23 years late, Chipotle gets food safety religion (or so they lecture)

I just registered for an Ice Hockey Australia Level 2 coaching course.

The course is rarely offered, and there’s only a couple of level 2 coaches in Queensland. It will take 25 hours of training to complete.

dp-sorenne-becThat’s on top of the 16 hours I put in for Coach 1 in Australia, and recertification every two years.

It’s similar to the Intermediate Level Coach status I had in Canada back in 2001, which was required to coach a rep or travel team.

It’s a lot of time, sitting in a classroom, and on the ice.

I view it as my church, my community service.

So when Chipotle makes a big deal saying all of its managers will be trained in food safety the ServSafe way, I shrug, and ask, why weren’t they before?

How far was Chipotle’s head up its own moralistic ass that it paid more attention to food porn – like hormones and GE foods – than to food safety, the things that make people barf?

Great, you’re going to require training. Anyone ask if the training is any good? Third-party audits? Nice soundbite but they’re just a paycheck. Handwashing every thirty minutes? McDonald’s have been doing that for decades (you’d think Chipotle would have picked that up when they were partnered with McDonald’s, but no, there was food porn to peddle).

The Chipotle announcement reads like a moralistic lecture, and that no one had discovered food safety before.

A year after the outbreaks, Chipotle is now getting into standard PR – which it should have done months ago (Chipotle, your communication advisors absolutely suck). The full page ad, the video, the push for food safety.

Guacamole, for instance, now takes advantages of the cleansing properties of the lemon and lime juices in the recipe. Before getting mixed, the chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapeños are laid on top of avocados and drizzled with citrus juices in one last effort to ensure food safety.

Some scientists may question such tactics, saying they have been supplanted by newer methods. But Dr. James Marsden, Chipotle’s new executive director of food safety, who had recently retired from teaching at Kansas State University (and the father of the actor James Marsden, best known as Cyclops in the “X Men” film series) said he was confident in them.

“We’re doing research and are going to publish papers on what we’re doing, so people can see for themselves that it works,” he said.

That’s all good, but they’re still moralistic assholes who expect people to pay a premium for their food sermons (journos, contact me for Marsden stories).

Chipotle founder and Co-CEO stepped in front of a camera in a bid to win over weary diners that still aren’t hankering for the chain’s once-popular tacos and burritos.

In a video that the Mexican burrito chain unveiled on Wednesday, a contrite Ells admits that last year, the fast-casual restaurant chain “failed to live up to our own food safety standards, and in so doing, we let our customers down. At that time, I made a promise to all of our customers that we would elevate our food safety program.”

chipotleadContrite is not the word I would use.

Looking to revalue Chipotle’s share price is more accurate.

Chipotle initially blamed the Centers for Disease Control and Australian beef for its woes. Today, it blamed social media.

“No one has ever had this kind of a food safety crisis in the era of social media,” Mr. Ells said.

I could list hundreds, beginning with E. coli O157 in spinach in 2006, you arrogant poser.

“Jack In The Box,” — a burger chain where more than 700 people got sick in 1993 after eating E. coli contaminated meat — “never had to deal with Facebook and Twitter,” he said.

When I coach, I’m always telling kids, and adults, stop blaming the refs, go score a goal, stop whinging.

What is fresh? Australian beef in the U.S.?

Is this guy stealing from Trump’s playbook?

It’s slogans and hucksterism.

Which Americans seem to go for.

And Mr. Ells, since you seem content on lecturing Americans about food safety, while blaming others, here’s a history lesson.

In the Fall of 1994, Intel computer chips became scrutinized by the computer geeks, and then the public.

Intel had delayed responding to allegations, and Wall Street analysts at the time said it was the result of a corporate culture accustomed to handling technical issues rather than addressing customers’ hopes and fears.

On Monday, Nov. 12, 1994, the International Business Machines Corp. abruptly announced that its own researchers had determined that the Pentium flaw would lead to division errors much more frequently than Intel said. IBM said it was suspending shipments of personal computers containing the Pentium chip

Mr. Grove was stunned. The head of IBM’s PC division, Richard Thoman, had given no advance warning. A fax from Thoman arrived at Intel’s HQ on Monday morning after the IBM announcement, saying he had been unable to find Grove’s number during the weekend. Mr. Grove, whose number is listed, called directory assistance twice to ask for his own number to ensure he was listed.

After the IBM announcement, the number of calls to Santa Clara overwhelmed the capacity of AT&T’s West Coast long-distance telephone switching centres, blocking calls. Intel stock fell 6.5 per cent

Only then, Mr. Grove said, did he begin to realize that an engineer’s approach was inappropriate for a consumer problem.

Intel took out full-page ads, apologized, and did better.

That was in months, not a year.

Mr. Ells, you can claim you’re in uncharted territory, that no one has experienced the woes like you have, that fresh is a meaningful term.

But it’s just a repeat.

Customers may expect you to have the humility to admit such failings when driven by the hubris of your own beliefs.

But hey, anyone who can get Americans to believe that 1,000 calorie burritos are healthy can do anything you damn well please.

And customers will bow down.

Investors. I wouldn’t touch it. But I said that in 2007.

 

Follow my lead: Food service needs safety champions

This paper addresses the challenge of reducing food safety errors in the foodservice industry.

dragnetResults of a survey of 255 full-time food service professionals supported our proposed causal chain of impact that runs from “leader behavioral integrity for food safety” (the extent to which leaders/supervisors consistently enact and enforce food safety rules) through the proportion of food safety errors reported, through “error management” (an integrated set of practices involving error detection, correction, analysis, prevention and learning), finally to reduced food safety violations.

Specifically, this study found the mediating effect of error reporting between leader behavioral integrity for food safety and error management; and the mediating effect of error management between error reporting and food safety violations.

Results suggest that ongoing support and incentivizing of supervisors’ behavior may be a critical supplement to skill-based training of employees in reducing food safety errors and thus violations. The study found that high leader behavioral integrity for food safety can improve error reporting and error management leading to a reduction in the risk of foodborne illness, which is the ultimate goal of a food safety training program.

It is recommended that managers serve as role models by following proper food safety practices and reporting errors themselves. A manager who consistently enacts food safety priorities and protocols conveys more clear information about positive organizational priorities for safety, provides clearer incentives for safety behaviors, models desired attitudes, and enhances employee trust and thus willingness to learn; which is critical for the success of food safety programs.

Reducing food safety errors in the United States: Leader behavioral integrity for food safety, error reporting, and error management

International Journal of Hospitality Management

Volume 59, October 2016

Priyanko Guchait, Jack A. Neal, Tony Simons

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278431916301323

‘MasterChef-itis’ leading to Australian restaurant staff shortages (and dumb food safety)

Young Australians are attracted to the “rock star” chef lifestyle depicted in reality cooking shows, but don’t want to put in the hard graft to get there, Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby says.

rockstar-chefRigby has just released the latest annual Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide and said while the food industry was going strong, many restaurants were still having a tough time finding staff.

A Deloitte Access Economics report last year found a current gap of 38,000 staff across the tourism and hospitality sector, a shortage predicted to increase to 123,000 by 2020.

The report predicted demand would be strongest for chefs and restaurant managers.

However, Rigby said young people in particular just weren’t prepared for the years of physical toil it required to make it to the top.

“I think there’s a little bit of MasterChef-itis, I’m going to call it.”

Meanwhile, the Guide announces 11 café trends they’re glad are going away.

Here’s another: No more raw eggs in mayo and aioli.

But that’s a food safety thing and can’t compete with food porn.

Until people get sick.

It’s hard to get Hep A off of frozen berries

Berries are a staple of my diet; I go through about 2 lbs a week of raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. When fresh berries are too expensive (or don’t look great) I substitute with frozen ones – and often cook them before eating to control for viruses.
Last year, following a hep-A-in-berries outbreak in Australia, we made a food safety infosheet and included the following risk management steps:foodsafetyinfosheet-2-27-15-2
•Consider getting vaccinated. There is a vaccine for hepatitis A that can provide protection from the pathogen from frozen berries and other potential sources.
•Cook frozen berries. They have likely not been heat treated. The science is complicated but the best guess is, boiling berries can inactivate hepatitis A.
•Clean and sanitize. Cooking doesn’t address cross-contamination risks – thawed berries release juice that could contain the virus.
•Know your suppliers and ask questions. Find out how they address risks with the products they buy; ask about how good agricultural practices (GAPs) including employee hygiene safe water sources are implemented and assessed
•Wash your hands. Good handwashing, especially in food service, can protect patrons if you or another food handler is shedding the virus.
Sorta the same stuff I told Sara G. Miller of Live Science when she called to chat about the virus and berries.
Nearly 90 people in seven states have become sick in an outbreak of hepatitis A linked to frozen strawberries imported from Egypt, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But how does the hepatitis A virus get into strawberries?
Berries of all types are actually a common conduit for viruses, said Benjamin Chapman, a food-safety specialist and an associate professor at North Carolina State University. 
One of the reasons for this is that berries are very delicate, and so unlike other, hardier fruits and vegetables, berries need to be harvested by hand, Chapman told Live Science.
Because hepatitis A is spread through the “fecal-to-oral route,” if workers picking berries were infected with hepatitis A and had not properly washed their hands, they could transfer the virus from their hands to the berry, Chapman said. In parts of the world where hepatitis A is more common, this is definitely a risk, he added.
It’s more likely, however, that the water used to irrigate the strawberries was the source of the virus in this outbreak, Chapman said (I based this guess on the size of the outbreak, but who knows -ben). And, yes, because of that fecal-to-oral route, that means sewage-contaminated water.
And once a berry is contaminated, it’s unlikely that the virus will be washed off, Chapman said. Because berries are more delicate than other fruits, they’re not washed as often, he said.
The next step, freezing the berries, only further preserves the virus, Chapman said. And because frozen berries are sold as “ready to eat,” people are unlikely to heat them before eating, he said. This is especially likely if the berries are being used to make a smoothie, as occurred in the current outbreak, he added.
Chapman said that he actually microwaves all of his berries before eating them or refreezing them, though he added that his method of heating them to above 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees C) might be overkill.
Still, there’s not enough data to suggest that just rinsing the berries would sufficiently remove a virus, he said.

Investors beware: Grocers tackle new food-safety issues as tastes grow for prepared meals

I read food safety fairytales daily.

But as noted by Jesse Newman and Heather Haddon of the Wall Street Journal, supermarkets are starting to look a lot more like takeout restaurants, and the explosion of prepared meals has brought new food-safety issues that even leading chains are racing to manage.

fairytale-foodInvestors beware.

Whole Foods Market Inc., (which sucks a food safety) a trailblazer in the sale of fresh-cooked items, was recently forced to temporarily shutter one of its commercial kitchens producing fresh meals for stores. The move was a response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s warning over safety gaps in the Boston-area plant.

The grocer is now overhauling its approach, including discontinuing the processing of meat, poultry and raw seafood in that kitchen and two others, according to a letter obtained through a public document request and the company.

The FDA’s warning followed an E.coli outbreak last year that was linked to rotisserie chicken salad made at Costco Wholesale Corp. and sickened 19 people. Deli foods from the Boise Co-Op, a natural-foods grocer in Idaho, were also tied to a salmonella outbreak last year that sickened nearly 300 people.

The grocers’ woes highlight challenges facing supermarkets competing for consumers forgoing home-cooking and traditional restaurant meals in favor of fresh offerings from sushi counters or taco bars at neighborhood grocery stores. As prepared-food offerings increase in volume and complexity, the risk of food-safety issues also grows, with supermarkets now facing safety concerns that have beset the restaurant industry for years.

Fresh prepared foods generated $15 billion in sales in supermarkets in 2005, a figure that has nearly doubled to about $28 billion last year, according to Technomic, a food industry research firm.

But while grocers have long offered fresh options from delis and salad bars, they now are selling more sophisticated meals, which require more complex cooking and serving practices.

 

Pay attention to microbial food safety, that’s what makes people barf: Whole Foods and now Panera, back with the pseudoscience

The gang at Don’t eat the Pseudoscience have taken a well-deserved shot at Panera.

But they can tell their own story (tone it down on the use of exclamation marks; let the reader decide what is truly exclamatory).

land-of-cleanBetween tromping through Baguette Falls while whacking out azodicarbonamide, glycerides, artificial colors, and artificial flavors (i.e. amyl alcohol and benzaldehyde), and gallivanting around Crisp Valley Farms spotting the unwanted “No-Nos” trespassing on the property (i.e. hydrolyzed protein, polydextrose, MSG, and sodium erythorbate), Panera Bread continues its pursuit in educating consumers on the perils of “artificial” food additives and preservatives while feeding the pseudoscience madness in a cute new game. Of course, don’t forget the unusual/artificial “alien” sounds accompanying the destruction of each chemical. Luckily for the consumer, upon winning and defeating the awful droves of supposedly detrimental and awful food additions, one wins a coupon.

Panera Bread LLC introduced its “No-No List” in 2015 in an effort to be more transparent and to provide clean menu options. Complete with a video campaign, and now the “Land of Clean” game, the list focuses on chemicals and hard-to-pronounce additives that consumers find unfriendly at a glance. For example, the No-No list currently contains compounds like MSG, autolyzed yeast extract, and glycerides. Additionally, the list has previously contained common chemicals like tocopherol (it’s actually Vitamin E) and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). As a response to this misleading philosophy, we at Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience also came out with our own video to explain why these chemicals aren’t bad and how they already naturally occur in your food products.

Panera’s vision for transparency and healthfulness, while laudable, creates its own set of flaws by promoting pseudoscience through instilling fear of complex words in consumers. These changes and deletions of ingredients do not necessarily reflect positive, healthier options. A quick glance at Panera’s menu reveals some items that are not only rather high in calories – per serving – but may also approach one’s daily limits of sodium, saturated fat, and total fat. A few examples: a panini that is 1,040 kcal per serving with 46 grams of fat (out of 65g / day); another sandwich has 18g of saturated fat (out of 20g/day). Damn Panera…way to continue spreading the pseudoscience.

Tragically Chipotle: Freebies, settlements, falling stock and drones

It’s about having a voice.

Chipotle can hire all the food safety bigshots it likes, but it has no story, no narrative, to get past its five outbreaks in six months; and no amount of freebies are going to fix that.

kenny-diarrheaChipotle news is playing on the background of Mr. Robot. That’s prophetic.

Google parent company Alphabet is teaming up with Chipotle to test drone delivery for Virginia Tech students, according to a report from Bloomberg. The pilot program marks a turning point for Alphabet’s Project Wing division, giving the team ample room to experiment with airborne burrito deliveries in one of the first commercial programs of its kind to be greenlit by the US Federal Aviation Authority. The drones, which will be hybrid aircraft that can both fly and hover in place, will make deliveries coordinated by a Chipotle food truck on campus.

The news Chipotle probably wanted highlighted was that it has reportedly quietly settled nearly 100 claims over the last six months out of court, probably so the company won’t remind the public that they were so recently plagued by rampant food poisoning. The terms of the settlements are all confidential, but the claims were all filed by people whose ailments were verified by medical professionals. An attorney representing some of the plaintiffs called Chipotle’s move “textbook appropriate,” adding, “They’ve taken responsibility.”

“In 25 years of doing foodborne illness cases, I’ve never had a client ask for coupons for the restaurant they had gotten sick at,” said William Marler, an attorney with Seattle-based Marler Clark who represented 97 Chipotle customers. “In fact, some (clients) had gone back to the restaurant and they would call me and say, ‘Do you think it’s bad that I went back and got a burrito?’”

The company’s stock traded at $430.70 on Friday, down 1.3 percent, and lower than its 52-week high of $757 last October.

“They have a following of especially 20-somethings that other restaurants don’t have,” Marler said. “It’s a little odd, but it probably says something positive about Chipotle.

No, it says there’s a generation so much dumber than its parents.

But who am I to debunk an American myth.

Ironical that this video about American mythology was shot outside Melbourne. Chipotle blamed its E. coli outbreaks on Australian beef. Chipotle: local, fresh hypocrites.

 

Foraging turns into the wild west

Foraged food is growing in popularity. And safety is a concern.

A couple of months ago, Marcus Plescia, director of the Mecklenburg County Health Department told Kathleen Purvis of the Charlotte Observer, ‘We want restaurants to be creative and experimental. We also want them to be safe. There’s got to be somebody who can make sure the restaurants that want to do foraging are doing so in a safe way.”morelmushroomwildfoodism

Stuff like wild-grown mushrooms, ramps and game carry different risks because they aren’t in a managed system or environment. Misidentify a mushroom and a customer can die.

Hunting morels are big business and many of the foraged fungi end up in restaurants sold on somewhat of a black market. According to NPR some national forests, a favorite spot for foragers after controlled burnings, are not happy about the amateur food harvesters.

Usually, the U.S. Forest Service offers a special license to pick morels for commercial use in burn zones. But this year, managers in Montana decided not to issue any commercial licenses. In fact, it’s illegal to pick in burn zones in any of Montana’s National Forests. The ban is sending pickers like Zaitz underground.

The problem isn’t over-picking, says Deb Mucklow, a district ranger for the Flathead National Forest, it’s the hordes of people who show up to pick. She says the last time the Flathead forest had big fires in 2007, hundreds of people came the next summer to pick morels. They left behind a huge mess.

“We had issues with litter, with the latrines,” says Mucklow.

Pickers came from all over the country, including crews of migrant pickers from Cambodia, Laos and Mexico. There were even rumors that some of the pickers were trying to pay off gambling debts with mushroom money. Things got dangerously territorial in the backcountry.

“People were using firearms or side arms to say ‘this is my area, nobody can go into it,’ ” says Mucklow.

So this season, the Forest Service decided to only issue personal-use permits, which limit a picker to 60 gallons for the entire season. It also requires pickers to cut their mushrooms in half so they can’t sell them.

For some local pickers, the ban has been a huge financial hit.

“It really put us in a difficult position,” says Renee, who lives in Kalispell, Mont. NPR agreed not to use her last name because she is breaking the law by continuing to sell her mushrooms.

Every year Renee and her husband supplement their income by selling morels. They both have regular day jobs — she’s a house cleaner, he’s a handyman. They hoped selling morels would bring in enough income for the first and last month’s rent on a new apartment.

In the past, Renee sold her morels to chefs at restaurants or from the back of her truck for $20 a pound. This year, she’s hesitant to sell so openly and she’s only making half of what she normally does.

“We don’t want to get in any trouble, we certainly don’t want to get our buyers into any trouble,” she says. “We try to sell them under the radar, but it’s been very difficult.”

Renee sells on Facebook in what’s become something like a mushroom black market. She feels the Forest Service is making her into a criminal for something she’s done legally for years.

Food Safety Talk 106: Mouth spit

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.Unknown-4

They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.

Episode 106 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Washington company linked to Listeria monocytogenes illnesses gets a warning letter

Like my RSS feed notification for MMWR, FDA’s warning letter email alerts get me all excited about the potential treasures within. Like bearded dragons. And Whole Foods condensate issues.

Most telling are the letters that come after an outbreak investigation and that state almost 18% of environmental samples tested positive for Listeria monocytigenes (whoa).

FDA posted a warning letter to the Oregon Potato Company, AKA Freeze Pack, which was connected to CRF Frozen Foods outbreak.

FDA’s laboratory analysis of environmental samples collected on March 8, 2016, and March 9, 2016, confirmed that nineteen (19) of one hundred and six (106) environmental swabs tested positive for L. monocytogenes.Oregon_potato_Company

Specifically:

– Seven (7) positive environmental swabs were collected from direct food contact surfaces in both your Processing and Packaging Rooms during the production of your IQF diced onions. These direct food contact surface areas include:

o The chiller water and the interior north wall of the water chiller. Water from this chiller is not treated and is recirculated back to the blancher/chiller and used directly on blanched diced onions as a coolant;

o A white nylon strip in the tunnel discharge chute between the IQF freezer and the finished product Packaging Room. Blanched, finished product is conveyed and comes into direct contact with the nylon strip; and

o The metal arm on your chain conveyor belt between the IQF freezer and Packaging Room where blanched, finished product is conveyed directly on this conveying system and comes into contact with the metal arm.

– The remaining twelve (12) positive environmental swabs were collected from locations in your Processing room and your Packaging Room that were in areas adjacent to food contact surfaces and non-direct food contact surfaces.

WGS analysis was conducted on the nineteen (19) L. monocytogenes isolates obtained from the FDA environmental samples collected on March 8, 2016, and March 9, 2016. The WGS phylogenetic analysis establishes that there are at least two (2) different strains of L. monocytogenes present in the facility, with one strain containing seventeen (17) isolates and the second strain containing two (2) isolates. Specifically, the WGS analysis of the strain with 17 isolates showed that the isolates are identical to each other. WGS analysis of the strain with 2 isolates showed that the isolates are identical to 8 cases of human illness dating back to 2013, and to 6 isolates from finished products. These finished products included onions (2 isolates in 2014) and green beans (3 isolates in 2015) tested by a third party laboratory, and a single isolate from white sweet corn collected and tested by the state of Ohio in 2016. Additional investigation established that at least six (6) individuals were hospitalized as a result of related L. monocytogenes associated illness.

There’s a lot of cGMP Violations noted as well including cleaning and sanitizing issues, condensation dripping over IQF production lines and lots of niches for Listeria.