Urban Eatery faces unresolved health violations | The Triangle

Urban Eatery faces unresolved health violations

Urban Eatery was inspected by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health on Feb. 28 and was not within “satisfactory compliance” due to eight violations including rodent and insect infestation, improper holding temperatures and contamination issues. There is no record of these violations having been corrected. 

Of the violations, arguably the most concerning was signs of infestation. There were mice feces and “live drain flies observed in an unused drain in the pizza prep area,” raising concerns about how clean the food prep areas are kept.

The student body is already aware of the potential for rodents and contamination. In fact, there have been multiple videos of mice in Urban circulating on the internet since the fall quarter. 

The other major violation was for foods not being kept at the proper temperatures, where the tomato sauce that was inspected was at “58 degrees F rather than 41 degrees F or below as required.” 

Food not being kept cold enough risks prematurely spoiling. James Spaulding, a second-year resident assistant for Towers Hall studying construction management, was not shocked to hear Urban had failed the recent health inspection. 

He often reaches the limit of his meal plan by visiting Urban almost 10 times each week and reported that he suffered “food poisoning a handful of times” and only finds himself going back because he feels it is his “only option” due to limited finances. 

Another violation pertains to food not being properly protected from contamination. 

This referred to a lack of “barrier or sneeze guard observed at the Vegan station,” which is presumably why the dishes were recently moved under glass guards. 

Of the remaining violations, a number of them were a matter of cleanliness, including food debris and dirty floors. Some of the other violations were due to poor facility maintenance, such as a leaking sink and broken lights.

The DPH has a general policy of reinspecting an establishment within 30 business days

James Garrow, communications director of the Philadelphia DPH declared that facilities not found in satisfactory compliance will need a reinspection “to ensure they have corrected the violations,” but it is unclear if and when this will take place at Urban.

Garrow also clarified why Urban was allowed to remain open while the Giant Heirloom Market had been closed by the DPH 2 months prior: the DPH makes determinations based on risk factors and businesses “will be told to cease operations if there is a threat to public health and safety.” 

Hence, the Heirloom Market was found to have violations that posed a more severe risk to the health of its customers.

Nicholas A. Méndez, the Resident District Manager of Aramark, the company responsible for Drexel campus dining, stated: “Nothing is more important to Aramark than food safety and the customer experience we deliver.” He continued that all the “infractions from last month have already been addressed,” but that remains to be seen as the public awaits the next inspection.  

Aramark is responsible for supplying, maintaining and managing both Urban Eatery and Handschumacher Dining Hall. According to the Dun and Bradstreet business directory, it is the third leading company in the food and facilities services industry, making an annual revenue of $18.85 billion. They report that they serve around five million students annually in higher education and K-12 schools. That amount of scope and success seemingly points toward only local issues affecting Urban. 

According to the available health inspection reports for the past three years, there has been a noticeable decline in Urban’s cleanliness and sanitation quality. In 2021, there were only five violations that were minor infractions related to basic cleaning, one of which was corrected on-site. In 2022, there were numerous violations related to lack of cleanliness, an unplugged refrigeration unit and a lack of hot holding temperature. This decline in compliance climaxed in the most recent report.

Urban Eatery is certifiably unsafe for its consumers. While it does not directly threaten the broader public, it is unacceptable to risk the health and safety of students. The unfortunate truth is that this is not new to Urban’s frequent visitors. As one of the only reliable sources of food for many financially struggling students, it has long failed to meet an acceptable standard of health and food safety.