Spoon, McDonald’s, Taco Bell all victims of Health Ministry sweep

May 19, 2011

Popular chain restaurants McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Spoon have all had a location shut down as the Health Ministry swept through hundreds of businesses in the Central Valley and the rest of the country.

Health inspectors from the ministry began the inspections on May 12. They investigated 140 places on Thursday and Friday of last week in search of health code violations and operating permits.

Allan Varela, regional director of the Health Ministry in south San José, explained that approximately 38 inspectors are being used to review almost 200 establishments this week. The one violation that seems most prominent is a lack of food handling certification for the staff. All employees at a restaurant must complete a food handling course at the National Training Institute (INA). Both McDonald’s were closed for violating these rules. In fact, so many eateries lack food handling documentation that spots for INA classes are full.

“The most common mistake committed by businesses are a lack of food handling course for employees,“ Varela said. “At the moment there is no space available for the food handling course offered by INA, which is a requirement for any restaurant. However, this food course can be conducted by another institution as long as it is recognized by INA.“

Varela said each check is done by an inspector for the Health Ministry and in the presence of a nurse or a doctor. More than a dozen places have been closed so far.

Among the restaurants that have been closed are several Chinese diners in the Central Market in San José, Spoon in Plaza Los Laureles in Escazú (west of San José), a Taco Bell in Sabanilla (east of San José) and two McDonald’s – one Despamparados (south of San José) and the country’s oldest McDonald’s was closed in downtown San José across from the Banco Central. The latter McDonald’s was also cited for problems with wastewater management.

Both McDonald’s have since reopened, said Rita Gutiérrez, communications manager for McDonald’s in Costa Rica and Panama.

“It’s important to emphasize that our staff always has worked in accordance with international standards required by the company,“ Gutiérrez said in an email. “Therefore our employees are fully trained to maintain quality standards, hygiene and service that characterize McDonald’s.“

The Taco Bell was closed, according to a statement made to Radio Reloj, due to a lack of updated operating permits. Management took responsibility for the oversight and expects to reopen soon.

Phone calls to management at Spoon were not answered

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