A recent Lorain County Public Health inspection found three health code violations in the Rathskeller kitchen.
On Oct. 1, an anonymous complaint was submitted to Lorain County Public Health alleging that several individuals had fallen ill with food poisoning as a result of dining in the Rathskeller. On Oct. 6, LCPH moved up its routine biannual inspection of the facility to follow up on this complaint and found three health code violations — two critical and one non-critical.
One critical violation was a repeat violation from LCPH’s prior inspection on April 26 of this year.
“Direct connection between the sewage system and a drain originating from equipment in which food, portable equipment, or utensils are placed,” the inspection report reads. “Observed the drainage line for the soda machine and the ice machine inserted into the drainage plumbing for the building. Adjust the plumbing to ensure there [are] air gaps present between the equipment drainage lines and the sewage system plumbing.”
The recommended plumbing adjustments were not made between April 26 and the Oct. 6 inspection. According to LCPH Environmental Health Supervisor Greg Putka, failure to rectify this issue can carry significant ramifications.
“Certain pieces of equipment have to have an indirect plumbing line from the piece of equipment into the drain,” Putka said. “Basically, they have a line that’s going from the piece of equipment directly into the drain. So the thought process there is that they don’t want any potential backup of sewage into those lines, because what’ll happen is that that sewage travels its way back up the line and potentially contaminates the ice.”
In an email to the Review, AVI Foodsystems Director of Retail Sarirose Hyldahl explained that the appropriate repairs have been made. “This issue has been rectified,” Hyldahl wrote. “When Pepsi does a fountain installation they do not follow OH Health Code regulations so we needed to get a campus plumber to properly fix the drain.”
It remains unclear, though, whether this was the issue that could have caused the alleged cases of food poisoning.
According to Katie Bevan, program manager of LCPH’s Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention program, there typically exists an extensive protocol for food poisoning complaints.
“When people do contact Lorain County Public Health about suspected food poisoning or suspected foodborne illnesses, we follow up with those individuals — as long as those complaints are not anonymous,” Bevan said. “Then our epidemiology team … conducts an interview with them, and part of that interview includes, ‘What foods have you eaten in the last 70 or in the 72 hours leading up to you becoming sick?’”
Because the complaint — which cited instances of food poisoning experienced by multiple unnamed students — was submitted anonymously, LCPH was unable to follow up with the complainant and verify the alleged food poisoning cases and their origins.
According to Putka, food poisoning can originate in a variety of ways.
“With regards to food lines, … basically you’re looking at if … the food staff isn’t properly washing their hands — there’s cross-contamination issues there,” Putka said. “If they’re not properly cooking products, potentially that way there’s also cross-contamination issues. If you’re not storing things properly — there’s a certain way to store meats in your refrigerators.”
Putka also mentioned that incorrect food storage temperatures can allow pathogens to grow and thus cause foodborne illness.
The risks of cross-contamination Putka outlines were flagged in the report issued after the Oct. 6 inspection, which included a critical storage error: “Food not properly protected from contamination by separation, packaging, and segregation. Observed raw eggs stored above a box of lettuce in walk-in cooler #3.”
This error was corrected by the Person-in-Charge during the inspection to prevent potential contamination.
According to Hyldahl, AVI prioritizes student health and safety. Hyldahl was present during the recent inspection and worked with staff to correct violations.
“Complaints regarding illness are taken seriously and we begin an investigation by collecting information from the student which we then pass along to the health department for an ad hoc inspection,” Hyldahl wrote. “I work alongside our health inspector directly during these inspections, providing her with any necessary documentation and giving her access to any areas that are of interest for any given inspection.”