From the duh files: Spitting on food in a grocery store is not cool

Asher Klein of NBC Boston reports a man who allegedly coughed and spit at a Stop & Shop in Kingston, Massachusetts, before getting into a fight there Saturday afternoon has been taken to a hospital for evaluation and may face charges, police said.

A witness to the incident said the man was coughing and spitting on food at the supermarket. He shared video to Facebook showing two men holding another one down, with one of Stop & Shop’s hazard-spotting robots hovering nearby.

“Some guy at Stop and Shop in Kingston was coughing and spitting on the produce, he didn’t last long. He fought an employee and good customers took him down until the cops arrived,” the witness, Kyle Mann, wrote in the post.

Store officials have discarded potentially affected product and conducted a deep cleaning and sanitizing of all impacted areas, according to the statement. Additionally, the Board of Health has inspected the store and affirmed it is safe for shoppers.

The accused spitter has been told that police are moving to accuse him of crimes that may involve assault and battery and destroying property.

A Pennsylvania grocery store had to throw out tens of thousands of dollars worth of food late last month after a woman walked inside and “proceeded to purposely cough on our fresh produce, and a small section of our bakery, meat case and grocery.”

(And we had a lovely 1-hour of John Prine songs yesterday at my weekly music therapy session, but I forgot this one. As one of my Canadian daughters likes to say, we’ll just put that down as a dementia moment — dp).

They still suck: Chipotle hit with 13,000 child labour violations

I started working when I was 9-years-old, biking out to the Brantford private golf course on weekends and weekdays during the summer and carrying a heavy bag of clubs around a 5-mile-course.documented my time in the bullpen, where we would wait for our name to be called.

The 1980 movie, Caddyshack, perfectly and accurately captured me in 1973.

By the time I was 13, I had a couple of regular gigs so I didn’t have to wait around, and was caddying for the club pro around Ontario (that’s in Canada) who would give me an extra $10 for every stroke under par.

In high school I often worked the graveyard shift at the gas station, pumping petrol in the middle of the night, trying not to get robbed and then going off to fall asleep in grade 12 math and French.

I’ve always worked and have concluded after years of therapy I need to work.

I started bashing Chipotle about 2006, when driving through Kansas City with a trailer full of stuff as I moved to Manhattan, Kansas, to follow a girl, and cited this billboard.

Any company focused on this stuff usually meant they were somewhat oblivious to basic food safety.

Unfortunately for all the thousands of sick people over the next 14 years, I was right.

I tried to call them out for the food safety amateurs they were.

Now it appears that feel-goody Chipotle don’t know much about child labour laws.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey ordered the largest child labour penalty ever issued by the state against the Mexican restaurant chain after finding an estimated 13,253 child labour violations in its more than 50 locations.

“Chipotle is a major national restaurant chain that employs thousands of young people across the country and it has a duty to ensure minors are safe working in its restaurants,” Healey said in a statement.

“We hope these citations send a message to other fast food chains and restaurants that they cannot violate our child labour laws and put young people at risk.”

The fine detailed that Chipotle had employees under the age of 18 working past midnight and for more than 48 hours a week.

Teenagers told investigators their hours of work were so long that it was preventing them from keeping up with their schoolwork. The company also regularly hired minors without work permits.

The settlement total is closer to $US2 million, including penalties for earned sick time violations in which managers granted employees paid time off only for certain illnesses.

I’m sure those tired kids have Chipotle food safety at the top of their priority list.

Vibrio outbreak prompts changes in oyster handling

I’ve only once had raw oysters, on a trip to New Zealand while in graduate school where some Kiwi food safety folks urged me to try the delicacy.

They were slimy.

I determined that the taste benefit wasn’t worth the risks for me.

According to the Vineland Gazette, a 2013 outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, linked to Katama Bay (MA) oysters prompted the Massachusetts Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Division of Marine Fisheries and the Department of Public Health, Bureau of Environmental Health, Food Protection Program to develop a plan to limit Vibrio risks.SUN0705N-Oyster7

A Vp control plan takes effect next month that will require faster cooling and delivery of oysters, changes in handling methods for harvesters, specific requirements for icing and new rules for record keeping among commercial oyster growers.

Backed by the state Division of Marine Fisheries, the rules will be in effect from May 19 through Oct. 19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended last year that Massachusetts develop a plan to control Vp during the warm weather months to prevent illness. 

2 sick; oyster farmers back in business

Katama Bay oyster beds in Massachusetts have been reopened a month after closing because of links to at least two Vibrio illnesses.

Katama oysters should be back in the restaurants by Columbus Day. “I’m really happy for all the farmers and I’m certainly SUN0705N-Oyster7relieved,” said Jack Blake, owner of Sweet Neck Farm, in a telephone call with the Times Friday evening, as his wife Susan cheered in the background.

“We haven’t stopped working; I’ve watched the sun rise every day. We’ve been getting our market size oysters ready to go. We have to empty some cages because we need the room, the seed is growing fast.” Mr. Blake said the Offshore Ale Company and The Lookout Tavern could be serving his oysters as early as tomorrow. “

Clover restaurants close in Mass; take proactive stance

There’s an outbreak of Salmonella in Massachusetts. Some may have eaten at Clover restaurants. This is how founder and CEO Ayr Muir responded on Clover’s facebook page; fairly classy, despite spelling Salmonella with one l; and using the we-never-made-anyone-sick-before defense.

“We learned late Friday that there is a Salmonella outbreak in Massachusetts. Some of the confirmed cases ate at Clover over the course imagesof the days leading up to their illness. Of course, the idea that somebody could have become sick eating our food is shocking, and very concerning. The state told me they don’t know yet where the Salmonella is coming from and are currently investigating.

This is something we take very seriously. Clover has never been responsible for any food poisoning or foodborne illness that we know of. That’s because we operate clean and take this sort of thing really really seriously.

My first thought was to stop serving eggs until we learn more. The epidemiologist with the state  helped me understand that Salmonela can come from a product we were serving (e.g., eggs, chicken, etc.) or it can come from an employee who was carrying the disease. We have a strict sickness policy (if you’re sick you need to let us know immediately and not work). And I have faith that our employees are really great people and communicate honestly with us about illness because they know we have their best interest at heart and will not punish them for being sick. But apparently people can carry Salmonela and be asymptomatic.

Right now I really don’t know much. I’ve asked the state to share any details with us as their investigation proceeds. We’ll keep you updated. We’re going to be extra careful and we’re not opening any location until we learn more.

Sorry everybody. We’re looking forward to re-opening when we learn more.

Massachusetts oysters blamed for Vibrio illnesses

Massachusetts  Department of Public Health testing has shown that eight people became ill this year from eating bacteria-laden oysters, despite brand new regulations that were specifically designed to keep consumers safe.

The Cape Cod Times reports that until the DPH traced two Vibrio parahaemolyticus cases back to Cape oysters in 2011, the state had never seen that particular gastrointestinal illness caused by oysters harvested in Massachusetts waters. The state’s colder waters and climate seemed to discourage the growth of the bacteria, which have a reproductive rate that jumps dramatically with higher water and air temperatures.

One reason for this year’s higher number of cases may be increased awareness by the public and medical professionals, leading to more testing and reporting, DPH Associate Commissioner Suzanne Condon wrote in an email to the Times. But her agency also believes warmer water and air temperatures this past summer were primary factors.

The confirmation of the two 2011 cases prompted the federal government to require the state to create a vibrio management plan. Since vibrio population numbers double every 15 minutes, the primary goal is to inhibit growth by cooling the shellfish. The plan requires that shellfishermen shade their oysters from the sun immediately upon harvesting them and either put them on ice or refrigerate them within five hours. A wholesaler has 10 hours to bring the oysters’ internal temperature down below 50 degrees and keep them at that temperature until they reach consumers.

Former Wellfleet shellfish constable Bill Walton, now an associate professor at Auburn University in Georgia, agreed that not enough data has been collected to support the climate change theory. He criticized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, saying the agency even wants to end the sale of raw oysters. “They just seem to take a stance that these shouldn’t be sold at all,” he said. “As a consumer, I don’t want to see that. I love my raw oysters, and I don’t see why the world has changed.

“There’s always been some risk and suddenly that’s not acceptable.”

Public health types have better things to do; E. coli O157, brucellosis in raw milk

 On-going outbreaks and recalls in Washington State, the same E. coli O157:H7 scattered throughout a California dairy that sickened five children, and now a man who drank raw milk produced at a Western Massachusetts dairy farm is suspected of being infected with brucellosis, raising concerns about the emergence of a germ that has not been seen in New England livestock in at least two decades.

Brucellosis is an infectious disease passed primarily between animals, but it can be acquired by humans through the consumption of raw milk.

Officials from the state Department of Public Health said they are investigating Twin Rivers Farm in Ashley Falls as the possible source of the infection, because the infected man purchased raw milk there. The dairy sells raw milk only at the facility, not in retail stores, and officials urged anyone who bought raw milk there to discard it.

The owners of Twin Rivers Farm could not be reached for comment.

Dr. Alfred DeMaria, the state’s top disease tracker, said the man has believed to have consumed the milk in late December. But because the illness often starts with flu-like symptoms, it was difficult to pinpoint at first, adding, “It’s an astute physician that worked it out.”

A table of raw-milk related outbreaks is available at

Food fight: Massachusetts school cafeteria inspections suck

Sara Brown, Husna Haq, and Hannah McBride, journalism students at Boston University, got their feature on school cafeteria food safety inspections published in the Boston Globe this morning. They’d been working on it for much of last semester, and I spent some time on the phone with Sara and provided some background. Good for them; glad the Globe is still around to publish such features. Highlights below.

At an elementary school in Billerica, the sewage smell was so strong it forced a nauseated health inspector to leave after 15 minutes. During a five-week period in Framingham, 17 mice were caught in an elementary school’s kitchen storage area. And in a Foxborough middle school, a complaint of hair in the food prompted an inquiry by a local health inspector.

School cafeteria inspections in communities throughout Greater Boston last year found problems ranging from expired milk and rotting meat to disposable utensils and a meat slicer stored in employee bathrooms.

But, in many ways, that was the good news.

Those cafeterias were inspected, their problems identified for correction. Cafeterias in 7 percent of private and public elementary and secondary schools across Massachusetts were never inspected at all in the 2007-2008 school year, according to state records. And 38 percent were inspected just once, though federal law requires two health inspections annually.

The Massachusetts data gathered from school districts tell only part of the story.

A closer look at more than 1,000 schools in 157 communities in Greater Boston reveals a slipshod system of local enforcement with virtually no state or federal oversight. …

In Massachusetts, school cafeteria inspections fall under the jurisdiction of local boards of health, typically small groups that are either elected or appointed, depending on the community. There are no minimum education or experience requirements to be a health inspector; candidates need only pass a state-approved performance test and a written exam, which can be taken online through the Food and Drug Administration. The state also sets no minimum qualifications for directors of local boards of health.

"The guy who inspects your car has more training" than some health inspectors, said Michael Moore, food safety coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. …

In August, Lynn health inspector Frank McNulty was called to Lynn English High School to investigate a foul odor. When he opened the cafeteria freezer, a puff of steam reeking of rotting meat gushed out. "I nearly passed out," McNulty said. "I’ve never dealt with something like that before."

The freezer had shut down, but the condenser was still operating, drawing in hot summer air and cooking hundreds of pounds of meat for weeks. McNulty and food service employees called dozens of cleaning services, but none would take the job. Finally, he contacted a company that cleans up crime scenes.

"They must do dead bodies," he said, "so I figured they’d do this."

Lobster spared from road kill sold as 2-for-1 dinner special

Arnold A. Villatico, the owner of Periwinkles & Giorgios Italian Pub and Restaurant in Oxford, Massachusetts, faces criminal charges of larceny over $250, conspiracy, and unlicensed possession of shellfish after dozens of condemned lobsters from an overturned truck allegedly appeared on customers’ dinner plates.

The Boston Globe reports that on July 27, a tractor trailer carrying 11,000 pounds of fresh lobster from Canada crashed on I-395 in Webster. The wreck tore the refrigerated container carrying the lobsters and spewed 150 gallons of diesel fuel across the load and roadway, which was closed for 12 hours.

A Webster health inspector declared the toppled load unsalvageable. And although local health inspectors are required by the state to witness the destruction of condemned food, that never happened.

Town manager Joseph M. Zeneski said Villatico began selling lobsters from a refrigerated truck behind his restaurant, and the restaurant reportedly offered $19.99 lobster specials. Police found crates of lobster inside the restaurant and plucked lobsters from boiling pots as evidence, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported.

"He had a sign out, two for one," Zeneski said in an interview.

There were no reports of illness associated with the lobsters, and Villatico’s restaurant remains open.

Approximately 2,070 surviving lobsters were loaded and transported to Boston. Then officers hauled them onto a boat and released them just outside Boston Harbor, a half mile east of the North Channel buoy. Officials said they unbanded the lobster claws first.