NEW MENU LABELING REQUIREMENTS

In order to help consumers make more informed decisions, the FDA has enacted a menu labeling rule that will apply to food service facilities that are part of a chain of 20 or more locations conducting  business under the same name and offering menus with the same items.  Calories must be displayed in the area of standard menu items and, upon request, specific nutritional information must be provided.  Other food service establishments could benefit from incorporating the labeling guidance into their standard operating procedures as well.

For more information, check out the following tools:

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Update Regarding E. coli O157:H7 Linked to Romaine Lettuce

Georgia is among 19 states, at this time, that have confirmed cases of persons that have become ill with E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce grown in the region of Yuma, Arizona.  The following is advice from the CDC to food service operators and retailers:

  • Do not serve or sell any romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.
  • Food service operators and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.

Visit Advice to Consumers, Restaurants, and Retailers on the CDC’s website for more detailed guidance concerning the outbreak.

RECALL ALERT: FDA Issues Its First Mandatory Food Product Recall to Protect Consumers

After several food products manufactured by Triangle Pharmanaturals, LLC were found to contain Salmonella, the FDA issued a mandatory recall for food products containing powdered kratom that were manufactured, processed, packed, or held by this company.

Manufacturers usually issue voluntary recalls on products once notified of such a problem, however, in this case the firm was slow to respond.  Please see the FDA press release for information regarding possible contaminated products and important actions that should be taken.

Where’s the CFSM?

By Casey Saenz, Environmental Health Specialist 3

Recently, I performed an inspection at a facility that is not located in my normally assigned area, and while looking around the kitchen, one of the first questions I asked the Person In Charge (PIC) was “how often is the Certified Food Safety Manager here?”  [The PIC was not listed as the Certified Food Safety Manager (CFSM) on the certificate posted on the wall.]

The answer was “not very often”.

This question was prompted by the large number of violations that I spotted within the first few minutes of the inspection.  One such violation was an obvious cross contamination violation (see below).  That, along with a swollen bottle of expired salad dressing which was ready for service, made me think that the CFSM is definitely not doing what he is supposed to to be doing–which is ensuring food safety and proper staff training!

canton wings pic

With the most recent updates to Georgia’s Rules and Regulations for Food Service, the CFSM is considered to be ‘key’ to maintaining food safety.  The CFSM not only has the responsibility to ensure that the food is safe for consumption, but he/she also has to make sure that ALL of the facility’s employees are well trained, especially for the times when the CFSM is absent.

This particular restaurant inspection ended with a grade of 70/C, and it may have been low enough to gain the attention of a local newspaper.

Don’t let your restaurant get to the point of no return.  Keep your staff trained and current on food safety practices to help protect your customers from foodborne illness esand limit the possibility of a foodborne illness outbreak.

Please take a minute to read over the How can I prepare my establishment for inspection? document located on our website for duties expected of the CFSM.

 

One Little Container Can Lead to a Big Problem

By Casey Saenz, Environmental Health Specialist 3

On a recent routine inspection, I entered a restaurant at a time when I was able to observe the employees prepping food for the lunch rush.  The employees were busy at their stations: some were chopping vegetables, others were preparing raw meats, some were washing dishes, and so on.  I noticed that one employee at the prep station took out a container of raw seed sprouts and left it on the counter.  In the world of food safety, sprouts are considered a “red flag”.  In other words, that is one of many foods that if kept in the temperature danger zone [between 41 and 135°F], can lead to a very scary– and costly–problem.  After about 10 more minutes, I observed that little container of sprouts still out on the counter and I asked that employee why they were not being kept cold.  That employee said that they were kept out of the cooler during rushes and then put back once things slowed down. [Their lunch rush is about 3 hours.]  I quickly informed the employee that sprouts must be kept at 41°F and below and that included the lunch and dinner rush times as well.  The sprouts were quickly put back in the cooler.  After I finished the inspection and began to type the results on my laptop, I went back into the kitchen to retrieve my notepad.  When I went back to that same area, SURPRISE!  That little container of sprouts was back out on the counter.  Their temperature was reported at 57°F!  At that point, this was no longer a matter of simply educating an employee, this had now become a 9-point temperature violation and the sprouts were thrown away.

This little container of sprouts demonstrated a couple of key problems in this kitchen, one of which was obviously the temperature violation.  Another problem is a lack of managerial control and training by the PIC (person-in-charge).

A person-in-charge, whether they know it or not, has quite a big responsibility when it comes to protecting the public and a big one is training and oversight. That little container of sprouts, could have easily made many people sick– even hospitalized.

For more information on outbreaks caused by seed sprouts, click on the following link:

https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/types/fruits/sprouts.html

What Killed the Aztecs: A New Suspect Identified!

 

By Marissa Williams, MPH, Environmental Health Specialist

For centuries, the uncertainty behind what happened to the Aztecs has been an enigma, an expanse of mystery and wonder; not only to historians and anthropologists, but also to countless people throughout modern civilization. What caused the population’s massive and abrupt decline? While it has long been suspected that an epidemic of sorts was to blame, recent scientific discoveries of DNA extraction and analysis have finally provided a well-founded explanation – Salmonella enterica. These findings emphasize the invaluable role of public health in ensuring safe food, safe water, and healthy communities. The implications of the absence of public health can now be told in the story of the Aztecs.

For more information on this topic, see the following article from The Guardian: “500 years later, scientists discover what probably killed the Aztecs”

 

Top Organisms that Cause Foodborne Illness

Bacteria, viruses, and parasites are attributed with causing about 48 million foodborne illnesses in the United States each year.  According to the CDC, the top 5 biological organisms that cause the most foodborne illnesses in the United States are Norovirus, non-typhoidal Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter and Staphylococcus aureus (often referred to as Staph).  However, the “Big Six” foodborne illnesses required to be reported to the health authority by the persons in charge of food service establishments if found among food workers are Norovirus, Escherichia coli, Hepatitis A, Shigella, Salmonella typhi, and nontyphoidal Salmonella.  You may wonder why these two lists differ.  Although both lists are important, our food service regulations require the “Big Six” to be reported to the health authority due to the fact that it only takes a few organisms or viral particles to cause illness.  For instance, it takes 10 or fewer Hepatitis A viral particles to cause illness, yet a sick food worker may shed about 100 million of those viral particles in one gram of feces upon a trip to the restroom.  Hence, ensuring effective handwashing is of utmost importance in all cases.

For a list of foodborne germs from A-Z , go to www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/diseases/index.html .