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Will a new Netflix food doc mean more guest complaints?

The Executive Briefing - Friday, August 4th

“Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food” Documentary on Netflix:

If you haven’t seen it yet:

  • This week, a new Netflix documentary premiered about foodborne illness.
  • It highlights the complicated regulatory landscape for food, and while it touches on restaurants while covering the tragic Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak of the early ‘90s, it focuses mainly on agriculture and food production.
  • Bill Marler is a main source in the documentary. He’s the premier foodborne illness attorney in the U.S. who brought the case against Jack in the Box (and has since litigated many others against food manufacturers and restaurants). After that case led to landmark food safety regulations around beef, Marler and other interviewees argue that the food industry should be more heavily regulated at the farm and processing stages, where so much of the contamination occurs.

What it means for the restaurant industry:

  • Depending on its popularity (heat waves = more views), we might see an increase in guest complaints as people are reminded of the source and severity of foodborne illness…and see the opportunity for litigation.
  • That said, restaurants aren’t the bad guys (or even a major character) in this documentary. Instead, it implies that the USDA and FDA need to regulate to keep E. coli, salmonella, and other pathogens out of the food supply, rather than put the onus on the consumer (or restaurants) to treat their food “like a biohazard.”

Our take:

  • We think that anything in popular culture that shares good science about foodborne illness is a good thing.
  • We’re on the lookout for increased guest complaints and will continue to update you as we hear more.

Health News:

  • COVID hospitalizations are still rising slowly across the country in what looks to be a summer spike, though more mild than last year. Hotspots in TX, OK, NE are still highly localized. (The Hill)
  • Updated COVID booster shots could be authorized by the end of the month, Pfizer says. (NBC)
  • China is dealing with an mpox public health crisis, though cases are still low. (Technology Review)
  • Chiggers (the larval stage of a mite) in North Carolina tested positive for bacteria that can cause deadly scrub typhus, which has never been seen in the US. (Raleigh News Observer)
  • Parts of LA County are under agricultural quarantine after an invasive fruit fly was discovered that causes produce to rot. (Washington Post)
  • An amazing new breath test from WashU St. Louis can detect COVID in just 1 or 2 breaths and in under a minute. (CIDRAP)
  • Extreme heat has created food safety issues with produce, including toxic, foaming watermelon. (Bangor Daily News)
  • Older people had a slightly lower risk of adverse events after the Moderna rather than the Pfizer COVID vaccine, but the overall risk is less than 1% for either brand. (CIDRAP)
  • Adults are increasingly susceptible to measles, in part because the first wave of kids whose parents shunned vaccines in the late 90s are now adults. (STAT)

Mental Health News:

  • Longer heat waves have experts concerned about increased Seasonal Affective Disorder in the summer, a type of depression related to the weather. (ABC)
  • LGBTQ+ teens often struggle to find mental health care tailored to them. (NBC)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide or need help, call 988 or message the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions

“Poisoned” on Netflix focuses on Salmonella and E. coli in the food supply. What can our business do to reduce risk around those pathogens?

Carefully wash produce, especially romaine lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens with your commercial produce wash (even if pre-washed), and regularly check to ensure that your team members are following proper procedure. Preventing cross-contamination is the name of the game with these pathogens, so focus on training, cleaning, and reminders, and make tweaks to your kitchen set-up to reduce the chances of raw meat or poultry coming in contact with anything that isn’t cooked. As always, you should focus on the kill-and-chill steps, and regular cleaning, not just at the end of a shift. Long story short, your team already knows what to do to prevent foodborne illness, but they need the support to do it consistently - that includes regular reminders, proper staffing & guest flow so they’re not in the weeds and cutting corners to get food out the door, well-designed spaces, and rock solid processes. Last but certainly not least, while the Netflix show doesn’t focus on this as much, we know that 40% of restaurant outbreaks are caused by employees working sick. Double down on ensuring that your employees know never to work sick, especially with diarrhea or vomiting.
Source: FSIS, CDC

Can COVID tests get too hot? We have a small stockpile that reached over 102° for a few days - can we still use it?

Unfortunately, yes, at-home rapid tests can get too hot. While they can withstand regular shipping processes even in this extreme heat, if you have a stockpile in Arizona heat without air conditioning, or in a hot car for multiple days, you should assume your tests are defective. Likewise, in the winter they can get too cold, so it’s always best to keep them in your home at a temperature you find comfortable.
Source: YLE, Miami Herald

Best Read:

Bird Flu Has Never Done This Before | The Atlantic

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.