Monday, November 18, 2013

Biometric Scanning On Your i-Phone But Not at Your Local Hospital

So - you got a nice new i-Phone 5 equipped with that neat biometric scanner!  You can scan your finger tips, your nose, your toes, even your nipple will work to identify you to your new cell phone.  That is really cool.  You can even have your i-Phone open up to your spouse or significant other by scanning their appendages too.  Isn't it great how science betters our lives?

Why don't hospitals employ this now commonly available method for human identification in Emergency rooms and admitting offices?  I sure don't know why?  With the risks of health care fraud so great in today's dangerous world why would a hospital not employ this method to identify visiting patients? Let's explore the science of biometric scanning, how it works, and why this technology should be mainstream but is not.

My first exposure to biometric scanning was at the GA DDS - Dept.of Driver Services office when I applied for a drivers license in GA.  My finger was scanned at the office then I was issued my drivers license.  My next encounter with a biometric scanner was with my wife' Leslie of Leslie Loves Veggies new i-Phone 5.  Now it is all the rage on that new Apple device.  No more remembering a pass code to open your phone.  Just swipe your finger, her finger, or my finger!  But, biometric scanning is not new.  The use of biometric scanning has been employed to identify humans and our pets for many years although identifying pets requires a chip implanted under the skin.  That is a big no-no for civilized humans.  However, humans have excellent physical traits that are perfect for biometric scanning such as finger print, vein recognition, eye recognition, palm scanning, on and on.  You name a part and it can identify quickly and noninvasively.  Biometric scanners for the finger or palm read the patterns in the skin and/or veins then archive the image in a database tied to your identity.  This method of identification is used all over the globe to open doors for employees, open safes for the rich, identify the sick at the hospital and the not so nice folks at the jail.

There is one country across the globe that uses biometric scanning practices to identify its population; India.  As of 2013 nearly 600 million people in that huge country have been identified in the largest database of its kind.  Countries such as Australia, Brazil, and Germany all use biometric scanning to identify its population to some degree.  So what is biometric scanning for the identification purpose?  It is the use of a scanning device capable of capturing distinctive attributes or traits selectively identifying a human being, storing those captured attributes in a database, with capability of matching scanned attributes to match identities.  Biometric scanning can use finger print, palm print, vein recognition, facial recognition, or iris scan.  The first time identity is established with biometric scanning methods is called "enrollment".  Identity is confirmed thereafter with verification which matches a scan against database knowledge to confirm identity.  Simple right?  Well not exactly.  Finger prints wear out, iris characteristics change, faces change and that can produce false reads or naive reads. With the development of more sophisticated multi modal systems false read rates can be eliminated.

So why if this technology is widely available, easy to use, and is non-invasive do so many health care facilities not use biometric scanning to identify patients?  Health care can be administered safely and accurately if we properly identified patients?  EHR or Electronic Health Record is so important to keep accurate but is so easy to become compromised, stolen, or abused.  Your EHR is worth hundreds of thousands dollars to the criminal element. Defrauding a hospital Emergency Room is not hard.  Hijacking your medical record and financial health information is not that much more difficult.  The only way to stop medical fraud is by positively identifying the patient.  So here is an example.  You have health insurance but your brother does not and he needs some acute treatment, maybe some stitches for a laceration or he needs antibiotics for a festering skin lesion right?  So he goes to the hospital that you have gone before recently.  He walks in with no ID but says he is Mr. SO&So Smith.  He arms his memory with his brothers SS# and some other background info such as his employment, address, telephone number.  Bingo! He looks like his brother, almost the same age, ba-da-bing he now is the brother.  Wam-Bam out the door discharged with treatment covered by his brothers insurance or worse Medicaid/Medicare. Don't think it happens?  I have a bridge at the western tip of Long Island for sale.  It is a steal at One Million Dollars - yeah that's the ticket....

Anyway, that is just one way how hospitals, doctors offices, clinics, and pharmacies are defrauded by health record hijacking and identity abuse.  The only way to stop it is by positively identifying the patient.  Estimates are as high as 28$ million per hour for health care fraud and abuse in the United States.  The FBI is in charge of investigating Health Care Fraud and has tips on prevention .  Their investigations in 2010 totaled up to $80 billion dollars in health care fraud.  The FBI has a long mugshot list [Mug Shots]of individuals wanted for Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud.  With government health care spending poised to balloon into $Trillions per year the criminal element is just salivating at the chance to hijack your health record and set up criminal operations like none seen before.

Here is an example of how you can be a victim of Medical Identity Error resulting in financial harm. Suppose you are sick and go to the hospital for treatment.  You have been there before and you trust the care you will get.  The patient registration person gathers your identification and then finds you in the hospital database.  Your name is Jim or Jane Smith.  You know how many J. Smiths are in any given hospital database?  Well, your visit at the ER is matched up to J Smith alright, except he is James Smith, who is HIV +  and owes the hospital thousands of dollars in bad debt and unpaid bills.  Bingo, you now own James Smith' medical bills and a disease that is mandated to be reported.

Up till now I have just been talking about the financial risks associated with health care fraud deliberately perpetrated by criminals for financial gain or by error.  What about the "Medical Errors" that occur across this country on a daily basis?  Errors you say?  There are errors in health care?  Why yes. According to the American Association For Justice preventable deaths from medical errors average 98,000 deaths per year.  An error starting with patient identification can be deadly!
 Here is another example; Suppose your wife is ill and you take her to the ER.  She has been there before, they have a record of her because she is diabetic, and also highly allergic to certain preparations of insulin. The staff identify her and but register her under a medical record one number off of her true medical record number because of a data entry typo error on the keyboard.  In the ER she gets real bad and goes into Diabetic coma.  The doctor gives insulin but now your wife goes into anaphylactic shock because it is the wrong insulin. A few short minutes go by and your wife is in ICU, nearly dead, clinging onto life.  Hours go by and you think she is ok for the night so you go home for some rest.  Your awakened by hospital staff in the early hours to come to the hospital without any further explanation...

These are just a  few scenarios that could happen because of patient mis-identification.  Hospitals have a process whereby duplicate medical records are reconciled into one.  Sometimes when you visit a hospital ER the computer system is down for some reason so all patients are registered on paper record which is then entered into the computer database systems later.  You will be given a temporary medical record number until your visit can be reconciled to you historical records. This is called "MRN Merging". Not so bad if you truly do have a duplicate EHR and the two are merged together.  But what if the merge is incorrect?  Catastrophic consequences can be produced in some cases.  Your blood type can be changed, you can suddenly acquire a disease you never had before, or you can unexpectedly own debt that is not yours or your insurance company' responsibility.

So why do health care facilities not want to positively identify their patients?  There are less than 300 hospital facilities in the United States that employ biometric scanning to correctly identify their patients?  They may have the most expensive and sophisticated equipment on hand but will ask you who you are to identify yourself.  If you have picture ID use it but some people show up at the ER without ID.  The reasons why health care facilities do not use biometric scanning are:
  • $$$Expense - Biometric scanning Systems and the database management tools used to identify patients and relate this data to EHR is expensive.  Probably the most common reason this technology has not been adopted to main-stream health care practices.
  • Abuse of such databases has great financial enticement - the sale of such biometric identification data is a lucrative proposition for those who will have access.  However, the penalties for sharing PHI - Protected Health Information are steep and can include jail time for those found guilty of Health Care Fraud Conspiracy.
  • Civil Rights activists and privacy proponents hate anything that positively identify the population and store such identification in databases.

Well then, it is a two way street.  Maintain privacy but then risk acquiring the medical record of someone else.  Raise the level of health care safety at the expense of losing anonymity?

I would much rather be positively identified when it comes to serious medical treatment like surgery, pharmaceuticals, or transfusions than be mis-identified or have my medical record abused for financial gain by someone else.

What can you do to protect yourself..
  1. When you visit your doctor or most importantly a hospital make note of your MRN.  Next time you go back compare that number to any new registrations or visits to make sure the registration process identifies you properly.
  2. Carefully monitor EOB- Explanation of Benefits that you receive in the mail.  Report any inconsistencies to the hospital , insurance company, medicare (CMS), or your doctor.
  3. Carefully monitor your bank statements and credit card statements for any suspicious  or unknown healthcare charges and take action immediately if anything suspicious shows on a statement.
  4. Never give any personal information about yourself over the phone.  A "scammer" might get a hold of your name and phone number to call you asking about your last visit to a health care facility as a Customer Service Survey.  Hoping to gain additional information; you may be asked for this information directly on the call or purposely asked to verify incorrect info so that you can "Correct the Records".
  5. If you have a choice of hospitals to go to and one uses biometric scanning and one does not, go to the one with biometric scanning.  Tell the staff you came because they can positively identify you.
  6. Call your local hospital and request they start using biometric scanning for identification and that would make you more confident making a visit.

Good luck my friends.  Its a dangerous Health Care World out there.

Scott R. Mayorga A.A.S., BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

For more information on health care fraud  and biometric scanning click the links below.
Stop Medicare Fraud
Report Fraud-Get Reward
HC Fraud Examples via IRS
What is health care fraud?
Medical Biometric Scanning
Biometric Scanning Technology

Sunday, November 10, 2013

United Pet Group Spreads the Love to Cichlidae Lagoon III

 United Pet Group is a wonderful company who cares about my Cichlids

As an addition to the story of my fish tank Cichlidae Lagoon, which leaked terribly on Labor Day weekend 2013, I am happy to say that United Pet Group offered to send me some MarineLand and Tetra fish care products to help in my situation.  I couldn't be more thrilled and thankful to United Pet Group.  I originally contacted United Pet Group which is the parent company of the fish tank manufacturer Labor Day weekend 2013 via customer service email.  Later the next week I was contacted via email from United Pet Group.   They were very interested in learning my story of near tragedy for my fish.  I originally followed advice from United Pet Group to work with the retailer Petco to get a replacement fish tank.  I did go to the Petco store where I purchased the fish tank and as I told in my original post the store manger and employees bent over backwards to help me.  Since then I have been in contact with United Pet Group customer service via phone and emails.  I am happy to proclaim that United Pet Group has compensated me with  a great amount of fish tank maintenance items to make up for the trouble I experienced as a result of the fish tank failure that was named Cichlidae Lagoon.

In September 2013, I did get store credit from Petco to purchase a new fish tank with which I did obtain a 29 gallon tank  I named Cichlidae Lagoon II.  I picked this smaller tank because it fit the stand I already had and it was the biggest tank that Petco had in stock that would fit the stand.  As it turned out, that tank was too small for the Cichlids.  In October 2013, I  purchased a big 60 gallon
MarineLand tank with matching stand to replace the 29 gallon tank.  The Cichlids are much happier in the larger tank which is now  Cichlidae Lagoon III. 

Now with all the supplies that United Pet Group sent me this last week I can take care of the Cichlids to keep them healthy and happy.  Just look at all the items United Pet Group sent me in a big box!  What a blessing this was.

Thank you United Pet Group for your attentiveness and thoughtful gesture which will help me to take good care of the Cichlids in what is now Cichlidae Lagoon III.
Supplies sent by United Pet Group with Dexter in Cichlidae Lagoon III
Connect with United Pet Group on the web United Pet Group
Connect with MarineLand on facebook  Marineland Products
Connect with Tetra on facebook  Tetra Products

Scott Mayorga A.A.S., BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Two College Kids Messing Around in a Morgue - Ruh Roh!

As young adults you, me, we all did dumb stuff from time to time...

Like the time a friend and I went down steep-steep Cotton Tail Road on our skateboards with no helmets or safety gear and crashed hard resulting in many inches of road rash and near concussions.  My head bleeding, my forearms looking like chop-meat, I then proceeded to drive us both home stopping at a convenience store for a soda.  The store owner nearly called the police on us.  Ah - those were the days.

You would think that working in a clinical laboratory, safety is a main concern and for the most part that is true.  But, when the manager tells two young lab assistants to dump some old chemicals down the sink, well mayhem can and will ensue.   This is the tale of what happens when critical thinking skills are not applied to a situation and great danger can overcome the festivities.

The word "old" is just a useless adjective when attached to the word "chemicals".  Chemicals in pure form should always be handled with a clear head and proper protective equipment.  Old chemicals can diminish in reactivity but still remain quite concentrated and active enough to cause bodily harm, damage, and other dangerous risks.

And so the story begins with a request from the lab manager of his young minions; "Take these boxes of old chemicals and dump them down the morgue sink - But be careful.  See photo below taken by Photographer Brandon Merkel of the laboratory morgue some 20+ years later.  We were working part time in a mental health facility laboratory with over 100 years of history.  Some of the chemicals were real old. But, you see we were educated, college trained, young, and rather invincible in our own minds.  So this was going to be an easy work day Right?
Photograph by Brandon Merkelbrandonmerkel

Well nothing was farther from reality.  I agreed to take the first few hours and my cohort would take over after I left for the day.  I proceeded to sort jars of chemicals by my own self starting relevance by recognition.  If I recognized the name of the chemical I opened the jar and poured it into the drain followed by copious amounts of water.  For the most part I was OK.  I had gloves, lab coat, and goggles covering my eyes.  Luckily, I was only working a 4 hour shift.  One chemical at a time followed by water, I was having good luck.  I was careful not to mix the chemicals together in the drain.  On and on it went.  No incident and no drama for me. Then it was time to leave for the day to attend my evening college classes.  My cohort took over.  He thought he was invincible too.  Unfortunately, he was not.  Critical thinking was not present in his work.  Instead of dumping - rinsing - waiting - repeat; his work flow was more streamlined.  He Opened several jars randomly grabbed out of the box, poured into the sink, after a scary amount of chemical was present water was added to rinse down the drain.  Well, under such a routine it was only a matter of time before disaster was at hand.  Several chemicals mixed together producing a cloud of dangerous noxious vapors which overcame my cohorts senses and eventually his faculties.  When he fell to the floor luckily he knocked down a box of chemicals and made enough of a ruckus that other laboratory staff heard and came to investigate what happened.  They pulled my cohort to outside air, opened doors and windows to release a eye tearing, breath stealing vapor cloud from the morgue.  My poor cohort almost bought it in the most ironic of places - right next to the morgue table.  What a disaster.  My cohort was alright though a temporary leave of absence was in order for the poor kid.  He was lucky that day.  So what have we learned?  Chemicals are dangerous.  Mishandling them is deadly.

As laboratorians working with various chemicals on a daily basis we are trained how to properly handle chemicals, how to mix them, and how to dispose of them whether in pure or aged state or post use.  This is all very good to know. But what about at home? Should we be concerned about household chemicals present in our living spaces?  The answer is an emphatic YES.

Here is a brief list of do's and don'ts for chemicals around the house.

Keep chemicals in original containers.
Date opened chemicals so you can keep track of their age, use, and reactivity.
Do not mix chemicals together.
Follow "How To Use" instructions directly on the label without deviation.
Discard empty containers.  Do not use empties for storing or preparing other chemicals.
Acquire MSDS forms for the cleaning chemicals you have in your home from the manufacturer; for example SC Johnson. SC Johnson MSDS Library
If you purchase concentrated cleaners and mix with water also purchase generic non-labeled application containers or sprayer bottles for such use.  Mark the container with exactly what is contained and at what concentration.  Date the container with the date of preparation.  In the event of an accident with the chemicals, a spill, or splash in the eyes it is important to know what exactly the chemical compound is.
In the event that a child has exposure to the chemicals, it is critical to know and be able to calmly tell
poison control what chemical and at what concentration the exposure happened with.

Mix different chemicals together - Cleaning a toilet bowl then spraying the seat with a chlorine based cleaner can result in deadly vapor production.  In the enclosed confines of a small bathroom you could wind up on the floor in trouble.  Some chemical compounds are heavy and thus hover the floor so your head on the floor is a bad place to be!
Use old containers for preparing new cleaning solutions.  They are not properly labeled and the initial mix  of solutions may not work as expected or may be dangerous to handle.  An exposure at some later time may lead to erroneous information given to poison control in an emergency resulting in further harm or death to the affected individual.

Never: Mix chlorine based chemicals with ammonia based cleaners.  This is a recipe for quick
illness and death.
Never: Mix drain cleaners with anything other than water.  Use rubber gloves when handling drain cleaners, oven cleaners, or anything labeled as "Caustic".

The most dangerous chemical compounds you can purchase without special permits is by far caustic drain cleaners and concrete scrubbers (Acids). Absolutely, Do Not mix these together and it is against the law to use these products in a way deviated from intended use as per the product labels.

Don't be stupid my friends - use your critical thinking skills.  Chemistry is wonderful when used properly.
Please click through links below to important information concerning the safe handling of chemicals in the home...
Chemical Safety Improvement Act
American Assoc of Poison Control Centers
National Capitol Poison Center
US Chem Safety Board
Guide to Chemical Hazards

Brandon Merkel is a photographer on Long Island NY.  Permission was granted by Mr. Merkel to use the morgue picture above.  The picture was taken some 20+ years after this story took place in
Sept. 1981.  The morgue autopsy table is shown slightly out of original position and plumbing fixtures are missing in the photograph.  The 16 square doors oriented floor to ceiling are the morgue refrigerator.  I observed an autopsy in this morgue room.  This room was located in Building 23, Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, Brentwood, NY.  The predominance of the ground floor was clinical laboratory which I worked as lab assistant for 6 months until Jan. 1982. There are multiple pictures to be found on the internet taken in this morgue but show the condition of the refrigerator in various stages of disarray and destruction.

Scott R. Mayorga A.A.S., BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Clinical Laboratory Licensing and Certification; What is the difference?

Laboratory Certification - Laboratory Licensing - What does it all mean?

 With over 239,000 clinical laboratory facilities registered in the US under CLIA - Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments; the public can get quite confused about regulations, certification, and licensing of these facilities.  Under CLIA, there are 29 different categories of Clinical Laboratories.  These can range from a mobile facility on wheels, health fares, hospital labs, and the mega reference labs performing millions of tests per year.  Various States operate licensing or permit programs of clinical labs.  The employees working the lab bench performing the testing of specimens are regulated by certification agencies and State level licensing via each locale.  So what is Laboratory certification?  What is the difference between certification and licensing?  Can a laboratory be certified but not licensed?  Can labs be licensed but not certified?  Can labs lose either certification or licensing and continue to operate?  I will try to answer these questions and explain concepts which can be confusing to laboratory consumers.  What is a Laboratory Consumer?  A lab consumer is you, me, the patient in general.  The doctor orders blood testing for us.  We go to a laboratory to submit specimens for testing, or the Doctor collects  specimens in the office and labs pick them up, or hospital staff come to your bed side to collect specimens.  Your specimens are received in a lab facility and tested.  Laboratory results are then delivered to the doctor who ordered your tests.  We are all consumers of lab testing facilities.  You do have a choice of who, what, where your specimens go for analysis.  What about that lab data?  What is a lab result?  What is lab data?  Laboratory data is the data produced within the laboratory from analysis of specimens; Unconfirmed data.  Clinical Laboratory Scientists test specimens by various methods and instrumentation.  Until that data is confirmed it is just that - data.  Once the data is verified as accurate and under control then the data is confirmed as laboratory results.  Lab results are then conveyed to the doctor for his or her evaluation.  This is a crucial concept to understand.  Lab data is subject to all sorts of regulations, guidelines, control, and evaluation before the data is declared laboratory results.  Just because a lab instrument issues numerical data does not mean that data is ready to be used to evaluate your medical condition or asses the health of an individual.  If quality control checks fail during the analysis of my specimen then the analysis is flawed and must be repeated and evaluated.  If my specimen does not meet guidelines for analysis then a new specimen must be obtained for testing.  Lab results are reported to our doctors.  Lab data is the unverified numbers or raw data issued by the testing method.  You nor I want lab data reported to the doctor.  We want verified lab results being perused by the doctor.

Laboratory licensing is sometimes synonymous with the Lab Permit.  Laboratories are a business.  Labs pay taxes to cities, states, and the federal government.  Various fees, registration fees, rent for building space, etc.  are paid by clinical labs.  A lab must have a permit to operate and test specimens.  Depending on the location of the lab facility a state permit is required and issued by the state department of health to the laboratory on an annual, bi-annual, or some other time period basis.  Renewal is required.  Some states also require inspection of the laboratory facility to maintain license or a lab operator permit.  To complicate the licensing issue, some specimens are collected from patients and transported across state lines or across the country to a central testing facility.  In those cases, the state where the specimens originate have jurisdiction over the performing laboratory no matter where the lab is located.  I personally know of a clinical laboratory that holds national certification but lost a state license due to revocation.  Even though this is a laboratory with quality processes, this facility is analyzing specimens without proper license from a state where samples are collected and jurisdiction is owned.  These lab results reported to physicians are reliable however there is great liability and risk if this facility where to be embroiled in a litigious process.  Basically, in absence of proper licensing laboratories are a risk to public health - especially when there is revocation involved.

Certification is the process a clinical laboratory under takes to gain prestige amongst other clinical laboratories and other competing laboratories; competing for our business.  Is certification of a clinical laboratory required?  No.  However, certification can be a supporting factor in the permit or licensing procedure of a laboratory.  Just depends on the licensing body of that facility.  Various organizations can certify clinical laboratories; the most notable is CAP - College of American Pathologists.   CAP certification is optional is some states or locales; however, that is a tricky road to embark on if you are a lab owner.  CAP certification is often inter-twined in the licensing procedure.  Just depends where the lab is physically located.  Hospitals can also be monitored/certified by JCAHO - Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health care Organizations.

CLIA Certification is different than lab certification described above.  CLIA certification is the permit or license if you will issued by the federal government so that a clinical laboratory can receive payment from CMS - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  A lab must be CLIA Certified to receive payments for testing specimens of patients enrolled in medicare or medicaid.

So, now that we know about laboratory certification and licensing what now?  Is this important?  Should a patient be concerned about these concepts when they visit their doctor for a check up?  The answers are yes, yes.  There are labs out there that either are not certified, not licensed, or have lost license or certification, or otherwise there is a lapse of one, both , or the other.  If there is a loss of either license or certification the big question is why?  Did the loss occur because of quality issues, performance issues, or some sort of regulatory infraction?  Either way, would you want your specimens used to screen your health analyzed by a laboratory that has lost certification or license?  I think not.  Do you feel comfortable bringing your car to Joe Smoe shade tree mechanic or your next door neighbor to fix your transmission?  No you don't and you would not do that.  You want someone who knows what they are doing and can prove it. The same with a clinical laboratory.  You want your specimens analyzed at a fully licensed, boastfully certified laboratory that can prove it 24/7/365.

But does a patient really have a choice where their specimens wind up to be tested?  Well sort of.  That depends on their doctor.  Some doctors have business relationships with clinical laboratories.  There is much federal regulation about this area of health care involving the prevention of kick-backs by labs to referring doctors.  The relationship is a loose agreement that the lab will pick up specimens and deliver medical reports to the doctor and may also provide supplies to collect specimens.  Anything more than that basic arrangement between doctor and laboratory and someone is going to jail.  There has been recent re-occurrence of kick-back payments by labs to doctors whereby thousands of dollars are passed to the doctor each year for the lab business from the doctor.  Prosecution of these cases has resulted in doctors going to jail for a long time.

However, you do have a choice where your specimens go.  When the doctor orders testing the order can be written on paper, or script.  You can take that script and go to any lab of your choosing.  You can do your own research and verify the certification and or licensing of labs and go to the one you are satisfied with.  Otherwise, you can let your doctor choose where the specimens go.

Be wise about your health care and be an informed consumer of health services.  Not all labs hold the proper license and certification to perform testing of your laboratory specimens.

To find a CAP Accredited Laboratory near you anywhere in the world click this link:
CAP Certified Laboratories
To find Laboratories that hold License with New York State DOH click this link:
NY State Clinical Laboratory Permit Holders
To find a licensed laboratory in Florida click this link;
Florida Laboratories
For more info about Laboratory Certification and certification of Clinical Laboratory Scientists
click this link; ASCP

Scott R. Mayorga
Straight Talk From The Hematech

Friday, November 1, 2013

Taste of Atlanta 2013 - Grand Daddy of Atlanta Foodie Festivals

2013 turned out to be a banner year for Taste of Atlanta!
Sun, fall weather, warm temperature, great food, and fun people all got together for a celebration.  A celebration of Atlanta's heritage of food and the proprietors there of.

As per Federal Trade Commission Regulation,  16 CFR, Part 255; Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising - - See more at:
As per FTC Regulation, 16 CFR, part 255; Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising - Taste of Atlanta provided me with a Media Pass for the Sunday Taste of Atlanta event in downtown Atlanta, Tech Square.  The reviews of the products I encountered at the festival are my own and are not provided by any one or any entity.

Taste of Atlanta ran for its 12th year October 25-27 2013.  This 10 city block festival was a three day celebration of the food, restaurants, and people of Atlanta.  What a celebration it was.  The food was excellent with many different offerings, some entertainment mixed in, learning opportunities for the aspiring chef in all of us, and the wonderful people of Atlanta. All enjoying themselves in the spirit of cultural diversity by the mouthful.  Atlanta is the southern cultural Mega-Center featuring a melting pot of diverse people and cultures represented by its citizens.  The menu was full of various offerings from Atlanta brand name restaurants and manufacturers with some large chains such as Waffle-House present to bring the Atlanta hometown experience to an abundance.  Some food prep in the tent kitchens was conducted by students of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute. This was a real nice experience to see the students working along side veteran chefs learning and gaining experience. Bravo Le Cordon Bleu!  This festival was a taste-bud tingling experience of epic proportions.  If you have not attended Taste of Atlanta yet - What are you waiting for!  There are many reasons why you should attend; a litany of adventures can be had in the weekend experience that is Taste of Atlanta.
Scenes from Taste of Atlanta 2013 * SweetHeart with Micah the Photographer

Taste of Atlanta was founded 12 years ago with the first foodie festival for downtown Atlanta.  Every year attendance gets larger, the food and drink offerings grow, and the festival gets better organized.  2013 was my first year attending the event and as such I visited with a Media Pass for Sunday the last day of the festival.  Although, I have no prior experience attending the festival I was very pleased with the event, the organizers, the support folks, and the festival proprietors. The representation by the fine dining establishments of Atlanta was immense.  The success of the event is simple.  Paid admission, food tickets, and a smart recycling effort help pay for the event and most importantly, revenue sharing of the food tickets with the vendors help them [vendors] defray some of the costs of setting up shop for the three day event.  What about those vendors?  These are the proprietors - owners if you will - of local restaurants in Atlanta that logistically plan the expert preparation of food offerings curbside at the festival for three days straight.  The infrastructure required to be a success at the festival is phenomenal.  These curbside kitchens were running like pit crews at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Tight areas to work in, high demand for product, efficiency, speed, and expert food prep all came together in each tent kitchen orchestrated by the owner, an executive chef, or both.  The culinary offerings were amazing.  The variety was grand.  Many a palette was satisfied.  The gastronomic cavities of all attendees left full with good cheer.  I did purchase extra food tickets and I was very glad I did.  I ate from 11 am to 5 pm.  The only downside was tired feet. Last but not least, the one perfect ending of the festival was a large barrel of ice cold Diet Coke cans handed out by the Coca-Cola Corporation to all leaving event participants.  What could be better than that?  Nothing. Thanks Coca-Cola!

So what did I sample and what was really good?  Pretty much everything I ate was good to very good and some offerings were excellent.  There was only one offering I did not care for and basically I don't like smoked salmon so the dish I had with smoked salmon was not on my favorite list.

Here is my list of favorites from 2013 Taste of Atlanta in the order passing through my alimentary canal. Ha-ha!

Sweetwater Growers - Infused Crushed Red Pepper Olive Oil; (Free Tasting)   Delightfully light excellent tasting olive oil infused with red pepper to a slight heat level.  Very fine starter for what was to come.  A local grower, Sweetwater Growers has a wide variety of infused table oils that were just smashing!
Sweetwater Infused Oils

Grilldabeast -  Smoked Fried Chicken Wing; A zesty complex preparation with a crispy sauce, slight tang, slight heat, and oh so good.  This was excellent food truck fare by a well known, well established Atlanta presence - Grilldabeast!
Me - This is Darn Good!

Figo Pasta - Rice Ball Marinara; A saucy Italian style vegetarian rice ball of fine mozzarella cheese and rice, deep fried to crispy perfection, topped with a fresh tomato sauce and Parmesan sprinkle.
Figo Specialty
This was outragiously good.  Probably one of the best offerings in taste, preparation, and portion size.

Shout - Steak Kabob; Freshly grilled steak on a skewer with veggies and pineapple garnish.  Absolutely simple but absolutely scrumptious.

Shout - Fresh Chicken salad on sliced bread;  A sweet offering of light chicken salad garnished with fresh grapes on a crispy round of bread.  Yummy.

High Road Craft Ice Cream and Sorbet - Vanilla bean ice cream with hot peach cobbler;  This was ice cream nirvana.  A scoop of luscious vanilla ice cream topped with hot peach cobbler.  Smooth and creamy fresh made ice cream with a deep vanilla tone topped with fresh peach and crunchy cobbler.  All I can say is WOW!
High Road Ice Cream

Yogli-Mogli - Frozen yogurt; (Free Tasting) A nice respite on the culinary hunt.  Chocolate plain and simple.  Might I digress...

Sugar Shack - Rich chocolate brownie; A delectable massive offering of chocolate perfection; two large brownie wedges of rich dark chocolate origin.  Bittersweet but not overly sweet.  Volume wise, this was a huge plate of brownie desert of high quality master culinary art . I finished both wedges with a cup of joe.  Where's my insulin shot?
Sugar Shack Brownie

Community Coffee - Black coffee; (Free Tasting) A fine offering from the southern family owned coffee roasting company.
A nice, hot, flavorful, and full bodied caffeine fix.

Taqueria del Sol - Brisket Taco;  A savory offering of saucy brisket cooked to tender perfection mixed with salsa garnish on a soft taco whirl.  An excellent offering hand made right in front of me.  Very tasty and complex flavor wrapped - Yummy.

Sparkling Ice - Kiwi Strawberry beverage;  (Free tasting) Light, bubbly low calorie beverage of great taste and sparkling effervescence.

YEAH! BURGER - Beef mini slider;  What more can you say, its Yeah! Burger with pickle and Yeah! sauce.  I scarfed the slider down like no tomorrow.  Savory, juicy, full of flavor yeah its YEAH! BURGER

Morelli's Gourmet Ice Cream - Ginger lavender ice cream; Gourmet is an understatement.  This ice cream was well worth waiting for at the end of the day.  A nice size scoop of tasty ice cream with delicate lavender flavor contrasting a ginger bite.  Definitely, not your grandsons ice cream.  This is an adult offering with a mature tingling of the taste buds.

Taste of Atlanta has something for everyone.  Young and old, culturally diverse, all can find a favorite at this mega smorgasbord of tasting Ecstasy.  Of course I just have to mention the offerings I just could not cram down my pie-hole like cupcakes, cheese cake, shrimp, quail eggs,Waffle House, giant 12 inch pretzels, chocolate dipped fruits, on and on and on.  Italian, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, seafood...  Yes I saw lots of food I just could not eat any more!  In between the vast rows of tent kitchens was the entertainment by local radio stations like Kiss 104.1, 97.1 the River and B 98.5 FM. Even the Hulk Hogan look alike man sat next to me on a bench while he ate a corn dog.  Non-food vendors are also present offering newspaper subscriptions, insurance, trucks, cell phones, etc.  These are the vendors that help pay the cost of running such a festival.  Last but not least were the vendors who supplied goodies to all (swag) if you will.  I only collected a few items listed below but there were many more vendors handing out samples and gifts.
Kings Hawaiian coupons
Dukes Mayo trial size
Food Should Taste Good chips
Larabar trial size
Tobasco mini's
Coca Cola Corp Diet Coke

Taste of Atlanta was a grand orchestration of celebratory revelry in the heart of downtown Atlanta focusing on the Atlanta restaurant scene.  Ambiance was full of fun and good cheer.  All attendees behaved themselves and appeared to be having a very wonderful time.  Support team members were numerous throughout the festival.  These were the folks who were constantly emptying trash bins and recycle waste bags.  These were attentive folks doing a necessary job while causing minimal interference to the celebration at hand.  I was glad to see some vendors offering food to these hard working individuals keeping the festival clean and clutter free.

Yes there is money involved and money to be made at Taste of Atlanta but that is not the most important factor driving the success of this annual festival.  It is the people, love of good food, and cultural diversity represented and celebrated in the food.  All involved with the festival seemed to be having a good time and the restaurants thoroughly enjoyed presenting tastes to the people of Atlanta.  Of course, great thanks goes to Atlanta Police Department for keeping security tight and traffic around the festival moving smoothly.

If you have not attended Taste of Atlanta yet you should.  Here is why:
The restaurants of Atlanta need your support for their existence and their employees
The festival is a marvelous day out with cool temperatures of the romantic fall season
Tickets are a really good value for the entertainment, great food, great people all wrapped up in this wonderful 3 day festival.
The APD really know how to keep traffic to and from the festival moving safely on the surrounding streets.  It was a breeze getting in and out of the festival with convenient parking very very close.

For more information connect with Taste of Atlanta via;
facebook taste of atlanta
twitter taste of atlanta
pinterest taste of atlanta
foursquare taste of atlanta
youtube taste of atlanta 

Some Photography by Micah Coletti
Scott R. Mayorga
Straight Talk From The Hematech

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