Group Lists Cities with Most Dirty Restaurants

A new report entitled “Dirty Dining” that was issued by the consumer group the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has ranked 20 U.S. cities for <"">restaurant health.  Austin, Texas, and Boston hold the worst rankings; Tucson, Arizona and San Francisco rank the best.  The report does not state if diners are dirtiest in Austin and Boston, if those towns have the toughest inspectors, or if higher ranking towns have more lenient inspectors.  The report was co-authored by food-safety attorney Sarah Klein, JD.

The CSPI ranking considers, “how often city inspectors found five major health hazards and five less critical concerns in 30 high-end, medium-range, and fast-food eateries in each city.”   The major health hazards include food held at an unsafe temperature. According to a 2004 FDA report,” 65% of restaurants don’t fully comply with federal Food Code guidelines on food temperature.”  Hand washing is another hazard and, according to a 2007 CDC report, “20% of food-borne illnesses caused by bacteria come from infected workers.”  Improper cooking is also cited and a 2004 FDA report estimated that “about 16% of full-service restaurants don’t fully cook their food.”  The FDA found that “56% of full-service restaurants were not  were not compliant” in the area of contaminated food-contact surfaces and that 13% of full-service restaurants don’t comply with food-source guidelines.

Less serious concerns include substandard employee cleanliness and hygiene, rodents and insects, improper use of wiping cloths, the presence of sick restaurant workers, and bare-hand contact with raw food.

The CSPI urges every city and state to adopt a restaurant grading program, such as as is done in Los Angeles County, where restaurants post, in the front window, a letter grade from inspectors indicating if they received an A, B, or C.  Lower grades result in the restaurant closure.

Mary Adolf, president of the solutions, products, and services group of the National Restaurant Association, noted that  health inspections provide only a small piece of what is occurring in any restaurant at any given time.  Also, some cities were more reticent than other to report and some did not provide routine reports on the 30 restaurants requested.  For instance, Baltimore, which fared well in the rankings did not provide data on 16 of 30 restaurants.

The CSPI’s city rankings, from worst to best is:

  • Austin, Texas: 58 violations in 30 restaurants
  • Boston: 63 violations in 30 restaurants
  • Milwaukee, 27 violations in 20 restaurants
  • Colorado Springs, Colo.: 46 violations in 30 restaurants
  • Kansas City, Mo.: 41 violations in 30 restaurants
  • Pittsburgh: 40 violations in 30 restaurants
  • Denver: 35 violations in 30 restaurants
  • Las Vegas: 30 violations in 25 restaurants
  • Washington, D.C.: 27 violations in 25 restaurants
  • New York: 32 violations in 30 restaurants
  • Atlanta: 19 violations in 20 restaurants
  • Portland: 25 violations in 27 restaurants
  • Baltimore: 14 violations in 14 restaurants
  • Minneapolis, Minn.: 31 violations in 29 restaurants
  • Chicago: 22 violations in 30 restaurants
  • St. Louis: 17 violations in 27 restaurants
  • Seattle: 16 violations in 30 restaurants
  • Philadelphia: 16 violations in 23 restaurants
  • San Francisco: 15 violations in 30 restaurants
  • Tucson, Ariz.: 14 violations in 29 restaurants
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