Australian bloggers demanding free meals for reviews: You have ‘as much right to review my restaurant as I have to review your menstrual cycle’

(Disclaimer: the only free samples we get are barf and shit: literally and lyrically.)

Rebecca Sullivan of News.com reports that both traditional food critics and restaurant owners have started naming and shaming bloggers who contact venues asking for a meal on the house, in exchange for a review.

free.products.blogEarlier this month, the owner of a Sydney restaurant made headlines for his scathing response to a food blogger who requested a free meal.

Tim Philips, the bartender and co-owner at Dead Ringer in Surry Hills, told a “foodie instagrammer” she had “as much right to review my restaurant as I have to review your menstrual cycle”.

The woman explained her usual arrangement with restaurants is “that you give my friend and I a meal on the house in exchange for Instagram coverage and reviews”.

Mr Philips posted screenshots of the interaction on his Instagram page and was praised for “standing up to what’s right and having balls.”

“I called her out because her business is what’s ruining my industry,” he wrote on Instagram, in response to some commenters who said his response was nasty.

“You missed the irony that I, as a man, am ill-qualified to ‘review’ female menstrual cycles. And this person is equally unqualified to review places they’ve been, with the predetermined obligation of a free meal for nice comments.”

While professional reviewers “always pay for their meals”, he said, “this happens A LOT”.

Food writers who work for traditional media publications cannot accept free meals in exchange for a review.

The Australian’s food critic John Lethlean has started using Instagram to name and shame food bloggers who ask for free meals.

All the food bloggers news.com.au spoke to said they had never contacted a restaurant and asked for a free meal, mostly because they don’t need to.

“I get approached by restaurants and PRs maybe 30 or 40 times a week,” said Michael Shen, who blogs at I’m Still Hungry and has 31,000 Instagram followers.

“I’m pretty strict with transparency. If I’m reviewing a place and I’ve eaten for free I say it at the top of the review so my readers know straight away. My friends told me they feel jibbed when they spend time reading a post and they get to the end and they find out it’s sponsored,” he said.

“I don’t write for a restaurant or a chef, in the end it’s all about your readers. The promise of free food is quite alluring. But to me, it’s like, would you rather risk alienating your audience just for a free meal every now and then?”

Adam Scarf is a photographer with 225,000 Instagram followers and is one of Sydney’s most popular food accounts. He’s offered free meals at least once a day.

Kangeroo poo suspect: Q fever rises in Australia

The [Illawarra] region’s public health director has moved to allay community concerns after several cases of confirmed Q fever.

kangaroo-pic-dm-530558559Curtis Gregory said 7 cases of the potentially debilitating disease had been confirmed within the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District so far this year [2016].

Statewide the number of cases has doubled in 5 years, from 130 in 2012, to 260 in 2015. In the 1st 6 months of 2016, NSW [New South Wales] Health has been notified of 88 cases.

“Q fever is a bacterial infection normally spread to humans by infected animals,” Mr Gregory said. “It’s mainly seen around agricultural and livestock industries and occupations but can be found in wildlife populations.” Mr Gregory said while case numbers were relatively low in the region, there had been some community concern over perceived hotspots. “We have seen numbers group around certain areas in the Shoalhaven like Sanctuary Point, although there have been some cases in the southern Illawarra,” he said. “We have done environmental sampling at different locations – of kangaroo and bandicoot droppings — but no positive results have been found.” Humans usually get infected by inhaling bacteria-carrying dust contaminated by animal urine, feces or birth products. “Those at higher risk of infection include abattoir and meat workers; farmers and shearers; stockyard workers and animal transporters; veterinarians and agriculture college staff and students,” Mr Gregory said. “Horticulturists or gardeners may also be concerned if there’s a lot of wildlife in the area, as activities like lawn mowing may put them at risk.”

Herpes for all in Australia: First the carp — THE CARP – now turtles

Following an impassioned speech by Australian deputy PM Barnaby Joyce (right, not exactly as shown) on government plans to deliberately infect invasive carp with herpes, an increasing number of green sea turtles on barnaby.jonesAustralia’s Great Barrier Reef, with pollution being investigated as the prime culprit.

The animals have a turtle-specific herpesvirus that causes fibropapillomatosis – a condition in which disfiguring tumours grow on the eyes, flippers, tail, shell or internal organs.

“The tumours are benign but can grow up to 30 centimetres in size and block the turtles’ vision, says Karina Jones of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. “This means they can’t find food or see predators or boats.”

Turtles with tumours are also more vulnerable to other infections, she says. “Severely affected turtles are quite skinny and have other pathogens affecting them – that’s why they die.”

The unpublished results of surveys by Jones’s team this year show that herpesvirus is most prevalent within a narrow stretch of Cockle Bay at Magnetic Island, a popular tourist destination in the middle of the reef. Roughly half the turtles in this hotspot have fibropapillomatosis, compared with less than 10 per cent of turtles sampled across the rest of Cockle Bay.

The cause remains unclear, but environmental contaminants are at the top of the suspect list. “We see these tumours in turtles in very localised hotspots around the world where there is heavy human activity,” says Jones.

Depends if you’re in the capital region or NSW: Norovirus outbreak in Australia

Alexandra Back of the Canberra Times reports an isolation ward has been set up at Calvary Hospital and visitors are being discouraged as the hospital works to contain a gastro outbreak.

norovirus-2An intensive care patient was diagnosed with the highly contagious norovirus – that causes fever, cramping, vomiting and diarrhea – Friday last week.

Calvary Hospital chief executive Karen Edwards said there were 16 suspected cases of the virus and the patients were isolated.

The general medical ward 5W has been closed to new admissions and staff movement across the hospital was being restricted.

But one man said his wife, who had a caesarean birth under general anaesthetic two days ago, was rushed out on Thursday, a day early. He was concerned because she was still in a lot of pain.

“My concern is the continuance of care. The whole thing is, there were no options provided, in essence, we’re told they are getting everyone out by 11.30.”

Neighboring NSW Health issued a public health warning after an above average number of people went to emergency with gastro.

ACT Health said viral gastro cases weren’t notifiable in the capital, but the government had not seen a recent spike in cases.

Australian farmers’ markets branded meat risk

Kath Sullivan of The Weekly Times reports that farmers’ markets put the reputation of Victoria’s meat exporters at risk, according to the former MeanGirls_162Pyxurzchairman of the ­industry’s Victorian regulator, PrimeSafe.

Tempy farmer Leonard Vallance criticised the Victorian Government’s handling of meat safety, and its relationship with the regulator, as he completed his term as PrimeSafe chairman.

“Farmers’ markets are the achilles heel of the Victorian food industry,” he said. “The reputational risk to our export markets is massive … they (farmers’ markets) are nowhere near adequately regulated.”

In Victoria, PrimeSafe regulates meat processors, including all butchers, abattoirs and supermarkets, but compliance of farmers’ markets is a local government responsibility.

“Local government would be fine if they were doing their job properly,” Mr Vallance said. “The issue is that people are selling meat in less than ideal conditions.”

Mr Vallance said the Government had created “double standards” where butcher shops were required to operate under strict conditions, including in a temperature-­controlled environment, but people selling meat in farmers’ markets were not.

“There should be a level playing field for all meat retailers,” he said.

Victorian Farmers Market Association president Wayne Shields said accredited markets complied with the food safety regulation.

“All meat has to be packaged and sealed at a PrimeSafe premises before it can be sold at a market,” Mr Shields said.

He said PrimeSafe “would prefer to snipe from the sidelines,” rather than help small producers.

Dad says ‘I don’t want to drag this out’ Raw milk probable cause of Australian 3-year-old’s death

In late 2014, three children in the Australian state of Victoria developed hemolytic uremic syndrome linked to Shiga-toxin toxin producing E. coli in unpasteurized bath milk produced by Mountain View farm. One child died, and two others developed cryptosporidiosis.

mountain.view.dairyThe Victorian government quickly banned the sale of so-called bath milk, which although labeled as not fit for human consumption, was a widely recognized way for Australian consumers to access raw milk.

What followed was a despicable whisper campaign that the child who died had an underlying medical condition, it wasn’t Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC), farmers were losing access to lucrative markets – anything but the basic and sometimes deadly biology of STECs and everything involving fantasy and fairytales.

Today, a coroner heard unpasteurised milk was the probable cause of death of a three-year-old Victorian child who had no previous medical issues.

The toddler’s father told police he had given his son small amounts of Mountain View Organic Bath Milk on rare occasions in the months leading up to his October 2014 death.

The Coroner’s Court yesterday heard a Department of Health investigation, a forensic pathologist’s report and a subsequent outbreak of illnesses among four other children who drank the raw milk had all established its consumption as being the likely cause of the tragedy.

The child’s death prompted a health warning and led the State Government to introduce tough laws making unpasteurised milk sold in Victoria undrinkable.

After hearing details of the investigations Coroner Audrey Jamieson yesterday said she was satisfied issues that would have warranted a full hearing into the death had already been dealt with and she could make a determination on the balance of probabilities.

But after lawyer Rose Raniolo representing Mountain View Farm said she wanted to review a hospital form in which the boy’s parents listed everything he had consumed, Coroner Jamieson granted her seven days to put forward any additional information before making a final decision on whether a public hearing was required.

colbert.raw_.milk_3-300x212-300x212Coroner’s solicitor Rebecca Cohen told the court the three-year-old had been a healthy child until suffering gasto symptoms on September 30, 2014, and being admitted to Frankston Hospital four days later.

He was transferred to Monash Medical Centre on October 6, where it was found his entire large bowel was infected. The boy passed away shortly after.

Ms Cohen told the court a Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine autopsy was consistent with tests taken during the toddler’s medical treatment, finding the same genetic traces in his bowel that lead to hemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a rare and dangerous infection stemming from E. coli bacteria which can be present in raw milk.

In the weeks following the death the Department ordered tests on samples from 39 bottles of Mountain View Dairy milk and found that shiga toxin which produces E. coli bacteria was cultured in one sample.

The department’s investigation stated that although HUS infections were usually an “exceptionally rare occurrence” it was dealing with two non-fatal cases at the same time as the death — and the only link was that all three children had consumed the same unpasteurised milk.

Two cases of cryptosporidium also reported among young raw milk drinkers in the same area within a 10 days of two HUS cases reinforced the pathology evidence, Ms Cohen said.

Ms Cohen emphasised that at no time was there any suggestion Mountain View Farm breached regulations, and no prosecution had even been considered against the producer.

She said that during a police investigation the toddler’s father told officers he purchased Mountain View Organic Bath Milk in the months before his son became ill.

“(The father) understood the milk was labelled not to be drunk, but he noted it looked like every other milk container,” Ms Cohen said.

“Due to his intolerance to dairy, (the child) would only drink very small amounts of the unpasteurised milk, and only on odd occasions. “(The father) said it only amounted one-eigth of a sippy cup, and only twice per month at a maximum.”

Ms Raniolo said she disagreed with a recommendation for the coroner to rule unpasteurised milk as the probable cause of the death, stating the child drank it too rarely for it to be considered as the cause.

After a separate review cleared the hospitals’ of any concerns over the treatment of the child, the toddler’s emotional father told the coroner he now wanted the probes to be finished.

“To me it was a big deal watching everything that unfolded, and I do still struggle with the idea that it was treated as seriously as possible. But, I understand it was not likely to have changed the outcome. I don’t want to get involved in this any further, I don’t want to drag this out.”

 

Australia: Almost 200 children home sick from Adelaide school

Some classes at Modbury West Primary School, which has 420 enrolments, had less than 10 students in attendance Friday.

Modbury West Primary SchoolPrincipal Deb Hancock told Advertiser.com.au the school sent a text message to parents on Thursday informing them many children had been unwell.

The text message also asked parents to keep children at home if they felt sick.

Ms Hancock said a dozen students were sent home on Thursday on the same day there were 80 children absent from class, after they showed gastro symptoms.

Food fraud: Perth company uncovers where food really comes from

John Flint of PerthNow reports Indonesian prawns sold to consumers in Australia contained trace elements of cooling water from a nuclear power plant, forensic tests uncovered.

tsw.2Dr John Watling, chief scientist with TSW Analytical, was surprised by the discovery, but believes food fraud is commonplace.

Dr Watling, formerly Winthrop Professor of Forensic and Analytical Chemistry at the University of WA, estimates that one-third of what we put in our shopping trolleys isn’t what it claims to be.

“With the Indonesian prawns, some exhibited the elemental signature of having been grown in the cooling water from a nuclear power station,” Dr Watling told The Sunday Times this week. “As there isn’t a nuclear power station in Indonesia they obviously didn’t come from Indonesia.

“The prawns were not toxic — we’re not talking about prawns that glow in the dark. But their elemental fingerprint indicated that they were not grown where the label said they were.”

Food fraud is so lucrative that organised crime syndicates are now involved, TSW Analytical’s chief executive Cameron Scadding says.

Mr Scadding, also a forensic chemist, said the explosion in demand for healthy and ethically produced foods is also being exploited.

The booming industry around expensive organic produce is expected to exceed $US100 billion this year. It’s hardly a surprise then, Mr Scadding said, to see cheaply produced foods passed off as organic.

“Given the premium and the demand for this sort of food it is very open to economically motivated substitution as, after all, the organic carrot looks the same as the cheaper non-organic one,” he said.

It’s not just what we eat, but what we love to drink. Australian wines, for example, are ripe for rorting.

“There are some wines that haven’t even seen a vineyard. They’re just fabricated wines,” Dr. Watling said.

Dr Watling and Mr Scadding, who co-founded TSW Analytical 10 years ago, recently launched Source Certain International with Colorado-based Glenn McClelland, to lead the fightback against food fraud globally. From their WA base in Bibra Lake, they’ve established offices in Singapore and the US.

They use their technology, TSW Trace, to determine a unique trace elemental fingerprint from food samples to determine their origin.

tswDeveloped by Dr Watling over 30 years, it can pinpoint where in the world the ingredients come from.

The same technology has even been used, outside of food, to identify gold fraud. In 2010, WA Police hailed it as crucial in thwarting an international gold heist and credited Dr Watling with pioneering gold fingerprinting.

At the time, Dr Watling told The Sunday Times his technology had saved the global gold industry about $1 billion.

The food industry has even more to lose. Food scandals, such as the frozen berries hepatitis A scare last year, can decimate a business and destroy trust in an entire industry.

The fallout from the hepatitis A outbreak — involving 34 Australians, including two in WA — was felt by businesses in the frozen berries market, as shoppers stopped buying them.

Salmonella in organic sprouts in Australia, again

Every time I publicly complain about the lack of information in Australian food safety notices, someone writes in to say, people got the information they needed, and how can you have any dessert if you don’t eat your pudding.

mung_beans1So in the wake of two outbreaks involving raw sprouts packaged in South Australia that sickened over 300 Aussies with Salmonella, the New South Wales Food Authority advises us plebes that Forest Gate Organics has recalled its Mung Bean Sprouts from fruit and vegetable stores and health food stores in NSW, QLD and VIC due to microbial (Salmonella) contamination.

No information if anyone is sick. No information on how this Salmonella positive was detected. Nothing. How will anyone learn?