Deer brains, other parts found at Pennsylvania restaurant

I’ve always referred to The Odds song, Eat My Brain, as the CJD song.

my.brain.hurtsEating brains is not a good idea.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission confiscated deer brains and other deer parts from a Lititz restaurant earlier this month, according to state inspectors.

The brains, heads, muscle meat and other parts were taken after New China House’s operator couldn’t provide documentation the game meat was from an approved source, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture inspection report. 

The game commission is investigating, according to PennLive.

A confidential tip led to the investigation, a commission spokesman told PennLive. Travis Lau said game animals for consumption must be farm-raised and game shot by hunters cannot be sold.

New China’s owner told PennLive that he doesn’t sell deer meat and that deer bones confiscated were for soup for him and his wife.

The deer parts violation was one of 18 violations documented on a Dec. 16 inspection, according to the agriculture department’s report. A follow-up inspection Dec. 17 documented 14 violations, including an unidentifiable pig organ, which the operator’s wife said was her lunch. It was discarded.

Learning from previous outbreaks: Blue Bell edition

I don’t know what gets CEOs, COOs, CFOs attention when it comes to food safety. Whom reports to whom appears to matter when it comes to the values that support a good food safety culture.recall-master675

Some of the industry food safety folks I interact with say they have a direct line to the decision-makers and work together to nimbly react to food safety issues. Others say that the powers-that-be don’t understand the science, risk assessment and consequences. And won’t do much until there’s a crisis.

Paraphrasing one of the food safety nerds who has power:

I’ve convinced the CEO that finding listeria ourselves is a good thing because we can get to the source; that’s changed the culture of QA folks in the plants. We look, find and fix. And there’s money to support it.

That’s good.

Other food safety folks report that they have to put more money into hairnets, reducing their budget food handwashing tools because the COO thinks orphan hairs is the most unhygienic thing. Risk factor vs. yuck factor at its best.

I’m increasingly cynical that the above is unique and most don’t study the litany of outbreaks and learn from them. Many execs don’t see their companies as the next Blue Bell, and as Powell says, believe their own press releases.

Diana Wray of the Houston Press summarizes Blue Bell’s last year as part of coverage of a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation.

For a second there it seemed like Blue Bell was really going to put the whole listeria outbreak behind it. Ever since Blue Bell restarted production back in August, both the officials running the “little creamery in Brenham” and the public have treated the return of Blue Bell ice cream to grocery store shelves as a grand rebirth for the company. It was almost as if the whole listeria thing had never happened.


Blue Bell may still be in the midst of a comeback tour, but the company is now facing a U.S. Department of Justice investigation over the listeria outbreak earlier this year that forced the company to recall all of its products and almost sent Blue Bell over the financial edge.

According to a CBS News report, the Justice Department is trying to figure out what Blue Bell management knew about the potentially deadly hazards in their plants and when they knew it.

Still, the company was circling the drain until Fort Worth oil man Sid Bass stepped in with an injection of $125 million this summer in exchange for a one-third stake in the company. And for a little while, despite the OSHA reports of worker injuries and the allegations of unsanitary conditions that reportedly left Blue Bell’s factories incredibly vulnerable to contamination, it looked like Blue Bell was going bounce right back. In fact it seemed likely that the company would simply hire back some of the workers that had been laid off, restart the factories and go back to putting ice cream on the shelves without any real consequences.

Sure there was a federal lawsuit filed by David Shockley, a man who was working at an elderly care center in Houston and regularly eating the ice cream when he became ill with what was determined to be listeria meningitis in October 2013. And of course Blue Bell had been forced to furlough 1,400 employees and lay off about 1,450 from it’s 3,900-person workforce. But despite all of that, the public has been remarkably forgiving, all three factories are now up and running and Blue Bell products are slated to be back on shelves in 15 states by the end of January.

So far neither the feds nor Blue Bell have confirmed or denied the investigation into the company. However, considering who’s spearheading the investigation, Blue Bell management could be facing some pretty serious allegations.

UPI gets into the Buzzfeed list business: Notable E. coli outbreaks in U.S. fast food restaurants

Most of the U.S. mainstream food safety news coming through Google Alerts over the last week has been recycled and Chipotle-related.

Much of the focus has been on the business with the same questions are being asked by many journos: Will the fast casual Mexican restaurant rebound? What will happen to their stocks? When can we eat there again? Sorta lost in the media are the stories of the folks who went to grab a lunch and ended up ill. The folks that couldn’t go to work, missed life events and may have a long recovery. The affected have been digested down to a list of numbers.Jimmy-Johns-Gourmet-sandwiches

UPI gets into the food safety list business and revisits stigma-creating events over the past 30+ years, here are some highlights:

McDonald’s (1982)
Nearly 50 people in Oregon and Michigan fell ill after eating burgers at McDonald’s. The confirmed outbreak was the first time E. coli O157:H7 was linked to food poisoning, but wouldn’t be the last time ground beef would be recalled for outbreaks of the dangerous pathogen, including Topps Meat Co. recalling nearly 22 million pounds in 2007 and Con Agra Foods pulling nearly 20 million pounds of ground beef in 2002.

Jack-in-the-Box (1993)
The 1993 Jack-in-the-Box outbreak occurred when more than 500 people became infected after eating undercooked beef patties associated with 73 restaurants in Washington, Idaho, California, and Nevada. Four children died and hundreds of customers were left with permanent injuries, including kidney damage, resulting in numerous lawsuits.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (1999)
In July of 1999, public health officials confirmed four Cincinnati-area Kentucky Fried Chickens were to blame for an outbreak of E. coli that led to 18 illnesses and at least 11 hospitalizations. Investigators identified poorly prepared coleslaw as the source of the contamination.

Sizzler (2000)
Two Sizzler restaurants in Wisconsin were responsible for 64 confirmed cases of E. coli and dozens of hospitalizations. Four patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a serious illness that can result in kidney failure. One child died. Officials linked the contamination back to watermelon, which was cross-contaminated with raw meat products. Eight years later, the family of the 3-year-old girl who died from exposure at a Sizzler restaurant reached a $13.5 million settlement with the company’s meat supplier.

Taco Bell (multiple)
In December, 2006, 71 illnesses linked to Taco Bell were reported to the CDC from five states: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and South Carolina. Investigations indicated shredded lettuce was the likely source of the outbreak. Two years later, all Taco Bell restaurants in Philadelphia were temporarily closed and green onions removed from all 5,800 of its U.S. restaurants after tests indicated they were to blame for an E. coli outbreak that sickened at least five dozen people in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Jimmy John’s (multiple)
In 2013, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified nine cases of E.coli O157:H7 in the Denver area linked to the consumption of Jimmy John’s sandwiches containing cucumbers imported from Mexico. This wasn’t the first time Jimmy John’s, based in Champaign, Ill., has been linked to an outbreak. Since 2008, the sandwich chain has been cited for serving contaminated sprouts at least five times.

Resistance is futile: Inspection disclosure comes to Cornwall, Ontario

I’ve always thought eastern Ontario was a bit slow on the pick-up, but almost 15 years after Toronto introduced its red-yellow-green system of inspection disclosure, Cornwall, Ontario is following suit. system will require restaurant owners to hang a sign in their premises which alerts diners to whether or not they have met safe food-handling requirements, among other issues.

To increase the visibility of inspection reports, the EOHU has started distributing coloured signs to restaurants for public display.

The coloured signs indicate at a glance whether a restaurant or grocery store has received a “pass” (green sign), “conditional pass” (yellow sign) or “closed” (red sign) inspection report.

The new signage system is being rolled out starting with premises that prepare, process or handle food, and will progressively expand to all food premises, including grocery stores.


As it should be: House-made tamales can’t be sold at Georgia restaurant

There will be no more tamales at Poblanos Mexican Grill in Lawrenceville, at least not the ones they usually serve.

poblano's.mrxican.grillThe tamales sold at the restaurant were first purchased from someone who makes them in their home, and they do not have a permit to make and sell them commercially, said a Gwinnett County health inspector.

The inspector had the tamales removed and said they could no longer be offered to diners at Poblanos.

Poblanos Mexican Grill scored 67/U on the routine inspection. Previous scores were 88/B and 85/B.

From the over-use of exclamation mark files: ‘Scientists engage the public!’

It’s the end of the year, so it must be time for the annual enema editorial about why scientists must do more to engage the public.

enemaThe people who write and publish these things, don’t you realize you’ve already lost?

At least the authors have got the uni system figured out by writing a paper on the topic – which will get them P&T points — rather than actually doing it, which counts for nothing.

mBio vol. 6 no. 6 e01989-15

Erika C. Shugart, Vincent R. Racaniello


Scientists must communicate about science with public audiences to promote an understanding of complex issues that we face in our technologically advanced society. Some scientists may be concerned about a social stigma or “Sagan effect” associated with participating in public communication. Recent research in the social sciences indicates that public communication by scientists is not a niche activity but is widely done and can be beneficial to a scientist’s career. There are a variety of approaches that scientists can take to become active in science communication.


But we’re just down homey folk: Who knew what when as Dept. of Justice investigates Blue Bell for Listeria outbreak

CBS News reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has started an investigation into Blue Bell after their ice cream was linked to a deadly Listeria outbreak earlier this year that killed three people.

listeria4An FDA investigation found Listeria in all three of Blue Bell’s production plants located in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas. Records indicated that the company knew one plant was contaminated at least as early as 2013.

The FDA investigation uncovered other troubling problems, including condensation dripping directly into ice cream and unsanitary equipment. Last April, Blue Bell shut down all three production facilities, and all ice cream was recalled.

Sources tell CBS News that the Department of Justice is trying to determine what Blue Bell management knew about potentially deadly hazards in their plants, and when they knew it.

The most extensive violations were found in Oklahoma, where the FDA released 16 separate positive tests for listeria on equipment and in ice cream from March 2013 through January 2015.

Last October, Gerald Bland who worked at the Blue Bell factory in Brenham, Texas, described to CBS News, unsanitary conditions on the factory floor.

“On the wall by the 3-gallon machine, if it had rained real hard and water sat on the roof, it would just trickle down,” Bland said.

Rain water from the roof would leak into the factory.

Another worker, Terry Schultz, told us that his complaints to management about unclean conditions went nowhere.

“The response I got at one point [from management] was, ‘is that all you’re going to do is come here and bitch every afternoon?'”

The message Schultz took management’s response was, “Production is probably more important than cleanliness.”

All three of Blue Bell’s plants are now back up and running, and by the end next month, its ice cream will be back on the shelves in 15 states.


‘No side effects or anything’ PR Chipotle doesn’t need and needs to stop ignoring

The Intertubes are full of conspiracy theories.

Harmless Harvest is the latest to go after me – because asking questions about a supposedly all-natural process that has prompted FDA concerns in terms of risk reduction is bullshit. Or the claims are. step right up, it’s all natural.

So is smallpox.

Chipotle has its own outliers.

There’s a story circulating that Chipotle’s E. coli O26 outbreak was planted by agribusiness upset that Chipotle wanted to go GMO-free;

John Geary of News Leader picks up on this theme, saying that the Bloomberg Business 4,000-word story about Chipotle and their current problems was little more than a desperate attempt at a smear campaign, likely driven by large corporate interests.

Geary says that an honest evaluation of Chipotle and the food poisoning concludes the current situation is hyped up and blown completely out of proportion. Chipotle sounds good to me.

Good luck with your diarrhea burrito.

And then the head of Boston’s restaurant inspection program, Commissioner William Christopher ate lunch with his chief of staff, Indira Alvarez, at the Cleveland Circle Chipotle location that got more than 100 people sick with norovirus earlier this month.

“They did a good job cleaning the place, and I want to let people know that I have confidence to go there and eat,” Christopher told the Boston Globe. “I just felt it was the right thing to do.”

“The food was wonderful,” he said. “There were no side effects or anything.”

Inspectors found that an employee had worked while sick and that meat was not heated adequately.


Sandwich artists? Florida Subway temporarily shut down after 40+ rodent droppings discovered near food

The ABC Action News I-Team uncovered last week that Subway at 696 S. Gulfview Blvd. in Clearwater Beach had to temporarily close after the state discovered over 40 rodent droppings underneath the storage rack, on top of boxes, underneath the sink, inside a bin, and near the soda syrup dispensers.

subwayOn Dec. 21 the state also issued a stop sale on 28 packages of chips after finding they were not in a ‘wholesome, sound condition.’

In addition, food safety issues written up in the inspection include potentially hazardous food thawed at room temperature with two tuna packages and two meat packages on the back prep table thawing, Subway’s manager lacking proof of a food manager certification, and employees failing to wash their hands before putting on gloves to work with food and failing to wash prior to heading to the front line to work.

More hand washing concerns include the hand wash sink not accessible for employees to use due to bread baking holders stored in the sink and no paper towels provided.

The state has warned this Clearwater Beach Subway before about high priority violations. In September, the state found no hot water in the facility for employees to wash their hands, no soap, no paper towels and a long list of potentially hazardous cold food held at greater than 41° Fahrenheit.


After China probe, OSI food-safety trial opens in Shanghai

The long-awaited China trial of US food supplier OSI Group opened in Shanghai on Monday, kicking off the final act of a scandal that dragged in fast-food giants McDonald’s Corp and Yum Brands Inc.

osi.chinaIn July 2014, a Chinese TV report alleged to show workers at a Shanghai unit of OSI using out-of-date meat and doctoring production dates, a scandal which rippled as far afield as Japan and prompted apologies from OSI clients McDonald’s and Yum.

The criminal trial opened at the Shanghai Jiading People’s Court, a court official and lawyers told Reuters. Shanghai prosecutors charged two OSI China units and 10 employees for producing and selling sub-standard products in September.