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Experiences of a Food Safety Inspector
I have worked in the food safety industry for almost 20 years first as a health inspector, then as a corporate food & commercial kitchen auditor. I have seen a lot of things during that time - some bad and some good - some funny and some not-so-funny. I guess you get numb to those things that you see so often. Right now I am teaching food safety classes for restaurant managers, among other things. I love working with people and especially enjoy teaching those who come in and really want to learn something useful. No matter how large or small the class I teach though, I inevitably have a person or two pull me to the side and ask some version of the following questions:
"Do you ever go out to eat?"
"Can you even go out to a restaurant and enjoy it?"
"Are there places you do not go to eat?"
The answer to all of those questions is a resounding "YES"......BUT......
You see, my wonderful husband of almost 18 years loves going out to eat and I had to learn very early on where to draw the line between "No, I didn't really see that. I'll pretend it's OK and continue my meal." and "OMG.....I really saw that happen! Check Please!".
It is an art, really! It would be the equivalent of a dentist watching you eat a huge bucket of Halloween candy without brushing your teeth and pretending it didn't matter. Does it really matter? Maybe? Maybe gorging on candy that one time will not be terrible (for your teeth....thighs are another thing)....but are you eating candy without brushing your teeth every day? Is there a trend here? Is the type of candy you are eating particularly bad for teeth? Are you at risk for pulling out teeth with the candy? When was the last time your dentist cleaned your teeth? Do you already have cavities? Is there any gum disease lurking? OK....you get the picture. The point is, just like everything else in life you have to draw a line in the sand to help you determine what is OK and what is not OK. It is not always clear-cut and sometimes there are other factors that work to make what might be mildly gross into something that is OMG BAD!
My goal over the upcoming weeks or months is to go back - way back if I can remember - to some of the situations I observed while out and about in restaurants. I am not going to tell you names of these places because some of them are still open and I am not going to be the one to change that (hello lawsuit!). What I can do is provide some insight into what you really could see that should raise the red warning flag in your mind before you take a nice big bite out of something that might be OMG BAD!
First with the legal stuff.....I am no longer a health inspector. I am not an "authorized agent of the state" any longer. I am a Registered Environmental Health Specialist and A Certified Food Safety Specialist among other certifications that mean absolutely nothing to the general public. I am not intending to diagnose any problems or to solve any problems for any particular business through this blog. I am not going to help any person diagnose themselves or anyone else's illnesses and I am not the person to contact if you have a problem with a food business (contact the health department or BBB in your area for that). I am simply a person with a lot of knowledge from these experiences floating around in my head and I would like to share it with anyone interested.
I hope you enjoy some of these! I also hope you learn something from them!