Inspectors crack down on ice cream sellers
Source of Article: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/658598
Councillor lambastes public health board, while seasonal vendors get new standards
Jun 30, 2009 04:30 AM
David McKeown, the city’s medical officer of health, outlined new standards yesterday that all licensed, seasonal operators must meet to pass inspections and help ensure a summer staple is safe to eat.
A city councillor, though, blasted public health officials for taking nearly two weeks to identify and effectively respond to the problem.
“I was stunned that the Toronto Star was able to — for the second time — expose a problem that the Board of Health seemed to be unaware of,” Scarborough councillor Brian Ashton said, referring to the newspaper’s “Dirty Dining” series in 2000, which prompted public health to release restaurant inspection records. “The Toronto Star is becoming more like a board of health than the Board of Health.”
Ice cream vendors, meanwhile, held an emergency meeting last night to discuss independent tests.
“We have to do something,” said Antonia Prountzaki. She runs three ice cream trucks under the name Master Soft & Delight. Though coliform tests showed her product to be clean, she’s concerned for her colleagues.
There are 112 licensed mobile vendors in Toronto. “We’re going to find the problem.”
Laboratory testing commissioned by the Star showed abnormally high counts of coliform bacteria in soft-serve ice cream from eight of 15 seasonal vendors.
The highest count — from a popular operator in the Beach — yielded 1 million coliform organisms per gram.
The federal food safety standard is 10.
Coliform is a general indicator of food safety. The higher the number, the more suspicious the product, food microbiologists warn.
“When you find (coliform) in large numbers, what that tells us is there’s a very good chance that some of the other nasty organisms are there, too,” said Rick Holley, a food safety expert and member of a federal advisory panel formed in response to the listeria crisis at Maple Leaf Foods.
Public health managers — standing in for front-line food inspectors on strike — are still collecting samples for additional testing to determine whether the ice cream flagged by the Star’s tests contains pathogens like listeria and salmonella.
McKeown, though, said his staff has seen enough to warrant immediate action.
“We are seeing some problems with sanitation, particularly with the procedures for cleaning the ice cream machines,” he said. “So we’ve decided to contact all of the vendors we have on our list, which is more than 100.”
Inspectors will be advised to grade vendors on a checklist that emphasizes the equipment used to refrigerate, freeze and mix the soft ice cream. The list includes:
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