NEW ZEALAND: Closed restaurant required to display low inspection grade for two months

Currently living in New Zealand, and having the opportunity to travel around it, I’ve seen my fair share of restaurant inspection grades. Like many other developed countries, letter grades displayed at a food business are popular here, and are meant to relay food safety information to consumers.

In the Auckland region, where many districts have a grading system operating, some districts require a food business to display a low grade for a period of time after they’ve been closed due to risk to public health.


The owner of a west Auckland restaurant forced to close in May because of an infestation of mice has been found guilty and fined.

Waitakere City Council staff carried out a routine inspection of Hobsonville’s Sanjang restaurant earlier this year and were shocked to discover a serious rodent problem among dirty, unhygienic conditions.

Council contract solicitor David Collins, said,

"The officer determined there was a risk of food contamination and required the premises to close.”

"The owner contracted a registered pest control firm who treated the property the same day… The premises were allowed to reopen with an E grading the following day after re-inspection."

Council environmental compliance spokesman Alan Ahmu says the restaurant was only allowed to reopen after it was thoroughly cleaned and had to display an E grade for the next two months.

Mr Ahmu says Sanjang has just passed a reinspection and is now B grade.

I’m still waiting to meet Bret, Jemaine or Rhys from the popular New Zealand show Flight of the Conchords, pictured right.

Australia: Restaurant owner sues food critic for bad review

This Christmas I will be venturing to Australia for the first time. My flatmate graciously invited me to spend the holidays with her, and the chance to potentially bump into Mr. G (Summer Heights High) was something I couldn’t pass up.

While I search for the famous mockumentry star, a Sydney restaurateur will likely be continuing her ugly legal battle against a food critic reports

In evidence in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday, Ljiljana Gacic sobbed as she launched a diatribe against the critic, Matthew Evans, whom she described as "low life".

She said the review had been "done for a purpose", and told Justice Ian Harrison she had put on 57 kilos in the six years since its publication because of the stress.

In September 2003, Fairfax’s The Sydney Morning Herald published a review referring to "unpalatable" dishes, describing the restaurant’s overall value as "a shocker" and scoring it 9/20 – in the "stay home" category. The restaurant went into administration in March 2004.

The article has been found to convey defamatory meanings, including that the trio "incompetent" as restaurant owners because they sold unpalatable food and employed a chef who made poor quality dishes.

Mr [Tom] Blackburn [ SC, for Fairfax – the newspaper] then suggested that either Ms Gacic was "malevolently and maliciously fabricating it or you are deluded".

The judge is now holding a hearing relating to defences – including truth – put forward by Fairfax, and on the amount of damages, if any, which should be awarded.

Is street meat safe to eat?

During my undergraduate days in Canada I tended to grab a bite after hitting the town. Though I rarely do it now (BK burgers just aren’t made with the same care at 3am), I do recall scarfing down hotdogs from street vendors during the wee hours of the morning.

But is street meat, or any other food prepared on wheels, safe, asks the Hudson Reporter.

[S]hould customers trust food that’s stored and cooked in what’s essentially an old truck? Is the food kept in a cold – really cold – refrigerator? Is the food cooked at a temperature that will kill any bacteria in the meat? And how do the cooks wash their hands and utensils?

Alex Fernandez, a California native who sells south-western cuisine from a food truck in Jersey City, said,

“You wouldn’t believe the laws we have to follow. It’s more [regulated] than you think. It’s just like a restaurant. No different. We’re just on the sidewalk.”

Frank Sasso, health officer for Hoboken, where there are 33 food cart and food truck licenses, said,

“Both food trucks and food carts, which are generally hot dog stands, must have a stent thermometer to check the temperature of cooked foods…”

Vendors must also have a way to clean their hands. Food carts are required to have some type of hand sanitizer, but are not required to have water available for hand washing. Food trucks, as opposed to carts, are required to have a source of water for hand washing, although the water isn’t required to be hot. Carts must also have hand sanitizer in addition to the water.

Sasso noted that most food poisoning – from restaurants, supermarkets, home kitchens, and elsewhere – generally stems from improper storage or cooking temperatures.

Carts or trucks are annually inspected by the local health department.

UK: Restaurant receives Michelin stars, but no food safety stars

The Star Inn restaurant in North Yorkshire has been closed after more than 80 customers developed symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea, reports

The Star Inn has won a raft of prestigious awards since 1996, including a Michelin star, the Egon Ronay Gastropub of the Year title and, most recently, The Good Pub Guide County Dining Pub of the Year for 2010.

Jacquie Pern, who jointly runs the venue with her husband, leading chef Andrew Pern, said yesterday,
“We can confirm that The Star restaurant is temporarily closed as a precautionary measure. Early indications are consistent with a viral incident. We are taking the matter very seriously and are co-operating with the health authorities and look forward to returning to our normal food standard as soon as possible.”

A spokesman for Ryedale District Council said,

“More than 80 people are known to have developed symptoms after eating at the restaurant between October 18 and October 28. A number of restaurant staff are also known to be affected by symptoms.”

Upon reading the story I immediately went to Scores on the Doors website, which lists a restaurant’s food safety-star rating based on the most recent inspection. The Star Inn is located in an area of North Yorkshire which appears to not yet be registered with the Scores on the Doors programme. Although Michelin stars are nice, I’d rather know the restaurant’s food safety rating.

NYC restaurant: A mouse in the display case doesn’t mean a failed inspection

Being the typical older sibling, growing up middle-sister Lisa and I used to pick on youngest-sister Julie. Whenever we watched Disney movies we would assign Julie the nicknames of the odd Disney characters, like Gus-Gus. Gus-Gus, as some may recall, is one of the mice from Cinderella. Although Julie has forgiven us for the torture, the memories clearly have not faded. She messaged me recently to tell me she has acquired a new flatmate, named Gus-Gus, pictured right (next to his Disney counterpart).

While Julie and her new pet become acquainted, a New York City restaurant recently received a passing grade on its inspection even after photos of mice in the food display case were revealed, reports

The New York City Department of Health has given Junior’s Restaurant a passing grade, after two photos surfaced on the Internet which appeared to show a mouse in a display window (picture, right, from the source).

Junior’s owner says he took immediate action when he was made aware of the problem, calling it an isolated incident.

Earlier this week, health inspectors found evidence of mice in non-food areas and issued several violations.

City health inspectors went back Thursday for a reinspection.
The full results will be available on the city health department’s website next week.


Mmmm Gus-Gus turds.

Halloween decorations hide a poor inspection score

Halloween in New Zealand doesn’t appear to be as hyped-up as North America. I’ve yet to see any houses decorated in Wellington, and the usual surplus of costumes and candy in grocery and department stores is nearly non-existent here. That won’t stop me however; I’ve already begun gathering the fixin’s for my costume.

Meanwhile, a South Carolina restaurant found a way to disguise its most recent bad inspection card – using Halloween decorations to hide the “C” assigned, reports The Item Online.

Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet on Broad Street has received an "A" inspection rating from the Department of Health and Environmental Control. The new grade replaces the "C" handed out on Tuesday for violations of the county health code, which inspector James Arthur said were numerous and serious.

The day after that inspection, the restaurant was cited for permit tampering, after an employee covered the downgraded inspection sticker with Halloween decorations.

Penalties range from a fine of $1,000 to permit suspension, said Arthur. The official notice will stay in the restaurant’s file at the health department, he added. They will not face consequences unless it happens again.

On Friday, the restaurant scored a perfect 100 points on their follow-up health inspection. The new sticker, which is unobscured, can be seen on the door, facing the parking lot.


Indiana: BS inspection results at BSU

Adding another peg to my places-I’ve-visited-in-New Zealand map, I’m currently in Dunedin at an Otago Universtiy café. Perhaps it’s the years at the uber laidback University of Guelph, but I prefer the campus atmosphere to that of the usual downtown internet hot spot, though it often gives me moments of déjà vu.

In another déjà vu moment, students at Ball State University may be unimpressed with the results of campus eatery inspections. Back in February I blogged about the unsatisfactory number of inspections taking place at the university, with some food locations going nearly six years without an inspection. Now The Star Press reveals that the inspections are being completed, but with poor results.

The food court in The Atrium of Ball State University’s Art and Journalism Building  has been cited for nine critical and seven non-critical violations of sanitation regulations.

Tom Russell, a registered environmental health specialist at the university, explained that it’s not necessarily unsafe to eat at the food court.

"If you had a couple of critical violations come together, it could result in a foodborne illness. You do not want to have recurring violations. It needs to be addressed."

State and university inspectors also cited The Barnes and Noble Cafe (seven critical, seven non-critical violations), the Alumni Center/University Catering (two critical, one non-critical violations), Elliot/Wagoner Dining (four critical, six non-critical violations), and the food court in the student center (five critical, six non-critical violations) during inspections last month.

University spokesman Tony Proudfoot said the university is certainly not satisfied with the results.

"Dining services is looking at bringing in a consultant to help evaluate our program and identify any opportunities we might have to close gaps and improve. The consultant will be asked to identify training and procedures to help us resolve these issues."

Some of the violations found last month were the same as those found when the university called the state health department in to conduct inspections in February.

Gold, silver and bronze medals for restaurants too at 2010 Commonwealth Games

Before moving to New Zealand I had no clue what the games of netball or rugby involved, and it’s not to say I am an expert on these sports by any means now, but I at least know how the games are played. Both netball and rugby sevens are approved sports in the Commonwealth Games, a multinational multisport even held every four years in which athletes of the Commonwealth of Nations compete. In 2010 the Commonwealth Games are going to be hosted by Delhi, India, and the country is preparing to introduce a new restaurant inspection disclosure system to ensure athletes and fans do not become sick during the duration of the games, reports F&B News.

During the meeting, the authorities intended to help prevent the infamous "Delhi belly," with a plan called "Safe food, tasty food" under consideration by India’s food safety agency that would rate restaurants gold, silver or bronze depending on their food safety and hygiene performance.

It was agreed that the municipal corporation of Delhi (MCD) will identify eating establishments from the list of its licensed establishments who could be taken up for upgradation. These establishments will be trained to upgrade food safety and then audited for awarding the appropriate grade. Besides, the members of National Restaurant Association of India will audit to award them grades.

… Further, the food inspectors of MCD/NDMC (New Delhi municipal council) will assist in identifying food businesses and persuading them to adhere to safety norms prescribed under the rules. Several major hotels of the city are also being invited to adopt food cluster in their vicinity as part of their corporate social responsibility and enable such business improve their standards of food safety.

Cool beans!


UK: It’s a bummer heights high

Doug and Amy introduced me to what is now one of my favourite TV shows, up there with The Office, Arrested Development and Flight of the Conchords. Summer Heights High is an Australian mockumentary following the lives of highschool students. One of the main characters, Ja’mie (not to be confused with Jamie) has transferred for a year from a private school to attend Summer Heights High public school. On multiple occasions Ja’mie refers to how povo (poor) the public school is.

Students at a UK private school may have been better off attending a povo public school after five pupils became ill this past week, reports This is Croydon Today.

Cumnor House School, in Pampisford Road, South Croydon, has been hit by an outbreak of campylobacter – a bacteria that causes food poisoning.

Headteacher Peter Clare-Hunt insists there is no proof that the bug came from the school kitchen. But nevertheless environmental health officers who were called in to carry out an inspection have "reminded" the school about good hygiene practice.

Headteacher Hunt explained,

"We have had five confirmed cases of campylobacter which is a type of food poisoning. As soon as that was confirmed we underwent a visit from the food hygiene consultant and environmental health…"

"There is no safety issue with regards to school lunches. I would say 99 per cent of the boys, if not more, are having school lunches and can do so without any fear of risk whatsoever.


“In terms of tracing this back to the kitchen that will never be proved one way or the other."

All the boys who fell ill at the school, which takes pupils aged between four and 13, are now back in class "healthy and doing fine". Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning and symptoms can include stomach cramps and severe diarrhoea. Anyone who contracts the bug is normally ill for two days to a week and infection can come from inadequate cooking of food to handling domestic pets. Infection from person to person contact is, however, uncommon.

Headteacher Hunt should focus on apologizing to the sick students rather than insisting his cafeteria couldn’t possibly be the source of illness.

Soup shop owner collapses while preparing for reinspection

Less than a week ago I blogged about a Sacramento, CA soup shop that was up for sale after a recent health inspection unveiled a cockroach infestation. It appears closure plans have changed, and the owner has decided to remain open; or was in the process of it when he collapsed while preparing for a reinspection, reports The Sacramento Bee.

Daniel Pont, 70, has become well known for his one-man downtown restaurant, La Bonne Soupe, on Eighth Street. The tiny eatery with its gourmet soup and sandwiches topped the Sacramento Zagat Survey earlier this year but was closed last week after county health inspectors found both live and dead cockroaches.

The move shocked lunch goers who stand in long lines as they wait for Pont to prepare their lunches then handle customer transactions. Pont was working through the weekend to ready his restaurant for a fresh inspection this morning when he collapsed and was taken to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center on Morse Avenue.

Alicia Enriquez, the head of the county’s restaurant inspection program, said her inspectors arrived at La Bonne Soupe this morning and found a sign saying Pont had been taken to the hospital. She said the inspection would be rescheduled.