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.


Australia state urges consumers to report dodgy festive food; notify local councils

 It’s the festive season in Australia, with Big Day Out rolling across the country, and at least one state government is stressing, if you suspect food poisoning, report it.

"Food complaints can provide important information about risks in particular food businesses or food products so it is vital that bad food experiences are reported to prevent sickness from spreading,” said New South Wales (that’s the state where Sydney is) Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson

"NSW consumers have every right to expect that the food they eat is safe and while the vast majority of food businesses do the right thing, people should know that they have a right to complain about threats to their food safety,"

"If you bought food over the Christmas holidays that was unsafe to consume, or you believe made you or a family member unwell, please contact the NSW Food Authority’s helpline.

"Complaints about cafe and restaurant meals can be made directly to your local council which is responsible for inspecting retail food service businesses in their area."

Ms Hodgkinson said on average the NSW Food Authority receives more than 2,000 reports of foodborne illnesses each year. Of those, around a third are investigated further by the Authority. Others are referred to local councils for investigation under the Food Regulation Partnership.

Complaints about food can be about possible contamination of food, food poisoning, illegal sales or serving of food, incorrect or unhygienic food handling, storage, transport and preparation, misleading or incomplete labelling, spoiling of packaged or fresh food and unsuitable or unsafe ingredients.

Sardi’s whining about cheese pots and health types mind-boggling; clean up that kitchen

Sardi’s, serve all the communal cheese you like in your bars to fatten up New York City’s Theater District.

Just don’t leave it out longer than four hours.

The N.Y. Times reported last week that Sardi’s had stopped serving communal snacks because of the health department and interviewed outraged theater-goers, arm-chair epidemiologists, and V. Max Klimavicius, the president of Sardi’s, who said,

“It has to do with the health department. It’s gotten to the point that the way they’re applying the health code is so rigid, we can no longer have what we always had. … It’s just mind-boggling. Nobody’s happy.”

Amanda Kludt of Eater decided to check the accuracy of the Times story and found it lacking.

Representatives at the Dept. of Health would like the bar-going public to know that the cheese played no role in their inspection nor did they order the bar to make any changes to their snack program. In fact, they write that "Cheese, including communal servings, is allowed to be served at room temperature as long as it is not kept out beyond four hours, per the Health Code."

Let the record show these are the actual Sardi’s violations:

1. Spaghetti and cheese ravioli not held to temperature (at or below 41 degrees F)
2. Bare hand assembly of ready-to-eat food (salad).
3. Contaminated ice.
4. Dry food stored improperly (pasta not stored in proper container)
5. Improper storage of food tongs (touching floor when oven door opens)
7. Improper ice handling.

FDA seizes elderberry juice concentrate at Kansas company

Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries.

At the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S Marshals seized elderberry juice products that have been distributed by Wyldewood Cellars Inc., based in Peck, Kan., because the products are unapproved and misbranded drugs.

According to the FDA’s complaint, Wyldewood Cellars makes claims in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) that its elderberry juice concentrate cures, treats, or prevents various disease conditions, including AIDS, diabetes and flu. The complaint was filed on May 27, 2011, in the U.S. District Court of Kansas.

“Products with unapproved disease claims are dangerous because they may cause consumers to delay or avoid legitimate treatments,” said Dara A. Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The FDA is committed to protecting consumers from unapproved products on the market. We will continue to take actions against companies that do not meet federal standards for safety, effectiveness and quality.”

Dirty egg-sucking dog: illegal eggs flood Toronto

Tens of thousands of illegal eggs — some covered in fecal matter and feathers — have emerged in a crackdown on Toronto-area food retailers and wholesalers, prompting public health concerns and pending charges against nine companies so far.

Rob Cribb of the Toronto Star revisits the food beat to report that at least six food establishments have charges pending:

• Sharable Bakery, 240 Alton Towers Circle.
• Greystone Bakery, 6 Greystone Walk Dr.
• Farm Fresh Supermarket, 4466 Sheppard Ave. E.
• Casa Imperial Fine Chinese Cuisine, 4125 Steeles Ave E.
• ABC Bakery, 3618 Victoria Park Ave.
• Besmeats Wholesale Ltd., a food distributor at 110 Bynamic Dr.

“The person who gave me eggs did not write ‘ungraded eggs’ on the box. We are innocent,” said Besmeats manager Jesslyn Tio.

“It’s not easy to get egg dealers in town. Those people just knocked on my door. I don’t know them. I don’t want ungraded eggs to be on the market. I eat the eggs too.”

Tio said she can now see a clear difference between inspected eggs and what she’s been supplying her clients, mainly bakeries.

Inspectors believe at least some of the eggs came from a distribution warehouse in Scarborough under investigation.

The unnamed facility was filled with more than 100,000 ungraded eggs when inspectors visited last Friday, said Toronto Public Health food safety manager Jim Chan. They were seized and destroyed, he said.

“Some of the eggs still have fecal matter on the egg shells, quite a bit of dirt and even feathers inside the boxes which are all indications of ungraded eggs,” said Chan.

“We brought CFIA (the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) in and they confirmed they were ungraded eggs.”

All eggs sold beyond farm gates in Ontario must be graded at federally licensed facilities. The process is designed to ensure eggs are properly washed and free of hairline cracks — often invisible to the eye — that open up the potential for salmonella and other pathogens to enter.

Rodger Dunlop, manager of regulatory compliance with the provincial agriculture ministry, would offer no comment on the investigation, saying only that it is ongoing.

Way to be forthcoming, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

B.C. health officials have traced an outbreak of about 650 salmonella cases over the past three years — a 300 per cent increase since 2007 — to egg consumption including ungraded eggs.

Statistics Canada figures show about 380,000 dozen eggs produced in Ontario each month are “leakers and rejects.” But the agency does not track how many eggs unfit for human consumption end up in the underground marketplace.

Those facing charges this week would say little about their eggs.

People need to poop, but if by yogurt, prove it

That Jamie Lee Curtis yogurt that makes people poop has been hit with hefty fines for nonsense health claims.

USA Today reports the Dannon Company will pay a $21 million fine and stop making exaggerated health claims for two very popular Dannon products under an agreement with the federal government and attorneys general from 39 states.

Dannon will stop claiming that one daily serving of Activia yogurt relieves irregularity and that its DanActive dairy drink helps people avoid catching colds or flu, the Federal Trade Commission announced on Wednesday.

The FTC charged that Dannon’s ads were deceptive because it did not have substantiation for its claims. The commission also charged that Dannon’s claims that Activia and DanActive were clinically proven were false.

In one TV spot for Activia, actress Jamie Lee Curtis reassures viewers that eating Activia can help people who suffer from irregularity.

Politics of the office sustainability committee

I won’t get asked to serve on the sustainability committee.

I got tired of talking about organics, local, genetic engineering and sustainability a long time ago.

There’s good farmers and bad farmers, whatever system they’re using, and I’m more interested in making sure people don’t barf, whatever kind of food they choose.

There are endless scientific reports about which system is better, but they don’t say much. A new report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organically grown onions, carrots, and potatoes generally do not have higher levels of healthful antioxidants and related substances than vegetables grown with traditional fertilizers and pesticides.

In the study, Pia Knuthsen and colleagues point the health benefits of organic food consumption are still controversial and not considered scientifically well documented.

Diamond China in Las Vegas closed by health types

KNTV 13 Action News in Las Vegas continues its weekly dirty dining segment, this time focusing on Diamond China on Sahara near Valley View, which received 57 demerits in a recent inspection, and was closed by the Southern Nevada Health District.

Pictures taken by the Health District show raw meat thawing next to scallops and mixing juices. Beef was also found thawing with fish. Raw duck was found hanging next to and touching what inspectors call a dirty shelf.
Inspectors say a worker prepared chicken and never washed his hands before moving on to cut some fish. Dirty dishes filled the hand sink making it unusable.
The report says, "Servers, cook prep, cook never washed hands at all during inspection."

Diamond China reopened with an A rating after it was inspected again.

Diamond China has been open for 13 years. This is third time it has been shut down since opening.

Petting zoos in UK to face new rules following health inquiry

Every time there is an outbreak of foodborne illness, some folks get together and say, here are the new rules that need to be followed so a bunch of kids don’t end up in hospital, like 27 of the 93 sickened by E. coli O157:H7 at Godstone Farm petting zoo in 2009 in the U.K. (two of those sick kids are pictured, right)

In Feb. 2010 when Godstone Farm reopened, manager Richard Oatway said,

"Lots of parents have been with us for a long time and they realize that E. coli can be present in many animals all the time.”

And lots of parents are really pissed, which is why 26 of them are have filed a lawsuit against the farm.

The Telegraph reports this morning that the investigation into the dangers posed by petting animals is expected to lead to strict new measures this week.

Farmers could have to stop opening their gates to the public amid increased regulations that could include demanding that people no longer touch the animals.

Prof George Griffin, a world expert on infectious diseases, began the investigation following an E .coli outbreak at a farm last year which led to 27 people, many of them children, requiring hospital treatment. He is due to make his recommendations this week when the report is published.

Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services, said,

"If regulations become too excessive the danger is that many farms will be unwilling to welcome visitors. The risk of catching E. coli from a visit to an open farm is extremely low, particularly if children are encouraged to wash their hands thoroughly after touching animals."

Those handwashing signs, they’re not encouraging. Do better.

Gemma Weaver, 24, of Bramley Close, has vowed to "never forgive the farm" after her three-year-old son, Alfie suffered kidney failure following a visit to Godstone Farm.

A poem for public health

I’m surprised whenever an outbreak of foodborne illness is picked up in the U.S., except the most egregious violations of sanitation and safety, where large numbers of people are sickened.

Those investigations with people scattered across states, like the current E. coli O145 outbreak that has sickened over 50, are a testament to the skill, dedication of training of public and environmental health types.

Yet across the U.S., public health is taking budgetary hits as the trickle down of housing and financial collapse makes its way to the local level — states and counties are looking everywhere to balance the books.

A public health type penned and posted the following poem at http://randomleaves.blogspot.com/.

FIRST THEY VOTED to eliminate child care inspections
And I didn’t speak up because I didn’t have children

THEN THEY VOTED to stop inspecting food service establishments
And I didn’t speak up because another agency did those inspections

THEN THEY VOTED to get rid of nursing home and hospital inspectors
And I didn’t speak up because I worked in the OSTDS program

THEN THEY VOTED to abolish Environmental Health
And there was no one left to speak up