A well-known restaurant in a large metropolitan city had a recurring mouse infestation, which had been identified and a health inspector had written orders to the owner to eliminate the rodents. The premise was re-inspected and a wait staff employee was observed taking a soup cup, which had mouse droppings in it, emptying the droppings onto a floor and using that same cup, filling it with soup, to serve to a customer. The Inspector stopped the soup from being served to the customer, immediately closed the restaurant for non-compliance to previous orders. The news of the restaurant’s closure made the newspaper. The restaurant re-opened after it complied with the written orders, but closed permanently a few weeks later, because the general public lost confidence in the establishment.
At a medium sized family restaurant, the health inspector observed a food preparation employee reusing lettuce and tomato, from a previous customer’s plate, for a new food order. This same restaurant was scraping off customer’s uneaten food (such as vegetables, beef, chicken, bones) and saving it to be used in the preparation of soups for the next day.
On a Monday morning, the health inspector received a call, from a local school district official, that approximately 60 of students became ill during a dance over the weekend. The students were experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. The school official suspected that the students had gotten sick after eating something they had been served by the school cafeteria on Friday. The inspector interviewed some of the students who had become ill and took a food history from them. Some of the students who had become ill had not eaten food from the cafeteria. Vomit and stool samples were taken to be analyzed. The inspector ordered that all of the lockers, doorknobs, desks, tables, and bathrooms be sanitized, twice a day, until lab reports returned. Further on site inspections at the school found that in many of the bathrooms, faucet handles were missing, preventing students from washing their hands after using the restroom. The lab report confirmed the Norovirus and the school district were ordered to replace the missing faucet handles.
The government health inspector shoulders considerable but not exclusive responsibility for ensuring food safety. With variability in food safety standards, infrequency of inspections and limited governmental funding, the public can assume an increasing role as the eyes and offer a voice in demanding food safety excellence. DiningGrades.com offers an objective pubic tool for promoting food safety at a grass roots level.
Bruce Kress Registered Sanitarian