Queensland Health says rating schemes a matter for local governments; top franchises and well-known restaurants among Brisbane eateries slapped with fines for dodgy hygiene and health practices

Sometimes I wonder what Queensland Health does, other than publish error-filled food safety information.

eat.safe.brisbaneNo follow-up on the 50 people that got sick from shiga-toxin producing E. coli at the state fair last year, no follow-up on the 240 who got sick from Salmonella linked to raw-egg mayo last year, and just no follow up at all.

According to The Courier-Mail, cockroaches in the kitchen, rat droppings in the deep fryer and Salmonella are just a few of the nasties that Brisbane’s food safety inspectors are finding on the menu at some of the city’s most popular restaurants.

Top franchises and well-known restaurants were among the eateries slapped with a whopping total of $600,000 in fines for dodgy hygiene and health practices during the 2013-14 financial year.

The revelations follow the DM jazz cafe being fined $25,000 in the Brisbane Magistrates Court this week after a customer found a live cockroach in the chicken and mushroom risotto.

Food safety inspectors slapped more than 30 restaurants and cafes with fines as part of the city council’s EatSafe program in a bid to clean up the industry.

The Beach House was fined $30,000 in December after rat droppings were found in the deep fryer, as well as accumulated grease on the floor and wall surfaces in the kitchen.

The Gap Tavern, owned by the ALH Group, was fined $28,000 for cleanliness issues including having live cockroaches in November 2013.

ALH Group spokesman said the organisation took food safety very seriously and had already taken steps to address the issues raised by the council.

“We have a robust ongoing audit process,” he said.

Major cities and tourist destinations throughout the state are hiding details about restaurants prosecuted for repeated dodgy hygiene practices, which could include insects crawling through the kitchen and food contamination.

There is now pressure on them to follow Brisbane City’s Council’s lead by naming and shaming eateries that flunk inspections and introducing a star rating system for food safety.

Diners on the Gold Coast and in Cairns could be eating at restaurants repeatedly fined for breaching health standards but wouldn’t know because their councils refuse to reveal who they are.

Queensland Health Health Protection Unit boss Sophie Dwyer said food safety rating schemes were a matter for local governments.

Uh-huh.

Palm Beach, Florida not enforcing ordinance requiring restaurants post a sign about their inspections

What good is restaurant inspection disclosure if the results aren’t publicly accountable?

Palm Beach County in Florida passed an ordinance to make diners aware of a state law that allows you to ask for a restaurant’s inspection report. In our tests, the majority of restaurants do not follow the state law.

jake.gyllenhaal.rest.inspection.disclosureIn 2007, Palm Beach County took the state law a step further and required restaurants post a sign in their window, door or menu to let you know you could ask for the inspection report. This came after NewsChannel 5 revealed dirty kitchens. Seven years later, our hidden cameras found restaurants breaking that rule too.

“I remember when the ordinance came up that they had to post it. I was all excited,” explained diner Fran Green.

She said she rarely sees the signs now.

We went to 12 restaurants, from chains to fast food, and looked at their menu and in their window. We found no sign of the signs.

“That’s unbelievable,” explained Green.

“I’m not surprised,” explained Dave Aronberg.

Aronberg was a state representative when he fought to get the ordinance passed.

“I think it’s just because they don’t know about the ordinance,” explained Aronberg.

Don’t know and may not care because we found the county hasn’t enforced the signs. Nobody has been fined over it.

Horror stories on the menu in south New Zealand

Vermin, food past its best before date and no hand-washing facilities in kitchens are just some of the horror stories uncovered in Invercargill eateries and shops.

barf.o.meter.dec.12A report commissioned by the Invercargill City Council has uncovered the dirty secrets in 39 food premises in the city.

The damning document shows the problems are not just isolated to takeaway shops, with three grocery stores, a delicatessen, a health shop, cafes, restaurants and dairies all involved in the sting.

Invercargill City Council environmental health manager John Youngson said the report was a surprise and a disappointment, a sentiment shared by the hospitality industry.

Among the problems listed in the report are food being stored in refrigerators and freezers with temperatures too high, ice cream scoops not dried properly, encouraging bacterial growth, and in one case a mice infestation was found.

Three premises did not have hand-washing facilities and two premises did not have soap, towels and nail brushes for washing hands with.

Youngson’s biggest concern was the four food premises with high-risk temperature issues, a danger for food poisoning, he said.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said he was shocked by the report, which he had not seen, and would move swiftly to fix the issues.

Eateries will now have to provide food management plans and the council would look at bringing in a rating system, so people could easily see how the food premises scored on health and safety.

Hospitality New Zealand board member and Winton publican John McHugh said he believed the rating system would be extremely effective.

This may help.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874
.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as barf.scaletools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

Technology catches up: smartphone QR codes to be used in Pasadena restaurant grades, Longo’s beef in Canada

Chapman says QR barcodes are so … 2010.

I wanted to do the equivalent using a url so people could find out what went into a product back in 2000.

qr.code.rest.inspection.gradeBecause some producers and companies are better at this food safety thing, and, as a consumer, I’d want to know that.

I can’t at retail.

But the technology is catching up to the idea, and in the past week, the Pasadena Department of Public Health announced that it will launch a new restaurant grade database and implement new restaurant rating placards including a QR barcode so diners can scan it with their smartphone and see more information about the restaurant’s inspection on the department’s new restaurant database.

The new restaurant inspection placards will display whether the restaurant passed, failed or passed conditionally, and will also display the numerical score out of 100 that the restaurant received.

Rather than using the letter grade system that the rest of Los Angeles County restaurants use, Pasadena has long used a numerical grading system. Previously, the scores were available online with a pass/fail notice in the window, however, this is the first time the numerical grade would be displayed in the window of a restaurant.

Retailer Longo’s in Ontario has partnered with VG Farms to provide local beef to all Longo’s and Market stores.

This will complete Longo’s offering of Ontario-raised meat, which up until this point included chicken, turkey, pork, lamb and veal. Rosanne Longo, brand ambassador for Longo’s, said the Toronto-area grocery chain searched long and hard to find the right beef farm to work with.

VG Farms is owned by the Van Groningen family. Up until now, VG Farms’ beef was only available at two family stores in Stoney Creek and Simcoe, Ont., in addition to small stores. This will be the first time the farm’s beef will be widely available.

“We’ve expanded our business because we identified that in the Ontario market there was nobody offering a true or authentic farm-to-fork program,” said Cory Van Groningen, owner and the eldest of the four brothers running the farm. “The program we’ve initiated with Longo’s is based on a lot of the best practices we’ve developed over the years.”

VG Farms uses a scientific method to measure the physical tenderness level of the beef, and each package features a QR code to allow shoppers to trace the Ontario farm where the cattle originated, its age and diet.

To familiarize themselves with the product, Van Groningen said 45 meat experts along with senior executives from Longo’s came out to VG Farms to take a tour and try the product for themselves.

Now include that food safety info. The technology is there.

New color-coded restaurant inspection disclosure system to start in Hawaii

Customers will soon be able to find out if their favorite restaurant makes the grade or has a dirty secret. The state’s food safety rating system is almost ready. Health inspectors are dishing out new rules to all food establishments, from fine dining restaurants to convenience stores.

toronto.dinesafePancakes & Waffles in Kalihi attracts customers with its homestyle cooking. Restaurant owner Jason Sung welcomes the changes to keep people from getting sick.

“I am pleased that they’re placing some kind of grading system in Hawaii,” said Sung.

Health department inspectors are visiting more than 10,000 food establishments statewide to educate owners about the color-coded grading system. Green (“Pass”) means one major violation or less that is corrected during the inspection. Yellow (“Conditional Pass”) indicates two or more major violations and requires a follow-up visit. Red (“Closed”) signals an imminent health hazard.

“If we looked at our data currently, probably 60% to 70% of our routine inspections of high-risk facilities would result in a yellow placard,” said Peter Oshiro, manager for the Department of Health’s Environmental Health Program. “So this is something where the numbers are way too high and they need to come down.”

ruby.restaurant.toronto.closedAt Duke’s Waikiki, the 330 employees are gearing up for the new regulations.

“It’s a challenge and I don’t think it’s going to be easy, but it is definitely something that we can all do. We just gotta put the effort into it,” said general manager Dylan Ching.

Food safety ratings: Time to change system in Nebraska county?

Would you rather eat at a restaurant with food safety practices that are “fair” or “standard”? What makes a kitchen that’s “superior” better than a competitor that’s merely “excellent”?

barf.o.meter.dec.12Those are the four categories the Douglas County Health Department uses to rate restaurant food safety, and the ratings are the only information available online to the public about how restaurants perform in inspections.

Some members of the department’s Board of Health would like to replace that system with one that rates establishments with a letter grade — an A, B or C.

“It’s easily understood,” said Lawrence Albert, a food manufacturing industry consultant who is the health board’s vice president. He has raised the issue at board meetings but said it has not advanced past discussion.

The top county health official, however, doesn’t believe a change is needed to the current rating system.

“We know that our community feels pretty comfortable, and knows what it means” when they see “fair” or “standard,” said Dr. Adi Pour, county health director.

Some in the restaurant industry disagree.

“The public doesn’t understand how the grading

system works, and the media doesn’t understand how the grading system works, and that’s a problem,” said Jennie Warren, executive director of the Omaha Restaurant Association.

Warren said she’s glad the health department is evaluating its system and said the association will work with the department.

rest.inspection.grade.colorThis might help guide your work:

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009.

The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information.

Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874
.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as qr.code.rest.inspection.gradetools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

Pittsburgh restaurant operators express distaste for proposed grading system

Over a dozen local restaurant operators Tuesday evening convened in an Allegheny County Health Department public hearing, where they chewed and spat out an A-B-C grade system based on compliance with food safety procedures.

restaurant_food_crap_garbage_10If passed, Allegheny County residents will see letter grades posted on the doors of all public eating facilities by early September — including restaurants, church kitchens, schools, supermarkets, nursing homes and pool snack bars.

“We’re basically providing an easily interpretable mechanism by which the consumer can interpret our inspections,” said Jim Thompson, deputy director of environmental health.

Grading would be based on compliance with 33 categories of safety provisions that span from tossing expired food and washing used cutlery to providing separate changing facilities and toilets for employees. Any grade below an “A” will require a follow-up inspection of the establishment. Further reinspections may be requested once every calendar year for a fee of $150 at the owner’s expense. Imminent health hazards — such as roof leakage onto food or major cockroach infestations — will warrant the immediate closure of the eatery.

The grading system is a hot potato for Allegheny County restaurant owners, who successfully challenged a similar proposal in March 2011. “It feels a little bit like Groundhog Day,” quipped Kevin Joyce, owner of the Carlton, Downtown.

As in 2011, the central concern of local operators is an alleged misallocation of $3.4 million in federal funds to combat foodborne illnesses. “There are only 17 inspectors for over 9,000 facilities and no measures to ensure consistent grading across the board,” said Mehrdad Emamzadeh, a veteran of the hospitality industry.

Opponents of the program also noted that letter grades would constitute but a “snapshot in time,” unreasonably penalizing human error in a public fashion that would “virtually ruin reputations.” Mr. Emamzadeh, along with two restaurant owners, vowed not to open new establishments in the county if the grade plan were enacted.

Because not everyone goes to the health district office before choosing a restaurant: County in Ohio to put inspection reports online

The Lorain County General Health District will start putting restaurant inspection reports online beginning July 7, Health Commissioner Dave Covell announced Monday.

Reports dating to March 1 will be made available through the district’s website.

bataligradesCovell said new software provided by the state will make the online reports possible at no immediate cost to the county thanks to a grant funding the program.

The move comes at the same time that the health departments in Elyria and Lorain have run into computer problems that have caused them to stop putting up restaurant inspection reports.

Dave Oakes, environmental health director for the Elyria City Health District, said his agency’s reports had been available on the Web for the past four or five years before being taken down earlier this year because of compatibility issues.

He said it’s a problem the city Health Department hopes to have fixed by the fall. Oakes said the online inspection reports proved popular when they were available.

Kathy Boylan, who serves as health commissioner both in Elyria and for the Lorain City Health Department, said a separate computer issue has led to problems in Lorain.

In the meantime, Boylan said restaurant inspection reports remain public records and can be accessed at the health districts’ offices.

Food hygiene ratings: why Wales did the ‘dirty dozen’

The dirty dozen in the U.S. is equated with pesticide resides on produce items and largely bullshit.

However, residents of North Wales have shown unprecedented interest in the standard of food hygiene in our local restaurants, takeaways and food shops since the Daily Post first published a series highlighting ‘North Wales’s dirty dozen’, highlighting the local establishments which received a zero rating for hygiene, as ruled by the Food Standards Authority.  

bullshitThere were criticisms that the Daily Post went “too hard” on these food outlets, as some of the owners had claimed that the negative rating was due to poor document keeping or incomplete paperwork.

Daily Post editor Mark Thomas writes, we have done a lot to promote and encourage excellence in our small businesses, and will continue to do so, but I believe we also have a duty to share with you issues like this which ought to be of concern to you as consumers.

That is not sensationalist, or inaccurate reporting. It is us doing our job for you.

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme means that people can choose instead to eat out or buy food at places with higher ratings and businesses with low ratings are in danger of losing customers and so will be encouraged to improve standards more quickly and to maintain these in the future.

Restaurant inspection disclosure: a dissenting view from NYC

Maury Rubin, founder and owner of The City Bakery at 3 W 18th Street in Manhattan, first opened his doors 24 years ago and is well-known around the Union Square neighborhood for creating a hot chocolate so rich, you can almost chew it. Rubin still walks to work in the mornings and loves to shop at the outdoor Greenmarket for ingredients.

qr.code.rest.inspection.gradeLast December, health inspectors from New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene served his bakery a “C” – the most damning letter grade on the rubric – for the second time in three years.

Inspectors found mice, roaches and flies on the premises and cited employees for not holding food at proper temperatures. Recently, Rubin sat down with me at a small table overlooking his spacious café, and explained why he thinks that “C” has more to say about the NYC Department of Health than his bakery.

There is a very clear point in time where everything that a food business in New York had to deal with became more burdensome. Roughly 12 to 14 years ago, the city had budget issues and discovered that very aggressive policing of the food business by the Health Department was an awesome new revenue stream. And I think that’s the no-turning-back moment. …

New York City, when it converted to the letter grade system, kept waving the banner of LA as its go-to example, but it literally took only one thing from LA — the letter grades. It took no methodology, it took none of the approach. It just took the scoring system. When the LA Department of Health walks into your restaurant, they are expecting it to be faithful to the plans that they’ve approved. What New York City is counting on is the opportunity to see things for the first time and say, “Oh no — that’s wrong.” It’s a gotcha system. It’s more adversarial, and it has nothing to do with a very simple, fabulous approach in LA of, “We’re in this together.”

My interest of a safe food supply has everything to do with the welfare of my customers and my business before I even start thinking about the New York City Department of Health. I think most reasonable people would agree on the reasonable view of an operation’s cleanliness, presentation and sanitation. I think that food inspectors walk into City Bakery and they see a big, clean, presentable place. I think this shifts their criteria to where they’re in our sub-basement looking — hoping — for a sink with a washer that’s loose. So 40 feet underground New York, you have a 10-inch hand sink that has a small leak — you’re going to pay about $1,200 for that leak. And that leak is going to be considered a critical violation.

Where one would hope that reason comes to bear in that moment — reason does not exist within the New York City Department of Health. It just doesn’t.