Good Eats? Nearly Half of Restaurant Kitchens Have “Critical Violations”

Good Eats? Nearly Half of Restaurant Kitchens Have “Critical Violations”Tasty or terrifying? If you’re eating in Delaware, there’s a 46 percent chance that you’ve ended up in a restaurant with at least one “critical violation,” according to Delmarva Now. These violations include everything from cutting boards kept on the floor to food stored at unsafe temperatures and dishwashers run without sanitizer. The state is now introducing new regulations to combat these issues, but what’s the real danger for diners?

Nearly half of all illness outbreaks in the U.S. stemming from food handling practice come from restaurants. Most are minor in nature, but there are outliers: In the UK, for example, the manager of an up-scale market restaurant was accidentally served beer line cleaner instead of sparkling water. The result? Serious internal burns and a trip to the ICU.

How could something like this happen? According to the The Evening Times, the restaurant occasionally borrowed beer line cleaner from another business in the area—and transported it using sparkling water bottles. On May 17, 2008, manager Mike Astor was served using a bottle that contained a “clear liquid”, ostensibly water.

It was not.

Details are short on exactly how the thrown-out bottle was reused but the restaurant was extraordinarily lucky that an employee, not a customer, got the receiving end of a beer line cleaner beverage. The incident raises a critical point, however: restaurants of any kind—from fast food to fancy—may not be as clean as they appear, or as careful as necessary.

Solving the Problem

In Delaware, the current approach to handling food violations is collaborative. Restaurants are rarely fined—instead, health inspectors work with local businesses to correct issues and improve their safety practices. Unfortunately, education and encouragement about drain cleaning, food handling, and surface sanitization only goes so far.

As of next year, the state will require at least one food-safety trained manager to be onsite at all times. The hope is to stem problems at the source—if managers have proper knowledge they’ll be able to proactively correct any issues.

On a large scale, this approach to commercial kitchen cleanliness makes sense and education and encouragement from state authorities can have a positive impact. But since inspectors can’t always be on-site—even for high-risk offenders—the result is slapdash correction and enforcement.

Ideally, a combination of mandated training and improved cleaning methods should help Delaware restaurants enhance food safety without breaking the bank, and that’s a satisfying result for diners everywhere.

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