44 kids sickened: Ottawa Chinese food takeout fined in summer camp food poisoning

A west Ottawa restaurant has been fined by Ottawa Public Health after rice it served made dozens of people sick and sent six children to hospital from a summer camp.

Lotus Chinese Food TakeoutParamedics were called to St. Cecilia School the afternoon of July 31 after several children and adults from the Tian Tian Chinese Summer Camp reported feeling ill.

Six children suffering from vomiting, dizziness and diarrhea were taken to hospital with suspected food poisoning. They were all released later that day.

Ottawa Public Health said in a statement Friday they inspected three restaurants that provided food for the camp that week. Two of those restaurants passed but the third, Lotus Chinese Food Takeout on Fallowfield Road, did not.

After interviewing more than 90 people from the camp, Ottawa Public Health said a total of 44 people felt sick after eating a fried rice dish from Lotus.

Analysis showed the presence of Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that releases toxins causing symptoms reported by those who got sick, in the rice and a noodle dishes from Lotus.

Ottawa Public Health wants steak tartare off menus

Over a year after local health units in Ontario cracked down on serving raw ground meat under a fog of mixed policy statements from provincial wonks, Ottawa Public Health is asking all restaurants within the city to immediately stop serving beef tartare after receiving rowan.atkinson.steak.tartarea complaint from someone who got sick after eating the raw French cuisine at a local restaurant.

According to public health officials, the fancy dish, which is made of raw shredded beef before being seasoned and topped with a raw egg, should never have been served in the first place as it is against food safety regulations and could contain bacteria and parasites that may make people sick.

“Under the regulations, raw meat products cannot be served to the public,” said Eric Leclair, a spokesman for Ottawa Public Health. “We have asked that the product not be served as it does not meet the regulations under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. At this time, the restaurateur is co-operating and has voluntarily stopped serving the product.”

While Ottawa Public Health is only investigating one area restaurant — it wouldn’t say which one received the complaint — it’s asking all area restaurants to immediately remove the dish from their menus, should they be offering it.

“I’m sure that this dish is popular in areas of Europe, but it doesn’t meet the food safety regulations we have in place in Ontario,” said Sherry Beadle, a manager of Public Health Inspection at the city.

Dozens of restaurants in Ottawa serve some variation of tartare.

The Wellington Street Gastropub, which offers a well-reviewed beef tartare on its menu, had not heard any objections from Ottawa Public Health about its offering. Nor had steak.tartareMichael Blackie, owner of NeXT in Stittsville, who said the dish was one of his restaurant’s most popular offerings.

“Just because one chef doesn’t know how to cook doesn’t mean we all don’t,” he said, responding to public health’s request that the dish be removed from restaurant menus. “It’s goofy. They are always jumping to extremes.”

It’s not cooked.

Ottawa Lunch Lady to reopen after sickening 54 with Salmonella, mainly kids

The Lunch Lady will resume serving meals to Ottawa schools beginning Monday.

The Ottawa Citizen reports the caterer has been closed for more than two weeks after it was discovered that some meals had been contaminated with salmonella. At least 49 children and five adults had lab-confirmed cases of the stomach bug related to the outbreak, according to the City of Ottawa public health department.

Jonathan Morris, the owner of two Lunch Lady franchises, said since voluntarily shutting down, they’ve undergone new testing procedures at their kitchens and redistributed some of the staff duties. He said the kitchens have been thoroughly sterilized and much of the food has been thrown out.

"This problem was rooted in an individual who made a mistake," said Morris, adding that the staff member has since been let go. He said the fired employee made a "mistake" in the preparation that led to the contamination of the food.

"The beef we received already had salmonella in it, but if the beef had been properly handled it wouldn’t have been issued," he said.

Morris said he feels "bad" that so many children and adults became ill from the food that was sent out to the schools.

But not bad enough to offer a full accounting of what the mistake was.

Morris is offering a variation of the trust us PR approach that usually fails. If one of my kids got sick, or if I was faced with choosing a school meal, I would want to know exactly what went wrong and exactly what has been changed so it wouldn’t happen again. Were the kitchens using meat thermometers to ensure safe temperatures had been reached? What kind of meat storage and prep procedures were followed to minimize cross-contamination? What handwashing procedures are in place and is there any verification such procedures are followed? Basic questions that the Lunch Lady and franchisee Morris seem unwilling to answer.

"My business will survive, but it’s not about me, it’s about those kids," added Morris, who has owned the business for five years. He has a staff of about 25 employees.

Maybe it’s a Canadian thing. Like the 2008 Maple Leaf listeria outbreak, the boss is saying the correct caring things, but that’s of little comfort to those who got sick. Communication needs to be supported with data. People aren’t dumb: explain what happened and what corrective actions are being taken so your commitment to food safety can be accurately assessed, or maybe your business won’t survive.

Who’s to blame: Ottawa salmonella-in-Lunch-Lady-lasagna edition

When a sports team fails, some players are shipped to the minors, maybe some assistant coaches, then the coach and eventually the person who made all those hires in the first place – the general manager.

I’m thinking of you, Toronto Maple Leafs (see the extremely vulgar, funny and accurate Leafs Beefs at www.leafsbeefs.com).

The immune-at-the-top philosophy also extends to food service, as the owner of the Ottawa franchise of The Lunch Lady, which provides meals to schools in dozens of Canadian communities, proclaimed today that an employee had been fired after not following proper food handling procedures.

With 50 people sick from salmonella, it’s too little, too late. Any food service operation should know they are only as good as their worst employee.

Jonathan Morris, who runs an Ottawa franchise, confirmed the news in a letter to parents Tuesday.

"The Lunch Lady Group guidelines on handling raw meat and poultry were not properly followed by one individual," the statement read. "This person had the responsibility for ensuring that safe food handling guidelines were followed to the letter. This person is no longer working in my kitchens."

Morris said the salmonella outbreak can be tracked to ground beef used in preparing the catered meals.

The boss sets the tone. And not just Morris. The Lunch Lady herself has said her franchises have strict food procurement, storage and handling guidelines, but has yet to provide any evidence, at least not publicly.

And if ground beef was the source of the salmonella, where did the beef originate? Where are those federal inspectors and veterinarians who are so necessary to ensure food safety?

Person-to-person illness now in Ottawa salmonella outbreak

The Ottawa Citizen reports that Ottawa’s public health department has recorded a case of salmonella in a high school not served by the caterer believed to have been the source of the recent outbreak.

The case at Merivale High School may be an instance where an older student caught salmonella from a younger sibling, said Eric Leclair, a spokesman for the health department.

The tally of people who’ve contracted the foodborne illness since the department declared an outbreak remains at 50, though only 44 of them are believed to be connected via contaminated food delivered by a franchise of The Lunch Lady, a service that delivers hot food for children’s lunches.

The health department is still waiting for the results of lab tests on Lunch Lady food – meat used in lasagna and tacos, plus sour cream, cottage cheese and some spices – that would confirm the connection. Those are now expected by Friday, Leclair said.

Ottawa salmonella outbreak confirmed cases climbs to 45

Ottawa Public Health reports the number of confirmed cases in the Lunch-Lady related salmonella outbreak has risen to 45, up from 37 on Monday. The confirmed cases are primarily children, 15-months to 18-years-old.

The schools and daycare with a confirmed case include:
• Bayview Public School
• École élémentaire publique Des Sentiers
• Tiny Hoppers Daycare (50 Colchester, Kanata)
• Steve MacLean Public School
• Stittsville Public School
• Turnbull School
• École élémentaire catholique Jean-Paul II
• W.O. Mitchell Elementary School
• St. Andrew Catholic School.

Ottawa salmonella outbreak confirmed cases climbs to 37; more schools affected

Ottawa Public Health reports this afternoon that the number of confirmed cases in the Lunch-Lady related salmonella outbreak has risen to 37, up from 27 on Friday. The confirmed cases are primarily children, 15-months to 18-years-old, along with four adults, although two adults appear unrelated to this outbreak.

The schools and daycare with a confirmed case include:

• Bayview Public School
• École élémentaire publique Des Sentiers
• Tiny Hoppers Daycare (50 Colchester, Kanata)
• Steve MacLean Public School
• Stittsville Public School
• Turnbull School
• École élémentaire catholique Jean-Paul II
• W.O. Mitchell Elementary School

Canadian beef recall expands, rhetoric grows exponentially

That creepy crawly recall of ground beef from a defunct Canadian processor has now expanded to all product in the past seven months.

According to the Toronto Star, the recall started Feb. 18 and has been expanded eight times as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency continued its investigation.

The meat is suspected of being contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. One person fell ill in October (yes, October) after eating the meat.

The packaged ready-made beef burgers were produced by New Food Classics of Burlington – aka Establishment 761 – between between July 1, 2011 and Feb. 15, 2012. The company went into receivership Feb. 22.

Hundreds of workers have been locked out of plants in St. Catharines and Saskatoon.

New Food Classics distributed packaged burgers and steakettes under the brand names Best Value, Loblaws’ no name and no name Club Pack, Country Morning and Grillhouse.

In unrelated but ironical news, the union representing CFIA-staffers has resumed negotiations with CFIA but are “wearing black in the workplace, to protest against impending cuts to food inspection, the employer’s lack of respect for administrative staff and the CFIA’s unwillingness to bargain for a fair contract.”

And someone wrote the Ottawa Citizen to say the salmonella-outbreak that has sickened 27 so far from meals associated with The Lunch Lady, is not surprising because, “how can we possibly have safe food when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be reducing the frequency of inspection visits to meat plants? The Government of Canada plans to reduce $21.5 million from its Food Safety Program budget by 2013 to 2014. Because of the magnitude of these cuts, of course, there will be greater risks of foodborne illnesses.”

Of course, that’s just a rhetorical tool in the absence of evidence that more inspectors would make food safer.

27 sick as more salmonella cases identified; two additional Ottawa schools affected

Four more children have been diagnosed with salmonella since yesterday, as the city’s public health department continues to investigate an outbreak of food poisoning that appears to have spread through a caterer serving hot lunches at schools and daycares.

The Ottawa Citizen reports there have now been 27 lab-confirmed cases of the food-poisoning bacteria since Public Health declared an outbreak early this week, including 23 children and four adults. (Two of the adults are included in the tally even though their cases are believed to be unrelated.) Friday afternoon, the health department also added two schools to the list of those where children have become sick: Bayvew Public School and Ecole élémentaire Des Sentiers.

Investigators are still analysing food from a kitchen run by a franchise of The Lunch Lady, trying to confirm suspicions that its meat lasagna and beef tacos were contaminated. All six schools and one daycare where children are known to have got sick are served by one franchise of The Lunch Lady, which delivers meals to kids whose parents pay for the service.

The results of the lab analysis are expected to take a few more days, perhaps even until next Wednesday, said Public Health spokesman John Steinbachs. Bacterial cultures take time to grow, and they then have to be compared with samples from afflicted patients to see if they match.

In the meantime, two Lunch Lady kitchens — the one on Boyd Avenue where investigators have been concentrating their efforts, and another in Kanata — are closed, said their owner, Jonathan Morris.

“We don’t know what the source of the contamination is, and until we do, we’re not going to be making or serving food,” he said. Parents whose children get meals from those kitchens will have to make other arrangements for at least next week, Morris said.

“It’s harder as a parent than it is as a business owner,” Morris said. “I’m a parent, most of my staff are parents, and we serve food to a lot of them. These kids getting sick, that’s what’s, well, that’s what making me sick. The business is … that’s not even secondary.”

24 sick; ground beef possible cause of Ottawa salmonella outbreak

The local owner of a catering franchise linked to 20 cases of salmonella in Ottawa told CBC News he is treating the outbreak "as if it’s his fault" and said he suspects ground beef as a potential cause.

Ottawa Public Health today increased the confirmed case count to 24, including four adults, and the remainder children from a variety of area schools, now including Stittsville Public School.

Jonathan Morris, who has operated a franchise of "The Lunch Lady" for five years, said hebelieves the food in question is ground beef used to make tacos and curly lasagna.

Ottawa Public Health has not implicated any specific food.

Morris is meeting with public health officials Thursday and has also sent a letter to thousands of parents. He said some parents have already cancelled their lunch service, while others are offering support.