Oak Bluffs health board sets new rules for Thai restaurant
The Oak Bluffs board of health yesterday ordered the Bangkok Cuisine restaurant to ensure that each certified food handler it employs takes the extended Serve Safe course, rather than the one-day class that is offered.
This decision followed a report that a female diner at the restaurant had an allergic reaction to her food, because cooks wearing latex gloves had handled it.
The board also said they would support closing the restaurant if any other violation is discovered within the next 10 days. Bangkok Cuisine was closed for an afternoon on Oct. 25, because there was not a certified food handler on the premises.
At their meeting Tuesday, the board of health members met with Olivia Law, the diner who was hospitalized, and Sam Sangworn, owner of Bangkok Cuisine, to discuss the issue.
Ms. Law said she visited the restaurant on Nov. 11 and specifically asked if the cooks used latex gloves. She was told they did not, but after taking a sip of her drink, which contained a lemon wedge, she said she started to feel hot, her heart started pounding, and her throat became constricted.
The person she was dining with took her to the hospital where she was treated with epinephrine and Benadryl.
"I know you're from a different county and there's a language barrier," Ms. Law said to Mr. Sangworn. "But I could have died. This was really serious."
Health agent Shirley Fauteux said the food code offers a caution against using latex gloves, but does not outright ban them. Gloves are required when preparing ready to eat food, and Ms. Fauteux determined that the lemon wedge in Ms. Law's drink had been handled by a cook wearing latex gloves.
Restaurants in Oak Bluffs must have one certified food handler on the premises at all times. Becoming certified requires taking either a long or short "Serve Safe" course. In addition to Mr. Sangworn, who completed the one-day test months ago, three Bangkok Cuisine employees took the one-day test last week.
Linda Marinelli, chairman of the board, said she is concerned that the certified handlers at Bangkok Cuisine are not knowledgeable about the food code, otherwise they would have known that using latex is discouraged. She proposed requiring every person in Bangkok Cuisine's kitchen to take the long Serve Safe course. That motion was defeated, and a motion requiring that only their certified food handlers take the long course - not the short - was passed.
The current policy only requires employees to take the short course in order to be certified, and the long one if they choose.
"We need you to understand that latex kills, and you can't use them at all," board member Patricia Bergeron said to Mr. Sangworn. "I'm not out to bust anybody, but these things are life threatening."
In broken English, that the board often had a hard time understanding, Mr. Sangworn attempted to defend his restaurant's practices. He said the health agent told them they must wear gloves, so he picked up a box of the latex kind at the Reliable Market. He said they have since stopped using latex.
At about 12:30 pm on Oct. 25, Ms. Fauteux closed Bangkok Cuisine because there was not a certified food handler on the premises. She told the management to allow the current dinners to finish their food, but to accept no new customers or take-out orders.
After Mr. Sangworn, the only certified food handler, returned, the Circuit Avenue eatery reopened for dinner.
Ms. Fauteux said she had warned the business three times previously about having a food handler on site, and that is why she ordered the restaurant closed during the lunch hour. Ms. Fauteux said at the time that she could not recall if she had closed any other establishments during the lunch or dinner hour, because she did not have her files in front of her.
On Nov. 6, The Times filed a public records request for any records that detailed action taken by the health agent, where she ordered a business that was operating for lunch or dinner to close immediately.
Ms. Fauteux replied on Nov. 16 stating, "This will require a period of time to research and copy the documents, if any can be found...as all of our records prior to 2000 are in a storage area shared with many other town departments and, from a preliminary perusal of the area, may not be easily accessed."
The Times replied that records dating back to 2000 would be sufficient. Ms. Fauteux said she found no record of closures during operating hours, for the period from 2000 to now. Ms. Fauteux has served as Oak Bluffs health agent for 14 years.