Did health-types get it wrong or a Canberra court: Ricardo’s Café cleared of Salmonella charges

The owner of a popular Canberra cafe has had charges against him dropped, relating to a salmonella outbreak that saw more than 100 people fall ill in 2017, and has also escaped conviction on an unrelated charge.

The owner of Ricardo’s, Rick DeMarco, 32, was cleared of the most serious charges spanning from an investigation in February 2017, which began after customers complained of food poisoning on social media.

The restaurant in Jamison was immediately closed after the reports and, in a statement at the time, Mr DeMarco admitted salmonella was found on a used dishcloth and tea towel, but nothing was found in any food or on any cafe equipment.

Hello? Cross-contamination? Epidemiology?

The ACT chief magistrate Lorraine Walker did not record a conviction against De Marco, after he pleaded guilty to one count of failing to comply with the food standards code.

However, the chief magistrate said there was no correlation between Mr De Marco’s plea of guilty to the individual charge and the salmonella outbreak.

The single charge against Mr De Marco related to breaches discovered by health inspectors. These were uncovered containers of food in a refrigerator and a single-use container being reused.

However, while the food was kept inappropriately, Mr De Marco’s defence barrister Jack Pappas noted the food was kept at the required temperature in the refrigerator.

He added that Mr De Marco’s two businesses, Ricardo’s Cafe and Space Kitchen in Woden, were significant contributors to the local economy by employing about 50 people and training apprentices.

Ms Walker said that the instances were not at the lowest end of offending, “they were pretty close”.

Ms Walker said it was an instance where, due to the nature of the breach and Mr De Marco’s good character, it was appropriate to not record a conviction.

There were 75 cases of salmonella confirmed by ACT Health during the outbreak in February 2017, with some people requiring hospitalisation.

Dead lizard found in Irvins salted egg fish snack: Singapore

A packet of salted egg fish skin snack that contained a dead lizard was manufactured at Irvins Salted Egg’s previous premises, which ceased operations in November last year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said.

That facility is understood to be located in Admiralty Street.

In a statement on Monday (Feb 11), the AVA said that it had completed investigations into the Singapore-based food company, after a Bangkok customer found a dead lizard coated with salted egg in a packet of the popular snack in December.

The AVA said that it had since inspected Irvins’ current premises and told the company to improve its quality control checks.

Quality control checks include conducting regular refresher training for quality control operators, sourcing ingredients from reputable suppliers and conducting regular audits.

“Irvins has made improvements in these areas, as well as stepped up inspections on the production line,” the AVA said.

The authority added that it will continue to do periodic audits and enforcement checks on the company.

The AVA urged food manufacturers to be responsible in complying with food safety standards or requirements as well as maintaining robust food safety management systems, even as it continued to carry out periodic checks.

Consumers should also adhere to good food safety practices, the AVA said in its statement.

Some good food safety guidelines for consumers include the following:

– Examine packaged food carefully. Do not buy if the packaging is damaged or open as it may contain harmful micro-organisms that could cause food poisoning.

– Keep foodstuff – such as coffee, tea, powdered milk and biscuits – in clean, air-tight containers, away from heat and moisture.

– Inspect food regularly for insect infestation, mould, and other signs of spoilage. Discard when necessary.

– Check food storage cupboards regularly to ensure that they are free from insect infestation or contamination.

– Keep cupboards meant for food storage uncluttered and clean.

I’m not sure what consumers can do about reptiles in pre-packaged foods.

Everyone has a camera: Vancouver bakery edition

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a recall for Betty brand and Nancy’s Fancy Yummy in the Tummy brand bakery products.

The agency says the products may be unsafe due to possible contamination from mice infestation at the manufacturing plant.

The affected products were sold in Ontario and Quebec up to and including Feb. 8, and may contain harmful bacteria.

CFIA says there have been no reports of illness linked to the products.

Everyone has a camera, licking fetish edition: Meat in Ohio, doorknob in California

A video has surfaced showing a worker at “La Plaza Tapatia” international market in Columbus licking meat that was meant for customers.

Customers are outraged after the video was posted to social media. Now, the incident has gotten the attention of Franklin County Public Health.

“We do take that very seriously,” said Garrett Guillozet supervisor of the food safety program.

Guillozet, told ABC6/FOX28 that the images are disturbing.

“I was definitely surprised,” said Guillozet.

A tipster sent the clip to ABC6/FOX28 after it was posted to Snapchat. ABC6/FOX28 discovered the incident is just the latest in a string of potential customer health dangers at the west Columbus market. For a time in 2018, the grocery was placed on the Enforcement Program due to violations.

One the store’s Facebook page, the workers involved posted an apology video. They claim the meat had been dropped on the floor and after recording the video they threw it away.

For their part, administrators at Franklin County Public Health told ABC6/FOX28 that the market owners had been working to clean up issues.

“To see this happen after that was kind of disheartening and frustrating,” said Guillozet.

The owner of the store released the following statement to ABC6/FOX28. The below statement may be attributed to Gustavo Salazar, owner, La Plaza Tapatia:

La Plaza Tapatia is committed to the highest standards for the safety and quality of the foods we sell. We are extremely disappointed in the behavior of two of our employees, who posted a video of inappropriate actions in our meat handling area.

The video only involved the single piece of meat shown in the video, and it was immediately discarded (below, not exactly as shown, because I couldn’t find the real one). None of the meat we have for sale was affected.

This is unacceptable behavior, and the two employees have been terminated from their positions. We also will retrain all our employees in our firm expectations for food safety. Further, the Franklin County Health Department inspected our store on January 30 and found our operations to be both well maintained and with good food handling practices.

The trust and confidence of our customers and the Hispanic community is of great importance to us, and we apologize for any concern this situation has caused.

In weirdly related news, a California man was caught on surveillance video licking a doorbell for quite a while in a California neighborhood.

The suspect, whom police identified as 33-year-old Roberto Arroyo, spent about three hours licking the doorbell and milling around the Salinas, California yard of Sylvia and Dave Dungan.

The incident happened around 5:00 am. The homeowners were not home at the time, but they told news station KION that their children were.

They were alerted to the incident when their surveillance system notified them of movement by the front door.

The man was also caught relieving himself in the front yard, and reportedly also approached a neighbor’s house.

“You kind of laugh about it afterwards because technically he didn’t do anything,” said Sylvia Dungan, who owns the house shown in the video, told KION.

Police are searching for the suspect and say that he could face two misdemeanor charges for petty theft and prowling.

Everyone’s got a camera: Rats in Sydney restaurants edition

The City of Sydney has blamed a recent rise in rat sightings across the CBD on “unprecedented” construction work, as two restaurants in as many weeks had to close to deal with rodents.

The Sydney Westfield storefront of popular Taiwanese restaurant chain Din Tai Fung voluntarily closed on Thursday after a video surfaced of a rat scurrying around its kitchen area.

Din Tai Fung are in damage control after vision showed a large rat in their kitchen in at their Westfield Sydney outlet.

Sydney resident Lucy Hui, who posted the video and tagged Din Tai Fung Australia in the post, said it was sent to her.

“Makes me want to vomit,” she wrote. “Never eating there again….and it was a favourite.”

Her post prompted the restaurant chain to reply in the comments with an apology and assurance that “we immediately activated our pest control specialists as well as professional cleaners to inspect and disinfect our premises as a priority.

“We are also conducting thorough investigations and improving measures in pest defence during post-operations hours. This is important as we already clean, disinfect and secure the kitchen on a daily basis, yet it’s clear we can do even better.”

The chain apologised “for the situation” in a statement on Thursday.

“Food safety is of utmost importance to us and we would like to state our unwavering commitment to this, and to thank our customers for their support and understanding.”

A spokesman for the City of Sydney said an environmental health officer inspected the restaurant on Thursday morning and was informed by staff that the business had voluntarily shut down.

The Din Tai Fung video appeared just days after an Oporto restaurant in Sydney voluntarily closed after a social media video showed multiple rats scurrying around inside.

Despite the city’s “comprehensive pest control program”, rats are somewhat a fact of life in inner Sydney.

And in a reminder that everyone does have a camera, this school principal has been fired after this video appeared of him dragging a naughty 9-year-old off to the office, I guess.

Thermometers may help: Caterers in China are reportedly using AI to spot unhygienic cooks

Thepaper.cn (via the South China Morning Post) reports that local authorities in eastern China have tapped artificial intelligence (AI) to clamp down on unsanitary cooks in kitchens — and to reward those who adhere to best practices.

According to the report, a camera-based system currently being piloted in the Zhejiang city of Shaoxing automatically recognizes “poor [sanitation] habits” and alerts managers to offending workers via a mobile app. It’s reportedly the fruit of a six-year project — Sunshine Kitchen — that seeks to bring transparency to food preparation in catering, hotels, school cafeterias, and restaurants.

Zhou Feng, director of the Food Service Supervision Department in Shaoxing, told Thepaper.cn that the system can identify 18 different “risk management” areas, including smoking and using a smartphone. On the flip side, it recognizes four positive habits, like disinfecting surfaces and hand washing, and monitors kitchen conditions that might impact food safety, such as temperature and humidity.

So far, the local Xianheng Hotel and over 87 catering companies are said to have trialed the system, and authorities reportedly plan to expand the number to over 1,000 this year.

It’s not the first time AI has been applied to food safety.

In November 2018, a study led by researchers at Google and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health described a machine learning model — FINDER (Foodborne IllNess DEtector in Real time) — that leveraged search and location data to highlight “potentially unsafe” restaurants. FINDER took in anonymous logs from users who opted to share their location data, and it identified search queries indicative of food poisoning (e.g., “how to relieve stomach pain”) while looking up restaurants visited by the users who performed those searches.

In the end, FINDER not only outperformed complaint-based inspections and routine inspections concerning precision, scale, and latency (the time that passed between people becoming sick and the outbreak being identified), it managed to better attribute the location of foodborne illness to a specific venue than did customers.

San Francisco-based startup ImpactVision, meanwhile, leverages machine learning and hyperspectral imaging — a technique that combines spectroscopy and computer vision — to assess the quality of food in factories and elsewhere automatically. It’s now working with avocado distributors to replace their current systems, and with large berry distributors to potentially automate manual processes, such as counting strawberries.

Everyone’s got a camera: Rat infestation shuts down Sydney fast food store

Popular fast food chain Oporto has been forced to close the doors of one of its Sydney outlets after it was revealed the store had a horrendous rat infestation.

Footage posted to Facebook by Vijay Kumar shows large rats running around the store, leaping on counters and scurrying into the kitchen of the Broadway fast food outlet.

“This one goes out to all the Oporto lovers out there! Think zillion times before you walk again into this place,” Mr Kumar wrote along with the video.

“Todays Special — Spicy Gluten free Rat burgers!”

Craveable Brands, which owns Oporto, Red Rooster and Chicken Treat, told news.com.au that it shut the store down as soon as the company became aware of the video on January 17.

“Oporto stores across Australia maintain rigorously high sanitation standards. This is a one-off situation related to a single store in Broadway, Sydney,” the organisation said in a statement.

“Vermin appear to have been dislocated by external construction activity in the Broadway area, which can lead to increased activity for surrounding businesses. Vermin appear to have accessed the Broadway restaurant via a ventilation hole, or other access point from outside.”

Consumer choice at Kenyan restaurants

I’m still sorta amazed me and the barfblog.com gang get citied daily (and that after 15 years, Chapman can skate and sorta write).

So here’s one from Kenya.

Dining is a common phenomenon in major cities and towns, especially in modern lifestyle where people have limited time due to work and other related engagements. Indigenous restaurants have become a preference for most consumers although their patronage varies, attributed to various push factors such as health, curiosity and variety. Although hygiene is an important aspect in choosing where to dine, most customers are not keen to observe it.

This study explored food handlers’ hygiene practices as determinants of customers’ choice of selected African indigenous restaurants’ in Nairobi City County, Kenya. The study adopted a cross-sectional descriptive survey targeting 15 selected African indigenous restaurants. Cochran formula was used to determine a sample size of three hundred and eighty-four (384) customers from a population of 2,560 through convenient sampling. Data collection instruments were two questionnaires, an interview guide and an observation checklist. Qualitative data was ordered, coded and summarized in compilation sheets for easier analysis in addition to inferential statistics. Quantitative data was analyzed using statistical packages for social sciences with levels of significance established using paired tests with a cut-off point of P < 0.05, (95%) confidence and significance levels. Chi square Pearson’s correlation coefficient tests were calculated to identify the correlation between food handlers’ hygiene practices and customers’ choice of restaurants. The findings presented a c 2 = 4.244, df* = 2 and p = 0.133 which is > 0.05. With a significance level > 0.05 (0.133), the alternative hypothesis (H1) was rejected. The findings showed that there was no significant relationship between the two variables. Most customers were not keen on hygiene standards as evidenced in some restaurants where regardless of the poor hygiene practices present, there were still high flows of customers.

The study concluded that even though hygiene practices have an effect on the customers’ choice of the restaurants, the effect is not significant. The study recommended the public health authorities in the urban centers to educate all restaurant stakeholders on food hygiene regulations and inform consumers about hazards associated with improper handling of food. The study further recommended that restaurants operators to adhere to the food hygiene regulations and similar studies to be done in other localities, in rural restaurants, and to incorporate more restaurants

Evaluating the food handlers’ hygiene practices as determinants of customer choice at selected African indigenous restaurants in Nairobi City County, Kenya, 13 November 2018

Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management p. 57-76

N., M., Wandolo, M., N, M., & Mutisya-Mutungi, M. 

https://stratfordjournals.org/journals/index.php/Journal-of-Hospitality/article/view/204

Things lawyers say ‘My owner insulted the inspector’s heritage but at the lower end of the scale’ Brisbane restaurant fined $20K

Health inspectors are poorly paid and take a lot of shit.

Can’t report reality, gotta keep tourism and biz happy regardless of how little they know about food safety.

A Brisbane restaurateur has been fined more than $20,000 after pleading guilty to racially abusing a health inspector who found a “cockroach infestation” in his business.

Ravendra Prasad (right, exactly as shown) said the public should be comfortable eating at his takeaway restaurant, which has remained open since he was charged, as he left the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Toby Crockford of the Brisbane Times reports the 11 charges against the 64-year-old, who either owns or is involved in three restaurants, stemmed from two inspections in 2017 at his Indian Feast restaurant in St Lucia.

The health inspector found at least six breaches of the food standards code on July 5, 2017, which included a “large number” of live and dead cockroaches and cockroach faeces in the Indian Feast kitchen.

The restaurant’s licence was immediately suspended, resulting in the five-day shutdown, after separate infestations were found behind a dishwasher and freezer.

Brisbane City Council lawyer Roman Micairan said the kitchen was in “a state of uncleanliness” and, in addition to the cockroaches, “food waste and other debris [was] strewn around”.

Mr Micairan said the discovery of the cockroaches led to Mr Prasad becoming upset and insulting the health inspector, which included comments regarding the inspector’s eastern European heritage, telling her to go back  where she came from and questioning whether she could do her job.

During a follow-up inspection on August 18, 2017, the cockroach issue had been rectified, but the inspector found food-processing breaches, including pre-cooked food not be cooled at the correct temperature, increasing the risk of bacterial growth.

Defence lawyer Peter Trout argued Mr Prasad’s insult was “on the lower end of the scale” and his client had been “adamantly remorseful” after lashing out.

Connecticut steakhouse temporarily closes amidst food poisoning fears

Kevin Zimmerman of West Fair Online reports that Barbarie’s Black Angus Grill in Danbury has voluntarily closed while the city’s health department investigates a possible outbreak of a food-borne illness.

The investigation came in the wake of several diners’ complaints of food poisoning after dining at the 5 Eagle Road eatery, which were first reported on Dec. 26. The Health Department emphasized that no evidence of food poisoning has been found yet.

Barbarie’s was last inspected by the Danbury Health Department on Aug. 15 and passed with a score of a 91, according to city health department records.

“The Barbarie name has been a part of Danbury for over 60 years,” the restaurant, which could reopen as soon as today, said in a statement. “Our main priority is the safety and health of our patrons. We are currently working alongside the health department to get to the bottom of this. At this time, we do not have any further information.”