Jersey restaurants’ 4-strike rule: Hamilton considers stiff fines, closure for failed health inspections

In an attempt to make sure restaurant workers are washing their hands and keeping the kitchen clean, Hamilton officials are preparing to bring the hammer down on restaurant owners who frequently violate health codes.

jon.stewart.handwashing.2002The township council on Tuesday is scheduled to introduce an ordinance that would stiffen penalties for restaurants with a history of failing health inspections, imposing fines as much as three times the current amount and imposing mandatory closures.

Under the current model, restaurants that receive a “conditionally satisfactory” rating, which denotes health issues that need to be addressed, are charged a $250 reinspection fee after each of their second, third and fourth consecutive violations.

After four consecutive violations, the restaurant is shut down until the violations are resolved. Kenji Fusion and China Grill were both shut down for brief periods earlier this year after failing three consecutive inspections.

Township health officer Jeff Plunkett said that some businesses do not take the $250 fee seriously: One owner simply tried to hand a health inspector $250 in cash from his wallet.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that people just pay it,” Plunkett said in February.

The new ordinance would impose steps in the reinspection fees: $250 on the second consecutive offense, $500 on the third and and $750 on the fourth. After four consecutive offenses, the township will shut down the restaurant for a minimum of two days — even if the violations are resolved quickly.

“You keep trying to educate the ownership that they have a responsibility to every customer who walks through their door. It cannot be taken lightly.”

Food safety doesn’t happen in an office

About 15 years ago, I was a goofy grad student without a lot of ambition.

I had an interest in infectious diseases, genetics and how people talked about risk. Not necessarily in that order.

I found Doug and he set me up with a project working with a bunch of greenhouse tomato and cucumber producers.

His advice was watch everything, ask questions and write it down or you will forget it.

Being on farms and in processing plants I learned about the real challenges that folks encounter when they try to manage risks and ended up finding a passion for food safety. I saw food safety in action daily.11024653_10205679691698903_6143155856293942610_n

Over the past few weeks I’ve spent a bunch of time out of my office doing food safety stuff in the real world like working with chefs on HACCP plans, visiting storage facilities, providing risk communication messages for an outbreak.

But the most food safety fun I’ve had recently was talking to a friend’s Brownie troop about micobiology and handwashing. Grad students Natalie Seymour, Nicole Arnold and Katie Overbey did the heavy lifting, showed the girls what science is and were excellent scientist role models. I just showed up.

But I guess my handwashing prowess blew a mind or two (above, exactly as shown).

 

The Brits have a way with language: townies wash their hands

Germs. You can’t get away from the blighters. If it’s not the teeming populations of camplylobacter that infest the cavities of supermarketchicken, it’s the E coli, salmonella and worse that disport themselves on our towels and dishcloths.

courtlynn.handwashAgainst these regiments of invisible enemies we deploy a vast arsenal of weapons-grade cleaning products. But while we’re spraying our surfaces with bleach and washing our dishes in Eucalyptus detergent, a shaming 60-odd per cent of us neglect to wash our hands after we’ve visited the loo, according to a Rentokil survey.

While confirming my conviction that you’re better off eating dinner at home, where at least the bugs are mostly familiar, this news has made me reflect on my own handwashing habits which are, I realise, completely perverse.

At home in London, I carry on like Lady Macbeth, washing my hands dozens of times a day. But at weekends, in the stableyard, I find myself cheerfully eating a sandwich from an unwashed hand that moments ago was feeding a horse a mint.

I’ve no idea whether it is my scrupulous townie cleanliness or my robust rural exposure to pathogens that means I’m almost never ill. But either way I view with misgiving Rentokil’s proposed solution to the handwashing recidivists. Stewart Power, its marketing director, predicts that one day every washroom will have a monitoring system “to give us a nudge to wash our hands”.

It’s bad enough being nagged by an electronic voice about an unexplained item in the bagging area. Just imagine the irritation of being slut-shamed by a disembodied nanny in the loo door.

Food Safety Talk 73: I Wish They’d Wash Their Hands More

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.  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.Handwashing-Words-In-Shape-Of-Hand

This show starts with Don and Ben talking about the number-six item on their list of things to discuss for the episode:  Yosemite and how beautiful it is; Ben rates it at three thermometers, a rating system they invented.  Ben’s favorite thermometer is the Comark PDT300, even though someone sent him a ThermoWorks Thermapen which is Don’s favorite. Ben’s hockey team has been using thermometers when the grill sausages, this is what Ben’s contribution to the grill-outs.  Ben gets chirped for being the guy who brings the thermometer to the hockey grill. Ben is now supplying thermometers to other hockey guys.

Don talks about his lunch date with a podcast celebrity from the 5by5 network. Don tells the whole story about flying business class from Brazil to Texas then while in Texas, buying comic books and having lunch with Dan Benjamin.  Dan asked Don lots of food safety questions; they didn’t talk much about 5by5.  After this, Don attended the NoroCORE Food Virology meeting with Ben (the guys talked in real life, not just over Skype).

The conversation then turns to food safety culture and what that really means as it is in the literature.  Ben talks about a conversation he had about food safety culture with a person trying to develop a presentation on food safety culture for farmers. Don shares an email from Doug about food safety concerns at [insert big company name] that shared a Dropbox video of text and images displaying poor food safety. The guys then talk about the difficulties of creating a food safety culture when no one thinks it’s important. Ben talks about the many things that must be in place before a food safety culture can begin to be established.

Then conversation then transitions to how to talk about food safety risks. Ben suggests talking about risks frankly. The guys then discuss the uncertainties around risks and how to discuss them.  Discussing how quantitative risk assessments are performed and applied, and the issue of uncertainty messages, also come up in conversation.  Salmonella Hypetheticum then comes up in the conversation.

Don then brings up a book that he has been reviewing about food waste.  The same food waste topic has been featured on a television show that Don’s real life friend Randy Worobo was a guest on.  The issue of food waste and risk is discussed, with a focus on lower income persons and how to manage the need to save money against food safety risk decisions.  The use of fruits and vegetables that are past their optimum date to make infused vodka brings back memories of pruno-associated C. botulinum outbreaks.  Ben appreciates Don for working the math around food safety questions and the time and effort it takes to accurately answer without just ‘no don’t do that thing’.

Ben then brings up the issue of thawing a turkey on the counter the risks associated with that action.  Doug Powell has a paper in the Canadian Journal of Dietetics Practice Research about the calculations around thawing a turkey at room temperature.  Actually, it is ok to thaw a turkey at room temperature if you are within certain parameters.  This topic follows along with the possible Food Safety Talk tag line:  and it’s messy.

Next, Ben wants to talk about communication, but Don talks about the decision to eat fresh produce in Brazil, and other’s decision not to eat the fresh produce while visiting.  While at meetings Ben seems to focus on following the news and typing up Barfblog posts (some people are ok with that and will resist complaining; Ben does type rather loudly).  When Ben gets really into what he is writing, he lets out really loud sighs others have noticed, but Ben hasn’t noticed his inappropriate sighing.

Transitioning back to communication, Ben brings up a hepatitis A outbreak reported in Cumberland County Maine, but without a retail location identified. The State of Maine is taking some flack (could we call this chirping, see above) for their handling of this incident; the State of Maine tried to explain that this is because of a lack of personnel with specific expertise.  Maine has been in the news for other public health issues… a nurse breached a quarantine for Ebola by going for a bike ride.  Don suggests the public health system in Maine may be broken, Ben suggests this may be due to their having just eleven health inspectors for the whole state.

In the After Dark session, Ben reveals the most popular Food Safety Talk episode.  The guys aren’t sure which episode they just completed, 74?, 75?, whatever it takes.  Speaking of documentaries, Don recommends Jodorowsky’s Dune a documentary about a movie that was never made.

Lots of support for restaurant that had food handler with hepatitis A

n a truly Canadian move, more than 70 owners, management and staff from Sudbury bars and restaurants ate and drank at a Sudbury, Ontario (that’s in Canada) Casey’s in a show of solidarity. In early February over a thousand patrons might have been exposed to hepatitis A after a food handler was diagnosed with the virus. According to The Sudbury Star, even the local health unit, the folks who ran the hep A shot clinics, hosted a retirement party for over 40 folks at the restaurant.default-1

Last week, Peddler’s Pub invited fellow establishments to join them in a show of support for the Kingsway bar and grill, which suffered a publicity setback last month when an employee was diagnosed with hepatitis A and patrons were urged to get vaccines through the Sudbury and District Health Unit.

“It’s one of those unfortunate things that can happen to any restaurant,” said Peddler’s marketing manager Cliff Skelliter. “Casey’s is such an important part of our community. A lot of people have jobs there and the owners are amazing, just absolute sweethearts.”

Dave Temmerman, co-owner of Hard Rock, brought a contingent of 14 people affiliated with his Elm Street pub.

“In times like this it’s nice to know who your friends are and stick together,” said Temmerman.

The public should have no fear of dining at Casey’s, he said, as standards of hygiene at this restaurant are as strict as any he’s encountered.

“I’ve worked in a lot of places, and it’s one of the cleanest I’ve worked in,” he said. “What happened to them is just a bad deal. People in the industry know it can happen to anybody, and it’s not because their place is dirty.”

Casey’s owner Marty Wills said the endorsement of counterparts means a lot.

“It’s wonderful what all the other restaurants have done,” he said. “They’ve been getting together and showing a little love, a little support for us, because they understand we didn’t do anything wrong.”

The hepatitis A that was detected in a Casey’s employee “was never created here,” said Wills. “She just happened to work here.”

Having a clean restaurant (whatever that means) doesn’t really matter; in this situation, risk is influenced by the food handler’s handwashing behavior. US FDA risk factor studies have shown that handwashing compliance in food service isn’t great. Requiring your staff to have hep A vaccinations would avoid stuff like this.

Jersey officials plan database of restaurant health inspection reports, higher fines for violations

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Spurred on by the outbreak of Hepatitis A linked to a food server at Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering, Hamilton Township in New Jersey is taking steps to ensure that every consumer knows just how safe — or unsafe — food establishments are, with an online database of food inspection reports scheduled to go live within the next few months.

jon.stewart.handwashing.2002“Accountability is everything,” township health officer Jeff Plunkett said on Friday. He said a new ordinance is also being drafted to increase fines for health code violations.

The new database will allow customers to simply search for the name of a restaurant to view its health inspection reports, Mayor Kelly Yaede said Friday.

“This is an initiative we’ve been working on for a year,” Yaede said, attributing the concept to one proposed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at the 2014 U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“The number one goal of our health office is to maintain the public safety of our residents,” Yaede said. “This tool makes these restaurant inspection reports more readily available to individuals when they’re making a choice of whether they’re going to patronize a restaurant.”

It isn’t clear whether a restaurant’s entire history or recent history of inspection reports will be available, Yaede said.

“As much information as we have that’s accessible will be released to the public,” Yaede said.

The software will hopefully provide an incentive for restaurants to maintain clean bills of health: It could provide a sales boost for the cleanliest establishments and motivation for less cleanly restaurants to fix problems, Yaede said.

“It would be a positive tool for a majority of restaurants in Hamilton to help them promote their business,” Yaede said.

“And if you don’t have a good report? There’s more of a bite in it for enforcement,” Plunkett said.

Hep A is fecal-oral: Rosa’s Restaurant cited with handwashing violations shortly before Hepatitis A outbreak

Any time there is an outbreak of Hepatitis A, it’s not just a lack of vaccination, not just about identifying those at risk and giving them a shot, it’s about poop.

hepatitis.ASpecifically, that person making your salad went #2 and failed to properly wash their hands.

The Trentonian reports that the month before a Rosa’s Restaurant employee was diagnosed with Hepatitis A — sending residents scrambling for vaccinations — the eatery was cited for numerous handwashing violations.

According to an Oct. 8 food inspection report obtained by The Trentonian through a public records request, the restaurant was listed as out of compliance for employees conducting handwashing in a timely manner, workers performing proper handwashing and the business providing paper towel for handwashing facilities.

Also marked as a violation, an employee was observed making sandwiches and handling rolls with his bare hands, while another worker was shredding and handling lettuce with his bare hands, the report states.

“Due to the number of critical violations, the person in charge is not demonstrating proper knowledge of food safety principles pertaining to this operation,” Hamilton Township food inspector Kelly A. Thomas wrote in her report, which gave the restaurant a conditionally satisfactory evaluation. “No proof of food handling certification was available on-site at time of inspection.”

In response to the October report and some of the continued handwashing violations throughout the years, restaurant owner Rosa Spera said in an email on Friday that her establishment has four handwashing sinks.

“On past inspections some of the signs reminding workers to wash their hands have been missing,” Spera stated. “Unfortunately, sometimes people remove the

After the first case of Hepatitis A was reported in late November, officials disclosed three other Hamilton area residents contracted the virus that had eaten at Rosa’s during the time period the worker was affected.

MrHankyHowever, township officials previously stated that it does not know with any certainty that any of the three cases had any link to or is a direct result of the original incident.

Spera said in the email it’s “unfortunate” that one of her workers got sick in November.

“When he did, he reported immediately to a doctor, not to work,” Spera stated. “When I learned of it, I took immediate action to take every precaution. With the guidance of the Hamilton Health Department, we threw away all open food and had the township observe our deep cleaning of all food areas.”

Jeff Plunkett, the township’s health officer, said in an interview on Tuesday, that the restaurant was closed for approximately seven to eight hours on Dec. 1.

“They had to remove the entire staff, bring an entire staff new that hadn’t worked there during that period of communicability when the gentleman was sick,” Plunkett said. “The entire place was clean and sanitized and witnessed by an inspector who was there the entire time.”

But even as the health inspector stressed the importance of wearing gloves on Dec. 1, Thomas stated in her report that she observed an employee slicing and handling bread with his bare hands. Two days later, Thomas stated she observed employees doing prep work scramble to put on gloves as she walked through the doors, while another employee put on gloves without washing his hands first, inspection documents read.

Name and shame, Victoria style

That’s Victoria, the Australian state, where 25 per cent of the name and shame offences in food service directly related to a lack of training.

trainingGrace Smith writes for the Australian Institute of Food Safety that once an eatery has been discovered to breach Standard 3.2.2 Clause 3(1) (b) of the Food Act S16 (1), their details are added to the register for twelve months where the public can access details about their misconduct. The clause demands that all food-based establishments are responsible for ensuring that the people who are supervising or undertaking food handling operations must have “knowledge of food safety and food hygiene matters”.

Some of the establishments that were charged with failing to comply with food safety training laws include:

Milk Torquay Pty Ltd: Fined $6000.00 as part of their aggregate order, with $10,000 costs.

High Street Bakers and Confectioners of Thornbury: Fined $40,700.00 as part of their aggregate order with $1,300.00 costs.

Dream Cakes Café of Oakleigh: Fined $5,000.00 as part of their aggregate order with $6009.35 costs, and $10,000 in another aggregate order with $6009 costs.

While it’s safe to say that these convicted vendors were found guilty of various breaches, including handwashing and cleanliness problems, it’s shocking to imagine that in 2014, restaurants, cafes, and eateries are still staffed by individuals ignorant of food safety matters.

The federal legislation in Australia currently states that all people who are responsible for handling food must undertake food safety training appropriate to their position. The law also requires that businesses comply with the Food Standards Code – a collection of individual food standards that was jointly developed by professionals in Australia and New Zealand. Providing people with food that does not meet this code is a criminal offence.

Furthermore, the state legislation in Victoria outlines that every business dealing with food must have a Food Safety Supervisor on staff who is reasonably contactable at all times. The Food Safety Supervisor must have completed a mandatory training course and is responsible for preventing, monitoring and dealing with food safety issues as they arise, as well as being responsible for the ensuring all food handlers are trained appropriately in food safety.

Republican senator says restaurants should be able to opt-out of mandatory handwashing

As Republican presidential hopefuls like Rand Paul and Chris Christie fall over themselves to claim the live-free-or-die vote by saying vaccinations should be optional, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis has gone further: laws requiring mandatory handwashing by food service employees are just regulatory burden.

handwashing.sep.12According to Daily Kos, Tillis made the declaration at the Bipartisan Policy Center, at the end of a question and answer with the audience. He was relaying a 2010 anecdote about his “bias when it comes to regulatory reform.”

“I was having a discussion with someone, and we were at a Starbucks in my district, and we were talking about certain regulations where I felt like ‘maybe you should allow businesses to opt out,’” he said, “as long as they indicate through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment literature, or whatever else.”

Restaurants can just opt-out and let the free market take care of business after word spreads of unsanitary conditions.

“That’s the sort of mentality that we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country,” he added. “We’re one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet.”

Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet joked that he was “not sure” he would shake Sen. Tillis’ hand when the discussion was over, causing the lawmaker and members of the audience to laugh.