BRADENTON, Fla. — When it comes to checking out the estimated 44,000 restaurants across the state of Florida, health inspectors see it all.
Common health code violations involve roaches or rodents – but pests and vermin are not the only things that can potentially put customers at risk. Employees not properly washing their hands is another major concern, and inspectors say other bad habits can be equally problematic.
Last month, state records show an employee at the Cortez Clam Factory in Bradenton was cited for vaping in the kitchen. Florida prohibits both smoking and vaping in restaurant food prep areas. Many customers dislike the idea of cigarette ashes landing in their food, and they're not thrilled about vape chemicals flying around either.
Food safety experts say the bigger concern – is saliva.
According to the experts, when a person smokes or vapes, they can inadvertently contaminate their hand with tiny particles of spit. If that person handles food for a living – well – you get the picture.
There are similar concerns with employees handling uncovered drink cups which can spread saliva the same way. Restaurant employees are required to use a lid and straw to keep saliva off their hands.
Experts acknowledge the risk of transmitting disease this way is very low, and the state considers smoking or vaping in the kitchen a “basic” or low priority violation. None-the-less, food safety inspectors report an increase in the number of restaurant workers caught vaping in the kitchen.
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