FLORIDA: How safe is dining out in Brevard County?
Posted: October 11th, 2010 - 3:50pm
Source: Florida Today
The 1,100 restaurants on the Space Coast serve countless meals each year, providing quick bites for busy schedules, special dinners for memorable occasions and backdrops for socializing with family and friends.
Most of the time, they get it right. When a restaurant's at its best, everyone leaves happy and healthy after good food and service.
But sometimes, eateries fall short, resulting in everything from a dissatisfied customer to an official order to close until immediate health concerns are resolved.
According to a FLORIDA TODAY review of inspection records since the start of 2009, officials have:
Fined 12 restaurants $3,000 or more.
Shut down 16 restaurants after discovering evidence of roaches or rodents.
Flagged 510 restaurants for a follow-up inspection to confirm changes were made to correct violations.
DATABASE: Brevard County restaurant inspections
Fines and closures can indicate "serious issues" at a restaurant, said Rhett Fischer, president of the Space Coast chapter of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
"(Customers) should be confident when visiting a restaurant," he said. "A clean kitchen creates a clean environment, which in the end makes for good, safe food."
Managers say they take steps to meet health standards, which help prevent food-borne illness, as they value their customers and want repeat business. Those standards can be so high that most home kitchens couldn't meet them, experts say.
But in some cases, the people running the restaurants ignore recommended practices or don't know the rules, said Amarat Simonne, a food safety professor at the University of Florida who conducted a study including numerous interviews.
"When they are full of people, usually at peak hours, that's when the violations may occur," she said. "They get busy. Or sometimes they don't know certain things. Food codes change all the time."
Space Coast residents say they worry about cleanliness and food safety when they dine out.
Suntree resident Kathy Cuccaro recently walked out of a Titusville restaurant after seeing the waitress's food-encrusted apron. It was a sign, she said, of what the kitchen might be like.
"There has to be an appearance of cleanliness," Cuccaro said. ". . . I don't want to get sick."
Behind Closed Doors
Common critical violations at Brevard restaurants include storing cold food at the wrong temperature or not posting a hand-washing sign over a sink, FLORIDA TODAY's analysis showed.