News
for the month of August, 2016

Is the five second rule real? Food safety experts put it to the test.

11th of August 2016

An expert tested pizza, apple and buttered toast to see how badly contaminated they were after a few seconds

 
 

How many times have you dropped food on the floor and - quoting the five second rule - scoffed it anyway?

Well according to the NHS that might not be the smartest thing to do.

It’s long been believed that if you pick a piece of food up quickly enough then it’s probably safe to eat.

Some people also believe that a bit of dirt is actually good for your immune system.

The NHS asked Dr Ronald Cutler, a microbiologist from Queen Mary, University of London, to test out the rule and his results were fairly predictable.

Dr Cutler dropped pizza, apple and buttered toast on surfaces contaminated with E. coli to test the theory.

Whether the food was picked up immediately, or left for a few seconds, the level of contamination was the same.

“The five-second rule has little effect on the amount of bacteria you would pick up from a heavily contaminated surface,” says Dr Cutler.

“Think about this, if you drop food on a floor, it’s better to put it in the bin rather than your mouth.

“No matter if it’s at home on the carpet, the kitchen floor or in the street, my advice is if you drop it, chuck it.”

Each year in the UK around a million people suffer a food-related illness, with 20,000 requiring hospital treatment leading to a staggering 500 deaths.

So maybe the next time you drop some food on the floor chuck it in the bin instead of your mouth.

See inside the Wallsend takeaway caked in filth and rat droppings

11th of August 2016

Rat droppings and greasy kitchen equipment were among the things found at Fortune Chinese takeaway during an inspection last year

 
Ming Li the owner of Fortune's takeaway in Wallsend leaving North Tyneside Magistrates Court

From rat droppings strewn across the premises to kitchen equipment caked with grease, these shocking pictures show what food safety officers found at a Chinese takeaway in Wallsend.

North Tyneside Council staff visited Fortune's takeaway, on High Street West, in July last year and saw rat droppings on the floors, fixtures and equipment throughout the premises.

There were holes in walls and skirting boards as well as gnawed door frames. Rodent poison had also been put out at various locations.

The rat infestation was so bad that a rodent fell over the foot of an officer while he was visiting the site the next day.

These details were revealed during a court case in North Tyneside where the owner of the takeaway, Ming Li, pleaded guilty to four food safety and hygiene offences.

Ming Li the owner of Fortune's takeaway in Wallsend leaving North Tyneside Magistrates CourtMing Li the owner of Fortune's takeaway in Wallsend leaving North Tyneside Magistrates Court

 

Eleanor Reyland, prosecuting for North Tyneside Council, said a standard inspection was carried out at the site on July 8, 2015.

She added: “The food safety officer became aware of issues of rat activity at the rear of the kitchen and rear of the food preparation area. She made some observations of rat droppings and rodent damage to the structure of the property, and dirty equipment in the premises.

“The first charge relates to a failure to control pests. There were grease smears on the walls from rats tracking down behind the toilet door.

“There was uncontrolled used rodenticide strewn on the floor in various locations, and there was grease and food debris on floors, walls and equipment.”

The remaining charges involved the failure to keep the premises clean and in good condition.

During the inspection, officers found an accumulation of flour on the floor under the kitchen sink and around the flour bins. In addition, there was grease, dirt and dried food debris on wall surfaces, particularly under equipment such as fridges and the wok range.

And there were grubby and stained hand-contact surfaces, including light switches, fridge door handles, tap heads, plugs and sockets.

Inside Wallsend's Fortune's takeawayInside Wallsend's Fortune's takeaway

 

The takeaway had to be closed for a day so that a major clean-up could take place. It re-opened again on July 10 last year.

Ms Reyland said: “After the inspection, officers spoke to Mr Li and his wife with an agreement that the premises would close immediately until remedial measures were taken.

“There was another visit on July 9 and issues were explained to them about the expectation of remedial action to be taken. During that time, a rat fell over the foot of the food inspector.

“The premises remained closed on that day and re-opened on July 10 after officers found that the cleaning had been completed and access points for rodents had been blocked.”

In October, Li, 43, of Lynn Road, Wallsend, who is of previous good character, told the council he had been working in kitchens for 10 years and had started his own business four years ago. He accepted the cleanliness of his takeaway was not up to standard and said the person in charge of cleaning had gone to China for three months.

The court was told that the takeaway was inspected again in February this year and remains subject to annual inspections as well as unplanned checks.

The dirt, grease and food waste under kitchen surfaces in Fortune's Chinese takeawayThe dirt, grease and food waste under kitchen surfaces in Fortune's Chinese takeaway

 

Li, who was not represented by a lawyer, spoke at the hearing through an interpreter. He said he worked very hard, however the business did not make much money and there was “nothing much left after a week’s work, less than £100”.

He said: “We are making great efforts to change the situation now. I have taken all the measures and I have done everything I was told.

“I even hired a cleaner to clean the premises two hours a day and that person is still employed.

“My business had a very good previous record in terms of safety and hygiene. But my wife had some health issues and she was not able to help me with cleaning and with the business. So I was under great pressure.”

District Judge Bernard Begley imposed a fine of £1,000, a victim surcharge of £100 and court costs of £175.

He warned Li: “You are of previous good character. But if you were to be in a similar situation again in the future, I personally will not be dealing with you in the same way.

“Ensure that you do everything that is required of you in terms of cleanliness.

“You are providing a service to the public in one way or another, and to that extent there are expectations of you. Make sure you live up to those expectations.”

After the hearing, Coun John Harrison, the council’s cabinet member for housing and transport, said: “We are committed to supporting local businesses. However, when there are unacceptable risks to public health, enforcement action will be taken to protect the interests of consumers and maintain food safety.”

 

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/health/see-inside-wallsend-takeaway-caked-11713767

Food hygiene ratings: What do they mean? Everything you need to know about dirty restaurants

11th of August 2016

All cafes, restaurants, takeaways and shops offering or handling food are subjected to regular inspections by food safety officers from the local council.

The ratings are then uploaded to the Food Standards Agency website so you can see how clean or dirty your favourite eateries actually are.

 But what do they actually mean, should zero rated kitchens be shut down and how do you report a dirty restaurant?

What does it take to get five stars, and is it possible for everywhere to get one? Find the latest food hygiene ratings here.

 The Food Standards Agency is the body responsible for the ratings - here they answer all those questions and more.

How is a food hygiene rating worked out?

A food safety officer inspects a business to check that it meets the requirements of food hygiene law.

They check:

  • How hygienically the food is handled – how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored
  • The condition of the structure of the buildings – the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
  • How the business manages what it does to make sure food is safe and so that the officer can be confident standards will be maintained in the future

Each of these three elements is essential for making sure that food hygiene standards meet requirements and the food served or sold to you is safe to eat.

The hygiene standards found at the time of inspection are then rated on a scale. At the bottom of the scale is 0 – this means urgent improvement is required. At the top of the scale is 5 – this means the hygiene standards are very good.

The full list are:

  • FIVE STARS: Very good.
  • FOUR STARS: Good
  • THREE STARS: Generally satisfactory
  • TWO STARS: Improvement necessary
  • ONE STAR Major improvement necessary
  • NO STARS: Urgent improvement necessary.

If the top rating is not given, the officer will explain to the person who owns or manages the business what improvements need to be made and what action they can take to improve their hygiene rating.

The food hygiene rating reflects the hygiene standards found at the time the business is inspected by a food safety officer. These officers are specially trained to assess food hygiene standards.

What do the ratings mean?

The rating given shows how well the business is doing overall but also takes account of the element or elements most in need of improving and also the level of risk to people's health that these issues could pose.

This is because some businesses will do well in some areas and less well in others but each of the three elements checked is essential for making sure that food hygiene standards meet requirements and the food served or sold to you is safe to eat.

To get the top rating of 5, businesses must do well in all three elements.

Those with ratings of 0 are very likely to be performing poorly in all three elements and are likely to have a history of serious problems.

There may, for example, be a lack of sufficient cleaning and disinfection, and there may not be a good enough system of management in place to check and record what the business does to make sure the food is safe.

Why are businesses with poor ratings not closed?

Businesses given ratings of 0 or 1 must make urgent or major improvements to hygiene standards. The local authority food safety officer will use a number of enforcement tools as well as giving advice and guidance to make sure these improvements are made.

The food safety officer will also tell the business how quickly these improvements must be made and this will depend on the type of issue that needs to be addressed.

If the officer finds that a business's hygiene standards are very poor and there is an imminent risk to health – this means food is not safe to eat – the officer must take action to make sure that consumers are protected. This could mean closing the business down.

 

image: http://www.scunthorpetelegraph.co.uk/images/localworld/ugc-images/276369/binaries/food-hygeiene2.jpg


 

The rating was given a long time ago. Is it still valid?

Yes. The rating is based on the most recent inspection.

Some types of food business present a low risk to people's health – for example pubs that sell only drinks and crisps and similar snacks but not cooked meals. In such cases, the most recent inspection may have been some time ago. This means the local authority will monitor that the business is maintaining hygiene standards in other ways.

For example, by a short visit to the premises to check things or by getting the business to complete a questionnaire. If these checks reveal anything that might indicate that hygiene standards have deteriorated, the officer will carry out an inspection and the business will get a new rating.

If you have any concerns about hygiene standards in any food outlet you have visited, you should contact the local authority.

What do businesses need to do to get a higher rating?

All businesses should be able to achieve the top rating.

If they do not, the food safety officer will tell them what improvements they need to make to achieve a higher rating, and is able to give practical advice on how to make the improvements.

 

image: http://www.scunthorpetelegraph.co.uk/images/localworld/ugc-images/276369/binaries/food-hygiene%20(3).jpg

 

Why is the rating on this website different from the rating on the sticker at my local takeaway?

There are a number of reasons why this might be the case. Here are some examples:

If a business does not achieve the top rating of 5, there is a delay before the rating is published so that if business owner thinks the rating given is unfair or wrong an appeal can be made.

Even if the business is given the top rating and puts up the sticker in the window, there can be a short delay as the local authority might not yet have updated the Food Standards Agency website – they generally do this once every month.

If you are concerned that the business is deliberately displaying a different rating to that on the website in order to give customers the impression it has higher hygiene standards than it actually does, you should contact the local authority

Can the owner of a business ask the local authority to re-visit to get a new rating?

Yes, but only if the improvements to hygiene that the local authority food safety officer told the business about at the last inspection have been made.

I'm worried about the rating given to a shop where I've eaten and bought food. What should I do?

You should contact the local authority that gave the rating, so for Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Immingham, this would be North East Lincolnshire Council.

The local authority details are also on any certificate or the back of any sticker on show at the shop.

I think I got food poisoning after eating out. Who should I complain to?

Your local authority Environmental Health or Food Safety Team. You may also wish to seek medical advice from your GP.

Find out more at www.food.gov.uk



Read more: http://www.scunthorpetelegraph.co.uk/food-hygiene-ratings-mean-need-know-dirty/story-29289009-detail/story.html#ixzz4H2X175J1 
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Read more at http://www.scunthorpetelegraph.co.uk/food-hygiene-ratings-mean-need-know-dirty/story-29289009-detail/story.html#Iqiu4EExXLxvzc7O.99

New polymer coatings for food-contact surfaces resist microbes

14th of August 2016

Special new coatings being investigated by researchers are more resistant to bacteria and other microbes than food-contact surfaces used today, according to a report on a recent symposium hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).

“Manufacturers already work diligently to keep their facilities clean, but we are creating materials that are even less likely to harbor bad bugs,” said Julie Goddard, an associate professor in the department of food science at Cornell University.

“We have designed new polymer coatings that can be applied to food processing surfaces that resist microbial adhesion and can actually inactivate any microbes that do adhere, preventing them from growing and potentially contaminating our food supply,” Goddard said in a news release.

The coatings may be commercially available in the next few years and will need to withstand some pretty tough treatment.

“It’s a hard life for the equipment used in food production facilities because the coatings have to hold up to acidic and caustic cleaners, temperature extremes and abrasions from scrubbings. It’s a huge challenge to find coatings that will work under these extreme conditions,” Goddard said in the release.

One specific coating works to resist bacteria in different ways, she explained.

“It has been shown to inactivate 99.999 percent of Listeria monocytogenes, a microbe that is a significant threat to food safety,” Goddard said.

Besides the food safety applications, such coatings can also help reduce the massive amount of food waste that occurs from spoilage.

Goddard noted that other areas of food processing plants that might benefit from these coating include door knobs and HVAC vents and drains, which can harbor microorganisms. The coatings might also be used on handling and harvesting equipment for fresh fruits and vegetables.

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/07/new-polymer-coatings-on-food-contact-surfaces-can-resist-microbes/#.V7BeTfkrKUk

Reducing food waste is a key issue of this yearís Food Safety Week

15th of August 2016

This is Food Safety week and the underlying message this year from the Food Standards Agency is about food waste. We throw away seven million tonnes of food in the UK annually, costing each household an average of £470. That’s a flight to New York in my book. Restaurants are tackling the issue as it now costs them money to dispose of excess waste. My friend Tom Hunt is a London-based chef who was over here recently cooking at the Comber Potato Festival. His philosophy is root to fruit eating. When he prepares a chilli pepper, for example, he will pull out the root and use all of the chili, as opposed to chopping off and throwing out the top. Nose to tail eating is when we use every part of the animal and Tom has applied this philosophy to vegetables. He uses beetroot leaves, cauliflower leaves, carrot tops and potato peelings that would normally end up in the compost heap. If you chop the top off a strawberry, rather than pulling out the green top, it will amount to the equivalent of throwing out one punnet in 10. When you buy whole vegetables you’ll get a better idea of their quality too. Carrot tops should be verdant and fresh but it’s harder to judge freshness from a scrubbed, cellophane packed carrot. We’re all guilty of over buying and throwing out the excess. Freezing food is a great way of cutting out waste. It’s like pressing the pause button on sell by dates. When you’re cooking a soup or stew, make up more than you’re going to use and freeze for use at a later date. As food becomes more convenient the more willing we are to chuck it. Years ago we made out and stuck to shopping lists and cooked from scratch. You’re more inclined to chuck something out you didn’t go to any effort making it. Now we’re bombarded in supermarkets by hard selling methods - attractive displays, multi buy “bargains” and slick selling. If you go to a butchers there won’t be any of this - just good food at a better price. Farm shops are wonderful places to pick up top notch quality produce at a cheaper price. When you have leftover vegetables, making stock is a good way of using them up. A well made vegetable stock gives a unique, flavoursome taste to your soups and sauces. Make plenty and freeze the excess. Fresh peas are in full flight at the moment. After shelling them use the pods for soup rather than disposing of them. I’ve included a recipe this week for this with a crispy bacon and chive sour cream topping. For the actual peas I’ve included a recipe for pressed ham hock to serve them with a salad with mint and roast white of leek. The green part of the leek is in the soup. Ham hock is a relatively cheap cut of meat that gives you tender, mightily flavoured meat plus a fantastic stock. It takes a bit of cooking but the results are amazing.

Read more at: http://www.farminglife.com/news/farming-news/reducing-food-waste-is-a-key-issue-of-this-year-s-food-safety-week-1-7481764

Reducing food waste is a key issue of this yearís Food Safety Week

15th of August 2016

This is Food Safety week and the underlying message this year from the Food Standards Agency is about food waste. We throw away seven million tonnes of food in the UK annually, costing each household an average of £470. That’s a flight to New York in my book. Restaurants are tackling the issue as it now costs them money to dispose of excess waste. My friend Tom Hunt is a London-based chef who was over here recently cooking at the Comber Potato Festival. His philosophy is root to fruit eating. When he prepares a chilli pepper, for example, he will pull out the root and use all of the chili, as opposed to chopping off and throwing out the top. Nose to tail eating is when we use every part of the animal and Tom has applied this philosophy to vegetables. He uses beetroot leaves, cauliflower leaves, carrot tops and potato peelings that would normally end up in the compost heap. If you chop the top off a strawberry, rather than pulling out the green top, it will amount to the equivalent of throwing out one punnet in 10. When you buy whole vegetables you’ll get a better idea of their quality too. Carrot tops should be verdant and fresh but it’s harder to judge freshness from a scrubbed, cellophane packed carrot. We’re all guilty of over buying and throwing out the excess. Freezing food is a great way of cutting out waste. It’s like pressing the pause button on sell by dates. When you’re cooking a soup or stew, make up more than you’re going to use and freeze for use at a later date. As food becomes more convenient the more willing we are to chuck it. Years ago we made out and stuck to shopping lists and cooked from scratch. You’re more inclined to chuck something out you didn’t go to any effort making it. Now we’re bombarded in supermarkets by hard selling methods - attractive displays, multi buy “bargains” and slick selling. If you go to a butchers there won’t be any of this - just good food at a better price. Farm shops are wonderful places to pick up top notch quality produce at a cheaper price. When you have leftover vegetables, making stock is a good way of using them up. A well made vegetable stock gives a unique, flavoursome taste to your soups and sauces. Make plenty and freeze the excess. Fresh peas are in full flight at the moment. After shelling them use the pods for soup rather than disposing of them. I’ve included a recipe this week for this with a crispy bacon and chive sour cream topping. For the actual peas I’ve included a recipe for pressed ham hock to serve them with a salad with mint and roast white of leek. The green part of the leek is in the soup. Ham hock is a relatively cheap cut of meat that gives you tender, mightily flavoured meat plus a fantastic stock. It takes a bit of cooking but the results are amazing.

Read more at: http://www.farminglife.com/news/farming-news/reducing-food-waste-is-a-key-issue-of-this-year-s-food-safety-week-1-7481764

Itís all over now: Another UK E. coli O157 mystery with hundreds sick

20th of August 2016

There’s a reason the Britain’s contribution to global cuisine is mushy peas and mad cow disease.

I get the UK is a small island, sinking in all kinds of animal shit, but tell us what you are doing for on-farm food safety?

And don’t answer with some bogus certification scheme.

Beginning in December 2010, a subtype of E. coli O157, began sickening Brits and resulted in over 250 sick with 80 hospitalizations, four with hemolytic uremic syndrome, and one death.

Dr. Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the Food Standards Agency was reported as saying “This outbreak is a timely reminder that it is essential to wash all fruits and vegetables, including salad, before you eat them, unless they are labeled ‘ready to eat’, to ensure that they are clean. It is also important to wash hands thoroughly as well as clean chopping boards, knives and other utensils after preparing vegetables to prevent cross contamination.”

This advice is of limited use. Maybe a 1-log reduction use.

But it blames consumers.

The outbreak was linked to the handling of raw leeks and potatoes, and a public warning was given – reportedly months after a guidance had been issued the food industry on reducing the risk of E. coli cross-contamination.

In Nov. 2015, the BBC reported the number of people infected with E. coli across England rose by more than 1,000 over the previous year.

Public Health England figures show there were 39,604 from September 2014 to September 2015, compared with 38,291 for the same period the year before.

Another mysterious affliction.

Now, once again, the PhD health types are baffled by an outbreak of E. coli O157 in the UK that has sickened at least 161.

Those same health-thingies do say the likely cause of the outbreak was imported mixed salad leaves.

The last recorded case of the bug was on July 5 and now PHE has declared the outbreak over.

People are being urged to remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and thoroughly wash all vegetables and salads that will be eaten raw unless they have been pre-prepared and are labelled ‘ready to eat’.

Because the Brits have a long history of blaming consumers for something that should be controlled on the farm.

 

http://barfblog.com/2016/08/its-all-over-now-another-uk-e-coli-o157-mystery-with-hundreds-sick/