From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Child safety while traveling
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 19:42:11 EST
R Bishop wrote:
> >I sort of wonder what types of rigs these people drive where their
> >possessions are bouncing all over. Should the crackpot move, I suspect it
> >was due to the wall coming loose from the frame. That hasn't happened here.
> Um, what are you going to do when the contents slosh?
It runs down the drain? Remember, the pot is sitting in the sink.
I add the question mark cuz I've never sloshed anything. I merely
predict the effects of gravity :-)
> Ever hear of blanket cooking? Get a pot of food started at the boil. Fix
> several large sheets of aluminum foil in layers. Put the hot pot in the
> middle and wrap the foil up around the pot, sealing it across the top. Then
> wrap the whole thing in a blanket. Come back a few hourse later and check
> to see if it's done. Great for bean dishes or stews.
Boy, that's the recipe for food poisoning. Before dismissing my
comment as alarmist you should realize that things have profoundly
changed with foodstocks in the last 10 years or so. Genetically
pure breeding lines, more susceptible to fast spread of disease;
abuse of antibiotics as growth promoters; factory farms and other
factors have radically changed how food, particularly meat, is
safely cooked and served. The USDA has suspended its much hyped
program of actually doing bacteriological testing in meat plants
because an overwhelming majority of samples showed positive for
salmonella (chicken) or e. coli (beef). The existing USDA
"inspection" involves an inspector standing at the line looking for
things that look odd or smell bad! (This puts the lie to the
comment made last week that someone was thankful that the government
is responsible for our generally safe food supply - food is safe in
spite of the government.) In the 8 years I've been in the food
service business, my procedures for the safe handling of food have
changed significantly. For example, we used to make homemade
milkshakes and ice cream containing raw eggs. No more! The
production line poultry operations using genetically pure stock
results in a high proportion of eggs having salmonella in them. The
problem turns out to be that the chicks have no opportunity to get
harmless "placeholder" bacteria from their mothers in the commercial
chicken house and so salmonella sets up house. Some producers are
now spraying the brood houses with solutions containing the harmless
bacteria but this is considered leading edge and not widespread.
Another major factor is the advent of "box meat". Grocery stores
and restaurants used to receive fresh meat in large hunks ranging up
to whole sides that had to be butchered on-site. No more. The 3 or
4 major processors that are left after merger-mania now package
specific cuts in boxes. We buy boston butt pork roasts and beef
briskets in 80 lb boxes that were packaged in some huge factory in
the midwest. FDA allows meat that has been frozen to be called
fresh if the freeze wasn't too deep. The result is "fresh" meat may
have been frozen and thawed more than once, perhaps without good
temperature control. I've more than once thawed cases of meat that
stunk from spoilage from having been thawed and refrozen. I toss
such product but others wash it in bleach, apply some ascorbic acid
(I think that's what they use) to redden it back up and sell it.
Relative to blanket cooking, It only takes minutes for the
temperature of this mass to descend below the safe threshold of 160
degrees. Below that and bacteria have the opportunity to grow. The
FDA limit is 4 hours in the "danger zone" (45-160). My standard is
no more than an hour, including heating and cooling.
The safe threshold of 160 degrees has food vigorously steaming.
Most people don't serve food anywhere near that hot. That's fine
for conventional cook and serve. But wrapping it up in a blanket
for several hours would scare the heck out of me.
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Child safety while traveling
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 03:45:53 EST
> >Boy, that's the recipe for food poisoning...
> ><snipped long discourse on food safety>
> >... wrapping it up in a blanket
> >for several hours would scare the heck out of me.
> John, as a physician -- oops, wrong thread! just kidding! sorry! I
> lied again! -- I don't necessarily disagree with anything you said
> above, including the snipped part.
> But I really am fascinated by the inconsistency between your (probably
> justified) extreme concern for the safety of food products and the
> obvious -- to some of us, anyway -- hazards presented by cooking them
> while driving down the highway.
Difference in risk level. According to the numbers emitted by USDA
and FDA as printed in our trade press, most raw chicken is now
contaminated with salmonella, as is a large percentage of raw eggs.
It is killed by proper cooking and storage so the issues are
preventing cross-contamination during prep and in achieving the
necessary sterilization temperatures during cooking. On the beef
side, there are the virulent strains of E. Coli that have been bred
by the abuse of antibiotics that apparently take up housekeeping on
most processed beef. That the E. Coli is present in most meat isn't
new; that it has turned deadly is. We treat all raw meat juice and
eggs as hazardous materials - gloves for handling, chemical
sterilization of utensils and work surfaces and segregation from
other foodstuffs. We're a bit on the leading edge in this area but
I'm not like a Jack in the Box restaurant - I could not survive an
outbreak of food poisoning.
If I can remember some old statistics correctly, one has about a one
in 700 chance of having a wreck involving injury or death for any
given car trip. Compare those rather long odds to the almost
certainty of finding pathogens on raw meat. I think my response is
at worst, proportional, at best, very understated. I run through a
bit more than a ton of meat a month in the restaurant, all without a
single case of food poisoning in our 6 years of operation so this is
a topic near and dear to my heart.
The problem is, YOU don't perceive this risk because you're used to
how it used to be when one could nibble a hunk of raw hamburger or
use raw eggs in recipes with safety, and because we restaurateurs
are doing such a fine job. Our major problem is, as usual, with the
government. Our health department is still promoting food service
standards that have been outmoded for at least a decade. FDA96, the
latest comprehensive food service food safety document from the feds
has been out for about 6 years now and yet our local agency has no
schedule of adoption. I've had to push appeals through the
administrative labyrinth on more than one occasion to avoid being
forced to do something dangerous. (such as placing a handwashing
sink immediately adjacent to a steam table where wash water would
splash on the food.)
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Good News
Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2007 13:47:26 -0400
Why would they pump you out? The incubation period for food poisoning pathogens is
long enough that your stomach would be empty by the time they made you sick.
Yours is an example of just how the system does NOT work. That restaurant got nicked
5 points for improper food temperature. That one category covers everything from
having every refrigerator in the place inoperative to the situation where a fridge
has just been loaded with hot stuff and hasn't yet recovered. I got nicked on that
one once. The rules say that if a refrigerator appears hot, to wait 4 hours to allow
it to recover before writing it up. None of the local inspectors could be bothered.
Then there is the other side. If an inspector likes the operator then he'll do
things like enter the restaurant and sit down to do paperwork for a half hour to give
the crew time to police the place. My regular inspector did that. Considering that
having a bottle of cleaner sitting on a counter instead of hanging off the side costs
the same 5 points as every refrigerator in the place being down, having a chance to
police the place is invaluable.
If you think carefully, there are very few instances where food-borne pathogens
originate at the restaurant. Most are caused by contaminated ingredients. The
infamous Jack in the Box case involved contaminated hamburger, for instance. Much of
what we do now regarding sanitation (color coded knives and cutting boards for the
various food types, constant sterilization, HAACP procedures, etc) is done to protect
from pathogens brought in on incoming food. If the incoming chicken has salmonella
then we don't want to spread it to the steak or salad, for instance. I washed ALL my
produce in 50ppm bleach solution before serving, for instance. I was confident that
nothing bad would originate in my place but I always feared something coming in on the
RE: the BBQ joint. There was a regionally famous place in Cleveland known simply as
"The Spot". It was a tiny walk-up joint just about twice the width of the lunch
counter and a half block deep. Barely enough room to slide in on a stool. When I was
a kid, that was THE place for burgers, chili and "frosties".
It was type of place where when they had to replace the grill in the 80s it took a
full year for the new grill to crud up enough that the old hamburger taste returned.
The chili pot got washed about once a month, when the crust on top built up enough
that the ladle wouldn't fit anymore. They'd dump in new ingredients in the morning
and serve until empty. The cook was a master at popping roaches off the wall with
his nasty, greasy towel he kept in his rear pocket. He'd flick the carcass away and
then get out more burger patties. Hand washing? You gotta be joking.
That was back when restaurants got letter grades. It was the only one I could ever
recall that got a "B". Despite this (or maybe because), this was the most popular
place in downtown to eat. At lunch a line would form down the block and around the
corner. People were a lot less fearful than they are now. I can't recall anyone I
knew ever getting sick there.
Not endorsing such a situation today, what with the mutant E Coli and such. Just
citing another "nasty" joint that didn't kill people.
On Wed, 11 Jul 2007 14:23:12 GMT, "Tom J" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> When I was a kid there was a little barbecue joint in the next town
>> that consistently got a "C" (70s) rating, which was just barely high
>> enough to stay open. Some of the best barbecue in town, and they
>> jammed full every day at lunchtime. The rating was posted in plain
>> sight (as required).
>I never even thought about health scores in restaurants until I got a
>severe case of food poisoning a few years ago where I had to be pumped
>out and spend 48 hours in the hospital. When I was able to get around
>after that, I went back and looked at that restaurant's certificate.
>The rating was 90 as I remember, but 1 of the items was not
>maintaining proper heat on prepared food. That was a day old
>certificate, because the hospital had called the inspectors, so it may
>have been different when I eat there. So, yes, I'm way more careful
>than the average person that eats out. You don't forget those deathly
>cramps from food poisioning!!
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Good News
Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2007 13:20:37 -0400
You won't eat anywhere in TN if that's your criteria. The only places that get
scores in the high 90s are those that don't do any actual food prep - sno-cone
places, stuff like that. Mid-80s is an average score.
The scores are pretty meaningless. For example, they take 2 points for peeling
paint. That could be one little spot out back or it could mean a veritable lead
laden blizzard. OTOH, they once docked me 5 points for having a roll of toilet paper
in the laundry - called it "food utensils around hazardous chemicals".
One inspector told me that he decides what the place is going to make when he walks
in the door and unless he finds something very wrong, dinks around until he arrives
at that score and quits.
Then there is the matter of corruption. I was fortunate enough to catch the
extortion pitch on security tape. A regional supervisor suggesting that he'd shut me
down if I didn't pay. I know of several restaurants that do pay. "knowing" because
the owners have told me.
That inspection report is a great work of fiction. I'm really surprised to hear of
someone taking it seriously. I can't recall anyone ever looking at mine. I'm sure
someone did and I just missed it but still....
On Wed, 11 Jul 2007 13:07:53 GMT, "Tom J" <email@example.com> wrote:
>> On Wed, 11 Jul 2007 12:42:08 GMT, "Tom J" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>> All I have to say about Waffle House is - as soon as you walk in the
>>> door ask where the health department report is posted and then take a
>>> look at it. This company consistantly has scores below 95. I quit
>>> going into them several years ago, but still see the low numbers in
>>> our local paper.
>> Are you saying you eat only in places that score higher than 95? (Not
>> arguing, just curious.)
>> GB in NC
>Most of the time. That 5 point drop off the top can be real trouble
>in food handling. I do ask where the certificate is posted and I do
>see what the score is.