for the month of March, 2014

4,000 fine for UK takeaway

3rd of March 2014

Oldham Council has successfully prosecuted an Oldham takeaway following a food hygiene inspection – where a live rat was discovered behind a freezer.

Poor standards were found at Sweet Palace during the routine inspection by the council’s Environmental Health Team on August', 2013.

A dead oriental cockroach was squashed in the middle of the floor in the food preparation room. Mouse droppings were identified at the premises on Waterloo Street, in Glodwick, and there was no hand wash basin or antibacterial surface cleaner. Staff were also not wearing protective clothing and no food safety management system was in place.

The food outlet was closed immediately following the inspection and it was allowed to re-open the following day, after pest proofing and a deep clean.

Inspections have been carried out since and conditions have dramatically improved.

The owner, Nadeem Hussain, was successfully prosecuted by the local authority under the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on Monday, February 24.

Mr Hussain, aged 41, pleaded guilty to eight food safety offences at Oldham Magistrates Court on Tuesday, January--.

Magistrates then referred the case to Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court where Mr Hussain was sentenced and ordered to pay a £4,000 fine, and £1,650 towards the council’s costs.

He was also told to pay a minimum of £100 a week to pay off the fine or he could face prison.


Human tooth found in Chinese takeaway in Ireland

3rd of March 2014

A dirty fingernail in baby food and a human tooth in a Chinese takeaway are just some of the foreign objects found in food purchased by Irish consumers last year.

According to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), the contamination of food with foreign objects was ‘frequently reported by consumers'. These objects included metal fragments, glass fragments and plastic.

However, some of the more unusual items, aside from the fingernail and human tooth, were meat inside a chocolate yoghurt, a chicken's head inside a pack of frozen chicken's wings and live insects in a packet of dates.

The FSAI pointed out that the number of food-related complaints made to its food safety advice line jumped by more than 12% last year compared to the year before.

It noted that the line dealt with over--,000 queries in 2013, but almost 3,000 of these were complaints by consumers about food or food premises - a 12.5% increase on the number of complaints handled in 2012.

Of these complaints, almost 1,200 related to unfit food, 566 related to suspect food poisoning and 587 related to hygiene standards.

All complaints received were investigated by environmental health officers.

Meanwhile other calls to the advice line included requests for information on food labeling, food legislation and training staff.

The FSAI also noted that just 33 calls in 2013 related to the horsemeat scandal, however an alert issued about a hepatitis A outbreak associated with imported frozen berries, received...7 queries.

"It is the responsibility of food businesses across the country to ensure that they provide food which does not compromise the health of anyone who eats it," commented Edel Smyth of the FSAI.



UK takeaway "festooned" in mouse droppings shut down

3rd of March 2014

The Chicken Spot restaurant in Battersea has been shut down by food safety inspectors because of a serious rodent infestation.

The council’s consumer protection spokesman said: "What the inspectors were confronted with at this takeaway was simply unacceptable.

"Its kitchen, food storage areas and food preparation areas were filthy and festooned in mouse droppings. It is difficult to think of anywhere that would have been more unsuitable to be preparing and cooking food.

"Anyone who owns or runs a food business in Wandsworth should be under no illusions about the sanctions they will face if they do not observe the very highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene.

"In this case, the owner’s sloppy and unacceptable practices have cost it a good deal of lost revenue and also caused significant damage to its reputation. Other food businesses should take careful note of these consequences." 



Slow cookers require food-safety precautions

7th of March 2014

Slow cookers are a great way to prepare delicious hot meals ahead of time. They cook foods slowly at a low temperature so vitamins and minerals are retained, less expensive cuts of meat are tenderized and meats shrink less. A slow cooker also saves electricity and keeps the house cooler than using the stovetop or oven during warm weather.

To ensure your slow-cooker meal is not only tasty but also safe, follow these tips from the United Department of Agriculture

- Start with a clean cooker, clean utensils and a clean work area. Wash your hands before and during food preparation.

- Keep perishable foods refrigerated until you are ready to use them. The slow cooker may take several hours to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature. Constant refrigeration assures that bacteria won't get a head start during the first few hours of cooking.

- Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker.

- Fill the cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full. Put vegetables in first, add meat, and put the desired liquid in last.

- If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour and then set it to low or the setting called for in your recipe. It is safe to cook foods on low the entire time.

- Keep the lid in place as much as possible while cooking to keep the heat and steam trapped in the cooker. If you remove the lid to check on the food, figure to add on an additional 30 minutes of cooking time.

- Handle leftovers with food safety in mind by placing them in shallow, covered containers and refrigerating within two hours after cooking. The USDA does not recommend reheating leftovers in a slow cooker. Cooked food should be reheated on the stovetop, or in a microwave or conventional oven until it reaches a temperature of 165 F. The heated food can then be placed in a preheated slow cooker to keep it hot for serving.


FSA hunts firms buying illegal meat

7th of March 2014

Food Standards Agency investigators and the police are searching for businesses supplied by a suspected illegal slaughterhouse in Northern Ireland.

The slaughterhouse, which is suspected of operating in the Newry and Mourne boarder area of Northern Ireland, was raided by police offciers and local EHOs on Monday. It is thought to have been used to slaughter and butcher meat.

Maria Jennings, director of the FSA in Northern Ireland, said the FSA was working with the PSNI, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Newry and Mourne district council to establish where the meat, which was being produced without official hygiene checks, had gone.

‘We are currently investigating which businesses have been supplied with meat from the plant and we will provide further information once we have it,’ she said.

Police in Newry and Mourne said they searched two properties in Forkhill and one in the Bessbrook area.

‘A suspected illegal animal slaughter and meat cutting operation was discovered. A number of items have been seized for examination,’ it said in a statement.

Professor Chris Elliott, who was commissioned by environment secretary Owen Paterson in June to assess the scale of food crime, told EHN that it was likely that a sophisticated criminal gang was behind the slaughterhouse.

‘It is probable a complex network has been put in place, a, to steal the animals, b, to process the animals and c, to find markets for it,’ he said.

Prof Elliott, who is based in Northern Ireland, added that cattle rustling was increasing.

‘A very large number of animals have been stolen in Northern Ireland – 9,000 cattle have disappeared in the calendar year. The question is what was happening to those animals? Were they being smuggled south of the boarder or were some illegal facilities being set up to slaughter them? I think what’s happened has answered the question,’ he said.

He said that he would be interested to know how long the slaughterhouse had been in operation for and where the meat had gone.

‘It might well leave Northern Ireland. It may well go into the catering trade. I think the chances of it going into the retail sector are very low,’ he said.

He said he would be challenging the FSA when he next met them.

‘Beef production is a huge industry in Northern Ireland. It generates over a billion pounds a year in revenue and the vast majority of farmers are in a farm quality assurance scheme. So who would be silly enough to buy meat from an illegal slaughterhouse? You wonder where does it end up? These are questions I will be posing to the FSA when I see them next,’ he said.

But he said this type of crime was widespread.

‘This is pretty typical for what goes on across Europe. There was illegal meat processing going on in Bradford a few months ago and Bristol before that. These things always go on. The most important thing is that the enforcement agencies get to learn about them and close them down quickly as possible,’ he said.


Smelly, sticky or slimy? Food safety rules you shouldn't ignore

7th of March 2014

When it comes to figuring out whether the food in your cupboards and fridge are spoiled, it’s best to trust your gut.

Your eyes, nose and fingers can tell you if food has spoiled, according to Alton Brown, host of the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.” 

“We all have the senses to know when food has gone bad,” Brown said. “Smell it. If it smells bad, odds are you shouldn’t eat it. Touch it. If it’s slimy or sticky, don’t eat it. If you look at a piece of meat and it’s got splotches of green on it, you shouldn’t eat it.”

Each year one in six Americans gets sick from eating contaminated food. The best way to avoid becoming one of those stats is to take care in how you store and handle your food — and trust your senses.

Foods will last longest in a refrigerator kept below 40 degrees F. But many refrigerators aren't as cold as they need to be, even at the lowest setting. Invest in a thermometer so you know it really is cold enough.

How you pack your foods in the fridge makes a difference, too.

“Stack it so you’re keeping the foods that could be dangerous away from everything else,” Brown said.

  • Place meats in the bottom compartments. Meats produce a lot of fluid and you don’t want those juices to drip onto cooked foods or veggies and fruits contaminating them. Beyond that, in most refrigerators, the lowest temperatures are in the bottom shelves.
  • Store fish on ice, even if it’s in the refrigerator. That’s because fish goes bad faster than any other meat. 
  • Eggs be stored in the meat compartments rather than on the shelves in the door.

The biggest danger in your refrigerator is from contamination. “This may sound odd, but contaminated food will make you sick, but spoiled foods won’t necessarily make you sick,” Brown said.

When it comes to fruits and veggies, it’s OK to store them in the plastic bags you packed them up in at the store. 

To keep them freshest, Brown suggests packing a paper towel in the bag before putting it into to the fridge. The towel will absorb any moisture from produce respiration.

When it comes to thawing meats, whenever possible it should be done in the refrigerator, Brown said. And put them in a plastic container so they don’t drip all over everything eIse.

If you need a quick thaw then put the meat in a plastic bag in the sink and run a thin stream of cold water over it.

Another important tip: Always wipe down food preparation surfaces. Brown suggests using a solution of ¼ teaspoon of bleach in a cup of water.

And when you’re prepping fruits and veggies always rinse with cold water. If the surface is bumpy, then use a brush to get them clean, Brown said.


Wing's buffet restaurant in Hull gets zero rating for food hygiene as owner pledges new training for staff

15th of March 2014

A POPULAR Hull restaurant which opened two months ago has been given the lowest food hygiene rating by environmental health officers.

Wing's International Cuisine in Ferensway, city centre, has been given a zero out of five rating by Hull City Council, meaning urgent improvements are required.

Inspection reports are not available to the public, however scores are based on structure, restaurant practices and confidence in management.

Owner James Wing says he is addressing the restaurant's low rating.

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He said: "We only opened in January and the restaurant has been more popular than we ever imagined.

"There are always going to be a few problems when opening a restaurant but these are now being sorted."

Mr Wing has hired a health and safety officer to give training in Chinese and English to staff at the restaurant.

He also revealed to the Mail he intends to spend £150,000 on a new kitchen to deal with customer demand.

He said: "We are catering for more than 1,000 people a day. This is more than we ever imagined.

"Health and safety is very important to us.

"Our cooked and raw meat is prepared in separate rooms and we are working closely with Environmental Health to make improvements."

The inspection of Wing's took place on February 7. However, the results were published this month.

Paul Turner, principal environment health officer for Hull City Council, said: "Since the inspection, the business has worked closely with Environmental Health officers, and has subsequently made a number of changes to the kitchen facilities.

"We await an application for a reinspection and rescore of this restaurant."

Mr Wing previously dismissed claims made on social media sites that maggots had been found in the restaurant's food as an attempt to sabotage his business.

The restaurant was forced to close for a couple of days at the start of February due to a gas leak, which took longer than expected to fix.

Rumours then started circulating on Facebook that Environmental Health had been called in to shut down the restaurant after maggots had been found in the food.

A picture of a half-eaten plate of food, showing a maggot, was circulated, claiming to be from Wings.

"I don't know why people made up those rumours," Mr Wing said at the time. "The plate on the picture wasn't even the plates we use here, they have a different pattern."

The 40-year-old businessman also owns a chain of buffet restaurants in the south-west of England.

He said: "Our restaurant in Plymouth is top for health and safety. We will make sure Hull is the same."

Food hygiene ratings

Mr Turner said: "We work closely with businesses across the city to make sure food safety standards are met and provide advice as to where they can make improvements.

"Most food establishments in the city are rated very good or good on the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

"I urge people to use the scheme when dining out or food shopping so they can make informed choices."

• Ratings can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

Beef Industry Food Safety Council hosts annual Safety Summit

17th of March 2014

Our number one goal as the beef industry is to provide a safe beef products. This is something you hear us say often, but not only do we say this, we back it up through a continuous commitment to improve and innovate within the industry. That was the goal behind the Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo) when it was established in 1997. This week BIFSCo’s membership engaged in the annual Beef Industry Safety Summit in Dallas, Texas. The Safety Summit is an annual event, funded in part by the Beef Checkoff, attended by the research community and industry leaders to share the latest science-based information and discuss the latest industry challenges and how they can be addressed.

As an organization, BIFSCo facilitates input from producers, packers, processors, distributors, restaurateurs and food retails to build a dialog around beef safety. This format allows the membership to build each year on safety improvements from the past. The best practices developed by BIFSCo’s membership serve as a roadmap for the decision-making process within each segment of our industry.

Research to better understand foodborne pathogens and identify new ways of controlling them has always been a top priority for the cattle industry. Since 1993, cattlemen and women have invested over $30 million in safety research programs. The industry as a whole invests more than $550 million annually in beef safety research and technology implementation. This is only part of the equation in addressing beef safety. Government oversight plays a role as well in overseeing federally-inspected establishments. The consumer always plays an important role in the safety of their food by following proper food handling, cooking and storage steps.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, human illness from E. coli from all foods, including beef, is on the decline. In 2010, the illness rate dropped to less than one case in 100,000 people. This met the Healthy People 2010 goal. The Healthy People 2020 goal, calls once again for reducing the number of E. coli illnesses and the beef industry is committed to helping meet that goal.

It is critical that we continue the conversation with every segment of the beef industry. That is why NCBA is a member of BIFSCo and attends important industry meetings like the Safety Summit to hear the latest scientific discussions and identify opportunities where we can continually improve beef safety for our consumers. Everyone plays an important role in beef safety from farm to fork.



Workplace takeaways pose obesity risk

24th of March 2014

Research published in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal has revealed that government should use planning laws to reduce concentrations of takeaways opening up on commuter routes and around work places to tackle obesity rates.

In the first research of its kind the study looked at links between exposure to takeaway outlets and takeaway consumption with body weight. Researchers took a sample group of 5,594 people aged between 29 and 62 years living in Cambridgeshire.

The research found a direct link between exposure to takeaways and obesity, the greatest impact being exposure to takeaways around the work place.

Dr Thomas Burgoine who led the study said: ‘those most exposed to takeaway food outlets overall were nearly twice as likely to be obese compared to those least exposed.’

He added: ‘Our research suggests that policies to make our neighbourhood more healthy by restricting access to takeaway food might be successful.’

Participants were asked to fill in a food frequency questionnaire to assess their eating habits. They were then mapped by postcode along with their workplace and commuter routes. This data was then related to food outlet locations sourced from 10 local authorities. The body mass index of participants was then calculated. 

Other variables factored into the research included car ownership, smoking status and energy expenditure.

During the past decade consumption of food away from home has increased by 29 per cent while there has been a dramatic increase in numbers of takeaways opening up.

In 2009 Waltham Forest Borough Council chartered new ground by banning outlets selling hot takeaway foods within 400m of schools while using planning laws to limit the clustering of takeaways more generally through the London borough.

The London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham followed up by implementing similar policies. The report findings indicate that by introducing restrictions these boroughs will be reducing levels of obesity amongst their populations.

The report authors call for a more widespread take up of the policy where necessary.  They conclude that modifying the distribution and density of takeaways is becoming an increasingly important aspect of nutrition and health policy in Britain.



Glasgow urged to prosecute E. coli outbreak linked firm

28th of March 2014

Leading food safety expert Prof Hugh Pennington has urged Glasgow City Council to prosecute a catering firm suspected of causing an E. coli outbreak by serving undercooked burgers.

Twenty-one people fell ill after eating burgers believed to be contaminated with the potentially fatal bacteria during a Top Gear Live event in the SSE Hydro in January. Some of them are still recovering at home. 

The SSE Hydro, which is owned by the council, will be one of the main venues for this year’s Commonwealth Games. It will host the gymnastics, boxing and netball finals. 

Prof Pennington, who chaired a public inquiry into the 1996 E coli outbreak in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, which claimed 20 lives, told EHN that the council should prosecute the caterer. 

‘They should be cracking down on anything incompetent or dangerous in the run up to the Commonwealth Games,’ he said. ‘That would raise people’s confidence in the food that is going to be served to the spectators and athletes.’ 

He added that the government’s Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety in Food (ACMSF) stated that burgers should be cooked at 70c for two minutes. 

‘Getting time and temperature combination right for cooking burgers is fundamental stuff,’ he said. ‘Action should follow.’ 

Glasgow City Council said it had still not decided if it was going to prosecute the caterer, Levy Restaurants.

'Evidence is still being collated and a decision on any prosecution will be taken in due course,' said a spokesperson.

The council stressed it was not involved in the day-to-day operation of SEC Ltd, which runs the SSE Hydro. 

‘Like any other local authority, we are responsible for regulation and inspection of a number of food premises which are connected to us – from cafes in sports facilities to care home kitchens. This does not have any bearing on how incidents are investigated,’ said the spokesperson. 

The council added it had discovered the burgers were undercooked after interviewing the victims and members of staff. It has now 'pretty much ruled out cross contamination'.

‘The burgers were not being sold as rare. Rather, we believe that they were being undercooked unintentionally,’ said the spokesperson. 

The council apologised for informing EHN in February that the burgers linked to the outbreak at had been ‘cooked all the way through’.

The outbreak control team, which includes Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS and the Food Standards Agency, is working on its final assessment but last week reported ‘an association with the consumption of burgers for each of the identified cases’. 

Dr Eleanor Anderson, a public health consultant at Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS, said: ‘While there is no conclusive evidence our investigations have indicated that the most likely source is a link to the consumption of burgers at the SSE Hydro.’ 

As the incubation period for anyone who attended the Hydro in January has now past it is unlikely there will be any further individuals developing symptoms. 

Levy Restaurants, which is part of the global catering giant Compass Group, said it was working with local environmental health officers.

‘We have continued to support the environmental health officers with their investigation,’ said a spokesperson.