Posted: December 4th, 2010 - 3:42pm
by Doug Powell
My friend Roy, who knows a lot more about food safety than I do, lamented on a mailing list for food safety nerds today that food safety doesn’t resonate in Washington, D.C., and doesn’t resonate in the public health community, falling somewhere in importance between “cross-gendered health, and sleep disorders.”
He’s right. Food safety stuff is completely overwhelmed by food porn – like this puff piece in today’s N.Y. Times, which gushes,
“Heston Blumenthal is one of the most forward-thinking chefs in the world.”
“For Christmas at home, Blumenthal — no stranger to creating a life-size gingerbread house with praline rose marshmallow bricks and white chocolate mortar — usually cooks goose or a Bresse capon. But for the last two years the family has gone skiing in Courmayeur, Italy. ‘There’s a restaurant near the top of the mountain, where we’ll have a Tuscan roast stuffed turkey dish, spaghetti with white truffle and a bottle of Guado al Tasso — and ski in the afternoon. Just fantastic.’”
That’s nice, but Heston will always be noro-boy to me.
Food Administration recommends caterers and institutions which prepare food for children, elderly and sick, to heat treat all kinds of frozen berries. The recommendation applies only to frozen berries and not the fresh berries.
Taranaki's Medical Officer of Health Dr Greg Simmons, said,
"The issue with norovirus is that the infectious dose, in other words, the amount of viral particles you need to consume in order to develop an illness is quite low, so there is a potential risk there. That risk to me would be unacceptable, and I wouldn't expect other people to expose themselves to that risk."
The virus was found during testing for a resource consent application by New Plymouth District Council, which wants to continue piping Waitara's partially-treated sewerage into the sea.
One sample had moderate levels of human strains of norovirus - four others had low levels.
Dr Simmons ordered the council to erect signs on Waitara's beach advising of the hazard.
Australian chef Neil Perry has enticed close friends Heston Blumenthal, the British star of TV cooking show Heston's Feast, and American Thomas Keller, the creator of The French Laundry restaurant in California, to create a six-course degustation dinner on March 26 next year.
A seat at the table will set each couple back at least $7000 - which includes a three-night stay at the five-star resort near Napier.
Posted: November 4th, 2010 - 5:06am
by Doug Powell
Dozens of tri-delts who became sick after a meal at their University of Michigan sorority house were stricken with norovirus.
The Detroit Free Press reports lab results released Wed. by the Washtenaw County Public Health Department confirmed norovirus. Spokeswoman Susan Cerniglia, said the outbreak was “most likely,” the result of food poisoning, but the virus also may have been transmitted through personal contact or shared surfaces at the Delta Delta Delta house near the university.
There are three separate clusters of norovirus associated with raw oysters making people barf in the Vancouver area (that’s in Canada) but, as usual, no details were provided by health types on actual numbers of people sick.
CBC News reports the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has confirmed that an outbreak of illness related to eating uncooked Pacific Coast oysters is being caused by a norovirus.
The affected oysters have been traced to a section of Effingham Inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The oysters were harvested between Sept. 7 and Sept. 21.
Posted: September 12th, 2010 - 7:02am
by Doug Powell
Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s latest attempt at PR salvation in this morning’s Daily Mail is another crass and superficial effort to blame others for the March 2009 norovirus outbreak that sickened 529 at The Fat Duck restaurant. Heston has a memory of convenience in yet another quest for salvation and, sympathy while pushing a new fancy restaurant and cookbook. Here’s a reminder.
“I thought my world was caving in.”
So did the 529 people barfing and confirmed as having norovirus from your Fat Duck.
“I’m just a chef who likes asking lots of questions.”
Not enough questions – like where those oysters came from, and if I’m going to use them in dishes such as jelly oyster with passion fruit and lavender, should they be cooked so people don’t barf?
“Blumenthal is still seething about the report into the incident published 12 months ago by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), which he believes maligns his £150-a-head establishment and his business methods. ‘The report insinuated things that I found very frustrating. For example, that staff were back at work while they were physically ill. Our staff training manual very clearly lays out a 48-hour return-to-work policy – you don’t come back until 48 hours after you feel better.’”
At the time of the outbreak, Blumethal reported conducting his own testing of staff and customers, and stated “so far it is categorically not food poisoning." Wrong.
The HPA report did state ongoing transmission at the restaurant—leading to illnesses from January 6 to February 22—was thought to have occurred through continuous contamination of foods prepared in the restaurant or by person-to-person spread between staff and diners or a mixture of both. Investigators identified several weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant may have contributed to ongoing transmission including: delayed response to the incident, the use of inappropriate environmental cleaning products, and staff working when ill. Up to 16 of the restaurant’s food handlers were reportedly working with norovirus symptoms before it was voluntarily closed.
“I took the decision to close the restaurant within 24 hours, as a precautionary measure. It was a financial blow but I couldn’t consider money at the time. … I felt desperately sorry for all the people who suffered. My instincts were to contact everyone personally and apologise but I was advised against this by my lawyers, insurers and official bodies conducting investigations. It was extremely frustrating, but my hands were tied.”
Blumenthal is arguing he took a financial blow, but wouldn’t risk a financial blow and say I’m sorry, which was the decent human thing to do instead of hiding behind barristers and bureaucrats.
When Blumenthal did finally issue an apology on September 25, 2009—seven months after the outbreak was discovered and more than two weeks after the Health Protection Agency report was released—it suggested that he viewed an empathetic apology as an admission of guilt.
"I am relieved to be able to finally offer my fullest apologies to all those who were affected by the outbreak at the Fat Duck,” said Blumenthal, “It was extremely frustrating to not be allowed to personally apologise (sic) to my guests until now. It was devastating to me and my whole team, as it was to many of our guests and I wish to invite them all to return to the Fat Duck at their convenience [for a free meal]." The apology was too late and again failed to accept responsibility for the aspects of the outbreak that were under the chef’s control—namely, acquiring seafood from unsafe sources and allowing sick employees to handle food.
“He has basically attempted to re-write the HPA report and its conclusions in his favour. It is pathetic and a complete PR disaster. There isn’t even a hint of apology. “ At first I was extremely sympathetic to Heston Blumenthal, but the way this has been mishandled beggars belief. I could not believe what I was reading in this email – it was like we had been sent different reports. I am taking them to court and a lot of other people are too. A simple apology might have ended all this a long time ago.”
Another diner blogged, “I’m appalled because I was so entranced by Heston Blumenthal and he comes across as being very decent and clever. We had been so ill and, at the very least, we expected some kind of acknowledgment. We really thought they would be interested in what had happened to us.”
Boxing promoter Frank Warren commented, "Everything was fabulous about the evening - the food, the setting, the service, it was unbelievably good but unfortunately, afterwards, all of us were ill. … Since then we have not heard anything from the restaurant at all. I am very disappointed and I know that the people I went with are very disappointed with the feedback"
Blumenthal is now gearing up for the opening of a lavish new restaurant, Dinner, at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel in December. He is also working on a new, simpler cookbook, Heston At Home, which will be out in a year’s time.
Heston, you need to get a lot better at this PR thing if you expect either to sell.
My “mind went to dark places.”
We’ve all been to dark places; grow a pair and admit what went wrong rather than incessantly whining while promoting. Then maybe you’ll get some sympathy.
Posted: September 9th, 2010 - 6:09am
by Doug Powell
Norovirus denier Heston Blumenthal was praised by the Sydney Morning Herald for his television show, Heston's Feasts, and his scientific approach to food prep, including exploding duck and edible eyeball.
“… believe it or not, watching half a dozen B-grade British celebrities get slowly shickered as plate upon plate of outlandish meals is piled before them and they try to describe the experience in their own words is classic, thesaurus-less, comedy gold. When they're gobsmacked, they admit it. ‘I'm gobsmacked.’'' Similarly, if they're amazed, they'll get straight to the point. '’That's amazing!’ an amazed TV presenter screeches, before adding: ‘I'm totally amazed!’
BBC News reports that the Fat Duck restaurant, owned by chef Heston Blumenthal, has been named the U.K.'s best restaurant for the third year in a row by the Good Food Guide and described as producing "world-beating dishes for the bedazzled throngs."
Chicago Breaking News reports that at least four people were hospitalized and 53 others reported illnesses after attending wedding parties this month at a banquet hall in south suburban Mokena, Illinois, leading Will County health officials to try to determine the cause.
The Health Department is looking for others who may have gotten sick after attending weddings at Di Nolfo's Banquet Inn and Catering on July 16 and 17.
Health officials believe the source of the illness is norovirus. Health officials collected and tested food from Di Nolfo's, 9425 W. 191st Street, but did not find any significant violations. None of Di Nolfo's employees have reported illnesses, officials said.