Posts Tagged food safety

Foodborne Illness – About more than food safety practices

Food Safety Magazine came out with a fascinating article last week (the first in a series of three), titled The Tragedy of Foodborne Illness: Much Is Preventable.

According to the article, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that over 3,000 people die each year in the U.S. from foodborne illness. That is an average of eight people per day. An estimated 128,000 people are hospitalized each year. That is an average of 350 people per day.

The numbers are incredible when you think about it. How is that OK?!

One of the parts of the article that should shock you most:

Unfortunately, many restaurant food handlers are not following best food safety practices. As a result, according to CDC 48% of food borne illness is traced to restaurants.


While following simple food safety rules – such as a food handler staying home when sick, thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables, cooking meat properly, and watching time and temperature rules – can prevent many epidemics … it still doesn’t tell the entire story.  Pests and vermin in restaurants can also be the cause of many illnesses. Cockroaches in a kitchen can lead to gastroenteritis-related illnesses such as food poisoning and dysentery. Flies are noted for their propensity to spread Salmonella, but also carry and distribute Shigella and Escherichia coli (E. coli), the bacteria responsible for illnesses like dysentery and E. coli-based food poisoning.

Have you ever experienced an unfortunate bout of Salmonella or “food poisoning” after eating out? Salmonellosis is just one bacterium that rodents can carry and pass along to humans through food contamination. The CDC reports of Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCMV) and Rat-Bite Fever (Haverhill fever) as well as other serious illnesses that can result from rodent-to-food-to human transmission, such as the more rare and sometimes fatal Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) and Hantavirus (Pulmonary Syndrome).

Following all of the food safety rules listed above is a start to preventing foodborne illnesses, but so much more needs to be done. While some restaurants are proactive, most are unfortunately not… which is why we have created PFE. PFE identified the need for greater accountability, and developed a comprehensive plan designed for responsible, concerned restaurant owners who want to be proactive. PFE-Verified restaurant owners want their customers to know that they are taking the extra step to insure the safety and well being of their patrons.


Posted in: food safety, restaurants

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Everything You Wanted to Know About Roaches But Were Afraid to Ask



Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I suspect it’s an almost universally held opinion that roaches are outright ugly.  Once we progress past the hysteria and fearfulness that exists around the images of these critters, then what?  Are they really these filthy little beasts they’re rumored to be?  After all, don’t some people EAT roaches? (The answer is yes.  Cockroaches are also allergens, prompting asthma attacks in many people.)


There are people who claim that cockroaches aren’t dirty.  Roaches aren’t independently dirty in the same way that a toilet bowl isn’t dirty on its own.  It’s all about the conditions, habits, and practices of roaches that have earned them their well-deserved reputations.  They are famous for the acts of picking up, tracking, and depositing all sorts of bacteria and it begins with their dining establishments of choice.


Cockroaches aren’t discriminating; they’ll eat just about anything.  They’ll heartily munch away on garbage, leftover scraps of food, grease, glue, paper, soap, books, leather and, yep, even hair.  Water is their lifeblood, so if there’s a source, they’ll be there.  As a nod to their durability, they can survive up to six weeks without food and two weeks without a head!  Since they can gain access into houses, restaurants and anywhere else where there’s food through a crack that’s 1/16th inch wide, they rarely face a starvation scenario. (Of course, if headless, eating is no longer an option!)


Since roaches hang in such unsavory environments, they pick up harmful bacteria—most commonly salmonella.  Salmonella infection is the most common foodborne illness according to the CDC and its recorded cases are on the rise.  Roaches have sticky legs that are particularly adept at holding on to this harmful bacteria and tracking it and their own fecal matter into the environments they love the most:  anywhere there is food!


Restaurants are havens for cockroach infestations.  They store and prepare large quantities of food, offer multiple opportunities for entry, and ample space for them to scatter and breed.  It’s why so many cases of salmonella food poisoning are sourced from dining out.


Monthly pest control services—PFE-Verified restaurants maintain their establishments in this fashion—is the only way to combat the armies of pests that will always be drawn to all that commercial kitchens have to offer.  The PFE-Verified database is such a valuable resource. What better way to be reassured that you are dining with peace of mind in a clean, roach-free, establishment?



Posted in: food safety, restaurants, Uncategorized

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Restaurant Kitchens: Sick as Our Secrets

Consider that, today, many of our activities have a focus on the betterment of health and an improvement of our life conditions.  We strengthen our bodies and spirits by hitting the yoga mat.  We check labels to ensure our consumables are free of hormones, BPA, and scores of other potential health threats.  Through due diligence, we’ve identified potential food allergens that negatively affect us—gluten, dairy, nightshades, for example—eliminated them, and reaped the benefits of feeling better.  There’s been a significant movement away from processed food and toward organic.  We clean every household surface and our very own hands with anti-bacterial agents in hopes of keeping illness at bay; now we have environment-friendly versions available.  Courtesy of HEPA filters, we’re even able to give the air we breathe a good scrubbing.

The point is this: Our society is constantly forward thinking and ambitious in these efforts.  We’ve become educated; we’ve learned that life can look and feel better and we continuously pursue those improvements.  Therefore, it’s one of the goals of PFE-Verified to create dialogue around improved restaurant dining conditions.  It’s a segment of our lives that, though fraught with potential risk, is often overlooked.  Our company has two goals: 1) to educate the public about restaurant food prep and storage conditions and how those environments may affect our health and, 2) to support and elevate (via advertising, social media campaigns and promotions, and other membership benefits) the restaurants that do utilize pest control services on a contracted monthly basis.

In Rhode Island (PFE-Verified’s home base), the Department of Health posts its restaurant inspection reports online.  In conducting research for an article I’m working on, I was shocked to come across a report that summarized a series of inspections that the RI Department of Health conducted during the summer of 2012 at a local, very popular and beloved establishment located here in the Ocean State.  (Because our goal is to support, not disparage the restaurant industry, I won’t cite the restaurant by name.  All inspection reports are available on the Dept. of Health’s website or, better yet, dine with peace of mind at a PFE-verified restaurant!)  During one of the inspections—and this incident is what caused the subsequent return visits by the inspector; typically Rhode Island restaurants are inspected once every three to five years—a litany of violations were observed including both live and dead mice sightings as well as evidence of their droppings.

How does such a well-known and successful restaurant operate with live mice running around the kitchen?  It’s very simple and very common: They didn’t use any appropriate pest control services.  While the health inspector was present, the business owner called in an exterminator to devise a pest-control plan.  (The alternative option was to shut the business down until the issues were rectified.)  We want to believe the best of people; if this story has a happy and safe ending, the business in question has continued to retain the contracted, monthly services of an exterminator.  That consistent plan of attack is the only way to maintain a clean, pest-free facility.  But, what if they cancelled services after a few months?  Unfortunately, that’s the more common practice that we observe.  Once the Department of Health is satisfied that the violations have been satisfied, it’s reasonable to expect that they may not be back to inspect for years.  Pest-control and the health of their customer base weren’t priorities to this restaurant, prior to the summer of 2012; it’s reasonable to expect that, as it often happens, it would be the first operational cost to be cut from the budgets.  The bottom line:  It’s just an unknown until someone gets sick or an inspector returns again, someday.

It’s 2013 and we expect to either have full knowledge or the ability to acquire it readily.  We don’t need to dine amidst an air of mystery.  PFE-Verified was created so that the consumer could patronize businesses willing to offer full visibility of their kitchen-keeping practices.  Don’t we want to recognize and frequent those businesses as well as honor our own health and well being in this way?  We certainly take care of ourselves in so many other ways.  Foodborne illnesses and the damages they present are so serious.  There’s a way to look behind the curtain now.  We don’t have to just blindly trust others to be the stewards of our health; we can make educated decisions when dining out.  Knowledge is power; we all know that.  In this age, it also advances our status of wellness.

Posted in: food safety, health inspections, restaurants, Uncategorized

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8 Questions Every Restaurant Owner Needs To Ask




For all the “scary” restaurants out there, there are many terrific, wholly responsible dining establishments, as well.  We already have several listed in the PFE database and will be adding more, shortly.  (One of the benefits of PFE membership is staunch support and recognition of our registered restaurants.)  There’s also another community of culinary business owners who are progressing into the territory of “doing better.”

There are many tactics, easily implemented, that can help in the fight against vermin, pest, rodent, and insect infiltration in restaurant kitchens everywhere.  Pests pick up, track, and deposit germs and bacteria everywhere.  They are a source of many food borne illnesses, a scourge that is on the rise according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No matter the level of diligence, there’s always room for improvement.  Here are just a few questions that every food service business should be asking as they review conditions at their facility.  Monthly pest control services coupled with a PFE verification to alert the public that they are a safe, “dine with peace of mind” choice are positive components in the “big picture” of any restaurant’s profile. __________________________________________________________________________________

8.  Are food products ingredients such as flour, sugar, corn starch and salt being stored in sealed containers?

7.  How often do we wash garbage cans and do we use liners in our cans?  Garbage cans are a haven for germs, bacteria, rodent, pest, and insect infestation.

6.  How does the exterior of the building look?  A rat can access the interior through an opening the size of a quarter.  Cockroaches slip in through cracks that are only 1/16th of an inch.

5.  Do I have #16 mesh window screens with intact weather stripping installed in every window?

4.  Are doors, loading docks, or other points of entry being left open? Door sweeps and automatic doors may be part of the solution.

3.  Are the exterior lights attracting more insects and pests for us to contend with?

2.  Does a licensed exterminator provide services to our establishment?  How often? (Monthly treatment is necessary to keep vermin and pest infiltration at bay.)

 And the number ONE question that responsible restaurant owners should be asking themselves…

1.  Are we a PFE-verified restaurant?  And, if not, why?


Posted in: food safety, food safety, restaurant owners, Uncategorized

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