Carl Winter has been called the “Elvis of E. coli” and the “Sinatra of Salmonella,” but you won’t find him headlining a lounge act in Las Vegas. Instead, the UC Davis food toxicologist crosses California – and the United States – to sing about a subject near and dear to him: food safety.
Combining science-based information with a synthesizer, Winter performs food safety music parodies such as “You Better Wash Your Hands” (from the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand”) and “Don’t Be a Gambler” (from Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”). He also has created animated food safety music videos such as “Stomachache Tonight,” a parody of the Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight” that, ironically, recounts a time he got sick in Georgia while on tour performing about food safety.
Although a lot of food safety information exists already, food safety music is a great way to supplement the message, said Winter, who has produced parodies for nearly 15 years and distributed more than 20,000 copies of his CDs with songs about food safety, nutrition and pesticides. “We found people retain information better through music,” Winter said.
Food safety is a timely topic. The Food and Drug Administration just held meetings April 26 and 27 in Monterey County to discuss plans to develop a nationwide produce standard for growing, harvesting and packing fruits and vegetables. Foodborne diseases cause about 76 million illnesses in the United States each year, according to an estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We need to understand the science better,” said Winter, who directs UC Davis’ FoodSafe program. “We need to communicate better.”
Winter is doing his part to spread the word about food safety. He is in the middle of putting together a new CD for kids, with songs such as “Who Left the Food Out?” – a parody of the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?” – as well as some original music.
The lyrics may change, but the message remains the same: Wash your hands, avoid cross contamination, cook meat to proper temperatures and refrigerate leftovers promptly. It’s important to eat a balanced diet and take as much control over your foods as you can, Winter said. Eat fruits and vegetables – just wash them first. And enjoy Winter’s songs. For more information, visit Winter’s home page at http://foodsafe.ucdavis.edu and his YouTube page at www.youtube.com/foodsafetymusic.