Mermaid Beach is a lovely spot on Australia’s Gold Coast.
This Thai restaurant, not so much.
Alexandria Utting of the Gold Coast Bulletin reportsMermaid Beach restaurant Bangkok Thai was the subject of legal proceedings in the Southport Magistrates Court after business owner Vinya Chantra (right) and the company to which he is a director, Chantra Enterprises, were charged with three counts of failing to comply with food standards codes.
The charges came after council inspectors found the popular Thai restaurant in a “gross level of filth” with food waste, dirt, grime and rodent droppings on tables used to prepare food.
The court heard the restaurant had received improvement notices for cleanliness on several occasions since September 2012, but had only paid one fine of $580 for a breach of food safety laws in 2015.
Magistrate John Costanzo individually fined Chantra $2,955 for allowing food safety breaches in his business.
He was also ordered to pay $1,250 to council in costs and $89.90 for the filing of court documents.
The company Chantra Enterprises was separately fined $14,725, as well as costs and filing fees.
In 1986, when I became editor of the University of Guelph student paper, The Ontarian, we were still using that old aggie joke, Guelph: Where men are men and sheep are afraid.
I taunted myself for using that line in a food safety video recorded in 2000.
Yet in Australia, in 2016, sheep do need to be afraid.
Farming and animal welfare groups have slammed a Sydney school after vision emerged of students tackling and wrestling sheep and rams during a rugby training camp.
The ABC obtained videos showing first and second XV players from Sydney’s prestigious King’s School in Parramatta chasing rams in a farm paddock and dragging them into designated squares before flipping them over.
The videos were reportedly posted on a Facebook page by teacher and coach James Hilgendorf and ex-professional Hugh Perrett, but were taken down when the ABC contacted the school on Wednesday.
RSPCA chief executive Steve Coleman was disgusted by what he saw.
President of the NSW Farmers’ Association Derek Schoen said farmers would have watched the vision “with horror”.
“This is unacceptable animal husbandry practice. You’d never treat your stocklike that and I would say most concerned farmers would view that with a bit of horror,” Mr Schoen said.
“It’s distressing to the animals. It will make future husbandry practices more difficult with the animals — they’ll remember what has happened in those yards.
“To have rams running around with a whole lot of school kids I think is just plain stupid.”
Understandably, viewers who saw the footage on ABC on Thursday night were outraged.
Despite this response, the school’s headmaster Dr Tim Hawkes said he had no problem with the practice.
“A strength and team-building exercise devised by the farmer involved the boys having to undertake a task not dissimilar to that undertaken by shearers,” Hawkes said in a statement to the ABC.
“The task was supervised closely by the farmer who gave instructions to the boys as to how this task should be done.
“The two rugby coaches involved were assured by the farmer beforehand that the activity was safe and all the more so because he would be supervising it carefully.
“No animals were injured in the exercise. Neither were any boys.”
To head-master Dr Tim Hawkes: Your title says it all.
At the end of April 2016, South Australia Health’s chief medical officer Paddy Phillips said after an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul linked to sprouts sickened over 300, “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.”
This is the factory (right, exactly as shown). I keep saying it’s like 1978 here, and there’s probably a VW microbus out back loaded with Salmonella-infectd sprout plants.
Officials have ordered Star Tu to recall all of its products and stop selling immediately after Salmonella Saintpaul samples were found in packaged bean sprouts.
A packager of Star Tu products, Sunshine Sprouts, has also been ordered by SA Health to stop selling any products containing Star Tu mung bean sprouts.
SA Health chief public health officer Professor Paddy Phillips said the public should either throw out their bean sprouts or return them to the place of purchase.
Since the start of last December there have been 271 cases of confirmed Salmonella Saintpaul notified to SA Health resulting in 47 people being admitted to hospital.
South Australia usually sees around 15 to 20 cases each year.
“Our investigations then led us to the Star Tu factory and we found a positive Salmonella sample taken from a piece of equipment. Once this was cleaned and further inspections took place there was no evidence indicating any further risk.
Finding Salmonella on a piece of equipment in no way provides confidence that the problem has been solved and shows a complete lack of knowledge of how raw sprouts become contaminated at seed.
But that’s why Paddy gets the big bucks.
“Yesterday it was confirmed that since these investigations, five sealed bags produced by Star Tu were contaminated with Salmonella, and given this new evidence we have issued this factory with an order to recall and stop selling. We are also today advising South Australians to either throw out their bean sprouts or return them to the place of purchase and we are recalling all products that have come from this factory.
Li Tu, whose family owns the Star Tu business, said it had been “growing and distributing high quality bean sprouts for over 20 years”.
“As well as meeting SA Health standards, we also have had robust food safety programs since 1999 with annual checks and inspections,” he said.
“Our factory was described as being as clean as a hospital by one of SA Health’s employees.
“We’re obviously not in the business of making people sick so we do not take this matter lightly. We are working closely with SA Health to find the source of the problem.”
Raw sprouts are an unnecessary health hazard. But they are happily served up at hospitals and aged-care facilities and other places where the immunocompromised can be found in oblivious Australia.
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.
Ms Harnett wrote that her son became ill and vomited on the floor while they were waiting for their food.
She said she didn’t expect staff to clean it up, but she was left shocked when she had to pay extra to do it herself.
She wrote: “One of the waitresses gave me paper towel and a wet towel. I cleaned it up and she came back with plastic bags for me to dispose of. All fine with that.
“The lady in charge comes over after we’d finished eaten and said, I heard you had a little accident. The standard charge in any restaurant is $30 if you want us to finish cleaning up.”
Ms Harnett said she mopped the floor herself and claims when she went to pay her bill was increased by $10 as someone had to disinfect the mop.
“I was taken aback,” she told The Chronicle.
“They could have shown a bit of compassion.”
According to the publication a spokesman from the eatery said: “The incident caused us a loss of income because that section for the restaurant wasn’t able to be used for a period of time.”
The restaurant reportedly acknowledges the situation would have been embarrassing for the family, and that it was an unfortunate situation for both parties.
“We thought at the time that our nominal charge of $10 was fair considering we had to allocate a staff member to clean up the mess to our satisfaction after they left – to make sure the area was properly sterilised.”
The spokesperson reportedly said the cost to the restaurant was more than $10 and the staff member who sterilised the area after the family left felt unwell and had to sit outside.
“If we were given that set of circumstances again, we probably wouldn’t charge $10 but just accept it as our lot,” the spokesperson reportedly said.
In response to the news, the Sunshine Coast Daily asked other restaurants of their policy and found many were surprised by the bistro’s decision to charge a customer extra for cleaning after her child vomited on the premises.
Dion Spadaro, general manager of The Boat Shed at Cotton Tree, was shocked to hear that a Montville bistro had charged a customer for the loss of space and staff time while the mess was cleaned up.
“It’s not something that we would do. It’s not like we don’t have buckets and cleaning equipment,” Mr Spadaro said.
“We look after our customers whatever their needs are.
“If customers make a mess in the toilet, we clean that up. If someone makes a mess elsewhere, we clean that up, that’s what we do.”
Gavin Murray, of Murray’s Cafe, at Cotton Tree, said there was “no way in the world” he would charge a fee for cleaning up after a child had vomited at his business.
“On the weekend, we had a mum whose little girl was sick at the table. She made it to the toilets but must have made a bit of a mess. The mum was very apologetic and we said it’s not a problem,” Mr Murray said
“We ran out, grabbed the mop and bucket and between us, got it done and got back to work.
“We’ve all been there, we’ve all got kids.
“There’s no way we would charge someone for their child being sick. It’s something that no-one can predict. You just deal with it.”
Michael Mulhearne, the owner of Tides Waterfront Dining at Caloundra, said the restaurant business was about customer service and he would not charge a fee to clean up after a customer.
“I understand it but I wouldn’t do it,” he said.
“They are going to lose that customer for life, they have lost a heap of other customers. They are not going to get anything good out of it except for their name in the paper.”
Another restaurant figure, who declined to be named, was also surprised at the fee.
“We would never do that in our restaurant. If the mum helped clean up, even better, but we would never charge them,” she said.
Five people shared their thoughts with the Sunshine Coast Daily on cleaning up after unfortunate incidents involving bodily fluids:
Andrew Hebron said his work in public transport exposed him to some unforgettable things.
“Let me tell you about cleaning up other peoples’ mess,” he said.
“Name an orifice and I’ll paint you a picture.”
Mr Hebron said making a mess was an unfortunate consequence of life.
“We eat, we poo and sometimes things don’t go to plan in between … and out it all comes to much fanfare (in my case) and colour,” he said.
“I have had people offer to clean up their mess and very reluctantly decline, because I’m the one in charge.
“I’m the one with the keys. I’m the one who will get it done in short order and put out the yellow cone.”
Miranda King: “I work in a chemist and every time a child vomits or wees, which is disgusting, we are the ones who clean it. While dry retching.”
Bev Wilson: “I work at a school as a cleaner and we always have to clean up vomit.”
Alicia Williams: “I clean up my kids vomit at the shops.”
Jenna Lubbock: “I work at Woolworths and I clean it up as well as feces and wee.”
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.
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.
He 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.
“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.
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.
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.
Meantime, 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.
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.
The 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.”
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.
About 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.