Disclosure and sick leave: Colorado lawmaker wants restaurants to post notice if workers are not given five paid sick days

A Colorado lawmaker is proposing a “Scarlet Letter” of sorts for statewide restaurants.

Disclosure_Still2_SnapseedState Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, wants to require restaurant owners to have to post a notice on their door if they do not give their employees five paid sick days.

“If employees are not offered paid time off when they’re sick, then we, as the public, should know,” said Ulibarri. “If we know there’s dairy in our food or gluten in our food, we should know if there’s influenza in our food.”

He said his bill is not in response to the recent Chipotle health scare, but rather a few workers in his House district who have said they’ve had to decide between working sick and getting paid or staying home and risk their bills and their jobs.

“When there’s an economic incentive to show up to work sick, it can endanger the health of all of us,” said Ulibarri. “I’ve followed this issue and received some information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which indicated in fact, most of the major food outbreaks are due to sick employees, not listeria or E.coli.”

Denver7 checked with CDPHE and was told that about half of all food-borne outbreaks are caused by Norovirus and not by E.coli, Listeria or other bacterial infections.

“It’s very easy for illness to be spread through a worker who’s ill,” said Brian Hlavacek, Environment Health Director for Tri-County Health Department, which covers Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties. “Certainly it’s a problem that sometimes workers often work while ill.”

How LA is using data to reduce the risk of foodborne illness

Stephanie K. Baer of The San Gabriel Valley Tribune writes, it wasn’t long ago when Los Angeles County health inspectors relied on handwritten reports manually filed in boxes to keep track of which restaurants they needed to inspect.

larry.david.rest.inspec“LA County got a late start on data management,” said Terri Williams, acting director of the county Department of Public Health’s environmental health division, which is responsible for inspecting more than 39,000 retail food facilities in the county between one and three times a year.

Now, more than two years after implementing Envision Connect, a data management system that tracks inspection data for retail food facility, food truck, housing, and swimming pool inspections, county health officials are beginning to analyze inspection data for food safety trends to help restaurants reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

They plan to meet with representatives from Chipotle in February to discuss trends at the food company’s more than 80 locations in the county as part of a pilot program aimed at helping restaurant operators improve food safety procedures.

“We’re in a position to help them help themselves too, so working together on a positive approach rather than just saying we’re going to call you in for a hearing or we’re going to tack on another inspection,” Williams said, adding the health department would like to continue the program with other large chains.

While Los Angeles County’s data analysis efforts are still in their infancy, other agencies have developed new, innovative strategies to protect consumer health at restaurants.

In Chicago, the city’s Innovation and Technology Department created an algorithm in 2014 that uses data to predict which of the city’s 15,000 food establishments are going to have critical violations, like food temperature issues or vermin infestations.

qr.code.rest.inspection.gradeThe system looks at different variables, like nearby garbage and sanitation complaints, and past inspection results to create a list of the most likely violators.

“The predictions are focused on what we call canvas inspections ‑ where am I going to send my inspectors,” said Chicago’s Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk, “What we’ve done is extract data available on (the city’s) data portal and apply analytics on top of that.”

The city also uses a tool that tracks tweets geocoded to Chicago about people complaining of food poisoning symptoms and then sends the user information about how to report their condition to the health department so it can investigate the restaurant where the person believes they got sick.

The City of Toronto, which developed its own data management system in 2001, has used inspection data to dictate food safety policy and target specific areas in the city where restaurants are experiencing similar health risks, like a cockroach or rodent infestation, said Sylvanus Thompson, Associate Director of Toronto’s food safety program.

“We can use the data to show what section of the city is in more compliance,” Thompson said, referring to an inspection map the city posts on its website.

Similar to what Los Angeles County is working toward, the city will also run reports to track the most common infractions and share that information with local restaurant associations to help them improve.

Williams said she would like to pursue strategies adopted in Chicago and Toronto, but added that the county still doesn’t have enough data to best implement them.

“I’m a big fan of data and making data-driven decisions, but you’ve got to make sure you have good data and you know what you’re doing,” she said. “We just started collecting this data.”

Stoner’s paradise (and good for them): White Castle website to display health scores

White Castle, America’s first hamburger chain, today announced the launch of WhiteCastleClean.com. This website is dedicated to promoting food safety, cleanliness and transparency by providing county health scores for all White Castle restaurants. White Castle is the first quick service restaurant chain to create a website specifically designed to share health inspection scores with the public.

harold-kumar-go-to-white-castle“The commitment to food safety, cleanliness and total transparency in our efforts are critical aspects of serving our customers and are the foundation upon which founder Billy Ingram built our family owned business,” said Jamie Richardson, vice president of White Castle. “As we celebrate our 95th birthday, we are reaffirming our commitment to these values and I can think of no greater commitment than to be the first restaurant to offer our health scores online.”

“Online health scores are common for most but not all counties and cities,” said Richardson. “Restaurant inspection and health scores are handled at a county and municipal level. So while there is a semblance of a universal standard, there are unique differences in how the scores are assigned at each county across the United States. Unfortunately, budget challenges have forced some counties to abandon their health score websites. In the spirit of Billy’s transparency, we wanted to create a place where our Cravers could go to view their local Castles’ health scores.”

The site will be updated biannually and the most recent scores will be included on the site.

For more information about White Castle’s food safety and cleanliness initiatives, visit whitecastle.com.

Brisbane, are you listening: Call for UK restaurants to display hygiene ratings

England’s filthiest restaurants should be forced by law to display hygiene ratings, inspectors say.

toronto.red.yellow.green.grades.may.11Outlets in Wales have had to display food hygiene ratings since 2013, but no such law exists in England (nor Australia)

Somehow, New York, Los Angeles Toronto and San Mateo County (near San Francisco) have managed to figure it out.

Inspectors say this results in premises that score lower than three out of five – meaning they must improve hygiene standards – failing to display ratings.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) said it believed the display of hygiene notices should be voluntary.

Of course they did.

The BBC’s Inside Out team filmed a hygiene inspection in Leicester, where evidence of mouse and rat droppings, dirty dishes and floors and mouldy kitchen surfaces was uncovered.

Andrew Wood, from the inspection team, said: “I find it frustrating [that ratings are not displayed].

“Members of the public are not always able to check the ratings online so in a way they are going into these places blind.

“It must also be frustrating for businesses that have achieved good ratings.”

From the duh files, Birmingham UK edition: Restaurant inspection grade should be mandatory

Neil Elkes of The Birmingham Mail writes that all restaurants, take aways, pubs and cafes should be forced by law to display their food hygiene ratings according to Birmingham’s licensing chief.

powell_tipton_slasher_10_0_storyAnd if you don’t like it, the ghost of my great-great-great grandfather, William Perry, also known as the Tipton Slasher, will come and fight for mandatory display, just like he fought on the canals outside Birmingham for passage.

Currently food outlets can choose whether or not to display their ratings to customer and generally only those with four or five stars do.

But Barbara Dring, chairman of the council’s licensing and public protection committee, is urging the Government to make it compulsory for food sellers to display their rating.

She believes that by forcing venue to highlight their ratings will encourage the minority who are unsafe to raise their game.

The ratings of every outlet serving prepared food can be found on the Food Standards Agency website and last autumn they revealed that 127 places had been rated zero – the lowest score available meaning they are often filthy, have pest infestations or unsafe food.

Those venues are often closed and can only re-open once cleared by council inspectors. Repeat offenders are prosecuted .

Coun Dring (Lab, Oscott) said: “There are more than 7,500 food businesses in Birmingham and we want to them not only to be compliant with food law, but we want to encourage them to be better.

“One way to do this would be if it were a legal requirement to display their food business rating on their front door as they do in Wales.

“Currently the Food Standards Agency’s scores on the doors system is voluntary – there’s no incentive or compulsion for premises rated 0 or 1 to display their latest rating, so I want to see the Government make this a legal requirement for all food businesses.”


Going public: Lettuce, chicken and now berries, it’s time for NZ food authorities to be honest with the public

Pip Keane of New Zealand’s Sunday Star Times writes in this opinion piece that over the past year, we’ve had three major food safety scares in New Zealand: First it was Yersinia that made dozens of people very very ill. There was a lot of fuss about lettuces.  But was it lettuces or was it carrots? Or something else?  Why did MPI wait weeks to tell us about the initial outbreak and why haven’t they told us what caused it? If I’d contracted Yersinia I’d want to know. What precautions have been taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

communicationEven worse, in the past  few weeks the Sunday Star-Times has revealed a strain of antibiotic-resistant campylobacter spreading through our poultry flocks – but again, which poultry flocks? Three out of four of our chicken producers have tested positive. So why won’t MPI tell us which chickens to steer clear of? Why aren’t chickens being recalled until we know? As a mother and a consumer I have a right to know and a right to choose which products to spend my money on.

And now we have a hepatitis A berry scare. At least Mike Glover from Fruzio is front-footing it. That’s refreshing.  Our poultry companies could take a leaf from his book and do the same. I want to know what I’m eating. Nobody deserves to get sick through no fault of their own. We all have a right to know what’s in our food.

Since the Ministry of Primary Industries took charge of food safety, it’s become apparent they have an enormous conflict of interest. The ministry’s first priority is not protecting consumers – it’s protecting our food producers.

This endangers the very primary producers that MPI is trying to help. Sweeping problems under the carpet helps no one.

The government should wrest responsibility for food safety investigations away from MPI and return it to the health authorities, whose sole focus is public health.

Greater openness and accountability about bugs in our food will help strengthen the integrity of the New Zealand food brand in global markets – and keep us all safe.

Journalism works: Philly restaurants get same-day health inspections

Philadelphia this week joined other major American cities in publicly releasing same-day restaurant inspection reports rather than waiting a month, a policy critics said kept diners in the dark about potential health risks.

rocky.phillyFor the last three decades, diners in Philadelphia have unknowingly patronized restaurants cited for serious hygiene problems including mouse droppings, improperly refrigerated food and managers oblivious of the basic tenets of food safety.

Health department officials said the city’s longstanding 30-day secrecy policy was meant to give eatery owners time to challenge inspection results. Yet it was a practice that surprised health officials in other big cities.

The same-day release of inspection results follows an Inquirer/Philly.com report that found Philadelphia was the only major city in the United States to withhold results for a significant length of time. The results are available from the city, or more conveniently, on the Clean Plates website: philly.com/cleanplates.

This week, health department sanitarians dropped in on dozens of eateries throughout the city. Among the most sharply criticized were a Drexel University dining hall, two South Philly watering holes and an upscale burger joint in Center City.

Going public: Restaurant inspection disclosure makes Birmingham politician ‘sad’

Birmingham’s food safety chief has attacked the Birmingham Mail for highlighting takeaways which could be at risk of giving customers food poisoning.

barbara.dring.birminghamChairman of the council’s licensing and public protection committee Barbara Dring told colleagues she was ‘saddened’ that the list of 127 takeaways and restaurants with zero-ratings for food hygiene on October 28, 2015 was published by the Birmingham Mail.

The food hygiene ratings are given by council inspectors so that customers are aware which kitchens are clean and well run and which have been found to be dirty, selling out of date food, have cockroaches or rats or other problems.

The council then publishes the results online via the Food Standards Agency website after an undetermined period for any appeals to be lodged.

The principle is that bad takeaways and restaurants are named and shamed.

But Coun Dring (Oscott) said: “I find it sad that the newspaper wants to knock Birmingham in this fashion.

She said that a prosecution followed and the club was fined £1,200 and made to pay £800 costs.

Conservative councillor Gary Sambrook (Kingstanding) said: “Birmingham residents deserve to know what the outcome of food hygiene inspections are.

“It’s shocking to think that the city council wants to try and muzzle the press, so that residents aren’t clear on the hygiene ratings of their local takeaway.

Here’s Bobby: Color code grades for restaurants in Dubai next year

By early next year, Dubai Municipality will roll out its color coding system to grade the level of hygiene and food safety in food outlets, a municipality official told Gulf News.

bobby.bittman.sctv.eugeneThe new grading system will affect 14,000 food establishments in Dubai, including restaurants, cafeterias, catering companies and food manufacturers. “By the beginning of 2016, as early as January, all food establishments will have their inspection ratings on display for customers to see. This system will, in turn, increase transparency and ensure the quality of eateries,” Bobby Krishna (right, not exactly as shown), principal food inspection officer at Dubai Municipality, told Gulf News.

This is the first time such a colour coded scheme will be implemented in the country, and the initiative will complement the role of the municipality’s 70 inspectors who are responsible for monitoring hygiene standards at food outlets.

Sultan Ali Al Taher, head of the Food Inspection Section, said the coding of food outlets will be Dubai’s new system to improve food safety standards. The colour card will be divided into five different categories — green, light green, yellow, red and white — each with its own points to grade the standard of each food establishment.

Dubai Municipality’s ratings will award a green card to eateries that score 95 and above, while a light green card will indicate a satisfactory rating that records less than five minor violations — equivalent to a rating from 90 to 94. A yellow card indicating a conditional pass will be issued when there is either one major violation or a maximum of seven minor violations, which will be scored from 75 to 89.

powell_krishna_feb_12“With this one colour-grading code, we can increase the efficiency of restaurants and also reduce non-compliance issues, as it is normal for any food regulatory system to face instances where food outlets do not comply with safety standards,” Krishna said (left, me in Dubai 2012).

Currently, approximately 200 outlets have been awarded the A-grade green cards, which reflect their high rating with no records of violations during routine municipal inspections.

He explained that countries around the world have already adopted a similar approach where it has been made mandatory for food outlets to display their grade as awarded by regulatory authorities. “We have copied the best global practices and adapted them,” said Krishna.

Toronto uses a red-yellow-green system.

A-B-C disclosure system for Boston

Boston, you’re a big city with a strange accent, why haven’t you figured out restaurant inspection disclosure until now?

restaurant_food_crap_garbage_10Regardless, Boston plans to soon start assigning letter grades to publicly rate the cleanliness and food safety practices for all restaurants and other food-service vendors in the city, giving diners a visible new tool to confidently choose where to eat.

Officials hope to launch a pilot version of the grading system in early January. For the first year, restaurant letter grades — either an A, B, or C — would be posted online only.

But after that, as long as the program’s roll-out goes smoothly, the grades would be posted in storefront windows of every restaurant across Boston, resembling systems New York and other cities have been using for years.

“We want to make it as simple as we can for people to understand the health conditions at our restaurants,” said William Christopher, head of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department, which will oversee the program.

Christopher said he went to New York City recently to review that city’s program, which began in 2010. He also has researched grading systems in other cities, including Los Angeles, which has been issuing grades since 1997.

Locally, Newton launched a similar restaurant-rating program last month.

A Globe report in May detailed how a review by city inspectors 2014 found serious health code violations at nearly half of Boston’s food service vendors, including restaurants, food trucks, and cafeterias. However, Christopher said the city had been considering the grading system idea prior to that report.

Christopher cited how officials in other cities have said their grading systems have spurred improvements: reducing health violations, improving public awareness about food safety, and even boosting business for restaurants, by increasing competition for owners to keep cleaner stores.

“Everyone wants to be an A rating, so it motivates restaurateurs,” Christopher said in an interview Monday.

But such systems have also faced criticism. Some have questioned assertions that the grading systems lead to improved conditions, and others have accused the ratings of being arbitrary.

smiley.faces.denmark.rest.inspectionBob Luz, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, reacted cautiously to the new initiative. He said such rating systems can oversimplify the results of restaurant inspections, which he noted the City of Boston already makes available online in more detail.

And the restaurant association thingy would be expected to say nothing else, using talking points from the National Restaurant Association. Go back and look at the crap that was hurled when Toronto adopted a red-yellow-green system in 2001 (or 02?).

I prepared a court brief on why the system was valid, but it never went to court because once a system is introduced, it’s hard to get rid of.

We’ve spent the last 15 years trying to determine the most effective disclosure systems.

Restaurant association types could do the same.