Restaurant inspection update: Sewage, rodent carcasses, mold and filth

By: - June 6, 2022 5:48 pm

Inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants for hundreds of violations this past month and shut down three establishments for health violations. (Photo illustration by Iowa Capital Dispatch)

State and county food inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and grocery stores for hundreds of food-safety violations this past month, including moldy food, rodent infestations and food utensils “covered in filth.”

At least three Iowa eateries were forced to close after inspectors discovered they lacked running water, were too filthy or didn’t have enough working refrigerators to keep food from spoiling. The East Des Moines Girls’ Softball Concession Stand was cited for 20 serious risk-factor violations related to moldy food, meat from uncertain sources, and what appeared to be a major rodent infestation.

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 four 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.

Abelardo’s Mexican Food, 205 E. 14th St., Des Moines – During a May 26 visit, inspectors cited the establishment for 26 serious risk-factor violations – a significantly higher than normal number of violations. At the time of the inspection, kitchen workers began power-washing the walls of the grill area, allowing water, detergent and accumulated debris to contaminate the many uncovered, nearby foods that were being prepared for customers at that time.

In the basement, the inspector found what he called a “significant sewage backup, with pooling sewage alongside an objectionable odor.” The backup had resulted in “a large accumulation of standing sewage throughout the basement,” the inspector reported.

The restaurant was cited for the fact that its designated person in charge was not a certified food protection manager. The inspector also noted that employees did not wash their hands between working with refuse and working with clean equipment and utensils.

In addition, containers of sugar and flour were left open and uncovered inside an unfinished “furnace room” and appeared to be contaminated with dead flying insects and rodent droppings. Also, a five-gallon bucket of queso inside a reach-in cooler was “visibly adulterated with what appeared to be dead gnats.”

The inspector reported that uncovered foods — such as chips and fries – had been contaminated by the employees power-washing the area in the midst of food preparation; multiple cans of food were severely dented or damaged at the seams; multiple flats of raw eggs, raw liquid eggs and raw chicken were stored directly above an uncovered container of queso; and many food items throughout the facility —  such as chips, fries, chicken, beef, chiles and raw meats — did not have any lids or other coverings to protect them from environmental contamination and had to be discarded.

Also, cooked steak tacos prepared the previous day were holding at 47 degrees and cooked beans from the previous day were holding at 56 degrees and had to be discarded; cooked steak on the hot-holding table was measured at 116 degrees and had to be discarded; and the food-preparation table included shredded cheese at 52 degrees; cooked chicken at 57 degrees, raw shrimp at 55 degrees and raw bacon at 57 degrees.

Throughout the establishment, there were foods — including cooked chicken, raw steak and vacuum-packaged fish – that had been left out and had to be discarded; multiple food items such as shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cooked meats, queso, house-made sauces, cakes, and desserts had no date markings to indicate when they were opened or prepared; and the restaurant’s chlorine sanitizer bucket, left at the front cash register, had no measurable amount of sanitizing solution in it.

The inspector reported that the blender, vegetable dicer, the interior of the ice machine and various cutting boards were all visibly soiled with accumulated food and debris; employees had been washing and rinsing equipment and utensils without any sanitizing taking place; and containers were being stored in the basin of a sink intended for handwashing.

The inspector noted the restaurant had changed ownership recently, was operating without a valid license, and was also operating despite an “extensive sewage backup in the basement” and multiple broken refrigeration and freezer units.

The inspector determined that due to the number of coolers that were in disrepair, the restaurant did not have sufficient refrigeration to conduct food service operations. In addition, all of the freezers were in disrepair which meant that “multiple meats were not maintained frozen solid” and had to be discarded.

Other foods, including fries and frozen meats, that had been set out to thaw overnight at room temperature were discarded. Gnats and other flying insects were noted throughout the restaurant and were concentrated in the dry-storage area. Multiple “filled pest traps” were observed, including one with dead flying insects and one with a dead rodent. Also, containers of cooking oils were “stored directly on the ground” in the ware-washing area where they were exposed to the splashing water from the workers’ power-washing attempts to clean the area.

Workers were also stacking “cleaned” utensils and equipment while they were still wet, without allowing them to properly air dry. In addition, the containers used to store customers’ to-go orders were stored in an unfinished room and were contaminated with dead gnats. The three-compartment sinks that would normally be used to sanitize glasses and dishes were in disrepair and couldn’t be plugged or stopped, so the restaurant was unable to properly wash, rinse and sanitize anything.

Also, food containers and cutting boards were visibly soiled with accumulated debris even after cleaning; the restaurant’s Dumpster was overflowing and there was “an over-accumulation of refuse” on site; and there was “a large accumulation of standing water throughout the kitchen” area.

“The firm is currently operating without a valid food service establishment license,” the inspector noted in his report. “During the inspection, the owner traveled to the (Department of Inspections and Appeals’) office and paid their double-penalty fee. Due to the lack of functioning refrigeration units, unresolved risk-factor violations, violations regarding pest control, the inability to sanitize equipment and utensils, the adulteration of multiple foods throughout the facility, the ongoing sewage backup in the basement, and the sanitary condition of the facility, the firm has agreed to voluntarily close … The firm’s food service establishment license cannot be approved at this time.”

Burger King, 4801 N.E. 14th St., Des Moines – During a May 18 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for 12 violations, with the inspector noting that the person in charge was not a certified food protection manager. The inspector reported that the interior of the ice machine was damaged in that water to make the ice was running over the top of soiled copper lines, resulting in contaminated water, accumulated debris and adulterated ice.

Also, croissant breakfast sandwiches were found “sitting in the microwave” at 83 degrees, and fried potato rounds were found sitting in the fryer area at 88 degrees. Both groups of food items had to be discarded.

In addition, several foods were found to be outside the zone of safe holding temperatures, including sliced tomatoes at 49 degrees, sliced cheese at 47 degrees and sliced ham at 51 degrees. Also, sliced ham and shredded cheese on the sandwich production line were not discarded, as required, after four hours. Instead, they were moved from the food-preparation line back into a cooler.

In addition, the ambient temperature of the walk-in cooler was 46 to 48 degrees – too warm to ensure food was kept fresh and safe. The inspector determined the restaurant did not have sufficient, working refrigeration units to allow for continued operation of the business.

The inspector also made note of the fact that the wall directly above three-compartment sink was “visibly soiled with accumulated black debris” and pointed out that the restaurant, after a previous sewage-line backup, was still using temporary sewage lines, despite plans to have completed long-term repairs in January of this year.

In addition, a sink was leaking water into a bucket; ceiling tiles were missing in front of the cooler; a wall in the ware-washing area was in disrepair; and other nearby walls and flooring were visibly soiled with accumulated debris.

The inspector noted that the restaurant did not post its license for public view and added that all of the pages of the establishment’s previous routine-inspection report had not been posted. The visit was prompted by a non-illness complaint concerning poor personal hygiene, potentially adulterated food and the presence of unauthorized non-employees in the kitchen.

The complaints concerning personal hygiene and the potential for adulterated food were deemed verified, while the complaint about unauthorized people in the kitchen was considered unverifiable. Because the restaurant did not have enough functioning refrigerators, the person in charge agreed to voluntarily and temporarily close the establishment.

The inspector returned two days later and reported the cooler had been repaired. “No imminent health hazard exists at this time,” the inspector reported, approving the reopening of the restaurant. The manager agreed to purchase and use only bagged ice until the ice machine could be fixed or replaced. The manager also agreed to send the inspector an updated timeline for repairs to the sewage lines.

Krazy K. Kookin’, 28801 Jasper Ave., Bloomfield – During a June 4 visit, inspectors cited this mobile food unit for the owners’ lack of knowledge as to the Food Code regulations. There was no certified food protection manager on staff, french fries were being held at 112 degrees, and sliced tomatoes were held at 50 degrees. The inspection was conducted at the Albia Area Chamber of Commerce Rodeo at the Monroe County Fairgrounds.

Cocina Hernandez, 124 N. Walnut St., Colfax – During a June 3 visit, inspectors cited this mobile food unit for 10 regulatory violations. Cooked rice in the steam table was holding at 103 degrees and had to be discarded. Items in the refrigerator were too warm, including shredded lettuce held at 45 degrees and shredded cheese at 44 degrees. Cut lettuce, cheese, salsas and sour cream had to be discarded.

The unit had no running water and was unable to effectively clean and sanitize any of the utensils or equipment. In his report, the inspector said that the inspection began at 1:40 p.m. and employees that reported since the establishment opened for business that day at 10 a.m., no handwashing had occurred.

There were no probe-type food thermometers on hand; the refrigerator had no internal thermometer; packages of tortillas for customers to eat were stored in a container that also held soiled towels and garbage; cut limes, cut onions and cut cilantro were stored uncovered; and spatulas, tongs and knives were stored on surfaces that were heavy soiled with debris. The owner agreed to shut down the unit until water service could be restored.

Hy-Vee Foods, 1500 Highway 169, Algona – During a June 1 visit, inspectors noted that raw bacon was stored in a deli display case above the ready-to-eat bacon, creating a risk of cross-contamination. In the meat department display case, raw hamburger was stored above whole-muscle pork; raw, ground beef was not separated from whole-muscle kabobs in the meat department; the food-dicer blades and four food scoops were stored away with what appeared to be dried food debris on them; and access to the handwashing sink in the bakery was blocked by a cart.

In addition, non-food-grade products such as fuel, rubbing alcohol and pot cleaners were stored above pans and coffee beans. In the bakery, an employee’s medicine was stored above pans and equipment used to prepare food.

The inspection was triggered by a non-illness complaint but was classified as a routine inspection. The inspector deemed the complaint, which was not described in the report, as unverifiable, but noted that the manager said the store’s procedure “will be to have one person cook and other to handle money, with a proper handwashing station set up.” The store was last inspected in March 2018.

The Station, 3645 Stone Creek Circle, Cedar Rapids – During a June 1 visit, an inspector watched as a worker walked into the establishment from outside and went straight to the warming station to serve food without first washing his or her hands.

Mashed potatoes and gravy at the warming station were holding at 92 degrees to 125 degrees and had to be heated up to 165 degrees to be served safely. A bag of lettuce, a container of scrambled eggs and a gallon of milk were not marked with any dates to assure freshness and safety; and a container of hot dogs and a container of lettuce, each dated May 23 – nine days prior to the inspection – had to be discarded.

The ice bin in the basement had a build-up of “brownish color” inside it, and there was no hot water available at the handwashing sink. The establishment was last inspected in 2019.

Central Standard, 2239 Falcon Ave., Bettendorf – During a May 31 visit, an inspector noted that an employee’s cellphone was sitting directly on a cutting board used to prepare food in the main cook line.

Also, tomato bisque soup prepared the day before was still holding at above 46 degrees in the kitchen cooler and had to be discarded; salad dressings and sauces were holding at 65 to 66 degrees and had to be discarded; and various dressings that were made in house were all held past the allowable seven days.

In addition, the interior of the ice cream freezer was “soiled with an excess of food debris,” as were racks in the main kitchen’s walk-in cooler.

Hy-Vee Foods, 115 S. 29th St., Fort Dodge – During a May 31 visit, an inspector noted that raw chicken was being stored above ground hamburger, raw bacon was being stored above hot dogs, and raw pork sausage was being stored above fully cooked turkey bacon — each of which created a risk of cross-contamination.

In addition, sesame chicken was being held for customers at 118 degrees and had to be pulled from the stream table and reheated to 165 degrees. In the Starbucks kiosk, the inside of the ice machine was visibly soiled, and in the seafood section the handwashing sink was instead being used to store ice. Also, there was stagnant water in the mop room that was used for dry storage, with wet mops being stored in pools of water.

In the Wahlburgers dishwashing room and in the bakery department, the inspector noted that the floor behind the dishwasher was visibly soiled and the flooring under the shelves was visibly soiled with debris. In addition, food was being stored directly on the floor of the walk-in cooler. In the Wahlburgers area, the clean plates, pans and utensils were not covered or inverted to prevent contamination.

Also, sanitation test strips used in the Wahlburgers, bakery and Starbucks areas were expired, and the three-compartment sinks used to sanitize dishes were in disrepair with one of the sinks missing both the handle and the faucet itself.

St. Kilda Collective, 335 5th St., West Des Moines – During a May 31 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for an employee not washing their hands before donning gloves; for an employee shredding cheese with their bare hands; for storing raw beef patties alongside produce; for inadequate temperature controls; for a lack of sanitizer in the three-compartment sink used for dish cleaning; and for a kitchen handwashing sink where the water was no hotter than 95 degrees.

In the public report that the establishment is required to post, the state inspector wrote that the visit was in response to a complaint and that he had a discussion with the manager and chef regarding retraining employees on proper handwashing and use of gloves. The public report doesn’t indicate whether the complaint was deemed verified.

Hy-Vee Foods, 640 Lincolnway Drive, Ames – During a May 27 visit, an inspector noted that in the bakery department, an employee didn’t wash their hands before donning gloves. In the Chinese food area, uncooked chicken was stored above raw eggs, risking cross-contamination; in the meat display case, raw bison meat was stored above the plant-based burgers and brats; and in the deli department, several foods – including London broil, Virginia ham and chicken – were measured above the maximum temperature of 41 degrees.

In addition, the establishment’s high-temperature dishwasher was not reaching the minimum 160 degrees and was placed out of order until it could be serviced. In the sushi department, the handwashing sink was not reaching the minimum required temperature of 100 degrees due to its dedicated water heater being unplugged.

Also in the sushi department, the establishment was not following the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan regarding the calibration of pH meters and the testing of the pH level of the rice. Also, the reach-in coolers did not have a thermometer for monitoring temperatures; boxes of crackers in the deli department were stored on the floor; a container of food was stored on the floor of the walk-in cooler of the bakery department; and the cutting boards in the Wahlburgers, bakery and Chinese-food departments were showing deep cuts and discoloration that could signal issues with contamination.

Also, the flour containers in the Wahlburgers and bakery areas showed a build-up of debris on them; the floor in front of the meat department was marred by missing tiles; and the walk-in cooler in the bakery department was not being cleaned or maintained, with visible food particles and debris evident. In the dry-storage area, the ice machine was not being maintained or cleaned, resulting in pooling water.

Hi Ho Mongolian Grill, 901 E. Kimberly Road, Davenport – During a May 26 visit, an inspector cited the establishment’s owner, who did not have current food-safety credentials, for failing to demonstrate knowledge of the temperatures necessary to keep foods safe.

The inspector also noted that food was being stored in a walk-in cooler that had a “a buildup of old food,” and he pointed out that all the food racks in the cooler appeared “to be growing something that resembles mold.”  Also, the bamboo sticks that were being used for cooking food on the grill were “covered in old grease and food” without appearing to be regularly cleaned or sanitized.

The walk-in cooler and a so-called “stand-up cooler” were holding foods at between 47 to 50 degrees – too warm to ensure safety, and so the food within them was discarded. In addition, the restaurant was not using any date markings to ensure food was still fresh and safe to consume.

“Food utensils are covered in filth,” the inspector wrote, adding that one handwashing sink had no available water service, while another handwashing sink was instead being used to store “dirty dishes and equipment.”

Also, the restaurant had no food thermometers on hand; the walls throughout the building were deteriorating, with holes that appeared to have caused by rodents or pests; the restaurant showed “signs of a significant pest infestation,” which was later confirmed through a pest-control business that indicated the restaurant had an infestation of mice; a desiccated rodent carcass was found stuck to a trap under a cooler; and another rodent carcass was found elsewhere in a mouse trap.

Customer napkins were “stored in cabinets full of rodent-like droppings;” similar droppings were covering canned food and bulk-food containers; the bamboo cooking sticks were found stored inside an “unwashed,  filthy bucket;” food shelves were “covered in filth” and rodent droppings; cabinets were “covered in rodent-like fecal pellets;” and the walls, floors, cabinets, coolers, shelves, and even the ceiling were “covered in filth, grease, old food debris, and large heaping piles of rodent-like droppings.”

The inspection was categorized as routine but was conducted in response to a complaint from a customer who believed they saw signs of rodents. The complaint was deemed verified.

The restaurant was closed and ordered to remain so until approved for reopening by the Scott County Health Department. An inspector returned the following day and reported that efforts had been made to clean droppings from the restaurant and a cooler was fixed so that it was capable of holding food at 41 degrees or colder. However, the inspector wrote, the business still needed to continue its efforts at cleaning and fixing the structural issues that were contributing to the “continuing pest issues.”

La Feria, 116 5th Ave., Clinton – During a May 26 visit, an inspector noted that the person in charge was not ensuring that foods were marked with dates of preparation or ensuring that foods were cooled properly or stored in a manner to prevent cross-contamination. Employees were not washing their hands between the handling of soiled dishes and clean dishes and workers were storing raw chicken over produce inside a walk-in cooler.

Also, the interior of the ice machine was soiled; chicken and peppers cooked the day before had yet to reach 41 degrees or colder inside the walk-in cooler; raw ground beef was being thawed at room temperature; and there was a fly strip with a large accumulation of dead insects hanging directly over the food-staging area used by the servers.

One Twenty Six, 126 E. Washington St., Iowa City – During a May 26 visit, an inspector noted that workers were seen rinsing and cleaning soiled dishware and then immediately handling cleaned and dried dishware without washing their hands in between. Also, one cooler that was being used to store food was not working properly and had an ambient air temperature of 63 degrees.

Food items made in house were stored for more than the allowed seven days; the dishwasher was not providing any measurable amount of sanitizing solution; access to a handwashing sink was blocked; frozen fish filets that had thawed were still in their vacuum-sealed package rather than being cut open to allow for the transmission of air.

Also, there were no thermometers on hand for checking food temperatures; knives that were in use in the kitchen were stored on soiled wiping cloths between use; and the previous inspection report was  posted, but was above eye level and made inaccessible to the public for viewing.

Lewbowski’s Bar & Grill, 925 Robins Square Drive, Robins – During a May 24 visit, an inspector noted the risk of cross-contamination of chicken and hamburger and reported that the “Dude sauce” that was made in house on May 4 or earlier and was well past the date to be discarded.

In addition, there were no thermometers in the kitchen coolers or in the bar coolers that were used for milk and cut fruits. Food-preparation workers were not wearing a hair restraint or cover; knives were improperly stored and the kitchen’s dishwashing machine was not reaching the minimum required temperature.

Hy-Vee Foods, 600 Sheldon Ave., Creston – During a May 23 visit, an inspector noted that there were three rotisserie chickens displayed in a food warmer, with each chicken measured at 127 to 131 degrees – not hot enough to ensure food safety. The three chickens were discarded.  Also, raw chicken was stored in the main kitchen’s walk-in cooler above ground beef, creating a risk of cross-contamination.

In the kitchen, a potato slicer and vegetable dicer were both soiled with food-like debris; the handwashing station had no hand soap or paper towels; single-use items of an unspecified nature were stored on the floor in the kitchen and in the meat department; a sink in the meat department was in disrepair and leaking; and ceiling tile was missing in the kitchen’s ware-washing room.

Joes’ Crab Shack, 130 S. Jordan Creek Parkway, West Des Moines – During a May 23 visit, an inspector observed an employee handling dirty dishes and then clean dishes without washing their hands in between.

Also, several containers of food in a walk-in cooler had no date markings to ensure freshness and safety; a mold-like substance was observed in the interior of the ice machine; there was food debris on two ice cream scoops and on a spoon that was stored as “clean” and hanging on a rack; a handwashing sink had no soap or paper towels; a pan of raw fish in the walk-in cooler was left uncovered; there was encrusted food debris on the exterior of drawers and an oven; floor tiles in the kitchen area were broken or missing grout; and there was food encrusted on the floor and wall near the dish area.

The visit was triggered by an illness complaint but categorized as a routine inspection. The complaint was deemed unverifiable.

Haiku Sushi, 1315 31st St., Des Moines – During a May 20 visit, the restaurant was cited for 15 regulatory violations, including failure to ensure that the person in charge was a certified food protection manager. Inspectors said the sushi cook was observed moving from rear-kitchen work to the sushi line without washing his hands. Also, an employee was seen with his or her shoes off, touching their feet, and then moving to the food production area to work without first washing their hands.

The inspector also noted that the “plan posted is not a facility-specific plan,” an apparent reference to the restaurant’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan; records of parasite destruction, which are required for sushi restaurants, were not available for on-site review.

Tempura batter was measured at 51 degrees and had to be discarded; sauces “and numerous other items” throughout the restaurant were “all stated to have been made 5/17” but had no date markings on them; pans were being washed and returned to kitchen for use without being sanitized; and sinks designated for handwashing were obstructed by items stored in the basins or they had no soap or towels.

The Rusty Rench Bar & Grill, 211 E. 1st St., Mechanicsville – During a May 20 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for having tubes of raw pork sausage and ground beef that were labeled “not for sale” in the walk-in cooler.

Also, there was house-made cheese, shredded lettuce, leftover beef, egg roll mix and sliced deli ham without any date markings. In addition, there was unlabeled and undated leftover food in a walk-in cooler with a mold-like substance growing on it. Dirty dishes were stacked in the sink designated for handwashing.

The inspection was triggered by a non-illness complaint but was categorized as a routine inspection. The complaint concerned general facility sanitation and the potential cross-contamination of food and equipment. The inspector’s public report doesn’t indicate whether the complaint was deemed verified.

Crab Attack Cajun Seafood Shack, 1117 1st Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids – During a May 19 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for house-made sauces “stored in the bucket at room temperature.” The inspector’s report says an employee was asked to put the sauces in a refrigerator. The report also states that none of the cooked food at the establishment was date-marked, and there was dust and grease around the frying area.

In addition, there was no soap at the handwashing sink, and the inspector wrote in his report that there was cooked rice from the previous evening that was stored “in a plastic six-inches bucket with condensation on the lid at the bordering temperature of 42-45 degrees in different places.”

Also, knives that were in use were being stored inside a pitcher filled with room-temperature water, and there was no past inspection report posted where consumers could read it.

Hy-Vee Foods, 2400 2nd Ave., Muscatine – During a May 17 visit, an inspector determined the person in charge was not ensuring that employees are were holding foods at safe temperatures, reheating foods properly or cleaning dishes properly.

The inspector found that Mongolian beef cooked the previous day had been reheated to only 127 degrees and needed to be reheated to 165 degrees or above. Also, frozen eggrolls had been reheated to only 122 degrees and needed to be reheated to above 135 degrees. Raw tuna and pre-cooked shrimp for sushi was measured at 56 degrees and had to be discarded; the food thermometers were not being cleaned and sanitized between uses in the Chinese department.

Also, the food-contact surface of the bun toaster was soiled with a large accumulation of greasy residue; and the employee paid to prepare sushi was not following the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan. In addition, the utensils that were currently in use in the sushi department were left sitting in room-temperature water.

The visit was prompted by a non-illness complaint but was categorized as a routine inspection. The complaint pertained to the cleanliness of the dining area and was deemed unverifiable.

Maria’s Mexican Food, 5405 Douglas Ave., Des Moines – During a  May 17 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for workers failing to wash their hands and for storing raw eggs above raw chorizo. The inspector also noted that the walk-in cooler had an ambient temperature of 57 degrees – far too warm to ensure food safety. The restaurant agreed to dispose of cooked beans, ground beef, cooked pork, cooked chicken, cooked chilies and cooked vegetables that were in the cooler. Items in the smaller food-preparation cooler were not date-marked.

Fiesta Mexican Restaurant, 2025 Grand Ave., West Des Moines – During a May 16 visit, an inspector noted raw shrimp stored next to mushrooms; shredded chicken that was cooling at room temperature for two hours; salsa that was measured at 56 degrees; a lack of any date-markings on various meats and rice and beans; and a dishwashing machine that was not properly sanitizing dishes. The inspector also made note of the fact that there were no food thermometers on the premises, stated that there were “fruit flies throughout kitchen and bar,” and reported water pooling in the bar area under a sink.

East Des Moines Girls’ Softball Concession Stand, 411 E. 36th St., Des Moines – During a May 15 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for 20 risk-factor violations, an unusually high number, particularly for a concession stand.

The inspector observed one employee enter the stand from outside and begin working with food without first washing their hands. He also noted an opened can of nacho cheese that was visibly contaminated with what appeared to be a mold-like substance. The person in charge could not verify the source for a container of raw ground beef patties that had to be discarded, and ground beef was stored above an open container of ready-to-eat pizza pockets.

In addition, shredded cheese and shredded lettuce were observed at 49 degrees; an open can of cheese dip was not date-marked; the fryer baskets and scoops were stored on a shelf where there was a visible accumulation of rodent droppings; equipment and utensils were only being rinsed and not sanitized; and the handwashing sinks in both the men’s and women’s restrooms were unable to produce any hot water.

In addition, the inspector noted a “proliferation of pests” and what appeared to be rodent droppings that were observed “throughout the main concession stand,” including the popcorn supply storage area.

“Multiple packaged foods – including chips and popcorn supplies – are stored in areas that are not clean and free from contamination,” the inspector wrote. “There are what appear to be rodent droppings near them.”

A freezer was visibly soiled with accumulated grease, and the corners of the concession-stand counters were soiled with rodent droppings. Pipes for the sink were in disrepair and “severely leaking,” and the concession operator was disposing of wastewater by dumping it into the grass.

The visit was in response to a non-illness complaint concerning contaminated equipment, adulterated food, improper holding temperatures and pest control. All elements of the complaint were considered verified.

On May 21, the inspector returned after the concessionaire conducted a deep cleaning. Many, but not all, of the issues, noted previously were corrected.  The person in charge agreed to have a certified food protection manager on staff by Nov. 15 of this year.

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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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