Fancy food ain’t safe food: UK restaurant critic Oliver Peyton’s bar ‘covered with mouse droppings’

Dave Burke of the Daily Mail reports a kitchen in an upmarket Westminster bar owned by restaurant critic Oliver Peyton’s company was covered in mouse droppings, a court has heard.

oliver-peytonThe plush ICA Bar was owned by Peyton & Byrne Ltd, a firm co-owned by Irish restaurateur Oliver Peyton, who is a judge on BBC show Great British Menu.

The company has since gone bust. 

Inspectors discovered mouse droppings inside food storage containers and a sandwich sealing machine, Westminster Magistrates Court heard.

And they found that rodents were trying to nest under the sink by chewing up paper hand towels, prosecutors claim.

The court was told mouse droppings were discovered on a tray where ready-to-eat sandwiches are kept before they are wrapped in cling film.

Westminster Council, which is prosecuting the business, says inspectors found more on the floor in the food storage areas, shelves near food preparation areas and on shelves containing bottles of olive oil.

Even more droppings were discovered on the lids of jars containing ready-to-eat food such as hazelnut paste, sugar cubes, chestnuts and popping candies, it is alleged.

The firm went into administration last month, after the first court hearing into health and safety breaches at the ICA Bar.

French company Sodexo bought the firm’s remaining catering contracts, while the Peyton family took over the bakery side of the business.

The charges the company face include a further allegation that mouse droppings and grease was found in the washing up areas and all over shelves holding cleaning products and paper towels.

Inspectors noted that two rolls of blue hand paper towel underneath the sink in the wash-up room had been gnawed by mice.

portraits-people-003Cracked tiles were found in the kitchen, possibly giving the pests a place to nest.

The company was summoned to court face eight charges of failing to comply with food safety and hygiene provisions, but no-one from the now defunct firm showed up.

Prosecutor Kirsty Pantin, for Westminster Council, applied to district judge Paul Goldspring for the case to be adjourned so the administrators, Deloitte, could be contacted.

‘The company has gone into administration after the last hearing when pleas were meant to be entered,’ said Ms Panton.

Stomp: Off-Broadway Saudi restaurant version

A barfblog.com subscriber sent this in from Saudi Arabia, (and I encourage anyone from our global network of over 75,000 to send in whatever).

bill-murray-lost-in-translationSomething may be lost in translation (that’s Bill Murray pre-dating my Japanese television experience, which was weirdly similar).

This video was taken in the municipality of Bisha, Saudi Arabia, showing a worker at a restaurant who stomps his feet on a bag of meat.

The worker tramples on the meat in this way “to soften a frozen joint of meat” as reported by Bisha Municipality on their Twitter account, and that is has closed the restaurant immediately.

Video below.

Make it mandatory: Voluntary restaurant inspection ratings are silly

According to new research by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), only a third (34%) of us regularly check food hygiene ratings before eating in a restaurant or takeaway. With an estimated 4.3 million meals expected to be eaten out over this festive period, FSA is urging people to check a restaurant’s food hygiene rating before booking this Christmas.

respect-authorityThe research, released ahead of the expected Christmas spike in restaurant bookings, found that although food hygiene and safety were of concern for 37% of people, only 6% said that they actively consider the food hygiene rating when deciding where to eat. Other priorities included:

quality/type of food (58%)

own experience of the place (32%)

location/convenience (23%)

good service (21%)

price (20%)

appearance (20%)

recommendation (19%)

Mark O’Neill, senior advisor, local authority policy and delivery, Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland said: ‘We are pleased to see that so many food businesses in Northern Ireland are already compliant with the Food Hygiene Rating Act, which came into operation in October, making it mandatory for food businesses to display their hygiene ratings. This means that around 90% of businesses should now be displaying hygiene information on a green and black sticker somewhere easy to spot outside of their premises. We expect that consumers will be pleased with this development as our recent survey showed that 95% of people in Northern Ireland believe that businesses should have to display their ratings, which now they do.

We are now urging people to look for hygiene ratings and choose restaurants which score three or above this Christmas.

Fancy food ain’t safe food Denmark edition: Country’s only three-star restaurant fined £2,300 for hygiene breaches

Denmark’s only three-star Michelin restaurant on Thursday faced questions over hygiene after it was fined 20,000 kroner (£2,300) by the country’s food safety authority.

restaurant-geranium-iiGeranium, the first eatery in Denmark to receive top Michelin honours, had been storing fresh shellfish such as oysters, crayfish and scallops in temperatures that were too warm and over an extended period, the Danish Food Administration wrote after an inspection.

Two walk-in coolers also had “black, green and white splotches growing on the underside of shelves and on packaged pickled garlic”, according to a report dated 29 September but picked up by Danish media only on Thursday.

The regulator awarded the Copenhagen restaurant – which charges 2,000 kroner for a meal without drinks – a frowning “smiley,” the lowest grade of its four-tier system.

Geranium chef Rasmus Kofoed told Danish news agency Ritzau: “I do not agree with what is written. I believe that it is greatly exaggerated but I admit that there are some parts of the process where perhaps we have been a bit unattentive.”

geranium-denmarkLess talk, more action.

The restaurant had been using a computerized system to monitor food temperatures incorrectly, but fish and shellfish were always stored on ice regardless of the surrounding temperature, he added.

This year the Nordic edition of the Michelin Guide gave three stars to Geranium, but only two to Copenhagen’s celebrated Noma, which was named best restaurant in the world by Britain’s Restaurant magazine in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Noma too faced criticism from the Danish food safety regulator in 2013, when it was accused of not taking adequate action after a sick kitchen worker gave dozens of customers food poisoning.

The gift that keeps on giving.

smiley-faces-denmark-rest-inspection

77 sick, 12 hospitalized in Alabama Shoals Salmonella outbreak

A Salmonella outbreak wreaked havoc on the guests of a private wedding in Colbert County on Saturday, leaving 77 people ill and 12 hospitalized.

crap-cateringHealth authorities are not publicizing specific details about the wedding, the caterer that prepared the meal, or exactly what food caused people to fall ill with Salmonella gastroenteritis.

But Jennifer Edwards of Decatur Daily reports that guests of the Saturday event confirmed it was held at a Sheffield hotel and catered by a local company called Indelible Catering. A 71-year-old woman died six days after a luncheon hosted by Indelible in Decatur in May 2014 left 17 people ill with Salmonella and two with E. coli.

Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers said Thursday that the Alabama Department of Public Health (DPH) “suspended the caterer’s food preparation permit” as a result of the outbreak.

“There were approximately 150 attendees and at this point in time we have 77 people who have exhibited signs and symptoms. We believe that number could change because the incubation period is six to 72 hours,” she told AL.com.

“Patients became ill several hours to a couple days or so after the event, and we started to receive reports early Monday morning.”

“All patients are recovering” following the incident, the DPH said in a statement, adding that they suffered from symptoms including “vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and some fever.”

The statement said that since first learning of the outbreak on Monday, the Colbert County Health Department has interviewed patients, obtained food samples and patient specimens and inspected the source of the food.

The state has taken the lead on testing, according to Landers.

“At this time the food is being processed in the state health department’s laboratory … We do have a menu of the food and we have several of the food products,” she said. “We can’t speculate on the food item until we get the final results.”

The outbreak has been traced to a wedding reception that took place Saturday in Sheffield, where the caterer provided chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes for the event, according to patients who attended the event and are now receiving medical treatment.

Another song recorded at the great Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, from Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s Street Survivors.

Dirty UK hospitals serving out-of-date poorly stored food

I wrote a letter to the hospital in Brisbane where my friend has been holed up, complaining about serving sandwiches with raw sprouts to sick people – or anyone.

brisbane-hospital-foodThere was some totally unscientific answer about how these sprouts were special because they came from a different place and they disappeared from the sick persons menu for a few weeks.

The sprouts are now back.

Nothing new, food hygiene reports obtained by the Press Association under the UK Freedom of Information Act and data from the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) concluded that dirty hospitals are serving out-of-date food to patients.

Meals are being prepared in mouldy kitchens, putting vulnerable patients at “high risk” of food poisoning, while others have unclean worktops, food trolleys and sinks.

FSA data also revealed poor rankings for hundreds of care homes and children’s nurseries.

Some 400 hospitals, hospices, care homes, nurseries and school clubs are currently listed as needing “major”, “urgent” or “necessary” improvement.

One care home was infested with cockroaches while another had evidence of rats.

The Patients Association has called the findings “shameful” and “immensely worrying”.

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme – which rates organisations and businesses from zero to five – is run by the FSA and councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The investigation found:

Eight health and care premises currently have a zero rating – which means urgent improvement is necessary. None are hospitals.

Some 187 have a rating of one – which means major improvement is necessary. Three of these are hospital premises, including the private Priory Hospital in Altrincham, Cheshire (because in the UK, like its bastard child, Australia, private is considered better, except when it comes to the basics)..

hospital-foodAnd 205 are ranked as two – improvement necessary. They include six hospitals and about 100 care homes. Among those given the ranking of two was Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

At Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, an inspection of its kitchens serving patients found:

Sliced chicken two days past its use-by date (hello, Listeria?).

Staff had created their own date labels for when they thought food should be used, creating a “high risk” for patients who might develop food poisoning (food fraud)).

The experts also found leaking sinks, “inadequate” knowledge among staff about how to handle food safely, and mouldy areas, including the salad preparation room.

Food was being kept in fridges with temperatures up to 13C despite rules saying they should be 5C or below to prevent bacteria developing.

Darryn Kerr, director of facilities at Leicester’s Hospitals, said the organisation was “disappointed” by the ratings.

He said catering services were brought back in-house in May after being run by an external provider.

Parkview Residential Care Home in Bexleyheath, south-east London, was found to have an “infestation of Oriental cockroaches” during an August inspection.

The kitchen was closed voluntarily for the second time following a previous warning and inspectors gave it a zero rating.

Ivy House care home in Derby, which specialises in dementia care, scored zero after inspectors found evidence of rat activity.

Probably more restaurant specific than geographic: Pretty map shows dirtiest places to eat in UK

Alison Millington of Business Insider UK writes the Food Hygiene Rating System (FHRS) gives establishments that serve food – from hospitals to restaurants, takeaways, hotels, and grocery shops –a rating on a scale of 0 to 5, based on factors related to hygiene, to determine which establishments are cleanest and dirtiest.

Bad scores are given for poor practices such as employees not washing their hands properly, the presence of food debris or rodent activity.

Low ratings have even been shown to affect business, with a recent survey by Checkit.com of of 1,000 people from West London finding that 61% of diners wouldn’t eat in a place with a low score.

Content marketing agency Fractl looked at the data, which is collected by the Food Standards Agency, as of May 5, 2016 to compare the average ratings in locations across the UK in order to determine which regions have the best and worst food hygiene.

this-colour-coded-map-suggests-that-in-terms-of-food-safety-more-than-half-of-the-businesses-in-the-uk-have-good-or-higher-hygiene-standards

How the brown rat conquered New York City

Our garage door didn’t work in Kansas, so we parked our car outside.

The cats would bring gifts to the doorstep every morning – a reliably good indicator of what species of rat, squirrel, bird or something else was flourishing that reproductive year.

sq-willard-crispin-glover-rat-nlThe dogs also took a tag-team approach, with the cocker spaniel sniffing out the rabbits nests, and the border-collie-pit-bull mutt finishing them off.

But there was this one time, they missed the rats.

Went to start the car in the morning and it was dead.

Wouldn’t boost.

Took it to the shop and they had a verdict in about 5 minutes.

Rats.

It was starting to get cold that season, and the mechanic said it was common for rats to seek the protection, and sometimes warmth from auto engines, and gnaw away at various wires.

Said he saw it all the time.

Carl Zimmer of the New York Times writes that despite their ubiquity, Rattus norvegicus, otherwise known as the brown rat, remains surprisingly mysterious. Scientists have only a hazy idea of how it went from wild rodent to unwanted human companion.

“They’ll gnaw through walls. They’ll gnaw through wires. They’ll destroy cars,” said Jason Munshi-South, a biologist at Fordham University. “They’ve managed to spread wherever there are humans.”

Now Dr. Munshi-South and his colleagues have completed the first in-depth genetic study of brown rats from around the world. Their story has twists and turns that surprise even the experts.

After spreading slowly for thousands of years, the scientists found, brown rats scampered over much of the planet in just the past three centuries. And once brown rats settle into a new city, the new study suggests, they repel all newcomers — a finding that could have big implications for our health.

Dr. Munshi-South said the study emerged from a simple question: “What is a New York City rat, and where did it come from?”

house-kansasHe contacted researchers around the world to see if he could obtain DNA to compare with that of the rats he captures around New York City. To his surprise, he ended up with samples from hundreds of brown rats, from the Galápagos Islands to Brazil, from New Zealand to Japan.

Instead of simply asking where New York City’s brown rats came from, Dr. Munshi-South realized he might be able to figure out where the world’s brown rats came from.

Emily E. Puckett, a postdoctoral researcher in his lab, analyzed the DNA samples, sorting 314 brown rats from 30 countries into clusters of genetic relatives. Eventually, she was able to determine how different populations of the rats mixed together over time.

Dr. Puckett, Dr. Munshi-South and their colleagues published their findings last week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences.

The brown rat is sometimes called the Norway rat, but the new research confirms that the name is a misnomer. Instead, brown rats originated in northern China or Mongolia. Before they became our companions, they fed on wild plants and small animals on cold, open plains.

Farming came relatively late to northern China, but at some point, native brown rats, finding a reliable food supply in their midst, switched to living on farms and in villages.

Dr. Puckett and her colleagues can’t say how long brown rats remained in northern China, but at some point, they started to expand their range. Their first migration, the study suggests, took them to southeastern Asia.

Tanner holds up a freshly-caught rat.

Tanner holds up a freshly-caught rat.

Much later, a wave of brown rats spread northeast, into Japan and Siberia. Another emigrated west, eventually reaching Europe in what appear to have been three major arrivals on the Continent. These rats may have traveled on overland routes, or perhaps hidden on ships that sailed along the coasts of Asia and Europe.

The new study suggests that brown rats were slower to spread around the globe than our other familiars, the black rat and the house mouse. Geography may be the reason: House mice originated in the Fertile Crescent, and black rats in India.

Farming societies and widespread trade arose in those places much earlier than in northern China, giving the black rat and the house mouse early opportunities to travel.

But in the past three centuries, the brown rat has more than made up for lost time.

Brown rats in Alaska and along the Pacific Coast of the United States and Canada can trace much of their ancestry to Russia, Dr. Puckett and her colleagues found. Their ancestors may have stowed away aboard ships that traveled to fur-trapping communities in the New World in the 1700s and early 1800s.

But the brown rats of Europe became the true globe-trotters. As Western European countries colonized other parts of the world, they took the rodents with them.

The brown rats of New York and other Eastern American cities trace their ancestry to those in Western Europe. So do brown rats in South America, Africa, New Zealand, and isolated islands scattered across the Atlantic and Pacific.

Even today, the ports of New York City are visited by rats from around the world.

Nearly 700 NYC restaurant-goers found something gross in their food last year

Yoav Gonen of the New York Post reports restaurant customers have called in a record number of complaints to the city’s 311 hot line for the second year in a row.

mr-creosote-monty-pythonRecords show there were 10,373 complaints to the municipal call center in the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30 — up from 8,653 the year before.

The top complaints were the discovery of rodents, insects or garbage inside an eatery — with 2,832 such calls, up from 2,213.

New York diners also complained of spoiled food (997), concerns about a restaurant’s letter grade (804) — such as no grade being posted — and bare hands coming in touch with their food (775).

An additional 676 grubsters said they found a foreign object — usually a piece of hair or plastic — in their meal, an 18 percent increase.

The surge came even as the city rated 92.7 percent of the city’s 24,000-plus eateries with a grade of “A” in fiscal 2016, according to the Mayor’s Management Report.

That was close to the 93 percent that got the top grade in fiscal 2015.

Health Department officials didn’t provide data requested by The Post for the number of violations issued to restaurants last year, making it impossible to know whether the complaints spurred a higher number of summonses.

Smart as trees in Sault Ste. Marie: Restaurant grades come to Seattle

The Sault (pronounced Sue) is on my mind today.

barf-o-meter_-dec_-12-216x300-216x3001-216x300-1-216x300-216x300Lots of feedback about the Esposito brothers (Tony and Phil) who hail from Sault Ste. Marie (in Ontario, Canada) and, more importantly, most excellent graduate student Katie, who hails from the Sault, got an undergrad at Guelph, did her Masters research in New Zealand and got her degree from Kansas State.

So when JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times e-mailed me to get my take on the county’s proposed restaurant inspection disclosure system, I used it as an excuse to get back in touch with Katie.

It’s taken nearly two years, but King County restaurants will soon start posting storefront signs that display their health-inspection status at a glance, giving diners a new view into food safety.

Exactly what those signs will say, however, is still up to the public to decide.

Starting in January, officials with Public Health — Seattle & King County plan to roll out a long-anticipated public grading system that rates restaurants based on an aggregate score of four recent inspections.

Depending on the results, a restaurant may be ranked excellent, good, fair or needs improvement on signs that could feature smiley-face emoji in shades of green and yellow.

“It’s exciting,” said Becky Elias, Public Health food and facilities section manager. “We feel like this is thorough and evidence-based.”

Local diners can vote on six variations of the placards online by Thursday, Nov. 17.

Elias and her crew originally thought a restaurant-grading system could be in place by the start of 2015, but it took longer than anticipated to get it right, she said.

Local health officials overhauled the system that regularly sends 55 inspectors to review more than 11,000 permanent food businesses and an additional 3,000 temporary sites in King County.

With the help of Daniel E. Ho, a Stanford University law professor who has studied restaurant-rating programs extensively, they refined and standardized the way inspectors make decisions and then came up with placards to convey that information to the public.

Throughout the process, they sought out opinions from everyone involved, including restaurant owners and food-safety advocates. Such collaboration was appreciated, said Patrick Yearout, director of recruiting and training for Ivar’s restaurant company, which operates 25 sites in King County.

Food-safety advocates said they’re pleased that King County is unveiling a new ratings system, but they’re not enthusiastic about the smiley-face signs.

Sarah Schacht, 37, of Seattle, is a two-time victim of E. coli food poisoning who has been lobbying the county to help warn consumers about restaurants with unsatisfactory inspections. She’d prefer to see numeric scores on the new signs, not just emoji.

“If you look at these placard examples, in the end, the information you’re supposed to absorb and make a decision on comes down to the size of the smile on the smiley face,” she said. “I think the options are better than nothing, but they’re problematic.”

seattle-rest-inspect-disclose-nov-16Doug Powell, a former Kansas State University food scientist who runs the food-safety site, barfblog.com, said the proposed King County signs “all seem too busy.” If he had to choose, however, he’d choose options B or D, he said.

“At least they are asking people, which is good,” he added.

Katie and I e-mailed, and she said she preferred C, because it was clearly visible from distance, the colour is prominent, the universal symbol avoids language barriers and has better use of space on the card.

I like B and D because the gauge reminded me of something Katie created years ago while goofing around.

And this is my favorite Tragically Hip song, but no live versions of it.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009. The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information. Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874
.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as tools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.