Reporter finds the story behind food code violations

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

All the time that The Muskegon Chronicle‘s Brian McVicar has been spending with his county health department’s inspection records has paid off with a slew of stories, with the most recent turning the spotlight on the thousands of food code violations area businesses have racked up in recent years.

ozPhoto by bookgrl via Flickr

For this particular story, McVicar crunched the numbers on 22,000 violations, 37 percent of them critical, logged over a four-year period. Among the most salient, he writes, were “Raw chicken and crabmeat sitting out at room temperature, food kept past its expiration date, cockroaches, mice and fruit flies living in kitchens, employees not following proper hand washing procedures.”

In addition to the typical rogue restaurants, McVicar found that a wide range of local businesses were guilty of health code violations, including “Schools, hospitals, and food stands found in places such as Michigan’s Adventure Amusement Park.”

With his broad-based, data-oriented methodology, McVicar provides a model for other local reporters looking to move beyond the typical “cherrypick the cockroach horror stories” approach that is so often found in inspection-record stories.

Stories in the series: