Training fail: Cheating the health card system in Vegas

When you go out to eat, what stands between you and food poisoning?

large_spaceyTonight, in a special Dirty Dining report, Contact 13 uncovers a loophole in the food safety system.

As Chief Investigator Darcy Spears learned, some of the people preparing your food may not be prepared to keep you safe.

“It was a wake-up call, especially for the employees,” said Mark Green when his restaurant, Kahunaville at TI, was on Dirty Dining in October.

“He was hired very new and so… he didn’t know,” said Vanessa Nguyen of Pho Bosa in another October Dirty Dining report.

And in September, Min Yoon of Kaizen Fusion Roll and Sushi said, “It’s incompetence.  I understand that.”

Week after week, that’s what we hear from restaurant owners and managers whose eateries are downgraded or closed for failing to protect public health.

But whether they’re featured on Dirty Dining or not, our investigation found local restaurants may be vulnerable to a loophole in the system.

Darcy Spears: Is this a system that’s ripe for fraud?
County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani/Board of Health: It is a system that probably could be used fraudulently.

Contact 13 discovered it has.

The Health District certifies first-time restaurant workers in the form of a food handler safety training card.

“So that when they get to the workplace, they are ready and set to work,” explained SNHD Environmental Health Director Jackie Reszetar.

But at Wo Hing during the restaurant’s first inspection this month, they were nearly shut down due to unsafe food handling.

Darcy Spears: Did they have training from the Health District?  They have their food card, right?


Sam Lee/Wo Hing: Yeah, yeah.

Jonh Dang of Vietnamese bistro Nem Nuong says the training is flawed.

Jonh Dang: I fired a lot of people.


rainman.counting.cardsDarcy Spears: You had to fire like 20 people for defrauding the food card program?


Jonh: Yeah, they supposed to know what they doing.  You know?

The problem with the system is that there are no checks and balances. 

There’s nothing to prevent one person from stepping in and answering the test questions for another.

To get the card, you just need a test completion certificate, identification and $40.

Darcy Spears: What does that suggest to you?


Jackie Reszetar: That suggests that we have to have a better check system.

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani sits on the Board of Health, which oversees the Health District.

Darcy Spears: What safeguards are there in place right now to make sure that the person who goes on the computer is the person who goes to pick up the card and takes the picture?


Chris Giunchigliani: To my knowledge, I don’t know that they have that safeguard because they can do it from home, they can do it from a library.

The Health District issues more than 100-thousand food handler cards each year.

So how many instances of cheating have they documented?

“We don’t want the numbers out there,” Chua said.  “We don’t want anything out there because one person, one instance is too much.”

Food Safety Talk 69: Laura Nelson and Jay Neal

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.photo-Training-Day-2001-1

The guys start episode 69 by discussing old movies that Ben has never seen, like Play Misty for Me and the Good  the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Talk turned to chimps, Bonzo and Bubbles (not this Bubbles). They then talked about some more recent TV shows like Californication, The Americans, Dr. Who, Intruders, Comic Book men. And yes, the food safety experts are excited about New Girl season 3 on Netflix. The topic shifted to edible marijuana issues in Colorado related to Salmonella contamination and then Don reviewed a book that he recently read, “The minotaur takes a cigarette break” to which he awarded 5 thermometers.

Don and Ben were then joined by special guests Laura Nelson and Dr. Jay Neal. Laura Nelson is Vice President of Business Development and Technical Services at Alchemy Systems, a food industry training solution provider and Jay Nelson is an Associate Professor at the University of Houston. The group had a discussion started on behavior-based food safety training including a survey that Alchemy commissioned, Global Food Training Survey Reveals New Emphasis on Worker Behavior. Laura also talked about an internal report looking at training staff  on food safety behaviors including an observation/coaching follow-up. The group talked about some of the common issues that the food industry encounters – staff may have been trained but the actual practices aren’t always happening. Laura spoke about how to get at the reasons behind why practices don’t occur – and that food safety culture is tough for some industry folks to define.

Jay talked about a training technique that includes breaking down specific processes into small pieces and how the literature is pointing to encouraging feedback and coaching along with positive reinforcement. Jay’s experiences are that managers are really important to culture and where their priorities are (sales, customer experience, food safety) will affect team performance. All four of them discussed ways to improve workers skills; Don pointed out that measuring behavior is very hard, and the group discussed some work that Jay had published in this area. Jay shared an amusing classroom social experiment where he teaches his students to empathize with non-english speakers. He assigned the students a recipe in a undecipherable font and only the manager has a clear recipe. They must try to cook together but they are not allowed to talk.

In After Dark, Ben introduced Don to the Sponge Bath, a weird way to keep kitchen sponges sanitized. Ben and Don promised to talk more on the topic in future podcasts.

Sports training or food safety?

To coach little kids in (ice) hockey in Brisbane requires 16 hours training, which I have completed. To be a sports medic requires eight hours, with an annual five-hour update, which I did on Saturday.

To provide food that could kill requires no training.

Thanks to my family and friend Kyle for getting me out there for the training.

doug.cpr.sep.14

Rob Mancini: Food safety training is more than just another brick in the wall

Classroom-based food safety lectures remind me of the Pink Floyd video Another Brick in the Wall, where trainers gather the masses to pump out certified food handlers. It’s all about the money; it’s a business. The expectation in providing these courses is ultimately to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. However, there is little evidence in the literature that the provision of knowledge actually changes food safety attitudes and behaviors. An effective food training course should not only provide food safety information, it should implement knowledge into practice for proper information retention, which is one of the points (point 5) I agree with in the article listed below.

pink.floyd.another.brickI have been out of school for a couple of years and heavily in debt but that is another story, and when I am attending a course with an exam component, I get flustered. Imagine someone who has been out of school for 20-30 years? Classroom-based courses present an overload of information in typically a one-day session. The participants are then obliged to memorize information presented and take an exam. The only thing these participants are concerned with is passing the exam so they don’t get fired from work. Effective food safety training is difficult and different people learn in different ways.

Participants should be informed on where to find the presented information, rather than memorize it. Memorizing doesn’t work and it definitely does not change behaviors; why not have an open-book exam? Ask the participants what they want and what would best suit their needs. I have done this.  The answer is always the same, reduce the number of hours and make the course hands-on focusing on the critical issues in food safety, i.e how to use a probe thermometer properly.

A group of corporate trainers and educators captured some of their thoughts and ideas on effective food safety training and identified 10 key training messages:

  1. “Do your homework” – Research the company and products that they produce and serve. Identify what food safety experiences the participants have so that you can deliver the most effective information and relate to what they do every day in their jobs.
  2. “Start off right” – Get people engaged and involve them in an activity as you begin your educational program. Have people introduce themselves and make them feel comfortable  speaking to the group.
  3. “Start low, and bring it up” – You are likely to have a very diverse group of participants with different educational levels and different sets of experiences. Be sure to introduce concepts at the “USA Today level” and then develop more comprehensive examples later to further describe the more complex concepts. You need to build a foundation of knowledge that everyone is comfortable in learning.
  4. “Get them involved” – Assemble participants into multi-disciplinary teams and involve them in real-world problem solving activities. Participants will learn much better when they use the skills and knowledge they have just learned.
  5. pink.floyd.another.brick.II“Make it real” – You need to relate the learning concepts to what they do in their jobs. Take a tour of the kitchen, study the flow of food, have them clean equipment or assemble a 3-compartment sink, have them show each other how they can calibrate a temperature measuring device, etc.
  6. “Open it up” – Questions are key to learning – encourage questions! Be sure to have an open training environment that allows time for people to ask questions. I often have a “question box” at the back of the training room for those participants who are apprehensive or afraid to ask questions.
  7. “Involve stakeholders” – John Marcello made a great point at the Food Safety Summit about the importance of bringing industry and regulatory together. Consider this an important relationship, and, think about how these important stakeholder groups can be brought together for food safety training.
  8. “Review it” – Be sure to have clear objectives for each learning lesson, and review these concepts at the end of the session. This will help them retain the most important information.
  9. “Make it fun – Celebrate” – Fun starts with a positive attitude of the trainer. Make the training session fun… and the participants will have fun also… and they will want to learn.
  10. “Evaluate and change” – A good trainer always makes time to ask the group how he/she did and how he/she can be better next time. Do an evaluation and respond to the comments from participants. Make suggested changes and be better the next time.

Rob Mancini: Restaurant inspections a snap shot in time

Public health inspections are carried out to determine compliance with regulations. They also serve as a means of informing operators on proper food safety practices. However, health inspections are snap shots in time and are typically performed once to three times a year, primarily due to a lack of resources.

Rob_Mancini_001-300x150The importance lies in what happens when the inspector is not present. Is there a food safety culture within the establishment or is the operator just out to make a buck? Everyone is different and everyone responds differently to certain stimuli. The folks who keep insisting that they haven’t caused a foodborne illness in over 30 years may require a stringent approach. Others may respond differently. Does the operator have food safety training and if so, what kind? I am an advocate of a hands-on approach to food safety training by actually demonstrating food safety practices with operators in their restaurant. In this regard, operators can focus on what they need to do to ensure food safety in their own environment.  Does a restaurant operator really need to know what temperatures inactivate parasites in fish if the only things they serve are burgers?

Phil’s Pantry in Pontypool was fined after a health inspection for hygiene breach. According to the South Wales Argus:

A Pontypool delicatessen was fined after cooked foods were stored below raw meat.

A hygiene inspection in Phil’s Pantry in Pontypool Indoor Market also found there were no towels to dry hands.

The inspection also discovered cooked foods in a fridge stored next to and below raw meat.

Food safety records suggested food safety checks had been carried out on foods which had not been delivered and towels for hand drying were available when they were not.

The owner, Philip Jolliffe, pleaded guilty, and was fined £225 with £200 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

Rob Mancini, a MS graduate of Kansas State University, is  a health inspector with the Manitoba Department of Health.

New Zealand council alarm at food stall risk

Food stalls at the Chinese Lantern Festival, Pasifika, Diwali and other major events will be nearly unregulated for food safety under a major law reform, says Auckland Council, which is concerned about the potential for large-scale food poisoning.

Council officials say legislation before Parliament which introduces new food safety regulations would exempt small vendors serving tens of sorenne.hockey.feb.14thousands of meals at large events.

They made the comments as submissions resumed on the long-awaited Food Bill, which was first introduced to Parliament in 2010.

The bill stalled amid speculation that it would put an end to sausage sizzles and cake stalls, introduce crippling costs for small horticultural producers, and give multinational corporations more control over New Zealand’s food sources.

The Government amended the bill in 2012 to address some of these problems and ensure that small-scale sellers such as farmers’ markets and fundraising stalls would not be captured by the law change.

Auckland Council said it supported most of the changes, but it was worried small vendors would be exempted from controls on food safety at large events such as the Chinese Lantern Festival, attended by more than 100,000 people.

Environmental health team leader Alan Ahmu told a select committee yesterday that officials were not concerned about school fairs or fund-raisers.

Wait, what? Little kids are one of the more vulnerable populations for foodborne illness.

I spent 16 hours this weekend becoming a level 1 coach for ice hockey in Australia, building on the 32 or so hours in Canada, at least 5 years behind the bench, and decades of experience, all because parents expect the best for their kids.

So why wouldn’t they expect the best for their kids at school?

Instead of moaning about why certain groups or people should be exempt from food safety rules, make it mandatory, and figure out the best way to folklorama.infosheet.10provide information to people (hint – it won’t be found in government).

If a minimal level of competency is required to coach hockey, a minimal level of competency should be required to make food for other people.

Investigating the potential benefits of on-site food safety training for Folklorama, a temporary food service event

Mancini, Roberto1; Murray, Leigh2; Chapman, Benjamin J.3; Powell, Douglas A.4

Source: Journal of Food Protection®, Volume 75, Number 10, October 2012 , pp. 1829-1834(6)

Abstract:

Folklorama in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is a 14-day temporary food service event that explores the many different cultural realms of food, food preparation, and entertainment. In 2010, the Russian pavilion at Folklorama was implicated in a foodborne outbreak of Escherichia coli O157 that caused 37 illnesses and 18 hospitalizations. The ethnic nature and diversity of foods prepared within each pavilion presents a unique problem for food inspectors, as each culture prepares food in their own very unique way. The Manitoba Department of Health and Folklorama Board of Directors realized a need to implement a food safety information delivery program that would be more effective than a 2-h food safety course delivered via PowerPoint slides. The food operators and event coordinators of five randomly chosen pavilions selling potentially hazardous food were trained on-site, in their work environment, focusing on critical control points specific to their menu. A control group (five pavilions) did not receive on-site food safety training and were assessed concurrently. Public health inspections for all 10 pavilions were performed by Certified Public Health Inspectors employed with Manitoba Health. Critical infractions were assessed by means of standardized food protection inspection reports. The results suggest no statistically significant difference in food inspection scores between the trained and control groups. However, it was found that inspection report results increased for both the control and trained groups from the first inspection to the second, implying that public health inspections are necessary in correcting unsafe food safety practices. The results further show that in this case, the 2-h food safety course delivered via slides was sufficient to pass public health inspections. Further evaluations of alternative food safety training approaches are warranted.

Restaurant food safety in US

There’s a lot of talking in the four papers about restaurant food safety sponsored by the U.S Centers for Disease Control in the latest issue of the Journal of Food Protection, but not a lot of solutions.

Doug Powell 007 Policies need to be developed and workers trained.

Uh-huh.

We’ve developed on-farm food safety programs for fresh produce when it wasn’t fashionable; we’ve examined whether worker training strategies work; we’ve developed training tools like food safety infosheets, we’ve watched a lot of video.

These findings indicate that restaurant chicken preparation and cooking practices and manager food safety knowledge need improvement. “

Some useful research would be, how best to improve restaurant practices?

Prevention and training are boring – and essential

I learned how to use an epi pen.

braun.sorenne.skate_.sept_.13-225x300And that all of my CPR training was about 30 years out of date.

As part of my subtle but ultimate quest to get more girls playing hockey (that’s ice hockey, not running or in-line hockey, they’re different) I participated in an 8-hour sports medic course on Saturday (far more training than most cities require staff to serve food that can kill).

When the instructor, who’s the medic for girls rugby league teams, got to the part about, if you’re there and have the knowledge, you have the responsibility to help, I glanced again at the leftover deli-based sandwiches that had been provided for lunch and noted they’d been out at least an hour after we had eaten.

I saw a refrigerator, so just got up and went to move the leftovers – that many were planning to take home.

But that fridge wasn’t cold.

I spoke up and said, if anyone wants to take those sandwiches home to their families, they need to be refrigerated; is there a refrigerator that works?

I briefly explained why, and how I had knowledge, so had a responsibility to act.

One of the hockey club dudes took the sandwiches and placed them in a working braunwynn.hockeyrefrigerator.

But the class of 10 was whispering, what an a-hole.

That’s the boringness of how tragedies are avoided.

Mancini speaks: new effort in food safety training

In 2010, the Russian pavilion at Folklorama in Winnipeg (or, as the Guess Who were always introduced, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), was implicated in a foodborne outbreak of Escherichia coli O157 that caused 37 illnesses and 18 hospitalizations.

The ethnic nature and diversity of foods prepared within each pavilion presents a unique problem for food inspectors, as each culture prepares Rob_Mancini_001food in their own unique way.

The Manitoba Department of Health and Folklorama Board of Directors realized a need to implement a food safety information delivery program that would be more effective than a 2-h food safety course delivered via PowerPoint slides. The food operators and event coordinators of five randomly chosen pavilions selling potentially hazardous food were trained on-site, in their work environment, focusing on critical control points specific to their menu. A control group (five pavilions) did not receive on-site food safety training and were assessed concurrently. Public health inspections for all 10 pavilions were performed by Certified Public Health Inspectors employed with Manitoba Health. Critical infractions were assessed by means of standardized food protection inspection reports.

Rob Mancini, a MS graduate of Kansas State University, a health inspector with the Manitoba Department of Health, and someone who seems perpetually young with cinematic good looks (bit of a man-crush) led a study of how to improve food safety at Folklorama and the results were published in the Oct. 2012 issue of the Journal of Food Protection.

He’s at it again, and will be reporting on follow-up research he subsequently conducted with almost no help from me and Chapman at the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspector Conference in Winnipeg, on June 24th, 2013.

Mancini speaks: hands on food safety training

The importance of training food handlers is acknowledged as critical to effective food hygiene.  However, the effectiveness of traditional food safety training remains uncertain. Traditionally food safety training courses are delivered via class-room based settings or computer-based programs with little to no hands-on application. The literature suggests that adults learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process.  Retention by participants is directly affected by the amount of practice during the learning; yet traditional food safety training is not delivered in this fashion.

I will be presenting at the National Environmental Health Association Educational Conference in Washington, DC July 9-11, 2013. I will be discussing my previous work on hands-on food safety training, a collaborated effort with Drs. Doug Powell, Ben Chapman, and Leigh Murray, as well as a new food safety training delivery program developed for multicultural temporary food service events.