Fancy food ain’t safe food: 2 sick with campy: It was the foie gras at Seattle restaurant

I always have a thermometer in my backpack.

That’s how much of a food safety nerd I am, and why I don’t get invited to dinner parties (and, I can be an asshole).

King County Public Health investigated an outbreak of Campylobacter associated with a single meal party at Café Juanita in Kirkland on June 24, 2017.

On July 24th, Public Health learned about two ill persons from a single meal party during an interview with an ill person diagnosed with Campylobacter. We were not able to confirm illness information about the second ill person until August 16th. No other ill persons have been identified.

The ill persons shared multiple food items, including foie gras. Foie gras has been linked to other Campylobacter outbreaks in the past, particularly when eaten raw or undercooked.

Public Health’s Environmental Health inspectors visited the restaurant on August 17th. During the field inspection, inspectors observed the cooking process and checked the final cooking temperature of the foie gras. Although it reached a safe temperature during the inspection, workers had not been using a thermometer. They were instructed to use a food thermometer to ensure that all foods are reaching the correct temperatures to kill harmful bacteria that may be present. The restaurant worked cooperatively with Public Health.

Inspectors made a return visit on August 22nd and reviewed sources and preparation steps of the other foods that the two cases may have also consumed.

Raw is risky: 25 sickened by oysters in Seattle

A foodborne illness outbreak linked to raw oysters has sickened at least 25 people who dined at local restaurants recently, King County reported on Tuesday. The news comes after the county reported last week that a handful of people got sick eating raw oysters at two Seattle restaurants – The Salted Sea and The White Swan Public House.

The restaurants, however, are not the source of the outbreak, King County says. Most likely, the oysters were mishandled or contaminated before reaching local restaurants, although no specific local oyster beds have been connected to the outbreak.

County health officials believe diners have been sickened by Vibrio, a marine bacteria commonly found in oysters.

“Eating undercooked or raw shellfish, especially raw oysters in warm-weather months, is the main risk for acquiring vibriosis from infection with Vibrio parahaemolyticus,” King County said.

Seattle’s Crab Pot source of foodborne outbreak

Any place called the Crab Pot should welcome foodborne illness, or other STDs.

King County public health investigated an outbreak of gastroenteritis with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea associated with The Crab Pot restaurant located at 1301 Alaskan Way, Seattle. Five people from the same meal party became ill after eating at the restaurant on 3/4/2017. We do not have laboratory confirmation of the etiology, but symptoms are suggestive of norovirus. Often in norovirus outbreaks no laboratory testing is done.

Smart as trees in Sault Ste. Marie: Restaurant grades come to Seattle

The Sault (pronounced Sue) is on my mind today.

barf-o-meter_-dec_-12-216x300-216x3001-216x300-1-216x300-216x300Lots of feedback about the Esposito brothers (Tony and Phil) who hail from Sault Ste. Marie (in Ontario, Canada) and, more importantly, most excellent graduate student Katie, who hails from the Sault, got an undergrad at Guelph, did her Masters research in New Zealand and got her degree from Kansas State.

So when JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times e-mailed me to get my take on the county’s proposed restaurant inspection disclosure system, I used it as an excuse to get back in touch with Katie.

It’s taken nearly two years, but King County restaurants will soon start posting storefront signs that display their health-inspection status at a glance, giving diners a new view into food safety.

Exactly what those signs will say, however, is still up to the public to decide.

Starting in January, officials with Public Health — Seattle & King County plan to roll out a long-anticipated public grading system that rates restaurants based on an aggregate score of four recent inspections.

Depending on the results, a restaurant may be ranked excellent, good, fair or needs improvement on signs that could feature smiley-face emoji in shades of green and yellow.

“It’s exciting,” said Becky Elias, Public Health food and facilities section manager. “We feel like this is thorough and evidence-based.”

Local diners can vote on six variations of the placards online by Thursday, Nov. 17.

Elias and her crew originally thought a restaurant-grading system could be in place by the start of 2015, but it took longer than anticipated to get it right, she said.

Local health officials overhauled the system that regularly sends 55 inspectors to review more than 11,000 permanent food businesses and an additional 3,000 temporary sites in King County.

With the help of Daniel E. Ho, a Stanford University law professor who has studied restaurant-rating programs extensively, they refined and standardized the way inspectors make decisions and then came up with placards to convey that information to the public.

Throughout the process, they sought out opinions from everyone involved, including restaurant owners and food-safety advocates. Such collaboration was appreciated, said Patrick Yearout, director of recruiting and training for Ivar’s restaurant company, which operates 25 sites in King County.

Food-safety advocates said they’re pleased that King County is unveiling a new ratings system, but they’re not enthusiastic about the smiley-face signs.

Sarah Schacht, 37, of Seattle, is a two-time victim of E. coli food poisoning who has been lobbying the county to help warn consumers about restaurants with unsatisfactory inspections. She’d prefer to see numeric scores on the new signs, not just emoji.

“If you look at these placard examples, in the end, the information you’re supposed to absorb and make a decision on comes down to the size of the smile on the smiley face,” she said. “I think the options are better than nothing, but they’re problematic.”

seattle-rest-inspect-disclose-nov-16Doug Powell, a former Kansas State University food scientist who runs the food-safety site, barfblog.com, said the proposed King County signs “all seem too busy.” If he had to choose, however, he’d choose options B or D, he said.

“At least they are asking people, which is good,” he added.

Katie and I e-mailed, and she said she preferred C, because it was clearly visible from distance, the colour is prominent, the universal symbol avoids language barriers and has better use of space on the card.

I like B and D because the gauge reminded me of something Katie created years ago while goofing around.

And this is my favorite Tragically Hip song, but no live versions of it.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009. The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information. Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874
.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as tools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

2 Redmond, WA restaurants closed amid Norovirus outbreak

Seattle & King County is investigating an outbreak of gastroenteritis with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea associated with two vendor locations: Mayuri Foods & Video at 2560 152nd Ave NE, Redmond, WA and Mayuri Indian Cuisine at 2115 Bel-Red Road also in Redmond, according to a statement from the health department.

norovirusThe agency says twelve people from a single party became ill after eating food from the vendors on October 30th. The department learned of the outbreak on November 1st.

“We do not have laboratory confirmation of the etiology, but symptoms are suggestive of norovirus,” said the statement. “Often in norovirus outbreaks no laboratory testing is done. Food came from both vendors, but the exact food item that caused the illnesses has not been identified. It is not uncommon for outbreaks of norovirus to have multiple food items contaminated.”

The department said both vendors are working cooperatively with Public Health.

An inspection of Mayuri Foods & Video identified several factors that could have contributed to the outbreak, including failure to wash hands, inadequate hand washing facilities, and inadequate sanitizing of dishes.

mayuri-foods-video“We have suspended Mayuri Foods & Video’s permit as of 11/3/16 so that they may correct these issues and allow time for thorough cleaning and sanitizing,” said the statement from the health agency.

Mayuri Indian Cuisine was also closed to allow the restaurant time for thorough cleaning and sanitizing, “Even though we did not identify any contributing factors at the time of our visit.” said the department’s statement.

Raw is risky: Seattle’s Toulouse-Petit closed during food-poisoning investigation

Toulouse is one of my favorite French cities.

horse_meat_09Why is it the name on a restaurant in Seattle?

Laura Fonda of Queen Anne View reports that Toulouse-Petit Kitchen & Lounge (601 Queen Anne Ave N) has been temporarily closed down by King County heath officials as they investigate possible food poisoning at the restaurant.

According to King County Public Health, six out of seven people from the same party ate at the restaurant and became ill with symptoms consistent with a bacterial infection such as Salmonellosis or Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.  The potential food source is still under investigation, but Public Health notes that the party had consumed food items that may increase the risk of foodborne illness, including raw beef and raw egg.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-27-45-pmPublic Health investigated the restaurant today and found “several problems including room temperature storage, inadequate refrigeration and improper cooling of potentially hazardous foods and cross contamination, which resulted in temporary suspension of the restaurant’s permit.”

E. coli outbreak shows need for restaurant grading system

Paula Wissel of KNKX reports the Washington Department of Health is still investigating this month’s E. coli outbreak that forced a Seattle restaurant to close temporarily. The Matador in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood has now reopened, but the source of the E. coli that sickened several patrons remains a mystery. Meanwhile, food safety advocates say this latest scare underscores the need for a promised restaurant grading system to be implemented quickly by public health officials.

barf-o-meter_-dec_-12-216x300-216x3001-216x300-1-216x300Back in 1993, Sarah Schacht, along with her mother and little brother, was sickened in the deadly E. coli outbreak linked to undercooked hamburgers at Jack in the Box.  Then, a few years ago, she contracted the foodborne illness again.

“The experience of getting E. coli the second time was much worse. It was feeling like my stomach was being ripped open, I had extreme cramping and I was in and out of the hospital,” Schacht said.

She is one of the primary proponents of restaurants in King County being required to post placards showing what score they received from the health department. She sat on a stakeholders panel convened by the county to come up with a system. Although Public Health of Seattle and King County announced several years ago they were going to implement a system, it has yet to be put in place, which frustrates Schacht.

“They’ve continually rolled back deadlines for this program and so it’s been disappointing to see another outbreak and no posted signs,” Schacht said.

In response, county health officials says they want to make sure that when it launches, the grading system is consistent across eating establishments. The health department has conducted a series of studies to try and figure out how best to obtain that consistency.  A grading system pilot program is scheduled to begin in January.

 

Here’s a couple of suggestions:

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009. The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information. Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.

larry-the_-cable_-guy_-health-inspector-213x300-213x3001-213x300-1-213x300The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.

 

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874
.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as tools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

 

Know thy suppliers: Seattle restaurant Matador reopens after E. coli outbreak

Following an E. coli outbreak that sickened seven people, the Matador is back open. The favorite Ballard restaurant opened its doors Saturday morning after a week-long closure.

matador-seattleOn Thursday, public health officials inspected the restaurant and found that it had been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

One of the E. coli victims is a 16-year-old girl who was hospitalized after becoming anemic and suffering kidney failure. Her family is suing the Matador for the outbreak.

Elisa Hahn of King 5 reports on Friday, Matador’s chief culinary officer agreed to allow our cameras inside and talk about the investigation.

“We’re proud of the way we operate our kitchen and the cleanliness and sanitation practices that have always been in place,” said Tom Small. “When something like this happens, and you realize there isn’t anything you can do to prevent it, it’s incredibly impactful.”

Back in the kitchen, the staff was deseeding jalapenos and roasted peppers. The prep work in a Mexican restaurant is a time-consuming process. Just like these jalapenos, Matador has gone through a gutting.

“We’re down to zero product, starting from scratch,” said one employee.

After grilling the staff about possible illnesses, investigators are now leaning away from blaming food handling, focusing more on products and suppliers.

Another Seattle restaurant fingered as new E. coli source, different from other one

JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times reports that for the second time in a week, King County health officials are investigating an outbreak of potentially dangerous E. coli food poisoning linked to a Mexican-style restaurant, but they say the incidents don’t appear related.

memos-mexican-foodAn outbreak of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157: H7 (STEC) sickened two people who ate at Memo’s Mexican Food in Seattle’s University District in August, officials with Public Health — Seattle & King County reported Wednesday.

Laboratory testing showed those illnesses were caused by the same strain of the bacteria.

But it’s different from the strain that has sickened 10 other people, including six who ate at the Matador restaurant in Ballard last month.

“These clusters do not appear related to each other,” according to a public health notice posted Wednesday.

An investigation on Monday revealed other factors that could have contributed to the outbreak at Memo’s, 4743 University Way N.E. Those included improper cooling, cold-holding, reheating of potentially hazardous food and the potential for cross-contamination. Because the violations were corrected on site, and there was not an ongoing risk, the restaurant was not closed. Inspectors will return in 14 days to ensure that the site remains safe.

Matador customer: E. coli illness ‘worst pain you could imagine’

A Seattle woman who became ill in the recent E. coli outbreak described it as the “worst pain you could imagine.”

king_annamarie_kirkpatrick_1473816059517_6036798_ver1-033-year-old Annamarie Kirkpatrick said she ate at Matador in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood on August 20. She became ill with severe abdominal pain five days later.

“Probably the worst pain you could imagine,” she said. “But just having a doctor tell you we think it’s this, we think it’s this, having six diagnoses in three days was probably the worst.”

Kirkpatrick is one of six people who became ill after eating at the restaurant.

The sign on the door Tuesday said the restaurant was temporarily closed. Health investigators say they are still searching for the source.

“It’s scary to think you go out to a restaurant and order food, and they’re supposed to be the healthiest friendliest places, you would think. And you end up contracting an illness,” Kirkpatrick said.