March 26, 2013

After Sanitary Violations, Statler Eateries Make Changes

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Following violations of state sanitation codes in February, two Statler Hotel eateries — Taverna Banfi and Terrace Dining Hall — have taken steps to improve their sanitation policies, said Thomas Gisler, executive chef of the Statler Hotel.

Banfi was cited by the Tompkins County Health Department for storing toxic chemicals in a way that increased the potential for the contamination of food. Terrace was cited for storing potentially hazardous foods above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the citation.

Richard Adie, general manager of the Statler Hotel, said the official violation citations were less serious than they appeared to be.

“The violation made it sound like toxic deadly chemicals were on the food preparation line,” Adie said. “[In reality,] they found a can of Lysol spray in a room service storage area. It inadvertently got there and was immediately removed. It should not have been placed there; we were in violation [of the rules].”

Adie said that at Terrace Dining, two cheeses were stored at 48 and 51 degrees F, when they must be kept at 45 degrees or below. When brought to the staff’s attention during the inspection, the cheese was immediately cooled to resolve the issue, Adie said.

Gisler said the reason the cheese had a temperature above the regulation level was because it was at a higher temperature when it was delivered to the restaurant. He added that Terrace has implemented new changes in response to the citations, such as taking temperatures on the loading dock and storing cheese in a metal container that better holds the temperature below 45 degrees.

Adie said the Statler appreciated the health department inspections, which are randomly conducted. The inspections, he said, help maintain food safety in the Statler’s dining establishments.

“We look forward to these health inspections because we learn from [them]. [They] keep us on our toes,” Adie said.

After the violations, he said, the facilities were re-inspected two weeks later and were cleared. Adie said the Statler uses the Hazardous Analytical Critical Control Points, a system of safety principles that help prevent foodborne illness.

Banfi and Terrace are classified as high-risk facilities because both conduct full menu preparation; as a result, they are inspected twice a year, according to Carol Chase, senior public health sanitarian for the Environmental Health Division of the County’s Health Department. Factors that are considered during inspections include the “temperature of food, the way it is processed [and] the way it is cooled and reheated,” she said.

Chase said Banfi and Terrace have both violated sanitation codes in previous years.

“They’ve had some improper cooling issues and bare hand contact with food over the last five years,” Chase said. She said that most of the issues arose from errors in the production process that the inspections helped to correct.

Chase said minor violations like these are common in high-risk facilities, adding  that, generally, Cornell eateries have high quality preparation methods.

“Cornell seems to do a really good job in training people and keeping them standardized,” Chase said.

Both Gisler and Adie expressed disappointment over the recent violations, saying they always hope to achieve high quality in their eating establishments.

Gisler also posted an article from the Ithaca Journal citing the violations on a bulletin board in the main kitchen of the Statler as a way to encourage staff to maintain safety.

Gisler said both Banfi and Terrace take extensive precautions to ensure food safety, saying that, for example, “even if the pizza is kept at 140 degrees, we discard it every 45 minutes for quality and safety.”

Adie added that the Statler establishments were also inspected Tuesday by a private company. He explained that the Statler uses this company to maintain standards, saying the inspection is very rigorous and supplements the Tompkins County inspection. This company visits four times per year.

Adie said the precautions were taken in the interest of safety, as “we [couldn’t] live with ourselves if we knew we were doing something that would make the public sick.”

Some students who frequent Terrace Dining did not seem concerned about the violations.

“My mom owns a restaurant and temperature is a big thing, but three degrees isn’t a big deal,” Sarah King ’15 said.

Another student echoed King’s sentiments.

“Honestly, I don’t think I would change my habits,” Michelle Wan ’16 said.

Original Author: Erica Augenstein