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Dirty Dining: Companies respond

/ Source: Dateline NBC

Jack in the Box
Ensuring the quality and safety of our food is a top priority at every restaurant. That's one reason why all Jack in the Box restaurant management are certified in ServSafe®, a science-based food-safety training program developed by the National Restaurant Association.

In-restaurant procedures unique to Jack in the Box help ensure compliance with our internal food-safety program.  For example, as part of our HACCP system to identify and control potentially unsafe links in the food-processing chain, restaurant management regularly monitors the efficacy of equipment and procedures -- daily or several times a day, depending on the task -- from calibrating grill and refrigeration temperatures to kitchen sanitation.  We also conduct unannounced inspections several times a year at each restaurant to thoroughly evaluate and ensure that all aspects of food safety -- from receiving and storing to preparing and serving -- are being properly executed. Our HACCP systems extend throughout the supply chain -- from farms and fields to production facilities and, ultimately, to our restaurants, where the products are served.

Jack in the Box partners with local environmental health agencies in all of our restaurant communities, and we share in the responsibility to operate a clean, safe environment and to meet all applicable quality and food-safety standards.  Our restaurants quickly address any issue that may be observed during routine inspections to confirm compliance with all applicable health codes.

Burger King
Food safety in every restaurant is the top priority at Burger King Corporation. Whenever a restaurant does not meet our high standards of safety or cleanliness, we take immediate action and will do so regarding your mentions.

It is worth noting that the company’s “Clean and Safe” program saw significant improvement in all food safety categories from January 2004 to January 2005. These results were measured by independent food safety experts during unannounced visits nationwide.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

At SUBWAY® restaurants, food safety is our top priority. It is our belief that even one health or safety violation is one too many. All SUBWAY® franchisees are trained in the best practices of proper food handling and preparation techniques. They view their local health departments as partners in their quest to serve our customers the safest, freshest, most wholesome food available.

Since we have not seen the reports in question or have knowledge of which locations were included, it is difficult to comment about the specifics of the Dateline investigation. However, it is our policy for each and every SUBWAY® restaurant to be inspected every month by trained field staff from our regional offices. If a food safety violation is found, the problem is immediately corrected. If any violation is found during the next inspection, steps are taken to terminate the franchise agreement.

The SUBWAY® chain is very clear with regard to food safety. SUBWAY® franchisees must follow either our policies or those of their local health departments—whichever is more stringent. Food safety violations are not tolerated.

Dairy Queen
Thank you for the letter you e-mailed International Dairy Queen, Inc. on Feb. 17th, 2005 regarding your latest Dateline NBC story pertaining to health inspections and critical violations in the quick-service restaurant industry.  Please know that our goal is and has always been to provide safe, high-quality food products to all of our consumers and that our operators strive for excellence in the areas of health and sanitation. 

All Dairy Queen® franchisees are required to follow strict health and sanitation standards that comply with or exceed county and state health regulations.  Our standards for restaurant inspections are that every direct licensed Dairy Queen restaurant is evaluated and inspected by a field consultant on a quarterly basis or more often if needed.  In addition to a formal inspection, operators are routinely visited in an effort to assist them with health and sanitation training, as well as other matters regarding their day-to-day operations. 

In 2004 we implemented the PRIDE (Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence) system that focuses on improving the cleanliness and maintenance of DQ® facilities.  This initiative provides our franchise operators with a series of tools and support materials to assist in all areas of restaurant operations.  Beginning last year, we asked our franchise owners and managers to accept personal responsibility to implement the PRIDE behavior practices and operational routines during every shift of every day in every DQ location.  To date, we are pleased with the progress of this program and we plan to continue our efforts with this initiative. 

In addition to the above mentioned program, policies, procedures and standards, the Dairy Queen system:

• Continues its “Zero Tolerance” policy in place since 1998 for E. coli tested hamburger products served in our restaurants. This policy also includes cooking temperatures (minimum 160 F.) and proper handling of ice cream mix. If an operator fails in any of these areas, they have 24 hours to correct the violation or risk losing their franchise.

• Has endorsed and requires all of our restaurant owners to attend and pass the National Restaurant Association’s “ServSafe” food handling and food safety training course for all new restaurants and transfer locations.

• Has a certified training school at the corporate headquarters for Dairy Queen owners or managers. The curriculum includes food safety and sanitation principles.

• Has system operations manuals and periodically distributes system memos/bulletins regarding proper food handling and safety/sanitation guidelines to all of its franchised operators. This information is also available to franchisees 24 hours a day via our Dairy Queen Extranet Website.

• Requires that every DQ operator post the guidelines for proper hand washing procedures by each sink so employees have easy and immediate access to this information.

• Has increased the emphasis of our chemical cleaning program by strengthening our partnership with Colgate Palmolive.  All of our franchisees will be receiving ongoing third party consultation support from Colgate Palmolive representatives to help them improve and elevate cleaning and sanitation procedures throughout their locations.  The program will begin roll out to our franchisees this March and will continue throughout the year. 

As a corporation we are committed to working with local and county health departments to correct any deficiencies at the restaurant level as soon as we are alerted to them. Because we do not get copied on state and county health department inspection reports, I would appreciate it if you or your sampling firm would once again forward the restaurant locations and reports to me so we can continue to address any issues that may need correcting.

Again, we appreciate this information you have brought to our attention. At International Dairy Queen, Inc., we work hard to do everything we can to ensure the quality and safety of our franchised restaurants and the products we serve.

Taco Bell
Nothing is more important to us than food safety and ensuring our customers have a great experience every time they visit one of our restaurants. 

We expect all of our restaurants to adhere to our high standards, and in the instance that one doesn’t, we find it unacceptable and take immediate corrective action. 

Te ensure food safety, we conduct regular training of employees on proper food handling, require every Taco Bell restaurant to have a certified food safety manager, conduct food safety audits two to three times per day and formal audits at least twice a year in addition to local health department inspections. 

We are confident that the systems we have in place ensure the safety and health of our customers and employees.

Food safety is our number one priority and we have strict food safety and handling procedures, including regular training of employees on proper food handling.  Every restaurant must have a certified food safety manager, conduct food safety audits two to three times per day and formal audits at least twice a year in addition to local health department inspections.  We expect all of our restaurants to achieve perfect health department scores but in the instance that one doesn't, we immediately take steps to rectify the problem because nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers.

Thank you bringing your findings to our attention. One violation is too many, and the survey results you shared are unacceptable to Arby’s.

We are committed to providing an exceptional experience for our guests that is both different and better. When we become aware of any violations, we strive to correct them promptly and retrain in the process.

Clean, safe, welcoming restaurants are our top priority at Arby’s. We are disappointed with this information, but are confident we have the know-how to fix it. We are proud of the many outstanding franchise and company operators in the Arby’s system who work to provide an exceptional guest experience. This is a great reminder that we must stay focused on that commitment to our guests.

Thank you for bringing this situation to our attention. As this is a franchise store, we were not aware of the report.

We are investigating and we will take appropriate action.

We wish to again thank Dateline for covering an important issue that we take very seriously in each of our restaurants every day. The safety of our customers is of primary importance to us.

We consider any “critical violations” to be unacceptable but, despite our best efforts, some may still occur. When they do, we address them immediately. In an effort to further reduce the likelihood of any critical violations occurring, we receive and compile the health department inspection reports from our more than 1,900 restaurants on an ongoing basis.

While the results from your survey of 100 of our restaurants between Nov. 1, 2003 and Nov. 1, 2004 are of great concern to us, our own records from a much larger sample of restaurants and a more recent time frame suggest that we are now performing at a much higher level than your data shows. Specifically, a summary of health department inspection reports from 818 Hardee’s restaurants collected between October 2004 and February 2005 show that 64% of all restaurants inspected had no critical violations whatsoever. Using your methodology, that would translate to 0.55 average critical violations per inspection.

Our more recent data from a much larger, and therefore more statistically reliable, sample of restaurants would move Hardee’s to among the best performing chains in your survey.

Nonetheless, again, we consider any critical violations to be unacceptable. Consequently, we have taken immediate action on all of the critical violations uncovered in our own compilation of health department inspection reports as well as yours.

We will continue to strive to do our best for our customers and thank you, once more, for continuing to keep this important issue in the public eye.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your inquiry regarding food safety and sanitation practices at McDonald’s.  We have a long history of leadership in this area.  In fact, McDonald’s pioneered, or was an early adopter, of many of the food safety and sanitation practices that have become standard in our industry today. For example:

  • HACCP – McDonald’s was a leader in implementing Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points throughout our supply chain and in our restaurants.
  • ServSafe – More than 125,000 McDonald’s employees have been certified in food safety through ServSafe – a state-of-the-art curriculum developed by the National Restaurant Association.  Last year, more than 25,000 McDonald’s employees were trained and certified.
  • Daily Food Safety Checks – McDonald’s restaurant managers and crew employees use a detailed Food Safety Daily Checklist to monitor food safety standards and procedures.
  • Restaurant Operations Improvement Process – Multiple, comprehensive restaurant inspections – announced and unannounced, by internal and external experts – help us identify opportunities to improve every aspect of restaurant operations on a continuing basis – including food safety and sanitation.

Regarding Dateline NBC’s evaluation of health department reports from November 2003 through October 2004, McDonald’s strives to ensure that all of our restaurants fully comply with all applicable laws and regulations regarding food safety and sanitation.  Moreover, we expect our restaurants to comply with our own stringent food safety and sanitation standards, which in many cases exceed local, state and federal requirements. 

We expect all of our restaurants to consistently meet these standards, without exception.  Any instance where we have not maintained these standards is unacceptable.  Our restaurant managers and crew employees make every effort to operate safe, clean restaurants.  Food safety is – and always will be – one of our highest priorities.

Regarding the 2004 incident in one of our restaurants involving a number of food borne illnesses, this was an unfortunate, isolated case.  According to the local health department’s investigation, this incident was caused by a naturally occurring organism commonly found in the human body.  The health department determined that a mechanical malfunction of the ice cream/milk shake machine was also a contributing factor.

It’s important to note that the local health department did not cite any violations in their investigation of this case.  In fact, this restaurant has an outstanding food safety and sanitation history with the local health department.

The franchisee of this restaurant, manager and crew employees cooperated fully with the health department’s investigation and acted quickly to mitigate any food safety or sanitation concerns.  In an abundance of caution, the franchisee took immediate action to remove the ice cream/milk shake machine from service and replaced it with a new machine before the restaurant resumed serving ice cream and milk shakes.

Our franchisee also worked closely with the local health department to ensure all employees were thoroughly trained and certified on the new machine and that the restaurant was in full compliance with local health department requirements.  Again, we believe this was an unfortunate, isolated incident.

With more than 13,700 restaurants in the United States, serving more than 23 million customers every day, our goal is to provide 100% customer satisfaction to every customer, every time they visit our restaurants.  It is vital that we provide safe food to every customer every time.  In fact, providing safe food is critical to the success of our business and it remains one of our highest priorities.