How Hawaii’s restaurants have fared after one year of the placard rating system

It’s been about a year since the Hawaii Department of Health started issuing placards to restaurants as part of its food safety program.

hawaii-restaurant-placardyellow*304xx1035-1553-83-0The color coded system gives everyone a clear look at just how safe a restaurant is.

A green card means it passed inspection. A yellow card means two or more major violations and a follow-up inspection is needed. And red means the place is shut down because of health risks.

One of the first restaurants to get a green placard was Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop in Chinatown.

“I feel the placard system makes restaurants feel accountable for their sanitation, their health issues, their kitchen, how they manage their food,” said Brian Chan, Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop owner.

In the first year of the program, July 2014 – July 2015, health inspectors handed out 8,546 placards, amounting to about 84% of all food establishments in the state.

Of those placards given out, 6,744 received green ones, 1,802 received yellow, and no one got a red placard.

KHON2 asked health officials what the response has been from restaurants that received yellow placards.

“They understand what we’re doing. Before we started to roll out this program, we made a point to visit every single one of our 10,000 establishments to explain at length exactly what our inspectors would be looking for. So I think it’s not really much of a shock to them. They understand the idea to get the green placard is rapid corrections of the violations,” replied Department of Health Sanitation Branch manager Peter Oshiro.

 

There’s a camera everywhere: NY rat-in-kitchen photo leads health department to shut down Prosperity Dumpling in Chinatown

A popular dumpling restaurant in Manhattan has been shut down after a photo of a rat in the kitchen surfaced online, prompting the health department to do a surprise inspection.

The New York City Department of Health closed Prosperity Dumpling on Eldridge Street in Chinatown Thursday night.

An anonymous tipster sent a photo to the website, gothamist.com, of a back alley area where food is prepared at the restaurant. In the shot, a rat can be clearly seen on the ground. The person who took the photo said it was taken Sunday evening and that the photo had been sent to the health department.

The restaurant received an “A” grade in its most recent inspection on May 28, although the restaurant inspection cites “live roaches present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas” as one of its sanitary violations.

I said I quit, but really didn’t: Nevada health type walks out amid tensions over restaurant inspections

Disagreement over how restaurants are being regulated boiled over at a Southern Nevada Health District board meeting Thursday with an official offering her resignation and walking out after she was criticized by her staff.

Jacqueline Reszetar'sSouthern Nevada Health District Director of Environmental Health Jacqueline Reszetar’s staff thinks the department is too business friendly in its approach to restaurant inspections, according to Brian Shepherd, chief of staff for Service Employees International Union local 1107, which represents health district workers.

Reszetar also was criticized for making culturally insensitive comments, though it wasn’t clear what she is accused of saying.

“Excuse me, but today I will give you my resignation, today. You’re safe,” Reszetar said to her employees, according to a recording of the meeting. “You can go back to the environmental health that you feel comfortable with. I’m done today. Thank you very much.”

After the meeting, Reszetar said she had not quit. Dr. Joseph Iser, chief medical officer for the district, said resignations can only be submitted in writing.

Shepherd said employees in the restaurant inspection division have very little confidence in management, and Reszetar’s conduct emphasizes how difficult the work environment is.

 

‘Some pink or no pink?’ Hamburger safety BS

Food safety friend Michéle writes:

As part of my daily public health mission, I track foodborne outbreaks and teach food safety. I do the later to try to reduce the former.  Anywhere, anytime, anyway I can introduce it into conversation.  Because everyone should be served safe food.

hamburger-safe and unsafe-thumb-450x138-175Recently, on a rare night out, I was trying to order a hamburger from a small regional restaurant.

The conversation progressed like this:

Waiter:  Do you want that burger with ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink?’

Me:  Can you tell me what temperature equals ‘some pink’?

Waiter:  We don’t cook to a temperature.  We cook to ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink’.

Me:  Color is not an indicator of doneness.   Please ask the chef to cook my burger to 155 degrees F.

Waiter:  Our burgers have no dyes. We can only do ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink’.

meatwad.raw.hamburgerAs a food safety professional, I was concerned with this.   As I mentioned to the waiter, “some pink or no pink” is not an indicator of doneness.  Numerous meat chemistry factors play a role in influencing color and can result in premature browning, which is why color is not a reliable indicator.

So I reached out to the restaurant’s customer service representative via Twitter and email, asking about their beef procedures. Ever the educator, I even provided resources for them to review, in case it proved helpful to their response.   www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/ehsnet/plain_language/restaurants-ground-beef-handling-cooking.pdf

To their credit, the company seemed happy to respond and explain their hamburger handling processes, and I received a reply from their “Chief Strategy Officer.” Unfortunately their explanation of safe meat handling was NOT correct, and definitely NOT food safe:

From their email:

“The dangers in ground beef have to do with the grinding process, the potential contamination comes from the exterior of the animal. Steak is safe to eat raw because it is only the interior of the animal and it does not get ground up with any exterior parts of the animal. The bacteria cannot pass into the internal flesh unless it is ground in. We grind in house  so there is no surface coming in contact with our beef.”

The email goes on to explain:

“We don’t sell our hamburgers based on temperature because we hand-form our burgers and therefore they have different internal temperatures throughout the patty as there are different thicknesses. We cook our burgers based on time, less time for a pink and more time for no pink. The terms do somewhat relate to the color but are more ways to describe less cooked and more cooked.”

rare.hamburgerOuch!  That’s scary. Shouldn’t their cook terms be related to a number of degrees, not a hue of red?

Unfortunately, they are not alone. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many restaurants prepare and cook beef in ways that could lead to undercooking, and that about one-in-10 restaurant hamburgers are undercooked. Their recommendations are that establishments should measure the final temperature of ground beef using a thermometer or using standard cooking methods that always cook ground beef to 155°F for 15 second to prevent foodborne illness. FDA agrees.

Beef, even beef ground on-site, it not without risk. E. coli normally lives in the intestines of animals and the infectious dose is very low.  (According to BugCounter Don Schaffner dose response models for pathogenic E. coli indicate even a single cell holds the probability of causing illness.) E. coli on the outside of a  hunk of beef such as chuck, roast or steak can be mixed into the middle of a burger – the place that takes the longest to reach 155 degrees F and become safe.  Irradiation or cold pasteurization can reduce risk, but other food safety assurance steps must also be in place.

In the company’s discussion of their hamburger handling process, there is no mention of cross-contamination controls. Sanitation. Active managerial oversight. Strict supplier control. Microbial testing and certificates of analysis. Handwashing?

They did, however assure me that  “The FDA does allow for the sale of rare meat so long as you print warning about potential foodborne illness on your menu which we have.”  

True. But advisories and Ddsclaimers don’t make for a safer food product. Or negate an establishment’s responsibility to take the numerical temperature of food.   

Color is a lousy indicator.  Make safe food.  Stick it in.  Use a thermometer.

barfblog.Stick It In

 

 

152 sick with Salmonella from whole pigs: Kapowsin Meats expands recall of pork product

This release is being reissued to expand the August 13, 2015 recall to include additional products. Details of this release were also updated to reflect a change in poundage, epidemiological informational and distribution area.

pig.roast.appleKapowsin Meats, a Graham, Wash. establishment, is recalling approximately 523,380 pounds of pork products that may be contaminated with Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

FSIS has been conducting intensified sampling at Kapowsin Meats while this establishment took steps to address sanitary conditions at their facility after the original recall on August 13, 2015. Sampling revealed positive results for Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- on Whole Hogs for Barbeque, associated pork products and throughout the establishment. FSIS has deemed sanitary improvement efforts made by the Kapowsin Meats insufficient, and the scope of this recall has been expanded to include all products associated with contaminated source material. The establishment has voluntarily suspended operations.

The whole hogs and associated items were produced on various dates between April 18, 2015 and August 26, 2015. The following products are subject to recall:

Varying weights of boxed/bagged Whole Hogs for Barbeque

Varying weights of boxed/bagged fabricated pork products including various pork offal products, pork blood and pork trim. 

The product subject to recall bears the establishment number “Est. 1628” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The product was shipped to various individuals, retail locations, institutions, and distributors in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.        

On July 15, 2015, the Washington State Department of Health notified FSIS of an investigation of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- illnesses. Working in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FSIS determined that there is a link between whole hogs for barbeque and pork products from Kapowsin Meats and these illnesses. Traceback investigation has identified 36 case-patients who consumed whole hogs for barbeque or pork products from this establishment prior to illness onset. These illnesses are part of a larger illness investigation. Based on epidemiological evidence, 152 case-patients have been identified in Washington with illness onset dates ranging from April 25, 2015 to August 12, 2015. FSIS continues to work with our public health partners on this ongoing investigation.                        

pig.sexConsumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them, and should throw them away or return the products to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

 FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume pork and whole hogs for barbeque that have been cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F with a three minute rest time. The only way to confirm that whole hogs for barbeque are cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature, http://1.usa.gov/1cDxcDQ. For whole hogs for barbeque make sure to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer in several places. Check the temperature frequently and replenish wood or coals to make sure the fire stays hot. Remove only enough meat from the carcass as you can serve within 1-2 hours.

Media and consumers with questions regarding the recall can contact John Anderson, Owner, at (253) 847-1777.

Consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. The online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/reportproblem.

77 sick at Calif. Chipotle

Ventura County health officials say at least 60 customers reported feeling sick after eating at a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley last week.

It’s unclear what made the customers ill – test results were pending Monday.

Mike Byrne, food safety supervisor for the Ventura County Environmental Health Division, said the restaurant also sent home 17 employees for being sick, closed the business to clean it for a day and brought in new food before reopening.

Health officials inspected the restaurant at 1263 Simi Town Center Way on Monday.

NBC4 reviewed the restaurant’s health inspection reports on the Environmental Health Division website. Violations posted Monday included:

The premises and/or floors, walls, or ceiling are in an unsanitary condition.

Equipment or utensils are not clean, fully operative and in good repair.

Flying insects observed within the food facility.

Food handlers employed at this facility do not possess a valid food handler card and/or records documenting that food employees possess a valid food handler card are not maintained by the food facility for review as required.

The restroom is unclean or in disrepair.

NBC4 found the restaurant has repeated violations for some of the same issues dating back to January 2015.

Despite the findings, health officials said the Simi Valley Chipotle passed Monday’s inspection and found no major violations.

In a statement to NBC4, Chipotle said: “The safety and well being of our customers is always our highest priority. When we were contacted by customers who reported feeling poorly after visiting our restaurant in Simi Valley, we notified health department officials, immediately began a review of the incident, and have taken all of the necessary steps to ensure that it is safe to eat there.”

Australian student pizza joint shut down, fined $20,000

A council inspection found Clayton’s Cafe Student Curries and Pizza restaurant failed to provide safe and clean food premises, leaving the restaurant with a $24,500 bill.

Cafe-Student-Curries-Pizza-Restaurant-Clayton-MelbourneThe breaches included inadequate pest control, poor food storage and hand washing facilities.

The council’s environmental health officer visited the premises on eight occasions, and found a litany of disgusting food handling practices, including bags of wheat and rice stored on the floor of a toilet area.

The restaurant was covered in grime and its hot water unit was not operating, a cooking pot was on the floor of the toilet area, with remnants of rice on it, and a dough mixing bowl was on the floor next to a mop bucket.

The inspector found drink serving trays, which were covered in grime and food residue, were being used to cover trays of dough and a cockroach was crawling behind a slicer on the microwave bench.

On the first visit in March, the inspector found 51 including no hand soap and foods like cheese and yoghurt kept in a broken fridge.

The council later issued a notice to the company for 68 non-compliances to the Food Act.

The cafe reopened once council officers were happy with the level of cleanliness and safety required under the Food Safety Act.

The restaurant serves Indo-Pakisanti food and a range of pizzas.

Giant Argentinian ants heading to the UK ‘will bring danger of salmonella’

As if food premises didn’t have enough pet control problems, hundreds of Argentinian ants which carry diseases such as salmonella and streptococcus, have invaded Britain this summer.

Argentinian antsThe tropical insects, said to be covered in red hair, have sparked warnings from pest control experts after reports of attacks on animals and crops.

The spread has been blamed, among other things, on the increase in flats and tower blocks. Black and 3mm long, they hide in cracks in walls, and between timbers.

Pest control experts advise pouring a kettle of boiling water over the nest site before puffing an insecticidal powder product into the hole in order to destroy a nest.

UK bakery fined £8,500 after finding mouse droppings, mould and dirt

A Croydon bakery has been slapped with a fine of £8,500 after hygiene inspectors uncovered mouse droppings, mould, dirt, dust and grime.

bloomers.bakeryThe grim discovery at Bloomers Bakery was made by Croydon Council food safety officers following a routine inspection at the company’s shop in Lower Addiscombe Road in June 2014.

On July 1 a visit to the main bakery premises in Tait Road revealed evidence of a mouse infestation and dirty conditions in a number of areas.

Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice said: “This is an established Croydon bakery, serving many members of the community, and it’s disappointing that standards were allowed to fall to such a degree.

“Our food safety team worked to put matters right and it’s heartening to note the comments of the district judge who realised the potential danger to customers and imposed a suitably severe financial penalty.”

Arizona diners can look up restaurant inspections on smart phones

Maricopa County Environmental Services has just rolled out a new mobile restaurant ratings tool that can be accessed from any smartphone.

rest.inspection.smartphoneDivision manager Andrew Linton said the restaurant tool allows anyone, anywhere to look up specific restaurant inspection reports for any of the 22,000 food service establishments across the Maricopa County.

“If you are out on the go and decide to eat at a restaurant that you are not familiar with,  you see how they do on their inspections,” said Linton. “This is a really easy way to get an idea of how they are doing.”

The restaurant ratings tool is different from your basic phone app, said Linton.

To access it, all users have to do is go to the county’s website at www.maricopa.gov.

Users can then do a search of a specific restaurant or look up all restaurants within a one-mile radius of their location.

Users will see a map that they can then use to look up an individual restaurant, and see its latest health inspection report.

According to Linton, another benefit of the restaurant ratings tool is that if diners have a bad experience going out to eat, they can file a complaint right from their smart phone.