An investigation by The Chicago Reporter shows that Taste of Chicago vendors have discarded more food in the last few years, even as vendor participation dropped last year.
In 2008, the last year for which data were available, more than a ton of food was thrown out, mostly due to temperature violations. That amount was a four percent increase from the prior year and 27 percent increase since 2006, according to Chicago Department of Public Health documents obtained by the Reporter.
“We’re more rigorous at what we’re doing,” said Frances Guichard, director of the department’s Food Protection Program.
The seven businesses with the most violations in 2008 are returning to this year’s event, which began June 26 and ends July 5. Of the seven businesses with the most violations, three were also among the 10 vendors who had to discard the most food.
Topping both lists was Bacino’s Pizza of Lincoln Park, which in 2008 collected the most violations of the 66 participating vendors and discarded the most food of any vendor–”nearly twice as much as any other business. During the course of the 10-day festival, Bacino’s had 11 violations and threw out 434 pounds of food valued at more than $3,700, according to the Reporter’s investigation. The inspector “found consistently bad temperatures at Bacino’s” and on July 3 alone ordered 198 pizzas be thrown out, indicating they were “detrimental to health and unfit for human food.”
Vee Vee’s African Cuisine discarded the second highest amount of food, with at least 243 lbs. of food thrown out due to temperature violations. This figure does not include some food that should have been discarded, but was not. According to a July 3, 2008 inspection report, an inspector saw an additional 200 lbs. of “potentially hazardous goat, rice, jerk.” The booth manager was instructed to discard it, but “refused to cooperate with orders –¦ started yelling and took food in his Vee Vee’s truck.”
The incident at Vee Vee’s was reported to the Illinois Restaurant Association because city inspectors do not write citations for violations at the Taste, said Guichard. “This is more of an inspection that is more of a consultation,” she said. “We’re there to minimize the risk of something happening.”
Guichard said people who attend the festival should not be concerned. “Food is handled very quickly. It’s cooked on site and given out to the customer immediately,” she said. “There’s not a lot of time for something to go wrong.”