Food & Drink

Lizard poop, rodents, dirty hands, birds in the backroom. When food handlers fail

In Miami-Dade, 15 supermarkets, grocery stores, food wholesalers and food storage facilities failed Florida Department of Agriculture inspections.
In Miami-Dade, 15 supermarkets, grocery stores, food wholesalers and food storage facilities failed Florida Department of Agriculture inspections.

So numerous were the violators and the notable violations in this edition of Gross Grocers, a list covering the last two weeks of Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties would be longer than a list of extraneous Super Bowl references.

This time, we’re breaking it up into Miami-Dade and Everybody Else. And, apparently, food handlers in the 305 properly wash hands about as often as they properly use turn signals.

Bad handwashing usually leads off a failed inspection, but this batch of food handlers seemed particularly egregious.

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To clarify something: Even if a violation is noted in the inspection as immediately corrected (Corrected On Site or COS), we might put it in here. Why? Because the inspector caused the correction. Without the inspector, there’s no guarantee the violation would’ve been corrected.

What follows comes from Department of Agriculture inspections of food sellers, food distributors and food storers. We don’t control who gets inspected or how strictly. We report without passion or prejudice, but with a reach-in cooler full of humor.

In alphabetical order:

Air Marine Forwarding Company, 3409 NW 72nd Ave, West Miami-Dade — Though this is a “dry storage” place, Air Marine needs to get its water together before Feb. 13. Well, that’s the threat (as seen later, sometimes the department can be a little soft on follow through).

And what did the inspector observe?

“No hot water available at the hand wash sink in the employee rest room.”

“No proof of approved water system provided.”

“No proof of approved sewage system provided.”

Colombia Produce, 2151 N. 13th Ave., Miami — Colombia Produce is classified as a “Major Food Distributor.” But one with “no approved sewage system” as of Jan. 22. Dec. 19, they were cited for “no approved water system.”

Diaz Supermarket, 13501 SW 268th St., South Miami-Dade — In the food service area, inspector Wendy Ayerdis saw “food employees not washing hands in between tasks, before engaging in open food service, and when hands have become contaminated by touching face and nose.”

Then again, the handwashing sink in the food service area was removed during a remodeling process. Diaz has until Feb. 12 to put in a handwashing sink with hot and cold water as well as a drain.

In the kitchen, the “only hand sink provided (is) not located to allow accessibility for proper hand washing procedures as evidenced by the lack of hand washing.” Diaz needs to get this handwashing sink installed by Feb. 28.

No problem with the handwashing sink at the produce processing, other than there was no soap.

The tomatoes in the kitchen and out for sale had “black mold-like spots.”

The lunch meat slicer was “encrusted with old food particles around the blade and push tool” and the meat tenderizer had “old yellow food residue between the grinder teeth.” Anybody surprised that the meat processing area’s band saw, floor grinder, meat slicer, cutting boards and knives were used for more than four hours without being cleaned and sanitized.

Speaking of not being sanitized, “food service employee observed washing/rinsing plates and skipping the sanitizer step.”

Trash bags were used to store Cuban bread on the prep table near the ware washing sink. The bread got tossed. Also in the garbage went the croquetas (106 degrees), ham and cheese empanadas (110 degrees) that needed to be kept at 135 degrees.

A container of sliced ham that had been in the kitchen reach-in cooler for eight days. But at least they knew how long it had been there, unlike the ham and flan in the food service area.

You could find salted fish for sale that was labeled “keep refrigerated,” but was on a rack at 59 degrees. That’s not your refrigerator. That’s balcony temperature most nights this week.

Erich Produce, 1335 NW 21st Ter., Miami — If you’re a “cold storage” facility, shouldn’t you make sure your walk-in coolers that store produce and fruits don’t have “air blower fan guards filled with mold like build up?”

Also, Erich lacked proof of where it gets its water.

Harvest Valley, 5151 NW 165th St, Northwest Miami-Dade — As soon as we saw “inside dry storage room Nos. 2, 3 and 5, glue traps placed directly on top of boxes containing food products,” we knew things were about to get live with this inspection.

Live as in “observed in dry storage No. 5, rodent running out from behind boxes into back storage room. Also, observed excessive amount of rodent excreta throughout dry storage Nos. 2, 3 and 5.”

The inspector dropped a Stop Use order on those dry storage areas for lack of pest control.

We’ll skip the direct connection of the ware washing sink to a drain line and go right to “no hot water provided to hand sink located in the men’s employee rest room.”

House of Meats, 11639 SW 216th St., South Miami-Dade — The House of Meats apparently had some rodent beef on the hoof.

“Apparent rodent droppings found on floor throughout backroom storage. The affected storage areas must be completely cleared of all merchandise, cleaned and sanitized by the next inspection…”

That’s a Stop Use order.

In the black mold part of the inspection, we find plum tomatoes with black mold-like spots out on the produce section and an “ice machine with black mold-like residue near ice dispenser chute and on interior walls to ice bin.”

No soap for those who use the backroom restroom.

In meat processing, luncheon meat ham, chopped ham, toro cooked ham, hog head souse, beef bologna, black forest ham, Swiss cheese, and muenster cheese all got the trash treatment for being kept too warm. The reach-in cooler was broken.

Also in the trash, “Bulk lunch meat items (toro ham, hog head souse, beef bologna, chopped ham, black forest ham) opened over 24 hours ago not identified with a date marked.”

This place has a labeling issue that can’t be solved with a Label Maker.

“Smoked ham bone, and smoked herring not labeled with ingredients. All raw meat items (rabbit, goat, fish, chicken, beef, pork) not labeled with packer address. Various dry food items (rice, corn meal, pigeon peas, pinto beans, split peas) not labeled at all as required.”

Interport Logistics, 12950 NW 25th St., West Miami-Dade — This dry storage place was a little too dry. As in no hot water to the mop sink or the handwashing sinks in the men’s and women’s restrooms.

Latin American Food Store, 2465 SW 17th Ave, Miami — Combining soap and hands were a problem here, too.

“In the food service area, cashier handling money and continuing to prepare and serve food to customers without washing hands. Employees leaving and entering the area without washing their hands.”

Also, in food service, saw “employee using the same gloves for multiple tasks — handling, picking up trash and continuing to prepare food for customers without changing gloves.”

In the food processing area, the inspector saw their definition of “clean” might be a little too broad: “Food utensils stored on shelves with evidence of old grease, parts of old labels stuck on containers and dry product residue.”

Build up of “old dry products, residue” on the oven, microwave, food containers.

The kitchen had a little too much petri dish working, judging from these sights: “clean pots and pans with evidence of water, wet nesting between pans;” “various single service trays stored on unclean shelves with mold-like spots;” “shelves for food container storage, food utensil storage with an accumulation of grease, dry product residue and mold.”

The last pathogen test on the bagged ice was more than three months ago.

Orgullo Colombiano Bakery, 11270 SW 137th Ave., South Miami-Dade — Hands and the staff were a problem here, too.

In the food service area, “food employees touching face, mouth and hair and continuing to work with open foods.”

In the kitchen, one worker was seen “entering and exiting the area, washing utensils, and continue to cook without washing her hands first” and another “touched ready to eat shredded white cheese with her bare hands.” This was said to be “COS (Corrected On Site) -- cheese was used with dough to make cheese bread.”

The handwashing problem starts with the sink setup, according to the inspector. The kitchen handwashing sink is behind a hot unit, table and refrigerator. And in the food service area, the sink “located near the coffee machine is not easily accessible to employees near the hot holding unit, as evidenced by hand washing violation.”

They’ve got until Feb. 27 to get this corrected or the food-related equipment will get a Stop Use dropped on it. That might not close the store, but likely it’ll close the profit margin.

Also out in the kitchen, “baking tray with over 30 food utensils found stored as clean inside hot warming unit/proofer. However they were all found with encrusted food particles on them.”

One worker stuck a food thermometer that wasn’t sanitized inside a sweet cake. Good bye, sweet cake.

Cooked corn cooling in a bucket near the ware washing sink (no, that wasn’t a violation by itself) was still too warm after two hours allowed for cooling.

Also the hot holding unit in use could warm only 99 degrees to 130 degrees, a problem when the unit’s raison d’etre is keeping food at 135 degrees.

Presidente Supermarket, 4275 W. Flagler St., Miami — OK, we won’t start with the handwashing problems.

We’ll start with “Food service — interior ice chute of ice bin with black mold like stains on both top side corners.”

Then, bring up “Meat tenderizer with old yellow food residue stuck in between grinder teeth.” And the meat processing areas band-saw, floor grinder, cutting tables and knives were used beyond the four-hour limit for cleaning.

OK, now to the dirty hands.

“Food service employee did not wash her hands in between handling money and then continuing to work with open food service. Deli employee did not wash her hands in between glove usage to continue working with different tasks and open foods.”

There were four whole pork roasts that had been in the hot warmer three and a half hours. Instead of being at 165 degrees, as required, they ranged from 91 to 100 degrees.

Following the roasts into the garbage were cut tomato and lettuce from the food service area that hadn’t been cooled enough, spinach and cheese empanadas and an extra large pot of black beans on a table top inside the walk-in cooler made from the previous day that measured 50 degrees.

From out in the retail area, all this got thrown out from coolers that didn’t keep them cool enough: gwaltney bologna, cooked ham, chopped ham, Oscar Mayer ham and cheese Lunchables, chicken nugget Lunchables, Carolina Pride honey ham, turkey breast, pickle loaf, bags of iceberg lettuce, spring mix cut lettuce, American lettuce, cut romaine lettuce, and cole slaw.

Price Choice Foodmarket, 1900 W. 60th St., Hialeah — In the backroom, “observed various birds flying around the backroom area. COS, birds were eliminated during the inspection checked by inspector.”

In the kitchen, “orange peppers in container on table top with black mold-like spots.” And out in the produce area, “various tomatoes in produce area stand with black mold-like spots.”

The interior walls and top cover of an ice machine bin had “visible black mold-like stains.”

“Heavy stuck on black dust on fan guards to a/c condenser units.”

Of course, there were handwashing problems.

In the deli/food service area, “handsink in area not easily accessible by food service employees (evidenced by the lack of hand washing) as they have to pass by a tight space to the entrance where the handsink is located.”

A kitchen employee touched raw food while wearing gloves, washed the gloves in the handwashing sink, then kept using them for cooking. See, they’re supposed to be changed.

And utensils and cookware are supposed to be cleaned. Do these people do this stuff at home?

In the deli/food service area, one worker took temperatures of cooked foods without sanitizing the thermometer.

Two in-use deli slicers, a meat slicer in meat processing, two band-saws, a floor grinder, knives and a cutting board were used more than four hours without being cleaned. A table top tenderizer had old food residue.

Deep fryer baskets were “encrusted in carbon buildup and grease residue, not cleaned as required.”

Onions and peppers might have been cooked, but they weren’t even close to being near the required 135 degrees (91 and 117, respectively) so more food for Oscar the Garbage Monster.

Roma Bakery and Restaurant, 4897 SW Eighth St., Miami — On Tuesday, in this bakery across the street from Coral Gables, there were so many roaches in the backroom that the inspector dropped a Stop Use on it with “The affected area must be completely cleared, cleaned, and sanitized by the next inspection.”

In Café No. 2, the inspector saw an “employee not washing hands between handling money and serving food to customers.”

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In the kitchen, chicken spread, ham spread, and whipped cream sat uncovered on shelves inside cooler No. 2.

The deli slicers in the kitchen and Café No. 2 were “found with encrusted food residue.” The kitchen’s ice machine had “black mold-like residue around ice chute.”

Also in Cafe #2, the ham sandwiches in the reach-in cold holding unit and prepared the previous day were at 47 degrees, still too warm. They got trashed.

Speaking of reach-in cold holding units, the one in the bakery was “filthy with food debris between vents by sliding door.”

And, finally, in the kitchen, the “area between oven and bread proofer filthy with lizard excrement and heavy accumulation of dust.”

Sabal Supermarket, 5299 NE Second Ave., Miami — In both the food service and the kitchen, workers “used the same gloves to perform different tasks.” In the meat area, the inspector saw an “employee handling turkey product then handling beef product with the same gloves.”

That’s a no-no. “No, no” is the answer to “Were there any paper towels in the back are employee restroom or the handwashing sink in the produce packing area?”

Is mold inside the produce packing area ice maker kind of a “duh, no kidding,” thing by now?

The food service area slicer hadn’t been cleaned since the previous day and looked like it with “old dry product residue inside a blade of slicer.” There was similar residue inside a small grinder in the meat area.

In the food service area, the meatballs, fish empanadas, shredded chicken and hard boiled eggs got trashed for being 103 to 113 degrees when they needed to be kept at a minimum of 135 degrees.

Food service area, observed various cooked food items under the required hot holding temperature of 135 degrees f, (meatballs at 113, fish empanadas at 112, shredder chicken at 106, hard boil eggs at 103)

747 Supermarket, 4675 NW Seventh St., Miami — This 747 landed properly by passing re-inspection on Thursday. But back on Jan. 17, they crashed on inspection.

We’ll start with “food service area utensils and pots, stored as clean with stuck on old food residue.

Also in the food service area, “observed food employee using the same gloves while entering and exiting processing areas and then handling food items for customers.”

In the kitchen area, cooked onions measured at 80 degrees on counter top after they were left there for almost three hours. The real food temperature problems were back in the food service area.

Hot holding is supposed to keep these foods at 135 degrees. Instead, fried pork chunks (90 degrees), fried fish (95), chicken quarters (107), mashed potatoes (103), ham croquettes (116), and meat pastries (124) found the trash. Going to the same place from the not-41-degrees-so-not-cool-enough end were lettuce and tomato salad (55), flan (57), and arroz con leche dessert (55).

TDL International, 10841 NW 122nd St., Medley — This dry storage place doesn’t have a 2019 license, an approved water system, no hot water in the handsink located in the employees rest room or an approved sewage system.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.