In October, a health inspector for the city of Minneapolis saw a server at the 5-8 Club put food on someone's plate using a bare hand.
Staff were told not to do that.
An inspection that same month at the Loon Cafe in downtown found that "several foods" in storage, including salsa and sour cream, were not cold enough.
At Hola Arepa in May 2019, sweet potatoes about to be served had fallen to room temperature, black beans that had been in the cooler "several hours" were still too hot, and a dishwasher wasn't getting water hot enough to meet city standards.
These are only a few examples of the details waiting to be found in a massive trove of health inspection records the city of Minneapolis made public online Thursday, bringing a formerly archaic system of record-keeping into the present.
Prior to the launch of the database, Minneapolis was an outlier among American cities. Out of 20 major metropolitan areas, Minneapolis had been the only one without its health records available online, according to the Star Tribune.
Individual site visits by an inspector are scored from 0-100, with 100 being a perfect score, and points deducted for violations. Violations that jeopardize consumer safety cost the most points, while lesser matters like busted equipment are weighted less.
The data dump includes records dating back through 2017, and captures both "routine" checks like those described above, and follow-ups to see that changes had been made and problems addressed.
Safe storage and the inappropriate use of bare hands (plus the routine washing of hands, which inspectors watch for) make up some of the most common health risks. Also under scrutiny are businesses' systems for tracking employees who've reported illness, written warnings when customers are consuming foods (such as raw fish) that carry inherent risk, and storing foods where they can't cross-contaminate another item.
Sit-down restaurants aren't the only ones getting inspected: Food trucks, grocery stores, gas stations, coffee shops—including some 25 Caribou Coffees—gyms, and even school buildings like frat houses are subject to inspection.
And don't go getting snobbish: Of the four Taco Bells in Minneapolis, none has received a score lower than 96 in the last three years, and three of four Pizza Huts have received perfect 100s on each inspection. (The south Minneapolis location on Chicago Avenue had a few issues in prior years, but came through with scores of 96 on two inspections in 2019.)
Read up, eat up, and don't say the city didn't warn you.