Bad News From Maryland: Health Code Violations Close Lotte Plaza

Thanks to several observant readers from the Baltimore/Washington metro area, I just found out that the Korean supermarket where I used to lead educational tours for neophyte American cooks who were interested in Asian food has been closed due to egregious health code violations.

I had noticed when we visited the store last August that it hadn’t looked as clean as I had remembered it, but apparently things are even worse now.

Mouse droppings, live rodents, rotted meat and improperly cooled seafood were among the violations cited by the Howard County health inspectors in the decision to close the store down. Tipped off in May, the health department had been investigating the store throughout the summer and had issued warnings to the owners and management that unless they cleaned up their act, the supermarket would be closed.

WJZ television news reported that a follow-up inspection in June revealed no progress in addressing the health issues, so on July 6, a citation was issued demanding clean-up and repairs of broken refrigeration units. The owners did not comply so the supermarket, which is one of the largest Asian markets in the area, was closed yesterday.

Health officials will not allow the market to reopen until they violations are addressed properly.

According to the Washington Post, a health official worked through Korean interpreters in order to assure that the Lotte president and vice president understood the health code violations, and had been doing so since April.

Several of my readers additionally report that they had stopped shopping at the Lotte Plaza because of their own discomfort with the level of cleanliness which has deteriorated over time.

I remember when I lived in Maryland years ago, how clean and pleasant the store was to shop in–I hope that the management cleans the place up and it can return to being a healthy, safe place to shop, but with the level of problems mentioned–I am not certain that this will happen, certainly not in a timely fashion.

Coming on the heels of news that Chinese seafood sold in the US was contaminated with unapproved drugs and food additives, this story is a blow to consumer confidence in Asian foods and markets in the US.

As for me–I am still buying Chinese foods–soy sauces, bean pastes, noodles and the like–in large part because the American made substitutes are just not as good in flavor or quality. I will also buy Taiwanese products, Korean products and products from Japan.

The future will only tell where these issues will lead us.

Thank you to the handful of readers who sent me email letting me know about this unfortunate issue.


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  1. Fortunately, a nearby neighbor, H-Mart (Rolling Road) is still open. I always thought H-Mart had better produce and fish anyhow.

    Comment by Malcolm — August 10, 2007 #

  2. P.S. The URL for the location I’m talking about is here.

    Comment by Malcolm — August 10, 2007 #

  3. I tend to shop with my nose as it were. Sometimes when a favorite store has been sold or come under new ownership I have noted a marked decrease in quality and cleanliness. I try to separate that out from the basic crowded/dusty/dried-fish-smelling ambience that tends to be part of my favorite Asian markets. But I think you need to be able to trust your gut too. If it seems dirty, it probably is.

    Too bad, as I’m a big fan of Asian supermarkets in gneral, and like to promote them as a fun and cost-effective alternative to ordinary supermarkets. I still shop a lot in them. But I must admit to looking twice these days.

    Comment by Diane — August 10, 2007 #

  4. Thank you for the tip and the link to the Post article. I semi-frequently shop at the Lotte in Fairfax. It sounds like the unresponsive president handles the entire chain, so I’m dubious about visiting my store. I was there two weekends ago and everything seemed about the same (though admittedly I was in a rush since it was 15mins till closing), so maybe the individual store managers have more responsibility over health code standards? Either way, I’m a bit concerned now. I might be frequenting H-Mart more, despite the fact it’s farther away.

    Comment by De in D.C. — August 10, 2007 #

  5. Korean Krogers is closed?


    Well, hopefully they will get things cleaned up and re-opened before you head back out to the area.


    Comment by Thomas — August 11, 2007 #

  6. What a shame. We’ve got a gigantic Asian market called Mitsuwa out here and I’d be quite sad to see them go this way.

    Comment by Jim — August 14, 2007 #

  7. Wow. I’m really shocked by the news of Lotte as I was just recently there this past Tuesday shopping for banchan and snacks. The place looked and felt dilapidated, but I always figured that I have to take what I could in terms of Asian supermarkets since Baltimore doesn’t have as many Asian stores compared to California.

    Comment by C — August 18, 2007 #

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