These 675 people make your meals: Illinois man gets 18 months for food safety bribes

A Lynwood, Illinois man has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for accepting bribes in exchange for allowing students in his food safety training classes to bypass sanitation certification testing, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago.

Ernest Griffin, 71, was sentenced Wednesday and also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, according to the office.

Griffin had pleaded guilty in March 2016 to one count of federal program bribery, according to court records.

His business, Food Safety Awareness, contracted with the Illinois Department of Public Health to offer food handling courses. Students needed to complete a 15-hour course and take an exam in order to receive sanitation certificates from the health department.

In exchange for bribes, Griffin submitted false certifications and false test results to the department, although prosecutors and Griffin’s lawyer disagreed on the total amount of bribes the man received, court documents show.

Prosecutors said that starting in at least 2008 and continuing through January 2015 Griffin received bribes from students, taking in a total of almost $152,000. His lawyer, in a filing, said that Griffin admitted to receiving more than $5,000 a year in bribes from 2010 through 2014.

The government said that Griffin’s bribery scheme ended only after he was confronted by FBI agents in January 2015.

The government contended that during that four-year period, about 675 students who hadn’t taken the required class or exam were given sanitation certificates.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Trump’s Mar-a-Lago kitchen edition

While U.S. President Trump was describing the sensorial orgasm he shared with Chinese President Xi as he authorized missile strikes on a temporarily abandoned piece of concrete in Syria – “we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen” – the Miami Herald was unearthing food safety breaches at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s Palm Beach private club.

Inspectors found 13 violations at the fancy club’s kitchen, according to recently published reports — a record for an institution that charges $200,000 in initiation fees.

Three of the violations were deemed “high priority,” meaning that they could allow the presence of illness-causing bacteria on plates served in the dining room.

According to their latest visit to the club Jan. 26, state inspectors decided Mar-a-Lago’s kitchen did meet the minimum standards.

But they had a field day with elements that could give members of the high-class club and foreign dignitaries some pause:

▪ Fish designed to be served raw or undercooked, the inspection report reads, had not undergone proper parasite destruction. Kitchen staffers were ordered to cook the fish immediately or throw it out.

▪ In two of the club’s coolers, inspectors found that raw meats that should be stored at 41 degrees were much too warm and potentially dangerous: chicken was 49 degrees, duck clocked in a 50 degrees and raw beef was 50 degrees. The winner? Ham at 57 degrees.

▪ The club was cited for not maintaining the coolers in proper working order and was ordered to have them emptied immediately and repaired.

Mar-a-Lago General Manager Bernd Lembcke did not return calls for comment.

People are getting sick E. coli O157 outbreak at Boston’s Chicken & Rice Guys

Megan Woolhouse of the Boston Globe reports an E. coli O157 outbreak shuttered three locations of the Chicken & Rice Guys, as well as its fleet of Middle Eastern food trucks, Boston health inspectors said Tuesday.

The department confirmed seven cases of E. coli stemming from the Chicken & Rice Guys Allston location, which supplies food to the chain’s other outposts. The problems led to the temporary suspension of its operating license, Boston Inspectional Services Commissioner William Christopher Jr. said.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” Christopher said. “People are getting sick.”

He added that he did not know the condition of any of the people who were affected.

The company’s four food trucks, which rotate locations around Greater Boston, were taken off the road Tuesday afternoon, said Phanna Ky, general manager of the chain’s Medford restaurant, the only location that remained open Tuesday evening.

Christopher said Boston does not have jurisdiction over the Medford location.

Chicken & Rice Guys officials could not be reached.

According to Boston Inspectional Services, the city received an anonymous complaint and opened an investigation Tuesday. Public health officials remained at the Allston site throughout the afternoon trying to determine a specific source of the outbreak, Christopher said.

He added that the department will meet with the chain’s owner on Wednesday morning to discuss a course of action.

24-hour rule: Works in hockey and restaurant complaints

I often go off and prematurely hit send.

But through the contributions of more experienced coaches, I’ve come to appreciate the value of the 24-hour rule.

It means think about it, and is it really so important?

I had my first parents’ meeting of the new ice hockey season (because I have to say ice hockey in Australia) and stressed the 24-hour rule: Don’t talk to me during practice or games, don’t talk to me afterwards, give it 24 hours.

In turn, I will wait 24 hours until I say something.

Sure, this sounds like trivial maturity, but when adults and kids go to arenas, and put all that gear on, crazy things happen.

I’m the coach – and have put in the 40 hours of training, just like the 7 years of PhD training — and I am to be calm, like supervising PhD students who are freaking out.

According to Elizabeth Henson of The Advertiser, a top Adelaide restaurateur, embroiled in a fiery keyboard stoush with a customer he called “dimwitted”, says it’s time eateries “give as good as they get” when the butt of scathing online criticism.

Victory Hotel and Star of Greece owner Doug Govan let rip on Facebook after patron Jodie Clarke described the hotel as “rude and obnoxious” and “so unaccommodating” — and another, Emma-Jade Fowler, described “terrible customer service” after a booking mishap at the weekend.

Mr Govan branded Ms Fowler “dimwitted” and argued that businesses should be able to defend themselves on social media.

But disgruntled Ms Fowler described the attack as bullying behaviour and said the Sellicks Hill hotel’s response was shameful and “disgusting.”

Let’s just accept that we’re all dimwitted to varying degrees.

The Victory Hotel’s Facebook page was forced to temporarily shut down after Ms Clarke wrote about her experience at the hotel on Saturday night after the eatery was unable to accommodate her and her friends.

“You are rude, obnoxious and so unaccommodating,” she wrote on Facebook.

“We had a group booking of 17 people, yes 17 people, and every single one … has walked away disgusted.

 “And every single one of us will tell every person we know our story of your terrible service and unhelpful, rude staff. We will never be back.”

Ms Fowler wrote “terrible customer service, you should be ashamed Victory Hotel” in reference to the booking problem.

This comment elicited an outburst from Mr Govan, which he says he now regrets.

“Terribly dim-witted Emma-Jade not-sure-what-my-first-name-should-be Emma or Jade, don’t get involved in something you don’t know anything about,” he wrote.

“Imagine one of your friends told you the sun wasn’t going to come up tomorrow. Would you agree just because they were a stupid, dim-witted friend? No, you wouldn’t. If one of your friends said I went to a restaurant with 17 people and they couldn’t find my booking? Yes, if you were a dim-witted imbecile, yes, possibly.

“But if they told you the truth and said that they had screwed up their booking, maybe you wouldn’t be wasting your time writing crap. But maybe you just love seeing your name on social media.”

Ms Fowler fired back. “At the end of the day, this is bullying and it will be taken further,” she wrote.

“You should be ashamed of the way you have responded, it’s disgusting.”

The hotel shut down its Facebook page on Monday night after a barrage of comments from those involved, as well as others, were posted about the incident. It came back online yesterday and offered an apology “for any offensive comments made on Facebook”.

A link to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission complaints portal was included in the post.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Salvatore’s Ristorante

A Merseyside, UK, restaurant owner has been fined hundreds of pounds after dead flies were found in pans of bolognese left out overnight.

Health inspectors who visited Salvatore’s Ristorante on Lord Street, Southport, which is rated #24 of 266 restaurants in Southport also found bird faeces in the extractor fan and out-of-date lasagne.

They also discovered utensils and fridge door seals encrusted in food debris and a large dead insect in a trifle.

Owner Salvatore Trecarichi, 66, of was today fined £750 by magistrates after pleading guilty to a string of food hygiene breaches.

South Sefton magistrates court was told council officers had visited the restaurant in June 2016 and found numerous hygiene issues. There was also no type of disinfectant product anywhere on the premises.

Trecarichi was given a 0 star hygiene rating and told to make improvements, but when inspectors returned a week later the bare minimum had been done.

Officers found areas were still unclean and greasy, with considerable damage to shelving and tiles.

On December 15, 2016 a further reinspection gave Salvatores a 3 star hygiene rating but when officers visited again on March 30 this year they were informed the business had changed its name.

Chipotle: Food safety idiots

Rather than focus on the things that make people barf – which Chipotle should know all about – they are now claiming it is the only national restaurant brand without added colors, flavors or preservatives on its entire menu.

l“We have always used high quality ingredients and prepared them using classic cooking techniques,” Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder and CEO, said in a statement.

“We never resorted to using added colors or flavors like many other fast food companies do simply because these industrial additives often interfere with the taste of the food. However, commercially available tortillas, whether they are for us or someone else, use dough conditioners and preservatives.”

Chipotle now says it uses only local and organically grown produce as well as meats from animals raised without hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics. None of the 51 ingredients in the restaurant’s foods have been genetically modified but the company still sells soft drinks that contain GMO-containing ingredients.

The company has even released a visual ingredient statement – allowing customers to see exactly what’s being used to create their Chipotle dishes. 

Good luck with that.

Like many other food safety types, I will continue to avoid. Chipotle’s emphasis on marketing bullshit – 21st century snake-oil — rather than safety shows how much they have jumped the shark.

If Chipotle thinks corn, or any of their other ingredients, isn’t genetically modified, then they’re drinking their own jello.

 

Duncan Hines: Cake mix king and road warrior who shaped restaurant history

This is an outstanding story by Nicole Jankowski, a freelance food, history and culture writer based in Detroit, who writes Duncan Hines, traveling salesman and future purveyor of boxed cake mix, considered himself an authority on a great many things: hot coffee, Kentucky country-cured ham and how to locate a tasty restaurant meal, in 1935, for under a dollar and a quarter.

In 1957, Duncan Hines and his wife, Clara, cut a cake at the Duncan Hines test kitchen in Ithaca, N.Y.

By the 1950s, Hines’ name would be plastered on boxes of cake mix; housewives would turn to his products for consistent quality and superior taste. Newspaper photographs featured Hines clad in a white chef’s apron, hoisting a neatly frosted cake or thoughtfully dipping a spoon into a mixing bowl.

But Duncan Hines wasn’t a chef — in truth, he could barely cook. For most of his career, he had just been a businessman, desperate for a decent meal on the road. Through his search for the best restaurants across America, he became an accidental gourmand, an unlikely author and homegrown connoisseur.

Although boxed cake mix is the legacy that most people now associate with Duncan Hines (only after asking, “Was he actually a real person?”) the supermarket foods that bear his name are only an epilogue to a storied life traveling America’s back roads.

It was really his book, Adventures in Good Eating, that first put Duncan Hines on the map. And it was his tireless pursuit of good food that inspired his book.

Hines’ appreciation for a good meal arose out of mere necessity. From the 1920s through the ’40s, he motored across the country hawking letter openers and paperclips and subsisting on unreliable road food. It was an era long before any formal restaurant rating system existed in the U.S. The names and locations of good restaurants were conveyed by word of mouth; for an out-of-town traveler, locating a decent supper was often a daunting and discouraging mission. And although Europe had relied on The Michelin Guide since 1900, middle America in the 1920s and ’30s was still a land of culinary mystery and inconsistency.

Desperate for a clean place to dine, Hines became an investigative epicurean and self-made restaurant critic. He carried a tiny journal in his coat pocket, jotting down the precise locations of his favorite places. No restaurant was off limits for the inquisitive Hines. “The kitchen is the first spot I inspect in an eating place,” he wrote. “More people will die from hit or miss eating than from hit and run driving,” he joked — though Hines clearly thought food safety was no laughing matter.

He frequently popped into the kitchen to scrutinize how staff handled food and then swung around back to investigate the restaurant’s garbage pile. He meticulously recorded the names of the most pristine diners, the inns with the tastiest prime roast beef, and where to find the stickiest honey buns. He appreciated regional cuisine, quickly discovering in which part of the country to brake for broiled lobster tail (New England) and where to stop for fried chicken (Kentucky).

Hines noted whether a restaurant had air conditioning, its hours of operation and its prices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “His restaurant notes were extraordinarily accurate,” says Louis Hatchett, author of the book, Duncan Hines: How a Traveling Salesman Became the Most Trusted Name in Food. “As word spread among his family and friends, people were begging him to share the list he had created. There was nothing out there like it,” he says. “In 1935, sick of being pestered, he finally sent out a little blue pamphlet in his Christmas cards, containing a list of 167 restaurants across 33 states that he could safely recommend.”

Soon, Hines was receiving postcards from from salesmen, newlyweds and other travelers all over America seeking his recommendations for good, clean restaurants.

In 1936, at 55, Hines self-published his first edition of Adventures in Good Eatingand sold them for $1 each. It contained the names and locations of 475 restaurants from coast to coast that had Hines’ rigorous seal of approval. “The books were sold through word of mouth, but they quickly sold out. The following year he raised the guide’s price to $1.50 — and that’s where the price would stay for the next 25 years,” explains Hatchett.

“Recommended by Duncan Hines” became the gold standard in dining by the 1950s.

Two years before his death in March of 1959, the entire franchise was sold to Procter & Gamble.

Hines often said, “Nearly everyone wants at least one outstanding meal a day.” This seems as true now as it did a half-century ago. But long before Yelp or TripAdvisor offered restaurant reviews with the click of a button, Hines was doing it his own way, by traveling the highway with his pencil and notebook, changing the way America ate on the open road — one adventure at a time.

Everyone has a camera, India restaurant edition

Tanu Kulkarni writes in The Hindu, the next time you spot a pani puri wala using unhygienic water or find that the food in your school canteen is not fresh, take a photograph or a video of the food safety violation and send it on WhatsApp to the Department of Health and Family Welfare and your complaint is as good as registered.

The department has decided to work with resident welfare associations (RWAs) in the city to spread awareness about safe and unsafe food and also look into complaints pertaining to food safety. Subodh Yadav, Commissioner of the department, said active volunteers will also be given an identity card so that they are taken seriously. The department’s local officials will be given a three day deadline to attend to the complaint. Apart from flagging off the department about these complaints, citizens can also raise awareness about food safety practices among others.

RWAs have welcomed the move. Nitya Reddy, vice-president, Richmond and Langford Town Residents’ Welfare Association, termed it a much needed one. “It will be great if the Health Department ropes in RWAs as we will be able to point out to unhygienic neighbourhood eateries, restaurants, and roadside vendors. We can be in constant touch with them and help them monitor food quality.”

Too much monkey business: Brisbane’s restaurant inspection sucks, city councillor’s parents fined for food safety breaches

The restaurant inspection system in Brisbane is hopeless beyond belief.

For a cow town that wants to profit from tourism rather than coal and cattle, they are beyond stupid about it.

At least we got good folks to coach the little kids in hockey.

The disclosure system is voluntary. If a restaurant gets two-stars-out-of-five, for example, they don’t put up the sign.

How is it that Toronto, LA, NYC and hundreds of other places figured out how to make restaurant inspection disclosure mandatory, yet Brisbane and most of Australia go on a faith-based system – which usually involves someone blowing someone.

According to the Courier Mail, the parents of a Brisbane city councillor have admitted breaking food safety laws enforced by the council, with inspectors finding cockroaches “happily living” in the carvery they run in a city foodcourt.

Paddington councillor Peter Matic’s parents Milovan and Milena Matic were slapped with fines after a council health inspector unearthed issues with cleanliness, maintenance and cockroaches at their Carvey and Seafood in the Myer Centre in January last year.

The couple were fined $3000 each after pleading guilty to failing to ensure the business complied with the food Act.

The company, Nano Investments Pty Ltd, also copped a $29,000 fine for five counts of failing to comply with the food standards code.

Kevin Cartledge, for Brisbane City Council, said officers inspected the eatery on January 19, 2016, and issued an improvement notice.

So a whole bunch of people ate at that shitshow after the Jan. 19, 2016 inspection, but no one bothered to tell customers.

It’s some perverse British legal system thing, that potentially puts consumers at risk for months after the failings are discovered.

When they returned two days later, the officers discovered the business was still breaching food safety laws, triggering a suspension the following day.

He said the most concerning element was the presence of a large number of cockroaches.

“You have, essentially, the perfect circumstances for cockroaches to live and breed,” he said.

“Given that there were adult and juvenile cockroaches in the premises, it clearly suggests that there was a life cycle and these cockroaches were happily living and feeding.”

He pointed out the company has had compliance issues in the past, and infringements notices had been served.

“This is a company that has been put well and truly on notice yet has still failed to comply with their requirements under the Act,” he said.

So why the fuck wouldn’t you make it public to warn unsuspecting consumers that the place was a shithole?

Too much monkey business.

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public. Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions. Information provision on its own is not enough. Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.

Never there: No comment as Salmonella outbreaks close two Canberra cafes and no word in Brisbane

There’s an outbreak of Salmonella in Canberra (that’s Australia’s capital, on a swamp, like Washington, DC), and there’s an outbreak in Brisbane.

They are not related, other than no one will say something in public.

The whole idea of risk communication is to let people know when there is a problem, what they can do to avoid the problem, and stop making things worse by refusing to ID the source or the food implicated.

It’s OK, social media will fix that for the bureaucrats, but why spend taxpayer money on agencies that won’t tell the public shit?

I called Queensland Health a week ago, to ask them about the Chinese New Year Salmonella outbreak in Brisbane, and the media thingy said, e-mail your question, which I did, and still, no answer.

Government-types are never there.

Which is why I always tell private sector types to expect nothing from the government.

If there’s an outbreak, the government types will still have their job and super: you won’t.

According to ABC News two weeks ago – and there’s been nothing public since — an outbreak of salmonella has forced two popular Canberra cafes to close their doors while they are investigated by health inspectors.

The ACT Government Health Protection Services (HPS) has served prohibition orders on the two cafes linked to the outbreak, located in Belconnen and Gungahlin.

The cafes are Ricardo’s in Jamison and the Central Cafe in Gungahlin.

In a statement, HPS said health inspectors had uncovered problems “related with food handling processes and procedures” at both stores.

“The cafes will be closed until such time as the identified issues have been rectified,” the statement said.

“This action means that there is no ongoing risk to the health of the ACT population from these events”.

The health directorate refused to comment on how many people had been affected by the outbreak while the investigation was in process.

Though there were a number of posts on social media from those claiming to have eaten at Ricardo’s before falling ill.

“I know someone who was in hospital last week, for four days, with a truly awesome bout of salmonella after eating there,” one person wrote on Facebook.

“My partner and I are both in hospital,” wrote another.

“Bought cake from there Monday last week, was shivering in bed with fever and food poisoning with girlfriend until Friday, she’s fine I’m still not over it,” a user said on Reddit.

“Ugh ate there Wednesday last week. Friday, got sick/gastro for 5 days. Guess I have an idea where it came from now…”