Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download C.V. »

East NY Village Pizzeria shut down for second time in just over a month

New York City has shut down a well-known pizza joint for the second time in just over a month after an inspection found evidence of mice, flies and other health violations.

pizzeriaNino’s Pizza, on the corner of Avenue A and St. Mark’s Place, racked up 127 violation points during its Sept. 15 inspection, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s website.

In addition to vermin, inspectors found a dozen other violations including food that was stored at improper temperatures and the absence of a hand-washing facility “in or near the food preparation area and toilet room,” according to the site.

Owner Nino Camaj, however, denied most of the allegations. He said there were no mice in the restaurant and that the inspector overstated the number of flies observed.

“This place is the cleanest place in New York City. I tell the truth,” said Camaj, who has owned the pizzeria for 27 years.

Brisbane’s food hall of shame

Brisbane’s annual food hall of shame, released by City Hall on Wednesday, revealed the vast majority of the city’s worst food hygiene offenders had food preparation areas infested with rodents or pests last financial year.

339788-37021536-2368-11e4-b035-3276a1bc3645Just more than $710,000 in fines were dished up to 34 recalcitrant cafe, restaurant and food outlet owners in 2013/14 – 28 of which had evidence of animal or pest infestation, according to Brisbane City Council’s lifestyle chairman Krista Adams.

But the restaurant that claimed the dubious title of the year’s most heavily fined, Pho Ha Long, a Vietnamese restaurant in Mount Gravatt East, was not among them.

The restaurant was slapped a $60,000 fine in November for two counts of handling and selling unsafe food.

It has since closed.

As has Kelvin Grove’s Little Lily Thai Restaurant, which was fined $32,500 in February on 29 offences, including animal and pest infestation, food storage, cleanliness and failure to comply with an improvement notice.

The inner city was not without its offenders either.

Rats were discovered in the kitchen of Japanese Bento in the Myer Centre food hall, which formed part of a raft of charges that earned it a $25,000 fine in November.

Also in the Myer Centre, the Beach House Bar and Grill copped a $30,000 fine on eight charges stemming from failed standards of food storage, cleanliness and maintenance.

We’re in waste managment: Liechtenstein thieves steal 1.3 tonnes of Listeria cheese

Germany’s food inspection office is concerned bad cheese will be sold either directly or indirectly, posing a health risk to anyone who consumes it, ATS reported on Tuesday.

sopranos.don't.fuck.with.usThe problem is the “Alp Sücka” cheese was found to be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that causes listeriosis, a potentially deadly infection.

Liechtenstein’s food office had banned the cheese but during a check discovered that 236 five-kilogram wheels of the dairy product had gone missing, ATS said.

They were probably stolen from open containers where they were stored temporarily before planned destruction, the news agency reported.

The country’s prosecutor has launched an investigation into the cheese’s disappearance.

Moscow court fines Burger King restaurant for food safety violations

The Moscow Arbitration Court at the request of Russia’s public health agency Rospotrebnadzor has fined Burger Rus LLC, operator and manager of Burger King restaurants in Russia, 100,000 rubles ($2,583) for the storage of unauthorized items in refrigerators alongside food, a source in the court told RIA Novosti Wednesday.

193034122The court ruling states that on July 11 during an inspection of a Burger King restaurant, the health watchdog found violations of technical regulations of the Customs Union “On the safety of food products.”

Brushes from a milkshake machine as well as a slicer used to cut onions and tomatoes were stored beside food products. Inspectors also “found flies in the production and storage facilities,” according to the court investigation.

Rospotrebnadzor claims that the violations pose a health hazard to customers.

The court’s final decision was prepared on September 15, but has not yet come into force. The decision may be appealed within 10 days.

Burger King, founded in the United States in 1954, is currently the second largest hamburger chain in the world. The brand has been operating under franchise in Russia since 2010, when the first restaurant opened in Moscow. Currently Burger King operates about 200 restaurants in the country.

What is collaboration?

My latest column for the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety:

Me and Chapman have been working together and writing for 15 years.

collaboration.powellWe ain’t the Beatles but we’ve had our moments. Lots of research, coaching girls’ hockey together, and he once bailed me out of jail.

He would be the calm and steady Paul (although he’d rather be George) to my erratic John.

Me and Amy have been writing and working together for nine years.

She also is the steady Paul. And there’s a couple of others that I repeatedly work with, who balance the yin-and-yang.

But what is it that makes a collaboration?

doug.ben.13As Joshua Wolf Shenk wrote in The Atlantic earlier this year, “Paul was the diplomat; John was the agitator. Paul was soft-spoken and almost unfailingly polite; John could be a right loudmouth and quite rude. …

“The ancient Greeks gave form to these two sides of human nature in Apollo, who stood for the rational and the self-disciplined, and Dionysus, who represented the spontaneous and the emotional.”

I keep reading how food safety is a collaborative effort, but, as Margaret Mead wrote, “Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All societal movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals.”

Food safety collaboration is over-rated, especially if it’s driven by a top-down organization.

Individuals create and innovate, and bring others to the table.

My first university job was at an Ontario Center of Excellence (that’s in Canada) in 1990, involving four universities big in the information technology biz.

After a couple of years of handing out money – and ridiculous amounts of process – a leading artificial intelligence researcher told me, why don’t you just give us researchers an extra $10,000 a year, and get rid of the BS.

He had a point.

So much so that I quit my cushy job shortly after that to go get a PhD and throw my own ideas into the world – not some government-mandated spin.

But what I observed in those couple of years was that individuals made connections, and produced great stuff. And that committees generally produced crap.

That continued on into 15 years of academia, where I observed good people trying to contort themselves for funding agencies.

amy.the.look.2007Several department chairs have said I didn’t play well with others, yet my collaborative publication record is strong; I just have a low tolerance for BS.

And when people throw around phrases like global teamwork for a safer food supply, or international regulatory harmonization, I roll my eyes and wonder, what is this money being spent on? What is the real goal?

I love working with the people I work with, and we share ideas, but there’s a lot more people I won’t work with.

Maybe it’s an age thing.

The steady and focused need someone to take them out of their comfort zone, as much as the erratic need a steadying support.

That is the challenge of any collaboration, bringing those elements together, and being better than the individual.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the original creator and do not necessarily represent that of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety or Texas A&M University. 

UK holidaymaker’s payout after contracting E. coli

A holidaymaker has won just under £3,000 in compensation from a travel company after contracting E. coli on one of their holidays.

Vincci Taj Sultan hotel in TunisiaCarl Pallant, 29, from Horsham, was staying with his girlfriend at Vincci Taj Sultan hotel in Tunisia when he caught the disease last summer. He contacted Your Holiday Claims direct who helped him win £2,935 in damages from travel operator Thomas Cook, with whom Mr Pallant had booked the holiday.

In a statement, the solicitors said: “Mr Pallant had booked the Tunisian getaway through the tour operator Thomas Cook.

“He reported that breakdowns in hygiene standards were rife within the hotel’s restaurants.

“Food was often served undercooked and birds were seen flying around open buffet restaurants where food was uncovered.

“Due to the severity of the symptoms suffered, Mr Pallant was admitted to hospital in Crawley for treatment.

“After days of tests it was confirmed that he had contracted E. coli during his stay at the Vincci Taj Sultan.”

Listeria concerns on the rise for pregnant women?

Listeria has always been a concern, but according to a NBC news affiliate, it’s new.

amy.pregnant.listeriaAnd people wonder why mainstream journalism is dying.

“While normally this is a bacteria our bodies can fight off, for expecting women, it becomes more difficult because of a lowered immune system. Additionally, there is concern that the bacteria could be passed on to the fetus.”

Duh.

Going public saves lives: E. coli kills child in Italy

My Italian food safety friend provides the following:

supershedder.e.coliLast summer, Apulia, a region in Italy’s south, was hit by a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) outbreak with 20 cases; it was eventually linked to dairy products.

When two children came down with HUS in July,2014, authorities insisted that “there was no alarm.”

It is possible there has been no outbreak and no reason to alert the public, but a 18-month child has now died of HUS and it seems that the main reason was that doctors were slow to consider HUS as a possible diagnosis. Perhaps downplaying the issue to the public, including health professionals, has not helped.

Filthy ‘Scooby Doo!’ ice cream van served UK kids

We have an ice cream truck that trolls around our Brisbane neighborhood as the kids are coming home from school.

scobby.doo.ice.creamI find that creepy.

UK environmental health officers say the state of an ice cream van serving children in Bransholme was the worst they had ever seen.

Ice cream seller Richard Lister has been fined £750 after he pleaded guilty to six food safety offences at the Hull Magistrates’ Court.

He was using an ice cream van called Scooby-Doo and traded around the Bransholme area serving ice creams, ice lollies and sweets.

157 sick, up from 11 last year; reports of crypto rise in Florida county

The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County is asking for the public’s help to prevent the spread of Cryptosporidiosis, a disease that spreads easily person to person in in households, child-care settings and schools, and through swimming in contaminated water or from contact with animals.

listeriaDOH-Hillsborough says the number of Cryptosporidiosis cases reported to them has increased since school started in the county.

Since July 1, 2014, 157 cases of Cryptosporidiosis have been reported by DOH-Hillsborough, as compared to 11 cases during the same time period last year. Many of these cases have reported spending time at school or day care the incubation period.

The highest number of cases of infection is in those younger than 15. Health officials are concerned that the numbers of cases could increase if proper precautions are not followed.