Heston don’t know food safety

Amy and I both had an idiosyncratic experience in Melbourne over the weekend while celebrating Sorenne’s sixth birthday: we read a newspaper.

heston_blumenthalIn print.

On the cover of the Saturday magazine was a fawning piece about chef Heston Blumenthal, who is packing up his famed Fat Duck restaurant and moving it to Melbourne for six months, while the UK location undergoes renovations.

Amy read the piece and said, “I know why he made those 550 people sick at The Fat Duck: he has no training and only four weeks of restaurant experience before opening The Fat Duck.”

Unsurprisingly, the piece doesn’t mention that nasty outbreak of Norovirus that sickened 529 at the Fat Duck, which only seats some 40 people a night, so the virus was circulating between staff and patrons and back again.

A report by the UK Health Protection Agency concluded that Norovirus was probably introduced at the restaurant through contaminated shellfish, including oysters that were served raw and razor clams that may not have been appropriately handled or cooked.

Investigators identified several weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant may have contributed to ongoing transmission including: delayed response to the incident, the use of inappropriate environmental cleaning products, and staff working when ill. Up to 16 of the restaurant’s food handlers were reportedly working with Norovirus symptoms before it was voluntarily closed

Heston shills for Coles, Jamie Oliver shils for Woolworths, and both suck at food safety.

Why does Australia have to rely on overrated Brits for food porn?

So in Feb. 2015, when Blumenthal will leave his British power base and bring his beloved Duck, including almost its entire staff to, of all places, Melbourne’s Crown Casino, I won’t be attending.

The restaurant is being built here, and will operate for six months (while the English Fat Duck building is renovated). Then, when it closes, a second Dinner by Heston Blumenthal restaurant on the same site will remain permanently in Melbourne.

Maggots, rats found in S Australia food outlets

A couple of Amy’s French professoring colleagues recently took up jobs in Adelaide, the state capital of South Australia,. They’re a real couple from Cardiff, Wales, who had until recently been professoring at colleges in New York City.

Dining out may have a familiar feel as a crackdown on food outlets has been credited with a rise in the number of South Australian businesses caught breaching hygiene standards.

The Sunday Mail reports authorities found almost 5,000 breaches of food safety laws last financial year – 1,000 more than in the previous 12 months.

SA local councils issued 3637 warning notices – up from 2127 – prosecuted three businesses, closed seven premises, issued 126 fines and made 1149 improvement orders for breaches of the Food Act.

Breaches discovered among bakeries, cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, delis and service stations included:

• glass in a sandwich;
• maggots in a bread roll;
• flies, a moth, a grasshopper and mouse faeces found in various food items;
• rats in a kitchen; and,
• part of a medicinal capsule in a packet of chips.

The names of the businesses breaching the act are not identified in the documents.

SA Health’s annual report shows that last financial year it investigated almost 200 cases of food borne poisoning, including one where three restaurant diners ended up in hospital after contracting norovirus due to unsafe food handling by a kitchen worker.

Another investigation resulted in a restaurant shutting down its on-site hen house after eggs were suspected to have poisoned six diners in August 2010.

Eastern Health Authority chief executive officer Michael Livori said the significant jump in food outlets caught breaching safety standards was due to many councils being "more proactive."

"Not enough was done in the past but these latest figures show there is more due diligence," he said.

But restaurant inspection remains random, based on the diligence of local councils. Playford Council in the northern suburbs was among the most proactive in enforcing food standards, with the number of written warnings and improvement notices issued jumping from 225 to 833 over the past two financial years, although of complaints from the public remained steady at about 65 a year.

In contrast, documents show Mitcham Council issued no warnings, enforcement notices, or fines to food outlets despite confirming 21 public complaints of food standard breaches.

What won’t be familiar for the French professor ex-pats is the lack of restaurant inspection disclosure in South Australia. Unlike New York City, which has been using a letter-grade system for over a year, the SA numbers compiled by the Sunday Mail were based on documents obtained through SA Health under freedom of information laws.

(The mysteries of Intertubes in Australia mean Dubai Bobby picked this up before I did; thanks for the lede.).

9 sick in Missouri, 2 kids in hospital, but raw milk faithful rally to the cause

Food to many is an evangelical calling.

Some find faith in monotheism, some in nature, some in the sports shrine (I prefer ice hockey, especially now that the playoffs have started and the cathedral once known as Maple-Leaf-Gardens-whatever-the-corporate-home-of-Toronto’s-disgrace-is-now is out of the theological debate), and some in the kitchen.

For some faiths, like creationism, biology don’t matter much.

So the headline in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, harking to centuries of food hucksterism, is not surprising: “Illnesses don’t dissuade raw milk fans.”

“Raw milk enthusiasts say an E. coli outbreak in Missouri won’t change their preference for unpasteurized dairy products.

“At least nine people in five counties in central and western Missouri have been sickened by E. coli since late March. Health officials have pointed to raw milk as a possible cause in at least four of the cases, including a 2-year-old from Columbia who remains hospitalized with severe complications.

“MooGrass Farms near Collinsville sells about 200 gallons of raw cow, goat and sheep milk each week, mostly to families from the St. Louis area, said the farm’s manager, Kevin Kosiek.

“His customers appreciate the taste of whole raw milk as well as the lack of heat processing that kills some of the nutrients.

"This is not a fad," Kosiek said. "People are going back to where people used to get their food, and that’s farmers doing natural, organic things."

“Kosiek and several other raw milk distributors said they doubt the E. coli outbreak will be ultimately linked to unpasteurized dairy products.”

Faith and biology don’t have to conflict. Facts are important, but never enough. It’s a religious thing.

A table of raw milk related outbreaks is available at: http://bites.ksu.edu/rawmilk.