‘Defendants as dirty as their restaurants’ arrested for bribing monitors over food violations

Aidan Gardiner of DNA Info reports three restaurateurs were arrested this week for bribing city monitors to not penalize them for violations including flies, handling food without gloves and keeping a lizard in a fish tank, officials said.

bribeMorie Kabba of The Bronx was arrested Monday while Jonathan Niranjan and Mohammad Safi, who run establishments in Queens, were arrested Tuesday, according to Department of Investigation officials. They all face bribery charges and up to seven years behind bars, officials said.

“DOI’s investigation found these defendants were as dirty as their restaurants,” said Mark Peters, the DOI commissioner.

“In New York City, you can’t clean up a dirty restaurant with a bribe. DOI will continue to pursue unscrupulous business owners and operators who try to corrupt city employees for their own interests,” Peters said.

In each investigation, the men first bribed inspectors with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene who refused the money, but reported it to DOI which then sent undercover officers to each restaurant.

The undercover inspectors, spotted uncovered garbage cans, multiple flies and food residue on the floor of Jagana Family Kennedy Fried Chicken at 1375 Boston Road in Morrisania in October and reported it to Kabba, 42, officials said.

Kabba in turn gave the investigator $160, officials said.

Kabba was arraigned Monday and pleaded not guilty, officials said. He was released and due back in court on Jan. 17, 2017, officials said.

Similarly, a health inspector spotted an aquarium with a lizard inside Amazura, a music venue at 91-12 144th Place in Jamaica, and told Niranjan, 28, he’d have to remove it, officials said. Niranjan then told the inspector he forgot something in the bathroom, prompting the inspector to return inside and find “a wad of cash” on top of the sink, officials said.

An undercover inspector then visited the establishment in August and spotted a broken sink faucet, many flies and food handlers not using gloves, officials said. Niranjan then gave the undercover $300 in cash to “save him on some of the violations,” officials said.

Undercover investigators in May also spotted uncovered garbage cans, a broken sink faucet and staff touching food with bare hands inside Farm Fried N Curry Chicken at 120-20 Merrick Blvd. in South Jamaica, officials said.

 

Irony can be ironic: 70 staff members ill after NM Department of Health luncheon

Andrew Oxford of The New Mexican reports that epidemiologists at the state Department of Health are investigating their agency’s own annual holiday luncheon after dozens of employees reported falling ill after the party last week.

barfAbout 70 staff members claim to have experienced gastrointestinal issues following the catered event at the Harold Runnels Building attended by more than 200 employees, according to a spokesman.

Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher wrote in an email to staff Monday that investigators have not identified a specific food from the party that may have caused the outbreak.

A team from the department’s Epidemiology and Response Division “believes that there may have been cross-contamination of menu items served during the luncheon,” she wrote.

Epidemiologists were still waiting for laboratory test results as of Monday, but Gallagher told staff the outbreak appears to have been caused by Bacillus cereus or Clostridium perfringens, toxins that can cause foodborne illness.

“We will work to take appropriate steps to address food handling procedures with the caterer and prevent such problems in the future,” wrote, Gallagher.

Spokesman Paul Rhien said the event was catered by a local business, but he did not specify which one when asked by a reporter to identify the company.

Brisbane KFC fined $45000 after 2015 inspection

Kate McKenna of The Courier Mail reports a Brisbane City Council health inspector not-so-finger-licking good things at a KFC store in Chermside shopping centre’s food court in March 2015.

kfc-massacreFast food restaurant operator Collins Restaurants Management was slapped with a $45,000 fine in the Brisbane Magistrates Court earlier this month after pleading guilty to six breaches of food health laws.

According to court documents, an audit on March 4, 2015, uncovered live cockroaches in locations around the kitchen including on the surface under the preparation bench, and beneath the wall capping next to the crumbing station.

The council officer found a live cockroach found on the door handle of the freezer that stored the chips, as well as 30 to 40 live critters under the gravy and mash potato bain-marie.

Other violations included no warm running water at the only hand-wash basin in the premises and a build-up of food waste on the floor.

Council prosecutor Mark Thomas said there was substantial cockroach activity in a number of places, and council was seeking a $55,000 fine against CRM, which had no prior convictions.

Ralph Devlin, QC, for CRM, said the open nature of food courts posed unique issues for food retailers because pest control could drive insects from one spot to another.

He said the company had taken swift action and closed the store following the discovery, threw out stock, stripped and cleaned equipment, and enlisted pest control to “mist” the area.

Acting Magistrate Robert Walker handed down a $45,000 fine and decided not to record a conviction against the company.

 

Trump Grill could be the worst restaurant in America

I’ve never met Tina Nguyen, a writer now at Vanity Fair with an uncharacteristic way of cutting through the pop-culture-food bullshit, but have been following her on twitter for several years.

tina_nguyenSo I’ll call her Tina.

Her scathing review of the Trump Grill which apparently raised the ire of restauranter-in-chief, is below in an edited form.

Halfway through a recent late lunch at the Trump Grill—the clubby steakhouse in the lobby of Trump Tower that has recently become famous through the incessant media coverage of its namesake landlord, and the many dignitaries traipsing through its marbled hall to kiss his ring—I sensed the initial symptoms of a Trump overdose. Thanks to an unprecedented influx of diners, we were sitting at a wobbly overflow table outside the restaurant, in the middle of a crush of tourists, some of whom were proposing to their partners, or waiting to buy Trump-branded merchandise, or sprinting to the bathroom.

As my companions and I contemplated the most painless way to eat our flaccid, gray Szechuan dumplings with their flaccid, gray innards, as a campy version of “Jingle Bells” jackhammered in the background, a giant gold box tied with red ribbon toppled onto us. Trump, it seemed, was already fighting against the War on Christmas.

The allure of Trump’s restaurant, like the candidate, is that it seems like a cheap version of rich. The inconsistent menus—literally, my menu was missing dishes that I found on my dining partners’—were chock-full of steakhouse classics doused with unnecessarily high-end ingredients. The dumplings, for instance, come with soy sauce topped with truffle oil, and the crostini is served with both hummus and ricotta, two exotic ingredients that should still never be combined. The menu itself would like to impress diners with how important it is, randomly capitalizing fancy words like “Prosciutto” and “Julienned” (and, strangely, ”House Salad”).

Our waiter, coiffed and charming, was determined to gaslight us into thinking we were having a good time. “Trump gets the taco bowl and the lasagna and baked ziti,” he said, before subsequently informing the table that we could not order the lasagna or baked ziti. I asked the waiter what Trump’s children eat. He didn’t seem to understand the question, or, like Marco Rubio, appeared unable to depart from his prescribed talking points.“Oh, I’ve shaken hands with him before, and they’re pretty normal-sized hands,” he responded.

Our table nevertheless ordered the Ivanka’s Salad, a chopped approximation of a Greek salad, smothered in melting goat cheese and dressing and missing the promised olives, that seemed unlikely to appetize a SoulCycle-obsessed, smoothie-guzzling heiress. (Instead, it looked like a salad made by someone who believes that rich women only eat vegetables.) But the cuboid plant matter ended up being the perfect place to hide several uneaten Szechuan dumplings.

trump-grillOur waiter eventually noted that Don Jr. gets the filet mignon cooked medium-rare, with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. The steak came out overcooked and mealy, with an ugly strain of pure fat running through it, crying out for A.1. sauce (it was missing the promised demi-glace, too). The plate must have tilted during its journey from the kitchen to the table, as the steak slumped to the side over the potatoes like a dead body inside a T-boned minivan. Don Jr. probably does not eat the filet mignon here regularly, either. Come to think of it, judging by its non-cylindrical shape, it might not have even been a filet at all.

The one thing required to save the meal—booze—turned into its greatest disappointment. Trump himself does not drink alcohol, a possible explanation for why the cocktails seemed to be concocted by a college freshman experimenting in their dorm room. The Tower was a tall glass filled with three types of rum and several types of fruit concentrate. (One person named it “The Cancun,” and slowly nursed the spring-break-colored drink over the next two hours like morphine.) The You’re Fired, an oversized Bloody Mary, appeared to be a chunky shrimp-cocktail sauce, heavy on the horseradish, mixed with ice and a lot of vodka. The Fifth Avenue—Grey Goose with Cointreau and a “splash of cranberry”—tasted like vodka mixed with Crystal Light, the ultimate drink for an 18-year-old pledging a sorority. The alternative to these cocktails—which we could not bring ourselves to finish over the course of two hours—was Trump’s own branded Trump Wine, which came with one red option and one white option.

260 sick after Thanksgiving meal in New York

The health department says it has now received 260 reports of illness related to Golden Ponds restaurant.

golden-pondsThe Monroe County Health Department says the updated number comes after speaking with 80 people who made reports. Spokesman John Ricci says those people mentioned family members and friends who also got sick after eating at the restaurant.

The restaurant was closed down last month after people started reporting getting sick after eating there on Thanksgiving. News10NBC found Golden Ponds had 106 violations since 2009.

golden-pond

£13 for a MILF (burger): UK Meat Counter has some safety beefs, but do they verify safety with thermometer?

Cornwall Live reports the Meat Counter is one of those burger joints that are so much more than that.

rare-hamburgerLocated in Arwenack Street in Falmouth, the stylish American-style eatery known for its homemade burgers and chili fries has carved a name for itself on the culinary scene in the town and beyond.

There is an extensive menu to choose from including the £13 M.I.L.F. – a burger, pulled pork and chicken layered extravaganza with a fried Jalapeno on top.

Alongside its signature dishes, The Meat Counter offers a selection of American delicacies such as the ultimate bulldog (hot dog), local steaks and chips with all the trimmings.

It also has fine vegetarian options including The Filthy Shroomburger and Spiced Chickpea Burger.

It opened three years ago, employs 10 staff and has consistently received high reviews from punters, with 223 ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ reviews out of 262 on TripAdvisor.

However the Meat Counter was one of six restaurants in the Duchy to receive a zero hygiene score rating from Cornwall Council food inspectors following a visit in July.

The note from Cornwall Council inspectors was that the venue needed to improve its handling of food including preparation, cooking, re-heating, cooling and storage, along with a major improvement of the general cleanliness and condition of its facilities and building.

The zero rating also came with a ‘major improvement necessary’ warning for the management of food safety.

When Cornwall Live revealed the list of the 75 worst-rated restaurants in Cornwall, Martyn Peters, owner of the Meat Counter, said the score was by no means a reflection of the kinds of “kitchen nightmares” documented at other places.

stiflers-mom-paul-finchHe said that if issues such as cross-contamination or out-of-date food had been a factor in the company’s score, the kitchen would have been shut down immediately instead of simply being given the lowest rating.

He added: “On the contrary, the vast majority of the issues raised during that first visit were rectified within 48 hours, and we have continued to trade ever since.”

Mr Peters said the hygiene scoring rating from council food inspectors could do with greater transparency.

A restaurant, especially in an old building, can be penalised for having small cracks in the floor tiles or for its bins not being collected on the day of the inspection even though it is out of its control.

Structural faults inherent to old buildings can also play against a restaurant and may involve expensive work to fix.

Mr Peters added: “Any business worth its salt takes the condemnation of a zero rating very seriously and we’ve been working closely with our environmental health officer to address the issues raised during her first inspection.”

Assessment of risk communication about undercooked hamburgers by restaurant servers

Ellen M. Thomas, RTI International; Andrew Binder, Anne McLaughlin, Lee-Ann Jaykus, Dana Hanson, and Benjamin Chapman, North Carolina State University; and Doug Powell, powellfoodsafety.com

Journal of Food Protection

DOI: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-16-065

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2013 Model Food Code, it is the duty of a food establishment to disclose and remind consumers of risk when ordering undercooked food such as ground beef. The purpose of this study was to explore actual risk communication activities of food establishment servers. Secret shoppers visited restaurants (n=265) in seven geographic locations across the U.S., ordered medium rare burgers, and collected and coded risk information from chain and independent restaurant menus and from server responses. The majority of servers reported an unreliable method of doneness (77%) or other incorrect information (66%) related to burger doneness and safety. These results indicate major gaps in server knowledge and risk communication, and the current risk communication language in the Model Food Code does not sufficiently fill these gaps. Furthermore, should servers even be acting as risk communicators? There are numerous challenges associated with this practice including high turnover rates, limited education, and the high stress environment based on pleasing a customer. If it is determined that servers should be risk communicators, food establishment staff should be adequately equipped with consumer advisory messages that are accurate, audience-appropriate, and delivered in a professional manner so as to help their customers make more informed food safety decisions.

 

Chicago sets a food safety standard, then ignores it

The Chicago Tribune reports that inspections are government stethoscopes. They detect leaky roofs, Cobb salads that can tear up our insides, faulty elevators and buildings that are firetraps.

restaurant-inspectionAbout those Cobb salads.

The Chicago Department of Public Health requires “high risk” food establishments, such as restaurants, school and hospital kitchens and day care centers to be inspected twice a year. In 2015, fewer than half of them got two inspections, city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson recently reported. Grocery stores are supposed to get an annual inspection, but nearly 1 in 5 were not visited by sanitarians last year. Bars and convenience stores are supposed to be inspected once every two years, but fewer than 1 in 4 got a visit from inspectors in 2014 and 2015.

The explanation is simple: not enough inspectors. The city has 38 full-time inspectors to handle a workload that the IG says would take 94.

Would you like ranch or Imodium on that Cobb salad?

Foodborne illness affects 48 million people every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — hospitalizing at least 128,000, killing 3,000, and making countless others miserable.

Chicago’s food safety inspection rules follow state guidelines, which are based on recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the city routinely falls short of those standards. For years, the city and state have agreed to “corrective action plans” that allow Chicago to continue to receive local health protection grants from the Illinois Department of Public Health. In 2015, that amounted to $2.5 million.

That raises some questions: Are twice-a-year restaurant inspections necessary to protect people from foodborne illness or not?

Why should consumers have confidence in food safety standards that state health officials consider negotiable?

Does Chicago need more inspectors, or more realistic rules?

If twice-a-year inspections are needed, then the city has an obligation to provide the staffing to conduct them. If they’re not needed, then there are better uses for scarce public dollars. The city needs to figure out which of those things is true, instead of leaving rules on the books and breaking them repeatedly. Taxpayers deserve to know their money is being used wisely, and diners deserve to know their local eateries are following safe food-handling procedures.

It’s not the first time the city has failed to carry out its own inspections regimen. In 2012, the Tribune reported that nearly two-thirds of the city’s elevators had not been inspected the previous year as required. Some of the buildings were downtown, where the city dealt with a backlog by allowing property owners to hire their own inspectors to check elevators. But many building managers didn’t get the inspections done, and the city largely let them off the hook, the Tribune found. Very few of the non-compliant building owners were fined, and the city failed to follow up with its own inspectors, an expense that could have been passed on to the owners.

The fees and fines paid by food service establishments don’t cover the cost of the required inspections — and in any case, that money goes into the city’s corporate fund, which pays for all sorts of programs and services. That money could be dedicated to the Department of Public Health to pay for inspections, though the city would have to find efficiencies in its operating budget to make up for the lost dollars. The city also could charge more for inspections and licenses, or raise the fines for violators, to help cover the costs.

But Ferguson makes an excellent point: The city first needs to determine whether it’s necessary to add 56 inspectors to its payroll. That means working with state health officials to craft an inspections regimen that ensures food safety and is cost-effective, and to codify those standards. The IG’s report recommends consulting with food safety experts — government agencies, NGOs and academic institutions — to come up with a science-based inspection schedule.

By keeping a rule on its books that it doesn’t enforce, the city is not being straight with Chicagoans. Meaningful food safety standards, adequately enforced, will give a hungry public the confidence to chow down.

 

Everyone’s got a camera Spanish bakery edition: Rats tucking into sandwiches at popular chain

Customers at a Madrid bakery witnessed a rather unexpected – and stomach churning – sight on Friday: four rats tucking into sandwiches in the bakery’s display case. 

rat-granier-bakeryThe rodents were spotted by two men passing by a branch of the Granier bakery chain and were caught on camera helping themselves to food that was left in a glass-fronted display case.  

The men can be heard joking “how cute” as they film the two large rats scampering over the fresh food in a video published on social media.

Police confirmed they were called to the bakery at around 1.30pm on Friday and had closed the establishment pending health and safety checks. 

Granier, a Spanish chain, has 350 bakeries across Spain as well as in Portugal, Italy and London. 

The company confirmed that the bakery, located in the Pueblo Nuevo neighbourhood of Madrid, “was closed and would stay closed”, in a statement released on Friday. 

“The company has put itself at the disposal of the appropriate authorities and has opened an internal investigation into these events,” the company said, adding that food safety protocol had been “strictly adhered to” in the establishment. 

Granier said that the bakery underwent quarterly inspections, the last having taken place on October 26, when, according to documents released by the company, the branch in question was fumigated. 

It was, the company claimed, “an isolated event” and “the 350 Granier establishments in Spain and abroad comply strictly with all food health regulations.”

Rotting food and animal blood: UK health inspectors close takeaway on the spot

Environmental health officers were left stunned at the filthy state of a shop which was inspected after a customer complained they had seen a rat running across the counter.

takeaway-montageThey found mouse dropping throughout the premises – including on a chopping board and in open sacks of flour – in addition to filthy kitchen equipment and old food stuck to surfaces.

Raw chicken had been washed in a dirty sink and then dipped in dirty water, and blood and food waste, including old pizza dough, was left lying around.

Conditions were so dire, officers ordered staff to close the premises immediately during their visit on November 5 last year, the Manchester Evening News reports.

Shahzad Akthar, the owner of the Central takeaway, on Cromwell Road in Salford, Greater Manchester, was hit with a bill of nearly £3,000 after being hauled before the courts .

He was fined £1,080 and ordered to pay costs of £1,627 and a victim surcharge of £100 and being found guilty of four food safety and hygiene offences at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court.

Inspectors found a ‘clear and active’ mouse infestation with significant amounts of droppings throughout the premises, made worse by large amounts of food on the floor and gaps in walls and doors, giving mice access to food.

The council said it was clear the takeaway had not been properly cleaned for some time.

Officers found rotting food on surfaces and equipment, grease and old food stuck to shelves near the kebab machine, and old grub on the inside of fridges.

The ice cream server and equipment were so dirty there was scum on the surface of the liquid.

A raw meat chopping board was on top of the salad chopping board, and both boards were kept behind a sink in a pool of filthy water.

Staff said they used a shower cleaning product to clean work surfaces and had little knowledge of how to store food at the correct temperatures.

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.