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St. Joseph County food service department short on staff, might reduce amount of inspections

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The St. Joseph County Food Service Department has a lot on it’s plate, with only five inspectors currently employed the department will most likely have to reduce the amount of food and restaurant inspections it does in a year.

“We have 1200 entities that need inspections every year,” said Carolyn Smith, the
Food Service director.

Some restaurants are inspected by the department two or three times a year, depending on the establishment’s interaction with food. But this year some of those restaurants will only be inspected once.

“Everybody will get at least one because we’re over half way thru the year but we might be kind of shaky on that two inspections for like a McDonald’s or Burger King,” Smith said.

Smith said those, and other fast food spots, don’t deal with raw food as much as a regular restaurant, they are cooked to order, and don’t have leftovers. But Smith says folks should not panic.

“99.9% of our establishments they know what to do you can go out and eat with confidence,” Smith said.

The owner of a new restaurant called Linden Grill said they had no problems passing their first inspection.

“We aced it, we did great there was no problems, we didn’t hear anything bad, we keep it as clean as we can as possible,” said Barbara Jones, waitress at Linden Grill.

And this waitress said they do that because their customers deserve it.

“It’s very important to have inspections like that because people want to know what they’re getting into when they come to a restaurant, they want it to be clean you know and that’s what we expect too,” Jones said.

The department is in charge of with the 1200 regular inspections, but also over 200 complaints, and a whole host of other duties --- including in the summer, 940 temporary events.

“Put all that in the mix, and um, we’re kind of tired, but you know doing the best that we can,” Smith said.

Back in 2014, problems arose all over the county. St. Joseph county leaders told department heads, including Smith, they needed to cut three percent of the current budget. Smith said, in 2014, two inspectors retired and after that she’s seen employee turnover.

“Another person left in 2015 we hired another person still down one and last week my assistant left for a better job at Notre Dame, I’m happy for him but sad for us,” Smith said.

Smith says she understands the feelings folks will have when they hear these issues but says there is no need to worry.

“They can go out and feel safe that the food that they are going to consume is going to be safe, sanitary and in an environment that’s conducive to even enjoyment,” Smith said.

According to Smith, in 2015, the department received 35 applications for new establishments. In 2016, that number rose to 53 applications, and today, nearly halfway into the year, they’ve received 27 applications.

 

 

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