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2 Investigators: Tourist Spots Fail Food Inspections

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Pizza is served at the Brain Food restaurant court. (CBS)

Pizza is served at the Brain Food restaurant court. (CBS)

Pam Zekman Pam Zekman
Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Pam Zekman serves on CBS 2 Chicago’s...
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(CBS) — You would think that some of the busiest restaurants in the city — those located in tourist destinations — would be some of the safest.

But as 2 Investigator Pam Zekman discovered some of those restaurants have failed inspections or had critical temperature violations that could make people sick.

The Museum of Science and Industry’s Brain Food Court has failed three health inspections in the last three years and got citations for temperature violations, fruit flies, and mice droppings scattered in cabinets in the grill, pizza and salad prep area.  Finnigan’s Ice Cream Parlor, also at the MSI, failed a health inspection last year after inspectors found mice droppings under the prep table and alongside the walk-in cooler.

“I’m cringing as I hear that because where there are droppings there are rodents,” food safety expert Kantha Shelke says.

At the Shedd Aquarium, the Bubble Net food court failed an inspection in 2011 and had critical food temperature violations just last year for keeping potentially hazardous food at improper cold holding temperatures, such as 15 pounds of cooked beans at 51.2  degrees and  10 pounds of cooked beef at 50.3 degrees inside a walk in cooler.

“Anything above 40 degrees is just a buffet for bacteria,” Shelke said.

CBS 2 found some of the worst health inspection reports for some restaurants at Navy Pier, the biggest tourist attraction in Chicago.

Carnelli’s Deli in the Food Court had critical food temperature violations last year and this year. The most recent inspection in May found the walk in cooler was at 49 degrees instead of the required 40 degrees.  As a result, inspectors found potentially hazardous food at improper temperatures such as chicken salad, potato salad, tuna salad, eggs, cheeses, turkey, ham, chicken and turkey bacon.

All were found to be between 43.8 and 47.3 degrees.  The same problem was found in a June 2012 inspection with the walk-in cooler at 52.3 degrees. And again deli meat, potato salad and raw chicken were found between 48.7 and 52.4 degrees.  Between the two inspections management voluntarily threw out $1,300 worth of food.

“If someone bought the food before the inspector showed up that could potentially make them sick and in some cases even kill them,” Shelke said.

At America’s Dog, CBS 2’s hidden cameras found raw hot dogs sitting on the counter.

Just two months ago, America’s Dog failed their yearly inspection for critical food temperature issues. They had to throw out 212 pounds of food worth $500.

Also at Navy Pier, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville failed inspections the last two years. And critical temperature violations were found last year at Harry Caray’s and the Haagen Dazs Cafe and this year at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.

All of the restaurants in this story either passed follow-up inspections or corrected violations while inspectors were present. The operators of Harray Caray’s Tavern and Haagan Dazs Café did not respond to CBS 2.

Those who did respond said they take food safety seriously.

The owner of Carnelli’s and America’s dog added that his cooler has been modified to prevent temperature problems and denies hotdogs were handled improperly. He said the restaurants also use an independent consultant checks their operations semi-annually.

The other companies sent us the following written statements about the inspections.

Bubba Gum Shrimp Co.

“It is important in the restaurant business, and especially to us at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., that food safety measures are instituted and followed.  We take pride in our guest experience and food handling measures, however, on that date we made a mistake.  This is unacceptable behavior, which has been rectified.  Since then, we have continued to maintain the high standards we have set for ourselves and have had no further issues.”

Margaritaville Hospitality Group

“Our company is very committed to Food Safety and Sanitation. We adhere to all local, state and federal guidelines. We take extra preventative measures, including electronic temperature monitoring systems, inspections by an independent third party company on a quarterly basis, and receive regular inspections by our internal registered Environmental Health Specialist.  If issues do arise, they are taken very seriously and dealt with immediately.”

Museum of Science and Industry:

“The health and safety of our guests and staff is our first priority. Our facilities are operated by our food service provider, Sodexo, and together we strive to create a safe, clean environment and excellent guest experience at all times. Upon being notified of infractions, we worked to ensure that all the necessary changes and improvements were made to ensure the quality of operations and the safety of our guests.  Our food service has been in compliance since August 2012, and we will continue to work with Sodexo  to make certain that it meets our standards and expectations.”

Shedd Aquarium

“Shedd Aquarium continually works with our food service partner, Sodexo, to provide a premiere guest experience, including safe food. Our restaurants are in substantial compliance with Chicago’s Health Code, and we take public health inspections seriously. While extremely rare, if an examination reveals challenges, we take immediate action to resolve all concerns and ensure the wellbeing of our visitors.”

Sodexo: Food Service provider for the Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium

“At Sodexo we take pride in our longstanding, strong performance in food safety and our commitment to maintain strict adherence to food safety procedures that lead to clean, safe operations and nutritious food. We welcome health inspections and on the rare occasion they reveal issues that are not up to specific standards, we take immediate action to address those issues, often before inspectors leave the location.”

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