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Probe: May 31, 2002

May 31, 2002

QUESTION: Several months ago I noticed there were no lids covering the pickles, chopped onions, sliced carrots and salsa and other items on the condiment tray at an El Centro restaurant. I noticed flies on the condiments.

One person helped himself to pickles without a fork, licked his fingers and went back for more. I have seen this type of behavior other times.

After this observation I called the county Health Department. The woman on the phone said somebody would go out and "check it out."

On the next few visits I noticed all the condiment dishes had covers. Gradually the lids disappeared until none of the dishes was covered.

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I called the Health Department again a month ago. Again the lady said someone would go out. A week ago I went to the restaurant again. None of the condiment dishes on the tray brought to my table was covered. Most tables had trays with no lids on the condiment dishes. What is the Health Department policy on condiment dishes from which multiple diners eat? — Finicky, El Centro

State law is not specific about condiment dishes such as you described, said Tom Wolf, manager of the county Environmental Health Department. His department inspects markets and restaurants.

The law says dishes in buffet or self-service lines must be "protected," so customer droplets don't contaminate food. It doesn't say anything specific about dishes left on trays delivered to tables, he said.

However, any food served to a customer must be discarded after the customer leaves, said Wolf, who promised to visit the place soon.

It's hard to say if the condiment trays left on side tables are "served" to customers.

QUESTION: There are two very pregnant girls attending De Anza Junior High School in Calexico. Why hasn't the principal removed them from school?

Some students rub the abdomens of the pregnant teens and act as if the pregnancies are of no consequence. We're talking about 14-year-old girls. Another fact is that at least one of the fathers is also a De Anza student.

Allowing those girls to remain in close contact with other students seems to condone a moral lapse. No wonder our young people have a "could care less" attitude. — Shocked, Calexico

The principal may not have a choice about removing the girls' from school, said Robert Moreno, superintendent of schools.

The law requires pregnant teens to go to school in the least-restricted environment, he said. That means they can go to a pregnant minors program or stay in their own school. The choice is up to the girls.

"It's a court-protected right." he said.

THEY'RE EVERYWHERE — It seems to me wherever I go I run into Valley people. Today I called directory assistance for the new telephone number for Central Union High School District.

The assistance operator said, "That's my alma mater! I graduated from Central. My parents still live in El Centro. "

"Where are you," I asked and she replied, "San Diego."

Who was that young woman? Does anybody know? — Curious, El Centro

We don't know but we bet her mom and dad know.

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