State cites Sam Choy’s restaurant for placard removal, food code violations

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has issued a Notice of Violation and Order against Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai with a penalty fine of $13,000.

Violations include intentionally removing the posted yellow “Conditional Pass” placard from their facility and re-posting a green “Pass” placard, and non-compliance with food safety requirements during routine and follow-up inspections.

The restaurant is located at Keauhou Shopping Center in Kailua-Kona. The company has 20 days to request a hearing to contest the notice.

“Placard removal is a serious violation with substantial consequences because this act intentionally places profit above health and safety and compromises the public’s trust and their right-to-know when violations occur during an inspection,” said Peter Oshiro, environmental health program manager. “Since the start of the placarding program in July 2014, we’ve seen good compliance with the food industry; this is only the fifth incident involving tampering with a placard.”

On Jan. 4, DOH conducted a routine inspection and issued a yellow placard for five major food code violations: bare-handed contact with ready-to-eat foods; improper storage of raw foods above other foods; failure to date-stamp refrigerated ready-to-eat foods; failure to ensure the availability of hand wash sinks; and failure to provide hand wash sinks with hand towels.

On Jan. 5, the department conducted an inspection in response to an anonymous complaint that the yellow placard had been removed by restaurant staff and replaced with a green placard from a previous inspection. The onsite inspection verified the complaint, and a DOH inspector re-posted the yellow “Conditional Pass” placard and removed the invalid green placard.

A follow-up inspection on Jan. 8 revealed there were still outstanding issues with improper hand-washing technique, bare-hand contact with foods, improper storage of foods, and improper date-stamping of foods to be discarded.

An additional follow-up inspection conducted on Jan. 10 found ongoing violations of bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods and a violation for failing to adhere to the restaurant’s written procedure for disposition of perishable food out of refrigeration beyond the prescribed time period.

A yellow placard will be displayed at the restaurant until all violations have been corrected. Another inspection is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 11.

Since the inception of state’s restaurant placarding program in 2014, the DOH’s Food Safety Program has conducted more than 26,000 inspections and issued more than 4,500 Yellow “Conditional Pass” placards for major food safety violations. Of the 4,500 yellow placards issued, only six have resulted in red “Closed” placards due to non-compliance.

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Editor’s Note: Sam Choy hosts “Sam Choy’s in the Kitchen,” which airs on KHON2.

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