Violations close AZ high school lunchroom

Posted on December 4, 2011 by



Dead roaches, among other health code violations, closed Lake Havasu High School’s cafeteria Friday.

The Mohave County Health Department’s 8 a.m. inspection deemed the cafeteria “unacceptable,” the lowest of four ratings, according to Darryle Purcell, Mohave County’s spokesman.

The department inspects school cafeterias between two to four times annually, Purcell said, and, up until Friday, the school had received “excellent” ratings for the past two years.

The Lake Havasu Unified School District contracts with ARAMARK for its food services, including the high school’s cafeteria employees, according to District Superintendent Gail Malay. The Philadelphia-based company provides food and uniform services and facilities management in 22 countries.

“Serving safe, nutritious and quality food is our top priority,” stated ARAMARK Spokeswoman Karen Cutler in an email late Friday evening. “We have ongoing, rigorous training and quality assurance processes to ensure we meet very high standards. We are working with the District to immediately address and correct all issues noted in the recent inspection.”

Malay said the violations will be corrected over the weekend — a follow-up inspection has been scheduled for Monday morning — and she expects its operations to resume then.

“The district and ARAMARK take these issues very seriously,” Malay stated in an email. “It is always our intention to have a clean lunch service facility. Procedures are being put in place to prevent this from happening in the future. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.”

The two-page Mohave County Food Safety Evaluation Report states full roach bait traps were “found in milk drawers at front counter and under equipment throughout the facility … the outside of these milk cartons are contaminated and need to be discarded. Pest control is not adequate to take care of the problem. Revaluate pest control program.”

The ice machine had “red mold and a black substance on door and frame and in ice well.” Officials instructed the ice must be discarded and the machine sanitized. “Ice shovel is hanging against dirty wall next to ice machine,” the report states.

The report also listed “debris, old food and grease” under equipment, and debris under shelves in the walk-in storage and freezer units.

“On arrival, they had just received a delivery which was directly on the floor and the floor was wet,” the report states. “They told me that the products were for the other schools. All foods and utensils must be kept 6” or more off the floor.”

The LHHS cafeteria provides food for Nautilus, Smoketree and Havasupai Elementary Schools, Malay confirmed. The report instructed the food be recalled from those schools.

Paper towels were used to soak up water at the bottom of a milk cooler, but the temperature of the cooler was proper, the report states. Health officials instructed the cooler be cleaned and shut down until repaired.

“Misc. stuff in milk drawers, cups, old sauce packets, straws, needs to be removed from the drawers and stored appropriate, these milk coolers shall be kept clean not to be used for storage if milk is also in drawer,” the report states.

Health officials found that there were not sufficient food contract controls to prevent food contamination; that food contact surfaces, equipment were not cleaned frequently and properly to prevent food contamination; and food contact surfaces weren’t sanitized properly, the report states. Part of the report’s conclusion stated: “This facility needs a (thorough) cleaning. Housekeeping practices need to be beefed up.”

Lake Havasu High School Principal Denise Miner declined to comment and she stated she was not on the campus Friday.

The impromptu shutdown angered students and parents who wanted to know why the closure Friday morning.

LHHS Senior Allan Wilkerson said when he went to the cafeteria for the first of three lunch periods at 11 a.m., the cafeteria was locked and staff was handing out milk and chips.

“They weren’t really sure what they were doing,” he said. “The staff isn’t talking to us much. Staff in the lunchroom was saying that it was a gas leak, (then) three or four (teachers) tell me it was the health department. I think they are trying to hide stuff. They always seem to be doing that. I think that they just don’t trust the students. I think it would have helped (telling us the truth) instead of them lying. Once you lie, it just digs a deeper hole.”

He said students were upset that they weren’t getting lunch and started texting and calling their parents.

“Everyone is wondering what is going on,” he said. “Nobody has (any) idea. (There are) all sorts of rumors going around.”

Parent Robin Flores said she picked her sophomore daughter up around 11 a.m. after she texted and said there was nothing to eat.

“Nobody will tell us why,” Flores said Friday morning. “I wanted to know what was going on. I don’t think that that’s right. We should know why.”

Purcell said once the cafeteria passes inspection, it can re-open. He said “the school itself is going above and beyond and working with Mohave County Environmental Health to correct this stuff. They are bending over backwards to solve this problem.”

But Wilkerson said he’s not sure if he’ll eat there Monday if it re-opens.


Posted in: Family safety