Restaurant-inspection update: roach-infested rice, ‘old meat’ and mouse droppings
In the past month, state and county food inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and grocery stores for hundreds of food-safety violations. (Photo by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
State, city and county inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and stores for hundreds of food-safety violations during the past four weeks, including cockroach-infested rice, rodent droppings, “old meat” and filthy kitchens.
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.
One Stop, 350 Highway 141, Charter Oak – During a March 15 visit, an inspector noted there were multiple food items that were not held at the proper temperature to ensure safety, including eight containers of commercially processed coleslaw and macaroni salad that were stored at temperatures of up to 64 degrees.
In addition, the inspector found three packages of hot dogs held at 46 degrees; four packages of bologna held at 46 degrees; and nine individually wrapped sandwiches and wraps that included chicken, ham, cheese and turkey held at temperatures of up to 50 degrees. The store agreed to remove the items from the shelves.
The inspector also found diced tomatoes in the pizza-preparation area that were chopped eight days earlier and had to be discarded. Also, some hot foods were being held at temperatures too cool to ensure their safety, including a cheeseburger that was measured at 114 degrees and cheese curds that were measured at 103 degrees. The items were reheated to 165 degrees and returned to the shelves for sale. The restaurant was last inspected in March 2020.
China Star Buffet, 1105 N. Quincy Ave., Ottumwa – During a March 15 visit, an inspector noted that the kitchen staff was cutting and preparing melons with their bare hands. The melons were then discarded. The inspector also found that chicken in the buffet line was holding at 119 degrees and crab Rangoon was holding at 110 degrees. Both items were returned to the kitchen and reheated to 165 degrees.
Also in the buffet line, the inspector found lettuce that was holding at 54 degrees and sliced melons that were measured at 49 degrees, rather than 41 degrees or colder. The lettuce and melons were then discarded.
The inspector also reported that cooked chicken, cream cheese and stuffed mushrooms were all stored in a walk-in cooler with no date markings to ensure they were fresh and safe. Also, raw fish was thawing while submerged in standing water, what appeared to be mouse droppings were seen in the corner of a storage area, and cleaned beverage glasses were being stored wet.
Provisions Lot F, 2400 N. Loop Drive, Ames – During a March 14 visit, an inspector observed employees handling French toast with their bare hands and noted that raw egg whites were being stored over ready-to-eat items, risking cross-contamination.
Also, several items – including honey balsamic dressing, pickled onions, Caesar dressing, asiago dressing, and pepper poppers – were being held beyond the maximum of seven days. In addition, the pasta maker was visibly soiled, with the staff explaining that the device was not being sanitized between uses. The establishment was last inspected in July 2020.
Red Lobster, 1100 Buckeye Ave., Ames – During a March 14 visit, an inspector noticed that potatoes were stored directly below a ceiling with a “visible leak,” which resulted in a “liquid build up” on the food. The contaminated products were discarded.
The inspector also noted that the required tags designating the origin of shell seafoods were missing, and that a server was garnishing drinks with their bare hands. The restaurant was also cited for failing to display its last inspection report where customers could read it. The restaurant was last inspected in March 2020.
The Rock Bar American Grill, 219 2nd SE Ave., Cedar Rapids – During a March 14 visit, an inspector reported that raw eggs were stored above ready-to-eat foods, risking cross-contamination; cooked pork chops, cooked sliced beef, and salsa stored in plastic containers had no date-markings on them, which was a repeat violation; and there was no sanitizing solution in use at the time of the inspection. The restaurant was last inspected in February 2020.
Flip’n Jacks Pancake House & Eatery, 1520 S. Dayton Place, Ames – During a March 13 visit, an inspector noted that cooked potatoes were being stored on the kitchen floor under a sink. At the inspector’s direction, the potatoes were moved to a walk-in cooler.
The inspector also noted that there were no chlorine test strips on site to check the efficacy of the sanitizing solution that was being used; the handwashing sink did not have adequate hot water; chicken was being stored in a cooler over cooked potatoes; and raw eggs were not stored in a refrigerator or cooler. The visit was in response to an illness complaint that was ruled unverifiable. The restaurant was last inspected in September 2021.
Maggie’s Rumble Room, 1430 2nd Ave., Des Moines – During a March 10 visit, an inspector observed an employee handling with their bare hands ready-to-eat buns for sandwiches. Also, the hot-holding case was being used to store pizza at 117 degrees – too cool to ensure the food’s safety. The pizza was then discarded. In addition, alfredo sauce prepared on March 1 – beyond the seven-day limit – was found inside the reach-in cooler, and the dishwashing machine wasn’t capable of reaching the minimum sanitizing temperature of 165 degrees.
Also, bags of onions, sugar and salt were stored directly on the kitchen floor; the area around the fryers was visibly soiled with accumulated debris; the stand-up food mixer was visibly soiled; the mop sink had a significant leak; the floor was visibly soiled with accumulated debris; and the restaurant’s food-service license had expired in January 2023. The restaurant was last inspected in January 2022.
Mongolian Buffet, 1620 S. Kellogg Ave., Ames – During a March 10 visit, an inspector found several cans of food that were severely dented and had to be set aside for return to the supplier. Also, raw meat was stored above ready-to-eat foods inside a walk-in cooler, risking cross-contamination; and cooked noodles, cream cheese filling and tomatoes had no date markings to ensure their freshness and safety.
In addition, several cold products – including lettuce, cottage cheese, sprouts, cream cheese filling, and cooked noodles – were stored above the maximum temperature of 41 degrees. Also, the sushi was not marked with the initial temperature and time when the product was removed from cold storage and had to be discarded, and the staff was not properly using the written time-and-temperature log to help ensure the sushi was safe.
The inspector also observed three live cockroaches and noted that boxes of single-use food items were being stored directly on the floor. Also, the shelving inside the walk-in cooler was not being kept clean. The visit was in response to a non-illness complaint that alleged problems with general sanitation, improper holding temperatures and inadequate cooking. The inspector ruled the complaint was unverifiable.
The restaurant had been inspected in November 2022, at which time the inspector reported finding several dead cockroaches inside two different bulk containers of rice. In December, the inspector returned and reported observing several live cockroaches and 10 dead cockroaches throughout the establishment. In January of this year, the inspector returned again and reported seeing four live cockroaches and 10 dead cockroaches. In February, the inspector returned for a third time and reported observing several live cockroaches.
Osaka Sushi Steakhouse, 1903 Park Ave., Muscatine – During a March 8 visit, an inspector noted that raw eggs were stored over individual portions of sauce in the food-prep cooler, risking cross-contamination, and raw shrimp was stored above spices and dry goods in the cooler. Also, raw, unpackaged shrimp was stored above ready-to-eat dessert items such as ice cream and cheesecake, and raw chicken was stored above over raw beef.
The inspector also noted that the interior of the ice machine was soiled and access to the handwashing sink was blocked by a table. In addition, utensils used to scoop rice were stored in a container of room-temperature water, and there were no test kits on hand to check the efficacy of the sanitizing solution. The restaurant was last inspected in September 2019.
Marzetti Frozen Pasta, 803 8th St. SW, Altoona – On March 7, inspectors visited the business as a follow-up to prior inspections to determine whether the business had taken steps to address a pest-control issue identified in December 2022.
“There have been many changes to the company’s pest control program to include long-term residual chemical application inside interior walls in problem areas,” the inspector reported.
Insects resembling cockroaches were observed both dead and alive.
– Inspector's report for Marzetti Frozen Pasta of Altoona
In December, inspector visited the business in response to a non-illness complaint alleging the presence of insects, believed to be cockroaches. At that time, management acknowledged they had “a cockroach problem” and had been working with a pest-control company to resolve the issue. The complaint was deemed verified.
“Insects resembling cockroaches were observed both dead and alive around and under the double-arm mixer, the small day mixer, and underneath the floor mat in the boiler room,” the inspector noted.
Best Western Regency Inn, 3303 S. Center St., Marshalltown – During a March visit, an inspector noted that the walk-in cooler was not keeping any of the food at 41 degrees or colder, as required. Cooked bacon was measured at 55 degrees, sliced ham was measured at 49 degrees, and various dressings were measured at 49 degrees. All of the temperature-controlled foods in the cooler were discarded. The visit was in response to a complaint pertaining to pest control. The complaint was ruled unverifiable. The establishment last underwent a food-safety inspection in February 2022.
D’Lua Fusion Cuisine & Bar, 5185 18th St., Bettendorf – During a March 6 visit, an inspector observed sausage links in a steam table that were holding at 125 degrees, alongside gravy that was measured at 92 degrees – too cool to ensure their safety. Because they had been in the steam table for less than an hour, they were reheated for service to customers.
The inspector also made note of hashbrowns that were sitting out and were measured at 49 degrees. Several other food items – such as flautas, bean dip and tortilla rojas – had no date markings to ensure freshness and safety.
On March 15, inspectors returned and reported, “Several products were observed in the walk-in cooler without proper date markings … Improvements have been seen but additional work is needed.”
Prior to this month’s inspections, the restaurant was last inspected in August 2022.
The Horny Toad American Bar & Grill, 204 Main St., Cedar Falls – During a March 6 visit, an inspector reported that onions, chicken and sauces were stored in covered containers, and frozen burgers and pizza were being stored, unwrapped, on metal shelving in a freezer. The inspector also made note of gravy, mashed potatoes and grilled onions that were holding at 100 degrees – far too cool to ensure their safety — after being left in a steam table for 90 minutes. The items were reheated to 165 degrees and returned to service.
Also, a bucket of sanitizing solution had no measurable amount of concentrated sanitizing fluid in it; the can opener and cold-holding unit were marred by a buildup of food debris; and the ice machines had a “black buildup” of some kind.
A large toaster oven was heavily soiled with food debris; the fan inside a walk-in cooler was reported to be moldy; and there was an excessive amount of debris in corners, under equipment, and in the coolers. The restaurant was also cited for failing to post its most recent inspection report where it could be read by customers.
Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, 2201 4th St. SW, Mason City – During a March 6 visit, an inspector noted that the cooks were not washing their hands and were seen handling bacon, eggs, and toast with their bare hands. The inspector also reported there were many containers of food, including bread-based stuffing, whipped salad, cut melons, and bean salad, that either had no date markings to ensure their freshness and safety or the markings were unclear.
Also, there was pancake batter covering the floor of one cooler, and the floors of the cook line were soiled with food debris and garbage. “Based on the number of violations, an in-person physical recheck will be conducted on or around April 5th, 2023,” the inspector reported. The restaurant was last inspected in October 2022.
Sam’s Main Street Market, 123 E. Main St., Solon – During a March 3 visit, an inspector reported that raw cod was stored above ready-to-eat, house-made foods and raw eggs were stored above other ready-to-eat foods, risking cross-contamination.
Sliced tomatoes and other foods lacked any date-markings to ensure their freshness and safety, and the inspector found “multiple packages of deli meats” in a display case and cooler that were beyond their expiration date. The expired foods included American and pepperjack cheese loaves, deli salad, and containers of garlic, cilantro, salmon lox, snack packs and meat sticks. All of the expired foods were then discarded.
In addition, the inspector noted a plumbing leak that resulted in water pooling on the floor of one cooler and reported that the most recent inspection report had not been posted for customers to read.
A warning letter was issued to the establishment and on March 10, the inspector returned in response to a non-illness complaint pertaining to adulterated foods. The complaint was verified, with the inspector noting meat products were being held beyond the allowable dates and had to be discarded. However, no violations were cited at that time.
Wing Stop, 521 E. 14th St., Des Moines – During a March 3 visit, an inspector noted that the person in charge did not demonstrate knowledge of the federal food code. Specifically, the person in charge was unable to explain critical limits for temperature control for foods or explain the appropriate procedures for cleaning and sanitizing utensils and food-contact surfaces. In addition, the person in charge was not a certified food protection manager.
The inspector reported that jalapeño cheese sauce was measured at 100 degrees in a cheese dispenser – which was far too cool to ensure its safety. The cheese was discarded, and the restaurant agreed to halt the use of the dispenser until it could be serviced or replaced.
In addition, the sanitizer buckets used throughout the establishment had no measurable amount of concentrated sanitizing solution in them. Also, utensils and equipment, including spatulas and plastic food containers, were stored as “clean” despite surfaces that were visibly soiled with accumulated debris. In addition, the handwashing sinks were not capable of producing hot water that reached a temperature of at least 100 degrees.
The inspector also noted that the restaurant did not have a food thermometer on the premises, and the wall around the mop sink and behind the soda fountain syrup boxes was visibly soiled with accumulated debris. The inspector also noted that the restaurant’s food-service license had been expired for more than 60 days. The restaurant was last inspected in March 2020.
Treehouse Pub & Eatery, 2239 Kimberly Road, Bettendorf – During a March 1 visit, an inspector noted that raw ground beef was stored above lettuce in the walk-in cooler, risking cross-contamination. Also, pulled pork was stored in a hot-holding unit and was measured at only 110 degrees – too cool to ensure its safety.
In addition, refrigerated drawers were holding various foods at 45 to 46 degrees, which was above the maximum of 41 degrees, and several temperature-sensitive foods, such as cottage cheese, coleslaw and pasta salad, were stored at 45 to 48 degrees and had to be discarded.
The inspector also reported that “the majority of prepared food dishes and open packages of commercially processed food products” had no date markings on them – a violation that had been noted during previous inspections. The inspector also found a container of pasta salad that had been prepared on Feb. 21, and a container of creamy garlic dressing that had been prepared Feb. 9. Both items, which were past their seven-day limit, were discarded.
A food slicer was marred by leftover dried food debris, and the interior of the large reach-in cooler, the interior of the main food-prep table, and the interior of the pizza-prep table were all noted to be soiled with a buildup of food debris.
In addition, two trays of cooked chicken breasts were seen sitting out at room temperature. “Today is the third routine inspection in a row where date-marking practices have been marked as out of compliance,” the inspector reported.
On March 13, the inspector returned and reported ongoing violations with regard to date-markings: “Several prepared products observed being held in the walk-in cooler for longer than 24 hours without proper date-marking (pasta salad, house-made dressing, cooked chicken wings, coleslaw, etc.).” The inspector also reported that the interior of the pizza prep cooler “still has a buildup of food debris along the bottom of the unit and grime along the shelves.”
East China, 2108 Kimball Ave., Waterloo – During a Feb. 24 visit, an inspector found that the person in charge was not ensuring food was cooled properly and held at proper temperatures, or seeing to it that kitchen equipment was properly cleaned and sanitized. The inspector reported finding “packages of old meat and expired food” inside one freezer, and said meat and other food products were being stored inside trash bags in a walk-in cooler.
In addition, the meat slicer and other food-contact surfaces throughout the kitchen were reported to have an “excessive buildup and dried food bits” on them. Fried chicken was found stored on a countertop and was measured at 66 degrees. Food products throughout the refrigerator and walk-in cooler were not labeled or date-marked to ensure their freshness and safety.
Shrimp and chicken were found thawing in a tub of water in a sink designated for washing kitchenware; containers of rice, flour and other food products were not properly identified; boxes of food were stored on the floor of a walk-in cooler; clean pot, pans and utensils were stored on dirty counters” in the kitchen; there was no test kit on hand to check the efficacy of the sanitizing solution used in the kitchen; and there was an excessive buildup of grease, dirt, and food debris on the floors and walls of the kitchen.
There was also an “excessive buildup of grease/dirt and food debris” on the equipment in the kitchen. The inspector discussed with the manager the need for “deep cleaning” and the removal of personal items and clutter. The visit was in response to a non-illness complaint regarding cleanliness. The complaint was deemed verified.
Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh Express, 510 W. McLane St., Osceola – During a Feb. 24 visit, an inspector found prepared meals in a cooler that were dated Feb. 4, and sausage gravy that was dated Feb. 12 – indicating both sets of items were well past the date they could be safely consumed. The expired food items were discarded.
Toledo Nutrition, aka T-Nutrition, 123 W. 3rd St., Tama – During a Feb. 24 visit, an inspector found that “several large dispensers of prepared powdered drink mix” had mold or a mildew-like like growth on them. All of the prepared beverage mixes were then discarded and the establishment’s drink dispensers were cleaned and sanitized.
The inspector also found that no sanitizing had been taking place, with items simply being washed and rinsed. In addition, one handwashing sink and the sink in the restroom had no available hot water. Further investigation showed the water heater was inoperable, leaving the entire establishment without access to hot water. The establishment was also cited for failing to post the results of its most recent inspection. The business was last inspected in June 2022.
Facility had a high number of violations that could lead to a potential foodborne illness.
– Inspector's comment about D'Lua On The River in Davenport
Villas Patio, 5200 Fountains Drive NE, Cedar Rapids – During a Feb. 24 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for 11 critical violations – an unusually high number. The inspector reported that the staff’s lack of knowledge as to where and when to wash their hands, as well inconsistent date-marking of food, and food handling that created a rick of cross-contamination, indicated the workers were not adequately trained in food-safety procedures.
The inspector reported that various foods – including dairy products and cooked rice – were not date-marked. In addition, the inspector found a pan of chicken that was date-marked Feb. 13 — 11 days prior to the inspection – and which had to be thrown out. The inspector also made note of containers of shredded lettuce that were stacked on the floor. The restaurant’s most recent inspection report, from October 2021, had not been posted.
D’Lua On The River, 1201 E. River Dr., Davenport – On Feb. 23, the restaurant was cited for 10 violations, an unusually high number. The inspector reported that the person in charge had not ensured the proper sanitation of equipment and surfaces, the dishwashing machine was not properly calibrated, and the main cooks did not “know how to properly wear gloves” and did not have adequate access to proper handwashing facilities.
The inspector watched as one employee used a rag contaminated with “raw chicken juice” to wipe off their gloves, and to clean food-preparation surfaces. Another employee used their gloved hands to pick up raw chicken, then proceeded to wipe their hands off on a rag, then open containers of tortillas meant for customer use. The worker then contaminated the ingredients meant for taco toppings.
The inspector also reported that prepared shredded beef was being heated to only 100 degrees, rather than 165 degrees, before being placed onto a steam table. “Facility was recently opened within the past three months,” the inspector reported. “Facility had a high number of violations that could lead to a potential foodborne illness.”
D.C.’s, 124 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City – During a Feb. 21 inspection, the restaurant was cited for 11 critical violations – an unusually high number. The inspector reported watching one employee handling ready-to-eat food with their bare hands, and found opened sauces that required refrigeration stored on shelves at room temperature.
In addition, house-made dressings lacked any date-markings; there was debris found inside an ice machine; an employee’s ibuprofen was stored alongside bottles of condiments for customers’ use; there was no sanitizing solution in use; and there were no test strips available for checking the efficacy of any sanitizing solution.
The inspector also made note of a “heavy debris buildup” on the food-prep coolers, the food-prep tables and a table-top oven. There was also a heavy buildup of debris on the floors and walls, under storage equipment, and the fryers in the kitchen. The inspector reported the visit was in response to an illness complaint alleging a customer became ill after consuming a meal at the establishment. The complaint was ruled unverifiable. The restaurant was last inspected in July 2021.
Sasquatch Jack’s, 118 10th St. SW, Waverly – During a Feb. 17 inspection, the restaurant was cited for 10 critical violations, an unusually high number. The inspector reported finding chicken stored above whole-muscle beef, creating a risk of cross-contamination; and a “box of frozen chips” was found uncovered in a freezer.
Also soups and sauces in a steam table were measured at 100 degrees, having failed to reach the required temperature of 165 degrees; raw onions and containers of raw chicken had no date-markings on them; and multiple food items in the coolers had been held past the maximum of seven days, with some of the food items being held in excess of 12 days.
There was no detectable amount of sanitizing solution being used in the three-compartment sink and the “presence of insects” was noted in the dry storage area. In addition, the freezer and coolers were heavily soiled, and the most recent inspection report had not been posted for customers to read.
Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that One Stop in Charter Oak was last inspected in March 2000. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals says the restaurant was last inspected in March 2020.
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