KITV.com (HI) reports that when people complain to the state Department of Health about unhealthy practices at restaurants, the state sends a sanitarian to inspect — sometimes the same day.
In March, a customer filed a complaint against Grace’s Inn in Kaimuki at Market City Shopping Center. The complaint said the female cashier was chewing and spitting tobacco while helping customers at Grace’s plate lunch counter.
An inspector spoke to the person in charge at the restaurant, who said she would counsel the employee who was known to chew tobacco.
Ideally, the state would like to make unannounced inspections in Oahu’s 4,000 food establishments twice a year. However, because of staffing shortages, they’re only able to do that once a year.
Inspectors respond to all complaints, like one filed by two people who said they got upset stomachs after eating at the Chowder House Restaurant at Ward Warehouse in February.
“We would go out to the restaurant, to see if we can find it was something like a specific food item, maybe something with a high protein, or maybe it was something more of a virus in nature,” state Sanitation Branch Manager Rex Mitsunaga said.
In this case, inspectors found the restaurant was not re-heating its New England clam chowder hot enough or for long enough, and the restaurant changed its practices.
That’s a lesson that Kapiolani Community College’s Henry Holthaus is trying to teach his cooking students.
“But then if you don’t follow the food safety rules, you get your customers sick, they’re not going to come back to your restaurant,” Holthaus said.
Inspectors carefully track the entire preparation process at a restaurant, where someone reported getting sick. They followed the food from the fridge, to the preparation table, to the cooking process — to see if there are places for improvement.
To report unsanitary conditions at a restaurant kitchen, call the state Health Department at 586-8000. If you get sick from restaurant food, and think you may have a food borne illness, call 586-4586, and the state will investigate.