Where's the Beef? California Company Recalls Nearly 9 Million Pounds of Meat

Photo courtesy USDA
Maybe switch to pork for a little while...
Rancho Feeding Corporation of Petaluma, California, was forced to recall 8.7 million pounds of beef this past weekend due to improper inspection. And of course, some of the meat in the recall made its way to Texas, because it's not like we have a gazillion of our own cows here or anything.

The United States Department of Agriculture issued a press release on February 8 that listed the health risk as "high," but it took a few days for details about where the recalled meat had been shipped to surface. According to the press release, Rancho Feeding Corporation "processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection."


More »

Health Department Roundup: Sad Times at Happyland & Radical Cleanliness

We're all for businesses with ironic or inadvertently funny names. Like Kids Exchange, which is usually written in all caps without any spaces so it reads "KIDSEXCHANGE," and our naughty little minds insert spaces where they probably shouldn't be. Or Pho Shizzle, a Vietnamese joint in Washington with an oh-so-clever owner.

Unfortunately, some places have names that are funny because they don't exactly accurately reflect the business itself. Like Happyland Supermarket. Admittedly, I've never been inside Happyland, but from the outside it looks kind of sad. It's probably feeling sad this week, too, because it got a citation from the health inspector for eight violations, including food not safe for human consumption, the food service manager not having a food service manager's certification in his/her possession, openings to the outside not protected against insects, a poorly maintained ice machine and no soap at the sinks. Or at least there wasn't soap at every sink, which is not as bad as having no soap whatsoever, but still not great.

More »

Houston Health Department Roundup: A Ceviche Movie Theater Citation and a Bad Day at Trucker's Paradise

There are some ideas that, no matter how good they sound initially, maybe don't turn out so well. Face tattoos. Juice cleanses. Raw seafood from a movie theater.

Fortunately, though many people have gone through with their ill-advised plans to tattoo tribal prints across their foreheads, a heroic health inspector saved hundreds (if not thousands) from suffering at the hands of Studio Movie Grill's (805 Town and Country Lane) ceviche lettuce wrap.

Actually, that may not be accurate. I can neither confirm nor deny that people continue to order raw seafood from a movie concession stand, but I can tell you that thanks to the health inspector, said seafood might not be as unfortunate as it once was. After the Department of Health received a complaint, Studio Movie Grill was slapped with a citation for an employee neglecting to use "suitable utensils" or "chemical hand sanitizing solution." The inspector also caught an employee consuming food in an "unapproved area." Trying to be all rebellious only to get whipped by the health inspector.

More »

Holy Guacamole: Iguana Joe's Temporarily Closed Due To Critical Health Violations

Photo courtesy of Iguana Joe's Facebook
Iguana Joe's in Humble received critical violations after several customers became sick.
Getting sick after eating at a restaurant is never a fun thing. Especially if your entire family gets sick, too. On Father's Day weekend, approximately a dozen customers apparently got food poisoning from the Iguana Joe's in Humble, as reported by KHOU-TV. Many of the customers were showing signs of food poisoning that lasted nearly the entire day.

After several patrons called the Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services, the department initiated an investigation of Iguana Joe's and announced on Tuesday that the location would be temporarily closed.

More »

Health Department Roundup: Phamily Bites Redux, St. Pius X and More

"I am aware that St Pius X and West Dillon share a mascot. That is not lost on me."

We're doing a lightning round of the Health Department Roundup this week. And we'll start with some good news. The Phamily Bites truck got a reinspection and made it through without a ticket or closure order this time. In fact, the only violation the city turned up was dirty non-food-contact surfaces.

Also good news, especially for you prep-school kids -- St. Pius X High School (811 Donovan) has a mostly clean concession area! An inspector did turn up two violations, however: equipment in poor repair or toxic, and potentially hazardous food not held at proper temperature in cold storage. Go Panthers! Yes, we had to look that up.

Not so good news -- Brothers Pizzeria at 3820 N. Shepherd didn't get a ticket, but an inspector did turn up half a dozen violations. Most of those were of the less-than-disgusting variety, though. The issues were no protection over artificial lighting; not enough hand-washing signs; toilet room not provided with covered receptacle; poorly designed or maintained equipment; food employee not wearing an effective hair restraint (corrected on site); and shipping containers used for storage/shelving.

More »

Health Department Roundup: Meat Row and Trouble in the Phamily


Pickings are sort of slim on the Health Department's Web site this week. Regardless, we'll start with the meat, because you don't win friends with salad. Fleming's Prime (2405 W. Alabama) had a good inspection, earning just two violations during a routine inspection: equipment not kept tight/adjusted in accordance with manufacturer's specs, and missing dishwasher thermometer.

Frank's Americana Revival (3736 Westheimer) -- which used to be Frank's Chop House, so close enough, meat-wise -- did nearly as well. An inspector found three violations last week: equipment not kept tight/adjusted in accordance with manufacturer's specs, no splashguard present on at least one sink; and dishwashing machine not cleaned as often as necessary.

Smith & Wollensky
(4007 Westheimer) rounded out the poorly adjusted equipment trifecta. Its only additional violation was no properly installed trap drains in the floor. That's why you take hose-baths in the back yard, or failing that, a reasonably private alley.

More »

Health Department Roundup: Zelko Bistro, Two Dirty Chains and more

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image
If you're out in northeast Houston, taking in the sights, you might want to avoid the Sonic at 9425 Mesa. It got a ticket after an inspector turned up eight violations, including improper reheating of potentially hazardous foods; potentially hazardous and ready-to-eat food held for more than seven days; improperly constructed floors; exterior surfaces not kept free of litter; no Food Service Manager's Certification; and using shipping containers or milk crates as support or storage shelves.

Also, hey, avoid the Subway at 9421 Mesa. It didn't get hit with as many violations -- just four -- but it did earn a citation. An inspector found food employee not wearing effective hair restraint; toilet facilities not kept clean; no Food Service Manager's Certification; and potentially hazardous food held at improper temperature.

And not to get too down on Mesa, but La Campesina Meat Market (8908 Mesa) had one of the worst inspections of the last week, earning a ticket after an inspector turned up 14 violations. Problems included no Food Service Manager's Certification; mislabeled or spoiled food; potentially hazardous food not held at proper temperature; single-service articles being used more than once; dirty or improperly used wiping cloths; poorly designed or maintained equipment; dirty non-food-contact surfaces; effective pest-control measures not taken; and toilet facilities not kept clean.

More »

Health Department Roundup: Clean Ruchi's, Dirty Whataburger and a Place Called Ernie's

"I'm your boysenberry." - Legendary TB patient Doc "Lunger" Holliday
We had a TB skin test a couple days ago, and as we approach the 48-hour minimum for a visual reading with no ominous red bump, it feels strangely like the Texans entering the fourth quarter with a two-touchdown lead on whatever ungulate team Peyton Manning is leading. Either way, we'll be keeping an eye out for sneeze-guard violations this week.

We'll start with a bunch of Montrose-area inspections. First, some good news -- a couple of places had completely clean inspections. Indika (516 Westheimer), BB Donuts (515 Westheimer) and Anvil (1424 Westheimer) came out perfect. Sorrento (415 Westheimer) earned one violation, for prohibited carpet in food prep area. Flammable carpet? Who's to say.

Meteor (2306 Genesee) got hit with four violations: improperly sized or installed plumbing; no test kit to measure sanitizing solution; no thermometer in area storing potentially hazardous foods; and improperly used drying agent.

Grand Prize (1010 Banks), listed here nostalgically as Ernie's on Banks, earned just one violation: dirty floors. Maybe that's due to the fact that weekends at Grand Prize now bring scummy 22-year-olds who tag the patio steps because no one paid attention to them in high school.

More »

Health Department Roundup: Taco Keto, Burns Bar-B-Q, Woodrow's and More

"Maybe I didn't clean the dishwashing machine / Quite as often as I should have"
Very disappointing news, on its surface -- Taco Keto (1401 Cullen), maybe the consensus pick for best food truck in Houston, got a visit from a health inspector last week and ended up with a citation and a temporary closure order. A closer look shows that Keto's violations were more about non-sanitary policy violations than any actual dirt. Three of the seven violations were for serving/storing/displaying food on an attached device or equipment - just like providing seating for customers, this is forbidden for mobile units. One violation was a general Article II transgression.

The remaining three weren't great - no hand-washing soap at all sinks, no garbage facility for customers provided and no valid service records available for mobile unit - but it's doubtful they'd deter anyone from visiting the truck. Least of all, us. We stopped by at lunch yesterday. There wasn't much of a line at 1 p.m., but Taco Keto was definitely open again, free side of papas and everything. We didn't see any attached devices, so maybe they've made changes, or maybe we just don't have an inspector's eye.

More »

Health Department Roundup: Macondo, Guadalajara, Taco Trucks and More

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image
Slim pickings this week, with a fairly anonymous group of restaurants listed in the inspections. We're sure the Sonic at 330 North Park in Kingwood isn't anonymous to whoever owns it, but most of us don't own the Sonic at 330 North Park in Kingwood. To the party who does, congratulations on picking up just two fairly benign violations. Pour yourself an Ocean Water, you deserve it.

The rest of us can start with the Wing Spot at 54 East Crosstimbers. An inspector turned up nine violations, which led to a temporary closure but, for some reason, no citation. Issues included no Food Dealer's Permit; poorly designed or maintained equipment; poisonous or toxic materials present that are not necessary for operations (corrected on site); potentially hazardous food held at improper internal temperatures; and effective pest-control measures not taken.

An inspector visited Macondo Latin Bistro (208 Travis) less than a year ago, which resulted in probably the only opportunity we'll ever have to use art featuring breasts for the Health Department Roundup. It was a good week. Macondo had a better time this year than it did in 2012, registering three violations: hand-washing sink not accessible at all times; no vent filters; and equipment/utensils/glassware/plates not handled in a way that prevents contamination.

More »