Unfortunately we are a nation fueled by fast food &quick-fix convenience (i.e. greasy burgers and fries, tacos, fried chicken, etc.). Millions on top of millions of these meals are sold every single day in this country, and a lot of us just assume it’s all clean and safe to consume for the most part. The recent incidents of Chipotle remind us otherwise, though, that this is just what it is… “Fast Food”: it’s made fast, served fast, and you eat it fast – maybe too fast to even consider if what we are consuming is at all healthy and to say the least, whether or not the restaurant who has prepped this meal is a clean or dirty one.
The information provided was taken several years ago from a Dateline coverage. At the time, it was the first of its kind to go undercover and report on the cleanliness of our nations top Fast Food chain operations. They performed a national survey looking at the cleanliness of 1,000 fast food restaurants, spanning over 38 states. What they found may do more than surprise you, it may give you some Food4Thought… before entering your next restaurant.
In a Chicago Wendy’s, inspectors found a dead rodent decomposing on a rat trap. At a California Taco Bell, someone bit into a taco, only to find chewing gum. Food inspectors in Texas found a worm in a Wendy’s salad. At a Hardee’s in Florida, a customer was handed a cup of soda with blood dripping from it and there was blood on her change as well. The list goes on… A cockroach in someone’s soda, a sharp metal object in a man’s sandwich. But as disgusting as those things are, they are rare. We here at f4tllc.com want you to be aware of the fact that the things you can’t see, can be even more hazardous to your health than what you can see.
Critical violations are a benchmark for judging a restaurant’s cleanliness. Most food regulations mandate they be corrected immediately, they include things like handling ready-to-eat food with bare hands or unwashed hands, under-cooked meat, improper food holding temperatures, sick employees preparing food, and a host of other potentially hazardous problems. What is shocking in this report, is that more than 60% of all fast food restaurants in the survey had at least one or more critical violations. It is important to note, critical violations suggest a higher risk and probability for a food-borne illness.
The order of the survey is as follows, from worst to less worse offenders.
Keep in mind that this is definitely a list where no fast food restaurant wants to come in at #1.
- BURGER KING
- 241 total critical violations. (employees not washing their hands, uncovered food in the fridge, grime and debris found on the ice chute, and on the drink machine at the drive-thru window)
- 210 critical violations. (improper hand-washing and employees handling ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands) Note: 30% of all food-borne illnesses are caused by improper hand washing
- 206 critical violations. (repeated problems with food holding temperatures, mice droppings on the shelves, bare hand food contact, and one food-borne illness complaint)
- 206 critical violations. (inspectors cited the presence of insects and rodents)
- DAIRY QUEEN
- 184 total critical violations. (critical violations for grime, debris, and inaccurate thermometers)
- JACK IN THE BOX
- 164 critical violations. (had several customer complaints of food-borne illness – in 1993, this operation had one of the nations largest E. coli outbreaks)
- 160 critical violations. (recurring problems with improper food holding temperatures)
- 157 critical violations. (salmonella poisoning is the biggest culprit at this establishment)
- 136 critical violations. (some restaurants didn’t have a certified food safety manager on-site) – NOTE: Food4Thought uses nationally accredited food safety programs to certify ALL food handlers.
- TACO BELL
- 91 critical violations. (recurring violations included dirty food preparation counters and rodent droppings)
So what’s the big picture in an industry that serves millions of meals everyday?
Accidents are forgivable; negligence is unacceptable. Operations & establishments are only as good as the last meal they serve. Food Safety Management Programs must be updated frequently with continuing education programs and supported by all personnel. Operations which utilize Third Party Audit Services, bring balance and added support to their operating system.