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Food Safety Inspection Is the Front Line of Public Health

Photo of a restaurant condiment bar

Check your reservations; tonight might be a night to dine at home. A few minutes of googling can save you a long, dark night (try searching “restaurant inspection reports” and the name of your county).

As just one example, Oregon’s food safety inspection backlog is getting bigger every month, leaving the public vulnerable to a industry that is not known for great self-regulation.

The number of restaurants and food vendors is climbing steadily in Oregon—faster than the number of food safety inspectors and labs, resulting in a backlog of over 2,800 establishments that are 3-4 months overdue for a visit. Similar inspector shortages are playing out in San FranciscoNorth Carolina, and Massachusetts. When was the last time you checked up on restaurant inspections in your area? When was the last time the inspectors made their way through that all-you-can-eat buffet your kids love?

Before we get excited about more taco trucks, we need to invest in more food safety inspectors to relieve the load and improve public health outcomes. More inspectors likely means outfitting more labs to keep up with testing. It’s time and money well spent so we don’t have Chipotle-sized outbreaks of E. coli, or Flint-sized lapses in judgement over cost-saving measures.

[Photo credit: woodleywonderworks, CC BY 2.0]