Restaurant inspection update: Flies, gnats, rodent droppings and expired foods
In the past month, state and county food inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and grocery stores for hundreds of food-safety violations. (Photo via Canva; inspection report courtesy of the Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing)
State, city and county food inspectors have cited Iowa restaurants and stores for hundreds of food-safety violations during the past four weeks, including insect infestations, rodent droppings and expired food.
One food truck was shut down for posing an imminent health hazard and two Iowa care facilities for seniors were cited for serious food-safety violations.
The findings are reported by the Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing, 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, Appeals and Licensing website.
Holiday Inn-Downtown, 1050 6th Ave., Des Moines – During a June 21 visit, an inspector reported the people in charge were not certified food protection managers as required.
The inspector also reported that gravy was measured at 89 degrees – to cool to ensure safety – and cooked potatoes and sausages were discarded after being measured at 95 to 106 degrees. Multiple foods — including cut lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced ham, sliced turkey, and sliced roast beef — were prepared the previous day but marked with a discard date that exceeded seven days.
In addition, foods such as ready-to-eat salads, cut salad greens, salsa, cooked chicken, cooked wings, cooked pasta sauces, and alfredo sauce were not marked with their preparation dates or opening dates. In the first-floor kitchen, the dishwashing machine was not dispensing any measurable amount of sanitizing solution, and the sanitizer supply bucket was empty.
Also, the interior of the ice machine was visibly soiled with accumulated debris, as was the interior of the ice chest under the soda fountain. The soda gun nozzles in the bar were visibly soiled with accumulated debris, and food-contact surfaces were described by the inspector as soiled and sticky.
The inspector also noted that aerosol cans of insecticide and cleaning solutions were stored above, and adjacent to, uncovered carry-out containers for food. The inspector reported multiple gnats or fruit flies throughout both kitchens and the bar area.
Coolers throughout the kitchen had water from condensation pooling in them, the inspector reported. In addition, maintenance tools and mops were stored leaning against cleaned glassware, and the mop-bucket filling station was located directly adjacent to the cleaned glassware. The area between the fryers and the main stove was heavily soiled with accumulated grease, and the area underneath the bar was visibly soiled with accumulated debris.
The visit was triggered by an illness complaint that alleged improper holding temperatures and concerns over the freshness of food items. The illness component of the complaint was deemed unverified, while the concerns regarding freshness and holding temperatures were deemed verified.
Trattoria Tiramisu, 1804 State St., Bettendorf – During a June 29 visit, an inspector found the “remaining portion of a whole ham” that was stored “directly on the shelf inside of a reach-in cooler” rather than in a container of some kind to prevent contamination.
Another cooler was holding temperature-sensitive foods – such as sliced tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, butter and bruschetta topping — at 44 to 45 degrees, which was too warm to ensure their safety. Parmesan cheese was measured at 51 degrees. “No temperature logs were able to be provided to be able to determine how long products had been holding in the temperature danger zone,” the inspector reported, and so all of the products were discarded.
In addition, a food slicer, a can opener and a large bin holding cleaned utensils were all observed to have a buildup of dried food debris, and the interior of a large ice machine had a buildup of grime. The shelving racks holding clean pans and utensils had “a buildup of soil” and “all equipment requires additional washing, rinsing and sanitizing,” the inspector reported, adding that this was a repeat violation. The inspector found soiled dishes and utensils from the previous evening’s dinner service — more than 15 hours prior to the inspection — had been left sitting out on a table.
Hacienda Vieja, 1518 3rd Ave. NW, Fort Dodge – During a June 19 visit, a state inspector cited the restaurant for 16 violations, an unusually high number. While much of the report is written in manner that’s unclear, some of the reported problems include: The staff handled tortilla shells with their bare hands; raw chicken was stored above ready-to-eat cut vegetables; the grinder for meat products was not cleaned between use for chicken and beef, and chicken, shrimp and other foods were measured at 53 to 54 degrees and had to be discarded.
Also, several items in the walk-in cooler were not date marked; the meat grinder and the ice machine were soiled with food or other debris; the staff was thawing frozen meat in stagnant water; there was “a considerable amount of flying insects” in the kitchen area and the back food-prep area; the stove top, the floor of the walk-in cooler; and the shelving in the walk-in cooler and other areas were soiled with food debris.
The visit was in response to an illness complaint. “Staff was unaware of complaint and no staff members have been to the knowledge of the management (sic). Complaint is closed and unverifiable,” the inspector wrote in his report.
Smokin’ Hog Pit Stop BBQ, State Center – During a June 17 visit to this food truck, an inspector noted that the permit holder had failed to inform the inspector of an imminent health hazard created by the food truck’s lack of a water supply. The inspector issued a temporary closure order and, after a water source was obtained, the food truck was allowed to reopen.
As part of the inspection, the food truck was cited for packaged potato salad that was stacked on top of raw, uncooked chicken inside a cooler; a large pan of smoked baked beans that was stored on a counter with no temperature control and which had to be discarded after being measured at 95 degrees; and containers of potato salad and pasta salad that were stored in melted ice and which were discarded after being measured at 44 to 48 degrees. At the time of the inspection, the food truck was operating at the State Center Rose Festival.
Comfort Inn, 501 Walker St., Walcott – During a July 14 inspection of the hotel’s food service, the establishment was cited for mouse droppings that surrounded the food utensils inside a drawer. Also, the interior of all of the cold-holding units in the back kitchen area were soiled with excess food debris and residue, and the floor was soiled and sticky.
The inspection was prompted by a non-illness complaint concerning unsafe reheating procedures and food temperatures, as well as improper food-handling procedures by the staff. The inspector determined the complaint was unverifiable. Management agreed to perform additional cleaning and sanitizing.
Formosa, 221 E. College St., Iowa City – During a July 13 visit, an inspector cited the restaurant for a cooler that was used to hold food at 51 degrees rather than 41 degrees or colder. All of the food in the cooler that had been held there for more than four hours – including crab salad and cake slices – was discarded.
In addition, the inspector found house-made sauce dated June 30 and July 5, indicating they had been held for more than the maximum of seven days. Also, cooked rice that had been held for more than the maximum four hours was discarded. The inspector also made note of “dirty knives and forks stored in the sushi bar hand sink” and observed that the most recent inspection report was not posted.
La Taqueria: The Taco Depot, 2665 Edgewood Road SW, Cedar Rapids – During a July 13 visit, an inspector noted that there was no certified food protection manager with the management responsibilities employed by the establishment.
Although some elements of the inspector’s written report are unclear, it notes that cooked tamales were being stored in a plastic non-food-grade bag for hot holding and had to be discarded, and that raw, marinated chicken was stored above raw beef, risking cross contamination. One refrigerator was not able to reach 41 degrees or colder and so the establishment was asked to remove all of the food within.
The inspector also reported that food stored in a freezer in need of repair was thawing at 38 degrees, one sink was filled with dirty dishes and food debris despite the kitchen not being busy at the time, and the most recent inspection report was not posted.
The inspector also wrote, “employee is not washing hands and changing gloves between when taking soiled clothes with gloves and ready-to-eat food chopping cooked tongs” — an apparent reference to a lack of handwashing between tasks.
Prairie Links Golf and Event Center, 19 Eagle Ridge Drive, Waverly – During a July 13 visit, an inspector noted there was no certified food protection manager on staff.
The inspector reported that containers of chicken wings sitting in brine were left uncovered; multiple food items in the cooler had no date markings to ensure freshness and safety; house-made sauces had been held past the maximum of seven days and had to be discarded; the ice machine in the kitchen had a “black buildup” of some kind; a food slicer had dried debris crusted to it; and a handwashing sink was being used instead to dump drinks.
Also, the fryer had a large amount of grease buildup; the coolers and freezers were sticky to the touch; there was exposed insulation inside a walk-in cooler where food was stored; and the most recent inspection report was not posted.
Abelardo’s Mexican Food, 205 E. 14th St., Des Moines – During a July 11 visit, an inspector noted that raw chicken, cooked pork and raw shrimp were stored in a cooler at 47 to 48 degrees after being placed there the previous night. All of the items had to be discarded as they still hadn’t reached 41 degrees or colder.
In addition, three pans of cooked beef and shredded cheese that were prepared two days prior were stored in a reach-in cooler with no date markings to ensure freshness and safety.
The visit was in response to a complaint pertaining to facility sanitation and the disposal of grease. The inspector observed an accumulation of grease in the parking lot and concluded the facility had recently relocated its grease-disposal unit away from that area and, at the time of inspection, was properly disposing of grease. The inspector deemed the complaint unverifiable.
In May 2022, the restaurant was cited for 22 violations, an extraordinarily high number. At that time, an inspector cited the business for a lack of certified food protection managers and noted that employees were not properly trained in food safety. The business was operating at that time without a valid license despite an “extensive sewage backup” in the basement and the breakdown of multiple refrigeration and freezer units. The inspector noted a dead rodent and multiple gnats and other flying insects throughout the business.
BG’z Ice Cream & More, 209 Church St., Deep River — During a July 11 visit, an inspector found that the Greek yogurt stored in a refrigerator had “a buildup of mold-like residue.” The inspector also found raw, brown-shell eggs from an unverifiable source, noted that the ice cream mix in the business’ ice cream machine was 55 degrees, and the milk stored in one refrigerator was 56 degrees. In addition, a cheese and cooked-vegetable mixture was not date marked to ensure freshness and safety and was discarded.
Eatery A, 2932 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines – During a July 11 visit, an inspector noted the ice machine was visibly soiled; cooked meatballs prepared the day before were measured at 47 degrees and had to be discarded; vacuum-sealed packages of fully cooked chicken were undated and there was no related food-hazard plan for handling such items; and there was no hand soap at the handwashing sink.
BK’s Boathouse, 16999 Hwy J18, Moravia – During a July 7 visit, an inspector noted there was taco meat holding at 102 degrees in a slow cooker – too cool to ensure food safety. The meat was reheated on a stove to 165 degrees and then returned to the slow cooker, the inspector reported.
The inspector also noted several food items – including cheese, chicken and sausage – that were not dated to ensure freshness and safety. Also, the handwashing sink was being used to dispose of food debris; the refrigerators had no thermometers to check and maintain temperatures; fly traps were hanging over the food-preparation area and cook line; and the spice cabinet and microwave oven were in need of cleaning.
The inspector also found a container of cat vaccine stored in the kitchen refrigerator. The visit was in response to a non-illness complaint pertaining to food cross-contamination, food preparation and thawing, and improper sanitation. The complaint was deemed verified.
Texas Roadhouse, 5130 Sergeant Road, Sioux City – During a July 7 visit, an inspector noted that the meat station where raw meat products were stored was holding the meat at 43 to 46 degrees – warmer than the maximum temperature of 41 degrees. The manager had the staff move all of the food products to an alternate cooler.
The inspector also reported that a separate cooler on the food-service line was storing shredded cheese, “rattlesnake bites,” potatoes and sauces at 63 degrees – well above the 41-degree maximum. “Manager discarded all food during inspection,” the inspector reported. “All food will be stored in alternate cooler until serviced.”
In April, the inspector verified a complaint pertaining to a men’s room issue. The inspector noted that there was nothing in the food code pertaining to “smell,” and added that the “manager stated they are having a new return-air system being installed in the men’s restroom soon to alleviate the problem.”
Chart House Lounge, 2142 Water St., Muscatine – During a June 30 visit, an inspector noted there was no certified food protection manager on staff and that the staff was not washing their hands after handling raw meat before working with ready-to-eat foods. The inspector also found tomatoes and lettuce that were dated June 21 and crab dip that was dated May 28. The expired items were discarded.
Addington Place of Muscatine, 3515 Diana Queen Drive, Muscatine – During a June 29 visit to this senior-living care center, an inspector noted a “pattern of non-compliance” regarding handwashing, cold-holding foods, cooling foods, and the cooking of eggs.
The inspector also found that potatoes cooked the previous day were still at 46 degrees while inside a cooler, which was too warm to ensure their safety. The potatoes were discarded. The inspector also made note of watermelon that was measured at 57 degrees and then served at breakfast.
The inspector also observed that there were several items in the walk-in cooler that were not properly date marked. In addition, some foods were past the date by which they should be kept, such as hard-boiled eggs that were dated June 15, two full weeks prior to the inspection, and ham that was dated June 21.
Persis Biryani Indian Grill, 4862 1st Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids – During a June 28 visit, an inspector noted the staff was handling ready-to-eat food with bare hands and observed that several dishes of cooked rice were being stored at room temperature.
Most of the food items in the kitchen had no date markings to ensure freshness and safety, and the dishwashing machine had no sanitizing solution in it. Also, fish was being thawed in standing water, and sauces and marinades were being stored in “Home Depot buckets.”
The visit was in response to a complaint. “The complaint stated that the customer found brown/black pieces of chicken in their food,” the inspector reported. “Discussed the process of cooking the implicated dish with the manager. No evidence of spoiled or rotten food found during the inspection.” The complaint was deemed unverified.
The River Center, 320 W. Martin Luther King Parkway, Des Moines – During June 16 visit, an inspector noted that raw chicken breasts were being stored directly over ready-to-eat items, risking cross-contamination, and several sauces were held well past their seven-day limit, such as caper sauce dated June 2 and apple cider sauce dated May 27. Four pans of sauce were discarded. The inspector also made note of sliced deli meat, cooked mushrooms, cooked steak and cooked meat sauce that had no production-time labeling.
Wendy’s, 301 W. 15th St., Sioux City – During a June 27 visit, an inspector reported that the raw chicken used for sandwiches was not being cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees as required.
The person in charge was instructed to add an extra 30 seconds to the fryer time, but the meat still failed to reach 165 degrees. The fryer time was then “extended to add an extra 45 seconds,” the inspector reported, at which point the chicken reached 165 degrees. All of the chicken cooked earlier was discarded.
The visit was in response to a complaint alleging a foodborne illness. The complaint was deemed verified.
Teriyaki House Japanese Grill, 1014 E. 14th St., Des Moines – During a June 26 visit, an inspector reported employees were not washing their hands between handling raw chicken and working with ready-to-eat foods. Others worked with foods on the grill, then washed their hands with their gloves still on.
Cooked chicken and steak were measured at 121 degrees and had to be placed back on the grill, where they were reheated to 165 degrees; bottles of orange juice that the manufacturer specified as perishable and needing refrigeration were stored without any temperature control; and none of the food in the restaurant – which included cooked noodles, cut lettuce, cooked egg rolls and diced tomatoes — was marked with preparation dates.
Also, “clean” food containers were visibly soiled with accumulated food debris; one metal container was soiled with food debris and was lined with duct tape; cutting boards and knives that were stored after use were visibly soiled with accumulated debris; and bottles of employee medications were stored in the same container where kitchen spices were kept.
The Fountains Assisted Living Center, 3752 Thunder Ridge Road, Bettendorf – During a June 21 visit, an inspector reported the center had no certified food protection manager as required and the staff was unaware of the proper temperature ranges for cold-holding food. The inspector observed that a reach-in cooler was holding all food items between 54 and 56 degrees, rather than 41 degrees or colder. All of the temperature-sensitive foods in the unit were discarded at that time, and the inspector noted that this violation had been reported during a previous inspection.
Also, house-made dressing, hot dogs, and opened packages of deli meats were not being date marked to ensure freshness and safety – another repeat violation. The inspector also reported finding a container of Spanish rice dated June 13 that had to be discarded.
In addition, some “clean” items, such as a knife and squeeze-bottle for sauces, were noted have a buildup of food debris on them; a reach-in cooler had a buildup of food debris; and the inside of the microwave oven had “a large amount of spilled food” inside of it.
When the inspector returned on July 13, she reported that a reach-in freezer still had “a buildup of grime, old food debris and black mold.”
by Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch July 18, 2023
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.Holiday Inn-Downtown, 1050 6th Ave., Des MoinesTrattoria Tiramisu, 1804 State St., BettendorfHacienda Vieja, 1518 3rd Ave. NW, Fort DodgeSmokin’ Hog Pit Stop BBQ, State Center –Comfort Inn, 501 Walker St., WalcottFormosa, 221 E. College St., Iowa CityLa Taqueria: The Taco Depot, 2665 Edgewood Road SW, Cedar RapidsPrairie Links Golf and Event Center, 19 Eagle Ridge Drive, WaverlyAbelardo’s Mexican Food, 205 E. 14th St., Des MoinesBG’z Ice Cream & More, 209 Church St., Deep RiverEatery A, 2932 Ingersoll Ave., Des MoinesBK’s Boathouse, 16999 Hwy J18, MoraviaTexas Roadhouse, 5130 Sergeant Road, Sioux CityChart House Lounge, 2142 Water St., MuscatineAddington Place of Muscatine, 3515 Diana Queen Drive, MuscatinePersis Biryani Indian Grill, 4862 1st Ave. NE, Cedar RapidsThe River Center, 320 W. Martin Luther King Parkway, Des MoinesWendy’s, 301 W. 15th St., Sioux CityTeriyaki House Japanese Grill, 1014 E. 14th St., Des MoinesThe Fountains Assisted Living Center, 3752 Thunder Ridge Road, Bettendorf