Chipotle: Another gift that keeps on giving, $25 million criminal fine for food poisoning

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. will, according to Edvard Pettersson of Bloomberg, pay a $25 million criminal fine to resolve allegations by federal prosecutors that its food sickened more than 1,100 people across the U.S. from 2015 to 2018.

It’s the largest fine ever imposed in a food-safety case, according to a statement by the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

The criminal charges pertain in part to norovirus outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants. The highly contagious virus can be transmitted by infected food workers handling ready-to-eat foods and their ingredients, according to the statement. It can cause severe symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramping.

“Chipotle failed to ensure that its employees both understood and complied with its food safety protocols, resulting in hundreds of customers across the country getting sick,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in the statement announcing the deferred-prosecution agreement.

The Newport Beach, California-based company said that, as part of the agreement, it will its strengthen its food-safety polices and practices.

“This settlement represents an acknowledgment of how seriously Chipotle takes food safety every day and is an opportunity to definitively turn the page on past events and focus on serving our customers real food made with real ingredients that they can enjoy with confidence,” Brian Niccol, chairman and chief executive officer of the company, said in a statement.

Prosecutors alleged that four norovirus outbreaks were caused by employees showing up to work sick, in violation of company policy, and by food products being stored at the wrong temperatures.

A fifth outbreak — which sickened about 647 people in July 2018 who dined at a Chipotle in Ohio — was from Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium found in raw meat and poultry that is one of the most common types of foodborne illness in the U.S. People who get ill from it usually recover in 24 hours and it’s not contagious.

Managers at the company’s restaurants failed on a number of occasions to notify Chipotle’s safety group at its headquarters when an employee had been vomiting at work, according to prosecutors. Instead, the safety analysts would find out only after contacting the restaurant because it had received a complaint from a sick customer. As a result, there were days of delay before the restaurants were sanitized.

With restaurants still serving food, Florida conducted over 1,000 inspections in April

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants are, according to Jeff Weinsier of Local 10 news, still operating for take-out and delivery, and inspectors are out in full force.

Local 10 News’ Jeff Weinsier looked into the numbers and found that over 1,000 inspections have been made in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties during the month of April.

Sonny’s Famous Steak Hogies in Hollywood has been a staple in the community for over 60 years. Its dining room has become a storage area, but customers are keeping them extremely busy with take-out and delivery orders.

John Nigro of Sonny’s makes every one of his employees sign a copy of the restaurant’s rules, to ensure everything remains sanitary and follows the proper health guidelines. He knows a health inspector could pop in at any moment.

The good news is that no kitchens have been ordered shut over the past two weeks.

UK Chinese restaurant had ‘worst standard of cleanliness’ food safety officers had ever seen

The kitchen at a North Wales Chinese restaurant had the worst standard of cleanliness seen by food safety inspectors, a hygiene report reveals.

Lydia Morris of the Daily Post writes that the Sleepy Panda in Wrexhamregained (gotta love the Welsh language) its long-held five star hygiene rating in January after it plummeted to zero following a grim inspection in October 2019 .

Despite requesting the inspector’s official report in November 2019 through the Freedom of Information Act, Wrexham Council denied the information.

However, it has today shared the document with North Wales Live , revealing the “extremely poor standard of cleanliness” that led to the temporary closure of the restaurant last year.

The town centre restaurant considered to be “one of the best in the area” has since reopened, and has held a five star hygiene since January 25 .

However, following the October inspection, food safety officials noted the restaurant had “almost total non-compliance with statutory obligations”.

“The standard of cleaning to the structure was extremely poor to the point where both myself and my colleague not seen a kitchen with such a poor standard of cleanliness,” the report says.

As well as cooked duck and other food items being stored on the floor, cooked rice was also found to have been left out at room temperature.

Cooked chicken, beef and duck were also being stored at room temperature – supporting what the report called “the growth of food poisoning”.

15 sick: Valentine’s Day outbreak at Washington restaurant linked to chicken liver mousse

Because when I think love and romance, I think chicken liver mousse.

On February 25, 2020, the Grays Harbor County Environmental Health Division learned that a Grays Harbor County resident tested positive for Campylobacter jejuni.  The individual reported a meal at Rediviva Restaurant in Aberdeen, WA on February 14, 2020 as part of their food history.  During the subsequent investigation, Environmental Health learned of at least fourteen more individuals who became ill after eating the Valentine’s Day dinner meal.

Environmental Health believes that the illness was caused by chicken liver mousse.

A site inspection of the facility was conducted on February 26th that revealed multiple risk factors that could have contributed to illness.  Rediviva Restaurant was closed by Environmental Health on February 27th because the inspection resulted in the assignment of 75 or more “red point” violations. Further information regarding the inspection may be viewed on the Grays Harbor County Environmental Health website at https://healthspace.com/Clients/Washington/GraysHarbor/Web.nsf/home.xsp

Rediviva is cooperating with the outbreak investigation and remains closed at this time.

The Valentine’s Day dinner menu continued to be served at Rediviva Restaurant from February 13th through February 21st. 

Chipotle: The food safety gift that keeps on giving

In a previous life I was the scientific advisor for the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors.

We would meet a couple of times a year, and I would provide my food safety thoughts on what was going on at retail, but what struck me was that the first three hours of every meeting were like a self-help therapy session.

These heads of food safety at major Canadian retailers would bemoan their diminishing status at the corporate level: No one cares about food safety until there’s an outbreak. Twenty years later, the song remains the same.

Alexis Morillo of Delish writes that Chipotle workers claim that food safety practices are at risk at the fast casual restaurant due to managerial procedures that cause workers to “cut corners.”

A total of 47 current and former Chipotle workers from New York City locations came forward about the malpractice in a report to Business Insider. This news follows recent allegations that the company has been violating child labor laws.

In the report obtained by Business Insider, workers outlined concerns about the way things are done behind the scenes at Chipotle. It said that many incentives like pay bonuses let other responsibilities like cleanliness audits and food safety fall to the wayside.

Workers said in the report that working at Chipotle is “highly pressurized environment” with goals that include “minimizing labor costs.”

It was also said that managers are often told in advance when a restaurant will be inspected for cleanliness so they can be prepared. Meanwhile, when an inspection isn’t taking place the cleanliness standard is much more laid back. In the past, people have questioned Chipotle’s safety standards because of the E. Coli outbreak a couple years back. The chain also has an interesting sick day policy, where there are on call nurses for workers to check if they’re actually sick.

Chipotle said in a statement to Delish that the company is committed to safe food and a safe work environment and that the pay bonuses actually incentivize workers to be even more precise when following company policies.

The song remains the same.

49 sick: Glazed eclairs cause mass poisoning in two Armenian provinces

News Az reports the poisoning cases were reported in the town of Sisian in the southern province of Syunik and in Vanadzor and Stepanavan in the northern province of Lori.
According to the ministry, all the patients had symptoms of diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. A preliminary diagnosis said the cause of poisoning was an intestinal infection.

The National Center for Disease Control and Prevention said 41 patients were traced in Lori, and 8 in Syunik. Currently, 33 patients are still being treated in Lori and 8 in Syunik. Doctors assess the patients’ condition as satisfactory. According to the press service of the Food Safety Inspectorate, laboratory studies found salmonella in éclairs.

It said the Zeytun Sweet company was inspected but no violations of sanitary standards were found, but it turned out that the éclairs did not have a conformity assessment and did not have a safety certificate. Zeytun Sweet Company was ordered to ban the sale of the product and recall éclairs from the market and destroy them.

In addition, samples of eggs, oil, spread, as well as finished products used for the production of éclairs were taken for further examination.

Food safety culture in Brazilian restaurants

Food safety culture may establish the right environment for adequate food handling and management, reducing violations of food safety regulation, especially those related to foodborne disease outbreaks.

This study aimed to evaluate differences among elements of food safety culture in food services at low or high-risk for foodborne diseases. This study was conducted with 63 managers and 333 food handlers from 32 food services located in the metropolitan region of Campinas, State of São Paulo, Brazil. The following elements of food safety culture (considering the technical-managerial and human routes) were evaluated: management systems, style, and process; leadership; organizational commitment; food safety climate (communication; self-commitment; management and coworker support; environment support; risk judgment; normative beliefs and work pressure); and risk perceptions. In the technical-managerial route, restaurants were categorized as low- or high foodborne disease risk restaurants.

For the evaluation of food safety management systems, a validated checklist was used. In the human route, food safety climate analysis was performed by evaluating five elements applied exclusively to food handlers. High-risk restaurants presented a higher percentage of violation in most aspects related to food safety regulation and physical structure. Leadership and knowledge of low-risk restaurants’ managers presented a higher level when compared to high-risk restaurants’ managers, showing that in the first group managers acted as mediators of safe practices. Food handlers from low-risk restaurants presented higher scores in food safety knowledge, organizational commitment, and food safety climate when compared to food handlers from high-risk restaurants. In restaurants with lower risk for foodborne diseases, the elements of food safety culture were better evaluated, indicating fewer violations of food safety regulation. In these restaurants, a consistent food safety climate was perceived within the technical-managerial route.

This result shows that fewer violations of food safety legislation, especially those involving high-risk foodborne disease, were a positive outcome of an improved FS-culture. In this sense, it is possible to improve food safety by applying, evolving and maturing the concepts of FS-culture in restaurants in Brazil.

Food safety culture in food services with different degrees of risk for foodborne diseases in Brazil

Food Control

Marcel Levy de Andrade1, Elke Stedefeldt2, Lais Mariano Zanin3, Diogo Thimoteo da Cunha

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2020.107152

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0956713520300682

Best intentions don’t always help, in relationships or food safety

Evacuees from quake-hit Cotabato, Philippines, were rushed to the hospital in November (can you tell I’m still playing catch up with what I find interesting as my 8 broken ribs and broken collarbone heal) due to suspected food poisoning from donated packed meals.

Acting Vice Governor Shirlyn Macasarte said 30 evacuees were brought to hospitals after vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. The evacuees from Malabuan and Patulangon evacuation centers in Barangay Malasila in Makilala ate packed foods given to them.

Bienvenida Lagumbay, 71, said she vomited and experienced diarrhea after eating rice with dried fish and pork wrapped in banana leaf. She said four other people in the evacuation center ate the food and all of them experienced vomiting and diarrhea.

Distribution of hot meals or packed foods to quake-affected residents is now prohibited after the incident. Macasarte said despite their order to ban donated hot meals in evacuation centers to avoid food poisoning, the public can still help in other ways.

Macasarte said she instructed her staff to check on the patients’ conditions, including the hospital bills of those admitted in private hospitals.

7News investigates student concerns about food safety at UMass Lowell

Fed up students at UMass Lowell say millions of dollars from taxpayers and their tuition are being wasted on food that they can’t eat — and now that 7NEWS Investigates got involved, the university is threatening to cut ties with its food provider if the issues aren’t addressed.

A 7NEWS investigation of the food being served at the university uncovered mold, worms, and purple-colored undercooked chicken.

Freshman Matt Gorham is among those sounding off, saying, “We just want food that’s edible.”

Freshman Ronan Rogier agreed, saying, “It’s not healthy, it’s not safe.”

These students, and their classmates, are so upset with the food being offered in their dining halls, hey sent 7NEWS videos and pictures taken last semester, that show bugs in their pasta, black substances on their lettuce, and worms in their broccoli.

“It got so bad they had to stop serving broccoli because they always had bugs in them,” said sophomore Nate Polgreen.

University Dining stopped serving the broccoli in November, stressing that “food safety is always a top priority.”

In addition to being grossed out, students say they are paying a lot of money for food they can’t eat.

Meal plans at UMass Lowell range from $4,500 to $5,000 a year. Freshmen are required to get one.

The great university meal plan rip off; was going on when I started as an undergraduate in 1981, still going on today.

“It’s undercooked, it’s moldy, it’s even been soggy a few times when it’s not supposed to be,” Rogier said.

Gorham added, “What we are spending on that meal plan each semester, is unacceptable for this food.”

All the food is purchased and prepared by Aramark Education Services, a national company that UMass Lowell paid $18.5 million for this school year.

Aramark refused our request to talk on-camera, instead of issuing a statement, saying “Our top priority is to ensure a positive, safe, and healthy dining environment for the entire UMass Lowell community and we will continue to give this matter our constant attention. We maintain rigid food safety operating procedures for the entire flow of food production. This includes providing an environment that protects the safety and integrity of food from its delivery, throughout its storage, preparation, transport, and ultimately, to the point of service to the customer. We encourage anyone with a concern about their dining experience to contact any of our Managers on Duty in the dining location so that we can provide immediate attention to any concerns, comments or suggestions on the spot.”

Couldn’t make a point with a pin.

Fancy food ain’t safe food, Yelp California edition

The popular review site Yelp started warning Southern Californians about restaurants that get low health inspection grades Wednesday, and some of those places are famous, fancy eateries.

Joel Grover and Amy Corral of NBC Los Angeles report that starting Wednesday, if you try to read Yelp reviews of any LA County restaurant that has a C rating or worse, you’ll first see a big, bold warning that says “Consumer Alert: Low Food Safety Score.”

”The goal of the ‘health score alerts’ that we’re placing today is to both warn consumers, but also provide further incentive for businesses to improve their cleanliness and their hygiene at their establishment,” said Yelp senior VP Vince Sollitto.

Here’s what the new alert will look like on Yelp.

Among the dozens of restaurants that now have Consumer Alerts on Yelp is the upscale Rosaline in West Hollywood. Rosaline was honored as a “favourite for good value” by the prestigious Michelin Guide last year, but also received C grades on its last two inspections.

On Nov. 5, the health inspector cited Rosaline for 13 violations, three of them major,  including vermin. In his report, the inspector observed “at least a dozen live adult and nymph cockroaches” and “at least a dozen soft, fresh rat droppings.”

…at least a dozen live adult and nymph cockroaches” and “…at least a dozen soft, fresh rat droppings.

But customers might not know Rosaline got a “C” –70 out of 100 — because the letter grade is not prominently placed at eye level at the entrance.

Rosaline told the I-Team it has fixed the vermin problem and is waiting for a re-inspection.

“After the Health Department found vermin in a wall cavity, Rosaliné closed for 10 days to repair damage found in two of our walls we believe was caused by neighboring construction. The health department thoroughly inspected and approved our reopening on November 15th. Over the past two and a half months, we have made multiple requests to the Health Department provide a current grade,” the Rosaliné team said in a follow-up email.

The LA County Health Department began giving restaurants letter grades in 1998, after the I-Team’s Joel Grover went undercover and exposed LA restaurants with filthy conditions and practices, like workers picking their noses while preparing food, and sneezing right into food that was about to be served to customers.

Before 1998, the health department kept restaurant inspection scores secret. Until then, if a restaurant failed an inspection, consumers remained unaware.

For the last 21 years, restaurant inspection information and scores have been made available on the LA County Public Health Department’s website, but finding information about specific restaurants requires several steps of digging.

The county’s online information is also sometimes inaccurate or incomplete; the I-Team noticed that one prominent Beverly Hills restaurant got a C rating last October, but then paid a fee for a reinspection and got an A. The C no longer appears on the county’s site. A restaurant inspection history is supposed to be publicly posted.

Yelp says its new Consumer Alerts will make information about low scoring restaurants easily accessible to consumers.

“The goal of the Yelp program is to make health hygiene scores for restaurants both more accessible to consumers and more easily understandable for them,” Yelp’s Vince Sollitto said.

But the I-Team found errors in Yelp’s Consumer Alert program too. As of this morning, more than 70 LA county businesses had Health Score Alerts –meaning their grades were C or below. But the I-Team found at least five of those businesses actually had As or Bs, on their most recent inspections listed on the county’s website.

When the I-Team asked Yelp about the discrepancies, a spokesperson said they “get an updated data feed from the Los Angeles County Health department on approximately a weekly basis,” and were factoring the most recent information into their consumer alerts.