Almost half of kitchens in this health study could give you a foodborne illness

Does your kitchen meet health standards?

Probably not, according to a study that looked at the kitchens in 100 homes in the Philadelphia area and found at least one “critical code violation” in every single one.

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Jennifer Quinlan, lead author of the study that was published in Food Protection Trends, found that raw meat was improperly stored in 97 per cent of homes where it was present, and that nearly half of the kitchens had at least one foodborne disease-causing organism, like E-coli or Listeria.

READ MORE: Here’s why your bagged salad is a food poisoning risk

And since food-handling is the “the final defence against foodborne illness,” it’s extra important to make sure you’re not making these errors, the study said.

    Dirty sponges or dishcloths

People should clean their sponges or dishcloths just as they would their counters at the end of the day, or in the evening.

“It’s got moisture, it’s at room temperature, it’s probably got food particles… so it’s a perfect place for bacteria to multiply,” Quinlan said of a sponge.

Solution: Throw your sponge in the microwave or dishwasher each night to kill off bacteria. Or, as Quinlan put it: “Make sure you’re killing anything that might be on it from your food preparation.”

    Meat or poultry stored above other foods

Raw meat was found above ready-to-eat foods in 97 per cent of homes, the study showed. And that’s an issue because juices from the meat could leak down onto the food below before it’s consumed.

Solution: Keep your meat on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.

RELATED: 5 things a Canadian food safety expert will never eat 

    High refrigerator temperatures

Your fridge temperature should be kept at 4 C (or 40 F in the U.S.). But Quinlan found that 43 per cent of homes had a fridge temperature higher than 41 F.

And that could cause bacteria like Listeria to grow.

“Every degree that your refrigerator is above that 40 degrees, the bacteria is going to grow faster,” Quinlan explains.

Along with a food safety issue, she said a colder temperature will also help your food last longer.

Solution: Get a fridge thermometer to measure the temperature.

    Pets allowed on food preparation surfaces

Having pets “in food preparation areas may increase the likelihood of fecal-oral contamination,” the study explained.

Yet in 44 per cent of homes, an animal was present in the kitchen at the time of inspection.

Solution: The bottom line is to “Keep your pets off food surfaces,” Quinlan stressed.

READ MORE: Norovirus outbreak linked to BC oysters: What you need to know

    No access to disinfectants or paper towels

Most homes had adequate dish soap, disinfectants and towels, but that wasn’t the case in a significant number of lower-income homes.

“If you don’t have money for food, things like paper towel, disinfectant seems like a luxury,” Quinlan said.

“But the reality is this population is not only at great risk for foodborne illnesses, but has a greater risk for any infectious disease because they don’t have the sanitation materials.”

Solution: This one’s harder to pin down. The obvious issue is to tell people to have disinfectant and towels handy, but as Quinlan writes in her study: “Outreach programs that provide financial assistance or increase access to items necessary for proper sanitation may be more beneficial than educational materials to these vulnerable populations.”

Recovering addict wants to convert Calgary home into addiction treatment centre

About 100 residents packed a southwest Calgary community centre on Wednesday night to voice their concerns about a proposed addiction rehab centre, which if created, would be located across the street from a school.

The controversy was stirred up when the owner of a Windsor Park infill launched a rezoning application to covert his home into a private treatment facility.

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Vedran Cankovic is a recovering addict himself. He spent time in a facility like the one he would like to build, and believes that is one of the reasons he was able to get clean seven years ago.

He has put an application before the city to have his property re-zoned so he can turn his home into a drug and alcohol addiction treatment centre.

Cankovic spent time in a facility like the one he would like to build, and believes that is one of the reasons he was able to get clean seven years ago.

“People welcomed me with open arms. They didn’t shut me down because of a stigma.”

However, not all of Cankovic’s neighbours support his plan.

Earlier this week, an anonymous letter was distributed to Cankovic’s neighbours warning of potential negative impacts from an addiction facility. The letter, titled “PROTECT OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD!” said:

“We believe (this facility) will significantly DEVALUE PROPERTIES in our area as well as invite POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS INDIVIDUALS into our quiet, family-friendly neighbourhood.”

An anonymous letter was distributed to neighbours of a recovering addict after he applied to have his home converted to an addiction recovery centre.

Jill Croteau

It goes on to say the facility would be directly opposite the Windsor Park School and park.

One neighbor told Global News the biggest concerns for him are the vast number of unknowns.

“What we’re really concerned about – what the sign said: alcohol and drug treatment centre – it’s kind of a residential area as you can see. There’s kids playing behind me in the park and it’s right across the street,” Michael Hearn said.

He said they would like to learn more about the plans so they can make an informed decision as a neighbourhood.

WATCH: A recovering addict is hoping to turn his south Calgary home into an addiction recovery centre. However, not all his neighbours support his plan. Jill Croteau has the details.

Cankovic said he understands people are afraid, but believes we cannot ignore that addiction is all around us.

“We live among people who suffer in silence, that are scared to say: ‘I’m addicted.’

“It could be the soccer mom addicted to prescription drugs. Addiction doesn’t discriminate.”

With files from Jill Croteau

B.C. city now ranks among world’s top 2 luxury home markets, and it’s not Vancouver

With Vancouver feeling the effects of a tax on foreign buyers, international investors are turning to pricey real estate in B.C.’s quaint provincial capital.

So much so, in fact, that the city now ranks among the world’s top two luxury property markets.

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Victoria ranked second on a list of the world’s hottest luxury markets for 2016 in a report released by Christie’s International Real Estate and Chestnut Park Real Estate of Toronto on Wednesday.

The city’s ranking represented a climb from third place in the 2015 report; it didn’t rank among the hottest markets in 2014.

And it’s a ranking that came in a year that was its “best ever” for luxury home sales.

The legislature building in Victoria, B.C.

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

One of the biggest reasons that Victoria showed up in second place was that international buyers are being “deterred by nearby Vancouver’s new 15 per cent tax on overseas capital.”

But Victoria was just one of a number of Pacific Rim markets that showed up high on the rankings.

“Relatively strong local economies alongside national and overseas migration and capital inflows were key contributors to growth in these ‘hot’ luxury property markets,” the report said.

READ MORE: B.C. foreign buyers tax really did yank down Vancouver home prices: BMO

Luxury home sales in Victoria are just one sign that the B.C. foreign buyers tax is having impacts beyond Vancouver, it added.

Any shift in city-level policies “can have a ripple effect on the fortune and purchasing patterns of international buyers.”

And this is far from the first report to suggest an uptick in home sale activity (and prices) in Victoria following the tax’s introduction.

Earlier this year, BMO published a chart showing that prices dropped in Greater Vancouver but kept trending up in Victoria.

This chart shows that Vancouver home prices started dropping pretty clearly after July 2016, which was the last month before B.C. instituted a property transfer tax on foreign buyers.

BMO

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As it happens, Toronto reclaimed its spot atop the list of the world’s hottest luxury home markets after falling to second place in 2015 and topping the list in 2014.

The rankings were determined by looking at factors such as the growth in sales for homes worth $1 million or more, as well as how many days such properties were spending on the market.

READ MORE: Soaring house prices in Toronto ‘deeply troubling’ for homebuyers: mayor

Home price trends like this often give rise to concerns about whether a city is in a housing bubble.

Indeed, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) recently said that Victoria is showing moderate signs of overheating; so is Toronto.

There are also plenty of questions about whether such price increases can be considered a good thing.

“Depends on if they own (and don’t care about their offspring’s ability to buy into their market too much, then it’s great news) or rent (then it’s not as great news),” UBC Prof. Tom Davidoff told Global News in an email.

But Toronto and Victoria weren’t the only cities that ranked among the world’s hottest luxury housing markets.

Here are the top 10 as listed by Christie’s and Chestnut Park Real Estate of Toronto:

10) San Diego

In this Nov. 25, 2009 file photo, The BMW Oracle trimaran sails past the San Diego skyline during testing in San Diego.

AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File

9) Sydney

People attend a yoga event in front of the Australia’s iconic landmark Opera House in Sydney on June 21, 2016.

Wendell Teodoro/AFP/Getty Images

8) Portland

The Portland skyline is visible through trees on the east bank of the Willamette River in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014.

(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

7) Paris

The Eiffel Tower is seen at sunset in Paris, France, Sunday, April 12, 2015.

THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Jeff McIntosh

6) Auckland

The Sky Tower lit up blue in Auckland, New Zealand.

David Rowland / Rex Features via

5) Charleston, S.C.

Charleston, S.C.

Wikimedia Commons user Melizabethi123

4) Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas.

Wikimedia Commons user Argash

3) San Francisco

In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, a jogger goes past the Warming Hut Cafe with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background in San Francisco.

AP Photo/Eric Risberg

2) Victoria

The Fairmont Empress in Victoria.

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts

1) Toronto

The CN Tower is barely visible amidst the looming grey clouds in these photos taken on June 30, 2015 in Toronto\’s downtown core.

File photo

Regina’s bat release a flying success

It’s the moment many people wait for every year: the annual bat release.

Nine big brown bats were released back into Wascana Park on Tuesday night at dusk. A small glow stick is temporarily glued to each critter’s belly, so the audience can watch the bats fly off into the wild.

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“These animals tried to hibernate in buildings in Regina and picked bad places to hibernate,” Mark Brigham, a University of Regina biology professor said. “They came to our attention, and the Science Centre has a place they can look after them and feed them. And now it’s spring time and it’s nice, and we want to let them go because they’re still wild animals.”

The Saskatchewan Science Centre feeds the bats worms and crickets, Sheila Beaubien, Saskatchewan Science Centre’s public program co-ordinator said.

“They eat a lot,” she said.

Bats help pollinate flowers and are known as nature’s pesticide, Beaubien said.

“These animals will eat upwards of their entire weight in flying insects every single night in the summer,” Brigham said.

He said the bats probably won’t go beyond the city limits and will likely return to the building where they were born.

Brigham said he looks forward to teaching people more information about bats during the event.

“I never get tired of it. I never get tired of the cool questions. I never get tired of people saying oh, they’re cool, oh, they’re small or they’re neat, or I think they’re very, very loveable,” Brigham said.

Nearly 400 people showed up for the bat release, including young aspiring batmen and batwomen.

Brigham called the turnout fantastic.

“If that gets them to be a bit more interested in science and in particular the bits of science I do, then the next fabulous scientist might be in this park tonight,” he said.

Alberta cabinet minister cites limitations in child care death probe

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally indicated Serenity died while in kinship care. However, on Oct. 6, 2017, Alberta’s Ministry of Children’s Services clarified that although it was through the kinship care program that she was put in the care of the man and woman now facing charges, they were later given permanent guardianship, meaning Serenity was no longer in kinship care. It was at some point after this development that Serenity died. 

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Related

  • ‘Serenity’ case off limits to Alberta child welfare panel: opposition

  • Alberta’s child advocate calls on province to do more to protect kids

  • ‘I could have been Serenity’: former Alberta foster child haunted by past in care

    Alberta’s children’s services minister, facing demands she break up a family under investigation in a child’s death, says the province does not have blanket power to take children away from their biological parents.

    Danielle Larivee said judges, not politicians, make that call and they won’t do so without direct evidence of threat or harm to a child.

    And she said they won’t do so simply because a criminal investigation is underway.

    “The law that we are all as Albertans bound by does not let government go in and apprehend children without evidence of abuse,” Larivee told the house Wednesday during question period.

    Larivee has been under fire from political opponents after it was revealed this week that caregivers at the centre of the horrific death of a four-year-old girl in kinship care still have custody of their natural children.

    READ MORE: Alberta faces renewed questions on safety of kids in government care

    Opposition members say those kids need to be removed from the home for their safety and that Larivee should be fired for allowing them to be there.

    But Larivee said the children are not being harmed and are being assessed by social workers, though she could not provide many few details because of privacy rules.

    “I can specifically say that there has been face-to-face contact and interviewing of these individual children in situations in which I’m confident they were able to have an open conversation with assessors,” Larivee said later at a news conference.

    She said assessors are also trained to look for abuse and neglect. She said the checks began in 2014 and the latest one was this week.

    She wouldn’t say how many checks have been done or how often the children are seen, except to say the checks have been “intermittent.”

    Larivee also said media reports saying there are six children in the house are incorrect. She wouldn’t give the actual number or give the ages of the children, again citing privacy rules.

    Wildrose member Jason Nixon said the children need to be removed.

    “Common sense dictates that no children — period — should be cared for by people who allow the child to be beaten, starved and sexually assaulted to the point of death under their watch,” Nixon told Larivee in the house Wednesday.

    Ric McIver, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives in the legislature, said Larivee is asking the public to be reassured based on very little information.

    “They’re not giving you a lot of words to rely on,” said McIver. “It feels like the minister is running and hiding from the facts because the facts are inconvenient.”

    The case revolves around a young girl named Serenity. Her plight and the lack of action to determine what happened to her and who is responsible have become a symbol of problems in Alberta’s child-care department.

    Serenity, born to First Nations parents, died in kinship care in 2014 despite previous concerns from her birth mother that the girl was being abused.

    Leaked reports to the media late last year revealed that Serenity, just before she died, was taken to hospital emaciated, hypothermic with signs of physical and sexual abuse. She died from massive brain trauma.

    In the two years following her death, there have been delays and secrecy over her autopsy as well as about police and government investigations.

    READ MORE: Mother of 4-year-old Alberta girl who died in kinship care speaks out: ‘They completely ignored me’

    No one has been charged.