Supermarket Is Closed, Ordered to Correct Health Violations

By Susan DeFord
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 10, 2007

An Ellicott City supermarket specializing in Asian and other international foods was closed this week for numerous health code violations that have gone unaddressed for months, Howard County officials said yesterday.

The Lotte supermarket, in the 8800 block of Baltimore National Pike, will not be allowed to reopen until the owners eliminate rodent infestation, repair malfunctioning freezers and correct poor maintenance practices, said Peter Beilenson, the county health officer. Health officials said they closed the supermarket Tuesday evening after determining that conditions had deteriorated.

"It's distressing," said Beilenson, who toured the facility yesterday.

Beilenson said he found widespread evidence of rat infestation, freezers that failed to keep food cold and water leaking into basement areas and damaging unused food containers. "There's a whole range of issues," he said.

Trudy Hyde, Howard's food protection program manager, said she had been in contact with Lotte's president, Sung Kil Lee, since April about correcting problems discovered as a result of consumer complaints and inspections. Hyde said she worked with Korean interpreters and Lotte's vice president, Daniel Kim, recently to make sure store officials understood the code issues.

A woman who answered the telephone at Kim's office said he was traveling and unavailable for comment.

Health inspectors are monitoring cleanup efforts daily, Hyde said.

"They're not ready to open yet," she said. "They have quite a ways to go."

A nearby food court operated by other vendors is not affected by the supermarket's closure and remains open, health officials said.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company