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via The Patriot Ledger Dining RSS by Nancy Reardon on 9/29/08
Raw meat lying on top of breads, moldy refrigerators, dirty cutting boards, leaking kitchen ceilings and back doors that don’t close, welcoming rodents. These are some of the health code violations found at
That’s because it’s not easy to get your hands on health inspection reports, and it is even harder to get them quickly.
After calling and visiting six local health departments, The Patriot Ledger found it can take up to several days to find out whether a local restaurant is sanitary or not.
And, once obtained, many of those handwritten reports are barely legible, covered in abbreviated notes and cross-outs.
Help is on the way in the form of a new state database of restaurant inspections, but it will take three years to make it fully operational, said Suzanne Condon, director of food safety in the state Office of Environmental Health.
The actual inspection reports include a one-page checklist that say whether surfaces and equipment are clean, the food is fresh and employees follow proper hygiene practices. A second page provides descriptions of each violation and whether it was corrected.
In larger cities like
But on the
Most communities have only one or two full-time inspectors. Even
For now, they are only able to meet the state’s public records law requirements: Provide a written request and they’ll get back to you within 10 days.
A Ledger reporter acting as an ordinary citizen could get verbal inspection results over the phone from only one of six communities where information was requested.
Some health office staff appeared surprised when asked for a copy of an inspection report. In fact, local health directors say consumers hardly ever make those requests.
“I would say it’s very rare,” said Richard Marino, health director in
“People check out the site before they’re going to dine that evening,” Lo said. “If you’re going to spend a couple hundred dollars at a restaurant, you want to know if it was closed last week for sanitary violations.”
Randolph Health Director John McVeigh said he started to receive more calls from residents with questions and complaints once he started posting a list of restaurants with critical violations on the Web two years ago.
“I think we want to educate people as much as possible,” he said. “People are in general more knowledgeable about food issues with the advent of the Internet, and they’re more aware when they go out to eat.”