View Full Version : FAST food, where NOT TO EAT!

01-21-04, 06:44 PM
Dirty dining?
‘Dateline’ hidden cameras investigate cleanliness of America’s top 10 fast food chains

Fast food: It’s served fast and you eat it fast, maybe too fast to notice the restaurant is a little dirty. The fact is that no one has ever done a national survey looking at the cleanliness of fast food chains — until now. Recently, we took our Dateline cameras undercover for the first-ever investigation of whether America’s top 10 fast food chains are clean and safe. How did your favorite restaurant do?

The biggest 10 chains have 75,000 restaurants. We couldn’t look at all of them, so we hired a survey company to choose a sample, 100 restaurants from each chain, 1,000 in all, spanning 38 states.

We then collected and examined local health inspection reports for the last year and a half on each of those 1,000 restaurants. Some were inspected just once, some more often during that period.

In a first of its kind national investigation, Dateline is going to use these health inspection reports to find out which fast food chains in our survey are the cleanest and the dirtiest. What we found may do more than surprise you. Some of the horror stories in Dateline’s dirty dining survey just might turn your stomach.

In a Chicago, in a Wendy’s, inspectors found dead rodent decomposing on a rat trap. At a California Taco Bell, someone bit into a taco, only to find chewing gum. An inspector 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. 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. Experts say the things you can’t see can be even more hazardous.

So what can be done about all this? Well, health inspectors tell us it’s not that easy to just close down a restaurant, and they say their power is limited when it comes to even imposing heavy fines. What they can do is cite restaurants for what is known as a hazardous or critical violation.

Critical violations are a benchmark for judging a restaurant’s cleanliness. Most food regulations mandate they be corrected immediately, and they are the only type of violations we counted in our survey. They include things like handling ready-to-eat food with bare hands or unwashed hands, undercooked meat, improper food holding temperatures, sick employees preparing food, and a host of other potentially hazardous problems.

What may shock you is just how many restaurants had critical violations. More than sixty percent of all fast food restaurants in our sample had at least one critical violation in the last year and a half.

How many total violations did each chain have? Here comes Dateline’s dirty dining survey — it’s a top 10 list where no fast food restaurant wants to come in number one:

The 100 Taco Bells we sampled had the fewest total critical violations, 91, making it the best performer in our survey. But it was not without problems. Recurring violations included dirty food preparation counters and rodent droppings.

The golden arches, the 100 McDonald’s we looked at came in with a total of 136 critical violations. Some didn’t have a trained and certified food handler on the job, required by law in many states.

Thompson: “It’s that important?”

Smith-Dewaal: “Absolutely. We can’t have food prepared by people who don’t know that you can’t combine raw meat with cooked meat, with people who don’t understand the importance of proper temperatures in food preparation.”

8. KFC
The 100 KFCs we sampled tallied up 157 critical violations, and two thirds of the “finger lickin’ good” restaurants had at least one critical violation. Remember, it was at a KFC, the Health Department says, little Gianni Velotta picked up salmonella poisoning last year. We’ve now learned that another child was also sickened there, and the same restaurant has since been cited for three more critical violations.

While the Velotta’s have settled a lawsuit against the restaurant, a lawyer for the owner of the franchise contends the salmonella cases did not originate there.

The 100 Subways we looked at totaled 160 critical violations. A recurring problem at the sandwich chain was improper food holding temperatures.

Thompson: “What does that mean?”

Smith-Dewaal: “That means that bacteria in the food that’s already cooked can start to grow, and it can reach levels that can cause serious illness for someone who consumes it.”

The 100 Jack in the Box restaurants had a total of 164 critical violations. A Ventura, Calif., Jack in the Box was a trouble spot. It had several customer complaints of food borne illness.

The 100 Dairy Queens we examined totaled 184 total critical violations. One Dairy Queen in Hampton, Va., rang up a number of critical violations last summer for grime, debris, and a inaccurate thermometer.

When Dateline went back recently to take a look, the restaurant invited us in, and showed it had fixed the problem.

The 100 Hardee’s tallied 206 critical violations. Again and again inspectors cited the presence of insects and rodents.

Smith-Dewaal: “Rodents and roaches are gross. But more importantly, they can also spread germs from food to food, and carry germs into a restaurant.”

Last May, one restaurant was cited for not having soap in the employee’s sink. Yet, inspectors found employees handling ready-to-eat food with their bare hands.

100 Wendy’s had 206 critical violations. That’s the same as Hardees, but more Wendy’s restaurants had violations. So Wendy’s is number three in our Dateline dirty dining survey.

At a Wendy’s in Mesa, Ariz., inspectors noted repeated problems with food holding temperatures, mice droppings on the shelves, bare hand food contact, and one food borne illness complaint.

The 100 Arby’s had 210 critical violations. The roast beef specialists had recurring violations for improper hand-washing and employees handling ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands.

Smith-Dewaal: And clearly, if the person isn’t washing their hands or using other sanitation practices, they can really make people very sick.

So which fast food chain finished number one on Dateline’s dirty dining list? It’s Burger King. The 100 Burger Kings we sampled rang up a whopping 241 total critical violations. Health inspectors cited a Virginia Burger King for 14 separate critical violations: employees not washing their hands, uncovered food in the fridge, grime and debris found on this ice chute, and on the drink machine at the drive-thru widow. We observed one employee scooping ice into a cup with his bare hands, an apparent critical violation.

The 1,000 restaurants we sampled totaled 1,755 critical violations, and 613 restaurants were cited at least once. That’s more than 60 percent with problems inspectors consider potentially hazardous to your health.

Most fast food restaurants are owned by individuals, but most chains say they inspect every restaurant that has their name on it.

In a letter to Dateline, Burger King says it is “Extremely disappointed” by (the) findings... We want to assure our guests we will quickly investigate... and take immediate and appropriate actions...” The president of Wendy’s writes, “one critical violation on a health inspection report is one too many.” And Hardees says, “We must always do better. Any critical deficiency is unacceptable - which is why we address them immediately.” McDonald’s says “No one cares more about operating clean, safe restaurants than McDonald’s.”


01-21-04, 08:16 PM
I remember when this 1st aired on Dateliine back in Oct or Nov. Made me hungry and I went right up to BK for a double Whopper. Ain't skeered!!

01-21-04, 08:22 PM
I knew a guy who said that when he worked at Carl's Jr, they kept a sh.t burger (the real deal) sitting to the side for any drive through customer who was extremely rude. I wouldn't put it past this guy - he was an idiot. Makes you think about how rude you want to be to a person earning minimum wage.

01-21-04, 09:02 PM
When you think about it-most of us ate c-rats. What those ham & muthas were really made from I don't even want to think about. A hamburger can bother us?? Not likely.

01-21-04, 09:13 PM
I know whenb I worked at Papa Gino's (it's a fast-food pizza joint on the east coast), some of the stuff that some of the workers did their made me not want to eat there, even though I got to cook my own food.

Toby M
01-21-04, 10:24 PM
This is off the wall but does anybody remember those burgers on Freedom Hill? Seems like they tasted different each time you went there. Hmmmm I wonder why? Sorry to get off the subject guys...Just reminiscing

01-21-04, 10:57 PM
After 34 yrs, I just can't seem to remember what a particular hamburger tasted like-sorry. But, I remember the consistancy. Kinda rubbery I think it was. Maybe it's good I can't remember too well. :D

01-22-04, 12:34 PM
You haven't lived until you've tried Shoney's on I-95 just north of Savannah and the Subway in the bowling alley at Parris Island. Ugggh !

01-22-04, 12:50 PM
As a former chef, I have to say that those of us that have pride in our work, would NEVER do something to someone else's food. I asked a friend of mine (another chef) if he had ever done anything like that and the answer was a boisterous "NO". Food is one thing you don't mess with. There are so many risks and taking out your anger on someone in this way is not cause enough for jail time.

01-22-04, 03:10 PM
sort of off the subject,but when I was a young PFC on mess duty I put raw eggs amongst the hard boiled ones in the O mess.....It was a hoot

01-22-04, 03:12 PM
Guess the joke wasn't on you!

01-22-04, 03:15 PM
Meant to say yoke. Haste makes waste. Especially when you have to clean up eggs.

01-22-04, 10:33 PM
Fast food is sick period! I don't ever eat fast food anymore and I refuse to ever again! Too freaking nasty! I'd rather eat a cold MRE with nothing to drink than some nasty fast food!

benny rutledge
02-04-04, 11:05 AM
I Don't eat at Fast Food places any longer,or drink soda pops.When McDonalds started using security guards to run off the "Loopers" and changed its name to Micky D's,I learned the value of a real sit down restaraunt,and found it very easy to avoid trash food.It's been years since I've spent evn one dime in a Trash food place.The best Hamburger I've ever had was made for me at 0330 by a very pleasant M/Sgt in Camp Zama,Japan.Just got off the R&R bus,was told anything you wanted to eat was right inside,As soon as the Burger was down,I ate a HUGE Steak w/Eggs.The Fast Food Places DO NOT visibly support our tTroops,and the Brats employed there could care less if you get a Decent product.For a real Meal visit a Truck Stop sometime