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SHERIDAN — Wyoming law dictates every public restaurant should be inspected at least once a year by an expert from the Department of Agriculture. Visits from the food inspector are unannounced to restaurant owners and staff, and can give the public an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes of their favorite eateries.
Manager of Consumer Health Services Dean Finkenbinder said Wyoming’s food safety system doesn’t entail a grade or point system like some states.
“We used to have a point system,” Finkenbinder explained. “The reason we don’t now is operators were more interested in what their points were rather than correcting violations.”
Finkenbinder said a points system trended to minimize any potential problems in the minds of those being inspected.
“They could have a critical violation and still get 95 points,” he said.
Today’s inspection system for Wyoming food establishments — which encompasses everything from fast food joints to school cafeterias to swanky dinner clubs — simply designates violations in terms of critical and non-critical issues.
“What we decided to go with was making our inspections based on a hazard analysis critical control system,” Finkenbinder said. “Criticals are the ones that are most likely to cause foodborne illness, like temperature or sanitation issues.
Non-criticals might be something like if they don’t have chemical test strips for their dishwater.”
Finkenbinder said most restaurants end up receiving a few suggestions when the food inspector comes through.
“If you’ve got a full-service establishment, theres’ a lot going on as far as food prep,” he said. “It’s very difficult to get an inspection report that doesn’t have any violations on it.”
Finkenbinder added that while some violation descriptions incite feelings of vulnerability for a diner, the simple matter is the vast majority of public eateries are safe, even if they’re not perfect.
“Most foodborne illness comes from homes when people are preparing food and cross-contaminating, not cooking food to proper temperatures and other things like that,” he said.
Finkenbinder said restaurants generally have to correct violations on the spot, and if that’s not possible, they are given a small window of time to make things right. Places with a lot of serious issues are inspected more frequently and can even be shut down if violations are routinely not adequately addressed.
While residents of other states are accustomed to having the most recent food inspection reports posted publicly or at least having a “grade” posted in the window of every public food establishment, Wyoming’s does not have any similar disclosure requirement. However, restaurant inspections are public record, and they can be obtained via a request from the Department of Agriculture.
Here are the results of the most recent inspections for Sheridan’s non-fast food restaurants.
Records indicate all the violations listed have now been corrected.