Tank in the Tavern

As a public service, the Manhattan Mercury in Manhattan, Kansas, home of iFSN at Kansas State University, publishes a weekly list of findings by the food service inspector at the local health department.

This week’s area food inspections report for the week ending August 12 includes results for Applebee’s, Tanks Tavern, and Sonic Drive In.

The paper emphasizes that the findings should be seen as a snapshot of conditions existing at the exact time of the inspection rather than as a reflection of the permanent conditions in an establishment.

The report for Tanks Tavern (712 N. Manhattan Ave), a new addition to the bar scene in Aggieville has to be my favourite. On August 2, in response to a complaint inspection, two critical violations were noted: 1. No handsink in bar area; 2. Found live dog in bar and dog food stored under sink. Four non-critical violations were also noted and a follow-up inspection was required.

Prior to the tavern’s opening at the end of January, tavern owner, Brett Allred told the Kansas State Collegian that the Tavern’s mascot, Tank, a pitbull mix, would be at the bar at all times — guess not.

Hmmm…I read this in a book, now what was it?

Earlier this week, Doug posted a link to HealthInspections.com for the video of an Ohio city councilman being chased by a TV reporter who wanted to ask him a few questions about his dirty restaurant.

Today HealthInspections.com has posted audio of restaurant managers failing basic food safety questions. Click the audio link above to listen to the Webcast and hear restaurant managers in Orlando, FL stumble over basic food safety questions.

When produce packers rap

The UK’s Register reports today that one of America’s oldest grocers has sued two college students for licking its produce on YouTube.

According to the story, last week, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Company – A&P – slapped a $1 million lawsuit on former employees Mark and Matthew D’Avella, accusing the two of defaming the 147-year-old grocery chain in an online rap video called "Produce Paradise."

According to the suit – filed in New Jersey superior court and recently tracked down by an El Reg hack desperate for a good read – the video shows the brothers doing various disparaging and disgusting things inside the Califon, New Jersey A&P where they worked as shelf stockers before getting the sack six days ago. An A&P spokesperson is cited as saying that at least one customer is extremely miffed by the video, which has the rappers licking packaged produce and putting it back on the selling shelf – among other things.

With their "Produce Paradise" video – available on YouTube as well as their personal website – the D’Avellas spend 4 minutes and 16 seconds rapping about, well, produce. Billing themselves as the "Fresh Beets," they lay down rhymes like "Produce. Produce. What you see is what you get, except the cut fruit, now that’s some nasty s##t" and "Excuse me sir, where did this grow? B###h, do I look Mexican, I don’t know." In addition to licking some fruits and vegetables, they seem to urinate on others. "But don’t come up to me acting all rude because I won’t be afraid to pee in your food," they chant.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts to go green via local food sources

According to the Nation’s Restaurant News, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is the latest hotel and food operation to jump on the locally grown/organic bandwagon. 

North America’s largest luxury hotel company, perhaps best know for its Lake Louise and Banff properties, announced Aug.22 that it would revamp all of its menus by the fall to incorporate locally grown, sustainable or organic ingredients "wherever possible."

Serge Simard, vice president of food and beverage for the chain, was quoted as saying, "Our guests are very savvy, experienced diners, and they also are becoming more conscious of how their consumer choices affect the planet."

Fairmont indicated that it would complement the menu overhaul with the adoption of programs like inviting guests to visit the farms where their hotel’s food was grown, or accompanying chefs on shopping trips to local green markets.

Here’s hoping Fairmont’s savvy diners take this opportunity to ask the hotel’s producers and retailers what practices they’ve adopted not only to reduce their environmental footprint, but also, to reduce the risk of foodborne illness — don’t eat poop.

Australia gears up for gastro epidemic to sweep nation

While Doug sits patiently on a plane bound for Australia, the Age reports today that a virulent strain of gastroenteritis is expected to infect tens of thousands of Australians in the coming months.

Viral experts are cited as saying the outbreak of highly infectious norovirus will cause a second wave of sick leave on the back of the current influenza epidemic.

This year’s strain, which has already spread through Europe, is more contagious than last year’s gastro bug, and has already been linked to outbreaks and visitor bans at some hospitals in Queensland, Adelaide and NSW.

Virologist Peter White, from the University of NSW, is quoted as saying, "We are seeing a wave of multiple outbreaks that is already spreading across Australia."

The virus is expected to hit hardest in crowded environments like childcare centres, nursing homes and hospitals, Dr White was further cited as saying.

Public health experts are said to be puzzled by the random periodic emergence of new strains which cause rapid-fire outbreaks before suddenly vanishing again.

You got a reaction, didn’t you? You took a white orchid turned it blue

Typing "almond" and "pasteurization" into a Google search brings up the Almond Board’s action plan to pasteurize all California almonds, followed by a long list of websites with content criticizing the Board’s decision, including: Mandatory almond pasteurization is WRONG; We like it raw; and Raw food, right now (followed by lots of exclamation marks).

If you read my postings you know that I feel strongly about the need to pasteurize milk. As I read through the almond arguments I see strong parallels between the two debates, and for good reason, they’re both rooted in this burgeoning need to eat as nature intended, without the interference of any sort of large-scale food technology. But I’m much less familiar with the history of almonds and foodborne illness and at this point I can appreciate both the consumer and industry’s point-of-view. I do however agree that pasteurized almonds should not be labeled raw because by definition they are not.

At any rate, I had a good chuckle reading the following excerpt from the Cleansing Blog this morning: 

"Many almond growers, not surprisingly, are hopping mad at the ABC for this “pasteurization tyranny” that will now require almond growers to kill a perfectly good product before they can sell it to consumers. It’s almost like being in the flower business and, after growing beautiful orchids for your customers, some stupid state agency comes along and says you have to cook all the flowers before you can sell them because somebody once stuck their nose in a pot of orchids and sniffed up a creepy crawler. Cooked orchids, alas, are not nearly as beautiful as living orchids."

Thanks to the White Stripes (American rock band) for the catchy title; should attract some fresh faces to the world of food safety communication.

Stars and mice alike into the Pinkberry ice

In June, WABC New York, reported that mice had invaded a trendy yogurt shop, Pinkberry, at 82nd Street and Second Avenue — and they had exclusive video of the mice running around on the shop floor.

At the time, one passerby told news reporters, "I was in the restaurant industry so there were mice everywhere so I’m kinda used to it." Yuck!

Today, the Nation’s Restaurant News reports on Dane Morrissey’s, area director for 4sunkids inc., Pinkberry’s New York franchisee, ‘no mouse in the house’ strategy to keeping the little critters out. Morrissey was quoted as saying, "You can be spotless, but if you don’t remove the access points, they can still come in. We opened every cabinet and pulled out everything from the wall. Every outlet was checked. Every pipe was sealed. Gaps around the doors were filled with weather stripping.”

Morrissey was also cited as saying, the mice incident did not bite into business at the super-busy chain.

Restaurant industry: Hire for attitude, train for skill

The Nation’s Restaurant News, today published an article on a recent survey to gauge the state of training in the restaurant industry.

The sample pool was 58 corporate trainers, but represented companies that had between 200 and 65,000 employees; 43 per cent of the trainers were from casual-dining chains.

Jim Sullivan, chief executive of Sullivision, and the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers, who approached Purdue researchers for help with the survey, was quoted as saying “Other industries, such as retail, automotive and manufacturing collectively track organizational learning and ‘best practices’ in training across companies, but the foodservice industry does not."

The study findings show that despite the push to incorporate more technology into training, 93 per cent of respondents believe one-on-one training is the best training method.

Respondents also indicated that better employee selection and hiring has a positive impact on training. One of the statements most respondents agreed with was, “Our HR strategy/training is most effective when we hire for attitude and train for skill.”

And, while a majority of respondents indicated that their companies were spending more on training than in the previous year, the annual training budget was a mean of $1.6 million, and a mean of 2.5 per cent of total sales; about 1/2 of what the automotive and retail industry spend.

Fresh-cut salad sector advised to follow Earthbound’s lead

In today’s LA Times, Will Daniels, who oversees food safety at Earthbound Farm laments on the 2006 spinach outbreak that killed three people and sickened 200 others. He shares with reporter Marla Clone the steps the company is taking to make sure pathogens don’t end-up on consumers’ plates.

According to the story, all of Earthbound Farms greens are now checked for pathogens, from seed to sale. Each lot is tested twice — upon arrival from a farm, and again when packaged products roll off processing lines. In the year since the E. coli outbreak, the company has subjected about 120 million pounds of salad greens to new testing methods at a cost of several million dollars.

The story explains that on Oct. 2, just 18 days after the spinach outbreak was discovered, Earthbound Farms launched a "test and hold" system in San Juan Bautista. Since the program began, 58 out of about 76,000 lots entering Earthbound’s plants in San Juan Bautista and Yuma, Ariz., have tested positive for pathogens, a rate of 0.0008%, which amounts to about 93,000 pounds of greens destroyed out of about 122 million pounds that growers sent to Earthbound in the last 10 1/2 months.

Tests for finished products were said to have been added in February, and so far no packaged greens have failed. But Mansour Samadpour, the company’s hired food safety microbiologist predicts that four of Earthbound’s finished lots, nearly 4 tons, will test positive every year, most often in summer.

Despite what sounds like impressive testing procedures, the story goes on to note some skepticism, including questions over the accuracy of testing techniques and lab errors that may give producers a false sense of security. Trevor Suslow, a UC Davis microbial food safety specialist, tells Cone he has mixed feelings about whether extensive testing should occur at every plant. More important, he is cited as saying, is to ensure that growers, processors, truckers and stores all have well-designed programs to minimize pathogens. However, Michael Doyle, the industries most vocal critic was quoted as saying, "I believe that Earthbound is now the industry leader in providing food safety interventions to fresh-cut salads. The rest of the industry would be well-advised to follow Earthbound’s lead."

This week in media — raw milk

Following the lead of the Washington Post, the New York Times is the latest to write about the market demands and push to legalize raw milk sales.

In today’s Times, Joe Drapes highlights the Organic Pastures Dairy Company in the San Joaquin Valley near Fresno, which in 2000 became California’s first raw milk dairy with certified organic pasture land. The story says co-founder, Mark McAfee, expects it to gross $6 million — up from $4.9 last year. And while his raw milk is sold in 300 stores in California, where it is legal, McAfee has an $80,000 a month mail order business, shipping creams and cheese as well as milk to all 50 states under the pretense that it’s pet food.

Despite staggering sales and demand as reported by Drape, outbreaks associated with the consumption of raw milk continue to be recorded. But of course that doesn’t bother advocates.

“I think the bigger risk is having a salad from Wendy’s,” said a raw milk supporter from a farmers’ market in New Hampshire this past weekend.

And again, from yesterday’s Post, Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, was quoted as saying, "We’re not talking about raw milk from a typical conventional dairy," she says. "That milk could pose a danger. But milk from cows fed on pastures actually have their own antimicrobial components that keep it safe."

Our response at iFSN: Adults, do whatever you think works to ensure a natural and healthy lifestyle, but please don’t impose your dietary regimes on those incapable of protecting themselves: your kids.