Make it mandatory: More evidence that restaurant inspection disclosure matters

This work describes the relationship between compliance with food hygiene law as reflected in food hygiene scores; measures of microbiological contamination of food samples taken from consumer-facing food businesses in England, Northern Ireland and Wales; and outbreaks of foodborne illness.

This paper demonstrates an association between the results of food hygiene inspections done by trained inspectors, using a rigorous and consistent procedure, with microbiological contamination of actual food samples from those premises. A proposed theoretical model further demonstrates the reduction in foodborne illness that would result if there were increased compliance with food hygiene law.

As clean as they look? Food hygiene inspection scores, microbiological contamination, and foodborne illness

Fleetwood, Janet, Shamim Rahman, Darren Holland, David Millson, Laura, Thomson, Guy Poppy. 2019.

Food Control. 96: 76-86

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2018.08.034

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713518304432

Food Safety Confessional: Connie still thaws meat in the sink (so do I)

Connie, someone I’ve never met but she’s a food safety professional from Guelph (that’s in Ontario, Canada, and it’s a small community) writes:

I’ve been a food safety professional for going on 20 years, I still thaw meat in the sink (sometimes in hot water if I’m really rushed) and in my house, we wash hands after we eat.

I’m a firm advocate of not killing our immune systems by trying to sterilize our homes; according to my research, the illness and deaths that occur now are more frequent, widespread and worse in the effects than ever in the past (Peanut Corporation of America excluded for obvious reasons).

 I don’t take any chances at work, I never would, but at home, sigh, we’re all still alive.

 If you’re ever looking for inspiration for a blog post look no further than the website IFSQN. It’s a great forum for discussion and assistance from experienced FSP but wow, there are some things posted that are positively frightening.

 I am currently advocating with the Canadian government to:
• change our national job description so people realize we are gd professionals and not place holders; and,

• institute a national standard for both auditors and CB (CFIA has accreditation standards, but I don’t think anyone is checking in on auditors).

 I personally believe that GFSI is the downfall of safe food, with people focused on being audit-ready and not on producing safe food.

Surveys still suck: How likely would you go back to a restaurant involved in a foodborne illness outbreak

This study reports an investigation of the determinants of the likelihood consumers will revisit a restaurant that has had a foodborne illness outbreak, including the moderating effects of restaurant type and consumer dining frequency.

A scenario-based survey was distributed via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to collect data from 1,034 respondents; the tally of valid responses was 1,025. Partial least squares-based structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) showed perceived vulnerability and perceived severity to be statistically significant; both also negatively affected customer intentions to patronize restaurants cited for serving foods that caused foodborne illness outbreaks.

Results suggest that type of restaurant is a significant moderator between perceived severity and customer intentions. The type of diner, however, based on frequency, does not moderate the relationships between perceived severity and perceived vulnerability and customer intentions to patronize restaurants that served food causing a foodborne illness outbreak (FBI).

Using protection motivation theory (PMT) (Rogers, 1975), this study’s findings contribute to understanding determinants and moderators of customer intentions to revisit restaurants after a foodborne illness outbreak.

Consumers’ return intentions towards a restaurant with foodborne illness outbreaks: Differences across restaurant type and consumers’ dining frequency

Food Control

Faizan Ali, Kimberly J. Harris, Kisang Ryu

DOI : 10.1016/j.foodcont.2018.12.001

http://m.x-mol.com/paper/921130

Food Safety Confessional: Sheila says she is horrible

Sheila is a former MSc student with me at Kansas State University and a tough military chick. We hardly ever saw each other, because phones and the Internet sometimes work (despite administratium claims to the contrary), but she has kept up the food safety conversation. I was privileged to work with her and a whole bunch of other military food safety folks over the years.

Sheila writes:

I am a horrible food safety professional.  

Not at work. At work I’m a straight-laced, all business, don’t-you-dare-break-the-rules-or-I’ll-kick-you-in-the-nuts kinda girl.  My problem is outside of work.  When I’m off the clock I turn into Andrew Zimmern’s sister by another mister.  I like to eat weird stuff.  

I spent 15 years with the U.S. Army as a Food Safety Specialist and got to travel all over the world.  While others in the group were sticking to main stream chow hall fare and MREs, which has its own dangers, I was happy to find some random vendor selling mystery meat on a stick by the side of the road.  It might have been dog, or monkey, or bat, or rat.  I really have no idea, but it sure tasted good.  Boiled chicken heads?  Roasted sparrows?  Camel on a spit?  Beaver tater tot hotdish?  A whole sheep buried in the desert sand for 2 days?  Hell yeah, bring it on!  From Africa, Australia, Central America, the South Pacific, the Arctic, the Middle East and the Far East, it didn’t matter where I was I had to try the odd local fare.  Still do when I travel.  Real haggis is amazing.

Back at home, cooking for myself or eating out, I am also bad.  When cooking for others all safety precautions are followed, thermometers, separate cutting boards and utensils for different food types, obsessive hand washing, but I make all kinds of exceptions when food is just for me.  E. coli and Salmonella be damned.  My eggs need to be over medium. Scrambled eggs are gross.  I eat raw, homemade cookie dough.  I love homemade eggnog.  Don’t give me that store bought boxed crap that tastes like nutmeg infused cardboard.  Now if I could find pasteurized eggs in the shell, I’d use them, but out in the Minnesota tundra they just aren’t available.  I like my steak on the rare side of medium rare, even if it is needle tenderized.  Hamburgers done medium.  Sushi is a favorite food and I go for raw and roe.  Raw oysters are a heavenly treat.   

But here’s the deal.  I know the potential consequences of eating all of these risky foods.  I am generally healthy, aside from the arthritis and anger issues the Army so generously gave me.  I realize healthy people still get food poisoning, but I am willing to occasionally take that risk to enjoy certain foods.  I would never force anyone else to do what I do and I often tell people not to do it and why. 

Do as I say, not as I do. 

And even I have limits.  Chicken must be cooked to 165F.  I don’t drink raw milk.  I rant about the raw pet food trend.  And I avoid potlucks like the plague.  I’m sure it all tastes great, but I just can’t do it.  I don’t trust what most people do in their kitchens unless I’m there to see it.  If invited to a party that’s potluck and I can’t get out of it, I bring potato chips and eat before I get there.  Weird right?  

Oh, and I have 12 beautiful pet snakes of varying sizes and species, but that’s another story.  

‘I don’t know how to face my friends and relatives’ Dozens ill after wedding banquet in Singapore

Jeffrey Sivalingam, 61, the father of the bride, told The New Paper yesterday an eight-course meal had been catered for more than 400 guests.

After contacting them yesterday, the retiree said many of them had told him about falling ill after the banquet.

“About four people from each table fell ill as well as some entire tables,” he said.

“I didn’t expect this and now I don’t know how to face my friends and relatives.”

Mr Sivalingam said he was warded at Tan Tock Seng Hospital with his son after they developed fever, and that at least three youngsters, including his 16-year-old niece, were also warded.

A wedding guest, Mr Matthew Tjow, 40, said he and his three children started vomiting and having diarrhoea on Monday.

The counsellor added: “My daughter, who is in Primary 1, vomited from the hall to the toilet. She has kept vomiting and is looking as frail as a rag doll.”

He said the other two, aged 12 and 10, also vomited and had diarrhoea and fever. His wife also started showing symptoms last night.

The spokesman said staff who handled food during the banquet events have been “temporarily relieved of duties” until they complete all necessary medical tests and are cleared by the relevant authorities.

The hotel will also cease serving raw food from its banquet kitchens during the investigation.

Mr Sivalingam hopes to warn the public about such incidents.

“I am not interested in compensation from the hotel. I am interested in the well-being of our guests,” he said.

Everyone’s got a camera: NY Just Salad mouse edition

NBC New York reports a salad bar blamed its building after up to eight mice were seen running rampant in its midtown location Sunday night, and said the store was closing permanently next month.

“We closed this store for several days to give our team the Thanksgiving holiday off and did not notice the issue in a timely matter. Rodent activity has been a struggle for the concourse area in general,” Just Salad CEO and founder Nick Kenner said in a statement of the Rockefeller Center location.

Kenner added that the brand would moving out of the underground location entirely at the end of December.

Rockefeller Center owner Tishman Speyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The mice were caught on camera by Eli Colon, who had just finished having dinner at a nearby restaurant about 7:30 p.m. when he saw something moving in the Just Salad.

He said he spotted about six to eight mice running and jumping inside the store, which is closed Sundays, and started to film. “When you see this kind of stuff you get very concerned for the health of the people who work there and the people who have lunch there every day,” he said.

In the video, the mice can be seen scampering around behind the counter in the kitchen. Colon has a 3-year-old with allergies so he was particularly concerned about the level of hygiene. sanitary grade of “A” displays mice like that and we were just passing by not searching for mice and those are noticeable. I’m sure there have to be more. Also questions about the standards and processes used by the sanitary organizations that rates these places and how reliable those are.”

Golden Ponds: Lawsuits proceed 2 years after 306 sickened in Rochester’s worst food poisoning outbreak

On Thanksgiving Day in 2016, as many as 1,100 people ate their holiday dinner at Golden Ponds Restaurant and Party House, which was located just up Long Pond Road from the Greece Town Hall in Rochester, N.Y.

Within 24 hours, patrons began to experience stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea. Some were hospitalized and at least one underwent emergency surgery.

Eventually, 306 people who dined at Golden Ponds that day reported they had been sickened by the food, officials at the Monroe County Department of Public Health now say.

A public-health investigation later determined that the pernicious Clostridium perfringens bacteria that made people ill was in gravy that had been stored and served at an unacceptably low temperature.

“Rest assured there are a significant number of people who will never think of Thanksgiving the same way,” said Paul Vincent Nunes, a Rochester lawyer who has brought lawsuits against the defunct Greece restaurant. 

According to Steve Orr of the Democrat and Chronicle, here’s what’s happened since:

Golden Ponds is closed. The establishment at 500 Long Pond Road, which had been operated by Ralph Rinaudo for 33 years, was closed by the health department after the food poisoning episode. Improvements were made and the restaurant was allowed to open in late December. But business was predictably slow, and it closed for good in February 2017.

Rinaudo sold the property in January of this year to a corporation that shares the address of a Henrietta construction firm, Team FSI General Contractors. The building appears to be empty at present and future use of the property isn’t clear. Officials at FSI did not respond to a request for comment.

The health department has continued its practice of inspecting every restaurant once a year. It has not stepped up inspections of buffet-style eateries like Golden Ponds, spokesman Ryan Horey said. Inability to maintain food at the proper temperatures during buffet serving was key  factor in the Golden Ponds incident. The Democrat and Chronicle checked inspection records available on nydatabases.com for six Rochester-area buffet restaurants. Five of them have been cited by the health departments for serious violations involving foods being kept at the wrong temperature since the Golden Ponds episode.

Four lawsuits filed on behalf of 31 plaintiffs are pending against Golden Ponds. The four were consolidated into one case in July. Court-ordered mediation to seek a resolution before trial is set to begin soon. The cases are not suited for class-action status, as the damages incurred differed from one patron to the next, Nunes said.

Nunes said, “These were not just tummy aches. People were quite sick, some in the hospital. These are life-threatening events.”

‘Turds’ flow through NZ bistro-days after $150,000 fit-out

Hamish McNeilly of Stuff reports a new bistro in Otago that opened less than two weeks ago has been forced to close because of “turds, toilet paper, and p….”.

The word is poop.

Tap & Dough owner Norma Emerson is unsure when, or even if, the fledgling Middlemarch business will open its doors again.

Business had been “going well” until Tuesday night, Emerson said.

Otago bistro Tap & Dough opened on November 10, but was forced to close after floodwater and sewage flowed through the building.

“We expected to see, at the most, a little water in. What we did not expected was the sewage.”

Just metres from the business at the corner of Mold St and Snow Ave, raw sewage overflowed in the rising waters.

Floodwater and raw sewage flowed through The Tap & Dough.

Emerson and her brewer husband, Richard, spent about $150,000 fitting out the leased property, which opened on November 10.

But on Wednesday, decontaminating contractors were removing carpets, wall linings and wood panelling.

“This is a major job. We had turds in here, and all over the carpet.”

When she realised raw sewage was “lapping” at the doors on Tuesday, she called for help.

“I did what any reasonable citizen would do, and rung emergency services”.

Emerson said she was upset by a comment from local Strath Taieri board chairman Barry Williams as volunteers from the fire brigade helped pump water from the bistro.

“He went to the fire brigade and said ‘why are the Emerson’s getting preferential treatment?”‘

“Do I not have a right to protect my property, I’m furious about that.

“It is an emergency when s…., turds, toilet paper, and p…. flow through your door at an eating establishment, at which you have just spent $150,000 on refurbishing.”

The word is shit.

Williams told Stuff he did not recall the incident unfolding that way.

“That’s bloody strange,” he said.

He maintained he asked the volunteer firefighters to pump the excess water into an open ditch, rather than the side of the street.

Williams said he hoped to clear the air with Emerson, “or she could call me”.

It was one of several businesses impacted by sewage in the town, a popular start/finishing point for the Otago Central Rail Trail – about 80km from Dunedin.

On Tuesday a Dunedin City Council spokeswoman said three streets in Middlemarch were closed due to surging from the wastewater network, with a pump used to provide extra capacity.

Are computers better than epi at identifying foodborne illness? Gumshoes will always be needed

A new computer model that uses machine learning and de-identified and aggregated search and location data from logged-in Google users was significantly more accurate in identifying potentially unsafe restaurants when compared with existing methods of consumer complaints and routine inspections, according to new research led by Google and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The findings indicate that the model can help identify lapses in food safety in near real time.

“Foodborne illnesses are common, costly, and land thousands of Americans in emergency rooms every year. This new technique, developed by Google, can help restaurants and local health departments find problems more quickly, before they become bigger public health problems,” said corresponding author Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard Chan School and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The study will be published online November 6, 2018 in npj Digital Medicine.

Foodborne illnesses are a persistent problem in the U.S. and current methods by restaurants and local health departments for determining an outbreak rely primarily on consumer complaints or routine inspections. These methods can be slow and cumbersome, often resulting in delayed responses and further spread of disease.

To counter these shortcomings, Google researchers developed a machine-learned model and worked with Harvard to test it in Chicago and Las Vegas. The model works by first classifying search queries that can indicate foodborne illness, such as “stomach cramps” or “diarrhea.” The model then uses de-identified and aggregated location history data from the smartphones of people who have opted to save it, to determine which restaurants people searching those terms had recently visited.

Health departments in each city were then given a list of restaurants that were identified by the model as being potential sources of foodborne illness. The city would then dispatch health inspectors to these restaurants, though the health inspectors did not know whether their inspection was prompted by this new model or traditional methods. During the period of the study, health departments continued to follow their usual inspection procedures as well.

In Chicago, where the model was deployed between November 2016 and March 2017, the model prompted 71 inspections. The study found that the rate of unsafe restaurants among those detected by the model was 52.1% compared with 39.4% among inspections triggered by a complaint-based system. The researchers noted that Chicago has one of the most advanced monitoring programs in the nation and already employs social media mining techniques, yet this new model proved more precise in identifying restaurants that had food safety violations.

In Las Vegas, the model was deployed between May and August 2016. Compared with routine inspections performed by the health department, it had a higher precision rate of identifying unsafe restaurants.

When the researchers compared the model with routine inspections by health departments in Las Vegas and Chicago, they found that the overall rate across both cities of unsafe restaurants detected by the model was 52.3%, whereas the overall rate of detection of unsafe restaurants via routine inspections across the two cities was 22.7%.

The study showed that in 38% of all cases identified by this model, the restaurant potentially causing foodborne illness was not the most recent one visited by the person who was searching keywords related to symptoms. The authors said this is important because previous research has shown that people tend to blame the last restaurant they visited and therefore may be likely to file a complaint for the wrong restaurant. Yet clinically, foodborne illnesses can take 48 hours or even longer to become symptomatic after someone has been exposed, the authors said.

The new model outperformed complaint-based inspections and routine inspections in terms of precision, scale, and latency (the time that passed between people becoming sick and the outbreak being identified). The researchers noted that the model would be best leveraged as a supplement to existing methods used by health departments and restaurants, allowing them to better prioritize inspections and perform internal food safety evaluations. More proactive and timely responses to incidents could mean better public health outcomes. Additionally, the model could prove valuable for small and mid-size restaurants that can’t afford safety operations personnel to apply advanced food safety monitoring and data analysis techniques.

“In this study, we have just scratched the surface of what is possible in the realm of machine-learned epidemiology. I like the analogy to the work of Dr. John Snow, the father of modern epidemiology, who in 1854 had to go door to door in Central London, asking people where they took their water from to find the source of a cholera outbreak. Today, we can use online data to make epidemiological observations in near real-time, with the potential for significantly improving public health in a timely and cost-efficient manner,” said Evgeniy Gabrilovich, senior staff research scientist at Google and a co-author of the study.

Surveys still suck: Observation is much more powerful, even in nurseries in Warsaw

I guess someone out there reads the stuff my lab produced over the past 25 years, besides my mother (we get cited in peer-reviewed papers somewhere, in ways I could never imagine, 1-3 times a day; and thanks Amy for keeping me updated).

The aim of this study was to assess the degree of conformity with food safety hygiene requirements in children’s nurseries in Warsaw over a period of 11 years and to predict the expected time to achieve full conformity. The survey was carried out in 55 nurseries using a specially designed check list containing questions regarded GMP/GHP and HACCP documentation and practice.

The results showed that the level of compliance with both GMP/GHP and HACCP standards was high in respect of documentation. However, it was much lower in the case of practice, especially HACCP. Although a constant increase in compliance with HACCP criteria was observed over the evaluated period, improvement was slow and inadequate. In 2017, compliance of HACCP practice reached only a 3.4 score. Based on food safety system improvements acquired so far, achievement of its full compliance with requirements was optimistically expected during 3 years.

Regular monitoring of compliance level and prediction of its conformity are of practical importance to improve food safety system management and to indicate the corrective actions which are necessary to eliminate the risk.

Analysis of food safety compliance in Warsaw nurseries

Food Control, Volume 96, February 2019, Pages 421-431, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2018.09.039

JoannaTrafialek, Agnieszka Domańska, Wojciech Kolanowski

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713518305000