Health & Wellness

Westfield Board of Health Holds Hearing with Fujiyama Mama Manager

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Alison Kasica (right) reads her inspection report at Monday night's hearing regarding Fujiyama Mama. Credits: Jill D'Ambrosio
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WESTFIELD, NJ – The manager of Fujiyama Mama, a popular Japanese restaurant that received its third conditional satisfactory rating following a routine inspection in December, and her attorney appeared before the board of health to discuss its inspection history Monday night.

Manager Zhi Chen and her lawyer Fong Joe Hou said they were taking steps to eradicate the mature roach population that registered environmental health specialist Alison Kasica found when she visited the South Avenue eatery on Dec. 14.

The restaurant has hired two pest control companies to treat the property three times per month and have spent about $8,300 to replace a cement wall with a stainless steel one, they said.

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On Friday, Kasica returned to Fujiyama Mama for a walk-through and found improvements.

“All the violations were corrected. They do have pest control coming in,” she told the board. “I didn’t see any live activity, out in the open.”

According to a report provided by Kasica, the restaurant was given a conditional rating due to “grease build up throughout the establishment,” moisture accumulation, improperly cleaned surfaces and roach activity found near the rice cooker, ice maker, tea area and ice cream freezer.

Fujiyama Mama was brought before the board in September of 2007 following three conditionally satisfactory ratings. At the time, the board imposed a two-day closure of the restaurant and an additional three-day closure to be held in abeyance for any rating less than satisfactory within one year.

About two months later, in November of 2007, Fujiyama Mama closed for another three days after receiving a conditionally satisfactory rating.

Megan Avallone, health director for the Westfield Regional Health Department, expressed disappointment with the restaurant’s troubles and urged Chen, who has been manager since 2009, to make sure restaurant employees follow a prescribed cleaning plan.

“The history really has me concerned because it’s essentially the same violations,” she told Chen. “I think if you follow this plan, we won’t see you back here again.”

“I would recommend holding a four-day closure in abeyance for any rating less than satisfactory over the next two years,” Avallone said, adding that the days of such a closure would be at the discretion of her or her designee.

Board member Dr. Vasilios Diamantopoulos encouraged Chen to help create “a culture change” at Fujiyama Mama where all employees make cleanliness a priority and promptly report anything that is not well cleaned. Avallone also suggested that Chen talk with her pest control firms about using glue boards in tight spaces.

“I personally live here, so I understand,” said Hou at the end of the hearing.

In addition, the board reported that two complaints had been made against the Rialto Theater for unsanitary conditions in a restroom and for rat droppings. Avallone noted that a gap in an exit door may have allowed in rodents.

Old Havana, a Cuban restaurant, was closed on Jan. 21 due to a lack of hot water and food-handling issues but was reopened the next day once hot water was restored.

Regarding flu clinics, public health nurse Laura Scanlon reiterated that walk-in clinics remain “extremely quiet.” Board president Dr. Lawrence Budnick brought up an advisory he received that morning from the Centers for Disease Control stating that flu activity is increasing across the country and severe illness has been reported.

The board also spent time discussing the rapidly spreading mosquito-born Zika virus.

“So, we’ve been getting a lot of calls,” said Avallone.

Because no commercially available rapid test for the virus is currently available, New Jersey is only testing pregnant women with a certain travel history, she said. Avallone was unaware of anyone tested for the virus in Westfield.

“Mosquito breeding causes real, real problems,” she noted.

In New Jersey, mosquito control is managed by the county.

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