Valley restaurants react to contaminated food discovery - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

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Valley restaurants react to contaminated food discovery

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The contaminated food that was disposed of at a landfill. The contaminated food that was disposed of at a landfill.
Contracted workers disposing of contaminated food. Contracted workers disposing of contaminated food.
The contaminated food that was disposed of at a landfill. The contaminated food that was disposed of at a landfill.
Contracted workers disposing of contaminated food. Contracted workers disposing of contaminated food.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio Department of Agriculture is investigating a case involving thousands of pounds of contaminated food that was being transported to restaurants in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.

According to a news release from the Ohio Highway Patrol, on August 15, troopers stopped a truck on Interstate 75 in Butler County for several commercial violations. Using portable scales, troopers found that the truck was 7,000 pounds overweight.

An inspector on the scene observed liquid running out of the rear of the truck's cargo area and detected a foul odor. The inspector opened the cargo door and found opened bags of raw chicken and meat leaking onto boxes and crates of seafood, vegetables, fruits and eggs. The truck was also carrying cleaning supplies in the rear according to the release.

Ashley McDonald of the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Division says her agency was called in as the lead investigator in the case.

A report from ODH food safety specialist Kathleen Cooper says that the temperature inside the refrigerated truck was 39 degrees Fahrenheit. The internal temperature of the chicken was 35 degrees.

After collecting invoices and customer's information, Cooper took inventory of the perishable products before having them transferred to another truck that transported the goods for disposal. Non perishable, sealed goods were cleaned for return to the company named as the supplier, Eternal Food Service.

McDonald told 21 News that the ODA has no previous record of food freshness issues with Eternal Food Service.

Invoices and customer information obtained from the Ohio Department of Agriculture by 21 News reveal that the food was destined for 12 restaurants in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

21 News attempted to reach owners or managers of nine of those restaurants located in Mahoning, Trumbull and Mercer Counties.

One of the invoices lists 4,184 pounds of the food being shipped to the Super Buffet 8 in Boardman. The Doral Drive restaurant is now doing business as the Grill Buffet under the same ownership. Johnny Hung, who identifies himself as the owner and manager of the Grill Buffet, told 21 News that he has never heard of Eternal Food Service.

Another invoice lists a delivery of 1,472 pounds of food that was destined for the Fortune Garden on Belmont Avenue in Liberty Township. Amy Bao, the daughter of the owner, tells 21 News that her mother is not familiar with Eternal Food Service, but does business with Union Broker Limited of Cincinnati, which is listed on the invoices. Bao says that Fortune Garden has never had any issues with supplies from Union Broker Limited and always inspects food for freshness before accepting a shipment.

Although an invoice lists 985 pounds of product being shipped to Girard Wok on West Liberty Street, the manager says they have not done business with Eternal Food for several years. He supplied 21 News with a list of the restaurant's suppliers, none of which appear to be associated with Eternal Trading.

Angie Chen, manager of Tops Buffet of Hermitage, also said she had not heard of either company adding that she is supplied by various distributors. The invoice says Tops Buffet had 489 pounds on the truck that was pulled over.

Tom Kong, who has been operating the Great Wall restaurant in Warren for more than a decade, tells 21 new that he inspects all food before accepting shipments and has never had an issue with Union brokers. Kong says his is a family business that depends on customers having confidence in their food.

21 News contacted the four other local restaurants listed on invoices.  In most cases, the managers or owners were not available. At one restaurant, the person answering the phone did not comprehend the English language well enough to leave a message for the manager. At one business, the man answering hung up the phone upon learning that a reporter was calling.

Below is a list of restaurants listed on invoices provided by the Ohio Department of Agriculture:

  • Super Buffet 8 (Now Grill Buffet), 1212 Doral Drive, Boardman, Ohio.
  • China Star, 3911 Market St., Boardman, Ohio.
  • Fortune Garden, 4245 Belmont Ave., Liberty, Ohio.
  • Girard Wok, 44 W Liberty St., Girard, Ohio.
  • Great Wall, 2662 Mahoning Ave., Warren, Ohio.
  • Main Moon, 84 Connelly Blvd. Sharon, Pa.
  • Tops Buffet, 2980 E. State St. Hermitage, Pa.
  • Golden Dragon, 244 N Erie St., Mercer, Pa.
  • China Max, 1911 Leesburg Grove, Grove City, Pa.

Invoices were also provided for restaurants in Akron, as well as Gibsonia and Mars, Pennsylvania.

The Ohio Highway Patrol reported another traffic stop this month that turned up contaminated food. A news release from the patrol says that on August 26, troopers stopped a commercial vehicle traveling eastbound on Interstate 70 just west of Cambridge, Ohio.  

During an inspection, it was discovered the vehicle was traveling from Omaha, Nebraska, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was transporting unrefrigerated raw and unused cooked meat in the trailer that was to be used at a "rib burn off" event.

According to the patrol's release, the load was emitting a strong odor of spoiled foods. The Department of Agriculture, Division of Adulterated Foods was contacted and responded to the scene. The load consisted of approximately 700 lbs. of chicken, pork ribs and sausage, and coleslaw.

The temperature of the meat when checked at various locations averaged 60-plus degrees. The companies intentions were to serve this meat to the public at the event.

The trucking company agreed to dispose of the unused raw food at a local refuse center. The driver and vehicle were placed out of service for numerous federal violations.

 

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