Crooker Cafeteria piles on health violations

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The Subway on campus violated health code on a recent inspection. Image Credit: Alyssa Foley

By Alyssa Foley

On a recent city health inspection, Crooker cafeteria was found to have seven health code violations while the campus Subway received two violations. The City of Houston Health Department sanitarians conducted routine, unannounced inspections on Feb. 7.

City health inspectors walked into Cooker Cafe and found dirty kitchen floors. Food service items that were not stored high enough off the floor and in a closed container to prevent contamination, which is a repeat violation from November. Single service food items were being used more than once. Besides the kitchen floors, non-food contact surface areas of equipment were also dirty. Crooker employees also failed to properly label stored food. The cafeteria was operating without the person in charge having the Food Service Manager’s Certification required by the city, another repeat violation from November’s inspection.

Next door at the campus Subway, potentially hazardous foods were not reheated within two hours. The Subway was also operating without the person in charge having a Food Service Manager’s Certification.

Read Crooker’s Feb. 7 health inspections here and here, and the Subway inspection here. The University of St. Thomas contracts campus dining services to Aramark.

Frequent re-inspections signal issues.

All food establishments in the city are inspected by the Houston Health Department at least once per year. UST’s campus dining service was inspected on Nov. 8, May 20 and May 11. UST Underground covered these previous inspections here.

Christopher Sparks, the chief sanitarian over retail food inspections at the Houston Health Department explained that there are two ways a food establishment would be re-inspected more than once per year. If a food establishment is given a high score on an inspection, it’s automatically scheduled for re-inspection sooner than one year.

The second way an eatery would be re-inspected sooner is if the Health Department received a complaint. Sparks explained that once a report is received, it is assigned to an area supervisor and given a priority ranking. Sanitation and sickness complaints are investigated within 24 to 48 hours.

Anyone can file a complaint with the City of Houston Health Department on a food vendor within city limits by calling 832-393-5100 or filling out the anonymous online form here.

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P.S.
No, I’m not currently enrolled at St. Thomas, I didn’t re-enroll for the spring. I’m back at Houston Community College for this semester and I’m busy completing college applications for this fall for universities with excellent journalism programs.

I realize UST Underground seems pretty lifeless, no one stepped to take it over this semester and I don’t blame any student for being hesitant to step up in the climate of censorship and fear at UST. I would be more than happy to turn over this site to a student who will continue updating it. I would like to extend a particular invitation to publish on UST Underground to any student working for the new Celt Press who can’t publish their story because it would embarrass the university. Real news will always be welcome here.
– Alyssa Foley

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Cafeteria gets 7 health code violations

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While the campus Subway received no health code violations, the Crooker Cafeteria received seven health code violations in a recent inspection, leaving students wondering about their food. Image Credit: Alyssa Foley

By Alyssa Foley

The University of St. Thomas’ sole cafeteria was found to have seven health code violations in a recent inspection. The City of Houston Health Department inspectors conducted routine, unannounced inspections on Nov. 8.

The Subway on campus was given a clean report, no health code violations were found.

Potentially hazardous food was found in the Crooker Cafe’s fridge without a marked disposition or prepared date, and food service items were found to not be high enough off the floor to prevent contamination.

The Crooker Cafe was found to be operating without the person in charge having a Food Service Manager’s Certification from the city. Jerry Fashell, a supervisor at the Houston Health Department, noted that “It is a major violation, and if it’s a repeated violation, it may result in a citation.”

The cafeteria also seems to struggle with bad plumbing and was not able to provide pressured water. Fashell explained that “If the water does not have adequate flushing pressure, that means that it cannot adequately dispel debris…” In other words, things cannot be cleaned without water pressure.

Other violations included issues with insufficient lighting and not posting warnings that under-cooked foods like sushi carry a greater risk of food-borne illness.

UST contracts campus dining services to Aramark. Campus Aramark managers said that they have a protocol in place; questions must be emailed to their media corporate and be approved before they can comment. As of this publishing, no response has been received from Aramark.

Improvements

The November inspection report is an improvement from Crooker’s scary health report from earlier this year in May when the city issued a citation to the Crooker Cafe after finding food not safe for human consumption, insects/rodents, contaminated ice, dirty floors, bad plumbing and more.

Upon re-inspection about a week after the initial May inspection, the only major violation health inspectors listed was that the cafeteria still had was a problem with insects/rodents.

In the May health inspection, the campus Subway was also found to have food sitting out for over two hours without being reheated, but was not issued a citation.

While Crooker Cafe had multiple health code violations in November, they did not receive a citation like in May. A city sanitarian may issue a municipal court citation against a food establishment when there is an immediate health risk or if previous interventions failed.

Fashell supervises food establishment inspections in the area. He explained that violations can turn into citations, “Based on the type of violation it is and was it a repeated violation?” Fashell also noted that different health inspector personal may have visited in May and in November.

Resident Students React

Lauren Mitchell lives in Guinen Hall and is required to purchase the $1,675 semester meal plan. After seeing the health inspection reports herself, Mitchell said, “It kind of pisses me off…for most of us, if you live on campus, it’s your only source of food.” Mitchell believes that “because of this issue, we should have options in our meal plans.”

Mitchell said that she can “deal with” everything but the potentially contaminated food service items. However, the inspection reports left her with a lot of questions. She also had complaints about how expensive the meal plan is, food running out all the time and the lack of healthy options.

Mary Rinaldi lives in Claire Hall and purchased the minimum meal plan required for students who live on campus, it is $600 a semester. After reading the city health reports, Rinaldi said that “If I have to have a meal plan, I should be able to use that meal plan and not worry about getting sick.” She hopes that they will continue to correct the situation.

Rinaldi avoids eating at Crooker because she does not believe the food is healthy anyways. “I will probably be using up the rest of my meal plan just with the overpriced convince store items.”

Commuters Avoid Food

Natasha Cedano is one of UST’s many commuter students. She usually eats before she leaves home or she gets food near her home in northwest Houston. She has eaten at the Subway on campus, but not at Crooker Cafe.

While she was pleased with Subway’s recent inspection, she found the cafeteria’s inspection shocking. “I would have liked to go to the cafeteria in the near future, but I just can’t now.”

Alexandra Hatch takes the bus to class, she often walks off campus or takes a bus to go someplace with better and cheaper food than what is available on campus.

She has eaten at the Subway on campus and has bought drinks and chips at Crooker Cafe, but Hatch says she has found dirty cups in the cafeteria before.

Hatch thinks that at UST, “They spend so much time on that lawn, but they’re not cleaning our cafeteria. They need to prioritize better.”
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View Crooker Cafeteria’s Nov. 8 Reports here and here. The cafeteria’s initial May reports can be found here and here, and their May re-inspections here and here.

View Subway’s Nov. 8 Reports here and here. Subway’s May report can be found here.