Restaurant inspection update: Sewage, roaches and months-old, moldy food
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 illustration by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
State and county food inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and grocery stores for hundreds of food-safety violations this past month, some of which resulted in shutdowns.
In Davenport, an inspector found restaurant workers snaking out a clogged drain and splattering nearby food with sewage and dirty wastewater. At a Des Moines restaurant, where the staff was storing raw fish in a bucket at room temperature, the owner agreed to close the establishment due to an infestation of cockroaches in the kitchen and dining room.
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.
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Prophecy Restaurant, 2100 E. 14th St., Des Moines – During a Sept. 7 visit, the owner agreed to close the establishment due to the presence of live roaches throughout the kitchen and dining room. During the visit, the inspector observed raw fish stored in a bucket in the dining room without any temperature control. The fish was then discarded, except for the fish that were verified as still frozen or below 41 degrees, and those were put into a separate bucket, with the person in charge stating that they intended to take the fish home “for personal use.”
The inspector also noted the presence of multiple take-home frozen meals that were not marked with their preparation dates. Also, cooked meat had not been marked with its preparation date and opened packages of hot dogs were not marked with their opening dates.
In addition, the restaurant was also using Raid cockroach spray rather than a commercial-grade spray suitable for use in restaurants. A sticky trap near the kitchen handwashing sink was littered with multiple dead cockroaches, and there were multiple live, “adult and juvenile roaches” observed throughout the restaurant. The inspector also observed multiple flies throughout the dining room area.
The visit was triggered by complaint concerning the removal of plumbing fixtures but was ruled unfounded. The inspector determined that the restaurant was operating without a grease trap for the safe disposal of grease and informed the owner that if such a device was installed, it would need to be maintained.
Casey’s General Store, 121 Floyd Ave., Hinton — During a Sept. 7 inspection, an inspector found that the person in charge did not demonstrate sufficient food-safety knowledge, which was a repeat violation. When questioned about food safety, the person in charge reportedly stated she had “no idea what you are talking about,” and the store manager, who was contacted upon the inspector’s arrival, also indicated he or she had “no idea” what the inspector was talking about.
“Due to this violation, it is required that all persons in charge on every shift be a certified food protection manager,” the inspector reported, adding that “various foods” in three separate coolers were found to have been held for more than seven days and had to be discarded.
In addition, the visibly dirty cappuccino machine was shut down during the inspection to be cleaned. The inspector also noted the presence of dead insects in a trap that was full but had yet to be removed from premises, as well the presence of “live and dead flying insects throughout” the store. The inspector also noted trash cans in the kitchen preparation area that were not being emptied regularly to prevent the accumulation of insects, and there was an unidentified “buildup” of some kind along the floors throughout the store.
The inspector reported that the issue with insects and pests was a repeat violation that had not improved since an Aug. 5 inspection that had been triggered by a complaint pertaining to a proliferation of flies in the store. The individual whose complaint prompted the August inspection had said there were flies were “all over in the donut case and pizza case and all over in the restroom.” At that time, the inspector verified live and dead flies throughout the store, and said flies were seen on the outside – but not the inside – of the doughnut and pizza cases.
Hy-Vee, 555 S. 51st St., West Des Moines – During a Sept. 8 inspection, the store was cited for storing raw eggs on top of produce in the kitchen; storing fully cooked chicken wings below raw chicken wings in a retail case; and for storing rotisserie chickens in a heated retail case while holding the chickens at 119 degrees, which was not hot enough to ensure food safety.
In addition, there were numerous handwashing sinks supplied with hot water that couldn’t reach the minimum 100 degrees; the acidified rice for sushi was not labeled with the batch number, date, and time to ensure safety; the eggroll preparation cooler had no thermometer; and the floor of the walk-in cooler in the meat department was not clean. The inspection was prompted by a complaint involving the deli department, which was determined to be unverifiable.
Peking Buffet, 83 2nd St., Coralville – During a Sept. 7 visit, an inspector noted that egg rolls on the buffet line were holding at 120 degrees, which was not hot enough to ensure food safety. The egg rolls were discarded. In addition, several house-made sauces had been held beyond 24 hours with no date markings on them to ensure their safety, and the interior of the ice machine had a “heavy debris buildup.”
The inspector also noted that the staff was thawing raw shrimp in standing water; containers of food were stored on the floor throughout the kitchen; there was no sanitizing solution present at the sushi-and-hibachi station during food preparation; a sponge was being used as a cleaning wipe for the knife being used in sushi preparation; the sushi knife was stored in standing, room-temperature water at the sushi station; and the cutting board at the sushi station contained deep grooves and staining, making sanitization difficult or impossible.
The visit was in response to a complaint from someone who believed they had fallen ill after consuming a meal at the restaurant. The complaint was deemed unverifiable.
Tacos Michoacan, 710 W. State St., Marshalltown – During a Sept. 2 visit to this mobile food unit, an inspector noted that the person in charge was not fulfilling their duties relative to food safety as evidenced by the type and frequency of serious risk-factor violations.
The inspector observed multiple instances of employees failing to wash their hands when changing tasks in the kitchen. The inspector also found: green salsa that had been prepared in the owner’s private residence; a large bucket of cooked onion pieces that was stored on the floor, underneath the grill, with no temperature control; cooked rice that was holding in a warmer at 114 degrees, which was not hot enough to ensure safety; and multiple foods – including cut tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and sour cream – that were stored in a refrigerated food-preparation unit but were well above the maximum allowable temperature of 41 degrees.
The inspector also determined that equipment and utensils were not being adequately sanitized, with some of them being cleaned in the owner’s private residence. In addition, the handwashing sink had no water service at the beginning of the inspection, which meant that workers were preparing food without access to a functioning hand sink.
Multiple windows and entrance points to the food truck were damaged and had been repaired with tape and plastic, and two of the refrigeration units were both in poor repair and incapable of holding foods at 41 degrees or lower.
Double Dragon Food Market, 1537 2nd Ave., Des Moines – During a Sept. 1 visit, the inspector cited the establishment for 16 serious, risk-factor violations – an unusually high number – and the store’s meat-processing area was shut down. The inspector noted the person in charge did not demonstrate knowledge of food-borne disease prevention requirements and was unable to answer questions regarding the required temperatures for holding food safely.
The inspector reported that employees packaging raw meats were unable to wash their hands due to the handwashing sink in the meat-processing area not being inaccessible and not supplied with water. Once water was turned on to the sink, it began “heavily leaking” wastewater onto the floor. The store agreed to close the entire meat-processing area due to the significance of the plumbing violations and the improper disposal of wastewater.
Also, sweet rice rolls and sweet rice-ball desserts were being prepared in an unlicensed, uninspected private residence, which resulted in those foods being discarded. Cans of water chestnuts, black mushrooms, bamboo slices, bamboo shoots, white mushrooms, pandan leaves, and palm seed in the retail display area were severely dented at the seams, creating a potential hazard, and packages of ice creams were found open in the dessert freezer area.
In addition, raw quail eggs were stored above ready-to-eat noodles, and raw duck feet were stored above packages of raw beef feet. In the produce cooler, multiple bags of sprouts were held at temperatures above the maximum of 41 degrees, and in the meat-preparation area, various cuts of fish were sitting out without any temperature control and measured at 64 degrees. In a reach-in cooler by the cash registers, yogurt was holding at temperatures of up to 52 degrees, and “ham and cheese buns” were stored with no temperature control in the bakery area.
The inspector determined that the establishment was unable to sanitize any of the food-contact surfaces in raw-meat food preparation area because every basin of both three-compartment sinks were leaking and unable to hold water. Near the handwashing sink, wastewater was “gathering on the floor,” and multiple refrigeration units throughout the establishment were found to be lacking any accurate thermometers to ensure food safety.
Also, multiple flying insects, including what appeared to be fruit flies and gnats, were observed throughout the establishment and were specifically concentrated at the retail and warehousing areas for produce.
The inspector also noted issues of “general facility sanitation,” and cited the use of buckets that were holding standing water and contributing to conditions that could result in the proliferation of pests.
A floor mop was found stored “so that it was air-drying directly above a bag of taro,” the inspector reported, and there were no scoops or tongs available for customers to use when selecting shrimp in the self-service area of the retail store. Floors and walls throughout the establishment were “visibly soiled with accumulated debris,” particularly in the produce-processing area, the produce walk-in cooler, and the produce warehouse area.
The inspector also pointed out that the establishment had expanded its scope of food-service operations and was now cooking corn, which required a food-service license, which Double Dragon did not have, in addition to a retail food-store license. The visit was triggered by an illness-related complaint of an unspecified nature. The complaint was deemed unverifiable.
Hy-Vee Food Store, 8701 Douglas Ave., Urbandale – During a Sept. 1 visit, an inspector found several violations in the sushi preparation areas. Raw salmon was improperly stored next to crabmeat; the hot water in the handwashing sink in the sushi department reached only 70 degrees rather 100 degrees; and packaged sushi covered with lids was being stacked while refrigerated, inhibiting the sort of rapid cooling that is intended to ensure food safety.
In addition, Canadian bacon was stored at 45 degrees, eggrolls were stored with no temperature control and measured 56 degrees, and one kitchen cooler was maintaining food at 51 to 60 degrees, which resulted in the food inside being discarded. Another kitchen cooler was measured at 46 to 61 degrees, which also resulted in food being discarded and the cooler being taken out of service.
The inspector noted that the shelving in the dairy coolers was unclean; there was water pooling on the floor in the kitchen underneath one of the coolers; and there was water pooling in a produce room around an ice machine. The visit was prompted by a complaint alleging mold on the shelving inside the dairy coolers. The complaint was deemed verified.
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Eastside Eddie’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, 3517 E. 26th St., Des Moines – During an Aug. 31 visit, an inspector found grinder meat holding 122 degrees, which was not hot enough to ensure food safety. The meat was discarded.
The inspector also found made-from-scratch ranch dressing that was not marked with a preparation date and various opened packages of deli meats that were dated between Aug. 17 and Aug. 22. The cook stated those meats were incorrectly dated and had, in fact, been opened that day, shortly before the inspection began. Alfredo sauce in the kitchen’s reach-in cooler was dated Aug. 20, and cooked noodles were dated Aug. 17, a full two weeks before the inspection, and had to be discarded.
In addition, the interior of the ice machine was “visibly soiled” with accumulated debris; the inside of the microwave oven was heavily soiled with accumulated debris; the handwashing sinks were blocked with objects stored in the basins; and in the dry storage area, a bag of rodent-pesticide pellets was found stored above sealed containers of condiments.
Also, onions were stored directly on the floor with a floor mop directly adjacent to them; the floors under the stove and fryer areas were heavily soiled with accumulated debris, as was the floor of the dry storage area; and the business was operating with an expired food-service license.
Panera Bread, 1818 La Porte Road, Waterloo – During an Aug. 31 visit, an inspector noted that all of the items in the restaurant’s walk-in cooler were holding at 44 to 46 degrees, which was not cool enough to ensure food safety. In addition, bacon was left out on the food-preparation line and was measured at 72 degrees. Also, the food-preparation cooler was holding food at 48 to 55 degrees. The food items in the coolers were discarded.
In addition, salad dressing and various bagged cheese products were expired; there was no measurable amount of sanitizer in the three-compartment sink; the “clean” salad mixing bowls had dried food debris in them; the milk steamer had a dried-milk buildup inside of it; the bread slicer that was in use had excessive food debris buildup, as did the bagel slicer and the salad cooler; the undercounter drink dispenser had a black buildup of some kind; the inside of the ice machine had a pink buildup of slime; and areas of the bread warmers had a buildup of food debris.
The inspector also made note of baking sheets that had an excessive buildup of burnt food on them, and there was a dead bug on a package of macaroni and cheese. There was a buildup of grease on the dials and faces of the baking ovens; storage racks in the walk-in coolers were soiled with food debris; there was a buildup of debris of top of the dishwashing unit; there was a black buildup of some kind on the wall behind a sink; the floors in the walk-in coolers were littered with food debris; and there was a buildup of dust on the fans inside the walk-in coolers.
The inspector reported that he discussed with the manager the need for “deep-cleaning” of surfaces and floors throughout the business.
QC Dynasty Buffet, 5388 Elmore Circle, Davenport – During an Aug. 29 visit, an inspector saw workers “snaking out” a drain in the kitchen area, attempting to unclog it, next to bulk foods. Dirty sewage and wastewater was being “splattered onto open containers of sugar and rice,” and dirty water had contaminated the nearby bulk foods, which had to be discarded.
In addition, raw chicken and beef were being stored over vegetables inside a reach-in cooler; the cooler was holding raw meat and vegetables at 47 to 50 degrees, which was too warm to ensure food safety; buckets of dirty water were stored in the basin of handwashing sinks; sticky fly traps were hanging above the food and the food-prep areas in the kitchen; there was an “excess of flies and drain flies” in the establishment, as well as live cockroaches.
Also, the business had “had some kind of sewage issue” that had resulted in dirty water splattered along the walls; there was a buildup of old food debris, grease and mold inside a walk-in cooler; the reach-in coolers had a buildup of old food and grease; and racks in the walk-in cooler for raw meat had a buildup of mold and old food.
The visit was in response to a complaint from a customer who reported becoming ill after eating at the establishment. The inspector, who reported that he could not determine the nature of the problems with the sewage and drains due to an “inability to communicate with management,” did not indicate in his report whether the complaint was deemed verified.
Hy-Vee Food Store, 2200 W. Kimberly Road, Davenport – During an Aug, 22 visit, an inspector found 21 cans of Similac Advance Optigro baby formula that had expiration dates of either May 1 or July 1, which was a repeat violation. In the sushi area, one pan of raw tuna was observed at 45 degrees and one container of previously cooked tempura shrimp was sitting in a pan at 61 degrees and were returned to a cooler for proper holding at 41 degrees.
In the Market Grille kitchen, food items were measured at 45 degrees to 52 degrees, another repeat violation; the refrigerated-drawer unit in the Market Grille area had a buildup of food debris and was in need of cleaning; and a review of the store’s sushi-related Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point procedures indicated a batch of sushi rice had been made but there was no corresponding documentation of pH monitoring to ensure food safety, which was another repeat violation.
Also, the shelves on the food-prep tables in the Market Grille area had a buildup of grease and food debris, and the inside of the microwave oven had “a large amount of dried food debris.” In the bakery department, a drawer holding clean utensils was littered with a food debris and crumbs.
Golden Bowl Chinese Restaurant, 1408 Hamilton Boulevard, Sioux City – During an Aug. 25 visit, an inspector noted there was no certified food protection manager on staff. He also reported “continued violations” related to issues noted in past reports.
Breaded, cooked chicken pieces and egg rolls were “stored directly in a raw-chicken cardboard box,” he reported, and a bowl of cooked chicken was sitting at room temperature and measured 70 degrees. Also, the dishwasher had no measurable amount of sanitizing solution in it and there was no such solution on hand.
In addition, the doors of the coolers, the shelving, the lids of rice cookers and other equipment were visibly soiled; the floors and walls were visibly soiled with food debris; and the kitchen ventilation filters were “soiled black with grease.”
The inspector noted that the restaurant had “declined a risk-control plan” in the past, and stated that the restaurant will be required to have a certified food protection manager on duty during all hours of operation as of November 2022.
That same type of requirement was previously imposed in March, with the inspector telling the manager that unless a certified food protection manager was working during all hours of operation, the restaurant would not be allowed to remain open. At that time, the manager had asserted that he did not have enough staff or time to address the issues and was told that he may need to alter his menu, hours or business plan to meet Iowa’s food-safety requirements.
Kentucky Fried Chicken, 902 E. Euclid Ave., Des Moines – During an Aug. 22 visit, an inspector determined the person in charge was not fulfilling their duties due to the extent of violations found.
The inspector observed one worker attempting to use the mop sink to clean or rinse a chicken-breading basket used in food preparation. The inspector said he intervened as the worker had intended to immediately return the basket to use for food preparation.
The inspector also noted that milk stored in a cooler was being held at 52 degrees, which was too warm to ensure safety. Because the cooler appeared to be in a state of disrepair, all of the milk was discarded.
In addition, the handwashing sink could not come close to the required minimum temperature of 100 degrees even after several minutes of operation; metal food containers were stacked after washing while still wet; beverage dispensers were being stored inside the mop sink; and shelving was visibly soiled with debris, as were the ceiling tiles above the breading station.
The inspection was prompted by a complaint alleging a lack of hair restraints for employees. It was deemed unverifiable.
Cornbred BBQ, 526 Main St., Ames – During an Aug. 19 visit, an inspector found turkey that was holding at 106 degrees, which was not hot enough to ensure safety, and which had to be discarded.
Also, several cold food products – including cole slaw and sweetcorn gazpacho – were being held at temperatures above the maximum of 41 degrees. In addition, there was pickled relish and pork that had no date markings, and sauces and condiments that had been kept on hand longer the maximum of seven days.
The inspector also reported that the high-temperature dishwasher was not reaching the minimum 160 degrees and had to be placed out of service. Also, the inside of the ice machine was visibly soiled, and there was no soap or paper towels at one of the handwashing sinks.
The visit was in response to a complaint regarding contaminated equipment and cross-contamination of food, as well as the use of food from unsafe sources and general facility sanitation and improper holding temperatures. The complaint was deemed verified.
Café Con Leche, 2905 Hubbell Ave., Des Moines – During an Aug. 17 visit, an inspector reported that the person in charge was not fulfilling their duties with regard to temperature monitoring of food.
In addition, cream cheese at the food-preparation table in the kitchen was visibly adulterated with what appeared to be mold and had to be discarded; raw eggs were stored above uncovered salsa in the kitchen cooler; spinach, salsa, cut lettuce, diced tomatoes and cheese were stored at temperatures of 54 to 65 degrees and had to be discarded; the interior of the microwave oven was heavily soiled with accumulated debris; the refrigerated food-preparation table appeared to be unable to hold food at the required temperatures; and the interior floor of the reach-in freezer was visibly soiled with spilled ice cream.
Houston’s On Main, 120 Main St., Milo — During an Aug. 17 visit, an inspector observed workers failing to wash their hands between tasks or after handling raw meat.
He also reported that cooking flour was stored underneath a kitchen sink, creating a risk of contamination; the ice machine had a buildup of black mildew on the interior; cooked mashed potatoes were being held at 130 degrees and had to be discarded; cooked and prepared items that were stored long-term throughout the kitchen had no date markings on them.
Also, the handwashing sink was obstructed; meat was thawed by being left to sit on a counter at room temperature; onions were stored on a cement floor near a container of herbicide; single-service plastic containers were being washed and reused; there was a heavy buildup of debris observed in all corners of the floor and walls; and an assortment of CBD gummies for personal use were stored in the kitchen near the food preparation and storage areas.
Bear Creek Golf Course, 145 Country Club Road, Forest City – During an Aug. 16 visit, an inspector found cut tomatoes, lettuce, salads and cucumbers being stored in a kitchen cooler that was unplugged and holding food at 63 degrees. All of the food had to be discarded.
Elsewhere, the inspector found tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and onions that were not date marked and had to be discarded. In addition, some of the food items inside a functioning cooler had date markings from June and were contaminated with a mold-like substance.
The inspector also reported that the mechanical dishwasher was not sanitizing dishes and was contaminated by food debris and a buildup of some kind. Also, non-food-grade fly and wasp spray was stored above clean kitchen equipment and utensils.
The Branding Iron, 135 S. Jackson St., Thompson – During an Aug. 16 visit, an inspector determined the person in charge was not a certified food protection manager. He also reported that the staff was not washing their hands properly; the large can opener was soiled with food debris; rice prepared the previous day was holding at 57 degrees and had to be discarded; and the salad bar did not have sufficient ice to ensure food safety.
The visit was in response to a complaint about cross-contamination of food. In his published report, the state inspector stated the complaint “was not verified,” but also that that the complaint was “closed and verified.”
McDonald’s, 1709 La Porte Road, Waterloo – During an Aug. 15 visit, an inspector observed an employee holding a stack of unwrapped cheese to his or her apron while relocating the product. He also found burrito mix holding at 48 degrees, which was not hot or cold enough to ensure food safety, and found eggs that had been left out at 48 degrees.
In addition, there was sliced cheese that was not date stamped and there was food debris in the handwashing sink. The visit was in response to a complaint of an unspecified nature. The inspector didn’t indicate in his report whether the complaint was verified.
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