- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
As Joe Goldsmith went to the McDonald’s in Leonardtown last Sunday night to get something to eat, he noticed a rental truck making a food delivery at the side of the building. He said he watched for an hour as damp boxes were unloaded from the truck into the fast-food restaurant’s freezer and kitchen.
On Monday morning Goldsmith notified the St. Mary’s County Health Department. “The heat inside this box truck had to be high because the boxes being delivered were damp and collapsing,” he wrote. “I can only assume that there will be great risk of food-borne illness as a result of the potentially thawed and contaminated food.”
The health department conducted an inspection Monday morning of the Leonardtown McDonald’s, said Daryl Calvano, director of environmental health.
“There weren’t any violations noted,” he said.
The franchise owner of the Leonardtown McDonald’s transported food from a McDonald’s in Mitchellville, which lost power due to the June 29 widespread thunderstorm, Calvano said.
The food at the Mitchellville restaurant was kept frozen using generators, but the store couldn’t open to serve anyone, he said.
Refrigerated trucks were at a premium after that as electricity outages were widespread. As long as frozen food remains frozen and refrigerated food stays below 41 degrees, there aren’t any violations, Calvano said.
The employees kept a thorough log on the temperatures of the food during the transport, “which is acceptable even in an unrefrigerated truck,” he said.
“They were all in check,” he said of the food temperatures.
When Goldsmith saw the delivery being made from a rental truck, he said, “We watched it for about an hour. Something wasn’t right.”
“I can see how it can throw up a little bit of alarm,” Calvano said.
The health department’s job is to make sure food does not spoil.
The food in the rental truck was kept cold by insulating blankets, Calvano said, and temperatures were recorded during loading and then again at unloading as he the food was put into storage at Leonardtown.
If the temperatures had been exceeded upon delivery, regulations call for the food to be discarded.
“The health department’s mission of training food service workers to recognize food safety issues was taken to heart by McDonald’s management,” Calvano said. “Our followup to a citizen inquiry insured the public was not at risk.”
In the case of anticipated electrical outages, like in the days preceding a hurricane, restaurants and grocery stores typically bring in refrigerated trucks and dry ice to avoid spoiled inventory, Calvano said.
But the June 29 massive thunderstorm that roared through the area and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in Southern Maryland and the Washington, D.C. area didn’t leave much time to prepare, he said.
A spokesperson for McDonald’s could not return comment by deadline Thursday.