Skip to content

10 troublesome food inspections in Mahoning County — and how businesses responded

Mahoning County Board of Health food inspectors found nearly 1,700 food code violations at restaurants, markets and schools it inspected as of mid-September.

Mahoning County Board of Health food inspectors found nearly 1,700 food code violations so far this year at restaurants, markets and schools it inspected as of mid-September.

About one-third of of the violations were considered “critical.” As the state defines it, a "critical" violation is one with the potential to create a foodborne illness.

According to a report compiled last month by the health board, as requested by Mahoning Matters, 443 county establishments were cited for Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code violations. These ranged from food temperature controls -- one of the leading causes of foodborne illness -- to improper storage of toxic materials like cleaning supplies. In one case, an inspector observed insects.

A recurring theme in the inspection reports were citations for improper signage. 

You can view the health board's full report by clicking here. You can search for a particular establishment by pressing Ctrl+F (Windows) or Cmd+F (Mac).

Click here to search county health board inspections by establishment.

Click here to view the 2019 Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code.

Here are the 10 establishments — many of whom took the opportunity to discuss their inspection experiences with Mahoning Matters — that received the most food code violations in a single inspection so far this year:

Salem Hills Golf and Country Club

Salem Hills Golf and Country Club
12688 Salem-Warren Road, Salem
31 total violations this year, 9 of which were critical

This Goshen Township 18-hole golf course also houses The Grille at Salem Hills, which opened in May and serves food and drinks on weekends, according to its website.

A May 24 inspection of the kitchen turned up three food code violations, including one critical violation for date-marking of time- or temperature-controlled foods.

When a different inspector returned Sept. 13, the club wasn’t cited for those same violations -- instead, it received 27 new ones.

The club’s manager and longtime PGA professional Ben Broderick told Mahoning Matters he feels the health board’s inspection methods are “over the top” and the Sept. 13 violations don’t properly reflect the restaurant's condition.

Broderick said the club’s eatery is open a little more than 20 hours per week, offering “basic” fare that’s always served and stored at the right temperature and cooked in a kitchen that’s “clean.”

Below are some of the findings that led to the 8 critical violations included in that report:

  • The inspector observed several ants at a hand sink in a ware-washing area, as well as fruit flies "in all sections of [the] operation."
     
  • In the kitchen, the inspector found a can of Raid Ant and Roach Killer spray, which is not approved for use in kitchens.
     
  • The inspector found raw eggs in-shell above produce items in a cooler along the cook line, as well as a box of raw bacon above produce items in a walk-in cooler.
    • Raw animal foods must be stored "below and separate from produce to prevent risk of cross-contamination, which could cause foodborne illness," according to the code.
       
  • The inspector found fuel for chafing dishes stored next to clean ware, coil cleaner on top of a cooler, rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide above spices as well as calcium, lime and rust remover and lighter fuel stored above food items in a backroom.
     
  • The inspector noted the club didn't have a displayed policy informing employees "to report their health as it relates to diseases/symptoms transmitted through food."
    • Broderick admitted there wasn’t a sign during the inspection but added he feels it’s a “common sense” policy, one which his workers already follow.
       
  • The inspector noted the hand sink in the food-prep area was used to store containers and wasn't immediately accessible to employees for hand-washing.
     
  • A drain pipe and floor drain beneath the food-prep sink didn't have a 2-inch air gap, as required by code to prevent backflow of unsanitary water, which could contaminate the sink or whatever's placed in it.
     
  • Management was cited for not being "knowledgeable in the food code to prevent foodborne illness," because of the club's eight critical violations.

Ryan Tekac, director of the county health board’s environmental health division, said the number of the club’s reported violations triggered “escalated enforcement” of the food code.

"I told [Broderick] the rules are the rules and the regulations are the regulations that we have to apply," he said. "We're not in the business to put you out of business. We're not in the business to shut you down.

"We're there to work with you to come into compliance."

Inspectors who returned to the club Sept. 27 for a follow-up inspection cited another 10 violations, including a second critical violation for the same unapproved insect spray in the kitchen. A second critical violation was for the previous drain pipe violation, which Broderick said would require time to fix.

Other critical violations from the Sept. 13 inspection were corrected, according to the report.


Nemenz Struthers IGA

Nemenz Struthers IGA
655 Creed St., Struthers
19 total violations this year, 7 of which were critical

This Struthers grocery store, operated by H.P. Nemenz Food Stores Inc. of Youngstown, was cited by a county health inspector for two critical violations in a Feb. 19 inspection, for failing to prevent food contamination by separating packaged and unpackaged food and for not properly storing foods at the right temperature.

Those violations were noted again during a second routine inspection on Sept. 16, along with 17 new violations, 5 of which were critical.

The 3 new critical violations related to food package integrity and receiving specifications, separate storage of operational supplies that could be toxic or poisonous and the use of drain plugs in water, plumbing and waste management.

Judith Nemenz, H.P. Nemenz president, told Mahoning Matters she was shocked to see what she feels was an abnormal number of violations on the store's most recent inspection.

"It really isn't a representation on an everyday basis. ... I guess we were having a bad day," she said. "We'll work very hard to make sure everything's in tip-top shape on a daily, hourly basis."

Nemenz said all the store's violations were corrected during or following the inspection.

One violation was for a cleaner spray bottle she said was stored in the same area as food, but didn't contaminate anything. Another was for food that was under-temperature while stored in a hot case. It was about to be disposed of before it was caught by the inspector, she said.

Two others involved a lid that was missing from a rack and a dented can of peppers that was discarded during the inspection, Nemenz said.

Inspectors are set to return within a month for a follow-up inspection, she added.


Los Girasoles

Los Girasoles
5495 Clarkins Drive, Austintown
15 total violations this year, 9 of which were critical

The board cited this traditional Mexican eatery in a Jan. 25 inspection with nine critical food code violations relating to:

 

  • Prevention of food contamination by hands and by separating and segregating packaged and unpackaged food
    • Manager Saul Bolas told Mahoning Matters a carton of eggs was "misplaced" by staff on top of food that had been cooked, which he relocated.
       
  • Failing to throw out or recondition food that is “unsafe, adulterated or contaminated”
    • Bolas said a can of jalapeño peppers that had been opened but not resealed in a new container was discarded.
       
  • Temperature controls for hot and cold storage of food, as well as reheating of hot foods
    • Bolas said the restaurant was using a crockpot to store queso cheese -- as its previous holding pot broke -- but crockpots aren't designated for commercial use and can't reach the proper temperature. It's since been replaced with a proper pot, he said.
       
  • Date-marking of time- or temperature-controlled foods
    • Bolas said the restaurant is now paying more attention to date markings for ingredients. "We cook everything fresh. Most likely, when something's left over, we just dispose it."

Other violations related to an employee not wearing gloves to prepare ready-to-eat food and missing signage on procedure for health-risk accidents. An inspector noted all previous violations were corrected during a follow-up inspection Jan. 29.

An inspector returned to the restaurant Aug. 6 after a public complaint had been filed to the board. The inspector noted two new, non-critical violations relating to the number and capacities of equipment for storing temperature-controlled food.


Lightner’s Fresh and Smoked Meats

Lightner’s Fresh and Smoked Meats
1020 5th St., Struthers
12 total violations this year, 6 of which were critical

Inspectors on Aug. 14 cited this family-owned butchery for six critical violations relating to:

 

 

  • Limitation of growth of harmful organisms in ready-to-eat or time- or temperature-controlled foods through proper date-marking, as well as an established hazard mitigation plan
    • Owner Will Lightner told Mahoning Matters on the day of the inspection, he took home food temperature charts in order to make copies and they weren't available for inspection.
       
  • Labeling and storage of poisonous or toxic materials
    • Lightner said a sprayer containing degreaser that was attached to a sink wasn't labeled and the inspector "thought it was weed-killer." He added all the spices used for meats are stored properly, away from chemicals.
       
  • Properly storage and segregation of custom-processed meats, to prevent contamination
    • Lightner said the inspector found a single container of deer meat by itself, but it required its own shelf. He's since moved the custom meat-processing work to his home, he said.

Pho LV Vietnamese Cuisine

Pho LV Vietnamese Cuisine
72 Boardman-Poland Road, Boardman
12 total violations this year, 5 of which were critical

A Sept. 12 inspection of this locally owned eatery found 12 total violations, including critical violations for:

 

 

  • Holding of temperature-controlled foods
    • Owner Nancy Duong told Mahoning Matters the air compressor in the restaurant's cooler was not working and food was not stored inside the day of the inspection. The cooler has since been fixed, she said.
       
  • Date marking of time- or temperature-controlled foods
    • Duong said the violation relates to meats, which must be discarded after seven days. She said this violation was corrected before inspectors returned to follow up.
       
  • Labeling of poisonous or toxic materials, like cleaning supplies
    • Duong said a bottle of cleaner used for guest tables was not labeled, but has since been labeled.

Belleria Pizza and Pasta
3187 Center Road, Poland
12 total violations this year, 3 of which were critical

During a Jan. 29 inspection, the Poland location of this regional Italian eatery chain was cited for two non-critical violations.

A Sept. 18 inspection, however, turned up 10 violations, including 3 critical violations relating to:

  • Labeling and identification of poisonous or toxic materials -- which could include cleaning supplies -- as well as conditions of their use
     
  • Specifications for the integrity of food packaging after it's received

Representatives declined to speak on-the-record about the violations.


Sarku Japan
7401 Market St., Youngstown (Southern Park Mall)
11 total violations this year, 4 of which were critical

This Japanese-themed chain restaurant inside the Southern Park Mall food court was cited Jan. 16 for a single, critical violation for not displaying a policy informing employees "to report their health as it relates to diseases/symptoms transmitted through food."

An inspector didn't cite the same violation during a second inspection Sept. 9, but found 10 new violations, including 3 critical violations relating to:

  • Assignment of food safety responsibilities to supervisors
     
  • Holding of time- and temperature-controlled foods
     
  • Separating or segregating packaged and unpackaged food after receipt, to prevent contamination

Representatives did not return calls seeking comment.


Bogey’s Bar & Grill
3535 Upland Ave., Lowellville
12 total violations this year, 4 of which were critical

This restaurant and caterer, which operates in conjunction with Bogey's Riverside Banquet Center, 3404 New Castle Road, was cited in a Jan. 17 inspection with nine violations -- four of which were critical -- relating to:

  • Time- and temperature-controlled foods that weren't date-marked, including wedding soup, ribs and pasta
     
  • Required air gaps between the floor drain and drain pipes from an ice maker, ice bins and the food prep sink, to prevent backflow of unsanitary water which could contaminate the fixtures
     
  • Ice scoops that were placed entirely inside the bar's ice bins, bringing the handles in contact with ice
     
  • A displayed policy informing employees "to report their health as it relates to diseases/symptoms transmitted through food"

An inspection at the banquet center the following day turned up one critical violation for the aforementioned employee health policy.

A follow-up inspection Jan. 31 at the Upland Avenue location noted all the previous critical violations had been corrected, though it also included three non-critical violations.

A Feb. 17 inspection of the banquet center reported no violations.

Representatives could not be reached for comment.


Upstairs Restaurant & Lounge
4500 1/2 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown
13 total violations this year, 4 of which were critical

This more than 30-year, locally owned fine dining restaurant was cited during a Feb. 4 inspection for five violations, including two critical violations for:

  • A prep cooler measured at 52 degrees, though it was required to be kept at 41 degrees
    • Any food kept at a temperature above 41 degrees for more than four hours must be discarded, according to code.
       
  • Cooked ribs stored in the basement's walk-in cooler that were not date-marked

A Sept. 17 inspection included one repeat and seven new violations, two of which were critical and and relating to:

  • Prevention of backflow of unsanitary water which could contaminate fixtures with drains, such as sinks, or items placed inside
     
  • A displayed policy informing employees "to report their health as it relates to diseases/symptoms transmitted through food"

Representatives could not be reached for comment.


Little Hunan
4748 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown
9 total violations this year, 3 of which were critical

A Jan. 8 inspection of this Chinese restaurant included one critical violation for lack of an air gap between an ice maker and a floor drain, to prevent backflow of unsanitary water which could contaminate it.

An inspector who returned Sept. 12 for another inspection didn't note that same violation, but eight new ones, two of which were critical and relating to:

  • The frequency with which surfaces and utensils were cleaned
     
  • Holding of time- and temperature-controlled foods

Representatives could not be reached for comment.


The county health board conducts food safety inspections for all food-service or food-sale establishments in the county except in Youngstown, where inspections are conducted by the Youngstown City Health District.

You can expect to see a similar list of 2019 food code violations at Youngstown establishments in the coming weeks on MahoningMatters.com.



Justin Dennis

About the Author: Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
Read more


Comments