The other day my wife and I stopped at a locally popular sports restaurant for a meal. We ordered a nacho appetizer, Cokes and a specialty hamburger. When our hamburgers arrived they both tasted like the meat was spoiled. We called the waitress over and informed her and she commented, “Sorry about that” then asked if we wanted another burger. When I replied we did not want another one made with rotten meat, she asked if we wanted something else. We felt that if the hamburger meat was spoiled then there was a good chance the other food was probably not good either and asked for the check for our nachos and Cokes. I was somewhat surprised when we were actually presented with a bill; in most restaurants the manager would have been summoned and tried to make things right and we would have not charged for anything.
Restaurants are inspected and their reports are on file. The goal of the inspections are to reduce the number of food-borne illnesses. In most counties in the US, public health inspectors have a responsibility to inspect all food premises. Inspections are generally surprise visits where they conduct the following types of inspections:
1) Routine compliance inspections: An inspection to ensure the food premises is following health regulations
2) Follow-up inspections to ensure that required corrections have been made.
3) Complaint inspection: If someone complains about a food premises an inspection will be made.
4) Outbreak investigation: An inspection is done because an illness has been linked to the food premises.
The number of routine inspections in a year depends on the risk rating (high, moderate, or low) given to a food premises by their public health inspector. The minimum number of inspections is:
High risk premises: Not less then once every four months
Moderate risk premises: Not less then once every six months
Low risk premises: Not less then once every 12 months
Some of the things that are used to decide the risk rating are:
Types of food prepared and sold
How food is prepared
Food safety management program in place
Food safety knowledge of staff
Type of patrons (e.g., hospital, restaurant, nursing home)
Past and current compliance record of the food premises
You can go on line to your county's health department and in most cases all restaurant inspections will be available online. In a few cases though, they will have to be requested. In my county all inspections are available online.
Here are some of the violations I found for places where we eat occasionally. Some are minor, some not.
* Person in charge was unable to demonstrate proper knowledge of food safety.
* Ammonium sanitizing solution did not meet the minimum requirements for concentration.
* Soiled equipment food contact surfaces and utensils were not effectively cleaned.
* Interior of the ice machine to be heavily soiled.
* Ice being used for food after it was used as a coolant
Liquid and powdered cleaners stored in a cabinet above boxes of food ingredients.
* Foods were not being held at the proper temperature.
* Food-contact surfaces or utensils are dirty.
* Food on display was not properly protected from contamination by consumers
* Food that had been date marked was not properly discarded when required.
* Soda nozzle was observed to have mold growth.
It might not be a bad idea to check out the places you eat.