Monday, May 10, 2010

Chelsea Holeman FINAL

Health violations don't scare Normanites

Theoretically, if a common person found out there were bugs, hairs, or toenails in their food, they’d stop eating it. Theoretically, such things would earn a health violation for the guilty restaurant and patrons would be driven away by the information. But when put to the test, these theories cannot stand alone in the real world. It seems that most people will overlook the dark side of cheap restaurants in exchange for their convenience.

“I don’t really have time to care if a fast food restaurant has a lot of food violations,” said Katy Dietz, OU junior and frequent fast food patron, “All I’m thinking is ‘Ok, Taco Bell is on the way home and I like their burritos.’ ”

Dietz isn’t the only one willing to forget the unspoken horrors of fast food. Lines snake around Taco Bells and McDonalds religiously every night around dinner. And yet, according to, an online site that lists a restaurant’s inspection violations, both Taco Bell and McDonalds had over 150 and up to 300 violations, several of which relate directly to food born illnesses. Both restaurants declined to comment.

“If you’ve gotten food poisoning before, you know how serious it is. You’re more likely to not visit that restaurant again. But everyone else who knows about it but hasn’t experienced it just assumes it’ll never happen to them,” said Daniel Dukes, store manger for Raising Cane’s. Dukes said he enforces the health code policy by having his team members clean as they go rather than try to clean at the end of the night.

According to a facts sheet provided by the Cleveland County Health Department, a health inspection report numbers the most important violations from one to twenty one. If any of those first twenty one are violated, it relates directly to the safety and health of the food served. “We can warn them, we can fine them, we can punish them, we can even shut them down,” said K.C. Ely, representative for environmental services at the Cleveland County Health Department, “but in the end, it comes down to how the manager enforces food safety.”

Dennis England, co-owner of Sugar Bakery, said he thinks that some of the violations are unnecessary and should be reformed. “Sometimes I think that it’s just some Fed in the Capitol who thinks they need to throw another law down to make themselves look better.” When England and his wife Christie first opened their bakery, their representative from the health department said they needed to change the green walls of their kitchen because it wasn’t ‘standard’. “I think she was just having a power trip that day,” said England.

Ely said that all of the violations are in place for a reason, and that repealing one would only lead to more people wanting more laws changed or removed. “We don’t sit in a room and think of ways to hurt small businesses. We’re run by the FDA, and these are national regulations.”

Dukes agrees that the rules are necessary, and adds that his business stands out because of them. “People notice when the restaurant they’re in is cleaner than what they’re used to. Our customers keep coming back because they feel comfortable and they know they’re getting a quality, clean product.”

Dietz said, “I mean, if there was a hair or a bug part in it, then maybe I’d stop eating it for a while. As long as it tastes good and I’m not throwing up later, I could care less if it’s been cooked properly.”