Saturday, September 01, 2007

Do you really want to know?

I saw yesterday in the online version of our local paper, that they were now providing a direct link to the site that provides information on the health inspctions of restaurants. While this has actually been accessible for some time, to have a direct link from the cyber-newspaper will surely bring this information to the forefront and make people aware that they can find out the report card of their favorite eateries. The Virginia Department of Health makes periodic inspections of any facility with a license to prepare and serve food to the public, including schools, clubhouses, hospitals, universities and even jails. Inspections observe cleanliness, training of staff in food storage and handling, and the storage, handling and preparation of food products and the surfaces they come in contact with.

In Virginia, violations are categorized as critical and non-critical. "Critical Violations: Violations of the Food Regulations, which, if left uncorrected, are more likely than other violations to directly contribute to food contamination, illness, or environmental degradation. Examples of critical violations include poor temperature control of food, improper cooking, cooling, refrigeration or reheating temperatures. Such problems can create environments that cause bacteria to grow and thrive, which puts the consumer at risk for food-borne illness.
Non-Critical Violations: Violations not directly related to the cause of food-borne illness, but if uncorrected, could impede the operation of the restaurant. The likelihood of food-borne illness in these cases is very low. Non-Critical violations, if left uncorrected, could lead to Critical violations. Examples of non-critical violations include a lack of facility cleanliness and maintenance or improper cleaning of equipment and utensils. " Critical violations require an action plan and correction in ten days. Non-critical violations can be corrected sometime in a 90-day period.

Of course, curiosity got the better of me and I had to check some of the restaurants I frequent, and was pleasantly surprised (and relieved!) to see that they currently had no critical violations. In looking at establishments and what constitutes a non-critical violation, I wondered whether I would pass muster in my home kitchen. While my kitchen and work surfaces are clean, do I maintain all foods at the optimum temperature to assure that bacteria cannot grow and minimize spoilage? Do I keep all cleaning products separated from all foods at all times? Are all leftovers disposed of within the time that would make them unsafe to eat. From the current state of my fridge, I am pretty sure I flunk this as would anyone who has anything fuzzy or unidentifiable in their fridge!

What do you think- Do you think your kitchen would pass a health inspection on any given day? And do you check (or plan to check) the inspection records of your favorite eateries... or do you think ignorance is bliss? If you are a beginning cook, or even if you want to reassure yourself that you are handling food safely, check out the USDA site or your own state's department of health for guidelines to ensure safe as well as delicious meals in your home kitchen.

5 comments:

ByTheBay said...

You know, looking this stuff up online is SO eternally tempting to me (esp since I got food poisoning). But I resist the temptation, because I really do think ignorance is bliss when it comes to eating out. I'm kosher, and so at least I have a sense of what's going on in the kitchen at most places I buy food from. But beyond that, I think I'll continue to play "hear no yucky, see no yucky..."

s'kat said...

I've been looking in on the restaurant reports since first hearing about its availability. It's really been quite interesting to see which restaurants fall prey to critical violations, over and over again.

Deborah Dowd said...

bythebay- I see your point,and it is good that keeping kosher also offers some protection in this regard.

Shelley- It did cause me pause after looking at repeat violators, and it stopped me from going to a place I had planned to try until their compliance is a little better!

BC said...

I think this is a great tool and I'd certainly look up restaurants in my area.

Would my kitchen pass? Yes, I'm absolutely paranoid when it comes to handling food, especially meat. However, I never reheat leftovers and nuke the heck out of anything to ensure it is "safe"... and I will eat things with raw eggs. but only if I have prepared them!

Deborah Dowd said...

bc- You should check your state health department, they probably have these results online.