Two years after Molokai's Kanemitsu Bakery was originally fined $90,000 and subsequently ordered to suspend operations due to "numerous health code violations," the iconic bakery has reached a settlement with the state Department of Health to pay $20,000 in fines.
"We expect that Kanemitsu Bakery will comply with all food safety rules and regulations," Health Department Deputy Director of Environmental Health Gary Gill said Friday in a news release. "It is both a legal requirement and a moral responsibility to ensure that food sold to the public is safe, wholesome and uncontaminated."
The Health Department suspended the bakery's food establishment permit in June 2012 when an inspection revealed unsanitary conditions and "serious deficiencies in maintenance and manufacturing practices." The inspection was prompted by an anonymous complaint that insects and foreign substances allegedly were found in bread rolls bought at the bakery.
After a five-month closure, the bakery was allowed to reopen after it made the improvements and passed a health inspection in November. It has been selling its famous "Molokai bread" in Kaunakakai ever since.
The owner of the more-than-75-year-old bakery, George Kanemitsu, told The Maui News on Friday that he was just glad the "back and forth" with the Health Department was over.
"This is good news that they waived most of it (fines), and there's no more threat of closure," Kanemitsu said.
He said that the bakery is slowly getting back on its feet, though it is still recovering from losses during the suspension that at one point threatened to close the business for good.
He said that many of the violations cited in 2012 by health inspectors were "so ridiculous," ranging from uneven floorboards to chipped paint on the walls and lack of hand soap next to the sink.
"Other places might be that way, but this is Molokai," Kanemitsu said in an earlier interview.
Volunteer community members helped Kanemitsu make significant improvements to the facility, patching and painting the walls, repairing the floors and ceiling, cleaning and updating oven equipment.
Kanemitsu said Friday that he's just happy to be making bread again, and estimates that by the end of this year, the bakery will have recovered financially from the costs of the $20,000 fine, legal fees and lost business during the five-month closure two years ago.
When asked if he plans on raising the price of the famous Molokai hot bread - available most nights after 8:30 p.m. - Kanemitsu said no. For now, prices will remain at $7 per loaf with one topping, $8 for up to three toppings and $9 for "the works (all the toppings)."
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.