Wash Your Hands Frequently. Also, don’t forget to breathe.


GOOD HYGIENE

(Sort of) Good Hygiene

I saw this sign over the weekend in the restroom of a retail store. It was beside the standard “employees must wash hands before returning to work” sign.  This was just a print out, placed in a 3-ring binder type page protector, then taped to the wall.  I don’t mean to poke fun at the store, or the person who placed the sign on the wall… but I do see a few problems with this sign, and similar signs in general.  (OK, maybe I do mean to poke fun – you can read an old rant on public restrooms here.)

My first issue with this specific sign was step #3.  For you the reader to appreciate this, I should have perhaps taken a few more photos of my surroundings.  The knobs on the sink were the little kind.  One would have to be quite flexible and creative to turn them off with their arms.  Also, this restroom lacked paper towels.  There was a hand dryer on the wall though.  I could have used some toilet paper to turn off the faucet, but have you ever gotten TP wet?  And, if I waited until my hands were dried by the air dryer… I would have wasted a large amount of water.  I can see that someone took the time to print & post the sign carefully.  Perhaps they could have altered the steps to ones that pertain to their setup?

I guess that’s my only big issue with this sign, other than other sings have told me 30 seconds, or even to sing a song in my head, like “Old McDonald” or “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”… but I’m sure hand-washing time is a subject of hot debate in the hand-washing and general good hygiene sign community.

I wonder what frequently means?  I would think that if one needed hand-washing explained, and they could read the word frequently… one may wonder exactly how often one should wash.  One may think a few times a day is frequent.  One may think that since you’re in the bathroom, it’s talking about your time within.  Should you wash your hands 2 or 3 times for each restroom trip?  I would bet that clarification is definitely needed for the people that need these signs.  I find myself confused, and I already know how to wash my hands.  (Also, I’m sure that some medical professionals would remind you that frequent hand-washing is a sign of OCD.)

I wonder who needs these sings, and at the same time… why there aren’t more of them, educating the uninformed masses of more good hygiene policies.  There could certainly be a bunch more in public restrooms like “don’t pee on the seat”, “no boogers on the wall please”, & “proper nest-building for public toilets”.

I almost want to make a “how to wipe your behind” sign to hang up as a joke to post in restrooms around the area… but sadly I fear that we may see them for real some day.  Maybe they do already exist somewhere.  I would definitely include a “flush at [X] number of sheets per [X] ounces of fecal matter, to prevent clogging” line.

Perhaps a sign above the trash can that says “please do not place soiled underwear in trash can” would also be in good order.  Seems I know quite a few people who have worked places with public restrooms where this sort of thing has apparently happened.  Maybe in with this, signs warning against urinating or defecating in the sink would be appropriate.  This, I have unfortunately seen with my own eyes at the O.  Many many years ago, I was trapped by a hopefully drunk street-urchin looking fellow once who tried to share my urinal… when I balked, he relieved himself in the sink which was unfortunately on my way out the door.  That time, I skipped washing my hands.  Perhaps a footnote is in order on the hand-washing sign.  “*If you have just witnessed someone urinating in the sink, you may skip hand-washing.”  I’m betting the same people that need hand-washing reminders/instructions would also need to be told not to touch others’ urine.

So, I now task you the reader with helping me think of other signs that may need to be hung up in public restrooms and beyond.  What do people need told?  What obvious things maybe aren’t so obvious to all of us need to be publicly addressed?

What about “Please don’t eat the food on the floor by the trash can” at your favorite fast food restaurant? What about “how to pick up dog poop” instructions at the park, right by the useless “No Dogs In Park” signs?  What about some signs on buggies (shopping carts to you non-Yinzers) that say “We have cart returns, please put this in one when you’re done, not pushed to a random nearby corner”?

If you’re super-creative, send me a sign and I’ll post it.  You can either link to the url or image wherever it lives using html in the comments, or email it to world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com.

Please, wash your hands before emailing me though.

Subway | Eat Death™


I’ve recently renewed my dialog with Subway, sparked by the news of them rolling out a gluten-free menu.  Here’s how it’s going down:

From:

ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM
Subject: Gluten-Free Menu Options in Texas?
To: Paula Gomez <gomez_p@subway.com>, Rob Searfus <R.Searfus@sfaft.org>, Mack Bridenbaker <m.bridenbaker@sfaft.org>, Christine Sumecki <c.sumecki@sfaft.org>, Subway Customer Care Team <asksubway@subway.com>, “B. Pingarron” <b.pingarron@sfaft.org>, “M. Luby” <m.luby@sfaft.org>, “Anna Marie Seeley (Customer Care Representative)” <seeley_a@subway.com>, Kevin Kane <kane_k@subway.com>

Hello Friends at Subway,

I write to you today because we have had a dialogue going in the past about food allergies and cross-contamination that I would like to continue.  I have recently read a few articles online informing the masses that Subway plans to roll-out some gluten-free menu options in the Dallas & Tyler Texas markets soon.  If you would like to read the articles in question, here are some links:

While I would like to be able to applaud this effort, I also find it quite frustrating.

I am quite proud of Subway as an organization when I read such responsible things like “The baked goods will arrive pre-packaged and individually wrapped. Employees will be educated on how to cut the bread using a pre-wrapped knife to avoid cross contamination.”  I mean, really… this is a novel idea and a stellar effort as well as great news for Celiac afflicted potential Subway customers.  Certainly lines like “Also, to further avoid cross-contamination, that same Sandwich Artist will prepare the order from beginning to end, ensuring a 100-percent gluten-free meal” offer a level of comfort to those who must dine gluten-free.  While other restaurants have offered gluten-free menus, you seem to understand that a knife that cuts a regular bun cannot also cut the bun of a gluten-free selection.  This would, I imagine, be quite a worry for a wheat-allergic or Celiac person.  I can imagine this scenario quite well, actually.  You may remember my past missives expressing my allergy to shellfish (and more specifically to your “seafood” sub offering).

This is where my frustration sets in.  I have written to you on multiple occasions expressing the frustration for not only my shellfish allergy, but all of the “top 8”; Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, & Wheat.  Why have you picked this opportunity to only concentrate on the wheat?  There are others too… I know of people with tomato and pepper allergies that would be thrown into the same anaphylactic shock that I would given I were to take a bite of unknowingly deathfish-laiden lunchmeat.  While you seem to understand the importance of a gluten-free knife… what about a cheese-free, tomato-free, and shellfish-free knife?  Perhaps you have forgotten my previous letter with a few colorful illustrations of the contaminated knife issue.  I will repost here for your convenience:

Then we have the community knife.  If one were to cut someone’s seafood sub with that knife, wipe it off, then cut my sub, there are STILL allergens on that knife, enough allergens to kill me.  Do you want me to be thrown in to an Anaphylactic fit?  I doubt it.  Well, at least, I hope not.

Think about this – do you share your toothbrush with everyone in your household?  Would you with everyone in your office?  Would you share it with everyone that you pass on the way to work in the morning or with everyone who’s eating lunch with you at the same place where you’re choosing to dine?

Yes, it sounds gross, but those potential germs that you’re no doubt currently horrified of are the same as the very real allergens that will most certainly throw me into instant death.

If that didn’t do it for you, imagine I put a giant dried dog turd on the sandwich board, cut it in half, wrapped it, wiped off the knife [with a re-used dishrag type cloth], and then cut your sandwich.  By Subway’s current logic, that knife is clean and contamination free.  This is most certainly not a pretty picture to you, my friend.  Is it?

Does any of this ring a bell?

Also, I have received conflicting reports on how such issues are currently handled or have been handled in the past.  One reply states…

The Company policy directs our independent restaurant owners / operators to take all necessary precautions to prevent the possibility of cross contamination. This includes the policy of washing all utensils and containers after each use. Each restaurant is independently owned and operated and is the responsibility of the franchise owner to implement and enforce the policy.

Which seems to conflict with yet another reply…

I have gone ahead and copied our Training Department so that further lessons can be addressed with owners and their employees on proper handling.

And, the latest information according to the QSRWeb.com article is that “Sandwich Artists in those two markets will be trained on how to cut the roll with a pre-wrapped knife for one use only.”  So, have they been trained in allergies in cross-contamination already, or not?  Color me confused, my friends.

I’d feel safer if the seafood concoction wasn’t anywhere near the meat & cheese where it currently sits.  I’d also feel safer if the same knife wasn’t used to cut all of the sandwiches, and the same dishrag-type towel wasn’t used to wipe off the knife in random intervals between sandwich slicing.  I’d feel safer if all the sandwich artists, managers, and owners were trained on allergens, cross-contamination, and the seriousness of anaphylactic shock.  I’d feel safer if all stores contained a first aid kit complete with an epi pen and clear instructions for its use.

Why should the Celiac-afflicted feel safer, but the rest of us with deadly food allergies should not?  I look forward to your response, your insights, and how you plan to move forward regarding all potentially deadly allergens and how they are to be handled in your stores.  Thank you once again for your time, I hope to hear from you soon.

Inquisitively,
-ERiC AiXeLsyD

P.S. – I was wondering, when you work in an office for Subway, do you have an in-office Subway in which the employees receive (or make) their own lunch?  Or, is there a Subway nearby where you get free or discounted food?  Or, are you all too sick of Subway to eat there?

And I got this back…

From: Searfus, Rob <R.Searfus@sfaft.org>
Date: Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 4:31 PM
Subject: RE: Gluten-Free Menu Options in Texas?
To: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>

Hello Eric,

My apologies for not replying earlier, I was traveling and in meetings most of the week, (as well as attending to some family business).  But enough of the excuses.

Forgive me for not having more product answers, but I’m simply a field marketing representative out here on the west coast.  I have inquired with our R&D department to try and get the answers to your questions.  No replies yet, but this week has been tough for me to get a hold of anyone on the east coast due to the severe winter storms that they have been having (offices closed for at least a couple of days.)

I’ll follow up by e-mail when I get any answers for you.

Thanks, and BTW, what part of the US to you hail from?

Rob Searfus
Field Marketing Manager
Subway® Franchise World Headquarters
16337 SW Leeding Ln
Tigard, OR 97223
Cell: 503-954-5479
Toll Free: 1-800-888-4848 x 4089
Fax 503-579-6715
e-mail: searfus_r@subway.com

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION CHANGE:  PLEASE NOTE MY EMAIL ADDRESS HAS CHANGED TO searfus_r@subway.com.  Please update your address book to reflect this change.  We are undergoing a technology transition.  During this transition, you may still receive emails from the “sfaft.org” address.  This is not an error, but please enter my new subway.com email address when sending emails.

So I wrote this…

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Sat, Jan 29, 2011 at 4:17 PM
Subject: Re: Gluten-Free Menu Options in Texas?
To: “Searfus, Rob” <R.Searfus@sfaft.org>

Thank you Rob,

I had actually wondered if anyone would reply.  I had an email chain going before with a Ms. Paula Gomez & Ms. Ana Seely… but they have been short replies and my main questions have gone unsanswered.

I’m in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.  Thanks for your time, I hope to hear from your colleagues soon!

-Eric

But in the mean time, I made some pretty pictures.  I can’t decide which one I like the most.

Which one do you like best?

Gluten-Free food at Subway?


I recently came across an article that is at once good news and quite annoying…

Food Allergy Daily | Subway Now Testing Gluten-Free

On one hand, it’s great news that they’re finally recognizing a food allergy.  On the other, it almost angers me that they haven’t dealt with the shellfish issue that I have been telling them about for years.  (Literally… over the span of more than a few years, and through dozens of letters and emails.)

This part is quite amusing…

Employees will be educated on how to cut the bread using a pre-wrapped knife to avoid cross contamination.

Perhaps they read my dog-turd analogy?  In a response to that, My friend Ms. Gomez had assured me that they already wash all utensils to avoid cross-contamination.  Apparently this is not the case… or they wouldn’t need new training and a “pre-wrapped knife”.  (Besides the fact that I have seen the sandwich artists “wash” a knife after cutting a sandwich… with a dirty dish-rag.  To me, this doesn’t constitute washing.)

Although, one of the past letters did say this…

I have gone ahead and copied our Training Department so that further lessons can be addressed with owners and their employees on proper handling.

Maybe I’m the one who got the ball rolling here?

My favorite letter to Subway: https://aixelsyd13.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/five-five-dollar-five-dollar-foot-up-your-ass/

Check out my review of a local Subway on UrbanSpoon: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/23/271709/restaurant/Dormont/Subway-Banksville-Plaza-by-Kuhns-Pittsburgh

I’m going to have to write to them again, and ask a few questions… like if they’ve already been trained in cross-contamination, what’s this new training for?  And… why are they going gluten-free and ignoring the people with allergies to shellfish, peanuts, eggs, and the other “top 8“?

AllergyEats interview with CEO of FAAN…


I’ve been meaning to reblog this for a a few days, but it’s been a hell of a week.  I haven’t posted any food allergy propaganda in a while, so I figured it may be time.

Check out this article from AllergyEats: An interview with Julia Bradsher, CEO of FAAN

An excerpt that got me a little excited:

Restaurant legislation is starting to get introduced in other states, too.

In Pennsylvania, House Bill 45 would require training programs designed to prepare candidates for certification exams to include training on food allergies, including a video and written materials.

Legislation in PA?  I need to do a little more research and some letter-writing.

While I generally would like to see a consumer-driven allergy-friendly service movement because I feel the “want to” motivation is better than the “have to” motivation, I don’t see legislation like this as a bad thing at all.  More education, information, and training on food allergies can only help everyone involved… and  hopefully over time help food allergy issues to be taken more seriously than they currently are.

While you’re over checking out the AllergyEats site, don’t forget they’re giving away free T-shirts!

 


Taco Bell has purchased my gratitude!


I got a letter in the mail today from Taco Bell.  You may be familiar with my emails to them concerning the death-filled tacos that they were recently peddling.  This is perhaps the best reply I’ve ever received to any of my either serious or goofy letters to any company.

I’ll dispense with the usual long-winded introduction and get right to it…

Letter form Taco Bell about Shrimp Tacos and Taco Bell Bucks!

You can see that along with the letter, I received five $5 Taco Bell Bucks certificates. That’s $25 in death-free Taco Bell food. That’s got to be the coolest thing I’ve ever received besides my T-shirt from Turner’s.  I’m not sure if they’re buying me off, rewarding me, if they make so much profit per item that it really doesn’t matter if they give this much away for free, or what.  This almost makes me want to write back to Pillsbury/Totino’s and make them feel ashamed for sending me three 35¢ coupons.  In fact, I may add that to the list.

The best, and I mean absolute best thing about this letter is that they’re forwarding my request to Pizza Hut.  Wow.  I trust you’ve seen my unanswered letters?  I can’t even express how hilarious and ridiculous and absolutely gratifying that is.


Death Taco


Death Taco. No, that’s not the coolest new metal or grindcore band, although maybe it should be.  It’s what I’m (of course) calling the newest Taco Bell menu item.  I have had some inquires as to why I hadn’t mentioned it yet.

Well, I did make a faint mention via Facebook or Twitter a while ago, but had declined to rant here as I’ve been relentlessly trying to contact Taco Bell.  You know how successful webforms are, so of course I got no answer from that, then I fished around for email addresses to send a full email, bugged them via Twitter for an address, and even posted an Ask Yahoo! question.  Out of nowhere, I finally received a reply, and I have no idea if it was in reply to the webform, my emails to random Yum! Brands and Taco Bell email addresses, or some other forum.

I’d like to share my original messages with you.  First the one via webform:

Hola, mis amigos de Titan Taco! Firstly, this isn’t about an incident at a specific Taco Bell, but the form didn’t allow room for general inquiries. I’d like to express my disappointment with a commercial that I saw advertising new shrimp tacos. Well, I guess my disappointment is not with the commercial, but with the product… and the main ingredient.  I don’t think I can express my thoughts in a box with a mere 500-character limit. Do you have an actual email address where I can contact someone?

…And this was to some email addresses that I found after some Googling.

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 4:11 PM
Subject: Taco Fail
To: webmaster@tacobell.com (and a bunch of other addresses)

Hola, mis amigos de Titan Taco!

I’d like to express my disappointment with a commercial that I saw advertising new shrimp tacos. Well, I guess my disappointment is not with the commercial, but with the product… and the main ingredient.

I have a severe shellfish allergy, and Taco Bell has been a shellfish-free dining safe haven for me for years.  It’s one of the few places where I never had to worry about shrimp, crab, lobster, oysters, etc. ending up in my food, or worse yet… crossing paths in the kitchen somewhere.

I will sadly have to cross Taco Bell off of my list of places to dine… but I’d like you to know that there are many of us out here with severe shellfish allergies who have an increasingly difficult time finding safe places to dine out.  Fast food joints have long been a safe-haven for those of us with a shellfish allergy… as most fine dining and now even chain family style restaurants have several shellfish dishes prepared on multiple kitchen surfaces.  Formerly, as long as I stayed away from Long John Silver’s, I was OK.  Taco Bell, KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, …were all safe places.

I guess I’ll now have to get my quick Mexican fix at Qdoba or Chipotle.

If you’d like to know what it’s like to dine out with a shellfish allergy, please read this blog post.

Here’s an excerpt…

If you know me in person, have dined out with me, or have ready any of my lunacy online… you most likely know what I have a severe shellfish allergy.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, it means that I can’t eat any shellfish, or I go into anaphylactic shock.  Not only can I not eat the shellfish (that’s crustaceans & molluscs including but not limited to ,shrimp, prawns, lobster, crab, crayfish, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops, octopi, squid, snails, and probably even scorpions and pill bugs), but I can’t eat any food that comes into contact with it.  That means, if you cook shrimp on the grill, take it off, and put my steak on  without washing the surface, it’s the same as me eating the shrimp.

I certainly can’t expect the restaurant to clean the grill in between every meal, as that’s certainly not productive on their end… I just usually try to see where the shellfish is prepared, and eat from another cooking surface.  That seems easy enough, right?

I get that it’s my responsibility.  Yes, I’ve had an epi pen.  But I’d really love to not ever have the need to use one.  I’ve even considered getting Allergy Cards, but they seem a little pretentious or something… like my verbal reminder isn’t enough.

Well, getting me in to a place with shellfish is an issue in itself.  Why?  Well in with the aforementioned cooking surface issue…

I hope that this helps explain what people like me go through, and I hope that you re-consider selling death-filled tacos!

Running from the border,

-Eric

And, this is the reply, although I’m not sure if it’s the reply to one of the above messages, or in poking around on Twitter:

From: Poetsch, Rob (Public Relations) <Rob.Poetsch@yum.com>
Date: Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Subject: Pacific Shrimp Taco Inquiry
To: “world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com” <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Cc: “Hunsaker, Brittany (Contractor)” <Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com>

Dear Eric,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about Shellfish allergens concerning our new Pacific Shrimp Tacos.  We want you to know that we take these matters very seriously and that the business of our customers is our top priority.  We value loyal customers such as yourself and would like to take the opportunity to win your business back.

To ,  to our customers who might have Shellfish allergens, we have displayed information at multiple locations in our fish.  These include Shrimp allergen signs that are placed on our window and door clings as well as in our ads where orders are taken.  While the Pacific Shrimp Tacos are offered for a limited time only, all Taco Bell employees have been trained and certified to not have any food products come in contact with Fish and Shellfish during cooking and/or serving.

We would like to send you some Taco Bell Bucks as a token of our thanks, so please email me back with your mailing address.  We hope you will continue to “Think Outside the Bun” at Taco Bell, and appreciate you taking the time to write to us.

Sincerely,
Rob Poetsch
Taco Bell Public Relations

Rob Poetsch
Taco Bell Corp.
One Glen Bell Way
Irvine, CA 92618
O: 949-863-3915
F: 949-863-2252
rob.poetsch@tacobell.com

Of course, I needed to reply:

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD <world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 5:15 PM
Subject: Re: Pacific Shrimp Taco Inquiry
To: “Poetsch, Rob (Public Relations)” <Rob.Poetsch@yum.com>
Cc: “Hunsaker, Brittany (Contractor)” <Brittany.Hunsaker@yum.com>

Hello Rob,

Thank you for the reply!  I was beginning to wonder if Taco Bell has a stand on the issue.  While I am pleased to hear about the allergen warning signs along with the employee training and certification, I must say that I still have some reservations about safety.  I am relieved to hear that the shrimp tacos are available for a limited time only.

It is great that you take responsibility in posting signs about allergy warnings.  Your fellow Yum! Brands organization, Pizza Hut, ought to take note.  They display allergen information on their website, noting that the pizza sauce may come into contact with shellfish… but there’s no shellfish on the menu.  When I asked where the contamination may occur (e.g. in the processing/canning facility?) they were unable (or I sadly suspect unwilling) to provide a detailed response.

Back to the subject of Taco Bell… the giant window-clings showing what I’m sure to many is a succulent appetizing piece of shrimp spilling out of a lovely soft taco shell looks to me like a giant Mr. Yuck sticker or the old-time skull & cross-bones “poison” logo that you’d see in cartoons.  They serve as an effective if not spine-chilling reminder as to the presence of shellfish allergens on the premises.  They would also kick my survival instincts into gear, not even letting me enter the presence.  Seriously.  I would wager that right now, it would be pretty difficult to physically get me into a Taco Bell restaurant. My Eustachian tubes are starting to itch just thinking about it.  I realize that this is also a highly personal mental health issue, but one that ought not be taken lightly, as it’s grounded in a very real fear.

Recently I read the blog of a man who almost died when he ordered a vegetarian Indian potato curry dish that he was assured was safe.  Apparently the dish was flavored with a shrimp brine… which ought to be disturbing to vegetarians, vegans, kosher folks, and people with shellfish allergies.  This is alarming to say the least.  I realize that simple cross-contamination may not seem as serious as flavoring an entire dish with shrimp-juice, but I can assure you that it is indeed just as deadly.  Our friends with wheat/gluten and peanut allergies seem to get a lot of attention lately, hopefully it will spill over to the rest of us with the “big 8” and those who aren’t even covered by that umbrella.

Have you taken the allergen training, or do you know what’s involved?  I am finding it hard to tactfully express my concerns about the way that the message was conveyed to Taco Bell employees and the actual willingness of the employees to understand and comply.  We’ve all watched training videos on various subjects and rolled our eyes, promptly taken pamphlets and placed them in the trash, or been angered when someone who doesn’t do our job gives us a new or added process that we must adhere to when we’re sure that the person suggesting the changes has never been in our shoes.

While I mean no disrespect to Taco Bell or any fast food restaurant, have you been to a Taco Bell lately?  Sometimes I am concerned about the personal hygiene and motivation of the employees let alone the cleanliness and efficiency of the kitchen.  Sadly, the low quality and poor service of fast food establishments has become a passively accepted facet of 21st Century life in the United States.  For evidence, I give you the term “McJob“.

I have a theory that for so long now, it has been expressed to kids everywhere to get higher education so you don’t end up as a laborer, janitor, or fast food employee… that fast food jobs have garnered such a negative connotation, the only people left willing to take the jobs are the highly unmotivated individuals, people with no other options, or people using the part time jobs for extra cash with no real pride in their work since there’s no real fear of losing the job or striving to move up the chain of command.

I would invite you to imagine that in the Taco Bell kitchen where you are about to dine there are the standard (and innovative!) sour cream and cheese caulking-gun looking dispensers all loaded on the food preparation area… along side a caulking-gun-looking dispenser filled with a highly toxic pest-control chemical that looks interestingly enough like cheese or sour cream.  Would you still feel safe in eating there?  Sure.  The employees can read.  Sure, they know the difference.  Are they ever rushed in a fast food kitchen?  Do mistakes ever happen?  Of course.  I’m guessing you would at least think twice or watch closely before you dine.

I understand that this scenario is preposterous because I would hope that some sort of federal regulations would forbid any toxic chemicals from being stored in a food preparation area.  No such federal regulations exist for people like me, although Massachusetts is moving forward with this type of thing.

While I trust that your training an certification was put forth with the best of intentions, you must understand that I question its implementation, practicality, and how it’s received and practiced by what amounts to be the first line of contact with your customers… the Taco Bell team member.  What exactly does the certification say?  Does each employee have it, or does a certification apply to an entire restaurant or shift?

I challenge you to quiz the workers at Taco Bells in various locations… inner city, suburbs, malls, and the combo units, and see how much the workers really know about cross-contamination and allergy issues and how they’re observed in a Taco Bell kitchen.  (Hopefully, they fare better than Subway employees.)

All that said, I appreciate and applaud the considerable thought and effort that has already gone into allergen awareness.  Spreading knowledge is the first step.  Did you know that May 9th-15th 2002 is the thirteenth annual Food Allergy Awareness Week?  Now is the time to act and inform, my friend!

I would certainly appreciate some Taco Bell Bucks, if you’ll understand that I may hold on to them until well after the current Pacific Shrimp Taco promotion is over. (Pending reviews, it may not last all that long, eh?) Taco Bell had previously been a shellfish-free Mexican-ish fast food haven for me for many many years.  I can’t tell you how many tacos I ate at the mall nearby to where I grew up when I was a teenager.  A dollar went much further at Taco Bell than it did at McDonald’s, Burger King or anywhere else in the food court.

My address is…

Eric Aixelsyd
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Pittsburgh, PA  XXXXX-XXXX

I would like to thank you once again for your time and the thoughtful informative reply.  I look forward to perhaps what may be a continued dialog about allergy awareness issues in the fast food industry, and more specifically relating to Taco Bell and other Yum! Brands.

-Eric

Wow, do I hope they write back.

Pandora’s Lunchbox


Heh.  Twitter is fun.  So, you may know that I have my W(aL)D Twitter account, and I use it to be goofy.  I think I re-opened the Subway door here.  Mayhaps this time I’ll get some sort of resolution?

Today, Subway Freshbuzz tweeted the following…

Does anybody else out there try to save half of their $5 Footlong for a 2nd meal, only to be called back by its delicious siren song?

So, I posted this in response…

@subwayfreshbuzz Nope. Not when 1 bite is a potential trip to the E.R. thanks to cross-contamination in the food-prep area.

Tonight, I have this in my Direct Message box…

subwayfreshbuzz Thanks for the feedback. It would be great if you could let us know more about this incident on our cust. service page  http://bit.ly/bhSAn

Well, at least I have someone paying attention!  I sent them a link to my original complaint to Subway, but I’d like to list the whole saga here… in case I need them to refer back to the message trail at some point…

Five. Five dollar. Five dollar… foot up your ass.

• October 28, 2009 • 8 Comments (Edit)

Subway Customer ID: 1918316

• October 29, 2009 • 7 Comments (Edit)

Quiznos writes back before Subway!

• November 12, 2009 • 8 Comments (Edit)

So, we have a response from Subway! – Not really a response, if you ask me…

• November 13, 2009 • 2 Comments (Edit)

The Quiznos Toasty Torpedo™ and the diminutive hand model…

• November 17, 2009 • 3 Comments (Edit)

“You never told me you spoke my language, Doctor Jones.”

• November 18, 2009 • 3 Comments (Edit)

If we’re keeping score, that’s Subway 1 and Quiznos 3½. – No doubt.

• November 20, 2009 • 3 Comments (Edit)

Subway®: “First, allow me to apologize.” – Again, this really wasn’t a nice response, or a response at all…

• November 24, 2009 • 4 Comments (Edit)

Allergies, Alliteration, and Annoyance.
– I had to take it somewhere else.

• November 25, 2009 • 6 Comments (Edit)

Allergies, Annoyance, Alliteration, & Acceptance

• December 21, 2009 • 1 Comment (Edit)

Aller-G’s


…Saw some more cool tweets about allergies today, again from pnutfreeworld.  They all caught my eye, and put me in a slightly better mood.  I’m not allergic to peanuts, but a lot of other people out there are.  I’m allergic to shellfish, and all of us that suffer from severe allergies need to stick together… so I’ve been following allergy issues on the web more & more.  I thought I might share with the hopes that if you’re out there suffering form allergies, and you happen to stumble upon this blog… you’ll know that there’s a bunch of us out here… or if you have a friend or family member that suffers form allergies, this may offer you some insight into their world.

The first one that jumped out at me today, was this one…

Law Makes Allergies a Restaurant’s Responsibility, Too – A Massachusetts Regulation Requires Restaurants to Get Food Allergy Training

If you saw my blog the other day about the two thrilling tweets, this would be the conclusion.  Apparently it passed! I know… this is odd for me to celebrate.  Normally, I’m anti- anything that has to do with making more rules & regulations or expanding government.  But, this just hits too close for me on a personal level to not be behind it.  I just hope they go about it efficiently.

Basically, the law says that if you’re a customer, you need to speak up and inform the restaurant of your allergy, and if you’re a restaurant, it’s your responsibility to have all of your employees trained and certified on allergy safety and cross contamination issues.  I realize that this is not a fool-proof system, and that I don’t even live near Massachusetts, but it gives me hope that other states may one day follow suit.  I now have something concrete to write about to my local politicians… and say “hey, look… they’re doing something that makes sense”.

Sadly, the legislation doesn’t seem to point to chain restaurants… like Subway, where cross-contamination with the seafood sub is a major issue.  It does, however, give me hope that I will someday be able to dine in an upscale restaurant with no abnormal concern for my safety.

If you’ve read my trifecta of tirades on the food industry & cleanliness & allergy issues, (That’s 1, 2, & 3) then you know that there are others out there who think that implementing such training would not only be impractical, but it would be just not done at all or treated like a joke from all concerned parties.  I really, really hope that’s not the case once this is put into effect.  I would hope that this would be an issue that’s handled quite seriously… it is, after all, a life-or-death issue.

The second article’s title made me think, “damn right”…

Food on the road can be a minefield – Taking steps to minimize the risks from allergies

Now, this is from a Canadian publication, and they seem to have a lot more government regulation already… but I don’t really support banning things like they seem to want to do.  Education and training is what we need. This article is a nice list of websites and literature that you can look to for support in dining out while traveling abroad.

I’m going to have to look into these sites a little more, and see if there’s anything worth noting or sharing.

There are two not mentioned in the article that look promising… but they really need their databases updated if they’re going to be useful at all:  Can I Eat There? & Shellfish Free

I’m also hoping UrbanSpoon.com one day makes note of more than just gluten-allergy friendly restaurants… and picks up on the big 8.

This last one is cool on a geek front as well as an allergy front…

Peanut Allergy Blocker On The Way

The concept just blows my mind.  I’ve said before… even if I was given a cure tomorrow, I doubt I’d ever even want shellfish at this point… but at least I’d be able to eat food off of the same grill or out of the same fryer without hesitation or anaphylactic repercussions.

I’ve read a lot about the causes of allergies… and asked a lot of questions of doctors.  It’s amazing how much they don’t know… but this article is very enlightening, and it’s all broken down so it’s easy to understand:

Dr Suphioglu said that the work being done by his team also has potential benefits for all allergy sufferers. “Taking a step further back in how an allergic reaction occurs, we are also carrying out research into how we can prevent the allergen specific antibodies from being produced at all.

“In an allergic reaction, the body produces cell signalling molecules called cytokines to trigger the production of antibodies. If we can neutralise the cytokines involved with the allergic reaction, we can potentially block or reduce the production of the antibodies. In recent preliminary results we have successfully identified a substance that interacts with one of the key cytokines involved in the allergic reaction. We are now assessing the capacity of this substance to block or reduce antibody production in the allergic reaction.”

Dr Suphioglu is confident that his team’s allergy research work will result in better treatments for allergy sufferers. “I believe our research into understanding the molecular and allergenic properties of major peanut allergens together with our work on how to prevent or inhibit allergic reactions will contribute to the development of safer and more effective methods for peanut allergy diagnosis, prevention and treatment as well as benefit sufferers of other allergies.”

I’ve read a bunch of articles pertaining to the links between asthma and dust mite allergies and their relation to the severe shellfish allergies.  It’s really interesting stuff.  I hope all of these studies merge in the near future, and perhaps there will be an end to all my allergy-related rants!

Can I Eat There?


Juts found this site, haven’t looked around much, but it looks to be awesome.

More upon further review…

http://www.canieatthere.blogspot.com

Subway®: “First, allow me to apologize.”


So, I fired off two more emails…  One to Subway, and one to my new friend Mr. Jones at Quiznos.  No response from Mr. Jones yet, but we do have one from Subway.  I’ll share it all below!

OK, so email one, to Subway:

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
To: “Bridenbaker, Mack” m.bridenbaker@sfaft.org
Cc: Paula Gomez gomez_p@subway.com; Kevin Kane kane_k@subway.com; Anna Marie Seeley seeley_a@subway.com
Sent: Mon, November 23, 2009 10:24:20 AM
Subject: Re: Subway [
Customer ID: 1918316]

Hello Mr. Bridenbaker,

It’s been over a week since your email to me saying that Ms. Gomez would address my concerns and I’ve yet to see any sort of response.  I still haven’t had a reply to my initial message to Ms. Seely, or  from anyone on your team.  I’m disappointed in the lack of comment overall, my first message which was sent on Oct. 28th has still gone unanswered.

I now understand why the employees in your stores have an “I don’t care” attitude.  It trickles down from the top, and certainly must be passed on in franchise owners, hiring, & training.

I’m amazed at your total lack of concern for the decline of your once championing establishment.  I should perhaps pass on my shellfish allergen and cross-contamination concerns to some allergy awareness groups.  Perhaps allergy awareness lobbyists will warrant some attention.  Everyone I know already hates Jared and the $5 footlong commercials, so I don’t need to push the issue on that one.  The concept of cheese tessellation will obviously elude the average sandwich artist from now until the end of time, so we have no hope there.

Perhaps in copying Quiznos’ idea of toasting subs, you should also adopt their business model in using better quality ingredients and customer service policies.  I have had a continued dialog with them regarding your lack of customer service and their seemingly misleading Toasty Torpedo ads with the very tiny hands.  They proudly stand behind their ads (however creepy), their innovation, and their customer service.

Not signed.  On purpose.  Notice all the Cc’s, everyone hates that… I don’t care who you are.   I tried to poke at every issue and make empty useless claims about allergy awareness groups, and I brought up that Quiznos is the trend-setter while noting that they’re also not perfect.

And, on a friendlier note to Quiznos, I decided to reveal my intentions to an amicable Mr. Jones:

From: ERiC AiXeLsyD world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com
Date: Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 9:22 AM
Subject: Re: The Quiznos Toasty TorpedoT ads?
To: “Jones, Tony” TJones2@quiznos.com

Thanks Tony,

I must confess, I do have a blog and I have been chronicling my email escapades there.  I like to play them as part consumer advocacy, part humor and all goofy.  I used to write snail mail letters, but email has made it so much easier & faster.  Some friends have encouraged me to keep writing, so I have.  I really enjoy the open & honest dialogue that we have going on, and appreciate that you stand behind the product & integrity of your company… and take the time to respond to emails such as mine.  Also, you obviously have a sense of humor, which has to be a “must” for any kind of customer interaction.  I’m sure you get goofier emails and phone calls from actual crazy people.

I’m intrigued at your suggestion that I get into consulting or franchise journalism.  Do you know how I would even go about this?  Would I need to obtain a degree in something?  I hope to grab followers to my blog just for amusement, but am unaware as to how to make it a profitable venture, ha ha ha.

Thank you once again for your time, I’m actually waiting to hear from some of your Quiznos colleagues, and Subway has still not given me a response beyond “someone will respond”… not that I’m at all surprised by that at this point.

Rock on!
-Eric

Hopefully he writes back in a positive light, and still finds all of this amusing.  Still waiting for further comment from his other colleagues, none of which have really delivered so far.

And, now, the fun part… Subway’s response (or lack thereof):

From: asksubway@subway.com
Date: Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 3:03 PM
Subject: Subway
To: world.and.lunar.domination@gmail.com

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dear Mr Aixelsyd:

First, allow me to apologize. Secondly, I would like to thank you for taking the time to contact us and share your comments.

At each SUBWAY® restaurant, it is the goal of every owner; manager and employee to produce each sandwich and salad properly made to order.

Our customers provide us with valuable input, which we use to improve our operations. Your comments were shared with the regional office in your area as well as the owner of the SUBWAY® restaurant that you have visited.  Since all restaurants are individually owned and operated it is the owner who would be the person to contact you in response to your concern.

I have gone ahead and copied our Training Department so that further lessons can be addressed with owners and their employees on proper handling.

Again, I appreciate you taking the time to contact us. SUBWAY® looks forward to your continued visits.

Sincerely,

Paula Gomez

Heh.  “First, allow me to apologize” not followed by an apology is extremely profound, and hopefully intentional.  Then, she thanks me for writing, probably through gritted teeth.

This line reeks of copy & paste:  “At each SUBWAY® restaurant, it is the goal of every owner; manager and employee to produce each sandwich and salad properly made to order.”

And, I love the long winded “it wasn’t me”/”it’s not my fault”/”it’s not my problem”:  “Your comments were shared with the regional office in your area as well as the owner of the SUBWAY® restaurant that you have visited.  Since all restaurants are individually owned and operated it is the owner who would be the person to contact you in response to your concern.”  Basically, she’s telling me that I’m being ignored by a lower level.

“I have gone ahead and copied our Training Department so that further lessons can be addressed with owners and their employees on proper handling.”  With what?  Cross-contamination?  Cleanliness?  Cheese tessellation? How to reply to customer emails?

SUBWAY® looks forward to your continued visits” …so we can spit in your food?  Did she read my emails?  Perhaps this whole thing is just a reading comprehension issue.  I find it amusing that the e Subway spokesperson declined to comment.  Perhaps now is the time to move into old-school W(aL)D mode, and reply that Subway will not be allowed on the moon when I’m emperor.

Are there any psychologists or psychiatrists out there reading this?  I’d love to get your take (…if you can tell me without telling me what my own problems are, ha ha ha).

If you haven’t been following,you may want to check out the back-story rundown here:  If we’re keeping score, that’s Subway 1 and Quiznos 3½. That should explain the last email, and at the bottom there’s a rundown of all the ones that came before it (with links) if you’re interested.

Also… lots of people have been telling me they’re following… by word of mouth, or Facebook, or Twitter, and even via text message… but I beg you, if you’re reading… post a comment here, and others may have a comment about your comment.  I see by the stats that people are reading.  Don’t be shy.  We’re all friends here.  Except for you, people at Subway… Except for you.

Customer ID: 1918316