Health & Wellness

Westfield Board of Health Discusses Repeat Restaurant Violations, Lyme Disease & Lead

The Westfield Board of Health met Monday evening. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna

WESTFIELD NJ – The Westfield Board of Health met on Monday night to discuss diseases and lead poisoning as well as health violations in restaurants and food shops.

Helen Mendez, principal registered environmental health specialist, updated the board on the condition of several establishments that have received violations for the second or third time.

According to Mendez, an initial inspection for Tinga Taqueria was found satisfactory. However, the board then received a complaint from a student at Wilson Elementary School who found a cockroach in their food on a day when Tinga provided lunch to the students.

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“I went back and found a live roach and other issues,” Mendez said. “They had an exterminator’s bill but they also have illegally been applying pesticides themselves. There was pesticide powder all over the counters.”

Tinga’s manager, Kevin You, later said the claims are not entirely true.

“We don’t have any pesticides at the store at all,” You said. “We quickly corrected the problem we had and we haven’t had a problem since. We’re investigating the cause.”

Later in the meeting, Vice President Lawrence Budnick mentioned that roach reports are increasing, including a complaint from the Westfield Fire Department.

Board president Thomas O’Neill mentioned that Tinga is a repeat violator, but because the restaurant is under new ownership, they are not required to attend a hearing at this point.

However, SUBWAY sandwich shop on Quimby Street will be required to attend a hearing at the December meeting for a third consecutive unsatisfactory rating.

The violations included “no sanitizer test kit, no thermometer, just general lack of food handler knowledge,” Mendez said. “Upon re-inspection, basically they didn’t correct anything.”

A call to SUBWAY revealed that the number for the establishment has been disconnected.

Sea Breeze Seafood, an independent fish retailer within Vine Ripe Markets, was also cited following a report of scombroid poisoning after eating tuna there. It is the second time that a resident complained to the board about scombroid poisoning from tuna.

“We found many, many issues, including the tuna fish not being held at a proper temperature and no documentation of where the fish came from,” Mendez said. “They stated that the fish came from New York and then they said it was from here. I did refer them to the New York Department of Agriculture and the investigation traced back on their end, so they’re going to be issuing some summonses.”

Frank Bruno, owner of Vine Ripe, later said that he’s made significant changes since the most recent report.

“The seafood is a separate entity but they rent to me,” Bruno said. “We’ve made some serious changes and it won’t happen again. I’ve been here running the store for the last two weeks and I’ve made changes to every area in the store, but especially the seafood. I want them to represent me the way I represent myself — appearance, cleanliness, refrigeration and anything that could cause the issue. We’re in a great area, great town and I want the town to be confident in what we do. He now can use the kitchen here so we don’t have a transport or refrigeration issue.”

The manager of Sea Breeze was unavailable during both of TAPinto Westfield's requests for comment, but TAPinto will update the story if needed.

In positive reviews, the board said that Fiamma Wood Fired Pizza, who appeared for a hearing in August, has corrected all their violations and received a satisfactory rating. 

In addition to the restaurant violations, the board also discussed Lyme disease, which is still being diagnosed frequently.

“The more you look for anything, the more you’re going to find it,” Avallone said. “There’s no uptick in Lyme disease compared to previous years. Unfortunately, this is the new normal.”

Lastly, the board stressed the importance of tests for lead poisoning and plan to release a campaign about lead tests in January, Avallone said.

“It’s not just paint,” Avallone said. “When you get to ages, it’s not going to be paint, it’s going to be consumer goods. Spices, imported toys, makeup. There’s a number of different ways that your child can be exposed.”

The Westfield Board of Health will next meet on Dec. 4 at 5:30 p.m.

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