Barry and restaurant inspection grades in LA

I am barfblog, barfblog is me.

I don’t think the other site will go anywhere.

So you get this mess, and can always opt out.

Chapman and I have been talking about creativity lately, and how to get better at it.

It may not be apparent, but for 20 years now, we always try to get better.

He quoted me Neil Young this morning, who said in 1974, “’Heart of Gold’ put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride, but I saw more interesting people there.”

I said the the same thing to Bill Leiss when he wanted to rehash a book: been there, done that, you’re boring.

Well done Ben.

Discovering, by Robert Scott Root-Bernstein, a prof type at the University of Michigan, was one of the most influential books I read. So much so that I had him come to the University of Waterloo when I hosted the annual meeting of the Canadian Science writer types in 1992.

Whether I’ve done journalism or science (and I still get cited every day, sorta proud of that, even with my diminished mind), or just writing to keep the cobwebs out of my brain, it’s all about asking questions that others haven’t, and then telling a good story.

Barry is probably the best new show on TV (after John Oliver).

Who knew Bill Hadler had it in him?

An Oklahoma dude who wowed audiences with his Stefon character on Saturday Night Live, who knew he could come up with Barry, a deep, disturbing and funny role that he writes, stars in and directs (committees are overrated).

But what this food safety nerd got in episode 4 of the second season was not the tension between the actors, but the A restaurant inspection grade in Los Angeles.

I love public disclosure.

Losing my religion: 11 sickened with Salmonella at Calif. camp

Ryan Torok of the Jewish Journal writes, Moshava California, a Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles overnight camp in the San Bernardino Mountains currently in the midst of its first session, is concluding the session early after and outbreak of Salmonella.

bnei-akiva“Recently, a group of 11 campers tested positive for salmonella,” a statement released July 12 by Bnei Akiva says. “Thankfully, we have had no new cases since last week, and our affected campers are well on the road to recovery.”

The first session was originally scheduled to end on July 17, but will end instead on July 14, as instructed by the Department of Environmental Health of San Bernardino County to allow the site to be “cleared and cleaned,” according to the statement, which is signed by Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles executive director Rabbi Menachem Hecht. The session began June 27. Approximately 180 campers are enrolled in the first session of camp, according to the camp administration office.

Bnei Akiva of Los Angeles is the local branch of the international religious Zionist youth movement. The camp is located in Running Springs, California, in San Bernardino County and serves boys and girls entering 3rd through10th grades.

That ‘A’ grade at your favorite LA restaurant will soon be more meaningful

Restaurants and markets that are shut down for vermin infestations, sewage problems or for a lack of water will no longer be able to receive an A health grade in Los Angeles County under a stricter grading system to be implemented over the next year.

larry.david.rest.inspecStephanie K. Baer of The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials outlined a new way restaurant inspectors will deduct points when assigning A, B and C health grades in a report submitted to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors late Thursday.

Currently, a restaurant can receive an A letter grade even when it is ordered closed or when two major violations, such as unsafe food temperatures, are observed because major violations only cost food facilities four points out of a possible 100 points.

Under the new point deduction system, which will be enforced sometime in early 2017, any time a restaurant is closed for a cockroach, rodent or fly infestation, sewage problems, or for not having any water running through the facility, it will lose an additional seven points for the closure. Any time two major health hazards, such as unsafe food temperatures, are observed, the facility will lose an additional three points in their inspection score.

If a restaurant is closed and is also marked down for two major health code violations, it will only lose the seven points for the closure.

restaurant.inspection.la.porn.mar.13“It’s important for the credibility of the program,” said Terri Williams, acting director of the county Department of Public Health’s environmental health division, referring to the changes. “You want the public to know when they go into a restaurant that has an A in the window that the restaurant truly earned that A.”

The recommendations were proposed after a Southern California News Group review of nearly two years of restaurant inspection data found the county’s grading system allows many restaurants and markets to operate with major health threats and gives those facilities high health grades.

Thursday’s report is the eighth and final progress report on the implementation of those recommendations.

Fred Leaf, health deputy for Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who requested the department review the grading system, said the changes make the letter grades more meaningful and reflective of restaurants’ health and cleanliness.

Leaf added that the recommendations also highlighted the importance of regularly evaluating the program.

The widely-emulated letter grading system has gone largely unchanged since 1998 when Antonovich first proposed notifying the public about sanitary conditions in food establishments.

As part of the changes, the county will also begin issuing new health grade cards this summer that will show the public the date of a food facility’s last graded inspection. Later on, a QR code will be added to the cards to provide more information about facilities’ inspection history.

Surveys still suck: Public wants more information about conditions at LA County restaurants

Surveys are built-in news generators but can often mean little.

Of course people want more information, want more food labels, and always wash their hands properly when they go #2.

survey.saysThe San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports the public wants to know more about the conditions in Los Angeles County restaurants.

Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 3, 419 people responded to the five-question survey asking whether more information should be provided on health grade placards posted in restaurant and market windows, according to a Dec. 23 report submitted to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The survey, which was made available online and in-person at district office, is part of an effort to improve the county’s restaurant grading system.

Among the survey findings:

  • More than 85 percent of respondents consider restaurant grades (A, B, C) before eating out
  • 93 percent said they look for the current letter grade when they arrive at a restaurant, 34 percent look at Yelp reviews and approximately 14 percent look at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health website
  • More than 70 percent of respondents said it would be helpful for the inspection score (ie. 92, 85, 78) to be posted along with the A, B or C grade, as well as the health code violations observed during the latest inspection
  • Roughly 75 percent said they would like to see the date of the inspection
  • Around half of respondents said they would access information about restaurant inspection reports with their smartphones if a QR code was made available on the grade card.

The results of the survey were included in the fourth monthly progress report on a series of recommendations proposed by the health department in August.

Prompted by a Los Angeles News Group review of almost two years of inspection data, the recommendations outline a series of current problems and potential fixes to the 17-year-old grading system, which allows many restaurants and markets to operate with major health threats and gives those facilities high health grades, according to the data.

LA County fixes glitch in online reporting of restaurant closures

Restaurant and market closures resulting from public complaints are now posted on the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health website after the county fixed an issue with its data management software.

larry.david.rest.inspecDue to that the county’s Environmental Health Director Angelo Bellomo called a “software bug,” information about closures that occur during complaint investigations were previously unavailable on the county’s online inspection database.

Rolled out in 2013, the software, Envision Connect, tracks inspection data for retail food facility, food truck, housing, and swimming pool inspections, but it does not track investigations into public complaints about restaurants.

As of Oct. 21, all restaurant closures, which can occur during routine and owner-initiated inspections, complaint investigations and reinspections, are posted online, according to a health department report submitted to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Friday.

“We’ve plugged the gap,” Bellomo said.

The fix is one of several recommendations being implemented after a Los Angeles News Group review of nearly two years of restaurant inspection data found the county’s 17-year-old grading system allows many restaurants and markets to operate with major health threats and gives those facilities high health grades.

Friday’s report is the second monthly progress report on the implementation of those recommendations.

‘We can do better’ More transparency for LA restaurant grading

For more than a decade, thelarry.david.rest.inspec NBC4 I-Team has been investigating Los Angeles County’s restaurant grading system.

Big changes were recommended for the food safety program Tuesday by the Interim Director of L.A. County’s Public Health Department, many of them addressing concerns that the I-Team investigations raised.

In May, an investigation revealed how the public is rarely told about foodborne illness outbreaks. In fact, more about those outbreaks could be gleaned from websites like Yelp and Trip Advisor than from county health officials.

When questioned about the lack of transparency back in May, Angelo Bellomo, who supervises the county’s food safety program, said there were ways that officials could improve the system.

“We could be doing a better job in many areas,” he said.

The proposed changes to the county’s restaurant grading system would address many of the existing shortcomings that have been the focus of NBC4 reports over the years, including:

-Preventing a restaurant from receiving an “A” grade if they receive two major violations during an inspection.

-The online disclosure of all restaurant closures and those restaurants believed to be associated with a foodborne illness.

-Revoking more restaurant permits for businesses with “chronic unsafe practices.”

The changes to the food facility grading system were included in a memo sent to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and obtained by the I-Team.

Public Health plans on implementing these changes immediately and say they will work with the Board of Supervisors if any laws needed to be revised.

Fancy food ain’t safe food, LA edition

When the health inspector showed up at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills last fall, he found a cockroach in the hall and poor sanitation in the kitchen. He found enough critical violations, he threatened to suspend their permit and said he’d be back in two weeks to make sure they had cleaned up.

larry.david.rest.inspecBut seven months later, the inspector still has never been back to Wolfgang’s.

The county’s 10 million residents depend on the health department to inspect restaurants often, to make sure they’re clean and safe. But an NBC4 I-Team investigation has found LA County is failing to inspect many restaurants frequently, and food poisoning and filth at some eateries may be the result.

“We could be doing a better job in many areas,” says Angelo Bellomo, the head of the county’s restaurant inspection program, and director of LA County Environmental Health.

Restaurants like Nobu in Malibu, which serves sushi to celebrities like Halle Berry and Mel Gibson, are required to be inspected three times a year, according to LA County Health Department policy.

“I’d like to see three inspections a year in high-risk restaurants,” said LA County’s Bellomo.

Most restaurants are considered “high risk” because they handle raw meat, poultry, and fish.

But when I-Team examined the last two years of all restaurant inspections, it found thousands of high-risk restaurants aren’t getting anywhere near the required three inspections a year.

When 13 people who ate at Nobu contracted potentially deadly Norovirus in November 2014, the restaurant hadn’t had an inspection in over a year — October 2013. Nobu declined to comment to NBC4.

“You’re playing Russian roulette when you go out to dinner,” said Dr. Pete Snyder, a nationally known food safety expert who has trained health inspectors. “If you’re only inspecting once or twice a year, then the restaurants don’t fear you anymore.”

Diners are also finding that an “A” grade in the window doesn’t mean a restaurant has been inspected lately, or that it’s necessarily safe. Wolfgang’s, Coast Cafe at Shutter’s, Nobu, and Lunasia all had “A”s when people got sick there or when inspectors found critical violations.

“Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills maintains the highest standards,” general manager Michael Connly told the I-Team in a statement.

“Shutter’s on the Beach operates under stringent health and safety standards in food preparation and cleanliness in the industry,” said Shutter’s GM Gregory Day, in an emailed statement to NBC4.

As for their cooks who we caught on camera eating on the job, a major violation, he added “any misconduct that may have taken place will be properly addressed.”

After getting sick at Lunasia, Holstein’s family said they have little faith in LA County’s inspection system or its letter grades.

LA eateries may now offer doggie dining

We miss our dogs.

The cocker spaniel is chasing down rabbits in Nebraska, and the Heinz-57 shorthair Aussie shepherd in herding cattle in Kansas.

So, not as much interest in the doggie dining stories.

But if we move to Los Angeles, the dogs would be welcome at many restaurants under a new policy announced Monday.

Effective immediately, eateries with outdoor dining areas have the option to invite dog owners to chow down with their pets, county officials said.

Though it will be up to each restaurants’ discretion whether to allow animals in outdoor dining areas, the new policy is sure to be a boon to local eateries and the larger community, said county Supervisor Don Knabe.

“Guidelines have been established to protect food safety and ensure safety for all patrons,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, the county’s top health officer. “We urge all dog owners to follow these guidelines in order to provide the best possible dining experience for both people and dogs.”

Among other stipulations, the new guidelines prohibit food preparation on the patios and prohibit restaurant employees from having direct contact with pets.
In addition, eatery owners are obligated to follow local city ordinances related to sidewalk, public nuisance and sanitation issues, authorities said.

Do you like Jerry’s Deli in LA? Employee found with hepatitis A

An employee at Jerry’s Deli in Westwood, part of Los Angeles, has been diagnosed with hepatitis A.

Customers who ate sandwiches at the popular eatery near UCLA on Nov. 18, 21, 23 or 24 are urged to receive an immune globulin shot or a hepatitis A vaccine shot no later than 14 days from the date they visited the deli, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in an alert issued Wednesday evening.
 

Pot-laced candy packaged like Halloween candy

“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”

Those words of wisdom from Lindsay Lohan as Cady in the movie Mean Girls ring true, like the warning from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which recently identified thousands of illicit edible products have been seized in the form of candies, cookies, cereal snacks, and bottled soda, all containing varying amounts of concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive substance found in the marijuana plant. ?

According to the Sheriff’s Department, these items, packaged to resemble licensed commercial candy and snacks, are being produced locally in clandestine labs and residential kitchens. The items are packaged to be attractive to children and teens. Some items have no label to warn the consumer of their content, and many that are labeled do not contain a reasonable indication of drug content, recommended dosage, or instructions for use. Because their makers intend to remain anonymous, no contact information is listed.?

Some of the processes used to extract and concentrate the THC for the manufacture of these items include the use of chemical solvents, such as liquid butane, to extract THC from the plant material. We are concerned that the methods used to extract the drug may also extract any pesticide or fertilizer residue as well, carrying those potentially toxic chemicals into the items. We are currently pursuing additional testing of these items to better determine this possibility.

?Sheriffs Narcotics Detectives found that the places in which these items were manufactured were highly unsanitary, bringing the potential of other health hazards to users as well. It is the intent of the Sheriffs Department to seek and prosecute similar crimes in the Los Angeles area.

Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer, said,

“There are too many unknowns regarding the preparation and the amount of marijuana contained in these products. They can be easily mistaken for common foods due to improper labeling and packaging, leading to cases of intoxication from accidental ingestion of ‘pot cookies’ and ‘pot brownies’ that were thought to be ordinary, drug-free snacks. During the coming holiday, we urge parents to carefully screen their children’s treats to ensure that they are properly packaged and labeled, and are from trusted sources.”