Food for thought, and testing

first_imgFar from the beaten path of Harvard Square, with its austere libraries and scurrying students, Valerie Nelson is freezing food.Not just any food, but some of the University’s food, which is kept for an undisclosed amount of time in an unidentified location, all in the interest of safety and public health.Nelson is a safety ninja. You might’ve seen her, though most likely not. She’s one of a group of clandestine food inspectors who show up unannounced at some of Harvard’s most publicized events, including Commencement. She was there, sampling the catering trays while using individually wrapped tongue depressors — “Much to the dismay of people serving wonderful things like filet mignon,” she revealed — and was in and out before anyone could stop short, exiting into a haze of fog.“Ninety percent of what I do is under the radar,” said Nelson, whose office is on the outskirts of campus. “It’s a part of the protection of the health and safety of the community that people are not aware of, but it’s happening behind the scenes all the time.”Food samples are refrigerated for three days (most food-borne illnesses emerge during that time, Nelson said) before being frozen, or “archived” for later testing should a need arise.A registered sanitarian, Nelson is public health manager for Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) at the University. She has a litany of responsibilities, but mostly oversees food safety. She’s on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Her program consists solely of her and one part-time staffer.“We’re a one-and-a-half-person team,” she said, though she regularly enlists the help of EHS colleagues who are industrial hygienists, chemists, and biologists.Her team conducts unannounced food safety audits, and her coverage includes the campus’s residential and retail dining spots, Crimson Catering, the Harvard Faculty Club, FAS student grills, and the Dudley House Co-op. “We provide feedback and training based on the results of those audits,” she said.The inspections are less scary than they might seem. Nelson ensures that food is correctly prepared, stored, and served. She works with outside caterers, makes sure they are properly credentialed, and monitors food recalls by the Food and Drug Administration. “We bounce that information out to others so they can check their products and not serve a food that may be potentially unsafe,” she said.But Nelson acknowledges that even outside the office her job has its occupational hazards.“I’ll go to a potluck supper, look at the potentially hazardous foods, and determine which ones I think are safe to eat,” she said with a laugh.Before coming to Harvard, Nelson worked as a city health inspector. “People always asked me where they shouldn’t eat,” she said. “Due to confidentiality, I could never reveal that, so instead I just told them to watch where I go to eat on Friday night and follow me there.”An avid swimmer, Nelson relishes Massachusetts’ lakes, though she sometimes considers the transmissibility of influenza via waterfowl. “I don’t think most people worry about those things,” she joked. “My job does affect me. It’s hard for it not to.”Her advice to those of us cooking today: “It’s important to keep food refrigerated at 41 degrees or below, and to wash your hands before you start. My motto is: Prevent.”last_img read more

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A-Rod Cousin in Steroid Bust

first_imgMIAMI — A onetime clinic owner accused of providing performance-enhancing drugs to several Major League Baseball players and a cousin of Alex Rodriguez who injected the star with steroids have been charged in what prosecutors called a drug conspiracy, authorities said.Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Mia Ro said Yuri Sucart was among nine people arrested. Also arrested was former Biogenesis of America clinic owner Anthony Bosch, who was chargedAug. 5 with conspiracy to distribute steroids, according to court records. The documents do not specify whether the charges are directly related to the Major League Baseball scandal.It was not immediately clear what Sucart had been charged with.Sucart, 52, was banned from the Yankees clubhouse, charter flights, bus and other team-related activities by Major League Baseball in 2009 after Rodriguez admitted he used steroids while with Texas from 2000 to 2003, saying Sucart obtained and injected the drugs for him.Court documents say that from October 2008 through December 2012, Bosch willfully conspired to distribute the anabolic steroid testosterone.Bosch surrendered and eight other people also have been arrested, including Sucart, Ro said. Among the others charged were Carlos Javier Acevedo, 35, of Miami; Jorge Augustine Velazquez, 43, of Miami; Christopher Benjamin Engroba, 25, of Miami; Lazaro Daniel Collazo, 50, of Hialeah; and Juan Carlos Nuñez, 48, of Fort Lauderdale.Collazo is a former pitching coach for the universities of Miami, Louisville and South Florida who has also worked as a private instructor with numerous high school, college and professional pitchers.His University of Miami biography says he worked with Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer during his 1991 comeback attempt, seven years after Palmer’s retirement.A Miami New Times report from January 2013, which sparked MLB’s investigation, said Rodriguez had bought human growth hormone and other substances from 2009 to 2012 from Bosch’s clinic, Biogenesis of America. The newspaper said it had obtained records detailing the purchases by Rodriguez and other ballplayers.Fourteen players associated with the Coral Gables clinic were disciplined last year by MLB, including a season-long 2014 suspension imposed on Rodriguez.MLB had sued Bosch and his clinic but withdrew the lawsuit in February. The lawsuit had accused them of conspiring with players to violate their contracts by providing them with banned substances.Although the lawsuit sought unspecified damages, it also provided a way for MLB to subpoena clinic records.Rodriguez, who denied using banned substances while playing for the New York Yankees, initially fought the suspension. He finally ended his fight with MLB in February, accepting the suspension and withdrawing a pair of lawsuits against the MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association.Rodriguez’s suspension is the longest penalty in the sport’s history related to performance-enhancing drugs. He was the only player involved in the scandal to contest his penalty.By the time Biogenesis closed its doors in a beige, nondescript office park across the street from the University of Miami, its neighbors had been warned to alert authorities if they saw Bosch.Employees in neighboring businesses said they received a flier in January 2013 with Bosch’s picture, stating that he wasn’t a doctor and was no longer allowed on the property.Other people who worked in the building have said they never recognized any of the people entering or leaving the clinic, but they took note of the flashy cars they parked out front — Mercedes, Range Rovers and Bentleys.The New Times report said it had obtained notes by Bosch listing player names and the substance they received. Several unidentified employees and clients confirmed to the publication that the clinic distributed the substances, and they said that Bosch bragged of supplying drugs to professional athletes, but they never saw the sports stars in the office.At the time, Bosch’s attorney said the reports were inaccurate and filled with “misstatements of fact.” The paper also reported that Sucart was listed as having purchased HGH.(JENNIFER KAY)TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

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