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Moonshine still goes up in flames at old garage in North Philadelphia

Illegal whiskey explodes

Moonshine still goes up in flames at old garage in North Philadelphia
June 09, 2002|By Don Russell | Don Russell,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE


PHILADELPHIA - Judging from the size of an illegal still discovered in a derelict North Philadelphia garage, Philadelphia has a powerful taste for moonshine.

The kind of stuff that provides full-body anesthesia before removing the hair from your chest. One sip is enough for a good jolt. A cup will put you down for the night.

Investigators said, the booze factory exploded in a roar recently when one of its boiling kettles overheated.

The gaping hole on the third floor of the building, on North Uber Street near Montgomery Avenue, exposed a full-scale distillery with at least six 500- gallon tanks.

The setup included plumbing, heating, ventilation and waste-disposal systems. Dozens of plastic jugs were piled inside.

"This is huge," said Sgt. Stacey Marshall, of the state police Bureau of Liquor Enforcement. "We're talking about an extremely sophisticated operation with huge steel vats.

"I guess there must be a lot of people with a taste for this stuff," said Marshall.

Professional operation

"There are legal microbreweries that are not as well-put-together as this place."

And it was operating without notice for months, maybe years, right under the nose of neighbors and law-enforcement agencies.

No suspects have been named yet, said a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is heading the investigation.

"It appears to be a fairly well-organized still," said Mark Chiat, assistant special agent in charge of the Philadelphia office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is heading the investigation.

"We don't uncover these very often, especially inside the city limits," Chiat said. "It's the kind of thing you usually see in remote areas."

Marshall agreed: "I was always under the impression that it came up from the South."

Moonshine is sold mainly in neighborhood speakeasies that operate well under the radar of law enforcement.

Though licensed bars and liquor stores provide an ample supply of booze to the community, the illegal joints are preferred by thousands of Philadelphians because they are convenient and cheap. They are often open 24 hours a day, and a shot can be had for a buck.

Up to $25 a gallon

Depending on supply and demand, a gallon ranges from $12 to $25. Backwoods distillers in North Carolina and Virginia have provided much of the city's supply for generations, going back before Prohibition. In March 2000, 27 people were indicted for running Southern moonshine into the city.

Authorities estimated that the captured moonshiners produced 1.5 million gallons of liquor between 1992 and 1999, ducking nearly $20 million in taxes. With the Southern pipeline broken, it appears at least one entrepreneur moved his operation north of the Mason-Dixon line.

The explosion provides a rare look at a small but potent industry. Chiat said investigators hope to learn more about the sizable distribution network that must have accompanied a facility of this size.

Why Your Health And Safety Programs MUST Include On-Site Food Services

As an employer, you are directly responsible for the health and safety of your employees while they are currently on duty in their place of work. This includes details such as providing adequate fire protection, safe working environments, reasonable working hours, and sufficient protection from hazards they may face in their line of work. Another significant thing that employers must provide is adequate regulation of on-site food services, such as cafeterias, vending machines, and staff room kitchens. True, you may not be a restaurant, but nevertheless, you could be held liable if inadequate cooking facilities causes illness amongst your staff.

The Concept of Negligence

The reason for this is simple: negligence. In legalese, negligence is the situation whereby someone’s inaction to prevent an injury or illness somewhere under their control, such as their home or business, is considered to be their fault under law. So, for example, if a child injures itself while playing by an open window because the building’s owner did not install any prevention methods even while knowing young children would be present, the owner would be liable for those injuries. It can also occur in situations where the owner could not possibly have known the child would get in that position – he should have prevented it from occurring in the first place according to most courts.

This means that in subsequent lawsuits, the building owner would be forced to pay for any medical bills caused by an accident, pay additional damages for suffering caused, and probably pay the plaintiff’s legal fees.

The same applies to an employer’s business. If an employee should become injured because their bosses failed to enact proper health and safety programs, then the company is held to be liable.

Promoting Health and Safety in your Business

Naturally this is something you’d want to avoid. Not only does it prevent lawsuits, but it also results in a healthier and happier workforce. This is excellent for building company morale, and happier employees work harder, have higher loyalty, and are more willing to work longer or extra shifts if asked. The moral motivations for looking after the health and safety of those under your employ should, hopefully, go without saying.

In order to provide in this regard, it is essential to ensure that your on-site food services are adequately regulated. Cafeterias should be clean, possessed of well-trained kitchen staff, adequate equipment, and have a healthy menu selection. Vending machines and kitchen facilities should likewise be cleaned and regularly restocked.

One thing that assists is getting the staff involved themselves. One helpful aspect of this is that it can help absolve you of some responsibility if an employee falls ill during work. If you place signs up in eating areas reminding employees to wash hands before cooking, and to wash cups, plates, and cutlery after eating, then you are less likely to be held responsible. Especially if unwashed hands or plates would cause the illness in question. Another thing it helps do is keep these areas clean and tidy themselves.

Encourage people using facilities to keep them clean. Place bins directly next to vending machines and put up signs reminding staff members to wash out coffee cups after they’ve finished using them. If your staff bring in food from home to eat, provide a refrigerator in the staff room for them so they can safely store their lunch in a chilled environment. When serving food in cafeterias, always make sure a glass viewing screen covers it, and that kitchen staff has hair nets, gloves, and aprons. Designate areas in cafeterias where people can deposit used utensils and get rid of uneaten food. If you do not have a dedicated cleaning time for those sections, set up a cleaning rota amongst the staff and divide the work equally between them.

A bonus of cleaning staff areas is that it makes them happier. Nobody likes eating or relaxing in areas covered in trash, or where flies are always buzzing around unemptied trash cans and inadequately cleaned coffee cups.

Also make sure that your staff are well educated about health and safety within on-site food services. Placing up posters and booklets about food hygiene will help educate them about the common risks unclean cooking, and also how to prevent it. If necessary, conduct talks and lectures about food hygiene as well, especially if you think that staff are not taking it seriously. When hiring dedicated kitchen staff, make sure they have all necessary qualifications, and that they have all cleaning supplies needed to do their jobs. Doing so will go a long way to promoting health and hygiene amongst the staff.

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The writer, Christian Mills, has been studying the issue of health and safety and learned of many areas that tend to not be thought of when health and safety regulations come to mind. For health and safety consulting that will catch all of these areas, he fully recommends the services of CESToday. You can learn more about Christian on Google+.

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP's)

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are two tools for a meat processing facility that help for the production of high quality and safe meat products. The programs established for GMP's and SOP's will provide the basis for other programs the help to assure the level of product quality such as standards for ISO 9000 and for product safety in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. Many companies like to view these systems as a pyramid (Figure 1.) with the GMP's and SOP's supporting the more advanced program of HACCP and all three programs being important for the ISO 9000 system.

The Food Manufacturing & Safety Summit

The Manufacturing Safety Conference recommends The Food Manufacturing & Safety Summit for all professionals of the food manufacturing industry from food processing to the end of the supply chain.

Now in its 5th year The Food Manufacturing & Safety Summit is fast becoming one of the premium events in the food manufacturing category in North America. The summit brings together decision makers and influencers, who, through our strict qualification process, are the lead authority and decision makers within their companies. All attendees are required to account for a minimum budgetary spend which they are looking to invest in the next 12-18 months.
Through our exceptional business opportunities which include exhibiting, one-to-one business meetings, hosting workshops, facilitating master classes and many more, you can trust, the art of generating business is safe in our hands.