The inspection was completed after a confidential tip was made to the authorities. It is not legal to sell meat from wild game animals. Having deer heads and brains in the establishment is also a risk for CWD - chronic wasting disease.
In addition, inspectors found numerous violations.
Deer brains, heads, parts confiscated from Chinese restaurant: Ag department inspection
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is investigating a large quantity of deer heads, brains and other, unidentifiable parts found at the New China House restaurant in Lititz Dec. 16, according to an agriculture department inspection report, but the eatery remains open.
The restaurant, at 721 S. Broad St., was listed as "out of compliance" by the state Department of Agriculture after an inspector Dec. 16 found 18 violations, including the following:
"PA Game Commission confiscated the following from facility walk-in cooler and freezer after operator was unable to provide documentation that game animal meats being used in the facility were from an approved source: deer brains, deer heads, skinned and whole tails, legs, muscle meat, spines, necks and other unidentifiable parts both raw and cooked. Amount of parts removed included: 4 trash bags, 2 boxes, 3 plastic tubs, one 5 gallon bucket and 9 trash bags of prepared foods. In addition, sampling of prepared food found in walk-ins were taken to be tested for species identification."
Follow-up next day
The restaurant remained out of compliance after a follow-up inspection Dec. 17. That inspection found 14 violations, including the following:
"An uncovered, metal bowl containing an unidentifiable, internal organ of a pig, according to operator's wife, was observed stored on shelf of walk-in cooler. Wife states that it is for her lunch however, documentation of source could not be provided. Discarded."
The restaurant was closed for a time Dec. 16-17 while the unidentified meat was discarded and cleaning and sanitizing took place, said Lydia Johnson, director of the Department of Agriculture's bureau of food safety and laboratory services.
Not public sale
"We don't sell deer meat," said the New China House owner, who gave his name as only "Chun"when contacted Wednesday.
"They took the deer bones – we need for soup for my wife, and for me," he said, adding that they don't sell it to the public.
He said they got the deer heads and bones from a deer butchering house in Elizabethtown.
The investigation was launched following a confidential tip, said Travis Lau, Game Commission spokesman.
"I can confirm deer parts were seized, but it is an ongoing investigation and we have no further comment at this time," he said.
"Edible parts cannot be sold by anyone," Lau said, other than farm-raised deer raised for human consumption.
"No one is permitted to sell the meat or other edible parts from harvested game. When hunters pay at the processor, they're paying for their deer or a deer they've been given to be butchered and/or turned into some processed product," Lau said via email.
In general, Lau said inedible parts from harvested game may be sold within 90 days of the close of the season in which they were taken, with some exceptions.
There are also gray areas, Lau said. For example, hooves may or may not be considered edible based on how much of the pad remains, and legs would be considered edible because they contain meat. Antlers and bones are inedible, he said.
Johnson said her agency was contacted by the Game Commission, which was doing an inspection at New China House.
"We closed them during the inspection because of gross unsanitary conditions and questions on if the products came from an approved source," she said.
"We closed them until they cleaned up the gross unsanitary conditions. There is no longer an imminent health factor, and we will keep an eye on how they are progressing," she said.
The undocumented meat — described as a pig organ — found Dec. 17 was discarded after being denatured with bleach or the like, Johnson said.
The owner could also face citations, she said.
For the state Department of Agriculture to close a restaurant, there must be an imminent health hazard, Johnson said, such as gross unsanitary conditions, lack of hot water, a sewage backup or the like.
Venison can only be sold in restaurants if it comes from an approved producer and there is documentation to prove that, Johnson said. It has to be raised specifically for a food source and must be butchered and processed in an approved facility.
New China House will be on the list for more frequent inspections, Johnson said. Normally restaurants are inspected at least once a year.
It is unusual to have a joint inspection with the Game Commission, Johnson said.
She said she hasn't seen reports on unidentified meat sources at a restaurant for a while.
"Maybe you see a small amount of product – this was significantly more product," she said.
Johnson said her department is always looking for potential sources of foodborne illness in restaurants, such as not keeping food at the proper temperature, improper sanitizing and failing to wearing gloves, Johnson said.
"Those are the higher risk factors," she said, adding that each inspection is a snapshot of that day at the facility.
Other violations Dec. 17 at New China House, according to the Department of Agriculture, included:
- Numerous knives and utensils contained old food residue.
- Thermometer for ensuring correct temperature of food was greasy and unreadable.
- Buckets of food stored directly on the floor in the walk-in's, rather than 6 inches off of the floor as required.
- Bulk flour stored in a broken, plastic barrel.
- Operator/CFM did not know how to properly wash-rinse-sanitize food equipment and utensils, test food for internal temperature or calibrate a thermometer.
- Employee personal belongings i.e. umbrella,map, metal objects, socks and other assorted items were found stored with bags of macaroni.
- Numerous pairs of shoes were observed on bottom storage area shelf among restaurant supplies and food.
Other violations Dec. 16 included:
- Wet wiping cloths not stored in sanitizer solution.
- Buckets of food stored on floor in walk-in freezer.
- Rice in cooker had internal temperature of 116 degrees, rather than at least 135.
- Operator observed touching cooked noodles and egg rolls with bare hand.
- Internal temperature of cooked noodles and egg rolls held at room temperature and measured 56 degrees, rather than 41 degrees or below.
- Interior of kitchen is extremely dirty including floor under equipment, shelves and walls.
- Food utensils in kitchen observed stored in a container of water which was not maintained at 135 degrees.