Steve Amster, the owner of Garden State Bagels got his Encinitas restaurant’s health rating dropped from a long-term “A” to a less-than-90% “B” rating. He was cited for what county health inspector, Diego Velasquez, reported as major violations.
191 N. El Camino Real, Encinitas
Amster says the inspector spent two hours trying to find something wrong. “He nit-picked,” said Amster.
The inspector cited Amster for having a large cardboard box filled with cartons of eggs on the floor of a walk-in refrigerator. “The inspector said everything is supposed to be six inches off the floor,” claimed Amster. However Amster noted when boxes of egg cartons are delivered, they come off the floor of the trucks.
Amster now questions the temperatures and sanitation of food delivery trucks. He inquired how the county monitors food delivery trucks. They don’t.
“Food delivery vehicles are inspected and regulated by the California Department of Public Health,” confirmed Jessica Northrup, communication officer for the county’s health department.
“In the 32 years in business I have never seen anyone from the state inspect any delivery vehicle for temperatures or other violations,” said Amster.
The largest violation, according to Velasquez report, was the front cooler in the prep area was deemed too warm, even though Amster’s own three thermometers showed compliance. “The county’s probes are not accurate,” says Amster. “They can be thrown off by being dropped or exposed high heat.”
To test the probe’s accuracy, the county uses a baseline of a 32-degree glass of ice slurry. In an on-site test by Amster using Velazquez’s probe, the probe read 34.4 degrees.
“Had his probe been accurate my refrigerator would have been in compliance,” claims Amster.
Northrup says not true. “The degree variation in the initial test would not have made a difference in the “B” grade assigned to this establishment,” she said.
By paying a $153 fee, which Amster calls a fine without due process, he was able to get Velasquez to return the next day for a re-inspection, which upgraded the bagel shop back to an “A” rating.
“We are confident in our inspection results and are pleased Mr. Amster was able to make the necessary corrections to restore his “A” grade,” Northrup said.
Amster says he’ll soon have a meeting with Velazquez’s supervisor, Ryan Johnson, and his higher-ups in the county department, to discuss testing procedures and the inspector’s attitude.
“When something happens prior to food supplies arriving at our store, like loss of refrigeration in delivery trucks, we never know about it,” says Amster. “If we end up serving tarnished food, we get blamed.”