CHICAGO (CBS) — Department, big box and grocery stores are getting into the restaurant business with meals ready to go.
But how safe is that food? CBS 2’s Dave Savini reports.
Kantha Shelke, a food safety expert, traveled with CBS 2 to look at how safely ready-to-go food is being handled at stores.
At Macy’s on State Street, CBS 2 bought the salmon. The fish and other food was in a hot area, but the spatulas to dish them out were kept on the counter for hours covered in old fish, meat and drippings that were then used to serve.
“You are bringing something in and cross-contaminating it,” Shelke says. “That plate is potentially very dangerous.”
Shelke says she saw serious food service violations.
She also looked at City of Chicago inspection reports involving Macy’s. In February, health department inspectors found 43 live flies in the storage room, kitchen area and service station areas of the Walnut Room.
Last July, inspectors examining the seventh-floor restaurants ordered the destruction of 40 pounds of pork that had been stored at 60 degrees.
“That pork is a hothouse of bacteria,” Shelke says.
To-go food at the Jewel at 1224 S. Wabash Ave. also has had troubles, according to inspection reports last year, citing sushi not kept at the right temperature.
A year before that, the store was ordered to destroy 175 pounds of food stored at unsafe temperatures, including sushi, salads, cheese and sandwiches.
All the food could have been dangerous, Shelke says.
CBS 2 also found the Kmart at 5050 Kedzie Ave. has a Little Caesars restaurant inside that failed two inspections last year. Live flies were found in the pizza dough machine and a live roach on the floor.
“The flies come from places that are unsanitary and bring with them a load of bacteria,” Shelke says.
At Ultra Foods in Forest Park, inspection reports from April found improper freezer temperatures and burnt-out heat lamps for prepared chicken, which left the food at a dangerous 118 degrees.
CBS 2 cameras found discarded food items like eggs, meat and ice cream left in abandoned grocery carts at room temperature — items then returned to coolers and freezers to be sold.
All the stores involved, Ultra Foods, Macy’s, Jewel-Osco and Kmart and Little Caesars say safety is their top priority. The store officials say they work with inspectors to immediately fix any problems and that, in all cases, corrective action was taken.
Ultra Foods also says they have immediately reinforced food-safety policies in all stores. A Macy’s spokesman says used spatulas will not be sitting out on the counters between dishes anymore.