High-risk Food Safety Violations in US Restaurants: ‘Dirty Dining’ Report

by Thilaka Ravi on Aug 8 2008 5:03 PM

‘Dirty Dining’, a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has ranked 20 U.S. cities for restaurant health. Austin, Texas, and Boston, Massachusetts rank worst, while Tucson, Arizona and San Francisco, California rank best.

Chicken salad stored at 50 degrees in Atlanta, insufficient hand-washing in Boston, mouse droppings in a Minneapolis ice machine, a live cockroach scampering across a Pittsburgh cutting board, are some of the dirty details disclosed in the CSPI’s inspection reports of 539 restaurants from 20 cities.

The report observes that improper hand washing, probably due to a lack of hot water at a sink, can spread Hepatitis A, Shigella, or norovirus to diners. Food not held at the proper temperature can encourage the growth of dangerous bacteria such as Clostridium perfringen or Staphylococus aureus. Salmonella or E. Coli O157:H7 can infect diners when meat or poultry is undercooked, or when raw food items are placed on unclean food surfaces.

Today CSPI, the nonprofit nutrition and food-safety watchdog group, is calling on state and local governments to exhort restaurants to display food safety letter grades in their front windows as done in Los Angeles, Los Vegas and St.Louis.

"Americans are eating outside the home and entrusting their health to restaurant workers more than ever before," said Sarah Klein, CSPI food-safety attorney and co-author of the report. "We want to work with state legislators, city councilors, and public health officials around the country to implement these consumer-friendly letter grades. They’d go a long way toward preventing unnecessary illnesses," she added.