Bob Holliday of Pantagraph.com (Illinois) reports that Bridget Conlon helps keep McLean County restaurants safe with her inspections. As one of the health department’s seven sanitarians, she makes sure food is handled properly and that those who handle the food are hygienic.
What does a sanitarian do and how did you get the job?
We do inspections of restaurants. That’s the main part of our job, but we also inspect septic systems and tanning establishments. It’s my first job out of college. I was an environmental health major at Illinois State University.
When you do your restaurant visits, what is your focus and do you announce that you’re coming?
We have unannounced visits. We want to catch them on a typical day. We try to vary the time we inspect.
Our emphasis is on safe food handling and we try to be there when food preparation is taking place. Some inspections can take an entire afternoon.
How often are restaurants inspected and can residents learn the score of restaurant inspections?
High risk (such as full-service restaurants) are three to four times a year while low risk (pre-packaged food) are twice a year. The public can find a restaurant inspection score by going to www.mcleancountyil.gov and then to Public Health & Safety, which has restaurant inspection scores. A top score is 100. Any score of 85 or below, we go back for re-inspection.
Are most restaurant managers and owners cooperative? Who do you talk to during an inspection and have you ever had to close a restaurant down?
Generally, they are accepting. Sometimes you run across an irate manager. Our goal is to educate. It’s not just about enforcement. I try to speak to the managers and the cooking staff. I’ve never had to ask that a restaurant close.
How do you spend your time when you’re not inspecting restaurants?
I eat out a lot and I like anything outdoors such as camping and boating.