WGCL Offers Slanted Coverage on Morehouse Food Service Inspection
WGCL-TV in Atlanta recently ran a story on the Fulton County Health Department’s inspection of Morehouse College’s dining facility, Chivers Hall. The story accurately depicted unsanitary conditions with food service operations, and improper food handling. On May 6, 2010, the FCHD gave the college an unsatisfactory rating, and instructed MC to get its act together.
But WGCL gets a little funky in its follow-up coverage. Subtle accusations are made by consumer reporter Adam Murphy that a follow-up inspection on May 13 yielded a similar failing assessment, but that ‘preferential treatment’ on the part of FCHD Director Dr. Patrice Harris prompted a favorable score for the college, in order for the dining hall to remain open for commencement activities. From the WGCL report:
The state health code also states that a food service establishment that is graded as a U and does not earn at least a grade C within ten days of receiving the U will be requested to voluntarily close until all violations are corrected. In this case, Chivers Hall remained open for graduation weekend.
“Was there preferential treatment?” asked Murphy. “Absolutely no preferential treatment. What happened was we were scheduled to go back for a follow up and when our inspectors got out there they realized this is graduation weekend and thousands of people will be served,” said Harris.
Harris told CBS Atlanta that the second inspection was considered a special event so the 83 was a temporary score. The Health Department also had inspectors at the school dining hall during graduation weekend checking temperatures on every tray of food. Harris was unable to tell CBS Atlanta the last time they scored a school dining hall inspection this way.
Unfortunately, Murphy never asked the obvious questions that might have proven contrary to his framing of Dr. Harris as an aid to keeping an unsafe food service operation open. What would make Dr. Harris offer preferential treatment to Morehouse? Does she have family or friends as students of faculty?
And if the code on requests a voluntary ceasing of operations, why would the expectation be that the FCHD shut down the school’s dining hall on the biggest weekend on the Morehouse calendar?
Dr. Harris recently offered some insight on the subject to the HBCU Digest.
Does the Health Department have published protocol allowing for provisional food service operation in light of violations? If so, how did Morehouse meet these conditions?
Fulton County has adopted the Georgia State Food Service Code. We follow that code regarding inspections of food service establishments. Because of the numerous events associated with graduation that were spanning over the course of three days and the multitudes of people attending the events, we deemed the activities as more of a special/temporary event (That is why on the Inspection Report under the category of Purpose of Inspection we listed it as Other). This provided us with the opportunity to be onsite to take temperatures on all of the food that was being served for the entire three-day period, thereby ensuring that all food was prepared and served in a safe and sanitary manner.
Do you have any personal ties to Morehouse that would encourage a public inclination of favoritism towards the university?
No, I have no personal ties to Morehouse College.
How has the Morehouse administration interacted with the Health Department to resolve violations of cleanliness and food maintenance/storage?
The Health Department involvement has been with the vendor that is contracted to provide food service for Morehouse College. The vendor that is contracted to provide food for Morehouse College was provided with additional training (On May 17, 2010) administered by our Public Health Instructor in safe food handling practices and procedures. We are also scheduled to conduct a follow-up inspection in the next week.
Have there been others scenarios in which inspected establishments have received temporary passing scores of inspection? If so, what kinds of establishments, and what were the circumstances?
Yes, there have been other instances of inspected establishments receiving temporary scores. These events are typically deemed as special/temporary events that occur for multiple days. Examples include events such as Cavalia, the Renaissance Festival and the Atlanta RV Show.
Has Morehouse resolved all food service violations documented from the Health Department’s last inspection?
We will make that determination when we conduct the next scheduled follow-inspection.
So there you have it. FCHD workers were on-site the entire weekend monitoring activity at Chivers Hall. They providing training with the vendor, and acted appropriately within all measures of the code, just as they have with other, non-HBCU-related events that haven’t drawn critical consumer reports. This doesn’t exempt Morehouse from scrutiny over poor food service conditions, but it does demonstrate that the County and the school worked diligently to resolve the issues and maintain order for the College’s single-most important event.
WGCL’s biased and incomplete coverage of the story begs the question; was there really a problem with the food service operation? Or that an agenda setting measure to cast negativity on Morehouse’s biggest day and the Health Department’s highest-ranking official is a sexier story?