Fancy food ain’t safe food: Brits pushing for full restaurant grade disclosure, including Michelin starred

Australia take note: Even though Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City have all figured out mandatory disclosure of restaurant inspection grades on the door – you know, when people might actually make a decision – the Brits and Aussies opted for a voluntary system, so if a restaurant gets a 2-out-of-5 it’s just not posted.

wtf_mate_ornament_roundWales already has a mandatory system and Northern Ireland will have one in October.

But not England or Scotland.

The Telegraph reports that the UK government came under pressure last night from council leaders who called for a change in the law to force high-class establishments – even Michelin starred ones — to publicise their hygiene rankings in a bid to reduce the risk of diners eating unsafe food and becoming ill.

The change would affect all restaurants but those with Michelin stars are set to be hit particularly hard, as research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) shows their rankings are generally lower than many familiar chain restaurants.

I repeat, Michelin-starred restaurants generally rank lower than chain restaurants.

Fancy food ain’t safe food.

In December, FSA found 83pc of high street chains were given the best rating of five out of five, compared to just 55pc of Michelin star restaurants.

Michelin stars, a mark of exceptional quality food, are awarded to businesses by mystery shoppers and are judged independently of the official hygiene ratings.

Safety and quality are altogether different measures.

(Safety and quality are different measures, see below.} 

The FSA said all businesses should be able to reach this top rating of five.

But Bruce Poole, owner of Chez Bruce, a Michelin star restaurant in Wandsworth with a hygiene rating of lower than five, defended top restaurants which did not score top marks.

fancy.food.shitHe said: “It is very difficult for restaurants like ours as unlike high street chains which have restricted menus, we have fresh food coming through the day – sometimes up to 70 different items. We have to be able to show that all these pieces of produce have been handled correctly. For example we were downgraded from five stars because we couldn’t prove that we had frozen some fish at the correct temperature.” 

Simon Blackburn, Blackpool councilor and chairman of the Local Government Association safer and stronger communities board, said: “It’s not always easy for people to judge hygiene standards simply by walking through the front door of a premise and know whether they are about to be served a ‘dodgy’ meal that could pose a serious risk to their health.”

An FSA spokesperson said: “We very much favour making this system compulsory in England too, as we believe this will be better for consumers. It will also be better for businesses that achieve good standards as they will get more recognition and it will increase the spotlight on those not meeting the grade.”

“Anyone in England who sees a business without a hygiene rating sticker currently has to decide if they want to eat or buy food there without knowing what’s going on in the kitchen” said councillor Simon Blackburn, the chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board.

“It’s not always easy for people to judge hygiene standards simply by walking through the front door of a premise and know whether they are about to be served a ‘dodgy’ burger or kebab that could pose a serious risk to their health.

“Councils always take action to tackle poor or dangerous hygiene and improve conditions and see first-hand what shockingly can go on behind closed doors at rogue food premises.

smiley.faces.denmark.rest.inspection“Businesses have recently been prosecuted for being riddled with mice or cockroach infestations, rodent droppings on food and caught with a chef smoking when preparing food.”

Mandatory display of food hygiene ratings is supported by the consumer organization Which?, the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health and many environmental health officers.

Last year Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant in Mayfair, London, scored just two out of five after inspectors found cockroaches on the premises. Immediate steps were taken and Maze now scores top marks.

The LGA released details of recent food safety breaches, including in Croydon where more than 100 food outlets failed to meet expected hygiene standards last year, including 22 on a single street.

Over to you, Australia.

2 dead, 30 sickened with Salmonella in 2015: Australian bakery will probably never pay fine

Shannon Tonkin of the Illawarra Mercury reports that the defunct Wollongong food company fined more than $60,000 in court last week will most likely never pay the penalty, with financial records obtained by the Mercury showing the business was $144,000 in the red at the time the offences occurred.

1462144920322-1Betta Maid was convicted of 10 charges under the NSW Food Act in Wollongong Local Court last week and fined a total of $63,000.

The court found the company was responsible for the spread of a rare strain of Salmonella through Illawarra Retirement Trust aged care homes on the South Coast and ACT between January and March 2015, resulting in the death of two residents.

Another 30 fell ill, with unhygienic food preparation surfaces, the presence of rodents (including feces), rusty equipment and unclean utensils to blame.

(I’d still like to know where the Salmnoella bovismorbificans came from. It’s commonly found in cattle and horses – dp).

Betta Maid was put under external management in early April after the matters came to light and has since been placed in the hands of a liquidator to be wound up.

Documents obtained through the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) show the company owed an estimated $212,000 to 34 different companies around the time of the outbreak, including $131,000 in unpaid taxes.

A summary of the business’ financial position, signed by then-director Udo Boschan, estimated the value of the company’s assets at only $68,000, leaving a shortfall of about $144,000.

Local businesses owed money include Hasties Toptaste Meats in Wollongong, radio station Wave Fm, Sydney and South Coast Food in Dapto and Cazmont Computers in Shellharbour.

However, the chance of any creditors recovering what is owed to them appears lost, with a more recent ASIC statement filed by the liquidator saying it did not expect any creditors to receive their money. It is understood this would also apply to the court fines.

betta.maid.bakeryMeantime, court documents have revealed Food Authority inspectors carried out a routine inspection of the Betta Maid facility at Unanderra two and a half months before the salmonella outbreak.

Several concerns and contraventions of food handling laws were identified at the time, including rust and significant damage to equipment, some of which was unclean.

The company was given a month to rectify the situation, however the outbreak occurred before a further inspection took place.

Inspections and audits are never enough.

 

‘We grind our patties in store every day’ so they’re safe, and other hamburger myths

Not sure who is worse here: the celebrity chef or the government regulators.

But they’re both wrong on the topic of shiga-toxin producing E. coli in hamburgers.

meatwad.raw.hamburgerThe stories pitch it as a “bun fight between health bureaucrats and burger bars over what makes a safe hamburger.”

And both sides are using erroneous information.

I don’t really care what people eat, other than what they feed to their kids, and that accurate information is provided.

A NSW Food Authority spokeswoman said council officers had approached the watchdog in recent months “concerned about the increase in businesses serving rare/undercooked burgers” and potential health risks.

The authority has sent revised “Hamburger Food Safety” guidelines to Environment Health Officers, attached to the state’s 152 councils.

“Mince meat should be cooked right through to the centre,” the instructions say, citing a temperature of 71C.

“No pink should be visible and juices should run clear.”

Color is a lousy indicator, as is juices running clear. The only way to tell if a burger is safe is to use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

Regulators, with all their talk of science-based activities, should know better.

The spokeswoman said if businesses wanted to cook using an alternative temperature, “they must be able to demonstrate that their cooking process is safe”. Burger bars that don’t meet the new guidelines face penalties up to $1540 per offence “for the preparation or sale of unsafe food”.

Sydney chef Neil Perry, who plans to open four Burger Project stores this year, cooks his patties to medium — about 60C. But he said the big difference is staff at his outlets grind meat fresh every day, making it safe.

“We can do medium-rare, which is about 55C, but we rarely get asked for that,” he said. “About 10 per cent of orders are for ‘well done’.”

Perry said the food guidelines serve as a “worst-case scenario” safety net.

“Those guidelines from the health department are important because a lot of burger places have their patties supplied by butchers and have already been minced,” he said.

Perry said bacteria starts growing as soon as meat is minced so chefs need to mince and cook on the same day and keep meat refrigerated at the right temperature:

“We grind our patties in store every day.”

So what?

Shiga-toxin producing E. coli are generally found on the surface of meat cuts (unless that meat has been needle tenderized). The process of mincing moves the outside to the inside, so rare is risky.

Those dangerous E. coli are also especially infectious, with as few as 10 cells thought to cause illness.

hamburger-safe and unsafe-thumb-450x138-175

2 dead, 30 sickened with Salmonella in 2015: Australian bakery fined $63K,

From Jan. to March, 2015, two people died and an additional 30 sickened with Salmonella bovismorbificans.

1462144920322-1New South Wales Health traced the Salmonella to a bakery that supplied aged-care facilities across the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and the ACT.

The defunct bakery, Betta Maid, was fined A$63,000 in Wollongong Court last week, plus A$20,000 in court costs, for selling unsafe food and breaching hygiene standards.

NSW Food Authority CEO Lisa Szabo said, “This court result serves as a reminder to all food businesses why food safety systems are crucial, particularly those businesses serving food to the most vulnerable in our community.”

Charges brought against the company director, Udo Boschan, have been adjourned to May 26.

Betta Maid was ordered to shut temporarily in March last year, but announced in April it would close its doors for good and the company was placed into liquidation.

Go back to sleep, problem contained: 300 sick with Salmonella from sprouts in Australia

Salmonella-carrying bean sprouts that led to more than 300 cases of the disease in South Australia and the Northern Territory were, according to this story which long on faith short on detail, contaminated in an SA factory.

kevin.allen.sproutAbout half the Salmonella Saintpaul cases occurred over the past few weeks and 60 people were hospitalised after eating raw mung bean sprouts since the outbreak began in December.

But SA Health’s chief medical officer Paddy Phillips, who usually sees fewer than 20 cases of the strain each year, says bean sprouts are again safe to eat after the factory’s processors were cleaned.

“This business was completely compliant with all our investigations and there is no reason to believe there are any further issues with the production of bean sprouts at this factory,” he said on Friday.

An updated table of raw sprout related outbreaks is available at: http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-4-27-16.xlsx

Australia sucks at food safety: 233 sick with Salmonella from sprouts in SA, warning only issued now

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from another satisfied subscriber – we’re over 70,000 now – saying why was I talking about the risk of sprouts; all those outbreaks were years ago.

sprouts.batzNow, the Department of Health in South Australia is warning SA residents not to eat raw bean sprouts following a big jump in the number of reported salmonella cases.

Over the past 11 days there have been 108 salmonella cases reported in South Australia, which normally sees around 15 to 20 cases each year.

Since the start of December, SA Health has been notified of 233 cases of salmonella. Of these 233 cases, 43 people have been hospitalised.

“Our investigations have indicated to us that it is likely that the consumption of raw beansprouts is contributing to this increase,” said SA Health’s chief public health officer, Professor Paddy Phillips.

Duh.

“As a result we are today advising South Australians to cook all bean sprouts and avoid eating raw bean sprouts.”

Duh.

U.S. has been advising that for a deade.

“We also want to alert food retailers such as restaurants and cafes not to serve raw bean sprouts until further notice. We are working closely with the producers, suppliers and handlers of the sprouts and are continuing to investigate.

jimmy.johns_.sproutsBut 20-year-old examples mean nothing when, it hasn’t happened here.

A table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-2-24-16.xlsx

And never underestimate the power of denial.

Erdozain, M.S., Allen, K.J., Morley, K.A. and Powell, D.A. 2012. Failures in sprouts-related risk communication. Food Control. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.08.022

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004707?v=s5

Abstract

Nutritional and perceived health benefits have contributed to the increasing popularity of raw sprouted seed products. In the past two decades, sprouted seeds have been a recurring food safety concern, with at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people. A compilation of selected publications was used to yield an analysis of the evolving safety and risk communication related to raw sprouts, including microbiological safety, efforts to improve production practices, and effectiveness of communication prior to, during, and after sprout-related outbreaks. Scientific investigation and media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks has led to improved production guidelines and public health enforcement actions, yet continued outbreaks call into question the effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance. Raw sprouts remain a high-risk product and avoidance or thorough cooking are the only ways that consumers can reduce risk; even thorough cooking messages fail to acknowledge the risk of cross-contamination. Risk communication messages have been inconsistent over time with Canadian and U.S. governments finally aligning their messages in the past five years, telling consumers to avoid sprouts. Yet consumer and industry awareness of risk remains low. To minimize health risks linked to the consumption of sprout products, local and national public health agencies, restaurants, retailers and producers need validated, consistent and repeated risk messaging through a variety of sources.

 

50 sick in Australian Salmonella outbreak

An investigation into more than 50 cases of salmonella in Darwin and the surrounding area is currently underway, the Department of Health has confirmed.

darwin.crocSalmonella infection is often caused by ingesting food contaminated with the bacteria.

Dr Peter Markey, head of surveillance at the Centre for Disease Control, said it was too early to say where the outbreak started or how it spread.

He said the investigation was attempting to determine whether there had been a common food source at the root of the outbreak, and confirmed workers at the INPEX workers camp in Darwin’s rural area had been affected.

The Department of Health said while raw foods were a common cause of salmonella infections, environmental factors including geckos, frogs and family pets could also be a possible source.

Look at the raw egg dishes.

Everything’s bigger in Aus: Poisonous spider in bunch of broccoli purchased at Woolworths

It’s every vegetable hater and arachnophobe’s worst nightmare — spiders hiding among your greens.

spider.wooliesSupermarket giant Woolworths has been forced to pull broccoli from three suppliers off its shelves after deadly redback spiders were discovered hiding among the vegetables.

It is understood the withdrawal affects stores across Queensland and New South Wales.

In the first case, a Gold Coast woman got a little bit more than she bargained for when she washed some broccoli on Saturday night.

She discovered a redback spider lurking in the veggies.

Dee Nott bought the broccoli earlier that day from the Woolworths supermarket in Runaway Bay.

The shocked woman was so upset about her close encounter with the poisonous critter that she took a photograph of it and posted it on Woolworths’ Facebook page.

“Hi team Woolworths. I just had a nasty surprise — a live redback spider in my broccoli purchased today at your Runaway Bay store,” she says in her post.

She placed the venomous spider in her freezer for the night and had planned to return for a full refund the next day.”

“We’re very concerned about this, Dee, and take incidents like this very seriously,” Woolworths responded.

Food safety fail: Pork 6-2-2, use a thermometer instead

Australia Pork has apparently invested hundreds of thousands in a marketing message that is high on BS and low on credibility.

According to this advert, without taking into account variations in BBQs, cooking pork is simple (I’ve decided to start referring to Chapman as Stork, in all correspondence).

Only if a tip-sensitive digital thermometer is used.

Did you spot the cross-contamination?

Cow-share program a ‘sham’ Australian dairy farmers plead guilty to selling raw milk

A South Australian dairy farming couple charged over a cow-sharing scheme have pleaded guilty to selling milk that did not comply with national standards.

Mark and Helen TylerMark and Helen Tyler from Willunga Hill, south of Adelaide, supplied unpasteurised milk weekly to shareholders.

It is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in South Australia, but not to drink it from your own cow.

In May last year, a magistrate found the Tylers’ “cow-share program” was a sham and convicted them of two counts of breaching the Food Act.

The couple appealed to the Supreme Court and won a retrial, which was due to start today, but instead Mr and Mrs Tyler pleaded guilty.

SA Health director of public health services Dr Kevin Buckett said the department had always held the view that the Tylers’ cow-share scheme constituted the sale of milk.

“We are pleased with this outcome and we will continue to protect the public from the risks associated with drinking raw cow’s milk,” Dr Buckett said.

Sentencing submissions are being held tomorrow.