A Foodborne Illness Mystery

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Peter Wong is tackling food safety by writing a mystery about an outbreak of foodborne illness aboard a cruise ship. The book is the latest in the Galactic Academy of Science series, in which middle school students travel through time to learn enough science to solve a mystery in the present. In The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest, due to be published by Tumblehome Learning on June 1, 2015,middle school students Mae and Clinton are excited to be aboard a Caribbean cruise that features cooking contests for adults and teens. But when passengers start falling ill, Selectra Volt, their Galactic Academy of Science guide from the future, challenges the two teens to find the cause. Is the outbreak a result of poor food handling, or is someone purposely sabotaging the ship’s food supply?

Mae and Clinton learn about food safety through a series of time-travel visits to scientists, doctors, and inventors of the past and present.  They visit Nicholas Appert, who invented canning to feed Napoleon’s army; Clarence Birdseye, who learned how to freeze fish from the Inuit in the Arctic; John Snow, who discovered the cause of a cholera outbreak in Victorian London; Typhoid Mary, who unknowingly caused illness in seven families she cooked for; Ferran Adria, a master of creative cooking; and present-day scientists studying food-borne illness at the CDC in Atlanta and a U.S. Army research facility in Natick, Massachusetts.

Between trips, Mae and Clinton compete in the kids’ cooking contest, help out in the ship infirmary, test food samples for bacteria, gather clues, and follow suspicious characters.  As the ship sails through the edge of a hurricane and the ship infirmary fills to overflowing, Clinton and Mae race to gather evidence and sift through a pile of suspects. the book provides a fun way to learn about the organisms that contaminate our food, and how outbreaks can be prevented or stopped.