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!!!