A Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Chinese restaurant is under investigation after inspectors found deer heads, brains, and other unidentifiable parts at the establishment.
Deer brain lo mein, anyone?
New China House in Lititz, Pennsylvania was slapped with 18 violations and ruled out of compliance by the Pennsylvania Game Commission on December 16, 2015 when inspectors found dear brains and heads, skinned and whole tails, legs, muscle meat, spines, necks, and other unidentifiable body parts both raw and cooked at the restaurant.
I used to live next-door to the restaurant for about 3 years when it was at its original location. Without going into too much detail, I can confirm that…the place was a bit nasty.
The inspection was an emergency response to a confidential tip.
“PA Game Commission confiscated the following from facility walk-in cooler and freezer after operator was unable to provide documentation that game animal meats being used in the facility were from an approved source: deer brains, deer heads, skinned and whole tails, legs, muscle meat, spines, necks and other unidentifiable parts both raw and cooked. Amount of parts removed included: 4 trash bags, 2 boxes, 3 plastic tubs, one 5 gallon bucket and 9 trash bags of prepared foods. In addition, sampling of prepared food found in walk-ins were taken to be tested for species identification.”
At the Dec. 17 follow-up inspection, New China House, investigators found 14 violations:
“An uncovered, metal bowl containing an unidentifiable, internal organ of a pig, according to operator’s wife, was observed stored on shelf of walk-in cooler. Wife states that it is for her lunch however, documentation of source could not be provided. Discarded.”
The restaurant’s doors were shuttered Dec. 16-17 to allow inspectors to discard the unidentified meat and to clean and sanitize the establishment, according to Lydia Johnson, director of the Department of Agriculture’s bureau of food safety and laboratory services.
“We closed them during the inspection because of gross unsanitary conditions and questions on if the products came from an approved source,” said Johnson.
“We closed them until they cleaned up the gross unsanitary conditions. There is no longer an imminent health factor, and we will keep an eye on how they are progressing,” she said. 
The owner of New China House, identified only as “Chun,” said the restaurant does not sell deer meat.
“They took the deer bones – we need for soup for my wife, and for me,” he said, adding that they don’t sell it to the public.
Chun claimed they got the deer heads and bones from a deer butchering house in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.
“I can confirm deer parts were seized, but it is an ongoing investigation and we have no further comment at this time,” said Game Commission spokesman Travis Lau.
“Edible parts cannot be sold by anyone,” Lau said, other than farm-raised deer raised for human consumption.
“No one is permitted to sell the meat or other edible parts from harvested game. When hunters pay at the processor, they’re paying for their deer or a deer they’ve been given to be butchered and/or turned into some processed product.
Lau explained that inedible parts harvested from game can be sold within 90 days of the close of the season in which they were taken, with a few exceptions.
Of course, the term “edible” can mean different things. For example, according to Lau, hooves may or may not be considered edible depending on how much of the pad remains. Legs would be considered edible because they contain meat. The animals’ antlers and bones are inedible, he said.
It’s uncommon to have a joint inspection with the Game Commission, Johnson said, and the amount of unidentified meat sources was particularly troubling.
“Maybe you see a small amount of product – this was significantly more product,” she said.
Some people (read: online commenters) have been dismissing the deer issue because, after all, there are far worse things people could be eating – such as horse meat in Burger King (or maybe even just fast food in general!).
More than Just Deer Parts?
But Bambi parts weren’t the only problem found at the restaurant. The place sounds like a veritable breeding ground for foodborne pathogens.
Other violations at New China House, according to the Department of Agriculture, included:
- Numerous knives and utensils contained old food residue.
- Thermometer for ensuring correct temperature of food was greasy and unreadable.
- Buckets of food were stored directly on the floor in the walk-in’s, rather than 6 inches off of the floor as required.
- Bulk flour was stored in a broken, plastic barrel.
- Operator/CFM did not know how to properly wash-rinse-sanitize food equipment and utensils, test food for internal temperature or calibrate a thermometer.
- Employee personal belongings i.e. umbrella, map, metal objects, socks, and other assorted items were found stored with bags of macaroni.
- Numerous pairs of shoes were observed on bottom storage area shelf among restaurant supplies and food.
Other violations Dec. 16 included:
- Wet wiping cloths were not stored in sanitizer solution.
- Buckets of food were stored on floor in walk-in freezer.
- Rice in a cooker had internal temperature of 116 degrees, rather than at least 135.
- Operator observed touching cooked noodles and egg rolls with bare hand.
- Internal temperature of cooked noodles and egg rolls held at room temperature and measured 56 degrees, rather than 41 degrees or below.
- Interior of kitchen is extremely dirty including floor under equipment, shelves, and walls.
- Food utensils observed in the kitchen were stored in a container of water which was not maintained at 135 degrees.
If the heads, spines, and random body parts don’t disturb you, this should: this isn’t the first time that New China House was found to have multiple violations in 2015.
On July 15, the restaurant also had 14 violations.
Between 2013 and 2015, New China House was probed by inspectors 6 times, and 4 of those inspections occurred in 2015. One of those inspections, in June, revealed that the owner ‘does not have adequate knowledge of food safety in this food facility.” 
Logan Hall, a USDA spokesman, said that restaurants may reopen when “deficiencies” are addressed. 
One can only wonder what it would take for a business to actually get shut down for good.
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