Inspectors checking eating sites

Keeping food establishments clean, safe is a never-ending job
BY JOEY STIPEK jstipek@opubco.com Published: August 19, 2012

Other complaints from the public run the gamut from improper lighting covers, to a soil-like substance found on the floor, wall and ceilings of a restaurant to an allegation that employees dragged a deer into the back door of a restaurant kitchen (inspectors were unable to verify that claim).

Inspection questions

Custer said inspectors don't make appointments for routine inspections.

“If violations occur, they are dealt with in a very timely manner to protect the public and to keep all restaurants safe,” he said.

“Depending on how the inspection goes, we will set a date for follow-up.”

Monks said the first thing inspectors do is when they come into an establishment is go to a sink — check the sink and then wash their own hands.

“Hand-washing is absolutely critical,” Monks said. “Hand washing sinks should be separate from any kind of food preparation sinks so no cross-contamination from during the preparation process.”

Custer said there are 58 violations for inspectors to consider.

“(Proper) temperatures are a major step in preventing bacteria from growing and illness from happening,” Custer said. “Handling the food in a clean way, keeping the facility clean are all important steps in keeping food safe and illnesses and outbreaks from happening.”

Custer said there are different steps an inspector takes, depending on the seriousness of the violation.

“If it is a violation that needs to be corrected immediately, and which we bring it to the management's attention, we will work with the person-in-charge until this violation is corrected before we leave,” Custer said.

“Other violations may take some time. We will set a date for the violation to be corrected, then follow up with the date and then follow up with any corrections they may have.”

Custer said for a restaurant to be closed down there must be an imminent public health situation.

“Voluntarily, we will ask restaurant to close down. Every time I've asked (a restaurant) to close down, they've agreed to close down until we get them up to code,” Custer said.

“It's not something we come and say ‘you're closed,' it's something we've asked the restaurant to close until this imminent health hazard's been resolved.”

Monks said that not all closed restaurants were unsafe restaurants.

“You can see a closure and it may have been something beyond the control of the owner,” she said.

Custer said the worst incident he ever saw as an inspector was a restaurant he had to close immediately because of a faulty walk-in cooler.

“The cooler hadn't been working for some time,” Custer said. “They were storing meat and other foods for prep. The smell of food that is out of temperature and sitting at room temperature can be a scary scene.”

Custer said that while he hasn't personally ever felt threatened while inspecting an establishment, the department has a policy in effect in case such an incident occurs.

“If we feel threatened we will leave an establishment,” Custer said. “We will return with a supervisor or law enforcement if necessary.”

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Search inspection reports

The state maintains a website — Oklahoma Food Service Establishment Inspections — where restaurant inspection reports can be viewed. The most serious violations are highlighted in orange.

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