Carbón Live Mexican Grill to skip Taste of Chicago following outbreak

Taste of Chicago, an outdoor festival featuring signature dishes from over 60 restaurants happens this weekend. In 2007, over 800 salmonellosis cases were linked to hummus from Pars Cove, one of the participating vendors.

After that outbreak, organizers stepped up their food safety game:Unknown-1

While any Chicago-based restaurant can apply to sell food at Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Illinois Restaurant Association consider restaurant applicants’ inspection history for the previous three years before allowing them to participate in Taste. No applicants with unresolved critical or serious violations at their business are accepted or allowed to serve food at Taste of Chicago.

Additionally, all menu items are carefully reviewed and approved by the Chicago Department of Public Health with the festival’s outside environment and temperature in mind.

Carbón Live Mexican Grill, has been linked to at least 25 pathogenic E. coli illnesses including 5 hospitalizations and will not participate in Taste of Chicago, according to Chicago Eater.

CBS Chicago spoke to a one of the hospitalized patients who told the station the she ate steak tacos.

The restaurant has a second location in West Town, which ABC Chicago reported has also been closed as a safety precaution.

25 Chicago students arrested for a middle-school food fight

The cafeteria food fight, as immortalized in the 1978 film, Animal House, has become a high school rite of passage.

Except in Chicago (home to John Belushi, right)

The New York Times reports this morning that 25  students, ages 11 to 15, were rounded up, arrested, taken from school and put in jail on charges of reckless conduct, a misdemeanor, after a food fight at the middle-school campus of Perspectives Charter Schools, in the Gresham neighborhood on the South Side.

That was last Thursday afternoon. Now parents are questioning what seem to them like the criminalization of age-old adolescent pranks, and the lasting legal and psychological impact of the arrests.

“My children have to appear in court,” Erica Russell, the mother of two eighth-grade girls who spent eight hours in jail, said Tuesday. “They were handcuffed, slammed in a wagon, had their mug shots taken and treated like real criminals.”


You barf, you pay; $50 vomit tax for Chicago cabs?

Chicago cab drivers are demanding that riders who throw up in their cabs get slapped with a $50 fee.

The cabbies said Thursday they want to the city impose the penalty because of the work — and hours lost — that comes with cleaning a passenger’s vomit.

Mayor Richard Daley said his administration will listen to the drivers’ request and review their recommendations.


Warning: This sandwich may contain a gold earring

A Chicago man is suing McDonald’s for injuries he sustained when he swallowed a gold earring that was in his sandwich.

The complaint asserts, among other things, that the sandwich "lacked any warning of the fact that it contained the gold earring" and that McDonald’s "failed to prevent foreign objects not fit for human consumption, including but not limited to earrings, from being offered to the general public in the food being served."

Health inspectors at Taste of Chicago

Two years ago a salmonella outbreak traced to hummus made 700-plus people sick at the Taste of Chicago outdoor food festival in Chicago, IL. The annual festival lasts for 10 days, and millions of people attend. This year 60 health inspectors will be patrolling the venue attempting to prevent another outbreak, reports Chi-Town Daily News.

As city food inspectors, their main focus is the potential disease lurking in the pizza, turkey legs, corn, elephant ears and countless other treats cooked at the Taste’s outdoor booths…This year, the city’s Department of Public Health is deploying about 60 staff members – trained food inspectors and supervisors – to continually drop by the 56 vendor booths, making sure the food stays safe.

Frances Guichard, director of Chicago District Public Health’s food protection division, said,                 

“We are in more of a role of consultation.”

Explaining that,

Inspectors visit each vendor between four and six times a day, taking the temperature of food, ensuring storage and service conditions are sanitary and giving vendors assistance, if they need it. If food temperatures are too low or too high, inspectors will recommend the food be thrown away.

The most common reason for a booth to be shut down is if no manager is present while food is being served to patrons. And, even then, a restaurant can begin serving food as soon as a manager returns.

I’m glad inspectors are at the event — it may help food handlers to be aware of their potential impact on food safety — but as Doug mentioned last year, there are certain components of food safety that can’t be monitored by inspectors, like food from a safe source.

Singing songs of handwashing

Children’s Memorial Hospital and the Chicago Children’s Choir are teaming up to record a handwashing song. Chicago native Joel Frankel wrote the song, “Wash, Rinse Dry.” The singers will record at SPACE Recording Studio in Evanston. The song and video will be used for patient and staff education. And don’t forget, JJ the puppet will be joining the singers during the recording session.

Obama also says, if you’re sick, stay at home

It’s not swine flu, it’s people coming to work when they’re barfing. I understand it’s probably not the person’s fault – they may get fired if they don’t show up. But barfing employees should not be serving food. And that’s exactly what happened to 46 other employees at a Des Plaines, Ill., company last week.

The 46 workers at UOP
, a manufacturing technology company, were infected by a norovirus — a stomach bug — that apparently was carried by a food service worker at the firm, said Amy Poore, a spokeswoman for the Cook County Department of Public Health.

Ways to get a restaurant closed: killing mice with cooking utensils

A customer at the Nigerian Kitchen, 1363 W. Wilson, Chicago, called 311 after claiming to see staff using cooking utensils to kill mice.

The restaurant was closed Monday after city health inspectors found mouse feces throughout the restaurant, cockroaches crawling on a wall and wastewater backing up from three clogged sinks in the kitchen.

Inspectors also found a mop sink filled with dozens of tomatoes and green peppers — cut and whole — and ordered them discarded,

Chicagoans who believe a restaurant or other licensed food establishment is operating in an unsafe manner are encouraged to call 311.

Listeriosis leads to 2 miscarriages in Chicago area

Recalls of food contaminated with listeria are fairly common. Today, it’s sandwiches in Western Canada and frozen dough in Israel.

Also today, a reminder of why information about listeria needs to be rapidly, widely and creatively distributed.

Three pregnant Hispanic women in Chicago and suburban Cook County tested positive for listeriosis after becoming ill in late November and December, according to a release from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

All three women reported eating different types of soft cheese, the release said. One woman delivered her baby, who also tested positive for listeriosis, but the other two suffered miscarriages.

"It is very important that pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems avoid eating foods that are more likely to contain the Listeria bacteria, such as soft cheeses — including Brie, feta and Mexican style soft or semi-soft cheese — unless the product clearly states it is made with pasteurized milk," Dr. Damon state director of public health, said in the release.

Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. About a third of all reported cases in Illinois happen during pregnancy. Infection during pregnancy may result in spontaneous abortion during the second and third trimesters, or stillbirth.

Chicago’s Wiener’s Circle closed after inspection

A Chicago eatery famous for “its rambunctious late-night crowd and foul-mouthed staff,” was closed after an inspection Thursday.

Wiener’s Circle, an iconic hot dog stand on the North Side, was shut down by the city today after inspectors found several food safety violations, including finding no hot running water at the Lincoln Park restaurant. …

The inspection followed an inspection Dec. 12 after a customer called 311, claiming the restaurant had a rodent infestation. There was no evidence found of rodents, the release stated, but management was ticketed for having an overflowing garbage container.