Crabs stored in toilets: NSW Food Authority names and shames 13 Australian eateries (in New South Wales because that’s where it has authority)

The Daily Telegraph reports cockroaches, food past its use-by-date and filthy cooking equipment have been found in the kitchens of some of Sydney’s popular eateries.

The NSW Food Authority has "named and shamed" 13 restaurants and food suppliers since December 1 for putting their customers at serious risk of food contamination.

According to the Office of State Revenue, 836 food suppliers have been fined $601,480 for food safety breaches in the six months from July 2011.

At Na Ju Gom Tang in Strathfield, food inspectors found uncovered meat defrosting in a bowl on the floor, cockroaches and general poor hygiene.

Macksville Quality Meats in Macksville was fined $2640 in December for four safety breaches including storing raw meat with ready-to-eat meat, poor hygiene, incomplete monitoring records and poor temperature control.

"I’m a small business. I got into trouble, I’m very sorry and I’ve fixed it all up. That’s what I’ve got to say," manager James Wilkes said.

Coolabah Tree manager Sharon Eaton copped an $800 fine in December for repeated cleanliness-related offences.

"It doesn’t matter what we’ll do, the health inspector passes something one visit and then jumps on something else the next," she said.

Inspectors slapped repeat offender Jeme’s Fish Market in Ashfield with a $880 fine in January for leaving fish hanging in a yard. A manager could not be reached.

The Liverpool Rd outlet was added to the Food Authority’s name and shame list in 2009 after crabs were found stored in the restaurant’s toilets. Then primary industries minister Ian Macdonald said at the time it was one of the "most outrageous cases of food storage" he had ever heard about.

Tongue-testing dangerous: microwaves that heat unevenly can pose food safety problems

I expect companies like ConAgra and government agencies like the department of agriculture to blame consumers when their 50 cent pot pies make hundreds of people barf – just follow the instructions.

I don’t expect Consumer Reports to blame the consumer when microwave cooking makes people sick. But I have low expectations, especially of so-called consumer groups.

Consumer Reports latest tests of microwaves found fewer models that aced our evenness test.

When food isn’t cooked evenly to an internal temperature that kills harmful bacteria that might be present, illness can result, according to the USDA. So using a microwave that delivers even heating is important.

You’ll need to cook food longer if your microwave’s wattage is lower than the cooking instructions requires. Our Ratings indicate wattage, and you’ll find it on the serial number plate on the back of the microwave, inside the microwave door, or in the owner’s manual.

The USDA also recommends using a food thermometer to test food in several spots, but the survey found most people don’t, and nearly a third said nothing would change their mind. Using a food thermometer is a good idea, but at the very least, make sure there are no cold spots in your food.

How? With your tongue? Frozen foods that are going to be cooked in the microwave should contain pre-cooked ingredients.

Always the bugs: Alexander the Great died from dirty water

Styx was a terrible band that I actually went to see in Toronto in 1979.

South Park has an episode where Cartman has to sing the entire Styx song, Come Sail Away, whenever he starts the song.

Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) was killed by a deadly bacterium found in the River Styx, rather than by a fever brought on by an all-night drinking binge in ancient Babylon, scientists believe.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that researchers in the US.. have found a striking correlation between the symptoms he suffered before his death in 323BC, and the effects of the highly toxic bacterium.

Alexander fell ill during a party at the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon, in modern Iraq. He complained of a ”sudden, sword-stabbing agony in the liver” and had to be taken to bed where, over the next 12 days, he developed a high fever and excruciating pains in his joints.

His condition worsened, he fell into a coma, and is believed to have died on June 10 or 11, 323BC – just shy of his 33rd birthday. Historians have speculated that his death was brought about by the heavy drinking, typhoid, malaria, acute pancreatitis, West Nile fever or poisoning.

But experts who have reviewed the circumstances of his death believe instead that he may have been killed by calicheamicin, a dangerous compound produced by bacteria.

Antoinette Hayes, co-author of the Stanford University research paper and a toxicologist at Pfizer Research in the US., said,

”It is extremely toxic. It is a metabolite – one of hundreds produced by soil bacteria. It grows on limestone, and there’s a lot of limestone in Greece.”

Handwashing at hospital in Ireland gets worse, not better

With all the attention being paid to handwashing, especially in hospitals, it’s unique when compliance rates get worse rather than better (unless the evaluation techniques are becoming more rigorous).

The Irish Examiner reports an independent hygiene audit of a Dublin hospital has found a drop in standards since it was last assessed two years ago.

The unannounced inspection of the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital by health watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), concluded it had "not maintained its level of performance in relation to the delivery of hygiene services" since it was inspected in 2008.

* Bathrooms/washrooms were visibly unclean in three areas visited (out-patients and emergency departments share these facilities).

* Patients’ personal items were observed in bathrooms/washrooms in one of the areas visited.

* While overall, ward kitchen areas visited were clean, separate hand-wash sinks were not compliant with best practice and in one kitchen no soap was available.

* Clinical waste was stored centrally in a locked unit at the rear of the hospital, however, hazard notices were only observed on one of the locked doors and special hazardous clinical waste was not segregated from this waste.

* Waste destruction documentation was incomplete and the organisation did not demonstrate a consistent approach for monitoring this documentation.

* The majority of handwash sinks in the areas visited did not comply with guidelines for hand hygiene and hand-washing technique — essential for infection control — did not always comply with best practice.