KSLA Investigates: Inspectors find multiple critical health violations at some restaurants
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - We all do it. Whether it's stepping out for a quick bite at lunch, date night, a birthday celebration or even a night out with the family.
Our appetite often lands us in a drive-through or at a restaurant.
But how often do we stop to think what's going on in the kitchen?
Eating out in America is a near $750 billion industry.
A Statisa.com report says nearly half of all Americans report eating out at least once a week.
However, many people have no idea what's really going on in those kitchens.
"That's like one of the most important parts because if you don't have a clean place, the food is not as good. Then you have other problems that occur," said Chris Anthony, co-owner of Fully Stacked in Shreveport.
Keeping the kitchen clean is a full-time job in itself, he said.
And if things aren't cleaned up, Anthony added, the health department comes cracking down.
Health inspectors conducted more than 3,000 inspections last year, said Shirley Russell, manager of sanitarian services in Caddo Parish.
"It is very important. We are constantly getting calls from people that say 'my favorite restaurant, I eat there and something happened. I seen something that didn't look right'."
Russell, who has worked as a public health inspector for 25 years, said:
"I am very happy in Caddo and I'm sure in the state, too. People here are really good about complying, trying to get their stuff done once we sit down and talk to them and tell them what we need to do."
Every establishment where food is served is given a risk category based on the type of facility and how frequently food is cooked, she explained.
The higher the risk category, the more the inspections per year with no warning in advance.
"It's all surprise inspections," Anthony said.
During an inspection, violations found are broken into two categories - critical and non-critical.
"Those critical violations are the ones that could potentially make someone sick," Russell said. "Critical violations must be corrected by the next day."
Sometimes, however, there's another reason for an inspection - a complaint.
"We answer complaints within 24 hours," Russell explained. "If they call on a complaint this morning, we would go today."
In late January, KSLA Investigates requested a list of all complaints made to the Louisiana Health Department for the previous two months.
KSLA Investigates found complaints made against 16 restaurants in Bossier and Caddo parishes.
Combing through all 16, one - RJ's Restaurant on Mansfield Road in Shreveport - was found to have 6 critical violations.
The health inspector found roaches and more, in all, 6 critical violations.
Other critical violations included food not being date marked and raw animal food not separated from ready-to-eat food.
There also were 5 non-critical violations. .
The supervisor at RJ's told KSLA Investigates we'd need to speak to the owner on the phone.
The owner told us that the issues were resolved and that we could shoot video of food being prepared in the kitchen.
But after speaking with the cook, the owner said we'd have to set up another time to come back.
After several phone calls and voice mails, our calls were not returned.
A follow-up health inspection 3 days after the complaint inspection shows RJ's passed with just one critical violation, which was corrected on site.
Across town at Dairy Queen on Greenwood Road in Shreveport, a routine inspection revealed 12 violations.
Three were critical, including a dirty microwave and no food safety certificate.
Just last week, Russell said, Dairy Queen management got called to the health inspector's office for a conference after a failure to correct certain violations from another inspection conducted in late January.
KSLA Investigates made calls and left messages for the restaurant's director of operations but has not yet heard back from him.
Anthony says the push to keep its kitchen clean and equipment in good order is a never-ending process.
"Just one bad review on some type of dirty issue could sink you."
It's also important to remember that inspections aren't just conducted at restaurants.
Hospitals, schools, anywhere that has a license to serve food is inspected.
There are nearly 34,000 food establishments with permits in Louisiana, the state health department reports.
Of those, there are:
2,351 daycare and residential food preparation sites
1,077 meat markets
518 seafood markets
400 mobile food vendors
220 seasonal/temporary permits
Below is a guide to reading Louisiana food establishment inspection reports:
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