It’s a Moth Pit! Food Safety Inspectors Found Moths in Coffee Storage Area at Manhattan Starbucks Reserve Roastery

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Food safety inspectors with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets found live meal moths, dead meal moths and dead meal moth larvae in the coffee bean storage area at the Chelsea Starbucks Reserve Roastery last week — including on the coffee bean packaging.

Inspectors found the moths the same day they found “mold like residues” in the kitchen’s ice machine — a central complaint of workers who have been on strike at the location for the last three weeks.

The findings were included in the inspection report the agency issued to Starbucks on Nov. 9, which THE CITY obtained on Wednesday. The details in the report, and the meal moth sightings, had not been previously reported.

In addition to the meal moths, inspectors identified other “general deficiencies” including “moderate build-up of old food residues on food contact surfaces” like the matcha stirrer and the cappuccino nozzle and exposed roasted coffee beans in the retail area. The report described the conditions as “insanitary deficiencies that must be corrected without delay.”

“The presence of these conditions may result in the assessment of civil penalties,” the report read.

Andrew Tull, a spokesperson for the company, said in a statement to THE CITY that “the health and well-being of our partners and customers are our highest priorities.”

“We are actively working to address all findings. We look forward to the NYS Department of Agriculture’s reinspection and expect the Roastery to be in full compliance with all health and safety regulations,” he added. “We will continue to follow our rigorous cleaning and sanitization protocols to ensure the health and safety of our partners and customers.”

Starbucks Workers United of NY/NJ, the union representing Reserve Roastery workers, learned of the extent of the agency’s findings when THE CITY showed them a copy of the inspection report on Wednesday.

“The official report from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets inspection at Starbucks’ NYC Roastery just last week, validated workers’ claims of mold in the ice machine and on food contact surfaces, stating that it was a ‘critical violation,’ as well as serious pest issues, including finding meal moths and larvae in the coffee bean storage area,” Leanne Tory-Murphy, a spokesperson for union, wrote in a statement.

“Workers should not need to go on strike for nearly a month over issues that should have already been dealt with by management to remain in compliance with basic health codes,” she added.

What the Frap

The 103 workers at the Meatpacking District flagship store, which boasts a bakery, cocktail bar and $17 cold brews, have been on strike since Oct. 25 following staff sightings of bed bugs in the breakroom and mold in the ice machines.

State regulators who inspected the Roastery on Nov. 9, following an initial inspection on Nov. 4, probed the store for four and a half hours, according to the inspection report. They did not find bed bugs.

Inspectors instead found three meal moths flying in the green coffee bean storage area. They also found “one dead meal moth and three dead meal moth larvae … on the exterior packaging of green coffee beans in the storage area.”

They also found that a kitchen copper cooling pipe “is observed to contaminate ice for food service through dripping condensation.”

In both cases, the ice was “discarded and melted,” and inspectors instructed the coffee shop to “properly clean and sanitize the equipment.” 

Both the mold and dripping pipe were categorized as “critical deficiencies” – conditions that “may result in the assessment of civil penalties and other action provided by law including administrative hearing or court action.”

Two days after that inspection, on Nov. 11, the company’s labor relations director Andria Kelly wrote in a letter to the union: “There is no pest infestation or moldy ice at the Roastery — when the strike started or now — and we don’t understand why the union continues to assert falsely otherwise.”

Tory-Murphy, the union spokesperson, pointed to that letter in a statement, noting that the state inspection report “directly contradicts statements from the Company, made as recently as November 11th,  despite their knowledge of the inspection and the resulting destruction of the ice, which asserted that there were not – and had not been – mold or pest issues at the Roastery.” 

The striking workers have said that they will return to work once management provides proof, such as an exterminator report, that the store is free of mold and other pests. They say the company so far has not provided them with one.

Starbucks said in a statement shared on their website on Oct. 27 the company had hired their own vendor to inspect the ice machine for mold and “found no noted operational or cleanliness concerns.” The company added it “made the decision to proactively upgrade and replace the machine with new equipment to improve the partner experience.”

That was two weeks before state inspectors found “mold like residues” and issued the Nov. 9 failing inspection.

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