Follow my lead: Food service needs safety champions

This paper addresses the challenge of reducing food safety errors in the foodservice industry.

dragnetResults of a survey of 255 full-time food service professionals supported our proposed causal chain of impact that runs from “leader behavioral integrity for food safety” (the extent to which leaders/supervisors consistently enact and enforce food safety rules) through the proportion of food safety errors reported, through “error management” (an integrated set of practices involving error detection, correction, analysis, prevention and learning), finally to reduced food safety violations.

Specifically, this study found the mediating effect of error reporting between leader behavioral integrity for food safety and error management; and the mediating effect of error management between error reporting and food safety violations.

Results suggest that ongoing support and incentivizing of supervisors’ behavior may be a critical supplement to skill-based training of employees in reducing food safety errors and thus violations. The study found that high leader behavioral integrity for food safety can improve error reporting and error management leading to a reduction in the risk of foodborne illness, which is the ultimate goal of a food safety training program.

It is recommended that managers serve as role models by following proper food safety practices and reporting errors themselves. A manager who consistently enacts food safety priorities and protocols conveys more clear information about positive organizational priorities for safety, provides clearer incentives for safety behaviors, models desired attitudes, and enhances employee trust and thus willingness to learn; which is critical for the success of food safety programs.

Reducing food safety errors in the United States: Leader behavioral integrity for food safety, error reporting, and error management

International Journal of Hospitality Management

Volume 59, October 2016

Priyanko Guchait, Jack A. Neal, Tony Simons

Protect those who protect our food

Jacob E. Gersen and Benjamin I. Sachs, professors at Harvard Law School, write in the N.Y. Times that every year, 5.5 million people are sickened by norovirus, a highly contagious gastrointestinal bug. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus is the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States and is spread primarily by “infected food workers.” Last year cooks, waiters and other workers were involved in about 70 percent of the outbreaks.

public.healthThis is just one example of the critical role that food workers play in our nation’s economic and public health systems. And yet, while we often tailor employment rules for work that has a special impact on the public, the law has yet to recognize food workers as a distinct class — an approach that harms consumers, the economy and the workers themselves.

Sick restaurant workers provide a particularly vivid example of the kind of legal reform that’s needed. Until recently, very few restaurant workers had the legal right to paid sick time, which meant that many of them went to work very ill (last week voters in Massachusetts and three cities passed paid-sick-leave laws). Federal law can fix this problem by requiring employers to provide their workers with paid time off.

But restaurant workers aren’t the only ones who need special treatment. All food workers are on the front lines of the vast food-production industry, and regularly witness dangerous breaches in safety procedures.

Take farm workers who witness the processing of infected (or “downer”) cows — an illegal but, unfortunately, not uncommon practice that risks spreading a host of diseases to humans. Or workers in poultry-processing facilities, where safety and hygiene regulations are flouted, thus increasing the risk of salmonella, which every year results in more than one million illnesses, more than 350 deaths and over $3 billion in health care and lost productivity costs. Unless we offer specific legal protection for all food workers who come forward to expose such practices — something the law does not do now — we all are at risk.

We should also adjust many of our standard workplace rules to take account of the special nature of food production. To avoid the transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which causes mad cow disease, workers involved in the processing of beef must fully and carefully remove the dorsal root ganglion, a part of the spinal nerve, from all cattle that are 30 months old or older. That’s because these dorsal root ganglia can contain the infective agent behind B.S.E.

public_restroom_rulesThis is high-stakes stuff, and we should make absolutely sure that the workers responsible for doing it aren’t too worn out, or working too fast, to do it right. That means rethinking rules about line speeds, paid break time, union-organizing protections, vacations and, of course, training requirements. The same is true for agriculture workers who are ultimately responsible for making sure that we don’t get salmonella, or for workers in supermarkets who monitor refrigeration protocols.

The basic problem is, neither state nor federal law today recognizes “food work” or “food workers” as legal categories. The Food Safety Modernization Act, which President Obama signed in 2011, gave whistle-blower protections to some food workers, but not to those who work in critical areas like beef and poultry. At the same time, many states have so-called ag-gag laws, which criminalize audio and video recording of agricultural production facilities, making it harder for certain food workers to blow the whistle. In any case, none of these laws recognize food work and food workers as distinct, comprehensive legal categories.

Once federal law recognizes food workers as a distinct legal category, it could then regulate food work and offer distinct protections to food workers. Such a move would not be entirely unprecedented in the law: We already treat nuclear workers, airline pilots and truck drivers differently because of the special nature of their work.

When it comes to food workers, some of the new protections would extend to everyone in the industry: Whistle-blower protections, for example, should be available to all food workers who report on practices related to food safety. Other protections might be more relevant to some food workers than others: Paid break and vacation time along with maximum hours, for example, seem potentially more critical in slaughterhouses than in restaurants, while paid sick leave might be more relevant in restaurants than in slaughterhouses.

Food workers are distinct from other workers in ways that are critical to food safety and public health, and they ought to be protected by the law in new ways. Otherwise, we run the risk that workers — charged with producing our food — will be unable to protect public safety.


Chef at New Jersey restaurant who spit into patron’s food fired

A chef at Kennedy’s Pub who allegedly spit into a meal that a man sent back for additional cooking was fired immediately after the incident occurred, according to a report.

goodfellasMount Olive police responded to the Route 46 restaurant on Sunday evening after an employee contacted authorities to report that 32-year-old John Stagg spat onto a patron’s dinner the prior night.

He was charged with tampering with a food or drug product, as well as disorderly conduct, and released with a court date. The customer, a 51-year-old Lake Hopactong man, was contacted by police and notified of what happened to his food, police said.

Stagg was terminated after authorities’ investigation confirmed he’d spat in the meal, according to the Daily Record. 

Norovirus intervention after outbreak linked to ill food service worker

It would have been easy to send Sorenne to school about 14 hours after she last barfed on Thursday; but I know the guidelines call for somewhere around 48 hours after the last barf (not 24, like some of the teachers tell me).

So Sorenne stayed home.

It probably helped reduce the flow of norovirus in the school. But those kinds of wins are difficult to count – no one got sick.

What’s far more common is when people do get sick. Those are easy to count.

The Minnesota Department of Health concluded an ill or recently ill food service worker or workers were the source of a norovirus outbreak that sickened between 30 and 40 people who ate at Mankato civic center events.

More than 50 people reported being sick following a Greater Mankato Growth banquet on Nov. 13 attended by more than 460 people. The health department also received reports from people who contracted the illness after attending a civic center event for veterans on Nov. 14.

The owner of the catering business, Najwa Massad, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

A health spokesperson said that, following the outbreak, Department of Health officials conducted an “intervention” with the food service provider that included reminders of protocols to follow when employees become ill.

“We reviewed procedures so that they make sure that, for example, if they have any ill food workers, or anyone who appears to be ill, they need to screen all their food services workers,” Schultz said. “With norovirus, our recommendation is that a food service worker not work for 72 hours after it’s gone.”

Schultz said anyone who has contracted norovirus should avoid preparing food for up to two weeks and wash hands regularly and thoroughly, up to three minutes.

Hepatitis A alert for customers who recently ate at Quadra Fairway Market in BC

It’s much better to get vaccinated before exposure.

Customers who recently ate at the Fairway Market deli on Quadra Street in Victoria, British Columbia (that’s in Canada) are urged to get vaccinated for hepatitis A after an employee tested positive for the virus this week.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority is urging anyone who ate deli food prepared in-store on March 18, 19, 20, 22, 25 or 26 to receive a hepatitis A vaccine as a precaution.

Drop-in immunization clinics for Fairway Market employees and eligible members of the public will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Victoria Health Unit, located at 1947 Cook St., from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Customers at the deli between March 7 and 15 may also have been exposed to the virus but vaccines will no longer be effective because too much time has passed, said Charmaine Enns, a VIHA medical health officer.

"It becomes of interest to the public and to us when that [infected] person is a food handler, because then it’s not just that person’s circle of close contacts who is at risk, it’s the general public now at risk," Enns said.

Don’t let parrotheads or infected workers serve margaritas; 14 sickened with norovirus after cocktails at Vegas restaurant

On October 18, 2011, the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), Office of Epidemiology received reports of gastrointestinal illness from two independent groups of patrons of Restaurant A located in Las Vegas. People from both groups ate during dinner hours at the restaurant on October 14, 2011. Of the eight people from the two groups, seven reported symptoms of diarrhea and/or vomiting after they consumed food from Restaurant A.

In response to these illness reports, the SNHD initiated an investigation. symptoms, and identical norovirus (NoV) genetic sequences were detected from ill persons of two independent dining parties. No ill person was hospitalized, and no death occurred.

NoV can spread via direct contact with NoV?containing fecal matter or aerosolized vomitus, or by indirect contact with them via environmental surfaces. The high propensity of NoV for person?to?person spread might explain illnesses among primary?cases and their household contacts. The outbreak appeared to have been confined to Restaurant A and did not spread to the general community.

Ice water and margaritas were significantly more likely to be consumed among primary cases when compared to controls diners, and were consumed by nearly all primary?case diners.

Drinking water or ice contaminated with NoV has resulted in outbreaks in food?service settings. However, the contamination of frequently served food items such as water and ice (also a main ingredient for margarita) in a high?volume restaurant would have resulted in numerous diners becoming ill, and cannot explain the relatively small number of diners who complained of illness after eating at Restaurant A on and after October 14. An alternative explanation may be that infected staff member(s) might have contaminated the food prior to serving them to customers.

The low inoculums (≥18 viral particles) required for transmission of NoV, and prolonged period of fecal shedding of the virus can enable infected food handlers to contaminate food products . Additionally, the majority of interviewed staff at Restaurant A admitted to pouring and serving drinks, and frequently placing garnishes (e.g. lemons, limes, and other fruits) into beverages prior to serving them to customers. Coupled with EH observations that employees handled ready?to?eat food using bare hands, the contamination of beverages with NoV could have occurred via infected worker(s) using bare hands to dispense or garnish beverages. Minimizing bare hand contact with ready?to?eat food is recommended as a mean of interrupting disease transmission. Workers whose job duties include preparing food and beverages must minimize bare hand contact with ready?to?eat food, including items used as garnishes for food and drinks.

Abstract below:
We describe an investigation of an outbreak of norovirus infection at a restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada that was suspected to be associated with restaurant staff using bare hands to place garnishes into beverages. We conducted a case?control study and surveillance for additional illnesses, performed inspections of the restaurant, and collected stool specimens to test for norovirus. Eight ill restaurant patrons and 23 control subjects were interviewed.
Univariate analysis showed several food items were associated with illness, but only ice water and margarita were consumed by members of all affected dining groups. Four stool specimens were positive for norovirus by real?time reverse transcriptase?polymerase chain reaction, with all four sequenced specimens being identical and closely related to norovirus strain GII.4J Apeldorn NLD07. To prevent such outbreaks, restaurant workers whose job duties include
preparing food and beverages must minimize bare hand contact with ready?to?eat food, including items used as garnishes for food and drinks.


One in four 2010 food complaints in Ireland related to food premises

Food contaminated with teeth, zips and washers were among the 10,898 queries and complaints received by the folks that run the food batphone in Ireland in 2010.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland reports that one in four of all calls related to consumers reporting issues concerning food and food establishments. Representing an increase of over 7% on 2009, these 2,126 (1,981 in 2009) complaints ranged from reports of unfit food, low hygiene standards, inaccurate labelling information and suspected food poisoning.

The 2,126 complaints lodged by consumers were:

• 914 complaints on unfit food
• 433 complaints on suspect food poisoning
• 402 complaints on hygiene standards
• 156 complaints on incorrect information on food labeling
• 25 complaints on incorrect advertising of food products
• 196 other.

The FSAI confirms that contamination with foreign objects was frequently reported by consumers. In 2010, these reports included food contaminated with live and dead insects; a tooth; a needle; safety pins; stones; and a cotton bud.

Food worker delivers Morocco strain of shigella; sickens 52 in a Belgian cafeteria

On Nov. 13, 2009, a Belgian physician notified authorities about an apparent cluster of Shigella sonnei; ultimately, 52 cases were identified over two months, and most were linked to a canteen in a public institution building. Best guess is that a food handler who travelled to Morocco shortly before detection of the first laboratory-confirmed case, picked up shigella, and then transmitted it through food.

The details can be found in the current issue of Epidemiology and Infection, where researchers report on a matched case-control study to test an association between shigellosis and canteen-food consumption.

The three food handlers working permanently in the canteen responded to the questionnaire. Food handler A travelled to Turkey from 23 September to
4 October 2009. She started working on 7 October. She prepared sandwiches, washed dishes and served food. She fell ill on 20 October, and had been exposed to canteen food during the 4 days prior to disease onset. Food handler B travelled to Morocco from 23 September to 1 October. This person started working on 4 October and was involved in vegetable washing, preparation of hot meals, sandwiches, cold dishes involving vegetables and cleaning the canteen. He did not declare having fallen sick. Food handler C was also involved in all activities except in hot meal preparation. He had not travelled, been absent or fallen sick.

Of the 52 shigella cases found in 708 employees of a public institution in Flemish Brabant province, Belgium, between September and November 2009, seven cases were confirmed as S. sonnei. There was a common PFGE profile which resembled those from archived specimens from Morocco. Cases of
shigellosis were associated with canteen-food consumption.

Investigators worked with three hypotheses: (i) waterborne transmission through a contaminated water dispenser, (ii) person-to-person transmission or via surfaces (toilets), or (iii) foodborne transmission (through previously contaminated food or during the preparation process by a contaminated food handler).

Foodborne transmission through canteen food is supported by the results of the employee survey and by the matched case-control study. This led us to think that a food handler might have been the source of the outbreak. Food handler B returned from Morocco shortly before the appearance of the first confirmed cases. He did not report any symptoms and worked continuously since his return.

Foodborne transmission might have happened had he been an asymptomatic case. Healthy carriers can shed 102 Shigella c.f.u./g of feces during 1 month.
Thus, food handler B could have unintentionally acted as an intermittent source of food contamination during the period of faecal shedding. Conversely, food handler A, who had travelled to Turkey, could not be the source of the outbreak, since her onset of disease happened after the onset of symptoms of some confirmed cases.

The researchers recommend:
• washing hands with soap and water before eating and after defecation for employees and food handlers;
• preventing sick food handlers from working until full recovery or until negative fecal culture in the case of laboratory confirmation;
• maintaining surveillance of further possible cases of shigellosis through the institution’s prevention service; and,
• collecting information on the workplace when interviewing notifiable cases in order to detect infectious disease clusters early.

Shigellosis outbreak linked to canteen-food consumption in a public institution: a matched case-control study
Epidemiology and Infection
I. Gutiérrez Garitano, M. Naranjo, A. Forier, R. Hendriks, K. De Schrijver, S. Bertrand, K. Dierick, E. Robesyn, and S. Quoilin
On 13 November 2009, the authorities of Flemish Brabant, Belgium, received an alert concerning a potential outbreak of Shigella sonnei at a public institution. A study was conducted to assess the extent, discover the source and to implement further measures. We performed a matched case-control study to test an association between shigellosis and canteen-food consumption. Water samples and food handlers’ faecal samples were tested. The reference laboratory characterized the retrospectively collected Shigella specimens. We found 52 cases distributed over space (25/35 departments) and time (2 months). We found a matched odds ratio of 3·84 (95% confidence interval 1·02–14·44) for canteen-food consumption. A food handler had travelled to Morocco shortly before detection of the first laboratory-confirmed case. Water samples and food handlers’ faecal samples tested negative for Shigella. Confirmed cases presented PFGE profiles, highly similar to archived isolates from Morocco. Foodborne transmission associated with the canteen was strongly suspected.

Hasn’t hit this lawyer yet — no references but lots of rhetoric

When I first met Amy in 2005, I tried to impress her with some mixed tapes – because I’m a total nerd – of music like Weezer, and the Tragically Hip and Neil Young, and Blue Rodeo.

The later is a Toronto-based band I’ve seen many times, but not as many as Chapman, who has sortofa cult thing going on with them.

Amy really likes the 1993 Blue Rodeo song, Hasn’t Hit Me Yet, for its evocative nature –I agree the band hit their peak on this album – and it applies to yet another food industry lawyer type who just doesn’t seem to get it.

One of the Defending Food Safety lawyerly dudes – they represent companies – said today that current statistics confirm that approximately 70 percent (sic) of all food-borne (sic) illnesses (or, about 50 million illnesses annually) have nothing to do with the underlying safety of food. Rather, the majority of illnesses are caused by contamination where food products are prepared. As a result, if consumers and those who handle foods simply wash their hands, and prepare foods appropriately, most food-borne (sic) illness can be eradicated.


There is none. This is a rhetorical rather than an actual argument based on data.

The dude also says,

“… in most instances, (foodborne illness can) be virtually eliminated in the kitchen.”

People who believe this stuff are stuck in 1993.