Hank Investigates: Restaurant Inspections
Mouse droppings, raw chicken at room temperature, eggs un-refrigerated, cleaning products dripping into ingredients… inspectors found all this in restaurant kitchens, all health violations, and all could make you sick.
Eugene Croteau took his son Tommy to a restaurant for bacon and eggs.
”It was awful,” Croteau said.
Eugene and Tommy rushed to the emergency room. Diagnosis: salmonella from their breakfast, and that meant three days in the hospital.
“I would not wish this on anybody,” Croteau said.
Because food borne illness can be so devastating, the state department of public health sets stringent standards. Communities must inspect restaurants every six months.
”Customers in a town where restaurants are not inspected should be worried,” Caroline Smith Dewaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said.
But our statewide investigation reveals some communities are ignoring the law.
”We need the bodies and we need the personnel and we need the resources," Mayor Joe Curtatone said.
"And right now do you have that?" Phillippi Ryan asked.
"Not enough,” Mayor Curtatone said.
Some of those restaurants haven't been inspected for years.
”That is, ah that's not a good thing, no that's a bad thing,” Lynn Health Commissioner Maryanne O’Conner said.
How can they get away with this? The Department of Public Health (DPH) wouldn't answer that on camera, but sent this statement:
In the rare circumstances that a local board didn't perform an inspection, DPH would step in if there was an imminent health threat.
Rare Circumstances? According to the departments own most recent reports, inspectors in 131 towns admitted they were not getting the job done.
Had the DPH ever called to say check if restaurants were being inspected the way they should?
”No, that level of oversight by the state hasn't happened,” Newton Health Commissioner David Naparstek said.
Health departments complain the state doesn’t pay for inspections and that their inspectors are also responsible for tanning salons, massage parlors, schools cafeterias, nursing homes, public swimming pools, septic systems, ice cream trucks, and now bioterrorism planning.
”Are we meeting the letter of the law? Of course not. It's just too overwhelming with all the other things we have to do,” Naparstek said.
So will your next meal be in a risky restaurant? Local inspectors may not know, and the Croteaus know the results.
”That's scary, it’s scary,” Croteau said.
If you want to check your favorite restaurant, inspection reports are public record, but in some towns you have ask in writing and wait ten days. In
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