Toronto restaurant fined maximum $20K for heavy cockroach problem

Oh Scarberia, suburb of Toronto, home to Mike Myers and some of the Barenaked Ladies. Why do your restaurants suck?

A takeout restaurant in Scarborough was fined $20,000 – the maximum penalty – after pleading guilty to four food-safety violations, including a "heavy" cockroach infestation.

The guilty plea last Friday by Chandra’s Takeout Restaurant and Catering, at 201 Markham Rd., related to problems that closed it Aug. 24 to Aug. 28. It has since reopened and passed full inspections on Aug. 28 and Nov. 6.

The restaurant was fined $5,000 for each of four infractions: not controlling a pest/insect infestation; failing to protect food from contamination; not having a certified food handler; and for obstructing Toronto Public Health’s red closure sign while the restaurant was shut down in August.

Supermarket Guru says stickers on clamshells a good food safety idea to go

Supermarket Guru picked up on our food safety stickers for takeout food and suggested it was one way retailers could turn food safety into a competitive advantage, and wrest takeout business from nearby restaurants.

Which was exactly one of our thoughts when we began experimenting with food safety stickers about five years ago.

While doesn’t know the full details of their proposed label, we suggest that besides basic date and serving information, it also clearly states whether a food might contain allergens like peanuts or gluten. In our opinion, supermarkets have failed so far to truly differentiate themselves in prepared foods and easy takeout. This is one value-added step that could help food stores retain the takeout volume that fell in their laps when the economy cratered, and people curbed their restaurant visits. They didn’t really earn the windfall, but they got it, and now they have to address consumer concerns about food safety in order to burnish their image as takeout sources.

Perhaps a special opportunity for this approach is in the small-format stores modeled after Tesco’s Fresh & Easy, which emphasize takeout offerings, and are already battling convenience stores, which are stepping up their meal programs. Safe food-handling stickers could add professionalism to the displays and confidence in consumers, and make the prepared foods section a more frequent destination.

We’ll work with anyone who is interested in developing the sticker concept for their own food business — large or small. Any new sticker would have a different phone number and website than those depicted (below) and would be based on research tailored to a specific operation.

Leftovers should not be left outside – or you may barf

Nine children and three women from a village in the Galilee who attended a wedding celebration Sunday ended up Monday evening at the emergency room with diarrhea, fierce stomachache and vomiting. The Jerusalem Post reports that seven of the children and two of the women had to be hospitalized for observation.

They were diagnosed with food poisoning tracked back to the "doggie bags" taken and eaten at home. Amil Aga, epidemiological supervisor at the hospital, reached the conclusion that the leftovers had been left outside rather than in refrigeration for several hours until the extended family got home.

Hospital director-general Dr. Masad Barhoom warned people that during the hot summer months, store raw and prepared food under proper conditions to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

(The sticker, right, was a prototype; phone number and web site won’t work; but we can come up with a new one — dp).

Stickers for takeaway food a hit in Dubai

Food such as takeout or takeaway, that is initially prepared in a restaurant but is consumed in an individual’s home, may be a venue to target with safe-food handling messages. Earlier this decade, both Chicago-based Francesca Restaurants and Boston-based Buca Di Beppo Restaurants reported anecdotal success placing food safety labels on containers of takeout food.

In 2004, my group undertook research to:

• examine restaurant managements’ experience of using a safe food-handling label on takeout food;
• explore managements’ food safety concerns;
• determine the value of consumer safe-food handling labels to managers;
• establish perceived label effectiveness; and,
• identify challenges with implementation.

For our study, we defined take-out as food procured from a casual dining restaurant (i.e. sit-down restaurant) but eaten elsewhere, including food ordered as take-out and leftover food packaged to be taken home. The label we developed is right (above) and left (note, the phone line and web site don’t work anymore).

The research paper describing that work has been accepted by a peer-reviewed scientific journal and will be published in the near future.

However, the public health types in Dubai discovered over the weekend the same thing we found: most consumers and restaurateurs like the idea.

Our Dubai correspondent contacted Ben and me about stickers on takeaway, and we sent along what we had developed. Today, the Khaleej Times reports,

The Dubai Municipality is planning to encourage all restaurants in the emirate to issue advisories to consumers on safe handling of takeaway food.

The decision follows a similar initiative by a popular south Indian restaurant group that attaches red stickers to its takeaway bags at its two outlets in Dubai. A municipality official applauded the group’s move and said the civic body intended to support such initiatives by other restaurants as well.

Director of Food Control Department, Khalid Mohammed Sherif, told the Khaleej Times,

“We are encouraging more and more food outlets to put such messages along with takeaway food to ensure that the customer handles the food properly. We will be providing all of them with modified instructions for customers to handle food taken away.”

He said the modified versions of the advisories will include the temperature at which food items have to be stored and the duration within which they have to be consumed, depending on the types of ingredients.

Below is a draft of the information intended for consumers.