Canadian caterer upset over salmonella outbreak

Ottawa Public Health has now confirmed 20 cases of salmonella, including 16 children between 15 months and 14-years-old, and four adults which they believe might have originated from The Lunch Lady Group caterer.

The owner of the Canadian company told CBC News Wednesday she is devastated by the news and called the outbreak a "mystery".

"It’s horribly painful because we love serving kids everyday," Ruthie Burd said over the phone from her home in Markham, Ont.

"We do everything we can to provide a reliable, safe service for the kids we serve."

"We have very strict guidelines for all sorts of things when it comes to food and kids," she said, "We empathize with parents in this whole situation. We really want to know what it is and what we can put in place to prevent anything."

As a parent, that doesn’t tell me much about the food safety training, standards, buying practices, personal hygiene and overall food safety culture in those kitchens.

The Lunch Lady has a blog but it hasn’t been updated since Aug., 2011. They have a statement about culture and sustainability but nothing about what is done so kids don’t barf from Lunch lady lunches. There is a statement about food safety, how it’s all government inspected and they pay attention to recall notices. Perhaps it would be more reassuring to parents if the strict food safety and quality control policies set out by The Lunch Lady Group head office were available for perusal.

Public health said 11 officials have been reassigned to deal with the salmonella outbreak, which also hospitalized three people. All have since been released.

They have their hands full, one doctor said, trying to contact families of children who may have consumed contaminated food.

"We’re talking not only to the families of ill children, but parents of well siblings or children that did not become ill," said Dr. Rosamund Lewis, who added 50 families are being interviewed regarding one daycare alone.

More rewrite: 16 sick with salmonella in Ottawa schools outbreak; kitchen of interest ‘all suppliers regulated, inspected’ of course

A salmonella outbreak has put three children in the hospital in the past few days and Ottawa’s public health department is investigating a catering company that specializes in serving daycares and schools as a possible source of the contamination.

Dr. Isra Levy, the city’s top public-health official. All the cases are in children between the ages of 15 months and 14 years, Levy said, and are concentrated at three schools and one daycare:

Public Health’s investigation is in its early stages, Levy emphasized, with staff still interviewing children and parents to see what food sources they might have in common. But "one name that has come up" is a service called The Lunch Lady, a caterer that delivers hot meals for kids. It has three kitchens in Ottawa, two of them owned by Jonathan Morris. He said the public-health department is focusing on one of his facilities, on Boyd Avenue near Carling and Clyde.

It’s possible that a particular ingredient was contaminated when it arrived, Morris said, which baffles him because all of his suppliers are properly regulated and inspected.

What’s baffling is Morris’ belief that food like produce is regulated and inspected, and that such regulations and inspections make food safe.

The investigation is homing in on one food item that the kitchen prepared, which Morris wouldn’t specify because he doesn’t want to alarm parents whose children might have eaten it. "If they have a sick child, the thing to do is go to the doctor," Morris said.

Inspectors from Levy’s department have been all over the Boyd Avenue kitchen, he said, "and so far, they’ve found nothing."

The Boyd Avenue kitchen employs about 20 people, including part-timers, Morris said. In five years as a Lunch Lady franchisee, nothing like this has ever happened, he said.

According to public inspection reports from the city, Morris’s Boyd Avenue kitchen has been in full compliance with health regulations in its last three inspections, including one on Monday – the one conducted after the health department knew about the salmonella outbreak – and one as recently as Feb. 21.

Shawn Ward, who runs the other Lunch Lady franchise in Ottawa, said her kitchen has been visited by a public-health inspector and given an all-clear. "None of my schools are involved," Ward said.

16 kids sick, 3 in hospital in Ottawa salmonella outbreak, catering service suspected

Rewrite. Someone get me rewrite.

CBC News is reporting that 16 kids are sick in that Ottawa-area salmonella outbreak, and that a lunch catering service is being investigated.

CBC News has confirmed the outbreak involves children between the ages of 15 months and 14-years-old at three schools and one daycare.

There are several cases reported at the Tiny Hoppers Daycare in Kanata, and some at Turnbull School on Fisher Avenue and Steve MacLean Public School and École élémentaire catholique Jean-Paul-II in Gloucester.

Tiny Hoppers confirmed to CBC News it had a lunch caterer named "The Lunch Lady" serving for the past couple months, but this is its last week because the daycare has now hired an in-house chef.

The daycare’s director also said health officials were targeting one of the caterer’s kitchens as the possible source of the outbreak.

12 kids sick, 3 in hospital in apparent Ottawa salmonella outbreak

Three children have been hospitalized and another nine have lab-confirmed salmonellosis in the past three days in Ottawa (that’s in Canada; capital, eh?).

Ottawa Public Health will continue monitoring the outbreak, with the goal of trying to identify if there is a common source for the infections.

Local doctors have been advised of the outbreak and asked to be on the watch for new salmonella infections.

1 sick with E. coli O157:H7; Ottawa supermarket recalls beef

At least one person is sick, leading to a recall of finely ground beef sold at New Middleast Supermarket, Ottawa (that’s in Canada).

The affected ground beef is a finely ground raw beef known to be used for Kebbeh. This product was sold on December 28 and 29, 2011 (darn timely recall) from the New Middleast Supermarket, 1755 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON. This product was likely served from the fresh meat counter in plastic bags wrapped with paper. The packages may not bear a label identifying store name and other information. Consumers are advised to contact the retailer if you are unsure as to whether you have the affected beef product stored in your home freezer.

1 sick with E. coli O157:H7; Ottawa supermarket recalls beef

At least one person is sick, leading to a recall of finely ground beef sold at New Middleast Supermarket, Ottawa (that’s in Canada)

The affected ground beef is a finely ground raw beef known to be used for Kebbeh. This product was sold on December 28 and 29, 2011 (darn timely recall( from the New Middleast Supermarket, 1755 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON. This product was likely served from the fresh meat counter in plastic bags wrapped with paper. The packages may not bear a label identifying store name and other information. Consumers are advised to contact the retailer if you are unsure as to whether you have the affected beef product stored in your home freezer.

More training? Do more of same thing expecting different results crazy; Ottawa hospital cited for food-safety violations

Public Heath found seven “critical” food-safety deficiencies at the Ottawa General Hospital this year, three of them in the last week.

On both Monday and Wednesday this week, inspectors found the hospital failed to “separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods during storage and handling.”

The hospital also earned a critical deficiency for not having paper towels in a dispenser at a hand basin in the food-preparation area on Monday this week and on Aug. 19 of this year. On April 15, the citation was for having no soap in the dispenser at the washing station.

Frances Furmankiewicz, director of nutrition for the hospital, said the latest problems were due to “employee error.” Though all the employees are trained and certified to handle food, they were given more training as a result of the inspections.

A number of people at the hospital Thursday said they were concerned when they learned about the poor inspection results and said they would no longer eat there, including Cindy Gilman, who was at the hospital to pick up her daughter.

“I thought the hospital would have been great at following regulations — it’s a hospital,” she said.

Infant formula tampered with; 1 sick in Ottawa

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Nestlé Canada Inc. are advising the public that some cans of powdered infant formula found in the Nepean, Ontario area have been tampered with.

Three cans of Nestlé Good Start Iron Fortified Infant Formula, 900g size,
UPC: 0 65000 36614 3, have been found to contain a powder which
appears to be flour. These cans were found at the following retail locations: Your Independent Grocer on Strandherd Drive and Sobeys on Greenbank Drive in Nepean, Ontario.

There has been one reported illness associated with the consumption of this product.

Consumers using powdered infant formula products should look under the plastic lid of the cans and ensure the metal/foil top is sealed properly. The CFIA is conducting an investigation and the case has been referred to the police.

Is home butchering about economics, safety, or control? Should it be illegal to provide that meat to friends?

Mark Tijssen, a major in the Canadian Forces, belongs to a group of churchgoers who butcher their own meat to, as they say, ensure its safety.

Apparently, Tijssen’s house had been under surveillance for several days last November before officers from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ottawa police stopped a car leaving the property and confiscated 18 kilograms of pork. Tijssen and a friend had jointly bought a pig and slaughtered it.

Now, Tijssen will appear in court next month to face charges of running an unlicensed slaughterhouse, failing to have an animal inspected both before and after slaughter, and distributing meat. If found guilty, Tijssen could face up to $100,000 in fines.

In the Canadian province of Ontario, it is permissible to butcher an animal if the food is for the person’s own family and none of the meat leaves the property where it was butchered. This allows farmers to raise their own food. It is against the law, however, to distribute the meat to anyone else.

Ron Doering, an Ottawa lawyer and former president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, told the Ottawa Citizen Ontario’s rules on butchering and distribution of meat for personal use go far beyond those of other provinces. Saskatchewan, for example, has no provincial regulation and Newfoundland and Labrador has few regulations, while Quebec and British Columbia more closely resemble Ontario’s inspection regime.

Tijssen said he has butchered his own meat for years and cuts food costs by occasionally buying and butchering animals with a group of friends from his church. The members also have little faith in the safety of commercial meat products.

Brent Ross, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said the ministry moderates its enforcement of meat handling rules for religious or ethnic reasons, for example, when Muslims slaughter animals for religious reasons.

Tijssen and his friends from Faith Anglican Church say religion plays no part in their butchering practices. They just want economical and safe meat.

Restaurant inspection and disclosure: struggle for resources, debate about disclosure

People like to eat. People like to eat out. People are interested in how their favorite eateries stack up against others.

It’s a standard story that is being repeated in countries across North America: what restaurants in a region get lousy (and occasionally disgusting) inspections, and what is the best way to make those results available to the public?

The Ottawa Citizen chipped in with a three-part series that wraps up Monday and found 44 per cent of area restaurants and take-out places were cited for a failure to comply with health regulations in the past year.

Since April, Ottawa has made its food inspections available online through a searchable database called EatSafe. Users can type in the name or location of the restaurant to see inspection results (

Mike Ziola, president of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association ‘s Ottawa chapter said Ottawa doesn’t need the colour-coded food safety system used in Toronto, where restaurants are required to post a green, yellow or red warning sign based on their most recent inspection, stating,

“Essentially, a yellow is a red. I don’t know why they even have a yellow.”

Oh. Oh. I do. When Toronto introduced it’s system the restaurant association made the same argument and the city hired me to write a report for the pending court case – which never went to court. Yes, a yellow is like a red, but it allows the restaurant to stay open. And no one wants a yellow, so the percentage of greens has increased dramatically.

Same thing in New York. The Times quotes Geoff Kravitz, a spokesman for the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, as telling the first public hearing Friday considering the city’s proposal to rate restaurant cleanliness with posted letter grades, as saying,

“Letter grades are nothing more than a scarlet letter that will keep people from eating out.”

Any evidence to support that opinion? Have letter grades in Los Angeles kept people from eating out?

The New York State Restaurant Association maintains that letter ratings would encourage bribery and corruption – since the highly public placards would dramatically raise cleanliness ratings’ significance to restaurateurs.

Always a risk, but the best restaurants will embrace the disclosure system and promote their excellent results.

The Times story notes that in Los Angeles, the letter system has been in effect for more than a decade. According to a 2007 study by the county’s health department, 91 percent of the populace likes the letter-grading plan. But one speaker, Robin Werteheimer, said that restaurateurs in New York “are not Los Angeles,” adding that “most of their buildings are not 200 years old, and most of them are not next to empty lots with hundreds of rats. It would be nice if the city would clean up those lots.”

Cleveland has new on-line access to restaurant inspection reports, but some are already demanding information on the door.

The New Brunswick Health Department makes all restaurant inspection report cards available to the public on the provincial government website. They can be found at under Food Premises Inspection Results.

The province started posting inspection reports on its website in 2007, mainly as a way for restaurant customers to keep an eye on food service establishments.

In Wisconsin, Nancy Eggleston, Wood County environmental health and communicable disease supervisor, said the state will begin the switch from paper to paperless forms of restaurant inspection records, and counties will have the option of placing the inspections on a Web site to make them easily available to the public.

And that’s just one weekend worth of stories. People like this stuff. No politician wants to say, “you, citizen, can’t have this information.” The challenge is to provide the disclosure results in a fair and meaningful manner.