Lafayette's Cake Box Bakery Gets Pre-Christmas Warning From FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a cautionary note to a local bakery last week.

The president of the received a Christmas card from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration just before the Holiday -- only it wasn't wishing him comfort and joy.

It turns out FDA inspectors had toured the popular Wilkinson Lane bakery -- favored by local foodies and area groceries who fancy its small, hometown bakery appeal -- and found a few things lacking.

We've linked to the original report and don't want to ruin anyone's breakfast (there's just no way to lessen the impact of an unfavorable restaurant inspection) so suffice to say an unwanted visitor was found uncomortably close to their food storage and some employees may need a refresher course in restaurant hygiene.

President Carl Skropeta's response was not immediately known but, hopefully, he's taking steps to comply with the FDA's request that Cake Box get a little tidying up.

Danielle December 27, 2011 at 04:12 PM
I want to know. And I also feel that LP's story was presented with sensitivity. The report itself seemed pretty severe, though I agree that food service is a tough tough business to be in. People should know what they are getting.
Sailndayz December 27, 2011 at 04:20 PM
I am amazed that it required a Federal Agency to issue this. Where has Contra Costa County Public Health Dept. been with their required restaurant and food production inspections? Where has the State Dept. of Health been? Beyond appalling conditions at this bakery, I am shocked and saddened at our local Health Officials' failures.
Crowley December 27, 2011 at 05:08 PM
I don't know the answer to your question, but I do know that Cake Box is a mostly wholesale organization, selling their packaged products in groceries throughout the Bay Area. Perhaps the type of kitchen/operation changes who does the oversight? Just a thought.
Chris Nicholson December 27, 2011 at 05:33 PM
I wondered the same thing: why not a local "health inspector" from the county. Even if a distributor, if not shipping out of state, it is not clear why the FDA would step in (For Con Law trivia buffs, I suspect it has something to do with growing your own wheat). Nonetheless, now knowing that they are a wholesaler, I would modify my comments above and would agree that tougher standards should apply to a high-volume operation. I thought it was a small local shop.
Tony Rodriguez December 27, 2011 at 06:44 PM
@claire, they were filling the Diablo Foods shelves the evening of the 23d, so probably not on the no-sell list. The FDA angle is curious. By any standard, dead rat and flying moths in or darn close to the prep area needs to be called out. Lax standards set from the top, or poor practices by the rank and file, or both. The letter reads as if the inspector had kitchen access, which makes me wonder if the employees knew an inspector was present, yet still went on moth-slapping, etc. Owner might not want to take out an ad that reports this news and promises improvements, but should at least get onto Patch and say all the right things.
RG December 28, 2011 at 03:32 AM
Usually the FDA gets involved if you are growing/harvesting your own ingredients - I think Chris called it right. If you are selling to the public you must provide proof your items/ingredients are FDA approved. Growing wheat or raising chicken and cattle on your private home property for use in your public restaurant is not allowed.
Chris Nicholson December 28, 2011 at 03:38 AM
@RG: You might be right, but I was on the issue Federalism, which is considered quant and esoteric (and, if you believe Obama, irrelevant) these days. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn
X December 28, 2011 at 05:16 AM
Fairly gruesome. Any food facility should have an active step that involves looking for rodent droppings on a daily basis to ensure a problem doesn't develop. Logs should be kept so that employees sign off on performing daily/routine cleaning activities. My employees received a bonus for good inspections. Contra Costa Environmental Health posts all food inspection reports on its website. So, you can view them if you're curious. I won't eat at a restaurant if the bathroom is dirty. If the place allows a dirty restroom - an area you can see - imagine what the kitchen area - which you can't see must look like. I also don't eat at potlucks since I don't know what your personal kitchen & sanitary practices are. I don't eat at restaurants that only provide hand dryers in the bathroom. Those machines are disgusting. No paper towel option - I don't eat there. Besides those machines being gross, I need a paper towel for opening the door - counteracts all the men who don't wash their hands & then touch the door handle. Gross. Gross. Gross. I won't eat any food that's been touched by someone who's also handled money & hasn't washed their hands. Money is filthy dirty in the literal sense. I won't eat any food touched by someone wearing a filthy apron. Aprons aren't worn to the restroom or when taking out the trash. Watch how many food stores violate my rules & you'll see why I cook at home for my family for most meals. Yes, I'm a germ-a-phobe.
X December 28, 2011 at 05:24 AM
I never eat at buffet style restaurants unless I have checked its latest food inspection report. Buffets are notorious for not keeping cold food cold or hot food hot, thereby temperature abusing foods. A business like Cake Box can certainly overcome a bad inspection if it does things properly. Look at Jack in the Box. Its food practices actually killed people & the chain survived. If i were the owner, I'd work with a PR firm that specializes in these situations before I uttered a word to the press.
dave in moraga December 28, 2011 at 07:36 AM
Well, buffet steam tables left at substandard temps for 10 hours are one thing, but no potlucks for Howie Mandel are another! You send your children to school (or will eventually) and you are worried about your neighbors' sanitation habits for potlucks? Have you ever seen a pre-school or school-age lunchroom? Go ahead and lock the children up. Set the alarm, as you said you do, while you are safely inside the house. Good luck with that strategy! As your neighbor, I would feel that you viewed me as some sort of ignorant insect, incapable of showing sufficient concern or knowledge of safe food preparation for you, your children, and, of course, my precious children. As for rodent droppings and insect parts, if your children have ever eaten canned food or grain products, they have imbibed both, cooked to sanitary, if impalatable, condition, of course. As for "filthy lucre", are you kidding me? All restaurants are prepared to accept filthy lucre. I think the point is, do they wash their hands properly. I don't think your personal experience as DQ owner and germ-o-phobe adds anything here, and I would be a bit surprised if a bakery that doesn't have money for quality control would have money for a PR message. Now that would be scary.
X December 28, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Dave - I make my children their lunch. Thanks for the unsolicited tips, though.
Chris Nicholson December 29, 2011 at 07:45 PM
DD: Your rules all seem directionally sensible, if a bit extreme. I just think we should judge sanitary practices on the science, and not the "grossness" scale. Even with all the very real dangers you identify, the people who eat the food you won't will very rarely get sick because it. On the flip side, despite your extreme vigilance, you and your family will occasionally get sick.
CJ December 29, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Culinary Risk leads to incredible discoveries. If you are a grem phobe you would need to stay away from nearly all restaurants I have ever seen. Every bite of sushi,raw oyster,poached egg or med rare burger or steak are frought with some culinary risk. Don't get me started with most asian and mexican restaurants. Good grief!
A Miller December 30, 2011 at 01:48 AM
Wow, interesting to see the limitations many people place on themselves. I've eaten fantastically delicious food at roadside stands in Bali, Indonesia and Punta Minta, Mexico and, amazingly, l've lived to tell the tale. I bet those places wouldn't come near to passing a FDA inspection. I'm fine with reporting, but please make it fair. It does feel like this bakery is being singled out to get more eyeballs on the site. Did ALL other restaurants/eateries in the LaMorinda area score perfectly? If not, shouldn't they be reported on too?
Tony Rodriguez December 30, 2011 at 03:56 AM
Sushi, etc., are things that you order. I'd like the raw fish. I'd like the undercooked burger. I don't think anybody is ordering Parker House rolls "but make sure they are baked on the trays with lots of residue" or "be sure to use the scraper that doubles as the moth scraper." The protectiveness is hard to figure out. No doubt there are other restaurants/food sites being written up, some probably with minor points, others probably with even more disturbing issues. But if the idea is, if you can't report all of them, report none of them, well, that doesn't make any sense. A well-known bakery, with, as memory serves, a bit of a price premium on its goods, gets called out for things that reflect poorly on it (and which don't look like "you caught them on a bad day" events). That's news and it's fair to report it. Eating at a roadside stand in a "developing country," if the stand is serving food that you know really should be refrigerated, or has things buzzing around that you know really should be kept away from the food, etc., well, sure, take the chance if you like, and savor the taste (assuming you like it) and add the chaser of "and it didn't faze me." But, again, it's one thing to make a knowing choice, and I rather doubt you'd choose the roadside stand with the rat three feet from the food, or with the rat pellets in the storage area under the car.
CJ December 30, 2011 at 04:01 AM
I agree completely. I deal with these Health Inspectors regularly and also know that mass quantities of calories in a cooking production area draw in vermin. Truth be told virtually any commercial food production business will see vilolations such as this and as long as the owner addresses the issues, which appear to be ridiculously easy to do. No harm no foul. People need to relax.
CJ December 30, 2011 at 04:10 AM
Ever really examine a commercial bakery? I consider carmelized residue to be the "good taste" in some things.Hell look at the cookie sheets and AllClad pans in my house. That's called flavor. A scaper moved a moth? The HORROR!! I'd like to know why this came from a Fed not County agency? What's that about? As I said above this is a non issue and hope the bakery is not affected by this kind of uneccessary pub since HuffPo/AOL is apparently really mining everything available on the 24 hr newscycle to keep things buzzing for the advertisers in our sleepy little bubble here. I would not hesitate to buy their goods and wouldn't even consider it a "culinary risk".
dave in moraga December 30, 2011 at 04:24 AM
I agree and disagree. Cheese is a disgusting product of mold cultures, and we love it. Just read the report and judge for yourself. I think management is AWOL on this one.
Tony Rodriguez December 30, 2011 at 04:25 AM
Suit yourself. If the scraper were the only thing, then maybe whatever. But the letter paints a picture of chronic indifference to long-running issues that go way beyond the perma-fixture stuff on well-used cookie sheets (the letter, I believe, noted uncooked residue on holding trays or racks). One article is not exactly tabloids fanning the flames.
Sandy December 30, 2011 at 09:03 AM
Let's see if I have this right. So far, CJ has come out in favor of noise pollution, air pollution, water pollution, asbestos, toxic spills and restaurants singled out for corrective action by the FDA. Now there's a track record of progressive thinking!!
X December 30, 2011 at 12:21 PM
I never had a dead rat in my facility. Speak for yourself if you feel that's normal.
X December 30, 2011 at 12:31 PM
Chris - I prefer not to increase my risk of contracting a food borne illness. I can't help what other people do and frankly don't care.
CJ December 30, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Sandy- You forgot lead paint,underage drinking and speeding while texting.
Sue Haas December 30, 2011 at 09:09 PM
It is apparent most rational people favor knowing about these sorts of things. I learned of the jack in the box closure through this site and was grateful to have the information. In the end they took that restaurant down to the drains and started over again. I would want to know that about a restaurant I was eating in, or intended to eat in. I believe Patch also gave the reopening a lot of play when they were done renovating. Contentions by some here that an FDA report of classic health violations at a local bakery is "gossip" and "damaging to business" is misguided and more than a little scary. I hope there aren't a lot of people who share the same mindset as it virtually guarantees our inability to change things for the better.
Bruce R. Peterson December 30, 2011 at 11:18 PM
The Cake Box had flies inside their display case 20+ years ago. Rat droppings & moths in the back room, is no surprise to me.
lovelafayette January 02, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Thanks to Patch for doing a great job. Thanks to Kenny for the tip on how to personally investigate restaurant safety. Just type in the zip code at the CCES site http://decadeonline.com/main.phtml?agency=ccc and be prepared to be revolted! Inexplicably, The Cake Box, Inc. is nowhere on the CCES list. I dropped CCES a link to the FDA letter via the complaint function on the website. With violations of this magnitude Cakebox should have been red-tagged, shut down! These are really egregious violations, I will never purchase from Cakebox again.
Randy Churchill January 03, 2012 at 03:22 PM
http://www.decadeonline.com/main.phtml?agency=ccc Go check out ALL of Lafayette's restaurants and not just ONE eatery. Type in Celia's or the Taqueria. It is disgusting, but why just one? Several restaurants in town have had rats, but this is the first report? Please be consistent and report ALL.
Nancy Lee January 03, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Talk about singlehandedly ruining small business!! Actually, the places Randy mentions are not on our list of favorites and the link he provides shows us graphically why that is. Yeecchch. But the Cake Box report was generated by the FDA, a separate enforcement body, and deserved to be noted. Others have been noted from time to time, and rightly so. There does seem to be some defensiveness on the part of some in the area, we've noted. Pick your restaurant and spend your money wisely... or eat at home, which is what we do most often!!
Chris Nicholson January 03, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I think the FDA versus local distinction has to do with the nature of the business (distributor) versus the severity of the infraction. We also don't know the difference in the nature of the rules and reporting standards of the local versus FDA, so hard to compare apples to apples. That said, rat poop never made a cake tastier....
Jenny Rose February 11, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Many years ago, I worked at the Cake Box. If a hamburger bun was dropped on the floor, they wiped it off and bagged it....like nothing happened. I was not surprised to read this report. I'm really surprised that the Health Dept. hasn't shut them down yet. And the person who said there a flies/moths in the display cases is correct. There were when I worked there. Their practices are disgusting to say the least.


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