Eat, Drink And Be Wary
Many of us plan on eating out this time of year, but how can we be sure the restaurant's kitchen is clean? The Louisiana Legislative Auditor recently released a report that found that there could be as many as 28,000 cases of food poisoning a year in Louisiana. From restaurants and other food establishments.
So what's being done to fix the problem? Early in the morning, restaurants are either serving breakfast or getting ready for the day and it's a day that could bring a surprise visit from a state health inspector. But the state legislative audit reports found some major problems. The Office of Public Health issued permits to some retail food establishments with uncorrected violations. OPH rarely uses formal enforcement actions to address violations.
The office's current enforcement process does not appear to deter non-compliance, and inspection results are not fully disclosed to the public. Assistant public health secretary J.T. Lane says his office asked for the audit so it could find and fix problem areas. The findings were what we anticipated. So in February, we started an overhaul of what we found. Matthew Linn knows all about restaurant inspections. He owned Columbia Cafe in Shreveport for ten years before selling it. He says his restaurant was inspected before it opened and then once a year after that. Each inspector, being their own person, has certain things they look over more than other things. So if you have the same inspector, you know what they're going to check for, so if you have those items taken care of, then you're fine. But in the ten years that Linn ran his restaurant, the number of inspectors covering Shreveport Bossier City dropped. In 2002 there were 7 inspectors in Caddo Parish and 6 in Bossier.
Ten years later, there are only four on the job in Caddo and one in Bossier. State officials say there are four funded positions they are trying to fill; two in bossier and one in caddo and one that would float between the parishes. Even still, there are fewer inspectors. Hall says the number of inspectors on the job is not the issue, it's finding how they can be more productive and efficient. The goal is not to set a one size fits all, but it was to standardize it more and we also established a scheduling tool.
Public health officials have established a single office to handle restaurant inspection reports. It's just another step just another step to bring louisiana's restaurant inspections up to a new code. I think people should feel very safe. I still go out to eat. I probably eat out nearly every day. Former restaurant owner Matthew Linn says he only eats in restaurants where you can see the kitchen.
By the way.. the Office of Public Health also inspects grocery stores and other food establishments.
Copyright 2012 KTBS. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.