Have you ever wondered, right before tucking into a steak or burger at a local restaurant, just what the conditions were in the kitchen out of sight of diners’ eyes? Chances are, at some point within the past few months, a professional inspector from the Trumbull Health Department has shown up unannounced at the establishment and conducted a comprehensive inspection that grades everything from cleanliness and food storage conditions to the temperature of the dishwashing water and the condition of the paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms.
Health inspectors visit restaurants quarterly, and grade them on a numerical scale, with 100 points being a perfect score. Inspectors deduct between one and four points for any one of 62 different possible violations. Any score under 80 is considered a failure, as is even a single uncorrected violation of a 4-point risk factor. Inspectors issue 4-point deductions for violations such as improper food-holding temperatures, damaged food cans and inadequate handwashing facilities. Lesser violations can include leaving scoops in the ice machine, missing or inaccurate food thermometers and uncovered trash cans. Restaurants that receive 4-point violations can be required to correct them on the spot. For the most severe violations, the restaurant can have its license revoked and be shut down.
On Feb. 6, the Trumbull Times visited the Health Department and requested the results of all restaurant inspections conducted in January. Health records are considered public, and the department provided the information Feb. 8.
“It’s important to remember that these results are a snapshot of a single moment in time, the conditions that existed for the hour or so that the inspector was there in a three-month period,” Health Director Rhonda Capuano said. For example, a new employee at a restaurant with an excellent track record could knock a food can off a shelf and replace it. But if the can received a dent in the fall — and a health inspector sees the dented can — the restaurant could receive a violation.
So how did Trumbull restaurants do?
In January, the Health Department conducted 32 inspections, and issued scores ranging from 83 on the low side to two perfect 100 scores. Six restaurants received at least one 4-point violation. All of the 4-point violations were for holding ready-to-eat food at improper temperatures. Hot food is required to be served above 135 degrees. Cold food should be under 41 degrees.
Inspector Shaquaisha Andrews said such violations typically occurred at places with condiment stations or where employees scooped food from holding trays onto plates and were normally correctable by adjusting equipment settings or instructing employees to replace the tray covers after removing food. Hot food found below 135 degrees can sometimes be rewarmed to 165 degrees and served depending on how long it has been held at the lower temperature.
Parents will want to take note of the health scores that the school cafeterias received. And they are excellent. No educational facility received a score under 98 and two, Cooperative Educational Services and Middlebrook School, received 100s. Hillcrest Middle School received a 99 with the lone deduction being for an empty paper towel dispenser.
The complete list of inspection results is as follows. Restaurants that received a 4-point violation include brief explanations:
Bridges at Trumbull - 98;
Caracas Grill - 95;
CES 40 Lindeman Drive - 100;
CES Muffins & More - 95;
Chiang Mai Thai - 88;
Chips - 92;
Christian Heritage School - 98;
Cinnabon - 91;
Cosimo’s Pizza - 96;
Crown Pizza - 93;
Daniels Farm School - 98;
Franco Gianni’s - 95;
Fruity Swirls Frozen Yogurt - 94;
Healthyholic Fitness Cafe (LA Fitness) - 94;
Hillcrest Middle School - 99;
Jane Ryan School - 98;
McDonalds (Hawley Lane) - 94 (cold food held at 44 degrees, staff was instructed that the health guidelines for cold food storage had recently changed from 45 degrees and below to 41 degrees and below, temperature was corrected during inspector visit);
Mici Asian Bistro - 83 (cold food held at 44 degrees, corrected during inspector visit);
Middlebrook School - 100;
Old Towne - 95;
Romanacci - 91 (hot food holding temperature too low but within allowable window to be rewarmed, temperature corrected during inspector visit);
Sarku Japan - 90 (hot food holding temperature too low but within allowable window to be rewarmed, food was discarded as a precaution and manager agreed to replace food-holding equipment during inspector visit);
Sitting Duck Tavern - 93;
St Joseph’s Manor - 91 (cold food holding temperature too high, corrected during inspector visit);
Starbucks - 95;
Tashua Knolls - 98;
Subway (Hawley Lane) - 93;
Trumbull Food Mart - 97;
Trumbull Pizza Co - 98;
Trumbull High School - 98;
Wahlburgers - 85 (cold food holding temperature too high in reach-in cooler, food was discarded and staff instructed not to use cooler until temperature control is corrected and checked by Health Department; inspector also noted employee shoes on food storage shelf, and they were removed).
“Trumbull restaurants tend to do pretty well,” said Capuano. “When places receive violations, we try to work with them. We want local businesses to succeed in town, but at the same time, we have to protect the public health.”