1,000 rat feces close Chicago restaurant

Chicago repeat restaurant inspection violator, Bar Louie at 741 W. Randolph, was shut down Thursday and remains closed today after Chicago Department of Public Health inspectors discovered over 1,000 rat feces in a basement storage area.

Additionally, the restaurant was cited for front and rear doors with gaps that allow access to rodents and insects, fruit flies in the kitchen, a poorly maintained outside garbage area (with trash overflowing onto the ground), no sanitizing solution in the automatic dishwashing machine, and no hot water at sinks through the establishment.

CDPH Commissioner Terry Mason, M.D., said,

“We take food safety seriously, and these are the types of unacceptable violations that leave the door wide open for food borne illness. Bar Louie will not be allowed to re-open until it has taken corrective action and passed re-inspection.”

The enforcement action was the 203rd time in 2008 that Health Department inspectors have shut a food establishment for violations of the Chicago Health Code.

Representatives of Bar Louie will have to explain themselves at an administrative hearing on November 6 and pay a fine expected to total $2,000.

Bar Louie has 11 locations in the Chicago area, six in the city itself. Three of the city locations have been shut down this year for health violations. The Hyde Park location was shut down on October 1 by the Mayor’s Dumpster Task Force, and the Taylor Street location was shut down by CDPH on August 28.

Lawsuit alleges man gets 9-foot tapeworm from seafood restaurant

The first salmon Amy cooked for me – she caught me a delicious salmon – was damn near raw. Now, we cook it to about 125 F, checked using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, and it warms up to 130-140 F in the minutes from grill to gullet.

Apparently that didn’t happen for Anthony Franz, who is suing the parent company of Shaw’s Crab House for causing him to become “violently ill” after eating undercooked salmon at the trendy River North restaurant.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the suit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, claims Franz ate periodically at Shaw’s between May and August 2006 as part of a healthier diet.

For several days, Franz became violently ill and eventually passed a nine-foot long tapeworm, the suit said.

A suburban doctor he visited in late August said he got the tapeworm from eating undercooked fish. …

He claims in the two-count suit that the restaurant failed to supervise employees in safe food handling and allowed customers to eat food that was not safe to consume.

Raw and undercooked seafood continues to present risks. The N.Y. Times covered the issue of tapeworms in seafood in a 1981 article.

Stick it in.

Chicago’s Soul Queen shut

The Chicago Department of Health says that one of the oldest and most famous restaurants in the city was shut down after Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) inspectors discovered a rodent infestation and other critical violations of the city health code.

Soul Queen Restaurant, 9031 S. Stony Island, was shut down after inspectors found numerous mouse feces throughout the kitchen, dining room and storage areas.

The restaurant also was cited for storing food at unsafe temperatures, in a faulty walk-in cooler—resulting in inspectors ordering management to discard six dozen eggs and 30 lbs. of raw chicken.

Soul Queen also was cited for a leaky automatic dishwashing machine, raw sewage coming up through a floor drain near its hand washing sink, grease oozing from the grease trap under the three-compartment sink, no certified food manager on duty, an outside garbage dumpster overflowing with trash, and an outside grease box encrusted with grease.

Today’s inspection was triggered by a customer who called 311 to report seeing three live mice in the restaurant. No live mice were observed today.

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

Mice close Chicago Whole Foods

"Dear Valued Customers,

As you already know, the Health Department closed our store after finding that we did not fully comply with a few concerns they had, including evidence of mice."

The Chicago Tribune reports that a Whole Foods on North Avenue, in one of Chicago’s wealthiest neighborhoods, was found with mouse feces in the back room and a dead mouse in a glue trap.

Some expressed themselves on the Tribune’s Web site:

•"This is what happens when grocery stores are run by hippies who don’t believe in pesticide."

•"Why can’t mice have an organic experience too? I am shocked that an attorney has not filed a class suit because Whole Foods did not provide adequate bathroom facilities for the mice."

•"Sadly, if Whole Foods packaged [the droppings] nicely as a topping for toast points and charged $10.99 per ounce, the lemming snobs would probably buy it."

Taste of Chicago: Inspections not enough, get food from safe sources

Deborah Shelton of the Chicago Tribune gave me a call Friday morning before spending the day with a food inspector at the annual Taste of Chicago event, expected to draw some six million people.

Last year, some 800 visitors to the Taste were sickened with Salmonella, traced to hummus served at the Pars Cove Persian Cuisine booth. It may have been the sesame seeds, or tomatoes, in the hummus; it may have been a hand hygiene issue.

"Handwashing, avoiding cross-contamination and monitoring food temperatures are important efforts, but for a lot of foodborne illness, these aren’t enough," said Doug Powell, scientific director of the International Food Safety Network based at Kansas State University. "What people are missing is that many of these outbreaks are caused by foods contaminated at their source."

Last year, I said the Chicago Department of Public Health engaged in “a breathtaking example of doublespeak,” and “what is possibly the biggest piece of PR puffery I’ve ever seen” as the Department insisted:

"The Pars Cove situation represents the first confirmed outbreak of illness associated with the event in at least 20 years. In the larger context of having safely served tens of millions of people in recent years, the Taste remains quite possibly the safest food service operation in the city."

The sick people were probably interested to know they were a statistical anomaly.

But it continues.

Dr. Terry Mason, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said yesterday,

"The Taste of Chicago is the most highly regulated, tightly scrutinized event in the city, perhaps even in the nation."

Mason said food inspections will take place at booths four times a day to ensure the public’s safety.

"One case of illness is one case too many, but the fact remains that no other major outdoor food event in the nation has a better track record of safety than this one.”

Show me the data. Or show the data to the 800 sick people from last year. And, Dr. Mason, you can inspect 20 times a day; until you have a plan to verify that raw ingredients are coming from safe – or at least microbiologically aware — sources, your Taste is a vulnerable to foodborne illnesss as any other eating event.

Sure, asking questions is hard. But public health inspectors are ideally suited to ask those hard questions. Restaurants that want to avoid Bill Marler need to be able to answer those questions.

Would you like sewage with that? Chicago Quiznos shut down

The Chicago Department of Public Health closed the Quiznos sandwich shop at 1809 N. Harlem, after inspectors found sewage backing up from two drains in the food preparation area.

CDPH was alerted to the situation by a motorist who called 311 last night to allege that Quiznos’ staff was disposing of the sewage by shoveling it out their back door and into an alley. No evidence of that activity was found by CDPH inspectors today.

Quiznos will remain closed until its management has corrected the violation and passed re-inspection.

Representatives of the Quiznos franchise will have to explain themselves at an administrative hearing on April 17 and pay a fine expected to total $750.

Chicagoans who believe that a sandwich shop or other food establishment is operating in an unsafe manner are encouraged to dial 311 and report it.

Serving tainted turkey may not improve employee relations

The Chicago Tribune reports that a goodwill gesture by United Airlines backfired Thursday when a Thanksgiving spread that United had bought for thousands of workers at O’Hare International Airport turned out to have dangerous turkey that sickened at least five employees.

Megan McCarthy, a United spokeswoman, was cited as saying the entire meal for one of the day-shift crews was dumped Thursday morning after staff discovered that the "turkey was not edible."

Management gave the airport employees $10 gift certificates for the airports’ food vendors to make up for the loss of the meal.

Taste of Chicago illnesses must be real blow to city inspectors

Reports from the Associated Press today suggest that more than 120 people who ate from the same booth at the Taste of Chicago food festival last week became ill, at least nine of them with salmonella poisoning and 10 who were hospitalized. The number could increase because lab results are pending in some of the cases.
The 126 people are reported to have ate at the Pars Cove Persian Cuisine booth, which served cucumber salad over hummus, grilled lamb and beef, pomegranate barbecued chicken and baklava.
It was the first confirmed outbreak of a food-borne illness associated with the Taste of Chicago in at least 20 years.

A Chicago Department of Health press release yesterday shared some interesting facts about food safety at taste of Chicago, which would make this outbreak a real blow to city inspectors who seem not to make light of food safety. From the press release:

– Taste of Chicago is by far the most intensively regulated food service operation in the city. The event features a 24-hour-a-day food safety presence – teams of CDPH sanitarians inspect and re-inspect the 70-plus food booths from 8:30 a.m. to midnight each day, and staff hired by the Illinois Restaurant Association monitors and logs the temperatures in the refrigerated storage trucks overnight.

– All vendors are required to undergo training to prepare, serve and store food safely under outdoor conditions.

– Scrutiny is intense. A food booth is typically inspected at least four times each day, while a typical city restaurant is inspected twice a year.

– While most vendors do an exceptionally good job of ensuring food safety, the intense scrutiny typically results in CDPH ordering the disposal of food that does not meet its exacting standards. Each year, about 2,000 pounds of food (an average of 200 pounds a day) at the event are disposed of by order of CDPH inspectors.