Minister awards Cornish hospital prize for food

Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary, has tried to help reverse the reduction in the proportion of British food being served in hospitals by prescribing Cornish clotted cream ice cream in order to help improve patients’ health.

He went on to say that spending more of the available £2.1 billion budget for food and drink on British produce would not only help to create much healthier meals, which would be a huge benefit to patients, but it would also boost British farming.

At a dairy conference in Glasgow, he went on to address the award-winning Cornwall Food Programme and suggested that it should be used as a great example to others. The programme is responsible for providing 100,000 food portions to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance and St Michael’s Hospital in Hayle.

Paterson went on to say that the programme has meant that:

“They have increased the amount of fresh, local food they use… They have started serving a local clotted cream ice cream which not only tempts patients to eat but actually saves money, as fewer elderly patients need powdered drink supplements to make sure they get enough calories.”

It’s no secret that the majority of people don’t like hospital food and as a lot of people refuse to eat it when they’re admitted, it means that nutrition is a huge concern – especially with regards to elderly patients. If this programme were spread throughout the NHS it would mean that patients would receive the essential nutrition that they require in the form of fresh, hearty meals rather than supplement drinks.

The Secretary of State has also praised the menu that’s available at Cornwall’s hospital and would like their “buy local” ethos to be extended to all areas of the NHS as well as to schools and prisons.

Merseyside hospital given praise for care

Whiston Hospital, under the St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, has been praised for their quality of care by hospital watchdogs and the Care Quality Commission.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission spoke with users of this particular NHS service along with carers, family members and staff of the hospital, as well as reviewing information provided to them by community groups and consequently determined that the hospital delivered, “care and treatment planned and delivered in a way intended to ensure people’s safety and welfare”.

The report, published by the Care Quality Commission said that patients and relatives of patients who had been cared for at the hospital were very happy with the treatment and care they had been given.

However, one issue that has been raised is the speed with which complaints are dealt with across the St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and bosses have been told that they must speed up the rate at which they handle these in future.

In response to this a trust spokesman said:

“The Trust passed all areas of the recent CQC inspection, with only a minor action required to further improve the timeliness in responding to complaints. A significant improvement has now been made and this will continue to be monitored.”

Heston Blumenthal forced to close restaurant after vomiting bug outbreak

Heston Blumenthal has once again been forced to close one of his restaurants after a norovirus outbreak occurred. Blumenthal’s restaurant, Dinner, which has two Michelin stars and is situated in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, has been closed for a week by the chef himself after several people became ill. One American couple were violently ill on their flight home to Denver after eating at the restaurant.

This isn’t the first time one of Blumenthal’s restaurants has been closed due to sickness. In 2009 his restaurant The Fat Duck, in Berkshire, had to be closed after an outbreak of food poisoning – thought to involve raw sewage infecting uncooked oysters. The restaurant was closed for a total of ten days and an official investigation was conducted after the chef and other staff were accused of not moving fast enough to prevent the virus from spreading.

On this occasion, although the closing of the restaurant may not have been necessary, Blumenthal decided to “err on the side of extreme caution” and acted swiftly to close the restaurant, after news of the first illness broke, in order to prevent the bug from spreading further.

Food safety manager, from Westminster City Council, James Armitage said:

“Test results last week have shown that there has been an outbreak of norovirus at the Dinner restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge. The operators have now closed the restaurant and we believe this is the responsible thing to do.

“Westminster City Council food safety officers have carried out a thorough inspection of both the restaurant premises and working practices and will continue to work with Public Health England and the restaurant operators until the restaurant is given the all-clear.

“We have already asked the restaurant to improve some of its hygiene procedures – including telling staff to wash their hands more often. All the changes were made immediately.”

The restaurant was closed on 02/02/14 for one week and should reopen, subject to being free from the virus and being given the all-clear by the council.

The Gloves Are On? Should Chefs Wear Disposable Gloves?

This January (2014) saw a new law come into effect in the state of California requiring all chefs to wear single-use disposable gloves when preparing ready-to-eat meals.  Please note this article is now 3 years old.  Newer information can be found at the bottom of this post.

Restaurants and food companies will have six months to implement the change.

And it doesn’t simply affect chefs – bartenders, too, have to wear gloves to prepare drinks, as they cannot touch ice, fruit garnishes, or anything else that goes in the glass.

Should all chefs have to wear gloves when preparing food?

How would we feel if these changes were implemented in the UK?

In the UK current regulations stipulate that it’s not a requirement to wear gloves when preparing food. However, gloves may be worn provided they are kept clean and are changed regularly after handling raw foods.

It’s a requirement that all food handlers maintain excellent standards of personal hygiene, which means they’re expected to wash their hands frequently. They should always wear gloves if they have a cut or sore on their hands.

Advantages of Wearing Gloves

One pro is that gloves act as a barrier for germs so they prevent the spread of food poisoning pathogens, and various strains of cold and flu viruses, making them essential in preventing food poisoning outbreaks. They also protect food from being contaminated by dirty fingernails, or from rings dropping off, for instance.

Fish preparationAn area where gloves are especially useful is the preparation of raw fish items, such as sushi. If a chef has been preparing shellfish sushi, then takes an order for a customer who’s allergic to shellfish, they can change gloves and feel confident that their customer is safe from harm.

Chefs wearing gloves also contributes to a positive customer perception regarding the cleanliness of an establishment or business.

Disadvantages of Wearing Gloves

Hand washingGloves can cause a false sense of cleanliness. The outside of a glove is just as likely to be contaminated as a bare hand, so they must be disposed of whenever a food handler would normally wash their hands. However, it’s more likely a food handler would notice juices on their bare hands than on the surface of a glove, which means they might not notice when they need to change them.

Gloves must be changed on a regular basis, as the warm, moist conditions can promote the multiplication of bacteria and act as a breeding ground for germs.

Gloves cause an additional hazard, as they can be punctured or torn, causing small pieces of glove to fall unseen into food.

Finally, a food handler who’s using gloves properly will use lots of disposable gloves, which is a waste of valuable resources and can slow down food preparation.

The Customer Viewpoint

It’s believed that customers are likely to feel more confident if their food is prepared by somebody wearing gloves. However, customer reaction to the new law has been generally negative, with customers commenting:

“This is Nanny-Stateism at its worst!” and, “This is large scale, blind regulation based on pandering to fear, not fact.”

In addition, many commented on the irony of LA banning the use of plastic bags for environmental reasons, only to introduce single-use disposable gloves for food preparation.

Whether or not a food handler wears gloves when preparing food, it’s of paramount importance that they follow proper food safety regulations, and either wash their hands regularly or change gloves frequently, ensuring they wash their hands properly with each change.

How do you feel about these changes?
Chef’s, bartenders, restaurateurs, diners – we would like to know your thoughts.

For those looking to bring their food safety skills up to date check out some of TutorCare’s Food Safety Training courses that are now available online.  Alternatively if you work in the Restaurant sector have a look at our latest blog post relating to Food Safety In Restaurants.  Updated for 2017.



Food Standards Agency searches for foreign food labelled as British

Since the horsemeat scandal of 2013, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have been fighting the issue of authenticity when it comes to foods that our sold being sold as British. After reports of a non-British pork chop being sold as British meat in Tesco stores last year, the FSA will soon be beginning a study involving isotope technology on a number of samples.

FSA CEO Catherine Brown has said that the majority of the products tested will be those that are available at retail establishments. However, they will also be testing “a couple of burger businesses which claim British or UK provenance on their beef.”

A total of 100 samples will be taken over the next few months of beef, pork, lamb, honey, apple juice and tomatoes in order to establish their origin. The study will focus on foods where UK provenance is particularly important to consumers. The horsemeat scandal has meant that selling food that’s been sourced in the UK has become much more important to shoppers. However, this has raised the risk of non-British products being sold as British.

Brown added that although the results from isotope testing aren’t 100% “it can give you a steer” and will help the FSA work with retailers to investigate the origins of the food that they supply with a view to publishing a summary and ultimately a full list of everything tested.

Over 100 Welsh kitchens receive zero rating for food hygiene

Food outlets in Wales are now legally obliged to display their Food Standards Agency (FSA) hygiene rating in a prominent place. This is bad news for over a hundred kitchens which have received zero stars. The ratings apply not just to restaurants and takeaways, but to all food outlets. Among those receiving a zero star rating were rugby clubs, sweet shops and even a primary school.

Powys was the county most frequently represented with 19 establishments listed, including Sennybridge County Primary School. However, the council’s communications manager said that the issues at the school had been rectified and that a higher rating of five would be applied when the FSA updated its website.

This highlights the fact that ratings are not static, but are instead subject to regular revision. As a spokeswoman for the FSA said:

“Businesses are not given a zero then left alone, if there’s a risk to public health there are certain procedures in place, and the inspectors would be working with businesses on the actions they need to take.”

Equally, a five star rating is no cause for resting on one’s laurels as if standards slip, a new, lower rating will reflect that. Food must be handled hygienically and managed correctly, but the premises must also be in good condition. All three aspects contribute to a kitchen’s star rating.

Leicester Chinese restaurant receives heavy fine for food hygiene issues

The Real China in Highcross has been fined £12,000 after admitting 12 charges relating to food hygiene at Leicester Magistrates’ Court. Environmental health officers attending for a routine inspection found dirty equipment, broken fridge seals and food stored at the incorrect temperature.

One of the main charges related to the serving of buffet style food. According to law, such food must be kept at 63 degrees or higher. Fried chicken was found to be 52 degrees and shredded pork 59 degrees.

Prosecutor, Nicki Agalamanyi, said:

“When an officer asked the chef to show her the food temperature probes, she was given two probes. The probes were very dirty and, when this was brought to the chef’s attention, he was seen to pick food debris from the probes with his fingers.”

This took place in October. In November, a subsequent visit saw the restaurant advised to repair or replace floor surfaces but by January, nothing had been done. The floor was slippery underfoot and other issues were also apparent. Food had been put into refrigerators before it had sufficiently cooled and again some hot buffet food was being served at too low a temperature, including chicken and mushroom at 50 degrees.

Wenbing Liang, the director of the firm which runs the restaurant, responded by saying:

“On behalf of the company and all my colleagues, I want to say sorry. We have undertaken a deep clean and have spent tens of thousands on a new floor and new equipment.”

Another inspection is scheduled in the near future.

Bolton nightclub closed for fire safety reasons

The After Dark club in Bolton has been forced to close due to a failure to meet fire safety standards. Fire service officials found blocked exits and emergency exit signs that did not illuminate. It was also found that the alarm was not linked to the sound system and so could not be heard for the music.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Fire Safety Officer, Wayne Van Hecke, said:

“We found the life risk to the public was so great that we had no other option than to prohibit the opening of the club until the necessary fire safety standards were met, as public safety is our number one priority.”

The club was closed at 1am on Sunday morning and the management apologised to customers for their having to leave ‘while the party was bouncing’. The repair work will be undertaken and it was hoped that the club would be open again by the following weekend.

PC Jane Wilcock from Bolton’s police partnership team said that the visit had been planned and also involved licensing staff from Bolton Council. A secondary aim was to see whether there were any underage drinks sales taking place or whether alcohol was being served to those who were already too intoxicated. The ongoing operation will see a number of licensed premises in the area visited in the run-up to Christmas.

Which foods pose the biggest risk of poisoning?

Food poisoning is a particularly unpleasant experience for anyone and if you have suffered from it you will have instantly wanted to know the specific cause. Often it is not due to that takeaway you ate last night, indeed a lot of food poisoning can take a number of days or weeks to take effect.

The spokeswoman for Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Lorraine Belanger, described how easily it can occur. She said: “People think of chicken as the number one suspect but actually things like salads and cut fruit, if handled in the wrong way or exposed to wrong things, can cause major foodborne outbreaks.”

The Food Safety Information Council’s executive officer Juliana Madden added: “Some of the largest food safety issues that have popped up in the last few years have been things like baby spinach and tomatoes.”

It is possible for eggs to carry salmonella although cooking them thoroughly will kill bacteria. Listeria can be found in deli meats and turkey, chicken and duck can carry campylobacter and salmonella. E. coli can contaminate sprouts and it is possible for listeria to grow on the skin of cantaloupes. Additionally, raw vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce and celery can carry E. coli and salmonella and rice can be contaminated with Bacillus cereus.

Woman’s body found in Wirral house fire

An unidentified woman has been found dead in a house fire in Merseyside, it has been confirmed. Firefighters were called to a home on Village Road in the Higher Bebington area of the Wirral on Sunday evening. After arriving at the property at around 17:50 GMT fire crews extinguished the blaze inside. A smoke alarm had been triggered at the house but firefighters discovered the body of a woman in the lounge.

A fire service spokesman said: “Firefighters on arrival saw the smoke was coming from another property and entered that property and extinguished a fire.

“Sadly, during a search of the property, the body of an adult woman was found. Merseyside Police has been informed along with our incident investigation team.
“Smoke alarms were present and activated in the property where the fire took place.”

A police spokesman stated that the woman was believed to be in her 40s and a significant part of the road has been sealed off while an investigation takes place. This investigation will be carried out by Merseyside fire services and police and enquiries have been made to determine the identity of the woman and her next of kin.