Food Safety and Violations at Restaurants

Never before has so much free information been available for quick and easy access, or can one person's voice and opinion make such a difference. This applies especially to consumers looking for best buys, best products, best quality, etc., and no less to dining and food market choices.

Most Environmental Health Food Inspection programs (the government agency responsible for inspecting and enforcing health and safety laws in food facilities) in larger cities and counties in the U.S. now make available the latest inspection results online on their websites including scores, grades, violations, closure details, etc. This and other public displays, grades and postings works out to the benefit of everyone involved. It allows customers to be able to make educated choices, and it gives positive incentives for the businesses to maintain a high level of food safety and sanitation standards since they can very likely loose business otherwise.

Even individuals, who have on their own created websites, blogs, etc., critiquing local restaurants, have not only developed a following, but have caught the attention of the restaurants. These restaurants are now more than ever listening to (or reading) these public comments, taking them seriously and making efforts to fix or change the negatives publicized about them.

Although many of these comments may be more customer service or food quality related, there are some good food safety and sanitation comments that you can pick up as well. Besides such internet giants as Yahoo and AOL that provide forums to search, make comments and see information on local establishments, there are numerous other websites you can find by just typing in your city and the words restaurant or food critic into any search engine.

Here are few other sources that most of the public does not know about:

--In California, it is now the law that the food facility must make the most recent inspection report available upon your request for viewing only, not a copy to take home. If you are outside of California, get on the web or the phone and search for your local Environmental Health Food Inspection program to ask them about this type of requirement in your neighborhood.

--The inspection report must be the most recent. All facilities should be inspected at least once a year and most are inspected more often. Be suspicious if the report is more than a year old.

--The inspection reports of all food facilities are public record, so even if is not available at the facility, you can always request a copy from your local Environmental Health Food Inspection program for a small copy and retrieval fee.

--Familiarize yourself with the structure and way the food inspection report is used by your local program. Below the identifying header information showing the business name and address, there is usually a check box section and then a corresponding narrative area to further detail the inspector's observations and corrective actions required. The report may very likely be grouped with the more severe or high-risk violations together, with the moderate and minor violations following. Look for a score and the date of inspection and compliance date. Once you become familiar with the report, you can more quickly identify problem violations and scan the report when requesting to view it from the restaurant, market, etc.

I recently asked to see the inspection report when I first stepped into a popular restaurant. While looking at the copy, I immediately was able to see something wrong. Being very familiar with the report allowed me to realize that pages were missing. When the restaurant couldn't find those pages, I advised them that they were in violation by misleading the public. I subsequently reported the restaurant to the local environmental health office to investigate further

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About The Author, Michael Doom
Mr. Doom has worked as a Environmental Health Specialist for more than 20 years. He has conducted thousands of inspections and educated more than a thousand, food facility owners, managers and employees on food sanitation and safety. To learn more visit