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Behind the Kitchen Door: Mall food court subject to same inspections as restaurants

Matthew Sanders


Holiday shopping season is in full swing, which means many people will make their way to the Columbia Mall and work up an appetite.

ABC 17 News looked at five years worth of inspection data from food establishments currently located in the Columbia Mall.

Kala Tomka, public health supervisor with the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, said the inspections completed at the Columbia Mall's food court are the same as those done at any other restaurant in the county.

"They’re inspected off the same food code, our inspectors look for similar things," Tomka said. "It's a restaurant just like any other brick and mortar restaurant, they just share walls in between, so there really aren’t any differences in the inspection process.”

However, unlike a "common" restaurant, the food court's dining area is not inspected on paper because it is the mall's responsibility.

“Typically a dining area is tied to a food service establishment, but it’s not like one place has five tables and they’re assigned that number of tables… so that’s all taken care of by the mall staff and if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed then we would work with management and mall staff to get that corrected," she said.

Tomka said her department works closely with Columbia Mall's general manager, Rusty Strodtman, when an issue arises.

"Columbia Mall is proud to partner with a nationally recognized housekeeping vendor that provides around-the-clock service of the Café Court common areas," Strodtman wrote in an email.

However, not all food places inside the Columbia Mall have inspections that go back five years. Below is a list of eateries inspected in 2019 and their number of health code violations:

  • Auntie Anne's: 5
  • D'Ice: 4
  • Stir Fry 88: 4
  • Charley's Philly Steaks: 3
  • Barnes & Noble Cafe: 2
  • Panera Bread Company: 2
  • Subway: 2
  • Falafel Cafe: 1
  • Taco John's: 0
  • Great American Cookies: 0
  • Dairy Queen/Orange Julius: 0
  • Starbucks (inside Target): 0
  • Candy City: 0

ABC 17 News also dug through inspections dated from Dec 6. 2014 to Dec. 6 2019. The results are as follows:

Taco John's

Inspections found five critical violations and zero non-critical violations during 10 inspections.

  • 11/15/18: Employees eating.
  • 8/21/18: Test strips missing to check sanitizer.
  • 4/10/18: Missing date label on diced tomatoes, ground and diced beef.
  • 12/18/17: Missing paper towels at two sinks.

Great American Cookies

Inspectors found eight critical violations and seven non-critical violations during 11 inspections.

  • 5/10/16: Spray bottle is not labeled, missing test kit for sanitizer.
  • 10/19/15: Missing sanitizer.
  • 5/26/15: Employee not washing their hands before glove use, milk jug stored with ice used for drinks, hand sink removed from storage area, water leaking out of ice machine on floor and glass cleaner stored over food.


Inspectors found four critical violations and zero non-critical violations during three inspections.

  • 9/24/19: Bottles stored in hand sink and test kit for sanitizer were missing.
  • 3/26/19: Test kit for sanitizer was missing and handwashing sink was used for purposes other than hand washing.

Falafel Cafe

Inspectors found seven critical violations and six non-critical violations during nine inspections.

  • 6/24/19: Raw chicken-covered container stored on a shelf above chickpea container. Both on separate shelves, but stored above one another. 
  • 9/25/18: Raw chicken is stored above ready-to-eat pitas in cooler.
  • 1/25/18: Handwashing sink without soap and rice, diced tomatoes and cooked chicken were held above 41 degrees.
  • 9/22/17: Febreeze used to mask sewer backup smell. The inspection report at the time said the sewer line has been fixed. An unlabeled spray bottle found and rice were sitting out at room temperature.

Auntie Anne's

Inspectors found seven critical violations and 10 non-critical violations during 14 inspections.

  • 10/3/19: Missing paper towels at a sink.
  • 4/17/19: Weak concentration.
  • 2/11/19: Weak sanitization, missing air gap, establishment was using plastic cups to drain pipes and an employee was not washing their hands between sweeping floors and preparing food. The inspection report said this employee was corrected during the inspection.
  • 11/2/16: Cracked ice container.
  • 5/2/16: Dirty spray bottle.

Dairy Queen/Orange Julius

Inspectors found 18 critical violations and 17 non-critical violations during 19 inspections.

  • 10/19/18: Ice cream scoop was not washed every four hours, utensils/spatulas are chipped and not smooth or easily cleanable.
  • 3/15/18: Sanitizer concentration too low.
  • 10/2/17: Food did not have a date on it.
  • 5/8/17: Thermometer in a cooler was broken.
  • 2/9/17: Strawberries were not covered in a cooler, sanitizer was not strong enough, dirty vent and pipes in a cooler, the inspection report showed there was a "potential for food to be contaminated," dirty fan on ice cream machine, the inspection report also said a cover was bent, which allowed food inside.
  • 12/28/16: Two broken and cracked food warmers.
  • 2/23/16: Missing soap at a handwashing sink and missing sanitizer in a sanitizer bucket.
  • 12/14/15: Sanitizer bucket not at the proper sanitization level.
  • 10/7/15: Sanitizer not at the proper sanitization level, a can opener was stored improperly, which exposed it to contaminants, and dirty and contaminated food contact surfaces were stored away as clean.

Barnes and Noble Cafe

Inspectors found six critical violations and five non-critical violations during 15 inspections.

  • 7/12/19: Slime mold found in the ice machine.
  • 3/29/19: A handwashing sink was broken at the time of the inspection.
  • 12/4/18: Slime mold found in the ice machine.
  • 2/19/18: Missing paper towels at a handwashing sink.
  • 12/8/16: Handwashing sink was not easily accessible.
  • 8/11/16: Sanitizer was not at the correct level.

Starbucks (located inside Target)

Inspectors found one critical violation and one non-critical violation during six inspections.

  • 10/24/18: The inspection note said the critical violation was corrected on-site and the inspector discussed "food handlers cards for all new food employees, heat sanitation used in dish machine reaches correct temperature with use of heat stickers to verify, discussed hand towels being present at all handwashing stations."

Panera Bread Co.

Inspectors found 11 critical violations and 16 non-critical violations during 16 inspections.

  • 10/28/19: Dish machine was not sanitizing.
  • 4/3/19: One of the ice machine dispensers was soiled with mold.
  • 9/25/18: The inspection note said, "bacon that has been cooked and ready to eat is being stored at room temperature and disposed at the end of the day and the first hand sink when walking into kitchen is being used for dumping drinks."
  • 1/23/18: Salad mix in the salad crisper was not at the proper temperature.
  • 1/18/18: Salad mix in the salad crisper was not at the proper temperature.
  • 9/8/16: Sanitizer too low in the dish machine.
  • 6/27/16: Dirty cutting board and utensil storage bins.
  • 1/4/16: Employee food was found over sandwich coasters.
  • 10/1/15: Unlabeled spray bottle.

Charley's Philly Steaks

Inspectors found 23 critical violations and 16 non-critical violations during 26 inspections.

  • 9/24/19: Ready-to-eat potentially hazardous food was not labeled with a date.
  • 7/12/19: Sewage/liquid was overflowing in multiple places in the establishment. Drain, tile and flooring were repaired, the inspection note said this issue was fixed in August.
  • 3/5/19: Ready-to-eat foods were not labeled with a date.
  • 8/14/18: Items in the sandwich topping cooler were above the proper temperature and water from the cooler was dripping onto uncovered lettuce in a cooler.
  • 1/4/18: Soda dumped in a handwashing sink.
  • 7/18/16: Food had to be thrown away after it was discovered that the cooler was not storing food at the proper temperature, employee was not washing their hands before glove use, missing soap at a handwashing sink, handwashing sink was blocked with dirty dishes and employee drinks were stored over food
  • 2/9/16: Employee drinks and food were stored improperly and the sanitizer was too strong.
  • 10/13/15: Spray bottle was not labeled and the sanitizer was not at the correct level.
  • 7/27/15: Employee was not changing gloves and washing their hands after handling raw meat, cheese and other products were not at the correct temperature, missing test kit for sanitizer.
  • 3/27/15: Sanitizer was too strong and employees were not washing their hands before glove use.
  • 12/31/14: Dirty ice scoop, ice machine door and a handwashing sink was improperly used to store a dirty bucket.

Stir Fry 88

Inspectors found 27 critical violations and 10 non-critical violations during 26 inspections.

  • 11/12/19: Front handwashing sink improperly used to rinse off trays and employee drinks were improperly stored on food preparation surfaces.
  • 8/5/19: Employee drink improperly sitting on a shelf above cooked chicken and a tray was found improperly put in a handwashing sink.
  • 11/5/18: Raw chicken stored over ready-to-eat foods, foods stored in a non-food grade plastic bag and dishes were improperly being washed with soapy water as a last step.
  • 8/21/18: Aloe vera stored on a shelf with spices, cracked and damaged containers, mold growing in an ice machine, dishes were not being washed, rinsed and sanitized in between uses and test strips to check the sanitizer were missing. 
  • 4/10/18: Water cups were found sitting in ice used for drinks.
  • 12/18/17: Mold growing inside an ice machine.
  • 8/30/17: No paper towels at a handwashing sink in the kitchen, no bleach in the establishment to sanitize dishes or food contact surfaces and cooked chicken was improperly stored in a shopping bag.
  • 3/20/17: Violations given for issues with potentially hazardous food and food temperature violations.
  • 11/28/16: Sanitizer concentration was too strong, no test strips and chemical bottle was not labeled.
  • 7/27/16: Cooked chicken was improperly sat out to cool for 15 minutes before being placed in walk-in cooler, no test kit for sanitizer, no sanitize step for washing dishes, hand sink was not easily accessible and paper towels were missing at a handwashing sink.
  • 7/14/15: Dirty sink.

Candy City

Inspectors found one critical violation and one non-critical violation during 26 inspections.

  • 10/16/18: Missing test strips


Inspectors found 14 critical violations and 30 non-critical violations during 17 inspections.

  • 6/10/19: Weak concentration in a sanitizing bucket.
  • 2/11/19: Missing soap at a handwashing sink.
  • 7/11/18: Employees' food and drinks were improperly stored on a food preparation table and the sanitizing bucket was weak.
  • 3/9/18: Employees' drinks were improperly stored on a food preparation table.
  • 11/6/17: Torn bread nets used for baking.
  • 7/13/17: Cracked ice bucket and handwashing sink was used for purposes other than hand washing.
  • 2/13/17: Sanitizer weak and dirty air vents in the food preparation area
  • 12/7/16: Handwashing sink used for other purposes than handwashing and dirty mesh bread holders.
  • 8/3/16: Spray bottle not labeled
  • 7/27/15: Spray bottle missing a label and hanging over the food preparation area.
Article Topic Follows: Behind the Kitchen Door
columbia mall
health department
health inspections

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Zara Barker

Zara Barker is an anchor and investigative reporter for ABC 17 News. She anchors the Breaking News Desk during the morning newscast and anchors the 9 a.m. broadcast.


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