By Monte Miller
Missourian Staff Writer
If you are hungry in Franklin County, you have about 500 options to choose from.
Each one of those places is inspected annually by staff at the Franklin County Health Department, who have conducted 690 food establishment inspections so far this year.
Public Health Supervisor Tony Buel says during his career he has conducted about 10,000 inspections.
“Each establishment is inspected at least once a year,” Buel said. “They can take anywhere between 30 minutes and three hours depending on the size of the establishment.”
He added if and when violations are found, depending on their severity, they use a 3-day, 10-day and 30-day rule to allow the businesses ample time to fix the problems they find whether it be maintenance or food-handling procedures.
“There are violations everywhere,” Buel said. “The most common problems we find are moldy ceiling tiles, employees not washing their hands, food temperature, unsafe and bare-handed food handling.”
If violations are egregious, the establishment is given three days to adhere to codes and they are reinspected.
“We generally don’t shut anybody down if they’re trying to get better,” Buel said. “On average we find 10 violations during each inspection. But, there are some places that don’t have any violations.”
Buel added clean inspections aren’t all of it. Poor food-handling practices might not be observed during inspections. And those are the No. 1 factors leading to illness.
In addition to the nearly 700 inspections at brick and mortar food establishments, the health department is also responsible for inspecting temporary stands and food trucks operating in the county.
Thus far in 2017, they have conducted 80 such inspections.
Buel said during the solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, there were about 70 temporary food stands set up all over the county.
“We got to a lot of them,” Buel said. “Most of the time they are the cleanest because they are inspected so frequently in each new county they set up in.”
There are 19 lodging establishments in the county that also are inspected at least once a year by the health department.
“We’ve done 41 lodging inspections this year,” Buel said. “The biggest problem we find is bedbugs. People also steal the batteries out of the smoke detectors and then disconnect them.”
Buel added most violations in hotels and motels are minor like emergency lighting, exit’ signs and sometimes leaky bathroom fixtures.
“We can only inspect 10 rooms at each hotel,” Buel said. “Each hotel is inspected annually.”
In addition to annual inspections performed each year and subsequent follow-ups to ensure problems are fixed, the health department does an inspection anytime a complaint is filed at any establishment under its authority.
The No. 1 complaint we get about lodging is bedbugs,” Buel said. “We get lots of food complaints too. The majority are from former employees.”