Restaurant inspection update: Dead rodents, yellow slime and dodgy hotdogs
A dead rodent was found during a March 17 inspection of China House of Gao, 2916 E. University Ave., Des Moines. The restaurant was cited for 14 violations. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals)
State, city and county inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and stores for hundreds of food-safety violations during the past four weeks, including dead rodents, moldy cheese, and six-week-old hotdogs.
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.
China House of Gao, 2916 E. University Ave., Des Moines – During a March 17 visit, a state inspector cited the restaurant for 14 violations, an unusually high number. Among the issues: The person in charge was not a certified food protection manager; the person in charge was not fulfilling their duties as evidenced by the number and severity of the violations; raw chicken was stored above cream cheese and ready-to-eat noodles, risking cross-contamination; and containers of pork eggroll, fried chicken and crab Rangoon were all stored at 55 to 62 degrees, which was far too warm to ensure their safety.
The inspector also found that were no food items anywhere in the establishment that had been marked with their preparation or opening dates — including cooked noodles, cooked chicken, cooked shrimp and fried chicken.
In addition, plastic food containers were not adequately washed and had food debris on them after being cleaned; food-contact surfaces, equipment and utensils were not being sanitized; staff access to the handwashing sink was blocked by multiple objects; bottles of bleach and maintenance tools were stored directly above bins of flour, sugar and salt; and multiple foods — including crab Rangoon, fried chicken, eggrolls, raw chicken, raw fish, cream cheese and raw eggs — were stored throughout the kitchen without any form of temperature control to maintain their safety.
Also, a dead rodent was found behind the main cook line, and rodent droppings were seen behind the kitchen’s freezer chest and on the lid to a container of soy sauce. In addition, a bag of onions was stored directly on the floor, close to a collection of rodent droppings; the dry-storage shelf in the kitchen and a platform holding bulk containers of food ingredients were soiled with rodent droppings; and the floors were soiled with accumulated debris.
The visit was in response to a non-illness complaint pertaining to rodent activity. The inspector deemed the complaint to be verified. According to state records, the restaurant was last inspected in 2018.
Hawkeye Convenience Store, 250 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids – During an April 13 visit, an inspector cited the store for nine violations, an unusually high number for a convenience store. Some of the inspector’s typed report is indecipherable, however, alluding to violations such as “open bag of mashed potatoes into date marked and small cups to go with cheese or mashed potato in hot holding unit.” The inspector’s report indicates workers were not using sanitizer and were multitasking without changing their gloves. The inspector also noted that all of the equipment — including refrigerators, the food-prep table and the fryers — were marred by food debris and dust.
Wellman’s Pub, 2920 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines – During a March 20 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for 10 violations, including a failure to ensure the persons in charge were certified food protection managers. The inspector also reported that the people in charge were not fulfilling their duties as evidenced by the number of violations found.
Among the issues: Raw chicken and raw ground beef were stored directly over cooked chicken; the reach-in cooler was holding food at 47.5 degrees rather than 41 degrees or colder, which led to cut tomatoes, deli meat, chicken wings, various cheeses and several raw meats being discarded; and the restaurant appeared to have no date-marking procedures in place to ensure that food was fresh and safe to eat.
Also, hamburgers, cut tomatoes, cooked chicken, cooked pasta and cooked beef were not labeled with any preparation or expiration dates, and parmesan sauce dated March 2 – a full 18 days before the inspection – was found in one cooler.
In addition, the interior of the ice machine had a build-up food debris and mold; salmon in vacuum-sealed packaging was being improperly thawed inside the packaging; food items such as ranch dressing and other condiments were stored directly on the floor; a soda gun holster was visibly soiled with what appeared to be mold or food debris; and there was a buildup of food debris and grease on the floor and walls.
Stoney Point Meadows Assisted Living, 1900 Stoney Point Road, Cedar Rapids – During an April 13 visit, an inspector cited the home for milk that was holding at 47 degrees and had to be discarded; a lack of any date markings on the raw chicken and shrimp, which had to be discarded; hotdogs that were dated Feb. 25 – a full six weeks prior to the inspection, and raw chicken and chopped potatoes that were dated April 5, which was beyond the seven-day limit.
The citations also included the lack of any temperature logs or written procedures for the safe use of food products in the salad bar; the lack of thermometers in three different coolers; and the lack of hair restraints for the kitchen staff. The inspector noted the assisted-living facility serves food to “a highly susceptible population.”
Boulder Tap House, 4444 1st Ave., Cedar Rapids – During an April 12 visit, an inspector observed an employee handling raw meat without washing their hands afterward. In addition, chicken wings were being cooked using an unapproved, non-continuous procedure, and a steam table was holding food products around 85 to 95 degrees, which was far too cool to ensure safety.
Also, several food items – including sauces, lettuce and tomatoes – were not date marked, creating additional risk for consumers; and some food items had date markings indicating they had been held for more than the maximum seven days.
Fiesta Brava, 2650 Iowa Ave., Onawa – During an April 12 visit, an inspector noted there was no certified food protection manager on staff. Also, there were six large pans of refried beans cooked the previous day that were holding inside a cooler at 44 to 52 degrees – all of which had to be discarded, as they had been held at an unsafe temperature for too long.
The inspector also found queso in a food warmer that was holding at 115 degrees and enchilada sauce holding at 116 degrees – too cool to ensure their safety. The restaurant also had no system in place for the date marking of food to ensure it was still fresh and safe.
The inspector also noted “what appeared to be a black, mold-like substance” on the inside of the ice machine, and reported that there was no handwashing soap at the sinks in the kitchen area and behind the bar.
Facility is heavily soiled with grease and dried food debris ... Tables in dining room are soiled.
– Inspector's report on KFC in Cedar Falls
The Iowa Chop House, 223 E. Washington St., Iowa City – During an April 11 visit, an inspector noted that raw bacon was stored over ready-to-eat lettuce inside a cooler; the food-preparation cooler on the main cook line was holding food items at 53 degrees, which was above the 41-degree maximum; and multiple food items made or sliced on the premises had no date markings to ensure freshness and safety. In addition, there were multiple house-made sauces on hand that had been held past the maximum of seven days and had to be discarded.
KFC, 6104 University Ave., Cedar Falls – During an April 11 visit, an inspector reported that employees did not wash their hands after washing dishes before returning to food preparation. In addition, one of the handwashing sinks could not produce hot water that reached at least 100 degrees; two of the handwashing sinks had no soap; chicken stored inside the walk-in coolers were left uncovered; there was heavy soiling and a buildup of flour on the food-preparation equipment; and the door of the walk-in cooler was soiled with dried chicken breading.
Also, the trays that were used to hold defrosting chicken were contaminated with a “yellow, slime-like buildup” of some kind; the metal racks in the kitchen had a buildup of food debris and grease on them; the fixtures in the bathroom were dirty; and the restaurant had not posted its most recent inspection report.
The visit was in response to a non-illness complaint concerning general facility sanitation. “Facility is heavily soiled with grease and dried food debris,” the inspector wrote in verifying the complaint. “Tables in dining room are soiled.”
Metro High School Cafeteria, 1212 7th St., Cedar Rapids – During an April 11 visit, an inspector cited the school for having no certified food protection manager on staff. In addition, the inspector noted there were no sneeze-guards in place on the serving line to prevent contamination from students being served, and the ham and cheese sandwiches and cut melons were not being stored at 41 degrees or colder and were measured at 57 degrees.
The cold-holding unit had been “inoperable for years,” according to the inspector. The cafeteria also failed to maintain written procedures for keeping food within mandatory temperature ranges.
Sauced Up, 16718 Highway 92, Indianola – During an April 11 visit, an inspector cited the business for red sauce that was stored in a cheese container and had “what appeared to be mold” on the surface of it. The sauce was discarded. Also, raw eggs were being stored over whole fruit, risking cross-contamination; Italian sausage that was dated April 3 was still on hand, as was milk that had expired seven days prior on April 4.
In addition, an apple slicer that was stored on the clean-utensil shelf had a buildup of dried food debris on it; cooked sauces and meatballs inside the kitchen’s walk-in cooler lacked the proper labeling; a skillet, a vacuum-sealing packaging machine for food and the handwashing sink were all marred by a buildup of dried food debris; and a cigar was lying on the food-preparation table.
Supermarket Villachuato, 107 N. Center St., Marshalltown – During an April 11 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for storing raw eggs above ready-to-eat cheeses and meats, risking cross-contamination; for storing raw chicken, raw beef and an open package of raw shrimp in the same drawer; for storing cut cilantro in cardboard boxes that previously were used to hold raw pork and beef; and for storing bulk bakery ingredients, beans, and dried peppers throughout the facility in open bags, risking contamination.
The supermarket was also cited for storing bags and boxes of onions, beans, chilies, and produce directly on the floor throughout the store; for keeping raw meats, cut vegetables, and bakery doughs uncovered in the walk-in coolers, risking contamination; and for reheating rice to 118 degrees – rather than 165 degrees or hotter – and then placing it on a steam table.
In addition, the inspector found house-made chorizo that was held beyond the maximum of seven days; there were bags of cooked meats in the freezer that had no date markings to ensure freshness and safety.
The inspector also reported the dishwasher had no sanitizing solution in it and wasn’t sanitizing any equipment or utensils; the vegetable dicers had dried food debris on the blades and surfaces; the large mixer in the bakery area had dried food debris in the bowl and other surfaces; the cutting boards in the meat department had dried food debris on them; and a cardboard box that was soiled with dried debris was stored directly on the cutting board surface.
Also, the handwashing sink in the meat department did not produce any hot water; cut onions were stored in a bucket that had previously held detergent; and food items that were packaged in-house – such as salsas, tortillas, cakes, ice cream novelties, and gelatin products – were not labeled as to any of their ingredients, preparation dates, allergens, or store information.
The visit was in response to an illness complaint pertaining to food that had been catered by the establishment. The inspector ruled the complaint was unverified.
Hy-Vee Foods, 1501 E. 1st Ave., Newton – During a March 31 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for several violations related to sushi preparation. According to the inspector, an employee was observed assembling sushi rolls with ready-to-eat ingredients, then assembling raw sushi rolls, and then assembling more rolls with ready-to-eat ingredients – all without changing gloves or utensils. The store agreed to dispose of the sushi rolls that were prepared after the raw ingredients were handled.
In addition, the inspector noted that the sushi-preparation worker did not follow the required Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan for pH testing of sushi ingredients, and the store lacked any documentation to show the worker had received training on the HACCP plan and any variances.
Elm Street Grill, 1800 S. Elm St., Shenandoah – During a March 29 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for failing to have a certified food protection manager on staff; for workers handling sliced cheese and shredded cheese with their bare hands; for workers handling raw meat and then ready-to-eat food items without washing their hands in between; and for an ice machine that was heavily soiled with a mold-like substance.
La Herradura Mexican Grill, 540 N. Cody Road, Le Claire – During a March 29 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for storing raw ground beef patties above an open container of cooked baked beans, risking cross-contamination; for storing raw fish above green peppers inside a cooler; for placing queso in a steam table without first heating it to 165 degrees to ensure safety, and for storing sour cream and salsa at temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees rather than 41 degrees or colder.
The inspector also cited the restaurant for food strainers, a metal pan and a plate that were all stored with clean dishes but had leftover food debris adhered to them, and for a dishwashing machine that was not sanitizing dishes or utensils. The inspector also noted that two large containers of salsa and guacamole were stored on the floor in the back of the kitchen and that the area underneath the grill had a buildup of grease, food debris and trash.
Simpson College, Pfeiffer Hall, 701 N. C St., Indianola – During a March 27 visit, an inspector observed workers washing soiled dishes and then putting away clean dishes without washing their hands between tasks. Also, the shredded cheddar cheese in the reach-in cooler and on the burger-preparation line was adulterated by “visible mold throughout.”
In addition, meatball lasagna in the hot-holding table was measured at just 127 degrees after coming directly from the oven. The manager agreed to put the lasagna back in the oven and reheat it to at least 165 degrees. Also, several cold items, such as yogurt and pasta salad, were measured at 45 degrees rather than 41 degrees or colder.
Tacos Villanueva, 2423 E. 14th St., Des Moines – During a March 24 visit, an inspector noted that not all of the employees designated as the person in charge were certified food protection managers. The inspector also reported that food employees did not wash their hands before working with food or after touching a garbage can.
Also, several food items — such as cooked chorizo, cooked chicken, refried beans, shredded beef, and cooked onions and peppers — were being held at temperatures that fell outside the acceptable range for food safety and had to be discarded. The inspector also reported finding shredded cheese that was stored at 76 degrees and had to be discarded and noted that “multiple foods were stored without any means for temperature control.” The restaurant was last inspected in 2019.
Sunset Family Restaurant, 1202 W. Main St., Manchester – During a March 21 visit, an inspector noted there were “multiple foods” on hand — such as cooked meatloaf, lasagna, pancake and waffle batter — that were not date marked to ensure their freshness and safety.
The inspector also observed workers moving from handling raw, precooked foods to ready-to-eat foods without washing their hands between tasks. One employee handled dirty dishes and then put clean dishes away while wearing the same dirty gloves. The inspector also found taco meat in one cooler that had a date mark of March 10 – 11 days prior to the inspection – and had to be discarded.
In addition, a food slicer that was last used the day before had visible food debris adhered to it, indicating it had not been cleaned since that time. Also, an employee was using a visibly soiled towel to soak up oil in a pan that he was using to cook eggs, with the soiled towel coming into direct contact with the eggs.
The inspector reported that a gallon can on the kitchen counter was being used to store gravy that was measured at 67 degrees and had to be discarded; eggs were being stored at room temperature during breakfast and lunch service; and there was no thermometer on hand to take the temperature of food.
“The floors and walls surrounding the kitchen equipment have a visible amount of debris and grease accumulation,” the inspector reported.
Editor’s note: The feature photo on this story has been updated to clarify that Wellman’s Pub was not cited for violations mentioned in the story’s headline. Wellman’s was cited for 10 violations related to food safety but not for dead rodents, yellow slime or dodgy hotdogs.
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