State inspectors documented evidence last week supporting a former employee’s claim that a Statesboro grocery store had mixed expired meat and new meat together.
Kenny Denson said he was terminated because he advised customers that meat they selected from the Save-A-Lot store on Northside Drive East was unsafe.
Termination papers, signed by Virginia Brenneman, a store manager, state that Denson was fired Sept. 27 due to “customer complaints” against him because he approached them and told them not to shop at the store. The termination followed an inspection Sept. 23 by the Georgia Department of Agriculture in response to a complaint filed with the department, according to reports.
Another store manager, Sean Brenneman, who is Virginia Brenneman’s husband, said Friday that Denson was fired for telling customers not to shop at the store. He denied Denson’s allegations, however, that out-of-date meat was mixed with fresh ground beef and sold, that meat was dropped on the floor and washed in the same sink used to clean floor mats, and that other out of date meat was sold after being washed.
Denson admitted telling many customers, “sometimes 10 or 15 a day,” that they should not buy meat at Save-A-Lot. He explained that he was concerned over customers eating meat that could be spoiled or contaminated.
Bulloch County Health Department employees recently received at least three calls about allegedly bad meat being sold at the store, said Dwain Butler, the department’s director of environmental health. The complaints were turned over to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, which oversees grocery stores, he said.
Jeanne Maxwell, a records spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, provided the Statesboro Herald with documentation of recent inspections at Save-A-Lot, including an inspection regarding the recent complaints, in response to an Open Records Act request.
Inspector Allison Strickland reported that the department received a call from a female who complained that outdated ground beef was mixed in with fresh meat and sold, and that a floor mat was washed in the same sink where meat is handled.
The report states that “store management was unaware of grinding practices or cleaning procedures in the market” and that the market manager denied that out of date meats were sold. However, a “gray chub of ‘new’ trimmings was found to have trays of ‘old’ meat comingled together in a walk-in cooler.”
That meat was discarded during the inspection.
Also, a box of chicken was found in the sink. The manager said it was to be discarded but he had not had time, Strickland reported. The chicken, which had a package date of Sept. 9, also was discarded at the time of the inspection Sept. 23.
Other violations documented during the Sept. 23 inspection included meat and rust residue on equipment; employee drinks on preparation tables; preparation surfaces soiled and meat residue on the ceiling over a band saw and at the sink.
Also, the report documented violations regarding adequate hand washing facilities being accessible; food surfaces that were unclean and not sanitized; no paper towels at the hand washing sink; and Styrofoam trays found in the sink and stored on floor.
The report also listed findings of old meat residue on a grinder and crumbs and meat residue at a wrapping station.
Brenneman told the Statesboro Herald Friday that he doesn’t know why Denson told customers not to buy from his store. He denied that Save-A-Lot sold outdated meat or meat that was dropped on the floor or otherwise contaminated.
“It’s not happening,” he said of Denson’s allegations. “We have never had a complaint.”
He said Denson never approached him with concerns, but said several customers told him Denson was advising them not to buy groceries from Save-A-Lot.
A previous inspection at the store by state Department of Agriculture inspectors in March showed one violation of “foodborne risk factor/intervention violation” and one “good retail/manufacturing practice” violation, citing food surfaces were not sanitized, and facilities were not properly maintained and cleaned.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.