Enough already—there are too few health inspectors working the food beat in the greater metro area and way too many restaurants. Instead of spending all our time talking about global pandemics, we need to have our state health department wake up and smell the coffee. With millions of meals served by local restaurants, hotels, and other food-service establishments every day, our physical health is being compromised three times daily when we play Russian roulette with our forks. T-Paw, R.T., and Double C need to make it a priority not only to increase the number of health inspectors who check on our food-service operations, but to increase the fines for noncompliance, and change our local scoring system to a publicly posted letter grade or numerical points system that is legally required to be posted on premise in a visible, highly trafficked area, like the front window of the eatery.
Last week’s salmonella outbreak at Barbette, one of my favorite restaurants, will not deter me from eating there as soon as my schedule permits. This stuff happens. I am not forgiving it, but I understand it. What is not understandable is having a restaurant with substandard equipment for heating, cooling, and hot-cold holding, which it seems was one of the issues at work here. Barbette’s owner, Kim Bartmann, admitted as much when she went on record in the local daily, bravely and honestly noting that she was working with the health department to upgrade some of her equipment and procedures. While the restaurant bears some responsibility for that (and she took it! BRAVO!), the health department is so over-stretched and under-staffed that it can not keep up with bi-annual visits to all the restaurants in town, most of which would fail any litmus test you could dream up for safeguarding us against food-borne illness outbreaks. TRUST ME, the truth hurts; restaurants take way too many shortcuts with the public trust when it comes to food safety, and this is a wake-up call. What if this was a school and hundreds (or thousands!) of little kids with undeveloped immune systems got sick? The results would be tragic. This monumentally flawed system needs to be overhauled immediately. We all participate in a public food life every day and if we don’t address this explosively toxic issue right now, we are putting our children, our seniors, and all the rest of us in harm’s way every time we dine out.