Yesterday’s Globe featured a fairly terrifying story about health violations in some of the Hub’s finest restaurants. All the usual disgusting culprits are involved: mice in the dining room, roaches in the kitchen, improperly stored food, workers preparing salads without gloves. We have a fairly high tolerance for minor health code violations (we don’t freak out if, for example, the bathroom doesn’t have a sign saying that employees must wash hands and we couldn’t care less if a light bulb or two happens to be out in the kitchen), and we understand that the occasional mouse happens to the best of us, but some of the stories in the article are ridiculously disgusting. At one restaurant we will not name (for names, visit the article), a fruit fly infestation last summer caused one bar patron to swallow at least three flies with his drink. Gross!
The specific stories of restaurant negligence are horrifying, but perhaps the most interesting part of the article concerns the fundamental incapacity of the Inspectional Services Department to properly do its job. The department is underfunded, which results in less inspections than are required by law. Restaurants are meant to be inspected three times a year but, as the Globe reports, the reality is that they’re inspected about half that frequently. In perhaps an even more troubling revelation, the results of restaurant inspections are not readily available to the public. When the Globe requested copies of reports for 47 restaurants, the city informed them that would cost $2,039. In contrast, New York makes the inspection reports for every restaurant in the city available for free online. There is no good reason why consumers shouldn’t be able to see restaurant inspection reports easily and for free. If you feel strongly about this matter, it might not be a bad idea to contact your elected representative. After all, cat poo is one thing, but no one wants to eat mouse droppings.