Minor violations have been cause for concern for UAA food services

Violation implies blaring lights and a mechanical voice – 007 style – intoning “red alert;” so when a salad delves below 40 degrees, a similar reaction does not seem necessary, but that’s how city inspectors write their reports. “Employees may not wipe their mouths on their clothing,” “there were no paper towels at one of the hand sinks,” and “raw chicken was being stored immediately next to tomatoes.”

These single violations belong to general categories, such as “food protected from cross contamination” and “proper sanitation, temperature, chemicals.”

While reviewing the city’s health reports on UAA facilities, which can be found on the city’s website, it’s soon apparent that many of the violations cited by routine health inspections fall into one of the two categories.

Most of UAA’s health violations are minor, incurring a five-point deduction maximum. All of these violations were the result of routine checks. Complaints rarely occur. The last complaint against the Lucy Cuddy Hall was in 2004 and, like all other complaints, was unsubstantiated.

Though minor, why are the same health violations cited at UAA over and over again?

These violations are easily earned by a simple slip of thought: forgetting to wash a bagel cutter, towels without bleach or employees using those towels to wash their hands.

These minor violations occur so frequently due to, as any restaurant employee can attest, human nature – people tire and the mind wanders.

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One interesting violation report reads, “Whipped cream measured at 60 degrees. Whipped cream is a potentially hazardous food and must be maintained at 41 degrees or below.”

While eating tepid whipped cream is not ideal, it is not ordinarily perceived as being hazardous when compared to eating things normally associated with hazardous materials, like uranium.

Nonetheless, the looming health inspector can maintain health standards. The coffee house in the Cuddy Center had a violation on Oct. 3, 2008 due to an employee returning to work without washing her hands. The health inspector docked the manager five points, but noted that, “this was corrected immediately.” This is an example of a minor violation that immediately brought the facility back to health standards.

Luke Young, a sous chief at the Cuddy Center, agrees that nearly all of the violations have been minor. They are often fixed during inspection: such as reprimanding the unwashed employee on the spot, then reviewing company policy. To prevent public humiliation, Luke Young recommends “Happy Birthday.”

“Wash up to your elbows and sing Happy Birthday,” Young said. “It’s a little trick I picked up these 17 years.”
Apropos, if the number of employees that “forget” to wash their hands is ever released, great protests may occur.

Young notes that UAA follows the required opening procedure of all restaurants in Anchorage known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). This procedure is a preventative measure to reduce and eliminate food safety hazards.

It is mandated by the Food and Drug Association as well as the Department of Agriculture. Hopefully this procedure prevents the possibility of a health violation, like salad reaching the “danger zone” of 40 degrees or below.