Arrests over alleged food poisoning scam in NZ

At least five New Zealand cafes have fallen victim to a food poisoning ruse in which an “overweight” woman told the owners she had suffered food poisoning after eating at their premises.

In many cases the woman, who claimed she was pregnant, was given a refund.

Thames Senior Sergeant Graham Shields said Whitianga police arrested two people on Saturday after a cafe reported a woman trying to get money by saying she had become ill after eating there.

“It just so happened that one of the staff had read about the scam in the paper and when this woman came in complaining of food poisoning the staff member went straight to police, Mr Shields told the Times.

A 26-year-old Auckland woman will appear in Thames District Court this week charged with fraud while a 30-year-old Auckland man will also appear charged with assisting her.

Working with animals at petting zoo and then working in café in same clothes is bad idea

The owners of a U.K. petting zoo accused of animal welfare offences and bad food safety have withdrawn their application for a zoo licence.

Northern Echo reports that Tweddle Children’s Animal Farm, in Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, has also removed some of its more exotic animals.

Earlier this year, the council’s environmental health officers and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs visited the farm following an undercover investigation by the Captive Animals Protection Society. The charity said it had found traces of E coli and dead animals decomposing near a children’s play area.

It also said the bodies of dead animals, including a meerkat and tortoise, had been stored in a freezer on top of food for animals, while staff working with animals were working in the cafe wearing the same clothes.

Tweedle also did not have the required licence for a zoo.

The council said no traces of E coli were reported but head teachers who may have been planning school visits were warned about its investigation.
 

UK cafe owner fined for food safety offence

The owner of the Rock and Rolls Cafe, Chapel St Leonards, U.K., was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £400 after his cafe failed a food hygiene inspection in August 2009.

Breaches of food safety offences included failing to control flies and keep work surfaces clean.

In a refreshing restatement of why inspections take place, Coun Sandra Harrison, portfolio holder for health at East Lindsey District Council, said,

"It is important that food business owners remember that their reputation is on the line and they could receive a hefty fine if they are found to be breaching food safety standards. In this case we have seen significant improvements but these types of incidents should never occur. When we do detect food safety issues we will always take action because it is putting the health of our community at risk."
 

Safest restaurant in the city of Harrisburg (PA)?

It might look good today, but by cleaning up is the Aramark-managed Capitol cafeteria the “safest restaurant in the city of Harrisburg”?

PennLive.com reports that after being closed by Pennsylvania officials on December 17th following an inspection that revealed rodent droppings, underheated dishwashing water and poor food handling procedures, Capitol is trying to clean up their image. Bruce Walton, vice president for operations of Aramark was cited as saying that prior to the closing, more than 1,500 customers ate at the Capitol cafeteria on busy weekdays and that rebuilding that steady clientele will take time.

After a thorough clean-up, a new pest control program with Ecolab and contracting with a company to provide surprise audits, Aramark district manager Andre Obendorfer was quoted as saying “This is the safest restaurant to eat in in the city of Harrisburg.”

Ah, the safest food/safest restaurant comment; impossible to back-up with evidence and leaves everyone who eats there with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Walton, by not disclosing any firings or discipline, downplayed what might be the most important change — personnel. He was quoted as saying that they “did make changes in our team.” Rodent control and a cold dishwasher can lead to public health issues, but other violations found on December 17th including indirect cross-contamination (handling potentially contaminated equipment and then going to clean equipment, possibly leaving pathogens for the next person) and not having paper towels, demonstrate a lack of a food safety culture. A personnel and management issue.

Food safety culture is a set of values wherein food safety risks are openly identified, discussed, and addressed. What this means is that anyone who works there — from manager to dishwasher — knows that paper towels can reduce risks so they refill the dispenser. Food safety is supported from the organization but it’s the front-line folks who hold the health of patrons in their hands. An organization like Aramark needs to be building the food safety culture capacity behind the scenes, not just touting how clean everything looks now.

To assure patrons of their commitment to food safety, the article reports that Aramark will have staff on site to answer questions, use guest chefs and in the most bizarre step, revamp cafeteria stations such as turning the pizza station into an “Italian zone.” I guess visitors to the Capitol Complex have the perception that Italian food is safer than pizza?

Caf?? Rotavirus – a barf poem by John Estes

There’s an upside to getting written up in Slate magazine, as barfblog.com did last week, and it’s that a new audience can be reached.

Like the barf poetry crowd.

John Estes, who teaches at the University of Missouri, wrote me this morning to say he discovered barfblog.com through the Slate article, and that,

“Since you have no barf poetry (it’s a niche genre) I wanted to offer my poem, ‘Cafe Rotavirus.’"

So here it is (and that’s John’s son, Jonah, with their dog, Sophie, right)..

Cafe Rotavirus

Last time we all
ate here, a Sunday, after
the baby played with
—chewed on—
their toys: six
days and nights
of puke and diarrhea.
This stuff kills
starving kids in Africa,
underdeveloped as
electrolyte industries
are there.

But I cannot stop
returning and returning.
What pathogenesis
makes me weak
for, so consoled by,
this biscuits and gravy—
though I cannot
stop imagining
trillions of rotifer-driven
microbes racing
around this apparent
locus amoenus
like, but not like,
animated soap
bubbles scrubbing up
bathtub scum?

To believe in history,
now that fixed
stars are not so fixed,
might be to believe
each instant struggles—
fatally, hopefully—
to loose itself from
some unoriginate whole.
But, and this makes
instinctual sense
so long as instinct is
nothing but undigested
experience, it may also,
or maybe instead,
be the collective orgy
clearing its gorge,
suffusing each instant
with the particles
of every other
but in tastier order,
because nothing is real
until it means
and nothing means
until it returns,
returns like a dog returns,
as it will with verve,
to a baby’s vomit.

John Estes teaches at the University of Missouri and lives in Columbia. Recent poems have appeared (or will) in West Branch, Southern Review, New Orleans Review, Tin House, and other places. He is author of Kingdom Come (C&R Press, forthcoming) and two chapbooks: Breakfast with Blake at the Laocoön (Finishing Line Press, 2007) and Swerve (Poetry Society of America, 2009) which won a National Chapbook Fellowship.  See his website for more poems and prose.

Fatz Caf?: continuous training and reinforcement to establish a culture of food safety

Chain Leader magazine reports that new kitchen employees at Fatz Café in South Carolina take a food-safety pre-test and must receive an 80 percent or higher before they can begin training. Workers take another practice quiz, then a final food-safety test. The company also promotes quarterly initiatives on food-safety topics that are discussed at the monthly operator-partner meetings. Handouts and new training tools are sent via mail and e-mail, and presented during pre-shift meetings.

Director of Training Sara Anderson said,

"We were already doing ServSafe [the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s food-safety training program] with our management, but we wanted to make sure that it was truly getting down to the front lines. …

"We really had to start marketing to them to get the buy-in on the importance of it. These habits take time to form. Educating people on why it’s so important has really helped make it happen and make it become real-life practices. We just keep adding more and more aspects of it. It’s become a part of our culture more than it ever was. … We’re sticking to basics and constantly talking about it."

Food safety information must be rapid, reliable, relevant and repeated. And to really create a culture that values microbiologically safe food, start marketing such efforts.

Food science cafe

We had our first, monthly, Food Science Café, last night, and while numbers were small, I still believe that, if you build it, they will come.

As long as it’s useful.

Adrianna Deweese of the Kansas State Collegian wrote that Douglas Powell, scientific director of the International Food Safety Network at K-State, said the purpose of the monthly discussions is to talk about food safety and science in a different setting than a classroom.

Powell showed his meat thermometer to those in attendance, and said it is important to get a digital, instant-read, tip-sensitive meat thermometer, which costs about $12.

"Lots of people use it for whole birds or roasts, but I think it’s more important actually for the burgers and the ground beef," Powell said. "Ten years ago I would have never used one, but now I feel naked when I don’t – I feel vulnerable."

When he is asked at a restaurant how he would like his hamburger cooked, Powell said he responds he would like it "160," meaning he would like it cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Food color often is a poor indicator of when it is properly cooked, Powell said. K-State food-safety research has found about 25 percent of tested hamburgers turned brown before they reached a safe temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.

"We’re always just trying to find one way to put information out and take information in," he said. "We’re just always trying to find new ways to get it out there so we have fewer sick people."

The network also has several blogs at www.donteatpoop.k-state.edu and
barfblog.foodsafety.ksu.edu. Powell also wore a T-shirt Monday night that said "ne mangez pas de caca," which is French for "Don’t eat poop."

"It’s had more effect than anything else," Powell said of the message.

Angela Dodd, senior in food science, was quoted as saying Food Science Café discussions are

"a great way for students to become aware of what’s going on in the media about food safety. Food pertains to everybody, and it’s a part of everybody’s life."

I didn’t really like the long table set-up. Next month, we’re probably going to do it in the on-campus bowling alley. Only place to get a beer at K-State.

The Safe Food Caf?

President Jon Wefald likes to remind me that Kansas State University will not be getting a hockey arena any time soon. I even gave him one of our collectors T-shirts (left, exactly as shown) and he said, no way.

Which is too bad cause one of our ideas to help finance the arena was the Safe Food Café, a restaurant and observational food service kitchen where we could videotape the food safety behaviors of employees and customers, and experiment with interventions.

Apparently the Dutch were listening in, and have come up with their own variation.

The Associated Press reported that a new research centre — dubbed the "restaurant of the future" — at the Dutch university of Wageningen will track diners with dozens of unobtrusive cameras and monitoring their eating habits.

Rene Koster, head of the Center for Innovative Consumer Studies, said,

"We want to find out what influences people: colors, taste, personnel. We try to focus on one stimulus, like light," as overhead bulbs switched through green, red, orange and blue. This restaurant is a playground of possibilities. We can ask the staff to be less friendly and visible or the reverse. The changes must be small. If you were making changes every day it would be too disruptive. People wouldn’t like it."

University staff who want to eat at the new restaurant have to sign a consent form agreeing to be watched.

The new research centre — which cost almost 3 million euros ($4.26 million) — was set up in partnership with French catering group Sodexho Alliance and other companies interested in using the restaurant to test their products.