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

Who’s to blame? Australian restaurant fined $13,000 after health inspectors find “pet meat” being processed in kitchen

Akshay Pai of Meaww writes that an Indian restaurant in Perth, Australia, has been fined $13,000 by health inspectors after they found ‘pet meat’ in its kitchen premises.

The Department of Health published a notice online, stating that Kopikaran Krishnasamy and Kalaiamutham Pty Ltd, trading as Cafe Marica was guilty of breaching food regulations this past February.

According to the Daily Mail, when the City of Gosnells food safety inspectors visited the restaurant, located in Perth’s southern suburb of Canning Vale, they found 15 kilos of mutton marked ‘Pet Meat – Not Fit For Human Consumption’ opened and being processed in the kitchen.

Cafe Marica was handed down a hefty fine for failing to comply with food safety regulations —  $12,000 for court costs and an additional $1382.30 in costs for failing to prevent pet meat being handled in premises where food was sold. However, it is unclear whether any of the pet meat was served to a customer in the restaurant. Speaking about the case, City of Gosnells chief executive officer Ian Cowie said, “The breach related to the fact that pet meat was found at premises where food was prepared and sold for human consumption. Some of the meat was being processed by Mr. Krishnasamy, however, the City had no evidence that the pet meat was for consumption by customers.”

In a statement, owner Krishnasamy defended his restaurant and insisted that the mix-up was because of a new supplier. “We believe our mistake was trusting our supplier blindly and going ahead with the purchase back in February 2018,” he wrote on Facebook. “Since then, we have immediately discontinued purchases from the supplier and stepped up our hygiene practices.”

Mass. restaurant Kitty’s closed after 39 sick from suspected Salmonella

ABC News reports a Massachusetts restaurant has been shut down until further notice after nearly 40 people reported getting sick during a suspected salmonella outbreak.

The North Reading Board of Health posted an advisory saying the state Public Health Department had received complaints from 39 people who said they got sick at Kitty’s late last month. The state confirmed nine cases of salmonella and 30 suspected cases of salmonella.

The source of the outbreak was traced to the antipasto salad.

The restaurant was closed July 5 and allowed to reopen Friday after a sanitization but has since closed again.

Staff at UK food place put food gnawed by mice back on shelves

Martin Elvery of Get West London reports that rat droppings hanging from the ceilings of rooms where fruit and vegetables were stored, products being repackaged and sold after being gnawed by mice and a cement mixer allegedly being used to mix marinated chicken are just some of the horrors Ealing’s food safety officers have uncovered over the past year.

The council carries out thorough, regular checks of all premises serving and selling food in the borough which are categorised for their level of risk on a sliding scale of A to E.

Whilst the vast majority – 82% this year – complied fully with food standards, they have had to take swift action to deal with a few. A report summarising them was presented to the council’s general purpose committee on Tuesday, June 26.

When officers visited food store rooms used to keep fruit and vegetables based at a store in The Green, in Southall, they were found to be riddled with rat droppings.

The report states rat and mouse droppings were found throughout at wall and floor junctions, and on high level shelving. They were also found hanging from the ceiling and on the door leading to the rear store room.

One positive for E. coli, 30 others ill after eating at North Carolina restaurant

Health officials say dozens of people became very ill after eating at a restaurant in Taylorsville in Alexander County.

Health officials said one person tested positive for E. coli, and more than 30 others are also sick after eating chicken at the restaurant.

The bacterial infection causes severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and sometimes a low-grade fever.

Officials say the restaurant has been cooperating and will remain open after all the infected products have been removed.

Mouse shit kebabs: UK takeaway closed

Tanveer Mann of Metro reports a kebab shop in Manchester was so filthy it had mouse droppings littered in every single room, a court has heard. The droppings were found in food preparation and customer areas at Go Shawarma, in Salford, as well as on the floor, on shelves, old work equipment, next to wrapped food and even alongside cleaning materials. Food waste was piled up inside the shop and rubbish bags outside.
The situation was so grim the manager agreed to close the premises for two days to get on top of the problems, but then refused to be interviewed by council officers about the offence.

The conditions discovered by environtmental health inspectors at the Go Shawarma takeaway in Union Terrace, Salford. Virtually every room had mouse droppings.

Abdulraziq Ahmad, the owner of the takeaway on Bury Old Road, pleaded guilty to failing to adequately control pests, failing to have adequate provision for the disposal of waste and failing to have a documented food safety management system. He was fined a total of £2,250 and ordered to pay £1,000 costs and £75 victim surcharge when he appeared at Salford and Manchester magistrates court on June 19.

Study says: Communication is most important skill for public-health types

The professional development of environmental public health professionals in Canada is guided by a set of 133 discipline-specific competencies. Given the diversity of practice in environmental public health, certain competencies may be more important to job effectiveness depending on a practitioner’s context. However, the most important competencies to job effectiveness by context are unknown. Thus, the objectives of this study were to prioritize the discipline-specific competencies according to their importance to job effectiveness, and determine if importance varied by demographic variables.

A quantitative discrete-choice method termed best–worst scaling was used to determine the relative importance of competencies. Discrete choice information was electronically collected and analyzed using Hierarchical Bayesian analysis.

Our analysis indicates that communication was most important to job effectiveness relative to the other categories. Competency statements within each category differed in their importance to job effectiveness. Further, management and front-line practitioners differed in the importance placed on five of the eight categories.

This information can be used to guide new training opportunities, thereby investing in the capacity of environmental health professionals to better protect population health.

Prioritizing professional competencies in environmental public health: A best-worst scaling experiment

Aug. 2018

Environmental Health Review, vol. 61 no. 2, pg 50-63

Lauren E. Wallar,* Scott A. McEwen,* Jan M. Sargeant,* Nicola J. Mercer, Andrew Papadopoulos*

 https://doi.org/10.5864/d2018-014

http://pubs.ciphi.ca/doi/abs/10.5864/d2018-014