One of my news alerts lit up like a Christmas tree over the Fourth of July weekend.
Most, I think, use news alerts for topics and events that occur with some frequency. I don’t. I set news alerts for making sure I do not miss some remote or isolated event.
It was one of those that came alive over the Fourth. It was my news alert for “Taylor’s Maid-Rite.” If you have not been with us long, Taylor’s Maid Rite is one of the oldest and most popular restaurants in Marshalltown, IA.
We’ve been on the Taylor’s Maid Rite beat ever since food safety professionals in the state tipped Food Safety News to the fact that the 2010 Iowa Assembly was about to exempt the iconic restaurant from a key food safety regulation.
We helped stop that from happening and have been on the Taylor’s Maid Rite watch ever since. What happened this weekend was simple: Taylor’s became the stage for a very popular candidate for President in Iowa: Republican Michele Bachman.
The Marshalltown Times-Republican, which can be called a Taylor’s booster, had this quote from the candidate: “I’ve been here many times,” she told a local woman. “We’d always go to Maid Rite. That was the big deal.”
The T-R reported Bachman “spent most of the time inside Taylor’s Maid Rite greeting patrons and outside signing autographs and posing for pictures for a crowd of approximately 150 people.”
Campaign media called Taylor’s Maid Rite “purveyors of loose meat sandwiches” and one of the top retail politicking sites. Bachman visited during a 10-stop, three-day campaign.
Bachman is no stranger to Marshalltown, and probably knows all about the original Maid-Rite cooking vessel that stands in violation of the Iowa food code.
Ever since Tom Vilsack stepped down as Iowa’s governor five years ago, state food safety officials have been trying to force Taylor’s to adopt a code-compliant cooking vessel now used by virtually every other Maid Rite franchise in Iowa and surrounding states.
Vilsack’s administration had allowed Taylor’s to run as it pleased under a sort of grandfather clause.
The problem with the old cooking vessel is that it both cooks and holds ground beef in a manner that invites cross-contamination.
Iowans love their loose meats and many think Taylor’s Maid Rite makes the best ones. (My vote goes to Bob’s Drive-In, located at the intersection of Highways 3 and 75 in LeMars.)
After losing in the Iowa Assembly, Taylor’s played out its administrative appeals and lost before the state health director.
It then shifted over to the courts, filing an appeal in Marshall County District Court. For $185 in court fees, it has again held up food safety for additional months.
A trial date has been set for Sept. 29 in Marshalltown.
While all this delay continues, Taylor’s Maid Rite continues to operate with an state inspection report on its wall showing a big fat red violation.
Red violations usually require immediate attention. Fix it now or lock the doors. Taylor’s, however, gets a big fat exemption while they play out their delaying tactics.
Maybe when the next Presidential candidate comes calling, one not so familiar with Marshalltown, the U.S. Secret Service will read that red violation notice on the wall and then take the only logical action.
Wrestle the old cooking vessel to the ground before it hurts somebody.