A Special Food For Thought Investigation: "The Bottom Four" - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

12/10/07

A Special Food For Thought Investigation: "The Bottom Four"

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Lubbock Health Inspectors say nearly 600 people called to complain about restaurants...from insects to rodents to foreign metal objects found in food.  We wanted to find out why certain repeat offenders are still serving food to you.

You won't believe these photos (pictured right), but they were taken by Lubbock Health inspectors after someone came to them with this "dirty" evidence.  You're seeing parasites on raw fish, fish thawing out in dishwater, and a roach found cooked into this cookie.

Health Inspections Manager Bridget Faulkenberry won't tell us which restaurants they came from, only that these health violations were documented and corrected by restaurant owners and managers.

But what about those restaurant that keep failing their health inspections over and over again?

"Restaurants who fail their inspections are not educating their employees perhaps. (Maybe) they have a high volume of food that is being served and the temperatures are hard to keep an eye on and under control," Faulkenberry said.

We've got four restaurants to tell you about and they're a frequent low performer on Food For Thought.  We'll start with the restaurant with the least number of violations.

Lin's Buffet at 5608 Slide Road, a restaurant that opened earlier this year, has been a low performer twice with a total of 21 violations. The health inspection report cites repeat violations like food not being kept at safe hot and cold temperatures and the dishwasher either not reaching hot enough temperatures or not sanitizing.  We visited the restaurant for a comment, but the manager wasn't there and did not call us back.

Number three is China Star, located at 1919 50th Street. They've been a low performer five times and have had a total of 40 violations for the year. The health inspection report cites regular problems like food not being kept at safe hot and cold temperatures, their dishwasher not sanitizing and a soiled meat slicer and can opener. Other violations include juices from raw beef dripping onto potatoes in a cooler, raw chicken had to be thrown out after water from a leak in the ceiling of the walk-in cooler got on it and fly strips hanging from the ceiling throughout the kitchen.

We left manager Marc Roundtree messages to call us back, but he never did. That's when we went looking for him.  "We wanted to come out here and ask you questions about health inspections," asked NewsChannel 11.   "I don't have time to talk about that," Roundtree replied.

Roundtree asked us to leave his property and refused to answer our questions like why he's been a low performer so many times.   "Go find something worthwhile, like murderers, killers, dope dealers," he told us.  "Well, we're working on that too, sir. But you serve the public every day," said NewsChannel 11.

After this encounter, Roundtree talked to us over the phone but wouldn't go on camera. He explained why health inspectors found problems with hot food temperatures. He says that's because employees aren't stirring the food enough on the buffet. He also said the dishwasher is now working properly and the fly strips on the ceiling were removed a long time ago. His last health inspection shows problems were corrected and that "re-inspection fees and citations will be issued to the manager if violations continue to occur."

Next, we head over to Jin's Buffet, now known as Grand Buffet, located at 906 50th Street. They have been a four time low performer on Food For Thought with a total of 41 violations. Health inspectors found repeated problems with foods not being kept at safe hot and cold temperatures and the use of dirty ice and flour scoops. Other problems included potential for cross contamination, chicken being incorrectly date-marked, and dirty dishes on a clean dish rack.

Manager Joe Chen says they try to do their best. We also asked him why health inspectors are always citing them for food temperature violations.  "This issue is at every buffet.  It's very hard to keep the fried stuff always at that high temperature but we do our best to rotate it," said Chen.

"That is the highest point deduction, critical violation, which a restaurant could have. Temperature violations.  Because if you don't keep food cold or hot enough, bacteria can grow quickly, it can double and triple in numbers and make people sick," said Faulkenberry.

Now to our biggest violator, three time low performer Carniceria Sonora at 2837 Clovis Road had a total of 44 violations for the year.  The meat market and deli was shut down in May for "repeat violations and imminent health hazards."  This was the place where inspectors found raw meat on the roof.  Inspectors took a picture of that.

Their health inspection shows repeat violations with safe hot and cold food temperatures, and an employee not washing their hands between job duties. Other violations included moldy food, blood from raw meat dripping onto a package of cheese, food not date-marked, and an employee with a bloody Band-Aid on his thumb.

Owner Noe Rascon showed us around and explained to us why food temperatures were an issue.  "The food heating machine was not functioning correctly, but it is now," he told us.  He says he is keeping better record of his food and watching temperatures.  "We're trying to do the best we possibly can," he said.

Health inspectors say they will only shut down restaurants when there is a serious health hazard.  If you have a complaint about a restaurant, call the Lubbock Health Department at 775-2928.

get more>> Web Enhanced
Food for Thought Health Code Violations
Curious about just what a critical violation is? Find out the rules that Lubbock restaurants have to follow to make the grade.

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