Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rule Makers

We had a visit from the state health inspector this week at work. Our reaction to his report always results in one of two things...rage, or giggles. This time we giggled, which is a good thing.

We run an extremely clean restaurant and have never had a food-born illness. Inspectors won't admit it, but we all know that they MUST find something wrong to write on their report. The cleaner your restaurant and the closer you follow food safety rules, the deeper the inspector has to dig to find an infraction. This year our infractions included:

We must have lids on employee's coffee mugs and water glasses. Whatever....we've always kept our personal drinks on a corner of the counter that's far removed from a food prep surface. We spill our drinks maybe once a year, and immediately clean up the spill with bleach water. Since the inspector's visit, Boss and I have been drinking out of narrow-bottomed, covered travel mugs...which we have spilled 3 times! Yes, liquid DOES spill out of that little drinking hole when you knock over a travel mug!

We didn't have an "Employee Illness Journal". Huh? Whenever an employee calls in sick, they must write about the nature of their illness in this journal upon their return to work. If the illness involved vomiting or diarrhea, the employee can't return to work until 3 days after their symptoms disappear. Yeah, like THAT'S gonna happen! IF the state is willing to pay me for those 3 additional days off, I'll comply. If not...screw you! We will comply with filling out the journal, so the inspector has something to read next time. We also plan on having a lot of fun describing our illnesses. Graphic snot and sputum descriptions will abound!

The inspector also "suggested" that Boss replace the kitchen wallcovering...
Boss: Are the walls clean?
Inspector: Yes.
Boss: Do the walls show any sign of wear? Is anything chipping of the wall onto a food prep surface?
Inspector: No, but we'd "like" to see stainless steel on all kitchen surfaces.
Boss: I installed the vinyl tileboard wallcovering 5 yrs ago, when you "suggested" that you didn't like our cleanly painted walls. We also installed rubber molding to replace the painted wood molding you didn't "like". The new cupboards we installed were also approved for restaurant use. I spent $50,000, 5 yrs ago, to follow your "suggestions"!
Inspector: I know, but....NOW, we like to see stainless steel.
Boss walks off on inspector.

I know that, somewhere in the metro area, there is a panel of Rule Makers. I'm also certain that these RMs make close to a 6-figure income. Job security demands that they change the rules often enough to make their jobs look important. I seriously doubt that ANY of the RMs have EVER worked in a restaurant! Here is a prime example of their ever-changing rules...

25 yrs ago, at the end of the day, we dumped leftover gravy, soups, etc. into gallon jugs. We immediately placed these jugs in the walk-in cooler, with the lids off. When the food cooled, we placed the lids on the jugs.

NEW RULE: EVERYTHING must be covered in the walk-in, including hot foods. OK, but your previous rule stated that hot foods must be cooled as quickly as possible.

Next visit from the inspector....NEW RULE: Hot foods must be placed in lidless containers on the kitchen counter until they have cooled enough to cover and place in the walk-in. Okey-dokey, whatever you say....

Next visit, another NEW RULE: Hot foods shall be cooled in their original vessels, in an ice bath, while being constantly stirred until the foods have reached the temperature of 45F. Then the food can be placed in a lidded container in the walk-in. This rule resulted in one of the few times Boss had a face-to-face argument with the inspector:

Boss: Just WHERE do you want me to put the ice for this ice bath?
Inspector: We suggest a stainless-steel kitchen sink.
Boss: You mean like the 3-section stainless-steel sink you made me remove from the kitchen LAST YEAR, to make room for the hand-washing sink you insisted upon?
Inspector: *nervous laughter* Yeah, I guess so.
Boss walks off on inspector.

Since we didn't have an ice machine at the time, Boss totally disregarded this New Rule. I seriously doubt that many restaurants followed this rule. Paying someone to stir the food in the ice bath is quite costly!

Next visit from the inspector...guess what?....NEW RULE: Please desist in cooling foods in an ice bath. We have found that water from the ice bath MIGHT contaminate the food. Please place hot food, uncovered, in your cooler, and cover when the temp has reached 45F. WTF?! Isn't that what we were doing to start with?

MN law states that restaurants shall be inspected on a yearly basis, preferably twice yearly. Guess what? We once went 5 YEARS without an inspection! We have also had many times when we haven't seen an inspector for 2 years at a time. The state's excuse for this is that they don't have the money to hire enough inspectors. I suggest that the state fire the overpaid Rule Makers and hire more inspectors. ESPECIALLY meat plant inspectors, since this is where most of the food-born illnesses originate!


At 3/22/2009 4:53 PM, Blogger tweetey30 said...

Yikes. Sounds like they just like to throw there weight around too because they can.. People.. I am glad I dont have to deal with these asshats..

At 3/22/2009 11:48 PM, Blogger Hammer said...

They need to focus on the places that have rats doing the back stroke in the gespacho..not clean places like yours.

At 3/23/2009 4:56 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Tweets, you work in a restaurant so I'm sure you have to deal with a few stupid rules made by the WI Rule Makers.

Hammer, I think that's probably why the inspector skipped us a few years. Although, we once had a problem with a genius chipmunk who kept gnawing his way into the restaurant.

At 3/23/2009 4:56 PM, Blogger Jeannie said...

I would "like" to see your boss follow her own common sense and change things only when mandated. How stupid.

Lately, a health inspector has popped into the one salon a couple times but seems confused. It seems I am not on her list to check yet she's certain she's supposed to check us out. I have never been checked in 10 years at the other salon. She is new to the area so I'm thinking there was a salon where she's from that had issues and she had to visit it regularly. There just isn't that much other than cleaning beds that requires that much concern. Frankly, I think my salons are cleaner than most restaurants.

At 3/23/2009 5:33 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Jeannie, you got that right!! The problem is that she has very little common sense. She's spent a LOT of money on "suggestions", that have never evolved into mandates.
I think she is FINALLY learning though. Last year the inspector "suggested" that she change the wallcovering in the dishwasher room. I told her to paint the room gloss white, so the inspector could see that the walls are clean. She painted the room and the inspector didn't say a thing about it this year. $20 worth of paint versus $2000 worth of carpentry work.

At 3/23/2009 6:22 PM, Blogger Vancouver Voyeur said...

Bureaucrats, ya gotta kill 'em.

At 3/23/2009 6:45 PM, Blogger Squirl said...

This sounds like Kafka writing comedy for goodness sake. Good grief!

At 3/23/2009 11:42 PM, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

I feel your pain. Same thing with renting to someone on Section-8. The government comes into the home and looks for anything that could possibly be wrong.

Drives me nuts. Every year, it's the same thing.

I swear they're probably not allowed to leave until they find something they can put on those stupid reports.

At 3/24/2009 4:22 AM, Blogger tweetey30 said...

Yes we do but I dont have to deal with them like The Boss does.. LOL... I am not the one being told we need to replace something for something else. I am just a pee on worker and do the job and usually go home.

Also I aree with Hammer. What about those places that have rats or rodents runnig around and getting away with it.. Its a gross thought but then again there are places. Just dont hear about them.

At 3/26/2009 3:36 AM, Blogger Gardenia said...

This is just totally crazy insane! While other folks knowingly send out contaminated peanut butter - duhhhhhhh

My "H" worked in a meat place - he was cleaning, sprayed the doorway with water, and roaches came tumbling out like a wall - he was so sick....can you imagine! It's a wonder we all survive at all....

Don't they know that employers expect people to work, sick or well, snot spraying about or not?

Grrrr - they come in like a flood when they are not needed, but when needed in some places, they are not there- - - yeh, meat scares me, I soak it in 11.5 alkaline water before I cook it - "H" thinks I'm crazy -

At 3/26/2009 9:16 AM, Blogger zydeco fish said...

Wow. That is oddly hilarious. But, it reminds me of the time when I worked at a hotel. It seems we have the same kind of inspectors up here.

At 3/26/2009 4:22 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

VV, or at least thin them out a little.

Squirl, it's truly a "comedy of errors"!

ZS, we considered buying rental property once. We gave up the idea after checking all the ridiculous laws.

Tweets, sometimes it's good being the peon, isn't it? ;)

Gardenia, I honestly believe that there are a LOT of crooked inspectors that accept bribes. How else can the peanut butter tragedy be explained?

ZF, it really can be hilarious. Especially when we wait a few years and watch them constantly contradicting themselves.

I seriously want to know how many food-born illnesses have resulted from employees "open" coffee cups.

At 3/26/2009 8:46 PM, Blogger Cherie said...



Sounds like life for Tom working for the city.

At 3/27/2009 10:26 PM, Blogger SME said...

Yeah, liquid definitely spills out of sippy mugs when you drop 'em. More slowly, yes, but aren't the results the same? What a weird-ass rule.

The most infuriating thing is that with all these silly nitpicky rules, when restaurants actually do turn into giant petri dishes, the owners get lots of second (and 3rd, and 4th) chances. One Chinese place here didn't have any SOAP in it, at ALL, yet it managed to stay open for years. The only reason it finally closed was 'cause they couldn't afford the $25K in fines.

At 3/28/2009 2:55 PM, Blogger Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I'm sure your lifestyle is a paragon of green virtue compared to Al Gore. If you worked for 24 hours a day for the rest of your life you'd never match what the former Vice President has done in saving the planet.

At 3/29/2009 10:06 AM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Cherie, I can imagine all the ridiculous "rules" Tom encounters. At least we haven't been bothered by OSHA.

SME, Boss and I seriously want to know how many food-borne illnesses have been caused by employee drinks.

"giant petri dishes" *giggle*
I'm fairly certain that the no soap place would have been shut down immediately in MN. They wouldn't be allowed to re-open until they passed inspection.

Dr. M, ya know, I never really thought about it, but yeah, our household IS a "paragon of green virtue". Here are a few examples:

We live in an energy-efficient 1125 sq ft home, with the furnace set on 68F.

We bought the 5 wooded lots next door and left them in their natural state. This has created a haven for all types of wildlife in our yard.

Our lawn is composed of natural grasses that don't require fertilizer, pesticides, or water.
The only fertilizer we use is homemade compost.

We have only bought 4 vehicles in the past 32 yrs, and we only drive 3000 mi/yr.

I have planted hundreds of trees.

We shun as many disposable products as possible. A roll of paper towels lasts us a month.

I re-use and recycle religiously. Our household generates only 2 small bags of garbage per week.(Less than 2 cubic feet)

We only replace clothing, furniture, and household fixtures when the old stuff wears out.

I only wash full loads of laundry and dishes. In the summer, I hang most of our laundry outside to dry.

Our frequently used lights have all been replaced by LEDs and fluorescent bulbs.

We use environmentally friendly cleaning products and methods.

Our driveway is unpaved.

This summer we will be installing gutters and a rain barrel on our shed to collect water for our vegetable garden.

Mark my words: in the next 10-15 yrs, I fear that we'll find that Al Gore is involved in the environmental movement for monetary gain rather than the good of the planet. Carbon points anyone?

At 3/29/2009 11:35 AM, Blogger Maddy said...

Good grief. Talk about humping [sorry, that would be 'jumping'] through hoops. I take the point about their salaries and justifying their existence!

As for the Alzheimers, I think the main point of a diagnoses is to get the label so as to be eligible for services. I don't know how you are situated but around here there aren't any services. We tried to have 'the talk' but..... My mum copes with my dad [in England] who has the same. I also heard on the radio anecdotally that the numbers are climbing to gargantuan proportions now that we're all living so much longer and so much more healthier. Anyway, I detect 'ramble.'
Best wishes

At 3/29/2009 11:47 AM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Maddy, LOL, I don't know about humping, but there's usually quite a bit of ass-kissing involved. ;)

I'd like to see Mom diagnosed so she could try one of the medications that supposedly extends their "good" years.

At 3/30/2009 12:56 AM, Blogger Mike S said...

I owned several restaurants in FL as investments and my managers were all given tape recorders & told to record ALL inspections. It's really an eye-opener owning a few in adjoining counties at the same time. I'm firmly convinced that the rule makers have relatives who manufacture paper, pens, and clipboards. Possibly a printing company as well.

When we retired back in Maine 16 years ago we bought this very rural apt bldg to live in. After the 1st section 8 inspection we gave everyone the option of living in clean, safe, reasonably priced(very cheeeeeep)apts or remaining on housing assistance. All stayed & I dropped the section 8 program. We now rent to low income families all utilities included for less than the state would pay. All we ask is they treat the place well, no drugs, and go to school if possible to earn a better living. I've only evicted 3 tenants in all those years. All 3 were bi-polar & quit their meds for good(bad!). Got a waiting list of about 10 couples, the newest addition to the list will be added on April 1st after a single mom who's waited 4 years moves in this week.

There's a common garden, picnic area, BBQ, and some extremely nice folks we'd never have gotten to see how ambitious they are with the state paying. The latest to move out finished nursing school(him) & welding tech school (her), got married after 7 years together, and they just bought their 1st home at ages 26 & 24.

Sorry for rambling on so.

At 3/31/2009 2:41 PM, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Tshsmom - I'd only suggest being a landlady if you can get ugly with people. It takes a strong stomach to rent out property. I'm too nice and got taken advantage of more than once. It's something that's more suited for jerks. As mean as that sounds, it's true.

The house I'm renting out, I already said they can ruin the carpets. Just keep the house intact. We're eventually going to move back into that house and tear out the carpet, enjoy the wood floor underneath, and probably put up solar panels.

At 4/01/2009 1:45 AM, Blogger SME said...

Heehee. Yeah, I have yet to see an e. coli or salmonella outbreak blamed on a cup of coffee that didn't actually come into contact with any food...

At 4/01/2009 4:57 PM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Mike, tape recording inspections is a terrific idea!
Your solution to section 8 sounds like a win-win situation.

ZS, I fear that I'd land in jail if a tenant trashed a house I owned.

SME, exactly!


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