Tweeting for foodborne illness

In less than a year, a Chicago Department of Public Health website launched to track Twitter traffic for foodborne illness complaints turned up 21 restaurants that failed unannounced health inspections (Harris JK et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63[32]:681-685).

twerkingDubbed Foodborne Chicago, the website uses an algorithm that parses Chicago-area tweets that include the words “food poisoning.” Project staff members then review the tweets for references to stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, or other terms than may indicate food-borne illness. Staff members respond and ask the Twitter users to report on Foodborne Chicago their illness and where they ate. The web forms go directly to the Chicago 311 system that handles nonemergency city services. From March 2013 to January 2014, Foodborne Chicago identified 2241 “food poisoning” tweets, of which 270 described specific food-borne illness complaints. Eight of those 270 tweets mentioned a visit to a physician or a hospital emergency department. Overall, 193 food poisoning complaints were submitted through Foodborne Chicago. About 10% sought medical care.

The complaints triggered unannounced health inspections at 133 restaurants; 21 failed their inspections and were closed. Another 33 restaurants passed with conditions, indicating that serious or critical violations were identified and corrected.

In related news, Carol Beach of The Packer says Foodborne Chicago researcher, Jenine Harris of Washington University in St. Louis, reported health officials in Boston and New York City are considering similar Twitter taps.

In September, researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute published results in the journal “Prevention Medicine” that showed a strong correlation between negative customer reviews on the website Yelp and foodborne illness outbreaks tracked by the CDC.

The study included more than 5,800 reviews of restaurants posted from 2005 through 2012.

Results showed that social media reviews could complement traditional outbreak surveillance methods by providing rapid information on suspected foodborne illnesses, the implicated foods and the restaurants involved, according to the research report.

The Virginia researchers looked at five categories of food and the rates at which Yelp reviewers reported an illness compared to the rates of CDC’s reported illness information and found very similar results:

  • Vegetables implicated in 22% of illnesses reported on Yelp, 25% from CDC;
  • Fruits and nuts implicated in 7% on Yelp, 7% from CDC;
  • Meat and poultry implicated in 32% on Yelp, 33% from CDC;
  • Dairy and eggs implicated in 23% on Yelp, 23% from CDC; and
  • Seafood implicated in 16% percent on Yelp, 12% from CDC.

Elaine Nsoesie, co-author of the study and postdoctoral research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University, wrote that consumer reviews or tweets about illnesses could be an an additional tool to help public health authorities detect outbreaks earlier.

Irish pub closed after All Ireland hurling final due to ‘grave and immediate danger to public health’

Quinn’s Pub in Drumcondra was closed by the Health Service Executive for two days after the first All Ireland hurling final.

HurlingThe pub’s closure was one of 12 that was ordered by the Food Safety Authority Ireland in September under rules that deem there to be “a grave and immediate danger to public health.”

The closure order was served on Quinn’s under food safety legislation on Monday 8 September, the day after the drawn All Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Tipperary. It was lifted two days later.

A prohibition order was served on Quinn’s on the same day telling the company operating the favourite GAA haunt to withdraw all foodstuffs that were stored in the basement cellar.

This included a stipulation to remove bottled drinks stored in the basement. All foodstuffs that were stored in this area at the time of the inspection remain prohibited from sale.

The pub is one the most popular meeting spots for GAA fans because of its proximity to Croke Park and is regularly extremely busy on match days.

according to the FSAI spokesperson.

‘Food businesses must recognize legal onus is on them to ensure safe food; 14 enforcement orders served on food businesses in Sept. in Oct.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today reported that twelve Closure Orders and two Prohibition Orders were served on food businesses during the month of September for breaches of food safety legislation, pursuant to the FSAI Act, 1998 and the EC (Official Control of Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2010. The Orders were issued by environmental health officers in the Health Service Executive.

Kebabish TandooriFive Closure Orders were served under the FSAI Act, 1998 on:

Kebabish Tandoori (restaurant), 39 Lower Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8 

Sami Halal Store (grocery), 63 Upper Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8 

Asian Foods (grocery), Blackrock Market, 19a Main Street, Blackrock, Co. Dublin

Quinns (public house), 42-44 Drumcondra Road Lower, Drumcondra, Dublin 9

Kilcoran Lodge Hotel (excludes sale and service of beverages at hotel bar), Kilcoran, Cahir, Co. Tipperary

Seven Closure Orders were served under the EC (Official Control of Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2010 on:

KOI (restaurant), Unit 5, 32-36 Main Street, Malahide, Co. Dublin

Slane Bake (bakery), High Street, Slane, Meath

Phoenix House Chinese Takeaway, The Square, Tubbercurry, Sligo

SRM Book and Cook (bakery), Unit 8, Block 3, City North Business Campus, Stamullen, Meath

The Docks Hotel 001 (2)_lJuno’s Café, 26 Parkgate Street, Dublin 8

Docks Hotel (closed: all food operations including bar, nightclub and the service of all food and drinks), 15 Craywell Road, John Street, New Ross, Wexford

Palki Indian Restaurant, Bowgate Court, Bowgate Street, Ballinrobe, Mayo

Two Prohibition Orders were served under the FSAI Act, 1998 on: 

Sami Halal Store (grocery), 63 Upper Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8 

Quinns (public house), 42-44 Drumcondra Road, Lower Drumcondra, Dublin 9

Also during the month of September, two successful prosecutions were carried out by the Health Service Executive on:

Shangri-La Restaurant, High Road, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

Station House Hotel, Lower Main Street, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

Commenting on the high level of Closure Orders served on food businesses in September, Prof. Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI, states that food businesses need to be vigilant in relation to food safety at all times to ensure full compliance with food regulations.

“The environmental health officers who inspect these food businesses continue to find unacceptable levels of non-compliance with food safety legislation.  Time and time again, they encounter cases of food businesses that are potentially putting their customers’ health at risk by not complying with their legal obligations for food safety and hygiene. There is absolutely no excuse for negligent practices,” he says.  “Food businesses must recognise that the legal onus is on them to make sure that the food they serve is safe to eat.  This requires ongoing compliance with food safety and hygiene standards to ensure the food they are producing is safe to consume all day and every day. Food safety must be paramount.”

‘Never happened in 27 years’ Shigella strikes again: Four sickened at second California restaurant

Zov’s restaurant in Irvine was forced to shut down briefly Wednesday in the wake of a foodborne illness probe tied to four sick customers, health department officials said Thursday.

Zov’s on PortolaThe sickened guests ate at Zov’s on Portola on three different dates between Sept. 16-22, said Deanne Thompson, a spokeswoman for the county’s Health Care Agency. All four people tested positive for shigella, an intestinal disease that triggers severe diarrhea.

Health investigators cleared Zov’s to reopen the same day after the restaurant’s owners took quick action during a four-hour closure to sanitize the restaurant and discard all ready-to-eat foods including fresh produce.

Employees, who cannot return to work until they are medically cleared by the health agency, were also given training on proper hand-washing, Thompson said.

The restaurant reopened late Wednesday using staff from the other restaurants, said Armen Karamardian, vice president of operations at Zov’s – which has locations in other parts of Orange County.

“We are reviewing all policies and procedures to ensure that such an incident will not be repeated. In 27 years of operating restaurants, this is the first such case we’ve experienced,” Karamardian said.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Gold Coast (BrisVegas) edition

One of the Gold Coast’s most long standing restaurants, Saks Restaurant and Bar, has closed its doors for good.

imagesThe up-market eatery, which once hosted stars like actor Matthew McConaughey and was a meeting place for the city’s who’s who, shut after a failed inspection by council officers and a $15,000 fine.

Saks’ fall from grace began about 12 months ago when council inspectors found uncovered seafood and kitchen surfaces covered in grease, grime, dirt and mould during three separate inspections.

Even more shocking was the discovery of 15 cockroaches under the refrigerated pizza unit, the washing up sink and the dry storage area.

The owners were forced to spend more than $55,000 on cleaning and structural changes and they took the extra step of firing the head chef and manager.

The restaurant was given the all clear in April.

But a single dead cockroach was found during a surprise inspection last month — triggering the court action by council.

Hawaiian restaurant cited for removing food safety placard

The state Department of Health has fined the owners of Iyo Udon at Ala Moana Center $11,000 for intentionally removing a “conditional pass” placard and for food safety violations during a health inspection.

hawaii-restaurant-placardyellow*304xx1035-1553-83-0On Aug. 22, the department conducted a health inspection of the restaurant, which is owned by Iyo Seimen USA, Inc., and issued a yellow placard. A yellow placard is issued if there are two or more major violations observed during an inspection.

“Placard removal is a serious violation with substantial consequences because this act intentionally places profit above health and safety and compromises the public’s trust and their right to know when violations occur during an inspection,” said Peter Oshiro, the department’s Sanitation, Food & Drug and Vector Control Branch Manager. “Since the start of the new placarding program, we’ve seen excellent compliance with the food industry; this is our first incident involving tampering with a placard.”

It’s only cockroaches; UK takeaway manager charged after cockroaches found

A Peterborough takeaway boss has been charged with food safety offences after cockroaches were found on food in the eatery.

whats-the-big-deal-2Council officers made the discovery at Ali’s Fried Chicken (AFC) and Ali’s Balti House, based next to each other in Bourges Boulevard, in October 2013.

The two premises were closed after the discovery.

On Wendesday, 24 September, manager Amjad Ali, of Dogsthorpe Road, Peterborough, appeared at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court where he was charged with 10 offences relating to Ali’s Fried Chicken.

The AFC business was also charged with 10 offences, and the balti house faces four charges.

Both businesses and Ali are charged with failing to have adequate procedures in place to control pests and failing to protect food from contamination.

The court also heard Ali and AFC are charged with failing to keep cooked food above 63C, failing to ensure food handlers wore protective clothing, failing to provide materials for cleaning hands, and failing to keep refrigerator door seals in good working order to ensure the food was kept clear of contamination.

In October last year the Peterborough Telegraph reported how a council officer was showered with dead and live cockroaches when he reached for a food management order placed on a shelf in AFC, while dead cockroaches were found in insect traps under the fridge and freezer.

Meanwhile, at Ali’s Balti House, the officers found cockroaches on pieces of pre-prepared food and in bowls of sauce.

Insect faeces, eggs and nymphs were also found in the fridge, while the creatures were seen crawling up the walls in the kitchen and in space under the fridges.

AFC was ordered to pay £750 court costs, while Ali’s Balti House was given a £650 bill for court costs at last year’s hearing.

Following the court hearing in October, Shazad Ali, owner of Ali’s Balti House hit out at the decision to close the venues, and said: “Both restaurants feel the council has been heavy handed with us. They should have worked with us more closely.

“Once we discovered the problem we set about working to fix it.

“By forcing us to close meant we lost a lot of trade. We will be making a complaint.” 

Restaurant inspection disclosure returns to Anchorage

After a five-year hiatus, Anchorage’s health department is planning to bring back a scoring system for inspections in restaurants and other food-service facilities.

mystery.alaskaThe Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services this week unveiled a 54-item scorecard along with a method for assessing points. Over the next month, the department will be gathering public comment on the proposed system; it aims to begin posting scores along with inspection reports online in January.

Regular municipal health inspections date back to at least the mid-1980s, and those results are available online, Tony Barrett, environmental health program manager, said in an interview.

Until five years ago, those inspections included a scoring system. But the department discontinued scoring after the 2009 revision of the municipality’s food code because the new code contained a higher number of possible violations, Barrett said. The number of items on the inspection sheet jumped from 44 to 54, adding violations related to sick restaurant workers and bare-hand contact with food.

doug.skatingAnchorage health officials then made the decision to hold off on the scoring portion of inspections until they were more accustomed to the new code requirements, Barrett said. In the meantime, inspectors have used a matrix, and their own judgment, to decide how many critical violations warrant a closure, he said.

As well as providing a clear measure for facilities and inspectors, Barrett said, the scoring system is intended to help the public understand online inspection reports.

UK grocer rated zero for food hygiene

A grocer’s shop in Aldershot has been given a slap on the wrists after failing a handful of food hygiene and safety standards.

phewa1Phewa Stores in Victoria Road was issued two cautions last Thursday (September 18) following an inspection by Rushmoor Borough Council earlier this month.

The first caution relates to seven separate food safety offences and the second to one health and safety failing.

Oasis Trading Impex Ltd, one of the owners of the company, has accepted the cautions and admitted the offences on behalf of Phewa.

Council inspectors have since revisited the premises and noted improvements in general standards of hygiene.

But an unannounced inspection on September 3 led to the store racking up a catalogue of offences, enough to earn Phewa the ignominious honour of a zero food hygiene rating in the Food Standards Agency’s national rating scheme.

Offences included a lack of effective cleaning and disinfection of equipment, particularly at the store’s butcher’s counter.

Food handlers were found to be not suitably trained in food hygiene matters and demonstrated their own poor personal hygiene.

The shop also failed to identify where some items of food had been sourced from and to implement various mandatory food safety management systems.

Inspectors also noted some food hygiene issues raised at previous inspections had reoccurred.

 

Chipotle still sucks at food safety

A Chipotle restaurant in Gwinnett County, Georgia, has failed its health inspection.

chipotle_ad_2The restaurant, located at 860 Macon Highway in Lawrenceville, scored 60 out of 100.

The Gwinnett County health inspector noted that employees handling food at the restaurant were not washing their hands frequently enough to prevent contamination of food.

Other violations included:

  • Chicken not cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or above
  • Dining counters and tables not cleaned and sanitized by correct methods
  • Held potentially hazardous foods not maintained below 41 degrees Fahrenheit

Channel 2’s Carol Sbarge visited the packed restaurant where one customer said he wouldn’t have come if he knew the score.

“It’s very upsetting. I didn’t go to another restaurant because they had a low score. Now that I know that they had that 60, I’m (not) even going to come here. I had no idea,” said customer Steve Sessa.

The restaurant was still posting an old score of 90, which is a violation. 

http://www.wsbtv.com/videos/news/gwinnett-chipotle-fails-health-inspection/vCtD5K/