The ‘big brother effect’: How restaurants work with health department to keep food safe


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) – When you go out to eat at a restaurant, you’re likely not thinking about what goes on in the kitchen. That’s the job of both the restaurant itself and the health inspector. It’s a unique partnership that one local restaurant owner refers to as the ‘big brother effect.’

Ross Mueller has been in the restaurant business for 12 years. He owns Label 7 in Pittsford and Native in downtown Rochester. He said health inspections are important to him as a restaurant owner.

“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have violations, but I think anyone would be lying if they said they didn’t have any violations. I think the health inspectors wouldn’t be around if everybody didn’t have violations. I don’t think its something people should hide from or lie about,” Mueller said.

One of those violations was for unsafe food storage. Mueller said canned goods were on a shelf that had chipped paint. After getting the violation, Mueller said he decided they would poxy the shelf to prevent paint from chipping again.

Mueller said he tries to look at every health inspection as a chance to improve. Dr. Michael Mendoza from the Monroe County Department of Health said inspectors try to make each visit a learning experience for the restaurants.

“I think it’s important to point out that all we know is all we see. We’re there for two inspections a year and that business is in business all the other times in that year. It’s important people understand that our role, we really want our role to really have an influence all the other days when we’re not inspecting,” said Dr. Mendoza.

He said the two main things inspectors look for are proper temperatures in refrigerators and freezers and bare hand contact. He said the most common critical violation is food that’s out of temperature.

“So we look at the refrigerator, we look at the freezers, we look to make sure they’re functional, operational, plugged in properly. All of those fundamental things that don’t sound so exciting are really important, we look for those first and foremost.”

Both Dr. Mendoza and Mueller encourage people to call the health department if they have a health concern in a restaurant.

“Sometimes people are like, ‘Oh I didn’t want to call the health department.’ I don’t say it directly, but I think to myself, ‘Well I wish you would,’ because I want them to come in and then you can realize it’s not us,” said Mueller.

Dr. Mendoza said during his time, a restaurant license was revoked permanently only once. He said he’s not here to shame or punish restaurants, he’s here to help.

To look up reports for your favorite restaurants in Monroe County, you can visit the health department’s database.

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