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Health department takes aim at Penn hospital food

Most everyone gripes about hospital food, but in recent weeks city health inspectors have found official cause for complaint after visiting three food providers at University of Pennsylvania medical facilities.

Most everyone gripes about hospital food, but in recent weeks city health inspectors have found official cause for complaint after visiting three food providers at University of Pennsylvania medical facilities.

Though many violations were quickly fixed, in one instance an offense was serious enough for an inspector to ask an eatery to close.

Food services at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center were cited, as was the café at the university's dental school.

The Daily Grind Cafe @ Penn Dental, on the 200 block of South 40th Street, was issued a cease-and-desist order Tuesday morning for failing to have a certificate proving an employee had been trained in proper food handling, according to an inspector's report. When the cafe's manager was reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, two hours after it had been asked to close, the Daily Grind remained open, and the manager said business was brisk.

Bob Wurtz, the CEO of Heathland Hospitality, which owns the café and two other eateries on the Penn campus, disputed the results of the report and said the Daily Grind had not been ordered to close.

"It's not what [the inspector] told our people," Wurtz said. "We are not closed, nor were we shut down. All the minor violations were fixed immediately."

A spokesman for the Health Department said Wurtz was technically correct.

"They are asked for voluntary compliance, so they have not been 'shut down,' " spokesman Jeff Moran said. "However, they were directed to close because they did not have an employee certified in food safety on site as required."

After an inquiry by, an inspector returned to the café later in the afternoon and found it had closed for the day. The business is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"If it had been open, we would have referred the establishment to [the Department of Licenses and Inspections] for a cease-and-desist order if needed to obtain compliance," Moran wrote in an email.

The Health Department has issued at least 40 cease-and-desist requests this year to restaurants found not to have an employee who has completed a food safety education program on the premises.

L&I has shut down five eateries this year for not having a license. In 2015, it has not forced a single closure at the request of the Health Department for food safety violations, according to city records.

"The food safety-certified employee is responsible for ensuring that proven food safety practices and principles are being followed at the establishment during all hours of operation," said Palak Raval-Nelson, director of the Division of Environmental Health Services for the department. "Certification means that the designated employees have completed a food safety course that is approved by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health."

The Daily Grind was cited for five food-borne-illness risk factors. Among the violations were a lack of towels at the hand-washing sink in the cooking area, no chemical sanitizer being used on equipment and utensils before use, and black residue and pink slime found in the shop's ice machine.

The Health Department this week cited the food services provider at HUP for 12 violations. A Health Department sanitarian reviewed the operation, on the 3400 block of Spruce Street, on Monday and found four serious food-borne illness risk factors, including improper sanitizing procedures and food that was being held at bacteria-friendly temperatures.

A spokesman for Morrison Management Specialists, which operates HUP food services, said everything cited was corrected on site while the inspector was there.

At Penn Presbyterian, a sanitarian cited the Sodexo-run food services Nov. 30 for 14 risk factors. Roaches, a dead mouse, and fresh mouse droppings were spotted in the cafeteria's food-preparation area. In addition, the sanitarian found sausage being kept at temperatures that could promote bacterial growth.

"We welcome health inspections, and when they reveal issues that are not up to specific standards, we take immediate action to correct those areas, often before the inspector leaves the location," Sodexo spokesman Enrico Dinges said.

Susan Phillips, Penn Medicine's senior vice president for public affairs, said the food-services provider quickly fixed the violations.

"We work closely with our dining services vendors, and together took swift action to correct the issues identified in recent dining facility inspections and ensure continued compliance," Phillips said.

Inspectors found no serious health risks during this week's inspections at two other city hospitals, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (Wednesday) and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (Monday).

215-854-2796 @samwoodiii

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