Kern health officials, acting on a customer complaint, have shut down a Bakersfield Carl’s Jr. restaurant because of a cockroach infestation observed months ago by a county inspector who nevertheless issued the fast-food place an “A” rating.
The corporate-owned restaurant on Real Road south of California Avenue was found Monday to be harboring a “severe” infestation, with numerous cockroaches alive and dead, as well as insect eggs, feces and a multi-generational population suggesting roaches were breeding at the site, county environmental health Director Donna Fenton said.
“When we see that type of infestation, our concern is that they can contaminate food contact surfaces, utensils, food packaging — they can even get into the food itself,” said Fenton, who added the county typically closes a couple of restaurants every year because of cockroach infestations.
When the county visited the same Carl’s Jr. July 9, its inspector noted a “vermin infestation” evident by live roaches in the grill area and in an ice machine, among other lesser violations, according to a county report posted online.
The facility earned a score of 91 percent, not as good as the 93.5 percent it received in March but better than its 90 percent score from Dec. 30. In each case the restaurant won an “A” grade, based on its overall points tally.
Fenton said the infestation the county observed in July was not seen as overly problematic because the restaurant had been treated by pest control specialists the night before, and it appeared the roaches were dying. Also, the report asserted the infestation was confined to a limited area.
The county went out again Monday after a customer reported seeing a cockroach on a wall of the restaurant, among other violations, Fenton said.
The restaurant will stay closed until its owner, Carpinteria-based CKE Restaurants Inc., finishes what Fenton called a “deep cleaning,” including steam-cleaning, sealing of cracks and other maintenance. She said the location won’t be allowed to reopen until after it passes a county re-inspection.
CKE declined to answer questions including what had been done to prevent and then address the infestation reported in July. The company issued this written statement: “The health and safety of our customers and employees is always our top priority. We took immediate action to deal with this situation and expect to re-open the location very soon."
Douglas Powell, a former professor of food safety at Kansas State University who now publishes articles on the subject at barfblog.com, said cockroaches can carry dangerous bacteria and viruses, and that it is the responsibilities of restaurant operators, not government agencies, to ensure food safety. He cautioned against putting too much faith in government inspection reports, which he said represent ”a snapshot in time.“
”Cockroaches are going to be around,“ he said. ”It’s up to the restaurant to take steps to mitigate that.“