Dirty Dining: Restaurants work to avoid food temp ‘danger zone’

May 05, 2017 07:24 PM

In this week’s Dirty Dining report, we investigated the importance of food temperature.

If you don’t give it much thought, you should. One recent incident that illustrates the importance of temperature occurred last Thanksgiving when 260 people got sick after eating at Golden Ponds. Health investigators found the source was underheated gravy that was teeming with bacteria.

Consumer Investigator Deanna Dewberry combed through a week of inspection reports and found that for eight of nine restaurants with a critical violation that involved food handling, the problem was food temperature.

For restaurants big and small – from chains to mom and pop diners – keeping food hot enough or cold enough was a challenge. And experts say that’s potentially a very big problem.

“Bacteria grow well in what we call the temperature danger zone and that’s 45 (degrees) to 140 (degrees),” said Peter Castronovo of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

The goal is to keep food hotter or colder than the danger zone. So there were particular concerns when Bay Trail Middle school was dinged for food that wasn’t cold enough. But Nancy Bradstreet, Director of Communications for Penfield schools, says this problem was easily repaired and no kids were at risk.

Bradstreet said,”…the milk cooler at Bay Trail Middle School was malfunctioning and was five degrees above the proper temperature. The milk was immediately removed and placed in another cooler at the proper temperature.”

At Golden Boys Family Restaurant, Monroe’s Catering, Cosimo’s Pizza, and El Divino Restaurant, inspectors also found food wasn’t cold enough. The owners at Cosimos and El Divino both told News10NBC they fixed the problem on the spot. The other restaurant owners didn’t immediately return the station’s calls but records indicate they corrected the issues.

Inspectors found problems with keeping food hot enough at Boston Market #1412. When News10NBC called the managers referred them to their corporate office. The corporate office didn’t immediately return calls, but health inspection records indicate all is fixed.

Zoc’s got red tagged for the risk of cross contamination of cooked and raw food. The owner says fixing the problem was easy. He simply moved the raw eggs to another shelf in the fridge.

At Lovin’ Cup inspectors weren’t loving the way cooks cooled the chicken. Inspectors say cooling hot food can present a number of challenges.  It needs to be cooled quickly to foods being in the danger zone for too long.

“Improper cooling is a big thing,” said Castronovo. “People don’t realize that you need to cool leftovers very very quickly.”

But  one of the restaurant’s co-owners points out that the chicken in question was not dangerous.  Eric Ward, co-owner of the restaurant said the inspector told him he didn’t have to throw it out. Instead she told them to cool it differently in the future.

“We’re completely confident in the way we handle food on a day-to-day basis. We’ve been doing great business for nine years, and we’ve never had one violation  — period,” said Ward.

Before you go out to eat, consider our advice.  Here’s Deanna’s Do List.

1. Check the restaurants inspection record.

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