WHO REALLY GUARDS THE HENHOUSE



WHO REALLY IS WATCHING THE HENHOUSE


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The ultimate responsibility for food safety lies with the producers and not the auditors, inspectors or government agencies, according to Doug Powell from Kansas State University.   In a paper published in Science Direct , Doug Powell et al. critiqued the limits food safety audits and inspections and provided recommendations for strengthening the system.  “Audits and inspections are never enough:  They noted, many food borne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both.  

䷼    They identified audit reports as useful if the purchaser who requires them reviews the results, understands the risks addressed by the standards and makes risk-reduction decisions based on the results.  Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University, told FoodProductionDaily.com that everyone talks a good food safety game but it is the companies who are ultimately responsible for ensuring food is safe.  “Any inspection is only a snapshot but it can still provide valuable information.

䷼    “Take restaurant inspections, they are made public and are subject to public accountability but that doesn’t happen in food processing plants.”  Powell added that the industry needs to get ahead of and stop reacting to food safety concerns.  “Outbreaks culminate in a bunch of mistakes, they are not a random act of god.  

䷼    “With most food we can’t be sure if it is luck or if firms are doing the right things but they label if it is healthy, organic, sustainable so why not here’s what we do to ensure food safety.”  “Audits and inspections are not enough, when there is an outbreak the public response is huge and it gets them thinking about it.”

䷼    When asked if a lack of resources was the problem, he said: “Economics always play a role with low margins and needing to maximise turnover but you are only as good as your frontline employees.  “The USDA and FDA are doing all they can with their resources, the onus is on food producers who make the food as an outbreak can take you down.”  The use of audits to help create, improve, and maintain a genuine food safety culture holds the most promise in preventing food borne illness and safeguarding public health.  

䷼    They concluded: “A common thread in all of the outbreaks described is a clear lack of food safety culture among the implicated companies. Companies who blame the auditor or inspector for outbreaks of food borne illness should also blame themselves.”  “Why are we seeing more and more nutritionally related diseases?”  “Our methodologies for both production and processing of food are killing us.”   And in the past few years, food-borne illness crises seem to be coming at an alarming rate. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a number of resources. Worried about norovirus or salmonella? Head to cdc.gov and forward slash listeria or whatever your concern is. Have a broader interest in food-borne problems? Navigate to the CDC’s FoodBorneOutbreaks page.  More broadly, there are websites that pay attention to our food supply: grist.org; foodsafetynews.com; thefoodwatchdog.com; usfoodpolicy.blogspot.com; politicsoftheplate.com.


FLORIDA HEALTH DEPARTMENT

䷼    When I decided to do the FOOD COURT, it incorporated in the evaluations, the training I got from the restaurant I worked in and a crosscheck from reliable sources and a constant vigil of the rules ans requirements  . It became almost automatic now that I look before I eat. 

䷼    The structure of a place tells you a lot and sometimes more than you should know about the food. Cleanliness, efficiency, service all become more apparent because you know what they should be doing. I have a friend who retired from the food industry as an inspector.   Different states assign this task to different departments but many of the rules are the same.  He described the enforcement as akin to Whack-A-Mo.  

In Florida, Inspections are performed at the County Health Department (CHD) level by the Environmental Health section. Each CHDs Environmental Health section is responsible for all DOH-regulated food service establishments located within their county.  Like most Federal and State agencies , they are understaffed and fighting the budget battles.  Most good owners love them as they eventually get rid of the bad guys and the bad guys hate them because they get caught.  Nothing is more important than the health of the general public.   Their rules are simple, keep it clean, keep it safe, make sure hot is hot, and cold is cold. If a restaurant owner can't follow that, he doesn't need to be there. 

䷼    The types of inspections that you may see in this report are routine inspections, re-inspections, and complaint inspections. My comments are from actual "confrontations" and each visit is an accurate description of the environment and food in a specific area, namely Tampa Bay, where I live and eat. But their departments and personnel are limited by budgets and time constraints.  

Example, one franchise was hanging up their certificate a day before I got there and I guess the inspector missed the mens room, there was a gaping hole in the floor where the toilet used to sit.  Let me explain that and take the heat for saying, the place had an open to the air, SHITTER!   (Rules 28 and 29) 

On another, there was something smeared like excrement all over the walls which I will not mention, and no one cleaned it.  (No rule for this since no one can comprehend it)   A distraught former employee got even.  You are almost safer not washing your hands in many places and carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer which is what my patients are told to do and I do.  

FOOD SERVICE HIGH PRIORITY VIOLATION CATEGORIES

01a       Food obtained from approved source

01b       Food safe and unadulterated; sound condition 

01d       Parasite destruction for raw/undercooked fish 

02b       Consumer advisory for other raw/undercooked animal products (except oysters)

02c       Date marking ready-to-eat (RTE) potentially hazardous/time/temperature control for safety foods (PH/TCS) 

03a       Receiving and holding PH/TCS foods cold 

03b       Receiving and holding PH/TCS foods hot

03c       Cooking raw animal foods and plant foods; non-continuous cooking of raw animal foods 

03d       Cooling PH/TCS foods; proper cooling methods 

03e       Reheating PH/TCS foods for hot holding 

03f        Time as a Public Health Control

03g       Reduced oxygen packaging (ROP) and other Special Processes

07         Unwrapped or PH/TCS food not re-served

08a       Separating raw animal foods from: each other, RTE foods and unwashed produce

08b       Food protection during preparation, storage and display 

09         Bare hand contact with RTE food; Alternative Operating Procedure (AOP) 

10         In-use food dispensing utensils properly stored 

11         Employee health knowledge; ill/symptomatic employee present

12a       Hands clean and washed properly; use of hand antiseptic if use of AOP 

14         Food-contact and nonfood-contact surfaces designed, constructed, maintained, installed, located

16         Dishwashing facilities; chemical test kit(s); gauges 

22         Food-contact surfaces clean and sanitized

25         Single-service and single-use items

27         Water source safe, hot (100 degrees F) adn cold under pressure

28         Sewage and waste water disposed properly

29         Plumbing installed and maintained; mop sink; water filters; backflow prevention  

35a       No presence or breeding of insects/rodents/pests; no live animals 

41         Chemicals/toxic substances 

43         Complete separation from living/sleeping area/private premise; kitchen restricted - no unauthorized personnel

50         Current license, properly displayed


ABC ACTION NEWS - DIRTY DINNING - GREAT WEBSITE

Another ally, a good source, not sauce, are the local TV food cops.  Channel 10, I love these guys. One in particular does a good job. This is in addition to the "The Poultry Police". That is the  nickname for the Health Department. Their findings, excellent journalism and commentary are found at their site. at ABC ACTION NEWS

They do an article on bad seeds called "Dirty Dinning", a nice takeoff on "Dirty Dancing".  Eat in a rat infested location and you might be doing just that, "Dirty dancing".  Sometimes we all met at the same place in time. The Health Department, ABC and myself all had frequented the same place. A trifecta of bad news for a place but when you work in the public trust and you know the rules, there are no excuses.


WE TRIED TO BE FAIR
Part of our testing and reviewing meant going back several times. All restaurants can have a bad day. With some, leaning toward corporate fast food, it depends on the minimum wage hourly staff.   A bad week is a sign of something else, that's the work of a bad manager. 

I am happy-happy in the kitchen which means I follow guidelines as to food handling, cleanliness and organization.  Some of these things I see in some of these places in these categories are red flags to me. Habits, especially bad ones are hard to break in some restaurants.

Most of the problems in food service are correctable, nothing has changed that much in forty years, sure, faster cookers, better ovens, and food control. These locations that follow the party line and have no innovation and fail are people problems, combined with management neglect and a lack of training. 

Wendy's will always be Wendy's, and the same for McDonalds and Burger King. But the help will determine whether you return. And the hype is the bait.

The things we see are real:
I have witnessed line people with no gloves, handling food.
Picking up things from the floor with gloves on and then touching food.
I have seen people scratch their head with the gloves on and the handling a sandwich. 
A popular buffet had the manager shaking out floor rugs from the front in the dishwashing room spreading the dirt all over the freshly cleaned plates.  Same place that had 10,000 fruit flies all over the produce and refused to shut the line.  I called the Health Department and the Police to record it.
We list those places and I get heat, which means nothing to me.  There is a reason I only eat burgers at Five Guys and Culvers.  You can either see it being made or the integrity of the company. 


WE MARKER SPECIFIC LOCATIONS
I'm not making the statement all the stores in a chain might be this way.   Au contraire, this is why I marked specific locations. Within a normal amount of time, if the situation hasn't been corrected, we will bring that to your attention. If it has improved we will tell you, we will also take note if we sent them an "anon-o-gram"  to their corporate office.