Steak ‘n Shake in Fairview Heights voluntarily closed for a day last week after a customer reported finding insects in his milkshake to county health officials.
The restaurant, located at 10860 Lincoln Trail, was closed July 19, according to St. Clair County Health Department documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. It reopened the next day, but not before a health inspector returned to the restaurant for a second look.
The inspector’s initial report included dozens of photographs displaying unsanitary conditions inside the restaurant, including dead fruit flies in the kitchen, on the floor and on food preparation areas.
The bugs landed and died in chocolate, strawberry and caramel syrup. Containers filled with candy toppings also appeared to be dirty and surrounded by bugs, according to the report.
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“The cooler under the ice cream bins was filthy with hardened ice cream and toppings,” the health inspector wrote in a July 19 report. “There were fruit flies in the ice cream toppings, syrup containers, shake cups, shake machine, under and behind the ice cream table. Inside the ice cream freezer there were dead fruit flies on the bottom and fruit flies in the tub of ice cream.”
Steak n’ Shake’s district manager declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Indianapolis-based burger chain could not be reached.
The health inspector also told the restaurant to clean the fryer area walls, floor and equipment before reopening July 20.
Before the shutdown
The call to the health department July 19 about fruit flies wasn’t the first one health inspectors received about Steak n’ Shake this year.
▪ County health official received a complaint about the women’s restroom June 15. A customer said no one cleaned the restroom after she saw feces inside. The restroom was clean by the time an inspector arrived.
▪ A customer told the health department in May that the restaurant was filthy. When a health inspector arrived three days later, the restaurant was clean, according to county documents.
▪ The health department received a complaint on March 12 about a strawberry shake that “tasted funny.” The customer said the manager explained that strawberries may have mistakenly been taken from a box of moldy fruit labeled “do not use.” The manager told the health inspector the next day that the customer misunderstood. No moldy strawberries were found, according to the health inspectors report.
The burger-chain isn’t the first restaurant to have trouble with fruit flies this summer.
A St. Clair County health inspector found hundreds of fruit flies inside Golden Corral in Shiloh after a customer complaint. The buffet has fixed the problem since then, according to county documents.
St. Clair County Health Inspector Brian Eckert said cleaning is the best way for restaurants to keep fruits flies out the kitchen. Having an abundance of fruit flies in a facility boils down to sanitation.