Gross? Just how hygienic is Mumbai’s street food?

No matter the time of night or day, somewhere on the streets of Mumbai there is a plate of deep-fried, mashed-potato patties called vada-pav being served with green chutney; or a bowl of pav-bhaji, a spicy mixture of mashed tomatoes and vegetables garnished with a blob of butter, onion and a dash of lemon.

MumbaiAccording to the Public Health Association, only 53% of Indians wash their hands with soap after defecating; 38% do so before eating and only 30% before preparing food. Bacteria transmitted in food, like coliform, E coli, salmonella, shigella, staphylococcus aureus and pseudomonas, are major causes of infections such as diarrhea, typhoid, food poisoning, urinary tract infections and pneumonia. These bacteria are found in the feces of human and animals. They grow quickly if the food is kept in moist, warm conditions, and can enter human bodies if the vegetables or meat are not washed properly or there is faecal contamination during food production or handling. Bacteria can also reach your food through flies, exchange of cash with infected hands or through contaminated water.

Bean sprouts tainted with banned additive are again found in China

Bean sprouts are back in the news for all the wrong reasons. Not for the first time, Chinese inspectors have found bean sprouts tainted with a banned food additive, in this instance in a production center on the southern outskirts of Beijing.

sprout.chinaThe sprouts being produced at the site in Daxing district were treated with high levels of 6-benzyladenine, a plant hormone, to speed up the growth cycle and make them more attractive to buyers, The Beijing News reported this week. But the chemical can also harm consumers’ health, it said, causing premature puberty, disrupting menstrual cycles and contributing to osteoporosis.

Up to 20 tons of sprouts a day were sold to wholesale dealers in Beijing and in Hebei and Shandong Provinces, the newspaper said. Since the Beijing food and drug authorities conducted their spot check on Nov. 2, the Daxing site has been shut down and three associated vendors have been ordered to halt operations. The case remains under investigation, but no arrests have been reported.

Egg stamping introduced in Australia today

NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, is reminding food retailers and consumers that from today, eggs produced in NSW must be stamped with a unique identifying mark to allow them to be traced back to the farm of origin.

ei_auMs Hodgkinson said this protection is part of a new national standard for eggs that will help reduce the impact of a food poisoning outbreak through improved traceability.

“I commend the egg industry, which has widely met this requirement and come on board well before today’s deadline,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“Producers see the value in not only protecting their customers; they also recognise the benefit of improved traceability to the industry.

“Egg stamping will mean that the source of an outbreak will be more easily traced and contained.”

Ms Hodgkinson said while eggs are a healthy and nutritious food, like all food there is an element of risk.

“Eggs are a leading source of Salmonella – between 2010 and 2014 in NSW there were 40 food poisoning outbreaks associated with eggs, affected more than 700 people, with many requiring hospitalisation,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“This is part of the role the NSW Food Authority plays to ensure food safety along each step of the food chain, from paddock to plate.”

Ms Hodgkinson said in order to reduce the impact upon smaller operators, the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government has provided free stamps to small businesses producing less than 1000 eggs a day.

Husband tells of horrific moment of wife’s death after eating reheated Christmas dinner at UK chain pub

 A husband has told how his dying wife’s eyes rolled back into her head after eating a reheated Christmas dinner at one of the country’s top pub chains, a court heard.

237E855900000578-0-image-55_1416934800709Mother-of-one Della Callagher died and 32 other diners became seriously ill after eating the turkey dinner at the Railway Hotel, Hornchurch, Essex.

The 46-year-old became unwell on Boxing Day and her devastated husband told the court how his wife began shaking and her eyes rolled back into her head.

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard she was sent home from Queen’s Hospital, Romford, and she died on December 27.

Guests paid £39.95 for a meal which had been cooked the day before and given a second blast on a hotplate before it was brought to the table.

Prosecutors claimed the food was not allowed to cool when it was first cooked and then not properly reheated, creating a perfect breeding ground for the deadly Clostridium bacteria.

After the outbreak landlady Anne-Marie McSweeney, 40, and chef Mehmet Kaya, 37 disposed of all the waste food, preventing health inspectors from taking samples. They also forged kitchen records.

They were both found guilty perverting the course of justice for falsifying food safety records.

Deal to settle part of Canadian E. coli beef recall lawsuit

Lawyers have brokered a tentative deal to settle part of a class-action lawsuit filed over an E. coli outbreak and the largest meat recall in Canadian history.

XL.foodsThe lawsuit is against XL Foods Inc., which operated a meat-packing plant in southern Alberta during the tainted beef recall in 2012.

Rick Mallett, a lawyer for the Edmonton law firm behind the class action, said the settlement is to cover refunds to consumers for products that were recalled.

He said the proposed $1-million settlement, plus other costs, is to go before a judge early next year for approval.

“The parties have reached a settlement on beef refund claims subject to approval of the court,” Mallett said Tuesday following a hearing in Court of Queen’s Bench.

“It applies to anyone who purchased recalled beef — XL beef — and disposed of it and didn’t get a refund.”

XL Foods recalled more than 1.8 million kilograms of beef in Canada and the United States.

In its statement of defence the company has denied liability and the allegations contained in the class action. The plant in Brooks was sold to JBS Canada last year.

100 sick: Food poisoning outbreak at Australian dog track; maybe the mayo?

More than 100 people have been struck down by a gastro outbreak at the Sandown Park Greyhound Racing Club in Melbourne’s south-east.

sandown-greyhound-racing-club-a4-bi-fold-brochure-design-ringwood-graphic-design-3Teachers and students were among the 100 people who fell ill following a valedictory function for Wantirna Secondary College at the club’s function centre last Wednesday.

Four people, including two teachers, needed hospital treatment for dehydration.

The club was closed for commercial cleaning the following day, but more people reported suffering vomiting and diarrhoea after attending the greyhound races on Friday night.

Marissa Notley, 50, said she felt ill just hours after attending a buffet dinner at the club for greyhound racing’s Melbourne Cup.

She said she ate lasagne, rice, chicken, potato, pumpkin, caesar salad and a small serving of tortellini.

“I felt unwell on that night … I went home and had cramps in my stomach and I didn’t have much of an appetite the next day,” Ms Notley said.

“By late Saturday night I was vomiting and had diarrhoea.”

Ms Notley said six other people who sat at her table had also fallen ill.

“That fact that people got sick the Wednesday night before has angered me a little a bit more,” she said.

Department of Human Services spokesman Bram Alexander said authorities were yet to identify the cause of the outbreak.

He said the department was testing samples to determine whether the outbreak was the result of a virus, or contaminated food.

13 sick: Illegal cheese factory in Portugal leads to brucellosis outbreak

An unauthorized cheese factory in the northern Portuguese town of Baiao, 370 km north of Lisbon, is the source of an outbreak of brucellosis in the area, which has so far led to 13 confirmed infections, according to local press reports on Tuesday.

imagesBrucellosis, which is also known as Malta Fever, Rock Fever or Mediterranean Fever, is most often contracted from unpasteurized milk or milk products such as cheese. The disease leads to parasites in the host’s bloodstream and episodes may last weeks, months or even years. It causes potentially recurrent episodes of high fever, sweating and related anemia.

At least four of the victims of the outbreak have been hospitalized in the neighboring city of Porto, a spokesperson from the Northern Regional Health Administration told the Expresso newspaper.

Talking turkey with Butterball’s hotline

This is the first American Thanksgiving I’ll be away from Amy, but it’s not such a big deal because it’s too damn hot in Brisbane at this time of year.

turkey.headWe used to run the food safety hotline in Canada, and had all the inquiries you could imagine.

So do the staff at Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line.

What started in 1981 as a group of six home economists answering calls has grown into a staff of more than 50 food and nutrition experts answering questions via phone, email, online chats and social media.

The hotline is open from early November to the day before Christmas and receives more than 100,000 questions per year. But, not surprisingly, the volume of questions peaks on Thanksgiving day, when the group answers more than 12,000 calls, Sue Smith, co-director of Butterball’s Turkey Talk-line, told USA TODAY Network.

Some of the questions:

• A mother returned home from work to find her husband thawing a frozen turkey in the bathtub while simultaneously washing up the kids. “The kids were like, ‘The water’s cold!’ because, you know, it’s a frozen turkey,” Smith said.

• A woman called the Talk-Line whispering her questions. When asked to speak up, the newlywed explained she was hiding in the closet from her mother-in-law, whom she was trying to impress.

• A young man hosting his first Thanksgiving called the Talk-Line while in a grocery store. A turkey expert stayed on the phone as he walked the aisle, advising him of all the items he’d need to buy.

• A landlord called panicked because his oven was too small to cook a turkey. He eventually was able to “rent” one from a tenant for $25. He thought he’d have to interrupt them every 10 minutes to baste it, but called the Talk-Line to learn that Butterball turkeys come pre-basted.

butterball• A woman lost power one hour into cooking her turkey and called the Talk-Line. The hotline talked her through transferring her turkey to her gas grill to continue cooking. What accounted for the outage? The caller’s neighbor had crashed into a power line while hang gliding.

But not all calls are quite that dramatic.

“How do I thaw my turkey?” is the most commonly asked question, according to Smith. One way is to put it in your refrigerator several days before Thanksgiving. It take one day for every 4 pounds, Smith said. But if it’s too late for that approach, the fastest way is to thaw it in water.

Spend restaurant money at places proud of their inspection results: Indiana investigation highlights problems

State law requires counties inspect Indiana’s nearly 12,000 restaurants twice a year. But even when inspectors find mouse droppings, flies and raw meat stored at the wrong temperature, customers might have a hard time finding out about it, an I-Team 8 investigation found.

jake.gyllenhaal.rest.inspection.disclosureI-Team 8 took a hidden camera into Central Indiana restaurants asking for copies of inspection reports. In four counties, the majority of restaurants wouldn’t provide a report when I-Team 8 asked to see it. Six of eight restaurants refused. One restaurant said, “I don’t have them.”

Even when inspectors have found critical violations, state law mandates counties wait 10 days before making any of those results public.

I-Team 8 took the issue to Indiana State Sen. Vaneta Becker, who was part of the committee that wrote the 10-day rule 20 years ago as a then state representative. She said no one had ever challenged the 10-day rule since, despite most other states not having such a policy.

Some states post letter grades A-F right in the front window. Indiana doesn’t. I-Team 8 checked the policies of all 50 states and Washington, D.C.  Six states require restaurants turn over inspection reports to customers. Many more leave it up to the counties. In South Carolina, grades are posted as a decal in the restaurant immediately after the inspection. Some states like Mississippi you can check restaurant inspections as you walk in on a smartphone app.

Although Indiana doesn’t post grades, I-Team 8 found two restaurants in the metro area that readily handed over their inspections.

“Why make you go through all that work to dig that stuff up when we have it right here?”

The manager at Culver’s in Noblesville immediately said, “I can give you our most recent one, sir,” when I-Team 8 asked for an inspection report.

At Pizza King in Cumberland an employee said, “Yes! They’re supposed to be right here.”

It’s company policy at both Culvers and Pizza King.

“That’s why we have to keep them here,” the Pizza King employee said. “It has to be open to the public, so people can look at it.”

Culvers keeps a copy handy. In fact, the manager said his restaurant helped with Hamilton County Health Department’s online system.

“They post all the health inspections too because we helped them set up the program,” the manager said.

Culver’s owner Jeff Meyer said keeping the inspections on-site is about customer convenience.

“You can log on online and see for yourself, so why make you go through all that work to dig that stuff up when we have it right here?”

Pictures and stories matter: A persuasive chart showing how persuasive charts are

In 1992, while I was working at the University of Waterloo (that’s in Canada), I hosted the annual meeting of the Canadian Science Writers Association.

CoverI brought in some interesting and controversial folks, and because Waterloo was so big on computer graphics, I put together a panel about how images could persuade politicians and mere mortals, and a discussion on the ethical responsibility of such a task.

Heady stuff.

Today, two Cornell researchers, Brian Wansink and Aner Tal, reported in Public Understanding of Science, about a small online survey to assess whether alternative descriptions of the same information were more persuasive. Each respondent read the following description of a mythical drug trial:

“A large pharmaceutical company has recently developed a new drug to boost peoples’ immune function. It reports that trials it conducted demonstrated a drop of 40 percent (from 87 to 47 percent) in occurrence of the common cold. It intends to market the new drug as soon as next winter, following F.D.A. approval.”

When this was the only information given, 68 percent believed that the medication really did reduce illness.

Then for a randomly selected subsample, the researchers supplemented the description of the drug trial with a simple chart. But here’s the kicker: That chart contained no new information; it simply repeated the information in the original vignette, with a tall bar illustrating that 87 percent of the control group had the illness, and a shorter bar showing that that number fell to 47 percent for those who took the drug.

But taking the same information and also showing it as a chart made it enormously more persuasive, raising the proportion who believed in the efficacy of the drug to 97 percent from 68 percent. If the researchers are correct, the following chart should persuade you of their finding.

What makes simple charts so persuasive? It isn’t because they make the information more memorable — 30 minutes after reading about the drug trials, those who saw the charts were not much more likely to recall the results than those who had just read the description. Rather, the researchers conjecture, charts offer the veneer of science. And indeed, the tendency to find the charts more persuasive was strongest among those who agreed with the statement “I believe in science.”