Revisiting The Restaurant Health Codes

Last summer we discussed the deplorable conditions at the popular eatery Kosher Delight. As you may recall, KD failed its 05/05/2006 inspection with a score of 33 violation points, and after briefly rebounding to a more respectable score of 9, is currently holding its precarious score of 26.
A score 28 or above is considered failing, and requires a reinspection.
Much to my surprise (and dismay) KD doesn’t even come close to being the worst in New York. According to Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) that dubious distinction belongs to Cafe La Fonduta which somehow racked up an astounding 160 violation points, and my own quick lookup returned D.M. International Restaurant with an impressively pathetic score of 174.
Once again, the failing score is 28.
After some more poking around I noticed that at least three of the worst offenders were presumably Kosher establishments, interestingly, all located in Brooklyn. Souad Glatt Kosher Catering received a 105 on 12/26/2006, then the homely named Ess N’ Bench scored a 106 on 02/15/2007, and finally “Moses Wertzberger” received a 122 on 12/12/2006.
The dates here are relevant for the all important “historical context;” some establishments have a long history of negligence while it’s possible that other just had a bad day. For example, in 2006 Souad Glatt failed three other inspections (29,32,55) before finally dropping to a more respectable 8. On the other hand, Ess N’ Bench has had generally been acceptible score-wise.1 (No history was listed for Mr. Wertzberger)
We also find this variation on the most extreme end of the scale. D.M. International typically scored high (37,22,20,59) but Cafe La Fonduta was relatively acceptable scoring 12 and 16 in previous inspections.
How do these establishments degrade so drastically? My guess is that there would have to be either a significant change in the establishment or in the health codes, possibly both. If a restaurant changes ownership, the new proprietors may be either oblivious or incompetent in the areas of food safety and city guidelines. Changes in the establishment may also include irresponsible physical alterations. Violation 7 of Ess N’ Bentch is labeled “Facility Design,” a violation notably absent in their previous inspection. This would lead me to conclude that somehow the design or layout changed of certain areas which could have led to not only the specific violation but facilitated every other one as well. Finally, any changes in the health codes would obviously impact the final scoring if what was once acceptable is now deemed to be a violation.2
Even so, some of these increases do seem high to me. While I suggest avoiding the above establishments, I am also wondering if we also should take these reports with a grain of salt.

1. As I mentioned in one of the earlier posts on the subject, I personally view some violations more severe than others. Lacking an “Employees Must Wash Hands” sign does not bother my sensibilities as much as any violation involving “mice” or “vermin.”
2. There are many other possibilities, but I am focusing on those which do not involve anything illegal.

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