Email alerts let restaurant patrons track health inspections, violations

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Last year, the Rhode Island Department of Health ordered 26 closures. To do that by law, there has to be an “imminent hazard to health.” In other cases, with less serious violations, the health department works with restaurants to make sure problems are eliminated quickly.

That’s what happened with a restaurant Dawn Handrich was eating at when she made a disturbing discovery.

“I was bringing up the noodles and it kinda came up to the top it was oval shaped with a bunch of legs and dead as it could be. I called my coworker ‘come in here I think there’s a roach in my soup!’ I don’t really know what they look like.’ She came in and she’s like ‘oh my god. It is.'”

Handrick Called 12 for Action and the Rhode Island Department of Health.

We checked with health officials and learned the Health Department inspected the restaurant that same day.

According to reports, inspectors discovered “…the presence of rodents and cockroaches are not controlled as evidenced by rodent droppings, dead and live cockroaches.”

“Hearing that there’s a roach in the food, that’s a serious issue,” said Ernest Julian, Chief of the Health Department’s Food Safety Center.

Julian told Call 12 for Action the restaurant, in this case, was not closed but was ordered to address the issue immediately. He said the Health Department then re-inspected the business several times after that.

“Obviously, the goal is immediately getting rid of the pests,” he said.

According to subsequent reports, the restaurant had cleaned up its act – so Eyewitness News is not naming it. But, we also learned this type of report is more common than you may think.

“We get 700 complaints a year,” Julian said. “Last year 26% of our inspections were re-inspections to make sure that serious hazards to health are eliminated.”

All of that inspection information is available to the public. With a quick search online, you can see the results of all of those inspections.

Since it’s a lot of information, we asked what diners should be looking for.

“Foods at unsafe temperatures is number one,” explained Julian. “Probably another important thing is bare-hand contact with foods. If somebody is making your salad or sandwich with their bare hands and they’re sick with something, that’s a potential source of illness.”

Fortunately, Handrich never got sick. But, she said she does think twice about ordering out.

“I’m always thinking now, ‘what’s in there?'”

For those who don’t want to spend time scrolling through reports can sign up for email alerts. The department of health will let you know when your favorite restaurant was inspected and what the results of the inspection were.

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