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.

Australia still sucks at going public: Salmonella outbreak sickened 100 in March, shows up in annual report yesterday

In early March, 2017, more than 100 people reported becoming sick after dining at Ricardo’s Cafe in Canberra.

The outbreak was briefly noted in media accounts – only because so many people took to facebook – and then disappeared from public discussion.

Until yesterday.

According to ACT Health’s annual report there was a “disturbing” salmonella outbreak linked to Ricardo’s Cafe earlier this year.

Daniella White of The Age reports Ricardo’s was listed in the ACT Health report. 

None of the food outlets have faced prosecution, but ACT Health said it would provide reports on all three cases to the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions.

The biggest outbreak was associated with where 100 people reported suffering from gastroenteritis with 75 confirmed cases of Salmonella.

Of the confirmed cases 19 people were hospitalised, ACT Health said.

A second outbreak of Salmonella was also investigated about the same time with four confirmed salmonella infections from people who reported eating at Central Cafe in Gungahlin between January 30 and February 2.

Both cafes were found to have flaws in their food handling processes and procedures and forced to temporarily close.

Ricardo’s Cafe’s owner previously stated salmonella had been found on a dish cloth and tea towel in the cafe.

ACT Health said both cafes have been inspected since the outbreaks and found to be compliant.

A third Salmonella outbreak investigation was conducted in February and March, with 11 cases where people ate at the same restaurant over a five week period.

Several inspections of the premises did not identify any issues and the source of that outbreak remains unknown, ACT Health said.

It declined to identify the food outlet given it was found to be compliant and could not be held responsible for the outbreak.

An ACT Health spokesman said any foodborne outbreak was taken seriously by the Health Protection Service.

Associate professor Martyn Kirk, from ANU’s College of Health and Medicine said the food service industry had a responsibility to make sure it handled food safely and avoided high risk foods, such as raw eggs and improperly cured foods.

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

Mar.17

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public. Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions. Information provision on its own is not enough. Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.

$19K fine for dirty restaurant in Canberra

Canberra, the former sheep farm that is now the capital of Australia, has fined a restaurant owner $19,000 after he admitted he had neglected the shop and not cleaned it for about a month.

Alexandra Back of The Canberra Times reports the Hawker business was inspected in May last year when authorities found evidence of food build-up and debris around the food preparation areas.

They also found live and dead cockroaches and uncovered food stored on the floor. The equipment used to transport pie meat was unclean and on one container a plastic bag was being used as a lid.

Prosecutors said the level of uncleanliness was “disturbing”.

The 54-year-old owner, Vinh Quoc Vinh, pleaded guilty to five food safety offences relating to storage, hand washing facilities, maintenance, cleanliness and pests.

The offences happened more than a year ago and the Oriental Hot Bake shop has been compliant since. There was evidence pest controllers had been called to the shop every couple of months.

The ACT Magistrates Court heard the owner usually cleaned the shop once a week. But in what his lawyer described as “exceptional” circumstances the shop had been neglected because a member of his family was very ill.

He had been running the business for 12 years.

 

Never there: No comment as Salmonella outbreaks close two Canberra cafes and no word in Brisbane

There’s an outbreak of Salmonella in Canberra (that’s Australia’s capital, on a swamp, like Washington, DC), and there’s an outbreak in Brisbane.

They are not related, other than no one will say something in public.

The whole idea of risk communication is to let people know when there is a problem, what they can do to avoid the problem, and stop making things worse by refusing to ID the source or the food implicated.

It’s OK, social media will fix that for the bureaucrats, but why spend taxpayer money on agencies that won’t tell the public shit?

I called Queensland Health a week ago, to ask them about the Chinese New Year Salmonella outbreak in Brisbane, and the media thingy said, e-mail your question, which I did, and still, no answer.

Government-types are never there.

Which is why I always tell private sector types to expect nothing from the government.

If there’s an outbreak, the government types will still have their job and super: you won’t.

According to ABC News two weeks ago – and there’s been nothing public since — an outbreak of salmonella has forced two popular Canberra cafes to close their doors while they are investigated by health inspectors.

The ACT Government Health Protection Services (HPS) has served prohibition orders on the two cafes linked to the outbreak, located in Belconnen and Gungahlin.

The cafes are Ricardo’s in Jamison and the Central Cafe in Gungahlin.

In a statement, HPS said health inspectors had uncovered problems “related with food handling processes and procedures” at both stores.

“The cafes will be closed until such time as the identified issues have been rectified,” the statement said.

“This action means that there is no ongoing risk to the health of the ACT population from these events”.

The health directorate refused to comment on how many people had been affected by the outbreak while the investigation was in process.

Though there were a number of posts on social media from those claiming to have eaten at Ricardo’s before falling ill.

“I know someone who was in hospital last week, for four days, with a truly awesome bout of salmonella after eating there,” one person wrote on Facebook.

“My partner and I are both in hospital,” wrote another.

“Bought cake from there Monday last week, was shivering in bed with fever and food poisoning with girlfriend until Friday, she’s fine I’m still not over it,” a user said on Reddit.

“Ugh ate there Wednesday last week. Friday, got sick/gastro for 5 days. Guess I have an idea where it came from now…”

From the Ministry of Doublespeak: Canberra eateries score worst hygiene result after government ditches food ratings

More Canberra eateries than ever failed hygiene checks in the same year the ACT government ditched its proposal for “scores on doors” restaurant safety ratings.

doublespeakMarkus Mannheim of The Canberra Times writes that in the past year, three in every 10 inspections found failures to comply with public health laws, twice as many as the government’s target maximum failure rate.

The result – the worst the Health Directorate has reported – included inspections of other types of premises, such as pharmacies, but the government said most failures related to unsafe food practices.

It was the fifth consecutive year in which inspection pass rates fell well below the official target of 85 per cent.

However, industry group Restaurants and Catering Australia says the result shows that inspections are now tougher, not that hygiene practices are worse.

Its chief executive, John Hart, said the ACT’s worst food-poisoning cases had involved raw-egg products, such as mayonnaise, which inspections would not have prevented.

It would have prevented them if inspectors told restaurants, don’t be a dumb-ass and use raw eggs in a dish meant for many.

But that would have raised the ire of industry.

Government is no better, with Assistant Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris’s spokeswoman saying some failures were for “smaller things, like a battery not in a thermometer.”

It’s not a useful f*cking thermometer without a battery, but that would depend on someone actually using the thermometer, which the vast majority of Australians don’t.

The government pledged five years ago to crack down on unhygienic restaurants in the wake of Canberra Times reports on laws that prevented dirty eateries from being identified.

However, few changes have been introduced since, other than new requirements for staff training and a register of convictions for the most serious food-safety breaches.

The register lists very few breaches and only identifies the businesses years after an offence, often after the eatery closes or has new owners.

The now-closed Copa Brazilian restaurant in Dickson, for example, where a salmonella outbreak poisoned more than 160 people three years ago, was never listed on the register, as the matter remains before court.

By contrast, several jurisdictions internationally, including British councils, publish all health inspection reports.

However, industry groups – such as the hotels association, ClubsACT and the food and grocery council – opposed the policy and the government abandoned the idea last year. Labor and the Greens had voiced support for the scheme before the 2012 election, while the Liberals had questioned the need for it.

jake_gyllenhaal_rest_inspection_disclosure(6)
Mr Hart, of Restaurants and Catering Australia, said the past year’s poor compliance result was simply the result of tougher inspections following high-profile salmonella outbreaks in recent years, such as at The Copa.

“They’re certainly going to much greater lengths to determine compliance. And I think this [latest result] reflects not a decrease in the standards of food safety but an increase in the penetration of the assessment,” he said.

“So we’re in fact not getting worse; we’re just seeing more technical breaches being considered a non-compliance.”

Restaurant owners in Canberra, your trade organization and governments are failing you, yet they’ll still have jobs if your business is hit with foodborne illness. The best always have, and always will, go beyond the minimal standards of government to inspire confidence, so that consumers might spend money in your shop. Take matters into your own (washed) hands rather than bear witness to the rise of idiocracy.

27 now sick linked to Australian Enlighten night noodle market

At least 27 people have reported to ACT Health after developing food poisoning possibly linked to a stall at the night noodle markets.

Enlighten Night Noodle MarketsOn March 11, ACT Health notified the public of “several” cases of  gastroenteritis connected to a Canberra-based premises serving food at the market.

The people had reported becoming ill with diarrhea approximately 10 to 13 hours after eating food from the stall,  ACT Health said.

One Canberra woman who got sick said she went to the markets three times. The day after the third visit, she became sick with a “very painful” stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhoea.

She said she was “100 per cent” sure of the source of her illness, as she was the only one from her family to eat the dish from that stall.

At the time of the outbreak, the  ACT Health Protection Service said it was confident there was no ongoing risk to public health from food sold at the stall, and the outbreak had been controlled.

The government would not confirm which Canberra restaurant or which dish was linked to the outbreak of food poisoning.

“ACT Health is not able to release details of food businesses that are subject to enforcement action or ongoing investigation as it could unreasonably affect the business affairs of registered proprietors, or unduly influence or impair future legal proceedings,” the spokeswoman said.

Or prevent other people from getting sick.

Food poisoning linked to noodle stall at Canberra market

The Canberra Times reports several cases of food poisoning have been possibly linked to a stall at the Enlighten Night Noodle Markets, ACT Health says.

Enlighten Night Noodle MarketsThe market-goers became ill with diarrhea about 10 to 13 hours after eating food from a stall at the festival, but ACT Health Protection Service was confident there was no ongoing risk to public health from food sold at the stall as the outbreak has been controlled.

Environmental Health Officers inspected the premises that supplied food for the stall on Friday and found potentially hazardous food out of temperature control which was disposed of.

The stall will not be able to sell the implicated food for the remainder of the markets.

Fairfax Events’ head of food James Laing said organisers had notified ACT Health after they were contacted by three people who said they’d become ill after eating at one of the stalls.

“[Inspectors] went to the restaurant of the stallholder, had a look and checked the refrigeration on site and there were no concerns, but to be ultra cautious they took the product and destroyed it and did some tests,” he said.

“We take the issue of food safety incredibly seriously and work closely with the relevant health authorities to ensure that patrons can come to the markets confident that the highest standards are being adhered to.”

Mr Laing said it would remain unclear if the food poisoning was caused by the stall until the test results come back next Tuesday, adding, “The menu item in question we removed tonight, the stall is still trading, but they’ve got a clean bill of health.”

All stalls at the markets were inspected on Friday.

Canberra gets a lot of gastro

For a nation’s capital – Canberra, that’s in Australia – with all those public servants preaching handwashing and sanitation, they get a lot of gastro.

CT Health has warned of the potential danger of gastroenteritis after a North Canberra childcare centre has been hit with the virus.

handwashing.sep.12Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly said a handful of staff and children had been infected since he was first notified last Thursday.

It was the first outbreak of 2016 to involve ACT Health.

A Canberra woman was one of 150 people who fell ill on a musical cruise in October featuring Australian and international stars and Opera Australia performers.

Six months earlier, a Canberra nursing home was in lockdown after the diagnosis of gastroenteritis in a number of residents, leading to restricted access for family to visit residents.

Fifty-three students caught the virus after an ANU end of year celebration at Burgmann College in 2014.

‘Moral aversion to killing cockroaches’ not good enough for Australian restaurant

The Canberra Times reports that four restaurants were shut down in the Australian Capital Territory in 2015 for posing an immediate public health risk.

kingsland-vegetarianIt’s a dramatically lower number than 2014, when more than a dozen restaurants were shut down by health authorities after being hit with prohibition orders.

With the Health Protection Service performing a similar number of inspections each year, the directorate attributes the discrepancy to “better working relationships between restaurant owners and food regulators.”

ACT Health’s “name and shame” list shows that since 2011, 14 restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets in the ACT have been hit with fines totalling more than $86,000 for breaches of food safety standards.

In 2015, seven restaurants were added to the list when they were successfully prosecuted and fined for breaching the food standards code, ACT Health said.

That number does not correspond with the number of restaurants shut down, because it can be anywhere between one and three years before breaches discovered at inspection are finalised in court.

Among the eateries taken to court and fined for food safety breaches in 2015 were a vegetarian restaurant, sushi shop and a Thai restaurant, all for allowing cockroaches into food preparation areas.

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant was fined $16,000 in February for eight food safety breaches, two years after inspectors discovered the live and dead cockroaches in the kitchen of the northside eatery.

The owner said he had a moral aversion to killing cockroaches but later brought in a pest control team on a regular basis and had appointed a food safety supervisor.

A Woden sushi shop owner was also fined for safety breaches that put customers at risk, including cockroaches in the food preparation area and keeping the display cabinet too warm.

The proprietor of Lao Thai Kitchen in Holt before it closed allowed cockroaches to breed and die inside food tubs, on floors, walls and benches had to pay thousands of dollars in fines.

The restaurant

Out of 2929 registered food businesses, ACT Health inspected 2368 and issued 388 improvement notices, for June 2014-15.

That’s compared with 2851 registered food businesses between 2014-15 with 2171 inspections performed and 357 improvement notices issued.

Sushi can suck: Aussie shop found with cockroaches, temperature, cleanliness problems

A Woden sushi shop is facing hefty fines after health authorities uncovered a cockroach infestation, a dishwasher that was repeatedly recycling dirty water and an overheated display cabinet. 

sushiFood safety inspectors first raided the now-closed Sizzle Bento store in Woden Plaza in May 2011, finding a host of breaches that potentially put customers at risk. 

Cockroaches were seen in the food preparation area and gaps in the walls, ceilings and floors were said to be allowing the insects to crawl into the room.

The sushi display cabinet was being kept at warm temperatures of about 10 degrees, instead of the recommended five degrees or less, court documents said.

The kitchen and food preparation area was dirty and grease was building up on the ceiling, sprinklers, the fridge, and on floors.

Rice and other food was not being stored properly and the shop was warned not to store items in shopping bags, ice cream containers or plastic bins. 

A second inspection was conducted in September 9, 2011, and cleanliness and food storage problems were again detected.

The business had to be shut down temporarily due to drainage problems with the dishwasher, which prosecutors say were causing dirty water to be recycled through the machine, leaving dishes dirty and unsafe.

It was allowed to resume trading five days later.