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Tough restaurant inspections a vital protection for citizens

July 09, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

James Hecker, chairman of the Jefferson County, W.Va., Board of Health says that some restaurants there don't pass the cleanliness test and that standards are suffering because the county has undergone a population explosion.

Hecker said that some restaurant managers have told the department that because they're open seven days a week, they don't have time to clean up or send their employees for required training at the health department.

Those are excuses, but not very good ones. Compliance with these laws is critical to the health of local citizens and visitors to the community.

Frankly we're surprised that any restaurant owner or manager would take sanitation issues lightly, given the dangers - and the legal liability - should someone become sick. And we're not talking about a bellyache, but about potenitially life-threatening illnesses caused by bacteria.

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There's e coli, which can be present in undercooked contaminated ground beef. Certain strains can cause kidney failure in small children, so parents should be concerned about who's cooking their kids' burgers and whether they're doing it properly.

There's also campylobacter, identified by the California Department of Health Service as the leading cause of bacterial food poisoning in the U.S. It's caused by eating undercooked chicken or other food that has come in contact with raw poultry.

One improperly cooked batch of meat can contaminate an entire day's worth of meals, infecting hundreds of people. That's why restaurant employees must be properly trained and why eateries must be inspected stringently and regularly.

We back Hecker's pledge of tough enforcement and make this suggestion: Make all inspection reports available on an Internet Web site. If restaurant operators know that any violations are out there for all the world to see, we predict many will be more careful than they are now.

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