Your article about the lax inspection standards for Portland’s restaurants (March 2 edition) is both shocking and surprising. Ensuring that public eateries are safe and healthy places for residents and tourists is a basic responsibility of local and state government, right up there with ensuring that our drinking water is clean and safe.
Frequent, rigorous inspections of kitchens and storage areas by those empowered to impose fines and even close restaurants are absolutely necessary. The “culinary expert” quoted in your article suggests that consumers can ascertain the sanitary conditions of restaurants by looking under the tables for crumbs and assessing the neatness of the wait staff. What I want to know is whether the raw food and supplies in the back of the store are being handled properly. Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant or watched “Kitchen Nightmares” knows that even the worst kitchens can hide behind the façade of an attractive dining room. “Trust but verify” is the standard that should apply here.
Dining out should be exciting and fun, not a crap shoot for moldy food, salmonella poisoning, or worse. The state of Maine and Portland’s Planning Department, which are responsible for inspections, must stop making excuses and start doing their jobs.
And I have to wonder: how would Portland’s restaurateurs feel if every tourist who came here knew about these shameful inspection standards? Do they really believe this information would not worry consumers?