Anatomy of a Foodborne Illness Complaint: Introduction

  Restaurants deal with complaints every day. Customers complain about customer service, wait times, food quality, prices, and more. What happens when the dreaded phone call comes in about a foodborne illness complaint? This can be the most difficult type of complaint to handle because the average manager doesn't have adequate knowledge about pathogens involved, incubation periods, symptoms, testing procedures, or appropriate costs associated with such a case. So what is the best procedure for handling an illness complaint? For the most part, the general public is largely uneducated about this topic as well. People are likely to blame the last place they ate rather than using the time … [Read more...]

The War on Foodborne Illness: Why Restaurants Need to Join the Fight

Headlines about another restaurant involved in an outbreak are almost a daily occurrence now. Many major restaurant chains have had at least one outbreak. Foodborne illness from restaurants in this country is reaching new heights. It begs the question, Why? In my experience working with the restaurant industry as a regulator, I come across some resistance from operators who are naïve about their chances of contributing to an outbreak. They simply don’t think it will ever happen to them. Many people took notice of the impact of foodborne illness when headlines reported on the Jack in the Box outbreak of 1993. That outbreak resulted in 750 children poisoned with 4 dying. In this case, E. … [Read more...]

Start a Chemical Management Plan

Chemicals are used to clean and sanitize your kitchen, but when mismanaged, they can lead to increased costs, health code violations, and significant personal injury. A management plan for controlling chemicals needs to be implemented. Each plan must address labeling, storage, proper chemical concentrations, and retaining manufacturers' labels and instructions. Here are some helpful tips: Labeling: All containers, spray bottles, and buckets need to be labeled with the common name of the contents. Using pre-labeled bottles and buckets can be very helpful. If using generic containers, labeling can be accomplished with a permanent marker. It's important to remember that the contents … [Read more...]

Clean and Sanitize to Stop Foodborne Illness

  Cleaning a restaurant kitchen and its equipment can be a very time-consuming and difficult job. There are so many areas of a kitchen that need cleaning and at different frequencies. An ice machine, for example, won't need to be cleaned as often as a deli slicer. Cleaning and sanitizing are necessary for preventing the growth of harmful pathogens that can lead to foodborne illness. There are many outbreaks large and small tracked back to dirty equipment. Here are a few: Meat Slicer Strikes Again—Maple Leaf Slicer Implicated in Listeria Outbreak Arby's Implicated in Salmonella Outbreak in Georgia FDA Cites Dirty Equipment in Cantaloupe Outbreak Cleaning Schedules It's … [Read more...]

Food Safety Alert: What’s Going On at Jimmy John’s?

The Northwest Indiana Porter County Health Department is investigating 60 cases of norovirus that may be linked to the local Jimmy John's. The ill people reported symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and indigestion. Twenty of the cases were rescue workers at the scene of a 3-train crash in Valparaiso on Friday. Jimmy John's provided food to those workers. On Sunday, reports of illness started coming in. On Monday, other reports of illness came in from people not working at the scene of the crash but who also ate food from the same Jimmy John's. These details all point to Jimmy John's as the possible source of the outbreak. More details here: Norovirus Behind Outbreak in Indiana Jimmy … [Read more...]

How Employee Illness Can Affect Restaurants

  These days more and more outbreaks are associated with sick employees passing their illnesses to other people while at work. Having employees working while sick is one of the most reckless things any manager or owner of a food establishment can do. Sick employees can transmit illnesses to other employees or, even worse, pass them to customers. Check out what happened at an Illinois McDonald's that led to 34 cases of hepatitis A: Illinois Department of Health Links Hepatitis A Outbreak to Employee Handwashing Sick Employee Policy It is crucial that all restaurants have a solid sick employee policy. Many restaurant managers give employees two options for when employees are sick: 1) … [Read more...]

Tips to Avoid Bare Hand Contact with Food

You won't find a more debated or controversial topic between food safety inspectors and the restaurant industry than bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. According to the FDA, you can't do it. This results in many chefs having to wear gloves. As an inspector myself, I've heard all the arguments: "I don't have to wear gloves because I wash my hands so often. "I can't prepare the food properly with gloves on." "If I can't feel the fish while cutting it, then I'll cut my hand!" "The plastic in the gloves changes the taste of the food." For the most part, none of these arguments get very far during an inspection. The food industry either needs to provide better ways to prevent … [Read more...]