Training fail: Cheating the health card system in Vegas

When you go out to eat, what stands between you and food poisoning?

large_spaceyTonight, in a special Dirty Dining report, Contact 13 uncovers a loophole in the food safety system.

As Chief Investigator Darcy Spears learned, some of the people preparing your food may not be prepared to keep you safe.

“It was a wake-up call, especially for the employees,” said Mark Green when his restaurant, Kahunaville at TI, was on Dirty Dining in October.

“He was hired very new and so… he didn’t know,” said Vanessa Nguyen of Pho Bosa in another October Dirty Dining report.

And in September, Min Yoon of Kaizen Fusion Roll and Sushi said, “It’s incompetence.  I understand that.”

Week after week, that’s what we hear from restaurant owners and managers whose eateries are downgraded or closed for failing to protect public health.

But whether they’re featured on Dirty Dining or not, our investigation found local restaurants may be vulnerable to a loophole in the system.

Darcy Spears: Is this a system that’s ripe for fraud?
County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani/Board of Health: It is a system that probably could be used fraudulently.

Contact 13 discovered it has.

The Health District certifies first-time restaurant workers in the form of a food handler safety training card.

“So that when they get to the workplace, they are ready and set to work,” explained SNHD Environmental Health Director Jackie Reszetar.

But at Wo Hing during the restaurant’s first inspection this month, they were nearly shut down due to unsafe food handling.

Darcy Spears: Did they have training from the Health District?  They have their food card, right?

Sam Lee/Wo Hing: Yeah, yeah.

Jonh Dang of Vietnamese bistro Nem Nuong says the training is flawed.

Jonh Dang: I fired a lot of people.

rainman.counting.cardsDarcy Spears: You had to fire like 20 people for defrauding the food card program?

Jonh: Yeah, they supposed to know what they doing.  You know?

The problem with the system is that there are no checks and balances. 

There’s nothing to prevent one person from stepping in and answering the test questions for another.

To get the card, you just need a test completion certificate, identification and $40.

Darcy Spears: What does that suggest to you?

Jackie Reszetar: That suggests that we have to have a better check system.

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani sits on the Board of Health, which oversees the Health District.

Darcy Spears: What safeguards are there in place right now to make sure that the person who goes on the computer is the person who goes to pick up the card and takes the picture?

Chris Giunchigliani: To my knowledge, I don’t know that they have that safeguard because they can do it from home, they can do it from a library.

The Health District issues more than 100-thousand food handler cards each year.

So how many instances of cheating have they documented?

“We don’t want the numbers out there,” Chua said.  “We don’t want anything out there because one person, one instance is too much.”

Did Britney barf on way to GMA appearance?

Good Morning America airs on TV here about 3:30 a.m., and I’m usually up so have it on in background, not for any content, but because the hosts and guests are all so attractive and tight, and it britney.barf.sep.1emakes we want to be better – or not care.

Britney Spears – she of the it’s-OK-to-change-my-kid’s-diaper-on-a-restaurant table –flew by helicopter to the Nevada desert to announce her Las Vegas shtick – and apparently barfed.

According to TMZ, Britney didn’t say if “sick” meant hurled … but it’s a reasonable conclusion.  She wore gigantic sunglasses in the dark night as “GMA’s” Sam Champion tried to get her animated.

Health types investigate report of illness at Vegas Strip restaurant

The Southern Nevada Health District has been called  in to investigate after local teens say they become violently ill after eating at a restaurant on The Strip on their prom night.

A number of local teenagers become sick after eating at the Bucca di Beppo restaurant inside the Excalibur.

The health district says it is still investigating and have not concluded that the holly.madison.Bucca di Bepporestaurant is the cause of the students getting sick.

News 3 has confirmed the health district received reports of illnesses from people who ate at Bucca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant inside the Excalibur.

The health department confirms the restaurant got an “A” rating for their regular inspection on Monday and it got another “A” rating on Tuesday when inspectors showed up in response to the complaints.

The restaurant remains open and the health district says there have been no further complaints.

News 3 received word from Excalibur owner MGM Resorts which says its top food and beverage executives are at the property and they’re working with health inspectors and Buca di Beppo management to look into the situation.

Buca di Beppo released the following statement regarding this investigation:

Buca di Beppo places the utmost importance on the cleanliness, quality and high standards of food preparation in our restaurants. The kitchen at Buca di Beppo Excalibur has held a consistent A-rating from the Southern Nevada Health District ever since the restaurant opened. On Saturday, May 11 a high school group had their prom dinner with us and we have been advised that several became ill.
…  Health and safety in our restaurants is of paramount importance and we stand by our record of cleanliness, high standards of food preparation and our consistent — and current — A-rating from the SNHD.

Dirty dining: Great China not so great in Vegas

Darcy Spears of KTNV, ABC Action News, Las Vegas, reports the Grand China or Great China restaurant on Ann Road near Tenaya, Las Vegas, was on Dirty Dining a little over a year ago. And though they’re under new management, they’re back with even more demerits.

Great China was one demerit shy of closure with a 40-demerit “C” ktnv_dirtydininggrade.

Inspectors found a potpourri of moldy garlic, tomatoes, lettuce and melon.  All of it was in the walk-in fridge.

Sam Wong talked to us about what inspectors found.

Darcy Spears: Why would you have stuff in your walk-in that’s all covered in mold?
Sam Wong: Uh, OK, it’s in the back, maybe, you know, a little bit out of date or something like that.
Darcy: Stuff gets shoved in the back and that’s why you didn’t know you had moldy stuff in there?
Sam: No, we always check and if there’s mold we throw them away.

The garlic, tomatoes, melon and lettuce only got thrown away after inspectors saw it.

We also asked him why they were using a paint brush for food prep?

Sam: Uh, we… never get attention on that one.  It’s just a brush, a brand new brush and he said not a paint brush, it has to be food brush.  So we correct it.

Great China has been re-inspected and is back up to an “A” grade.

Vegas officials reviewing marathon illness claims

Some runners who participated in the Rock `n’ Marathon in Las Vegas say water passed out during the race made them sick.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that health officials are investigating at least 10 claims of intestinal problems following the Sunday night marathon. They also have posted a survey to pinpoint a possible source for illness complaints that have been posted on Facebook.

Race organizers filled lined buckets or trash cans with hydrant water, which was used to fill cups offered to racers along the course.

Some runners complained that the water tasted odd or unclean.

Race organizers say the hydrant water was tested and found to be safe.

How about those trash cans?

Dirty dining in Vegas: Hot N Juicy Crawfish

I’m not sure I understand the difference between crayfish and crawfish (wiki gives it a shot) but after posting about vibrio from crayfish, a devoted barfblogger sent this story from Las Vegas about the Hot and Juicy Crawfish.

KTNV reports the Southern Nevada Health District recently paid a visit to the restaurant and slapped it with 49 demerits, prompting its closure.

Inspectors found cooked crawfish being stored at the wrong temperature, live crawfish in a sink next to dirty dishes, dirty floors – including dead crawfish on the floor of a walk-in freezer – and dried food debris caked to shelves and "clean" kitchen knives.

Inspectors also say three employees were working without valid health cards, a requirement for anyone working with or around food, and a kitchen worker was cited for not properly washing his hands after handling the trash.

Open once again with an "A" grade after re-inspection, Channel 13 Action News stopped by Hot and Juicy Crawfish to speak with the manager about the restaurant’s high number of demerits.

An employee interviewed by KTNV — Channel 13 Action News — said the owner was not available but subsequently added, “We’re not the dirtiest restaurant in Las Vegas. It was a lot of little technicalities. “

Dirty Dining and Blue Ribbon Dining Vegas-style

KTNV reports that Las Vegas’ Yun Nan Garden on Schiff Drive off of Valley View regularly serves Chinese Szechuan cuisine to patrons. But a total of 46 demerits caused the Southern Nevada Health District to force the restaurant to close its doors.

The restaurant’s walk-in cooler registered at 46 degrees, too warm for properly storing food. Beef, chicken, and pork sitting out at an unsafe temperature created what inspectors called a "potentially hazardous" situation.

Then, inspectors found a large cooking pot covered with food debris sitting with clean dishware. A food handler was also observed sticking their finger into a wok to taste the food before they resumed cooking – without washing their hands.

Also, two different employees were found to be working without health cards, which are required paperwork for anyone with a restaurant job.

Now that Yun Nan Garden has re-opened after re-inspection, Channel 13 stopped by to speak with the owner about what changes had been made. He assured us everything was once again up to code.

And, when media outlets do the dirty dining stuff, they usually get business pressure to praise the worthy as well. If I owned a restaurant and was doing everything right, I’d market my excellent food safety any way I could – but only if I was sure I was doing everything right.

KTNV also reported the Florida Cafe Cuban Bar and Grill is on Las Vegas Boulevard just south of Charleston has been open since 1998 and is a restaurant with a good record. The latest visit by the Southern Nevada Health District was to inspect the new buffet now serving up Cuban dishes on the weekends. The results were zero demerits with food at the right temperatures and a clean set up, safe for waiters and customers enjoying the food.

The Florida Cafe Cuban Bar and Grill has consistently earned an A grade with the exception of one C grade in 2001.

The Florida Cafe wasn’t the only recent restaurant to receive zero demerits. The Dive Bar on East Tropicana and the Michael Mina Restaurant at the Bellagio did as well.

Dirty dining Vegas style: Souper Salad

This is the way to handle a bad restaurant inspection, especially with the television cameras rolling: take responsibility, fix things, and no whining.

KTNV reports the Souper Salad was issued with 29 demerits by the Southern Nevada Health District, primarily related to a salad bar that wasn’t keeping foods at the proper temperature.

When Contact 13 stopped at the restaurant, Souper Salad was right in the middle of a re-inspection. The manager, Jeff Brooks, took time to explain to us his concerns about the restaurant’s C grade. "It was definitely a concern and that’s why we took care of the steps as needed."

He says he had all the food at the salad bar thrown out, and that the salad bar was adjusted to the appropriate temperature. And in the end, Brooks says he stands by the quality of his restaurant. "Unfortunately sometimes these things happen. I do care about the type of food, the temperatures of the foods I feed to the public. I’m not one of these managers that doesn’t care about it."

We spoke with the Health District, which confirms, the restaurant was re-inspected. Souper Salad made the necessary changes to go from 29 demerits down to only 4, enough for an A grade. Looking into their history, this was actually their first C grade in 3 years.