But perhaps the biggest health hazard NBC4 documented was water spilling out of pipes.
“The water smelled like raw sewage and [it] was splashing onto boxes of produce that were often sitting in that water,” according to the report. The television station took samples and had them analyzed at a lab, which found high levels E. coli, fecal coli forms and Listeria.
“Listeria and E. coli were found,” Nelken adds. “Then people want to know why there’s an outbreak.”
NBC4 suggested that actions from L.A.’s Department of Human Health only seemed to become aggressive after the undercover news team started asking questions. In another hidden-camera scene, the chief investigator actually warned produce vendors that NBC4 was investigating.
“We’ve been kind of lenient, awfully lenient with you guys,” one investigator caught on tape said.
The complete story as well as responses from health officials can be found by logging onto www.nbc4.tv/news/10904280/detail.html?taf=la
Officials from two franchise restaurants that received produce from Seventh Street, Johnny Rockets and Pita Pita, said in statements that they will stop using produce from there.
In a statement, Johnny Rockets said, “We have taken appropriate actions to ensure that this produce supplier will not be delivering Seventh Street Produce Market products to any Johnny Rockets restaurants.”
Giving Security a Familiar, Friendlier Face
Exposing food security’s many faces is a matter of understanding that it is simply a component of quality control, says Atlas, of Atlas Safety and Security Design.
You have to conduct a threat, risk and vulnerability assessment,” he says. “You have to determine what are you trying to prevent, what you are fearful will happen and what are the chances that it will happen. You have to ask how important is it to protect it?”
Atlas is presenting a two-part session at the Summit on “What’s the Worst That Can Happen?” He says the security of the future is all about seals. Another measure of good food security is to have back-up generators to power refrigeration if the power goes out.
“As product leaves the farm or processor, the security of the product seals as well as those on cargo trucks and at receiving or loading areas from port to port is very important,” he says. “It’s the next big link when things are falling off the truck, literally and figuratively.”
Nelken takes the measure of security a step further saying a lot could happen in an open field.
“CNN had me go up to Salinas and I was standing in a field with a camera crew for about an hour,” he says. “The question came up about security issues; could the E. coli outbreak have been a terrorist attack? I didn’t want to get into it, but I did mention to the reporter that we had been standing there for 30 to 45 minutes and no one had approached us to ask what we were doing there.”
There were no fences or signs indicating that it was private property, he says. “They should have at least had a couple of cameras to monitor what’s going on,” Nelken adds. Often, he says, food safety resources are mismanaged and fall low on the priority list.
“One example is that most establishments, casinos and restaurants particularly, have incredible control over the booze, but when it comes to the chemicals they clean with, they don’t have a clue,” Nelken explains. “In most establishments, they have a lot of control over the liquor because that’s a profit driven area. They never think that the chemicals could cost them as much as they make with the liquor.”
Remember the waiter who served the degreaser as a salad dressing?
“What happens is a lot of facilities have cleaning crews that come in at night, and rarely is there a check to make sure that cleaning supplies have not been left behind,” Nelken says. “What I recommend to companies is to keep the cleaning chemicals on one cart.”