Iowa Health Director Tom Newton has heard the appeal of Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown, but has not yet issued a decision, says department spokesperson Polly Carver-Kimm.

And while it awaits the decision, Taylor’s practice of shipping its loose-meat sandwiches has come to the attention of food safety officials.

The popular Marshalltown restaurant filed the appeal with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals after last year’s Iowa Legislature opted not to exempt the original Maid-Rite cooker from food safety regulations as Taylor’s wanted.

Taylor’s appeal, however, was heard by Newton because Dean Lerner, who heads Inspections and Appeals, wants to end the use of the original Maid-Rite cooker that is used to make and hold the “loose meat” that are the top item on Taylor’s menu.

Taylor’s is a hold out among the Des Moines-based chain of Maid-Rite franchised restaurants in refusing to give up the original cooker.  It narrowly lost its attempt to get an exemption from the Iowa Legislature, so it is left with a critical red violation on its latest inspection reports for cross-contamination.

And while waiting for the outcome of its appeal, Taylor’s was inspected again due to a consumer complaint.  That inspection resulted in three additional critical red violations and four non-critical blue violations.

Taylor’s was found using large cambro tubs for ground meat storage, which are cleaned using a wash-rinse method only without any sanitization step–also a red violation.

Its other critical violations included failure to clean food contact surfaces, and the improper handling, storage or labeling of a toxic item(s).

The non-critical violations concerned air-drying containers, hand-washing signs, the lack of a mop sink, and utensil storage.

Taylor’s most recent inspection occurred because of a consumer complaint that the restaurant manager did not know about.   It may have concerned the shipment of Maid-Rite sandwiches because the inspection report includes this note:

“Spoke with manager about process to ship sandwiches. 

“Sandwiches are made and weighed to approximately 6 ounces each.  Condiments are packed separately and not placed on the sandwiches. 

“Sandwiches can be ordered in 1, 2, or 3 dozen lots.  Sandwiches are then packed in appropriate size of Styrofoam coolers, alternating rows of three sandwiches and two gel packs.  Styrofoam cooler is then placed in walk-in freezer until shipment-Normally 1-2 days. 

“Cooler is placed in cardboard box for shipping.  Box contains establishment’s name, address, and phone number.  No ingredient labels are placed on product.  Shipment is through United Parcel Service, which picks up at approximately 3:30 PM.  Copies of paperwork for sandwich orders are attached to report.”

The report also notes that the cross contamination violation is under appeal with the  Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals.  While red violations typically must be immediately addressed, Taylor’s has been allowed to continue to operate the original Maid-Rite cooking vessel that dates back to the 1920s.

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 Iowa tradition created in Muscatine, IA in 1926, and brought to Marshalltown by restaurant founder Cliff Taylor two years later.

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.

Taylor’s owners ,Don and Sandy Short,  have an Iowa State University food science expert  checking  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.”