Restaurants refuse to show patrons inspection reports

Behind the Kitchen Door: Special Edition


ORLANDO, Fla. – When you head out to eat in some cities, you can see right on the window how that restaurant scored on its latest health inspection.

[WEB EXTRA: Look up reports for your favorite restaurants | VIDEO: How to decipher restaurant inspection reports ]

While that's not the case in Central Florida, restaurants are supposed to show you their most recent inspection report if you ask for it.

The Florida statute states:
"...any operator of a public food service establishment shall maintain the latest food service inspection report or a duplicate copy on premises and shall make it available to the public upon request."

It's the law, but the problem is that many restaurants either don't know about the law or it seems they're ignoring it. Local 6 went undercover and checked out 19 local eateries. We found nine of them either refused to give us the reports or said they did not have the current reports on hand.

One establishment said their store was new, and even though they were operating, they had not yet been inspected.

We sent a producer into El Potro in Apopka. The owner told him he didn't have the report easily accessible and wasn't going to give it to him.

But when Behind the Kitchen Door reporter Erik von Ancken went back to the restaurant, he spoke to Garcia Cirillo. Cirillo gave us the report right away this time, which showed a passing inspection score.

"Why did you give me the report, but not our producer?" asked von Ancken.

"I didn't know who he was. I don't trust people if I don't know who they are," said Cirillo. "They should have told me who they were, I would do it."

"But does that matter? Maybe it was just somebody who wanted to eat here," said von Ancken.

"Yeah, I guess," said Cirillo. "Yeah, I don't know."

"But you know you're supposed to keep this handy for anybody who asks for it?" said von Ancken.

"Yeah, I know," said Cirillo.

Other restaurants we visited gave us the report eventually.

At the Cheesecake Factory at Winter Park Village, our time-lapsed video shows it took 10 minutes, and speaking to three people as well as an email to corporate headquarters before the manager finally handed it over.

But we also found some restaurants do follow the rules, like Panullo's in Winter Park. We got the inspection report right away when we asked for it.

"Inspections are important to everyone. People come here with food-borne allergies or anything of that sort, so we want to make sure everyone understands we keep to code, and we follow every rule Florida has in place," said Frank Vogelsang, of Panullo's. "If they come and ask, we want them to see it. We have great product, and we have great reports every single time we meet with these people, and that's what we want to show people we're doing, keeping up with everything that's supposed to be done."

But the big question is: What should you be looking for or focusing on when you get your hands on an inspection report?

We turned to Dominic Cianciola, a state certified food safety trainer, of Last Call Training. He said just because a restaurant doesn't have an emergency closure on its record doesn't mean you're not at risk.

"A lot of times restaurants are still able to operate continuously without an application in process or even with major, major amounts of violations," said Cianciola.

Cianciola said the biggest things you'll want to look for are if there's a certified manager on staff, big pest problems as well as food-temperature violations.

"If food is kept well above the 41 degrees, if it's reaching 50 degrees or well above at 60 degrees, that would tell you either they're not caring for their equipment or they're leaving their food out to thaw out at room temperature, and that's unacceptable," said Cianciola. "Pathogens have the ability to grow at those levels. You may result in getting sick from a restaurant five or six days later, not an hour and a half after, as many assume."

He said if all else fails, or you're not comfortable asking for the report, just take a look around the facility.

"Dirty dining room, dirty kitchen. I mean, if they don't care where the people are sitting, do you think that they're enhancing the kitchen in any other way?" said Cianciola. "Realistically, if you're feeling uncomfortable when you walk in, 80 percent of hospitality has to do with comfortability. Once you feel comfortable walking into an operation, you know by instinct right then and there if you're going to like your meal or not like your meal."

About the Author: