Lorain County Public Health reports health code violations at Rathskeller – The Oberlin Review

Abe Frato

A recent Lorain County Public Health inspection found three health code violations in the Rathskeller’s kitchen.

On Oct. 1, an anonymous complaint was filed with Lorain County Public Health alleging that several people became ill with food poisoning as a result of eating at the Rathskeller. On Oct. 6, LCPH increased its routine biennial inspection of the facility to follow up on that complaint and found three health code violations — two critical and one non-critical.

One critical violation was a repeat violation from an LCPH pre-screening on April 26 of this year.

“A direct connection between the sewer system and drainage originating from equipment in which food, portable equipment or utensils are placed,” the inspection report said. “I observed the drain line for the soda machine and the ice machine placed in the building’s drainage water line. Adjust the plumbing to ensure there [are] presence of air gaps between the drain lines of the equipment and the plumbing of the sewage system.’

Recommended plumbing adjustments were not made between April 26 and the October 6 inspection. According to LCPH Chief of Environmental Protection Greg Putka, failure to correct this problem could have significant consequences.

“Some pieces of equipment must have an indirect water line from the piece of equipment to the sewer,” Putka said. “Basically, they have a line that goes from the piece of equipment directly into the drain. So the thought process there is that they don’t want any potential backup of wastewater in those lines because what’s going to happen is that that wastewater goes back up the line and potentially contaminates the ice.

In an email to ReviewAVI Foodsystems, Retail Director Sarirose Hyldahl explained that the relevant repairs have been carried out. “This issue has been fixed,” Hildal wrote. “When Pepsi installed a fountain, they didn’t follow the OH Health Code regulations, so we had to have a campus plumber fix the drain properly.”

However, it remains unclear whether this is the problem that may have caused the suspected cases of food poisoning.

According to Katie Bevan, program manager of LCPH’s Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention program, there is usually an extensive protocol for food poisoning complaints.

“When people contact Lorain County Public Health about suspected food poisoning or suspected foodborne illness, we follow up on those individuals — as long as those complaints are not anonymous,” Bevan said. “Then our epidemiology team … conducts an interview with them, and part of that interview includes, ‘What foods did you eat in the last 70 or 72 hours before you got sick?’

Because the complaint — which cites cases of food poisoning experienced by multiple unnamed students — was filed anonymously, LCPH was unable to contact the complainant and verify the alleged cases of food poisoning and their origins.

According to Putka, food poisoning can occur in a number of ways.

“In terms of food lines, … you’re basically looking at whether … food staff are not washing their hands properly — there are cross-contamination issues,” Putka said. “If they’re not properly cooked products, potentially that way there are cross-contamination issues as well.” If you don’t store things right – there is a certain way to store meat in your refrigerators.

Putka also mentioned that improper food storage temperatures can allow pathogens to thrive and thus cause foodborne illness.

The cross-contamination risks outlined by Putka were noted in the report issued after the October 6 inspection, which included a critical storage error: “Food is not properly protected from contamination by separation, packaging and segregation. Observed raw eggs stored over box of lettuce in cooler #3.”

This error was corrected by the person responsible during the inspection to prevent potential contamination.

According to Hyldahl, AVI prioritizes student health and safety. Hildahl was present during the recent inspection and is working with staff to correct the violations.

“Complaints of illness are taken seriously and we initiate an investigation by gathering information from the student, which we then forward to the health department for an ad hoc review,” Hildal wrote. “I work alongside our health inspector directly during these inspections, providing her with all the necessary documentation and giving her access to any areas of interest for a given inspection.”

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