£13 for a MILF (burger): UK Meat Counter has some safety beefs, but do they verify safety with thermometer?

Cornwall Live reports the Meat Counter is one of those burger joints that are so much more than that.

rare-hamburgerLocated in Arwenack Street in Falmouth, the stylish American-style eatery known for its homemade burgers and chili fries has carved a name for itself on the culinary scene in the town and beyond.

There is an extensive menu to choose from including the £13 M.I.L.F. – a burger, pulled pork and chicken layered extravaganza with a fried Jalapeno on top.

Alongside its signature dishes, The Meat Counter offers a selection of American delicacies such as the ultimate bulldog (hot dog), local steaks and chips with all the trimmings.

It also has fine vegetarian options including The Filthy Shroomburger and Spiced Chickpea Burger.

It opened three years ago, employs 10 staff and has consistently received high reviews from punters, with 223 ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ reviews out of 262 on TripAdvisor.

However the Meat Counter was one of six restaurants in the Duchy to receive a zero hygiene score rating from Cornwall Council food inspectors following a visit in July.

The note from Cornwall Council inspectors was that the venue needed to improve its handling of food including preparation, cooking, re-heating, cooling and storage, along with a major improvement of the general cleanliness and condition of its facilities and building.

The zero rating also came with a ‘major improvement necessary’ warning for the management of food safety.

When Cornwall Live revealed the list of the 75 worst-rated restaurants in Cornwall, Martyn Peters, owner of the Meat Counter, said the score was by no means a reflection of the kinds of “kitchen nightmares” documented at other places.

stiflers-mom-paul-finchHe said that if issues such as cross-contamination or out-of-date food had been a factor in the company’s score, the kitchen would have been shut down immediately instead of simply being given the lowest rating.

He added: “On the contrary, the vast majority of the issues raised during that first visit were rectified within 48 hours, and we have continued to trade ever since.”

Mr Peters said the hygiene scoring rating from council food inspectors could do with greater transparency.

A restaurant, especially in an old building, can be penalised for having small cracks in the floor tiles or for its bins not being collected on the day of the inspection even though it is out of its control.

Structural faults inherent to old buildings can also play against a restaurant and may involve expensive work to fix.

Mr Peters added: “Any business worth its salt takes the condemnation of a zero rating very seriously and we’ve been working closely with our environmental health officer to address the issues raised during her first inspection.”

Assessment of risk communication about undercooked hamburgers by restaurant servers

Ellen M. Thomas, RTI International; Andrew Binder, Anne McLaughlin, Lee-Ann Jaykus, Dana Hanson, and Benjamin Chapman, North Carolina State University; and Doug Powell, powellfoodsafety.com

Journal of Food Protection

DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-16-065

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2013 Model Food Code, it is the duty of a food establishment to disclose and remind consumers of risk when ordering undercooked food such as ground beef. The purpose of this study was to explore actual risk communication activities of food establishment servers. Secret shoppers visited restaurants (n=265) in seven geographic locations across the U.S., ordered medium rare burgers, and collected and coded risk information from chain and independent restaurant menus and from server responses. The majority of servers reported an unreliable method of doneness (77%) or other incorrect information (66%) related to burger doneness and safety. These results indicate major gaps in server knowledge and risk communication, and the current risk communication language in the Model Food Code does not sufficiently fill these gaps. Furthermore, should servers even be acting as risk communicators? There are numerous challenges associated with this practice including high turnover rates, limited education, and the high stress environment based on pleasing a customer. If it is determined that servers should be risk communicators, food establishment staff should be adequately equipped with consumer advisory messages that are accurate, audience-appropriate, and delivered in a professional manner so as to help their customers make more informed food safety decisions.

 

Chicago sets a food safety standard, then ignores it

The Chicago Tribune reports that inspections are government stethoscopes. They detect leaky roofs, Cobb salads that can tear up our insides, faulty elevators and buildings that are firetraps.

restaurant-inspectionAbout those Cobb salads.

The Chicago Department of Public Health requires “high risk” food establishments, such as restaurants, school and hospital kitchens and day care centers to be inspected twice a year. In 2015, fewer than half of them got two inspections, city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson recently reported. Grocery stores are supposed to get an annual inspection, but nearly 1 in 5 were not visited by sanitarians last year. Bars and convenience stores are supposed to be inspected once every two years, but fewer than 1 in 4 got a visit from inspectors in 2014 and 2015.

The explanation is simple: not enough inspectors. The city has 38 full-time inspectors to handle a workload that the IG says would take 94.

Would you like ranch or Imodium on that Cobb salad?

Foodborne illness affects 48 million people every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — hospitalizing at least 128,000, killing 3,000, and making countless others miserable.

Chicago’s food safety inspection rules follow state guidelines, which are based on recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the city routinely falls short of those standards. For years, the city and state have agreed to “corrective action plans” that allow Chicago to continue to receive local health protection grants from the Illinois Department of Public Health. In 2015, that amounted to $2.5 million.

That raises some questions: Are twice-a-year restaurant inspections necessary to protect people from foodborne illness or not?

Why should consumers have confidence in food safety standards that state health officials consider negotiable?

Does Chicago need more inspectors, or more realistic rules?

If twice-a-year inspections are needed, then the city has an obligation to provide the staffing to conduct them. If they’re not needed, then there are better uses for scarce public dollars. The city needs to figure out which of those things is true, instead of leaving rules on the books and breaking them repeatedly. Taxpayers deserve to know their money is being used wisely, and diners deserve to know their local eateries are following safe food-handling procedures.

It’s not the first time the city has failed to carry out its own inspections regimen. In 2012, the Tribune reported that nearly two-thirds of the city’s elevators had not been inspected the previous year as required. Some of the buildings were downtown, where the city dealt with a backlog by allowing property owners to hire their own inspectors to check elevators. But many building managers didn’t get the inspections done, and the city largely let them off the hook, the Tribune found. Very few of the non-compliant building owners were fined, and the city failed to follow up with its own inspectors, an expense that could have been passed on to the owners.

The fees and fines paid by food service establishments don’t cover the cost of the required inspections — and in any case, that money goes into the city’s corporate fund, which pays for all sorts of programs and services. That money could be dedicated to the Department of Public Health to pay for inspections, though the city would have to find efficiencies in its operating budget to make up for the lost dollars. The city also could charge more for inspections and licenses, or raise the fines for violators, to help cover the costs.

But Ferguson makes an excellent point: The city first needs to determine whether it’s necessary to add 56 inspectors to its payroll. That means working with state health officials to craft an inspections regimen that ensures food safety and is cost-effective, and to codify those standards. The IG’s report recommends consulting with food safety experts — government agencies, NGOs and academic institutions — to come up with a science-based inspection schedule.

By keeping a rule on its books that it doesn’t enforce, the city is not being straight with Chicagoans. Meaningful food safety standards, adequately enforced, will give a hungry public the confidence to chow down.

 

Everyone’s got a camera Spanish bakery edition: Rats tucking into sandwiches at popular chain

Customers at a Madrid bakery witnessed a rather unexpected – and stomach churning – sight on Friday: four rats tucking into sandwiches in the bakery’s display case. 

rat-granier-bakeryThe rodents were spotted by two men passing by a branch of the Granier bakery chain and were caught on camera helping themselves to food that was left in a glass-fronted display case.  

The men can be heard joking “how cute” as they film the two large rats scampering over the fresh food in a video published on social media.

Police confirmed they were called to the bakery at around 1.30pm on Friday and had closed the establishment pending health and safety checks. 

Granier, a Spanish chain, has 350 bakeries across Spain as well as in Portugal, Italy and London. 

The company confirmed that the bakery, located in the Pueblo Nuevo neighbourhood of Madrid, “was closed and would stay closed”, in a statement released on Friday. 

“The company has put itself at the disposal of the appropriate authorities and has opened an internal investigation into these events,” the company said, adding that food safety protocol had been “strictly adhered to” in the establishment. 

Granier said that the bakery underwent quarterly inspections, the last having taken place on October 26, when, according to documents released by the company, the branch in question was fumigated. 

It was, the company claimed, “an isolated event” and “the 350 Granier establishments in Spain and abroad comply strictly with all food health regulations.”

Rotting food and animal blood: UK health inspectors close takeaway on the spot

Environmental health officers were left stunned at the filthy state of a shop which was inspected after a customer complained they had seen a rat running across the counter.

takeaway-montageThey found mouse dropping throughout the premises – including on a chopping board and in open sacks of flour – in addition to filthy kitchen equipment and old food stuck to surfaces.

Raw chicken had been washed in a dirty sink and then dipped in dirty water, and blood and food waste, including old pizza dough, was left lying around.

Conditions were so dire, officers ordered staff to close the premises immediately during their visit on November 5 last year, the Manchester Evening News reports.

Shahzad Akthar, the owner of the Central takeaway, on Cromwell Road in Salford, Greater Manchester, was hit with a bill of nearly £3,000 after being hauled before the courts .

He was fined £1,080 and ordered to pay costs of £1,627 and a victim surcharge of £100 and being found guilty of four food safety and hygiene offences at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court.

Inspectors found a ‘clear and active’ mouse infestation with significant amounts of droppings throughout the premises, made worse by large amounts of food on the floor and gaps in walls and doors, giving mice access to food.

The council said it was clear the takeaway had not been properly cleaned for some time.

Officers found rotting food on surfaces and equipment, grease and old food stuck to shelves near the kebab machine, and old grub on the inside of fridges.

The ice cream server and equipment were so dirty there was scum on the surface of the liquid.

A raw meat chopping board was on top of the salad chopping board, and both boards were kept behind a sink in a pool of filthy water.

Staff said they used a shower cleaning product to clean work surfaces and had little knowledge of how to store food at the correct temperatures.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: UK restaurant critic Oliver Peyton’s bar ‘covered with mouse droppings’

Dave Burke of the Daily Mail reports a kitchen in an upmarket Westminster bar owned by restaurant critic Oliver Peyton’s company was covered in mouse droppings, a court has heard.

oliver-peytonThe plush ICA Bar was owned by Peyton & Byrne Ltd, a firm co-owned by Irish restaurateur Oliver Peyton, who is a judge on BBC show Great British Menu.

The company has since gone bust. 

Inspectors discovered mouse droppings inside food storage containers and a sandwich sealing machine, Westminster Magistrates Court heard.

And they found that rodents were trying to nest under the sink by chewing up paper hand towels, prosecutors claim.

The court was told mouse droppings were discovered on a tray where ready-to-eat sandwiches are kept before they are wrapped in cling film.

Westminster Council, which is prosecuting the business, says inspectors found more on the floor in the food storage areas, shelves near food preparation areas and on shelves containing bottles of olive oil.

Even more droppings were discovered on the lids of jars containing ready-to-eat food such as hazelnut paste, sugar cubes, chestnuts and popping candies, it is alleged.

The firm went into administration last month, after the first court hearing into health and safety breaches at the ICA Bar.

French company Sodexo bought the firm’s remaining catering contracts, while the Peyton family took over the bakery side of the business.

The charges the company face include a further allegation that mouse droppings and grease was found in the washing up areas and all over shelves holding cleaning products and paper towels.

Inspectors noted that two rolls of blue hand paper towel underneath the sink in the wash-up room had been gnawed by mice.

portraits-people-003Cracked tiles were found in the kitchen, possibly giving the pests a place to nest.

The company was summoned to court face eight charges of failing to comply with food safety and hygiene provisions, but no-one from the now defunct firm showed up.

Prosecutor Kirsty Pantin, for Westminster Council, applied to district judge Paul Goldspring for the case to be adjourned so the administrators, Deloitte, could be contacted.

‘The company has gone into administration after the last hearing when pleas were meant to be entered,’ said Ms Panton.

Stomp: Off-Broadway Saudi restaurant version

A barfblog.com subscriber sent this in from Saudi Arabia, (and I encourage anyone from our global network of over 75,000 to send in whatever).

bill-murray-lost-in-translationSomething may be lost in translation (that’s Bill Murray pre-dating my Japanese television experience, which was weirdly similar).

This video was taken in the municipality of Bisha, Saudi Arabia, showing a worker at a restaurant who stomps his feet on a bag of meat.

The worker tramples on the meat in this way “to soften a frozen joint of meat” as reported by Bisha Municipality on their Twitter account, and that is has closed the restaurant immediately.

Video below.

Food poisoning hits 12 diners at Chicago Grill in Hong Kong

A Thanksgiving dinner at Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, turned into an upsetting evening for at least 12 guests who reported symptoms of food poisoning and were sent to the doctor last Thursday.

chicago-grill-hong-kongThe diners, aged two to 44, suffered abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, after eating the US-stye restaurant’s Thanksgiving dinner set, which included grilled turkey, apple pie and pumpkin pie, Apple Daily reports.

They were sent home after their condition stabilized. None of the patients required hospitalization, the report said.

The outlet’s manager said staff suspected some items of the dinner set could have been contaminated.

The turkey and pumpkin pie had been taken off the menu, although the apple pie was only being held off temporarily.

The manager described the incident as shocking, considering that nothing like it had ever happened at the restaurant since it started serving the festive set more than 20 years ago.

Make it mandatory: Voluntary restaurant inspection ratings are silly

According to new research by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), only a third (34%) of us regularly check food hygiene ratings before eating in a restaurant or takeaway. With an estimated 4.3 million meals expected to be eaten out over this festive period, FSA is urging people to check a restaurant’s food hygiene rating before booking this Christmas.

respect-authorityThe research, released ahead of the expected Christmas spike in restaurant bookings, found that although food hygiene and safety were of concern for 37% of people, only 6% said that they actively consider the food hygiene rating when deciding where to eat. Other priorities included:

quality/type of food (58%)

own experience of the place (32%)

location/convenience (23%)

good service (21%)

price (20%)

appearance (20%)

recommendation (19%)

Mark O’Neill, senior advisor, local authority policy and delivery, Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland said: ‘We are pleased to see that so many food businesses in Northern Ireland are already compliant with the Food Hygiene Rating Act, which came into operation in October, making it mandatory for food businesses to display their hygiene ratings. This means that around 90% of businesses should now be displaying hygiene information on a green and black sticker somewhere easy to spot outside of their premises. We expect that consumers will be pleased with this development as our recent survey showed that 95% of people in Northern Ireland believe that businesses should have to display their ratings, which now they do.

We are now urging people to look for hygiene ratings and choose restaurants which score three or above this Christmas.

Fancy food ain’t safe food Denmark edition: Country’s only three-star restaurant fined £2,300 for hygiene breaches

Denmark’s only three-star Michelin restaurant on Thursday faced questions over hygiene after it was fined 20,000 kroner (£2,300) by the country’s food safety authority.

restaurant-geranium-iiGeranium, the first eatery in Denmark to receive top Michelin honours, had been storing fresh shellfish such as oysters, crayfish and scallops in temperatures that were too warm and over an extended period, the Danish Food Administration wrote after an inspection.

Two walk-in coolers also had “black, green and white splotches growing on the underside of shelves and on packaged pickled garlic”, according to a report dated 29 September but picked up by Danish media only on Thursday.

The regulator awarded the Copenhagen restaurant – which charges 2,000 kroner for a meal without drinks – a frowning “smiley,” the lowest grade of its four-tier system.

Geranium chef Rasmus Kofoed told Danish news agency Ritzau: “I do not agree with what is written. I believe that it is greatly exaggerated but I admit that there are some parts of the process where perhaps we have been a bit unattentive.”

geranium-denmarkLess talk, more action.

The restaurant had been using a computerized system to monitor food temperatures incorrectly, but fish and shellfish were always stored on ice regardless of the surrounding temperature, he added.

This year the Nordic edition of the Michelin Guide gave three stars to Geranium, but only two to Copenhagen’s celebrated Noma, which was named best restaurant in the world by Britain’s Restaurant magazine in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Noma too faced criticism from the Danish food safety regulator in 2013, when it was accused of not taking adequate action after a sick kitchen worker gave dozens of customers food poisoning.

The gift that keeps on giving.

smiley-faces-denmark-rest-inspection

77 sick, 12 hospitalized in Alabama Shoals Salmonella outbreak

A Salmonella outbreak wreaked havoc on the guests of a private wedding in Colbert County on Saturday, leaving 77 people ill and 12 hospitalized.

crap-cateringHealth authorities are not publicizing specific details about the wedding, the caterer that prepared the meal, or exactly what food caused people to fall ill with Salmonella gastroenteritis.

But Jennifer Edwards of Decatur Daily reports that guests of the Saturday event confirmed it was held at a Sheffield hotel and catered by a local company called Indelible Catering. A 71-year-old woman died six days after a luncheon hosted by Indelible in Decatur in May 2014 left 17 people ill with Salmonella and two with E. coli.

Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers said Thursday that the Alabama Department of Public Health (DPH) “suspended the caterer’s food preparation permit” as a result of the outbreak.

“There were approximately 150 attendees and at this point in time we have 77 people who have exhibited signs and symptoms. We believe that number could change because the incubation period is six to 72 hours,” she told AL.com.

“Patients became ill several hours to a couple days or so after the event, and we started to receive reports early Monday morning.”

“All patients are recovering” following the incident, the DPH said in a statement, adding that they suffered from symptoms including “vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and some fever.”

The statement said that since first learning of the outbreak on Monday, the Colbert County Health Department has interviewed patients, obtained food samples and patient specimens and inspected the source of the food.

The state has taken the lead on testing, according to Landers.

“At this time the food is being processed in the state health department’s laboratory … We do have a menu of the food and we have several of the food products,” she said. “We can’t speculate on the food item until we get the final results.”

The outbreak has been traced to a wedding reception that took place Saturday in Sheffield, where the caterer provided chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes for the event, according to patients who attended the event and are now receiving medical treatment.

Another song recorded at the great Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, from Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s Street Survivors.