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Officials confirm investigation at On the Border restaurant

Patrons of an On the Border restaurant in Georgia developed Salmonella infections after eating there during Mother’s Day weekend, but county officials did not alert the public about the situation and will not reveal how many people got sick or whether a contamination source was determined.

The Cobb & Douglas (Counties) Public Health Department investigated, said Communications Director Valerie Crow, but she would not say how the department found out about the illnesses or whether any environmental swab samples were collected at the restaurant for pathogen testing.

“Cobb & Douglas Public Health was notified of the situation on June 2, and an on-site investigation was conducted on June 6, which went through food flow processes for suspected foods, an employee health policy review, and evaluation of the facility in regard to food handling, cleanliness, etc. There were also some subsequent site visits to verify compliance,” Crow told Food Safety News.

“Foodborne illness investigation documentation doesn’t get posted to our website inspection search since they are not traditional inspections.”

Inspectors did not collect any food for testing from the On the Border restaurant in Kennesaw, GA, because “no food items from May were available for testing,” Crow said. Kennesaw is an Atlanta suburb, just northwest of the main metro area.

During the June 6 inspection, county officials documented five violations, resulting in a score of 89 out of 100 and a Grade B rating, according to the inspection report posted online.

Among the problems found were foods being held at temperatures in the so-called danger zone, which allows pathogens such as Salmonella to easily and quickly multiply. Specifically, inspectors measured chicken and cheese stuffed jalapeño peppers at temperatures between 47 degrees and 53 degrees. The person in charge at the restaurant discarded the food, according to the report.

Other violations, which could have allowed for bacteria and other pathogens to accumulate on equipment or cross-contaminate food, that inspectors documented June 6 were:

  • Cutting boards heavily pitted and stained. PIC (person in charge) discarded cutting boards.
  • Throughout the facility, nonfood contact surfaces have an accumulation of food, grease and/or debris. Interior and exterior of food equipment and ice bins observed with food debris splatter and mold. Underside of equipment storage counters and prep counters, top surfaces of equipment storage counters, POS equipment. CA (corrective action ordered): Clean within three days and clean more frequently.
  • Hand sinks and fixtures are not clean, mold present. Corrected on-site during inspection.
  • Employees’ personal items are not stored in designated areas. Observed manager’s multi-use cup stored on flag prep counter and employees’ phone and keys on prep tortilla station counter. Corrected on-site during inspection.

County inspectors discussed foodborne illness reports with the general manager and other restaurant staff, according to the inspection report, which stated training was provided for staff and management.

Additional problematic observations during the June 6 inspection, described on the Cobb & Douglass Public Health report as “discussion topics,” included:

  • covering exposed foods between use, which are stored on service line and reach-in coolers;
  • ensure all coolers have thermometers and that they are in the warmest section of coolers;
  • ensure all equipment and single-serve items are stored on/in clean dry surfaces and containers.
  • ensure all staff are following company date marking policy and procedures for time/temperature controlled foods to avoid confusion. Chimichanga label stated “Prep date 6/2/17 Use by date: June 4, 2017” but the food was still present in the cooler on June 8;
  • ensure separate sanitizer solution containers are designate for raw meats, raw chicken and produce/ready-to-eat foods; and
  • ensure equipment is stored and protected from contamination during the hand-washing process.

Prior to the June 6 inspection, county officials’ most recent check of the On the Border restaurant in Kennesaw was on Jan. 26 when they recorded a score of 92 and a Grade A rating. The January inspection also included a temperature-related violation, with questions raised regarding whether the restaurant’s equipment was adequate for proper temperature control.

The county apparently did not inspect the restaurant at all in 2016. No 2016 reports are posted. Other inspection reports for the On the Border restaurant at 790 Cobb Place Boulevard NW in Kennesaw are:

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