Tag Archives: restaurant inspections

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.

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:

Airport dining proves to be a food safety challenge

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.

USA Today‘s Alison Young reviewed inspection reports for hundreds of restaurants at 10 airports and found a large number of critical violations, including 42 percent of the restaurants reviewed at Seattle-Tacoma and 77 percent of restaurants reviewed at Reagan National Airport.

seatac
“Food court in the Sea-Tac Airport.” Photo by WarderJack via Flickr

The most common culprits? “Grab-and-go” sandwiches and related foods, which aren’t kept cold enough to ward off food-borne pathogens.

Young notes that it’s hard to pinpoint the number sickened by airport sandwiches, as it’s difficult to track foodborne illness back to a specific source even when the customers aren’t constantly boarding airplanes and taking off for all corners of the earth.

Scott Hensley, on NPR’s Shots blog, recently noted an FDA warning to a Denver kitchen that prepared thousands of meals a day for airlines:

We can sum up the findings in the LSG SkyChefs facility a few months back with a four-letter abbreviation used to describe the roaches and other insects found there: TNTC.

That stands for Too Numerous To Count.

Hensley runs down some of the other problems found there and a reaction from the company spokeswoman.