On July 22, a series of videos showing the deplorable kitchen conditions of Taco Bell in Yreka, California made their way to Facebook on a public group and were posted by the former General Manager, Crystal Connors. Ms. Connors was terminated due to the fact that she closed the store during business hours because in good consciousness she would not serve food out of that location in its current condition.

Upon viewing the five videos, my skin crawled. The floors had mold, grease caked so thick it was actually holding floor tiles in place because the grout was completely gone. The floor drain covers filled with molded food and insects climbing up the arm of the investigating manager as she tries to find the smell that has permeated the kitchen. As you watch the video you can see piles of grease covered in grime and debris under and in between food stations/carts. A simple deep cleaning was not even going to begin to address the larger volume of issues happening here. Floors had standing water and grease and no proper drainage to get rid of it.

I immediately recognized that this was a much larger issue than merely a filthy, insect infested health hazard to the general public but also a safety hazard for employees.

Taco Bell is owned by DeClerck Enterprises. Steve DeClerck has several restaurants throughout Siskiyou County and are as follows:

• Taco Bell: Yreka, Weed, Mount Shasta

• Kentucky Fried Chicken: Yreka and Mount Shasta

• Round Table Pizza: Yreka and formerly Mount Shasta

As a parent, I take my kids through drive thru restaurants more than I care to admit. The convenience factor between kids sports or school events makes for a quick dinner. I suddenly realized just how sick they could get; I mean, I would call CPS if I saw someone’s home in this condition. My mind immediately raced to people with compromised immune systems, elderly folks, etc.

I took it upon myself to look up the food inspection reports on all DeClerck businesses and that’s when I nearly lost my mind. I found nine available online. I downloaded them and read them all in full detail. Each report as terrible, if not worse, than the one before. Second, third, fourth notices warning DeClerck of violations and not being up to code/standards. How in the world are these restaurants even open for business?

My next thought is “The Environmental Health Department must not know about these videos or maybe they haven’t connected the dots that they are all owned by the same entity.” I decide I will call.

I advise Environmental Health’s Deputy Director, Rick Dean that I have read all of the food inspection reports regarding these restaurants and that we can both most certainly conclude one thing: DeClerck is a habitual offender of food safety codes and clearly shows no sign of getting his facilities to adhere to the most basic of standards. I then let Mr. Dean know that his role and authority/oversight given by Siskiyou County and the State of California provides him with a monumental task; social responsibility.

It is in my opinion, that not only Mr. Dean but also his Food Inspectors, have failed miserably in respect to their social responsibilities as well as their civic duties. Maybe this is to no fault of their own, maybe oversight guidelines make their jobs a difficult one. Our county has bestowed one of the greatest responsibilities to these employees to oversee the food service industry and its respective business owners to ensure compliance.

Dean also assured me that the inspections for fast food facilities within Siskiyou County were held quarterly, however, in light of the recent events, he and the rest of his staff will be frequenting these sort of locations at shorter intervals. I will personally be calling to check that the regulatory oversight is happening every 6-8 weeks.

I don’t know that I necessarily feel better. These inspectors are the same ones who have been “inspecting” and have not done anything to remedy and mitigate these types of issues to date with the exception of Mt. Shasta Round Table closing. Mr. Dean stated that KFC had “fired” five employees for improper food handling when in clear violation but as I stated the “poison resides in the body of the tree not in the leaves.”

Sara Montgomery

Lake Shastina