BICO Tainted Ice Cream Controversy Continues in Barbados

bico-barbados

BFP Editor’s Note: Should BICO wish to communicate their side of the story with our readers, we would be pleased to prominently publish their letter unedited as it is received.

Dr. Robert D. Lucas
(address removed by BFP)
Barbados, West Indies
(tel & email removed by BFP)
13th.March 2009

The Editor 
The Barbados Advocate
Bridgetown, Barbados
Dear Sir/Madam,

In the “Daily nation” of 13th.March 2009, there was an article entitled: Clear Bico’s Name In paragraph ten (10) of the article, Mr. Edwin Thirwell had the following to say: “…samples were not tested in accordance with standard industry procedures…..That lab specializes in clinical microbiology and only does limited food testing on request…..Thirwell said Bico sent samples of ice cream from the same recalled batches to be tested at independently at the University…..”

Let me state here that I have an interest in this matter, since, in the past, I have submitted an article to the internet on the topic. I am the holder of a doctorate in Food Microbiology (with publications in the field and the inventor of a microbial growth medium pigeon pea agar/broth), as well as formerly, being a reviewer in Food Microbiology for the Italian Journal of Food Science and have also taught Food Safety and Auditing (HACCP) to the Environmental Health personnel at the Barbados Community College (BCC) and under the aegis of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).  I have also done post doctorate research in microbial genetic engineering. As a professional in the field with 36 years experience as a food scientist, 33 of which have been as a food microbiologist, I want to say a few words on the above excerpts from the article of the 13Th.March 2009.

First of all, the organisms associated with the recall eg: E.coli, Klebsiella species (spp.) and other enteric spp. are all causative agents of food poisoning and human illness. It is therefore immaterial whether or not the isolation took place in food microbiological lab or a clinical lab. The standard operating procedure would be

1).  Sampling collection must be done by trained personnel. Since ice cream forms what is called an intermediate moisture food and is rather viscous before being frozen, there is not a uniform distribution of pathogenic organisms through out its entire mass. It is interesting to note that Thirwell does not indicate whether or not sample collection was done by members of Bico or by Health personnel.

2). What is meant by standard industrial procedures not being used for testing? There are numerous methods which are available for the testing of foods. For example there are the Bacterial Analytical Methods of the Food and Drug Administration/Center for Food safety and Applied Nutrition (FDA/CFSAN). Then there is the Association of Official Analytical Chemist (AOAC); the American Public Health Association: Compendium for Microbiological Testing of Foods and the International Commission on the Microbial Specification of Foods(ICMSF) just to mention a few. In addition, there are several methods which are favored by individuals food scientists in the literature; presumably, Thirwell would consider these methods not to be standard ones. The authorities cited, all have different methods/media for testing for any one pathogen. As far as I am aware, Thirwell is not trained in the area.

No apology will be forth coming from me.

Sincerely

Robert D. Lucas, PH.D.
Food Biotechnologist..

Further Reading

Barbados Free Press October 7, 2008: Tainted Ice Cream: Barbados Health Ministry Learns A Lesson (Hopefully)

BFP Sept 27/08: Barbados Health Minister Placing Corporate Interests Ahead Of Parents’ Rights To Protect Their Children!

BFP Sept 26. 2008: Flavorite Foods Replies To Barbados Free Press About Ice Cream Recall – Won’t Provide Reason For Recall !!!

BFP Sept 25, 2008: Barbados Health Minister Estwick: TELL US THE TRUTH !!! Is Contaminated China Milk Powder Behind Ice Cream Recall?

July 7, 2008: Serious Public Health Questions About Barbados BICO Milk and Ice Cream

Bajan Global Report: Local Authorities/Press Too Silent On China Milk Scandal Are Barbadians Safe?

Nation News, October 3, 2008: Ice Cream Meltdown

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23 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Health

23 responses to “BICO Tainted Ice Cream Controversy Continues in Barbados

  1. Lab Rat

    The NATION has rushed into print shooting bovine excrement – as usual.

    Clearly OLIVIA CAMPBELL does not know her onions, and did no research, else she would not have rushed to a fix her name to the cow’s wallop she wrote yesterday.

    She harps on the moronic mouthings of Edwin Thirwell, chairman and chief executive officer of BICO. But as Dr Lucas asks is this Thirwell trained in the area of either food science or Microbiology? I must ask like Dr Lucas “What is meant by standard industrial procedures not being used for testing?”
    .
    Dr Lucas is again 100% correct when he states that “it is immaterial whether or not the isolation took place in food microbiological lab or a clinical lab” if the sampling collection was done by trained personnel .

    Dr Lucas also makes the very important point that “ since ice cream forms what is called an intermediate moisture food and is rather viscous before being frozen, there is not a uniform distribution of pathogenic organisms through out its entire mass.”

    Therefore it is possible for the sample that was tested positive for pathogens could have indeed contained pathogens, whereas the samples from the same batch sent to other labs might not have been so contaminated.

    Dr Lucas also makes the very important point when he states “ It is interesting to note that Thirwell does not indicate whether or not sample collection was done by members of Bico or by Health personnel.”

    What is most interesting is to read that the “ministry had agreed to pay for the recall and to put out a public notice drafted by BICO.” Hilarious. Is there no one in the Ministry of Health with a spine? Or are they all cartilaginous invertebrates? Is there no one in the Ministry of Health who could ask the questions and take the line as Dr Lucas in his letter to BFP? What if there were no BFP?

    If there was no BFP or BU there would be no reporting of the deficiencies in the Ministry of Health, which has the important job of ensuring that BICO or anyone else does not put bad products out for consumption by an unsuspecting Bajan public as we have seen with the peanut butter fiasco in the USA recently.

    Why on earth does the incompetent folk in the ministry agree to pay for the recall and to put out a public notice drafted by BICO?

    Why on earth would the Ministry personel not do multiple tests before blurbing to the general public?

    And if they did so because they are confident in the work of its competent long standing lab technicians, why would they not stand by their results?

    And why would they not seek and listen to the opinion of Dr Lucas?

    BFP should be commended for printing this letter.

  2. J

    Mr Lucas wrote “No apology will be forth coming from me.”

    Methinks that Mr. Lucas and his alter ego Lab Rat doth protest too much.

    I do not recal that anybody asked Mr. Lucas for an apology.

    Lab Rat wrote “And why would they [the Ministry of Health] not seek and listen to the opinion of Dr Lucas?”

    Don’t you think that this question is best addressed to Dr. Lucas?

  3. Sing-a-song

    The Ministry of Health is about as competent in protecting the physical well being of the public as say the supervisor of insurance in protecting the financial well being of the same public.

  4. J

    Dear BFP:

    I posted my comment way before Sing-a-song and you have not seen fit to publish it yet.

    You talk about freedom and integrity and yet you only seem to want an amen chorus on this blog.

    Where are all the comments of all the bloggers who disagree with you?

    No doubt I will get no answer from you, or I’ll get some cock ‘n bull story about how it is the computer which decides which comments to hold for moderation, or this comment will be indefinitely held in moderation.

    Why is it that you vision of freedom includes rigid censorship?

  5. J

    I don’t believe that you understand that it is impossible to fool people who are more intelligent than you are. You can tell all the lies that you wish but you cannot fool me nor other intelligent people.

    The computer does not decide modertion. When Cable and Wireless changed my modem a few weeks ago all my comments went through without moderation for a while. Once you caught on you again started moderating my comments.

    I know that you want the rest of the world to believe that your views of Barbados represents the views of the ethical majority of Barbadians.

    The rest of the world is smarter than you are and knows better.

  6. J

    The Ministry of Health cannot hold the hands of every Barbadians every minute of every day. Barbadians are expected to exercise the famed Barbadian common sense in health and in financial matters. The Ministry of Health is responsible for formulating health policy, they have set up multiple clinics where both rich and poor can access health care, they have set programs in place so that every Barbadian child can be immunized.

    Some of my children have been raised in Barbados and some have been raised in Canada, so I believe that I can speak with a fair measure of expertise on the comparative benefits (and disadvantages) of the health care delivery systems. My experience has been that the basic health care provided for new-borns, infants, and children in Barbados is equal to and in some areas superior to that provided for infants in Canada. For example in Barbados there is provision for children up to the age of 16 to be provided with tax funded prescription medicines, and this medicine is delivered in a smooth hassle-free way. I can tell you that poor and minimum wage Canadians (that is about 25% of the Canadian people) wish that they could say the same. Because in Canada if you are the in between person that is not on welfare and not in a job with a good supplemental health insurance plan then crapaud smoke your pipe if your child needs regular medicine.

    And the same can be said for the Barbados National Drug Service’s provision for the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, pleas edo your research BFP and tell me how many countrues provide tax-funded medicine to people living with aids, diabetics, hypertensives, asthmatics etc.

  7. poppet exterminator

    J, you doan get tired of alla dah whining and sniveling? You sound like a petulant little school child in the playground. Ther is a great deal about the “moderation” tool that you do not understand despite your claim that you smarter than just about everybody. You does give me a good laugh though with yuh pompasettin.

  8. Hants

    @ J

    You are mostly correct about Health care in Canada.
    However the government will pay for the drugs of people with Cancer, Aids or directly life threatening illnesses.

    As you correctly stated the working poor are in the difficult position of having to pay for drugs if they do not have a drug plan at work.

    Things Barbadians should appreciate.

    Tax funded Health Care.
    Tax funded secondary Education.
    The “capitalists” don’t like this but it is a good for the country.

    In Canada you pay for Education beyond high school.
    A 4 year BSc. cost Cad$30,ooo Tuition and books.

  9. Hants

    Give J a break and just extract the pearls of wisdom from his posts.

    You can benefit from his superior intellect.

  10. Anonymous

    The thing about industry standard testing protocols is that they protect both the tester (Min. of Health) and the subject (BICO) from cross contamination of the sample and also stregthen the credibility of the test.

    Dr. Lucas should know the value of the correct testing methodology. Even if the Ministry used some other standard, they should be in a position to say so.

    Thirwell may not be formally trained in this area but as someone who’s livelyhood relies on food safety and HAACAP procedures you can probably bet that he is no layman either!

    If Dr. Lucas cannot speak directly to what methodology was used in the testing procedure, then perhaps he may well have had a “rush to judgement” both in his initial comment and this refusal to apologise. In the absence of some form of testing standard or protocol (whichever standard that the Ministry might choose to use) he has no way of knowing if the sample was properly taken or if the analysis was properly conducted.

  11. Anon

    Once you don’t agree with what BFP says they tell you to start your own blog.

    The censorship on this blog is worst than in the old media, Nation, Starcom, Advocate etc.

    And don’t even say anything about white people, that really gets them going.

    Which is really sad.

    They have banned more people than the call in programs.

    BU is much better.

    *************

    BFP says,

    You are correct that we do not allow racist comments on this blog as they do on some other blogs… no matter what the race. You just love bashing whites and indians and they allow you to do that on BU.

  12. BFP

    BFP says,

    You are correct that we do not allow racist comments on this blog as they do on some other blogs… no matter what the race. You just love bashing whites and indians and they allow you to do that on BU.

  13. Hants

    I too have a rush to judgement.

    I believe Dr. Lucas to be credible and I will treat Bico like I treat Maple Leaf products in Canada.

    I will leave you all to guess……

  14. Lab Rat

    J
    Are you saying that the NATION has not rushed into print shooting bovine excrement – as usual?

    Are you saying that the nation’s reporter knows her onions on the topic about which she wrote, or that she did adequate, or any research before rushing to a fix her name to the cow’s wallop she wrote?

    Are you saying that Edwin Thirwell, chairman and chief executive officer of BICO. is this trained in the area of either food science or Microbiology?

    Do you understand anything about collecting and processing samples for microbiological testing?

    Do you understand what I wrote when I said Dr Lucas is again 100% correct when he states that “it is immaterial whether or not the isolation took place in food microbiological lab or a clinical lab” if the sampling collection was done by trained personnel ?

    Do you understand what I wrote when I said Dr Lucas also makes the very important point that “ since ice cream forms what is called an intermediate moisture food and is rather viscous before being frozen, there is not a uniform distribution of pathogenic organisms through out its entire mass.” If not read the sentence again or ask a question if you don’t understand

    Do you understand what the paragraph below really means, or did you just shoot of some bull shit without thinking- as usual?

    Therefore it is possible for the sample that was tested positive for pathogens could have indeed contained pathogens, whereas the samples from the same batch sent to other labs might not have been so contaminated.

    Are you merely a clown, or are you a full circus?

    Are you saying that if there was no BFP or BU that there would be a reporting of the deficiencies in the Ministry of Health, which has the important job of ensuring that BICO or anyone else does not put bad products out for consumption by an unsuspecting Bajan public as we have seen with the peanut butter fiasco in the USA recently?

    Are you aware that the above is part of the responsibility of the Public Health section of the Ministry of Health?

    I repeat BFP should be commended for printing this letter.

    By the way I am not Dr Lucas, but I do have training in microbiology, and Dr Lucas is making lots of sense. .

  15. Lab Rat

    @J
    Re The Ministry of Health is responsible for formulating health policy, they have set up multiple clinics where both rich and poor can access health care, they have set programs in place so that every Barbadian child can be immunized.

    ——————————————————————————————————–

    Whereas all the above is true, the Ministry of Health is also responsible for Public Health safety. This includes monitoring food prepared and served to the public. If BICO makes a batch of ice cream found to be contaminated with coliform bacteria it should be of interest to both the Ministry of Health and the public at large.

    I know for a fact that good Microbiology testing is done at the Public Health Laboratory.

    Dr Lucas is very correct when he opines that the organisms associated with the recall eg: E.coli, Klebsiella species (spp.) and other enteric spp. are all causative agents of food poisoning and human illness, and that it is therefore immaterial whether or not the isolation took place in food microbiological lab or a clinical lab.

    He is saying that it does not matter WHERE the testing was done because of the danger which the organisms present can cause. He is saying also that whether the offending bacteria were isolated in the Public Health Lab at SWCPC or a lab in Timbuktu that once the samples were properly collected and transported, the methodology to isolate the bacteria is the same.

    The information about food contamination ought to be relayed to the public by the Ministry of Health via the press, but certainly the Ministry should be sure of its facts before making such public utterances, and the official press ought to bring a more informed view of issues than they do.

    There seems to be folk posting on BFP and BU who are presenting a more enlightened view on issues than those presented in our newspapers. It appears also that journalists don’t know, or don’t consult professionals for assistance in understanding the issues about which they write. Where as this is an abomination in itself, when the Ministry of Health spokespersons sound off they should know better, and do so only when they have ascertained the truth.

    Don’t knock BFP if its unpaid professional bloggers contribute meaningful insight on issues aired either here or in the newspapers.

  16. Hants

    BFP is a successful forum because it does not edit posts unless they are threatening or contain obscenities.

    The mainstream media edits every letter or article to protect themselves from prosecution.

    Some of the bloggers are professionals in their field and we benefit from their expert opinions.

    Some of us, myself included just write ahmmmm…..

  17. Sing-a-song

    J wrote ‘ Barbadians are expected to exercise the famed Barbadian common sense in health and in financial matters.” I agree but without knowledge of the “unvarnished” facts i.e.the truth, the exercise of common sense will be an exercise in futility.

  18. peltdownman

    Just what does Dr Lucas actually do? We often see his statements about food, of course always preceded by his long CV, but what doe he actually do? I mean, for a living?

  19. Lab Rat

    Who cares what Dr Lucas does for a living? What has that to do with the issue at hand?

    The point is he is qualified (this is now a sin in our country) and his opinion is correct in this case.

    The issues are
    1- Did BICO make a bad batch of ice cream or not?
    2- Did the Public Health Microbiologists CORRECTLY isolate coliform organisms in this ice cream, or not?
    3- If they did so correctly , why is the Ministry paying money for recall.
    4- Did the Ministry of Health rush to condemn the batch to soon?
    5- Did they seek to confirm the original results before alerting the populace of the dangers of icecream that was possibly contaminated – as is thier duty to do?
    6- Did the NATION rush to print with unresearched information?
    7- Does BFU & BU attract bloggers who by dint of thier professional expertise tend to educate thier readership more than the established local newspapers?

  20. Anonymous

    Who is Lab Rat? What does he do for a living? The point about Dr Lucas is true. We always hear about this impressive CV. Why is he then not an academic or in charge of some laboratory?

  21. BFP

    Perhaps the dear doctor is too honest to hold such a position in Barbados?

  22. Anonymous

    Are you then implying that all other persons in such post are DIS-honest, BFP? Ok, then, good for Lucas…

  23. Georgie Porgie

    Did not know that one had to be an academic or in charge of a laboratory in Barbados to opine on this incident.

    I dont know who either Lab Rat or Dr Lucas are, but they both seem to make sense to me. Why should we know who they are if they are addressing the issue at hand properly?