Chef breaks down what health code violation report means for customers

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POSTED: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 7:00pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 1:07pm

Chefs at the Louisiana Culinary Institute are clean experts. They spend 30 hours learning the does and don'ts of safely slicing up and serving diner's favorite dishes.

"All foods have bacteria in it," David Tiner, director of the Louisiana Culinary Institute, said. "The goal of the restaurateur is to make sure that you keep that bacteria within safe levels."

A new report details flaws in how the state checks to see if restaurants are serving safe food.

In the report food venders are divided based on their level of risks. Low risks venders, such as popcorn stands, should be checked once a year, but high risks venders, such as full service restaurants, should get checked four times a year. Experts say that doesn't always happen.

"Depending on the number of inspectors depending on the number of restaurants sometimes it happens," Tiner said. "Sometimes it just doesn't."

When inspectors do show up they write violations for things that could be dangerous to customers health. Tiner says some changes are easy -- like making sure cleaning products are far away from food, and make sure workers wash their pots in a different place than their hands. Other -- more "critical violations" can get people sick if they're not fixed fast.

"I think some of the worst violations you can get are improperly handling food, not cooking it properly not, cooling it properly," said Tiner.

He said food storage is a big issue in the kitchen. The safest way to store food in a restaurant is in a fridge set at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Also, you should stack your fridge from bottom to top in this order: raw chicken, ground meat, steaks or larger cuts of meat, seafood, then prepared or cooked foods.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospital requires one worker from every kitchen have a sanitation certification. To get certified workers must sit through one eight hour course every five years. Experts say that might not be enough.

"Not only do health codes change, but every time you take a sanitation course you pick up something new that maybe you missed the last time," Tiner explained.

Tiner says there is no easy way for diners to identify a unsafe restaurant. He says when his family goes to dinner he doesn't think about food safety because that just stirs up trouble.

"When you start thinking about possible food contamination, what could happen, it kind of takes the enjoyment of eating the food away," Tiner retorted. "I mean there are issues out there definitely, but it's not in every restaurant."

To learn more about the report and where you can check out health code violations for individual restaurants click here.

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