The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has repeatedly cited San Francisco Tienda Mexicana, a Mexican and South American grocery store in Wilsonville, for food safety violations.
According to a record of inspections conducted about once a year by the Oregon Department of Agriculture from 2013 to 2019, the store located at 8750 S.W. Citizen Drive has been asked multiple times to correct violations ranging from food resting at the wrong temperature, cross contamination and a lack of knowledge about food safety protocols, among other things.
And according to a study conducted by The Oregonian based on the ODA's most recent inspections, the store ranked third among over 1,100 stores in Oregon in terms of the severity of its violations (the grading system is based on the Oregon Retail Food Code). The Oregonian counted the store as having 13 high-risk violations and 13 repeat violations.
Though breaches over the past six years of inspections are fairly similar, San Francisco Tienda Mexicana owner Francisco Barajas said the store has corrected food safety issues and ODA records indicate the store has implemented changes recommended by inspectors.
"We work very hard to fix all the violations," Barajas said. "Everything right now is taken care of."
Another repeated violation cited over the years stated that the "person in charge" had not demonstrated knowledge of foodborne disease prevention, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Principles (an organized approach to food safety) or the requirements listed in the ODA's code.
Barajas said the violation was the result of the language barrier (many of the employees at San Francisco Tienda Mexicana speak minimal English) between the inspector and employees and that he trains employees on proper food safety protocols.
Barajas also said the store bought a new cooler to separate produce from meat in response to violations.
No other grocery store in Wilsonville ranked high on The Oregonian's naughty list, although the Safeway store located at 8255 S.W. Wilsonville Road was listed as having seven high-risk violations in the latest round of inspections and Costco on 25900 S.W. Heather Place had six. However, Fred Meyer at 30300 S.W. Boones Ferry Road had just one violation.
Food inspection process
Rustin Rock, Oregon Department of Agriculture food safety and field operations manager, said the food inspection process is both educational for businesses and designed to protect customers from harm.
The inspections are conducted unannounced, the frequency is based on the risks associated with a specific establishment and includes an examination of the facility and the practices of employees in the facility, Rock said.
When inspectors notice a violation, they educate employees onsite and often try to correct the violation immediately. In the case of serious breaches, the department can initiate a recall of food products, embargo a product if they want more information before the product is put back onto the market close the store or revoke the store's license to sell food.
Rock said the department conducts about 10,000 inspections a year and closes a store about once or twice in that time.
"Our goal is to educate folks to achieve compliance with regulatory statutes," Rock said. "We do use our enforcement tools on a fairly frequent basis to strengthen the compliance."
He added: "We work with the companies (employees and owners) to explain to them the liabilities they expose their company to. It isn't following the rules for following the rules sake."
Before taking more stringent steps, the ODA issues a sanitation warning and then a follow-up warning letter to businesses that don't immediately comply. In the case of San Francisco Tienda Mexicana, the business complied after the initial 2019 visit and the ODA determined that the issues had been resolved.
Rock said an allergen being present in a product that isn't labeled (which San Francisco Tienda Mexicana has violated) is the most common reason for a food recall.
"There's a multitude of things; it could be because of sanitary conditions (or) if we have evidence that the food is adulterated, recalling a product might be effective," he said.
In the case of San Francisco Tienda Mexicana's allergen-labeling violation, Rock said the inspector provided a handout of what they needed to include, but he didn't know the specifics of what else transpired.
"Most likely they worked to resolve that situation at the time of inspection," he said.
As for the language barrier mentioned by Barajas, the ODA said it provides handouts to employees who don't speak English and is assessing other ways it can more easily communicate with non-English speakers, according to Director of Communications Andrea Cantu-Schomus.
"We're trying to serve those customers better," she said.
The ODA's food safety inspection reports are not readily accessible, but interested parties can file a public records request to do so. To file a request, call 503-986-4720 or visit the website at www.oregon.gov/ODA/Pages/default.aspx.
"We like hearing that the public is interested and curious of what's going on in our stores and encourage citizens to ask questions of us and the stores themselves," Rock said.
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