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Repeated Safety Violations Lead to Six-Month Restaurant Closure

May 8, 2017

Vien Dong in Tacoma jeopardized public with unsafe food practices

Health Department closed restaurant after two years of educational visits, other interventions to help owners address food safety issues.

TACOMA, Wash. –Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department closed Vien Dong Restaurant, 3801 Yakima Ave. in Tacoma, on May 3, for six months for repeated food safety violations. Those repeated food safety violations jeopardized the health and safety of the public.

Restaurants with strong food safety procedures are less likely to fail inspections or to make someone sick.

“We want all of our food service establishments to be successful, but protecting the public’s health and safety comes first,” said Frank DiBiase, division director, Environmental Health. “We do not take closing a facility lightly. We took this action to protect the public’s health,” said DiBiase.

The Health Department’s Food and Community Safety program uses a quality improvement approach with food service establishments. This allows us to protect the health of the public while giving food service establishments opportunities to make improvements before enforcement action. The quality improvement approach includes educational visits and 24-hour closures to reduce the number of critical red violations. The Department’s Food Safety Code has an option for an appeal.

The Department requires a re-inspection for establishments that receive 35 or more red critical points during an inspection. Only 12% of inspections require a re-inspection. Examples of red critical violations are:

  • Not keeping food hot (135° F) or cold (41° F).
  • Allowing foods to become contaminated.
  • Failing to wash hands when required.
  • Using bare hands to handle ready-to-eat foods.
  • Improper cooling of food.

The closure of Vien Dong came after more than a year of repeated educational and assistance visits, which included translation services, to address ongoing food safety concerns. The six-month closure happened because the restaurant failed a third inspection while on probation. While on probation, food establishments must pass five probation inspections. Vien Dong had been on probation since Dec. 15, 2016, because of other serious food inspection violations.

For the May 3 inspection, Vien Dong had the following violations:

  • Several refrigerators were not working properly (temperatures above 41° F).
  • No entries in refrigerator temperature logs for two weeks.
  • Owner acknowledged he kept food in a refrigerator even after it was not working properly.

In March, the Health Department directed Vien Dong to close for seven days after failing a probation inspection. Inspectors worked with the owners to re-establish food safety procedures to be put in place before they reopened.

Food safety concerns

The Health Department has cited Vien Dong 46 times for critical food safety violations since April 4, 2015. The establishment repeated six critical food safety violations at least three times between Feb. 12 and Dec. 5 in 2016. They included:

  • Storing food at room temperature.
  • Not keeping cold food at 41° F or below.
  • Not preventing bare hand contact with ready to eat food.
  • Not rinsing fruits and vegetables before preparation and service.
  • Not storing raw meats and eggs below and away from ready-to-eat food.
  • Not cooling cooked food quickly in a refrigerator.

Food inspectors have spent 41 hours on quality improvement education and safety intervention with the facility since April 22, 2015, to create risk control plans, provide educational visits, conduct administrative conferences, establish probation and conduct probation inspections.

Here’s how frequently the Department uses educational visits and 24-hour and seven-day closures:

  • Educational visits: 17 times in 2017, 48 times in 2016.
  • 24-hour closures over last two years: Six times in 2017, nine times in 2016.
  • Seven-day closures over last two years: Once in 2017 (Vien Dong), none in 2016.
  • Six-month closures over last five years: Once in 2017 (Vien Dong), once in 2012.
Find inspection reports on any food service establishment in Pierce County at https://eco.tpchd.org/#/pa1/search.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. We are one of only 163 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.

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