Dining facilities’ health scores vary

    A comprehensive survey of the most recent health and safety inspection reports for on-campus food vendors revealed violations ranging from rat and mice infestations to faulty electrical outlets over the last three months.

    Amie Hrabak

    On-campus vendors are inspected at random times every quarter by a registered inspector from UCSD Environmental Health and Safety.

    Plaza Café and Plaza on the Side earned the lowest score among dining halls. Mold growing on the walls of the deli box, dirty can openers, a dirty floor in the walk-in refrigerator and an expired bag of Fritos contributed to an average score of 92 out of a possible 100.

    Canyon Vista and Earl’s Place topped the list of the highest-scoring dining facilities. Canyon Vista had an average score of 99 and Earl’s Place had no infractions.

    “We had missed that one area,” Plaza Café kitchen manager Robert Ayala said. “But that’s a common thing that happens.”

    Muir Woods Coffee Shop and the Middle of Muir convenience store claimed the lowest ranking of any campus eatery with an average score of 91. Evidence of rodent and insect infestation were among the violations. However, a Feb. 10 inspection report revealed that the animal problems have been corrected.

    Common violations at other on-campus food vendors included improper refrigeration and holding temperatures, expired products, dirty floors and unrestrained carbon dioxide canisters.

    Some students said they have experienced at least one situation in a dining facility that made them uncomfortable.

    “I remember at OVT once, I had a pre-made sandwich and when I opened it up, it was covered with mold,” John Muir College sophomore Renee Chow said.

    OceanView Terrace lost points during a recent inspection for pizza and chicken held below the required temperature, sandwich meats stored ten degrees above the minimum temperature, two dozen containers of expired milk and uncovered raw chicken in the refrigerator.

    Steve Pfingst, food service manager at OceanView Terrace, said that the inspection report is a snapshot in time.

    “We have, at any given time, probably over 100 different items once we’re set up and going,” Pfingst said. “Out of those hundred, [the inspector] isolated two that did not meet the specific requirements, and then we go around correcting that.”

    Anthea Klein, manager of Sierra Summit and El Mercado, reported that incidents of mold on the dishroom ceiling and raw meat being stacked over ready-to-serve pasta have been corrected.

    “When the reports come in, we all sit down and we split up who’s taking care of what, and then we take care of it immediately,” Klein said.

    Scores for Price Center restaurants ranged from 94 to 98.

    Star Wraps received the lowest score due to the kitchen floor and wall needing replacement, sauces in the refrigerator held above the required temperature, pans stored on the floor of the walk-in refrigerator and meat found defrosting at room temperature.

    “We put in warm sauce inside the refrigerator, so it overworked the refrigerator,” Star Wraps manager Damon Woo said. “That was frozen meat; it was still frozen.”

    Panda Express received an average score of 97. The restaurant lost points for vegetables stored in a refrigerator at nine degrees above the maximum temperature, an electrical outlet in need of repair and a fire extinguisher that was not properly mounted.

    Dirty knives found in a knife rack at Rubio’s lowered that eatery’s average score to 98.

    The inspection report for Porter’s Pub revealed mold growing on the outside of the beer lines in the walk-in refrigerator.

    “Since [the inspection], we’ve redone all of our taps, which also means that they’ve redone all of the lines,” Porter’s Pub manager Aindrea Sparks said.

    The taps and beer lines are cleaned monthly by an outside company, according to Sparks.

    Food vendors lose points for general safety hazards as well as food safety violations.

    “When I go through, it’s much more detailed, much more involved, I think, than a regular county [inspection],” environmental health specialist and UCSD inspector Bruce Bowers said. “I try to put everything on there, even safety concerns like seismically securing things, things that might not be pertaining right to food illness, but to general safety.”

    Muir Woods Coffee Shop and Middle of Muir’s score was lowered by safety infractions such as a faulty electrical outlet, cabinets and shelving that are not seismically restrained, fire extinguishers that are in need of inspection and a damaged light-switch cover.

    According to Muir College Center director Vincent Manson, facility repairs are handled by Housing and Dining Services maintenance teams, which are not under the direction of the store’s manager.

    John Muir College sophomore Anthony Austin said he was not worried because he felt the violations were minimal.

    “A little bit of mold is not going to kill you,” Austin said. “A little bit of dirt on the floor, it’s not going to kill you.”

    Bowers said that over the past five years that he has been conducting kitchen inspections at UCSD, there have been no proven and documented cases of food-borne illness.

    “The nice thing about hitting them every three months is that we usually can curtail a rat problem or a roach problem before it gets out of control,” Bowers said. “That’s the advantage we have, I think, over the county.”

    Chris Nelson, senior food service manager at Canyon Vista and Earl’s Place, said that his restaurant’s high score stems from his own standards of cleanliness and the vigilance of his staff.

    “I have a senior cook downstairs, Daniel Thompson, and he really has to get probably 75 percent of the credit for Canyon Vista,” Nelson said. “He spends a lot of his time looking at cleaning issues on the weekends when it’s slower.”

    Health inspections at UCSD are handled by the EH&S division of the university and not the County of San Diego Health Department because the campus is a state-owned facility.

    UCSD’s EH&S department conducts inspections of all on-campus food vendors at random times every quarter. Although the department does not issue letter grades to restaurants, there are plans to do so in the future.

    “We don’t even give them a chance to go down to ‘B,’” Bowers said. “We’re there working with the managers before the problems exacerbate themselves and get out of control,” Bowers said. “But if we’re not getting the attention of the manager, we go up above their head and talk with the powers that be.”

    Usually, infractions are corrected in a timely manner, according to Bowers.

    “It seems like we have good cooperation from most of the managers,” Bowers said. “That’s something I feel is kind of nice here at UCSD.”

    — Additional reporting by Sofia Marin, Staff Writer

    Dining Facilities Inspection Results

    (Source: Environmental Health and Safety reports ending 2/3/04)

    All scores are out of 100. They are based on the average of two scores, also out of 100, for “”methods”” and “”equipment.””

    Muir Woods Café/Middle Of Muir: 91

    Plaza Café/Plaza On the Side: 92

    Porter’s Pub: 93

    OceanView Terrace: 93.5

    Che Café: 93.5

    Star Wraps: 94

    Foodworx: 95.5

    Espresso Roma: 96.5

    RIMAC Concessions (3 locations): 96.5

    Round Table Pizza: 96.5

    Faculty Club: 96.5

    Peabody’s Coffee (4 locations): 97

    Café Ventanas: 97

    Panda Express: 97

    Subway: 97.5

    Sierra Summit/El Mercado: 97.5

    Jamba Juice: 98

    Wendy’s: 98

    Rubio’s: 98

    Grove Caffe: 98

    Canyon Vista: 99

    Sunshine Store: 99

    Earl’s Place: 100

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