"We have things that are considered priority items and things that are considered core items. The priority items are directly linked back to the main causes of food born illness," said Cary Gray, northwest regional food specialist for the Arkansas Department of Health.
Health inspectors survey restaurants across Northwest Arkansas. They've seen plenty of problems in local eateries.
"Improper food holding temperatures, cooking temperatures, contaminated equipment, personal hygiene of the food employees," Gray said.
Because of these issues, the Arkansas Dept. of Health is now implementing new rules for any employee handling food. One specifically created to prevent situations like the one in Benton County last week.
"We have recently adopted a no bare hand contact with ready to eat food and people are still getting used to abiding by that," Gray said.
Upon inspection, if a problem is spotted, the health department works with the establishment to fix it immediately.
"The operator has to correct it on the spot. If they can't for some reason, then we will try to negotiate a time frame that that item will be corrected," Gray said.
And while inspectors like Gray are working to keep restaurants clean and the public healthy, he says illnesses like shigella are not uncommon.
"Food's imported into this country. It comes from all over the U.S. and it does happen," Gray said.
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