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Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai restaurant fined for several violations

The state health department has fined Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai restaurant in Kailua-Kona for several violations, including the intentional removal of a yellow placard and replacing it with a green one.

Kona Daze LLC dba Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai at Keauhou Shopping Center at at 78-6831 Alii Dr. was issued a notice of violation and fined $13,000. The yellow placard represents a “conditional pass” while a green one stands for “pass” in regards to compliance with food safety requirements.

“Placard removal is a serious violation with substantial consequences because this act intentionally places profit above health and safety and compromises the public’s trust and their right-to-know when violations occur during an inspection,” said environmental health program manager Peter Oshiro in a press release. “Since the start of the placarding program in July 2014, we’ve seen good compliance with the food industry; this is only the fifth incident involving tampering with a placard.”

Since the inception of the program, the state health department says it has conducted more than 26,000 inspections and issued more than 4,500 yellow “conditional Pass” placards. Only six of the yellow placards have resulted in red “closed” placards due to non-compliance.

On Jan. 4, the health department conducted a routine inspection at Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai, a 170-seat restaurant with a full bar and lounge seating, and issued a yellow placard for five major food code violations.

Among the violations were bare-handed contact with ready-to-eat foods; improper storage of raw foods above other foods; failure to date-stamp refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods; failure to ensure the availability of hand wash sinks; and failure to provide hand wash sinks with hand towels.

In response to an anonymous tip, inspectors returned the following day to find that the yellow placard had been replaced with a green one from a previous inspection. Hawaii law only authorizes health department agents to remove the color-coded placards.

Two more follow-up inspections in following days found outstanding issues with improper hand-washing technique, bare-hand contact with foods, improper storage of foods and improper date-stamping of foods to be discarded.

A yellow placard will be displayed at the restaurant until all violations have been corrected.

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