Orange County Residents must Speak Out!

Orange County Residents must Speak Out!

Orange County Supervisors Won’t Ensure Their Citizens are protected from Food-Borne Illnesses. WHY?
Here’s recent and true story reported in the Orange County Register Sept.16, 2014
The cause behind a suspected foodborne illness outbreak at True Food Kitchen in Newport Beach remains a mystery as the total number sickened has gone from six to eight people, including one restaurant employee, health officials said.
This month, the Register reported that six diners had become ill after eating at the upscale Fashion Island restaurant in late August. They tested positive for shigella, an intestinal infection that triggers severe diarrhea, Orange County officials said.
True Food, which bills itself as a healthy living establishment, was forced to close for 48 hours on Aug. 28 while health officials investigated the outbreak. The probe included testing True Food employees for the bacterial disease. (Keep that Sept. 16, 2014 date in mind)
Here’s the Orange County Environmental Health division reports on this restaurant
12/02/2014 , Improper holding temp of phf, unsanitary equipment/utensil/linen/plumbing( 4 months after this place sicken numerous people the same unsanitary conditions are found)
8/30/2014 health permit reinstated
8/28/2014 Investigation of alleged foodborne illness-on –site
8/28/2014 health permit suspended/closure ongoing illness investigation
06/09/2014 routine inspection found unsanitary/conditions walls/floors/ceilings, evidence of vermin activity/presences of rodents/insects/improper food storage/receiving / inadequate hygiene(hair/clothing/eating/drinking
11/21/2013 investigation of alleged foodborne illness-on-site
Shigella is an infectious disease that is passed from one infected person to another from stools of infected people or soiled fingers of a person that wipes their butt and doesn’t wash their hands. It can also spread from flies that came into contact with infected feces and land on food or food prep areas and people that haven’t wash their hands after using the bathroom and then handle food.
The same unsanitary conditions have been going on at this restaurant as far back as 01/30/2013 and were found again 12/02/2014. Under the current health and safety notification system in Orange County there is no way to know the problem this place is having or had. There is no way you would know you’re risking you and you families’ health eating at this place. It’s time to start call the supervisor in your district about this issue. Hopefully we can either get some comments about this problem on or blog or comment about it on our Facebook page. Just share this info!
According to the CDC, most incidents like the one above go unreported but over 300,000 are reported yearly across the United States and that 5,000 of those incidents lead to the death of the infect people.
In 2007-2008 Orange County Grand Jury, because of numerous calls to the health board, began to wonder what the county was doing to ensure that their citizens were being informed and protected from health hazards in the counties restaurants. The question they tried to answer was,” Is the public being kept well informed about the cleanliness and safety of the counties eating establishments? If so, how?’
After an intense study here’s what the Orange County Grand Jury reported;” they said that the process for notifying the public about the cleanliness and safety of restaurants in Orange County is almost non-existent”. In the report the Grand Jury went on to say that” the thorough inspections and results found by the Environmental Health Division of the Orange County Health Care Agency are not made directly available to the public and only a small number of people know of, or have the ability to find restaurant inspection results”. The Grand Jury decided at that point to find and recommend a new system for grading restaurants for Orange County that would better protect the public. The Environmental Health Division of the Orange County Healthcare Agency concurred that a new system was needed.
You see in Orange County a pass or fail system is used to grade a restaurants safety and cleanliness. A restaurant that followed all the laws and regulations on the books for keeping their business clean, pest free and safe is grouped with restaurants that are not staying on top of those laws and regulation, have cockroach control problems, a rodent control problem and/ or cleanliness issues. Some of those restaurants are repeat offenders as you saw in the report above. The system used now does not distinguish the good from the not so good.
After much research the Grand Jury decided to recommend the system that was set up and instituted in Los Angeles in 1997. They found that Los Angeles’s ABC Grading card system had dramatically reduced the number of foodborne illnesses since its inception and their system had been instituted in San Diego, Riverside, Ventura, San Francisco, well every almost every city in California plus New York, Philadelphia, well a lot of cities across the US. Everywhere the ABC system for restaurant evaluations was set in place saw a dramatic decrease in the number of foodborne illness.
In 2003, Phillip Leslie Ph.D. from Stanford published a study of the ABC grade card system being used LA. Here is a summary of some of the most relevant data he came up with:
From 1993 to 2000 3,000 food-borne illnesses causing hospitalizations were ID in Los Angeles. This represents 31% of the total of food-borne hospital ions for all of California.
After the initiation of the ABC system in Los Angeles in 1998, food-borne hospitalizations dropped 18.6% in the first year. The rest of the state,( including Orange County), had a decline of just 1.2%
For the 3 year period from 1998-2000, food-borne hospitalizations in Los Angeles dropped by 28.8% while the rest of the state experienced only a 6.2% decline.
Dr. Leslie study found that,” A SIGNIFICANT DECREASE IN FOOD-BORNE-DISEASE HOSPITALALIZATION IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY FOLLOWED THE INTRODUCTION OF THE ABC GRADING CARDS”. It was reported that after this system was started in New York City, they saw a 40% decrease in food-borne illnesses and hospitalizations. That’s big! The bottom line is the system works.
The question we what to address here is why, after this system became a proven benefit to public safety, Orange County California didn’t institute this system. Even after the Orange County Grand Jury and the Environmental Health Division of Orange County Health Care agency made the recommendation to do so?
Here’s Brad Johnson of the Orange County Register’s take on why the board of supervisors refuse to institute the ABC grading card system. This info taken from his article.
The Orange County Restaurant Association lobbied hard against letter grades. Supervisor Janet Nguyen (whose husband as well as her then-chief of staff both own restaurants) urged her colleagues to vote against any changes, arguing that even minor tweaks would be “really devastating to restaurant owners.”(You can see the importance she places on public safety) She said the system isn't broken, so there's no need to fix it. Here are the arguments put forth by opponents of letter grades, I can’t believe an educated person wouldn’t get upset with the logic those people used in their arguments.
Argument 1: Letter grades would be unfairly punitive to restaurants.

Is it punitive to tell a restaurant to fix its rat or cockroach problem? No.Is it punitive to warn a restaurant's customers that the restaurant has a rat problem? No. Is it punitive to slap a restaurant with a B or C grade because it doesn't maintain safe temperatures for its food? No. Requiring restaurants to abide by the health code and maintain clean, safe kitchens that are vermin free is not punitive. It's common sense. Restaurants in Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere don't lose their coveted A grade for running out of toilet paper or for a cook getting caught drinking from the wrong type of cup. They get the dreaded Bs and Cs for serious violations, for cockroaches and flies contaminating food and work stations, for rodent activity in the food prep area, for food being held at poisonous temperatures, for washing dishes in cold water, for meat and vegetables prepared on the same surface. These are the kinds of things that make people sick. Really sick. And if we let problems like these go unchecked, with no more than a slap on the wrist and a wink – in private, with no consequences – the problems will continue.

Argument 2: A better system would be too costly for restaurants.

This was also debunked. It was determined that instituting letter grades would raise the annual fees levied upon restaurants by $7. Big deal. Yet, Supervisor Nguyen continued to assert that even the smallest changes would be devastating. Well, the sky didn't fall in L.A. or San Francisco or New York when letter grades were introduced. Things actually improved.
Argument 3: Inspectors are racists (can you believe she made that statement, now this is an elected offical) who treat immigrant entrepreneurs more harshly than longtime residents or larger corporations like McDonalds or Burger King.
Well, that's just ridiculous. A dirty, cockroach infested, unsanitary kitchen is a dirty, unsanitary kitchen, no matter who's running it. Period. Argument 3: Inspectors are hooligans who might solicit bribes.
This was one of the most salacious boogeyman arguments for keeping the current system. Under a stricter system, it was argued; inspectors would become corrupt and try to shake down restaurant owners at every opportunity. Of course there was no proof that anything like this has happened in Orange County. This was nothing but fear-mongering.

Argument 4: The current system works. (Just think of TRUE Food Kitchen , Under the ABC CARD SYSTEM THE PLACE WOULD HAVE BEEN CLOSED)There's no need to fix what's not broken.
Supervisor Chris Norby echoed Nguyen's insistence that the system wasn't broken.
Not broken? Forty percent of Orange County restaurants would fail to score an A, and the system is not broken?
Ultimately, the supervisors ignored the Grand Jury and the health inspectors and voted 3-2 against adapting a new system. The supervisors who voted “no” for letter grades were Nguyen, Norby and Patricia Bates. Nguyen and Bates are still on the board, but Norby is not.
Wheeler’s Pest Control has been serving Orange County for over 10 years and seen it all. When we get calls from restaurants in Orange County most are really trying to give their customer a clean and safe place to eat. But because of the system Orange County has in place now we get way more calls from places that don’t want regular services. They know that all they need is a piece of paper that they can give to the health inspector to show that a problem was dealt with. Then they wait for the next inspection and when they have another problem they call again. You see under the current system in Orange County the public can’t tell if a restaurant is a repeat offender, Under the ABC card system a repeat offender has their letter grade changed and it stays in place for 4 month. That means lost business. Therefore, restaurants in Los Angeles and Riverside Counties are less likely to try and play around with their pest control or sanitations issues because they know they will be penalized big time.

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