Get Healthy: Restaurant inspections keep us well | NevadaAppeal.com

Get Healthy: Restaurant inspections keep us well

Pam Graber
For the Nevada Appea

Editor’s note: This weekly column addresses topics related to the health of our community. l

Q: What happens when the health department inspects restaurants?

A: A high-profile duty of a public health department is restaurant inspections. Many Nevada Appeal readers scan through the Restaurant Inspection column every Wednesday to be sure their favorite restaurants score high. The fundamental purpose of restaurant inspections is to prevent the customers from becoming ill. Carson City Health Department works to keep restaurants open and under compliance with the applicable regulations.

Optimally, the unscheduled inspections take place randomly about four times a year. When an inspector arrives at a restaurant, she or he systematically goes through the food preparation area in a process that can take up to an hour and a half, depending upon the size of the facility. Inspectors must determine that certain food safety requirements are met.

Commercial kitchens are required:

• To have a hand-washing station consisting of a sink, hot running water, soap, and disposable towels in the food prep area used for nothing but hand washing. You’d be surprised how often one of the components is missing. Just as food is not allowed in the hand-washing sink, hand-washing is not allowed in the food prep sinks.

• To maintain minimum and maximum temperatures for warming, cooking and refrigerating food. Bacteria can reproduce very rapidly on food unless these guidelines are followed.

• Special kinds of certified, date-labeled containers for storing food. This also applies to cutting surfaces. Some non-certified surfaces are very conducive to the growth of harmful bacteria.

• A system of storing food in which ready-to-eat is nearest the top; and raw food that requires cooking is nearest the bottom. Other foods have their place on the middle shelves. This prevents, for example, raw meat juice from inadvertently dripping into a bowl containing salad greens.

• To be free of other sources of contamination, such as rodents, bugs, and pets.

• To be free of workers with obvious signs/symptoms of illness.

• To have air gaps between equipment drain hoses and floor drains for food prep sinks, dishwashing sinks and ice storage areas. Known as “floor sinks,” these audible drain systems look like indoor gutters. In the event of a plumbing mishap, they prevent sewage or gray water backflow from contaminating the water supply or food.

• To be free of slimy accumulations on things.

• To be free of dirt or dust accumulation, especially on fans.

• To have clean holsters and nozzles on beverage “speed guns.” These are the multi-buttoned gadgets you’ve seen that dispense soda.

This list is not exhaustive, but it provides a good idea of how restaurant inspections work. Salmonella, E.coli, and Norwalk virus are among the most common food-borne microbes that can make us seriously sick, so you can appreciate how important the inspections are.

During an inspection, every restaurant starts with 100 points. If violations occur, points are deducted. The inspector always talks with the person in charge so that there is no confusion. Serious violations must be corrected immediately; lesser ones can be scheduled for later on. Again, the main purpose is to lower the risk of food-borne illness and keep establishments in compliance with health and safety regulations.

It’s all about Public Health.

Thursday is Immunization Day at Carson City Health and Human Services, 900 East Long St. Hours are 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. Closed for lunch

Tuesday March 30, childhood vaccinations are available from 4 to 7 p.m.

• Pam Graber is the public information officer for Carson City Health and Human Services.