Don’t slaughter goats in restaurant kitchens and don’t store 148 goat carcasses in a van

Courthouse News Service reports today:

A Texas state trooper found 148 goat carcasses stacked inside Halal Import Food Market’s unrefrigerated van and ordered it to Halal’s warehouse to be inspected, where health inspectors found that 102 dead goats and boxes of organs had mysteriously disappeared in transit, the state says.

The state believes that Zamzam Supermarket and World Food Market received the missing meats, according to the complaint in Tarrant County Court.

The somewhat nauseating complaint describes Halal’s warehouse as filthy, with "dead birds and bird droppings on food products … live birds flying around warehouse and resting on food products," trash piled 6 feet deep in places, "numerous dead rodents, numerous rodent droppings along with gnawed materials and debris," meat rotting on a grinder, "various uncovered and exposed foods in direct contact with wet floor along with debris and trash in produce/dairy cooler," and "cigarette butts, rotting fruit, peels, partially eaten chicken and other food" around the warehouse.

The goat carcasses bore no stamps showing that they were from inspected sourced, and the carcasses in the van were touching "seatbelts, peeling and fraying fabric overhead from van ceiling, and a rusty van floor," the state says.


Tiny turtles still making kids sick

Growing up in late-1960s suburbia, I had a turtle.

Turtles were inexpensive, popular, and low maintenance, with an array of groovy pre-molded plastic housing designs to choose from. Invariably they would escape, only to be found days later behind the couch along with the skeleton of the class bunny my younger sister brought home from kindergarten one weekend.

But eventually, replacement turtles became harder to come by. Reports started surfacing that people with pet turtles were getting sick. In 1975, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned commercial distribution of turtles less than 4 inches in length, and it has been estimated that the FDA ban prevents some 100,000 cases of salmonellosis among children each year.

Maybe I got sick from my turtle.

Maybe I picked up my turtle, rolled around on the carpet with it, pet it a bit, and then stuck my finger in my mouth. Maybe in my emotionally vacant adolescence I kissed my turtle. Who can remember?

A report that will be published tomorrow in the journal Pediatrics documents how 107 people in 34 states became sick with Salmonella from the small turtles between 2007 and 2008 – including two girls who swam with pet turtles in a backyard pool.

The paper notes that one-third of all patients had to be hospitalized, and in many cases, parents didn’t know turtles could carry salmonella.

Julie Harris, a scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the report’s lead author said other cases turned up elsewhere, many involving direct contact with turtles, including children kissing turtles or putting them in their mouths.

I’m familiar with that.

David Bergmire-Sweat, a North Carolina epidemiologist who investigated the Union County case, said he’s heard of families letting turtles walk on kitchen surfaces where food is prepared, and babies being bathed in sinks where turtle cages are washed.

Veterinarian Mark Mitchell, a University of Illinois zoological medicine professor, has been working with Louisiana turtle farmers in research aimed at raising salmonella-free turtles, says the industry has been unfairly saddled with harsher restrictions than producers of human foods also blamed for recent salmonella outbreaks.

Maybe, but people need to eat.  They don’t need to kiss turtles.

UK restaurant Riz Raz resembles a farmyard

Health inspectors from Brighton and Hove City Council said the conditions of Riz Raz Egyptian restaurant reminded them of a farmyard, reports The Argus.

[I]nspectors revealed how grime and cigarette ends were found on work surfaces at Riz Raz – despite two previous warnings. The eaterie, in Western Road, which had cobwebs and grease hanging from the cooker hood, did not even have hot water for workers to wash their hands.

The owner of Riz Raz, Alaa Asfour, was fined £5,650 after admitting to breaking 17 food hygiene regulations.

Nicholas Wilmot, one of the council’s environmental health managers, said he found floors blackened with dirt and grease on walls and pipes.

He continued,

 “I advised Mr. Asfour that conditions in the cooking area were so filthy that it reminded me of a farmyard.”

Scores on Doors is a restaurant disclosure system in the UK that uses star-ratings posted at the establishment to communicate inspection results to the public. I would assume Riz Raz’s latest star-rating was around zero-out-of-five stars, however I can’t confirm this as the restaurant isn’t in the online database of results.

ROB MANCINI: Top 10 Kitchen Crimes

During the production of Kitchen Crimes, a television series that dealt with food safety in the home as opposed to restaurants, there were a number of reoccurring themes that kept popping up.  So I developed my top 10 list of Kitchen Crimes to reflect my observations from the television show.

Tops was a severe lack of handwashing or inadequate handwashing. Handwashing typically involved a quick 2 second rinse with water and drying with a dirty tea towel. Family members would pet their dogs, cats, and even in one case a pet turtle, then go and prepare food without handwashing. So, number one on my list is:

1. Wash hands thoroughly before and after preparing food. Lather with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. Rinse well and dry with a clean towel.

A number of families were aware that their refrigerator should be kept at 4-5°C, but it was never checked.  Families were questioned on why they should maintain this temperature and the typical answer was that it would kill bacteria. The “danger zone” (4°C- 60°C) is conducive to rapid bacterial multiplication and at 4°C, bacterial multiplication is reduced, not stopped.

2. Invest in a fridge thermometer to ensure your fridge is at the right temperature. Cold foods should be kept below 4°C. Hot foods should be at a temperature greater than 60°C.

Throughout the filming of the series, families did not use thermometers to ensure food was properly cooked.  Visual inspection seemed to suffice.

3. Invest in a digital, tip-sensitive thermometer to ensure food is properly cooked.

It always bugs me when I see open packages of meat dripping bacterial laden juices on ready to eat foods, like vegetables or fruit.

4. In your refrigerator, meats should always be placed on the bottom shelves or in meat drawers in case of leakage and vegetables should be kept above to prevent cross contamination. All open or partially consumed foods should be packaged in airtight plastic storage containers.

In one episode, I dressed up in some sort of a space suit equipped with facial gear and so on (more for effect than anything else), but it was to prove a point. Mice like to eat food so if food is left on the floor, uncovered, mice will be there.

5. All dry goods need to be stored off the floor and sealed properly to prevent entry of rodents or insects.

To ensure food is adequately cooled in the fridge,

6. Do not over-pack the refrigerator or freezer. This restricts proper air flow and prevents the appliances from functioning efficiently.

This next one always gives me a headache, happens very frequently in restaurants. Vegetables and fruit typically do not undergo a subsequent cooking process which leads me to number

7 on my list: Prevent cross-contamination when preparing food by designating one cutting board for raw meats and another for vegetables or any ready-to-eat foods.

8. When cleaning surfaces, wash first with soap and water then sanitize with a mild solution of chlorine bleach and water.

If one is looking for the highest bacterial counts in the household, look no further.

9. Replace dishcloths and sponges on a daily basis.

10. After dishwashing, all utensils and dishware should be air dried to prevent cross-contamination from towels.