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Inspectors force six kitchens to clean up

Grade on Licences is a food safety and hygiene scoring programme carried out by the Environmental Health Section (File photograph)

A total of three food outlets were shut to carry out improvements after random health inspections found problems with their food and hygiene routines.

The three were among six food sellers ranked “D”, the lowest score, in the latest grades on licences list by the Government’s environmental health department. It was the first time the lowest of the four categories has been used since the programme started in 2017 and is given where the inspector considered closure or decided that urgent action was needed.

The list, published on the Government’s website last month, showed that D grades were awarded to Chopsticks Restaurant on Reid Street, Casablanca on Washington Lane, Pasta Basta on Elliott Street West, Sung Sing Restaurant on Victoria Street and The Pie Factory on Parliament Street, all in Hamilton, and Crow Lane Bakery in Hamilton Parish.

The list did not identify which three restaurants had closed their doors on a temporary basis for work to be carried out to come up to standard.

A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said yesterday that “substantial improvements” were made after the inspections.

She explained that a range of problems were found at the D-graded establishments, including poor cleaning standards, food cross contamination, poor temperature control, evidence of pests and unsafe conditions that could lead to accidents.

The spokeswoman said: “It should be noted that not all of these contraventions were found in all of the establishments.

“Three of the six establishments closed in order to carry out works necessary to remove any risks to public health and to become compliant with the legislation. The other three did not have to close, but still had to carry out the necessary works. All of the establishments have been reinspected and substantial improvements have been noted.

“However, they must retain their grade for at least three months before they can apply for a reinspection for the purposes of regrading.”

The government website explained that the scheme was introduced to let the public know how well Bermuda’s food suppliers maintained sanitary standards.

Environmental health officers mark each outlet on factors like personal hygiene practices, protective clothing for staff and vermin control in annual and unannounced visits.

Premises can score up to 100 points with deductions made for violations dependant on their significance to public health.

An A grade is awarded for 90 to 100 points, 80 to 89 points would get a B, and from 70 to 79 rates a C.

The website added a D grade was “below 70 points and urgent action or consideration of closure is usually indicated for such a score”.

It said: “Some critical violations must be corrected immediately to remove an imminent risk to health.”

Kara Simmons, the manager at Chopsticks, said problems found included fridge temperatures and the location of thermometers. She added: “Once the lady told us all of the things that were wrong, we did a voluntary closure. We closed our kitchen, did what we had to do to get it where it needed to be.”

Ms Simmons explained that the company was reinspected a week later and “passed with flying colours”.

Sonja Seaman, owner of The Pie Factory, said it was the first D grade she had been given in more than 20 years of business.

She added: “I was so upset, I was depressed because I’ve never had anything lower than a B, so I took it very personally ... it’s not characteristic of The Pie Factory.”

Ms Seaman, who was not at the café when the inspector visited, explained that concerns related to frozen meat left out to thaw, a delivery of meat “sitting on the floor” and workers unaware of where the first aid kit was kept. The businesswoman said she had held meetings to ensure staff knew what was expected of them and to encourage greater teamwork.

Amre Elsayed, the owner of Casablanca, insisted the company had “fixed everything” since its Washington Lane restaurant was graded about three months ago.

He said the problems related to dating items to go in the fridge and the need for mats on the floor.

Mr Elsayed added: “We did exactly what they asked us to do and we had another inspection and they passed us.”

A manager at Crow Lane Bakery said concerns over the North Shore Road premises included painting and were “more cosmetic stuff than anything else”.

A manager at Pasta Basta said it was up to the owner to comment, but he was “at sea” and a woman who answered the phone at Sung Sing said no one was available to answer questions.

The health ministry spokeswoman said a reinspection application must include details of the improvements made before an unannounced visit by a senior Environmental Health Officer.

She added: “It should be noted that a better or worse grade can be awarded or the grade can remain the same depending on the hygiene conditions found at the time of the reinspection.”

Of the 307 establishments listed, 142 were graded A, 132 were B, and 23 were C.

Two were marked with “0” but the spokeswoman explained that one had closed and will be removed from the list.

She said the other one, Blackbeards Hideout, St George’s Beach Club, was not operational when the list was published.

The spokeswoman added: “It has since reopened and has been inspected and has been awarded an A grade. We will update the list to reflect this.”

Two venues were listed as “new” and will be monitored over six months to achieve a grade.

The Ministry of Health said the public can visit www.gov.bm/grades-food-establishment-licences for updates to the list