By Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch
State and county food inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and grocery stores for hundreds of food-safety violations in the past month, including undercooked burgers and moldy rib sandwiches.
One eastern Iowa eatery was cited for 14 serious, risk-factor violations, with inspectors noting that “large ants” had invaded a bulk container of sugar and food was being stored at unsafe temperatures. In western Iowa, inspectors cited a fast-food establishment for undercooked chicken strips, the storage of “clean” utensils in stagnant water, and grime that was present throughout the establishment.
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.
McDonald’s, 3441 86th St., Urbandale – During an April 11 visit, an inspector observed that freshly cooked hamburgers had a temperature as low as 140 degrees when removed from the grill. The undercooked burgers were voluntarily discarded, one side of the grill was shut off and the manager contacted a serviceman to address the situation.
The inspector also noted that the restaurant was holding sliced cheese beyond the specified discard date, and the handwashing sink could reach a temperature of only 77 degrees. In addition, the thermometers for the coolers were missing and there was water pooling on the floor outside the walk-in cooler. Cleaning was needed in the entire food-prep area as well as the storage rooms and ware-washing areas, the inspector reported. The visit was in response to a complaint about cooking temperatures and was deemed verified.
Kentucky Fried Chicken, 2515 Park Ave., Muscatine – During an April 12 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for failure to have a currently certified food protection manager on staff, and for a lack of hot water at either of the two designated handwashing sinks.
The inspector also noted that all of the thermometers in the walk-in coolers and freezers were not functioning; the chicken-breading station was vulnerable to splashing waster from an adjacent handwashing sink; wiping cloths used for cleaning were stored in a bucket of heavily soiled sanitizing solution; the fryer equipment was heavily soiled; restroom fixtures were heavily soiled; the floors and walls in several areas — including the kitchen, the drive-through window, the entrance of the restaurant, the dining room, and a storage room — were all heavily soiled.
In addition, there were several missing floor tiles observed throughout the kitchen; the most recent inspection report was not posted; and there was no valid food license posted. The visit was in response to a complaint about the lack of hot water, as well as the overall facility cleanliness. The complaint was considered verified, but the visit was categorized as a routine inspection.
Hy-Vee Foods, 1501 1st Ave., Newton – During an April 14 visit, an inspector cited the store for several violations related to sushi preparation. She noted that raw, cut salmon was stored over ready-to-eat ginger inside the sushi preparation table; raw eggs were stored over ready-to-eat sauces inside a cooler; the ice chutes on the soda dispenser had a buildup of brown, mildew-like substance; and rolled sushi was observed cooling in containers in the base of the sushi preparation table.
The inspector concluded the pH-meter calibration process for ensuring safe sushi preparation was not being followed, nor was the process for testing the pH of the sushi rice. The inspector also noted that a container of breaded jalapeños was stored uncovered in a freezer, as were two pans of cooked meatballs.
In addition, there were repeat violations related to the use of handwashing sinks, the prevention of cross-contamination of food and the cleanliness of the ice dispensers. The inspector concluded that it was “likely” there were additional violations related to the mandatory Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point food-management system that is intended to eliminate the risk of biological or chemical hazards in raw foods such as sushi. The staff at the store “stated the training process is informal” and that HACCP procedures are not referenced or utilized during training or daily operation.
Mi Casa Authentic Mexican Grill, 523 Court St., Williamsburg – During an April 14 visit, an inspector noted that fully prepared tortilla shells were uncovered and stored in plastic bins not intended for food storage. Also, large storage containers of chips, sugar and dry beans had no lids to guard against contamination; bags of dry beans and raw onions were sitting on the floor of the basement; and a pan of “uncovered raw, thawing meat” was sitting on the floor of the basement next to a container of laundry detergent.
The inspector also found two pans of queso, prepared the previous day, that were in a cooler but had yet to drop below 52 degrees, necessitating their disposal. Also, tubes of ground beef were stored in a bucket, at room temperature, in a mop sink, and whole beef roasts were sitting in a tub, thawing at room temperature, in the basement.
Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant, 2700 Dodge St., Dubuque – During an April 13 visit, an inspector observed employees making taco salad using their bare hands to handle the cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes that made up the salad, and he reported there was no soap available for handwashing in the employees’ restroom.
Also, a cutting board used to slice limes and lemons was stored with a visible buildup of food debris on it, and a walk-in cooler had an ambient temperature of 50 degrees – not cool enough to keep food at a safe temperature. Six jugs of milk were holding at 52 degrees and had to be discarded, along with various food items. The floor of the main walk-in cooler had a buildup of stagnant water.
Nora’s Café, 212 S 2nd St., Clinton – During an April 13 visit, the inspector observed there was no certified food protection manager on staff as required. Also, the person in charge was deemed to be not performing their duties to ensure food safety. A food handler had an open, uncovered sore on their wrist; the dishwasher was operating with no sanitizing chemicals in it; and soap and paper towels were not available at the handwashing sink.
Red’s Alehouse, 405 N. Dubuque St., North Liberty – During an April 13 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for using a cooking procedure for its chicken wings that had not been submitted to the county health department for approval. The inspector also noted that foods requiring refrigeration were stored in a cooler that was unable to maintain a temperature of at least 41 degrees.
House-made foods, prepared in batches, were stored with no date markings on them, and a half-dozen different house-made sauces and dressings had been held for more than the allowed maximum of seven days. The outdated food included peanut sauce dated March 19, almost four weeks prior to the inspection.
All-American Diner, 2300 Park Ave., Muscatine – During an April 12 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for failing to have a certified food protection manager; failing to ensure that employees properly washed their hands and avoided bare-hand contact with food; failing to clean food-contact surfaces as necessary; and failing to avoid cross-contamination in the storage and reheating of food.
The inspector noted that there was pasta sauce holding at 71 degrees for at least an hour, and many food items – including pasta, tomatoes and cooked meats – that were not date marked. Also, the deli meat slicer was soiled with dried bits of food debris, and the surface of cooking equipment was soiled with food debris and grease. In addition, there was no mop sink on the premises, there were unfinished walls in the middle of the kitchen, and a large accumulation of grease was dripping from the ventilation hood and fixtures.
Ames High School (football concession stand), 1921 Ames High Dr., Ames – This April 12 visit to the concession stand in the high school gymnasium resulted in a citation for failure to have a currently certified food protection manager on staff. The inspector also reported that an employee donned gloves to work with food without first washing their hands and said lettuce had been left out on a counter where it was holding at 48 degrees.
Also, the chlorine sanitizer used in the three-compartment sink was not properly sanitizing items, and the handwashing sink was being used to thaw hot dogs and taco meat. The inspector reported that he talked to the stand’s manager “about making sure the inspection report is posted at the facility (and) is easily accessible to the public.”
Sam’s Main Street Market, 123 E. Main St., Solon – During an April 12 visit, inspectors cited the restaurant for failure to have a currently certified food protection manager on staff; for storing raw, liquid eggs, raw bacon and raw sausage strips above ready-to-eat food in the deli cooler; for having multiple open containers of sauces, as well as sliced tomatoes and lettuce, that lacked any date markings; for having multiple packages of deli meats held in a cooler beyond their expiration date; for multiple loaves of deli cheese that were stored beyond their expiration dates; and for dipping sauces and deli salads that were held beyond their expiration dates.
The inspector also noted packages of raw meats in the meat case that had been held beyond their expiration dates. All of the expired food items had to be discarded. The visit was in response to a complain concerning adulterated foods and was verified. The inspection was categorized as routine.
China Buffet, 411 Chestnut St., Atlantic – During an April 12 visit, inspectors cited the restaurant for storing cooked chicken in cardboard boxes inside a walk-in cooler. The inspector also observed that hot shrimp was held in a steam table at too low a temperature – 117 degrees – to ensure safety and had to be discarded. In addition, cut, cold melon was measured at 60 degrees and had to be discarded, and there were multiple food items with no date markings on them.
Also, the dishwashing machine was not dispensing sanitizing solution at the recommended level and the handwashing sink was obstructed by a waste basket. The visit was in response a non-illness complaint from a consumer who said the food at the buffet “looked old” and was cold. The complaint was considered verified, and the inspection was categorized as routine.
Hy-Vee Foods, 1914 8th St., Coralville – During an April 11 visit, an inspector noted that the fresh, live oysters on ice were not accompanied by the required shell-stock tags that allow health officials to trace the source of shellfish in the event of an illness. The store had failed to retain the tags for oysters, clams and mussels once they were sold. The inspector also noted that egg rolls were holding at 114 degrees and pot stickers at 96 degrees, which was not sufficiently hot to ensure safety.
In addition, cooked beef and cooked chicken were held at 44 degrees in a food-prep cooler, which was not sufficiently cool to ensure safety. The inspector also noted a buildup of debris on the can opener, on the kitchen slicer and on a slicer located in the deli, although they had not been used at all that day.
The inspector also noted that the hot-water temperature at almost all of the handwashing sinks was not able to reach the minimum of 100 degrees – a repeat violation. The inspector reported that the person in charge stated that this issue was “something the store is working on, but no solution has been determined.”
The inspector also reported that the person in charge at the store’s “Hy-Chi” food station was unable to correctly perform “multiple required steps” in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point food-management system that is intended to eliminate the risk of biological or chemical hazards in raw foods such as sushi.
The inspector noted that the most recent food inspection report was not posted in an area where it was easily viewed by patrons. Johnson County Public Health inspector Rob Thul reported the visit was in response a complaint of some kind and that the complaint was considered unverified. The visit was categorized a routine inspection.
Lomitas Mexican Restaurant, 2223 5th Ave., Fort Dodge – During an April 8 inspection, the establishment was cited for not having a certified food protection manager on staff; for employees failing to wash their hands; for storing raw eggs and raw fish above ready-to-eat products; for storing queso at 63 degrees, which was well above the 41-degree maximum for cold storage; for undated, prepared tomatoes in the cooler; and for the use of hand sanitizer rather than soap at the handwashing sink in the kitchen.
The inspector reported the visit stemmed from a non-illness complaint alleging contaminated equipment and cross-contamination of food; food from unsafe sources; improper holding temperature; and poor personal hygiene among the staff. The inspector considered the complaint verified.
Perkins Family Restaurant, 2425 E. Euclid Ave., Des Moines – During an April 7 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for not having a certified food protection manager on staff; for having a person in charge who was unable to demonstrate knowledge of several food safety practices; for the staff failing to wash their hands; for hot gravy that was being held at 118 degrees four hours after the staff began reheating it; for sliced tomatoes that were measured at 55 to 58 degrees; and for pancake batter that was not in ice and was holding at 50 degrees.
The inspector also made note of improperly thawed salmon steaks that had to be discarded, meat that was thawing in a container filled with stagnant water, and floors in all of the food-prep areas that were soiled under and around equipment. The inspector also made note of the fact that the restaurant’s most recent inspection report was not posted in an area visible to customers.
Papa Kerns Café, 304 E. 30th St., Des Moines – During an April 6 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for not having a certified food protection manager on staff. The inspector noted there were cooked potatoes, prepared at an unknown time that morning, holding at 75 degrees, which had to be discarded. In addition, green bean casserole was being held at 125 degrees and had to be discarded.
The inspector also found ground beef at 44 degrees; sliced tomatoes held at 44 degrees; cut lettuce held at 46 degrees; sliced ham held at 49 degrees; cooked meat balls held at 55 degrees; sliced cheese held at 55 degrees; and sliced turkey held at 48 degrees. All of those items, along with others that were held at unsafe temperatures, were discarded. In addition, the manager stated that cooking utensils were being sanitized once each day, rather than every four hours.
The inspector also made note of “multiple gnats” that were seen in a corner near the soda fountain, as well as accumulated debris that was providing a harbor for pests. In addition, the chlorine test strips used to measure the effectiveness of sanitizing solution had expired in 2018, and an employee was storing his or her bicycle and clothing in the food-prep area.
The inspector’s visit was in response to a non-illness complaint alleging poor personal hygiene. The inspector said no violations were observed regarding poor personal hygiene, handwashing, or bare-hand contact with food, and the complaints was deemed unverified.
Mercy Iowa City Rehabilitation Hospital, 2801 Heartland Dr., Coralville – During this April 4 visit, an inspector noted there was no one on staff with supervisory responsibilities who also was a certified food protection manager; there were no written agreements on file pertaining to employees’ reporting of illnesses; and there no written procedures for the cleanup of bodily fluids. In addition, the handwashing sinks in the kitchen were not able to reach the minimum hot-water temperature of 100 degrees.
Northern Lights Pizza, 2558 Hubbell Ave, Des Moines – During an April 1 visit, an inspector reported that due to the violations uncovered regarding the protection of foods from contamination, as violations related to improper temperature monitoring and inadequate cooling methods, it was determined that the person in charge was not demonstrating the fulfillment of their duties.
The inspector observed flies throughout the kitchen and watched as one flew into a container of shredded cheese on the food-prep line. The inspector also reported that utensils were not being fully immersed in the establishment’s chlorine sanitizer as required.
In addition, two bags of alfredo sauce were being held at 63 degrees and, after they failed to reach at least 135 degrees after two hours, they were discarded. The inspector also made note of cups of commercial cheese sauce that had been heated the previous day and had to be discarded after they were measured at 57 degrees. Several dead flies and gnats were observed on a windowsill in the kitchen, and the shelves in the walk-in cooler were visibly soiled with “brown, accumulated debris.”
The inspector reported the visit was in response to two separate non-illness complaints, one of which concerned improper holding temperatures, the lack of a certified food protection manager, and overall sanitation. The second complaint concerned improper holding temperatures, poor personal hygiene and overall sanitation. All of the allegations, except for that of poor personal hygiene, were deemed verified.
Sam Food, 648 Marquette St., Davenport – During an April 1 visit to this establishment, an inspector noted there were three frozen sandwiches – two barbecue rib sandwiches and one angus cheeseburger — that had been thawed and then stored in refrigerator with visible mold on them. In addition, a box of raw chicken was stored in a walk-in cooler above a box of flavored ice pops. The eatery’s hot-holding unit was storing chicken, shrimp, potato wedges and fish at temperatures as low as 117 degrees, and a bottle of ranch dressing that had been sitting out for two hours near the hot-holding unit was warm enough that it had to be discarded.
The inspector also found gyro meat and prepared sandwiches that did not contain any date markings on them – a repeat violation. The inspector also found cooked chicken dated March 20, and a container of tzatziki sauce had expired on Feb. 10, seven weeks prior to the inspector’s visit. A food preparation table in the kitchen and a large, reach-in cooler each had a buildup of “grime, dirt and food debris,” as did the interior of both microwave ovens.
“All equipment requires additional cleaning,” the inspector remarked. “This violation has been noted on a previous inspection report.”
The inspector reported that the visit was in response to a complaint regarding a moldy sandwich a customer had purchased. The complaint was deemed verified.
Bushwood Sports Bar and Grill, 350 Edgewood Road, Cedar Rapids – During a March 31 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for not having a certified food protection manager on staff. The inspector also reported that the employees were not washing their hands after handling raw meat; the kitchen handwashing sink was blocked by a broom and dustpan; chili was holding in the steam table at 75 degrees; cooked onions were being held at room temperature; and servers were storing individual cups of ranch dressing, salsa and sour cream at room temperature.
“All kitchen equipment is soiled on the inside and outside, especially the hot-line and cooking equipment,” the inspector reported.
J & A Tap, 440 N. Dubuque St., North Liberty — During a March 30 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for not having a certified food protection manager on staff. The inspector also noted that bacon cooked for lunch service was being stored at room temperature and that it had not been cooked to the point where temperature control wasn’t an issue.
In addition, several containers of various sauces lacked date markings and there was breakfast sausage on hand dated March 12, along with fry sauce dated March 18, beyond the allowed maximum of seven days. Also, the most recent inspection report was posted behind the bar where it couldn’t be read by customers.
The inspector noted that his visit was in response to a complaint from a customer who alleged he or she became ill after a meal at the establishment. Inspector Jesse Bockelman of Johnson County Public Health concluded the complaint was unverifiable.
Panaderia El Buen Gusto, 1434 Des Moines St., Des Moines – During a March 30 visit, an inspector cited the eatery for 13 major risk-factor violations, including failure to employ a certified food protection manager.
The inspector noted that some form of “dark particulate” was observed in the pumpkin puree that was stored inside an uncovered receptacle; a container of liquid-icing mix was broken and leaking inside the cooler; boxes of raw eggs were stored above fruit; milk was stored at 45 degrees, as were other food items that had be discarded; and cakes and flan were not marked with their preparation dates and had to be discarded.
In addition, there was no measurable amount of sanitizing solution in the bakery’s three-compartment sink; the interior of the commercial oven was visibly soiled with accumulated debris; employees were observed washing and rinsing pans and utensils without also sanitizing them; an insect was observed crawling on the milk crate holding the liquid-icing mixes; the ambient temperature of the walk-in cooler was averaging 45 degrees and was in need of repair; the bin used to store sugar was visibly soiled with accumulated debris; and the floor of the walk-in cooler was heavily soiled.
This marked the establishment’s first inspection since a preopening inspection was conducted more than five years ago in June 2016.
Taco Depot La Taqueria, 3801 1st Ave., Cedar Rapids – During a March 30 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for 14 serious, risk-factor violations. The inspector noted that a small refrigerator used for to-go orders was holding food at 50 degrees and he remarked that “none of the employees are checking the temperature of food or the coolers.” The inspector also observed employees dicing tomatoes with their bare hands, and reported that workers were scooping chips into dishes with their bare hands.
Raw ground beef was stored above whole-beef tongue and other meats inside a cooler, and cooked food — primarily meats and gravies – were stored uncovered inside a cooler next to a wall that was soiled. In addition, soiled knives were observed stored on a greasy knife holder; a “huge pot of cooked beans” was holding at 70 degrees and had been stored on the floor since the previous night; and cooked rice was stored in a “huge metal dish” since the previous night and measured 70 degrees.
Also, there were no date markings on several foods; none of the refrigerators had thermometers inside them; there was only one food thermometer on the premises with a food probe and it was not working; there was evidence of “large ants” inside an uncovered bulk container of sugar; the ice machine was unclean, sticky and was leaking water onto the floor, with food dishes placed underneath to collect the water; and floor tiles were missing at the entrance to the kitchen.
During a revisit on April 13, the inspector noted the food-probe thermometer was still not working; the new thermometers for the refrigerators were not working; the staff was continuing to leave the bins for sugar and salt uncovered, and there was evidence of “debris” in both containers. In addition, the findings of the March 30 inspection were not posted in view of the public.
Wendy’s, 810 Wacker Dr., Dubuque – During a March 30 visit, an inspector observed an employee eating french fries in the food-preparation area. Sliced cheese on the food-prep line was measured at 50 degrees, and shredded cheese was measured at 46 degrees. The “cheese had been out all morning” and was discarded, the inspector reported.
Also, there was cheese found in the walk-in cooler that had expired March 19, which was 11 days prior to the inspection, and there were two containers of sliced tomatoes had expired the day before. The visit was in response to a complaint alleging employees were handling money and then touching food with their bare hands. During the inspection, the inspector said, employees were observed washing their hands and wearing gloves. The complaint was deemed unverified.
Hamburg Inn No. 2, 214 N, Linn St., Iowa City – During a March 29 visit, an inspector cited the eatery for 12 major risk-factor violations, including failure to employ a certified food protection manager. According to the inspector, employees were not washing their hands after handling soiled dishes and were cracking eggs with their bare hands.
Cooked bacon was being held in a steam table at 96 degrees, and a commercial meat slicer had dried food debris on the blade and the blade guard even being cleaned and placed in storage. A handwashing sink was blocked by mop buckets and there were multiple chemical spray bottles in the meat-prepping area that were not properly labeled.
Le Mars Dairy Queen, 607 6th St., Le Mars – During a March 29 visit, an inspector cited the eatery for failing to have a person in charge who could ensure that raw, animal-derived foods – such as raw poultry and raw ground beef – were being cooked to a safe temperature to prevent foodborne illnesses. The inspector also reported that employees were not washing their hands after handling raw hamburger patties and chicken strips, and stated that raw chicken strips were not being cooked to at least 165 degrees in the fryer.
Also, various boxes of food were stored directly on the floor in a storage area and in the walk-in cooler, while “clean” utensils were being stored in containers with visible, standing water at the bottom of them. The inspector also made note of a buildup of grime “throughout the facility,” including the floors as well as the ventilation hoods above the fryers and grill. The inspector reported that the cooking temperature of hamburger meat was measured at only 155 degrees.
An employee told the inspector that when he came into work over the weekend that he observed that the hamburger meat placed in the hot-holding unit was not fully cooked and so he had to throw all the meat away. “During a previous inspection, a cleaning schedule was required to be made and used by staff,” the inspector noted. “The person in charge stated that the cleaning schedule has somehow disappeared.”
Hy-Vee Foods, 3270 Dodge St., Dubuque – During a March 28 inspection, an inspector cited the store for failing to have a supervisor on staff who was a certified food protection manager. Several dead box elder bugs were seen on the floor by the kitchen entrance, the microwave oven had a buildup of food debris, and the most recent inspection report was not posted where customers could see it.
The visit was in response to a complaint about the ice machine, overall sanitation, pests, and the proper rotation of food. The complaint was deemed unverified by city inspector Sydney Althoff.
Croz Nest East, 3801 Easton Blvd., Des Moines – During a March 23 visit, an inspector cited the establishment for cartons of raw eggs stored above a container of baked potatoes. Also, commercially prepared marinara sauces were reheating in the hot-holding unit but after two hours had not reached 135 degrees and had to be discarded. House-made beef gravy and broth, a container of shredded lettuce, and a container of baked potatoes were not marked with their preparation dates.
In addition, a container of sliced tomatoes was dated Jan. 16, two months prior to the inspection, and pasta dated March 11 was found in the kitchen’s reach-in cooler and food-preparation table. Also, a container of taco sauce from March 10, and a container of creamy Parmesan sauce from March 12 were found in the walk-in cooler.
An employee told the inspector the tomatoes were incorrectly dated, but all of the other items were discarded. The inspector reported the dishwashing machine had no measurable amount of sanitizing solution; the kitchen microwave was visibly soiled with accumulated debris; the roof was leaking in front of the pizza oven; a sink faucet was leaking; the walls and ceiling in the mop-sink room were in disrepair; and the floors in the fryer area were visibly soiled with accumulated debris.
Ross’ Restaurant, 2297 Falcon Drive, Bettendorf — During a March 22 visit, an inspector noted that coleslaw prepared more than four hours earlier had yet to cool below 46 degrees and was too warm to ensure safety. The coleslaw was discarded. The inspector also noted that the food-preparation table was holding other food items at 44 to 48 degrees, resulting in that food being discarded. A separate preparation table used for salad dressings and side orders was holding foods at 46 to 50 degrees, and that food had to be further chilled to prevent its disposal.
Also, several large buckets of soup that were pulled from the freezer had no date markings on them, and cooked sausage links in the coolers had been held past the allowed maximum of seven days. The inspector reported that the fryers, flat-top grill, and equipment on the cook line had an excess of food debris and grease. Two knives that were stored on the clean-knife magnetic strip in the bakery section were soiled with dried food debris.