(Originally written September 4, 2008)
The El Paso County Health Department says it can't perform all required inspections of retail food establishments, public pools, and tattoo parlors. There is a solution that doesn’t require increasing taxes or added bureaucracy.
Rosemary Bakes-Martin, an El Paso County Public Health Administrator, says, “With increased populations, more restaurants are opening up. We can’t get out and do the inspections we are supposed to do, even those that are mandated by state law, so we are seeing more people get sick from eating in some of our restaurants.”
For each of the last three years, complaints and food-borne illness outbreaks have increased. The reported illness or complaints requiring Health Department attention rose from 60 in 2005 to 299 in 2007. In 2007 there were two reported food borne illness outbreaks, and in the first half of 2008 there were 14.
On August 2, 2008 the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report listing cities with the dirtiest restaurants.
Surprisingly, the situation in
In 1993, a chain of Jack-In-The-Box restaurants in
The private sector can help provide solutions to this problem. There are private inspectors for homes and building, why not restaurants? A
It is important for businesses to provide a safe and clean environment for their customers.
If a restaurant cuts corners and does not maintain a clean facility, control pests, and properly store and prepare food, the customers will not have a pleasant experience. Few people want to eat in a dirty restaurant or have mice or cockroaches scurrying around. Beyond that, one of the most effective ways to lose customers is to make them sick.
Private inspections would make restaurants more responsible for the health of their customers by taking the sole burden off the government. Hiring private inspectors, secret shoppers, and better managers will attract diners by assuring them that the restaurants are safe and clean. Supplemental private inspections also help assure the businesses that they will be able to pass their next county inspections.
Consumer advocates and the media can also step in to make things cleaner and safer. They provide another incentive for cleanliness by exposing dirty and unsafe conditions to the public.
If a restaurant or inspection company fails, they lose money and go out of business. If the government fails, it asks for more tax dollars. By hiring private sector inspection companies,