Two doctors debate hygiene

by Aaron Wherry

Liberal MP Hedy Fry, a physician, was apparently unimpressed with the hygiene advice offered by Conservative MP Kellie Leitch, an orthopaedic surgeon, during Wednesday night’s emergency debate on food safety.

The full exchange starts here with Ms. Leitch’s speech. In response to Ms. Fry, Ms. Leitch defended her handwashing advice.




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Two doctors debate hygiene

  1. Terrific smackdown by Dr Fry. Dr Lietch is an embarrassment to her profession. And why isn’t public health involved; why is that idiot minister of health invisible again?

    • “Terrific smackdown”? Really? One of the really sad things about this entire incident is that a child who got hemolytic uremic syndrome from E-coli food poisoning (and by the way is now well and was released from the Alberta Children’s Hospital) got it from an inadequately cooked hamburger. Cooking kills E-coli. Given that overwhelmingly E-coli in meat is found in ground beef, thoroughly cooking the hamburger and WASHING your hands and the surfaces that the ground beef touches with soap and water are excellent ways to ensure that you and your family will not be affected by E-coli food poisoning from meat. Given that the last time a child was in Alberta Children’s Hospital with E-coli poisoning from an inadequately cooked burger in 1993 (this child later died of chronic kidney failure at the age of 17), people are still in dire need of education about the importance of only serving their children WELLDONE hamburgers. Since when is maligning a healthcare officials attempt to provide necessary education a good tactic….this incident has become completely politicized. Let’s remember that only FIVE people with E-coli food poisoning have been linked to this incident. In the spring of 2011, 53 people died in Germany from food poisoning related to a vegetable…sprouts. It took them a month to figure out where it even came from…they blamed Spanish cucumbers. Is anyone suggesting the German Chancellor is a bad leader or that Germany has an unsafe food supply? Let’s get some perspective here.

      • HI, the Alberta child I saw on the news ate steak and his mother said on the same news report that the health authority kept saying it must have been hamburger and would not believe her; the whole extended family got ecoli from steak. Certainly the recall is gone far beyond ensuring ground meat is well done. And you can try to make this about anything you like, and use your status as a healthcare professional as a hammer to drive home the point. So while it is true that hamburger should be cooked well, and it is also true that we should all wash our hands before preparing and eating food, that’s really beside the point, isn’t it? Kellie Leitch is shameless — everyone expected better of her, but she’s also going hard on the faux carbon tax farce too. This isn’t about $16 OJ: it is about public safety, so try not to be so partisan. Otherwise you will be seen as another healthcare professional willing to overlook what is right in order to score partisan points. And clealy we don’t need any more such healthcare pros.

        • It is reported in the Calgary Herald today which annouced her release from hospital that she ate the burger on a family camping trip.
          The child is a four year old girl, not a boy. Her picture is also in the paper.
          I am sorry that I cannot stop being a nurse when it comes to the importance of cooking hamburgers well and hygiene when handling for food stuffs. Despite all of the medical advances we have made in the last 100 years, hygiene is almost the sole reason for our living longer. To ever demean its importance is just ill informed.
          As for my partisanship, check out my comment about Vic Toews and the chaplains in prison. I never let political inclinations interfere with my integrity. I hope you won’t either and that you will go to http://www.calgaryherald.com.

          • We are talking about different newscasts; the one I referred to is the same as the one linked by Doc Marten, below. I do hope you will continue to give your good hygiene advice to your healthcare co-workers, since it seems they tend to forget hand-washing while going from patient to patient. Meanwhile, I will continue to consider Dr Kellie Lietch a partisan abomination to her profession. And ask you if you don’t agree that the health minister should be responding to this by now.

          • Yes and the one I am talking about is the child that actually had a serious illness….hemolytic uremic syndrome…from eating a burger that has not been linked to XL foods as of yet.
            That is fine that you consider Kellie Lietch a “partisan abomination…” and yes, healthcare workers should be making sure they are washing their hands. Remind your physician the next time he/she approaches you to examine you as doctors are some of the worst offenders. Also their ties, lab coats, stethoscopes, etc. are problematic and that hand sanitizer does NOT kill many of the most egregious bacterias found in fecal matter. Soap and water is your best defence.

          • There is no question that hygiene is important, and that ground beef should be well cooked. It is also true that contamination can come from many sources.

            But the debate was on the conditions at the XL plant and how the safety of consumers was jeopardized by allowing meat to continue to be shipped when 5% of sampled meat was showing e. coli contamination. Leitch was trying to side-track the debate and put the blame on the consumer. Fry was 100% right to call her on that.

          • Actually I think the percentage of contamination was higher….the US allows meat to be shipped with 5% E-coli contamination. I think Canada allows 10%.
            I think that Fry should have agreed that Leith’s advice was accurate with regard to the handling and cooking instructions for the meat products, then she could have said that despite that it didn’t change the fact that there was problem with the meat that shipped out and made five people sick. Obviously there are still people who are serving undercooked burgers to children and don’t realize this is problematic. Any chance we have to educate them is a good thing. Also any chance to promote hygiene while handling food is a good thing. This issue has become so politicized. It feels it is not anything about ensuring the safety of Canadians but scoring points off of what was an unfortunate incident that happened in plant that has been operating for decades with no similar problems.

  2. Wrong, the mother of the young boy did not serve hamburger, but steaks. This makes this case all the more egregious. Contamination in the process must have been horrendous for steaks to be affected. It’s why the mother was not listened to when she complained. Hand washing was not the cause. Equipment sterilization, knowledgeable staff and strict rules regarding animal intestines in butchering process need to be reviewed. Dr. Leitch has proven again that she sips the kool aid before she speaks. http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/health/story/2012/09/28/edmonton-ecoli-mother-boy.html

    • The fact that steaks were affected does not mean the contamination was horrendous. Steaks become contaminated just as readily as hamburger. The reason that steaks are safe to eat undercooked, as opposed to hamburgers, is that the bacteria remains on the surface and is killed easily by the application of direct heat. If, however, you pierce the steak to tenderize it (as Costco does, according to the news report I heard), you introduce the surface bacteria into the interior, where it is not as easily killed.

    • The steaks were “needled” by Costco and so the E-coli bacteria which would have remained on the surface and would have been killed by cooking was inserted into the centre of the steaks. Likely the steaks were not well done and thus the bacteria was not killed. Never-the-less, this boy did not get hemolytic uremic syndrome. He only spent one night in hospital. The girl with hemolytic uremic syndrome spent 3 weeks in hospital and required surgery. You are right that it is rare to have steaks affected but it doesn’t indicate that contamination process was more horrendous then in cases where hamburger is affected. As Margery explained below, E-coli is easily killed on the surface of steaks whereas by virtue grounding up hamburger it is distributed right through the meat. If you have to cook the burger through to kill all of the pathogen.

  3. As a fellow health care whatever (retired), Dr Leitch sounds like every surgeon I’ve
    ever known … Doctor, Doctor, the patient’s internal suture line seems to be
    leaking… Damn patients, they can’t do anything right.

  4. I had great hope for Dr. Leitch when she was elected; a great record of achievement before going into politics. Now she is simply the most accomplished and well educated trained seal in the show.

    • I guess she was never intended as anything but a high-profile guergis-slayer from the start. I know a guy who’s known her his whole life and he is as gob-smacked as the rest of us about her performance in HoC.

    • Here is some interesting reading from Samara…you’ll need a few minutes to get through it all…..maybe you’ve seen it already.

      Doesn’t excuse the bad behaviours, but does supply some context, I thought.

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