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Restaurants looking to clean up

Published: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 18:05

Sophomore Jamie Farrell may have a tough stomach as a forensic science major, but she has gotten sick from eating at a Wendy's restaurant in her home state, New Jersey, and one in Orlando.

"I don't like eating at places that I've gotten sick at," Farrell said.

Last year, there were 40 confirmed foodborne illness complaints in Orlando restaurants, which had about 19,000 routine inspections, according to a Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation report.

The number of health violations in Florida has been increasing since 2004, according to a bar graph in the study.

Customers can access detailed food inspections of restaurants because it is public record.

Alexis Lambert, a press secretary for Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said, "The restaurants are required to keep their latest inspection on file. If a consumer asks for it, they are required to see it."

Huey Magoo's Chicken Tenders on Alafaya Trail and East McCulloch Road has not had a customer ask for its inspection record, said Operations Manager Sammy Siciliano.

"We have it in our health inspection folder," Siciliano said. "So if someone asks, we have it on file."

The inspections are also available to the public on the FDBPR Web site, www.myfloridalicense.com, Lambert said.

"Consumers can see all the results of the inspections and what the inspector saw" on the day of the unannounced visit, she said.

Florida restaurants are required to be inspected twice a year said Lambert.

Siciliano said Huey Magoo's first health inspection was a memorable one. The visit was during lunch time and it caught the workers off-guard. He said they did very well and learned what they had to do to keep their standards.

Farrell said she thinks food inspections are important because there could be something wrong in the restaurant that the managers aren't aware of, and rats or bugs could be contaminating the food.

Freshman Aland Torres, a radio and television major, said, "You want to get the best quality of food. You don't want food to be made in a poor environment."

Siciliano said Huey Magoo's has strict cleaning standards in the kitchen. Employees come in two hours before the restaurant opens. They have cleaning checklists throughout the day "to go through to make sure everything is up to standards." He also said the closing crew has a much more detailed cleaning list.

Ted Sanders, director of field operations from Subway Development, said that Subway does monthly internal quality control inspections.

He said that Subway doesn't really have to anticipate or worry about a visit from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation because Subway's standards are so high in terms of everything the health department expects.

"Customer and food safety is always job one," Sanders said.

He said that Subway pays most attention to employee hygiene, such as mandatory hand washing and glove use, and the shelf life of ingredients, which must be approved by administrators because Subway has its own food distributors.

The company continually monitors every ingredient's temperature, he said.

The storing and cooking temperatures are one of the key factors a restaurant gets graded on, according to the FDBPR.

Without the proper temperature, microorganisms produce a toxin that causes the illness. One way to prevent food poisoning is "to keep the food stored at the proper temperature," according to a Florida Department of Health report.

Huey Magoo's emphasizes the importance of preventing cross-contamination.

"We make sure we're using specified containers for chicken, fresh vegetables and cheese," Siciliano said. "[We] keep everything separate. All containers are marked to prevent [cross-contamination]."

The lack of food container labeling is the sixth most popular violation in the state, according to the FDBPR report.

"One of the main things our inspectors look for is the danger of cross-contamination," Lambert said. Salmonella is one of the dangers especially if there's raw chicken involved, she said.

Salmonella can cause food poisoning through cross-contamination. For example, "when raw juices from raw meat or poultry come in contact with ready-to-eat foods, such as salads," according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Salmonella is more common in the summer because the microorganism is more favorable for growth, according to the Florida Department of Health.

In order to avoid foodborne illnesses, Sanders said consumers should take a good look at the restaurant's establishment, such as food service, the staff's hygiene, sloppy exterior and poor bathroom conditions. He said that if consumers see a bad sign, then they might need to ask the restaurant for its food inspection record.

"[If] I see something I don't like, I just leave," Sanders said.

Customers can file a complaint against a restaurant for a health violation under the consumers' link on www.myfloridalicense.com.

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