Lake Stevens Journal - Your hometown newspaper since 1960

 

By Pam Stevens
Managing Editor 

State, county should adopt restaurant inspection policies not unlike New York City

 

February 12, 2013



Nobody wants to think about what goes on in the thousands of restaurant kitchens in the state of Washington and we all hope that our food is being monitored and is safe for consumption. We also hope that local health inspectors and laws are willing to do something about it.

After hearing KIRO 7’s report last week regarding the top 10 dirtiest restaurants in Seattle, I was not hopeful that restaurants here are really being well monitored. It seems that several of these restaurants have had hundreds of points in violations and nothing seems to get done to fix them. There were even two restaurants that were shut down and then reopened within 24 hours.

On a trip to New York City last spring my family noticed that eating establishments had these large signs near the front that posted a letter. Most of them were As but we did see a few Bs.

After asking my cousin and her boyfriend, who both live there, what these were, we found out that each of the 24,000 restaurants in the city is given a rating by health inspectors. The ratings include an A, B or C rating — A being the best.

Every food truck, food cart and restaurant has this rating. Even if a grocery store offers fresh made food like smoothies or sandwiches, they have this rating as well.

The New York City Health Department started this system in July of 2010 and it has been a blessing to consumers, helping them make wise choices when it comes to eating out.

Their website states, “A restaurant’s score depends on how well it follows City and State food safety requirements. Inspectors check for food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene, facility and equipment maintenance and vermin control. Each violation earns a certain number of points. At the end of the inspection, the inspector totals the points and this number is the restaurant’s inspection score; the lower the score, the better.”

Basically, when you walked past a restaurant with a B rating, you usually didn’t see anyone in there. This would make it imperative for the business owner to get his restaurant up to par so that they can get that A rating and start making money again.

This seems so logical. Why don’t we do this here in Washington? What are we paying our health inspectors for if they don’t shut these dirty restaurants down?

By keeping their doors open inspectors are risking our lives and it seems that if the restaurant owner’s livelihoods aren’t being affected, then many of them have no reason to change the way they do business, especially small shops who really have nothing to take in the event a customer ends up suing them.

When it was found that Jack in the Box was poisoning their customers with E.coli back in 1993, the giant food chain had to “fix” the problem and pay out millions of dollars to those who were affected. They had a lot to lose and a lot more money than these little mom and pop shops.

The top 10 dirtiest Seattle restaurants in KIRO’s report were all small shops.

I would like to see those A, B and C ratings pop up all over the state and know that our health inspectors are not only doing their jobs but that restaurant owners are as well.

 

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