Sproutrage 2012: Do Raw Sprouts Belong on the Menu?

  The recent and prolific sprout outbreaks that have plagued Jimmy John’s customers have certainly caused a stir in the restaurant community. Should sprouts remain on the menu? Jimmy John’s, Jason’s Deli and Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop apparently all pulled raw sprouts off the menu because of these recent outbreaks. Wal-Mart made the decision in 2010 not to carry them. Should all food establishments follow their lead? Sprouts and Foodborne Illness Sprouts have a long and rich history with foodborne illness (http://bites.ksu.edu/sprouts-associated-outbreaks). Racking up 55 outbreaks in 14 years, sickening 15,000 and killing dozens makes them quite formidable. However, there are … [Read more...]

Anatomy of a Foodborne Illness Complaint, Part 3: Confirmed Cases

If you have a customer with a confirmed foodborne illness, the local health department will probably visit you. A case is confirmed when a stool sample from an infected person is cultured and the harmful bacteria is found. This process can take a few days. When there is a confirmed case, the health department is contacted and they begin an investigation to try and determine the source of the infection. Many questions are asked of the infected person, including about where they ate. If there are restaurants involved, they will look at the timeline and try and guess which ones could be the source. Some can be ruled out, and others may need further investigation. This may lead them to your … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]