City: Food safety inspections stepped up for Taste

CHICAGO Government and city health officials took a tour of the booths in Grant Park Friday.

"This is going to be top of the line. Security's been great so far. The food vendors have been very polite and friendly," said Ken Kathold, Taste visitor.

"They wouldn't put anything out here that isn't good. And flew all the inspectors and everything so I think it's OK," said Daniel Barton, Taste visitor.

Ed Schafer, the secretary of the U.D. Department of Agriculture, is getting a personal tour of the Taste from Dr. Terry Mason of the Chicago Health Department and the director of food operations Francis Guichard, who is explaining how inspectors every two hours are testing the food preparation, how it is being refrigerated and how it is being handled.

"Washing is critical. Make sure they are changing their gloves and washing their hands and we can see they're wearing gloves. And we look for self-contamination potential," said Guichard.

"You see at the festival, where every two hours, we're checking something," said Schafer.

"We stepped up our educational efforts. We are inspecting these booths every two hours. We're inspecting the temperatures about the refrigerator and freezer cases all night. We've had intensive opportunities to work with all of the restaurants that have been here," said Mason.

Last year, more than 100 Taste visitors were stricken with salmonella linked to the Pars Cove Persian cuisine booth that is not back this year.

The owner of Tiparos restaurant believes the safety rules are necessary.

"In order to maintain our safety for the customer, and healthy food for the customer, then this is what we need to do," said owner Paul Deepipat.

"Feeding the public, dealing with a lot of people, so safety's first," said Cordell Robinson, Robinson Ribs.

Visitors do not appear to be concerned about eating at this year's Taste.

"The food is very hot. It's fresh. Obviously it just started. But no, there's places to wash your hands. So the health department can dispose of the waste," said Taste visitor Sharon Swanson.

Last year, they disposed of 2,200 pounds of food. If someone is in violation, they will be cited, but if it's a serious violation then they will be removed from the Taste.

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