Restaurant grading: 15 years in Toronto, 5 years in New York

It’s just a snapshot in time, but it’s a minimal tool to hold food providers accountable. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports that restaurants are performing better on inspection and are cleaner than ever:
• Nearly 60% percent of restaurants now earn an A on their initial inspection;
• Letter grading has vastly diminished the public health risks associated with dining out; there has been a 23 percent drop in violations from the peak in 2012; and,
• 91 percent of New Yorkers approve of restaurant grading, 88 percent use grades in making their dining decisions and 76 percent feel more confident eating in an A-grade restaurant.

But it got an A: Tarheel Q outbreak sickens 216 with Salmonella

Health officials now say 216 people have reported becoming ill after eating at Tarheel Q in Lexington, which was linked last week to a Salmonella outbreak.

tarheel.qSeven lawsuits have been filed against the barbecue restaurant, according to the Davidson County Clerk of Court’s office.

Tarheel Q voluntarily closed last week and said it would reopen Sunday, after customers who had eaten there got sick with symptoms consistent with Salmonella infection, most between June 16 and June 21. The restaurant, on U.S. 64, was still closed Monday morning.

Calls to the restaurant were not answered Monday.

A barbecue sample and a sample from a patient both tested positive for Salmonella, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to a health inspections website linked to the county health department site, Tarheel Q was last inspected June 3 and received a score of 98, an A grade.

Tennessee offers new app that shows restaurant inspection scores

The Tennessee departments of Health and Agriculture have partnered to develop a mobile app that allows users to check any Tennessee restaurant inspection score no matter where they are located.

tn-restaurant-scores-logoThe free app, available for both iOS and Android, lets users view health inspection scores from Tennessee restaurants and retail stores that prepare food, including grocery stores and convenience markets. The first screen of the app displays a map showing restaurants near the user and the most recent score for each location. It also includes scores for hotels, hospitals, schools and food trucks’ central kitchens. Users will have access to the last three inspection scores for each business and if any violations were cited, the app provides information about what was not in compliance with the Tennessee Retail Food Safety Act.

Updated daily, the feature that makes the app different from Web-based inspection scores is the ability for users to personalize it to see what is most important to them. Locations can be saved to a Favorites list for quick access to scores, and search results can be filtered to show only locations that have scores within a certain range. The Restaurant Inspection Scores app was developed by NIC, Inc., Tennessee’s eGovernment Partner since 2000. To obtain the app, go to

Food fraud detection: Chinese team develops new method for rapid authentication of edible oils and screening of gutter oils

The Food Safety and Technology Research Centre under the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has developed a new method for rapid authentication of edible oils and screening of gutter oils. Authentication of edible oils has been a long-term issue in food safety, and becomes particularly important with the emergence and widespread use of gutter oils in recent years. However, the conventional analytical approach for edible oils is not only labor intensive and time consuming, but also fails to provide a versatile solution for screening of gutter oils. By setting up a simple analytical protocol and a spectral library of edible oils, the new approach is able to determine the authenticity of a labeled edible oil sample and hence screened gutter oils within five minutes.

1-polyudevelopThe conventional approach for edible oil authentication involves labor-intensive and time-consuming sample pretreatment and the subsequent chromatographic separation to separate complex sample mixture before mass spectrometric detection, a commonly used technology for identification and quantitation of chemical compounds. The whole process takes a few hours to analyze one sample. On the other hand, identification of gutter oils mainly involves detection of certain food residue markers or toxic and carcinogenic chemicals in the sample. However, due to the vast diversity of gutter oils, and the fact that target compounds could be removed by processing, a universal strategy to screen gutter oils is not available at present.

PolyU researchers have developed a simplified method for direct analysis of edible oils using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS). In the new MALDI-MS approach, only simple sample preparation, automatic data acquisition and simple data processing are involved. High quality and highly reproducible MALDI-MS spectra results can be obtained using this method, and a preliminary spectral database of labeled edible oils available in the market has been set up. Since different types of edible oils have different MALDI-MS spectral patterns, the authenticity of an edible oil sample can then be determined within five minutes by comparing its MALDI-MS spectrum with those of its labeled oil in the established database. Since this method is capable of authenticating edible oils, it also enables a rapid screening of gutter oils, given fraudulent mislabeling is a common feature of gutter oils.

The related paper has been recently published on Analytica Chimica Acta, a leading journal in Analytical Chemistry. The research team will establish a more complete MALDI spectral library of various edible oils in the coming two years, and improve the library searching technique. In addition, more testing of edible oil samples with different MALDI-MS equipment will be carried out to further validate the new approach.

When food safety complaints aren’t real: Missouri health types respond to claims at Kauffman Stadium

The Kansas City Health Department has received within the last week at least two fraudulent food safety complaints made at Kauffman Stadium.

ARAMARK ME 042115 DRE 0064fAccording to the health department, in one case, an individual contacted the city’s 311 Action Center impersonating an Aramark food service employee to report supposed safety issues.

The department uncovered the false claim when following-up with the employee; in this case it was discovered that the person’s identity was deliberately misrepresented.

“Kansas City’s Health Department performs thousands of inspections each year, and each complaint is taken seriously,” said Naser Jouhari, environmental health services division manager. “The reporting of deliberately false claims does a disservice to our entire community and wastes taxpayer dollars.”

In another case, an individual sent a tweet to the health department’s Twitter account and posted a photo of unsafe food allegedly served at Kauffman Stadium. Further investigation determined the photo was lifted from an unrelated Florida news story and falsely represented as food served at Kauffman Stadium.

“Food safety is our highest priority and the Kansas City Health Department continues to be supportive of our safety program and practices,” said Carl Mittleman, President of Aramark’s sports and entertainment division. “We respect the health department’s obligation to follow up on complaints; however, we find the nature and timing of multiple attempts to undermine our efforts to be very troubling.”

The health department continues to make regular inspections at food handling facilities within Kauffman Stadium, officals said.

This year, the department has made 10 visits and conducted 147 inspections; the most recent inspection at Kauffman Stadium occurred June 19, as a follow-up to a complaint.

Duh files: UK will push for mandatory restaurant inspection disclosure following Welsh success

Brisbane, are you listening?

Voluntary restaurant inspection disclosure means the good ones will brag and the bad ones will be quiet, sorta with their heads down, hoping no one will ask them a question UK Food Standards Agency will now do what it should have done all along: provide Government with evidence to support mandatory display of food hygiene rating scores for England by autumn 2015.

Following the rise in Welsh food hygiene standards since the introduction of mandatory display of scores in November 2013, The Food Standards Agency will be pushing this year for the same to be carried out in England.

A recent FSA audit of the food hygiene rating scheme in England in 2013/14 showed that only 35% of English food businesses displayed their ratings in a position that’s visible before entering the premises. Predictably, most of those establishments had received a 4 or 5 food hygiene rating score. The results of further auditing will be released later this month (April 2015).

Before legislation came into force in Wales which instructed that all food businesses must display their food hygiene rating score, 45% had a 5 food hygiene rating and 87% had a 3 or above. And after just 12 months of the enforcement, 56% recorded a 5 rating and 93% 3 or above.
These figures will be used as supportive evidence for the introduction of mandatory display of food hygiene rating scores when the FSA comes to lobby Government later this year.

In its evidence for ministers, the FSA is also likely to use the results of research by the Policies Studies Insitiute into the impact that the scheme has had on food hygiene compliance and the occurrence of foodborne disease.

Chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) Graham Jukes said, “CIEH fully supports the mandatory display of FHRS in food premises. It is clear from the evidence in Wales that mandatory display is an important and effective tool in raising standards in food businesses, driven by simple consumer information messaging. Given the evidence why are we delaying the implementation in England and the rest of the UK?”

Aramark, another food safety gift: Bills would require food safety inspections for Mich. prisons

When I was in prison, no one thought much about food safety. There was a cannery, and inmates prepared food, made pruno, and extracted revenge, I guess.

Prison kitchens in Michigan managed by contractors
would be required to have food safety inspections under recently introduced bipartisan legislation.

Democratic Rep. John Kivela and Republican Rep. Ed McBroom announced the legislation Wednesday. It comes in response to recent news that inmates at a Jackson-area prison found maggots in a food preparation area.

Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services operates Michigan’s prison food services as part of a three-year, $145 million contract.

The legislation would make prison kitchen facilities subject to the same routine food safety inspections that are required for other food establishments in Michigan. The contractor would have to pay for the inspections.

McBroom says it seems reasonable that prison kitchens “face the same strict inspections as required by any kitchen serving the public.”

China seizes $625m of smuggled meat, some 40 years old

I used to have a big chest freezer. It was a place where meat and frozen meals went to disappear.

chest.freezerMy grandmother had this huge one in the basement, where she kept freezer-burned ice cream and her cash (she didn’t trust banks, or so I was told).

I’ve downsized to the little one on top of the fridge and am much more vigilant about stuff in, stuff out.

Chinese customs have seized around 3 billion yuan ($625 million) worth of smuggled meat, some more than 40 years old and rotting, the official China Daily said on Wednesday, the latest in a grim series of food safety scares.

Beijing toughened food safety rules in April to shake off a reputation for safety scandals that range from donkey meat tainted with fox DNA to milk contaminated with industrial chemical melamine that killed at least six infants in 2008.

Chinese authorities have launched a crackdown on beef and frozen meat smuggling, in addition to a campaign last year to stamp out the smuggling of farm products.

Authorities had busted 21 criminal gangs by June, leading to seizures of more than 100,000 tonnes of smuggled meat, including chicken wings, beef and pork, state news agency Xinhua said. In one bust, police in southern Hunan province arrested 20 people.

Customs officials found some of the meat was more than 40 years old, meaning it dated back to the 1970s. Other parts were rotten and decomposing, the China Daily newspaper said. It was not clear if the seized meat had been destroyed.

Industry sources say hundreds of thousands of tonnes of beef is being smuggled into China via neighbouring Hong Kong and Vietnam, from countries such as Brazil and India, to sidestep Beijing’s import curbs.

Meat can last for a long time if continuously frozen, but smuggled meat is often moved under poor storage conditions that lead to repeated thawing, making it eventually go bad.

Don’t poop in food: Director of Japanese restaurant in Australia fined $30,000 after feces found in food

 A company director whose Japanese restaurant breached multiple food safety standards  –  including rodent feces in flour, rice and breadcrumbs –has been fined $30,000.

Pabu Grill and Sake in CollingwoodThree inspections of Pabu Grill and Sake in Collingwood, a court heard, found repeated examples of unhygienic conditions. They also included a disabled toilet being used to store drinks and utensils.

Melbourne Magistrates Court was told on Thursday that City of Yarra inspectors saw that rodents had eaten into bags of sesame seeds, and large amounts of their faeces were on the kitchen floor and on a bag of pickled ginger.

Prosecutor Mathew Sherwell had detailed earlier that after a first inspection of the Smith Street premises on January 29 last year found numerous contravention of food standards, Dang Khoa Nguyen was given time to rectify the conditions under a food safety program.

Mr Sherwell told magistrate Andrew Capell a follow-up inspection the next month found nine outstanding contraventions and that three remained at a further check three weeks later.

After the order under the Food Act was revoked the following July, numerous examples of non-compliance were observed two days later, including rodent faeces throughout the storage area and kitchen, on food storage containers and on bowls near cooking equipment.

Also, food waste had built up on a bench under a rice cooker, takeaway containers stored outside at the rear of the premises were not protected from contamination and food contact surfaces had rodent feces on them.

Good riddance: Raw pork liver fans say goodbye to banned sashimi in Japan

Fans of raw pork liver savored their last chance to taste the dish on Thursday night as they expressed mixed feelings on the arrival of a new food safety regulation Friday that bans eateries from serving pork sashimi.

raw.pork_.japan_“I often eat (pork liver sashimi) at yakiton (grilled pork) restaurants. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t eat it anymore,” said Hiromi Sasamoto, 33, as she downed the sashimi at Aji no Isohei, a pub in Tokyo’s Oimachi district.

“I always order this if restaurants have it on the menu,” said Shota Komukai, 31, who was with Sasamoto, adding that he likes the melting texture and sweetness of what is known locally as buta reba sashi.

A 42-year-old man who hadn’t eaten pork liver before said he came to taste it because Thursday was the last day to try it.

Compared with beef liver sashimi, “it tastes plainer. It’s delicious,” he said.

Restaurants said they got extremely busy serving the sashimi as the deadline approached.