Michele Aquino: Gourmet food handlers

I don’t like to be paranoid about germs when I go out to eat. I like to relax and I hope that the restaurant has enough pride to provide training and demand safe practices form their employees. I prefer to assume that public policy measures are keeping me safe to a point and my healthy immune system can be counted on in case of a slip up.

When dining upscale, paying a higher price for smaller, more chic portions, many may assume that good food handling practice comes along with meticulous placement of micro-greens. This could be the case, but the same pitfalls exist for any high volume kitchen, with workers who are susceptible to the same illnesses and temptations to cut corners in order to get through the night.

When I read through the New York Times’ Dining and Wine section, restaurants are frequently featured for their chef’s artistic take on comfort food or rising celebrity status. The slideshow photos showcase the restaurant’s unique décor, avant-garde fare, and often a basic health code violation. A pair of hospital-esque latex gloves probably subtracts from the photographers’ artistic visions of plated fancy foods. Maybe chefs just take off the gloves for the photo shoot or move the tongs.

While New York health code does not require gloves to be worn during food prep, it does prohibit bare hand contact with ready to eat foods. Proper glove use is one way to comply. Of course, there are many restaurant employees who will misuse the latex gloves, so thorough handwashing is essential.

Petting zoos in UK to face new rules following health inquiry

Every time there is an outbreak of foodborne illness, some folks get together and say, here are the new rules that need to be followed so a bunch of kids don’t end up in hospital, like 27 of the 93 sickened by E. coli O157:H7 at Godstone Farm petting zoo in 2009 in the U.K. (two of those sick kids are pictured, right)

In Feb. 2010 when Godstone Farm reopened, manager Richard Oatway said,

"Lots of parents have been with us for a long time and they realize that E. coli can be present in many animals all the time.”

And lots of parents are really pissed, which is why 26 of them are have filed a lawsuit against the farm.

The Telegraph reports this morning that the investigation into the dangers posed by petting animals is expected to lead to strict new measures this week.

Farmers could have to stop opening their gates to the public amid increased regulations that could include demanding that people no longer touch the animals.

Prof George Griffin, a world expert on infectious diseases, began the investigation following an E .coli outbreak at a farm last year which led to 27 people, many of them children, requiring hospital treatment. He is due to make his recommendations this week when the report is published.

Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services, said,

"If regulations become too excessive the danger is that many farms will be unwilling to welcome visitors. The risk of catching E. coli from a visit to an open farm is extremely low, particularly if children are encouraged to wash their hands thoroughly after touching animals."

Those handwashing signs, they’re not encouraging. Do better.

Gemma Weaver, 24, of Bramley Close, has vowed to "never forgive the farm" after her three-year-old son, Alfie suffered kidney failure following a visit to Godstone Farm.