Pigeons: Rats with wings (and Salmonella factories)

Sane New Yorkers regard them as rats with wings, and they make use of the many tools to combat pigeons on their property. But things get complicated when a neighboring property owner doesn’t care that pigeons are emitting toxic piles of excrement in a shared space between buildings.

pigeon-rats-wingsSuch was the case on the Upper West Side, where pigeons set up housekeeping on a grocery store’s outdoor air vents and cooling system. Residents of a co-op that shares a courtyard with the grocery store hired an exterminator, but the nests remain. The store’s management did not respond to calls. What’s a co-op board to do?

“The mere presence of pigeon droppings in the courtyard is an unsanitary condition” and could be grounds for a violation, Kempshall McAndrew, a real estate lawyer at Anderson Kill, tells the New York Times’ Ask Real Estate column. The board should keep the courtyard free of pigeon droppings in case an inspector visits.

Beyond that, McAndrew advises the co-op board to call the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene directly, bypassing 311. The board should photograph the area, documenting the nests as the source of the problem. It should also keep records of calls to the grocery store and of the exterminator’s efforts.

Dumbass put own address on letter demanding $12.7 million from Brisbane food manufacturer

A Brisbane man tried to extort $12.7 million from a food manufacturer using a video of rats, cockroaches and sharp utensils in or near food, a court has heard.

sq-willard-crispin-glover-rat-nlDaniel Rupert Sridharan is standing trial in the District Court accused of telling the company that unless he was paid $12.7 million he would release footage to showing cockroaches, “a rat in a tub” and “a sharp utensil found (in product)”.

In her opening address to the jury Crown Prosecutor Sarah Farnden said Sridharan wrote a letter to the company — whose name has been suppressed by the court — saying that “(the company) can hide the truth from auditors and customers but can never hide the truth from its own employees.”

“He claims the footage will be sent to (various lobby groups),” Ms Farnden told the jury.

Ms Farnden said Sridharan tried to extort the company in a six-page letter he sent to them on March 16 last year.

The letter allegedly demanded the cash payment in return for not leaking video footage to the authorities and major supermarkets including footage of a rat in the manufacturing facility.

“It was sent by registered post, and had the defendants’ name and address clearly marked as the sender on the envelope,” Ms Farnden said.

UK pub fined £100,000 for mouse infestation

Daniel Woolfson of The Morning Advertiser reports that Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) was slapped with a £100,000 fine after environmental health officers uncovered an infestation of mice at one of its Birmingham pubs.

The  Railway Pub, Birmingham UKThe company, which owns the Harvester and Toby Carvery, pleaded guilty to three food safety offences at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday (19 August) after inspectors discovered rodent droppings and unhygienic kitchen conditions at the Railway, Hill Street.

It was ordered to pay £105,000 as well as £9,528 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

Councillor Barbara Dring, Birmingham City Council’s licensing and public protection committee chair, said: “People should be able to have confidence in the safety of the food served and cleanliness of any food business in Birmingham – regardless of whether it’s a pub or a posh restaurant.

“We want the city’s food businesses to thrive and, as such, our officers work closely with premises to ensure they achieve the necessary standards required to operate safely.”

The Railway’s kitchen was ordered to close on the spot after the inspection on February 18 last year but was allowed to reopen two days later when inspectors returned and found improvements to have been made.

Since then it has gone on to achieve a five-star food hygiene rating.

Earlier this summer M&B admitted a breach of duty to 280 customers who were stricken with norovirus after visiting an Exeter Toby Carvery pub in April 2015.

The Exeter Arms was closed after instances of the virus, which causes diarrhea and vomiting, were reported to management.

However, it continued to trade after closing for one day and more people fell ill.

Amandeep Dhillon, partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, which was instructed by the customers to investigate the outbreak, said at the time it hoped by taking legal action important lessons would be learned when it came to dealing with outbreaks of illness in similar premises.

Rodents run riot in Brisbane CBD

Early spring conditions have led to a randy rodent breeding frenzy which means restaurants are having to take extra precautions.

sq-willard-crispin-glover-rat-nlPest controllers said the rat population in the city was “alarming” and poised to get worse with warm weather on the way.

Brisbane City Council is working with the Myer Centre and food businesses to manage any food safety issues. Three inner city restaurants have already been prosecuted this year for rat problems, and fined a combined $74,500 for health violations after inspections.

Four other restaurants in the Myer Centre have been prosecuted for rat-related violations in the past three years.

The most recent CBD violations involved Empire Kebabs, fined $17,500 in January for cleanliness and pest problems, including rodents, following an inspection in December 2013.

Beijing House in the CBD was also fined $42,000 in June for a range of breaches including selling unsuitable food, hygiene of handlers and the presence of rats. At New Farm, Little Larder was fined $15,000 last week after a council inspection found cockroaches and rodents in August 2014.

A rat found in an oven at Indian Odyssey in the city led to a $30,000 fine in August last year.

Chinese govt says: No rats or bats (or daffodils) on the menu for New Year

With just a few days to go before the Chinese New Year, which people celebrate with an abundance of food and merrymaking, China’s government has launched a campaign to prevent virus infections caused by eating ‘strange food’ such as rats, snakes and bats.

slaughtered-rats-are-displayed-sale-market-canh-nau-village-west-hanoiAuthorities in charge of food safety urged citizens Friday not to consume ‘wild animals’, and above all, not to ‘go over the top’, as it is common for people in certain parts of the country to come up with astonishing dishes, using animals not commonly found on the dinner table.

In the southern Canton province, for example, people savour preparations made from snakes and rats, which is why the authorities are urging everyone, particularly old people, children and pregnant women, to abstain from what it calls strange dishes.

Food Safety Talk 63: The Great One

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.1405348895819

Don and Ben have Skype issues but this time it was actually Don. Don announced that there will be help for people like Ben who aren’t so good at managing their time and attention at IAFP 2014, with Merlin Mann presenting on Wednesday in a special lunch session. The guys estimate about 0.1% of IAFP annual meeting attendees will be excited to see him – including Ben and Don, and probably Batz. Ben mentions his excitement that Professor Dr. Donald Schaffner, PhD was name checked on Back to Work Episode 173.

The first mention of The Wire comes at 12 minutes in when the guys give a shout out to Baltimore resident Manan Sharma who says that this is his favorite part of the show.

In follow-up from Episode 61, friend of the show MDD says that there are not rats in Alberta  Ben and Don remark while there may not be any snakes in New Zealand and Ireland (although Ben thinks that Don is thinking of potatoes) there are rats in small pockets in Alberta. While Alberta has had a rat eradication program since the 1950s, a colony of Norwegian rats, of Roanoke Island proportion, was found in Medicine Hat (that’s in Canada) in 2012 and 2014. Ben tells Don that he wears big pockets to avoid rats, and that and on a pilgrimage to Edmonton to see a statue of The Great One, his pockets were not checked.

The guys then talk about a question from IAFP’s Dina (not Dinah). Dina asked the guys to discuss their thoughts on a recent JFP paper about non-intact steak cooking using temperature, flipping/turning and different cooking methods. The practical, take-home message (as dictated using Dragon Dictate) was that that flipping and covering with a lid (which allows cooking to occur both through conduction and convection heat) and using a thermometer for all cuts of meat helps reduce risk.

Ben talked a bit about some future work that his group is doing looking at mechanically tenderized beef messaging, perception and behavior – including cubed steak.  Cube steak is sometimes made by slapping two pieces of meat together and running through a cuber – although not according to Wikipedia, which is never wrong. The discussion moved to steak eating preferences as detailed by FiveThirtyEight Nate Silver’s cadre of numbers nerds who dissect a lot of pop culture and sports questions.

The guys then both talked about message variability projects they have going on. Ben’s group is looking at  cook book recipes (and how the messages and instructions in the culinary world often are not evidence-based). And Don’s group is looking at messaging on handwashing signs, something that his second favorite graduate student Dane, is undertaking.

In outbreak flashback the guys talked about 1854’s Broad St. Pump  cholera outbreak. Using a map and analyzing cases of human disease, John Snow, largely recognized as one of the founders of epidemiology, created a blueprint for the next generation of disease hunters. Removing the handle on the pump is commonly thought to have ended the outbreak except that modern epi-curve analysis suggests that the outbreak was already on the decline. Ben’s favorite part was what one of his undergraduate professors, Anthony Clarke talked about in class 15 years ago: the monks in a local monastery did not get sick because they didn’t drink the water, just home brewed beer.

The guys then ended the show talking about an outbreak linked to food service hamburgers made by Wolverine Packing. Or is that Wolverine Packing with it’s adamantium slicers and grinders? In either case, It’s unclear whether illnesses are linked to undercooked burgers or cross contamination – although anecdotally undercooked burgers have been reported. One of Ben’s graduate student’s Ellen Thomas has been working on a project related directly to this type of product, where secret shoppers have been speaking with servers at burger-serving family style restaurants throughout the U.S. The results of the project will be shared at IAFP in Indianapolis.

In after dark the guys chuckle and guffaw about Ben’s Beatles references, time and attention management, and Tony Robbins who Ben thinks is in prison. But he’s not. He was thinking of James Arthur Ray. Don mentions that the author Kurt Vonnegut (who explains the universal shapes of storytelling) has a memorial library in Indianapolis.

Of course food safety is your top priority; dancing rats at Manhattan Dunkin’ Donuts

Oh iPhone cameras and youtube.com; how do I love thee?

And Dunkin’ Donuts, you’re no Tim Hortons.

Two videos uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday show rats crawling around a New York City Dunkin’ Donuts location in the Garmnet District.

In the first video, uploaded by user ‘Pjayone’, a rat is seen making its way from the top of a display rack, touching croissants, bagels and other Dunkin' Donutsbaked goods in open tubs.

The second video shows yet another rat crawling up a window curtain at the same location on 37th Street and 8th Avenue.

In an email to Gothamist, the YouTube user explains that this is a normal occurrence  at the location.

‘At two-thirty [in the morning] every [day] the workers load the shelves with the morning’s wares. Shortly thereafter like clockwork the rats come out and party.’

‘My phone ran out of power, or I would’ve filmed the outright nine deep rat assault which followed the action above,’ he added.

‘The items in the video that are being besieged upon by the rats were to be sold for that mornings breakfast rush.’

The location captured in the video has an ‘A’ rating from the city’s health department, despite getting a citation for vermin-related issues in November 2013.

The citation called the facility ‘not vermin proof. Harboarge or conditions conductive to attracting vermin to the premises and/or allowed vermin to exist.’

When contacted by Gothamist, the location manager said simply: ‘We don’t have an issue like that.’

Dunkin’ Donuts’ corporate offices issued their own statement, saying ‘food safety is a top priority’.

‘We have stringent food safety and quality standards, and we take great pride in the food and beverages we serve to our guests every day.

A rat map that shows NYC’s restaurant rodent takeover

Continuing with the New York City theme, Steven Melendez has created a colorful map of rats in the Big Apple.

As Nell Casey at Gothamist explains, Melendez created the map with restaurant inspection data starting from January 1st, 2013. The number of restaurants cited for “evidence of mice or live mice,” or “evidence of rats or live rats,” was compared to the total number of restaurants in each zip code to find the percentages in the color-coded map.

rats.map.nyc.feb.14

Broken pipe causes rat takeover at Philly’s Green Eggs Cafe

Sunday night, Twitter and Instagram blew up, according to Eater, with pictures of rats running amok inside Green Eggs Cafe Midtown at 212 S. 13th Street. While everyone had thought the worst, apparently a burst sewer pipe in the basement is green.eggs.cafe.rats.may.13what brought the arrival of the large rodents, which has caused the shutdown of the restaurant for the day.

“Last night, a sewer pipe broke downstairs and released the rats that you saw in that picture,” a representative told Eater. “For obvious reasons, we’re closing the Midtown location to fix this pipe and make some other general improvements to the outward appearance at Midtown. We apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused.”

French restaurant fined for rats in Scotland

A French restaurant owner in Scotland has been fined £1000 for allowing rats to roam around his establishment.

The Scotsman reports Pierre Pelletier, 45, was brought to court after safety inspectors found a dead, decaying rat close to food in Le Le Marche Francais.ratsMarche Francais in West ­Maitland Street.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how Pelletier had been warned on two prior occasions about the risk that rats posed to his restaurant.

The court heard that the venue is located close to tracks that were being laid for the tram network and that the works had disturbed ­settlements of rats.

Yesterday, in front of sheriff Michael O’Grady, Pelletier, of Haymarket ­Terrace, pleaded guilty to breaking food safety laws.