Does that going public default apply to the leafy greens cone of silence? Arizona restaurant sued over Salmonella outbreak

Alejandro Barahona and Ken Alltucker of AZ Central report a Phoenix resident filed a lawsuit against Texas-based Pappas Restaurants Inc. that claims she contracted salmonella last month after eating at the chain’s Phoenix restaurant.

lsThe Maricopa County Department of Public Health confirmed there was an investigation of a salmonella outbreak at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen of Phoenix.

The outbreak is over and the county health department is closing its investigation, said Jeanene Fowler, a department spokeswoman.

Because final paperwork that details the outbreak has not been completed, Fowler said, county officials could not confirm the number of people who became ill after eating at the popular seafood restaurant, at 11051 N. Black Canyon Highway.

A manager at Pappadeaux in Phoenix said he could not discuss the outbreak, referring Republic inquiries to the chain’s headquarters in Houston. Officials at the chain’s headquarters did not respond to phone messages and email questions about the county’s investigation or the lawsuit.

Pappas Restaurants has not yet answered the lawsuit, which was filed last Friday at U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

The lawsuit states that on Aug. 14, Phoenix resident Shaina Robinson ate shrimp, tilapia and crab cakes at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen of Phoenix. The lawsuit states that two days later, Robinson became “violently ill” with stomach illness. Four days later, she sought treatment at a Scottsdale hospital.

She spent five days at the hospital and tested positive for a strain of salmonella, according to the lawsuit.

She missed two weeks of work and “incurred significant medical bills as a direct and proximate cause of her salmonella infection contracted at Pappadeaux Seafood Resturant,” the lawsuit states.

Robinson is seeking restitution for irreparable emotional distress, medical expenses, bodily injuries, suffering and permanent impairment, among other claims.

The county health department often does not publicly announce restaurants tied to an outbreak unless officials believe it can help prevent people from becoming sick, Fowler said.

spongebob-oil-colbert-may3-10She said part of the issue is timing. County health and environmental services inspectors must confirm that an outbreak is ongoing and public disclosure could prevent people from getting sick. Inspectors also must verify an outbreak is tied to a specific restaurant and not a supplier that delivered tainted food to different establishments.

“We don’t wanted to put (restaurants) out of business for something that may have nothing to do with the business,” Fowler said. “We are trying to take that into account.”

But Fowler said that completed reports, whether it’s a routine inspection or investigation of a foodborne illness, are available for public inspection.

“We get hundreds and hundreds of these each year,” Fowler said, referring to foodborne-illness complaints.

Attorney Ryan Osterholm said he believes county health officials should aggressively notify the public during outbreaks.

“The public deserves to know,” Osterholm said. “There should be transparency in anything unless there is a compelling reason not to. … The baseline should be transparency.”


Crypto don’t care about borders

With cases of Cryptosporidium linked to public pools reaching 300 in Columbus, Ohio, and 100 in Phoenix, Arizona, reports have emerged that there are now 223 confirmed cases of Cryptosporidium across southwest UK.

diaper.poolAccording to Heather Pickstock of the Bath Chronicle, no source has been found as yet for the cases and it is not known if they are all linked.

Dr Toyin Ejidokun, consultant in Communicable Disease Control for PHE South West, said, “We have had confirmed reports of Cryptosporidium infection amongst a number of people who visited the Oasis swimming pool in Swindon earlier this summer. The swimming pool is one of a number of possible exposures that we are exploring. At this point, there is no confirmed source of exposure. We would like to reassure the public that we have only had reports of these cases, and if visitors to swimming pools have had similar symptoms, to contact their GP.”

Do it in the country, like it just fine, do it on the city, $20 fine

Goodyear Police in Arizona arrested CBS 5 journo Jonathan Lowe Monday afternoon while he was on assignment, reporting on a former Arizona State University football player who allegedly sacrificed the family dog by putting him in a smoker in order to appease an angry God.

poo-emoji-collectionThat doesn’t begin to explain the kind of day Lowe was having, however.

“Lowe chose to use the front yard of a residence to relieve himself,” Goodyear Police Department spokeswoman Lisa Kutis tells New Times. “An onlooker from across the street called it in to officers. They approached him, he said he’d had to relieve himself, and they arrested him.”

Lowe was handcuffed and taken to the Goodyear Police station, where he was booked, cited, and released. Kutis says Lowe was cited under Goodyear code violation 11-1-30, “public urination or defecation,” a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 or six months in jail. 

Goodyear police haven’t released the arrest report, but the department confirms that the citation was for defecation. Kutis says the arrest took place at about 3:10 p.m., and that at the time various media outlets had been “in the neighborhood of the home where the dog incident took place.”

News of Lowe’s arrest was reported by TV news industry gossip site, which published a photo of the reporter being taken away in handcuffs beneath the headline “Cops Bust the Potty Reporter.” A subsequent article on the site claimed Lowe’s arrest “was the talk inside the Phoenix newsrooms” and that “two competing stations had video of Lowe being lead [sic] away.” 

Bizarrely, there was no further news about the former football player who smoked the dog to appease God.

‘Total lack of knowledge’ In poor taste in Phoenix

Parenting and preparing food are about the only two activities that do not require some kind of certification in Western countries. To coach little girls playing ice hockey in Canada requires 16 hours of training. To coach kids on a travel team requires an additional 24 hours of training. Anyone who serves, prepares or handles food, in a restaurant, nursing home, day care center, supermarket or local market should have some basic food safety training.

court.hockeyNot the case in Phoenix, where Judy Hedding of Travel writes, I don’t recall ever seeing such extensive comments by an inspector about the total lack of knowledge of food operations as I read in the report of our worst offender for last week. Eat sushi there? I don’t think so. Eat anything there? I think not. I have to wonder why there is not such score as F.

The following list represents those restaurants (not schools, caterers, corporate cafeterias, bakeries or other food processing businesses) that had three or more Priority Violations — those that are considered a serious risk for foodborne illness — during their last inspection. Three or more Priority Violations means that the grade for that inspection is a D (there are no F grades). The worst are at the top of the list. A restaurant that had that many Priority Violations noted would be one that I’d avoid, at least until they had subsequent inspections showing more understanding of safe food preparation standards and concern for their patrons. I also include establishments where their license was immediately suspended by the inspector.

Typically, this involves an equipment failure that can’t be corrected immediately. Examples might be refrigeration units that don’t cool enough, plumbing problems, or availability of clean water. Their license might be reinstated, even later that same day, if they correct the problems noted. Restaurants reported here are located in communities all over Maricopa County. That means not only Phoenix, but also Scottsdale; the cities and towns in the West Valley like Glendale, Peoria, Surprise; the cities and towns in the East Valley like Tempe, Chandler and Mesa; as well as other county locations. County inspectors may or may not inspect restaurants in every part of the county every week.

After you peruse the worst, please take a look at the many Phoenix area restaurants that achieved the best inspections during the week ending January 18, 2015. Those are arranged by zip code, for your convenience. They deserve our support and our business. Restaurants With the Worst Health Department Inspection Results For Week Ending January 18, 2015

Business Name Address City Zip Code Priority Violation
Schlotzsky’s 4445 E Thomas Rd Phoenix 85018 Immediate Suspension
Eastwind Restaurant 13637 N Tatum Blvd Phoenix 85032 9
La 15 Y Salsas Restaurant 1507 W Hatcher Rd Phoenix 85021 6
Dobson Ranch Bar & Grill 1644 S Dobson Rd Mesa 85202 6
Nanay’s 2390 N Alma School Rd Chandler 85224 6
Abuelo’s Mexican Food Embassy 16092 Arrowhead Ftns Ctr Dr Peoria 85381 4
Rosa’s Mexican Grill 328 E University Dr Mesa 85201 4
Cristal Bakery & Mexican Food 6402 W Glendale Ave Glendale 85303 4
Thai Spices 66 S Dobson Rd Mesa 85202 4
Sonic Drive In Mesa 618 W Southern Ave Mesa 85210 3
Flancer’s Cafe 610 N Gilbert Rd Gilbert 85223 3
Tropical Smoothie Cafe 13375 W Mcdowell Rd Goodyear 85338 3
Waffle House 1801 W Baseline Rd Guadalupe 85283 3
Culver’s 630 E Southern Ave Tempe 85282 3

braun.hockeyYou can see the inspection history of any place that serves or handles food at the Maricopa County website. If you are interested in Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Superior, Florence, Maricopa or Casa Grande, you can find restaurant reports for Pinal County, too. Restaurant information provided by the Maricopa County Environmental Health Services Division, used with permission. The image on this page is generic, and not associated with any of the restaurants mentioned here.    

Restaurant-inspection grades to get overhaul in Phoenix

Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, Arizona, has decided to scrap a longtime scoring system that informed customers how restaurants across the Valley performed in health inspections.

The Arizona Republic reports inspections of the 22,500 food establishments in Maricopa County are still taking place, monitoring things such as kitchen cleanliness, safe food handling and rodent control. But county officials say the voluntary award system that went along with it – one designed to help diners gauge which eateries had the best scores – didn’t accurately reflect how restaurants performed.

The system gave gold awards to restaurants that were among the top 10 percent of their peers in health-inspection scores. A silver award went to those in the top 20 percent. Those outside the top 20 percent did not get an award.

John Kolman, director of the county’s Environmental Services Department, said the decision to scrap the old system was prompted by a new health code, a new computer system and criticisms of the old scoring system by the local restaurant industry.

In recent months, he said, county officials met with representatives of the restaurant and hospitality industries to find out what kind of scoring systems they would favor. Kolman said he hoped to propose alternatives later this month and post them on the department’s website for citizens to vote on.

He said his agency is considering a system that would give "A, B, C or D" awards, similar to systems implemented by California and New York.

Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said, "In trying to develop a system, the most important question to ask is: How do you provide the most protection against food-borne illnesses? That should be the question, rather than, ‘Does the restaurant industry like it?’ "

And Mr. Kolman of Maricopa County, rather than just asking the restaurant industry, you may want to ask public health types, and consumers about the kind of grading system they would find valuable. To get started on you research, here’s a review paper.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009. The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information. Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.

Restaurant inspection system in Phoenix confuses diners

Maricopa County’s Environmental Services Dept. (that’s where Phoenix, Arizona, is) has adopted a new health inspection system.

Operations Supervisor Jaime Vinaras told KPHO that they no longer use terms like ‘major’ or ‘minor violations.’

Instead, they’re putting potential health problems into three categories:
*Priority item.
*Priority foundation.
*Core item.

However, when you look up restaurants on the county’s web site, , the violations are listed as ‘risk factors’ and ‘good retail practices.’

Applebee’s, Ricky Bobby and cleanin up

Whether it’s the adverts in Talladega Nights, The Legend of Ricky Bobby, or the smooth voice of John Colbert, Applebee’s has a way with marketing.

In Phoenix, maybe they should focus on the cleanliness.

Ray Stern of Phoenix New Times writes that health inspection reports show that some Applebee’s facilities are clean, with well-trained employees, but Maricopa County restaurant inspection reports show that 10 of 22 Applebee’s in the Valley received a "no award" on their most recent inspection.

Ten more were rated only "silver," which really isn’t that great, either, (though we noticed a few of the silvers had recent gold ratings.) Only two Applebee’s received a "gold" rating on their most recent inspection: 13756 West Bell Road in Surprise and 2501 West Happy Valley Road in Phoenix. We’re guessing the district manager for Arizona lives in the north Valley area.

Scanning through the most poorly rated locations turns up more than a few of the type of violations we find vomit-inducing, such as mice poop, filthy drink-dispenser nozzles and the failure of employees to wash hands. Seems like a bit of company-wide training is needed.

Do you pee in the pool? Survey says, yes

That’s me and Sorenne in the pool in Phoenix last week. And I’m pretty sure one of us, at some point, peed in the pool.And I’m pretty sure all the drunk fashionistas at the afternoon pool parties emptied themselves in the pool.

A new study by the Water Quality and Health Council found that nearly one in five adults admits to urinating in a swimming pool instead of using the toilet.

Eight in 10 adults are convinced their fellow swimmers are guilty of such a crime, the study said.

Nevertheless, health officials insist that swimming in and even swallowing urine-contaminated water isn’t harmful to someone’s health.

Don Herrington from the Arizona Health Department, "Urine in itself has been purified through a whole variety of bodily processes so that it’s removed a lot of the contaminants in it.”

Swimmers should be more concerned about swallowing parasites than swallowing urine, officials said, especially cryptosporidium.

Phoenix Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Amy Blakeney urged sick swimmers to stay out of the pool.

Listeria, mommies and me

Amy’s first meal after returning home with baby Sorenne? A snack spread of soft goat cheese with bite-sized pate and beet sandwiches, something I picked up from my Danish mentor, John Kierkegaard, back when I worked as a carpenter’s helper.

Smoked salmon or turkey breast, with tomato slices and fresh basil was on the menu for breakfast. That should cover many of the potentially listeria-laden foods that pregnant women shouldn’t eat for nine months. But you won’t hear that from listeria expert Michael McCain of Maple Leaf Foods, who is still strangely silent on the tough questions.

Amy’s mom was here for the birth and that turned out to be awesomely cool. But she did have to fly home through the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, which according to KNXV-TV, contains numerous restaurants with “major health violations.  In some cases, repeatedly failing to follow health code requirements. …

“Famous Familigia in Terminal 4 received 17 major violations including ‘deli slicer soiled with food debris’ and 12 of 15 employees ‘without food service worker cards. …’

“In October 2008, the Kokopelli Deli in Terminal 3 was cited after an employee ‘washed his hands then brushed his teeth with his fingers then went to work with food.’  In Terminal 4 at Flo’s Shanghai Cafe, employees were caught ‘cutting chicken with bare hand,’ ‘portioning peanuts onto chicken bare handed.’”

If you’re waiting on an e-mail reply from me on anything in particular, you may be waiting awhile longer. And while my usual e-mail style is terse, typing one-handed means the responses will be terserer. It’s nothing personal, just a baby thing. Really. It’s not you, it’s me. Really.

Cupcakes and confections without infections

Guest barfblogger Michéle Samarya-Timm of the Franklin Township Health Department in Somerset, NJ, writes:

Amy Silverman of the Phoenix New Times recently wrote about the lack of handwashing at Sprinkles Bakery, as noted by the Maricopa County Restaurant Inspection Team. In her assessment, enforcement of handwashing at this establishment is “as ridiculous as the ban on bake sales at my kids’ school.”

Handwashing…ridiculous?? With all the recent media coverage of outbreaks and recalls, taking steps to prevent a potential outbreak should not be viewed as ridiculous, but a public health essential.

Outbreaks in cakes are not unusual. In 2005, an outbreak of norovirus gastroenteritis associated with cake affected up to 2700 persons in Massachusetts. According to the CDC, it is likely that one or more food workers at the source bakery contaminated the cakes through direct and indirect contact.

In Japan, nearly 100 schoolchildren and teachers suffered diarrhea late last year after allegedly being infected with norovirus from cake served in their school lunch.

And it could happen again. Cake icing, as innocent as it may look, has the potential to cause large gastrointestinal outbreaks, as it is usually evenly mixed, and not processed further. Most foodborne outbreaks of norovirus illness arise from direct contamination of food by a food handler, immediately before consumption. Icing, or cake, can very easily become contaminated with norovirus because the virus is so small and because it probably takes fewer than 100 norovirus particles to make a person sick.

Investigations support that a majority of norovirus outbreaks are from oral-fecal transmission. Prevention for norovirus, and many other foodborne illness is —you guessed it –no bare hand contact of ready to eat foods and following through on conscientious handwashing practices.

We don’t want a confection to become an infection – nor do we want a potential dose of diarrhea, norovirus, or other potential nasty in our food – or anyone else’s. If this shiny chain is “all about image” as reported, that image should include following through on good handwashing practices. Maricopa inspectors should be praised – not ridiculed – for working to prevent potential disease outbreaks.

Yes, I like my cupcakes with sprinkles, but I also want my cupcakes to be handled in a sanitary manner and accompanied by a chorus or two of Happy Birthday – while all involved are enthusiastically lathering at the handsink.