HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – There can be some pretty disturbing things in restaurants that the general public is not aware of when they go out to eat. That’s why the Alabama Department of Public Health does random checks, to make sure food operators are staying on the straight and narrow.
“Infestations of roaches, rodents, insects and rodents, we have that, common,” said James Congleton, ADPH’s North District environmental director. “The mold inside an ice machine, that’s a common violation. Chemicals is one of the most common violations. The fact that they’re either stored in the wrong location or not labeled.”
Congleton oversees a 12 county area of food inspectors working to make sure restaurants are operating in such a way that the public remains safe.
“It is a challenge because we put productivity on a very high level here in North Alabama to make sure we are in compliance to the best of our ability for food inspections,” he said. “It can be challenging to keep up with staffing and the number of establishments that we have.”
The relationship between inspectors and restaurant owners isn’t always perfect.
“There can be conflicts because people do not like obtaining low scores or finding critical items in their establishment that may be effecting the public’s health,” Congleton said.
Food inspectors look at the process as a relationship between them and restaurant owners, Congleton said.
“It’s a partnership. That we go into a food establishment not just to find critical violations, or other violations of the public health laws of Alabama, but to help that establishment to find these things that will better protect their business and better protect food service operations.”
The Northern District Congleton is the director of includes Madison, Morgan and Limestone counties.
It’s rare for a food operators permit to be revoked, Congleton said.
When it is, an establishment can reapply after 90 days.