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A day in the life of a health inspector

If you’re in the food service business in Ironton, then you know Paul Drescher.

Drescher is the director of environmental health for the Ironton Health Department.

Throughout the year, he will inspect 75 businesses as the sole restaurant inspector. He will visit many of these businesses twice, sometimes three times.

There is a lot of scrutiny that goes into inspecting a typical restaurant.

He let The Tribune tag along on a mock inspection of a popular chain restaurant.

“The first thing I do is wash my hands,” said Drescher as he began his inspection.

He said that he likes to set a good example for the employees.

His next stop was the dry storage area. He checked to make sure everything was neat, orderly and above all, clean.

The next step was to check food temperatures.

“I sanitize the thermometer with alcohol wipes and let it dry,” he said.

After his thermometer was properly sanitized he checked the temperature of some prepared beef.

“Hot holding is 135 degrees,” said Drescher. “It may be more for some of the chain companies. They may have standards of their own that are higher than the state’s.

He showed that the digital thermometer read 180 degrees and was still rising.

He then began to check the warmers. He opened each, checking the cleanliness inside, as well as the temperature of the contents. He even checked to see if the exterior of each warmer was clean.

“I run my hands behind the handles to see if anything is collecting,” he said.

“I do that everywhere.”

The equipment was not the only thing Drescher inspects in the kitchen. He also inspected the employees.

“I check to see if they’re wearing hats or hairnets,” he said. “You look at everything.”

Coming in during busy lunch hours, Drescher said he has to use his judgment on whether prep line messes are fresh or old.

“You can tell a new mess from an old one. A new mess, they’re going to clean up. They’ll clean a new mess up within an hour,” he said.

Not to be forgotten, Drescher checked the cold storage.

“Cold holding temperature is 41 degrees,” he said of Ohio’s guidelines for refrigeration.

The actual temperature of the walk-in refrigerator was 34 degrees, as shown by his thermometer. He also checked the freezer to ensure that its contents were frozen.

Drescher also checked the sinks and that there were sanitizers test strips. He said the strips indicate if too much or too little sanitizer is put in the dishwater.

He said he inspects every aspect of a kitchen, from its prep areas to its storage areas. This inspection was briefer since it was a mock inspection.

“A real inspection takes longer,” Drescher said. “They take about an hour.”

The bathrooms were also inspected.

“Make sure the toilets flush,” he said. “And make sure there is a hand wash sign for employees.”

He also checked to see if there were soap and paper products.

Last but not least, he checked the dumpsters outside.

“Lids must be closed. There must be no way for a bird, a rodent, a raccoon to get inside the dumpster.

“At the end when we’re done, I go back in a do sort of an exit interview. I do my write up on this form, I explain each rule to the manager,” Drescher said. “I ask him questions about how they are doing some things, partly to test their knowledge, partly because it’s part of the inspection. After that we sign the form, then I leave.”

If there are any violations, Drescher said he gives them the appropriate amount of time to correct them. He would them return to re-inspect the violation in question.

“I try to be more educational,” said Drescher. “I do enjoy doing the food. I have a good working relationship with the managers.”