Keeping food safe: Health inspector checks out valley restaurants

FOX 10's Jessica Flores reports.

- For the second time in the past few weeks, Chipotle is dealing with a public relations nightmare as dozens of people became sick after eating at one of its restaurants.

The first problem came back in October. At least 52 people were reported to get sick with E. coli bacteria after eating at several different Chipotle locations in nine states.

This latest episode took place over the weekend in Boston. 80 students at Boston College got sick after eating a a Chipotle restaurant. This time, the culprit is believe to be the Norovirus.

Locally, county health inspectors don't regularly test food at restaurants, but they do look for violations that could spread food-borne illnesses.

When you dine at a restaurant, you hope the food you're getting was stored and prepared properly. So does the county. I followed a health inspector during a surprise visit to a valley restaurant.

Kathryn Garcia is on a mission to protect the public.  Day in and day out, she's among the Maricopa County Health inspectors, paying surprise visits to restaurants, making sure they're following health rules.

With her thermometer in hand, she takes the temperature of just about everything -- hot or cold.

The food temperature inside the refrigerator needs to be 41°F, but this came in at 49°F, so it ends up in the trash.

Health inspectors are examining the food preparation, cleaning practices and even checking out the employees' health in order to prevent foodborne illness and cross contamination.

"When we are doing our inspections, we are checking of course that employees aren't vomiting or having constant trips to the bathroom. We are also talking to the operator about their knowledge of foodborne illness and making sure they have practices in place to prevent employees from working when they are ill," explained Garcia.

The goal of the inspection? To make sure what you eat looks just as good behind closed doors.

The restaurant we visited has an "A" grade records. You can look online for inspection reports to see how establishments are doing in your area.

To check the inspection report of a Maricopa County food establishment:
www.maricopa.gov/EnvSvc/OnlineApplication/EnvironmentalHealth/FoodInspections/Business


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