Some of the meat samples taken from JB’s Foods stores two weeks ago were spoiled, according to Pamela Heeter, food program supervisor for the Spokane County Regional Health District.
The two stores were investigated after West Central neighbor Diana Nelson, who worked at each store for a day, complained about the way the food is handled at the business.
Nelson also complained about the way customers, especially children, are mistreated by store owners Jim and Jo Barach.
Three meat samples from the store at 5503 N. Alberta and one sample from the 2501 W. Boone store were sent to the state Department of Health laboratory in Olympia.
The stew meat from a freezer at the Alberta Street store showed an aerobic plate count of 49 million. Normally, the count should be around 1 million.
“This product is old or temperature-abused,” said Bert Bartleson, food services technical expert for the state. “That is too high, no question about it.”
He said the meat will probably smell bad and taste bad.
However, it’s unlikely that the spoiled meat, if cooked thoroughly, would make anyone sick, Bartelson said.
One package of ground beef from the Alberta store was also spoiled. Two other packages, including the one from the Boone Street store, had bacteria levels within the normal range.
Since no illnesses were reported in connection with the meat, it wasn’t tested for illness-causing bacteria.
Heeter said Barach told her the freezer food is often cooked for burritos, taco salad or chili and sold hot to customers. Barach said they thaw the meat first and if it seems spoiled, throw it away.
But Nelson said she’s seen spoiled meat used in cooked foods.
Neither of the refrigerated meat packages were past the pull date, said Heeter.
Health department investigators will return to the store periodically to check the meat. Store owners have also been told to post signs letting shoppers know when the meat has passed its expiration date.
Store owners could be fined if they continue to sell spoiled meat, said Heeter.
Meat packages are prepared in the main store on Alberta, then taken to the Boone Street store.
Diana Nelson worked in both stores before quitting in disgust, she said.
She is leading a crusade against the store, posting flyers and contacting health officials.
Soon after an article ran in the North Side Voice two weeks ago, Nelson and the newspaper received calls from dozens of former employees and shoppers with stories of mismanagement, harassment and spoiled food at the two grocery stores.