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8 Questions Every Restaurant Owner Needs To Ask




For all the “scary” restaurants out there, there are many terrific, wholly responsible dining establishments, as well.  We already have several listed in the PFE database and will be adding more, shortly.  (One of the benefits of PFE membership is staunch support and recognition of our registered restaurants.)  There’s also another community of culinary business owners who are progressing into the territory of “doing better.”

There are many tactics, easily implemented, that can help in the fight against vermin, pest, rodent, and insect infiltration in restaurant kitchens everywhere.  Pests pick up, track, and deposit germs and bacteria everywhere.  They are a source of many food borne illnesses, a scourge that is on the rise according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No matter the level of diligence, there’s always room for improvement.  Here are just a few questions that every food service business should be asking as they review conditions at their facility.  Monthly pest control services coupled with a PFE verification to alert the public that they are a safe, “dine with peace of mind” choice are positive components in the “big picture” of any restaurant’s profile. __________________________________________________________________________________

8.  Are food products ingredients such as flour, sugar, corn starch and salt being stored in sealed containers?

7.  How often do we wash garbage cans and do we use liners in our cans?  Garbage cans are a haven for germs, bacteria, rodent, pest, and insect infestation.

6.  How does the exterior of the building look?  A rat can access the interior through an opening the size of a quarter.  Cockroaches slip in through cracks that are only 1/16th of an inch.

5.  Do I have #16 mesh window screens with intact weather stripping installed in every window?

4.  Are doors, loading docks, or other points of entry being left open? Door sweeps and automatic doors may be part of the solution.

3.  Are the exterior lights attracting more insects and pests for us to contend with?

2.  Does a licensed exterminator provide services to our establishment?  How often? (Monthly treatment is necessary to keep vermin and pest infiltration at bay.)

 And the number ONE question that responsible restaurant owners should be asking themselves…

1.  Are we a PFE-verified restaurant?  And, if not, why?


Posted in: food safety, food safety, restaurant owners, Uncategorized

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The Numbers Are In: They’ll Make You Sick



The numbers are in and it’s a good news-bad news situation.  Let’s focus on the positive first:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the numbers last week and meat-related foodborne illnesses have decreased since they started paying close attention to what was happening in relation to these sicknesses caused by our food, in the mid-nineties.  That’s good news.  Unfortunately, when looking at Salmonella and other new bacteria that are making their way onto the scene, the big picture of food poisoning isn’t looking as bright :  Overall, food poisoning cases are on the rise.


Salmonella poisoning, a dangerous bacteria that many of us are familiar with, is the most popular cause of food poisoning, accounting for 40% of all reported cases.  Last year, there were 7,800 reports, 33 deaths, with an estimated 200,000 unreported cases.  The existence of salmonella in restaurant kitchens can be the result of uncooked or undercooked meat, and the bacteria is also—yep, you guessed it—carried and transmitted by rodents.  It’s one of the reasons why that monthly pest-control service is so critical for commercial food establishments; vermin cannot be traipsing across food or food storage and prep areas.


Campylobacter is another bacteria that has made a surge in recent years.  Also contracted by uncooked or undercooked meat and able to be transmitted by animals, 35% of reported food poisoning cases are now being blamed on this scourge; the CDC claims that six of the 7,000 cases reported in 2012 resulted in death.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 25 to 30 unreported food poisoning events for every one that is recorded.


The way the stats look, the CDC believes that, every year, 48 million people in the United States (that’s one out of every six people) actually suffers food poisoning due to contamination.  Out of those millions of people, approximately 3,000 die from the infection each year.


Congress has been working with the FDA over the past couple of years to reduce foodborne illnesses at the manufacturing and farming stage.  That’s a positive initiative that will hopefully decrease these numbers somewhat.  What Congress can’t control is the handling of food and the environment of the food once it reaches its destination.  That’s where the public must be a catalyst for change.


In so many states, due to budget cutbacks and lack of funds, restaurant kitchens and other food service establishments are only inspected once every three to five years.  It’s just the reality of the situation, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t solutions.  We can ask the restaurants to provide visibility on their conditions; no one wants a brutal dose of Salmonella or Campylobacter poisoning!  We must ask the questions; it really has become a life or death matter.

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Welcome to the 21st Century. We Know Better.



Often, people don’t realize it, or perhaps they just don’t think about it, but there is such a trust relationship between dining patron and restauranteurs.  Though none of us can live our entire lives based in fear, we also have to be logical and mindful of valid threats and risks; food-related illnesses are so much more common than people know.  Many times, that food poisoning or “stomach bug” is a mild food-borne illness exposure, often a result of pest contamination in restaurants and other food-service establishments.

This week, another story of betrayal to the public hit the newsstands.  In East Rutherford, New Jersey, a buffet restaurant that has been shut down and fined twice in the four months they’ve been in business, was again found in violation of more basic health code requirements.  This time, for some reason, they are allowed to remain open on a “conditional” basis.

Their second closing, which occurred in March of 2013 (the first closing happened on their second day of business), was prompted upon a litany of horrifying violations including improper food temperature storage and food handling, sourcing food from unhealthy places, and the discovery of birds scavenging in food storage areas.  Despite that, it’s still one of the most popular restaurants around.  People line up at the door and around the corner, waiting to get into this place.  A “regular” shared his thoughts on the restaurant’s recent woes. “I’d go back. [The violations] don’t bother me. When I was in the Army during World War II, we fed 200 men with 10 mess kits, dipped our utensils in the same containers, and we didn’t get sick.”

It’s that ignorance-is-bliss mindset that is so concerning.  Sharing food with soldiers isn’t comparable to sharing food with birds.  There’s a vast difference between catching a common cold and catching  Seagulls carry all sorts of bacteria and highly antibiotic-resistant superbugs.  It’s 2013; we do things better now because we know better now.  We put our children in carseats, we wear bike helmets, and we don’t share common food containers and utensils amongst 200 people if we can help it.  We certainly cannot share our food with birds and expect to stay healthy.

So, what’s the big picture here?  Should you trust a restaurant with multiple closings and repeated violations?  That’s for you to decide, but there are so many businesses that honor that relationship of patron-service provider trust.  (That’s where I choose to spend my dining dollars.)  We have some listed on our PFE-Verified database and we are in talks with more restaurants that we hope to be adding very soon!  Learning about the threats that exist in some restaurant kitchens isn’t here to create shock value; the goal is always education.  Knowledge is power.  Connect with restaurants that honor their customer base and recognize the great responsibility they have to their customers’ health.  We can ask our favorite restaurants the question:  Do you have an exterminator spray your kitchen every month?  Are you willing to get listed on PFE’s database?  It’s a way that you can have peace of mind and your favorite eatery can have more visibility and recognition for all that they do right to protect you and your family.

POSTSCRIPT:  Today, April 23rd, we are launching a giveaway for a $50 gift certificate to PFE-Verified La Masseria, East Greenwich, RI.  You must be a Rhode Island resident to win this one.  Here’s the link to enter.  Good luck!!!

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