Unwelcome bacteria on Christmas menu

Intestinal bacteria in the rice pudding, spore-forming bacteria in the jam and staphylococcus in the alternative Christmas menu's spring rolls: when Stockholm's environmental health inspectors carried out spot-tests of local restaurants' Christmas food, they found some unwelcome microscopic guests had joined the festivities.

East Restaurang, Hägerstalunds Wärdshus and Restaurang Kaknästornet were found to be unfit for public service.

“It’s not good. There were a lot of disease-causing bacteria there,” said Lennart Norring, head of Stockholm council’s environmental health unit.

“We’re going to look at them again after the New Year and carry out inspections and audits.”

In the case of East, inspectors found staphylococcus in the Asian Christmas menu’s Goi Cun, a form of spring roll containing cooked prawns.

“That can cause cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting, it’s a nasty bacteria,” said Norring.

He emphasised that staphylococcus can be spread by suppliers, guests and the kitchen.

Ola Häggström, the head chef at East, told TT that the restaurant would tighten up its food controls. But he said that it was impossible to say where the bacteria came from.

“My theory is that it was either a guest who has been ill or someone in the kitchen who has been ill,” he said.

“Now we’ll check that everything is clean, that everything is as it should be.”

According to Häggström, no guests have complained that they became ill from the restaurant’s Christmas menu.

The other two restaurants had the Bacillus cereus bacteria in their rice puddings. The “nasty little rascal”, as Lennart Norring described it, dies when food is boiled but which produces spores which appear at certain temperatures and which cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

The overall result of the inquiry was encouraging, reckoned Norring. 123 out of a total of 169 samples from 44 different Christmas menus in Stockholm passed the lab test without a hint of microbiological gatecrashers.

40 tests showed small signs of unwanted bacteria.