UTAH: Chain restaurants score better on inspections

Tonight, after a three-hour drive to Wanganui, I grabbed a bite at Subway. As I’ve proudly mentioned before, I was a sandwich artist back in the day, and could probably still make a mean sub. I remember how to cut the bread, fill the toppings tray and bake the cookies. I also remember fearing the local health inspector and the internal Subway inspector.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that chain restaurants have fewer critical violations than small local restaurants.

The newspaper analyzed the data on a city-by-city basis and found that during the past two years, locally owned restaurants collect more critical violations than their chain counterparts.

Critical health code violations pose the greatest risks to public health and include infractions such as storing raw meat over fresh vegetables or storing food at a temperature that promotes bacterial growth. Some restaurants had dozens of critical violations, including buffets, seafood restaurants and drive-ins.

Bryce C. Larsen, director of the Health Department’s Bureau of Food Protection, explained,

"National chains have the financial means and resources to do whatever is needed to address safety issues and employee training.”

Despite the statistics, that doesn’t mean you should avoid every neighborhood diner.

Larsen continued,

"A lot of smaller, family owned restaurants do extremely well [with the health department].”

Diners who want to ensure a Salt Lake County restaurant that they eat at is clean and preparing food properly can turn to restaurant-inspection reports for nearly 3,900 food service facilities on the Salt Lake Valley Health Department website.

And because I was a sandwich artist at the time, here’s a picture of Jared, the Subway guy, and his pants (right).

No soup for you: Cafe for sale after cockroach infestation found

Perhaps one of the most popular Seinfeld episodes, The Soup Nazi, best sums up the feelings at a Sacramento, California soup cafe after a recent inspection discovered a cockroach infestation.

FOX40 News reports,

The owner of a popular soup cafe has put a "For Sale" sign in the window of his restaurant after Sacramento health officials shut it down Wednesday.

La Bonne Soup Café was shut down Wednesday morning during a routine health inspection after a cockroach infestation was discovered. Previously, the restaurant had been inspected with a clean bill of health.

Foodhandlers should be never-nude: Australia restaurant learns the hard way

In one of my favourite Arrested Development episodes Zach Braff, who plays a producer for the spoof television show Girls with Low Self Esteem, reveals he, like Tobias, is a never nude. Never nudes, are (as the name implies) never nude. Employees at Vinh Phat restaurant in Australia should abide by the same rules if they wish to avoid repeated fines for breaching food hygiene laws.

Foodweek.com.au reports that three male foodhandlers in the Sydney restaurant were preparing food topless.

Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald, said,

"This incident is a blatant breach of food safety laws, it goes against every basic rule in the book… there is no excuse for not wearing the appropriate clothing, regardless of how hot it may be in the kitchen.”


"This type of behaviour disregards fundamental food handling rules for eliminating the risk of cross-contamination. onsumers should not have to take any risks when dining out."

The restaurant’s owners were fined $330, and appears on the New South Wales Name and Shame website.

If only the foodhandlers had been wearing denim cut-offs like Tobias.

Does the grade meet consumer expectations?

One of the factors that make for a successful restaurant inspection grading system is consumer confidence in the system. Do consumers feel the grade accurately represents the risk associated with dining at a particular establishment? If the answer is no, it’s unlikely the system will be used to its full potential. Sure, there will always be consumers that don’t notice (or care) about the inspection grade in an establishment window; but consumers who do care, and want to use the system, should feel it is reliable.

The Press-Enterprise Online reports that in San Bernardino or Riverside, CA counties the “A” card at an establishment may not mean what consumers think it means.

An "A" placard hanging in the window doesn’t necessarily reflect a sparkling-clean kitchen…San Bernardino County unveiled its retooled Department of Environmental Health Services Web site, where you can check restaurant inspection reports online.

[In both counties] restaurants can get A grades even if they had unsanitary kitchens when the inspector showed up.

The Cheesecake Factory in Riverside, for example, got an A grade on July 7, even though the inspector found food that wasn’t being kept at the proper temperature to inhibit bacterial growth. Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar in San Bernardino, when it was inspected April 16, got an A grade despite having food-contact surfaces that weren’t clean and sanitized.

But those violations were immediately corrected. When inspectors find critical health hazards like those, they don’t leave until the problem is fixed. If a serious hazard can’t be corrected on the spot, the restaurant is closed, program managers in both counties told me in separate phone interviews.

Riverside County also retooled its online restaurant-grading information. Since June, it has been possible to view inspection reports back to April 2008.
San Bernardino County allows you to see restaurants’ inspection histories back to October 2004 online. (Riverside County plans to add prior-year inspections.)

Riverside and San Bernardino counties use the A, B, C letter grade system, pictured right.

Kiwifruit to help the toots

When I first moved to New Zealand and discovered the delicious gold kiwifruit I went a little overboard, consuming at least four of these a day. Little did I know the sweeter sibling of the green kiwifruit may be helping to keep me from, ummm, embarrassing body functions.  Kiwi researchers have found that kiwifruit may help flatulence, reports The New Zealand Herald. 

We’ve all had those awkward moments when a roomful of people tries to ignore a less-than-fragrant blast from someone’s nether regions. It’s bad enough at work – but much worse on the bus or, heaven forbid, in a lift. Now help could be on the way, with the humble kiwifruit…

Up to one in five men and one in four women suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), with flatulence and constipation among common symptoms. The fruit contains an enzyme called zyactinase, and a small study has shown it could provide relief for IBS sufferers.

Gastroenterologist Dr Russell Walmsley, who worked on the research, said,

"People think of kiwifruit for constipation but it also seemed to be quite good for general irritable bowel.”

Melanie Palmer, communications manager for kiwifruit marketing company Zespri, said the fruit was known for relieving that "blocked and bloated feeling".


"Early results show eating green kiwifruit as part of a meal may improve digestion."

I’m a fan of the Zespri kiwifruit, mainly because they come with a clever little knoon (knife/spoon) for scooping your fruit (see picture, right).


The B at Peppone restaurant doesn’t stand for Britney

Being an avid fan of stalker-esque gossip sites, I was interested to see the popular celebrity eatery Peppone appear in my Google Alerts this morning. The likes of Britney Spears and Mark Wahlberg have dined at the Brentwood, California restaurant, and in the past the A grade at the restaurant didn’t just invite A-list celebrities.

A recent inspection, however, revealed a drop from A to B, reports Brentwood Blogged. Included in the inspection findings was evidence of a major cockroach infestation.

Will the drop from A to B cause a drop in patronage as well?

First years and foodborne illness

Julie, my youngest sister, started her first year at Fanshawe College in London (Ontario) this fall. Like many first years she’s staying in residence, and like many first years she’s having a great drunken time – likely followed by painful mornings hovered over the toilet.

Although many a pukey morning could be attributed to alcohol overconsumption, Courier-Journal reports ways to avoid foodborne illness while living in dorms (or residence halls).

Food-related illnesses, such as E. coli and salmonella infection, can creep into a dorm — or any setting where people gather. But students aren’t always alert to the risks…

The article identifies a few problem areas for this demographic.

Eating pizza that’s been left out all night: In general, perishable food shouldn’t be left out more than two hours at room temperature or no more than one hour in 90-degree weather, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But as Doug explains, there are exceptions,

“If it’s the kind of pizza that most people usually get, which is like cardboard and completely dry, it’s probably going to be all right. But when in doubt, throw it out.”

Relying solely on a food’s color or smell to tell whether it’s safe to eat:

“If something smells gross, toss it,” said Doug Powell.

But while your nose and eyes may lead you right sometimes, they’re not foolproof. For example, that hamburger or chicken you just cooked may look done, but you won’t know for sure whether it’s safe to eat unless you stick a food thermometer in it to check the temperature. You can pick one up at the nearest big-box store.

Your tongue can mislead you, too. A product can be contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella, without tasting or looking odd.

That’s Julie, right, with the college staple food pizza.

No passport, no lunch

Aside from travelling, I don’t carry my Canadian passport with me — the last thing I need is to lose it while overseas. Sure, I understood when the doctor or Liquor King employee asked me to produce it, but not when I was refused a burger for lack of I.D.

This past sunny Sunday a few gal pals and I decided to grab a burger for lunch at an Irish pub-style restaurant. The place had appeal because of the outdoor seating and 10 dollar burger and fries (which we’d tried and loved before). Upon ordering our meals (sans alcohol) we were asked to present I.D. When I produced my Canadian driver’s license I was told that we could not eat at the establishment unless I presented my passport. Gutted, we grabbed a bite at Burger Fuel instead.

It’s probably not a common experience, but it had me thinking: Is the pub that’s so strict with its patrons equally as strict with its food safety? Would my burger have been cooked to the proper internal temperature using a meat thermometer – the passport of burgers?

UK: Don’t f*** me up because you f***ed up on your inspection

 With publicly available inspection data comes media reporting on dirty diners; and with poor media coverage comes threats, Andrew Gilligan at Greenwhich Online reports.

So there I was, standing in the Somerfield checkout queue, when the phone rings. “I’m gonna f*** you,” says a voice. Now, as it happens it’s not the first time I’ve had a threatening phone call, so I wasn’t all that bothered. “Who is this?” I said. “You’ve always had it in for me,” said the mystery caller. “You and your little blog, you c***. I’m gonna sue you.”

The cause of the latest food-fight was a column I did for greenwich.co.uk about three weeks ago, listing the local restaurants and takeaways which had failed the council’s hygiene awards inspection – meaning, in the council’s words, that they were “not up to standard” for cleanliness.
Among them were three of Frank
[Dowling’s – mystery caller, restaurant owner] – the Coach and Horses in the Market (pictured right), plus Inc Brasserie and Union Square. I highlighted them as well-known places which charge quite fancy prices but which have all failed the hygiene test…

The phone call ended with Frank promising to sue and demanding the documentation for my story. I pointed out that the piece contained a link to the council’s food hygiene awards report, which is carried on its website.

I’ve only gotten profane emails, Doug deals with the profane calls.

UK: Llay Fish Bar owner says restaurant is not E.coli source

In a move unlikely to better Llay Fish Bar’s reputation, owner Ramazan Aslan insisted his restaurant was not the source of the Wrexham E.coli outbreak which has sickened four, including a three-year old girl, reports Wales Online.

Ramazan Aslan insisted his takeaway is “clean” and council inspectors have not proven it was the cause of the outbreak.

Mr. Aslan stated,

“Nobody knows where it came from. They can’t say, ‘I got E.coli from the Llay Fish Bar’. The council took samples and didn’t find anything from the shop. We are clean. I don’t know why they just blame the Llay Fish Bar.”

Karen Morrisroe-Clutton (pictured right) and four-year- old Abigail Hennessey, both from Wrexham, were left seriously ill after eating at the takeaway in August. Abigail recovered several weeks ago, while Mrs Morrisroe-Clutton, 32, remains in intensive care at Wrexham Maelor Hospital. Two other people also fell ill, but did not require hospital treatment.

The four people who became ill after dining at Llay Fish Bar likely don’t care whether the restaurant owner thinks he made them sick. And it’s unlikely the restaurant was selected at random as a potential source of the outbreak –which Mr. Aslan alludes to.