Why inspection results need to be on the door, not hidden in a database: Roaches in wrappers, ice cream machine at Sonic in Florida

I’d never heard of Sonic until I moved to Kansas.

I had a student who worked part-time at Sonic, and never wanted to eat there.

sonicTheir commercials are super-creepy, but I guess it appeals to college football fans.

Known for carhops delivering food (we called them A&Ws in Canada, I’m not sure what they were called on Happy Days) , Sonic Drive-Ins can be found across the country.

We eat the hotdogs and get the drinks during happy hour,” said Bruce Bennett visiting Florida with his wife, Janet, from Pennsylvania.

The couple had no idea the Spring Hill Sonic location was shut down by health inspectors just last week with 21 violations including an expired license. The inspector also reported finding live roaches in the dish area, by the fryer, under the soft serve ice cream machine and even in a box of wrappers for customers’ food.

“I wish I knew that before I got here today,” said Bennett after finishing his meal.

“It’s unhealthy,” said Janet Bennett. “I’m flabbergasted. I mean, I just can’t find words. It’s disgusting! It’s absolutely disgusting.”

We showed the full inspection report to the Bennetts’ and other customers. Along with all the roaches, customers seemed concerned to hear the location was ordered to throw out their ice after the inspector found the ice chute filled with mold.

“We just got slushies,” said Manual Ortega who had just ordered with two friends. “I wanna go over there and tell them we want a refund now. That’s gross.”  

The state did clear this location to reopen a day after their emergency closure, so 10Investigates stopped in checking to see if conditions were really cleaned up.

“I can’t say anything right now,” said an employee who identified himself as the Assistant Manager. “The person who is in charge is not here today.”

The employee told us he wasn’t authorized to allow our camera inside the kitchen so we asked if he could call his supervisors to ask for permission.

“Most of them are enjoying their days off and I don’t like to bug anyone on their days off. That’s why they have me here running the place,” the assistant manager said.

Health officials probe outbreak at unnamed Florida restaurant

Hernando Today reports that Paul and Alice Andrews, 87, of High Point, enjoyed a dinner the night of March 6 at the same restaurant along U.S. 19, north of Tampa.

They didn’t regain their appetites for the rest of the week, they said.

They spent most of last week resting at home because the virus they suffered through sapped them of their strength.

"I’ve never ever encountered anything like this," said Alice Andrews. "It was just terrible."

Andrews and her husband were two out of numerous people who filed reports with the Hernando County Health Department, which quickly launched an environmental health investigation, according to a media release.

Ann-Gayl Ellis, an agency spokeswoman, said the investigation kicked off after several people reported "symptoms of gastrointestinal illness" as of Friday.

Ellis did not reveal the name of the restaurant that was probed, but Andrews and his wife confirmed Tuesday they had gotten sick — along with a half-dozen more of their friends — after dining at the same Spring Hill restaurant.

The name of the business is being withheld by Hernando Today because the case is still open.

Ellis said of the 45 or so filed reports with her agency, most of them had eaten at the same restaurant while the others lived with or came in contact with those who had dined there.

A woman who manages the restaurant said the health department had sent two people to inspect the business Monday. They stayed for five or more hours and found nothing wrong with the food or the temperatures used to cook the food, she said.

Nina Mattei, a health department spokeswoman, said five stool samples were collected and sent to a Tampa laboratory to determine what organism caused the illnesses. The tests should be completed within the next few days, she said.

Ellis said the symptoms the Andrews suffered from were consistent with the norovirus, which can be transferred by food, water and from person to person.

"They need to close that place down and sanitize that entire area," said Andrews of the restaurant.

She had eaten there "several times" prior to last Sunday, but doesn’t plan to return.