Being an avid reader and researcher of all things food safe, I cannot help but notice a trend. The pattern of reported large scale multi-state outbreaks every few weeks or months seems to be changing to a pattern of small scale but almost daily outbreaks at the local level.

Coincidentally there seems to be a shift from large scale processing and manufacturing contamination to retail and food service handling mistakes as the key factors. If you do not read Bill Marler’s blog or Doug Powell’s or stay focused on the current events you will not see this trend. But it is getting very difficult to stay current. I spend 2 hours a day reading news and analyzing new research, it’s getting tough to keep up even with Bills and Doug’s help.

As some may know, I have been offering HACCP classes at the FS/retail level for 13 years beginning when I conducted the first training for inspectors in Florida in 1998 with my Applying HACCP Principles course. Last week, I certified another 17 FS professionals and sanitarians. I am going on about 250 persons trained/certified under NEHA HACCP and about 1500 under my own International HACCP Alliance accreditation. I am at about 2000 trained in on line programs. These students represent food service, hospital, catering, retail industry professionals, small processors, and a few sanitarians. I have certified about 300 in accredited Produce HACCP, but I have not even scratched the surface of what needs to be done in the way of training in any of these more or less forgotten sectors.

Just look at the recent news and you will see that that most of the problem right now is surfacing at the local level, although the big nationwide fiascoes make most of the news (and there are all sorts of epidemiological reasons for that trend).

So where are food safety management systems at retail? Nowhere, almost.

Apathy regarding food safety is a huge problem at the food service level, and so is waiting around for the health inspector to tell you what to do. And still, the retail industry fights developing food safety management systems, even when it is required, what is wrong here?

I think I know, but I would like to hear someone else besides I address the lack of motivation on the part of 90% of the food service sector.

OK, the obligatory caveat, the national restaurant chains have a type of HACCP, and they do better, sometimes much better, but they represent about 10% of the one million food services in this country. I am tired of hearing how food safety management is too big a burden on the “average Joe” food service operator, or that they just are too backward to handle a scientific approach. This is just not so in my experience.

If a restaurateur can figure out how to make money in this economy and stay afloat, then they are not too stupid for HACCP, so ignorance is an excuse. I am also tired of the excuses that come out of CFP, and actually from FDA itself about the voluntary nature of HACCP at retail.

Listen…food safety is not voluntary; it’s an implied warranty, and should be the one and only criteria for maintaining a permit or license AND an operator should be able to prove it. Its more than just passing an unannounced inspection, its 24/7 365 food safety and its achievable.

How many people have to die from stupid mistakes, lethargy and plain negligence before operators such as the ones below take food safety seriously?

I don’t expect people to come flocking to me for HACCP training, but really people, my numbers at the retail level of HACCP training are pitiful, but I am not giving up.

Thanks as always to Doug Powell at BITES, always a fantastic resource. Please see the donation button. Each of us chipping in $25.00 a year is not too much to ask for this work and more if you can afford it.

CALIFORNIA: Documents show history of problems at Fernbridge Cafe; investigation continues, DA weighing charges
Contra Costa Times
Thadeus Greenson
As the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office continues to mull filing charges against the operator of the Fernbridge Café, environmental health division documents outline a long history of problems at the restaurant.
Deputy District Attorney Krista McKimmy said Thursday that her office is continuing to investigate the case, but that she expects to make a decision on charging operator Steve Sterbeck by Monday.
Sterbeck was arrested on suspicion of operating a food facility without a valid permit on March 31 due to what the DA’s Office deemed “a continued refusal to comply with the Health and Safety Code” that put the public at risk of illness. The arrest came after Sterbeck was asked to close the business temporarily on the heels of water tests showing high levels of E. coli bacteria, officials said.
According to a case file in the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Division of Environmental Health, tests on the cafe’s water conducted on March 17 and 18 showed high levels of E. coli — bacteria found in the lower intestine of warm blooded animals — and coliform bacteria. Further, the tests showed high levels of turbidity — cloudiness — and that chlorine levels in the water were four times below the state minimum and 30 times below the recommended level for treating unfiltered surface water.

Vac-paking pizzas also not for amateurs; Indiana Pizza King cited
Doug Powell
Pizza King has been cited by the Delaware County Health Department for nine violations of sanitation requirements related to its vacuum-packed pizzas.
Two of the violations relate to the lack of a hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) food safety plan, which is required to prevent contamination that can lead to the growth of botulism and listeria bacteria in such packaging.
The violations occurred March 15 at 109 E. McGalliard Road, the only Pizza King site that ships vaccum-packed pizzas, which are partially baked and then frozen, to customers around the country and to other Pizza Kings, where they are sold as take-and-bake products.
Pizza King also was cited by the health department during an inspection nearly six months ago for the lack of a HACCP plan.
"They did in fact cite us in October (for the same violation)," said Pizza King official Jerry Riley. "They were going to, from our understanding, get back with us and show us how to do a HACCP plan, and they never did. So when we got this last one (violation), we got lined up with the federal people who inspect our commissary, and they are in the process of helping us put together the HACCP plan. So we will have it in no time at all. Keep in mind, all of the product we receive has a HACCP plan at the commissary."
Terry Troxell, food safety coordinator for the health department, said Pizza King needs a HACCP plan not only at its commissary in Anderson but also at the store in Muncie where the vacuum-packaging, also known as "reduced oxygen packaging," actually occurs.
"I told them I can help answer questions, but we are not in the business of making HACCP plans," Troxell said. "That’s not something we do. They need to do that. We are a regulatory agency. We do inspections. They never approached me with any questions or request for assistance."