Carbón Live Mexican Grill to skip Taste of Chicago following outbreak

Taste of Chicago, an outdoor festival featuring signature dishes from over 60 restaurants happens this weekend. In 2007, over 800 salmonellosis cases were linked to hummus from Pars Cove, one of the participating vendors.

After that outbreak, organizers stepped up their food safety game:Unknown-1

While any Chicago-based restaurant can apply to sell food at Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Illinois Restaurant Association consider restaurant applicants’ inspection history for the previous three years before allowing them to participate in Taste. No applicants with unresolved critical or serious violations at their business are accepted or allowed to serve food at Taste of Chicago.

Additionally, all menu items are carefully reviewed and approved by the Chicago Department of Public Health with the festival’s outside environment and temperature in mind.

Carbón Live Mexican Grill, has been linked to at least 25 pathogenic E. coli illnesses including 5 hospitalizations and will not participate in Taste of Chicago, according to Chicago Eater.

CBS Chicago spoke to a one of the hospitalized patients who told the station the she ate steak tacos.

The restaurant has a second location in West Town, which ABC Chicago reported has also been closed as a safety precaution.

Music festivals are great; for pathogens too

I was at a kids birthday party recently when a parent familiar with my Canadian heritage mentioned to me that the Tragically Hip’s 2016 tour would be a string of depressing events.

Maybe, I dunno.the_tragically_hip___gord_downie_iii_by_basseca-d5grhdt

Gord Downie, the Hip’s lead singer, has terminal brain cancer and their 10 city tour is a farewell, according to the band’s website.

So after 30-some years together as The Tragically Hip, thousands of shows, and hundreds of tours…

We’ve decided to do another one.

This feels like the right thing to do now, for Gord, and for all of us.

I’ve seen the Hip a handful of times, a few at outdoor festivals; each time it’s been more of a community gathering than a concert. Sorta like Canada’s version of the Grateful Dead or Jimmy Buffet experiences. Except with hockey, the Group of Seven and loons.

Doug’s post yesterday reminded me of the excitement at these festivals:

Heavy drinking; lots of other substances; the pit where sweaty bodies are smashed up against each other; and, folks using bushes and other places to poop and pee to avoid the lines at the port-a-potties.

And maybe it’ll rain and move the excrement around.

Here’s a great review of outdoor festival-linked outbreaks over the past couple of decades. Spoiler alert – there are well over 10,000 illnesses reported.Gautret_tab2

Festival vendors need food safety too

Back before kids, Dani and I lived in Kansas for a few months and spent every weekend traveling around the state looking for quirky stuff to do and see.

And fried chicken.

The quest for festivals and attractions took us to Leavenworth and Garden City as well as lesser known spots like Cawker City and Lucas.Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 8.37.03 AM

Our boys are now old enough (and manageable enough) for day trips and we’re going to hit a few events here in North Carolina this summer – and some will have food trucks and concession stands.

Festival food vendors have have been linked to multiple outbreaks in the past including over 800 cases of salmonellosis at the Taste of Chicago and 37 cases of E. coli O157 linked to Folklorama  which led to this research on training temporary event vendors).

According to Greensboro NC’s WFMY, festival vendors aren’t exactly the same as the restaurants when it comes to inspection.

90 percent of food vendors at festivals don’t get inspected by the health department. Here’s why. They serve baked, sweet or frozen items. Bakeries, ice cream parlors and popcorn places aren’t considered restaurants. The department of agriculture regulates them instead. But the health department does inspect mobile food trucks and even push carts. 

James Howell’s hot dog push cart has a perfect 100 sanitation score. “Safety is probably number one and then the product that you use is number two in a business like this.”

Health inspector Paula Cox says just because the food business is on wheels doesn’t mean vendors get to roll on by un-noticed. “It’s a very condensed, mini-inspection – but it still follows the same process that we look for when we’re looking at a larger place. It’s just a smaller menu.”

Push carts are inspected twice a year. But the only day that really matters is the day you eat from one. Paula says watch how the cart operator works:

  • Do they wear gloves when handling food?
  • Do they use utensils to dish out or serve food?
  • Do they have a way to sanitize their hands between food and money handling?

All good stuff for a patron to look for.

2013 Colchester Oyster Feast source of outbreak

The Colchester Oyster Feast is kind of a big deal. Dating back to the 14th century and boasting a couple of to-be-kings as former guests (King Edward VIII and King George VI) it is the place to be in October. The event even has its own Wikipedia page.

And in 2013, it also was the source of an outbreak.1891cs

According to the Essex County Standard, 54 attendees became ill after eating Irish oysters at the annual festival.

A total of 200 guests attended the civic event at Colchester’s Moot Hall last October.
Within days, 13 guests reported they were unwell and an investigation was launched by Public Health England.

Questionnaires were sent out and 54 people reported they had been sick, including Colchester Council chief executive Adrian Pritchard.

Ethiopian food vendor at Santa Fe festival thought to be source of illnesses

I’m in Providence for the International Association for Food Protection’s annual meeting. It’s sort of like Comicon for the food safety nerds. I left for the conference yesterday and missed out on my neighborhood’s yearly block party. Dani told me that there was a bunch of great side dishes and a 130lb pig that was slow cooked overnight. And not a lot of temperature control.

Festivals, community dinners and temporary events have had their share of outbreaks  (Taste of Chicago in 2007, Folklorama in 2010 and numerous fundraisers and community dinners). With community dinners there usually a bunch of well-meaning folks who may not always know or follow best practices.

Often at festivals and other events there are folks at booths who are not full-time food handlers, dealing with lineups, makeshift heat sources and poor access to handwashing facilities. Sometimes folks get sick as a result.

According The New Mexican, health officials are investigating a cluster of illnesses associated with eating at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

Department of Health epidemiologist Joan Baumach said Thursday that the department has received reports of stomach illness from about 11 people, all of whom said they ate at the market. Baumach said Health Department staff are trying to determine if the illness was caused by a bacteria or virus while the Environment Department is trying to pinpoint the source.

Market organizers and several of those affected have said the sickness — the symptoms of which are diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever — is thought to have come from the Almaz Ethiopian Kitchen food booth.

“This booth was inspected,” said the market’s executive director, Charlene Cerny. “And [an employee] said he ate the thing that made people sick in the morning, so we are trying to figure out what happened. It’s really, sadly enough, a labor of love for the owner [Almaz Tesffimichal]. This is the only event she does all year.”

Frank Fiore, acting chief of the Environment Department Health Bureau, said all 23 of the booths that sold food or drinks at the market were inspected Saturday morning before the market opened.

A copy of the inspection report related to the Ethiopian Kitchen shows no violations. In fact, the sheet notes that the temperatures of the food at that time were all above 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which, Fiore said, most pathogens die. The sheet did contain the note “test strips needed.”

Baumach said her staff is analyzing stool samples and conducting laboratory tests for things such as salmonella or e.coli. The results of those tests should be ready in a day or two, she said."

Buddhists barf too: Visitors to NY Buddhist festival fall ill

At least 150 people who attended a Mother’s Day garden party at an upstate New York Buddhist monastery have fallen ill with food poisoning.

Eric Gross, spokesman for the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services, says about 700 people were at the festival at Chuang Yen Monastery in Kent Cliffs, 55 miles north of New York City. About 500 of them came on buses from Chinatown.

Gross says people starting getting sick with vomiting and diarrhea around 3:30 p.m. Sunday after they had left the party on buses bound for Woodbury Commons shopping outlets. As of 7 p.m., Gross said 150 had been taken to hospitals in Putnam, Orange and Westchester counties.

Officials urged people who attended the party and feel ill to call the Putnam County Health Department: 845-808-1390.


Australian festival stalls hit by food safety orders

The Canberra Times reports three food stalls at the National Multicultural Festival breached food safety regulations, resulting in health authorities having to destroy ”potentially contaminated” foods.

A team of seven public health officers were sent to the weekend’s festival in a crackdown on food stalls that saw roughly 100 inspections over Friday and Saturday.

The Health Protection Service treats the festival as a ”high risk event” for food safety, and regularly sends officers to make sure the festival’s huge range of food stalls comply with health standards.

The breaches found at this year’s multicultural festival were focused on food storage, temperature control and hand washing, an ACT Health spokeswoman told The Canberra Times.

Authorities were forced to destroy food from a number of stalls, and immediately resolved a number of hygiene breaches.

Canberra Multicultural Community Forum chairman Sam Wong said he hadn’t heard any concerns from stallholders about the food safety crackdown.

”I only praise the work of the health protection service, and we are happy to work with them and also work with the community to make things right. We are happy to listen to any concerns of any sort from all parts of the festival, not just the food.”