When you eat at a restaurant, you’re putting a lot of trust in the people who prepare your food. Not only are you trusting that the food you pay for is going to be delicious, but you’re trusting that the preparation space is clean, the ingredients are fresh, and that employees have been properly taught how to handle food. Thankfully, to provide some verification for that trust, restaurants are required to regularly undergo food inspection tests. The results are all published online on the Ventura County website. Out of curiosity, I decided to look up the reports for some of the places CLU students eat at regularly…
The Commons, including Starbucks and Ullman-To-Go
Unfortunately, seeing as all the food options in the Commons are operated by Sodexo, there is no way to distinguish between what parts of the report regard food safety in the main cafeteria, Ullman-to-go, or even Starbucks. You can make your guesses as to which “independently operated food area” is which, but it’s hard to know for sure. However, almost every area in the Commons received numerous citations. Probably the most concerning of these was chemical storage: “CONTAINERS OF POISONOUS OR TOXIC MATERIALS, CLEANSERS AND SANITIZERS ARE NOT CLEARLY LABELED AND IDENTIFIED.” In addition, the report noted that chemicals were stored next to food items or food preparation areas. There were also comments on pest control, such as flying insects observed within the facility. Other notes regard improper food labeling, equipment sanitation, utensil washing, and food storage temperatures.
Seeing as one can observe the entire preparation area of the Centrum from the seating area, one would think they would score pretty well on their report. Unfortunately, one would think wrong. Most alarming here is employee training. There was one citation about no documentation of an owner or employee passing an “accredited food protection manager certification examination,” and one about employees not having “adequate knowledge of food safety as it relates to their assigned duties.” Also noted were equipment maintenance (including ventilation upkeep), facility sanitation, and pest control prevention.
Jamba Juice (on-campus location)
Wondering where you can eat on-campus that hits all the marks on food safety? Jamba Juice is not that place. In fact, Jamba Juice has multiple sanitation citations, including not maintaining the sanitation solution at the proper concentration. In addition, facility maintenance was an issue, with deteriorated ceilings and/or walls noted, equipment being directly connected to the sewer, and equipment/utensils not being clean or fully operative. Flying insects, storage of equipment used in preparing “potentially hazardous food,” and the size of the pass-through window were also noted.
Decided you should probably consider eating off-campus? An off-campus favorite of CLU students is 3 Amigos, which is just a couple blocks away. Unfortunately, 3 Amigos receives many of the same citations found on campus, if not more. Food storage, facility sanitation, direct connection to the sewer, utensil and surface washing, sanitizer solution, food labeling… it’s all there. Also concerning is the presence of a pesticide “not approved for use in a food facility.”
Is there no place to eat that is truly clean? After searching through many popular Thousand Oaks restaurants (although by no means anywhere close to all), I did find one place with a perfect score: In-N-Out. However, there were many places that got close: the local Panda Express, Chilis, Olive Garden, and Chick-Fil-A all were looking pretty good on their last reports.
Even if many of the reports of local restaurants might seem a little scary, it’s important to keep in mind that if the health inspector thought any of the violations posed a serious risk to the public, the restaurant would get shut down (which is what happened to the Moorpark Del Taco for two weeks in October…). Also, as someone who has worked in the food service industry, I can tell you that reports are not always reflective of the actual conditions at the establishment. Finally, one of the main reasons for these reports is to tell restaurants what they need to work on so that they can make improvements. Seeing as most of these reports are at least several months old, I like to think that improvements have been made since the inspector came by and our favorite eateries have changed what they need to change.
Want to see how your favorite place to eat fares on their report? Click here.
All photos public domain and obtained from Pixabay.com.