An El Campo eatery was forced to close Monday after health inspectors found large quantities of expired food products being used to serve customers.

The Jack In The Box at 1721 S. Mechanic reopened less than 24 hours later with new food items. The restaurant will still have to undergo a surprise health inspection to receive a rating. That could happen anytime between Monday and the next three months.

No warning is given by the El Campo Inspections Department. The whole point is to see how a business routinely serves food to customers.

“They were shut down, but it wasn’t because of cleanliness. The food was all out of date,” City Building Official Liz Staff said Wednesday. “It’s clean, but you can’t serve that (outdated food items) to the public.”

Hamburger buns, cheese and sauce packages were among the items immediately thrown into the trash by inspectors.

Brown lettuce, for example, was obviously bad. The freshness of other items – meat, for example – was unknown.

“We made them throw it out,” Staff said, adding that all items were ripped from packaging first and mixed with other materials to ensure it was irretrievable.

“I have to give them credit. They threw away everything,” Staff said.

Jack In The Box officials could not be reached for comment as of press time.

The department was acting on a complaint in this case, but also inspects routinely to ensure the public can safely enjoy their meals.

Each eatery in El Campo must have a posted inspections rating, graded on an A to F scale which was made more stringent last month.

The new system set an “A” at 94 and up (green placard to be displayed), a “B” at 93 to 87 (yellow placard), a “C” at 80 to 86 (Orange), a “D” at 73 to 79 (red) and an “F” at 72 and below (black).

Immediately after an inspection is complete, the establishment must post the new grade.

The most common violations are “slime in the ice machine,” the once battle cry of the now late Houston television personality Marvin Zindler, and leaving food products on the floors (bags of potatoes, for example).

To report an concern with a restaurant, contact the city Inspections Department at 541-5020.

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