Some raw eggs placed perilously close to ready-to-eat foods escaped the attention of Roger Jaruch.
That oversight contributed to his Upper State Street restaurant failing its most recent city health inspection.
Jaruch, who owns the Rice Pot on State street, is also the longtime owner of Thai Taste and other Thai eateries in town. He knows that raw foods and cooked foods need to be separated to prevent what the health inspectors call cross-contamination.
Only two out of 36 eateries inspected failed to pass in the latest round of health inspections between March 18 and March 26.
City sanitarians inspect all of New Haven’s restaurants, groceries, bars, and other establishments that serve food between one and four times a year. Establishments that score less than 80 out of 100 usually have two weeks to make the recommended corrections. The health department can close a restaurant regardless of its score, if the sanitarians suspect an immediate danger to public health. (Scroll down in this story for results of the latest round of inspections.)
The Raw and the RTE Must Not Meet
On March 22, when health inspector Brian Wnek visited the Rice Pot on Upper State Street, he noted in his report a violation of guideline #16, namely “Don’t store raw eggs next to RTE foods.”
RTE stands for ready-to-eat.
He said eggs in the cooler were next to foods that are RTE, meaning they were not going to receive any more heat. That heat could potentially remove bacteria, but as the food was already prepared and no bacteria-blasting heat was going to be applied, that raw egg, potentially with salmonella, constituted a threat.
Click here for the pertinent state regulations.
Wnek docked the Rice Pot two points. That contributed to a score of 75, five short of the 80 needed to pass.
“We know the temperature and the cross-contamination, very important,” restaurant owner Jaruch said in a phone interview after the inspection. In addition to the Rice Pot, which he opened in 2006, he has operated Thai Taste downtown beneath the Duncan Hotel for 16 years and has worked well with Wnek.
“We try to make it 100 percent, but we are only human,” Jaruch added.
Wnek said it’s OK to store items like eggs or uncooked fish or meat below RTE foods. Beside and above them are no-nos. The issue is contamination through touching or dripping.
“We worry about bacteria, salmonella,” he said, explaining the need for separation. Ready-to-eat foods such as macaroni salad or tuna salad could just absorb bad microscopic critters through drip or touch and then trouble ensues for eaters as no further cooking happens to them, and the bacteria live on, he said.
“Chicken Below, Beef Above”
Even among uncooked different types of raw flesh that’s properly stored—fish, beef, and chicken—contamination can occur. Cooking will kill bacteria, but only if the temperature is high enough.
By the health guidelines, fish needs to be cooked to 145 degrees, beef to 158, chicken to 165. So if there’s any dripping down, it will go to the item that requires the highest temperature. Fish dripped on by beef may not be cooked at a high enough temp, by the state guidelines that inspectors enforce, to kill the bacteria.
That’s why Wnek tells all the folks he visits, “Chicken below, beef above” when it comes to storing uncooked meats
Jaruch, who was not at his Rice Pot at the time of the inspection, knows the drill. He said a worker might have placed an egg, perhaps for a personal lunch, where it should not have been.
He said he’d speak to his staff. He said he likes the inspections and would even want Wnek to visit more often so he can get it perfect.
Of the 36 restaurants inspected between march 28 and March 26, 34 passed. The two that did not were ordered to make required changes within two weeks. The following received passing grades:
3/18/2013: New Haven Hotel, 229 George St., Score: 93; Vito’s Deli, 37 Center St., Score: 96; Four J’s Big Deli, 200 Davenport Ave., Score: 80; Pacifico Group Inc., 220 College St., Score: 81; Starbucks Coffee, 896 Chapel St., Score: 95
3/19/2013: Dunkin Donuts (Basement), 50 Union Ave., Score: 86; House of Chao, 898 Whalley Ave., Score: 85; Dunkin Donuts (1st Floor), 50 Union Ave., Score: 86; Union Pizza LLC/Sbarro Pizza, 50 Union Ave., Score: 81; AMS Gas & Convenience, 801 Whalley Ave., Score: 92; Subway-Union SWAY LLC, 50 Union Ave., Score: 81
3/20/2013: Rong Fa Restaurant, 485 Howard Ave., Score: 81; Gateway Food Store, 55 Church St., Score: 82; Omni New Haven Hotel (Banquet), 155 Temple St., Score: 95; Chen’s Kitchen, 883 Whalley Ave., Score: 92; Omni New Haven Hotel (Catering), 155 Temple St., Score: 95; Dollar Tree #1321, 126 Amity Rd., Score: 98; Berney’s Pharmacy, 615 Howard Ave., Score: 97; Stop & Shop Supermarket, 112 Amity Rd. Score: 93; Omni New Haven Hotel, 155 Temple St., Score: 84; Bella’s Hotel LLC, 896 Whalley Ave., Score: 84; New West Cafe, 879 Whalley Ave., Score: 94
3/21/2013: More Than Pizza, 283 Blake St., Score: 95; Long Wharf Theater I, 222 Sargent Dr., Score: 94; Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., Score: 87; Long Wharf Theater II, 222 Sargent Dr., Score: 92
3/22/2013: Sweet Mary’s, 129 Court St., Score: 98; East Street Grocery, 607 East St., Score: 93; C.O. Jones, 969 State St., Score: 87
3/25/2013: Christ Chapel New Testament, 220 Dixwell Ave., Score: 96; Educated Burgher, 53 Broadway, Score: 87; China House, 338 Whalley Ave., Score: 85; Whalley Deli Grocery, 161 Whalley Ave., Score: 94
The 2 Needing Improvement
During the March 18 to March 26 period, the following two failed their inspections:
Rice Pot Thai Cuisine
1027 State Street
Due: 2 Weeks
• Don’t wrap grill with tin foil; don’t store aw eggs next to RTE foods
• Cover exposed food products; don’t stack exposed food products on top of each other
• Don’t use hand sink for any other purpose but hand washing
• Label products not in original containers
• Clean baffels on hood system; clean exhaust hood system
• No drinking from an open (uncovered) container in food prep area
• Fix defective flooring, clean floors under and around equipment, clean equipment
• Clean walls and ceilings, fix defective walls and ceilings, clean air vents
• Fix defective exterior on equipment, wipe exterior on equipment, fix and clean defective gaskets,don’t line shelves with cloth, clean tracks on slide doors
• Use approved method to defrost products
• Fix defective shelves, wipe shelves
• Don’t store utensils in stagnant water, don’t store knives “sheath” style
• Fix and clean defective wall board, water stained ceiling tiles
• Hang up mops and brooms
• Lower hot water in bathroom to in between 110 and 115 degrees
• Need soap and paper towels at front hand sink, fix defective front steps
• Seal floor/wall junctions
• Don’t line inside cooler with cardboard
• Need thermometer in warmest location in coolers holding prepared hot food
• Wipe interior of coolers, freezers, microwave
• Eliminate rodent harborage
182 Dixwell Ave.
Due: 2 Weeks
• Missing paper towel with older at hand sinks
• No hot water at hand sink in back and 3-bay faucet
• Hose attached to mop sink, no back-flow protection
• Damaged ceiling tiles
• Properly store mop
• Eliminate all unnecessary articles
• Floors not clean under and behind equipment
• Broken top on lift-up freezer
• Bare wood under warming unit
• Wiping cloths not in sanitizer
• Food product out of original container not labeled
• Broken refrigerator gaskets
• Stained/pitted cutting board
• Bare wood shelves
• Defrost freezers
• Clean inside stand-up refrigerator
• Thorough cleaning necessary throughout
• Provide complete separation of food service article and non-food service articles