Robert Mancini

About Robert Mancini

Robert Mancini hosted and provided research for the television series “Kitchen Crimes” for Food Network Canada, H.G. T.V. (U.S.) and Discovery Asia. He is currently a certified Public Health Inspector in Manitoba and the health protection coordinator/specialist in food safety for Manitoba Health. He holds a Master’s Degree in Food Safety through Kansas State University. He enjoys playing with his 3-year old boy, violin, and running.

Baltimore proposes inspection disclosure

My little boy turned 2 yesterday and my family and I went all out to make this a memorable event. He’s into Paw Patrol (cartoon about dogs who rescue) and so the house was littered with Paw Patrol posters, napkins, plates, everything and dad’s wallet was depleted.
Worth it when I saw the look on his face.
I was in charge of picking up cake and food for the evenings’ BBQ from a local grocery store. In Manitoba (Canada) there is no on-site disclosure system to inform me how the place fared on their latest health inspection but I have done enough of them in my time to understand what to look for when I am shopping/dining and I ask questions, it’s the food safety in me. I observe behaviors; it gives me a more comprehensive picture of a food establishment’s culture. The City of Baltimore is proposing that restaurants post their latest inspection report to increase public transparency. Anything to better inform the public on food safety is better than nothing. I am curious to see if patrons will actually read the report and accurately assess the risk.

Baltimore Sun reports

At least once every year each of Baltimore City’s approximately 5,700 restaurants and eateries must pass a health department inspection in order to stay in business. Those checks are essential not only to ensure that minimum standards of cleanliness are observed in food preparation and service but also to prevent the spread of serious foodborne illnesses such as Norovirus and Salmonella. Yet until recently the public had virtually no way of knowing when a restaurant failed to pass muster or the reasons officials shut it down. Baltimore needs to make the process more transparent so that citizens can be more confident making up their own minds about where and what to eat.
A bill last year sponsored by City Councilman Brandon Scott would have required health department officials to assign a letter grade to restaurant inspection reports and display the results in a prominent place. Many other cities, including New York, have adopted similar grading systems over the initial objections of restaurateurs who argued consumers would confuse it for an endorsement of some restaurants over others. That appears not to have happened in the Big Apple, where the restaurant industry is still booming. Yet Mr. Scott’s initiative ultimately failed in the council, even though the debate did convince Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen to post restaurant inspection reports on her department’s website.
Now Mr. Scott is back this year with a new proposal that would require restaurants to post their latest health inspection reports in plain view outside their shops. Unlike his earlier effort, this one wouldn’t require inspectors to give restaurants a letter grade. We appreciate restaurants’ objection to such a system but also the value an easy-to-understand rating would have for diners. Though it may be unlikely that potential patrons would be as inclined (or equipped) to judge the contents of an entire inspection report as they would a simple letter grade, posting them would still represent a vast improvement in transparency. Diners could look up a restaurant’s inspection report on the Internet, but they’re much more likely to consider the issue of food safety if reports are posted in plain sight.
“We need to join the rest of the civilized world on this issue,” Mr. Scott says. “The city inspection reports are already on line, and there are only a handful of major cities that don’t require restaurants to show their health department reports on site. In Baltimore, for some reason, we’ve been slow to do that.”
The federal government estimates that about 1 in 6 Americans are sickened by a foodborne illness each year, which adds up to about 48 million cases nationally. Though the American food supply is considered one of the safest in the world, foodborne illness account for an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths every year. Young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk for contracting such diseases, but they can strike anyone of any age with deadly effect.
That’s why we urge the City Council to revisit Mr. Scott’s proposed legislation with the aim of helping consumers judge for themselves whether the food they are offered is safe to eat. Some restaurant owners object that posting inspection reports prominently on site could confuse diners who may not know how to interpret the results or who may become alarmed by a reported problem that appears to be more serious than it really is. But that’s a cause to educate the public, not to hide important information. If a report prompts consumers to ask questions about a particular food safety issue, it’s probably something the restaurant owner ought to be paying more attention to anyway.
Would any requirement that establishments post their inspection reports in a prominent place make customers less likely to patronize a particular restaurant or eatery? We doubt that any of the city’s top-tier dining places would see much, if any, change in consumer attitudes, not least because they’ve spent years developing reputations for excellence in all aspects of their business, including food safety and cleanliness. It’s the smaller, more informal neighborhood establishments that are most likely to feel the effects of a change in the law, but they’re also the most likely to be cited for health code violations. By encouraging them to strive for a clean bill of health every time Mr. Scott’s proposed legislation would give them more than enough incentive to offer fare that is not only tasty but safe to eat as well.
As for the criticism this proposal is bound to receive that restaurant inspections are a minor issue compared to Baltimore’s epidemic of violence, we would note that Brandon Scott is the last city official who could be accused of paying insufficient attention to the crime rate. On the contrary, no member of the council has been so consistently at the forefront of efforts to develop strategies for improving public safety and for ensuring accountability. He’s allowed to do more than one thing at a time. In fact, the taxpayers who pay his salary should expect it.

One way to control vermin….

Shoot them.

Richard Allison reports
Milling wheat growers are being reminded not to use shotguns to control vermin in grain stores, as some flour mills have reported increasing amounts of lead shot being found among grain intakes.
Martin Savage, trade policy manager at the National Association of British and Irish Millers (Nabim), says while some shot can be screened out, a significant quantity may remain to contaminate end-products.
“Despite many attempts, it is impossible to determine whether the shot results from farmers shooting within grain stores or if it comes from shooting over standing crops,” he said.
See also: New significant wheat yellow rust strain is identified
He pointed to a recent case where a grower’s crops became contaminated after a neighbouring farmer operated a simulated “driven-game” clay shooting operation on adjacent land and the shot fell onto the nearby wheat crop.
However, Mr Savage added that it is difficult to understand how significant quantities of shot can result from this practice, and survive the harvesting process.
“Therefore, most of us believe that in the majority of these contamination cases, the shot comes from pest control within farm grain stores. Farmers should certainly never shoot within grain stores.”
Live cartridges
Of greater concern for some mills is the recent discovery of live ammunition.
“Flour millers have not only detected lead shot in wheat, but also found spent .22 cartridges and even live .410 cartridges at intake,” Mr Savage said.
He explained that the problem is that the milling process flattens the shot to paper-thin proportions that cannot always be found by the existing in-line metal detection systems.
In the past, there have been recalls of finished baked products which are not only very costly, but potentially damaging to the reputation of the food producer.
“We will always attempt to identify the loads containing shot and will not hesitate to seek compensation where problems occur,” Mr Savage said.

Michelin star chef perturbed at health inspectors

The autumn season in Manitoba (Canada) can be tricky, some days are sunny and warm and others bitter cold. Today is one of those rare warm days so my family and I are planning to cook some chicken on the BBQ. I use a probe thermometer to ensure the poultry is cooked to 74C (165F) so I’m not concerned with microbial safety, it’s the heterocyclic amines that bug me.

A Michelin star chef in the UK is upset that health inspectors questioned his cooking of chicken livers for pate resulting in a poor restaurant health rating.

Jane de Graaff reports

Earlier this week we clocked a story at 9Honey Kitchen that involved internationally acclaimed restaurant Rocksalt in the UK’s Folkestone losing its 5-star health rating over its treatment of chicken. The story goes that the time and temperatures for cooking the chicken livers used in a pâté dish allowed them to retain a blushing pink colour along with a silky texture. When questioned by health and safety inspectors, some of the technique specified was a little confused, and despite the restaurants stellar reputation, resulted in their 5-star health rating being dropped down to 2-star. The restaurant was—not unexpectedly—a little perturbed as the misunderstanding could have been cleared up and the restaurant’s health practices have otherwise been exemplary.
Chef Mark Sargeant—who trained under Gordon Ramsay, has a Michelin star and runs several restaurants—knows full well the implications of dishes being served in a less that regulatory way. Sargent was clearly unimpressed and requested a reassessment of the restaurant’s standards sooner than the usual 3-month period, as the chef feels it’s a misrepresentation of what his team delivers.
“[It’s] the skill of a very good kitchen, you get a beautiful set chicken liver pâté with a beautiful flush going through it which obviously comes about from cooking it at a certain temperature. But it’s cooked, it’s completely safe,” the Telegraph UK reports Sargeant commenting.
He went on to note that it was such overly strict guidelines in the UK that lead to medium-rare burgers being off the menu, as well as the classic dish of steak tartare (raw beef) required to be seared on the outside before scraping out the centre to use in the dish.
As that debate rages on, we thought it might be time to check in with our friends at the CSIRO to find out what the recommendations on chicken actually are. Having seen recent (and reoccurring) stories about chicken sashimi, we wanted to set the record straight, because there seems to be some confusing trends on the rise.

So, can you ever eat chicken raw? Cathy Moir, Senior Food Microbiologist at the CSIRO, say unequivocally no.
“Chicken should not be eaten raw because it may carry harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter that can result in foodborne infection and gastroenteritis,” she says, adding that chicken livers are no different.
“There have been outbreaks of Campylobacter food poisoning linked to dishes such as pâté, where poultry liver has been undercooked. Like other poultry meat, livers need to be cooked all the way through to kill bacteria that may be present. Lightly frying the surface is not enough. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) recommends that cooked whole livers may still be slightly pink in the centre, but they should never be bloody or look raw.”
Why Moir advises that long, slow, low temperature cooking can be used to cook chicken and still retain a nice blush, but it’s a method best left to professionals of have the training and means to know when they are getting this just right. For Moir the best way to know with certainty that a food like chicken is cooked through is to use an internal thermometer and make sure that the interior temperature is 75°C for chicken.
“Different meats require different cooking temperatures to destroy harmful bacteria. Not only should we cook chicken right through until it reaches an internal temperature of 75°C, the same goes for minced or boned meats, hamburger, stuffed meats, mechanically tenderised meat and sausages. This is because food poisoning bacteria can be present all the way through these types of meat products as well as on the surface and only thorough cooking will kill them. Use a meat thermometer to check temperatures in the thickest part of the meat and always follow cooking instructions on packaged foods.”
Simply put, there is no such thing as chicken sashimi, rare chicken or translucent chicken. These should be avoided at all costs.
So perhaps the health and safety officers in the UK were right to judge harshly on the pink pâté issue after all.

 

European Union takes a stand against food fraud

Anadolu Agency reports

The European Union said it will take more measures against food fraud cases after a contaminated eggs scandal touched 24 out of 28 member states this year.
“Misdoings and fraudulent practices of a few should not have such devastating effects,” EU Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said in a statement after the high-level meeting in Brussels.
The commissioner said the bloc will improve “risk communication” between the member states to make sure the general public learns about such incidents in a “more coherent and swift way.”
He warned that a lack of transparency could “eventually lead to destruction of trust in particular [of the] food industry,” Andriukaitis added. The European Commission is planning to present more proposals to an upcoming the Council of the EU meeting on Oct. 9-10. The measures include creating common risk assessment on incidents, stretching the rapid alert system for food and holding training and regular crisis exercises. The origin of the egg contamination was detected in poultry in the Netherlands and has led to the closure of 200 farms in the country. Since July 20, millions of eggs have been destroyed or taken off supermarket shelves across Europe amid fears they had been contaminated with fipronil, used in insecticide

Insulated school lunch bags-a good idea

My wife and I have been preparing lunches for my 6-year old son since he started back at school earlier this month. He’s half Italian, half French meaning that his lunches are 5 course meals, the veal piccata needs to be refrigerated….

Stephanie Casanova reports:

Using a brown paper sack as a lunch bag for a turkey sandwich could be unsafe, according to a Kansas State University food safety specialist.
Paola Paez, research associate professor for Kansas State University’s Center of Excellence for Food Safety Research in Nutrition Programs, says instead of a brown paper bag, use insulated lunch bags and sanitize them frequently.
“If we are sending a deli sandwich or other perishable food, we don’t want to use paper bags because they cannot keep food at proper temperatures,” Paez said. “When food does not stay at the right temperatures, bacteria can grow and make food unsafe for our children to eat.”
Hot food should be kept above 140 degrees Farenheit or 60 degrees Celsius, and cold food should be kept below 41 degrees Farenheit or 5 degrees Celsius, Paez said. The food needs to be kept at safe temperatures from the refrigerator to the lunch bag to the lunch table at school. That means the lunch bag, an important variable in that process, must be insulated, Paez said.
Still, just tossing cold or hot food inside an insulated bag is not enough to keep it properly chilled or warmed until lunch time, Paez said.
For cold food, she recommends placing two frozen items — such as two ice packs or an ice pack and a frozen water bottle — on either side of the meal.
“If students bring a frozen bottle of water, it does double duty because it keeps the food cold and it will be thawed enough to drink by lunch time, so the child can stay hydrated,” Paez said.
Hot foods, such as soups, should go into insulated containers especially designed for that purpose, Paez said. Some containers are made to hold hot or cold food, but others can insulate only hot or only cold food.
“It is important to choose the right one depending on the type of food the student is bringing,” Paez said.
If packaging hot food, 10 minutes before packing the lunch, pour boiling water into the container and let it sit a few minutes. Then, dump out the boiling water, put the hot food into the container and close it tight. That process will heat the container and help the food stay hot longer, Paez said.
At the end of the day, the inside and outside of the lunch bag need to be cleaned and sanitized to prepare the bag for the next use.

 

Kids develop HUS in Wisconsin

So sad. Kids developed hemolytic uremic syndrome from an E. coli infection in Wisconsin, source of contamination is unknown.

The La Crosse County Health Department is investigating eight cases of a “particularly nasty form” of the e-coli bacteria that forced the hospitalization of six children.
Some of the children have recovered and been released from the hospital, said Paula Silha, education manager at the Health Department who declined to name where the children live for privacy concerns.
The families are concerned about messages that might appear on social media, in particular, Silha said.
E-coli is a bacterial infection that is more common during the summer months. Cases can be linked or individual.
The variant in these cases, e-coli 0157, is “a particularly nasty form, which produces a toxin that can be harmful to the body organs such as the kidneys,” Silha said.
The hospitalized children had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a toxin that can damage kidneys, she said.
This form also is called shiga toxin-producing escherichia coli, and the Health Department is working with the Wisconsin Division of Health to contain the outbreak, Silha said.
The ongoing investigation has not identified a single source of infection or contamination.
The first reports came in early in the month, and additional people are being tested, she said.
E-coli is transmitted by eating contaminated food or water and by contact with fecal material from infected people or animals, she said.
Annual reports for the past several years indicate an average of two to three cases a year, although 30 were counted last year, Silha said, adding, “I cannot tell from the annual report if they were all related to one outbreak or if they came in a few at a time.’
Person-to-person spread of bacteria is possible and may occur in family settings, day care centers and nursing homes. Children younger than 5 and the elderly are the most susceptible to infection from e-coli.

The rest of the story can be found here.

Environmental Public Health Week

This week is Environmental Public Health Week that celebrates the outstanding work Environmental Health Officers (EHO’s) do on a daily basis. This years theme is “Honouring Traditions, Inspiring Innovation.” In a world of constant change, EHO’s are faced with challenging circumstances and events that require innovation to safeguard public health while relying on traditional methods. This week we celebrate all of their efforts and accomplishments.

 

Washing raw poultry increases cross-contamination

Campylobacter jejuni is an important human pathogen commonly associated with raw poultry. The risk of cross-contamination in the kitchen is escalated with washing raw poultry in the sink- an unnecessary measure for food safety. Cook the bird to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F), no need for washing.

Holly Van Hare of The Daily Meal reports:

You’re spraying your sink with salmonella
Washing your fruit? Absolutely. Washing your lettuce? Necessity. But running warm water over a slimy slab of raw chicken is just about the worst thing you can do with your kitchen sink.
In fact, it’s such a bad idea that the National Health Service (NHS) in Britain issued a public warning against the “sanitary” practice — claiming that “it can increase your risk of food poisoning from campylobacter bacteria.”
Chicken is one of the most commonly infected raw foods when it comes to foodborne bacteria such as salmonella. These bacteria lurk both on the surface and insides of the raw meat, growing indefinitely until you cook them dead. “Only a few campylobacter cells are needed to cause food poisoning,” the NHS says.
Washing the chicken involves running tap water over that infested piece of meat. The water becomes contaminated as soon as it hits the surface of your poultry, and proceeds to splash in every direction both inside and around your kitchen sink. “Water droplets can travel more than 50 centimeters in every direction,” the NHS warns, a distance that equates to over one and a half feet.
After that bacteria spreads, it’s hard to get rid of. The only real way to effectively kill the bacteria you’ve now sprinkled around your home is to disinfect everything — an onerous task you’re likely saving until after you’re done cooking. That means your risk of exposure is prolonged and the bacteria could even come into contact with your other food.
If you’re preparing chicken, skip the washing step. The oven kills everything, anyway — and once a chicken is properly cooked, it’s 100 percent free of disease-causing bacteria. If you’re bored with bland old chicken and looking to spice things up, here are 101 of our best recipes.

FDA: Juice safety

My wife has gotten me on a freshly squeezed juice regimen every morning because admittedly I don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. We’ll juice anything from kale, spinach, lemons to apples. The juicer cost me a fortune but I feel great, I love my wife.

The FDA is promoting juice safety due to the potential microbial risks associated with juicing.

The Baltimore Times reports:

As fall arrives, so do drives in the country and drinking fresh-squeezed juices and cider.
Unfortunately, serious outbreaks of foodborne illness, often called “food poisoning,” have been traced to drinking fruit and vegetable juice and cider that have not been pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill harmful bacteria.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminds consumers this fall to read the label carefully on juice and cider products.
Juices provide many important nutrients, but consuming untreated juices can pose health risks to your family. When fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed or used raw, bacteria from the produce can end up in your juice or cider. Unless the produce or the juice has been treated to destroy any harmful bacteria, the juice could be contaminated. While most people’s immune systems can usually fight off the effects of foodborne illness, children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems (such as transplant patients and individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and diabetes) risk serious illnesses or even death from drinking untreated juices.
Most of the juice sold in the United States is pasteurized (heat-treated) to kill harmful bacteria. Juice products may also be treated by non-heat processes for the same purpose. However, some grocery stores, health food stores, cider mills, farmers’ markets, and juice bars sell packaged juice that was made on site that has not been pasteurized or otherwise processed to ensure its safety. These untreated products should be kept under refrigeration and are required to carry the following warning on the label:
WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.
However, the FDA does not require warning labels on juice or cider that is fresh-squeezed and sold by the glass, such as at apple orchards, farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and juice bars.
Follow these simple steps to prevent illness when purchasing juice:
•Look for the warning label to avoid the purchase of untreated juices. You can find pasteurized or otherwise treated products in your grocers’ refrigerated sections, frozen food cases, or in non-refrigerated containers, such as juice boxes, bottles, or cans. Untreated juice is most likely to be sold in the refrigerated section of a grocery store.
•Don’t hesitate to ask if you are unsure if a juice product is treated, if the labeling is unclear, or if the juice or cider is sold by the glass.
Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness within one to three days of eating the contaminated food. However, sickness can also occur within 20 minutes or up to six weeks later. Symptoms of foodborne illness include: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and flu-like symptoms (such as fever, headache, and body ache). If you think that you or a family member has a foodborne illness, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Fail: Paulding County restaurant inspections

Food safety is behavior-based. Public health inspections are a necessary means to ensure compliance with food safety regs but are a snap shot in time. It may be more beneficial to provide some on-site training during the inspection to effectively engage operators. They’ll be in their own environment, feel comfortable, and by actually working with them hands-on; you can break the English-as-second language barrier, if that exists.

Doug Gross reports

Two different Paulding County restaurants failed their health and safety inspections this past week, with inspectors finding problems ranging from raw chicken being stored on the floor to food that should have been thrown away still being in the cooler.
China Wok, off of Dallas Nebo Road at 4813 Ridge Rd., scored a 63/U on its inspection Tuesday and Las Palmas Restaurant, at 480 Watts Rd. in Hiram, scored an even lower 55/U on Monday.
At China Wok, inspectors said they found raw chicken being stored in a plastic bin on the floor. Rangoons were found in a small metal bowl being stored on top of a trash can. In the cooler, an uncovered container of raw chicken was being stored above containers of sauce and another bowl of raw chicken was being stored above green onions.
Food residue was found on a knife and potato peeler that were supposed to be clean, an employee was wearing a charm bracelet while preparing food and another was serving food without any kind of hair restraint.
Managers were found not to be properly trained and the restaurant couldn’t show that workers had gotten the proper food safety training.
At Las Palmas, cooked pork, pasta noodles, stuffed peppers and refried beans all were found with date markings that meant they should already have been thrown out. The marking on the beans suggested they were more than two-and-a-half weeks old.
Packages of raw ground beef were being stored next to lettuce, raw shrimp was left in a sink to thaw, two microwaves had food debris in them from the day before and food was being stored at the wrong temperature.
Managers didn’t display they’d had the proper training and the restaurant had no established procedures for what to do if a customer gets sick while there, the report said.
According to state policies, the restaurants will be inspected again within the next 10 days. If either hasn’t addressed the problems from the original inspection by then, inspectors could shut the restaurant down until the problems are fixed.

Not going to solve the issue. The problems may be altered temporarily and the restaurant will be open for business. However, from my experience, unless you can tackle the underlying issues that contributing to the problems initially; the restaurant will resort its’ original state. It’s all about behavior and effective training.