Surveys still suck: Restaurant inspection disclosure in Singapore

The aim of this study was to examine the consumer use of Singapore’s letter-based grading information disclosure system and its influence on dining establishment choice.

We used data from a national survey of 1533 households collected from 2012 to 2013 in Singapore to assess (i) the proportion of adults who refer to the letter grade before dining and (ii) the impact of the letter grade on their willingness to dine at an establishment. We used multivariable logistic regression to account for the independent effects of socio-demographic factors. The proportion of respondents who referred to a letter grade before dining was 64.5% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 62.1%, 66.9%). Propensity for referral differed by dining frequency, ethnicity and employment.

Fewer respondents were willing to dine at a ‘C’ (lower) graded establishment [10.3% (95% CI = 8.8%, 11.8%)] compared to a ‘B’ graded establishment [85.3% (95% CI = 83.5%, 87.0%)]. Willingness to dine at a ‘C’ graded establishment differed by dining frequency, housing type and citizenship. The letter-based grading information disclosure system in Singapore is commonly used among Singaporeans and influences establishment choice.

Our findings suggest that information disclosure systems can be an effective tool in influencing consumer establishment choice and may be useful to help improve food safety in retail food establishments. The implementation of such information disclosure systems should be considered in other countries where it has yet to be introduced and be periodically assessed for its effectiveness and to identify areas requiring improvements.

Use of the letter-based grading information disclosure system and its influence on dining establishment choice in Singapore: A cross-sectional study

Food Control, Volume 90, August 2018, Pages 105-112, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2018.02.038

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713518300847

 

Fancy food ain’t safe food Irish edition: 9 dead mice discovered in ‘luxury dessert’ business

A “luxury homemade dessert” business has been ordered to close after food safety inspectors discovered nine dead mice in its production area, and mouse droppings on baking trays.

Sweetness Luxury Homemade Desserts in Ardcavan, Co Wexford, was the subject of an inspection by environmental health officers with the Health Service Executive (HSE) in May.

During the inspection, nine dead mice were found in the production area and associated stores directly off the production area. Seven of the dead mice were found below and behind one of the chest freezers in the goods inwards/dispatch area.

One of the dead mice was found in the small store directly off the cold room, while another was observed in a store area behind the partition wall adjacent to the main oven.

There was “prolific evidence” of mice droppings observed in the premises including on all food shelving; on the floor beside the open food packaging shelving; and at all wall/floor joins throughout the dispatch area that opens into the food production area.

Droppings were also observed on shelving and amongst electrical cables and files on the floor of the office in the food production area.

More were observed in baking trays on a trolley stored beside the main oven and adjacent to the wall cladding where other mice droppings had been identified in the production room.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has ordered the business to close for breaches of food safety legislation.

Sweetness Luxury Homemade Desserts was one of 11 businesses ordered to close during the month, which was the highest number of any month this year.

Another business, Addison Lodge in Glasnevin, Dublin, was told to close its doors after dead and live crawling insects including earwigs, woodlice and spiders were found on the premises.

The FSAI said these posed a risk to food safety as insects can transmit disease. Live flies were noted throughout the premises and the windows were left open.

There was also a build up of ingrained grease, dirt, food debris, and dust. Additionally a “foul odour” was noted emanating from the grease trap in the kitchen.

Everyone’s got a camera: Roach video surfaces of popular Atlanta restaurant

A video of roaches in the kitchen area of a popular metro Atlanta restaurant, The Flying Biscuit Cafe, has people talking. 

In the 30-second video, posted to YouTube on June 5, viewers can see roaches crawling along the walls and on the clean dish rack. Links to the video were shared to Reddit and Twitter.

In an email, Flying Biscuit spokesperson Elisa Suri said “the video in question was filmed last year. Following this incident, we revisited our pest management process to address any potential pest concerns.” Suri went on to say the health of Flying Biscuit customers is the restaurant’s first priority.

The Candler Park location received a 92 on their food service inspection in March and an 89 on their inspection in August of 2017.

YouTube user Katherine Todd uploaded the video and noted in the caption that “part of the server sidework is to literally rinse all the dead roaches out of the espresso machine. They were sometimes found in the uncovered apple butters in the fridge.”

Flying Biscuit said the video was uploaded by a relative of a former employee, but did not elaborate.

Everyone’s got a camera: Burger King edition

Tiffany Wong of Fox 8 reports a video of rats dashing around a French Quarter restaurant is getting a lot of attention online.

Pest control experts say it’s a common sight this time of year, and businesses can take preventative measures.

The Facebook video shows several rats scurrying over counter tops, a cutting board and plates after-hours in the eatery. Some seeing the video for the first time say it’s no big deal.

“I would take that with a pinch of salt. I mean, it is what it is. I wouldn’t worry about that. I would just go somewhere else, I’d walk by,” Sylvia Currie said.

“I mean, we live by the river. There’s river rats, and I’ve been to a restaurant that has like, you see a rat running back every now and then,” Stephen Medina said.

Others, however, say there’s no way they’d eat there.

“We’re spending our good hard-earned money and actually bringing our families here to eat, and that type of distraction I think would be a real big turn off to people,” John Haluska said.

The State Health Department said they would address the issue if they knew which restaurant it was. 

“Showing us the video of the rodents, yes, that can be shocking, that can be oh my goodness. It’s a shock value, but you’re not being helpful. You need to tell us where it is and then we can go in and do what we do,” said Tenney Sibley with the State Health Department. 

The department said it regularly inspects restaurants, depending on their risk factors.

“If we’re doing a regular, a routine inspection and we come across rodents or rodent droppings, or some kind of indications there are rodents, absolutely. That’s what we would call a critical violation,” Sibley said.

Patricia Talorico and Meredith Newman of Delaware Online report a video of rats scurrying among among hamburger buns at a Brandywine Hundred Burger King led to the eatery’s closure Friday and over the weekend “due to gross unsanitary conditions.” 

The video was posted at 7:53 p.m. May 31 by Wilmington resident Shantel Johnson on her Facebook page. It’s unclear how Johnson obtained the video at the store at 2802 Concord Pike. 

Her post said: “Don’t go to Burger King on 202 (rats are) running all over their buns … (at) Wilmington Delaware Concord Pike.”

The state Division of Public Health Office of Food Protection received a complaint on June 1 and video footage appeared to show rodents in bags of rolls at the Burger King at 2802 Concord Pike, according to Andrea Wojcik, spokeswoman for the Division of Public Health.

State health inspectors went to the restaurant at 11:45 a.m. June 1 to conduct a visual inspection of the premises and the complaint was founded, according to a report.

According to the inspection report, rodent droppings were found on and inside of the hamburger and chicken sandwich rolls. The plastic covering and the rolls themselves were chewed by the rodents. Wooden pallets that the rolls were stored on had droppings on them, the report said.  

Droppings also were found in the floor near the ice machine, the water heater, under dry storage, near syrup storage boxes and behind fryers, the report said.

Seven pallets of buns and rolls were discarded due to the contamination, the report said. The inspector noted that during her visit, chicken sandwich rolls were being used. They were then discarded. 

In addition to the rodent droppings, the restaurant’s ceiling was leaking in the kitchen near the storage and food line, the report said. Flies were coming from a drain close to where the rolls and buns are stored. 

Bullshit alert: VR kitchen to raise awareness of food poisoning

Me and Chapman and Hubbell, we always had this idea to have our own ice hockey arena, with a restaurant where we could evaluate all sorts of food safety ideas.

We would play hockey and do research, as you do.

It grew out of me and Chapman playing hockey at the University of Guelph (that’s in Canada) whenever we could, and led to the development of Chapman’s food safety infosheets, which were posted above urinals and on the backside of toilet doors at the bar bathrooms.

A group of British academics are promoting virtual reality (VR) as the way forward.

It may be hard to pee with VR googles on your head.

I went to the big computer graphics conferences in the early 1990s, where everyone was gaga about this Toronto start-up that did all the graphics for Terminator 2, I’ve had lunch with the founders of Pixar, and I’ve seen Jaron Lanier preach his VR gospel.

Almost 30 years later, the adoption is decidedly slow.

But not according to Nikholai Koolonavich of VR Focus, who writes that thanks to the advancements in technology, reduced development costs and wider adoption of the products, turning to VR to help train people and raise awareness of food poisoning is a logical decision.

The project is titled the The Corrupt Kitchen VR and is being made at the University of Nottingham by the Digital Research Team as a means to educate and train users on food hygiene and food poisoning. Dr Paul Tennent outlines The Corrupt Kitchen VR writing on the projects blog saying: “The Corrupt Kitchen VR is a game where players must balance the task of cooking meals as requests come in with adhering to health and safety rules: keeping themselves and the kitchen clean and free of infestation; ensuring the quality of their ingredients; and ensuring that their employees have all the correct paperwork. The more meals they produce, the more money the restaurant makes and the higher their score. Neglecting the other tasks will certainly make them more money, but there’s an associated risk.”

That’s enough PR fluffery.

I prefer to have my kids cook with me in the kitchen, and teach some basics.

A foodborne illness outbreak could cost a restaurant millions, study suggests

A single foodborne outbreak could cost a restaurant millions of dollars in lost revenue, fines, lawsuits, legal fees, insurance premium increases, inspection costs and staff retraining, a new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.

The findings, which will be published online on Apr. 16 in the journal Public Health Reports, are based on computer simulations that suggest a foodborne illness outbreak can have large, reverberating consequences regardless of the size of the restaurant and outbreak. According to the model, a fast food restaurant could incur anywhere from $4,000 for a single outbreak in which 5 people get sick (when there is no loss in revenue and no lawsuits, legal fees, or fines are incurred) to $1.9 million for a single outbreak in which 250 people get sick (when restaurants loose revenue and incur lawsuits, legal fees, and fines).

Americans eat out approximately five times per week, according to the National Restaurant Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year due to food-related illnesses, which are often referred to as food poisoning.

For the study, the researchers developed a computational simulation model to represent a single outbreak of a particular pathogen occurring at a restaurant. The model broke down results for four restaurant types: fast food, fast casual, casual and fine dining under various parameters (e.g., outbreak size, pathogen, and scenarios).

The model estimated costs of 15 foodborne pathogens that caused outbreaks in restaurants from 2010 – 2015 as reported by the CDC. Examples of the pathogens incorporated in the model were listeria, norovirus, hepatitis A, E. coli and salmonella. The model ran several different scenarios to determine the impact level ranging from smaller outbreaks that may incur few costs (i.e., no lawsuits and legal fees or fines) to larger outbreaks that incur a high amount of lawsuits and legal fees.

“Many restaurants may not realize how much even just a single foodborne illness outbreak can cost them and affect their bottom line,” says Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA, executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at the Bloomberg School. “Paying for and implementing proper infection control measures should be viewed as an investment to avoid these costs which can top a million dollars. Knowing these costs can help restaurants know how much to invest in such safety measures.”

The research team found that a single outbreak of listeria in fast food and casual style restaurants could cost upwards of $2.5 million in meals lost per illness, lawsuits, legal fees, fines and higher insurance premiums for a 250-person outbreak. When looking at the same circumstances for fine dining restaurants, $2.6 million in costs were incurred. The subsequent costs of outbreaks can be major setbacks for restaurants and are sometime irreversible. For example, Chi-Chi’s restaurant went bankrupt and closed their doors in the U.S. and Canada permanently due to a hepatitis A outbreak in 2003. In the past decade, several national restaurant chains have lost significant business due to food-illness outbreaks.

“Even a small outbreak involving five to 10 people can have large ramifications for a restaurant,” says Sarah M. Bartsch, research associate at the Global Obesity Prevention Center and lead author of the study. “Many prevention measures can be simple, like implement adequate food safety staff training for all restaurant employees and apply sufficient sick leave policies, and can potentially avoid substantial costs in the event of an outbreak.”

Get a stool sample it may improve your food safety knowledge in Vietnam

Consumption of fast food and street food is increasingly common among Vietnamese, particularly in large cities. The high daily demand for these convenient food services, together with a poor management system, has raised concerns about food hygiene and safety (FHS). This study aimed to examine the FHS knowledge and practices of food processors and sellers in food facilities in Hanoi, Vietnam, and to identify their associated factors.

A cross-sectional study was conducted with 1,760 food processors and sellers in restaurants, fast food stores, food stalls, and street vendors in Hanoi in 2015. We assessed each participant’s FHS knowledge using a self-report questionnaire and their FHS practices using a checklist. Tobit regression was used to determine potential factors associated with FHS knowledge and practices, including demographics, training experience, and frequency of health examination.

Overall, we observed a lack of FHS knowledge among respondents across three domains, including standard requirements for food facilities (18%), food processing procedures (29%), and food poisoning prevention (11%). Only 25.9 and 38.1% of participants used caps and masks, respectively, and 12.8% of food processors reported direct hand contact with food. After adjusting for socioeconomic characteristics, these factors significantly predicted increased FHS knowledge and practice scores: (i) working at restaurants and food stalls, (ii) having FHS training, (iii) having had a physical examination, and (iv) having taken a stool test within the last year.

These findings highlight the need of continuous training to improve FHS knowledge and practices among food processors and food sellers. Moreover, regular monitoring of food facilities, combined with medical examination of their staff, should be performed to ensure food safety.

Evaluating food safety knowledge and practices of food processors and seller working in food facilities in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 2018

Journal of Food Protection, vol 81, no 4

BACH XUAN TRAN,1,2 HOA THI DO,3 LUONG THANH NGUYEN,1 VICTORIA BOGGIANO,4 HUONG THI LE,1 XUAN THANH THI LE,1 NGOC BAO TRINH,1 KHANH NAM DO,1 CUONG TAT NGUYEN,5* THANH TRUNG NGUYEN,5 ANH KIM DANG,1 HUE THI MAI,1 LONG HOANG NGUYEN,6 SELENA THAN,5 and CARL A. LATKIN2

https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-17-161

Celebrity chefs suck: UK Masterchef winner’s Mexican restraint chain Wahaca loses almost £5 Million after outbreak of noro hit staff and customers forced nine branches to close

This Is Money reports Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca has plunged into a £4.7m loss, blaming a norovirus outbreak which forced it to close nine restaurants.

The chain, which was founded by 2005 MasterChef winner Thomasina Miers, said sinking into the red was partly due to one-off costs of £700,000, which sent profits down from £600,000 a year earlier. Around 160 customers and a quarter of Wahaca’s staff were taken ill in October 2016 after it was hit by an ‘unprecedented’ outbreak of Norovirus.  

In all 18 of the 25 restaurants were hit and 11 including Canary Wharf, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, Soho and White City, all in London, had to close. 

Wahaca co-founder Mark Selby later admitted it ‘changed the way they did business’.

He said July last year: ‘We’ve had to make some tough calls with our suppliers. We’ve had to say, we have to have absolute visibility or we can’t work with you.
At one stage we thought we were going to have to close every restaurant for four weeks,’ says Selby. ‘During that time sales plummeted 45 per cent, but if I’d had to close all sites, I don’t see how we would have survived.’ 

Selby got together with Thomasina Miers, the 2005 winner of the BBC’s MasterChef series, and together they opened the first Wahaca in Covent Garden in 2007.

Another worry for the chain is immigration post-Brexit. Only a quarter of Wahaca’s 1,200 staff are British. 

Selby said: ‘[We] opened in Chichester and found it really hard to find staff to work there, even in management.’  

Pest-infested, filthy eateries going years without inspections in Canberra

A pest-infested and filthy chicken shop is just one of several Canberra eateries found to pose a serious public health risk that have not been inspected in more than a year.

Meanwhile, stretched resources are causing inspectors to audit Canberra restaurants an average of every three years — sometimes as rarely as every five.

Clare Sibthorpe of ABC reports that documents obtained under freedom of information laws outlined a June 2016 inspection report of a chicken takeaway store, revealing pests inside raw ingredients, chicken festering in unsafe temperatures in the heated display, and the storeroom floor covered in exposed food and rubbish.

A build-up of dried meat, juice and scraps were found throughout the store, including on the preparation equipment.

The venue, which was previously investigated for a public food safety complaint, was forced to close while it fixed the critical food-handling and hygiene breaches.

It has not been inspected since re-opening in November 2016 and it is not an isolated case.

Seven of the 19 businesses handed prohibition orders for serious food safety breaches in the past three years have not been reinspected — four of these have closed since their orders were revoked and the remaining three are scheduled for their first check-up in 2018, two years after committing the breaches.

The ACT Government Health Protection Service’s (HPS) executive director, Conrad Barr, said the need to follow up on businesses with poor records depended on individual circumstances.

He said the chicken store was not followed up because it underwent a major refit and no customers had since complained.

As for random inspections, Mr Barr said the HPS aimed to “about every three years, get around to inspect a food business in the territory”.

The HPS’s compliance strategy, dated 2012, said high-risk businesses, including those with poor records, should be inspected annually, which is the same policy in several other parts of Australia.

But Mr Barr said even Canberra’s three-yearly inspection target was “not always achieved”.

“I’m certainly aware of it can be up to five years for [us to inspect] a business … if it is new,” he said.

“We have a small, dedicated pool and if people are unwell or on leave then that decreases the number of people we have to undertake inspections.

“Sometimes we have a lot of complaints that take us away from our programming.”

But he said he was confident the team could effectively respond to any critical issues.

Last year ACT Health received 377 complaints relating to the territory’s 3,126 registered food businesses — down 20 per cent on 2016, but up 45 per cent from 2015.

Lauren Kish will never fully recover from the salmonella poisoning she and her husband caught from a cronut at a Canberra cafe last year.

The infection, which landed Ms Kish in hospital for 10 days, reversed the effect of a critical stem-cell transplant that had halted the progress of her multiple sclerosis, bringing back symptoms such as severe fatigue and disability.

“To know it could have a detrimental effect on my long-term health was really scary,” she said.

“I don’t feel safe going out and venturing out and having a social life like we used to because I’m scared I’m going to get sick again … which my body just can’t afford.”

Public Health Association Australia chief executive Michael Moore called for more resources for the HPS to prevent food illness.

“People would like to know food businesses are inspected much more regularly, particularly if there is a cloud hanging over them,” Mr Moore said.

“Of course we would like to see more staff dedicated specifically to this area.

“While majority of restaurants do the right thing, we can’t be complacent because what will happen is there will be an outbreak.”

Mr Moore, a former ACT health minister and Canberra cafe owner, called for the reintroduction of a “scores on doors” program, where businesses publicly display hygiene ratings based on inspection results.

I didn’t even know the kid was in Ohio: Local man reports finding tooth in Captain D’s meal

A Newark, Ohio man’s complaint on social media of a tooth found in a Captain D’s chicken tenders meal has triggered investigations by the Licking County Health Department, the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture.

It has also resulted in the restaurant chain making a donation to Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio, at the request of Nick Bryner, the customer who discovered the tooth.

Bryner said he ordered the meal at the drive-through window at the Captain D’s restaurant, 1215 N. 21st St., in Newark, on Saturday and made the discovery while eating at work. He returned to the restaurant and showed them the tooth.

“I got a refund, and corporate is taking care of it,” Bryner told Kent Mallett of the Newark Advocate. “They said it’s probably the weirdest thing that’s ever happened. I’m satisfied with what they’re doing. They’re making a donation to Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio, in my name. They really helped me when our twins were born.

“I said I could take you guys to the cleaners if I wanted to, but I’m not that kind of guy.”

The Licking County Health Department inspected the Captain D’s restaurant, in Newark, on Monday, after learning of the complaint on social media.

The chicken tenders served at the local Captain D’s are made and frozen at another location, then shipped to the Newark restaurant, where they are deep-fried before serving, the health department reported.

Captain D’s corporate office released the following statement: “Our quality control procedures and food safety standards are our highest priority. We have been in contact with the guest and reassured them that this incident is atypical for Captain D’s and in particular for this Newark location that consistently exceeds our company’s food safety standards.

“As standard procedure with any consumer complaint, the health department has followed up with a visit to this restaurant and the store continues to remain within Captain D’s high safety standards.  We remain committed to providing our guests with the highest quality products and require all suppliers to undergo strict food safety certification. “

The health department contacted the Ohio Department of Agriculture to investigate the complaint at the wholesale level, or refer it to the Food and Drug Administration.

Ashley McDonald, spokeswoman for the ODA, said, “It is a supplier from out of state, so we will be forwarding it to the USDA.”

McDonald said the supplier is McLane, from Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The distributor shipped the food from 721 Taylor Road, in Frankfort, Kentucky.

(left, Sorenne, Friday after school)