Springs woman says sandwich had unappetizing ingredient: a roach

May 25, 2011

A Colorado Springs woman says the Arby's Classic Italian she ordered Wednesday contained a little something extra: a cockroach with an egg sac.

Within an hour after receiving her complaint on Wednesday, officials from El Paso County Public Health went to the restaurant at 1312 N. Academy Blvd. and found a couple of roaches inside. They ordered management to get pest control in the building within 24 hours.

"As a franchise owner, we take this seriously, we are concerned and we will correct the problem immediately. It's unacceptable," said Kim Thompson, vice president of human resources and risk for U.S. Beef Corp. in Tulsa, Okla., which operates about 300 Arby's locations, mostly in the Midwest. "We are cooperating with the health department."

Courtney Gramm could not be reached for comment, but in her complaint with the health department, she says she brought the sandwich home and pulled out some meat to give to her dog. She then noticed the cockroach.

Tom Gonzales, environmental health director for El Paso County Public Health, said the department receives about a half dozen reports about insect and rodent problems at area restaurants each year, but few involve pests being found in the food.

"That's very rare," he said.  "The handful we get in a year are, 'I saw a mouse; I saw a bug in the establishment.'"

Based on the last inspection of the restaurant in February, there were no violations related to pests. The inspectors' report from Wednesday said one cockroach was found in the lobby area, and another was found in an area near a sink which had been leaking. But managers said they hadn't noticed a problem with roaches. The report also notes that the restaurant has monthly pest control service.

Gonzales said inspectors would not be checking the sandwich itself.

"We go out and look at the establishment," he said. "That's our role. Our main goal is to make sure that the public health is protected."

Thompson seemed dismayed that Gramm went directly to a local TV station with her complaint instead of the restaurant management.

"We have 300 restaurants, so with any type of product contamination, in the normal process, the customer would go back to restaurant manager and show them the product," Thompson said. "Once the sandwich and product leave our restaurant, we don’t know what happened to it. I'm not discrediting her; if there’s a problem we’ll fix it. I would like to make this right with the consumer."

To report a cleanliness or safety issue at area restaurants. call the health department at 578-3199, or go to elpasocountyhealth.org and send an e-mail. Restaurant inspection reports also area available at the website.


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