By Casey Saenz, Environmental Health Specialist 3
On a recent routine inspection, I entered a restaurant at a time when I was able to observe the employees prepping food for the lunch rush. The employees were busy at their stations: some were chopping vegetables, others were preparing raw meats, some were washing dishes, and so on. I noticed that one employee at the prep station took out a container of raw seed sprouts and left it on the counter. In the world of food safety, sprouts are considered a “red flag”. In other words, that is one of many foods that if kept in the temperature danger zone [between 41 and 135°F], can lead to a very scary– and costly–problem. After about 10 more minutes, I observed that little container of sprouts still out on the counter and I asked that employee why they were not being kept cold. That employee said that they were kept out of the cooler during rushes and then put back once things slowed down. [Their lunch rush is about 3 hours.] I quickly informed the employee that sprouts must be kept at 41°F and below and that included the lunch and dinner rush times as well. The sprouts were quickly put back in the cooler. After I finished the inspection and began to type the results on my laptop, I went back into the kitchen to retrieve my notepad. When I went back to that same area, SURPRISE! That little container of sprouts was back out on the counter. Their temperature was reported at 57°F! At that point, this was no longer a matter of simply educating an employee, this had now become a 9-point temperature violation and the sprouts were thrown away.
This little container of sprouts demonstrated a couple of key problems in this kitchen, one of which was obviously the temperature violation. Another problem is a lack of managerial control and training by the PIC (person-in-charge).
A person-in-charge, whether they know it or not, has quite a big responsibility when it comes to protecting the public and a big one is training and oversight. That little container of sprouts, could have easily made many people sick– even hospitalized.
For more information on outbreaks caused by seed sprouts, click on the following link: