The state Health Department says a restaurant can have roaches and rodents and still pass inspection.
Peter Oshiro is in charge of the state's new color-coded restaurant inspection program which aims to prevent food borne illness. He says rodents and roaches aren't a deal breaker for restaurants trying to earn that coveted green “pass” placard.
"Roaches, rodents are not a good sign anyway because again it shows a lack of cleaning procedures. But those are not the things that are gonna make you sick and those are not the focus of our inspections," said Oshiro.
Oshiro says inspectors look for things like food kept at proper temperatures, personal hygiene and protecting foods from contamination. If a restaurant doesn't meet those standards, it won't pass. He says insects, rodents and animals fall under the "good retail practices" section and do not have a direct correlation to food borne illness.
"If we see cockroaches running around, we'll tell them to make sure that they get pest control operators or pay more attention to cleaning so they don't have a roach problem. But again, those are aesthetic violations and those are not critical violations that are affecting the placarding program," Oshiro said.
Oshiro says the state's program is based on federal recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control. But many are still shocked to learn bugs and vermin aren't a major concern.
"I think that rodents and bugs are known to carry dirt and disease and other problems in our food and I think that that's a very necessary part of this grading system," said Tessa Bodell.
"I mean that's what I have been led to believe thus far, that the green pass sort of approves...that that's one of the areas that was covered under the inspection. But if that's not the case that's a little alarming," Dane Nakama said.
"I am surprised about that because there are a lot of rodents out there that carry diseases and a lot of cockroaches that you don't want to find in your food an everything and I find that pretty shocking actually," restaurant manager Christopher Llarenas said.
The Health Department encourages people to call them if they see roaches or rodents in any food establishments.
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