Restaurant inspection update: Dogs in the building, moldy food and rodent droppings
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, city and county inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and stores for hundreds of food-safety violations during the past four weeks, including months-old, moldy food, rodent droppings, spoiled hot dogs and the presence of animals in the building.
At least four eateries were operating without a license, and the owners of at least five restaurants agreed to either close or halt some or all of their food service until violations could be corrected.
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.
Hardee’s 1449 E. Euclid Ave., Des Moines – During an April 19 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for 10 violations, and concluded the person in charge failed to fulfill their duties as evidenced by the number and severity of the violations. The issues included: failure to have all managers certified in food protection; employees switching from working at the cash register to working with food without first washing their hands; a worker dumping raw onions into a container that was not clean or sanitary; and employees keeping fried chicken at 123 degrees, which was too cool to ensure safety.
The inspector also made note of a container of sliced tomatoes and two containers of cut lettuce that were not marked with the time they were removed from the refrigerator, and reported that the handwashing sink adjacent to the drive-through was not operational. “Flying insects were observed throughout the dry-storage area,” the inspector reported. “Floors throughout the facility are visibly soiled with accumulated debris.” The inspector also reported that pipes in the dry-storage area were leaking water that was pooling on the ground and stated that a pipe from the oil-storage system was draining and pooling oil directly onto the ground. The visit was in response to an illness complaint that was deemed unverified.
India Café, 50 W. Burlington St., Fairfield – During a May 9 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for 11 violations and concluded the manager was not knowledgeable of food safety, including the temperature parameters required for hot-holding food or cooling or reheating. Due to the extent and severity of the violations found, the owner agreed to voluntarily close the restaurant until all of the violations could be corrected and the staff could be properly trained. As part of that agreement, the business also stopped all production of cheese and yogurt. Among the problems noted during the May 9 visit: The restaurant was processing its own yogurt and cheese using a process that had not been approved by the state inspections department and the cheese was stored “on the floor in the back of the kitchen;” bags of chicken were left to thawing in a sink and were contaminated by water from a drain pipe dripping into the sink; fried vegetables cooked the day before were stored on a tray at 78 degrees with no attempt made at refrigeration or hot-holding; and multiple pans of food — including vegetable curry measured at 126 degrees; spinach sauce measured at 119 degrees; and cooked vegetables that were measured at 98 degrees — were stored on a griddle without any temperature control.
The inspector also noted that all of the cooked items throughout the restaurant had been stored without any date markings to ensure freshness and safety. That included cooked chicken, cooked lentil, cooked potatoes, house-made cheese with spinach and cooked vegetables. In addition, the dishwashing machine was not dispensing any measurable amount of sanitizing solution. The inspector also observed rodent droppings in food-storage areas throughout the kitchen, and he reported that food-preparation tables, kitchen equipment and certain areas of the kitchen were visibly soiled with food debris and an accumulation of grease. The inspector returned on May 12 and cited the restaurant for three more violations but found that the business had successfully eliminated the imminent health hazards noted on May 9. The restaurant was granted permission to reopen.
La Terraza Mexican Restaurant, 501 S. 5th Ave., Coon Rapids – During a May 18 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for nine violations, including failure to employ a certified food protection manager. The inspector also reported employees handling raw meat and then moving food items from a cooler without first washing their hands; a worker eating french fries in the kitchen; lettuce stored at 45 degrees, above the maximum of 41 degrees; a handwashing sink in the employees’ restroom that was nonfunctional; and employee medications that were stored on a shelf alongside food products in the kitchen. The inspector also noted there were sleeping quarters in an area that was not segregated from the food storage area.
Hela African Food Market, 3260 Southgate Place, Cedar Rapids – During an April 18 visit, an inspector cited the store for 11 violations, an unusually high number. The inspector concluded the staff was “not adequately trained in basic food safety principles in order to manage fish cutting and packaging, ware-washing, re-packaging of palm oil, or proper labeling.” The inspector noted there was no certified food protection manager employed by the store. “Various items in the store are not properly labeled with source information,” the inspector wrote in his report. “Facility unable to prove that items offered for sale were obtained from an approved source,” adding this concern applied to “various fish products, palm oil, whole spices, salted pork, dried fish and dried crawfish.”
The inspector also reported that large containers of palm oil were being purchased in Minnesota but appeared to have been “re-filled without proper sanitation.” In addition, dishes, utensils and a meat saw were not properly cleaned. “No sanitizer solution present in kitchen at time of inspection,” the inspector reported. “Various products being offered for sale with little or no labeling present on the packaging.” The inspector also reported that the floors in the retail-sale area as well as the kitchen were “not being cleaned with the necessary frequency nor thoroughness.” The inspector stated that the store had been approved for retail sales only but had since expanded its operation to include cutting and repackaging fish and palm oil. The store had not contacted health officials to inform them of that expansion, and the owner agreed to halt all food service until the violations could be corrected and a follow-up inspection performed.
Christian’s on Main, 401 Main St., New Market – During a May 18 visit, inspectors cited the restaurant, which was operating without a license, for nine violations, including failure to employ a certified food protection manager. The inspector observed a food-service employee taking out the trash and returning to the cook line without first washing their hands. In addition, the restaurant had baked pies and brownies that were made in a private residence and then offered for sale to restaurant patrons. Inside a cooler, raw eggs were stored above fresh bell peppers and raw sausage was stored above raw shrimp, risking cross-contamination. The visit was prompted by a non-illness complaint pertaining to general facility sanitation, cross-contamination of food, inadequate cooking, poor personal hygiene of workers and the operation of an unlicensed facility. The complaint was deemed verified.
Fruits ‘n’ Such Mobile Food Unit, 2334 University Ave., Des Moines – During a May 17 visit, an inspector found that the business was selling, but was not licensed or equipped for, hot food. Meat was being cooked off site in a residence and then held at the food truck in a crock pot. The business agreed to voluntarily close and then limit its menu to cold foods until the sale of hot food could be approved by an inspector. During the visit, the inspector noted there was no sanitizing solution on the food truck and stated that he observed cooked sausage holding in a crock pot at 74 degrees, which was far too cool to ensure safety.
Prairie Canary Restaurant & Bar, 924 Main St., Grinnell — During a May 17 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for nine violations, including failure to employ a currently certified food protection manager. The visit was in response to a non-illness complaint regarding contaminated equipment, cross-contamination of food, food from unsafe sources and adulterated foods. The allegation concerning contaminated equipment and food cross-contamination was deemed verified, while the other allegations were considered unverified. The inspector observed the kitchen staff changing gloves after handling raw burgers and then entering the kitchen to begin food production without first washing hands. In addition, a worker handled and sliced a cucumber with their bare hands, and placed cooked chicken skewers over raw beef in a cooler. Also, raw eggs were stored over bags of shrimp and fish fillets, and a large container of house-made alfredo sauce prepared the day before was still holding at 45 degrees, above the 41-degree maximum, and had to be discarded. Also, the dishwashing machine in the main kitchen was not sanitizing dishes at the time of the inspection.
Marshall BWS-Beer, Wine & Spirits, 11 N. 3rd Ave., Marshalltown – During a May 15 visit, an inspector found the establishment had been operating without a license after its license application was rejected in January due to regulatory violations found at that time. At the conclusion of the May 15 visit, a license was again denied due to regulatory issues. The owner agreed to halt food-service operations and contact the inspector when he is prepared for a third pre-opening inspection to determine licensing. The inspector noted that milk in the retail cooler used for coffee drinks was holding at 43 degrees, slightly warmer than the required 41 degrees, and some of the milk had expired and had to be discarded. The inspector also noted the business was not sanitizing equipment and utensils after washing them, and reported that packaged coffee powders, stir straws and drinks straws were “stored on the ground” alongside cleaning chemicals.
Hy-Vee Foods, 115 S. 29th St., Fort Dodge — During a May 12 visit, this store was cited for 10 violations. The inspector noted that there were dozens of cans of food on shelves throughout the store that were dented and had to be discarded as potentially unsafe. Also, kitchen employees were not washing their hands as required; raw eggs were being stored above ready-to-eat items; and twice-baked potatoes were stored below raw-meat products, risking cross-contamination. In the Market Grille area, raw eggs were stored unrefrigerated on a countertop; food items in the walk-in cooler were not marked with days they should be discarded; and the floor of the Chinese food area was soiled with dried food debris.
Smokin’ Hot Rednecks Mobile Food Unit, 870 Parker St., Stanhope – On May 12, this food truck was inspected while in operation at an event. The owner agreed to voluntarily shut down the operation for one hour due to problems with the generator that resulted in loss of power. The power failure had disabled the food truck’s refrigerators and electric hot-holding units. In addition, the inspector observed an employee entered the food truck after being on break and smoking without first washing their hands. In addition, potato salad and coleslaw in one refrigerator were measured at 54 degrees, well above the 41-degree maximum, and had to be discarded. Also, the truck was using the wrong sanitizer wipes for food-contact surfaces and the floor was noted to have a buildup of grease on it.
KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), 1132 N. Quincy Ave., Ottumwa – During a May 9 visit, the restaurant was cited for seven violations. The inspector noted that the cooked chicken in the hot-holding case was measured at 128 degrees, which was too cool to ensure safety. The chicken was discarded. In addition, the chilled coleslaw and shredded cheese were marked as having a 12-hour shelf life rather than a four-hour shelf life, and fully prepared coleslaw was seen stored directly on the floor inside a cooler. Also, boxes of chicken were stored in a cooler directly below a leaking pipe. The inspector also noted a buildup of debris on the shelving of a walk-in cooler and on the floor and walls of the cooler. The inspection was prompted by a non-illness complaint pertaining to cooking temperatures, pest control and poor personal hygiene among the staff. The complaint was deemed unverified.
Village Inn, 105 Main St., Liscomb – During a May 5 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for 11 violations, an unusually high number, including the presence of animals in the establishment and a failure to have all managers certified in food protection. The inspector noted that the person in charge was not able to answer questions regarding safe food-handling practices, cleaning and sanitizing and handwashing. The restaurant was also operating under an expired license.
The inspector found home-canned items, such as tomato juice and pickled asparagus, inside the refrigerator alongside food and drink used for customer service. In addition, raw eggs and raw bacon were stored directly over candy bars and beverages in a walk-in cooler; opened packages of food and containers of cut tomato were not date marked to ensure safety; equipment and utensils were being washed, but not sanitized; the employee handwashing sink was not in service and was being used for storing items; there was no probe-style food thermometer on the premises to check food temperatures; and two dogs — someone’s pets — were inside the restaurant, with the person in charge stating that the establishment’s policy allowed for animals in the establishment.
Also, some foods were being stored in a chest-style cooler that a manager said was for someone’s personal use; there was no food-safe sanitizing solution on the premises; and the most recent inspection report had not been posted for customers to read. The visit was in response to a non-illness complaint related to the presence of animals in the restaurant. The complaint was deemed verified.
Mas Margaritas, 588 Boyson Road, Cedar Rapids – During a May 3 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for nine violations, including the storage of raw meat above ready-to-eat food; steak that was cooked only to 145 degrees; queso in a steam table that was holding at just 79 degrees; refrigerated queso and cooked ground beef prepared the day before that was still above the maximum temperature of 41 degrees and had to be discarded; and sauces and marinades that were still on hand more than seven days after their date of preparation.
The inspector also noted that the establishment’s food thermometer was 25 degrees out of calibration. The inspection was in response to an illness complaint, with a customer alleging they became ill after eating at the restaurant. The complaint was deemed unverified. In July 2022, the establishment was cited for 11 violations, with the inspector reporting that there was no “basic food-safety training provided to the kitchen staff.”
30HOP-Ankeny, 1615 S.E. Main St., Ankeny – During a May 2 visit, inspectors cited the restaurant for moldy, unlabeled food with no date markings on them. The inspector also noted that shredded meat in a hot-holding unit was measured at 132 degrees and had to be reheated to more than 165 degrees; cooked chicken was measured at 67 degrees; garlic aoli at 65 degrees; and truffle mix at 52 degrees. Those items, along with others that were outside their safe temperature range, were discarded. Inside a cooler, the inspector found harissa — a hot chili pepper paste — was beyond its expiration date and discovered apple compote that was dated Match 12, almost two months prior, and house-made ranch dressing that was dated April 20. Those and other expired items were discarded. The inspector also noted that a food slicer was crusted with visible debris from the previous day. The inspection was prompted by an illness complaint that was deemed unverified.
La Casa Azul, 708 1st Ave., Coralville – During a May 2 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for eight violations, including rice that was prepared the previous day but was measured at 66 to 69 degrees while stored in plastic bags in a refrigerator. Because the rice should have cooled to 41 degrees within four hours to ensure safety, it was discarded. The inspector also made note of sliced cheese that was measured at 47 degrees, sauces held at 58 degrees, and a jar of garlic that required refrigeration but was stored opened and at room temperature. The restaurant discarded those items and also agreed to discard several items held beyond their seven-day limit, including tamales and carnitas that were dated April 22.
In addition, the dishwasher was not dispensing sanitizing solution, there was a heavy buildup of debris on the mounted can opener used in the kitchen, and two small refrigerators used to store sauces and other ingredients were unable to reach 41 degrees or colder. Also, bags of rice were stored on the floor, and containers of bulk spices had no lids to protect the contents from contamination. In addition, there was a heavy buildup of debris on the exterior surfaces and handles of refrigerators; wall tiles were missing in the kitchen; there was a heavy buildup of debris and grease on walls around the griddle and fryer; and there was a buildup of debris on the floor around the cook line and the floor drains. The restaurant also failed to post a complete copy of its most recent inspection report.
The inspector returned on May 15, but with some serious risk-factor violations left incorrected – including those pertaining to refrigerators that couldn’t reach 41 degrees or colder – a notice of intent to suspend the establishment’s license was issued. Another inspection has been scheduled for June.
Aroydee Restaurant, 2128 Indianola Ave., Des Moines – During a May 1 visit, a state inspector cited the establishment for 12 violations, an unusually high number, and noted the person in charge was unable to explain the correct method for cleaning and sanitizing the equipment, and that the person in charge was not a certified food protection manager as required. Among the other violations: A cook was observed moving between tasks without washing their hands; the manager was observed eating and drinking in the food-production area; cream cheese was stored at 48 degrees, well above the maximum of 41 degrees; eggs were stored at 48 degrees; food was not properly date marked to ensure freshness and safety; dishes were not sanitized after washing; there was no handwashing sink, as it had been removed one to two years prior to the inspection; there were no thermometers on hand to measure food temperatures; and golf clubs, extension cords, pressure washers and other hardware items were stored in the food area. The owner agreed to post signs indicating the restaurant was voluntarily closing and agreed to contact an inspector when ready for a reinspection. On May 17, that reinspection took place and no violations were noted.
Kum & Go, 1120 Commercial Ave., Eagle Grove – During an April 27 visit, an inspector concluded the person in charge had insufficient knowledge of food-code requirements and noted that the store did not employ a certified food protection manager as required. The inspector reported finding two packages of hot dogs that showed signs of spoilage and had to be pulled from sale. Also, food-contact surfaces were not being sanitized, the handwashing sink was inaccessible to the staff; single-service creamer and sugar packages were stored “in a heavily soiled area” under a soda machine; there was no food-safe sanitizing solution on the premises; there was no sink to rinse the floor mops and the staff was dumping mop water into three-compartment sink intended for cleaning food utensils and equipment; the store had several areas in need of repair, although the inspector did not elaborate on those; and “the floors throughout the facility were dirty with heavy soil.” The inspector also noted that the most recent inspection report was not posted for customers to read.
Whiskey Jo’s Pub & Grub, 4617 J St., Cedar Rapids – During an April 27 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for 10 violations. Among the issues: Raw potatoes were stored in water with no date makings and had to be discarded; corn that was dated April 19 and a roast that was dated April 13 had to discarded; two dishwashing machines were dispensing no measurable amount of sanitizing solution; access to a handwashing sink was blocked by boxes; there was no soap or towels at the handwashing sink; a container of flour was stored on the floor; a box of raw meat was stored on the floor of a walk-in cooler; kitchen equipment and floors were marred by an accumulation of debris; and the restaurant had not posted its most recent inspection report.
El Sol Mexican Cuisine, 240 Main St., Solon – During an April 25 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for 11 violations, an unusually high number. Among the problems: Marinating chicken was stored above ground beef and steak, creating a risk of cross-contamination; several open containers of food and sauces lacked any date markings to ensure freshness and safety; house-made sweet corn and house-made sauces were all held beyond the seven-day limit and had to be discarded; the dishwashing machine was dispensing no measurable amount of sanitizing solution; the vegetable dicer that was stored as clean had dried debris on the blades; tilapia was stored in vacuum-sealed packaging while thawing, creating a risk of spoilage; frozen shrimp was left thawing inside a bucket at room temperature; a ”cheese bucket” was stored on the kitchen floor; and there was an excessive buildup of debris inside the microwave ovens.
Snack Time Restaurant, 1010 6th St., Nevada – During an April 25 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for 16 violations, an exceptionally high number. Among the problems: The person in charge was unable to demonstrate knowledge of cold-holding temperature requirements, cross-contamination or employee handwashing practices. The inspector observed workers changing tasks such as cleaning tables and then delivering food to customers’ tables without washing their hands. One employee was observed touching buns and lettuce with their bare hands; raw bacon was stored above ready-to-eat foods; cold foods were held well above the maximum temperature of 41 degrees, including sausage at 55 degrees and diced ham at 71 degrees; and several food items were not date marked to ensure freshness and safety, including shredded lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, sliced ham, diced ham, cooked noodles, gravy, ground beef, pasta sauce and various soups. Also, the inside of the ice machine was visibly soiled, and containers of food were stored on the floor in the basement. The inspection was prompted by a non-illness complaint pertaining to general sanitation. The complaint was deemed unverified.
Hy-Vee Foods, 2540 Euclid Ave., Des Moines – During an April 24 visit, an inspector cited the store for 11 violations, an unusually high number. The inspector concluded that due to the extent of the violations, the person in charge had not demonstrated fulfillment of their duties, particularly with regard to sushi preparation and employee training for sushi production. The store was not complying with its own approved Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan for sushi production. The inspector reported that the person in charge was about to start using acidified rice from the previous day to prepare sushi, but appeared to have no knowledge of the correct procedures for pH-meter calibration and sushi rice acidification, which are necessary steps in the safe production of sushi. The store also lacked any records documenting the previous day’s production of the acidified rice, and the store’s pH buffer solutions – used to ensure safe pH levels for rice – had expired in early February and early Match. The store agreed to halt sushi production until new buffer solutions could be acquired.
In addition, the inspector noted that shellstock tag records – used to track shellfish in the event of illnesses — were not marked with the date when each container was sold or served. Also, the store lacked current letters of guarantee from their suppliers of sushi fish as to parasite destruction for the fish. The inspector also made note of cooked chicken and cooked beef that lacked any preparation dates, and reported that the Hickory House Kitchen microwave oven had a visible buildup of food debris in it. “Floors throughout the facility were soiled with accumulated debris,” the inspector reported. “Specifically, the bakery walk-in freezer and rear staging walk-in coolers and freezers have accumulated food debris under bottom shelves.” The store was cited for 15 violations last July and eight violations last November.
Newton Family Restaurant, 2426 1st Ave., Newton – During an April visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for 12 violations, an unusually high number. Among the inspector’s findings: The restaurant did not employ a certified food protection manager; a kitchen worker was seen placing raw chicken on the grill, wiping their hands on a dry towel and then handling a ready-to-eat croissant; raw eggs were stored on top of containers of cut ham and sliced cheese; pans of raw fish, raw chicken, diced ham, hardboiled eggs, diced peppers and onion were stored without any lids or coverings inside a cooler; open containers of spices and dry ingredients were stored without lids or covers; deli ham, cooked meatloaf, pancake batter, diced ham and hardboiled eggs inside a cooler all had to be discarded as they were being held at temperatures above the maximum of 41 degrees; and several food items, including cooked ribs, had no date markings to ensure freshness and safety.
Also, a food dicer and a large meat slicer had a heavy buildup of food and debris on them; one walk-in cooler wasn’t able to keep food items at 41 degrees or colder; there was a heavy grease buildup and spilled foods behind the grill; and kitchen shelving units where food equipment and utensils were stored were heavily soiled with spilled food. The visit was prompted by a non-illness complaint alleging poor personal hygiene, cross-contamination and general facility sanitation. The complaint was deemed verified.
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