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Toxic chlorine levels, poor cook hygiene cited in Stamford restaurant inspections

January 23, 2019

STAMFORD — Cooks handling raw chicken before preparing food, toxic levels of chlorine in the preparation area, and food stored directly on the floor are some of the recent infractions cited in the city’s restaurant inspection reports.

About 22 Stamford eateries, food trucks and catering services were classified as “poor” in terms of health, according to the city’s website on Wednesday afternoon. It’s a sharp improvement from October when 35 food service providers had a failing grade.

The number fluctuates almost daily, as the city conducts follow-up inspections and either issues another failing report card or improves the establishment’s grade to “fair,” “acceptable” or “best.”

In comparison, nearly 500 of the city’s food establishments were given the highest possible health score. Roughly 110 other food services received an acceptable grade, while about 30 scored as fair.

When restaurants fail an inspection, which are conducted without warning, they are re-inspected about two weeks later. If the restaurant fails again, the owner is fined $150 and is required to appear before the city’s health inspection division, where they discuss each infraction and establish a plan to address the issues.

A third violation means the business is subject to closure, at the discretion of the director of health. If the restaurant is shuttered, the owner must pay $300 to re-open.

The most common infractions found on inspection reports are hand-washing and personal hygiene issues, as well as food temperature.

A sample of recent infractions at poor-performing restaurants include six employees preparing food without washing their hands at Kiku Sushi on Hope Street, including one worker who didn’t wash his hands after sneezing; and an employee at Kano on Summer Street not washing his hands after touching raw chicken. At Fin II Japanese Restaurant on Main Street, toxic chlorine levels were found near the food preparation.

A four-point violation is the most serious of the infractions, and includes issues such as improper temperature of food, poorly stored food, improperly stored and labeled toxic items, and lax personal hygiene issues, among other items.

One four-point violation automatically results in a poor grade, even if the restaurant receives an overall high score.

The Residence at Summer Street, a senior living community, was recently given a poor rating for its restaurant even though it scored an 88, good enough for an acceptable score. What drove the score down was the temperature of the coleslaw and potato salad in the refrigerator, since they both were clocked at around 60 degrees.

Stamford health inspectors test food temperatures to see if they fall within the bacteria “danger zone,” which is between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Food in that range is more prone to bacterial growth.

The cafeteria inside the senior living community has been open for less than a year, but spokesman Ted Doyle said failed inspections are not acceptable.

“No matter how small the infraction is, there’s no excuse for it,” he said. “One violation is absolutely unacceptable.”

Doyle said he has no problem with how the city conducts inspections.

“We have no issue with the city holding our feet to the fire,” he said. We hold ourselves to a very high standard.”

To view the ratings of all Stamford restaurants, visit the city’s website.

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