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)

UK pub kitchen shut after 62 diners report vomiting and diarrhea: Somerset

A day after The Morning Advertiser in Somerset, U.K. said with a straight face that only a few local restaurants had received a zero rating from the U.K. Food Standards Authority, a local pub has closed after at least 62 diners reported vomiting and diarrhea.

The Old Farmhouse in Nailsea, north Somerset, which is operated by Hall & Woodhouse and did not, apparently, receive a zero, will keep its kitchen shut while investigations from North Somerset Council and Public Health England (PHE) continue.

 

PR before publication still a bad idea: Food safety on TV doesn’t go out of style

If you were deserted on a desert island, what would be the top 5 records/CDs/cassettes/8-tracks you would bring?

Stones, Beggar’s Banquet

Stones, Let it Bleed

Tragically Hip, Up to Here

Blue Rodeo, 5 Days in May

Old and in the Way

Just a suggestion.

I’m spit-balling here.

Repetition is the norm. Karl Popper had something to say about that.

In 2004, my laboratory reported (and by reported I mean published in a peer-reviewed journal) that, based on 60 hours of detailed viewing of television cooking shows, an unsafe food handling practice occurred about every four minutes, and that for every safe food handling practice observed, we observed 13 unsafe practices. The most common errors were inadequate hand washing and cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat foods.

Once the paper was published, it made headlines around the globe.

And then it started getting replicated. Texas, Europe, a few other places, and Massachusetts.

Now Germany.

BfR is presenting a research project on the topic of TV kitchen hygiene at International Green Week.

I’ve e-mail the folks at BfR who published this stuff and asked them whether it was peer-reviewed or not.

That was last week.

No answer.

Maybe something was lost in translation.

There were errors on average every 50 seconds, with the most common being dirty hands wiped on a tea towel and chopping boards being reused without first being cleaned.

They then tested two groups of participants making chicken salad with home-made mayonnaise based on a cooking video – one of which showed a chef who followed recommendations and another which showed a cook with poor hygiene. 

Those shown the video with the exemplary kitchen hygiene complied with the recommended measures more frequently when cooking the dish by themselves.

Prof Hensel added: “The results show that the kitchen hygiene presented in cooking shows may have an influence on the hygiene behaviour of the viewers.

“TV cooking shows can therefore take on a role model function by sharpening awareness of kitchen hygiene instead of neglecting it.”

Keep on spit-balling.

Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.

Les Bubbles kitchen in Brisbane ça craint

A customer dobbed (that’s Australian for, to inform against someone) a popular Brisbane restaurant Les Bubbles to food safety authorities after a rat scurried past her during the dinner rush, a court has been told.

Melanie Petrinec of the Courier Mail reports embattled restaurateur Damian Griffiths was today fined $3000 and company Limes Properties Pty Ltd was fined $30,000 after pleading guilty to breaches of food standards.

Griffiths was overseas when the case was mentioned in the Brisbane Magistrates Court last week, and did not appear in person.

Instead, his lawyer made submissions in writing to the court to say Griffiths was “simply unaware of what was going on” at his former restaurant when the rat was discovered in October, 2016.

Les Bubbles is now under new management and a spokesperson says all checks and pest inspections were now up to date.

Brisbane City Council prosecutor Andrea Lopez said it was irrelevant if he was aware or not, and revealed it was a customer who raised the alarm with authorities.

“A live rodent during a busy dinner rush has actually run across the room in the restaurant,” she said.

“The rodent has been quite comfortable in the food business.”

Subsequently, food safety inspectors claimed to find dirty equipment and rodent droppings in multiple areas including under the kitchen bench, under a downstairs bar and near the dishwashing area.

Ms Lopez said the rat droppings indicated “quite a large presence of rodent activity”.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Brisbane chef Matt Moran’s swanky restaurant is shut down

One of the best features of Brisbane is the river – except when it floods – and many a chef has set up digs along its shores.

I’d never heard of Matt Moran but am told he made his name with a restaurant at (or around) the Sydney Opera House.

But it’s still an old tale, as health inspectors swooped in on Moran’s Riverbar & Kitchen earlier this week and ordered closed.

According to a spokesthingy, the Eagle Street Pier eatery was shut “due to some issues with its food business licence.’

“A recent council inspection found some deficiencies in our food handling processes which are being addressed as a matter of urgency. …

“It is important to appreciate that there have been no identified adverse consequences for any patrons. This is simply a situation where we should have done better.”

Some call it, prevention.

‘No effluent on streets for several days’ 34 sick in Barbados gastro outbreak blamed on foodborne disease at business

The Jamaica Observer reports the Ministry of Health said it had conducted an epidemiological investigation into “a localised, food-borne disease outbreak at a specific food business” and that it was continuing to focus its resources on the south coast as it sought to contain any threat to public health as a result of the sewage spills in the area.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health reported that no new cases of gastroenteritis had been reported since January 3 this year, and that following the epidemiological investigation, 34 cases met the criteria for the gastroenteritis outbreak investigation.

“No other clusters of similar illness were reported from elsewhere in the area of the sewage spill. No organisms were identified through laboratory testing. Therefore, the outbreak has not been linked to any particular food or beverage, or the sewage spill,” the statement noted.

The authorities say they have been dealing with the sewage spill that has severely affected the island’s south coast and restaurants and other food outlets impacted by the more than year-long sewage crisis are being told they should not feel pressured to shut down, as the temporary fixes implemented by the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) seem to be holding for the time being.