Rotting food and animal blood: UK health inspectors close takeaway on the spot

Environmental health officers were left stunned at the filthy state of a shop which was inspected after a customer complained they had seen a rat running across the counter.

takeaway-montageThey found mouse dropping throughout the premises – including on a chopping board and in open sacks of flour – in addition to filthy kitchen equipment and old food stuck to surfaces.

Raw chicken had been washed in a dirty sink and then dipped in dirty water, and blood and food waste, including old pizza dough, was left lying around.

Conditions were so dire, officers ordered staff to close the premises immediately during their visit on November 5 last year, the Manchester Evening News reports.

Shahzad Akthar, the owner of the Central takeaway, on Cromwell Road in Salford, Greater Manchester, was hit with a bill of nearly £3,000 after being hauled before the courts .

He was fined £1,080 and ordered to pay costs of £1,627 and a victim surcharge of £100 and being found guilty of four food safety and hygiene offences at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court.

Inspectors found a ‘clear and active’ mouse infestation with significant amounts of droppings throughout the premises, made worse by large amounts of food on the floor and gaps in walls and doors, giving mice access to food.

The council said it was clear the takeaway had not been properly cleaned for some time.

Officers found rotting food on surfaces and equipment, grease and old food stuck to shelves near the kebab machine, and old grub on the inside of fridges.

The ice cream server and equipment were so dirty there was scum on the surface of the liquid.

A raw meat chopping board was on top of the salad chopping board, and both boards were kept behind a sink in a pool of filthy water.

Staff said they used a shower cleaning product to clean work surfaces and had little knowledge of how to store food at the correct temperatures.

Australian bakery fined $12K food safety breaches

The Canberra courts are on a roll, first convicting a cafe for serving Salmonella and now fining a bakery $12,000 for breaches of food safety laws.

The bakery in Charnwood is the latest Canberra food outlet to be convicted in the ACT Magistrates Court for having poor food handling standards and a dirty kitchen.

The court heard since the charges were laid last year the owners have spent more than $100,000 on a renovation and have improved their practices to meet the ACT’s legal guidelines.

The court heard on the day of the inspection the kitchen had been found with dirt, flour and grease caked on various items.

A batch of pies had also been out of the oven and not refrigerated for more than six hours.

Does a dirty restaurant toilet mean the kitchen’s filthy, too?

Joyce Slaton of Chow tracked me down the other day and we had a lovely chat about yucky things after I had taken my daughter to school and before she had to pick up her daughter. Time zones.

Slaton writes that research conducted in the summer of 2011 by Harris Interactive found a solid 79 percent of respondents saying they’d avoid a restaurant after encountering a nasty bathroom. But does the link between a filthy toilet and a dirty prep table even make sense? Hard data is rare. Though health and restaurant inspectors do check for the general appearance of cleanliness in restrooms and dining areas, they save their swabs and scientific gauges for the food-prep areas.

But as Douglas Powell, professor of food safety at Kansas State University, publisher of food safety-focused, and a passionate proponent of proper handwashing (we’ll get to that in a moment), says, "There’s a yuck factor when you go in and say, ‘Eww, this is dirty, what else is?’ But there’s no proven correlation between having a dirty bathroom and unsafe food. The employees have different sinks to wash their hands in. You don’t see those—they’re at the back."

Chowhound poster soupkitten makes a good point in a thread titled Freezing Bathrooms=Omen: "Folks who want to point to a smudge on the front window of a restaurant or a smudge on the floor of the men’s room as evidence that the kitchen of a restaurant or any other business is unsanitary seriously need to realize that most establishments have divisions of labor and that the brunch crew comes in at 6 a.m. to crack eggs, not wash windows and wipe down toilet seats!"

Meanwhile, Powell (politely) pshaw-ed my notion that a dirty bathroom meant that diners should order differently or avoid a restaurant.

"But," he warns, "if you see a cook or a waiter come in and use the bathroom and start to leave without washing up, say something [like], ‘Dude, wash your hands!’" Powell also hopes patrons will speak up when bathrooms don’t have the tools for proper handwashing. Which are?

• Vigorously flowing water: "Temperature doesn’t matter," says Powell, despite the fact that we’ve all been told that warm water works better. Microbiologically, it doesn’t matter.

• Soap: Lather energetically for 10 seconds, not 20 as you may have heard. It’s OK with Powell if you want to sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself while you do it, but he’d rather you count than sing kiddie songs.

• Paper towels: The blow-dryers disperse microorganisms into the air and they don’t get your hands dry, says Dr. Powell. Paper towels are better. But don’t bother using one to hold the bathroom door handle as you go out: The door handle surface isn’t a particularly great place for bacteria to grow.

Fancy food isn’t safe food: Ritz-Carlton edition

Jen Chung of The Gothamist writes that if you’re spending $14 on soup or $10 on a side of spinach (let’s not get into the $47 veal chop), you’d probably hope that the restaurant would have a New York City Department of Health Restaurant Inspection grade of A.

The BLT Market restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton on Central Park South, is a C-venue—thanks to violations like "Hot food item not held at or above 140º F" and "Filth flies or food/refuse/sewage-associated (FRSA) flies present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.

The New York Post, which has the lede, "The Ritz is the pits, as far as the city’s Health Department is concerned," reports that the restaurant’s C-grade is "barely visible" in the window (not surprising!) and spoke to potential diners who seemed turned off (right, photo from Post). A tourist said, "We do like to go to upscale restaurants when we’re here, but I don’t expect that type of grade from a restaurant of this level of quality. It taints it. No, I won’t be going.”

Manager Scott Geraghty was apologetic to the Post, “More than anything, we care about our guests and customer. The Health Department came in a while ago, and we took all their suggestions and made all the improvements, and now we’re just waiting for them to come back… It’s sort of a mystery, they come when they come."

BLT Market had 67 points in June and 42 points in March, which suggests that the restaurant got a C back in March and when inspectors came back three months later, it really bombed.

Fancy food doesn’t mean safe food: Ritz-Carlton edition

Diners at the Ritz-Carlton may not want to know what goes on behind the storied hotel kitchen’s closed doors.

Mathew Katz of DNAinfo reports that New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene data show the Ritz-Carlton has the second-worst kitchen in Manhattan and the 13th dirtiest in the city, getting hit with 77 violation points during a June 17 inspection. The hotel houses BLT restaurant and the Star Lounge.

It was not clear on the DOH website if the kitchen supplies one or both of the eateries.

The most recent inspection found six critical violations for sloppy and "unacceptable" conditions, including poorly refrigerated foods, evidence of flies, cross-contamination between cooked and raw meat, and poor hygiene among kitchen workers, the DOH website said.

"The health and safety of our guests in our highest concern," said David Taylor, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. "We’ve taken immediate action to rectify the situation and are working with diligence to maintain our brand standards."

Dominos fined $120K over cockroaches, bad hygiene in Sydney

ABC News reports a Dominos pizza shop in Sydney’s west has been described as having committed one of the worst breaches of food safety and hygiene in the Australian state of New South Wales.

The store in Quakers Hill has been fined almost $120,000 after investigations by the state’s Food Authority, following reports from customers who suffered food poisoning.

Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan says conditions inside the store were appalling, stating,

"They had evidence of significant infestation of cockroaches and also very poor hygiene of cleanliness habits. I’m told by our experts at the Food Authority that they’re a prime candidate for spreading foodborne illnesses and that’s why they’ve been given such a big fine. There are always people who don’t do the right thing unfortunately and we need to make sure that we can protect people from foodborne illnesses. Things like food poisoning are not insignificant. There are people every year who die of food poisoning and food-related diseases."

Salmonella in eggs outbreak: an eerily repetitive story involving lots of sick people, food, filth and faith; where are those supplier audits?

In January 2009, Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) was linked to a growing outbreak of illness across the U.S. caused by Salmonella serotype Typhimurium. Eventually, all peanuts and peanut products processed at PCA’s Blakely, Georgia, plant since January 1, 2007 were recalled, including over 3,900 peanut butter and other peanut-containing products from more than 350 companies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 691 people were sickened and nine died across 46 U.S. states and in Canada from the outbreak.

By Feb. 15, 2009, The Washington Post described the business culture at PCA from the viewpoint of a former buyer for a major snack manufacturer — a filthy plant with a leaky roof and windows that were left open, allowing birds to enter. The company purchased only low quality, inexpensive peanuts and paid food handlers the minimum wage lawfully allowed. The lack of a food safety culture was most evident in the description of how PCA dealt with finished product that tested positive for Salmonella spp. A report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration identified many instances in which the product was retested until a negative result was achieved; in other instances PCA shipped the product to their customer despite the positive test or before the test result was received.

FDA further noted there were inadequate controls at the PCA plant to prevent contamination and insufficient cleaning and sanitation. Facilities for handwashing were also used to clean utensils and mops, increasing the potential for recontamination of washed hands. Equipment settings — for example, roasting temperature and belt speed — had not been evaluated to ensure that the roasting step was sufficient to kill bacteria. Raw and roasted peanuts were stored directly next to one another, allowing for potential contamination of the roasted finished product. Gaps in the physical integrity of the building were observed around the loading bays and the air conditioning intakes in the roof that provided pests with open access to the plant. Despite these deficiencies, PCA maintained the highest possible rating from auditing firm AIB International.

Earlier this year, Basic Food Flavors Inc., the Las Vegas company at the center of a recall of more than 100 food products containing hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or HVP, continued to make and distribute food ingredients for about a month after it learned salmonella was present at its processing facility, according to a Food and Drug Administration report.

Yesterday, similarly eerie details started to emerge from investigators going through the salmonella-in-eggs mess that has sickened almost 1,500 over the summer and led to the recall of about 550 million eggs. Highlights of the reports (called 483s) and public comments by FDA-types include:

• David Elder, director of the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, told a press conference Monday the 483 forms show "significant objectionable conditions;"

• at Wright County Egg facilities, live mice were found inside laying houses at four sites, and numerous live and dead flies were observed in egg-laying houses at three locations;

• chicken manure accumulated 4 to 8 feet high underneath the cages at two locations, pushing out access doors, allowing open access for wildlife and other farm animals;

• at one location, uncaged birds were using tall manure piles to access egg-laying areas;

• inspectors saw employees not changing or not wearing protective clothing when moving from laying house to laying house;

• three Hillandale Farms locations contained unsealed rodent holes with evidence of live rodents at one of the facilities, with gaps in walls and doors at other sites.; and,

• uncaged chickens were observed tracking manure into the caged hen areas.

Dr Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, told reporters that though the FDA has no reason to believe the practices that investigators turned up are common at all egg-producing facilities, inspectors will be inspecting about 600 large egg producers, those that have 50,000 or more laying hens, over the next several months starting in September with what it believes may be the highest-risk facilities.

Kenneth E. Anderson, a professor of poultry science at North Carolina State University said,

“That is not good management, bottom line. I am surprised that an operation was being operated in that manner in this day and age.”

How did this happen? A gap in federal or state inspection requirements may be partly to blame – but only partly.

What firms and retailers were buying these eggs? Don’t they require internal or third-party food safety audits of their suppliers? Who were the auditors and where are their reports? Has any buyer looked at owner Jack DeCoster over the years and said, your farm’s a dump, I’m not buying your eggs?

While waiting for government and Godot, it’s the thousands of American egg farmers who are going to suffer if sales decline, so why not unleash the power of food safety marketing and let consumers choose at retail.

Repeated outbreaks have shown that all food is not safe: there are good producers and bad producers, good retailers and bad retailers. As a consumer, I have no way of knowing. Telling me an egg is local and grown with love is food marketing but has nothing to do with food safety and salmonella.

Tell consumers about salmonella-testing programs meant to reduce risks; put a URL on egg cartons so those who are interested can use the Internet or even personal phones to see how the eggs were raised. Boring press releases in the absence of data only magnify consumer mistrust.

Food producers should truthfully market their microbial food safety programs, coupled with behavioral-based food safety systems that foster a positive food safety culture from farm-to-fork. The best producers and processors will go far beyond the lowest common denominator of government and should be rewarded in the marketplace.

Obama dines at critically filthy Miami restaurant

President Barack Obama got a sandwich at Jerry’s Famous Deli in Miami last week, which was slapped with 26 restaurant violations for all types of uncleanliness by a state inspector on Monday.

The restaurant inspection comes less than a week after Obama made his to-go order of two corned beef sandwiches on rye.

An inspector stopped the sale of cooked meatballs after he found raw meat sitting out in the open in unsafe temperatures. Employees were also seen handling meat and bread without gloves and without washing their hands properly.

NYC’s Birdbath Bakery closed for filth and inadequate refrigeration on rickshaws

Who would name a food place the Birdbath Bakery?

Birds are factories for salmonella and campylobacter and I wouldn’t want them bathing around food.

If the goal is to be New York City’s most sustainable bakery, then why not. But sustainable is not the same as sanitary.

Grub Street New York reports inspection results indicate the bake shop couldn’t present a Food Protection Certificate, there was evidence of mice, and food-contact surfaces weren’t properly sanitized.

But an employee tells us that the main reason for the closure was that Birdbath had started transporting savory items (salads, pizzas, sandwiches) by rickshaw from City Bakery and didn’t have adequate refrigerators for keeping them at the Department’s required temperature of 41 degrees or below.

Fancy food can mean dirty food; Chez Roux edition

I don’t know who Albert Roux is (right, exactly as shown) but apparently he runs a restaurant at the Rocpool Reserve hotel in Inverness, U.K.

Some friendly food safety inspectors visited Chez Roux, which opened at Rocpool Reserve in April 2008, and found the place in violation of 11 food hygiene laws, including not washing dirty floors, failing to provide hygienic hand drying facilities, obstructing a hand wash basin, and preparing food next to a sink filled with dirty water.

Inspectors also found the staff toilet compartment, which was also used as a staff changing room, opened out directly into the bread mixing area and store room, a matter the restaurant was advised to address in a previous inspection in October 2008.

Rocpool Reserve’s Norbert Lieder and Albert Roux, responded,

“We strive to achieve the very highest standards within our restaurant and hotel and fully support the work of The Highland Council. It is disappointing that in this case some areas of our service have been found to be short of both our and the council’s expectations. We take the report’s recommendations seriously and will be addressing its findings as a matter of urgency.”

Fancy food doesn’t mean safe food. Clean it up, fancy pants.