Everyone has a camera Toronto bakery edition: ‘Disgusting’ video shows mice feeding on pastry

CTV News reports the pastries in the window of a downtown Toronto confection shop were supposed to lure hungry humans, but they ended up attracting mice.

Mohammad Valipour captured the ravenous rodents on video as they nibbled on a tray of baklava visible through a window inside Meli Baklava & Chocolate Bar.

He told CTV Toronto he believes he could also see feces around the trays. “It was disgusting,” Valipour said.

Co-owner Julie Kyriakaki says the building has a rodent problem but is adamant that none of the pastries that sit out for display are served to the public.

Kyriakaki showed off drawers full of desserts under the countertop that she says she and her staff use to keep the food safe from pests.

“Even if I didn’t have food here, the mice could still be on the window, because they go everywhere” she said. She also showed off mousetraps inside the store.

Meli Baklava & Chocolate Bar displays a green DineSafe sign in its window, indicating that it has met food safety standards outlined in the Ontario Food Premises Regulation and municipal by-laws. The sign shows the business was last inspected on Feb. 6, 2017.

The bakery has passed four inspections, the first in November 2015, according to online DineSafe records. It received two infractions in that time, one for failing to ensure the presence of someone who holds a valid food handler’s certificate and another for not having a test substance for ensuring utensils are properly sterilized.

The sweet shop, which is rated 4.5 out of five on the website TripAdvisor, is one of several food kiosks housed inside the Queen Live Fresh Food Market on Queen Street West.

Ideas, not geography or institutes, make for public advances

When you haven’t seen a prof dude for 25 years, and then he’s being featured in the N.Y. Times as “The man who helped turn Toronto into a high-tech hotbed,” it’s time for a reality check.

The webs we spin over time.

I was a lousy grad student.

Not the PhD one but the eventually aborted MS one.

I spent hours staring through a microscope – sometimes the electronic kind – at tomato cells artificially infected with a fungus called Verticillium.

I spent months trying to extract and sequence DNA from this slimy fungus.

After 2.5 years, I quit.

I became newspaper dude – that’s right kids, in my day, newspapers existed, and we even started our own paper using a Mac SE and a program called PageMaker.

That was 1988.

It was all because of a girl.

Now, I’ve been to Kansas and Brisbane.

All because of another girl.

But after working for a year at a computer trade magazine in Toronto, I landed a job at the University of Waterloo in Jan. 1990, with an Ontario Centre of Excellence.

I had ideas to try out with my science, computing and journalism experience, and the powers that be said sure, play along.

Within a couple of years, I got tired of writing about other people’s science, and wanted to write about my own science, which led to be starting a PhD at the University of Guelph in the fall of 1992.

But there was this prof at the University of Toronto who I helped promote – specifically his artificial intelligence course, which I sat through a couple of times because it was fascinating – and at one point he said to me: all this targeted research money, and all these oversight committees with their expenses, just get rid of them all and give profs some basic funding and see what happens.

I sorta agreed.

I knew my job was BS, that could be exterminated when the next provincial government came around, and when chatting with Dr. Hinton, he made a lot of sense.

So I soon quit, went and got a PhD, and got to write about what I wanted.

And then Dr. Hinton shows up in the N.Y. Times.

Craig S Smith writes as an undergraduate at Cambridge University, Geoffrey Everest Hinton thought a lot about the brain. He wanted to better understand how it worked but was frustrated that no field of study — from physiology and psychology to physics and chemistry — offered real answers.

So he set about building his own computer models to mimic the brain’s process.

“People just thought I was crazy,” said Dr. Hinton, now 69, a Google fellow who is also a professor emeritus of computer science at the University of Toronto.

He wasn’t. He became one of the world’s foremost authorities on artificial intelligence, designing software that imitates how the brain is believed to work. At the same time, Dr. Hinton, who left academia in the United States in part as a personal protest against military funding of research, has helped make Canada a high-tech hotbed.

Dictate a text on your smartphone, search for a photo on Google or, in the not too distant future, ride in a self-driving car, and you will be using technology based partly on Dr. Hinton’s ideas.

His impact on artificial intelligence research has been so deep that some people in the field talk about the “six degrees of Geoffrey Hinton” the way college students once referred to Kevin Bacon’s uncanny connections to so many Hollywood movies.

Dr. Hinton’s students and associates are now leading lights of artificial intelligence research at Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber, and run artificial intelligence programs at the University of Montreal and OpenAI, a nonprofit research company.

“Geoff, at a time when A.I. was in the wilderness, toiled away at building the field and because of his personality, attracted people who then dispersed,” said Ilse Treurnicht, chief executive of Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, an innovation center that will soon house the Vector Institute, Toronto’s new public-private artificial intelligence research institute, where Dr. Hinton will be chief scientific adviser.

Dr. Hinton also recently set up a Toronto branch of Google Brain, the company’s artificial intelligence research project. His tiny office there is not the grand space filled with gadgets and awards that one might expect for a man at the leading edge of the most transformative field of science today. There isn’t even a chair. Because of damaged vertebrae, he stands up to work and lies down to ride in a car, stretched out on the back seat.

“I sat down in 2005,” said Dr. Hinton, a tall man, with uncombed silvering hair and hooded eyes the color of the North Sea.

Dr. Hinton started out under a constellation of brilliant scientific stars. He was born in Britain and grew up in Bristol, where his father was a professor of entomology and an authority on beetles. He is the great-great-grandson of George Boole, the father of Boolean logic.

His middle name comes from another illustrious relative, George Everest, who surveyed India and made it possible to calculate the height of the world’s tallest mountain that now bears his name.

Dr. Hinton followed the family tradition by going to Cambridge in the late 1960s. But by the time he finished his undergraduate degree, he realized that no one had a clue how people think.

“I got fed up with academia and decided I would rather be a carpenter,” he recalled with evident delight, standing at a high table in Google’s white-on-white cafe here. He was 22 and lasted a year in the trade, although carpentry remains his hobby today.

When artificial intelligence coalesced into a field of study from the fog of information science after World War II, scientists first thought that they could simulate a brain by building neural networks assembled from vast arrays of switches, which would mimic synapses.

But the approach fell out of favor because computers were not powerful enough then to produce meaningful results. Artificial intelligence research turned instead to using logic to solve problems.

As he was having second thoughts about his carpentry skills, Dr. Hinton heard about an artificial intelligence program at the University of Edinburgh and moved there in 1972 to pursue a Ph.D. His adviser favored the logic-based approach, but Dr. Hinton focused on artificial neural networks, which he thought were a better model to simulate human thought.

His study didn’t make him very employable in Britain, though. So, Ph.D. in hand, he turned to the United States to work as a postdoctoral researcher in San Diego with a group of cognitive psychologists who were also interested in neural networks.

They were soon making significant headway.

They began working with a formula called the back propagation algorithm, originally described in a 1974 Harvard Ph.D. thesis by Paul J. Werbos. That algorithm allowed neural networks to learn over time and has since become the workhorse of deep learning, the term now used to describe artificial intelligence based on those networks.

Dr. Hinton moved in 1982 to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh as a professor, where his work with the algorithm and neural networks allowed computers to produce some “interesting internal representations,” as he put it.

Here’s an example of how the brain produces an internal representation. When you look at a cat — for some reason cats are a favorite subject of artificial intelligence research — light waves bouncing off it hit your retina, which converts the light into electrical impulses that travel along the optic nerve to the brain. Those impulses, of course, look nothing like a cat. The brain, however, reconstitutes those impulses into an internal representation of the cat, and if you close your eyes, you can see it in your mind.

By 2012, computers had become fast enough to allow him and his researchers to create those internal representations as well as reproduce speech patterns that are part of the translation applications we all use today.

He formed a company specializing in speech and photo recognition with two of his students at the University of Toronto. Google bought the business, so Dr. Hinton joined Google half time and continues to work there on creating artificial neural networks.

The deal made Dr. Hinton a wealthy man.

Now he is turning his attention to health care, thinking that artificial intelligence technology could be harnessed to scan lesions for cancer. The combination of the Vector Institute, a surrounding cluster of hospitals and government support, he added, makes Toronto “one of the best places in the world to do it.”

Toronto is not Silicon Valley north.

You got where you are because of your ideas, not geography.

 

Canadians trafficking $16,000 of Nutella

Josh Hafner of USA Today reports Toronto-area police announced Friday that they had arrested suspects tied to a trafficking ring of drugs, stolen cars and a truckload of the rich, hazelnutty goodness that is Nutella.

nutella“Yes, I said Nutella,” confirmed Det. Sgt. Paul LaSalle, per the Toronto Star.

An elaborate sting dubbed “Project Cyclone” resulted in York Regional Police divvying 137 charges between 23 suspects, the Star reported, including 60-year-old Balwinder Dhaliwal – the so-called “King of Car Thieves” once profiled on the History channel’s Mastermind series.

In the process, police recovered stolen goods totaling roughly 3.75 million U.S. dollars, including 60 vehicles, $149,000 worth of loose cash and assorted amounts of heroin and cocaine. Also found: a trailer chock-full of that creamy spread of the gods, Nutella.

LaSalle said he wasn’t surprised by the stash of chocolatey breakfast bliss, which amounted to about $16,300 in U.S. currency.

 “I’ve never seen an investigation that did spiral into so many directions,” he said, according to the Star.

A spike in car thefts led to the investigation beginning in 2015, around the time that a new body shop named Benefit Motors opened in the nearby suburb of Vaughan.

Police grew suspicious of the business and eventually tracked two luxury cars to the shop that were left running in the same driveway to warm up, YorkRegion.com reported.

Police said the thieves targeted mostly luxury cars from brands such as Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche. Once stolen, the thieves made fake papers for them and changed their identification numbers before reselling them, authorities explained.

“If someone in the criminal world wanted a cheap and nice ride, they came to see the Dhaliwals,” LaSalle said, according to the Star.

Unloading the filched Nutella proved a less complicated affair: Thieves sold the jars of nutty blessedness for about half their market value, YorkRegion.com reported.

At least 1 sick: Sliced turkey and chicken products sold at Tre Rose Bakery in Toronto recalled due to Listeria

Tre Rose Bakery is recalling sliced turkey and chicken products from the marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

trereose-bakeryThe following product products were sliced and sold at Tre Rose Bakery, 2098 Kipling Avenue, Toronto, Ontario from September 15, 2016 to September 16, 2016, inclusively.

Brand Name//Common Name//Size//Code(s) on Product//UPC

None//Lily O. R. Turkey//Variable//PACKED ON SE.15.16//Starting with 2 100252

None//Classic Turkey//Variable//PACKED ON SE.15.16//Starting with 2 100049

None//Brandt O. R. Chicken//Variable//PACKED ON SE.16.16//Starting with 2 100042

What you should do

If you think you became sick from consuming a recalled product, call your doctor.

Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased. Consumers who are unsure if they have purchased an affected product are advised to contact the retailer.

This recall was triggered by findings of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) as part of an ongoing food borne illness investigation. The CFIA continues to conduct a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products.

There has been one reported illness associated with this investigation.

Can’t we just enjoy food? Poop dessert café to open in Toronto

Torstar News Service reports Toronto is joining the (bowel) movement: a poop-themed café is coming to Koreatown.

Poop Café Dessert BarPoop Café Dessert Bar, which will be located at 706 Bloor St. W., is set to open mid-August.

“I’m trying to make poop cute,” said owner Lien Nguyen, who first came across the concept while visiting her mother in Taiwan a couple years ago.

“We checked out a toilet-themed restaurant and I just loved it. It’s funny to put food and poop together; it’s a great comparison,” she added. “It stayed in my mind for a long time. As soon as I finished school, I said, ‘OK, I’m going to bring the restaurant to Toronto.’”

The recent George Brown College graduate earned her credentials in culinary management. She plans to focus her menu around traditional Asian desserts like patbingsoo (red beans with ice) and is hoping that, through this enterprise, “people will change their minds about poo.”

“[It’s] considered very disgusting, [something] you can’t talk about when you’re eating,” she said … until now.

All of the poo-ticular items available at the café will be brown, formed like a stool and served in toilet-shaped dishes, said Nguyen, who plans to seasonally change up the menu to reflect customer feedback.

While the “latest lavatorial trend” might be new to Toronto, restaurants around the world have already embraced the bowl.

From the duh files: Arizona paper says give diners more information on health inspections

Emery Cowan of the Arizona Daily Sun writes that if a restaurant has print out a calorie count for most meals on the menu, why not a letter grade for how safely it prepared its food?

toronto.red.yellow.green.grades.may.11That’s one of the reactions to our story earlier this month reviewing the Coconino County’s food inspection procedures and listing some of the more serious offenders. We found that although most eating establishments were being inspected twice a year and some even forced to close temporarily, diners were kept largely in the dark. A closed restaurant must post a notice but is not required to give a reason, and the public health department’s bimonthly report usually comes out well after any violations – large or small — have occurred.

Most restaurants never come close to being closed and their violations are relatively minor and fixed almost immediately. What benefit is it to diners to have outdated information about infractions that don’t rise to the level of a health threat?

We suppose that if a letter grade was the only information available to diners, it could be misleading. But in the age of the Internet, the Health Department can post a lot more information if diners are interested. They just have to know where to look.

But unfortunately, Coconino County’s website has no portal through which citizens can obtain information about the results of a restaurant’s inspection or even lodge a complaint. Even when a restaurant like China Star, which has been forced to close twice in the past five years, posts a notice of closure, there is no way for diners to find the 16 complaints it received since 2009 or the multiple critical violations it accumulated.

A brief tour of the Internet turns up dozens of cities with web sites containing interactive public databases of restaurant inspections and enforcement actions. Many have explanations of the scoring and ranking methods, the most commonly cited critical and noncritical violations and the risk associated with different types of violations.

We urge county health officials to put a restaurant inspection public database on the fast track.

OMG, it’s still 2000: Canadian restaurant lobby says inspections are too complex for a single grade

Over 16 years after the Dirty Dining series of articles appeared in the Toronto Star, which led to the creation of the red-yellow-green restaurant inspection disclosure system, and the arguments haven’t changed: people want the information, good restaurants promote their good food safety scores, and the various lobbies think the system is silly.

2000.pop.cultureOn Jan. 8, 2001, Toronto’s DineSafe program was launched.s

But before the bylaw came into effect, the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association sought an injunction to prohibit the requirement to post the rating signs. I was retained to write a report on the merits and flaws of restaurant inspection disclosure and in particular the use of red-yellow-green. I wrote my report, it was submitted. The restaurant thingies lost the case and lost an appeal. I didn’t get to testify, and was disappointed that I had lost the opportunity to be in a courtroom where I wasn’t charged with something.

CBC Television’s Marketplace has decided to revisit the issue.

Canadians love to dine out, but information about how restaurants fare in health inspection reports is not always easy to find, a CBC Marketplace investigation reveals.

Canadian households spend an average of about $2,000 every year eating in restaurants, and almost two million of us contract foodborne illnesses while eating out, according to Health Canada.

The difficulty for restaurant patrons is that Canada has a patchwork of rules and regulations around how inspection reports are made public.

Some Canadian provinces or cities publish inspection results, but they’re not posted in restaurants where people can see them before ordering a meal. Others, such as Manitoba, do not publish reports, although after a Marketplace investigation the province agreed to make some available to the CBC.

toronto.red.yellow.green.grades.may.11Toronto launched a public restaurant grading system more than a decade ago that posts the results where customers can see them, a move the city says contributed to a dramatic jump in compliance levels and a significant drop in foodborne illness. But an industry group has opposed attempts to introduce similar systems elsewhere, and few jurisdictions have adopted the city’s approach.

“Food safety is a very serious matter,” says Jim Chan, a retired public health inspector who spent 36 years with Toronto Public Health. “Anything that can affect my decision not to expose myself to a health hazard, any Canadian in the country should have the right to that information. As a citizen I should have that information to be able to make an informed decision.”

CBC Marketplace analyzed the data from almost 5,000 public health restaurant inspections in five Canadian cities — Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Toronto and Ottawa — from a one year period.

Marketplace’s investigation, Canada’s Restaurant Secrets, ranks 13 chains based on their inspection records, including coffee shops, fast food restaurants and family dining establishments. The episode airs on Friday at 8:00 p.m. (8:30 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador) on CBC TV.

About half of foodborne illness in Canada happen from eating in restaurants, according to Health Canada.

A 2012 report by the Conference Board of Canada on improving food safety in Canada found that while restaurants are a major source of foodborne illness, inspections by themselves don’t go far enough to protect Canadians from getting sick.

“The restaurant inspection system is helpful; enforcement should be continued. But it is too sporadic, due to limited resources for inspections, to have a decisive impact on restaurants’ actual day-to-day food safety practices,” the report states.

While the report concludes that restaurants need to voluntarily adopt good practices, the group acknowledges that consumers need to be more aware of risks.

“Because half or more of food safety incidents are associated with restaurants and other food service establishments, consumer choices about where to eat can play a role in determining the level of risk to which they are exposed.”

In some cases, foodborne illness outbreaks traced back to restaurants have sickened dozens of people. In one 2008 case, an outbreak at a Harvey’s and Swiss Chalet restaurant in North Bay sickened more than 200 people, many with confirmed cases of E.coli.

“You have no choice but to trust the people who have prepared this for you,” one person who got sick in the outbreak told Marketplace. “Like, everything can look fantastic, but a couple days later you might [experience] a couple of very alarming symptoms.”

In another case in 2011, seven people were hospitalized after eating tuna at a Subway restaurant in the Vancouver airport.

The Toronto DineSafe program requires restaurants to visibly post the results of their latest inspection, which are easy for the public to understand (the colour coded grades are green for “pass,” yellow for “conditional pass” and red for “closed”).

“It’s very transparent,” Chan says. “The operator can actually see what the customer’s seeing, so if you don’t want customer to see something bad written on the report, make sure you correct it before the health inspector walks in.

“It’s good news for food safety,” he adds.

Since DineSafe launched in 2001, Toronto has seen a 30 per cent decline in the number of cases of foodborne illness, according to Toronto Public Health figures.

“It is not possible to conclude definitively that the increased public attention paid to food safety and the program enhancements implemented by TPH during this period were responsible for the reduction in cases,” a city report cautions, “but it is reasonable to suggest that these changes played a role.”

Toronto’s program has also become a model for programs around the world, from Sacramento to Shanghai. In 2011, DineSafe won the prestigious Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award for excellence in food protection. Toronto is the only city outside of the U.S. to be awarded the prize.

According to Toronto Public Health, compliance rates have jumped dramatically since the program was implemented in 2001. When the program began, only 78.2 per cent of restaurants passed inspections; by the end of 2012, that number increased to 92.4 per cent.

Yet despite these successes, the restaurant industry continues to oppose public posting of inspection results.

Restaurants Canada, a group that advocates and lobbies for the industry, actively opposes broader implementation of grading programs like Toronto’s in other Canadian cities.

While regions near Toronto, including Peel, Halton, Hamilton and London, have also adopted publicly posted grading systems, diners elsewhere face a patchwork of public health reporting systems.

Some jurisdictions post inspection results online, but it’s up to consumers to look restaurants up individually and try to understand the results. Other places, such as Montreal, do not make inspection reports public.

When Montreal abandoned a plan to implement a similar system last year, Restaurants Canada — formerly called the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) — declared it “A win for members!” on its website.

The group refused to discuss on camera why it opposes public grading systems. In a statement, spokesperson Prasanthi Vasanthakumar wrote: “CRFA is opposed to the use of a ‘grade’ or ‘score’ to inform the public about the safety and hygiene of a restaurant because complex inspection findings based on subjective interpretations by individual inspectors cannot accurately or fairly be reduced to a single grade.”

That’s right: the group representing restaurants argues the people who spend money to have a meal are too dumb to know the complexities or restaurant inspection.

I don’t eat out much: must be too dumb.

Toronto looks at daycares, nursing homes for DineSafe

While other cities continue to fight a losing war against restaurant inspection disclosure, Toronto is planning to expand its red-yellow-green placard system to daycares, hospitals, nursing homes and school cafeterias, 20 months after a Ryerson University/Star investigation revealed serious gaps in the city’s heralded DineSafe program.

toronto.dinesafeDr. David McKeown, Toronto’s medical officer of health is recommending city council expand DineSafe to food-serving institutions including daycares, hospitals, nursing homes and school cafeterias. They would have to prominently display green (pass), yellow (cautionary pass) or red (fail) health inspection results.

McKeown also wants the notices posted for public pool and spa water tests.

Expanding DineSafe disclosure “will increase compliance with health and safety requirements and result in improved public health,” he states in a report released Monday.

About 2,000 food-serving institutions are not covered by stringent DineSafe requirements introduced 14 years ago and credited with reducing dangerous health violations by Toronto restaurants.

Because daycares, hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions “serve vulnerable populations, they are considered high-risk food premises requiring at least three compliance inspections annually,” the report states.

“You guys get the credit for pushing us to disclose,” Toronto Public Health food safety manager Jim Chan said at the time.

However, institutions were not forced to display green, yellow or red signs at their entrances.

McKeown’s proposed bylaw would expand DineSafe to “premises where food or milk is manufactured, processed, prepared, stored, handled, displayed, distributed, transported, sold or offered for sale, but does not include a private residence.”

Organic juice bar employee has hep A in Toronto

I don’t do juice bars.

big.carrotI’ll take my fruit whole.

And I don’t want it organic.

Toronto Public Health is advising anyone who consumed juice at the Big Carrot organic juice bar located at 348 Danforth Avenue in Toronto, Ontario, between March 17, 2015 and April 2, 2015 that they may have been exposed to hepatitis A.  While the risk is low, individuals who consumed fresh organic juice from this food market during these dates should get a hepatitis A vaccination as soon as possible.

An employee of the Big Carrot organic juice bar is a confirmed case of hepatitis A and anyone who consumed fresh juice at the organic juice bar between March 17, 2015 and April 2, 2015 could be at risk of infection.  Toronto Public Health is asking anyone who consumed organic fresh juice at the organic juice bar during these dates to monitor for signs and symptoms, practice thorough hand washing and contact their health care provider if concerned.

 

Would you eat off a subway platform? This guy in Canada did

A vacuum brand manager is so confident in his product’s cleaning power that he decided to eat his lunch straight from the floor of Toronto’s busiest subway station, and to record the experience on video.

Ravi Dalchand, brand manager at Bissell Canada and ad firm KBS+ Toronto, came up with the brilliant if gag-inducing idea.

In the video, he cleans a small square of the subway platform with a Bissell Symphony All-in-One Vacuum and Steam Mop, which the company claims can eliminate 99.9 per cent of all germs.

99.9 per cent would be a 3-log killstep.

Food safety types tend to want about a 7-log kill step.