Most Philadelphia school cafeterias flunk – Health Dept

More than half of the schools in the Philadelphia School District – 53 percent – failed their most recent health inspection, according to state Department of Agriculture records, while a staggering 66 percent of charter schools were out of compliance.

The Philadelphia Daily News reports that of the 40 schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that were inspected last school year, 35 percent were out of compliance.

Some schools on the list were hit with as many as 20 risk-factor violations, ranging from mouse feces found on cooking utensils to food being stored next to chemicals.

Justin Carter, a recent West Philadelphia High School graduate, said he gave up eating school lunches long before he graduated. He said the news doesn’t come as a surprise.

"It’s atrocious," he said, recalling his food woes at his alma mater, which was hit with 10 violations last spring.

"They served chicken twice a week, and it wouldn’t be cooked all the way through – it was soft and pink in the middle. The food worker would put it in a microwave for five minutes like that would make it better. It would be the same way every time."

Scores on doors better than on-line restaurant inspection reports

As the New York City Health Department invited public comment on proposed rules and outlined procedures to guide the implementation of New York City’s new restaurant grading system, Don Sapatkin of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported this morning that most food establishments don’t publicize even their most positive inspection reports, and no government in the Philadelphia region requires that they be tacked up for easy viewing like a menu.

But more are going online. With the new Camden County database that went live Thursday night, the outcome of inspections are now posted for the vast majority of restaurants in the eight-county region.

Ben Chapman, a food-safety specialist at North Carolina State University said,

"Cross-contamination and hand-washing violations and temperatures," thorough cooking, hot foods kept hot and cold foods kept cold – these are the most important risk factors for food-borne illness. Dirty bathrooms matter less.

Chapman, who reviewed the new Camden County Web site at The Inquirer’s request, was impressed that the posted reports include the temperatures of various foods found by the inspector – along with the inspector’s comments, which are necessary to make sense of the numbers.

Doug Powell, an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University who operates barfBlog, which, despite its name, is a blog written mostly by academics, said that demand for on-line inspection disclosure is often high initially and then tapers off. Because of the hodgepodge of regulations and the complexity of the reports, Powell said, it is far more useful to place highly visible, simple letter or color grades at the restaurant location. A-B-C grades are used in Los Angeles and will begin in New York City in July.

Detailed inspection reports for restaurants and other food establishments are now posted in searchable databases for most of the region.

The language differs significantly from place to place, and can be hard to interpret. And food safety experts caution that inspections are merely a snapshot in time.

Sorry you’re sick, how’s the food?

A U.K. MP is urging hospitals to display environmental health reports on their websites, telling EDP 24,

"I would be very pleased to go and look at standards. Patients have a right to know how their food is being prepared when they go into hospital. Hygiene standards must be made public via clear and accessible ratings for each institution. The worst performers should be named and shamed – while those doing well would stand as an example to drive up standards."

The comments by Liberal Democrat health spokesman and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb followed the release of a report by the Liberal Democrats that found that nationally nearly half of all hospital kitchens and canteens in England could be failing to meet basic standards of cleanliness and hygiene.

Vermin, cockroaches and mouse droppings, medical waste on food handling equipment and poor person hygiene among catering staff were all cited as problems.