Some eateries fail to provide reports

    More than a third of 26 on-campus eateries failed to provide a copy of their most recent health inspection report when asked for it, despite a state law requiring all food facilities to present it upon request.

    All managers on campus had been made aware of the new legal requirements, according to Bruce Bowers, a certified sanitarian who conducts food safety inspections for UCSD’s Department of Environment, Health and Safety, which is the university agency charged with enforcing the state’s health and safety code.

    Bowers said that EH&S will not take disciplinary action against the restaurants that did not comply.

    “We ask them to keep a copy, but it’s basically their jurisdiction. We can’t force them to,” Bowers said.

    The law, passed in 2000, mandates food facilities to keep the most recent copy of their inspection and to post a notice informing patrons that it is available for review.

    Ten facilities did not possess their report during surprise visits in early February. These included Ché, Grove, Muir Woods and Plaza cafés, the Faculty Club, Peabody’s Coffee carts, OceanView Terrace, Roundtable Pizza, Star Wraps and the RIMAC 101 cart.

    Under normal circumstances, the incompliance would be recorded by county health inspectors, who usually inspect food facilities, according to Lawrence Pong, an environmental health specialist and the principal health inspector for the city and county of San Francisco.

    “The process is that it’s usually marked as a violation,” Pong said “We would take them to task with a citation if they’re not able to produce the report.”

    For state universities, the government plays a smaller role, depending on the type of agreement made between the campus and county officials. Some give the enforcement authority to the county, while others opt for joint-inspection agreements, Pong said.

    In the case of UCSD, however, the university, which runs many of the dining facilities, is also the agency that inspects them. The county leaves all inspection and governing responsibilities to EH&S, according to Liz Quaranta, chair of the Food and Housing Division at San Diego County Department of Environmental Health.

    “We have an advantage over the county in that we have around 47 facilities here on campus to inspect, and we can do them four times a year,” Bowers said. “The county, they try to get out there and hit theirs once a year, and I can say that they probably don’t hit every facility here in San Diego.”

    Bowers said that UCSD’s inspection system is beneficial to the campus.

    “Our advantage is that we have more personnel per establishment here, so we’re able to better individually oversee our facilities here,” he said. “They get inspected more often [and] get more individual attention.”

    Bowers said that he notified all facilities of the law and gave them the required patron notices to post. He also said he plans to reemphasize to restaurant managers the importance of maintaining a copy of their report on the premises, though he said the issue is not a major concern for the department.

    “What I’ve been hammering on them is things like food temperature, sanitation, things that can cause food-borne illnesses,” he said. “When they get all that stuff into shape, I’ll ask them if they have a copy.”

    While all four Peabody’s locations had notices telling customers that a report was available, employees said they did not have it. Manager Bob Marquis said he was not aware of the legal requirement.

    “I’ve read the signs a million times, but I didn’t know what they were talking about,” he said.

    Though Bowers said UCSD’s environmental health program mirrors that of the county, EH&S has not yet begun using the same format for inspection reports standardized by the state. The same law that made the reports available to the public also mandated that health agencies begin using a new uniform reporting method by 2002, a deadline with which the university has not complied.

    The current inspection format, based on a 100-point scale, awards food establishments points for ranging from light-colored walls and ceilings to proper food temperatures and employee hygiene. It does not evaluate whether food is cooked adequately or comes from a safe source, two categories mandated by the revised health code.

    The new law also requires inspectors to distinguish between “major” and “minor” violations, something that Bowers said EH&S already does by deducting more points for more serious offenses.

    However, inspection records show that Star Wraps lost three points during its most recent inspection for sauce stored at 49 degrees, a minor violation under state guidelines. At the same time, Round Table Pizza lost two points for chicken found at 55 degrees, considered a major violation by the state. Health laws require all perishable foods to be kept below 41 degrees.

    Bowers said that the university had hired a new contractor to develop a new inspection scheme and a grade system similar to the one used by the county, but that he resigned in the fall. EH&S is currently looking for a replacement.

    “We want to get a grading system down, and we want to get all of our grading criteria forms up to date,” Bowers said.

    Bowers said he believes the university does a thorough job.

    “I’d say that food here on campus is safer than it is out in San Diego, just because [on-campus eateries] get more attention from us than San Diego County can possibly give all of San Diego,” he said.

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