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 September 16, 2003
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Exclusive Investigation
Could Budget Cuts Affect Restaurant Inspections
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You might be surprised to learn your favorite restaurant hasn't been inspected in more than *two* years. And you might also be surprised to learn the time between inspections could get even longer. It's an Eyewitness News exclusive investigation.
Investigative reporter Jack White has more.
Budget cuts and fears of terrorism have combined to reduce the number of restaurant inspections done by the state health department.
There simply are not enough food inspectors to do the job.
It's Ernest Julian's job as chief of the food inspection office to make sure restaurants, schools, health care facilities and scores of other establishments are clean and serving fresh food that is properly prepared.
�If they are preparing food at the school, we're doing those once a year. Health care facilities are, those are actually done twice a year right now.�
But the state's 2-thousand restaurants, which federal guidleines call for inspecting up to four times a year, are not visited by inspectors nearly enough.
But there simply are not enough inspections like one at the Green Airport TGI Friday's, which passed all the tests - for cleanliness, temperatue, fresh food, preparation - with flying colors.
It's all in the numbers:
13 inspectors for 8,000 establishments, including schools and food processing plants. And to make matters more difficult two of those inpectors are now assigned to food related bioterrorism activity - the concern that entire food supplies could be contaminated.
Food security officer Kimberly Langello and restaurant manager Michele Tucci go over the questionnaire developed to guard against the contamination of an entire food supply at critical locations - like the state's main airport.
The president of the Rhode Island Hospitality Assocaitaion says her members are working with the health department to train managers and workers in food safety.
�I am very concerned about the board brush effect when one restaurant has a food safety issue the people think in general it's not safe. That's not the case. What can you say to people about where they the go to eat. Well, we are inspecting them. The high volume places we're inspecting them at least once every two years, and preferably once a year. But it's going to depend on the place and where- it is.�


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