Rotten chicken, moldy tortillas at IB store

Posted at 6:42 PM, Sep 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-15 21:42:12-04

UPDATE: A spokesman for San Diego County told Team 10 a surprise health department inspection was made the day after we reported spoiled and outdated food at a grocery store in Imperial Beach.

Inspectors from the US Department of Agriculture also made an unannounced visit to Wally’s Marketplace.  Wally’s is owned by the same man that owns Save-a-Lot.

The health inspectors found no problems. 

Team 10 continues to get calls and emails from customers at both Wally’s and Save-a-Lot who claim rotten food is commonplace at both stores, and that managers refuse to exchange spoiled products for fresh ones.

Owner Wally Daoud did not respond to Team 10’s request for an interview.

"It was horrible." 

Those were the words of Berenice de la Cruz after she discovered the chicken she'd just bought from a local grocery store was spoiled.

She bought 10 pounds on special in a giant plastic bag from the Save-a-Lot store in Imperial Beach. After she brought it home, she had her daughters put the poultry in smaller bags in the freezer.

The next day she thawed some out. "It smelled, so I threw it away," she told Team 10.

She opened a second bag and thawed it out. As it began to thaw, de la Cruz noticed a funny smell.

She called the store and spoke to a manager who de la Cruz claims told her there had been "a bad batch" of chicken, and that she could come in and have the spoiled product replaced.

De la Cruz said the store's owner refused. "He goes I don't know what you did from the store to your house, but the chicken isn't bad," she recalled him saying. She said he was so rude she left the store in tears.

She posted the story on Facebook, and within hours she claims several people posted similar stories.

One of them emailed Team 10, and we went to the store to see what we could find. 

It didn't take long to discover several packages of Jimmy Dean sausage that had these words stamped on their wrappers:  USE/FRZ  BY AUG 12 15.  The sausage was exactly a month past being healthy. 

We also found Guerrero corn tortillas that expired a week ago.

Amilla Wheat bought Guerrero flour tortillas over the weekend. When she got home, she noticed the package had been opened. When she pulled a tortilla out of the package she said it was covered in mold. 

When she tried to exchange the tortillas, which were on special for $1, she said she was told it was her fault.

"What if we didn't notice it and we feed it to our children and they get sick? Then it's a bigger problem than a dollar," she said.

As Team 10 waited to speak to the store's owner, a woman approached to thank us for looking into the ongoing problems she said have plagued the store for years.

Paola Gale said she bought spoiled chicken from the store two months ago.

Twenty minutes later when she was about to prepare dinner, she opened the package and said it "smelled bad." She said the store manager initially told her she likely mishandled the poultry.

Eventually, she got some fresh chicken. Gale said she doesn't buy meat, poultry or produce from the store anymore.

The store owner was not available to talk to Team 10 about the customers' claims. A manager said he could not be reached. He did not respond to our request for an interview.

Two years ago, he spoke to 10News after customers said they bought spoiled, outdated food from another of his stores, Wally's Marketplace. 

At that time Wally Daoud said the expired products were "an oversight by me and the staff." He promised to give vouchers to customers who bought expired or spoiled products at Wally's.

A group of customers of both stores planned to stage protests Monday afternoon. 

"Either close it down, or stop selling bad products," said Berenice de la Cruz.

Team 10 contacted the San Diego County Health Department about their complaints. They told us they inspect store delis and bakeries for health and safety issues. If they see expired products on the shelves, they are instructed to educate store employees about checking to make sure those products are pulled from the store shelves.

The Save-a-Lot store was inspected by the Health Department in August. It was cited for minor violations including issues with food separation, holding temperatures and thawing methods. A follow-up inspection found the problems were corrected.

A San Diego County spokesman said complaints about meat and poultry should be made to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.