100 sick: Outbreak at Gozo Malta’s old people’s home, sounds like Gozer from Ghostbusters

A considerable number of patients currently residing in Dar Sant Anna, the home for the elderly in Victoria, Gozo, are affected with some form of stomach bug, the Malta Independent has learnt. 

This newspaper is informed that the security personnel at the residence were told not to let anyone inside because of the high risk of contagion. 

It turns out that out of the 100 residents, some 80 were affected by the bug, which is causing patients to experience stomach pain, vomiting and fever.

I miss Harold Ramis.


#GastroBusters: Toronto’s food poisioning reporting tool that restaurants hate

The same industry that hated the introduction of DineSafe in 2001 now hates GastroBusters, a Toronto Public Health initiative to combat food poisoning, that is drawing the ire of chefs and restaurateurs across the city.

Dan-Akroyd-Says-No-Bill-Murray-Ghostbusters-31The online GastroBusters service allows diners to report restaurants they believe gave them food poisoning without identifying themselves. It’s that anonymity that restaurant owners don’t like.

“Why don’t you want to be tracked?” asked Shirin Chalabiani, part owner of Bolt Fresh Bar. “Don’t you want that person to come back to you and maybe ask you questions and get to know why you got food poisoning and what did you eat or like more details?”

Chalabiani said diner complaints can give a restaurant a bad name, often for no reason.

“We need to know about all cases so that we can identify if there’s clusters or outbreaks and then do something to prevent them,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, director of communicable disease control at the health agency.

Restaurant organizations warn about false claims, excess cost

Two experts who work in the restaurant field say the program should be done away with because it’s redundant.

images“GastroBusters is unnecessary cost to taxpayers,” says Donna Dooher, the president of Restaurants Canada, an association representing 30,000 restaurants and food service businesses across the country.

Dooher said the city’s restaurant sanitary rating system, DineSafe, is enough to safeguard diners against food poisoning.

James Rilett, vice president of the Ontario unit of Restaurants Canada, argued that food poising incidents are already tracked.

“If a doctor has a legitimate case of food born illness, they open an investigation they call Toronto Health and it’s tracked,” said Rilett. “I don’t see how anonymity helps that system at all.”

He adds a program like this opens the door to false claims.


NYC links drop in foodborne illness to grades

I’m all for restaurant inspection disclosure but all against bogus evidence to win rhetorical points in the public arena.

The night before a hearing on the public display of letter grades, New York City mayor Michael “Lenny” Bloomberg told collected journos that salmonella is down more than 13 percent over the first full year of restaurant inspection disclosure because of improved food sanitary practices by restaurants striving to achieve better grades.

The mayor — speaking with the health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, and Deputy Mayor Linda I. Gibbs — announced that “New Yorkers overwhelmingly support the grading system,” citing a recent survey by Baruch College at the City University of New York. It showed that 91 percent of New Yorkers approve of restaurant grading and 88 percent consider letter grades when dining, according to a telephone survey conducted in January and February.

Surveys don’t mean much.

Dr. Farley said salmonella infections were significantly reduced in New York City, but remained unchanged in the rest of New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey.

He added that the city’s restaurants had made significant improvements in sanitary practices, since more than 72 percent of them earned A grades, up from 65 percent a year ago.

The same compliance results have been seen around North America and elsewhere in the 13 years I’ve been involved and long before that; it’s cute that NYC is catching up.

Mr. Bloomberg said, “Restaurant grades have been good for public health and good for the economy,” adding that “New York City is known for its great restaurants and now it will be known for food safety, too.”

Hang on there, Lenny. There’s lots of caveats with inspection and disclosure. The available evidence – which is extensively documented on barfblog.com but even I’m getting tired of writing about it – is a draw at best. Links to reductions in foodborne illness are speculation, bordering on false-hope.

Disclosure is good. Leave the self–aggrandizement and rhetoric to pro athletes and lawyers.

The mayor also announced a new free mobile app for iPhones, IPads and IPod Touch devices called “ABCEatsNYC,” which lets New Yorkers check letter grades from any street corner in the five boroughs. The app is listed under the title “NYC Restaurant Grading” at the iPhone App Store, and can be downloaded after searching for mobile devices.

Michael J. Fox is a great Canadian.

Inspections reveal the slime at Oshkosh restaurants

There’s a slime epidemic in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It builds up on nozzles of soda guns. It’s on the cups that hold soda guns. It’s on ice machines and ice bins. And chances are it’s been found in your favorite tavern or restaurant.

The Oshkosh Northwestern reports that inspectors for the Oshkosh Health Department found the gooey slime that when soda, juice and other beverages builds up over time in more than 10 percent of their 424 inspections of restaurants, taverns, convenience stores and kitchens between January 2009 and April 2010.

In total, there were 44 incidents of gunk build-up during that time, making it the most cited critical violation discovered by Oshkosh Health Department Sanitarians Sandy Knutson and Ann Boyce in their annual restaurant inspections.

"For the most part, the bacteria in that slime is non-pathenogenic," Knutson said. "It probably won’t make you sick, but it will gross you out. But it’s not as big a health hazard as drains that are not open-sited."

"Sewage on the other hand …," Boyce started.
"… Has a high chance of making you ill," Knutson finished.

In 43 instances, ice bin and ice machine drains were not designed to prevent sewage from backing up into the equipment.

Slimer in the Kitchen: Salmonella biofilm means more work when using disinfectants

Who you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS! Or – a professional cleaning company.

My favorite character from the Ghostbusters series is Slimer, mainly because he always seems to get away with causing chaos around him. As a kid, I didn’t think too much about his puke-green color or possible germs that he might be carrying. However, after reading an article from the Norwegian School of Veterinary Medicine about Salmonella biofilms, I’ve come to the conclusion that Slimer was probably a giant lump of Salmonella coated in a protective biofilm.  Bacteria have multiple forms of defense, and some bacteria are able to produce a biofilm, or a slimy outer covering, in order to protect itself from disinfectants and to ensure its survival in the environment.  Too bad the Ghostbusters guns didn’t have alcohol and Virkon in them, otherwise Slimer would be toast.
In her doctoral thesis, Lene Karine Vestby studied why it is so difficult to get rid of once they have managed to establish themselves in Norwegian feed and fish meal factories. She discovered that bacteria efficient at forming biofilm (bacteria coating) survived for longer in the factories than those that had a reduced ability to form this coating. The ability to survive in factories therefore appears to be connected with the ability to form a biofilm and it would seem that removing biofilm is a necessary step towards eradicating from the factories.
Vestby studied the effect of nine most frequently used disinfectants and found that their efficiency is substantially reduced of the Salmonella has managed to form a biofilm. The effect of the majority of the disinfectants was then no longer satisfactory, but a product containing 70% ethanol was the most efficient, followed by one called Virkon S. These results could improve the efficiency of the cleaning procedures used by processing plants in the animal feed industry, and also in the human food industry.
Of course it’s not just about finding the right tools, the tools must be properly used. Proper production methods should be in place to prevent the contamination of the feed. Processing and packaging facilities should follow a regular cleaning schedule with the appropriate disinfectants. These things all contribute to the culture of food safety. They should also keep Slimer out of the kitchen.