Everyone’s got a camera: Restaurants in China edition

Workers at two popular restaurant chains in China have been caught on undercover video reusing leftover food scraps and handling meals with filthy hands, according to a report.

Man Ling restaurant, which has 1,000-plus locations throughout China and markets itself as “healthy,” issued an apology to the public after the scandalous video emerged. 

Joshua Rhett Miller of the New York Post reported employees were filmed using leftover food to cook congee – a classic Chinese rice porridge – as well as other revolting practices, the South China Morning Post reported Wednesday. They were also nabbed placing their unwashed hands on the grub. 

One employee even pulled out pork ribs from a pot of leftover soup and used them to cook Chinese yam and meat congee for other diners, according to the report.

“Yeah, it’s leftover,” a Man Ling worker told the undercover reporter from Fujian Television when asked if there was any food safety issue. 

“It’s OK to cook again.”

Man Ling, renowned for its cut-price offerings, sells more than 180 million bowls of congee each year, according to one food ordering data analysis app. 

Its store in Fuzhou, in southeastern China, was shut down earlier this week following the scandal, and the chain apologized Monday for “disappointing” its customers, according to the South China Morning Post.

Factors hampering control of Listeria in SMEs

Due to its ability to colonise, grow and form in niches in food manufacturing environments, the management of Listeria monocytogenes can be complex, particularly for food manufacturing small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). In addition to an effective food safety management system, the perceptions of risk, control and responsibility within a food manufacturing business are important influential factors associated with the management of L. monocytogenes. Research exploring managerial perspectives of L. monocytogenes in food manufacturer SMEs is lacking. Consequently, this study conducted in-depth interviews (n=10) with technical leaders from food manufacturing SMEs to ascertain factors that may influence listeria management, such as factors associated with cultural dimensions.

Perceived risks associated with L. monocytogenes were related to business reputation and consumer health impacts, but such events were perceived to be unlikely. Technical leaders reported having clearly defined and well executed processes to ensure food safety; but for some, L. monocytogenes, as a single pathogen was seldom considered. Despite acknowledging that “everyone” had responsibility for ensuring control of the pathogen, technical leaders indicated that the ‘people’ attributes associated with organisational culture were difficult factors to control and manage. Trust in staff ability to assure food safety was widely discussed, with technical leaders acknowledging that food handlers may not necessarily have specific knowledge regarding L. monocytogenes. Some technical leaders perceived themselves as having the greatest levels of responsibility for L. monocytogenes. 

Overall, technical leaders perceived a medium level of risk, with high levels of control and high levels of responsibility for L. monocytogenes. Optimistic bias, illusion of invulnerability, illusion of control, and perceived attribution of responsibility are discussed, which may hinder implementation of effective listeria management in SME food manufacturing businesses. Consideration of specific pathogen risks in food manufacture in relation to food safety cultural dimensions may assist development of highly targeted and effective interventions.

Exploring listeria monocytogenes perceptions in small and medium sized food manufacturers: technical leaders’ perceptions of risk, control and responsibility

Food Control

Ellen Evans, Emma Samuel, Elizabeth Redmond, Helen Taylor

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2021.108078

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0956713521002164

Public health inspectors in Saudi Arabia

Background: Every year about 600 million –—almost 1 in 10 people in the world –—fall ill after eating unsafe food, and more than 400,000 people die. Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) perform important roles and have numerous responsibilities in efficiently protecting public health from foodborne illnesses (FBIs). Some of these roles and responsibilities include undertaking food safety assessments, enforcing local food safety legislation, and providing support to food establishments (i.e., restaurants) regarding the minimization of food safety risks. The processes of qualifying and training PHIs, and ensuring timely addressing of their professional needs are essential for the successful and safe development of the food industry in any country. At the same time, there is a significant knowledge gap in the food safety area in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including Saudi Arabia, which is related to the lack of a detailed understanding of the major issues preventing, or interfering with, the implementation and improvement of a food safety inspection approach.

Purpose: There are two key approaches towards food safety inspection at the food establishments across the globe —the traditional approach and the risk-based (modern) approach. The traditional approach typically focuses on reactive measures towards problems once they have been identified. In contrast, the risk-based approach recommended for adoption by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has a more proactive character, whereby it attempts to identify and address food safety issues before they actually become a public threat. The transition of Saudi Arabia to the risk-based food safety approach raises important questions about the professional needs of the Saudi PHI workforce for and during such a transition. Therefore, guided by the Knowledge-to-Action (KTA) framework, the aim Page | v of this Thesis was to identify the knowledge and skills needs of the PHIs in Riyadh to conduct risk-based food inspections, including any barriers and factors that may influence the effectiveness of the inspection process.

Methods” This research was conducted in two phases using both qualitative (phase 1) and quantitative (phase 2) methods and utilising a sequential exploratory design. In the first phase, seven semi-structured interviews were conducted with four PHIs, two senior Environmental Health Mangers (EHMs) and the Coordinator of the Food Safety Diploma. The reason for the inclusion of the EHMs and the Coordinator in phase 1 was to obtain different perspectives. Then, the information gathered from these interviews and the knowledge and skills framework of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), were used to inform the development of the survey in the second phase. A survey was deemed to be a best fit in the current study to capture a large cohort of PHIs’ perceptions. A total of 502 PHIs were invited to participate in phase 2 and 301 completed and submitted it, resulting in a 60% response rate. Findings Results revealed that the levels of formal qualification of PHIs in Riyadh are significantly lower than in other developed and developing countries. Female PHIs typically have lower levels of knowledge and skills compared to their male counterparts. In addition, according to the conducted qualitative (Phase 1) and quantitative (Phase 2) investigations, the majority of participants demonstrated only limited levels of understanding and knowledge about Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles, food sampling techniques, food microbiology and the English language as a communication tool with restaurant staff.

Resuls: Leading towards the anticipated transition to risk-based food inspections in Saudi Arabia, special attention was focused on the professional needs of PHIs and issues that influence their performance, including on-going professional training. In particular, deficiencies in regular training and in the overall training arrangements to PHIs were also demonstrated by the current study. Additionally, lack of job satisfaction was another major finding of the study, with the highest levels of dissatisfaction being expressed with regard to motivation at the workplace, and the lack of support and security provided by the management. It was also found that a large proportion of PHIs in Riyadh regarded the existing food safety laws and regulations are generally inadequate and not sufficiently clear. These were the issues constituting the greatest perceived obstacles for the effective performance of PHIs and an effective transition toward the risk-based inspection approach in Riyadh. In addition, the obtained outcomes could also be generalised to other regions of Saudi Arabia and possibly, other GCC countries.

 

Investigating Riydah’s public health inspectors’ ability to conduct risk-based food inspection, and their professional needs, 2021

Queensland University of Technology

Sultan Abdullah Alsaleh

https://eprints.qut.edu.au/208321/1/Sultan%20Abdullah%20R_Alsaleh_Thesis.pdf

Romaine recalls: Why our salads can make us sick

CBC’s Marketplace (that’s a TV show in Canada) notes that Canada has been hit by a number of romaine lettuce recalls. We set out to the U.S., where the majority of our leafy greens come from, to dig up why E. coli outbreaks continue to plague our food supply. We meet one B.C. family whose lives have been forever changed by a contaminated salad (thanks to Bill Marler for posting on this).

Campylobacter at NZ milk producer Lindsay Farm spurs recall

Louise Gould of the New Zealand Herald reports that Central Hawke’s Bay organic milk producer Lindsay Farm is recalling its raw unpasteurised drinking milk due to campylobacter being detected.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said campylobacter was detected as part of Lindsay Farm’s routine testing program.

The recall affects the farm’s brand Organic Raw Drinking Milk with a use-by date between March 6 and up to and including March 21, 2021.

It’s not the first time the family-owned and operated farm in Waipukurau has had to recall its products.

Last year a 6-year-old girl was hospitalised with campylobacter illness after drinking their raw milk, which prompted MPI to order a recall.

The young girl’s family publicly backed the milk in the aftermath and remain regular consumers of the product.

New Zealand Food Safety’s national food compliance services manager Melinda Sando said people with Lindsay Farm organic raw drinking milk at home should visit the MPI recalls website to check if it is among the batches of recalled product.

She advised that anyone who has any of the recalled products should dispose of them or return them to the supplier, or heat the milk at 70°C and hold at this temperature for one minute.

According to MPI campylobacter bacteria can be potentially fatal, especially for those with weak immune systems.

 

Backyard chickens and pathogen spread

Food Online reports that keeping backyard chickens was already on the rise, and the hobby has become even more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, a University of Georgia researcher cautions that the practice has risks not just for chickens, but for wildlife and people as well.

“As a researcher who studies pathogen movement along different groups, I see backyard chickens as a potential interface where pathogens can spill over into wild birds, or vice versa, and even into people,” said Sonia Hernandez, professor of wildlife disease at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Owners need to seek information and medical care for their animals to minimize those risks.”

Hernandez and first author Andrea Ayala published their comprehensive review of pathogen transmission at the backyard chicken-wild bird interface in Frontiers in Veterinary Science. Ayala, now a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University, earned a Ph.D. in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Comparative Biomedical Sciences program.

The most well-known pathogen carried by chickens is salmonella, and almost everyone is aware of it, said Hernandez. That’s due to public education and outreach efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health agencies.

Food is the source for most of the estimated 1.35 million salmonella infections in people every year in the United States, according to the CDC. Most people who get ill from salmonella experience diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, but there are 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths every year.

“They’re trying to stay on top of salmonella in backyard chickens because they have seen an explosion of salmonellosis in people as a result of this recent popularity of keeping chickens,” she said. “It can become especially dangerous if you mix little chickens with little people—young chickens that are shedding a lot of salmonella with small kids that don’t have the best hygiene practices.”
Ayala identified a number of practices that backyard chicken owners can implement to reduce the risk of pathogen emergence:

  • keeping backyard chicken feeders where only chickens can reach them getting rid of wild bird feeders;
  • using mesh small enough to prevent wild birds from interacting with chickens removing contaminated water sources, insects and rodents;
  • maintaining good hygiene—changing footwear, for example—when visiting different flocks; and,
  • limiting the number of visitors.

“As backyard chickens become more common, the interactions between wild birds and backyard chickens are also likely to increase,” Ayala said. “Wild birds are attracted to food, water and shelter, and backyard chickens provide all three.”

The researchers’ concerns and recommendations won’t be a surprise to people who are familiar with raising chickens, especially commercial growers, who are very aware of rules from agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture that oversee animal health, according to Hernandez.

“The people who will find it the most surprising are newcomers, who get a few chickens as a hobby and have never really thought about the health of their chickens, their own health, and the impact that chickens can have on their environment,” she said.

As Hernandez and Ayala document in their paper, it is well established that backyard chickens may serve as pathogen reservoirs to the commercial poultry industry and that the most likely mechanism of spillover involves wild birds. Perhaps the best documented example of a bacterial pathogen transmission from chickens to wild birds is Mycoplasma gallisepticum, a bacterium that causes chronic respiratory illness in chickens, which spilled over from poultry in 1994 into house finches and rapidly became endemic in North American passerine species.

The U.S. has experienced outbreaks of both Newcastle disease and avian influenza, including an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the winter of 2016-17 that involved several backyard operations, Hernandez said.

Food safety types investigate multistate foodborne illness outbreak from possible turkey products

A new foodborne illness outbreak taking place in multiple states is, according to Food Safety Magazine, being investigated by federal officials, with turkey products identified as the likely source.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service indicated the cause of the outbreak in its investigation table as “Salmonella Hadar, turkey suspect.”

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokeswoman confirmed that the CDC is investigating the outbreak. As of March 15, there have been 22 patients reported across nine states. 

Turkey has been the source of food poisoning outbreaks in the United States in both 2018 and 2019 investigations, involving Salmonella Reading and Salmonella Schwarzengrund, respectively. According to the CDC, the 2019 Salmonella outbreak sickened at least seven people in three states.

The 2018 outbreak involved at least 358 people in the United States who became sick, across 42 states. One death was confirmed, and the illnesses were linked to raw human and pet foods from many sources, including Jennie-O turkey, which recalled some of its products. At the same time in 2018, Canadian officials investigated an outbreak of Salmonella Reading linked to poultry products. Testing showed the same strain on both side of the U.S./Canada border.

TikTok is bad for public health: People are using the toilet backwards so they can eat and drink at the same time

There’s been a lot of crap published on TikTok but this one actually involves crap.

Faima Bakar of Metro reports that on TikTok, viral videos showed people sitting backwards and facing the flush while watching Netflix and munching on crisps. The trend started with TikTokker @AmyWoahh who said she had a life hack for her 11.6million followers. She told viewers the trick would change their lives forever.

‘You have been pooping wrong,’ she says. ‘What I want you to do is poop backwards. Get your favourite snacks, get your favourite show and that’s how you poop. It’s the best of all times. You just sit there jamming and poopin.’

Karla from Texas joined in, adding in her iPad to watch Netflix while drinking Corona and eating crisps. We just hope it was satire. While most viewers were disgusted, some said the sitting backwards and watching Netflix wasn’t a terrible idea. Amy’s video has been viewed more than three million times. Many people commented saying they would never eat in the bathroom. One person quipped: ‘My food can’t tough bathroom air,’ while another said: ‘I refuse to let food in the bathroom, it’s like adding the odour to it.’ ‘This is cool and all, but who eats in the bathroom?’ asked another. One doctor commented on the video advising against it.

The recent supreme court decision on the deadliest foodborne disease outbreak in Canadian history

Gladys Osien and Ron Doering from Gowling WLG write in the latest Food in Canada that the listeriosis outbreak linked to cold cuts from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto in 2008 resulted in 57 confirmed cases and 22 deaths. It was the deadliest foodborne disease outbreak in Canadian history. The recall reportedly cost the company $20 million.

A class action lawsuit from affected consumers and their families was settled quickly by Maple Leaf and its insurance company. But that was not the end of the matter. To carry out extensive sanitation, the plant was closed for several weeks with the result that retail customers and distributors did not obtain their usual supply. 424 Mr. Sub franchise operators sued Maple Leaf for lost sales and damage to reputation. In November 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada in a 5-4 majority decision dismissed the case against Maple Leaf with important implications for Canadian food companies.

The question before the Court boiled down to whether Maple Leaf owed the requisite duty of care to the franchisees, a necessary step in establishing whether the franchisees have the right to recover damages in the tort of negligence. The Court held that Maple Leaf did not owe such a duty, especially for the protection of purely economic interest.

A duty of care must establish above all else what the law calls proximity. The Court held that the Mr. Sub franchisees failed to establish the requisite qualities of closeness and directness between the parties. (You can see there is a lot of discretion here.) The Court instead determined that the proximity, established by the responsibility and undertaking to supply meat fit for human consumption, and the rights to receive a supply of safe goods was between Maple Leaf and consumers, not the franchisees. The court reinforced the need for proximity to establish duty of care.

A key factor in the Court’s ruling was the fact that the franchisees could have protected themselves in contract law. There were multipartite arrangements but these did not specifically address the liability for economic loss in the event of a failure to supply product. The Court was reluctant to impose a duty of care in circumstances where the parties could have protected themselves through contracts.

The decision in 8871682 Ontario Inc v. Maple Leaf Foods Inc 2020 SCC 35 has some important lessons for Canadian food companies.

Review supplier warranty agreements: The older of the authors remembers being quite surprised 20 years ago to learn that many large Canadian food companies didn’t even have such agreements. They had longstanding handshake or simple purchase arrangements but did not have legally-drafted contracts to clarify rights and responsibilities in the case of a recall, for example.

One company did not even realize that its main product had 22 ingredients and any one of them could cause a huge recall with serious economic cost. And suppliers too have to be careful; a manufacturer may insist that a supplier undertake to compensate for any and all losses from a voluntary recall, a liability that might far exceed the value of the sale.

Review insurance coverage: Over the years several of our clients have been surprised by wording in their policies. In one case, a claim for losses from a large recall was denied because the client had failed to fully meet Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) as the policy required even though another negligent party was the principal cause of the product contamination.

Review sourcing practices: Many supplier warranty agreements rely on audits to ensure compliance with the agreement. However, audits are notoriously unreliable, particularly if the product or ingredient is sourced outside Canada. A supplier may be meeting all GMPs on the Tuesday when the auditor is there but not on the Wednesday after he’s gone. After learning this the hard way, some companies source from domestic suppliers even if it would be cheaper to get the ingredient from abroad.

Food companies should not expect to recover certain economic losses from manufacturer recalls, unless they are protected by contract: A negligence action against a manufacturer for economic losses that are unconnected to a physical or mental injury, or to physical damage to property (ie. purely economic) are rarely rewarded in court. Courts do not accept that manufacturers owe a broad duty of care to distributors.

Every Canadian food company should review this case with its lawyer.

Ron Doering BA, LLB, MA, LLD is counsel and Gladys Osien BSc, MSc, JD is an associate in the Ottawa offices of Gowling WLG.

Foodborne fungus impairs intestinal wound healing in Crohn’s disease

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Cleveland Clinic have discovered that a fungus found in foods such as cheese and processed meats can infect sites of intestinal damage in mice and people with Crohn’s and prevent healing. Moreover, writes Tamara Bhandari of News Room treating infected mice with antifungal medication eliminates the fungus and allows the wounds to heal.

The findings, published March 12 in the journal Science, suggest that antifungal drugs and dietary changes are potential new approaches to improving intestinal wound healing and reducing symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

“We’re not suggesting that people stop eating cheese and processed meat; that would be going far beyond what we know right now,” said first author Umang Jain, PhD, an instructor in pathology & immunology at the School of Medicine. “What we know is that this foodborne fungus gets into inflamed, injured tissue and causes harm. We’re planning to perform a larger study in people to figure out if there’s a correlation between diet and the abundance of this fungus in the intestine. If so, it is possible dietary modulation could lower levels of the fungus and thereby reduce symptoms of Crohn’s disease.”

Crohn’s is a subtype of inflammatory bowel disease. As the name suggests, it is driven by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract and primarily treated with immunosuppressive medications. Crohn’s patients endure repeated cycles of gastrointestinal symptom flare-up and remission. During a flare, their digestive tracts are dotted with inflamed, open sores that can persist for weeks or even months.

To understand why intestinal ulcers take so long to heal in some people, Jain and senior author Thaddeus Stappenbeck, MD, PhD, formerly at Washington University and now at the Cleveland Clinic, studied mice whose intestines had been injured. By sequencing microbial DNA at the site of injury, they discovered that the fungus Debaryomyces hansenii was abundant in wounds but not in uninjured parts of the intestine.

People acquire the fungus through their food and drink, Jain said. D. hansenii is commonly found in all kinds of cheeses, as well as sausage, beer, wine and other fermented foods.