Eddie Wu, owner of Mai Pearl at 121 Main St., Foxborough, told the Board of Health at Monday's meeting the reason for seven critical food code violations at his establishment could be explained in one word.
"Lazy," he said.
Wu said his staff had become lazy at Mai Pearl, which led to critical violations in food protection management, food being served from an approved source and food protection from contamination being found during a July 18th inspection by Sanitarian Diane Passafaro. Other violations were related to not keeping up with HACCP logs.
Here's a breakdown of the food code violations, according to Wu’s order to appear letter from the Board of Health. Below is Passafaro’s summary of the violations from the July 18th inspection:
- “Upon arrival, the sushi chef was peeling a cucumber with no gloves. This is a recurring violation, which was discussed with Wu via telephone with [Foxborough Health Agent] Pauline Clifford on Nov. 30, 2011. There shall be NO bare hand contact with any ready to eat foods. Reg. 590.004 (E) and Reg. 3-301.11.”
- “All sinks throughout the entire facility must be labeled as to its purpose. Reg. 4-501.15.”
- “All raw meat products must be stored below ready to eat foods. During the inspection, raw whole chicken was stored above tomatoes.” Clifford noted there was no meat stored above ready to eat foods during the Aug. 2 re-inspection.
- “The HACCP Plan must be onsite and accessible to employees and at the Board of Health’s request at all times. Reg. 8-201.14.”
- “Upon review of Wu’s current HACCP logs, the last pH reading taken of the acidified rice was performed on July 13. No reason could be given for the missing information.” Clifford noted that Wu stated the reason was no additional paper so it was not written. A large improvement has been made as it relates to the HACCP logs; however, each batch must be monitored daily. Reg. 8-201.14.
- “According to Wu’s written HACCP plan, the pH meter must be calibrated daily. No record of pH calibration was noted since December 2011. Wu was told to review the HACCP requirements with staff. Reg. 8-201.14.” Clifford noted daily calibration has begun at Mai Pearl.
- “Included as part of Wu’s HACCP logs was the monitoring of the sanitizer strength of a chlorine bleach solution. Following a discussion of this log, it was unclear how this solution is prepared and where the “pure” chlorine bleach was stored. The solution must be easily attainable for the Board of Health during the re-inspection. In addition, if chlorine solution is used, Wu must test the strength with the correct corresponding test strips. The test strips currently used today are for testing of a “Quaternary” sanitizer only. The sanitizer currently used at the 3-bay sink. Reg. 4-302-14.”
- “During a re-inspection in 2011, it was discussed in person the mandatory removal of all large bins that are unable to be washed sufficiently in the 3-bay sink. This was corrected shortly after that re-inspection, however, one large bin remains in use. Wu was ordered to cease use of the large bin immediately. Reg. 4-301.12.”
- “Discard all unused rice at the end of the day. Do not keep rice until morning. This is clearly stated in Wu’s HACCP.”
- “Upon requesting to see the sushi rice acidifying solution, it was noted that the prepared solution was no longer stored in five gallon containers that (upon previous inspections) contained additional ingredients stated in Wu’s HACCP recipe (i.e. sweet cooking wine, seaweed, lemon, etc.). Note that if there is any change in Wu’s recipe, he must notify the Board of Health and have the new recipe certified by a certified laboratory. Wu must verify procedures and contact the office with the specifics on the acidifying solution he is currently using. Reg. 8-201.13.”
- “Upon observing a cooling container for Wu’s sushi rice, it was noted that it was being performed in a wooden bowl. Wu was asked to provide the Board of Health with documentation that states the procedure is an acceptable food contact surface and safe to use for the preparation of sushi rice. This particular piece of equipment is not specifically discussed in the HACCP as being a wooden container. Reg. 4-101.19.” Wu told the Board of Health at the Aug. 6 meeting that his staff is currently using plastic bowls rather than wood.
- “After another review of Wu’s HACCP, the Board of Health is requesting additional information. Wu was asked to provide the Board of Health with all fish species he utilizes in his preparation of sushi. If any fish are frozen, documentation from the supplier must be provided to Wu to ensure the fish were adequately frozen for parasite destruction. These logs must be kept on-site and available for the Board of Health’s review. Reg. 3-201.11.”
- “The person-in-charge must be able to demonstrate the application of the HACCP principles and requirements of the code. The Board of Health highly recommended that when Wu is not on the premises that he has another Serve-Safe Certified employee there to answer all questions from the board’s inspectors.”
Wu told the Board of Health Monday that he has addressed the violations with both the town and his staff and will take the necessary measures to assure these violations do not occur again.
"I have met with the staff and I will plan to spend more time at this restaurant," Wu said, adding he also owns Mai Place in Canton.
Wu says when he is not present at Mai Pearl in Foxborough, his partner runs the operation and while he is also Serve-Safe Certified, there are communication issues.
"He doesn't speak English very well," Wu said of his partner.
That, according to Board of Health vice chair Eric Arvedon, is a problem, especially when it comes to keeping up with HACCP logs and other food code standards.
"The point is, even if the HACCP binder is there (at Mai Pearl) and has neon lights, they have to refer to it and they have to be able to operate from it," Arvedon told Wu, referring to the restaurant’s staff. "If a customer comes in and asks why they are doing this, they have to be able to explain it. If speaking English is the problem then we have to get around that because it becomes a training issue."
Arvedon offered the following example to Wu to stress the importance of communication and training.
"Let’s say you have the sanitizer there but you don’t have anyone there who knows how to mix up the sanitizer to the right solution and test the pH in the rice but you have the pH test meter there, that’s not good,” Arvedon said. “So all of these things have to tie in at all times.”
Wu agreed and said he would spend more time with his staff.
Board of Health chair Paul Steeves asked Wu to discuss the "laundry list" of issues other than the logs that included a chef cutting and handling cucumbers without gloves, sinks not being properly labeled, meat not being stored correctly and so on.
Wu said he has corrected those issues, which was confirmed in the re-inspection report and by Clifford.
"All corrected," Clifford said regarding the restaurant's violations. "The board recognized his efforts ... he has been cooperative since the very next day [of the July 18 inspection] in making changes, corrective actions, asking questions and paying the re-inspection fee."
As a result of the July 18th inspection violations, Wu was charged a $100 re-inspection fee. The re-inspection occurred on Aug. 2. If Wu had not been cooperative or failed to address the violations properly and in a timely matter, Clifford said the Board of Health could have suspended his sushi operation or revoked his license.
Mai Pearl opened in 2009 and according to Clifford, had some of "these same issues," in October and November of 2011.
"That is why I wanted him in front of the board," Clifford said. "He needs to pay attention to details when it comes to making the sushi rice."
Moving forward, Clifford said Wu needs to comply with the food code.
"Our new Sanitarian, Diane Passafaro, has a good understanding of how to do the HACCP inspections/review of the sushi area," Clifford said.
Despite the food code violations, Clifford pointed out that Wu's establishment has never received any complaints from consumers.
"We have never had any general complaints about this restaurant," Clifford said. "No food borne illness complaints either. ... "His establishment is always clean. He does what we ask of him in a timely fashion. People around town love his sushi. I always hear rave reviews."
Arvedon added that he has confidence in Wu and his restaurant and said the board would go eat at Mai Pearl “in a second.”
Steeves concluded that as a result of the seven critical violations, he was concerned waiting an entire year for another inspection of Mai Pearl and suggested the town inspects the restaurant inside of six months.
“We normally [inspect] in six months but we can go out there in three months,” Clifford said.
Said Steves: “Let’s do this quicker than normal. I don’t want to see this go too long.”