And they still know shit about food safety: Shareholders accuse Chipotle board of being too white

Early coverage out of the Chipotle shareholders’ meeting today from Virginia Chamlee of Eater, who writes, in the wake of a food safety crisis that crippled the company, Chipotle shareholders have voted in favor of shaking up the company’s board, arguing it is devoid of racial or gender diversity. The concerns were voiced at a company shareholder meeting held in Denver Wednesday morning.

token.south.park“Our basic premise is that it’s difficult to conceive of a more significant risk failure than what we’ve seen at Chipotle,” said Michael Pryce-Jones, the director of corporate governance at CtW Investment Group, who attended Wednesday’s meeting. In a phone conversation with Eater, Pryce-Jones said the company has “done a lot at the operational level, but not on the governmental side” to deal with the fallout from a string of food safety failures at Chipotle restaurants around the country last year.

The current board (which contains nine members, all of whom are white) has “all the marks of an insular board,” Pryce-Jones said, adding that the risk of a lack of diversity is group-think. “A good indication of that is a lack of accountability around their own conduct during the food safety scandal.”

CtW and other activist shareholders have recently argued that Chipotle board members failed to draw any lessons from the food safety scandal, as evidenced by the fact that no directors left the board and no new ones were appointed. “We’ve seen a stock price decline close to that of BP, after the Deepwater Horizon incident, or VW after their emissions scandals,” Pryce-Jones said. “For them not to consider board changes, shows a complete lack of awareness.”

After the meeting, CtW released a statement saying the vote “demonstrated that a significant portion of the investor base had lost faith in the credibility and competency of these board members.”

The board heard from a worker at Taylor Farms, a Chipotle distributor, that Taylor Farms workers have recently held protests at a handful of Chipotle stores, hoping to shed light on alleged safety issues at a California plant that prepares produce for the fast-casual chain.

According to those present at the meeting, Chipotle co-chief executive officer Montgomery Moran “seemed genuinely shocked” when told about the safety issues, and said he would look into them further.

I knew about the Taylor issues. So did many others. That’s why the board gets the big bucks.

OMG, it’s still 2000: Canadian restaurant lobby says inspections are too complex for a single grade

Over 16 years after the Dirty Dining series of articles appeared in the Toronto Star, which led to the creation of the red-yellow-green restaurant inspection disclosure system, and the arguments haven’t changed: people want the information, good restaurants promote their good food safety scores, and the various lobbies think the system is silly.

2000.pop.cultureOn Jan. 8, 2001, Toronto’s DineSafe program was launched.s

But before the bylaw came into effect, the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association sought an injunction to prohibit the requirement to post the rating signs. I was retained to write a report on the merits and flaws of restaurant inspection disclosure and in particular the use of red-yellow-green. I wrote my report, it was submitted. The restaurant thingies lost the case and lost an appeal. I didn’t get to testify, and was disappointed that I had lost the opportunity to be in a courtroom where I wasn’t charged with something.

CBC Television’s Marketplace has decided to revisit the issue.

Canadians love to dine out, but information about how restaurants fare in health inspection reports is not always easy to find, a CBC Marketplace investigation reveals.

Canadian households spend an average of about $2,000 every year eating in restaurants, and almost two million of us contract foodborne illnesses while eating out, according to Health Canada.

The difficulty for restaurant patrons is that Canada has a patchwork of rules and regulations around how inspection reports are made public.

Some Canadian provinces or cities publish inspection results, but they’re not posted in restaurants where people can see them before ordering a meal. Others, such as Manitoba, do not publish reports, although after a Marketplace investigation the province agreed to make some available to the CBC.

toronto.red.yellow.green.grades.may.11Toronto launched a public restaurant grading system more than a decade ago that posts the results where customers can see them, a move the city says contributed to a dramatic jump in compliance levels and a significant drop in foodborne illness. But an industry group has opposed attempts to introduce similar systems elsewhere, and few jurisdictions have adopted the city’s approach.

“Food safety is a very serious matter,” says Jim Chan, a retired public health inspector who spent 36 years with Toronto Public Health. “Anything that can affect my decision not to expose myself to a health hazard, any Canadian in the country should have the right to that information. As a citizen I should have that information to be able to make an informed decision.”

CBC Marketplace analyzed the data from almost 5,000 public health restaurant inspections in five Canadian cities — Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Toronto and Ottawa — from a one year period.

Marketplace’s investigation, Canada’s Restaurant Secrets, ranks 13 chains based on their inspection records, including coffee shops, fast food restaurants and family dining establishments. The episode airs on Friday at 8:00 p.m. (8:30 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador) on CBC TV.

About half of foodborne illness in Canada happen from eating in restaurants, according to Health Canada.

A 2012 report by the Conference Board of Canada on improving food safety in Canada found that while restaurants are a major source of foodborne illness, inspections by themselves don’t go far enough to protect Canadians from getting sick.

“The restaurant inspection system is helpful; enforcement should be continued. But it is too sporadic, due to limited resources for inspections, to have a decisive impact on restaurants’ actual day-to-day food safety practices,” the report states.

While the report concludes that restaurants need to voluntarily adopt good practices, the group acknowledges that consumers need to be more aware of risks.

“Because half or more of food safety incidents are associated with restaurants and other food service establishments, consumer choices about where to eat can play a role in determining the level of risk to which they are exposed.”

In some cases, foodborne illness outbreaks traced back to restaurants have sickened dozens of people. In one 2008 case, an outbreak at a Harvey’s and Swiss Chalet restaurant in North Bay sickened more than 200 people, many with confirmed cases of E.coli.

“You have no choice but to trust the people who have prepared this for you,” one person who got sick in the outbreak told Marketplace. “Like, everything can look fantastic, but a couple days later you might [experience] a couple of very alarming symptoms.”

In another case in 2011, seven people were hospitalized after eating tuna at a Subway restaurant in the Vancouver airport.

The Toronto DineSafe program requires restaurants to visibly post the results of their latest inspection, which are easy for the public to understand (the colour coded grades are green for “pass,” yellow for “conditional pass” and red for “closed”).

“It’s very transparent,” Chan says. “The operator can actually see what the customer’s seeing, so if you don’t want customer to see something bad written on the report, make sure you correct it before the health inspector walks in.

“It’s good news for food safety,” he adds.

Since DineSafe launched in 2001, Toronto has seen a 30 per cent decline in the number of cases of foodborne illness, according to Toronto Public Health figures.

“It is not possible to conclude definitively that the increased public attention paid to food safety and the program enhancements implemented by TPH during this period were responsible for the reduction in cases,” a city report cautions, “but it is reasonable to suggest that these changes played a role.”

Toronto’s program has also become a model for programs around the world, from Sacramento to Shanghai. In 2011, DineSafe won the prestigious Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award for excellence in food protection. Toronto is the only city outside of the U.S. to be awarded the prize.

According to Toronto Public Health, compliance rates have jumped dramatically since the program was implemented in 2001. When the program began, only 78.2 per cent of restaurants passed inspections; by the end of 2012, that number increased to 92.4 per cent.

Yet despite these successes, the restaurant industry continues to oppose public posting of inspection results.

Restaurants Canada, a group that advocates and lobbies for the industry, actively opposes broader implementation of grading programs like Toronto’s in other Canadian cities.

While regions near Toronto, including Peel, Halton, Hamilton and London, have also adopted publicly posted grading systems, diners elsewhere face a patchwork of public health reporting systems.

Some jurisdictions post inspection results online, but it’s up to consumers to look restaurants up individually and try to understand the results. Other places, such as Montreal, do not make inspection reports public.

When Montreal abandoned a plan to implement a similar system last year, Restaurants Canada — formerly called the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) — declared it “A win for members!” on its website.

The group refused to discuss on camera why it opposes public grading systems. In a statement, spokesperson Prasanthi Vasanthakumar wrote: “CRFA is opposed to the use of a ‘grade’ or ‘score’ to inform the public about the safety and hygiene of a restaurant because complex inspection findings based on subjective interpretations by individual inspectors cannot accurately or fairly be reduced to a single grade.”

That’s right: the group representing restaurants argues the people who spend money to have a meal are too dumb to know the complexities or restaurant inspection.

I don’t eat out much: must be too dumb.

Pennsylvania eatery inspections not enough

According to this editorial, it’s too difficult for Pa. diners walking into a restaurant to know if it has failed inspections recently.

Insect infestations. Rodent droppings. Unsanitary food storage.

web1_Restaurant_Inspections_WingsUnfortunately, these are common problems uncovered by state restaurant inspectors – who provide an important service to protect diners against illness or even death.

But a recent YDR inspection of the inspection system shows that it could be more useful and transparent for citizens.

The state does not require restaurants to post notices when they have failed inspections. Restaurants are required to post a sign saying the most recent inspection report is available upon request. But it’s up to customers to ask to see those reports. How useful is that? How many people walking into a restaurant would feel comfortable asking for an inspection report?

Customers can also check out inspection reports online. But that database is not easy to find and is very difficult to use on a mobile phone. You can find the database at the state Department of Agriculture’s website, but how many people would guess they need to go to the ag department for that information?

State officials will find that people really want easy access to this information. YDR reports on restaurant inspections are among the most popular stories on our website.

The state should develop an app.

The state largely depends on the power of shame to punish poorly run eateries. Publicity about failed inspections can result in business losses.

Restaurants with severe violations can also be fined – an average of $100.

Is that enough? And are fines and civil penalties pursued often enough?

No.

Most inspectors don’t levy fines because then they have to show up in court – a big hassle for a measly $100 fine. But when people’s lives are potentially at risk because of poor food handling, it’s worth the hassle of a court appearance.

State lawmakers should consider increasing fines – particularly for chronic inspection failures. And the state should charge restaurants that fail inspections for all follow-up visits. As it stands now, the first re-inspection is free.

Another thing lawmakers should consider: A visible rating system for restaurants.

Some other states use systems whereby restaurants are graded (A, B, C, D, F) or given a color code (green, yellow, red) based on inspection results.

Survey says: 550 Leeds and Bradford eateries threatened over poor food hygiene

Surveys still suck, but according to this one, 551 Leeds and Bradford businesses selling food are at risk of losing over half of their customers due to poor food hygiene, according to research and analysis from Checkit.net.

fsa.scores.doors61% of consumers say they won’t eat at a restaurant, takeaway, coffee shop or pub that has a low Food Standards Agency (FSA) Food Hygiene Rating while 75% say they wouldn’t risk dining at a restaurant that had been implicated in a food hygiene incident, even if recommended by someone that they trust.

But displaying those results is voluntary in England, so sorta meaningless.

According to the latest Food Standards Agency figures, there are 231 restaurants, cafes, canteens, mobile caterers, pubs, takeaways, sandwich shops and hotels in Leeds with a Food Hygiene Rating of two or below – 7% of the overall total.

This means they are classed as ‘urgent improvement necessary’, ‘major improvement necessary’ or ‘improvements necessary.’ For Bradford the figure is 222, making up 10% of food businesses in the city.

survey-saysTakeaways and sandwich shops were the worst sector for low food hygiene ratings, with 16% of Bradford businesses, and 15% of those in Leeds scoring 2 or under. Given that 64% of consumers say they’d avoid takeaways with low food hygiene ratings, this will have a major impact on the sector’s revenues and individual business survival.

Checkit’s consumer research also found that diners would rather put up with poor service from rude and unhelpful staff than eat at dirty restaurants. 66% of respondents rated unclean or dirty premises as the first or second reason for not returning to a restaurant. Just 16% cited slow or poor service with 32% saying rude or unhelpful staff would stop them coming back again.

Philadelphia: Post inspections in restaurant windows

Following up on UK calls for mandatory posting of inspection grades in restaurants, letter writer Joseph Mcaffrey tells Philly.com he recently walked by a barf.o.meter.dec.12restaurant near Philadelphia City Hall that had 19 illness-risk and retail violations, yet it was doing a booming lunch business.

Food poisoning is horrendous to recover from, and I urge the Inquirer to continue publishing restaurant inspection reports. But City Council must do more to protect the public. Council and Mayor Kenney should mandate the placement of the most recent food-inspection reports in all restaurants’ front windows.

With the coming Democratic National Convention, Philadelphia cannot risk the bad press involved in food poisoning and other adverse health events.

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.

Public safety ‘paramount’ yet UK restaurant inspections increasingly faith-based

Food hygiene inspections in the UK have fallen by 15% since 2003, research shows – with experts warning of risks to public health.

fsa.scores.doorsThe number of inspections, which are handled by local authorities, fell from 307,526 in 2003-04 to 260,765 in 2014-15, the study found.

The Food Standards Agency watchdog said the situation was of “growing concern”.

The Local Government Association said councils “work extremely hard” on food safety despite budgetary pressures.

Ministers said public safety was “paramount” and the “majority of local authorities have continued to balance their budgets and increased or maintained public satisfaction with services”.

The figures, obtained by Prof Steve Tombs for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, using freedom of information requests to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), show almost 47,000 fewer inspections were carried out in 2014 than in 2003.

The number of establishments prosecuted also fell by 35%, from 552 to 361, over the same period.

Prof Tombs, who is professor of criminology at the Open University, said “policymakers need to urgently address the radical reduction in local authority inspections and enforcement.”

The BBC’s 5 live Investigates programme has seen minutes of an FSA board meeting from January this year where concerns were raised over rising numbers of complaints and falling staffing levels.

jake.gyllenhaal.rest.inspection.disclosure“The overall position is one of growing concern,” the agency warned.

“At a local level, there are a good number of authorities which are struggling to undertake interventions of food businesses at the required frequencies.”

The minutes also state that many local authorities “are not able to deliver a food service as set out in statutory Food Law Code of Practice”.

Debby’s 10-year-old daughter was admitted to hospital during a salmonella outbreak in 2014 which affected 54 people.

“She started complaining of severe stomach cramps. She had really bad diarrhea and she was having bad hallucinations.”

Investigators found poor hygiene procedures at a takeaway, which cannot be named for legal reasons, allowed potentially deadly salmonella bacteria to pass from eggs to other food.

The last full inspection of the premises was 20 months before the outbreak and it received a Food Hygiene Rating of two, which means that “improvement is necessary”.

In June 2013 an environmental health officer visited to provide “support and guidance”- and a year later the outbreak occurred.

“If I’d known that I would have kept away and we never would have bought anything from there,” said Debby, who does not want to use her full name.

The local authority involved said it visited in 2013 and “was confident that improvements were being made. A further inspection was imminent, as part of routine procedures, when the council received notification of the reported links to salmonella cases.”

Restaurant inspection reports: Hawaii embraces openness, northern Utah not, so much

Sorry, northern Utah diners. If you want to see a restaurant inspection report online, expect to do your own detective work and, in many cases, prepare to be disappointed.

big.love.harry.deanLocal health boards are given broad latitude by state administrative code governing food service sanitation, which has led to varied availability of restaurant inspection data on the internet.

The Weber-Morgan health board does not provide a public restaurant inspection database on its website. It does, however, offer an “Establishments Under Enforcement” section that names the affected restaurants and gives a few words about the nature of their critical violations. Complete reports are not available.

As of Monday, April 18, five Weber County restaurants were under enforcement. All of them are in Ogden and all were censured for repeat critical violations.

Restaurants stay on this virtual wall of shame until they correct critical deficiencies to the satisfaction of health inspectors.

At the 817 food establishments in the two counties, 1,697 inspections were conducted in 2015, according to information provided by Michelle Cooke, food safety program manager.

Four restaurants were under scrutiny at the highest risk level (level 4), meaning they have exceeded infractions on an 11-factor inspection scale, have had previous enforcement actions within the past two years, warning notices issued or documented cases of foodborne illnesses. Level 4 restaurants are re-inspected within three months.

“Facilities and restaurants are placed on corrective action when the deadline to correct a critical issue has passed and there has been no good-faith attempt to fix the problem,” Cooke said in a provided statement.

northern.utah.restaurantMost violations stem from a restaurant not having a food safety manager on duty at all times, Cooke said.

“This is required by Utah law and is important because they have a more detailed knowledge of foodborne illnesses and how to prevent them,” she said.

Since 2006, Davis County health board policy has called for all restaurant inspection reports to be available online. However, a recent technology change cut previous inspection records from the department website. Inspections conducted since the technology switch are available, but a search for many restaurants at this time will return no results.

 

25 percent of Hawaii restaurants received yellow, red cards

Two weeks after the state made its food inspections public, we’re digging deeper into the information posted online. The data is public, but the number of inspections and other figures are not simply listed.

All restaurants in Hawaii, the type of safety inspection it received, even the ingredients used in a meal that may have made a customer sick are included in the state’s new website.

“They want an explanation of why we saw certain things and why we did or did not do an action based on that,” said Peter Oshiro with the State Department of Health.

KHON2 spent days digging deeper, and found out DOH inspectors have checked out more than 4,800 locations across the state. They did 10,270 inspections, and have handed out more than 1,800 yellow or red placards.

The state is still in the process of entering more data, and told us Tuesday that 25 percent of food establishments received a yellow (conditional) card or red (closed) card.

“Is that a high number?” KHON2 asked.

“That’s a relative thing. I think what this shows is that 75 percent of establishments right now are fully compliant with rules and regulations,” Oshiro said. “Twenty-five percent yellow cards, we would like to see that down to 15 percent or below.”

To help, the state offers free food safety classes. It’s becoming increasingly popular since the introduction of the health department’s color-coded placard system.

Eating out: Hygiene tops Brits’ list

Surveys still suck, especially since rating are displayed on a voluntary basis in England, but this one is fun in that it concludes UK consumers are united in not tolerating poor food hygiene ratings and simply won’t visit places that have had food safety issues, no matter what type of restaurant they are. 61% won’t eat at a restaurant, takeaway, coffee shop or pub that has a low Food Standards Agency (FSA) Food Hygiene Rating while three quarters (75%) said they wouldn’t risk dining at a restaurant that had been implicated in a food hygiene incident, even if recommended by someone that they trust.

eatmeThese are the headline findings of UK consumer research carried out by Checkit.net, which also found that diners would rather put up with poor service from rude and unhelpful staff than eat at dirty restaurants. 66% of respondents rated unclean or dirty premises as the first or second reason for not returning to a restaurant. Just 16% cited slow or poor service and 32% said rude or unhelpful staff would stop them coming back to a restaurant.

The impact of being implicated in a food hygiene incident is catastrophic for the survival of any restaurant business. Of the 75% of consumers that wouldn’t risk a visit, 43% said they’d never dine there, no matter what, while 32% would only return if it had closed down and reopened under new ownership. A further 22% said they’d only return if the food hygiene rating improved dramatically – meaning that owners would need deep pockets and the ability to invest heavily over a long period of time to meet hygiene standards, rebuild trust and attract diners back.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a Michelin starred restaurant or a local takeaway – consumers will not tolerate poor food hygiene and will vote with their feet if a restaurant has been implicated in a food hygiene incident,” said Dee Roche, Marketing Director, Checkit.net. “This demonstrates the enormous impact that poor food safety has on business survival – how could you cope with 61% of your customers boycotting your restaurant? These findings are a wakeup call to those restaurants that think that food safety is not a customer priority – diners rate hygiene as the number one reason, above service or rude staff when it comes to choosing whether to return to a restaurant.”

mr.creosote.monty.python.vomitThe research found that consumers had the highest expectations of fine dining restaurants, with 69% saying they would not visit any that had a low food hygiene rating. This was followed by takeaways (including Chinese, Indian or kebab sellers), with 64% of people avoiding any with low food hygiene ratings. In contrast they were slightly better disposed to cafés and coffee shops (55%), possibly due to the more limited range of food being sold.

“Food hygiene ratings matter to consumers, and are an increasingly important part of choosing where they eat,” said David Davies, Managing Director, Checkit.net.