Salmonella scare lands La Mojarra Loca in Vegas on Dirty Dining


Darcy Spears of KTNV reports La Mojarra Loca on Maryland Parkway near Sahara is no stranger to Dirty Dining.  

Each time the location’s been on, it’s been just before Halloween.

And this time, inspectors were there for something truly scary–a customer who ate salmon and salad was diagnosed with Salmonella poisoning.  

The follow-up inspection resulted in a 50-demerit closure.
Inspectors documented “Unusual circumstances which might have contributed to contamination,” including food stored in the splash zone of the handsink and lots of improper handwashing.

Employees went from handling dirty dishes to clean without handwashing, scraped food off returned dishes without handwashing, and didn’t wash hands after handling raw meat.

Also, a food handler put raw bacon on a cutting board so it was touching ready-to-eat cheese.

Speaking of cutting boards, several at La Mojarra Loca were severely soiled.

Vegas Dirty Dining: Cantina Cancun repeat offender edition

Darcy Spears of Action 13 News reports the latest Dirty Dining headliner is a repeat offender. It’s been three years since their first appearance, but records show they’re still dirty.

dirty_dining__expired_food__roaches_at_r_0_45893867_ver1-0_640_480The last time we were at this location for Dirty Dining, one of the owners shoved a newspaper into the camera lens, pushed the photographer out and locked Spears in.

That was March 2013.

That’s when the new owners first took over the restaurant on Maryland Parkway between Reno and Tropicana avenues.

It was called Ahogadas Cancun. It’s now called Cantina Cancun.

This time, things were much more quiet.

Turns out Cantina Cancun is closed on Tuesdays. That’s their choice, but on Aug. 26, they were forced to shut down after health inspectors gave them 42 demerits.

Forty-two is enough to shut a place down on demerits alone. But Cantina Cancun added the imminent health hazard of no hot water.

They also had live roaches.

When we contacted, the person who answered disconnected and it went to voicemail when we called back. We spoke to someone again later and left more messages, but never got any answers.

Health inspectors found expired food, including multiple seafood items, cheese and beans that should have been tossed more than a week before the inspection. But it was all still sitting in the fridge.

There was also lots of food that had to be thrown out because of unsafe temperatures, utensils that hadn’t been washed since the day before, and the stove had excessive build-up. The person in charge couldn’t tell the inspector the last time it was cleaned.

Of the four imminent health hazard closures, the grossest pictures came from the food truck that serves as the pool snack bar at the Plaza hotel-casino.

It was shut down for lack of adequate refrigeration. Just about every food in the facility was at an unsafe temperature.

Plus, inspectors found multiple foods with “Severe signs of spoilage.”

There’s a salad made with feta cheese and cucumber at the top of the menu. But cucumbers on the truck were discolored, spotted with mold and squishy.

And their large container of feta cheese had expired in February.

The Oscar burger comes topped with arugula, but that was wilted, brown and deteriorating.

Cantina Cancun grill is back to an A grade.

‘Maybe you’re not used to spicy food’ SinCity Thai shut down after customers complain of foodborne illness

SinCity Thai Restaurant was shut down after receiving several customer complaints of foodborne illness. 

SinCity ThaiAccording to the complaint filed May 10, three customers that ate the beef pad thai and chicken pad thai reported diarrhea hours later. 

13 Action News spoke to the manager of SinCity Thai, Unchanlee Karnchai, who said the customers may not be used to the spicy food. 

“It could be the food or because they cannot handle the spicy food,” said Karnchai. 

After the complaints, the Southern Nevada Health District went in to investigate. 

In a report, they found multiple violations, including, a sanitizer bucket that was originally on the floor was moved near a food prep area next to a cutting board and green onions. 

They also found multiple food that was left at room temperature. Including, thawing beef that sit next to dirty dishes and waste. 

“Employees hadn’t been trained on what they had to do that day,” Karnchai explained. 

There were also several employee violations, including, employees not washing their hands and the kitchen hand sink did not have soap or paper towels. 

What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas: new app to ID foodborne illnesses sooner

The Southern Nevada Health District has teamed up with the University of Rochester to create an app just for health officials that tracks foodborne illnesses in Las Vegas.

nemesisAt one time or another most people will have a bad experience at a restaurant. In today’s world, they are likely to take to social media to make their complaint known.

Soon the new Southern Nevada Health District app called Nemesis will be tracking your complaints about food.

“So if we find a bunch of people that got sick and they’re all at the same restaurant, we can identify that and then send out an inspector to see if there’s any particular problems at that restaurant,” said Brian Labus, epidemiologist and UNLV professor.

Nemesis is already tested and proven.

Last year, Nemesis monitored about 36,000 tweets per day. One thousand were from restaurants.

Improving food safety odds in Vegas: AI-based restaurant inspections

Computer science researchers from the University of Rochester have developed an app for health departments that uses natural language processing and artificial intelligence to identify food poisoning-related tweets, connect them to restaurants using geotagging and identify likely hot spots. team presented the results of its research at the 30th Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference in Phoenix, Arizona, in February. The project was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Intel Science and Technology Center for Pervasive Computing.

Location-based epidemiology is nothing new. John Snow, credited as the world’s first epidemiologist, used maps of London in 1666 to identify the source of the Cholera epidemic that was rampaging the city (a neighborhood well) and in the process discovered the connection between the disease and water sources.

However, as the researchers showed, it’s now possible to deduce the source of outbreaks using publicly available social media content and deep learning algorithms trained to recognize the linguistic traits associated with a disease – “I feel nauseous,” for instance.

“We don’t need to go door to door like John Snow did,” says Adam Sadilek, a researcher who worked on the project at the University of Rochester and who is now at Google Research. “We can use all this data and mine it automatically.”

The work presented at AAAI described a recent collaboration with the Las Vegas health department, where officials used the app they developed, called nEmesis, to improve the city’s inspection protocols.

Typically, cities (including Las Vegas) use a random system to decide which restaurants to inspect on any given day. The research team convinced Las Vegas officials to replace their random system with a list of possible sites of infection derived using their smart algorithms.

In a controlled experiment, half of the inspections were performed using the random approach and half were done using nEmesis, without the inspectors knowing that any change had occurred in the system.“Each morning we gave the city a list of places where we knew that something was wrong so they could do an inspection of those restaurants,” Sadilek said.

For three months, the system automatically scanned an average of 16,000 tweets from 3,600 users each day. 1,000 of those tweets snapped to a specific restaurant and of those, approximately 12 contained content that likely signified food poisoning. They used these tweets to generate a list of highest-priority locations for inspections.

Analyzing the results of the experiment, they found the tweet-based system led to citations for health violations in 15 percent of inspections, compared to 9 percent using the random system. Some of the inspections led to warnings; others resulted in closures.

The researchers estimate that these improvements to the efficacy of the inspections led to 9,000 fewer food poisoning incidents and 557 fewer hospitalization in Las Vegas during the course of the study.


Fancy food ain’t safe food: Trump Steakhouse edition

A Las Vegas Strip restaurant bearing the initials of celebrity financier Donald Trump was briefly shut down after health inspectors found violations including month-old caviar and expired yogurt.

donald.trumpDJT, the signature steakhouse at the Trump International Hotel, reopened Nov. 2 with a restored “A” grade — several hours after Southern Nevada Health District officials logged 51 violations during a routine inspection.

Thirty violations merit a “C” grade, district spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore said Friday.

Inspectors reported finding outdated, expired, unlabeled, mishandled and improperly stored food, according to a summary posted on the health district’s website. The closure was first reported by KTNV-TV as part of a “Dirty Dining” segment focused on area restaurants.

Inspectors found no measures to destroy parasites in undercooked halibut and salmon, and noted that raw tuna was being improperly thawed. Icicles were found in a faulty freezer.

Dirty dining in Vegas

A double dose of Dirty Dining, Las Vegas-style.

 Darcy Spears has a tie for us tonight, with two restaurants just two blocks apart.
Darcy: Hi… Oh!  Don’t turn around and walk away!

vegasIt’s a common reaction when Contact 13 shows up, health inspection in hand and full of questions.

Bund Shanghai restaurant on Decatur and Spring Mountain was hit with 36 demerits and a C grade.

Inspectors found visibly dirty food contact surfaces, old food debris on the can opener and meat slicer and a dirty ice machine. 

There was also heavy debris on the floor under kitchen equipment, a badly stained cutting board, and no hair restraints for food handlers.

“A lot of things I didn’t know,” said temporary manager Angela Liu. 

She says she’s not used to overseeing the kitchen staff and admits she didn’t check everything the night before their unannounced inspection.

Darcy: That’s a lot of stuff that was wrong.
Angela: Yeah, lot of stuff wrong, yeah, so, I tell them, you know.  I tell them and we now fix it–everything.

Inspectors also found a full handsink leaking dirty water.  And food in the prep table not protected from contamination. 

Angela takes us back to show us what is now a much cleaner kitchen.
She says the owner made it clear that he never wants to see another “C” grade.

Angela: If C again, they all lose their job.
Darcy: That’s it.  Everyone’s job’s on the line.

She shows us how everything is now labeled and double-covered to keep inspectors happy and customers healthy.

Darcy: It’s about food safety.
Angela: Yeah, food safety.  Right.  It’s very serious. Oh, my god. (she pauses to swat away a fly buzzing around her face.)
Darcy: You don’t want a fly in here, do you?

Thai Original BBQ on Jones and Flamingo was shut down with 36 demerits due to an imminent health hazard.  Inspectors found them operating without hot water. 

Employees called the boss and handed the phone to Darcy Spears.  The boss tries to say the only problem was a broken water heater.

Darcy on phone: Serena, it wasn’t just that.  That was definitely the reason that you got shut down as opposed to just getting a C grade, but the health inspection is four pages long.

For starters, the grease trap was leaking onto the floor and an uncovered drain pan was about to overflow. 

There was heavy grease build-up.  Most of the equipment was dirty.  And the knobs on the stove were caked with old food debris.

Floors and ceilings were dirty. 

Raw beef and chicken were stored over cooked noodles. 

And there was a fly infestation in the storage room.  You can see a whole bunch of them on a box of foam cups and crawling all over the ceiling.

It looked like a bunch of flies had hatched.

The boss says they weren’t having the pest control company visit often enough. 

She allowed employees to show us around that storage room and the kitchen, which appears to be all cleaned up.

Dirty Dining, Vegas style

Darcy Spears of KTNV Channel 13 writes there is a four-way tie for the dirtiest dining in Las Vegas this week.

dirty.dining.vegasAt Beijing Chinese Cuisine on Eastern and Serene, inspectors found pork blood dripping onto noodles in a loosely covered container, and mold-like growth touching crab rangoons and lettuce in the walk-in.

At El Santaneco on Maryland Parkway across from UNLV, health inspectors found the restaurant falsified time logs used to keep track of proper food temperatures.

Contact 13 discovered they’re misleading the public about their health grade. The A grade card on display is dated Jan. 21. But as of March 5, El Santaneco has a C grade.

An employee said there was no one in charge at the restaurant, but that’s one of the things that got them in trouble with the health district. They’re required to have a qualified food safety manager in charge on premises at all times.

The employee walked away, threw up his hands and gave no answers to our questions.

At DT’s Filipino Food on Rainbow and Warm Springs, inspectors found a food handler didn’t properly wash hands after handling raw meat. Containers of oxtail, cut cabbage, chicken and pork blood were all at unsafe temperatures.

Abyssinia Restaurant on Tropicana and Cameron where inspectors wrote up repeat violations for food improperly cooled and thawed. They also found a dirty cutting board, holes in kitchen walls and rocks used to prop up the freezer.

Also, the person in charge was unable to demonstrate food safety knowledge.

Rampant cross-contamination at Pho Saigon 8 in Vegas

Dirty Dining visits a place where health inspectors say the cook contaminated the food, and it’s all part of a 54-demerit closure.

pho_sai_3The 54 big ones went to Pho Saigon 8 on South Eastern. The Vietnamese restaurant was guilty of multiple handwashing violations.

One was so bad that inspectors say fresh, cut, ready to eat produce and cooked chicken were contaminated by the cook, who used gloves soiled by raw beef to handle additional ingredients.

There was also no handwashing between dirty and clean dishes, between cleaning waste out of a sink and handling cooked chicken, and after picking waste up off the floor.

When they did wash their hands, it was only for a few seconds in cold water.

Inspectors also found uncovered food stored on the floor including noodles and meat, and meat thawing at room temperature on a shelf under the grill.

When Contact 13 went to the restaurant to get their side of the story, an employee told us, “I have no idea because my boss not here yet. So I have no idea.”

That’s a violation of health code. There has to be a knowledgeable person in charge present at all times to monitor and ensure food safety and proper sanitation.

Pho Saigon 8 just got in trouble for that in mid-January because the person in charge then wasn’t a certified food safety manager and couldn’t answer basic questions from inspectors about cooling, labeling, storage or handwashing.

We asked the employee to call the boss, “My boss said sorry, we can’t let you in,” and said he didn’t want to comment.

Inspectors also found food from the previous day wasn’t cooled properly, including beef and meat soup, which had to be thrown in the garbage.

Chicken sitting out at room temperature also had to be tossed.