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President's pastrami choice cited for sanitation violations

Image: U.S. President Obama orders a corned beef sandwich at a visit to Jerry's Famous Deli in Miami
President Barack Obama orders a corned beef sandwich from Dean Fader at a visit to Jerry's Famous Deli in Miami before departing for Washington August 18. The deli was cited Tuesday by a state inspector for critical violations of sanitation and safety laws.LARRY DOWNING / Reuters
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The Florida restaurant where President Barack Obama ordered pastrami sandwiches to go last week was cited this week by a state inspector for critical violations of sanitation and safety laws, the Fort Lauderdale-based Sun-Sentinel reported Thursday.

Jerry’s Famous Deli, at 1450 Collins Ave. on Miami Beach, served the president and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek on Aug. 18 while Obama was in town to boost Meek’s Senate campaign, the paper said.

On Tuesday, a state inspector from the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation found 26 critical violations at the deli.

Jerry’s Famous Deli co-owner Jason Starkman told the paper how he felt about the violations: “It’s the state’s job to find them. It’s our responsibility to clean it up and fix it. And that’s what we do. If they question something, I will throw it away. I don’t risk anything or take chances.”

The inspector halted the sale of cooked meat balls, found potentially hazardous raw and cooked foods kept at improper temperatures and noted bare-hand contact of bread by employees and improper hand washing, among other violations, the Sun-Sentinel said.

Previous citation
Last May, the paper said, an inspector found “potatoes contaminated by dirty water from a broken cooler” and “precooked beef and chickens left outside from night before out of temperature and bad oder (sic)” among 19 critical violations at the restaurant. After that visit, a manager said the meat was discarded, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Florida's website describes critical violations as those that, if not corrected, are more likely to contribute directly to food contamination, illness or environmental damage, the paper said.

The violations at Jerry’s Famous Deli were not serious enough to order the restaurant closed but a follow-up inspection is due within 90 days, the paper said.

Starkman told the paper he wishes inspectors would come by every month.

“The more they come, the better for us, because it keeps our staff on their toes,” Starkman said.

About Jerry's
Jerry’s Famous Deli launched in 1978 in Studio City, Calif. It is now a chain of 10 Southern California and South Florida restaurants that also includes the brands Solley's and Rascal House, according to the company's website.

Since the President stopped in, the restaurant’s business is booming and customers come in asking for “the Obama special,” a manager told the Sun-Sentinel.

A White House official said last week that “the president enjoyed the visit and the sandwich.”