown enough of these in a single experiment to bring down a medium sized city.

Oh it’s easy, when you use growth media designed to make them grow fast. It’s how we find them quickly when there’s an outbreak. It’s also how we test food before it goes on sale. Sometimes it’s in the supermarkets before the test is complete but we can recall it pretty fast.Heavy contamination will show up in 24 hours but it takes about 4 days to be certain it’s a negative.

We test for other things too but the big names in chicken and turkey and general poultry are Salmonella and Campylobacter.

At the end of the experiment, everything goes into a big pressure cooker called an autoclave. Fifteen minutes in there and there is no life anywhere inside it. It’s not magic, it’s exactly the same principle as a home pressure cooker, just scaled up so you can fit a disobedient technician into it. In the past, we actually used home pressure cookers in the lab as benchtop sterilisers for small amounts. of stuff. Now there are custom built benchtop ones. They do the same thing but they look more sciency and they have timers so they don’t go bang if you forget.

For these two nasties, all you need is to have the centre of the meat exceed 80 decrees C and they’re dead. Cook that chicken properly, don’t handle salad with chicken grease on your fingers and you’re fine. It’s only dangerous when it’s raw, or when you let it contaminate stuff you aren’t going to cook.

I’ve never had either infection despite my cavalier cooking methods and despite working with them (and other nasties I haven’t personally caught) for almost 40 years. They aren’t hard to kill.

They are, however, very hard to get rid of at source. For Salmonella, many UK poultry farms use a vaccine introduced via drinking water. It won’t wipe them out but it will reduce their numbers. On a bird carcass, Salmonella is mostly surface contamination. Inside surfaces too – it lives in the guts and can get into some internal organs. Still, that’s easy. As long as the surface is cooked, it’s dead.

Campylobacter is a little different. This one lives in the gut too but it can get into muscle tissue. It can be inside the meat. That’s the one you need to kill by cooking the chicken all the way through. Getting the centre of the meat past 80C is enough – you don’t need 200C in the centre. If you achieve that, you have a roast chicken that will shatter like glass when you try to carve it and will probably be about the size of a quail.

Minced/ground meat is a special problem. For any meat. If you have a beef steak you can flash-fry the outside and the inside can be pretty much raw. The only contamination is on the outside. Ostrich steaks are also best quick-cooked. Even though they are birds they don’t seem to suffer Campylobacter infections.

If you make steak mince, you have mixed the outside contamination all through the final product. It’s now internally contaminated and – as with sausages and burgers – you need it cooked right through.

So with poultry mince you will now have both Salmonella and Campylobacter all through the finished product. Nasty.

Not if you cook it thoroughly. It’s mince. If there are no pink bits left then all the bits are cooked and the nasties are dead. I admit, when making any dish with mince, I cook the mince completely before starting with any added sauces. I take no chances with high risk foods.

Should the mince be a no-risk food? That’s impossible. You can never be sure the processing plant is perfectly sterile even if the starting product is clear of pathogens. The processing plant is staffed by people and if you sterilise your staff in an autoclave their productivity will suffer and you might get nasty letters from their relatives. People carry diseases. It happens. Deal with it.

How do you deal with it? Cook it thoroughly and wash your hands after handling raw meats. Disinfect kitchen surfaces (the spray stuff is good enough, you don’t need a flamethrower) and wipe down with disposable paper towels, not a cloth. A contaminated cloth is a stupid thing to have in a kitchen.

That’s it. That’s really it. Poultry, mince, any raw meat is a risk but it’s an easily managed risk. Just do what your grandparents did. It worked for them and it’ll work for you.

Each year, the article says, 830,000 Americans get sick from eating contaminated poultry. There is no excuse for this. All it takes is a few simple things – proper cooking and kitchen hygiene.

You are not going to eradicate these bacteria at source. You’re dealing with living organisms and chickens are, it must be said, among the most disgusting of living things.

But they taste so good. Just cook them properly.

 

Why is this news?

Apparently, warning children that snacks are going to make them fat just makes them want the snack more.

Surely every parent already knows this, starting with the very first parents right at the dawn of humanity? Tell a child they can’t have something and their brain immediately defaults to ‘You’re keeping the good stuff for yourself!’

They have to try it, to find out why it’s not allowed. Tell them not to touch fire and they’ll touch it to find out why. In that case only once, but tell them not to eat chocolate and they’ll test that assertion over and over.

The antismoking crusade is what drives children to smoking. It’s bad, it’s evil, you can’t have it… so they have to try it and find out for themselves. Some won’t like it, some will. The same goes for alcohol, sugar, salt… That’s because children are people, and people are all individuals with different likes and dislikes. Something modern medicine can’t seem to grasp.

Children aren’t stupid. Repellent, unhygienic and despicable yes, but not stupid.

Children want to be grown up. They want to try grown up stuff. Okay, when we grow up we realise we were far better off being children, but what child knows this apart from those of us who never really grew up?

So, tell them they can’t have it and it’s grown-up stuff. It exists therefore someone has it. It must be the grown-ups. They want it for themselves. Why can’t we have it?

The concept of ‘one day you’ll be a grown-up’ is entirely lost on children. On most adults too. They cannot envisage the future, only the past – and for children it’s often just the ‘now’. That’s why children don’t see consequences, and why most adults don’t see them either. They cannot think ahead. They don’t know how.

I’ll soon be 57. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Most people follow a path through life. Not me. I just bumble through and most of it (barring a few utter disasters) seems to work out. I’m alive, and eternally broke, but I can pay the rent and buy food and put petrol in the car so everything is good. I don’t want to be rich. There is nothing I need that much money for.

I remember being a child. I had a Dalek suit made of PVC. It was floppy and didn’t hold the Dalek shape but it was fun. Armed with a sink plunger and a whisk. I had a Scammel tank transporter steel toy and a tank (can’t remember which) to put on the back. I melted many, many toy soldiers on the coal fire.

I had Action Man toys, Batman’s Batmobile with plastic flame from the exhaust, Joe 90’s car, Bond’s Aston Martin, many many more. These would all be worth a fortune now if I had thought ahead. Kept them pristine and in their boxes. All are gone.

But I was a child. Joe 90 died in a mid-air collision with Thunderbird 2. Batman and Bond failed in their missions in spectacular style, involving a screwdriver and deadly curiosity. I took things apart to see how they worked. I was not thinking of the future. There wasn’t one. There was only ‘now’. The future happens after sleep and it’ll be the same as today.

Yeah, I was told not to touch the drinks cabinet. So obviously I had a go at the sherry, the easiest one to open. I was strangely uninterested in my dad’s cigarettes but then he never told me not to try them. Either he assumed I couldn’t light them, or that I wouldn’t be interested, or that it was so obvious he didn’t need to tell me. Whatever the reason, they weren’t on the banned list so weren’t interesting.

I have stuck a knife in the toaster and I have run with scissors. I’m still here. The scissors were closed and held point down and I unplugged the toaster before digging out the stuck crumpet. They don’t tell you that part. Just the overall ‘it’s dangerous’, not the way to make it not dangerous.

Snacks won’t make you fat unless you eat a lot of them and don’t move much. That is not the warning that’s ever given. There is no safe level of biscuits or crisps – that is the warning and it’s patently ridiculous.

Children see it. Medics and pressure groups don’t. Can you?

Poverty makes you fat

I have a feeling those in real poverty (no home, no food, no free benefits) would disagree while pointing to their visible bone structure. Almost all of it, in the worst cases.

However, in the UK, poverty just means ‘on benefits’. Never mind that there are many on benefits with incomes that have exceeded my worked-for income for almost a decade. Never mind that they pay much lower rents and council tax than me. No, they are ‘in poverty’ because it suits an agenda. They like the title but they don’t realise it’s not their agenda.

They are not the ‘work in progress’. They are one of the tools for that work, and when their job is done they will be discarded. Don’t bother trying to tell them, they won’t listen.

Scotland, that model society for Panoptica, now wants to impose stricter ‘anti-obesity’ regulations because the ones they’ve imposed already don’t work. Of course they don’t work. They were never meant to work. If they worked, the fattie-haters would have to find real jobs instead of demanding more cash to fund their hate machine. It’s the same MO as all the other hate groups we pay taxes for.

The reasoning is that ‘poor’ people make the ‘wrong’ food choices because they are in poverty. They can’t afford ‘proper’ food. The solution is to tax the cheap food to make it too expensive for poor people to eat. Since they still can’t afford the proper food, this will ensure they don’t get fat.

The logic makes a twisted kind of sense – we have fat poor people so if we put up the price of food so they can’t buy any, they’ll starve themselves thin.

This, the SNP believes, is another sure fire way to get re-elected.

What about thin poor people? Oh I suppose they won’t be around to vote next time anyway since with no fat reserves, they’ll all be either dead or too weak to mark an X.

The Scottish government absolutely hates any kind of business and wants to drive them all out of the country, along with any local jobs they might be paying local people to do. They also don’t want anyone importing anything. Who is going to add in an extra layer of regulatory shite just to sell to one little country who have declared they don’t want your products anyway?

Let’s consider a supermarket. South of the border, business as usual. North of the border, extra taxes on certain products, restrictions on advertising certain products, some things can be on special offer while other things can’t. How long before the likes of Tesco, Morrison’s, Aldi, Lidl, and more just decide Scotland is more bother than it’s worth? The latter two have a business model that hinges on low prices. If the taxes put their prices up to the same as Hamish McPricetag’s local shop in the hills, the entire point of Aldi and Lidl is gone.

Soon afterwards, so are they.

Meanwhile Tessie May threatens to make the UK a low-tax business haven if the EU piddle around on the Brexit deal. Good for her. Of course, Scotland will be busy increasing taxes until they top any EU country’s wielding of the tax hammer. Every country in the EU will be more attractive than Scotland for any business and right next door will be the Brexit tax haven.

If you were running a business now, what would you be thinking? I know what I’m thinking.

Scots, vote SNP. Fuck your country into the ground.

You know it makes no sense and I know you’ll do it anyway.

Raw meat

Recovering from the cold. CStM is taking longer but then I’m used to recovering from damage, due to many years of frequent practice. Still finding it hard to concentrate though, which is delaying book production but not for much longer.

Tomorrow I collect my car and Thursday the long trek to Scotland begins. This time, we’ll stop halfway or thereabouts because we’re both still groggy from infection and doing the trip in one go doesn’t appeal.

Anyhow, none of this is relevant to the title.

Who remembers the arrival of Carrefour supermarkets? Before they ventured into Wales, shopping meant visiting the butcher, the grocer, the fishmonger and so on. Suddenly it was all there under one roof, in a vast warehouse sized shop.

Lately, the supermarkets have taken to setting up bakery areas, fishmonger, butcher, delicatessen etc in-store. Less like a food warehouse and more like a one-roof indoor market. One crucial aspect remains the same though. It all goes into one trolley.

In those far off days, you’d buy meat in the butcher’s shop and it would be handed to you all wrapped and ready to go in your bag. The butcher would cut the meat, or slice the bacon, while you watched. No mass production in that shop.

Now it’s all pre-wrapped in shrink wrap (sometimes double shrink wrapped and damn near impossible to get into) and should be perfectly safe but… it’s made in a packaging plant. There is no possible way to absolutely guarantee that the outer wrapping is free of meat-origin bacteria. There won’t be many, but bacterial contamination can do something that chemical contamination can’t do. It can grow.

They won’t grow very much on a plastic wrapper in a fridge, of course – but if they are in a trolley and get on to other food, well…

Even in recent years, till operators in supermarkets would put your raw meat into a small plastic bag before you put it in your carrier bags. The carrier bags themselves were single use so internal contamination of the bag didn’t matter. Now they have to charge you for the small bags and for the carriers too. So you don’t automatically get either, and most of us re-use carrier bags until they fall to bits.

Add in the modern insistence on microwaving everything or cooking until it’s just warm and not properly incinerated and it’s no surprise that food poisoning is on the rise.

When microwaves first appeared, we microbiologists investigated their potential as rapid sterilisation machines. They were crap at sterilisation, so we still use high pressure steam in autoclaves. Bottom line: microwaving cannot guarantee food is completely bacteria–free although as long as it goes above 80degC in the middle, there should be nothing dangerous left.

Now the Food Standards Agency is calling for free plastic bags for raw meat, in direct defiance of the Green insistence that we have to pay for those bags.

I think there could be a small war brewing. Time to get the popcorn ready…

The Salt that Wasn’t

The Callous Arseholes of Spite and Hate (CASH) have declared there is far too much salt in crumpets.

I like crumpets. I doubt the salt content would be of any concern to the healthists if they saw how much butter, jam and/or golden syrup I load onto them. Anyway, I have them less than once a month, maybe two or three times a year, and I seriously doubt anyone eats them daily. The salt contents of crumpets are pretty much an irrelevance in almost everyone’s diet. You might as well whine about the saturated fat content of reindeer meat.

But read on in the article and you find they aren’t talking about salt at all. No, the culprit here is sodium bicarbonate, aka bicarbonate of soda, aka baking powder. Technically, in chemical terms, it’s ‘a salt’ but in layman’s terms it’s not ‘salt’ (sodium chloride) because it doesn’t taste salty.

So it’s not ‘salt’ they are after. It’s sodium. An essential element for a fully functioning nervous system and other metabolic things that keep you alive and conscious. You are to give up those things and leave them for the elite, they don’t want you able to think too much or move too fast.

Danish cooking uses ammonium bicarbonate. Clever really, the ammonium part becomes ammonia in cooking and goes away in the steam. Hard to get in the UK, but CynaraeStMary found it online and there’s a huge pile of cookies here as a result. I have sampled… a few   😉

CASH (apt name, isn’t it?) want to force everyone to use potassium bicarbonate instead. Because a potassium excess is exactly the same as a sodium excess and your nervous system is fucked just the same.

Actually, no.

The nervous system needs potassium and sodium and it needs them in balance. Too much of one or the other and the excess is excreted. That’s why kidneys are really useful things to have.

Too little of one or the other and there is nothing any organ in the body can do about it. The body can dump an excess but can’t replenish a shortage of an element out of thin air. That’s when nerves start failing and your brain gets fuddled and then you die. In even more pain and despair than a 500-a-day smoker with a bad case of the lumps.

CASH say salt reduction targets will fail. Of course they will fail because if they look remotely like succeeding, CASH simply start including other sodium compounds that aren’t salt. They will keep doing this until they have eliminated sodium from the diet altogether.

There will be a massive outbreak of hyponatremia and the cost to the NHS will be utterly astounding. CASH will get rich while the NHS infrastructure collapses as a result of their pronouncements.

But that’s okay. Bankrupting the NHS in a ‘good cause’ is fine.

As long as the smokers aren’t doing it.

I wonder… will we ever elect a political party that has a whole brain between them? It isn’t looking likely at the moment.

Did you sign the agreement?

In Norway, the food industry has signed an agreement to control their customers’ food intake. They will be reducing the Norwegian people’s intake of sugar, salt, fat… in a country that’s pretty cold most of the time and where a layer of body fat is a good insulator. Where a well-supplied metabolism is important to maintain body heat.

Basically, Norway, they plan to kill you all. In the name of Public Health. Doesn’t that give you all a warm glow inside? It had better, you’re going to need it.

The food manufacturers insist they will encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables… yeah, good luck with the Norwegian fruit harvest, people. It’s a short growing season over there.

These manufacturers seem happy to tell everyone that their product is deadly and they’d be better off without it. Will that help sales? It worked for the tobacco and booze industries so maybe…

Meanwhile the UK food industry is embracing a ban on ‘junk’ food advertising. Of course they are. It won’t affect the big companies anywhere near as much as it will stifle the chances of any upstart small companies trying to get in on the action. Again they are following the lead of every other big business that’s been forced to stop advertising. The main effect is to make sure that nobody ever gets to hear from any small competitors. Competition is nipped in the bud.

They still don’t get it though. They are up against the tobacco control template. Predictably…

foodtextIs anyone surprised? When will business learn that nothing they do, no agreement they sign, none of the bowing and scraping and caving in to demands will ever be enough?

So now we have the food industry insisting they will reduce our sugar and salt intake. How will they know? How will they know I won’t add more salt to the bland and tasteless microwave mush they’ll now sell us? How will they know if I compensate for the lack of sugar by adding more to my tea? Indeed, why do they even care? It’s none of their business.

They can sign all the agreements they like. I didn’t sign anything so I’m not bound by their insane control freakery. Make the quick food even more tasteless and I’ll just stop buying it. I’ll get it from the small companies who manage to get into shops without all the control crap and who will get known not through advertising, but through selling food that actually tastes of something.

Some of these small companies are very very local… at the moment. Oh the big companies will squash them eventually. They’ll ‘support’ legislation that will force the small players to make the same bland shite the big ones make. The big businesses love all this control nonsense. They are the only ones not hurt by it – their small potential competitors are wiped out and the big boys can sell crap and there is sod all anyone can do about it.

Complain? They just point to the legislation and say ‘It’s not us, mate, it’s Public Health you want to string up by the balls. They did this’.

Public Health haven’t thought of that.

Big business has.

 

Sugar: It’s a kind of food, you know?

Once when I was a child I had a sugar sandwich. Two slices of buttered bread with a layer of sugar in between. Much to the disgust of every one of my relatives, and even though it was actually pretty horrible, I ate the whole thing. I’d asked for it, was given it, and have never been able to back down from a challenge. Especially not one I’d set myself.

It was a one off. I never asked for another and couldn’t even think of eating one now. Don’t try this at home, it’s really not worth it.

People say there was less sugar around in the ‘old days’. Cobblers. There was loads of it. Real sugar was easy to get and desserts were pretty much made of it. Candy floss and sugar mice – yes, a mouse shape made entirely from sugar with a string tail. I remember those. Probably cost me a couple of teeth later, but worth it.

Aniseed balls, blackjacks, fruit salad sweets that had not been so much as introduced to a fruit or a salad, even sweet cigarettes. Toffee slabs that came with a hammer so you could crack the damn thing to make a start on it, and then we kids got the hammer afterwards as a play tool or just for throwing at each other.

There was plenty of sugar around. Everyone took sugar in tea, a friend of mine liked five spoonfuls in each cup and he developed into something that resembled the Hulk. I mean the Lou Ferrigno Hulk, not the Cyril Smith melted version. Didn’t do him any harm.

Plenty of fat in our diets too. Everything was deep fried and not in vegetable oil. In a big pan of melted lard. Chips did not go in the oven. The slices of fresh potato went straight in the hot lard. Then we covered them -and I mean covered them – in salt and a sprinkle of vinegar.

I still drink a little vinegar now and then. I like it, always have. Malt vinegar, naturally, not that clear crap.

There were a few fat kids around, but not many. There might be a few more around now but really, not many. When I start work at 4 pm, I run the gauntlet of feral groin fruits as they emerge from school and lose all the civilisation and obedience the teachers spent so much effort instilling in them. They are mostly wiry and fast and hard to hit on the road. I need a better car.

Maybe a tractor with bale spikes. Hey kids, kebab time…

I don’t think this childhood obesity is a real thing at all. If it was half as bad as claimed, the planet would have tilted on its axis by now. They skew it by testing the 10-11 year olds. I was a seriously chubby 11 year old. By the time I was 13 I could have rivalled catwalk models for being the closest thing to being alive and not actually visible edge on.

I have to find that photo of me on holiday in Spain at 13. Dressed in Goth black with a black sombrero, I looked just like a carpet tack.

Kids are supposed to chubby up between 9 and 11. It’s the body loading up for the puberty growth spurt. I suspect the anti-food brigade are well aware of this and they probably realise that by keeping kids skinny at that age, they will stunt their growth and make them into feeble and easily controlled worker drones for the future.

Maybe parents now hide their fat kids in basements and attic rooms, safe in the knowledge they can’t leave until they are slim enough to get through an average sized door.

Yes, okay, kids now spend more time developing thumb callouses with their phones and playing video games that make them think they’re tough while they’re really getting weaker. Okay, they aren’t allowed to do the things we did like climbing trees and wandering the woods and bringing lizards home in jars and tadpoles in our wellies. They aren’t allowed to hunt each other with airguns or throw toffee hammers at each other while shouting ‘I am Thor!’

Must be dull being a kid now. Even the comics are sanitised. I saw a Beano recently. What the Hell happened to that?

You would think Gubblement would have realised by now that ‘childhood obesity’ is entirely their fault. They won’t let kids do anything any more. They reduce the waist size they consider obese and they refuse to let kids do what kids have always done – burn off energy by being little buggers. They’d burn off a lot of energy a lot faster if I had a tractor with baling spikes but that’s unlikely to be allowed, I feel.

We burned off a lot when adults chased us. They used to chase us all the time, usually shouting something, but adults dare not chase kids now. They’d be shot by armed police.

The solution is, of course, ban something. Regulation of people’s private lives. The commenters on that article agree – with nothing at all to back up their prejudices. They think it won’t affect them. Gradual encroachment into your private life is fine, they cannot extrapolate to where it goes from there. These idiots will call on us one day to save them.

No.

As for the Spiteful Nannying Party, well, if you’re in Scotland and you vote for them, consider this.

They do not consider you an adult. They consider you a dolt who must be controlled for your own good.

Is that how you see yourself? Is that really – I mean really – what you want to happen to your life? You really want someone telling you every detail of how you must live?

Then keep voting SNP.

You know it makes no sense.