Benjamin Chapman and Don Schaffner

Recorded August 2, 2011 Archived August 4, 2011 41:06 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: DDD000579


Benjamin “Ben” Chapman (33) and his friend, Don Schaffner (49), talk about technology and social media developments in food safety, press and media communications about food safety, and food-borne illness outbreaks in recent history.

Subject Log / Time Code

Ben introduces the theme of technology and social media in food safety; Don recalls the arcane technology at his university when he first started to teach.
Don remembers Bulletin Board Systems for sharing software and communication; Ben talks about the benefits of full-text email searches.
Ben talks about information sharing through a friend’s message board during an E. coli outbreak in Ontario; he explains the outbreak occurred in his college and that the resulting fatalities motivated him to work in food safety.
Ben and Don discuss giving mediocre media interviews about pathogenic outbreaks in peanut butter and tomatoes.
Don and Ben talk about their participation on “Barf Blog” and its resource to correcting uninformed public opinions about food safety.


  • Benjamin Chapman
  • Don Schaffner

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:02 My name is Don Schaffner. I am 49 years old. Today's date is August 2nd. We're here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I'm talking with my friend Ben Ben Chapman. I'm 33 years old. Today's date is August 2nd 2011 here in Milwaukee Wisconsin part of the International Association food protections annual meeting and I'm speaking with my friend Dawn.

00:32 Going to go first with the questions to her. So

00:36 Don today you and I want to talk a little bit about social media and communication how things have changed over our involvement with the with ifp with International Association of food protection, and I just wanted to I want to hear your your thoughts. You've been you've been around a little longer than I have no snow shot at your age, but went when you when you started in food safety tell me a little bit about how things were communicated and and I want to hear how you contract by Toto what we do today. Yeah, that's that's an excellent question. So, you know when I when I think I was thinking about this cuz I knew the interview is coming up and I honestly I told Mike my first memory of anything remotely electronic is when I was in graduate school.

01:27 Which was in the in the late 1980s and I still remember to this day talking with a faculty member and asking him could I get an email account? And he looked at me and he said what you want to get an email account and an n and so when I started a trucker's which was in 1989 on we did have email many faculty have these very cool state-of-the-art vt100 vax terminals, which they used with the you know, that the black screen in the green letters and they use those to send email but they only communicated with people within the department and I or maybe maybe somebody outside if you could figure out the Arcane addressing structure to get a message to go from inside the backs to summer out in the rest of the world and I still remember to this day. I was in a colleague's office. He's a he's the one of our it guys at the college and I said look, I really want to learn about this thing called gopher.

02:27 Which was this way, which is been beginnings of the web right and end and it was basically a page that you would load. It was all text. It had these blue these blue words that are underlined and now you clicked on them in when you click on them. It took you to something else, you know, and it was just it was mind-blowing. I mean for me I grew up in this

02:51 I don't know. He's where people were moving into trying to speak with each other using 1200 baud modems and posting things on message boards, and and I didn't I wasn't part of that. I knew that that happened.

03:09 And then when I was in high school and has moved into college that that whole idea that I could be discussing things with my friends at that point Hoover not at the same place that I was about anything that was going on in this sort of instant way kind of made it and so I was much more connected to those people than I think probably maybe you're at your experience when when you were in college like it was just so so much like I was most definitely part of their lot and I think that that has most definitely carried into my professional life when it comes to the food safety because

03:53 I can't think that 67 years ago that microbiologists or others and in the food safety world the new about each other's kids and pop pictures all the time on Facebook and and that

04:07 Ability to build relationships I think is for me on a personal level is done done a lot for trying to figure out where where I fit in with with with that sort of a larger group of food safety and it just it makes things so much so much richer nothing adds to this collaborative idea of you. Yeah. I know that that makes me again think of early memories about this stuff and I still remember bbs's computer bbs's to where you would use your 2400 modem and you would call up this phone number which was this other computer and it was a computer that was run by some guy. That was a bigger geekier than you write that had a bigger hard drive and in a faster modem and or maybe even at 2, he was such a geek into and two phone lines and people would share software, you know, share with each other and then

05:07 And it got it really crazy because one of these bulletin boards would actually in the middle of the night call another bulletin board and they would share like, what's the new software that you have? What's the new software that I have? Do you have any messages for people in my system? This was something that exists throughout their kind of around around outside of what later became the internet, but it was all just put together bye-bye hobbyists. It was it was just such a and again that was something that happened when I was I was in graduate school at 10 and I still thanks to Facebook. Now I've reconnected with some of those people that I only knew back from the from the bulletin board day. So I was pretty it's pretty cool. That's what that's for. You ask it like that describes. I think that the the relationships that that we do build through social media and social medias probably like that's just the catch-all word here but through that these discussions are going to stick around because cuz it's all archived like I don't know about you, but I've got every email that I've ever seen.

06:07 Or if wealth not ever sent but since 2001 it so I go to a meeting where I see someone's name and I'm like I have to think about those discussions and also. Comes back really really quick loan who who that was and I just I can't imagine operating in the the realm of of what I do without that ability. Like I just I just don't know it's kind of mind-boggling I guess. Yeah. I know that that that ability to have that out for draining and be able to just say yeah, who was that person but it's what I still needed to do if they needed to work if I can put input from my brain that picture of their face and rabbit remind me what their name is. We still haven't quite got there yet, but no talking about talking about people and relationships. I think got this this conversation wouldn't be complete unless we talked about our friend that our friend Doug Powell and I have to say talk about memories and I still remember the first time that I met you.

07:07 First time that I saw you and you were dressed pretty much as you're dressed now, so, you know for those that are that are listening event wearing khaki shorts and he's got some some sneakers on and he's wearing a kind of a about platy striped looking shirt and I was outside without an AFP meeting and Doug was standing there and that was pretty much dressed the same way and that you were both standing there smoking cigarettes and I haven't I haven't seen you smoke a cigarette in a long time. No. No, that was sometimes that happens when when there is alcohol involved but it hasn't happened for quite some time and I remember thinking to myself it's a it's a little dog cloning.

07:48 But but but but but you know, it's so funny because it has Hazard as we have become friends. And as we have hung out, I realize obviously you're not you're not a little a little Doug clone, but I think both of our our careers have been have been impacted by by knowing him. And then again while we're talking about, you know, the internet and how things have changed and I AFP I have to absolutely give give props to Doug because again just to give you some idea when I started in this business in in 1989 as a faculty member with an extension appointment my job in in part was to keep up with what was going on in the world. And I don't know if you remember how hard it was to know what was going on in the world in 1989. We had you had to read newspapers and and you have to listen to the television and and there really was no really good way to find out what was breaking news and what was going on and and so some of the

08:43 Very early things that that that Doug did in in terms of being able to collect what was going on in terms of food safety news and then share that with an audience of people that wanted to know what was going on. I can't tell you how often that saved my bacon because I get a call from a newspaper reporter saying hey, what do you think about ex? And I would I would have to say well. Let me call you back in a few minutes and then I quickly go look through the emails that Doug had just sent and I wouldn't now I will be up to speed on act's now now today a lot of that has been replaced by by Google news and and other services and and Douglas continue to go on in and expand what what he does in any again, you're a big part of that and I've contributed to that on occasion and it's more now about not what's the news what's happening? But what do we think of what's happening at? How does that putting that into context People for People in terms of a larger picture? But I mean, you know, it was it was so important to me that that even back when I was a young faculty member and didn't have a lot of discretionary money.

09:43 How to make damn sure that I supported that service that he was providing and it really was a service and it didn't it didn't come cheap because essentially at that time it was just a an army of students that were out there scouring the internet in the birth of Proto internet and I'm looking for this information and end and collating it all and making it readily available and digestible to people like me who really needed it to navigate what was going on day today. That's really cool to hear because I knew I was one of those students that scour the the internet and I guess I will express some gratitude for your support of the fsenet bites infrastructure because that paid a likely for a lot of beer for me while I was but I mean the truthfully that whole process what you just described is why I'm here today why we're having this discussion. It's because

10:43 Why I was an undergrad looking for I mean, it's actually a summer job. Like I had no idea. What food safety why I knew what food safety was but I don't know where that fit into the big picture and I might my three years of of my schooling was was all around risks associated with the genetically engineered foods and molecular biology background and I just hooked up with with Doug really know no more than I really wanted to stay in and hang out with my friends and let me call some that I lived in and then a better week 2 weeks after that happen a major foodborne illness outbreak pops up that you probably don't mean definitely turn my my focus but probably turn the focus of what after last night was all about and what what Doug and in our group was was focusing on

11:40 And this this outbreak is a waterborne illness outbreak, Walkerton, Ontario in 2018 became more about how do you communicate in a crisis when information is low in a small town and in the middle of Southern Ontario that doesn't have a newspaper and has a radio station that 16 people listen to and you need to get information to them really quickly so they can make a decision that decision being I need to boil my water before I use it and it's so I was kind of thrust into this by reading every day about the outbreak and then speaking with in that lab situation around what they could have done differently in end and then to see the thing that really crystallized it for me was to see the responses that that Doug would get directly on the listserv from people who had gone through other similar Oprah.

12:40 Like in Waukee illness outbreak around what what happened and how things move in and I mean that really drew me because it was less about the science that this the particulars of the science that that I learned but it was more about the mechanism of how was communicated and and that I mean when I started on that Media stuff with with Doug and in the system that he he develops you would see something happen in there be a response in the newspaper the next day through letter to the editor and a year-and-a-half later. It was there be a response later that night in at comments field and then five years later. It was on Twitter within seconds. And that is that ability to enhance the speed.

13:39 A discussion was just like been incredible to just sit back and watch I guess.

13:53 Who you are where you are right now?

13:58 Yeah, yeah for sure the outbreak that that happened happened while I was I just finding my understanding of of Science and understanding is a foodborne illness and this specific outbreak was linked to E. Coli. O157 H7, which I didn't know anything about and through that whole process it one of the greatest things that the Doug and end in and Don and Pete Snyder another food safety in your Guru that I'd count as one of my biggest mentors are they have all Tommy is that you got to look critically about what happens and it not a break. I had I didn't know I had to jump into the primary literature in my experience as primary literature before then was How can I

14:58 Put together a paper in 4 hours by actually going to the library in you. You're looking at something. I don't know anything about that's when it was due but that's what it was due to an end and I hadn't even thought about the topic or there's no preparation. Yeah, it is exactly at this was so much more everyday. I was I was growing as a as a researcher as a Communications person because this wasn't

15:23 An arbitrary tell me about the history of transcription have died three thousand. People are ill in a town where it where I know people.