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Food in Cleveland Ohio

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Before taking the family out to eat, you might want to search our database of health citations issued to thousands of Ohio restaurants, gas stations and other places that handle food.

All Ohio restaurants are inspected at least twice a year.Associated Press file

The database contains 147, 614 violations at more than 20, 000 businesses, institutions or government agencies during the inspection year that ran from March 2015 through February 2016.

Common violations include food not being kept at the right temperature to cooks not properly cleaning their hands and utensils.

Many of the state's 122 health departments, including Shaker Heights, are not yet participating in the voluntary program first offered in June 2013. But the database is complete for the rest of Cuyahoga County with inspections by either the county health district or the city of Cleveland.

Also included from Greater Cleveland are citations issued by health departments for Lake County, Lorain County, Medina County, Summit County and the city of Kent.

Each business handling food is inspected by the local health department at least once a year. There are two inspections a year for places that cook and serve food, or slice meats.

Paul DeSario, supervisor for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health's food inspection program, said finding a problem is not unusual. Problems are found during more than half the restaurant visits in the county. But the number of violations or the seriousness of them could raise concerns for customers.

"If they choose to look at it [the database], I would tell them to look for hand-washing violations - that's important - and any contamination, " DeSario said.

Critical violations are often corrected on the spot. Time is often provided to fix other problems. There are no fines, but health officials can threaten to suspend or revoke licenses to operate.

Jamie Higley, administrator of the food safety program for the Ohio Department of Health, said people viewing the reports should keep in mind that they are a "snapshot" of the inspection day. Yet, he said, making reports available on the internet provides an opportunity for patrons to investigate before eating.

"They can search the inspections reports for their own benefit. The reports are public record, but a lot of the public is not aware that they can contact the local health department to get these reports, " Higley said.

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