‘Score-on-the-door’ food hygiene rating for SA cafes and restaurants

The state of South Australia is introducing a new “score-on-the-door” food hygiene safety rating for cafes and restaurants as the State Government overhauls the Public Health Act.

Scores on doors sounds better.

Adelaide Now reports the Government wants food businesses to adopt the system, with a score out of five displayed on a shop’s door according to its level of food-safety scores_doors_featurecompliance.

It is also planning to adopt a new statewide food safety standard and introduce a registration system for food outlets as part of the reforms.

Hundreds of outlets are caught each year for serious breaches of food hygiene standards.

Health inspectors found rotten meat, maggots in chicken stuffing, puddings with listeria and mice in pantries at cafes, restaurants and takeaway food outlets last financial year.

A parliamentary committee investigation into food safety programs last September recommended the introduction of a statewide score-on-the-door rating system.

Health Minister Jack Snelling said SA Health would work with other jurisdictions, including NSW and with local government and industry, during the development of the system.

A pilot “scores on doors” project is expected to be introduced on a voluntary basis next year. Similar schemes are running in London, Los Angeles, Singapore, Brisbane and Sydney.

But the best ones, like Los Angeles, New York City and Toronto are not voluntary; sorta defeats the purpose.

The Restaurant and Catering SA association said the score system would mean more red tape to businesses. “We would prefer to see a policy which endorses training of staff (in larry.the.cable.guy.health.inspectorfood safety),” chief executive Sally Neville said.

Why not both?

We have some experience with restaurant inspection disclosure systems.

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 isfragile, 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.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand.
Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as tools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed ny_rest_inspect_disclosure_0_storycountries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

Did bad berliners sicken over 100 in South Australia with Salmonella

Beginning in Jan. 2011, 107 people in South Australia were sickened with Salmonella linked to custard-filled berliners.

Yesterday, the State Government told the Supreme Court it spoke truth when it blamed iconic baker Vili Milisits as the source.

Mr Milisits has asserted public health director Dr Kevin Buckett defamed him in two press conferences and one radio interview by blaming the berliners for food poisoning that affected more than 100 people.

John Whitington, acting for Mr Milisits, was quoted by the Herald Sun as saying, “The Government says the Department of Health conducted investigations, in late January, as a result of increased incidence of reported Salmonella. It says a statistically-significant proportion of people were interviewed.

“It says that, based on that analysis, a person infected with the salmonella bacteria was 38 times more likely to have eaten a custard-filled berliner.”

He asked Judge Brian Withers to order the Government to release that material to Mr Milisits’ legal team, along with the names of the people interviewed.

Judge Withers has reserved his decision.


Maggots, rats found in S Australia food outlets

A couple of Amy’s French professoring colleagues recently took up jobs in Adelaide, the state capital of South Australia,. They’re a real couple from Cardiff, Wales, who had until recently been professoring at colleges in New York City.

Dining out may have a familiar feel as a crackdown on food outlets has been credited with a rise in the number of South Australian businesses caught breaching hygiene standards.

The Sunday Mail reports authorities found almost 5,000 breaches of food safety laws last financial year – 1,000 more than in the previous 12 months.

SA local councils issued 3637 warning notices – up from 2127 – prosecuted three businesses, closed seven premises, issued 126 fines and made 1149 improvement orders for breaches of the Food Act.

Breaches discovered among bakeries, cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, delis and service stations included:

• glass in a sandwich;
• maggots in a bread roll;
• flies, a moth, a grasshopper and mouse faeces found in various food items;
• rats in a kitchen; and,
• part of a medicinal capsule in a packet of chips.

The names of the businesses breaching the act are not identified in the documents.

SA Health’s annual report shows that last financial year it investigated almost 200 cases of food borne poisoning, including one where three restaurant diners ended up in hospital after contracting norovirus due to unsafe food handling by a kitchen worker.

Another investigation resulted in a restaurant shutting down its on-site hen house after eggs were suspected to have poisoned six diners in August 2010.

Eastern Health Authority chief executive officer Michael Livori said the significant jump in food outlets caught breaching safety standards was due to many councils being "more proactive."

"Not enough was done in the past but these latest figures show there is more due diligence," he said.

But restaurant inspection remains random, based on the diligence of local councils. Playford Council in the northern suburbs was among the most proactive in enforcing food standards, with the number of written warnings and improvement notices issued jumping from 225 to 833 over the past two financial years, although of complaints from the public remained steady at about 65 a year.

In contrast, documents show Mitcham Council issued no warnings, enforcement notices, or fines to food outlets despite confirming 21 public complaints of food standard breaches.

What won’t be familiar for the French professor ex-pats is the lack of restaurant inspection disclosure in South Australia. Unlike New York City, which has been using a letter-grade system for over a year, the SA numbers compiled by the Sunday Mail were based on documents obtained through SA Health under freedom of information laws.

(The mysteries of Intertubes in Australia mean Dubai Bobby picked this up before I did; thanks for the lede.).

3 children stricken with shiga-toxin E. coli linked to South Australian petting zoo

South Australian health authorities have issued a warning over contact with animals after three children who visited the Royal Adelaide Show contracted two cases of shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) infection and one case of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Two of the three children – all aged between 4 and 12 years – had been in contact with farm animals at the show’s animal nursery.

SA Health’s Paddy Phillips said one of the children infected is in hospital with HUS and is in a serious but stable condition.

Professor Phillips said hand hygiene is the best method of preventing STEC after contact with animals.

And maybe not letting little kids with their soothers and food and hands in their mouths have contact with animals that can shed dangerous bacteria.

A table of international outbreaks at petting zoos and farm shows is available at: http://bites.ksu.edu/petting-zoos-outbreaks.

Salmonella in South Australian custard sickens a lot

Different Australian states seem to have decidedly different ways for informing the public about food-related risks.

South Australia Health says there’s been a large increase in cases of Salmonella Typhimurium phage type 9 over the past week, but it won’t provide any numbers.

SA Health’s investigation into the potential causes for this increase has associated Vili’s custard-filled berliners and St George Cakes & Gelati’s custard filled cannolis and éclairs with the Salmonella infection.

SA Health’s Public Health Director, Dr Kevin Buckett, said, “Both companies are co-operating fully with SA Health and are working with the department to ensure that all of these custard items are removed from supermarket and store shelves. They have also both voluntarily stopped making these items until any potential source of contamination has been remedied and the product is safe. Extensive testing of ingredients and equipment at both premises has not yet identified a source of contamination.

The SA Health statement also says, “Only these three custard-filled items, Vili’s berliners and St George Cakes and Gelati cannolis and éclairs, have been linked to the infection and there has been no evidence to suspect that any other Vili’s or St George Cakes & Gelati’s products are a risk.”

The statement does not say whether the facilities have been closed or if the two businesses are still making other products, which is odd since the source of the salmonella has not been determined.

So, SA Health, how many people are sick? How did this outbreak get detected? Do these two businesses use the same supplier?

Hepatitis A outbreaks in Australia

A 22-year-old woman who helped prepare food at two catered events was diagnosed with hepatitis A in March, meaning that more than 200 people at one corporate event and about 100 at a second event, along with co-workers and roommates, had to be vaccinated.

South Australia Health refused to release any specific details, but did note there was an unrelated but "significant" increase in hepatitis A cases in SA and Victoria in a separate outbreak.

SA Health Communicable Disease Control Branch director Dr Ann Koehler said,

"We think it is probably a vegetable, but we just don’t know yet."