If you ate at this Tampa burger joint recently, officials recommend hepatitis A vaccination

Tampa, or more accurately Sarasota, is equidistant from the equator as is Brisbane.

I have a strong, childhood-based link to that area of Florida and probably why I’ve settled into Brisbane.

Or it’s the familiarity in targeted advertising for funeral homes and life insurance.

A food service worker employed at Hamburger Mary’s Bar and Grille in Ybor City has tested positive for hepatitis A, according to the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

The individual worked at the restaurant between Oct. 4 and Oct. 20, an investigation found.

Anyone who frequented the restaurant within the time period and has not previously received a hepatitis A vaccination is advised to do so as soon as possible. Those who have previously had a hepatitis A vaccination do not need to take any additional action.

A 24-hour hotline has also been set up for people who have questions about hepatitis A. It can be reached at 813-307-8004.

Doctor’s offices, pharmacies and state and local health departments offer hepatitis A vaccinations. Find out more at vaccines.gov.

Food fairy tales: ‘If you eat food, you are being lied to every day ‘

I like Tampa, and even more Sarasota and Anna Maria Island. Brisbane is equidistance from the equator as is Sarasota, and I enjoy going to the rink in flip-flops and shorts.

MF_34_Max_combine_-_2006I also enjoyed that Tampa Bay beat Detroit (Amy’s team) in game 1 of the National Hockey League playoffs

And like Brisbane, there is great seafood, but a lot of it is bullshit.

Laura Reiley of Tampa Bay writes the restaurant’s chalkboard makes claims as you enter from the valet parking lot. At the hostess stand, a cheery board reads, “Welcome to local, farm-fresh Boca.”


Amy and I were in Phoenix in 2007, and went to a Coyotes game, and I eventually had to turn to the asshole sitting behind us, going on about how he had this cougar in Boca and tell him to shut the fuck up.

But food fraud and hucksterism is a growth business.

Brown butcher paper tops tables and lettuces grow along a wooden wall. In a small market case, I see canned goods from here and produce from somewhere. Check the small print: blackberries from Mexico and blueberries from California.

With the tagline “Local, simple and honest,” Boca Kitchen Bar Market was among the first wave of farm-to-table restaurants in Tampa Bay to make the assertion “we use local products whenever possible.” I’ve reviewed the food. My own words are right there on their website: “local, thoughtful and, most importantly, delicious.”

But i’ve been had, from the snapper down to the beef.

It’s not just Boca. At Pelagia Trattoria at International Plaza, the “Florida blue crab” comes from the Indian Ocean.

Mermaid Tavern in Seminole Heights shouts “Death to Pretenders” on its menu, but pretends cheese curds are homemade and shrimp are from Florida.

At Maritana Grille at the Loews Don cesar, chefs claim to get pork from a farmer who doesn’t sell to them.

This is a story we are all being fed. A story about overalls, rich soil and John Deere tractors – I grew up with Massey-Fergusons — scattering broods of busy chickens. A story about healthy animals living happy lives, heirloom tomatoes hanging heavy and earnest artisans rolling wheels of cheese into aging caves nearby.

More often than not, those things are fairy tales. A long list of Tampa Bay restaurants are willing to capitalize on our hunger for the story.

LightningMazeAnd it’s all 21st century snake oil.

PEOPLE WANT “LOCAL,” and they’re willing to pay. Local promises food that is fresher and tastes better; it means better food safety; it yields a smaller carbon footprint while preserving genetic diversity; it builds community.

If you eat food, you are being lied to every day.

The food supply chain is so vast and so complicated. It has yielded extra-virgin olive oil that is actually colored sunflower oil, Parmesan cheese bulked up with wood pulp, and a horsemeat scandal that, for a while, rendered Ikea outings Swedish meatball-free.

Everywhere you look, you see the claims: “sustainable,” “naturally raised,” “organic,” “non-GMO,” “fair trade,” “responsibly grown.” Restaurants have reached new levels of hyperbole.

What makes buying food different from other forms of commerce is this: It’s a trust-based system. How do you know the Dover sole on your plate is Dover sole? Only that the restaurateur said so.

And that’s why traceability and microbial food safety need to be marketed at retail. The technology is there.

Florida Costco failed inspection for live roaches near food and temperature violations

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Food safety just failed the Costco Warehouse at 10921 Causeway Blvd in Brandon this week.

costco.beach.towelOn Monday, December 14, food safety inspectors observed live roaches in the ‘Club Demonstration Services’ area, food storage, and ware-washing room. That demo room was given a ‘Stop Use Order’ and not allowed to reopen until inspectors return for a follow-up inspection and approve its been adequately cleaned and sanitized.

Also during their visit, food safety inspectors issued a temporary stop sale on various food items due to dangerous temperature issues with five pounds of crab legs at 55-degrees and one pound of sausage at 46-degrees. Cold food should be maintained at 41 degrees or below. 

Both had to be placed on ice to bring down the temperature before they could be released to be sold.

ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan spoke to Craig Wilson, the vice president of food safety for Costco. He told her over the phone that the ‘Demo Room’ was shut down due to the pest issue, so they immediately called EcoLab for treatment to get rid of the roaches and make sure they did not come back.

Wilson also explained that they sanitized and cleaned the area completely, and they’re now waiting on food safety inspectors to return so the room can be used again.s

Wilson said that Costco works 100 percent with the health department and looks forward to things getting back to the way they should be.

Tampa’s Authentic Mexican food restaurant receives over 50 violations in 5 months

Ismael Rivera loves the authentic Mexican dishes at Taco Rey Mexican Grill on 1441 East Fletcher Avenue in Tampa, eating there three times a week.

Taco Rey Mexican Grill“I got three tacos coming in with rice and beans. I got a whole meal coming in for the whole family,” Ismael said.

But Ismael had no idea the state found insects, crawling and flying near his family’s food.

“Yeah, I didn’t know that about them,” he admitted.

Our ABC Action News I-Team has discovered inspectors saw live and dead roaches in the reach-in cooler, on top of the freezer, and on floors, walls and boxes in October.

And ‘too many flies to count’ near produce along with over 50 more flies in other parts of the kitchen, according to the inspection report.

“That’s a little upsetting to hear that, since you figure that’s where you eating,” Ismael said.

And it’s not just bugs.

We’re just uncovering the state finding pork and eggs at dangerous temperatures that could make you sick.

Pork was sitting on the cook’s line at 84 degrees and raw shell eggs were left out at room temperature at 85 degrees.

Cold food should be 41 degrees or below and hot food should be 135 degrees or above.

So what’s management doing to fix the food safety issues?

ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan went to Taco Rey to find out.

“I wanted to talk to someone about your recent inspections from the state,” Ryan asked the employee at the front counter.

But that female employee said the manager and owner were not there and wouldn’t be back until the next day.

No one could answer to the 52 violations documented in the last 5 months, including employees thawing beef at room temperature, employees failing to wash their hands, plastic containers of lard on the floor along with to-go boxes, no proof of required employee training and black/green mold in the ice machine.

‘I don’t want to be on TV’ Florida: restaurant owner after closure

As 10 News walked into China Gate, 12049 Anderson Road, Tampa, there was an apparent employee “lifting weights” instead of cooking in the kitchen. This, just a week after health inspectors found a long list of health code violations while investigating a possible case of food poisoning. Two customers filed a complaint describing abdominal cramps, nausea and other symptoms hours after ordering chicken with pork fried rice.

“I heard there was bugs, a lot of bugs so to me that is enough to keep me away or like never go back,” said former customer Briana Sagardia.

And she’s not far off. State inspection reports show a history of bug issues. The restaurant shut down July 29 as an emergency closure with 31 violations including 50 live roaches that scattered throughout the kitchen when the inspector reported lifting a cardboard box. There were also temperature violations on the egg rolls, pork and chicken nuggets found between 72 to 77 degrees and no soap for employees to wash their hands, all health code violations that could lead to customers getting sick.

Sushi safety questioned in Tampa

Restaurant violations are nothing new. The shocking bits of this story is that there are 100 sushi restaurants in the Tampa area alone; and that sushi is considered “healthy and nutritious.”

The I-Team at ABC Action News reviewed the inspection reports of 100 sushi restaurants in the bay area over the last year and found serious critical violations that could make you or your family sick.

That includes raw tuna at 61 degrees, raw shrimp and fish over cooked tempura, which is a cross contamination issue and restaurants that had to throw out food because they were at hazardous temperatures. We also look at one sushi restaurant that tops the list in critical violations.

Lab results confirm norovirus in Florida restaurant outbreak

Over 100 people who ate at an unnamed restaurant north of Tampa a couple of weeks ago have been confirmed to have been part of a norovirus outbreak.

But now they’ve named the restaurant.

(What are public disclosure procedures? When does public health have a responsibility to go public with information about an outbreak, especially if it will prevent additional people from barfing?)

Hernando Today reports local health-types have confirmed norovirus in at least three of those 100 sickies, who dined at Kally K’s Restaurant between March 6-11.

Among the positive results was at least one of the employees of the restaurant.


The owner of Kally K’s is complying with Health Department recommendations that no employees who tested positive for this virus will be involved in food handling or preparation until follow up tests are negative. The restaurant continues to cooperate in this ongoing investigation.

Roy Costa does Tampa home kitchen inspections – and here’ s the video

The suave and sassy Roy Costa showed up on Tampa television last night, walking viewers through a couple of home kitchen food safety inspections, including the kitchen of ABC Action News Dirty Dining reporter, Wendy Ryan.

(I can’t actually confirm the broadcast date, but the clip showed up on the web last night.)

The story says that Gretchen Barnes is a busy new mom with twin 7-month-old boys, Beckett and Eli, and has much less time to do things like clean the kitchen.

Gretchen was a trooper to allow former health inspector Roy Costa to come to her house and do a mock inspection on her kitchen.

Right away, Roy found a critical violation: Eggs over five months old in her refrigerator. The package had a printed expiration date of September 17, 2010.

Roy said one of the most contaminated areas of the kitchen is the sink drain, because of the disposal and waste spewing up from the bottom.

Roy says it’s a good idea to disinfect the sink drain once a week. So how do you do that?

"Make about a 200-part-per-million dilution of this bleach. Because we know if you have the proper water to bleach, the activity of the chlorine that’s in there is going to be a lot more effective," Roy explained.

So in a bucket of room temperature water, less than a capful of clorox would be enough to create the right level of disinfectant.

And Roy says sanitizing the baby’s toys with that same diluted solution is a good idea.

Sophie the giraffe, a previous favorite of our 2-year-old Sorenne, was somewhat dirty in the twins’ house, so Roy recommended a soap and water wash before sterilizing the twins’ Sophie in the solution for at least 5 minutes.