The Good, Bad, and Ugly Texas edition

An audit investigation of the Austin Public Health Department reveals inspectors napping, shopping, and taking extended breaks. Unfortunately things like this happen and without proper management and effective leadership, things like this will continue to happen.
Disappointing when the actions of a few inspectors tarnish the reputation of others who actually take pride in the work they do and have an ethical, moral backbone. When I first started as an inspector, I recall hearing a number of stories of bribery on the job and other ridiculous things. Like any profession, you have the good, bad, and ugly.

David Barer of KXAN writes
Austin Public Health’s Environmental Services Division, which conducts restaurant inspections among other duties, “wasted city resources as a result of grossly inefficient practices and procedures,” according to the audit.
Auditors also found three environmental health officers wasted time while on the city clock, and two “may have attempted to conceal their misuses on their inspection reports.”
Environmental health officers spend a majority of their time in the field with “limited oversight,” according to the report. Inspectors had no set list of daily inspections; rather, inspectors chose to inspect whichever restaurant was due, and officers were not required to notify supervisors ahead of inspections or check in before or after they were conducted, auditors found.
Investigators said they found several instances of officers saying their inspections took place at times that did not square with what the auditors observed.
According to the report, supervisors were only conducting a “supervisory audit,” which is an in-person check of an officer’s inspection, on less than two percent of inspections. Despite concerns about officers wasting time, management did not regularly review or question how time was being used in the field.
· KXAN Investigation: Restaurant inspectors weren’t meeting inspection-rate standards.
Audit office investigators followed three environmental health officers inspectors during their daily routine and found inspectors napping, shopping and exercising, according to the report.
Investigators found one environmental health officer working out at a local gym for an hour and a half to two hours on at least two separate days. She also left work an hour early on one occasion. She “also may have attempted to conceal the misuse by misrepresenting the time in and out on her written inspection reports,” the audit states.
Another employee was observed napping in her car and misrepresented the times she went in and came out of a restaurant inspection, auditors said.

The rest of the story can be found here:


17 of 22 Norwegian food inspectors stricken with food poisoning

(Something may be lost in translation, but thanks for the contribution)

In Romerike in Norway food inspectors celebrated the finish of a meeting with sandwiches. It ended up with 17 out of 22 getting food poisoning.

NORSKE_SKOLEMAT_PAKKERFSA has conducted a comprehensive amendment of its organization and department. Romerike celebrated this with tall sandwiches this week. It was disaster.

Now almost all employees sick. FSA suspect they have been food poisoning.

Of a total of 22 employees are 17 down for the count.

The sandwiches were delivered by a catering firm. 25; top 30 public health blogs of 2012

I generally ignore those endless polls that purport to rank blogs, especially if you’ll put their endorsement sticker on your blog.

This one is a little different, because I actually care about public health, and especially the inspectors who work in a largely thankless job.

So according to – and I’m quite proud of my association with the School of Public Health within the veterinary Rob_Mancini_001college at Kansas State University – comes in at 25.

I’m especially proud we do all this with minimal resources. We’re not CDC or the Wall Street Journal. But we do have Amy to fix all our mistakes.

And this is no list of wannabes.

 “The field of public health is wide ranging and varied. There are many perspectives on the field and as public health by definition affects everybody, there are many stakeholders. This list consists of the top thirty blogs in the field of public health from experts in many portions of the field. Readers will find that the list consists of a wide variety of perspectives including medical, economic, national, global, corporate, and governmental.”

Federal inspectors told to ignore moldy food at Washington plant

KING 5 Investigators have learned that federal inspectors complained for years about significant food safety violations at a Yakima plant but their superiors didn’t put a stop to it.

"I thought it was terrible because I have never seen anything like that in my life," said Jerry Pierce, a recently retired U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector who was assigned to the Snokist Growers plant in 2008. He said he watched Snokist employees “reprocess” and sell applesauce that belonged in the garbage bin.

“It’s appalling that the company would take those measures just to make a few dollars," said Wendy Alguard, the USDA inspector who worked at Snokist from 2009 until the summer of last year.

Snokist Growers is a century-old cannery that processes and packages 50,000 tons of cherries, apples, pears and plums each year. The inspectors say that leaks in the packaging would cause 300 gallon bags of applesauce to spoil. Snokist would scrape thick mold off the top of the spoiled applesauce, heat-treat the remaining product and then send it down the production line for sale to the public.

The KING 5 Investigators obtained public records showing Snokist reprocessed more than 23,000 gallons of moldy applesauce in the year 2010 alone. Other records show Snokist’s own consultant concluded in 2009 that the mold in applesauce "would not be eliminated by your firm’s thermal process." Records show the company continued selling it to customers.

The inspectors say they repeatedly told their boss about the moldy applesauce.
"I guess they promised my boss they wouldn’t do it again and within a week they were doing it again,” said Pierce.

"I had contact with my boss many times and he basically told me to mind my own business," said Alguard.

It was another government agency that finally put a stop to Snokist’s recycling of fruit products. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came to the Yakima plant after 18 North Carolina school children got sick from eating Snokist applesauce. The FDA determined that packaging defects caused the applesauce to spoil, not reprocessing of moldy applesauce.

E coli in the UK countryside: whose problem is it?

Reducing the risks of catching E. coli O157 in the countryside is everyone’s problem, but it’s someone else’s problem according to individuals questioned by researchers.

In one-to-one interviews conducted by the Research Councils UK Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (RELU), researchers found that people believed others should do more to reduce the risk of infection. While farmers thought that abattoirs should do more to prevent outbreaks, abattoir owners said that farmers should do more through better cleaning of livestock before slaughter, and butchers claimed that meat inspectors could be more effective.

In a survey of over two thousand rural residents and visitors, around 45 per cent of all respondents thought that health authorities as well as central and local government should be taking more action to protect the public. But the researchers say that E. coli O157 infection isn’t a problem that is easily solved, and the most effective way of addressing it would be for everyone to adopt behaviors and strategies to reduce risks.

It’s that farm-to-fork thing.

E. coli butcher ‘sold rotten meat for years,’ were the inspectors asleep

Will Brits have a ‘stiff upper lip’ about this food safety crap?

The Independent reports that the butcher at the centre of a fatal E.coli outbreak which claimed the life of a five-year-old boy sold rotten meat for years before the tragedy, an inquest heard today.

Mason Jones, of Deri, near Bargoed, lost his life to the deadly food poisoning bug which struck 44 schools in the South Wales valleys.

The outbreak, in September 2005, had become the second biggest to hit the UK by the time it ran its course.

Mason’s mother Sharon Mills sobbed repeatedly today at the inquest into his death in Newport.

The coroner’s court also got an insight into chronically lax hygiene practices at the butcher business which triggered the outbreak.

John Tudor and Son, based at Bridgend Industrial Estate, supplied meat to dozens of schools and residential homes for the elderly.

Company boss and owner William John Tudor, 58, of Cowbridge, South Wales, was jailed for one year at Cardiff Crown Court in September 2007.

Tudor admitted six counts of placing unsafe food on the market and one of failing to protect food against the risk of contamination.

The inquest today heard he habitually lied to the authorities about his practices and falsified records – two months at a time.

His underhand practices were so habitual he literally used to pass off mutton as lamb to his customers.

Detective Superintendent Paul Burke headed a criminal inquiry after the firm was pinpointed as the source of the outbreak.

He said staff at the firm were interviewed about hygiene standards during the inquiry.

"A number of people told me in interview about meat that was smelling or poor and when brought to Mr Tudor’s attention they were told to put it in the faggots," he said.

"When meat was turning yellow they were told to ‘mince it up’ and put it in the faggots."

The idea being that because faggots were spicy they would hide the taste of the meat.

He added: "Mutton was literally passed off as lamb."

The firm would buy frozen New Zealand mutton and sell it on to customers as Welsh lamb.

False batch numbers linking it to a legitimate farm in Abergavenny were used to hide its origin.

He said that according to staff at the firm, disregard for hygiene rules had gone on for years.

It was not known whether any of the affected schools ever received the faggots or mutton.

Equally, it was not possible to tell whether the factory had caused other E. coli or food poisoning outbreaks in the past.

He said Tudor was well aware of safe hygiene practice because he had successfully sat a grade three hygiene diploma in 2002.

But some staff members were found to have never attended even basic hygiene courses, despite the need to do so.

It was also found his factory’s only vacuum packing machine was "not fit for purpose" and was used for both raw and cooked meats.

A "dirty old brush and container of water" was used to clean the machine between different users; often it was not cleaned at all.

Cooked and raw meats were stored together and decomposing meat was discovered in a fridge section at the factory.

Meat seized from the operation was found to contain an identical E. coli O157 strain as the one that killed Mason.

The same strain was found at a Welsh farm where the meat originated and an abattoir where Tudor bought the meat.

Mr Burke stressed that a certain percentage of healthy cattle carry the strain of E.coli without harm to them.

But the fact it could prove deadly to people, particularly children and elderly, underlined why basic hygiene was necessary.

23 sick from salmonella in headcheese and massive recall because of undercooking; Canadian agriculture minister states obvious, there’s problems in meat inspection

Canadian Agriculture Minister and would-be comedian Gerry Ritz on Thursday told Postmedia News that last week’s massive recall of all Brandt ready-to-eat deli meats exposes gaps in Canada’s meat inspection system, stating,

"I’m concerned that the paperwork that Brandt had was less than strenuous, I’ll call it. We are in there looking through some of that. We’re looking at different protocols, at having them reporting in different ways. At the end of the day, we’ll have a better plant."

Sarah Schmidt, following up on her Postmedia story yesterday about the delay in detecting problems at the Brandt Meats Toronto-area plant, said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency – which reports to the Canadian Parliament through the Minister of Agriculture – only checked out the Brandt plant after pressure from public health types.

As in, we got a bunch of sick people, it came from this plant, maybe you should look harder, do we have to do your job as well?

Ritz was further quoted as saying,

"It takes a combination of work between CFIA, public health and the industry of record. I think everyone learns from every one of things. We always do that ‘lessons-learned’ aspect of it. Having said that, we always strive to do better and I think in this case, certainly it could always be worse and we try to make a better system as we move forward."

Minister, by worse, do you mean when 23 people die from listeria in Canada in 2008?

Ritz also said, "we hiring people as fast we can."

Inspectors? Scientists? PR hacks? How’s the quality control on those fast hires?

Environmental health driven by HR, good people leaving

Scotland has the highest rate of E coli O157 infection in the world and experts are struggling to maintain the fight against the infection.

Prof Hugh Pennington, who has chaired two public inquiries into major outbreaks of E. coli O157, said he was concerned about the number of experienced personnel being lost due to budget cuts, adding,

"Worryingly environmental health now seems to be being driven by HR departments."

Rod House, president of the Royal Environmental Health Institute for Scotland, said many senior officers were taking early retirement as councils seek to reduce their wage bills, yet fewer trainees are being appointed.

Rats filmed in Honolulu’s Chinatown market

Here’s the video of rats in a Chinatown market that sparked the story in the Honolulu Advertiser that Chapman just blogged about.

The video sparked a Department of Health inspection of Pacing’s, which was cited for a violation.

The Geller rat video has been seen by tens of thousands of people, and has spurred some to stop coming to Chinatown, according to shop owners, who say business has decreased — by 30 to 50 percent or more — over the last weeks.

Last year, Sekiya’s Restaurant in Kaimukí closed its doors for days and dumped all its food after an E. coli outbreak, which sickened seven.

Should food safety inspectors get fired if they screw up? Welsh parents say yes

Ya can’t inspect your way to a safe food supply.

For all those in Canada and America clamoring for more inspectors, please, read the report Bill-Murray-in-Groundhog-Day impersonator Professor Hugh Pennington wrote after the 2005 E. coli O157 outbreak in Wales, which sickened 160 and killed 5-year-old Mason Jones (right).

The Western Mail reports this morning that the parents of those kids want the inspectors – the environmental health officers who failed to shut down the butcher responsible for the E .coli outbreak – fired.

Julie Price, 44, whose son Garyn, 13, was left fighting for his life after his kidneys failed when he contracted E.coli O157, said:

“At the end of the day, the buck stops with (butcher) Tudor, but these people were in place to protect our children and they didn’t. I would like to see them sacked.”

Jeanette Thomas, 37, from Mountain Ash, whose sons Garyn ,10, and Keiron ,13, both contracted the bug, said,

“These environmental health officers shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it, especially considering what these poor kids have been through."

Pennington’s report noted that the inspectors, could and should have stopped Tudor using a single vacuum-packing machine for raw and cooked meat.

The butcher was HACCP-trained, inspected and in the business for 30 years, but apparently didn’t know or care about cross-contamination between raw and cooked product. Neither did the imspectors.