Iowa restaurants cited for slime, outdated food and unsanitary equipment

By: - May 10, 2021 3:53 pm

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals is responsible for inspecting food establishments such as grocery stores, restaurants and convenience stores, as well as food processing plants, hotels and motels. (Photo by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

In recent weeks, state and county food inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and grocery stores for hundreds of food-safety violations, including long-outdated food, unsanitary kitchen equipment and failure to employ a certified food protection manager.

One Iowa restaurant had converted five-gallon chemical detergent buckets into food-storage containers they were using inside the kitchen’s walk-in cooler.

The findings are reported by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, which handles food-establishment inspections at the state level. Listed below are some of the more serious findings that stem from inspections at Iowa restaurants, stores, schools, hospitals and other businesses over the past several weeks.

The state inspections department reminds the public that their reports are a “snapshot” in time, and violations are often corrected on the spot before the inspector leaves the establishment. For a more complete list of all inspections, along with additional details on each of the inspections listed below, visit the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals’ website.

Joe’s Place, 115 E. Iowa St., Iowa City — A March 23 inspection resulted in 13 citations for violations, Inspectors reported food debris on the blade of a food processor; a build-up of some unspecified nature inside an ice machine; no paper towels available at the hand-washing sink; the chlorine-dispensing washing unit for sanitizing glasses was unable to sanitize glassware properly; there was no available hand sink in the employee restroom downstairs; there were multiple severely dented cans of chili con carne in storage; the rooftop bar’s hand-washing sink was being used as dump sink with debris in the basin; there was no certified food protection manager employed by the establishment; and multiple bottles of chemicals including pesticide and degreaser and were improperly stored.

Golden Corral, 5230 Sergeant Rd., Sioux City – A May 6 inspection resulted in six citations for violations, including chemical spray bottles being stored directly above food-contact surfaces. Inspectors reported the dishwashing machine was not working; several coolers were not working and were unable to maintain foods at 41 degrees or colder; several paper towel dispenser units were not in working condition; and several of the food-contact surfaces were visibly soiled.

Hy-Vee Foods, 2352 W. Locust St., Davenport — An April 30 inspection resulted in eight citations for violations. Inspectors reported multiple cans of beans and a can of fruit on store shelves with significant dents along the top or bottom seal; sweet and sour chicken and sliced onions were sitting out at room temperature; chicken and Mongolian beef had to be discarded after being held at 50 degrees, though they had been prepared and cooled the night before; olives in the deli department and the salad mix in the Chinese department were each held past seven days and were discarded; the food-safety records related to the sushi rice were all filled out in the same way, and when the cook was asked to perform a test on the rice, the person “had no idea where to begin;” various foods found in the Chinese and deli department had no date markings on them; the food manager in the Chinese department did not know how to calibrate the pH tester for sushi rice and was unaware of the critical control points for food safety; and there was no hot water available in the hand-washing sink in the hot-food department.

University of Iowa Hospitals’ Bread Garden Cafe, 200 Hawkins Dr., Iowa City — An April 16 inspection resulted in 11 citations for violations. Inspectors said reheated soup was being held at 130 degrees four hours after the reheating process had begun; milk that was left open for more than 24 hours was not date-marked; the inside of the ice machine had debris build-up; paper towels were not available at the hand sink; the certification of the food protection manager was expired; there was no handwashing signage at the café’s General Hospital and Children’s Hospital locations; and bottles of industrial cleaners were hanging from the hand sink across from the oven at one location.

Casey’s General Store, 411 18th St., Spencer — A March 29 inspection resulted in five citations for violations. Inspectors reported hash browns were kept in the warmer at 115 degrees after two hours; food utensils were not clean and were visibly soiled with food residue; and the shredded lettuce, cut tomatoes and cooked beef in the pizza-preparation cooler were not date-marked.

Hy-Vee Gas, 808 Center St., Marshalltown – A March 17 inspection resulted in 10 citations for violations. Inspectors reported there was no certified food protection manager at the establishment; kitchen employees were failing to wash their hands; employees’ personal food, beverages and utensils (including sushi) were left sitting on a food-preparation surface for customer orders; slices of pepperoni pizza in the pizza warmer were being held 127 degrees; prepared eggs and precooked sausage to be used for breakfast sandwiches were date-marked March 10 and had not been discarded; and the ice chutes on the soda machine were soiled with a buildup of “mold-like growth.”

The Watering Hole, 1911 E. 17th Ave., Oskaloosa — A March 12 inspection resulted in 13 citations for violations, including failure to employ a certified food protection manager. Inspectors reported that a microwave oven in the food preparation area was visibly soiled with accumulated debris; the business had “not been sanitizing any of their food-contact surfaces;” employees stated that items such as containers of gravy were marked with a two-week expiration date rather than seven days; employees’ snacks, beverages and a carton of cigarettes were on the food-preparation table used for customer orders; glass cleaner was stored above packaged popcorn on the retail shelves; and gravy had no date markings on it.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, 1453 Mississippi Blvd., Bettendorf – A May 4 inspection resulted in four citations for violations. Inspectors reported that toxic chemicals were stored next to single-use food items; there was no certified food protection manager on staff; refried beans and tacos were held in a hot-holding unit at 115 degrees; and the interior of the freezer had an excess of food debris and crumbs, and required cleaning.

Hotel Blackhawk, 200 E. 3rd St., Davenport — A May 5 inspection resulted in six citations for violations, including raw chicken wings being stored above raw beef and pork in a cooler; temperature-controlled food “throughout the facility” that was held past the seven-day expiration date, which was a repeat violation; risotto and pineapple salsa in a cooler that was stored with no preparation date marked on them; and food in one cooler that was being held at temperatures of 52 to 54 degrees.

Waspy’s, 703 S. Rye Ave., Templeton — An April 26 inspection resulted in six citations for violations including raw chicken stored above ready-to-eat commercially processed ham; bacon and sausage patties that were cooked two and a half hours earlier and were sitting in a fryer basket at room temperature.

Frio, 1114 1st Ave., Perry — An April 16 inspection resulted in 12 citations for violations, including failure to employ a certified food protection manager. Inspectors said the owner was not ensuring proper staff hand-washing procedures; the staff was seen cutting papaya that was to be served uncooked, using his or her bare hands; food-storage containers were washed and set up for drying without sanitizing; raw eggs were stored above ready-to-eat food inside a cooler; and the manager or owner was unable to explain critical control points in food safety, or the reason for sanitizing kitchenware, or the need for employees to wash their hands only in a hand sink.

La Tapatia Tienda Mexicana, 1440 Des Moines St., Des Moines — An April 22 inspection resulted in 18 citations for violations. Inspectors reported the lack of any lids for the bulk-storage of beans inside a large bin; multiple containers of cooked tamales were in the walk-in cooler and were not date marked; all of the sanitizing buckets in the meat and seafood sections had zero sanitizing solution in them; an ice machine was visibly soiled with debris; a package of cut papaya in the produce section was broken and exposed to external contamination; “hot” chicharrons were being held at 104 degrees; one hand-washing sink was non-functional and other hand-washing sinks were being used for dumping or were blocked by trash cans and bins; and pre-packaged containers of raw intestine were observed stored above the cheese inside one of the walk-in coolers.

Hy-Vee Foods, 802 S. Center St., Marshalltown — An April 12 inspection resulted in eight citations for violations. Inspectors reported that cooked beef slices in the Asian department were holding at 46 degrees, and cooked lo mein noodles were holding at 43 degrees; the sushi production log was incomplete and the store had no records available for verification of food safety; the spatulas used in the Market Grille for stirring gravies had been in use four and a half hours without being cleaned and sanitized; acidified sushi rice in use at the time of the inspection was not labeled with any identifying or monitoring information and no pH records were available; prepared sushi items were placed directly in the retail cooler for sale with no temperature or cooling monitoring; and a food slicer that was stored on the “clean” shelf in the dish room had visible, dried food debris on the blade. Also food for sale in the Market Grille display case — including four-bean salad, Caprese salad, chop salad, garden ranch cottage cheese, and a creamy shell pasta salad — was dated April 5 and had not been discarded after seven days,

Bridgeside Pub, 1005 E. 2nd St., Muscatine — A May 6 inspection resulted in 11 citations for violations, including raw chicken being stored over cheese and cooked chicken inside a reach-in cooler. Inspectors said there was no date-marking system in place to ensure foods were disposed of before becoming unsafe; employees didn’t wash their hands between handling raw meat and working on food preparation; multiple employees’ beverages were left sitting on food-preparation surfaces and on cutting boards used for customer orders; an employee placed bacon on a salad with their bare hands; there was no currently certified food protection manager; and chicken wings with a date marking of May 4 were being held at 45 degrees and had to be discarded.

Probstei Inn Bar & Grill, 6315 W. Kimberly Rd., Davenport — A March 29 inspection resulted in six citations for violations. Inspectors said the blades of an onion dicer and fry cutter had a build-up of dried food debris; raw ground beef was being stored in a cooler above whole-muscle cuts of beef; and homemade ranch dressing (dated March 15), fiesta ranch dressing (dated Feb. 11) were being kept well beyond the allowable seven days; and a commercially prepared package of cooked corned beef was still in the kitchen after having been opened 11 days prior.

Tree House Pub & Eatery, 2239 Kimberly Rd., Davenport — A March 23 inspection resulted in seven citations for violations, including “date-marking issues throughout the facility.” Inspectors said tomatoes on the cook line were holding at 47 degrees; the dishwashing machine was not dispensing sanitizer; creamy garlic sauce found in a cooler was dated 10 days prior to the inspection; and the interior of the pizza station cooler, the reach-in freezer, the soda machine, the ice dispenser, and the glass cooler underneath the cash register at the bar were all soiled and in need of cleaning; and “clean” plates and platters near the cook line in the kitchen were soiled and needed to be rewashed and sanitized, which was a repeat violation.

Peking Buffet, 1501 Main St., Keokuk — A May 6 inspection resulted in 11 citations for violations, including raw pork stored over ready-to-eat broccoli in a cooler. Inspectors said that on the cold buffet line they found diced melon held at 62 degrees, sliced hard-boiled eggs holding at 60 degrees, and shredded lettuce holding at 68 degrees. They also reported raw shell eggs on top of the food-preparation table that were holding at 69 degrees; various cooked food items that were stored without lids or any coverings in coolers; macaroni and cheese in one cooler that had no date markings; opened cans of fruit and pudding that had no date markings; and there was no certified food protection manager on staff. Inspectors also said that on the hot buffet line, they found green beans that were holding at 109 degrees, French fries at 108 degrees and chicken wings at 120 degrees. No hand soap was found at one of the two employee hand-washing sinks in the kitchen.

Mojito’s Mexican Restaurant, 1902 Main St., Granger — An April 30 inspection resulted in 10 citations for violations, including a lack of hand soap at the hand-washing sink. Inspectors reported finding raw chicken was stored above pineapple rings in a cooler; cooked beans in a walk-in cooler that were not dated; dishes that were being washed without being sanitized; and an employee was observed lifting tortillas off the grill and onto plates with his or her bare hands.

First Street Grille, 719 1st St., Keosauqua — An April 28 inspection resulted in six citations for violations, including raw bacon stored over a container of shredded mozzarella cheese. Inspectors said the mechanical dishwasher not properly sanitizing dishes; raw ground beef was stored over raw, whole-muscle meat in a walk-in cooler; and inside the walk-in cooler, inspectors found containers of kidney beans dated March 19, scalloped potatoes and green beans dated April 4, ham and beans dated April 17, corn dated March 19, pasta salad dated April 17, and chicken broth dated March 14.

El Senor Cactus, 1534 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City — An April 22 inspection resulted in eight citations for violations. Inspectors said the establishment had converted five-gallon chemical detergent buckets into food-storage containers they were using inside the walk-in cooler. They also reported 10-day-old flan (a dessert) stored in the cooler, and said several open pans on a steam table in the center of the kitchen were not covered when not in use, allowing for environmental contamination. They reported multiple pans and containers of food in the food-prep coolers lacked lids or coverings of any kind; a container of taco salad shells was uncovered in a bin sitting on top of the refrigerator; the dishwasher was not sanitizing dishes properly; and the employee hand-washing sink was being used as a dump sink for food.

Wise Guys Pizza, 2720 W. Locust St., Davenport — An April 21 inspection resulted in seven citations for violations, Inspectors said the ice maker’s interior was “soiled with mold and pink slime;” diced chicken and ham held in the pizza cooler was undated; no certified food protection manager was on staff; pizza sauce was being held in the kitchen at 76 degrees; pizzas and pastas on the buffet table were holding at 118 to 127 degrees; and pizza sauce in the walk-in cooler, along with mushrooms and corned beef in the prep cooler, had been held “well beyond the seven-day expiration date.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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