Queensland Health says rating schemes a matter for local governments; top franchises and well-known restaurants among Brisbane eateries slapped with fines for dodgy hygiene and health practices

Sometimes I wonder what Queensland Health does, other than publish error-filled food safety information.

eat.safe.brisbaneNo follow-up on the 50 people that got sick from shiga-toxin producing E. coli at the state fair last year, no follow-up on the 240 who got sick from Salmonella linked to raw-egg mayo last year, and just no follow up at all.

According to The Courier-Mail, cockroaches in the kitchen, rat droppings in the deep fryer and Salmonella are just a few of the nasties that Brisbane’s food safety inspectors are finding on the menu at some of the city’s most popular restaurants.

Top franchises and well-known restaurants were among the eateries slapped with a whopping total of $600,000 in fines for dodgy hygiene and health practices during the 2013-14 financial year.

The revelations follow the DM jazz cafe being fined $25,000 in the Brisbane Magistrates Court this week after a customer found a live cockroach in the chicken and mushroom risotto.

Food safety inspectors slapped more than 30 restaurants and cafes with fines as part of the city council’s EatSafe program in a bid to clean up the industry.

The Beach House was fined $30,000 in December after rat droppings were found in the deep fryer, as well as accumulated grease on the floor and wall surfaces in the kitchen.

The Gap Tavern, owned by the ALH Group, was fined $28,000 for cleanliness issues including having live cockroaches in November 2013.

ALH Group spokesman said the organisation took food safety very seriously and had already taken steps to address the issues raised by the council.

“We have a robust ongoing audit process,” he said.

Major cities and tourist destinations throughout the state are hiding details about restaurants prosecuted for repeated dodgy hygiene practices, which could include insects crawling through the kitchen and food contamination.

There is now pressure on them to follow Brisbane City’s Council’s lead by naming and shaming eateries that flunk inspections and introducing a star rating system for food safety.

Diners on the Gold Coast and in Cairns could be eating at restaurants repeatedly fined for breaching health standards but wouldn’t know because their councils refuse to reveal who they are.

Queensland Health Health Protection Unit boss Sophie Dwyer said food safety rating schemes were a matter for local governments.


Palm Beach, Florida not enforcing ordinance requiring restaurants post a sign about their inspections

What good is restaurant inspection disclosure if the results aren’t publicly accountable?

Palm Beach County in Florida passed an ordinance to make diners aware of a state law that allows you to ask for a restaurant’s inspection report. In our tests, the majority of restaurants do not follow the state law.

jake.gyllenhaal.rest.inspection.disclosureIn 2007, Palm Beach County took the state law a step further and required restaurants post a sign in their window, door or menu to let you know you could ask for the inspection report. This came after NewsChannel 5 revealed dirty kitchens. Seven years later, our hidden cameras found restaurants breaking that rule too.

“I remember when the ordinance came up that they had to post it. I was all excited,” explained diner Fran Green.

She said she rarely sees the signs now.

We went to 12 restaurants, from chains to fast food, and looked at their menu and in their window. We found no sign of the signs.

“That’s unbelievable,” explained Green.

“I’m not surprised,” explained Dave Aronberg.

Aronberg was a state representative when he fought to get the ordinance passed.

“I think it’s just because they don’t know about the ordinance,” explained Aronberg.

Don’t know and may not care because we found the county hasn’t enforced the signs. Nobody has been fined over it.

It’s voluntary and sucks: Brisbane’s EatSafe program adopted by other Australian councils

Brisbane City Council’s food hygiene rating system EatSafe has been adopted by other councils, a move that has been hailed as proof of the success of the often-maligned program.

eat.safe.brisbaneIt’s not proof of anything, other than bureaucratic self-congratulation.

The program, developed by the LNP administration in 2010, replaced an annual visit by council food safety inspectors to all Brisbane food vendors with one that awards them a star rating.

Restaurants awarded a three star rating still receive a yearly inspection, while those awarded a four star rating receive a visit from council officers every second year.

Those with a five star rating are inspected every third year.

According to lifestyle chairman Krista Adams, four councils – two in Queensland and two in Tasmania – have now adopted the system pioneered in Brisbane, which she said brings a greater degree of transparency to the city’s restaurants, cafes and takeaway food sellers.  

Cr Adams said 91 per cent of the city’s more than 6000 food outlets had been deemed by EatSafe inspectors to be operating at a three star level or above.

However, her comments promoting the success of the program came in the same week it was revealed a South Bank restaurant awarded four stars had been prosecuted over a woman finding a cockroach in her risotto in April last year.

Council Opposition Leader Milton Dick described the reduction in annual visits as a “cop out. … It’s more PR than actually tackling food safety standards in Brisbane.

“In principle it is sounds good but in practice it doesn’t deliver what it says it will.”

‘These ladies been cooking for like 30 years and it’s a language barrier’ Ocha Thai Cuisine and 7-11 Bar

Health inspectors said the restaurant in this week’s Dirty Dining needs a talking to. They’re concerned their history of failing routine health inspections puts the public at risk.

Ocha Thai Cuisine and 7-11 BardThe Thai restaurant is a repeat offender. The good news? This time they don’t have roaches. That’s what shut them down the first time we were there. What’s got health inspectors so worried now?

They found enough problems to give a 37-demerit “C” grade to Ocha Cuisine on Las Vegas Boulevard near Charleston.

Inspectors found employees touching ready-to-eat food with bare hands. There was also food stored on the floor, excessive sticky build-up on soda nozzles and raw meat thawing at room temperature with dirty dishes.

When we paid them a visit, it was deja vu all over again. Manager Larry Xaypanya said much of the problem was due to broken equipment.

Last year, the owner blamed their problems on cultural differences with the way things are done in their kitchen.

Larry said that’s still an issue, “We’re family-owned and it’s kinda hard to tell the family anything, because these ladies been cooking for like 30 years and it’s a language barrier, you know? But now they understand.”

Health Ministry finds top restaurants serving up adulterated and misbranded food and 20 per cent of all food in India fails quality tests

At least a fifth of food items from across the country have failed to meet quality standards during tests at government laboratories and even top restaurants and fast food outlets in the National Capital have been found to be dishing out treats that were either adulterated or misbranded.

india.foodData recently released by the Health Ministry stated that 46,283 food samples, including milk and milk products, edible vegetable oils and spices, were analysed at laboratories during 2013-14.

A total of 9,265 samples were found to be adulterated and misbranded.

In Delhi alone, the government recently launched 61 prosecutions against erring manufacturers and vendors.

Since the beginning of the year, at least 27 food and milk products were found to be sub-standard and six products at different outlets were found to be “unsafe to eat”.

The tests revealed that spices used at the Punjabi By Nature outlet at City Square Mall in Raja Garden were “unsafe”.

Similarly, authorities found that a food item called “Rizo Rice” at a KFC restaurant in Connaught Place was unsafe and hazardous for health.

According to government officials, the New Punjabi Kitchen, at Metro Road, Eastend, Public School, New Ashok Nagar was selling “unsafe” prepared food.

An outlet of the Bikanerwala chain at Karol Bagh was selling ‘besan barfi’ unfit for consumption.

Food safety culture? Walmart restaurant linked to Shigella outbreak ready to reopen

Salsarita’s Restaurant in the Walmart Home Office Café will reopen Wednesday following a Shigella outbreak that made hundreds sick.

Salsaritas-Chimichurri-Fajita-BurritoThe email said Eurest, the third-party company in charge of managing the kitchen, will hire a quality assurance manager and will retrain staff on the company’s safety protocols.

Maggots in food among new prison complaints

When I was in prison, the food wasn’t so bad, most of the poop had been cooked out, and I still get a giggle from my daughters when I say, bacon and egg for breakfast, because that was our choice in the gaol: one egg and bacon, or two eggs.

ned-kelly-510x630mm-framedReports obtained by The Associated Press through records requests found numerous problems reported since April, when the state took the rare step of fining the vendor because of contract failures.

The records show 65 instances where Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services failed to provide food or ran out of it — usually the main course, such as hamburgers or chicken patties — while serving inmates, leading to delays and in some cases security concerns as inmates grew frustrated. Substitute items were provided in most cases.

On May 28, guards stopped breakfast “to preclude a mass demonstration” at Warren Correctional Institution in southwest Ohio by inmates upset at being served only white bread and peanut butter after the supply truck was apparently late.

The records also show several days when Aramark employees simply failed to show up and cases of unauthorized relationships between inmates and Aramark workers. Reports allege sexual activity between some inmates and workers.

Records also show five reports of maggots since January in food or the preparation process. Last month, for example, an Aramark employee notified a prison guard at Trumbull Correctional Institution that “one of the two serving lines had maggots falling out of the warming tray.”

Restaurants in Jersey city went years without inspections

Probably sit down jobs.

Food safety is serious business, which is why New Jersey, like other states, regulates retail food handling and mandates annual inspections of restaurants, cafeterias and stores that serve meals or sale prepackaged foods.

sit.down.job.sopranoBut in this Union County city, the status of restaurant inspections might be hard for some diners to stomach. City officials say they are taking action.

For the past several years, just a fraction of the city’s eateries have been visited annually by an inspector. In many cases, restaurants and grocery stores have gone years without being inspected, a Courier News and Home News Tribune investigation found. The ignored businesses include restaurants that handle so-called “potentially hazardous foods,” such as fish and poultry, which can harbor toxic microorganisms if not stored or prepared properly.

The list of ignored sites includes school cafeterias, soup kitchens and a nursing home.

In one case, the newspapers found a fried chicken restaurant — Crown Fried Chicken on West Front Street — that was last inspected in 2009.

The newspapers also found that many records for 2012 were missing or did not exist without explanation.

Sometimes there was no record of a required follow-up visit of a restaurant that failed to pass an initial inspection because of gross or potentially unsafe conditions. For example, an inspection in 2012 of Royal Fried Chicken reported that the bathrooms “had poor general cleanliness” and what the inspector believed looked like pigeon feces on the kitchen floor (an employee explained to the inspector that it was dried chicken seasoning).

A 2011 inspection of the Twin City Supermarket found that a walk-in fridge was rusty and moldy and raw and bloody meats were stored on a shelf above a shelf of vegetables. A cook was seen using his bare hands to mix a bowl of beans and cheese. A fly trap was located above fruit platters. And human feces was smeared all over a toilet and floor of the men’s restroom, which the inspector said was immediately cleaned.

The lack of inspections was one reason the city in May hired a fulltime health officer for the first time in years. The hiring was a rare example of accord between Mayor Adrian Mapp’s administration and the City Council, which often are at odds.

Fancy food ain’t safe food, Brisbane edition: DM Jazz cafe fined $25,000 after diner finds cockroach in her risotto

I’ve walked by the DM Jazz café in Southbank, Brisbane, but never ate there. My lifestyle doesn’t demand that.

DM.jazz.risottoThe four-star rated restaurant was fined more than $25,000 after a customer found a live cockroach in her chicken and mushroom risotto.

The dish was served at the DM jazz cafe at South Bank on April 1 last year, sparking a council inspection which shut the restaurant down for two days.

The inspection found the kitchen was infested with cockroaches, while uncovered meat and built-up grease was also discovered, Brisbane Magistrates Court heard.

Domanni Corporation, which runs the restaurant, pleaded guilty to charges of one count of selling unsuitable food and 10 counts of failing to comply with requirements imposed by the food standards code in relation to the conduct of a food business and was fined $24,000. Owner Doina Poplacinel was fined an additional $1500 with no conviction recorded.

Annette Welsford, who was served the risotto plus cockroach, told The Courier-Mail outside the court that she had been horrified to find the insect.

“I was just about to tip on some parmesan and my daughter-in-law said: ‘Oh my God, it’s a cockroach’,” she said.

“There’s this cockroach standing up in the bowl waving its legs around.”

She said the manager immediately grabbed the dish, offering another meal, later explaining the cockroach may have been in someone else’s salad and just flew in.

Ms Welsford said she and her family had been extremely unimpressed.

“It really ruined the day for us,” she said.

Defence barrister Scott Neaves said the restaurant owners, who had previously owned two restaurants in Melbourne after emigrating from Romania, had been badly affected by floods.

Magistrate Anne Thacker said the restaurant had shown it was able to regain its four-star rating with Brisbane City Council soon after the incident but the fine needed to be a sufficient deterrent.

She said the restaurant had not upheld the “high standard that is demanded by our lifestyle here in Brisbane.”

Horror stories on the menu in south New Zealand

Vermin, food past its best before date and no hand-washing facilities in kitchens are just some of the horror stories uncovered in Invercargill eateries and shops.

barf.o.meter.dec.12A report commissioned by the Invercargill City Council has uncovered the dirty secrets in 39 food premises in the city.

The damning document shows the problems are not just isolated to takeaway shops, with three grocery stores, a delicatessen, a health shop, cafes, restaurants and dairies all involved in the sting.

Invercargill City Council environmental health manager John Youngson said the report was a surprise and a disappointment, a sentiment shared by the hospitality industry.

Among the problems listed in the report are food being stored in refrigerators and freezers with temperatures too high, ice cream scoops not dried properly, encouraging bacterial growth, and in one case a mice infestation was found.

Three premises did not have hand-washing facilities and two premises did not have soap, towels and nail brushes for washing hands with.

Youngson’s biggest concern was the four food premises with high-risk temperature issues, a danger for food poisoning, he said.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said he was shocked by the report, which he had not seen, and would move swiftly to fix the issues.

Eateries will now have to provide food management plans and the council would look at bringing in a rating system, so people could easily see how the food premises scored on health and safety.

Hospitality New Zealand board member and Winton publican John McHugh said he believed the rating system would be extremely effective.

This may help.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as barf.scaletools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.