Saturday, July 5, 2014

Where Are You Eating and Why?

Do you like to eat out on a regular or infrequent basis? Are there special places you really enjoy and you look forward to going there again? We all have places like that and TV shows just whet our appetite to try new, inviting eating emporiums. But all may not be OK in the culinary domains we frequent.

Ever walk around and notice those signs with the "letter grades" like A, B, C in the windows of restaurants? Sure you know what they stand for or doesn't your town have them? Ok, if your town doesn't have your local health department inspecting restaurants and issuing letter grades, perhaps you should be asking them why that's not happening. For all you know, you're eating someplace that looks nice in the dining room but it's another thing all together in the kitchen area. You really might not want to eat there anymore in a worst case scenario.

I have a friend who reads the local news on a regular basis and one section she is particularly attuned to is the restaurant health ratings. Quite often, it's shocking to see local places receiving "unsatisfactory" or "conditional on re-inspection" or some other designation. But the piece of information that I really want isn't provided by these rather vague words.  I want to know the reason the place got that rating. 

Did they have water temperature for the dishwashing machine that didn't meet the standard? Was the food kept up off the floor and in a sanitary area? What about the walk-in frig, was it in the condition expected by the health department?

Did the employees change their gloves when serving food and taking money at the register? Did they wash their hands and was their a sign reminding them to do so? Were cooked and raw meats kept in separate areas away from each other? Were outdated products being used? I don't know all the specifics because I'm not a health inspector but I'd sure like to know why people receive those unsatisfactory grades. Wouldn't you? Ah, the psychology behind keeping us in the dark.

Are we not entitled to know what's happening in a place where we put our health at risk? Do you realize how dangerous a wooden chopping block can be or a knife that has been used to cut poultry and then other foods? What about a prep board where they make sandwiches and lay the bread down before they top it with sandwich fixings?

I'm sure you have lots of questions, especially if you've read a recent report about how long toxic bacteria can live on surfaces like serving trays, arm rests and even seat backs. How do they clean the tables? Is it just a quick squirt and a swipe before the next patrons sit down? I know you can't use Clorox, but that would be best. So, do they have something just as effective but without the unpleasant, overpowering smell?

Next time it comes to mind, take a peek at your town's Internet site and see what your health department is doing in terms of food inspections and restaurant. It's information you really should be given, but if they don't, no harm in asking for it. Right?