Here are some real Health Inspector stories that may turn your stomach.


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. offers an objective pubic tool for promoting food safety at a grass roots level.

Bruce Kress Registered Sanitarian


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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