Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant – which is consistently rated as the best in the U.K. – was the source of over 500 illnesses in early 2009. At the time, Blumenthal said, “tests for viral infections and food poisoning have proved negative and there is speculation that the winter outbreak of norovirus could be the real reason why they became sick.”
Way to blame the consumer, those paying hundreds of pounds for the privilege of barfing.
* There was a large outbreak of food poisoning among diners at the Fat Duck Restaurant in January and February 2009, with more than 500 reporting illness - over 15% of those dining there during this period
* The organism responsible was norovirus which was probably introduced via shellfish (more diners who ate shellfish dishes reported illness). Oysters were served raw; razor clams may not have been appropriately handled or cooked; tracing of shellfish to source showed evidence of contamination and there have been reports of illness in other establishments associated with oysters from the same source
* The outbreak continued for at least six weeks (between January 6 and February 22) because of ongoing transmission at the restaurant - which may 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
* Several weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant may have contributed to ongoing transmission including: delayed response to the incident; staff working when they should have been off sick and using the wrong environmental cleaning products
* Delays in notification of illness may have affected the ability of the investigation to identify the exact reason for the norovirus contamination
It’s the chef’s responsibility to source food from safe sources. And if the chef thinks raw shellfish is a smart thing to serve, and to have sick workers working, then, customers get what they pay for.
Canadian actor Les Lye passed away in July at the age of 84, but Don Scaffner just sent me his classic bit, Barth and the Health Inspector featuring Alanis Morissette, from the Ottawa kids TV show, You Can’t Do That On Television.
For those unfamiliar, the premise of every Barth sketch is as follows: Barth is the proprietor of a burger joint, Barth’s Burgers, frequented by the show’s cast presumably by government mandate as Canada, of course, is widely known for its socialized burger program. The burgers are of such vile quality that the kids are compelled to speculate as to the source of the eponymous meat, to which the ill-sanitized restauranteur responds “D’Iyyyyyyye heard that!” then betrays his recipe as being primarily human-based. Then everyone vomits theatrically and with exaggerated gesticulations.
Posted: August 19th, 2009 - 10:32am
by Doug Powell
The most awesome thing I ever did as a parent – according to Amy – is when we were flying back from Florida last year with daughter Courtlynn (right, with Sorenne).
As the plane touched down in Kansas City, Courtlynn had that 13-year-old look of nausea that I recognized far too well.
I knew she was going to spew.
I deftly retrieved the barf bag from the seat pocket in front of me, Courtlynn filled it, and I nonchalantly deboarded the plane, barf bag in one hand, daughter’s hand in the other, and deposited it in the first available garbage receptacle.
Amy was awestruck.
Marlene, otherwise known as Momma, is apparently awestruck by people who edit blogs containing the word barf. She sent me an e-mail a couple of weeks ago flogging her oversized, fully disposable barf bags that come complete with sanitizing wipes for quick clean-up. And in three logos -- one for pregnancy, one for travel, and one with a college-style logo -- puke university.
Thanks for the swag, Momma. The three types of barf bags were at the homestead when we returned on Sunday. Who doesn’t need an appropriately adorned barf bag?
And no I am not talking about Johnny Depp. Time and time again food safety communicators promote the use of digital tip sensitive thermometers to determine doneness of food. But how often is this practice being done in restaurants? If so, is it being done correctly? From my experience, it seems that restaurant operators depend on color far too often and the operators that use thermometers do not use them correctly. This simply boils down to a need of properly train staff. It is imperative that front line food service staff are physically shown how to correctly use thermometers rather than just explaining the concept and theory behind it. Health inspectors, in particular, must take the time during routine inspections to demonstrate the proper usage of thermometers and compel restaurant managers to train their staff accordingly.
There have been too many cases of raw chicken burgers being served to the public and ultimately making people barf. At times, food service staff are stressed and end up getting food orders wrong and are therefore rushed to correct the problem. In doing so, corners are cut resulting in burgers not being cooked long enough. Take the time to properly cook chicken burgers and remember stick it in.
Amy, Sorenne and I are hanging out in Venice, Florida, and I do most of the cooking. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies from the neighborly Publix supermarket, and I even bought a digital, tip-sensitive meat thermometer from Target because I just feel naked cooking without one.
Others aren’t so fortunate, I guess.
A group called HolidayTravelWatch, somewhere in the European Union, has just published its top-20 appalling holiday complaints and problems. Included in this year’s list:
1. Family holiday to Egypt where a child was struck down by severe food poisoning, hospitalization and subsequent scalding in the hotel restaurant.
2. Family holiday to Turkey found that most of their group were ill, they were diagnosed as suffering with Salmonella and Cryptosporidium.
12. One family reported that they had returned from Turkey and their daughter had been diagnosed with Salmonella - they report that many people were ill at the hotel.
15. Holidaymakers to one hotel in Egypt reported sewage smells on the complex, gardens irrigated by stagnant water, food lukewarm, drinks served through a hatch and not via sealed bottles - they suffered severe gastric illness which still continues.
17. One family to Egypt suffered with food undercooked, poor chef hygiene practices (one chef was seen to handle bloody meat then touch other food), flies on the food in the pool bar, sewage smells in bathroom, cracks on the balcony and they are suspected as suffering with Cryptosporidium.
20, One couple’s trip to Egypt was marred by building work, diarrhoea on the public toilet walls, diarrhoea in the restaurant. They both suffered severe illness and weight loss - they are still ill.
It seems everyone in the media is bent on cross-contaminating and undercooking their food this summer. On Monday night’s “Great American Road Trip” (a poor replacement for the Amazing Race), the first challenge was for the men to cook hamburgers on a charcoal grill in 30 minutes for all the families to judge. The challenge took place in Sedan, Kansas at the Red Buffalo Ranch.
First, host Reno Collier made a cooking demonstration. No handwashing stations are present anywhere in sight (see right). After Collier explained how he likes to talk to his meat as he formed a raw patty, he threw it on the grill and wiped his hands on a towel. The condiment station was well stocked, but there were no meat thermometers and no safety instructions. The DiSalvatore dad said he’d never cooked anything in his life. Silvio quickly asked for tips from his wife Amy who said, “Just don’t overcook it.”
Silvio: “How do I know when it’s cooked?”
Amy: “A little bit of pink inside. Good luck.”
The father of the Rico family made the decision to cook his entire 5 lbs of meat and he commented, “I really misjudged how long it would take to cook those things.” Ricardo’s giant burgers were far from being done when it was time to serve. Host Collier yelled out, “Feel free to check these things out before you go sticking them in your mouth.” [Katie, that was for you.] One of the kids commented, “I was more nervous about barfing than about winning the challenge.”
It’s mindboggling how much cross-contamination took place in this highly edited clip (see approximately minutes 11 to 20). I think I threw up a little bit in my mouth while watching. In the end, the Ricos went home, but surprisingly they did not receive the lowest score for their burger.
Raw burger is not safe to eat. Hamburger is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 160F as measured by a tip sensitive meat thermometer. (See Doug’s videos on youtube.) Color is an unsafe indicator of doneness. Wash your hands after touching raw meat and before touching ready to eat products like buns. I personally find it challenging to grill and avoid cross-contamination … so why does everyone keep saying how simple it is to make a burger?
If you want to risk your own stomach or life, that’s your business; but please do not try to kill your neighbors or your children with undercooked meat or cross-contaminated condiments.
Earlier this month it was reported that at least 44 police officers suffered the effects of what appeared to be food poisoning, including severe diarrhoea and vomiting, as a result of packed lunches issued to the officers by … Meal Machine.
It is known a number of officers ate a chicken and stuffing sandwich supplied to them as part of a packed lunch prepared by an outside contractor.
A spokesman for Birmingham City Council’s environmental health department said the decision followed checks into processes and procedures, including “food handling, cross contamination, temperature control and general cleanliness”.
“There is no question that the United States has the safest food supply in the world and other countries consider the U.S. the 'gold standard.' Cattle producers support the establishment of realistic food safety objectives designed to protect public health to the maximum extent possible.
“…The U.S. has the safest food supply in the world, which is an achievement worth noting. Science is a critical component of the beef industry and through science-based improvements in animal genetics, management practices, nutrition and health, beef production per cow has increased from 400 pounds of beef in the mid 1960s to 585 pounds of beef in 2005. … The beef industry will continue to dedicate time and resources to ensure the safety of beef.”
But that doesn’t mean the U.S. has the safest food supply in the world. For a group so dedicated to science, perhaps they could provide some science to substantiate the claim?