UK supermarkets fail inspections

Tesco supermarkets prove to be the worst for hygiene after it was revealed that 29 of its stores failed inspections aimed to protect customers from food poisoning.

tesco.foodIt was one of five big supermarket chains that saw stores fall foul of basic checks from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), according to figures from between 2012 and 2013 that were published in the Sun.

Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Aldi also had stores that failed to meet expected standards, according to the data.

Lidl and Waitrose were the only two ‘big seven’ chains which saw all stores pass.

The FSA reviewed hygiene practices at a total of 11,106 supermarkets in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of that number, 510 did not maintain standard levels of hygiene.

‘Our worst nightmare coming to life’: UK family contracted E. coli O157 on holiday to Spain with toddler daughter left in critical condition

A family of four fell ‘horrifically’ ill during a Spanish summer holiday which left two young daughters in hospital, one in critical condition.

e.coli.spain.aug.14The Smith family, from Bishop Auckland in County Durham, travelled to the 3* Azuline, Coral Beach resort in Ibiza in June, but say the trip turned into every family’s ‘worst nightmare’ when all of them fell ill and two-year-old daughters Olivia and Hannah were hospitalised for days as they battled E. coli. 

Dad, Stuart, who was made redundant on his return to work, was also diagnosed with having contracted the bacteria.

The toddlers have now been diagnosed with hemolytic uraemia syndrome – a condition related to E. coli which can cause kidney failure due to a breakdown of red blood cells – and distraught parents Stuart and Nicola have instructed expert international illness lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate what caused them to fall ill and to help secure their daughters funds for on-going treatment.

To make matters worse, Stuart was made redundant on his return from his job as a production worker in manufacturing, as he took time off to care for his daughters, which affected his redundancy score negatively. 

Stuart, Olivia and Hannah were all diagnosed as suffering with E. coli O157 on their return and the girls symptoms were so severe that they were admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Newcastle. 

Olivia, who was two in July, was discharged after six days but Hannah, who turns three at the end of the month, spent 21 days in hospital and needed dialysis to help her kidneys function properly.

Stuart, 38, said: ‘The last few weeks have been like our worst nightmare coming to life as we have had to watch our little girls fight for their lives in hospital.

‘The last thing we imagined was that we would all fall so horrifically ill. We did notice that some of the food that should have been chilled was left at room temperature and some of it was undercooked, but we tried to be as careful as possible.

‘The worst thing now is not knowing whether the girls have been left with permanent kidney problems as a result. We just cannot believe how going on holiday has turned all of our lives upside down.

247 sick in UK and it is an egg problem: Salmonella outbreak across Europe may be caused by single batch of eggs

The national salmonella outbreak which has struck down nearly 250 people across Britain could be traced back to a single source of eggs, health investigators have said.

egg.dirty.feb.12Earlier this month, three hospital patients affected by the salmonella outbreak in Birmingham died. But the infection was not cited as a contributing factor on the death certificates of two patients and the coroner’s report on the third patient has not yet been delivered.

Health officials said there have been 158 cases reported in the past week alone – since August 15 – but said these are not new infections but historical cases and that the reporting of new infections had in fact slowed down.

The UK Food Standards Agency decided to remind caterers to:

• keep eggs away from other foods, when they are still in the shell and when you have cracked them open;

• don’t use damaged or dirty eggs;

• be careful not to splash raw egg onto other foods, surfaces or dishes;

• if you are breaking eggs to use later (sometimes called ‘pooling’) keep the liquid egg in the fridge and take out small amounts as needed;

• use all ‘pooled’ liquid egg on the same day and don’t add new eggs to top it up;

• cook eggs and foods containing eggs thoroughly (piping hot?);

• use pasteurised egg for raw or lightly cooked foods;

• always wash and dry your hands thoroughly after touching eggs or working with them;

• clean food areas, dishes and utensils thoroughly and regularly, using warm soapy water, after working with eggs (doesn’t have to be warm, just soapy); and,

• serve egg dishes straight away, or cool them quickly and keep chilled

In Denmark, food authority Fødevarestyrelsen has ordered Hedegaard Foods to recall eggs and a number of egg-based products following the discovery of Salmonella in some of its goods. 

According to a Fødevarestyrelsen statement, the company found the bacteria in cages during its own inspections at a farm in Grindsted in central Jutland.

Pasteurised egg products made by the company are also being recalled as Salmonella can survive pasteurisation.

We’ve never made anyone sick: UK pub defends catering business after £8,000 fine

A pub landlord has defended his catering business after they were fined nearly £8,000 for failing to ensure their food was safe.

Nettleton Bottom - Golden HeartCatherine Stevens and David Morgan, who run the Golden Heart Inn in Nettleton Bottom, near Cheltenham, have admitted they made food available to customers which was “injurious to health”.

The caterers had provided Indian-style food and drink for a ‘Bollywood’ event in May 2013 at the Birdlip and Brimpsfield Cricket Club, in aid of the Great Western Air Ambulance Service.

Around 165 people had attended the event, and nearly 70 people complained to Cotswold District Council about having food-poisoning symptoms the following day.

Appearing at Cheltenham Magistrates Court on Monday, the pair pleaded guilty for failing to implement adequate food safety procedures for the catering business.

They were fined £3,5000 each, and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £120 and costs of £375 each, a combined total of £7,990 in total.

About 165 people had attended the day’s event.

Yesterday, Mr Morgan told the Echo it had been an isolated incident, and safety measures have since been put in.

He added: “It was an isolated incident and something we deeply regretted.

“It was also 15 months ago, and we have since had all the paper work and measures put in place.

“The pub also had a five-star hygiene rating until January this year, which had to go to three-star because of this incident.

“We’ve been here for around 20 years, and have served around 500,000 meals, without any problems.

“This was one of those horrible incidents that happens some times, as with all businesses. We do regret it.”

Is it an egg problem? 156 sick: UK investigating national outbreak of Salmonella

Public Health England (PHE) is investigating a national outbreak of a type of Salmonella Enteritidis which has affected 156 people.

egg.farmTo date, 55 cases have seen in Hampshire, 25 in London, 33 in Cheshire and Merseyside, and 43 in the West Midlands. Cases have also been seen in Austria and France.

In England, the cases occurred as isolated clusters over several months and have been managed locally, but are now being reassessed as potentially linked under a national investigation.

Dr Paul Cleary, a consultant epidemiologist leading the PHE investigation, said:

We are working with our colleagues across PHE, the Food Standards Agency, in local authorities and with other public health organisations in Europe to investigate the cause of this outbreak.

UK restaurant closed after dead rat found

Rat carcasses, droppings, flies and contaminated food were just some of the problems food safety officers found when they carried out surprise inspections of food businesses in Ealing.

Coco Noodle Bar, on Ealing BroadwayCoco Noodle Bar, on Ealing Broadway, was forced to close for a week after dirt, droppings and a rat carcass were found. This is the third time in 8 years that Noodle Bar has been closed for food safety reasons. The restaurant’s owner, Michael Ly, has reportedly already paid £30,000 in fines for the first two instances.

There’s Bacillus on Mars (Chocolate Drinks)

The UK Food Standards Agency has been informed by Mars Chocolate Drinks that it is recalling certain date codes of its milk drinks. This is because they contain elevated levels of a type of bacteria known as Bacillus, which can cause food poisoning. This means the products are a possible health risk to consumers.

5060122030793_1Bottles of sports-cap drinks and 750ml ‘fridge pack’ milk drinks with a ‘best before’ date between or including 19 December 2014 and 11 April 2015 are being recalled. The names of the recalled products are listed below.

Sports-cap bottles

Mars Milk (350ml, 376 ml)

Starburst Strawberry Drink (350 ml)

Bounty Drink (350ml)

Snickers Shake (350ml, 376 ml)

Skittles Wildberry (376 ml)

Galaxy Smooth Milk (350ml, 376 ml)

Milky Way Milk (350 ml)

Mars Caramel Milk (350ml)

Skittles Fruits (350, 376ml)

750ml ‘fridge pack’ bottles

Mars Milk (750 ml)

Galaxy Smooth Milk (750ml)

Skittles Fruits (750 ml)

People who have bought any of these products should not drink them. They should contact the Mars consumer care team

Audits and inspections can suck: UK food watchdog admits chicken factory breached hygiene laws

Roy Stevenson was a senior quality controller for more than a decade at one of the UK’s largest poultry abattoirs, in Scunthorpe, until the end of 2012 when he was made redundant. Owned by the 2 Sisters group, the factory still supplies many leading supermarkets and fast-food chains. After the Guardian investigated this factory and others this year to understand why so much chicken across the industry was contaminated with Campylobacter, Stevenson decided to come forward. He wanted to explain what is was like when he worked there, and why there can be such a gap between what auditors see and what workers feel is the reality on the factory floor

FunkyChickenHiThe government’s food watchdog has been forced to admit that an initial inquiry which cleared one of the UK’s largest poultry processing plants of hygiene failings was misleading.

Instances of chickens being dropped on the floor then returned to the production line, documented by a Guardian investigation into failings in the poultry industry, constituted a “breach of the legislation”, the Food Standards Agency has now acknowledged.

Following the Guardian revelations at the site in Scunthorpe in July, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, asked the FSA to investigate. It rated the factory as good and wrote to the shadow food and farming minister saying there was no evidence of any breaches of food hygiene legislation.

But in an embarrassing climbdown less than a month on, the FSA has written to Labour’s Huw Irranca-Davies admitting it was wrong. It has reviewed the Guardian’s undercover footage showing dirty birds from the floor being thrown back into food production and concluded there has been a serious breach. But it has not issued a penalty, saying the company has assured it the problem has been addressed.

The admission comes as fresh allegations of hygiene failings at the factory emerged, with three former employees making claims about dirty chickens contaminating the production line and attempts to manipulate inspections up to 2012.

Labour said the FSA admission and the new questions over safety raised serious questions about the poultry inspection system in the UK.

But now three workers who have been in charge of quality control at the factory in recent years have come forward claiming it was “an almost daily occurrence” for birds to fall on the floor and be put back into the food chain instead of being correctly disposed of as waste. The company initially denied any instances of this happening.

The sources also claimed that auditors were often hoodwinked, even when their visits were supposedly unannounced, as managers slowed production lines and cleaned up poor practice when they were present. One described his responsibility for ensuring production managers followed the company’s own rules on food hygiene and safety as “a war of attrition”.

chicken.wrap.campyThe three new sources were all employed as quality controllers until 2012 at the Scunthorpe site. Roy Stevenson was in charge of a team of quality assurance technicians and worked at the factory for more than a decade until being made redundant at the end of 2012.

“On the day of the audit, all the lines would be slowed to a minimum where it was pristine,” he claimed. “There would be no birds dropping on to the floor, an auditor would walk round and everything would look lovely, unlike any other day.”

Richard Lingard worked at the factory as a quality controller for a few weeks in 2012 before moving on because he said it was impossible to do the job correctly. A third former quality controller with several years’ experience at Scunthorpe in the recent past, who asked for anonymity, described being regularly undermined and bypassed when trying to enforce hygiene rules.

All three claimed birds fell on the floor regularly because the line speeds were too fast for workers to keep up, and they would then be recycled back into the food chain in breach of company policy. They allege that their efforts to stop this happening were undermined by production staff.

In response, 2 Sisters said audits could not be cheated and it had no way of knowing when unannounced ones would take place.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety


Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

Roast-in-bag chicken is lower risk says poultry company

Does roast-in-bag chicken chicken cut Campylobacter risks? A UK poultry business recently investigated by the Guardian for hygiene issues says it does.

Quoted in The Grocer, a Faccenda Foods official says by using their no-handle cook-directly-in-the-bag chicken consumers are safer.yourfile

“There is no need for consumers to handle food, which improves food safety at home and significantly reduces the risk from campylobacter,” said MD Andy Dawkins, who added the bag reduced the risk of cross-contamination from work surfaces or cutting boards.

In the week the FSA announced the first batch of quarterly results from its 12-month campylobacter survey, Faccenda said “unprecedented demand” had prompted it to ramp up development of roast-in-bag chicken. By the end of the year, it plans to expand the format – launched last September in Asda with seven flavoured whole chickens – into non-flavoured birds.

Responding to this week’s FSA results – which found campylobacter in 59% of fresh shop-bought chickens and on the outside of the packaging of 4% of birds – Dawkins said Faccenda would continue to invest to address the issue.

Campy on the outside of packaging could be problem for cross-contamination and I want to see some data for the claims that consumers handle these roast-in-bag products safer. Folks often don’t really know what people do with their products.


UK pizza co. fined 10K

A pizza company in St Albans has been fined nearly £10,000 after inspectors said it breached hygiene regulations.

Pizza Go Go in London RoadParizon Limited, which runs Pizza Go Go in London Road, has been fined £4,900 for failing to keep premises and equipment clean and breaching safety regulations.

The City and District Council successfully prosecuted the company for 16 offences after inspecting the premises in November last year. The case was heard by the West Hertfordshire Magistrates’ Court in Watford on Monday (4 Aug).

The court ordered the company to pay the £4,900 and to also make a contribution to the Council’s costs of £5,000. The company was also requested to pay a victim surcharge of £35, totalling £9,935.