Friday, December 22, 2006
BOH shortens Ferns' food permit, BOS renews license
Due to several food code violations found during three inspections of Ferns Country Store in November, the Board of Health (BOH) decided to reduce the term of the market's 2007 food service establishment permit to six months (the permit is typically issued annually). The health inspections, which were conducted after two customers mentioned to BOH Agent Linda Fantasia that food they had purchased at the store appeared to be spoiled, revealed that some refrigerators in the store were not running at the proper temperature for safe food storage. The latest inspection confirmed the refrigerators were now running correctly. After six months, the permit will be eligible for renewal with a term to be set by the BOH.
On December 19th the Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted to renew Ferns' Common Victuallers license. BOS Chair Doug Stevenson noted, "Ferns Country Store has been a valued member of our community and provides good service."
An unannounced health inspection of Ferns was conducted by Gabrielle White, public health inspector for the towns of Concord, Carlisle and Lincoln, on November 16, the same day that the complaints regarding "spoiled food without date marking" were received by the Carlisle BOH. White discovered that two refrigeration units (including the one that held the two items mentioned in the complaint to Fantasia) were holding food at 50 degrees rather than the required 41 or below, placing "potentially hazardous foods in the danger zone," according to her report. White ordered all food in the two refrigerators to be discarded and immediate service of the equipment.
Inspector White was not present at the December 13 BOH meeting but her associate, health inspector and Concord Public Health Administrator Mike Moore appeared at the meeting, as did Ferns co-owner Larry Bearfield. Moore noted that White returned to the market the following day for a full inspection, which revealed "serious issues regarding temperature abuse of products (both hot and cold holding) and no evidence of monitoring or intervention by staff."
Bearfield admitted that for several weeks before the first inspection refrigeration temperatures were not being measured or recorded in the log that he keeps specifically for that purpose. In an attempt to explain the lapse in monitoring and record keeping Bearfield said, "there was a change in the structure of the store in the weeks before the November 16 inspection, and it [the temperature monitoring] fell through the cracks."
Nonetheless, "all temperature abuse violations were corrected" by the second inspection on November 17, according to White. Upon re-inspection on November 27, White reported that most violations had been resolved. She did find some new violations at that time having to do with the improper storage of "in use" utensils, a torn refrigerator gasket and the need for a deep cleaning of the floors. In each case of the outstanding issues, Bearfield assured the board that he is in the process of correcting them as quickly as he can, being dependent on outside vendors for the refrigerators and floors.
While all parties seemed to agree on most of the facts, they were at odds in interpreting some of those facts. Almost all BOH members agreed with White's report that the Ferns' violations were of a "repeat nature." However, Bearfield maintained, "I respectively disagree with comments about repeat violations. These are different refrigeration units not repeated violations of the same unit."
"We're seeing temperature problems in general," responded board member Leslie Cahill.
"It concerns me that they're saying these are repeat violations and the equipment is not working properly," replied Bearfield. "That's not true."
BOH members and Bearfield tried to keep the lines of communication open. The board's opinion seemed to be summed up by member Bill Russo when he said, "You've got to monitor the temperatures [in the refrigerators]. We talked about this last time you were here. It's a pretty straightforward violation. Look at the logs — there's no record. My biggest concern is that the store isn't monitoring itself."
"I'm disappointed to find a 50-degree refrigerator holding meat," agreed BOH member Michael Holland.
"Many things have been remedied," Chair Martha Bedrosian concluded. "But where to we go from here?" We need to put some safeguards in place."The board concluded that issuing a six-month permit with more frequent inspections would help them monitor Ferns' compliance with the state food code.
Reached later at the store, Bearfield said, "It's like if you have a three-car family. Chances are that at some point in time one of the cars will need to be repaired. Does that make all the cars bad? No, it means that you have repairs that need to be taken care of."Likewise, he continued, at Ferns, "Sometimes equipment breaks down, and we fix it. When we have issues with equipment, we take immediate measures to have it fixed."
"We have every intention of complying with their [BOH] mandates," said Bearfield. "We plan to continue to provide a healthy, safe environment for our customers and staff."
© 2006 The