Australian kangaroo meat fails basic hygiene tests

Can’t blame imports on this one: Kangaroo harvesters in Australia have been discovered not adhering to the most basic of hygiene standards, documents obtained under freedom of information show.

kangerooInvestigations by the New South Wales (NSW)Food Authority have found numerous breaches of hygiene and safety rules that prevent cross-contamination of kangaroo meat, including carcasses hung from rusty hooks, lack of water and cleaning facilities, and live animals being allowed alongside dead ones.

Critics say the huge industry is still a wild west, with vast differences in the practices of different kangaroo harvesters, who hunt animals in the wild without the regulations of commercial farming operations.

But the head of the industry association has strongly rejected this claim, saying the overall rate of breaches is low and kangaroo undergoes more extensive testing for pathogens before it is sold than other meats.

Greens MP John Kaye, who obtained the information under freedom of information laws, said the potential for cross contamination in the meat meant no one could eat it without putting themselves at risk of infection.

“Poor hygiene practices have potentially devastating consequences for any food but game meat is particularly vulnerable,” he said. “No one should eat meat that was hung on rusty carcass hook, processed over a tray with old dried blood or exposed to other live animals with the risk of faecal and other contamination.”

“This so-called healthy alternative to other red meats could be riddled with pathogens.”

Five years ago Fairfax Media revealed independent testing had found dangerously high levels of salmonella and E.coli in kangaroo meat bought from supermarkets.

Daniel Ramp, a senior lecturer and director of the Centre for Compassionate Conservation at the University of Technology Sydney, said previously contamination levels had been found that were “way above safety standards”.

Doh; voluntary grades provide no incentive; Aussie restaurants regret scores on doors

Port Stephens restaurateurs have voted with their feet in rejecting the New South Wales Food Authority’s Score on Doors food safety campaign.

Scores on Doors is a volunteer star-rating system given to food outlets to display in store following routine food safety inspections.

According to the Port Stephens Examiner, the town signed up in October 2011 to be part of a state-wide trial of the program, with a staff report homer-dohstating it was an opportunity to “improve consistency of inspections and outcomes for food businesses”.

However, more than a year later the program has been dubbed a failure, with only 10 food outlets out of 338 within the Port Stephens Local Government Area signing up.

Matthew Brown, the council’s development assessment manager, wrote in a report to councilors, “It is the opinion of the environmental health team that the lack of interest from food business proprietors is due mainly to the initiative being a non-compulsory trial [and] participating voluntarily could potentially result in an unsatisfactory rating that they had no choice but to display to the public.”

One business supportive of the plan was Medowie Macadamias, which received a five-star rating, the highest available.

Owner Scott Leech said it was hard to understand why businesses would not support the plan.

“I think it’s a great idea, I really do. If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about,” he said.

Australian state hammers raw milk huckster

Sydney’s Bondi Beach is a lovely, groovy place.

But not so groovy for raw milk hucksters, as a man was found guilty of 43 charges relating to breaches of the Food Act and fined $53,000 for various offences relating to the sale of unpasteurised milk and unpasteurised dairy products.

The products were manufactured at the defendant’s Bondi Junction residence and sold over the Internet and at an organic food market in Sydney’s Bondi Junction.

Additional offences include the sale of other goods including chocolate, pumpkin seeds and cranberries that were labelled with health claims in contravention of the Food Standards Code.

Primary Industries minister Steve Whan said the court found that the defendant "in a display of deceptive and deceitful conduct, sold unpasteurised dairy products that were deliberately mislabelled and camouflaged as cosmetic products when the intention was they be used for human consumption."

"There is sound scientific evidence pointing to the risks associated with consuming raw milk. To ensure that cow’s milk and cow’s milk products sold in New South Wales are safe they go through the NSW Food Authority’s stringent food safety management programs, which includes pasteurisation."

Mr Whan said the issue of the sale of unpasteurised milk products in NSW was a divisive one amongst the some sectors of the dairy industry and advocate groups, but the NSW Government “made no apologies for giving paramount consideration to the public interest and the need to protect public health.”

In sentencing, Chief Industrial Magistrate GJT Hart said the evidence provided suggested the defendant had no scientific, medical or other qualification or expertise in the field.

"The Defendant appears to have a propensity for adopting, and then advocating with vigour, the teachings of the unqualified, whilst preferring to ignore the available literature produced by people with relevant scientific qualifications.”

Australia: Restaurant owner sues food critic for bad review

This Christmas I will be venturing to Australia for the first time. My flatmate graciously invited me to spend the holidays with her, and the chance to potentially bump into Mr. G (Summer Heights High) was something I couldn’t pass up.

While I search for the famous mockumentry star, a Sydney restaurateur will likely be continuing her ugly legal battle against a food critic reports

In evidence in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday, Ljiljana Gacic sobbed as she launched a diatribe against the critic, Matthew Evans, whom she described as "low life".

She said the review had been "done for a purpose", and told Justice Ian Harrison she had put on 57 kilos in the six years since its publication because of the stress.

In September 2003, Fairfax’s The Sydney Morning Herald published a review referring to "unpalatable" dishes, describing the restaurant’s overall value as "a shocker" and scoring it 9/20 – in the "stay home" category. The restaurant went into administration in March 2004.

The article has been found to convey defamatory meanings, including that the trio "incompetent" as restaurant owners because they sold unpalatable food and employed a chef who made poor quality dishes.

Mr [Tom] Blackburn [ SC, for Fairfax – the newspaper] then suggested that either Ms Gacic was "malevolently and maliciously fabricating it or you are deluded".

The judge is now holding a hearing relating to defences – including truth – put forward by Fairfax, and on the amount of damages, if any, which should be awarded.

Aye mate, there’s an app for that!

Whether it’s a personal poop tracking system or toilet locations you’re after it seems there’s an iPhone app for that. The latest in cool apps is a restaurant inspection disclosure application developed for New South Wales in Australia, reports the Sydney Morning Herald Online.

A new iPhone app will tell you if a nearby restaurant has been fined for breach of food safety standards. The application, FoodWatch NSW, brings the Food Authority’s name-and-shame list to your fingertips by using the iPhone’s GPS to show you a list of restaurants near your location that have been added to the list.

The tool gives the user the ability to view the list any time, wherever the user is.
Some of the main features include a map where one can view, pan and zoom around to all the nearby penalised restaurants. And just like the Food Authorities’ name and shame list, it won’t show penalties that are older than 12 months…

Chief executive officer of the company that generated the app, Keith Ahern, said

"While I think a lot of restaurants aren’t happy about it [the list], you can see the information and make your own decision.”

The free app uses information from the NSW Food Authority website, located here.

Let’s throw another shrimp on the barbie!

Food service food safety failures made public in Sydney; public benefits

The Sydney Morning Herald this morning – this being Sunday morning in Australia – has a huge feature on the effects of the New South Wales state Food Authority taking a more, uh, vigilant approach to restaurant inspections.

The newspaper concludes that 40 per cent of all restaurants, takeaways and other food businesses in NSW were caught breaching one or more of the critical food handling practices when first visited by an inspector.

That may not be an entirely fair representation. Lots of places have at least one critical violation, and in the U.S., how a critical violation is defined can differ from state-to-state, and even county-to-county. There needs to be some sort of control or comparative group to determine whether that number is high or not.

But it sure sounds gross.

Inspection rates are woefully inadequate in some local councils, and there is often a lack of follow-up.

Anna Cenfi, part-owner of the Belli Bar, got it right when she said inspections conducted in the past few months were more thorough than in previous years, but that she had received three letters warning that a food safety inspection was imminent.

"I think that warning people that they are coming to inspect is ridiculous. They should just spot check everyone, even if it’s just once a year. I’m not worried for myself but I know a lot of dodgy places out there."

Journalist Mathew Moore does clearly state that whatever the limitations, “making this information public we can now expect improvements in standards that transparency and public scrutiny of government information can bring. The Food Authority deserves praise for releasing this information and giving the public far more data than it can get in any other state. It’s an important addition to the name and shame list … With its website and release of the statewide data, NSW has gone further than any other state.

“Yet it still lags behind many cities in Britain and the US, where the results of every restaurant inspection are posted online. New York City even allows consumers to search restaurants according to their number of violation points.

“Governments there have learnt what the NSW Government is now only beginning to realise; there are major public health benefits in shining a public light into the kitchens of every food business that serves the public.”