When you eat in your own kitchen, you know it’s clean. You know that your food was stored in your refrigerator and that you’ve cooked it to the right temperature. You know that you’ve washed your fruits and veggies thoroughly to get rid of dirt and chemicals. You know that your dishes are clean. When you eat at a restaurant, however, you don’t have that same confidence. You can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes in the kitchen. That’s where restaurant inspections come in – and now you can check them online.
What Is A Restaurant Inspection?
Restaurants that don’t take the proper food safety precautions put all of their diners at risk. That’s why there are laws at both the federal and state level to enforce food safety standards and make sure that you can trust the restaurants you visit.
Health inspectors visit restaurants, grocery stores, school cafeterias, and other establishments that provide food to the public anywhere from 1-4 times every year. They come unannounced so that they get an accurate picture of the day-to-day state of the restaurant. They look for 2 different types of violations: critical and non-critical.
Critical violations are those that pose a particularly serious threat to health and human safety. These may include use of contaminated food or equipment, failing to cook food to a safe temperature, or failing to store food at a safe temperature, for example.
Non-critical violations are problematic but not immediately dangerous. They may include failure to wear a hair net or dirty floors, for example. This type of violation is usually fixed while the health inspector is still on site.
Restaurant Inspection Consequences
If a restaurant inspection turns up only minor, non-critical violations, those issues are usually addressed on the spot and business can continue as usual. In fact, most restaurants have at least a few non-critical violations at any given time – the kitchen is a busy place and sometimes things slip.
If there are critical violations, the restaurant will need to begin addressing them immediately but the health inspector will generally return for extra visits to ensure that the unsafe conditions or behaviors have ended.
In very extreme conditions, a health inspector might close down the restaurant immediately. This is reserved for the most serious cases, where the conditions pose an immediate risk to the public health. For example, a health inspector may shut down an operation that was the source of an outbreak of food-borne illness until the restaurant can find and eliminate whatever was making people sick. Sometimes that’s easier said than done – you’ve probably seen the reports about Chipotle struggling to find the source of the E. coli and norovirus that has been making its customers sick all over the country.
If restaurants continually fail to maintain food safety standards, they may even be shut down for good.
Keeping Tabs On Your Favorite Restaurants
In some places, restaurants are assigned a letter grade after a restaurant inspection and are required to post it prominently so that customers can easily see it. That’s not the case in Ohio – restaurants don’t have to publicize their food safety successes and failures. However, a recently-enacted program in Montgomery county gives consumers access to the restaurant inspection reports of all the food service organizations in the county.
The Public Health agency for Dayton and Montgomery County now posts all inspection reports online. You can search their database by restaurant name or address. You can also check reports that are up to 2 years old. Sometimes that gives you a better sense of the food safety of a given establishment – an inspection is a snapshot of a particular day but you can get a sense of their overall cleanliness by seeing how they’ve measured up over time.
These reports will include information about what the inspector looked at – the food storage and prep areas, the cooking areas, and more. It will also include any violations found and any recommendations and observations the inspector made. For example, you may see a note that the inspector saw employees failing to wash their hands when switching between tasks or that a sink is leaking and needs new plumbing. You can then look at the followup inspections to see if the restaurant has taken care of the problems.
What If You’ve Gotten Sick At A Restaurant?
There are few things more unpleasant than food poisoning. If you’ve gotten sick after a meal, there are a couple of things you can do. First, you may want to call the restaurant to alert them to a potential problem so they can do their best to prevent other customers from getting sick. In any event, you should call Public Health at (937) 225-4460 so they can inspect the restaurant and make sure the source of the problem is found and taken care of.
If you have food poisoning or have contracted a foodborne illness, you may be entitled to compensation from the restaurant. These types of cases are complicated, but you may want to speak to an experienced local attorney about your options.
If you’re visiting a restaurant and see an obvious problem – like a dog in the kitchen or a chef using the same cutting board for raw meat and vegetables – you can report it to Public Health so they can send an inspector and make sure the establishment gets up to code.
Eat Well And Stay Safe!
We love to eat at our favorite local restaurants and we know that they’re working hard to keep us safe (and full!). However, food service simply provides a lot of opportunities for dangers to your health. Go online and check out the restaurant inspection reports for your favorite spots to make sure that the food you and your family get is safe as well as delicious.
Prior to forming Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz, Doug worked as a bodily injury claims adjuster for a large insurance company. This unique experience has been a tremendous asset to Doug in his fight to achieve maximum cash settlements for his clients in minimum time. Since departing from the insurance company, Doug has dedicated his entire legal career to helping injured clients when they need it the most.