Friday, April 20, 2012

Risky businesses:

By Emily Biggs, Photo Editor

Dirty dining goes digital as public health records are available on the Internet for students, faculty and Parkland residents to look into. Since these records are more accessible than ever, The Mooring Mast decided to explore the opportunity and check up on the health history of Garfield Street restaurant and Pacific Lutheran University dining locations.

University Center

Approximately every three months, representatives from the Pierce County Health Department visit PLU Dining and Culinary Services and Garfield Street restaurants for routine health inspections.

The facilities are subject to an inspection by health department officials. Kitchens and serving areas are inspected for a variety of critical and low-risk factors such as potentially hazardous food temperatures, protection from cross contamination, prevention from contamination by hands, employee health and demonstration of knowledge.

The inspectors use a point value system, with higher point values for the more egregious infractions. For example, if raw meat is not thoroughly cleaned from surfaces, the establishment receives 15 points. If an establishment exceeds 35 points overall, the facility is legally required to correct violations before the inspector leaves and schedule a follow-up inspection.

PLU’s Dining and Culinary Services has only incurred one follow-up inspection since Jan. 7, 2010, despite being cited for nearly a dozen critical violations.

“Although it’s probably the topic that I like the least,” said Erin McGinnis, director of Dining and Culinary Services, of food safety and cleanliness on campus, “it’s probably the topic that is most important for all of us as employees of a university where we are feeding students day in and day out.”

The UC’s follow-up inspection occurred on March 7 after the commons failed its inspections with 75 points on Feb. 27. The university was cited for critical violations such as potentially hazardous food temperature and cross contamination. The food establishment inspection report filed by inspectors commented that the “slicer in back prep area has meat (raw looking) food debris on it and appears to be only wiped down after each use.”

After the university fixed all the problems, inspectors were invited back to re-inspect facilities, which cost the university the standard fee of $160.

“We do strive to put things in place, to have training in place, to be really rigid about having people get their health cards in time” McGinnis said about combatting future citations.

McGinnis attributes being charged with simple citations such as “demonstration of knowledge,” which includes food worker cards being current for all food workers, to a lack of common sense.

“It’s really difficult to take basic knowledge of a food handler’s permit and translate it into real life,” McGinnis said. McGinnis said she hates seeing critical red violations come up on reports, because she strives for no violations to be present at the time of inspections. “Our reaction to it [violations] is what do we do to get it fixed?”

Making sure all employees follow proper protocol “is a little like herding cats,” McGinnis said. “We have a lot of people and a lot of outlying units, but it is absolutely at the core of what we need to do to keep students safe.”

McGinnis assures the PLU community that Dining and Culinary Services takes both high and low risk factors for food preparation and illness prevention “very, very seriously.”

Farrelli’s Wood Fire Pizza

Assistant Manager and ten-year Parkland resident Erik Trainer has been at Farrelli’s during health inspections. Trainer described appropriate protocol when the health department visits as avoiding all health code violations such as making sure bleach buckets are changed out on time, food has time stamps, hands are washed, food is handled at the appropriate temperatures and all procedures are followed appropriately.

“When the health inspector comes in they will be really nit-picky about a lot of things” Trainer said.

Last July, Farrelli’s was cited for chemicals, meaning that toxic substances should be properly identified, stored and used.

“We have two spots where we keep chemicals,” Trainer said. Both locations are now kept safely away from food.

Farrelli’s has also been cited for a violation about preventing contamination by hand, citing a lack of adequate hand washing facilities.

“At that time one of our sinks was out,” Trainer said. “The hot waster wasn’t working.”

Trainer said after the health department pointed out the violation, Farrelli’s was required to fix it by a certain date and did.

Thermometers were also out of date when health inspectors showed up in December, and Farrelli’s was cited for potentially hazardous food time and temperatures.

“A couple of our thermometers we had were the old-school ones with the meters, and those were actually not up to health code at all,” Trainer said. Farrelli’s promptly removed the old thermometers the day of the inspection and immediately started to use digital thermometers instead.

“I wouldn’t have any worries here, we really do the best we can,” Trainer said of the health and food safety of Farrelli’s. “I’d say that even though we have had certain issues in the past, every violation on here we have done better to improve upon.”

Yummers 2 the 3rd Power

Co-owner Amber Seranno explained the critical violations of her cupcake bakery, Yummers 2 the 3rd Power. On Feb. 23, Yummers was cited for inadequate demonstration of knowledge and preventing contamination by hands. Seranno explained their bathroom sink was being fixed. Fortunately, Seranno said that there was another sink outside the door so “it wasn’t an issue” despite the critical status of the citation.

Concerning a lack of demonstration of knowledge among staff, Serrano said “I wasn’t here at the time when they said the owner should be present or whatever.”

Seranno declined to comment on overall health and safety principles at Yummers.

Reyna’s Mexican Restaurant

Felix Guzman, owner of Reyna’s Mexican restaurant, has addressed all violations cited by the health department.

“Usually here we do not have a single problem,” Guzman said. “The health department is very good with us. They check everything. Very nice.”

When asked to address the critical violations such as stating consumer advisories on menus and providing adequate hand washing facilities, Guzman assured restaurant frequenters.

“We are working on that right now specifically to put that on the menu,” Guzman said, adding that the laws have been changed recently, making Reyna’s specify each item on the menu being identified with an asterisk advising against raw or under-cooked foods.

Concerning the hand washing facilities, Reyna’s has six sinks for hand washing, all of which are fully functional currently.

“We clean daily, cleaning and mopping,” Guzman said. “We try to do the best we can sanitizing and bleaching the stuff. We go over the rules, you know?”

Tea Leaf

The Chinese restaurant near campus had the most health code violations on Garfield.

Jeannie Sung, manager of Tea Leaf restaurant, had little to say about the ten critical citations during the past two years. “I’m not really sure about the codes and what those mean,” Sung said.

One citation out of the norm on Garfield Street and PLU is the health department citing a risk of approved sources and unadulterated food, which means that food is in good condition, safe and unadulterated with only approved additives.

“I wasn’t here when the food inspector came in. As far as like moldy food is concerned, I don’t think so,” Sung said. “I actually have no idea.”

Sung also said that all food from the restaurant is made from scratch, including appetizer items such as soup.

“The soup is made ahead of time and it’s one of the few foods that come out really quickly.” Sung said.

“I guess, whenever we get an order in we will make it and then we make a big pot so other customers that come in can get it right away.”

The soup will sit in the pot until it runs out, Sung said. “We don’t make too much, maybe so like five tables can have some soup.”

Citations regarding high-risk associated with cross contamination concerns Sung. “You mean meats and vegetables being mixed in the raw state? Yeah, I don’t know.”

Tea Leaf was also cited for risk of chemicals and a lack of properly identified toxic substances, stored and used.

“I don’t know if we have it [chemicals] close to the food,” Sung said. “Maybe we just got caught at the wrong time.”

Despite the numerous amounts of critical citations, “safety is a concern and it’s something that we should take seriously,” Sung said.