Failed health inspection closes MOSI cafe, leads to review of contract with Hillsborough County
TAMPA, Florida—MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry, has been educating and inspiring local school kids since first opening their doors back in 2005.
But this month, it was the museum learning a lesson -- the hard way.
Last Wednesday, health inspectors with the Division of Hotels and Restaurants uncovered a long list of violations, problems so severe the cafeteria was shut down as an emergency closure last week.
10 News pulled MOSI Cafe's inspection records and found the food service establishment was issued a series of warnings in January after failing to meet state inspection standards. Then, earlier this month, the state said it received a public complaint, the caller alleging they'd seen a roach nest forming in the cappuccino machine.
State inspectors arrived the same week to find live roaches inside that machine and throughout the kitchen, along with rodent droppings and temperature violations on the deli meats.
"It's disappointing, upsetting, and scary," said 10 News viewer Kenna Nickerson, who was visiting MOSI Wednesday afternoon with her grandson from Pasco County.
After first reporting on the museum cafe's emergency closure last week, this week 10 News stopped in. Restaurant staff at first closed the kitchen door so we couldn't see inside, but minutes later, MOSI's PR director arrived offering to take us on a tour.
"My initial reaction was we need to get it fixed," said Shannon Herbon, the museum's director of public relations.
MOSI says the entire kitchen was sanitized with all but a few remaining issues now corrected.
"Our kitchen is in excellent shape now," said Herbon. "We will continue to ensure that is stays that was for all of our guests."
We toured the entire kitchen and found many violations corrected. But we did spot some issues including personal items above the to-go containers, a hand washing sink blocked by coffee canisters, and a German cockroach in the dining room just feet away from children. We spotted another tiny insect crawling up the wall in the kitchen not far from the cutting knives.
"I will not eat here," said Andi Walker, visiting the museum with her two sons.
Parents were not the only ones upset. County commissioners also brought up the health inspection as an emergency agenda item at Wednesday's meeting.
"It was a concern of mine, since no one up here knew about it," said Commissioner Al Higginbotham, who says MOSI operates under an agreement out of the Hillsborough County owned facility.
"If I had known that we had violations such as this I wouldn't want my kids eating here," said Higginbotham.
"After being in that building since 1995 this is the first time we've ever had an issue with pests and we are extremely embarrassed at this situation," said MOSI Vice President Molly Demeulenaere addressing the commission. "We're taking aggressive measurements that is gets resolved."
MOSI issued the following statement late Wednesday afternoon:
"MOSI is dedicated to providing science, technology, engineering, art and math educational programming to the Tampa Bay community and has touched the lives of more than 14 million people since opening its doors. Additionally, MOSI provides more than $500,000 per year in scholarships, admission, and teacher training in an effort to remain accessible to everyone in our community.
Since the building first opened in 1995, this is the first time we have been cited for a pest control issue. We have taken immediate action with a variety of aggressive corrective measures, including firing our pest control company and evaluating the outsourcing of our food services, so that we can continue to focus on the importance of our non-profit mission of being a community-based institution and educational resource dedicated to advancing public interest, knowledge and understanding of science, industry and technology education. We can assure you that this will never happen again."
10 News has learned the museum had been experimenting on and off with an organic eco-friendly type pest control in recent years that some commissioners joked is perhaps too friendly when it came to pests. MOSI said it's hired a new pest control company and assured the County Commission there will be no additional problems on their future restaurant health inspections.