By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Though the Wood County Health District has the power to shut down restaurants, the preferred outcome is that food establishments clean up their acts instead.
When health sanitarians come across restaurants with serious issues, many of the violations are corrected on the spot. To make sure the problems have been solved, repeat inspections are often conducted.
“It’s based on the severity of the violations,” said Lana Glore, director of environmental services at the Wood County Health District. Inspectors are sticklers for food temperatures and other issues that can lead to public health risks.
The sanitarians’ biggest tool is education. But if that doesn’t clear up the problems, then restaurant owners can be called in for administrative hearings at the health district office. If the violations are serious enough, an injunction or restraining order can be issued.
“Ben has the right to order immediate closure,” Glore said of Ben Batey, the county health commissioner.
“Our expectation is the food license holders are responsible for knowing the rules,” Glore said. “We hold that license owner responsible for training people.”
But before any license is yanked, the sanitarians will make multiple attempts to educate the owner and those in the kitchen.
Sometimes there are language and cultural barriers involved. The health district has learned that the biggest cultural gap appears to occur with some Asian restaurants.
“We offer handouts in Mandarin Chinese,” Glore said of the educational materials. “That’s the language that seems to be the biggest barrier.”
The Wood County Health District has not had to hold an administrative hearing on a local restaurant since 2015, involving Charlie’s in Perrysburg. Glore said that restaurant agreed to a “last chance agreement” and has been doing well.
But sanitarians are always on the lookout for restaurants that have ongoing critical violations.
“We have a couple on our radar right now,” Glore said.
The intent isn’t to shut places down, but clean them up, she stressed.
In Bowling Green, one of the food establishments with the most critical violations recently is the Old Town Buffet at 1216 N. Main St.
On Nov. 30, Old Town Buffet was found to have seven critical and 15 non-critical violations. The critical violations included:
– Raw shrimp was stored under raw chicken, and mozzarella sticks were under raw chicken – which risks cross contamination.
– Foods were not being held at proper temperatures in the cooler.
– Foods were sitting out at room temperature, like the eggs and bok choy.
– Foods being held in the refrigerator for more than 24 hours were not properly date marked.
– The concentration of the chlorine sanitizing solution did not meet minimum requirements.
– Equipment surfaces and utensils were dirty, including a build-up on food containers, scoops, counters, cutting boards and other equipment.
– The handwashing sink was not easily accessible.
Many of the violations were corrected at the time of the inspection at Old Town Buffet. However, the problems are ongoing at the location. During previous inspections last year, the restaurant also had several critical violations. On May 10, the site had six critical and nine non-critical violations, and on Feb. 7, the restaurant had five critical and eight non-critical. Upon a return visit on Dec. 29, the site had two critical violations.
During 2017, there were four other Bowling Green restaurants that had five or more critical violations, but then corrected the problems. They included El Zarape, 1616 E. Wooster St.; Doc’s, 145 N. Main St.; Oasis Pizza and Grill, 1424 E. Wooster St.; and Rally’s, 1005 N. Main St.