The Good, Bad, and Ugly Texas edition

An audit investigation of the Austin Public Health Department reveals inspectors napping, shopping, and taking extended breaks. Unfortunately things like this happen and without proper management and effective leadership, things like this will continue to happen.
Disappointing when the actions of a few inspectors tarnish the reputation of others who actually take pride in the work they do and have an ethical, moral backbone. When I first started as an inspector, I recall hearing a number of stories of bribery on the job and other ridiculous things. Like any profession, you have the good, bad, and ugly.

David Barer of KXAN writes
Austin Public Health’s Environmental Services Division, which conducts restaurant inspections among other duties, “wasted city resources as a result of grossly inefficient practices and procedures,” according to the audit.
Auditors also found three environmental health officers wasted time while on the city clock, and two “may have attempted to conceal their misuses on their inspection reports.”
Environmental health officers spend a majority of their time in the field with “limited oversight,” according to the report. Inspectors had no set list of daily inspections; rather, inspectors chose to inspect whichever restaurant was due, and officers were not required to notify supervisors ahead of inspections or check in before or after they were conducted, auditors found.
Investigators said they found several instances of officers saying their inspections took place at times that did not square with what the auditors observed.
According to the report, supervisors were only conducting a “supervisory audit,” which is an in-person check of an officer’s inspection, on less than two percent of inspections. Despite concerns about officers wasting time, management did not regularly review or question how time was being used in the field.
· KXAN Investigation: Restaurant inspectors weren’t meeting inspection-rate standards.
Audit office investigators followed three environmental health officers inspectors during their daily routine and found inspectors napping, shopping and exercising, according to the report.
Investigators found one environmental health officer working out at a local gym for an hour and a half to two hours on at least two separate days. She also left work an hour early on one occasion. She “also may have attempted to conceal the misuse by misrepresenting the time in and out on her written inspection reports,” the audit states.
Another employee was observed napping in her car and misrepresented the times she went in and came out of a restaurant inspection, auditors said.

The rest of the story can be found here:


Bad food safety reporting III: tips for a pathogen-free kitchen

A story that is ostensibly about tips to reduce foodborne illness in the home becomes a mish-mash of federal legislation, local is better, and stuff that is just plain wrong.

And it’s from the New York Times.

Some of the lowlights:

Wash all produce: Even if you are going to peel a cucumber or melon, give it a good scrub so you don’t transfer bacteria from the knife or peeler to the part you are going to eat. Most important, wash all lettuce, even if it comes in a bag that says triple washed.

Scientists have said the re-washing process is more likely to cross-contaminate the pre-washed greens with whatever crap was previously in a sink. The paper is in Food Protection Trends and available here.

Learn to love well done Cooking thoroughly is the best way to eliminate harmful bacteria from meats and poultry. For a list of temperatures for various foods, check the Web site, and don’t rely on your eye alone. Pick up an inexpensive meat thermometer (no need for the expensive digital models) next time you are in the grocery store.

It doesn’t have to be well-done, just cooked to the proper temperature. A digital thermometer is easier to read. And the key is to use a tip-sensitive thermometer.

Understand organic: Organic doesn’t necessarily mean safer (but) … there is something reassuring about buying from a small organic farmer at a local stand or farmers’ market, even if it does cost more.

No, it is not more reassuring. Show me the data.

A separate Times story, a so-called Recipe for Health for Orange Chicken With Vegetables calls for “1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, preferably from a small producer of free-range chickens, cut into 1/4-inch thick by 1-inch long pieces.” No reason why, other than some food porn preference; no mention of salmonella and cross contamination; no mention of temping final product with a tip-sensitive thermometer.