Syracuse restaurant to undergo cleaning after 70 people ill with norovirus; food handler suspected

Twin Trees Too, a popular Syracuse, New York restaurant, will be undergoing a serious cleaning over the next 18 hours, as the number of customers with norovirus is now up to 70.

The health department says there’s no evidence the bug is still being spread, but as a precaution, the restaurant is voluntarily closing for the first half of the day on Wednesday so Serve-Pro can come in and do a thorough cleaning.

The Onondaga County Health Department suspects the norovirus – or stomach bug – was spread in the restaurant sometime around the last weekend of February and was likely caused by sick employees preparing food.

While the restaurant is well known for its pies, it may have been some other foods that were contaminated.

"The investigation is still pending, but we do think that it’s more likely to be related to a salad or antipasto than to the pizza at this time,” said Onondaga County Health Commissioner, Dr. Cynthia Morrow.

Food handler passed E. coli O104 to 20 others in German outbreak

As the number of sick people in the German E. coli O104 sprout outbreak rose to 3,408, including 798 with hemolytic uremic syndrome and 39 dead, scientists have discovered a kitchen employee at a catering company was unwittingly spreading the germ on food.

Hesse state consumer protection officials said that a woman positive for E. coli O104:H4 but had not yet fallen ill – she later developed HUS — passed it to 20 other people via food she handled.

Pet snakes and babies don’t mix: 4-month-old hospitalized with Salmonella in UK

I don’t know what it is with parents in the U.K. letting pet snakes hang out with their babies.

For the third time in recent memory, a 4-month-old baby fell seriously ill with salmonella she caught from the family’s pet snake.

The baby girl was admitted to intensive care at St Thomas Hospital with a fever and high heart rate in August, where hospital tests revealed she was suffering from a strain known as salmonella Arizona, which is commonly associated with snakes.

She has recovered since then and an investigation by environmental health officers at Sutton Council identified the most likely source to be the family’s two royal python snakes, which can carry the infection in their gut and spread it through their droppings.

The council has now issued a hygiene warning to owners of exotic reptiles, saying it is essential for them to wash hands thoroughly after handling a reptile and keep the animal away from anywhere food is prepared.

New food safety infosheet: Hepatitis A in staff member at Littleton, CO grocery store

This week’s food safety infosheet focuses on a Hep A incident that arose over the weekend.  A staff member responsible for handling and preparing produce in a Colorado Albertson’s was found to have Hepatitis A.

Food safety infosheet highlights:
-Albertsons shoppers may have been exposed to virus between April 6 and April 21, 2009.
-Transmission of Hepatitis A happens through the fecal-oral route.
-Virus-containing poop remaining on hands after using the toilet is a risk.

You can download the food safety infosheet here.

Food safety infosheets are created weekly and are posted in restaurants, retail stores, on farms and used in training throughout the world. If you have any infosheet topic requests, or photos, please contact Ben Chapman at

You can follow food safety infosheets stories and barfblog on twitter @benjaminchapman and @barfblog.

Could video games be a key to food handler training effectiveness?

Food handler training, required or encouraged in various jurisdictions across North America has been demonstrated by multiple studies to have various results. Most of the published research has focused on looking at inspection results, but in 2000, researchers in Oregon (April 2009 issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease) explored food handler food safety knowledge.

During April–September 2000 researchers administered a 28- question survey distilled from a longer survey obtained from the Oregon Food Handler Certification Program with 407 food handlers from 67 randomly-selected restaurants.The researchers found that their participants averaged 68% on the test. Significant differences were observed between managers’ average test scores and those of line staff: 74% versus 67%, respectively, and those with Oregon food handler training scored 69%, while those without one scored 63%.

Meatloaf sang that two out of three ain’t bad, but in food safety training, retention-wise, it’s not great.

The researchers conclude that survey demonstrates a limited level of knowledge among foodhandlers about food safety and that analyzing knowledge and comparing concurrent restaurant inspection scores would strengthen the understanding of food safety in restaurants.  The results of the survey also emphasize the need for educational programs tailored to improve foodhandlers knowledge of foodborne diseases.

I’d add that it’s not like knowledge translates automatically into practice. Demonstrating knowledge change is interesting, but not nearly as important as behavior change.

Food handlers need some sort of basic training, but it’s up to their managers and organization to make sure they stay up-to-date and that they have some sort of ongoing reminders (like food safety infosheets.

Reuters reports on a strategy for training that might have some applications with food handlers — video game simulations.

Many businesses use serious videogames designed for the PC but Hilton Garden Inn (HGI) has taken the virtual training concept portable for the first time with "Ultimate Team Play".

Working with North Carolina-based game developer Virtual Heroes, HGI has created a videogame for Sony’s PSP (PlayStation Portable) that allows employees to practice their jobs before they have to interact with customers.

It has the potential to be pretty cool and useful especially if used to demonstrate the team-like nature of foodservice and risk identification, but if it’s pulled off cheaply it could look like Duck Hunt.

Food handlers linked to outbreaks of Salmonella — New food safety infosheet

A couple of what appears to be staff-related Salmonella outbreaks have occurred in the past month in Princeton, New Jersey and Norwalk, Ohio.  Reports of both outbreaks suggest that poor hygiene amongst staff led to over 100 total cases.  No food source has been identified in the Ohio outbreak, but it is suggested that shredded cheese was prepared by a food handler who was shedding Salmonella.

These outbreaks are also the stories we have concentrated on in today’s iFSN food safety infosheet.  Click here to download the infosheet.

McDonald’s food handler in Calgary has hepatitis A

A food handler at a McDonald’s restaurant in Calgary, AB was diagnosed with hepatitis A this week, resulting a risk of exposure to thousands of customer who ate there between October 1 and 23.
There has been a bunch of coverage locally and nationally.  While watching Canada AM this morning I caught this on the Crawl; "Thousands exposed to Hep A at Calgary McDonald’s" The Calgary Herald, and Calgary Sun both covered the story today. 

From the Herald:

Ron Thompkins, who drives a semi-trailer truck in the area and eats at that McDonald’s almost everyday, plans to get vaccinated. "This really sucks," he said, explaining that he’s concerned about the cleanliness of McDonald’s in general. "The bathrooms are very dirty. The toilets are filthy. It needs to be cleaned more."

I think it’s interesting that Thompkins brings up that he’s concerned about how often the bathrooms are cleaned, and still eats at the McDonald’s almost every day. I’m not surprised, likely the safety of the food at this location was never in question for Tompkins until the hep A news hit — that’s an assumption I’m making based on him eating there often. Now he’s been told about the risk and he’s voicing something he noticed but didn’t think was a problem.  This is one of the problems food safety communicators face — though around 1 in 4 people get sick each year,  events like these are still quite rare, and only when they occur do some individuals (consumers, staff, managers) really take notice.

For today’s iFSN infosheet sheet, we used the story as the hook, and focused on what food handlers can do.  Hep a is more problematic for businesses than other pathogens because staff can have and pass on the virus without showing symptoms, and even if the food handler is a handwashing superstar you are going to have a line up outside your restaurant (or at the health unit/clinic) while patrons get their post-exposure shots.  So maybe the answer for some businesses is to require (and possibly pay for) hep A vaccines for food handlers.  Staff turnover, lack of protection from other bugs and the cost are problems, but vaccinations may be worth requiring to keep your company out of the newspaper.

New iFSN infosheet — Dirty Finger Al

One of the best ever monikers in any food safety story came out courtesy of our friends at  Dirty Finger Al inspired today’s infosheet which can be found here.

Dirty Finger Al got his name because he is allegedly “grotesque in his hygiene because of filthy hands and fingers and open, oozing sores while cooking.”   And he’s a chef. Yum.