Restaurants Exposed: Distillery Restaurant manager says health inspector's findings were unfair

June 16, 2017 07:53 PM

When you go to a buffet, do you wonder about the food sitting under that hot holding equipment?

You should. The Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health told News10NBC that food temperature violations are more likely than anything else to make you sick. And restaurants get a lot of food temperature violations. But if food is just a few degrees to warm or too cool, is it fair to cite a restaurant with a critical violation? News10NBC took that question to the commissioner as well.

The Distillery Restaurant in Greece is a place where you can grab a burger and a beer all served at the bar. But a restaurant manager believes Monroe County health inspectors served them a raw deal when they cited them with two critical violations. Both involved food that wasn't hot enough. The man wouldn't give his name but said his family owns the restaurant.  He said, “They (health inspectors) were here when we opened." He explained the soup was being heated and wasn't yet ready to serve. He disagrees with the inspector's finding.

He's not alone. Restaurant owners often complain that they're cited - sometimes unfairly - for temperature violations.  News 10 NBC Consumer Investigator Deanna Dewberry took those concerns to the Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health, Michael Mendoza.

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"We have standards for a reason, and we do not want to take any shortcuts,” he explained. He said food temperature is one of the primary things inspectors target “because it is what matters the most to public health. It's the area where - quite frankly you can't taste bacteria.  You don't know until it's too late."

Inspectors also found food temperature problems at the University of Rochester Douglass dining hall citing them with four critical violations -- three for food that wasn't cold enough and a fourth for sewage contamination.

University spokesperson Sara Miller wrote, “None of the food involved was ever put into service and University Dining Services has additional food safety processes in place intended to catch these types of issues before food is served. Three out of four violations were the result of a walk-in cooler malfunctioning overnight and then coming back into the proper temperature zone. There was never sewage present, only water condensation.”

Haveli Indian Cuisine and Catering in Brighton was slapped with six critical violations, most of which were for food temperature but it also was cited for the risk of cross contamination of raw and cooked food.  The owner told News10NBC: "It's never happened before.  I've been here seven years."

He says he passed a re-inspection with flying colors. The health commissioner explained how cross contamination can happen.

"If you're cutting raw chicken on a cutting board there are germs in raw chicken that you don't want to expose to lettuce that you will serve essentially raw," said Dr. Mendoza.

Risk of cross contamination was one of two critical violations inspectors found at the Salvation Army's cafeteria on West Avenue in Rochester.

Major Douglas Hart, Director of Monroe County Operations for The Salvation Army wrote, "Our Food Services Manager has more than 20 years of food service experience and is vigilant in staff training and certification. The issues addressing food handling were addressed immediately. With the potential of serving approximately 100 people a day, food safety is a priority as we take pride in the 90,000 meals we serve each year to those who would otherwise go without. Our goal is to provide the highest quality food and we welcome any opportunity to improve upon our already high standards."

News10NBC Consumer Investigator Deanna Dewberry spends hours each week talking to restaurant owners. She asked them what they look for when they go out to eat.

Their insider information is great, and they’re tips are included in Deanna’s Do List.

1. Check the floors and bathrooms. If they're dirty, the kitchen is likely dirty too.
2. Visit during peak hours. Those are Wednesday through Saturday 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. If it's slow, the restaurant is likely struggling and may be cutting corners.
3. Check tables and chairs for grime. If they're sticky, cleanliness likely is not a priority.
4. Check the menu, utensils, and condiments for grime. Check the restaurant's inspection report.
5. And if you see something, report it.


Deanna Dewberry

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