The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year roughly 48 million people, or 1 in 6 Americans, get sick from a foodborne disease. Of those 48 million, 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 people die due to food that was improperly stored or prepared. The CDC said there are 31 known pathogens that can grow in food that is not stored correctly that will infect unaware eaters.
A critical violation refers to anything “that could directly impact food safety,” according to Brian Williamson, chief of environmental services for Butler County. Examples include proper storage temperatures not being met, an employee not washing his or her hands before preparing food or mixing of raw and cooked foods.
The health departments keep track of restaurant conditions as part of the fight against foodborne diseases.
Nationally, consumers are expected to spend $632 billion at restaurants, according to the National Restaurant Association. This number is an increase of 3.5 percent over 2011. In Butler County alone, there are more than 2,000 places that provide food for sale in some capacity.
“If it’s a critical violation, we try to get it corrected while we’re there,” said Carla Ealy, director of environmental health for the city of Middletown. “If it’s something like a broken refrigerator, where it may take awhile to fix, we come back in 24 or 48 hours to make sure it has been repaired.”
Even if the violations are corrected while the inspector is still at the restaurant, the incident is recorded. Awareness and a realization of how incidents can put the public’s health at risk are keys to public safety, Williamson said.