Saskatchewan restaurant inspection report views falling

If you want to attract attention, tell people there’s a secret meeting in the community about, whatever.

If you don’t want attention, make the meeting public.

We figured this out in 1999 trialing sales of genetically engineered sweet corn.

The Star Phoenix in Saskatoon reports  the number of restaurant inspection reports viewed on the provincial government’s website has been dropping each year since the system was introduced in 2009.

Online access to restaurant inspection summary information was made available in May 2009 and 636,451 reports were viewed that year – the vast majority in May itself after the site’s introduction. The figure fell to 217,124 in 2010, 124,229 in 2011 and 97,301 in 2012, according to Health Ministry statistics.

“When the site was first introduced, there was a lot of interest in seeing what the site had to offer,” Tim Macaulay, the ministry’s director of environmental health, said recently. “We fully anticipated that after that time, the numbers would drop. But we still continue to see approximately 8,000 inspection reports viewed per month and so we feel that the public is still making use of this site.”

Australia state urges consumers to report dodgy festive food; notify local councils

 It’s the festive season in Australia, with Big Day Out rolling across the country, and at least one state government is stressing, if you suspect food poisoning, report it.

"Food complaints can provide important information about risks in particular food businesses or food products so it is vital that bad food experiences are reported to prevent sickness from spreading,” said New South Wales (that’s the state where Sydney is) Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson

"NSW consumers have every right to expect that the food they eat is safe and while the vast majority of food businesses do the right thing, people should know that they have a right to complain about threats to their food safety,"

"If you bought food over the Christmas holidays that was unsafe to consume, or you believe made you or a family member unwell, please contact the NSW Food Authority’s helpline.

"Complaints about cafe and restaurant meals can be made directly to your local council which is responsible for inspecting retail food service businesses in their area."

Ms Hodgkinson said on average the NSW Food Authority receives more than 2,000 reports of foodborne illnesses each year. Of those, around a third are investigated further by the Authority. Others are referred to local councils for investigation under the Food Regulation Partnership.

Complaints about food can be about possible contamination of food, food poisoning, illegal sales or serving of food, incorrect or unhygienic food handling, storage, transport and preparation, misleading or incomplete labelling, spoiling of packaged or fresh food and unsuitable or unsafe ingredients.

It may involve lettuce: unreported food poisoning cases reflect gap in food safety net

At what point do food service staff also have to play epidemiologist?

Scott James of The Bay Citizen writes that San Francisco’s Italian eatery Delfina has been considered one of the Bay Area’s best restaurants for more than a decade; Craig Stoll, its co-owner and chef, won a coveted James Beard award in 2008.

But in December, its many accolades could not protect Delfina from an unusual incident. On a night the restaurant was booked solely for a private party, about two dozen patrons were sickened by food poisoning.

The staff determined what each victim ate, and since a vegetarian was among those sickened, oysters, beef tartar and other foods were eliminated as the sources of illness.

“We narrowed things down to the most common denominator,” Stoll said. Their conclusion: Tainted produce, most likely salad greens.

The restaurant contacted its suppliers, but no alert went out to the public, and there was no government investigation. The San Francisco Department of Public Health had not heard of the incident until contacted by The Bay Citizen.

In what appears to be a gap in the food supply safety net, there is no requirement for restaurants to report when their diners are affected by foodborne illnesses even when large numbers of people get sick.

“They are not obligated to report it,” said Richard Lee, director of environmental health regulatory programs for the city.

Mandatory reporting is not required at the state level either, according to the California Department of Public Health. Under both state and local laws, reporting is required only when restaurant workers become sick.

Rajiv Bhatia, the city’s director of environmental health, said the Delfina incident was now under investigation, but added that it was highly unusual for health officials to be unaware of a case involving so many diners.

He suggested a need for stricter rules. “I believe that reporting of potential outbreaks should be mandatory for supermarkets, restaurants, schools and workplace cafeterias, even though this is not a requirement under current law,” he said.

At Delfina, which consistently achieves high scores on health inspections, Stoll said there had not been an illness before or since that night, but he wants the mystery solved.

Lessons learned from E. coli outbreak in UK nursery

In Feb. 2010, the Feltham Hill Nursery and Infant School was closed for three weeks when E. coli O157 was contracted by pupils, affecting 18 people in all.

A report to the Hounslow Council contained 28 recommendations to improve future responses to emergency situations, including:

• the situation should have been declared ‘an emergency’ sooner than it was;
• there were delays in stopping the spread of the outbreak because the school had no emergency plan;
• information sharing between the school and the health authorities was poor;
• confusion over information given to parents resulted in many being worried that the outbreak was not being controlled.

Two children were treated in hospital for the bug, one of which was for a prolonged period of time. The report reveals that the source of the outbreak was never discovered.

The complete report is available at:

Reusable bags, bacteria and lack of peer-review

I prefer peer-review before press releases.

And prudence before plastic pushers.

I prefer to bike to the grocery store with my kid in the trailer and dog on the leash – and put the groceries in my knapsack. With daytime highs of 100F, that ain’t happening so much at the moment.

A new report issued today by the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California says those reusable grocery bags can be a breeding ground for dangerous foodborne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health.


Maybe it’s Gotcha microbiology where a bug is found, but the public health significance isn’t matched up with epidemiology (where are the sick people).

Chapman has highlighted the flaws in the paucity of data that is out there, and will be going through this later tonight.

The American Chemistry Council, which underwrote the research project, may be a fine organization – and I’m all for industry sponsoring research – but why not release the results in a peer-reviewed journal?

I never visited a farm as a child, and I know where my food comes from Mr. PR

In an attempt to minimize (reputation) damages, a spokesman for the U.K. National Farmers Union has been quick to respond after a report into last year’s petting zoo outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 came out this morning.

After downplaying the outbreak, he responded to the report, saying: “the report’s recommendations are not too onerous and would be supported by the NFU.”

If the recommendations do not involve a lot of effort and difficulty, why haven’t they been established already?

Perhaps it would be cost-effective to hire less spokespeople and more educators on how to manage petting zoos and possible threats to the public in a timely fashion. Before 93 people, primarily children, get sick with a dangerous bacterium like E. coli O157:H7, and then the requisite government report.

A table of petting zoo related outbreaks is available at

New report: UK petting farm E. coli could have been avoided; health types too slow to do anything

It’s Groundhog Day again for the Brits who once again have a report that public health types were too clueless about their jobs so a whole bunch of people became unnecessarily sick with E. coli O157.

Scotland, 1996. Wales, 2005. Now this. At least Prof. Hugh Pennington didn’t have to do the same report again.

Don’t eat poop, and if you do, make sure it’s cooked.

Raw animal feces usually are not cooked when children go play with them at petting zoos.

A report into Britain’s largest outbreak of E. coli O157 at an open farm last year concluded it could have been avoided if visitors had been kept away from animal feces.


The outbreak, which affected 93 people mostly children, was made worse by the slow reaction of health authorities before the petting farm in Surrey was closed, the investigation found.

Only 33 people would have fallen victim to the infection had authorities acted sooner, it said.

Eight of the children infected required dialysis and some have been left with permanent kidney damage. At one point during the outbreak last August and September victims were occupying all the children’s acute renal support services in London.

A number of families of affected children are preparing to take legal action against the farm.

In a 250-page report, the investigation said an outbreak control team of officials from local councils, medical authorities and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) had convened "exceptionally late."

It made 43 recommendations but said it did not want to ban petting farms. It said there should be a code of practice to ensure farms kept visitors away from animal fecal matter.

In addition it said the public should be educated about the dangers of E.coli O157 and how its risks could be minimized by careful handwashing, particularly for young children.

No, no one wants to be educated, especially in British schools. But some of the government agencies and food providers could provide compelling and current, food safety information rather than the piping hot bullshit currently coming out of the U.K. Food Standards Agency and others who appear delusional about what can happen.


Eight of the children infected required dialysis and some have been left with permanent kidney damage. At one point during the outbreak last August and September victims were occupying all the children’s acute renal support services in London.

Professor George Griffin, who led the investigation, said,

"This outbreak could very likely have been avoided if more attention had been given to preventing visitors being exposed to animal fecal matter. Once it had started, there is no doubt that even with prompt action this would have been a big outbreak. Nevertheless there was a lack of public health leadership by the Health Protection Agency and a missed opportunity to exercise decisive public health action and thereby restrict the size of the outbreak."

Dominican Republic food safety woes

In 2004 I visited the Dominican Republic, a popular Caribbean destination for Canadians attempting to escape the winter cold, wet and grey.  Dani and I took advantage of her spring break and Millennium Scholarship (probably not what they were meant for) and spent a week sitting on the beach, eating buffets and playing scrabble. It was pretty fun. My food paranoia was focused on ice cubes, foods held at the wrong temperature and fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t think I ate anything that wasn’t fried and stuck to beer all week. Dani wasn’t nearly as ridiculous as I was (she rarely is) and she tried lots of stuff.

The week was a success; not only did we get some Vitamin D, neither of us had any foodborne illness symptoms.

Not so lucky for many other visitors to that same Dominican resort over the next few years, foodborne illness outbreaks were reported in 2005 and a reported 2000 guests became ill with norovirus in August 2007. The 2007 outbreak resulted in a class-action lawsuit in the UK against the travel agency. Claimants say that the travel agency knew there were repeated food safety-related violations linked to the resort and they kept sending travelers for weeks of vacation dominated by bathroom trips.

According to the lawsuit:

Raw and cooked meats were kept close together at the hotel, food was not covered, the restaurant allowed in dogs, birds, mice and insects, the buffet area was covered in flies with birds picking at leftover food, and they saw mice on tables.

I didn’t see any mice, but none of this is really surprising.

The Dominican Republic relies heavily on the tourist-generated economy and today’s news about another huge outbreak is likely not what government officials are looking for:

More than 1,200 athletes participating in a sports festival in the Dominican Republic got sick from food poisoning, with 22 ending up hospitalized.  The athletes affected were among more than 6,200 young people between the ages of 9 and 18 competing in the 12th Don Bosco Salesian National Games in Santo Domingo.

The food served to the athletes on Friday “was not transported on time and, by the time they served it, seven hours had gone by since they cooked it and packed it in disposable plates,” Don Bosco Salesian National Games director Tomas Polanco said.

Whether the Dominican Republic’s food safety system is really all that much worse than what is seen in North America is debatable — but having multiple large outbreaks in a country that depends on reputation and perception of safety isn’t a good thing.