Loblaws apologizes over viral photo of mouse in bag of bread at a Hamilton No Frills

There was this time about 15 years ago, and I was the scientific advisor for a group of food safety heads at Canadian supermarkets. We’d met once or twice a year, and the first four hours would be devoted to, no one takes my job seriously unless there’s an outbreak.

I could relate.

I guess they kept me on because we did good work when BSE was discovered in Canada in 2003: the only country where beef consumption increased after a mad cow disease warning, partly due to me standing in the snow at 6 am on a Guelph street doing national TV, lots due to Sarah and her team managing the phone lines and providing me with soundbites.

I get the sense Loblaws and its various spin-offs aren’t so vigilant

as they might have been before.

First it was piles of meat thawing in a shopping cart. Now Loblaws is apologizing to customers of a Hamilton No Frills after a photo went viral of a mouse in a bag of bread at the store.

The picture of the tail end of a mouse — visible through the plastic bag surrounding a loaf of D’Italiano bread in a shopping cart — was posted to the website Reddit on Wednesday. The photo had attracted more than 180 comments by the next day.

In a statement, Loblaws public relations director Karen Gumbs apologized to customers — but also assured them the city’s public health department checked out the No Frills location and has “no concerns.”

“The store has taken a number of steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again, including working closely with their third-party pest control team, and inspecting bakery items daily,” she said.


Restaurant grades in Hamilton (the one in Canada)

The next time you walk into a Hamilton restaurant, have a look at the front door or window. There’s a new, more colourful food safety inspection disclosure program being rolled out throughout the city this year.

Before 2014, restaurants would receive a green certificate to hang in their window if they passed a health inspection. However, the city had no way of indicating to the public if rest.inspection.hamilton.feb.14there were health or cleanliness issues inside short of pulling down that certificate — something most customers wouldn’t notice.

Now, whenever a public health inspector visits a restaurant for an inspection, it receives one of three certificates, depending on cleanliness and safety: green for a pass, yellow for a conditional pass and red for a fail, which means the business must close.

Similar systems have existed in the GTA and Halton regions for years, and Hamilton has been playing catch up. As part of the new program, the city has launched a website where people can check a restaurant’s health and safety inspection records.

These measures were taken to create a more effective way of disclosing food safety to the public, says Richard MacDonald, the city food safety manager.

The city performs between 400 to 450 health inspections in restaurants a month, broken down between high, medium and low risk establishments.

The city’s new colour coded system was first implemented on Jan. 1, and since it was ushered in, inspectors have issued 16 yellow cards for critical infractions and three red cards for closures – which is about average in the city, MacDonald says.

The three red cards were handed out to companies that had no hot water, because of frozen or burst pipes during January’s intense cold.

In 2012, 231 green pass cards were removed from restaurants, compared to 192 in 2013.

MacDonald says that according to inspector feedback, restaurant operators are heeding the new system. “They’re paying attention,” he said. “They don’t want to be wearing their reputation on the front door,” he said.

Hamilton radio dance linked to noro outbreak

For Chapman’s mum, camping is a hotel without air conditioning.

For me in surburbia, it was a tent in the backyard.

Me and a couple of friends would have sleepouts, with an AM radio to rock us through the night.

The station of choice for pre-teens in 1971 was CKOC in nearby Hamilton, Ontario (that’s in Canada).

So it was with a tint of nostalgia when I read that norovirus had been confirmed as the cause of illness in at least 15 people at a CKOC Reunion Dance last weekend.

Dr. Chris Mackie, an associate medical officer of health, told the Hamilton Spectator although the outbreak hasn’t been linked specifically to food, anyone who took leftovers from the dance should throw them out, just in case.

Anyone who experienced the symptoms listed above after attending the CKOC dance should call public health at 905-546-2063.

16 now sick with salmonella linked to Eat a Pita; staffer says not our food

Hamilton Public Health officials (that’s in Canada) have discovered another 12 cases of salmonella illnesses after asking anyone who has eaten at Eat a Pita on Main Street East since Feb. 1 to call them.

Officials declared a salmonella outbreak connected to Eat a Pita after investigating four salmonella cases linked to the restaurant. Eat a Pita has been closed as a result of improper food handling. During a previously scheduled health inspection on Feb. 1, it was found that cooked chicken wasn’t being kept at a high enough temperature. Similar problems were discovered during a followup inspection on Thursday.

A woman who answered the phone at Eat a Pita on Thursday said, “I don’t believe this is in my food.”

She also said she would like documentation of the cases from public health, and declined to comment further.

Hamilton health investigating four salmonella cases linked to pita joint

Four cases of salmonella are being investigated by Hamilton’s public health department (that’s the Hamilton in Canada).

Public health says it believes the cases are connected to Eat a Pita restaurant on Main Street East at Kenilworth Avenue. The restaurant remained open after it took corrective measures following an inspection, and is being inspected again Thursday.

Up to 73 with Druxy’s diarrhea; don’t let sick employees serve food

The Hamilton Spectator (that’s in Ontario, Canada) reports this morning that public health types received 40 calls Friday from people who were sick after eating food from the downtown Druxy’s Famous Deli Sandwiches earlier this week.

All of them ate food from the deli on Tuesday or Wednesday and showed a similar range of symptoms to the 33 people who became sick with gastrointestinal illness or stomach flu at a corporate event catered by Druxy’s Tuesday, said Dr. Chris Mackie, one of the city’s associate medical officers of health.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, he said.

Public health temporarily closed the deli at Jackson Square Thursday afternoon after they suspected two ill employees serving at a corporate Christmas party contaminated the food. The department found Druxy’s did not have hot water for workers to wash their hands properly.

The downtown deli has catered three other events since Monday. Some of the new 40 patients had attended one of these functions, Mackie said.

Public health has collected some samples and should know what pathogen is involved likely by Monday, he said.

Restaurant inspections lagging but mouth-shaped urinals removed

The public health department in Hamilton, Ontario (that’s in Canada) is failing to properly monitor Hamilton’s restaurants.

But a Hamilton restaurant with mouth-shaped urinals in the men’s room is attracting attention (OK, not from public health inspectors).

The Hamilton Spectator reports that an audit presented to city council yesterday shows the city isn’t meeting provincial standards for food safety inspections.

It should have performed 4,700 routine inspections last year, but missed that target by 1,200.

The audit also found restaurants and food services with repeat problems weren’t consistently penalized. Out of 450 establishments with multiple infractions, only six were ticketed in 2009.

Ann Pekaruk, the city’s director of audit services, said her department couldn’t find an adequate reason why the inspections weren’t completed.

But there is one Hamilton restaurant that has attracted attention.

After eight months of refusing to give in to pressure from women’s rights groups, politicians and threats of boycotts, the National Post reports a Hamilton restaurant has agreed to take down the controversial mouth-shaped urinals in its men’s restroom.

The Honest Lawyer in Hamilton bought the urinals, which have big, glossy red lips, in Europe and installed them in the restroom three years ago, said Renee Roth, the restaurant’s operations manager and partner, but it didn’t get any negative attention until recently.

“The people started saying it was misogynist, sexist and hurtful. That’s not what we meant for it,” Ms. Roth says. “I saw it as a simple novelty. A decoration in my bathroom. But we didn’t want to confuse people to think we support the things the activists were accusing us of.”

Hospitality horrors in Hamilton, New Zealand

barfblogger, graduate student and salad sous chef Katie is on her way from New Zealand (below, left, exactly as shown) to her hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, famous for being cold, where Wayne Gretzky played junior hockey for a bit, and home to the greatest NHL goaltender ever and my teenage-idol, Tony Esposito (and his brother, Phil, who scored a few goals over the years for the Boston Bruins).

Katie will attend Kansas State University for the summer semester and finish up those pesky MS details, like writing a thesis.

She leaves behind New Zealand, for now, and I don’t know if she ever traveled to Hamilton, N.Z., but the Waikato Times reports that more than 320 Hamilton restaurants, takeaways, eateries and caterers have failed food safety inspections in the past year and one was so dirty the council closed it down straight away.

Hamilton City Council’s environment health team inspects the city’s 800 food businesses each year and just over half pass on the first inspection.

Horror stories include filthy kitchens and surfaces covered with cockroaches.

Of the businesses inspected since July 2009, 64 had critical food safety issues which include dirtiness and food being stored either at wrong temperatures or risking cross contamination with raw food.

Jail sucks, so does the listeria food

It’s been 27 years since I served time in an Ontario correctional institution where I got all corrected and rehabilitated.

I never saw a health inspector. But apparently they do check out the jail food. Good thing too. The Milton, Ontario, food production facility – the ‘Hurst –provides 9,000 meals per day to approximately 4,500 inmates at seven Ontario correctional facilities. And listeria was found last week.

Dr. David Williams, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, is alerting individuals who were incarcerated in seven provincial correctional institutions between November 13 and 16, 2008 of a possible exposure to Listeria monocytogenes.

On November 21, 2008, the operator of a correctional services food production facility in Milton informed the Halton Region Health Department that food and environmental samples taken during routine surveillance at the facility had tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

The tests relate to samples taken from food that may have been consumed between November 13 and November 16, 2008.

As a result of the positive tests, the Halton Region Health Department issued an order to the operator, Eurest Dining Services, to cease production and distribution of food from the facility and to immediately prepare and implement a plan to sanitize the plant and equipment.

There are no reported cases of listeriosis.

Lobster on the lam; sicken 55 in Ontario, declared gross by FDA

Public health types in Hamilton, Ontario, report that 55 people fell ill after attending a staff barbecue July 18 at ArcelorMittal Dofasco or eating leftovers. A public health investigation determined the source of the outbreak was Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria from inadequately pre-cooked lobster tails.

The caterer was the Village Green Bistro in Westdale.

On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to avoid eating tomalley from American Lobster, regardless of where the lobster was harvested, because of potential contamination with dangerous levels of the toxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

Lobster tomalley normally does not contain dangerous levels of PSP toxins. The current high levels of PSP toxins likely are associated with an ongoing red tide episode in northern New England and eastern Canada. Canadian authorities recommend limited consumption of lobster tomalley. However, authorities in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have issued advisories cautioning against eating any tomalley.

Colbert did a bit about the tomalley Thrusday night but it’s not on the Comedy Central website yet. So this will have to do.