'Disgusting behaviour' caught on video at fast food restaurant in Red Deer, Alta.
Carl's Jr. franchisee violated numerous Alberta food regulations
If you're a germaphobe or just easily grossed out, you may want to take a deep breath before reading on.
The co-franchisee of a Carl's Jr. in central Alberta was temporarily barred from his own restaurant's kitchen after a host of unhygienic behaviours that even "shocked" a public health inspector.
Jack Webb was captured on in-store security video at the Red Deer restaurant without gloves, forearm deep in a large container, mixing a batch of barbecue sauce for Carl's Jr. burgers.
10 food safety violations caught on video
That was the first of no fewer than 10 food safety violations caught on video, which was exclusively obtained by CBC News.
Andrew Minnes, the former manager of the restaurant, blew the whistle on Webb to health authorities and CBC.
"I've never seen anything like this. If he wasn't an owner, he would have been fired instantly. There wouldn't even have been a debate," Minnes told CBC News from his home in Airdrie, Alta.
If he wasn't an owner, he would have been fired.- Andrew Minnes, former Carl's Jr. manager
Minnes says it was conscientious kitchen staff who initially alerted him to the "gross" infractions.
He says he approached Webb about the complaints.
"His reaction was, 'I'm the owner' and then 'Too bad.' He made it clear to the staff as well that they don't say anything, 'Don't talk about what I'm doing, I do what I feel like doing.'"
So Minnes began playing undercover detective in the restaurant he managed until May 2017, recording the screen of the CCTV that overlooked the kitchen.
Minnes says he never planned to take the footage public — he just wanted to show it to the other co-franchisee so the issue would be addressed.
"He just ignored me. He didn't want to deal with it. 'Complicit,' I guess is the word."
Mixing food with bare hand
Minnes had surreptitiously captured 10 videos of serious food safety regulation infractions on his cellphone.
During the barbecue sauce mixing video, a staffer goes as far as offering Webb a spoon — which his boss refuses and continues mixing with his hand and forearm, before scraping the accumulated barbecue sauce off his arm back into the container.
Domenic Pedulla, the CEO at the Canada Food Safety Group, shook his head while watching the video clips. "Bare hand contact with ready to eat food is not OK. This is where we want to use tongs, gloves."
Webb didn't use tongs or gloves in any of the videos.
Several of them feature him mixing barbecue and honey mustard sauce with his bare hands and transferring sauces from one container to another using his bare fingers.
The one time Webb did use a spatula during the videos, he got it from the dirty dish pile and hastily wiped it off with a towel.
Webb also seemed to be following the five-second rule when he dropped things on the floor.
One video shows the owner dropping a french fry scoop on the kitchen floor, picking it up and immediately using it to dish out fries.
In another, Webb dropped a chicken tender on the floor after transferring a batch from the fryer to a warming tray. Instead of throwing it out, he bent down, picked it up and put it back on the tray.
Potential for cross-contamination
But both Minnes and Pedulla were most disturbed by Webb's handling of raw chicken.
The franchise co-owner dipped Carl's Jr. raw chicken tenders into batter mixture as per protocol. But then Webb transferred the chicken to the fryer without washing his hands.
The end result was a fryer basket handle covered in goopy flour and raw chicken juice. "There's potential for cross-contamination — you're going to make someone sick," Minnes said.
"That's how we spread contaminants and germs and pathogens," food safety expert Pedulla said.
"That's the stuff that can make you sick and kill you."
Alberta Health Services launched an investigation immediately upon receiving the videos.
In an email to Minnes, Environmental Public Health officer Michael Lambert noted the "disgusting behaviour."
He went on to say, "The food handler was very apologetic and assured us this will not happen in the future."
As it turns out, Webb had never taken the provincial food safety training. He was ordered to refrain from handling food until proof of that training is provided to Alberta Health Services.
Carl's Jr. Canada responds
CBC News approached Webb for comment at his Red Deer restaurant. He asked us to wait for an interview for several hours.
"We're going to give a response," Webb assured the CBC.
In the end, the response came via a statement from Carl's Jr. Canada, which said it found out about the infractions in April and the video earlier this month.
The popular U.S. fast food restaurant, which has been trying to expand its franchise footprint in Canada since 2011 called the "improper food handling behaviour ... unacceptable and (that it) in no way, represents Carl's Jr.'s commitment to safe food handling."
In no way represents Carl's Jr.'s commitment to safe food handling.- Carl's Jr. Canada
The statement noted Webb had completed AHS food safety training with a mark of 96 per cent and the burger chain had taken its own "corrective action" including an independent safety audit.
Minnes says he quit Carl's Jr. because of a dispute over a possible promotion.
He says he never set out to be a whistleblower, but he's not sorry he took on that role.
"I'm not the one on the tape doing that. I didn't do anything wrong, so I don't have anything to worry about personally."
Pedulla says the impact of one person's bad habits can have far reaching results.
"Maybe every other location in Carl's Jr. does a 99.5 per cent good job and this guy's wrecked it. It's sad, it's really, really bad and it breaks public trust."