Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown, the restaurant that tried unsuccessfully to get itself exempted by Iowa’s Legislature from some state food safety rules, continues to operate in violation of the law.

The restaurant can continue to operate using its traditional Maid-Rite cooking vessel for as long as it takes to run out its administrative appeals.  After it lost at the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, Taylor’s appealed the decision to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Iowa Health Director Tom Newton is expected to issue a decision on Taylor’s appeal this summer.

In the meantime, Taylor’s Maid-Rite continues with business as usual even though there is a “Red” or “Critical” violation on the report from its last state inspection on Dec. 30, 2009.

That violation is for “Inadequate protection from cross contamination.  3-302.11, p 61.  Raw animal foods not adequately separated from precooked or ready-to-eat foods during storage/preparation/holding/display.  One vessel is used to cook raw meat and hold cooked meat.”

Most of the Iowa-based Maid-Rite chain has abandoned its traditional cooking vessel used to prepare its popular “loose-meat” sandwiches.   

A “loose-meat” is served on a bun with mustard, pickles, or chopped onions. It’s a simple 84-year Iowa tradition created in Muscatine, IA in 1926, and brought to Marshalltown by restaurant founder Cliff Taylor two years later.

Now in its third generation of family ownership, Taylor’s Maid-Rite has refused to change  cooking methods to lessen the risk of cross contamination.  Neither restaurant inspectors nor Maid-Rite corporate officials have been able to convert Taylor’s to new methods.

The administration of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, now Secretary of Agriculture, allowed Taylor’s to use the traditional cooking vessel under a waiver.   That waiver, however, was removed when Vilsack left office, and Taylor’s has been kept administrative appeals going ever since.

It also attempted a political end run by nearly getting the Iowa Legislature to make the Vilsack era waiver state law.  In the end, it failed.

While waiting for the state health decision, the Marshalltown Times-Republican says Taylor’s owners Don and Sandy Short have been busy getting an Iowa State University food science expert to check their process for safety.

Those ISU test results are not part of the current record, but will be ready to go if and when the Shorts have to file another appeal–into the Iowa courts.

In the meantime, Taylor’s remains open and more popular than ever.  Its foray into the legislative arena left it with a Facebook page with nearly 12,000 followers.  Many now stop in at the “Marshalltown tradition” because they oppose “government over-regulation.”