Students who dine in may be unaware of restaurant health grades
By Emma Robertson, Andrew Weiss, Linda Vilay and Max Slomiak
In the evening and late night hours after the campus cafeterias close, Quinnipiac students depend heavily on delivery from restaurants in the local area to satisfy munchies.
But what these students may not realize is that they are missing a piece of information that could affect their choice of restaurant — and their health.
Local health officials at the Quinnipiack Valley Health District have started posting letter grades, from an ‘A’ to a ‘C,’ on the doors of all restaurants in Hamden and the surrounding towns, listed here. The grades are posted on storefronts only — not on websites, printed menus or advertisements.
Because of this, delivery customers have no way to know a restaurant’s grade, without asking over the phone or by digging through inspection files at the QVHD offices.
“I didn’t even know that there was this new rating system in Hamden,” sophomore Andrew Guistwite said.
However, QVHD health inspector Ryan Currier explained that restaurants do not need to post their grades on their websites or in their advertisements because that is beyond QVHD’s control.
“No, they are not required to. This is strictly a health department regulation that was voted into our local regulations so the restaurants are not subject to doing anything outside of the code regulation, which again falls on us.”
Students and other diners who order in may not realize that some of the most popular delivery options have consistently poor grades. Unless a customer was going to the physical restaurant, they wouldn’t know the rating. Although they may not know it, the restaurant they chose could be affecting their health.
One type of establishment that has seen low grades over and over again has been the Chinese restaurants. Chinese food is a popular delivery food in the Quinnipiac community. The two most prominent restaurants are Gold Star and Golden Chopstick, which are both within a ten-minute drive of the campus.
Golden Chopstick, a late-night staple for students, has a ‘C’ rating due to some significant issues. Firstly, the inspector noted on April 19 that most of the workers had no proper sanitation training. Another issue was undercooked food, which often included pork, chicken, beef and rice. The last issue involved food trays: they were filthy and unsanitary.
Gold Star, another popular choice for students, has a ‘B’ rating. Like Golden Chopstick, Gold Star also had cases of undercooked meat, such as chicken and pork. The restaurant also used improper soap according to QVHD standards.
Some Quinnipiac students are wary of restaurants with poor grades.
“If there was a place with a ‘C’ I definitely wouldn’t eat there anymore,” said junior Gabby Cocca.
Food safety inspectors also have a blind spot when it comes to delivery. When the food leaves the restaurant and enters a delivery vehicle, it is no longer the responsibility of QVHD. If the car is unsanitary or the food is of an unhealthy temperature upon delivery, it does not affect the QVHD rating.
But Currier clarified that it would be unlikely for this situation to occur.
“Yes, it is possible that temperatures can fall into the “danger zone” during the delivery period, however, something would need to be in that temperature danger zone for four hours or more before harmful bacteria can start to grow,” he said.
“So generally, if food is cooked to the proper [temperature] and then delivered/consumed within four hours, it should be safe.”
However, some restaurants have ways to combat this problem. Pizza restaurants, which are plentiful near Quinnipiac, all implement a similar strategy to keep their food warm and cold. Domino’s, a chain restaurant with an ‘A’ rating, and Falcon Pizza, an independent restaurant with a ‘B’ rating, use the same tool, even though the restaurants are very different.
Assistant manager of Falcon Pizza Taylor Ashley explained that they have special containers to maintain temperature.
“Those bags right over there are actually heat regulated bags,” she said, pointing. “So once they’re sealed all the heat stays in.”
Aside from the insulated bags, the restaurants differ substantially. As a chain, Domino’s has its own rules and regulations to follow. Manager Jamal Uddin hinted that the strict guidelines, which he claims are stricter than the Connecticut health district, could be the reason for the restaurant’s ‘A’ rating.
“We have training class, we have to pass those classes, we have to know exactly … the temperatures,” Uddin said.
When it comes to delivery, Domino’s uses strategies to ensure the highest customer satisfaction. The company times its delivery trips so it can be sure that the food gets to its destination in a timely manner and in good condition.
“We have the best system in the chain companies in America, it has a tracker and feedback so if a customer does not like something, it is straight on the tracker and feedback,” Uddin explained.
Health and safety concerns aside, many students are frustrated with the delivery system in general, and they expressed their concerns in a student survey. To see the full survey results, click here.