Malaysians okay with dirty eateries

The number of eateries the Malaysian Health Ministry (MOH) was compelled to close in the past two years reflected a poor awareness among Malaysians on food safety and hygiene.

food-handler1“In 2015, a total of 124,254 food premises were inspected. Of this 2,422 (1.9%) were ordered closed.

“A total of 8,210 compounds were issued to food premises operators for offences committed under the Food Hygiene Regulations 2009,” said MOH director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

The situation shows no sign of improving.

Up till March this year, 645 of the 28,026 food premises inspected were ordered to close.

Already, 3,418 compounds have been issued for various offences.

A circular issued by the ministry on Food Hygiene Regulations 2009, which was fully enforced from January 2014, stated 33 compoundable offences for food operators.

They range from licensing to the transportation of meat, cooked food and raw fruits as well as vegetables.

Maximum penalties include fines not exceeding RM10,000 or not more than two years’ jail, or both.

Continual public patronage is the reason why dirty eateries thrive, said MPSJ Corporate and Strategic Management Department deputy director Muhammad Azli Miswan.

He cited an example of an eatery in USJ 10, Subang Jaya, which had been issued with 30 compounds but continued to run on full house daily.

“People who care about their health should give dirty eateries a wide berth.

“But in Malaysia, a dirty food stall or restaurant is not a deterrent to customers,” he observed.

It does not help that Malaysians have a “forgiving” and tolerant nature towards dirty food handlers.


Poop, not spices: UK chef prepared food after wiping bottom with bare hands; it’s a culture thing

A takeaway chef wiped his bottom using his hands before preparing food because he does not use toilet paper for ‘cultural reasons’, a court heard.

mahbub.chowdhuryMahbub Chowdhury, 46, from Swindon, was found to have a filthy bottle in the kitchen of Yeahya Flavour of Asia, which inspectors concluded was covered in faecal matter.

When questioned, he said he filled the empty milk bottle with water from the kitchen taps before using it to clean his backside after going to the toilet. ‘He did not use toilet paper for cultural reasons. Inspectors concluded the brown finger prints was faecal matter.’

Chowdhury prepared meat and fish curries at the takeaway, which was run out of a rented kitchen at the Nine Elms pub.

The chef, who no longer works at the takeaway, pleaded guilty to ten counts of breaching food hygiene regulations at Swindon Magistrates Court.

He was fined more than £5,000 last year for ten similar offences relating to food hygiene.

Mark Glendenning, defending, said the milk bottle was never examined and the marks could have been spices.


A plea for culinary modernism: Why we should love processed food

Rachel Laudan, a visiting scholar at the Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin who has a doctorate in history & philosophy of science from University College, London , writes in Gastronomica, vol. 1, no. 1, Winter 2001, pp. 36-44. That modern, fast, processed food is a disaster. That, at least, is the message conveyed by newspapers and magazines, on television cooking programs, and in prizewinning cookbooks.

culinary.luddittesThe article is long and insightful, and I’ve only included a few highlights.

It is a mark of sophistication to bemoan the steel roller mill and supermarket bread while yearning for stone­ ground flour and brick ovens; to seek out heirloom apples and pumpkins while despising modern tomatoes and hybrid corn; to be hostile to agronomists who develop high-yielding modern crops and to home economists who invent new recipes for General Mills.

We hover between ridicule and shame when we remember how our mothers and grand­mothers enthusiastically embraced canned and frozen foods. We nod in agreement when the waiter proclaims that the restaurant showcases the freshest local produce. We shun Wonder Bread and Coca-Cola. Above all, we loathe the great culminating symbol of Culinary Modernism, McDonald’s — modern, fast, homogenous, and international.

Culinary Luddism involves more than just taste. Since the days of the counterculture, it has also presented itself as a moral and political crusade. Now in Boston, the Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust works to provide “a scientific basis for the preservation and revitalization of traditional diets.

As an historian I cannot accept the account of the past implied by Culinary Luddism, a past sharply divided between good and bad, between the sunny rural days of yore and the gray industrial present. My enthusiasm for Luddite kitchen wisdom does not carry over to their history, any more than my response to a stirring political speech inclines me to accept the orator as scholar.

That food should be fresh and natural has become an article of faith. It comes as something of a shock to realize that this is a latter-day creed. For our ancestors, natural was something quite nasty. Natural often tasted bad.

Fresh meat was rank and tough; fresh milk warm and unmistakably a bodily excretion; fresh fruits (dates and grapes being rare exceptions outside the tropics) were inedibly sour, fresh vegetables bitter. Even today, natural can be a shock when we actually encounter it. When Jacques Pepin offered free-­range chickens to friends, they found “the flesh tough and the flavor too strong,” prompting him to wonder whether they would really like things the way they naturally used to be. Natural was unreliable. Fresh fish began to stink. Fresh milk soured, eggs went rotten.

Everywhere seasons of plenty were followed by seasons of hunger when the days were short. The weather turned cold, or the rain did not fall. Hens stopped laying eggs, cows went dry, fruits and vegetables were not to be found, fish could not be caught in the stormy seas.

Tequila? Promoted as the national drink of Mexico during the 1930s by the Mexican film industry. Indian tandoori chicken? The brain­child of Hindu Punjabis who survived by selling chicken cooked in a Muslim-style tandoor oven when they fled Pakistan for Delhi during the Partition of India. The soy sauce, steamed white rice, sushi, and tempura of Japan? Commonly eaten only after the middle of the nineteenth century.

The lomilomi salmon, salted salmon rubbed with chopped tomatoes and spring onions that is a fixture in every Hawaiian luau? Not a salmon is to be found within two thousand miles of the islands, and onions and tomatoes were unknown in Hawaii until the nineteenth century. These are indisputable facts of history, though if you point them out you will be met with stares of disbelief.

What we need is an ethos that comes to terms with contemporary, industrialized food, not one that dismisses it, an ethos that opens choices for everyone, not one that closes them for many so that a few may enjoy their labor, and an ethos that does not prejudge, but decides case by case when natural is preferable to processed, fresh to preserved, old to new, slow to fast, artisanal to industrial.

Such an ethos, and not a timorous Luddism, is what will impel us to create the matchless modern cuisines appropriate to our time.

5 ways food companies can protect themselves and customers

Fritz Kriete, chair of the Food Industry Group at McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, says these are five ways in which companies can protect themselves against food safety issues:risk.mgmt.cycle

  1. Put food safety first. The company culture must revolve around it.
  2. Concentrate on internal communications.
  3. Hire accredited consultants.
  4. Don’t overlook supplied products.
  5. Label clearly.

When it comes to foodborne outbreaks, it’s a matter of taking classic prevention and preparation steps. Do everything you can to keep it from happening, but be ready just in case it does.

Really? Some call it food safety culture, some call it food safety climate

The Belgians have a new name for food safety culture: it’s food safety climate.

fonzi.jump.the.sharkHuman behavior and decision-making of employees can be influenced by the food safety climate prevailing in an organization.

Four farm based and four affiliated centrally managed butcheries were screened on their food safety climate and level of implemented food safety management system, by application of self-assessment questionnaires. Besides, by product and environmental microbiological sampling, objective data on hygiene status were collected. The food safety climate was scored significantly higher in the centrally managed butcher shops compared to the independent small scale farm butcheries, mainly for the components ‘leadership’ and ‘communication’ while ‘risk awareness’ and ‘commitment’ were equally evaluated.

Food safety climate’ component ‘resources’ was perceived higher in the affiliated butchers shops, but not statistical significant. The study demonstrated that affiliated butcher shops are able to achieve a better microbiological hygiene and safety status, because both a well-elaborated food safety management system and a favorable food safety climate is present in the affiliates. While in the investigated farm butcheries, the overall lower hygiene and safety status is likely to be related to their lower food safety climate score in combination with a more basic food safety management system.

This semi-quantitative case study revealed that employees’ perception of a favorable food safety climate in combination with a fit-for-purpose food safety management system is likely to result in a good and stable microbiological output in food companies.

Interplay between food safety climate, food safety management system and microbiological hygiene in farm butcheries and affiliated butcher shops

Food Control, Available online 12 January 2016

  1. De Boeck L. Jacxsens, M. Bollaerts, M. Uyttendaele, P. Vlerick

Chipotle makes a lot of promises

Without a whole lot of substance.

CNBC, where business analysts who look like Louis C.K. like to yell like Lewis Black, asked Chipotle executives how they will change their business after five recent outbreaks. Their answer was: food safety is really, really important to us now.1024px-Chipotle_Mexican_Grill_logo.svg

“We want to show all of our customers that the industry standards that we had been employing before — which are considered great standards — were not good enough. They were not good enough because something like this could happen,” said founder and co-CEO Steve Ells.

“I will say though, that we can assure you today that there is no E. coli in Chipotle,” Ells said. “We have thoroughly tested our food, we have thoroughly tested our surfaces and we are confident that Chipotle is a safe place to eat.” He also confirmed that the company’s new safety measures will put Chipotle well ahead of industry standards.

To find out of the company has been punished enough, Cramer spoke with Ells and co-CEO Monty Moran.

To implement a rigorous safety protocol, the executive said the company is working with a leading epidemiology team to develop new safety systems. Chipotle is widely known for its integrity in food selection and culture. Cramer asked the Chipotle leaders whether eating with integrity comes at the price of safety?

“We do not believe there is anything less safe about eating that way, and we believe that what we need to do now is put that same innovation that we put toward food with integrity and that we put toward our very special people culture — we’ve got to put that same kind of innovation into food safety now,” Moran said.


280 sick: Why didn’t you pay attention to food safety before selling food? Idaho Co-Op reconstructs to bounce back from Salmonella outbreak

Before the salmonella outbreak, the deli was bringing around 18 percent of the Co-Op’s business. Now, after one month of being re-opened, the deli is only selling 12 percent. be reopened in the first place, a lot had to be done.

“We added a few hand washing sinks in the deli. We had 11 of our staff serve safe certified, which is a national food safety certification that goes above and beyond the Idaho Health Department standards,” said Mo Valko, Boise Co-Op spokeswoman.

During the closure, the deli moved departments around and bought new colored cutting boards. Valko says this will help prevent cross contamination.

“In order to ensure the food they’re serving here at the Boise Co-Op is safe, employees go through a three page checklist anywhere from personal hygiene to food storage,” she said.

Returning customers believe the outbreak was a rare mistake.

“It was an unfortunate incident but my faith has not been shaken, I think it was a mistake that probably should have never happened and now that it has happened it probably never will ever, ever happen again,” said Jan Pierce, a Boise resident.

“In general, it’s such a decent place that it’s not really a huge concern. I think that sometimes people get a little over charged on things like that,” said Rita Shaw, another Boise resident.

Food safety memories: Inside Out

Food should be about joy. it too often involves anger, fear, disgust and sadness.

That’s the plot of the new Pixar movie, Inside Out.

Not the food bit, but the emotions humans use to remember things (and why Lewis Black’s angry man character in the film is so compelling).

The movie tells the story of 11-year-old Riley, a hockey player from Minnesota, and her difficulty dealing with a family move to San Francisco.

They had me at girl hockey player, since all five of my daughters play(ed).

My most compelling food memory is this: when my first child was born at home, 28 years ago, I remember walking in Guelph with her 12 hours after birth, and then a couple of friends came over.

I cooked a stuffed trout.

I still remember that stuffed trout as the best ever, but that was probably fuelled by the emotions of the first kid.

Inside Out plays on similar emotions, as did Ratatouille, another Pixar film, in 2007.

Carole Peterson, a professor of psychology at Memorial University in Newfoundland, says that, “Children have a very good memory system. But whether or not something hangs around long-term depends on several other factors” such as whether the memory “has emotion infused in it,” and whether the memory is coherent.

Inside Out gets this right. from Eric Kandel’s lab at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has uncovered further evidence of a system in the brain that persistently maintains memories for long periods of time. Paradoxically, it works in the same way as mechanisms that cause mad cow disease, kuru, and other degenerative brain diseases.

In four papers published in Neuron and Cell Reports, Dr. Kandel’s laboratory show how prion-like proteins – similar to the prions behind mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in humans – are critical for maintaining long-term memories in mice, and probably in other mammals.

When long-term memories are created in the brain, new connections are made between neurons to store the memory. But those physical connections must be maintained for a memory to persist, or else they will disintegrate and the memory will disappear within days. Many researchers have searched for molecules that maintain long-term memory, but their identity has remained elusive.

People learn through and retain stories. Technology is just a tool to deliver the story

Chapman and I figured that out in the early 2000s, going to the bathroom in the restaurant after playing hockey and seeing sports pages above urinals, and ultimately convincing the manager to post food safety stories.

As part of his PhD research, Chapman partnered with a food service company in Canada and placed small video cameras in unobtrusive spots around eight food-service kitchens that volunteered to participate in the study. There were as many as eight cameras in each kitchen, which recorded directly to computer files and later reviewed by Chapman and others.

braun.sorenne.hockeyFood safety inforsheets, highlighting the importance of handwashing or preventing cross-contamination, for example, were then introduced into the kitchens, and video was again collected. We found that cross-contamination events decreased by 20 per cent, and handwashing attempts increased by 7 per cent.

Tell a food safety story, make it compelling.

And involve female hockey players.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

Take charge, inspect yourself: Health violations at Philly airport have dropped

More than a decade ago, city health inspectors would see occasional mouse droppings at Philadelphia International Airport, black residue and slime inside ice machines, and eggs and other cold foods kept at temperatures too warm.

philly.airport.foodIn 2011, the airport approved the hiring of two former city health inspectors, and the results have been dramatic.

Violations for risk factors known to cause food-borne illness have significantly declined. Today, the airport’s 27 eat-in restaurants have a better average than the citywide numbers for 5,000 non-airport eat-in restaurants.

The airport numbers improved after MarketPlace Philadelphia, the company that manages the airport shops and restaurants, hired Ken Gruen, a retired health department district supervisor in West Philadelphia, and Jerry Zager, another health inspector, who worked with Gruen.

The two have a business, Environmental Health Consultants L.L.C. In addition to making sure 70 food establishments between Terminals A and F are up to snuff, their other major client is the Philadelphia Four Seasons Hotel. “We inspect the kitchen, their entire food preparation and storage facility,” Gruen said.

At the airport, Gruen and Zager make the rounds of every terminal once a month, checking food-storage temperatures, cleanliness of floors and countertops, whether there are paper towels, hot water, and soap, and whether the establishment has a current city food license. They also make sure there is a certified food-safety handler on duty, as required by the Philadelphia Health Code.

Food Safety = Behavior, 30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance

My friend, Wal-Mart Frank, has written a follow-up to his 2008 book, Food Safety Culture. This is from the introduction:

food_safety_culture_0_story(1)As a food safety professional, getting others to comply with what you are asking them to do is critical, but it is not easy. In fact, it can be very hard to change other’s behaviors. And if you are like most food safety professionals, you have probably received little or no formal training on how to influence or change people’s behaviors.

But what if I told you that simple and proven behavioral science techniques exist, and, if applied strategically, can significantly enhance your ability to influence others and improve food safety. Would you be interested?

The need to better integrate the important relationship between behavioral science and food safety is what motivated me to write this book, Food Safety = Behavior, 30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance.

When it comes to food safety, people’s attitudes, choices, and behaviors are some of the most important factors that influence the overall safety of our food supply. Real-world examples of how these human factors influence the safety of our food range from whether or not a food worker will decide to wash his or her hands before working with food to the methods a health department utilizes while attempting to improve food safety compliance within a community to the decisions a food manufacturer’s management team will make on how to control a food safety hazard. They all involve human elements.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf concepts related to human and social behavior are so important to advancing food safety, why are they noticeably absent or lacking in the food safety profession today? Although there are probably several good reasons, I believe it is largely due to the fact that, historically, food safety professionals have not received adequate training or education in the behavioral sciences. Therefore, there are numerous food safety professionals who approach their jobs with an over-reliance on the food sciences alone. They rely too heavily, in my opinion, on traditional food safety approaches based on training, inspections, and testing.

Despite the fact that thousands of employees have been trained in food safety around the world, millions of dollars have been spent globally on food safety research, and countless inspections and tests have been performed at home and abroad, food safety remains a significant public health challenge. Why is that? The answer to this question reminds me of a quote by the late psychologist Abraham Maslow, who said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” To improve food safety, we have to realize that it’s more than just food science; it’s the behavioral sciences too.

Think about it. If you are trying to improve the food safety performance of an organization, industry, or region of the world, what you are really trying to do is change peoples’ behaviors. Simply put, food safety equals behavior. This truth is the fundamental premise upon which this entire book is based.

How does one effectively influence the behaviors of a worker, a social group, a community, or an organization?

frank.amy_.doug_.jun_.11While it is not easy, fortunately, there is good news for today’s more progressive, behavior-based food safety professional. Over the past 50 years, an incredible amount of research has been done in the behavioral and social sciences that have provided valuable insights into the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors of humans. Applying these studies’ conclusions to our field has the potential to dramatically change our preventative food safety approaches, enhance employee compliance, and, most importantly, save lives.

One of the most exciting aspects of behavioral science research is that its results are often of simple and practical use to numerous professions, including ours – food safety. Generally, the principles learned through behavioral science research require little technical or scientific equipment to implement. They usually do not require large expenses. What is required, however, is an understanding of the research data and the ability to infer how the research might be used to solve a problem in your area of concern.

In this book, Food Safety = Behavior, I’ve decided to collect some of the most interesting behavioral science studies I’ve reviewed over the past few years, which I believe might have relevance to food safety. I’ve assembled them into one easy-to- use book with suggested applications in how they might be used to advance food safety.

To get the most out of this book, at the end of each chapter, I strongly encourage you to spend a few minutes thinking about the behavioral science principle you have just read, what it means to food safety, and how you might apply that principle in your own organization (or in your role) to improve food safety. For those in academic set- tings, you might also want to make a list of potential questions for further research.

frank.doug_.manhattan-300x225In summary, this book is devoted to introducing you to new ideas and concepts that have not been thoroughly reviewed, researched, and, more importantly, applied in the field of food safety. It is my attempt to arm you with new behavioral science tools to further reduce food safety risks in certain parts of the food system and world. I am convinced that we need to adopt new, out-of-the-box thinking that is more heavily focused on influencing and changing human behavior in order to accomplish this goal.

It is my hope that by simply reading this book, you pick up a few good ideas, tips, or approaches that can help you improve the food safety performance of your organization or area of responsibility. If you do, I will consider this book a success.

In closing, thanks for taking the time to read Food Safety = Behavior and, more importantly, for all that you are doing to advance food safety, so that people worldwide can live better.