Another meat sandwich known only in one state is trouble in with regulators.
This time it is the Nic-o-boli made only at Nicola Pizza Inc., located in Rehoboth Beach, DE, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says is misbranded and being made in insanitary conditions.
The 39-year old Nicola Pizza has been making Nic-o-bolis almost as long as it has been in business. The ground beef sandwich includes Nicola’s “fat free” pizza sauce and a blend of cheeses that are rolled in fat free dough and baked in the oven.
There’s also a vegetarian version offering various vegetable toppings.
But just as Iowa food regulators have blown the food safety whistle on the popular Marshalltown Maid-Rite “loose meat” sandwiches because the restaurant’s meat is both cooked and held in the same dated vessel, FDA has concerns about conditions in which Nic-o-bolis are made.
In a June 10 warning letter to Nicola Pizza, FDA takes exception to much of the labeling on the Nic-o-bolis. Wheat in the dough and milk in the cheese in the sandwich are not listed as allergens.
Nor does a Nic-o-boli make the cut as a “fat-free” product as its contains more than 0.5 grams of fat per reference amount customarily consumed (RACC). That means it is making a false nutritional claim, FDA says.
Sub-ingredients are also not completely listed on the label for Nic-o-bolis.
The big challenge for Nicola Pizza, however, may be cleaning up its processing facilities as FDA listed the following problems:
-“The can opener in the food production area exhibited food debris accumulated on the cutting blade and the shaft. This can opener was used to open 6 lb. cans of pizza sauce, the contents of which were to be used in the production of your pizza sauce.
-“The pizza dough mixer exhibited food debris where the dough hook would be inserted. The dough mixed in the mixer is used for Nic-o-boli products.
-“The dough portion and press machine exhibited food debris on the food conveyors rear panels, metal runners, cloth runner, and motor housing. This machine is used for the production of your pizza dough and Nic-o-boli products.
-“Live ants observed in a hole with dimensions approximately 2 inches wide and 6 inches long, located under the kitchen triple sink where the wall meets the floor.
-“Two electronic lighted devices used for pest control hung immediately over food preparation areas in the kitchen. When an insect flies into one for these devices and is ‘zapped,’ parts of the insect can be ejected from the device and can land up to six feet away from the device.
-“Accumulated food debris in a hole in the floor located under a pizza oven.
-“Accumulated dust and debris on the ceiling and pipes above the pasta cooker.
-“A gap in the floor around the drainpipe from the pasta cooker.
-“Loose and missing tiles along the wall behind the pasta cooker.
-“A cart exhibiting food debris on the underside of its shelves and wheels stored upside down on a metal table.
-“Broken tiles and absence of grout between tiles in front of the automatic dishwashers.
-“No cleanable threshold on the floor at the rear entrance doorway between the food production area and the room containing the ice machine.”
Nicola Pizza’s menu also includes pizza, pasta, and various other kinds of sandwiches. Television personality Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money, endorses Nicola’s sauce as “best in the country”.
FDA asked for a response to its concerns within 15 working days. Food Safety News sought comment from the Delaware company, but has not heard anything back.
As for Iowa’s “loose meat” crisis, an appeal is pending on whether the Marshalltown Maid-Rite must change its cooking method for the first time in eight decades. Earlier this year, the Iowa Assembly opted not to get involved.