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Public warned about improperly stored food

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Just last week the federal government filed a civil complaint against a local home manufacturer who makes various food products that are sold at dozens of retail stores around the island. With September being Guam Food Safety Education Month, the Department of Public Health warns hungry residents to stay away from foods that are improperly prepared and stored that could be hazardous to your health. 

You've seen them in stores around the island: sandwiches, sushi, chicken kelaguen wraps, empanada and sweets sitting on counters in mom and pop stores for hours and hours.  While it may be tempting to get a snack, Public Health warns that eating these foods could be hazardous to your health. "As far as a consumer they should not even purchase these foods if they're kept at room temperature," said Ron Carandang. "Because as far as these potential hazardous foods there's no way of telling how long it's been processed and how long it's been sitting in the retail store."

Public Health's Division of Environmental Health inspects home manufacturers who are making food products as well as the retail stores that are selling them to ensure they are complying with food code regulations.  Carandang, an inspector with the Division, told KUAM News, "We also site retailers for food products that are potentially hazardous food that are left at room temperature."

Carandang says sanitation inspections are conducted at home manufacturers like Tenorio Home Industries located in Pulantat, Yona. Tenorio's is accused of producing poultry products, specifically chicken kelaguen, in violation of U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations.  It's alleged that the USDA has been trying to enforce the regulations for the last decade but the violations have continued and the feds contend this has been operating as a poultry processing firm without federal inspection.  The Tenorio's declined to comment to KUAM News at the advice of their legal counsel. We could not find any chicken kelaguen wraps in stores we visited today but we're told they are only available during the first week of every month. The Tenorio's have a valid sanitary permit and business license and have been given "A" ratings.

Public Health has cited the company over the years for leaving chicken out to thaw in room temperature, leaving windows open and staff was not wearing proper hair restraints.  The problems were quickly rectified and they've held an "A" rating for several years. While Public Health has the ability to regulate how home manufacturers like Tenorio's make food products like chicken kelaguen - which technically isn't cooked.

Carandang admits they often don't as they only have two inspectors to go out and inspect these types of establishments. "We haven't looked at their process of chicken kelaguen. We haven't observed anything because a lot of times the processing is done way ahead of time," he explained.

Most of the food products that are delivered to retail stores early in the morning are made the night before or early in the morning while inspectors are not on duty. "It's pretty hard to conduct our inspections and we're mandated by law to inspect these establishments at least once every quarter which is hard to do," he said.

So the next time you get hungry you may want to think twice if the food is sitting on the counter.

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