It’s a Dirty Job, But Somebody’s Gotta Do It


Even though a day’s work might include having a cockroach crawl up her leg, Sonia Andrusiak says she loves her job.
     That doesn’t happen most days. But as a restaurant inspector for Sacramento County’s Environmental Management Department, Andrusiak admits she never knows what she’s going to find. “I’ve seen the worst, the best—everything out there,” she says.
     What, exactly, do restaurant inspectors do? Are they like astronauts on a space mission, poking around with probes, measuring temperatures and searching every nook and cranny for clues?
     Kind of. Andrusiak says the job requires a “big bag of tools”—probes, test strips, flashlights and more—for checking food items at every stage of the game (cooked, refrigerated, cooled, reheated) and scrutinizing a facility’s condition. The top-to-bottom investigations include more than 50 checkpoints ranging from employee hygiene to sanitized food surfaces and proper holding temperatures. Facilities that prepare food are inspected three times a year, retail markets twice a year.
     Major violations—anythingthat puts the public at immediate risk (vermin infestation or overflowing sewage, for example)—can mean instant shutdown unless repairs are made on the spot. But closure rates in Sacramento County are low, according to EMD supervising environmental specialist Zarha Ruiz, who puts them at 1 to 2 percent.
     Comforting thoughts for those who would rather not spot animal droppings on the floor when they waltz through the door. But what about Andrusiak, whose job it is to look for them? “It’s usually pretty obvious if there’s an infestation in the facility,” she says. “Sometimes you may not see rodents, for example, but you’ll see hundreds of droppings. But if you move things around, usually they’ll scurry out.”
     Better her than us.

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