Summer Heights High and an Australian boarding school campylobacter outbreak

When someone says Australian boarding school, all I can think of is the highlarious television show, Summer Heights High.

Some researchers from Canberra report in the current issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease about an outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni gastroenteritis at an Australian boarding school.

Thirty-five cases of gastroenteritis were recorded among 58 questionnaire respondents, with 14 of 18 persons submitting fecal samples having confirmed C. jejuni infections. Attendance at one evening meal was statistically associated with illness (ratio of proportions of 3.09; 95% confidence intervals: 1.21, 14.09; p = 0.02). There was no statistically significant association between any single food provided at the implicated evening meal and illness, suggesting that the potential cause of the outbreak was a cross-contamination event.

The study highlights the potential of cross-contamination as a cause of epidemic campylobacteriosis. The application of molecular techniques to aid epidemiological investigation of recognized C. jejuni outbreaks is illustrated.

Australia: Restaurant owner sues food critic for bad review

This Christmas I will be venturing to Australia for the first time. My flatmate graciously invited me to spend the holidays with her, and the chance to potentially bump into Mr. G (Summer Heights High) was something I couldn’t pass up.

While I search for the famous mockumentry star, a Sydney restaurateur will likely be continuing her ugly legal battle against a food critic reports

In evidence in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday, Ljiljana Gacic sobbed as she launched a diatribe against the critic, Matthew Evans, whom she described as "low life".

She said the review had been "done for a purpose", and told Justice Ian Harrison she had put on 57 kilos in the six years since its publication because of the stress.

In September 2003, Fairfax’s The Sydney Morning Herald published a review referring to "unpalatable" dishes, describing the restaurant’s overall value as "a shocker" and scoring it 9/20 – in the "stay home" category. The restaurant went into administration in March 2004.

The article has been found to convey defamatory meanings, including that the trio "incompetent" as restaurant owners because they sold unpalatable food and employed a chef who made poor quality dishes.

Mr [Tom] Blackburn [ SC, for Fairfax – the newspaper] then suggested that either Ms Gacic was "malevolently and maliciously fabricating it or you are deluded".

The judge is now holding a hearing relating to defences – including truth – put forward by Fairfax, and on the amount of damages, if any, which should be awarded.

UK: It’s a bummer heights high

Doug and Amy introduced me to what is now one of my favourite TV shows, up there with The Office, Arrested Development and Flight of the Conchords. Summer Heights High is an Australian mockumentary following the lives of highschool students. One of the main characters, Ja’mie (not to be confused with Jamie) has transferred for a year from a private school to attend Summer Heights High public school. On multiple occasions Ja’mie refers to how povo (poor) the public school is.

Students at a UK private school may have been better off attending a povo public school after five pupils became ill this past week, reports This is Croydon Today.

Cumnor House School, in Pampisford Road, South Croydon, has been hit by an outbreak of campylobacter – a bacteria that causes food poisoning.

Headteacher Peter Clare-Hunt insists there is no proof that the bug came from the school kitchen. But nevertheless environmental health officers who were called in to carry out an inspection have "reminded" the school about good hygiene practice.

Headteacher Hunt explained,

"We have had five confirmed cases of campylobacter which is a type of food poisoning. As soon as that was confirmed we underwent a visit from the food hygiene consultant and environmental health…"

"There is no safety issue with regards to school lunches. I would say 99 per cent of the boys, if not more, are having school lunches and can do so without any fear of risk whatsoever.


“In terms of tracing this back to the kitchen that will never be proved one way or the other."

All the boys who fell ill at the school, which takes pupils aged between four and 13, are now back in class "healthy and doing fine". Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning and symptoms can include stomach cramps and severe diarrhoea. Anyone who contracts the bug is normally ill for two days to a week and infection can come from inadequate cooking of food to handling domestic pets. Infection from person to person contact is, however, uncommon.

Headteacher Hunt should focus on apologizing to the sick students rather than insisting his cafeteria couldn’t possibly be the source of illness.

Producing unsafe food will cost you in Australia

During my year of study in New Zealand I plan on hopping across the ditch to Australia. Although my main goal is to bump into Mr. G (from Summer Heights High, see right), I will most inevitably have a meal out. Australian Food News reports that Australian courts have handed dirty restaurants hefty consequences for preparing food under unsafe conditions.

The courts have dished out heavy fines of over $37,000 to two North Shore restaurants and three Hills District eateries for breaches of food safety regulations, Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald has advised.

Macdonald stated,

“I commend councils for being vigilant and proactive in ensuring that food sold in their areas is as safe as possible. It’s simply unacceptable for food retailers to ignore safety laws that protect consumers.”

North Sydney Council successfully prosecuted two restaurants for a total of 14 offences. Dai’s Golden Crown Restaurant in Military Road, Cremorne received a $15,333 fine for five offences ranging from chronic build up of waste and dirt to vermin in equipment and shelving. While Neutral Bay Seafood in Wycombe Road, will be forced to pay a $3,287 fine for nine hygiene-related offences.

Hills Shire Council successfully prosecuted the following three eateries for a total of 31 hygiene-related offences. Simply Irresistible Bakery, Windsor Road, Rouse Hill received a $5492 fine for four offences including storing food on the floor of a coolroom. Mountain View Chinese Restaurant, Old Northern Road, Dural was fined $7095 for 15 offences including presence of pests and dirty fittings and equipment.
Beijing Duck Restaurant, North Rocks Road, North Rocks copped a $5976 fine for 12 offences including storing meat in a sink and unsanitary cooking equipment and utensils.

Macdonald continued,

“Prosecutions are a last resort, but in some cases when critical failures have occurred or when proprietors have ignored prior warnings, that’s when they’ll end up in court.”

Australian restaurants will soon be playing the name-and-shame game

When I think of Australia I think of the hilarious TV show Summer Heights High. Although the mockumentary about high school students takes place in Melbourne, I can’t help but picture angry food operators in Adelaide saying “puck you” to unfavorable health inspections.

According to AdelaideNow, food premises in Adelaide that do not adhere to the Food Act will be name-and-shamed publicly. Prior to this decision restaurant inspection results in Adelaide were not available to the public.  

Mr MacPherson, [Acting Ombudsman], quoted the overwhelming public desire for the information to be released…

He continued,

"In reaching this conclusion I consider that there is a public interest in promoting safe and hygienic practices within restaurants and in diners being able to make informed choices about where they eat.”

"Eighty-six per cent of 1268 participants in a survey linked to an online version (AdelaideNow) of an article that appeared in The Advertiser on 11 May, 2009, agree that information identifying infringing restaurants should be disclosed publicly."

Australian school – sewage in canteen sink, kids stalked by crocs

While New Zealand’s Flight of the Conchords charmed the critics lat year, the best television show in recent times is Australia’s Summer Heights High. And while the show is set in Melbourne, a school in Australia’s Northern Territory has, according to The Courier-Mail, been battling sewage in its canteen sink, water contaminated with dog poo, and piles of rubbish that are causing public health risks.

The school, at Palumpa, near Wadeye in the Northern Territory, has been in the news because students have been forced to wade through a crocodile-infested billabong to get to classes and the school "bus" – a Toyota TroopCarrier – has been stalked by a crocodile.

The new findings are contained in a Health Department report, completed last month, which was obtained by the Northern Territory News.

The Northern Territory News also revealed that two Palumpa children were airlifted to Royal Darwin Hospital this week suffering gastro.