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Fewer inspections at area restaurants leading to unsafe dining

There are less and less[health] inspections being done to catch those violations. (WPEC)

Roaches, rodent droppings and rotten food are just some of the violations inspectors find at area restaurants.

It used to be done frequently to keep our families safe when we go out to eat.

FEWER INSPECTIONS

But CBS12 News Investigates found restaurants may not be getting the proper once-over any more.

We found there are fewer and fewer inspections being done at area restaurants which may be a cost cutting move letting restaurants off the hook when it comes to following safety requirements.

“It’s a public health issue,” Dr. Kevin Murphy said.

Dr. Kevin Murphy with the University of Central Florida is a leading expert on restaurant sanitation.

Dr. Murphy told us Florida's inspection process is different than other states: The fines are less, the number of inspectors is less, and the state controls the process.

In Florida, that's the Department of Professional Regulation or DPR.

Other states give authority to cities and counties.

Dr. Murphy said lower fines and fewer inspections are because of the current administration in Tallahassee focuses on less regulations for businesses in the state.

"If there's less inspection done, then the quality of the sanitation in the restaurants tends to slide,” Dr. Murphy said.

CRUNCHING THE DATA

CBS12 News Investigates sorted through inspection records from DPR.

We found, the number of restaurant inspections and fines for violations have steadily decreased over the past eight years.

The number of inspections have been almost cut in half. And, the total fines are down close to 400%.

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Fewer inspections come at a time when there is an increasing number of restaurants opening and an increasing number of inspections with multiple violations.

In Palm Beach County that includes roach activity, dirt and debris, keeping food at dangerous temperatures, rodent droppings, and storing raw chicken over ice cream and banana peppers.

“I would say [Governor] Scott’s Administration has accomplished what it set out to do. And, that is to reduce regulation on businesses in the State of Florida,” Dr. Murphy said.

RESPONSE

We asked Governor Rick Scott for an interview, but he declined, referring us to the DPR.

DPR didn't reach out and when we tried to talk with them, they also declined an on camera interview.

DPR sent us this statement:

Responsive to your request, a decrease in fines does not mean enforcement is down. We hold restaurants that are not following our very high standards accountable every time. DBPR has implemented a new priority-based inspection system that creates a more efficient process and focuses on higher-risk restaurants that have demonstrated a history of non-compliance. Nearly 200 inspectors are ensuring these standards are being followed across the state every single day. The drop in the number of citations issued is not a reflection of our work to enforce Florida law and keep restaurants clean.

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