Baltimore City sewage and the Chesapeake Bay watershed

Chesapeake Bay BridgeRaw sewage is flowing into our streams and rivers and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay.  Where is this sewage coming from?  A key source is an antiquated storm water and sewage system for Baltimore City.  In 2002 the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) sued Baltimore City and an original consent degree to correct overflow of raw sewage was filed.  There was a 2016 deadline for Baltimore City to correct existing problems.  Although some progress was made, the deadline passed and there were still sever deficiencies.  A modified decree was approved October 6, 2017 that extended the time allowed to correct problems.  It is broken down in two Phases.  First phase must be completed by 2021 and second phase by 2030.

During the first phase 83% of the sanitary sewage overflows are to be corrected.  Baltimore City takes in over 250 million gallons of water a day and sometimes the system can not handle the load.  The happens especially during wet conditions.  To make matters worse, built into the system are intentional overflow structures.  They are called Sanitary Sewage Overflow (SSO)Structures.  They are “vents” for the system.   When the system was developed in the early 1900’s it was considered state of the art.  However, in today’s standards it is substandard way of handling excessive amounts of storm and sewage water.

Many of these SSO structures have been eliminated.  However, there are still 12 currently identified in the latest report1 from the city.

Here are some staggering numbers.  In the 4th quarter of 2018 over 9.7 million gallons of water containing sewage entered the watershed from sanitary sewer overflows.  However, the numbers from the SSO structures are alarming.  Over 56 Million gallons of water containing raw sewage entered the watershed! This typically occurs during heavy rains.

Discharged water can contain harmful pathogens that can cause illness. When humans come in contact with contaminated water they should thoroughly wash the area with soap and water.  When purchasing shellfish, make sure they are coming from an approved source. Pathogens like Norovirus or Hepatitis A can be in shellfish we consume. You can contract these viruses regardless if the shellfish is cooked. Always ask your seafood retailer to see the shell stock tags.  They show the area the shellfish were taken from.  If they do not have a shell stock tag – DO NOT PURCHASE.  It is required by health department law that the tag be with the product until it is sold.

Chemical toxins are a concern as well.  During heavy rains ground water that contains pesticides and other chemicals enters the storm water system then that water could be released from SSO structures at streams and rivers.  Pharmaceuticals that are flushed in toilets have been found in water from SSO.

Chemical toxins can accumulate in older fish and especially in bottom feeders affecting the health of humans.  The mustard in crabs caught in certain waters should be avoided.  View the Maryland Fish Consumption Advisory report located here:

Sewage and run off should concern everyone that enjoys the bay.  Whether it is for swimming, recreational or commercial fishing, or just enjoying the wonderful views and wildlife that it gives us.  Help support a healthy system by not flushing anything that could clog the pipes like feminine products or “flushable” wipes.  Do not put anything down as drain that could harm the system, including fats oils and grease (FOG), pharmaceuticals, old paint, chemicals or anything that you would not want in the bay.

What you need to know about Shell Eggs in food service.


When I conduct my Food Manager trainings the subject of eggs comes up a lot! Here are the Maryland Regulations,  from where to store them to what documentation you need to keep for inspections.



  • Only purchase from an approved or licensed company that is authorized to sell shell eggs.  
  • Only Grade A or higher eggs are to be used.


  • The eggs should be inspected for cracks, reject any cracked eggs.
  • The temperature around the shell egg should be 45 degrees or lower
  •  COMAR states: 

(3) The invoice or equivalent record required in §A(2) of this regulation contains the following information written in English:

(a) Name and address of the seller and buyer;

(b) Date of delivery;

(c) Grade and size of eggs delivered; and

(d) Quantity of eggs sold in number by grade and size;

  • If the grade and size are not on invoice you need to keep this documentation from the egg carton or packaging.  Documentation needs to be saved for 90 days.


  • Eggs can be stored at 45 degrees, but unless you have a separate unit they are typically stored at 41 degrees or below.
  • According to the National Environmental Health Association, eggs are stored on the second shelf of the unit with seafood and below RTE foods.


  • Eggs that will be prepped and not cooked or not cooked to correct temperatures, should be pasteurized as a good practice.
  • Pooled eggs (shell eggs cracked and combined together) should always have temperature control.  Do not leave egg washes setting out.  It is a good practice to use a pasteurized egg when temperature abuse may occur by staff.   For example, omelet bars or egg washes for chicken or seafood.


  • Eggs for immediate service: 145 degrees for 15 seconds.
  • Eggs for hot hold, in kitchen or buffet.  This includes eggs used in another dish that will be hot held. 155 for 15 seconds.


  • If you are going to serve an undercooked egg or a dish that contains an undercooked egg this is the warning that must be posted clearly for the customer ordering food to see:  “Consuming raw or undercooked animal foods may increase your risk of contracting a foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.”
  • Never serve an undercooked shell egg, one that is not pasteurized,  in a high risk facility.

Are Kale Smoothies Safe?

Kale SmoothieI have many friends that are boasting how great they feel after going on a Kale Smoothie a day regimen.  Knowing the additional risks of consuming raw cut leafy greens and juicing I had my concerns.    I dug in to do some research expecting to find a plethora of data.   I was surprised to find not much information supporting my concerns. I did discover information about consuming Kale everyday.  For instance, over consumption apparently could lead to Kidney and Gall Stones due too high Oxalates . Since I am not a nutritionist I will leave that alone.  However, here is an article that discusses these and other issues,  Incredible Smoothies 

Back to food safety, I was scratching my head wondering why couldn’t I find supporting documentation.  Then it occurred to me, is it possible that this relatively new practice has not experienced any major problems yet.  Yes, I do believe that we will be hearing more about this in the future.  Why? Well because until recently there were not masses eating raw kale.  Generally it was cooked thoroughly which reduces certain pathogens like E.coli and Salmonella to acceptable levels.

I am not suggesting that these shakes should be avoided. They are a wonderful way increase your vegetable intake.   However, take some precautions and your risk of contracting a foodborne illness  will be reduced.  Here are a few suggestions to follow:

  • Wash your hands and clean and sanitize your surfaces before starting any food preparation in the kitchen.
  • Purchase Kale pre-washed and bagged from a reputable supplier.  Earthbound Farms has an excellent food safety system in place.  Purchasing loose Kale exposes you to whoever and whatever has touched it.  Just think of the how many people have touched the leaf before you consume it.
  • If you do purchase loose kale, wash the full leaf in slightly warmer water than the temperature of the produce, allow it to air dry before cutting.
  • Keep it cool.  41 ° or below.  Cut leafy greens MUST have refrigeration.  Especially after being blended, cut or juiced.
  • Make only enough that you will consume right away.  Avoid preparing to far in advance.
  • Discard any juice or smoothie that has been stored above 41 ° for more than 4 hours.
  • Be especially cautious when serving to Children 0-4, the elderly and persons with immune compromised systems.
Be food safe!





Maryland Soft Crab Sandwich

Sue's Soft Crab SandwichWhat is better for a summer time Sunday dinner than a Maryland style soft crab sandwich.   After a day out on the water we were looking for a quick and easy dinner.   The first idea tossed about was soft crabs.  So, off to Vince’s Crab House in Middle River we went.  We opted for the $5 size, a perfect fit on a sandwich and a pound of in store made cold slaw.  Brenda the owner, took time to clean them for me at no additional charge.    A quick  stop at the grocery and back home.

A lite dredge in my special seasoning blend, lots of butter in my favorite cast iron fry pan on a medium high heat and sizzle, sizzle cook till brown on both sides and make sure it is 145° internal temperature.  While they were cooking I grilled two large Portabella mushrooms.

The only items missing from this delicious meal was fresh Maryland tomato, but I guess we will have to wait a few more weeks for that.