I make an effort to keep up to date on what’s happening in the restaurant industry regarding both violations and victories. Today, as I was working my way through the ever-growing reading list that is accumulating on my RSS feed, I encountered an article about some recent restaurant inspections that occurred in New Canaan, Connecticut. Department of Health inspection criteria, rules, and regulations differ, not only between the New England states, but all throughout North America. We have a PFE-Verified restaurant in New York City, with plans to expand further, so I educate myself on what’s happening in every region.
In the article about the Connecticut restaurants, the few businesses that were highlighted fared well during inspection, with the exception of one. (They were shut down for three days until their violations could be corrected.) The comments section was what really caught my attention.
One commenter referenced her background of working in the restaurant industry and alluded to the conditions that she’s witnessed during that time. She posted, “i’ve[sic] worked in the service industry and won’t blab about some of the things i’ve[sic] seen but, ignorance is bliss when you are out to eat.”
Her words gave me a moment’s pause. That sentiment is the perfect example of what I wrote about on Tuesday. She’s the representative of what I witness and hear from so many people: “Ignorance is bliss.” Why are people so content to shut off their minds to reality when they eat at a restaurant? Why don’t we ask the questions of our local restaurant owners? Why do we require so much less of kitchen conditions where a paid meal is prepared than we’d ever tolerate in our own home? [I’m working under the assumption that you don’t have mice running across your counters and roaches burrowing their way into your food containers.]
In 2011, in the state of Rhode Island, the Department of Health had only seven food inspectors responsible for inspecting the 8,000 food establishments that exist statewide. That’s an impossible equation resulting in these commercial spaces being inspected (maybe) every three years. And this isn’t a set of rare circumstances specific to the Ocean State; funding cuts have made this the norm throughout the United States. It’s why we, the general dining public, must get involved and ask for accountability from the restaurant owners. Because, when customers request services, managers and proprietors who care about their client base, respond.
State agencies just do not have the manpower to adequately protect us from food borne diseases. These illnesses cannot be shrugged off as a 24-hour bout of food poisoning; sometimes they are fatal. (I’ll be writing more about that next week.) Eating out should be a positive experience, not some fear-based roll of the dice. PFE-Verified’s goal is to identify the many restaurants and food service establishments that do maintain clean, pest-free conditions and get that information out to the public so that we can all indulge in some confident dining. It seems so easy; doesn’t it?