News 5 Guardians

Oct 1, 2013 11:20 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Guardians: Food establishments with critical violations

From insects and roaches, to food being held at improper temperatures, News 5 Investigates is looking into food establishments that could make you and your family sick.

It's not uncommon for health inspectors to find violations. Even some of the cleanest restaurants experience a demerit or two during their inspections. However, it becomes a major concern when the establishment fails to correct the problem.

With more than 2,400 places to eat, there's no shortage of food options in El Paso County. While the vast majority of restaurants maintain a clean and safe environment behind the kitchen, there's a handful raising eyebrows with the health department.

"Foodborne illness impacts the young, elderly and others who may be battling some other autoimmune disease," Environmental Health Director Tom Gonzales said. "We've seen in very rare cases where it can be life threatening."

Gonzales and his staff of 15 are the first line of defense when it comes to your safety.

"We're always looking for those critical health violations that could lead to a potential illness," he said.

Since the beginning of 2012, more than 60 restaurants and food establishments around El Paso County had repeat critical violations. Yet, when News 5 looked at the paper trail, we noticed few restaurants were cited by the health department.

"When we do a regular inspection and there is a critical violation, we go out and do a follow up," Gonzales explained. " If that same critical violation is noted, then they are issued a notice of non-compliance. If it happens again (a third time) with that same violation, they are assessed a civil penalty."

Combined, four food establishments were fined. The rest of the restaurants on the list corrected violations prior to a third follow-up inspection.

The following restaurants were fined by the El Paso County Health Department for failing to immediate correct health and safety related problems:

Rudy's: 315 31st Street
Violation: Food held at improper temperatures
Fine: $250

We contacted the restaurant for comment. Their corporate office in Texas sent News 5 the following statement:

"Rudy's Texas Bar-B-Q, LLC has been serving real Texas Bar-B-Q for over 3 years in Colorado Springs. We have always placed the safety of our guests and employees above anything else. This includes ensuring that we meet and exceed the health code standards for each of our stores. The El Paso County Public Health inspector inspected Rudy's on August 29, 2013 and reported that Rudy's had zero critical violations and zero non-critical violations. Rudy's Bar-B-Q is proud of being a responsible corporate citizen and will never compromise the health and safety of our guests."

3 Margaritas: 310 S. Academy
Violation: Food held at improper temperatures
Fine: $500
Status: Restaurant name has changed. 3 Margaritas is no longer in business at 310 S. Academy.

Circle K: 534 Highway 105
Violation: Food held at improper temperatures
Fine: $750

We were directed to call the corporate office for comment. A company spokesperson has not returned our numerous phone calls.

Super China Buffet: 3835 North Academy
Violation: Rodents and evidence of insects; food held at improper temperatures
Fine: $1,000

We dropped by the restaurant after an employee told News 5 there was nobody working who spoke English. When we went inside, we asked to see the kitchen and inquired about the health department's findings. An employee put us in contact with the owner who told us over the phone that all violations have been corrected, but refused to elaborate. A waitress declined to let us take video or pictures inside the kitchen.

To date, all food establishments mentioned in this story have corrected critical violations. 

Health inspectors in both Pueblo and El Paso counties try to inspect each food establishment twice a year. 

Next week on News 5, we'll take a look as some of the top fined restaurants in Pueblo County.

To see how some of your favorite restaurants performed during recent health inspections, visit http://www.elpasocountyhealth.org/services/inspection-reports

To view a list of restaurants honored for food safety excellence, visit http://www.elpasocountyhealth.org/sites/default/files/files/services/Retail-Food-Establishment-Licensing/FoodSafetyAward2012%20docx.pdf

Below is a list of restaurants documented for having repeat critical violations: 

RFE_Compliance_2012.pdf

RFE_Compliance_2013.pdf

To check up on Pueblo County restaurant inspections, visit http://county.pueblo.org/government/county/department/city-county-health-department/about-food-safety-program

 

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