Last week, a food-safety inspector cited Des Moines’ Zora Bar Rooftop, located on Ingersoll Avenue, for 17 violations, such as a number of food items the inspector said were “covered with what appears to be mold.” (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals)
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By Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch

Last week, a food-safety inspector cited Des Moines’ Zora Bar Rooftop, located on Ingersoll Avenue, for 17 violations, such as a number of food items the inspector said were “covered with what appears to be mold.” (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals)

State and county food inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and grocery stores for hundreds of food-safety violations in the past month, including mold-covered food and long-expired potato salad.

One central Iowa food truck was cited for 21 violations, including the lack of a license, lack of any running water to clean utensils or wash hands, and the storage of shredded cheese and sour cream in a shopping cart left parked outside the food truck. A trendy, new Des Moines eatery was cited for 17 violations that included trays of what appeared to be mold-covered food and pork carnitas that appeared to have expired two weeks earlier.

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.

This is some of the food at Des Moines’ Zora Bar Rooftop that a food-safety inspector described as “covered with what appears to be mold.” (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.)

The Zora Bar Rooftop, 2120 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines – During a May 6 visit, inspectors cited the establishment for 17 code violations — an unusually high number. Among the alleged problems: The person in charge was not a certified food protection manager and was not fulfilling their duties as evidenced by the number of foodborne-illness risk-factor violations. The inspectors also made note of a number of food items stored in a walk-in cooler, and inside a separate reach-in cooler, that were “covered with what appears to be mold.”  As a result, the person in charge discarded alfredo sauce, lemons, roasted red peppers and cooked beef. In addition, the inspector noted raw eggs were stored directly over ready-to-eat sour cream in a cooler; a container of marinara sauce from the previous night’s food service was in a cooler holding at just under 42 degrees that had to be discarded along with two pans of alfredo sauce. Also, a container of garlic butter sauce was left out unrefrigerated from the day before and was discarded, and the inspector noted Italian sausage, chicken breasts, cooked pasta, soup and hamburger patties that had no date markings at all to ensure they were still safe to eat. There were cooked pork carnitas in the hot-food line that were date-marked April 20 – a full 16 days prior to the inspection – and there were olives in the walk-in cooler that were date-marked April 5. A vegetable dicer, a can opener and the soda-dispensing guns at the bar were visibly soiled with what appeared to be “food debris and/or mold,” and the establishment was storing bar equipment in the sinks that were designated for handwashing.

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Hotel at the Kirkwood Center, 7725 Kirkwood Blvd., Cedar Rapids – During a May 9 visit, inspectors observed a cook placing bread on a grill with his bare hands and placing cooked meats on top of other meats with his bare hands. The inspector also found cuts of raw beef stored above soup, creating a risk of cross-contamination; found homemade soup holding at 109 degrees rather than 165 degrees; and there were homemade dressings dated April 2 that had to be discarded. The inspector also made note of a soiled ice maker, as well as food debris on the knives, the knife holder, the lids to food-storage bins, and the equipment-storage trays.

Burgerfiend, 2020 16th SW Ave., Cedar Rapids – During a May 5 visit, inspectors noted there was no certified food protection manager on staff; employees were not washing their hands after handling raw burger; mushrooms and onions were stored in the cooler with no date markings to ensure their safety; and milk that was stored with no date markings had to be discarded. In addition, the eatery’s previous inspection report was not posted for the public to read.

Corner Deli at ADM Corn Sweetners, 1251 Beaver Channel Parkway, Clinton – During a May 5 visit, an inspector noted the person in charge was not a certified food protection manager and was not ensuring that employees were holding foods at the correct temperatures. After noting that the deli was holding cooked shrimp at 103 degrees, lettuce at 61 degrees, and tomatoes at 56 degrees, the inspector allowed the establishment to discard the items after the lunch service was completed for the day.

R Place Pub & Pizza, 1790 Giddings St., Kelley – During a May 4 visit, inspectors cited the establishment for failing to employ a certified food protection manager; for workers that were handling buns with their bare hands; for storing raw tenderloins and eggs above deli meat and other ready-to-eat foods; and for using dishwashing solution that contained no measurable amount of sanitizer. Also, the inside of the ice machine was visibly soiled, and access to the sinks designated for handwashing was blocked.  The handwashing sink located in the kitchen was also deemed to be non-operational. The visit was conducted in response to a non-illness complaint regarding general facility sanitation but was categorized as a routine inspection. The complaint was considered verified.

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Subway, 2200 John F. Kennedy Road, Dubuque – During a May visit, inspectors noted that there was chicken, cheese, teriyaki chicken, ham, turkey, and steak on hand that was holding at 48 to 55 degrees in the sandwich-preparation cooler. All of the food was discarded.

Grinnell College, 1115 8th Ave., Grinnell – During an April 29 visit, an inspector noted that food items on the self-service salad bar included tuna, hard-boiled eggs and cottage cheese that were holding above the maximum temperature of 41 degrees, with diced ham holding at 53 degrees and tomatoes holding at 49 degrees. In addition, a container of alfredo sauce in the Spencer Grill refrigerator had been prepared on April 19 but had yet to be discarded. Also, the ice chutes on the soda-dispensing machines were soiled with a “grime-like buildup.” The visit was conducted in response to a non-illness complaint regarding contaminated equipment or cross-contamination of food. “Additional non-regulatory items were also included in the received complaints,” the inspector wrote in his report. The complaint was deemed verified.

Burger King, 1445 Boyrum St., Iowa City – During an April 28 visit, inspectors observed a worker placing raw beef patties on the grill and then moving to the burger preparation line without first washing their hands. Also, a freshly battered chicken breast did not reach the minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees, according to the inspector who checked the temperature as an employee was assembling the sandwich for a customer. The chicken breast was 155 degrees and was discarded. In addition, creamer that was holding in a cooler at 46 degrees had to be discarded. The inspector noted that food items for lunch service that included tomato, lettuce and cheese had exceeded the four-hour limit for holding. (The items had been brought out of the cooler at 10:30 a.m., but with the four-hour discard time marked as 3:00 p.m. rather than 2:30 p.m.) The visit was conducted in response to an illness complaint from a customer who said food purchased at the restaurant had made them ill. The visit was categorized as a routine visit, and the complaint was deemed unverifiable.

The Faithful Pilot Café and Spirit, 117 N. Cody Road, LeClaire – During an April 28 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for storing ground beef patties over scallops in the cooler; for holding food in a cooler at 51 to 55 degrees (a repeat violation); and for storing a mop bucket and mop inside the bakery’s three-compartment ware-washing sink.

Tacos La Catrina Food Truck, 1440 Des Moines St., Des Moines – During an April 28 visit, inspectors cited the establishment for 21 regulatory violations – an unusually high number, particularly for a food truck. The inspector noted that the person in charge was not a certified food protection manager and that due to the extent of the violations uncovered, it was concluded that the person in charge was not fulfilling their duties. “Due to the lack of water in this mobile unit for the past few days, food employees in this unit were unable to effectively wash their hands and food-contact surfaces could not be adequately cleaned and sanitized,” the inspector reported. “Holding and cooling temperatures were not monitored.” The inspector observed open packages of raw bacon stored above ready-to-eat slices of cheese; bags of cooked chicharrones that were holding at 79 degrees to 80 degrees; and a container of refried beans that was holding at 88 degrees. A container of cooked rice was measured at 93 degrees, and a container of grilled vegetables was 132 degrees. All of the food that fell outside the safety parameters was then discarded, as were cheese slices that were holding at 44 degrees and bags of shredded cheese that were stored at 56 degrees. Because workers were unable to sanitize any of the food-contact surfaces due to the lack of water in the unit, the workers were cleaning utensils and equipment by wiping them with a cloth; there was no bleach or approved sanitizer in the unit. The food truck had not had water service for two days prior to the inspection and yet the owner did not shut down the operation, the inspector noted. Shredded cheese and sour cream were being stored without any temperature control in a shopping cart parked near the food truck. In addition, the inspector noted that there were no thin-tipped food thermometers on the premises; the back door to the unit was propped open, with no screen in place, throughout the inspection; fruits and vegetables were not being washed; the testing kit for the sanitizing solution had never been used, was still sealed in its original packaging, and had expired the previous July; and the beverage dispensers were visibly soiled with accumulated debris. Also, the food truck’s license had expired three months earlier on Feb. 2, 2022.

Soseki Café, 227 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City – During an April 26 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for 14 regulatory violations and observed that the worker in the sushi area was only rinsing their hands with water and not using soap, even after handling raw fish. Also, raw fish, raw chicken and raw beef were being stored above ready-to-eat items and vegetables inside the coolers. There were multiple bags of frozen meats stored “directly on the ground” in a walk-in cooler; soup was being held at 126 degrees and had to be re-heated to 165 degrees; mayonnaise used for sushi rolls was left sitting out at 70 degrees; there was no chlorine sanitizer set-up for use in the kitchen; the knife holder was crusted with dried food debris; the blade of the commercial meat slicer had “excessive build-up” of some unspecified substance; and the meat grinder had a build-up of debris despite not being used recently.

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El Barco Mexican Restaurant, 8801 Hickman Road, Urbandale – During an April 22 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for having no certified food protection manager on staff and for failing to store raw shrimp and raw octopus in a manner that would prevent cross-contamination. Also, two boxes of beef were stored on the floor of the kitchen for thawing, and there were foods such as meat, dairy products, cut tomatoes, beans and rice that were not dated. In addition, the interior of the ice machine had a “black build-up” within it, and there was no hand soap and no paper towels at the sink designated for handwashing. The inspector also made note of the fact there were no food thermometers on the premises; there was no cover on a container of chips stored next to a shelf littered with food particles and dust; there were no test strips available to check the dishwashing machine sanitizing solution; and water was pooling on the floor of the dish room. The inspector reported that the visit was “due to a dining room housekeeping complaint” that was received. The visit was categorized as a routine inspection and the complaint was deemed unverifiable.

Probstei Inn Bar & Grill, 6315 W. Kimberly Road, Davenport – During an April 21 visit, an inspector cited the eatery for expired foods, such as a container of Mrs. Gerry’s Extra Creamy Coleslaw that had a use-by date of April 4, more than two weeks prior, and a container of Mrs. Gerry’s Steakhouse Potato Salad that had a “use by” date of April 2. (The restaurant had been cited for this same type of violation during a previous inspection.) Also, raw eggs were stored above ready-to-eat food products in a cooler (a repeat violation); deli ham was undated; and the lids for food cups were stored on a shelf underneath chemicals and oven cleaner (another repeat violation). In addition, there was no certified food protection manager on staff, although the establishment was not cited for that violation.

Bluebird Diner, 330 E. Market St., Iowa City – During an April 20 visit, an inspector noted the employee washing dishes did not wash their hands after handling soiled dishware and before handling clean dishware for customers. In addition, a container of cooked red beans that had not cooled properly was still at 46 degrees – above the maximum 41 degrees – a day after it was prepared and had to be discarded.  Also, bacon that had not been cooked to a crisp was being held at 75 degrees; the meat slicer had dried debris on the blade while sitting in storage; and two handwashing sinks were blocked and inaccessible to the staff.

Rancho Nuevo, 1295 Jordan St., North Liberty – During an April 18 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for not having a certified food protection manager on staff; for employees failing to wash their hands between the handling of raw meat and the handling of clean dishware and utensils; for storing raw bacon in a cooler above ready-to-eat foods, carnitas, shredded chicken, queso and chicken broth; and for multiple containers of house-made foods — such as shredded chicken, carnitas, queso, red sauce, tamales, refried beans and ground beef – with no date markings on them.

Hy-Vee Foods, 420 Court Ave., Des Moines – During an April 18 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for failing to ensure that all employees designated as the person in charge were certified food protection managers. In addition, the inspector said that based on the number of foodborne-illness, risk-factor violations, and on the number of repeat violations, the person in charge was not fulfilling their duties. The inspector noted that the establishment’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points binder – used to store documents intended to ensure consumer safety and allow for tracking of food sources — did not contain the required letters documenting parasite destruction by various seafood vendors. Also, raw eggs were being stored at room temperature next to the hot-food line in the kitchen and had to be discarded; a can opener and vegetable dicer in the main kitchen were visibly soiled with food debris; and the store was not labeling the sushi rice with the batch number and preparation time as dictated by the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points plan. In addition, a package of tuna was being thawed while still inside vacuum-sealed packaging, contrary to food-safety requirements; kitchen utensils that were sporadically in use were being stored in containers of standing water within the main kitchen, the Asian Foods Department and the Sushi Department; soiled linens in the Bakery Department had piled up above the rim of a container and were overflowing out of the receptacle onto the floor, directly alongside cooking equipment; the large floor mixer in the Bakery Department was visibly soiled with food debris; and employees’ personal belongings were being stored directly over food and clean linens in the Asian Foods Department.

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