DECATUR — After revoking the operating permits of three businesses in one day, Macon County Health Department leaders say health inspectors are just doing their jobs and taking necessary steps to keep the public safe.
Brian Wood, the department's assistant director of environmental health, said he is aware of the concerns that inspectors may be too stringent.
“It may appear that way from the outside,” Wood said. “On the inside, we do this every day and we follow the same criteria every day and, as much as humanly possible, we try to be unemotional. It's not based on how we feel that day or anyone's attitude. We see this as risk evaluation. Every day is just risk assessment.”
Fuji Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar at 4292 Prospect Drive reopened Friday evening for dinner service after correcting health violations that prompted its second closure in seven months by the Macon County Health Department. The closure, following a routine inspection of the business, was one of three ordered by the health department on Wednesday. Fuji was the last of the three to reopen. Save-A-Lot at 2280 E. William St. was also closed, and Circle K at 501 N. Main St. was only permitted to sell gas, lottery tickets and tobacco.
Reports detailing the reasons behind the closings were released Friday by the health department.
“This is obviously a failure on my part,” Fuji owner Kevin Wong told the Herald & Review. “I have good people working for me. They were undertrained” when it came to the importance of following protocols that may have identified and prevented some of the issues that led to the health department action.
The primary issues at Fuji, as noted in the report, were a malfunctioning refrigeration unit and prep table that allowed some products to exceed maximum temperatures and having “many” flies in the building.
The report showed the temperature of the walk-in cooler between 48 and 50 degrees. It should have been under 41 degrees. Any items in the unit that were above 41 degrees at the time of the inspection were discarded, the report said.
But Wong is confident the practice of taking the temperature of the meat and produce before it was prepared was followed, meaning the health of the lunchtime customers wasn't at risk.
“Luckily, the inspector was able to catch this,” Wong said, while adding he wished the issue could have been resolved without his having to close the restaurant.
Wood noted inspectors try to work with the owners and manager as much as possible to resolve issues in an effort to avoid closing a business.
Wood said the lack of available food storage options required Fuji to be closed. Had the situation been limited the presence of flies, which he confirmed the management was attempting to control, it might have resulted in the business closing for just a couple hours to have an exterminator come in and take care of the problem.
“We can't say we can't shut this place down because it looks bad for business,” Wood said. “We have to be true to our mission.”
Wong said he used the time the restaurant was closed to reinforce sanitation protocols, do more cleaning and repair the back door that he assumed was the primary source of the flies.
You have free articles remaining.
“A mistake is the best thing in life if you learn from it,” Wong said.
After the closure in December, Wong changed rice vendors, believing they were the source of the dead rodent found during that inspection.
Because the complaint that prompted the inspection included cockroach sightings by customers, Wong said he changed from having monthly pest inspections/treatment to having them weekly. He has since gone to twice a month inspections.
Because of health issues, Wong said he is spending less time in the restaurant. But he said he would love to talk with anyone who has concerns or questions about his operation. They can reach him at email@example.com.
According to the health department report, Save-A-Lot at 2280 E. William St., was inspected after someone posted a photo on social media showing rodent droppings in a cardboard box and "tagged" the department, bringing the post to its attention. The caption for the photo listed the store's address.
An inspector who subsequently went to the store found eight “decaying odorous rat carcasses,” what was described as the “extreme” presence of rodent droppings on floors and shelves, sticky floors heavily soiled with food, flies and gnats, and debris around the dumpster.
The report said the store was closed immediately because of “existing health hazard to the public.”
“They couldn't continue without taking immediate action,” Wood said. “The infestation had reached the level where we didn't want it to grow and cause potential health issues.”
A second health inspection report made public Friday said the store was reopened Thursday after the department determined that the hazard was eliminated.
A malfunctioning water heater was the primary reason for food and drink sales being stopped at the Circle K. Only gas, lottery tickets and tobacco could be sold until the issue was resolved on Thursday.
The inspection report said that "hot water is necessary for hand washing and equipment cleaning."
The health inspector noted fruit fly activity near the three-compartment sink, which needed to be treated by pest control and "pink slime" on the ice-dispensing chutes of the beverage station, Macon County Health Department documents obtained Friday show.
Kennedy Nolen and Analisa Trofimuk contributed to this report.