Weekly Wonder: Boston sees over 10,000 food safety violations issued in 2020

A dozen restaurants had over 50 food violations in 2020, although some, like Subway, were collective across multiple locations.

By Stella Lorence
BU News Service

BOSTON – Over 10,000 food safety violations were issued to roughly 950 restaurants in Boston in 2020, according to newly analyzed city data.

The number of violations issued decreased by 44% from 2019, with restaurants receiving just over 50 violations on average. The majority of violations issued were deemed “non-critical.”

Food safety violations are issued by the Health Division of the Massachusetts Department of Inspection Services. Restaurants and other businesses that serve food are inspected at least once per year, and high-risk establishments are subject to follow-up inspections, according to the city of Boston website.

Of the nearly 950 restaurants issued violations last year, 90% were given multiple citations, including a dozen that were given over 50.

Violations vary from “non-critical,” “critical” to“foodborne illness risk factor critical.” Non-critical violations are those that don’t seriously affect public health, according to the city website. 

Critical violations are those that, if not complied with, are “more likely than other violations to contribute to food contamination, illness, or environmental health hazard,” according to the city website. 

Foodborne illness risk factor critical violations are those that have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “most prevalent” for contributing to foodborne illness. For example, meat not being stored at the proper temperatures is a risk factor critical violation.

The most commonly issued violation in 2020 was for “non contact food surfaces,” meaning areas not used for preparing food were found unsanitary. Inspectors issued over 600 of these violations last year, accounting for about six percent of all violations.

If a restaurant is found to have more than three non-critical violations during an inspection, the inspector decides whether the restaurant can be issued a pass with “minor violations,” said a Health Division staffer. The spokesperson for the Health Division could not be reached for comment.

One such restaurant, Anh Hong Restaurant, was issued 101 citations over the course of seven months, almost double the amount they were issued in 2019. It was named best Vietnamese restaurant in 2015 and 2019 by Boston Magazine.

City records show that Anh Hong Restaurant was inspected seven times last year, from February to November. It passed its most recent inspection on Nov. 10 with minor violations, according to city data, and is open for dine-in, delivery and takeout. The manager for Anh Hong could not be reached for comment.

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