Friday, March 13, 2009

Analysis: Systemic Filth at Heartland Cafe, Rogers Park

As noted in a previous post today, the Heartland Cafe restaurant at 7000 N. Glenwood Ave. in Rogers Park was closed down by city health inspectors this morning (Friday, March 13) for several "critical violations" of health code. The violations indicate continuous, systemic violations. Inspectors reacted early this morning to a 311 call made on Thursday, March 12 from a customer who says she became ill after eating at the Heartland Cafe. systemic adjective affecting an entire system; "a systemic poison" (source) What is a "critical violation?" The City of Chicago Food Protection Division defines it this way: This category includes such occurrences as: Inadequate storage temperatures Inappropriate food handling practices Improper personal hygiene Rodent and/or insect infestation Lack of hot running water These types of violations create an immediate health hazard that carries a greater risk of causing food-borne illness (disease carried to humans through food). Critical violations identified during an inspection must be corrected immediately. If the business fails to do so, it fails the inspection, receives a citation, and has its business license suspended. The business owner is required to correct the violation(s) and contact the Chicago Department of Public Health to schedule an inspection to reopen the business. (Source The Chicago Sun-Times has this: On its web site, the Heartland Cafe on the North Side bills itself as "a wonderful place where people gather to enjoy good wholesome food for the mind and body." Wholesome, eh? Sure, if you consider poison "wholesome." But the discovery of mouse feces, a moldy ice maker and food being stored at unsafe temperatures prompted city health inspectors to shut down the popular Rogers Park restaurant on Friday morning. I say that this indicates "continuous, systemic violations" for several reasons, which I'll explain after we hear from a city official: “The cafe at 7000 N. Glenwood Ave. was closed after inspectors discovered three critical health violations, according to City Dept. of Public Health spokesman Tim Hadac .... "Specifically we found inside their automatic ice maker a black, slimy mold that was dripping into the water used to make ice,” Hadac said. Full Article at the Sun-Times... Let's review. Inspectors found (A) mouse feces, (B) a moldy ice maker and (C) food stored at unsafe (not cold enough) temperatures. Additionally, there was (D) the cross-contamination in the ice maker, which put out dirty ice, which were added to beverages. As for my accusation of continuous, systemic violations: Point by point, how could this have happened? (A) According to today's report in News-Star, "Inspectors who visited the Heartland reported finding mouse feces throughout the restaurant." Keyword there is "throughout." Not just a few droppings in that corner, a few over there. "Throughout" the place indicates an ongoing, thorough infestation of rodents. Surely somebody working at the restaurant must have noticed all the mouse turds laying around. No? (B) The moldy ice maker. Did the staff at Heartland Cafe clean that thing? If so, how often, and how? Apparently, they were not careful enough to clean it or check it thoroughly. Had they, there would not have been mold in there. (C) Food stored at unsafe temperatures, meaning the coolers were not cool enough. A restaurant is obligated to know at all times the temperatures that are maintained in coolers, freezers and warmers. Perhaps the Heartland Cafe had no working thermometer in the cooler. Perhaps the cooler was malfunctioning in some way, perhaps both. In either case, the Heartland Cafe should have replaced any defective equipment, including a thermometer. (D) Cross-contamination, from the dirty ice, was as continuous as the mold problem in the ice maker. Put all four items, A-D, together and the problem is, by definition, systemic. We hope the city authorities take that into consideration during the administrative hearing on April 23 to address the disgusting health code violations of the Heartland Cafe. RELATED: Rogers Park cafe closed after "critical" health code violations found (ChiTown Daily News) Heartland CafĂ© shut down by city health inspectors (Chicago Journal/News-Star) Rogers Park Restaurant Heartland Cafe Closed By Health Inspectors (WBBM 720 AM) Rogers Park Restaurant Closed by City ( Closing the Heartland - Memnison Journal Twitter Search for "Heartland Cafe" REVIEWS OF HEARTLAND CAFE Heartland Cafe waitress sneezes in hands and continues serving & Owner's son drops bun on floor puts it back on burger! Chicago dining mediocrity defined Only if you've got all day Dont go! Chicago News Bench RSS Feed Cool Stuff...