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‘Critical violations’ at Hubbell

Story by Taylor Soule

Photos by Luke Nankivell

hubnasty2_nankivell-w2000-h2000Hubbell Dining Hall at Drake University, considered a high-risk food establishment, has violated at least one critical state health code in the past six health inspections, dating back to 2007. Though the violations are considered critical and pose a threat to health if ignored, Hubbell employees corrected all violations during the last inspection.

Any violation can pose a danger to diners, but Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals Public Information (DIA) Officer and Drake alumnus David Werning said he sees similar violations across high-risk establishments. High-risk establishments are those that serve large amounts of food to large numbers of people daily. Hubbell serves 2,000 to 3,000 meals per day.

In the most recent surprise inspection by the DIA on Oct. 10, Hubbell violated hot and cold hold, hand washing and food contact surfaces policies. DIA inspector Addison Boughton observed tomatoes and pasta at inadequate temperatures and an employee who neglected to wash hands when changing gloves. The inspector noted two food contact surfaces violations in a dirty table-mounted can opener and improperly stored spatulas.

“These (violations) are critical, yes,” Werning said. “The definition of a critical violation is one that if left uncorrected could potentially cause illness. It’s not necessarily an imminent danger type of situation. If it was an imminent danger, yeah, we would have shut them down. Hot holding, cold holding are probably a couple of the most common violations we see across the state in any restaurant.”

Nonetheless, some students are concerned about Hubbell’s safety.

First-year Rachael Kreski said she has noticed numerous health hazards at Hubbell, such as food stuck to the tables and even the ceiling.

“I mean, if I’d have to rate it on a one to 10 basis, I’d say maybe like a six or a seven. Clean would be one,” Kreski said.

hubnasty1_nankivell-w2000-h2000Since Oct. 10, Hubbell has changed several procedures to prevent the same violations in future inspections. Hubbell now ices the cold hold, which contains the tomatoes, onions and lettuce for burgers, to keep the temperature below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. At the pasta bar, Hubbell now cooks pasta in two-inch vats of water instead of four-inch vats to maintain temperature standards for hot foods.

To enforce proper hand washing, Hubbell holds a daily “huddle” where employees review an aspect of food safety. Though the mini-sessions reinforce Hubbell’s annual large-group training, Drake Sodexo Director of Operations Mindy Murphy said the management provides informal, individual training throughout each day.

“If you notice someone not washing their hands, our management, at that point, will step in and make sure that they understand and have a good comprehension of when they need to and just reinforce it on a daily basis,” Murphy said.

That daily prevention plays a key role at Hubbell, where employees often come and go. Murphy said the training process starts over every year, as new employees cycle in and as returning employees refresh safety knowledge.

Though Hubbell has taken measures to prevent the same violations in future inspections, it has struggled to prevent those violations in the past. Hubbell has violated food temperature codes in the last four inspections, dating to March 2009.

Hubbell Manager Vince Lovan said the busy nature of Hubbell operations prevents constant temperature checks.

“When we have high demand, when we have a rush, sometimes, when you open the warmer, like they (DIA) refer to the pasta, the warmer gets cooled down fast,” Lovan said.

When violations occur, though, the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) program gives Hubbell two hours from the inspector’s notice to correct any issues. Originally developed by Pillsbury for NASA, HACCP allows Sodexo to monitor food from production to serving to storage. Drake contracts Sodexo to supply the food at Hubbell.

Under HACCP, all Hubbell employees have access to temperature and time logs and monitor the food every 30-40 minutes. Though the program regulates Hubbell’s food safety system, Lovan said employees can’t monitor every aspect of the food all the time, particularly at meal times.

Murphy echoed Lovan about Hubbell’s challenging rush periods.

“This type of food service establishment is such a challenge,” Murphy said. “It’s both one of the things I love and hate about it, in that there’s just so much going on at any given meal period that it’s one of those things that we can be as thorough as possible, but if we don’t check every single item each and every time, we’re probably going to miss something.”

Though Hubbell has missed critical temperature and time codes consistently over the past four years, Werning, the DIA official, expressed his hope for improvement in the next inspection.

“Hopefully, he (Lovan) will see to it that the temperatures are maintained and remind the employees of the importance of proper hygiene and make sure that food contact surfaces are all wiped down, sanitized,” Werning said. “These are relatively minor adjustments that need to be made.”

From a student perspective, though, the food safety lapses at Hubbell are hardly minor.

Sophomore Ekta Haria, who manages the Drake Student Services Facebook page for Student Senate, said students have expressed concerns about Hubbell’s food safety procedures. She said students are concerned that employees neglect to change gloves between handling vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

Grimy tables are another concern Haria  often hears about.

First-year Ashley Dhainin said the tables’ cleanness varies from meal period to meal period.

“Around lunch time, the tables generally aren’t wiped off, but then, for dinner, they try harder to wipe of tables,” Dhainin said.

Though students have expressed alarm about Hubbell’s food safety, Werning said the October 2012 inspection reveals no imminent threats to diner health.

“These are relatively minor and are relatively easy to fix, but the consequence of not fixing them could be very significant, but the fact that they were fixed on site at the time of our inspection is good,” Werning said. “Like I said, these are probably the most common violations we find in any restaurant, so I would not hesitate eating at Hubbell.”

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