Sunday 10 July 2016

Motes and beams

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Matt 7:4 (KJV). Part of the wisdom of the Bible is this recommendation to concentrate on the things that matter rather than piffle about with trivial concerns. That's one way of interpreting the quote above, anyway.

The US Food and Drug Adminstration FDA, has been on the rampage after coliforms and is now recommending that nobody should eat raw cookie dough - cue Gordon "Angry" Ramsey: "This dough is RAW". When we were kids, we'd fight each other to lick the bowl after my mother had made a cake. Those eggs were RAW, supposedly full of Salmonella and Campylobacter.  Sure we got sick: styes, boils, coughs, and suppurating sores but never ever got the runs from raw eggs. It was partly plain ignorance: we didn't know we should get ill, so we didn't. That's all taken for granted now, if you gave your kids a bowl of cake mix to finish off, the district nurse would have the cuffs on you before tea-time; or at least before the kids make it to the shitter.

Now according the FDA, even the goddamned flour is full of fecal coliform. This is because flour is RAW; it is made from wheat and a field mouse Apodemus sylvaticus or a goldfinch Carduelis carduelis might have defecated on the grains before harvest. That mouse or finch might have been carrying Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli.  It is fine if you cook the flour: baking, boiling, frying, broiling will kill coliform bacteria and neutralise residual toxins.  The problem is eating raw dough.

This is all on foot of a multi-state outbreak of E. Coli O121 at the end of June. This sort of epidemiological investigation needs a co-ordinated response from the FDA and the Centre for Disease Control CDC in Atlanta. It required someone to make a connexion between two or more cases of bloody diarrhoea; it must have been something they ate, of course, but which is the key product in 48 hours of previous consumption?  And you know these obese Americans: they consume a lot in 48 hours. So far the tally is 42 sick people, half of whom finished up in hospital, no fatalities yet.  Seems that you don't have to have eaten the raw dough, just handled it . . . and then licked your hands or reamed out your nose. All the cases had used general purpose flour made by General Mills GM in their  Kansas City, Mo. plant in November 2015. They are blaming the field mice; I presume they have eliminated the chance of one of the mill's line operatives getting careless with the handwash. GM voluntarily recalled 10 million pounds of suspected flour made in the same mill in the same time-frame.

Math: flour packs quite heavy 0.77g/cc or 770kg/cu.m. A standard 20ft shipping container (6m x 2.3m x 2.4m) has a capacity of 33cu.m or 26 tonnes of flour (less if including pallets etc.). 10 million lb of flour will require a train 1km long pulling into a siding in Kansas City. That's a lot of recall and they must hope that most of the stuff has been eaten . . . with little adverse effect.

Of peripheral interest is the fact that three different brands of flour are being cited / recalled: Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens, Gold Medal Wondra.  If we're blaming the poor field-mice, we must conclude that these brands are essentially the same.  If it was a leaky mill-worker then the contamination could have continued after the production line was switched to a different product. What's with Wondra?  It's not a spelling mistake, it is rather ". . . the flour you’ll want for extra- creamy, lump-free gravies and ultra- flaky and crispy pie crusts. Its lightness also makes it perfect as the dredging flour for fish and poultry".  Regular Gold Medal by implication is lumpy and heavy and is presumably used mainly to cement rock-buns.  But according to GM, This flour is great for nearly everything. And because it doesn’t add color, it’s especially ideal for baking white breads and cakes. 'Nearly everything' ? Great for climate change, acne, refugees, solving cross-words and interplanetary travel?

Do you find this response by GM, FDA, CDC slightly out of proportion?  As Kottke said about the hoo-har The FDA cautions against eating raw cookie dough. (Guns are still a-ok though.)

1 comment:

  1. Noooooooo it was always an ambition from being a child that one day I would make a bowl of cake batter and eat it all raw, as it seemed to taste nicer then the cooked product and having the scrapings from the bowl seemed too little. See this is why we shouldn't put off achieving our childish dreams when adults.