Food safety cleanup

A Japanese buffet restaurant in Stockbridge, Georgia, was asked to close after failing another health inspection, its third in less than six months. The food permit for Huge Hibachi Sushi Buffet, 5425 N. Henry Blvd., was recently suspended because of “continual disregard for public safety.” astonishing 85 restaurants in Birmingham, UK, have been zero-rated for hygiene standards.

Several Malaysian eateries have been ordered closed by the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) in an ongoing operation to check food safety and hygiene. “Action was taken for violations such as cockroach infestation, rat droppings, not maintaining food temperature, preparing food in back lanes and dirty toilets,” said MPK Corporate Communications director Norfiza Mahfiz.

With many jumping on the smartphone disclosure bandwagon, it’s no surprise that shoppers in China can look up a kiwi fruit’s complete thousand-mile journey from a vine in a lush valley along the upper Yangtze River to a bin in a Beijing supermarket. The smartphone feature, which also details soil and water tests from the farm, is intended to ensure that the kiwi has not been contaminated anywhere along the way. Some talk. Some do.

175 principals sick: Brisbane needs to up its food safety

An op-ed by me in this morning’s Brisbane Courier-Mail:

g20.brisbane.14If Brisbane wants to be the world-class city it aspires to be, put aside obsessions with TV cooking shows, with political inanities, with imports and focus on what makes people — such as 175 delegates at a school principals’ conference — sick.

After decades of food safety research, I can conclude anyone who serves, prepares or handles food, in a restaurant, nursing home, day care centre, supermarket or local market needs some basic food safety training. And the results of restaurant and other food service inspections must be made public and mandatory.

Here’s why. Parenting and preparing food are about the only two activities that no longer require some kind of certification in Western countries. To coach little kids ice hockey in Brisbane, which I do, required 16 hours of training. But anyone can serve food.

Cross-contamination, lack of handwashing and improper cooking or holding temperatures are all common themes in food-service related outbreaks — the very same infractions that restaurant operators and employees should be reminded of during training sessions and are judged on during inspections. should be mandatory food handler training, for say, three hours, that could happen in school, on the job, whatever. But training is only the start. Just because you tell someone to wash their hands after using the toilet before they prepare salad for 100 people doesn’t mean it is going to happen; weekly outbreaks of hepatitis A confirm this. There are incentives that can be used to create a culture that values safe food and a work environment that rewards hygienic behaviour.

Next is to verify that training is being translated into safe food handling practices through inspection, which should be public and mandatory.

Brisbane’s star system is voluntary, which means an owner can choose to not display results if they suck. The best cities — Toronto, Los Angeles, New York — have mandatory disclosure.

In the absence of regular media scrutiny, or a reality TV show where camera crews follow an inspector into a place unannounced, how do diners know which of their favourite restaurants are safe?

Cities, counties and states are using a blend of websites and letter or numerical grades on doors, and providing disclosure upon request.

In Denmark, smiley or sad faces are affixed to restaurant windows.

Publicly available grading systems rapidly communicate to diners the potential risk in dining at a particular establishment and restaurants given a lower grade may be more likely to comply with health regulations in the future to prevent lost business.

More importantly, such public displays of information help bolster overall awareness of food safety among staff and the public — people routinely talk about this stuff. The interested public can handle more, not less, information about food safety.

I volunteer at my daughter’s school tuck shop — no inspection, no training — and they’re serving meals to kids. Principals visiting Brisbane, unfortunately, learnt the importance of food safety.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety at the University of Guelph in Canada and Kansas State University in the U.S., who is now based in Brisbane.

0478 222 221

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.

Food safety cleanup

In honor of fall cleaning of smelly hockey gear – and what use is scaffolding if not to dry out hockey equipment – I offer this cleanup of smelly food safety news.

hockey.equip.drying.feb.15Lots of Asian countries, including China have banned Canadian beef after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) showed up on the same farm as a case diagnosed in 2010. How effective is enforcement of that feed ban?

Men wash their hands less than women.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is going to speed up implementation of labeling of needle or mechanically tenderized beef to 2016. If Canada can do it in 2014, so can the U.S.

New Zealand is going to require child care centers to have a food safety plan when they serve meals to little kids, and get inspected once a year. Australia should do the same.

50 school cafeterias out of the 350 in Rhode Island racked up the most food safety violations. Who knew Rhode Island had 350 schools?

Fancy food ain’t safe food, Scotland edition, the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian in Edinburgh has failed basic hygiene inspections by food safety authorities. No details of why the hotels had failed food inspections.

The manager of a former railway station in Ireland that was converted to a restaurant told an food safety type it was really busy, and that’s why they violated 44 food hygiene and safety regulations. Guilty.


UK restaurant gets hygiene award; practices shared with other restaurants

Some food safety coverage is incomplete, leaving the food safety nerds wanting more. According to The Star (the U.K. version, not the one the covers the Toronto Maple Leafs) a Sheffield Cafe is doing great things, stuff that others could learn from.

Steve Edmonds, manager of Beighton Village Trust, which runs the Beighton Lifestyle Centre café, said: “The food safety officer was very complimentary and even took away some of our practices to share with other such establishments.1079199562

“Our score is testimony to the pride our colleagues take in our café.”

What are the practices that the superstar cafe employs? If anyone knows, please share.



UK hotel fined £20k for kitchen hygiene breaches

A landmark Swindon hotel has been ordered to pay more than £20,000 in fines and court costs after admitting a dozen breaches of hygiene regulations said to pose a significant risk to public health.

GW in Station RoadGreat Western Hotel (Swindon) Ltd, which owns The GW in Station Road, was hit with a £13,200 fine, as well as being ordered to pay £7,500 costs at Swindon Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Director Gavin McKelvie, 42, was ordered to pay £4,400 while the kitchen manager at the time, Mark Wylie, 30, was fined £2,200.

It follows an inspection by a Swindon Council environmental officer in March last year, which revealed numerous serious breaches.

Milk was found on top of raw chicken, while out of date sandwiches were found on the premises, ready for sale.

The inspector found a kitchen covered in food debris, a lack of hand soap and a failure to record temperature checks of food or equipment.

Before the inspecdtion the hotel had a three-star rating and there were no complaints by customers or reports of anyone becoming ill.

All of the defendants admitted the offences and Anna Mathias, defending all parties, said they accepted standards had been allowed to slip to an unacceptable level – but action had now been taken to rectify all the problems.

Environmental health specialists: the salt of the earth

There are some good folks in state and local health departments throughout the world. Environmental heath specialists, public health inspectors, hygiene officers – whatever they might be called – are some of the most fun food safety nerds to hang out with. They’ve got a lot of street credibility, seeing more kitchens and food safety in action in a week than some researchers see in a career.

Delmarva now (of the Salmonella-famed Delmarva Peninsula) profiles how restaurant inspections have changed from visits focusing on broken tiles to teaching events and coaching visits. girl-food-temp

In Pocomoke City, at the Riverside Grill, Corey Reeves said her family-run restaurant welcomes visits from the health inspector, because they always teach her something. The restaurant, which opened in 2012, is owned by her parents, Mark and Leslie Reeves.

“Initially, you’re always nervous,” she said of a health inspection, “not because you’re doing anything wrong, but because the rules change constantly, as they should. The regulations change, the kind of bacteria they may be looking for each season. So that’s something new to learn about. It’s very informative.”

Gary Weber has owned Blue Dog restaurant in downtown Snow Hill for about five years.

“If they make their case and want something corrected, if there’s a need, then we correct it. Then they come back and follow up on it. They’re always very polite and very respectful of our business and our staff,” Weber said.

“But it keeps you on your toes,” he said, “and in the restaurants I’ve worked in, there’s a sense of pride if you can get 100 percent. Everybody strives for that. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t feel good about our health inspectors.”

Stu White has been with the health department for 18 years.

Today, inspectors are there not just to evaluate a facility, but to educate restaurant managers and staff. 

“If we ask that something be corrected, if there’s somebody who disagrees with what we’re talking about, then at that point, education thing comes in,” White said. “This is why we’re asking you to do it — not just because I want you to do it. There’s a specific reason. What you’re doing has the potential to make somebody sick.”

White said food safety regulations have evolved over time, under the leadership of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Years ago, we would go in and look more at the physical facility — was the place clean? Are the walls smooth and easily cleanable?” he said. “We didn’t pay as much attention to food safety or food handling at the time.”

Some supply chain: Organic café in Australia closed after reports of insect contamination, food from unlicensed suppliers

Health inspectors have ordered the closure of the cafe at Petty’s Orchard after complaints of something a little too natural in its baked goods.

yarraorganics1Manningham Council demanded an immediate shutdown of the rustic Yarra Organics cafe, run by John and Nancy Mustafa, in response to a complaint about insect contamination in food.

Council officers visited the heritage cafe, which sold organic pies, pasties, cakes, biscuits and coffees, and found that food sold there had been bought from unregistered businesses and was in breach of food safety standards.

Council chief executive Joe Carbone said officers were only recently made aware of the cafe, which according to reviews online, has been open since at least June 2012.

The family, which has run the apple orchard for more than 15 years, said no food was prepared on site — and there wasn’t even a kitchen.

“We have been forced to close the cafe when we do not even operate an oven or stove on the premises,” Mrs Mustafa said.

“It’s affected our reputation and it’s been a great loss.’’

The Petty’s Orchard Templestowe Facebook page has called on the public to complain to the council about the closure.

Petty’s Orchard Templestowe

“Petty’s organic apple farm has just been closed down by Manningham city council templestowe because of having a café on premises. Please help by sending a complaint to PLEASE SHARE AND HELP THE FIGHT!!”

Petty’s is one of Melbourne’s oldest commercial orchards and is on land owned by Parks Victoria.

Rampant cross-contamination at Pho Saigon 8 in Vegas

Dirty Dining visits a place where health inspectors say the cook contaminated the food, and it’s all part of a 54-demerit closure.

pho_sai_3The 54 big ones went to Pho Saigon 8 on South Eastern. The Vietnamese restaurant was guilty of multiple handwashing violations.

One was so bad that inspectors say fresh, cut, ready to eat produce and cooked chicken were contaminated by the cook, who used gloves soiled by raw beef to handle additional ingredients.

There was also no handwashing between dirty and clean dishes, between cleaning waste out of a sink and handling cooked chicken, and after picking waste up off the floor.

When they did wash their hands, it was only for a few seconds in cold water.

Inspectors also found uncovered food stored on the floor including noodles and meat, and meat thawing at room temperature on a shelf under the grill.

When Contact 13 went to the restaurant to get their side of the story, an employee told us, “I have no idea because my boss not here yet. So I have no idea.”

That’s a violation of health code. There has to be a knowledgeable person in charge present at all times to monitor and ensure food safety and proper sanitation.

Pho Saigon 8 just got in trouble for that in mid-January because the person in charge then wasn’t a certified food safety manager and couldn’t answer basic questions from inspectors about cooling, labeling, storage or handwashing.

We asked the employee to call the boss, “My boss said sorry, we can’t let you in,” and said he didn’t want to comment.

Inspectors also found food from the previous day wasn’t cooled properly, including beef and meat soup, which had to be thrown in the garbage.

Chicken sitting out at room temperature also had to be tossed.

Public health risk at Canberra’s eateries

The nation’s capital could be more open.

Australian Capital Territory Health’s “name and shame” list reveals that nearly two dozen restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets in the ACT have been hit with fines totalling more than $230,000 for breaches of food safety standards since 2011

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No EvilThe register only lists eateries found guilty of food offences, and because of investigative, administrative and appeal processes it can take between 18 and 24 months before the date of an offence and the conviction appear on the register. 

Inspections of restaurants, cafes and food stalls have risen in the past three years, increasing from 1994 in 2012 to 2334 last year. 

More than a dozen Canberra restaurants were forced to shut their doors last year because of an immediate public health risk or failing to fix food safety breaches, new figures reveal.

Cockroaches littering the floor, mouldy food stored in a cool room, a floor covered with thick, grey congealed food waste and power points caked in grime and grease: these are just some of the unpalatable images of appalling food standard breaches health inspectors have discovered in restaurant kitchens in Canberra.

ACT Health figures show 14 restaurants were closed last year after being slapped with prohibition orders because of an immediate public health risk or failure to comply with improvement notices. 

There were also 395 improvement notices issued last year, 32 more than 2013 and 101 more than in 2012. 

Improvement notices are issued for less serious breaches. They identify areas of non-compliance and give eatery owners a deadline to rectify the breaches. 

ACT Health said details of the restaurants and breaches were “not able to be provided.”

The ACT government is yet to decide on the details of a possible “scores on doors” food hygiene rating system for restaurants, such as whether it will be compulsory and when it will be introduced. 

We celebrated the year of the sheep – Chinese New Year – with some friends at their house last night after hockey. Yummy.