Leftover rice risks from Lifehacker

One of my former roommates was a straight edge punk-loving vegan for a while. Now he eats meat and drinks beer, but for a while he survived on rice and sriracha. Sometimes he left his steamed rice out overnight – making some egg-free fried rice the next day. This was before either of us knew much about Bacillus cereus and rice.

Earlier this week Claire Lower from Lifehacker emailed a couple of questions about leftover rice safety. The Lifehacker folks often ask really good questions about the science and why behind food safety recommendations – Claire included. Claire wanted to know why some guidelines say not to leave rice out on the stove over night.

I sent Claire a couple of papers including this one which is an oldie (1974), but a goodie from Gilbert and colleagues which included this awesome B. cereus spore/vegetative cell growth figure (right, exactly as shown) highlighting anincrease of a log or more within 4 hours once in vegetative state.

We looped Don into our discussion and he pointed out the somewhat common practice of boiled and then fried rice in some Asian cooking techniques.

According to Benjamin Chapman, Food Safety Specialist from North Carolina State University, cooking rice doesn’t necessarily kill all the pathogens that may be lurking about. “The issue with rice,” he explained to me over email, “is that one pathogen, Bacillus cereus, is quite prevalent in dried rice (some sources say ubiquitous), likely as spores. The spores may survive cooking. If cooked rice is subsequently held at room temperature, the spores can come out of their protective form, germinate, and vegetative forms multiply. The cooked rice environment provides a lot of water and nutrients for growth. As a by-product of growth, they create a couple of toxins, including a heat-stable one.”

Beyond refrigerating any home-cooked rice, a sense of vigilance is helpful when dining out. According to food scientist Donald Schaffner of Rutgers University, some restaurants “cook up a large batch of rice, hold it at room temperature all day,” and then take portions from the batch as needed. “Because Bacillus makes a heat stable toxin,” he explained “this is not a best practice, and has led to outbreaks in the past.” “Heat stable” means that the toxin can survive boiling and, once the rice is cooled into the “danger zone” of 59-122°F, the bacteria can multiply, making even more of the toxin. Sushi rice, he noted, shouldn’t be a problem as vinegar is added to lower the pH, allowing it to be held safely at room temperature.

Never there: No comment as Salmonella outbreaks close two Canberra cafes and no word in Brisbane

There’s an outbreak of Salmonella in Canberra (that’s Australia’s capital, on a swamp, like Washington, DC), and there’s an outbreak in Brisbane.

They are not related, other than no one will say something in public.

The whole idea of risk communication is to let people know when there is a problem, what they can do to avoid the problem, and stop making things worse by refusing to ID the source or the food implicated.

It’s OK, social media will fix that for the bureaucrats, but why spend taxpayer money on agencies that won’t tell the public shit?

I called Queensland Health a week ago, to ask them about the Chinese New Year Salmonella outbreak in Brisbane, and the media thingy said, e-mail your question, which I did, and still, no answer.

Government-types are never there.

Which is why I always tell private sector types to expect nothing from the government.

If there’s an outbreak, the government types will still have their job and super: you won’t.

According to ABC News two weeks ago – and there’s been nothing public since — an outbreak of salmonella has forced two popular Canberra cafes to close their doors while they are investigated by health inspectors.

The ACT Government Health Protection Services (HPS) has served prohibition orders on the two cafes linked to the outbreak, located in Belconnen and Gungahlin.

The cafes are Ricardo’s in Jamison and the Central Cafe in Gungahlin.

In a statement, HPS said health inspectors had uncovered problems “related with food handling processes and procedures” at both stores.

“The cafes will be closed until such time as the identified issues have been rectified,” the statement said.

“This action means that there is no ongoing risk to the health of the ACT population from these events”.

The health directorate refused to comment on how many people had been affected by the outbreak while the investigation was in process.

Though there were a number of posts on social media from those claiming to have eaten at Ricardo’s before falling ill.

“I know someone who was in hospital last week, for four days, with a truly awesome bout of salmonella after eating there,” one person wrote on Facebook.

“My partner and I are both in hospital,” wrote another.

“Bought cake from there Monday last week, was shivering in bed with fever and food poisoning with girlfriend until Friday, she’s fine I’m still not over it,” a user said on Reddit.

“Ugh ate there Wednesday last week. Friday, got sick/gastro for 5 days. Guess I have an idea where it came from now…”

Food safety fail: BBC Food Detectives

Our resident non-aging television personality and food safety dude, Rob Mancini, who did a MSc with me all those years ago, writes that food safety professionals have been using a number of different mediums to get the word out on food safety.

One such medium are blogs, like the one you are reading now, using current press releases to disseminate information to the masses.  Others use eclectic marketing campaigns, some which are validated others not, radio, Internet, and TV.

While I am a proponent in using media to get information out in a rapid, relevant manner, TV reality shows can be misleading and often times food safety takes a back seat to sensation.

TV reality shows are a fine balance between science and fiction….. it’s about the ratings and trying to get a second season. Prior to embarking on my journey with Kitchen Crimes back in 2005, I was bombarded with emails from my colleagues not to sensationalize the facts and use weird gadgets to uncover dirt, grime, or whatever was lurking in the kitchen. Except hat doesn’t get ratings, sometimes we have to sensationalize and grasp peoples’ attention.

But it has to be done right.   At least it gets people talking and thinking about food safety.

The BBC Food Detective show was peppered with a number of food safety fails including no thermometers to verify internal food temps. Really, no thermometer….. something so simple that can literally save someone’s life. As a society, we do a horrible job in food safety communication, just look at all of the inconsistencies found on the Internet, in food regulations, provincially and internationally, and in the media.

Be the bug: Toast edition

Guest barfblogger Rebecca Fischer writes:

toast-rebecca-ja-17I wanted toast.

 I watched from the diner counter as my server bare handedly took bread from the storage drawer, toasted it, cut it, and put it on a plate. The manager who had been answering phones and rubbing his face while adjusting his glasses also made toast and wiped his hands on a kitchen towel that then disappeared to wipe something else down.

No imagination needed to see how something like E. coli or Norovirus could be spread as I watched each bit of contact affect all the bread, knives and surfaces.

Am I neurotic? I tried not to have a stomachache.

 I just want toast.

Rebecca Fischer (laughingkat2@gmail.com) says she’s in the middle of a career change, following my passion for food by studying nutrition. Food handling has become a fascination, another excuse for people-watching, to see how experience and education affect awareness in kitchen behavior.

And I may be on hiatus but I’m a sucker for helping students who want to learn and kids –little or big — who want to play hockey.

Diner that catered lunch for health types didn’t have permit ‘We expect they would refuse our request’

The restaurant that provided the meal that sickened at least 70 state health department workers in Santa Fe, NM, didn’t have a permit to cater events.

kick-ass-sandwich-shopThe New Mexico Environment Department says the diner — until recently called the Bad Ass Sandwich Shop but now called the Kick Ass Sandwich Shop because of a legal dispute, see the NSFV video below – will be served with a notice of violation for not having a catering permit.

Paul Rhien, a spokesman for the Health Department, said Friday that epidemiology tests confirmed the contamination came from the restaurant’s food.

Shannon Quintana of Kick Ass Sandwich Shop couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. He told the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper that he didn’t cater the Dec. 14 lunch and that the Health Department had ordered food from Kick Ass to be served alongside other dishes brought by employees.

But Rhien told Mark Oswald of the Albuquerque Journal the restaurant set up a buffet line and served food, and there weren’t many food items prepared by Health Department workers.

The Health Department’s holiday lunch, which was held in the department’s offices at the Runnels Building – where employees headquartered there are the same ones who investigate disease outbreaks around the state – resulted in “reports of a number of employees becoming ill with mild gastrointestinal illness,” according to a message sent to employees Monday by Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher.

More than 200 department workers are estimated to have attended and about 71 reported gastrointestinal symptoms that developed within 24 to 48 hours.

Rhien said Friday that the Department of Health was not aware the sandwich shop didn’t have a catering permit. “If a restaurant doesn’t have the appropriate permit, we would expect them to refuse our request to cater an event — just as anyone would expect,” he said in an e-mail.

“The lab results from our epidemiological investigation confirmed that Clostridium perfringens bacteria were the source of the outbreak.”

The holiday lunch was paid for with worker contributions to an employee events committee, not by taxpayers, Rhien said.

Going public (not): E. coli outbreak at Chicago restaurant sickened over 100 in June

In June, 2016, people started getting sick after dining at Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill at 300 W. 26th St., Chicago.

carbon-live-mexican-grillBy July 1, at least 25 people were sick with Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, and the restaurant closed.

Five months later, and cilantro has been fingered as the source.

By the end of the outbreak, 68 people were sickened, 22 of whom were hospitalized. All have since been treated and released.

According to a report from the department of health, cilantro was identified as “food vehicle” that likely caused the outbreak. 

All prepared food was disposed, food handling practices were reviewed, and all staff who handle food were tested at least twice for the bacteria,” according to a release from Healthy Chicago, an initiative of the Chicago Department of Health, said at the time the outbreak was reported. 

Carbón withdrew from the Taste of Chicago so that it could turn “its full attention to addressing the issues at its Bridgeport location,” health officials said.

The owners also closed their second location at 810 N. Marshfield “out of an abundance of caution.” That location reopened July 9, health officials said. 

Two lawsuits stemming from the outbreak were filed against the restaurant, one seeking more than $90,000 in damages.

That’s the PR version.

The team at Marler’s Seattle law firm had previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request and found more than 100 people were sickened and that 16 of 40 food-handling employees of Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill tested positive for E. coli soon after the restaurant’s two locations voluntarily closed for cleaning July 1.

Lab tests confirmed 69 people were sickened during the outbreak, with another 37 probable cases. Of the sick people, 22 had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization. Illness onset dates ranged from June 3 to July 23.

Cilantro is the suspected source of the E. coli based on percentages of sick people who ate menu items made with the fresh produce item. Inspectors collected 12 food items, including cilantro, but none of the food returned positive results for E. coli bacteria. The cilantro was sourced from Illinois and Mexico, according to traceback information provided to the health department.

“Lettuce was associated with illness in both multivariable models but was consumed by only 44 percent of cases,” according to the health department report.

“In comparison, cilantro was consumed by 87 percent of cases, and either cilantro or salsa fresca (which included cilantro) were consumed by 95 percent of cases.”

The report references “several critical violations” observed during a July 1 inspection, such as improper temperatures for several food items including red and green salsas, tequila lime sauce, raw fish, guacamole and cheese. Inspectors also noted improper hand hygiene practices among food handlers.

Filthy food habits cost Perth Woolworths $100,000

I prefer to shop at Coles, but there is a few things I get from Woolies, especially since it’s on the way to and from school. She has a preference for tiger bread (I know it’s just white bread with stripes, but it’s on her way to swimming which is a decent bike ride, followed by an hour of laps, so for an 8-year-old, I’m not concerned about the empty calories.

woolworths-crusty-tiger-breadEmma Young of The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Woolworths at Madeley’s Kingsway City must cough up $100,000-plus after numerous public health offences.

The conviction will result in a fine of $95,000 and costs of $7000 to Woolworths, which the City of Wanneroo began inspecting in October 2015 after a member of the public complained about their Woolworths brand Crusty Tiger Loaf, which was found to be ‘unsuitable for sale.’

“The inspection found that Woolworths were not in compliance with a number of food standard codes,” planning and sustainability director Mark Dickson said.

Woolworths was found to have failed to ensure its food handlers were skilled in food safety and food hygiene. It also failed to store food to protect it from contamination, failed to keep the store and its equipment clean and failed to “process only safe and suitable food”. 

Evidence of pests was also found.

Woolworths pleaded guilty to all charges.

“The City’s follow-up inspections found that the issues were rectified,” Mr Dickson said.

No more tiger bread.

‘Defendants as dirty as their restaurants’ arrested for bribing monitors over food violations

Aidan Gardiner of DNA Info reports three restaurateurs were arrested this week for bribing city monitors to not penalize them for violations including flies, handling food without gloves and keeping a lizard in a fish tank, officials said.

bribeMorie Kabba of The Bronx was arrested Monday while Jonathan Niranjan and Mohammad Safi, who run establishments in Queens, were arrested Tuesday, according to Department of Investigation officials. They all face bribery charges and up to seven years behind bars, officials said.

“DOI’s investigation found these defendants were as dirty as their restaurants,” said Mark Peters, the DOI commissioner.

“In New York City, you can’t clean up a dirty restaurant with a bribe. DOI will continue to pursue unscrupulous business owners and operators who try to corrupt city employees for their own interests,” Peters said.

In each investigation, the men first bribed inspectors with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene who refused the money, but reported it to DOI which then sent undercover officers to each restaurant.

The undercover inspectors, spotted uncovered garbage cans, multiple flies and food residue on the floor of Jagana Family Kennedy Fried Chicken at 1375 Boston Road in Morrisania in October and reported it to Kabba, 42, officials said.

Kabba in turn gave the investigator $160, officials said.

Kabba was arraigned Monday and pleaded not guilty, officials said. He was released and due back in court on Jan. 17, 2017, officials said.

Similarly, a health inspector spotted an aquarium with a lizard inside Amazura, a music venue at 91-12 144th Place in Jamaica, and told Niranjan, 28, he’d have to remove it, officials said. Niranjan then told the inspector he forgot something in the bathroom, prompting the inspector to return inside and find “a wad of cash” on top of the sink, officials said.

An undercover inspector then visited the establishment in August and spotted a broken sink faucet, many flies and food handlers not using gloves, officials said. Niranjan then gave the undercover $300 in cash to “save him on some of the violations,” officials said.

Undercover investigators in May also spotted uncovered garbage cans, a broken sink faucet and staff touching food with bare hands inside Farm Fried N Curry Chicken at 120-20 Merrick Blvd. in South Jamaica, officials said.

 

Brisbane KFC fined $45000 after 2015 inspection

Kate McKenna of The Courier Mail reports a Brisbane City Council health inspector not-so-finger-licking good things at a KFC store in Chermside shopping centre’s food court in March 2015.

kfc-massacreFast food restaurant operator Collins Restaurants Management was slapped with a $45,000 fine in the Brisbane Magistrates Court earlier this month after pleading guilty to six breaches of food health laws.

According to court documents, an audit on March 4, 2015, uncovered live cockroaches in locations around the kitchen including on the surface under the preparation bench, and beneath the wall capping next to the crumbing station.

The council officer found a live cockroach found on the door handle of the freezer that stored the chips, as well as 30 to 40 live critters under the gravy and mash potato bain-marie.

Other violations included no warm running water at the only hand-wash basin in the premises and a build-up of food waste on the floor.

Council prosecutor Mark Thomas said there was substantial cockroach activity in a number of places, and council was seeking a $55,000 fine against CRM, which had no prior convictions.

Ralph Devlin, QC, for CRM, said the open nature of food courts posed unique issues for food retailers because pest control could drive insects from one spot to another.

He said the company had taken swift action and closed the store following the discovery, threw out stock, stripped and cleaned equipment, and enlisted pest control to “mist” the area.

Acting Magistrate Robert Walker handed down a $45,000 fine and decided not to record a conviction against the company.

 

Trump Grill could be the worst restaurant in America

I’ve never met Tina Nguyen, a writer now at Vanity Fair with an uncharacteristic way of cutting through the pop-culture-food bullshit, but have been following her on twitter for several years.

tina_nguyenSo I’ll call her Tina.

Her scathing review of the Trump Grill which apparently raised the ire of restauranter-in-chief, is below in an edited form.

Halfway through a recent late lunch at the Trump Grill—the clubby steakhouse in the lobby of Trump Tower that has recently become famous through the incessant media coverage of its namesake landlord, and the many dignitaries traipsing through its marbled hall to kiss his ring—I sensed the initial symptoms of a Trump overdose. Thanks to an unprecedented influx of diners, we were sitting at a wobbly overflow table outside the restaurant, in the middle of a crush of tourists, some of whom were proposing to their partners, or waiting to buy Trump-branded merchandise, or sprinting to the bathroom.

As my companions and I contemplated the most painless way to eat our flaccid, gray Szechuan dumplings with their flaccid, gray innards, as a campy version of “Jingle Bells” jackhammered in the background, a giant gold box tied with red ribbon toppled onto us. Trump, it seemed, was already fighting against the War on Christmas.

The allure of Trump’s restaurant, like the candidate, is that it seems like a cheap version of rich. The inconsistent menus—literally, my menu was missing dishes that I found on my dining partners’—were chock-full of steakhouse classics doused with unnecessarily high-end ingredients. The dumplings, for instance, come with soy sauce topped with truffle oil, and the crostini is served with both hummus and ricotta, two exotic ingredients that should still never be combined. The menu itself would like to impress diners with how important it is, randomly capitalizing fancy words like “Prosciutto” and “Julienned” (and, strangely, ”House Salad”).

Our waiter, coiffed and charming, was determined to gaslight us into thinking we were having a good time. “Trump gets the taco bowl and the lasagna and baked ziti,” he said, before subsequently informing the table that we could not order the lasagna or baked ziti. I asked the waiter what Trump’s children eat. He didn’t seem to understand the question, or, like Marco Rubio, appeared unable to depart from his prescribed talking points.“Oh, I’ve shaken hands with him before, and they’re pretty normal-sized hands,” he responded.

Our table nevertheless ordered the Ivanka’s Salad, a chopped approximation of a Greek salad, smothered in melting goat cheese and dressing and missing the promised olives, that seemed unlikely to appetize a SoulCycle-obsessed, smoothie-guzzling heiress. (Instead, it looked like a salad made by someone who believes that rich women only eat vegetables.) But the cuboid plant matter ended up being the perfect place to hide several uneaten Szechuan dumplings.

trump-grillOur waiter eventually noted that Don Jr. gets the filet mignon cooked medium-rare, with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. The steak came out overcooked and mealy, with an ugly strain of pure fat running through it, crying out for A.1. sauce (it was missing the promised demi-glace, too). The plate must have tilted during its journey from the kitchen to the table, as the steak slumped to the side over the potatoes like a dead body inside a T-boned minivan. Don Jr. probably does not eat the filet mignon here regularly, either. Come to think of it, judging by its non-cylindrical shape, it might not have even been a filet at all.

The one thing required to save the meal—booze—turned into its greatest disappointment. Trump himself does not drink alcohol, a possible explanation for why the cocktails seemed to be concocted by a college freshman experimenting in their dorm room. The Tower was a tall glass filled with three types of rum and several types of fruit concentrate. (One person named it “The Cancun,” and slowly nursed the spring-break-colored drink over the next two hours like morphine.) The You’re Fired, an oversized Bloody Mary, appeared to be a chunky shrimp-cocktail sauce, heavy on the horseradish, mixed with ice and a lot of vodka. The Fifth Avenue—Grey Goose with Cointreau and a “splash of cranberry”—tasted like vodka mixed with Crystal Light, the ultimate drink for an 18-year-old pledging a sorority. The alternative to these cocktails—which we could not bring ourselves to finish over the course of two hours—was Trump’s own branded Trump Wine, which came with one red option and one white option.