Hypothetically at least, the 6,100 Dallas restaurants, bars, school cafeterias, and food trucks are supposed to be inspected twice a year by city health inspectors. But when the responsible department's budget is cut by 43 percent and its inspection staff by more than a third, its ability to conduct such inspections lags, which is why, at the beginning of 2012, the city found itself faced with a considerable backlog.
Since then, the city has plowed through the overdue inspections and, with the help of an outside vendor and some additional hires, been able to keep up with the inspection schedule. Which, as councilwoman Sandy Greyson noted at this morning's meeting of the City Council's Quality of Life committee, marks "considerable progress."
An additional five restaurant inspectors are being requested in the 2012-13 budget, but officials are want to be more proactive. The city is proposing to require all food handlers, not just those who work at an establishment were "critical violations" are found, to have food-safety certification. An ordinance is scheduled to go to council in October.
Wait. So restaurant workers in Dallas don't already have to take food safety courses? Before I started work at a pizza joint in Richardson when I was 16, I had to spend a Saturday learning how not to pee in customers' food and the like. I figured that was how things happened everywhere. In Dallas, only one employee in any given restaurant has been required to undergo training. They then presumably pass the knowledge on to the rest of the staff.
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The takeaway from all this is that the restaurant you are dining in has been recently inspected and is presumably safe. And at least one person on staff has been told not to pee in your food. Bon appetit.