WESTFIELD, NJ — Raw beef thawing in a mop-sink, visibly soiled food preparation surfaces and mold on a wall are among the conditions that health officials said have caused them to mandate training for a local restaurant repeatedly cited for health code violations.
During a hearing before the Westfield Board of Health earlier this week, inspectors detailed the unsanitary conditions at Sichuan Dynasty, and the board requested the owner obtain himself or have someone on his staff get a food management certification.
While the health department has allowed the restaurant to reopen following a satisfactory inspection rating, any additional unsatisfactory inspection ratings will force the department to shut down Sichuan Dynasty for a four-day time, according to Westfield Health Officer Megan Avallone.
“This establishment has been before the board before COVID, way before this, and there is an extended history of improper food handling,” Avallone said Monday.
Health inspector Helen Mendez said she examined the restaurant Sept. 3 following a fire and that while she found the restaurant “very unsanitary” at the time, the owner told her he was not then open for business.
Mendez said she informed the owner, Xinsong Yang, that he would have to submit to an inspection before reopening, but Sichuan Dynasty then opened without the health department’s approval.
Health inspector Christie Visokay told the board that they shut down the restaurant on March 2 after she found the raw beef in the mop sink and witnessed multiple instances of employees improperly washing their hands.
“I saw multiple hand washing violations,” Visokay said. These violations included employees not washing their hands with soap, washing their hands in a three-compartment sink that is to be used for dishwashing only and then wiping their hands on a “dirty rag,” she said.
In a commercial-sized refrigerator known as a “walk-in box,” Visokay said, she found more violations.
“There was a mold-like substance on the wall and all the food items were uncovered,” she said. “There were some actual items on the wall itself. There was a large piece of beef that was thawing out in the mop sink. There were visibly soiled food contact surfaces all throughout the restaurant.”
Visokay said that when she returned the following week to ensure the restaurant was not operating in violation, she found another slab of beef improperly thawing in the mop sink and requested that it be discarded.
Xinsong Yang, the restaurant owner, apologized to the board.
“That’s our mistake,” Yang said. “We should also clean and follow all the rules while we prepare the food.”
He said there has since been a “huge improvement” at the restaurant and noted that since receiving the unsatisfactory rating, he passed a health department inspection.
Visokay said that she issued the satisfactory rating on March 31 but that she did she not witness food handling. She also noted that nobody at the restaurant had the required food manager certification.
Avallone said that that while the code requires someone on staff have that certification, not having it is not grounds to pull a restaurant’s food license, which is why the department ticketed the restaurant, instead.
The health department requires that certification, officials said, because the restaurant is categorized as a risk three establishment.
“Three and four are more risky,” Visokay said. “They include cooking, cooling and reheating, which may give more opportunity for harmful bacteria to grow.”
Yang said he would take the food manager certification course within the week and show proof to the health department that he has taken it.
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