ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the course of several investigations into health inspections at local restaurants, a local high school cafeteria failed back-to-back inspections showing multiple, critical violations.
Englewood High School officials allowed the FOX31 Problem Solvers to tour the kitchen as they say they have fixed the problems.
“We are in the commons area,” chief human resources and operations officer Phil Bedford said. “This facility is now 3 years old."
Bedford showed the kitchen where staff prepare food from scratch for more than 900 students at the shared cafeteria for Englewood High School and Middle School.
“It’s the whole push farm to table,” Bedford said. “Let’s provide fresh food for kids to eat.”
But a surprise inspection in May revealed six critical violations.
Among the violations, the inspector noted foods were not kept at the proper temperature, measuring in the danger zone; a dedicated hand washing sink was not established on the front service line; and a dish machine didn’t have the proper sanitizing rinse.
Those problems were fixed in June. But another unannounced October inspection found new issues, with a total of nine critical violations.
“That would be high,” said Brian Hlavacek, the environmental health director for the Tri-County Health Department. “Anytime you have a lot of critical violations, it’s concerning.”
Among the violations in October, the inspector noted:
- Additional problems with the dish machine
- Unlabeled chemical spray bottles
- Multiple containers of chemicals stored directly above clean equipment
- A dead mouse was found on a trap underneath a refrigerator
- Rodent droppings were discovered by the back door
Inspectors said could signal a bigger problem.
“They can get into some food products, into packages, and then lead to severe rodent infestation,” Hlavacek said.
“We had a single incident where we did have a mouse on a sticky trap that was located underneath one of our storage units,” Bedford said. “But I can assure you, we don't have any sort of mice or mouse infestation.
"But it was present and we have mitigated the situation. And we're hopeful that, as the weather gets cooler, that we don't see any more mice moving indoors.”
Bedford said the school works with a pest control company on a monthly basis.
“This is our storage area, mop area, for our cleaning supplies,” he said. "There were some spray bottles that were of question and they certainly should have been labeled and we have corrected that issue."
Bedford also noted the freezers were at the proper temperatures for the stored frozen food, and the dish machine was in working order.
“It was a matter of us making sure that we knew how to operate it with the proper chemicals,” he said.
Bedford admits to staff and training issues. He said the school has nothing to hide and said the second failed inspection was a wake-up call.
“It served as a very serious reminder to us, ‘Wait a minute, we haven’t resolved the problems that occurred in the spring.' ... IT's ongoing staff training and making sure we are holding the bar high for our employees and holding them accountable and making sure they are doing everything they possibly can, and we possibly can, to make sure we are operating a safe operation.”
And as they teach students in their highly regarded culinary arts program, Bedford said there was a lesson to be learned. What might seem like minor issues could cause serious problems if you don’t act quickly.
“We would never want a foodborne illness to come from this facility,” he said. “We will not stop in our efforts to make sure that doesn’t happen. We are confident that everything has been taken care of and it’s our job now to make sure we don’t have any perceived deficiencies in the future and that we maintain these high standards.”