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Next Two Months Critical for Pacific Produce

Food safety compliance problems and other issues at Pacific Produce, 5455 S. 27th St., have persisted since it opened in November 2010.

Pacific Produce owner Sat Le has two more months to save his popular Asian supermarket.

The Board of Health agreed to postpone a discussion regarding the possible revocation of Le’s license because of food code violations until Nov. 8, essentially granting Le two more months to get his business in order.

Le made the postponement request because his food safety consultant could not attend Thursday’s meeting.

“It’s not really an extension of any sort,” said Darren Rausch, the city’s health director. “Essentially, nothing changes between now and November.”

Food safety compliance in November 2010.

The biggest issues included employee knowledge and training; maintaining proper temperatures for hot and cold foods; proper storage of foods, specifically meats; employee hygiene; and improper labeling of foods, which includes listing ingredients and allergens.

Things got so bad the Board of Health set a date for a license revocation hearing in May, but decided then to table that move after Le agreed to aim toward compliance. The board revisited the case in July and was supposed to make a decision this month. In July, .

According to Rausch, inspectors were at the supermarket again in late August in advance of last night’s meeting. At that latest inspection, Le showed improvement in the cases of proper temperature for storing hot and cold foods, but other minor violations such as general maintenance and cleanliness still existed.

“We have a history here where we’ve seen some improvement,” Rausch said. “A year ago, we had many more violations across many more categories. We’ve had some real improvement … and our most recent inspection revealed some violations of the less critical variety.

“In the conversations I’ve had with them, they know they have two months to really focus on all of those issues and get into tip-top shape.”

These two months could be Pacific Produce’s last chance. Rausch said his department will issue one more full inspection in the weeks prior to the next Board of Health meeting. In November, the board will decide to dismiss the revocation of Le’s license,  provide an extension or move ahead with the revocation hearing. If the board decides revocation is the next step, Le could appeal the decision with Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

“This is something we don’t do lightly. It’s not something that happens widely across the area,” Rausch said. “Nine to 10 months ago, it was a dire situation we weren’t sure would improve. There is still some improvement needed but we’re optimistic.”

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