On the alert for expired food-handling licenses

Since the lines at warehouse-style stores are always ridiculously long, I like to pass the time by checking out the legally required postings of food-handling and related licenses. Usually, two or three of their licenses have expired. It could be their seafood license, or their raw meat license, or their bakery license, it's always a surprise each time I visit.

When I point this out to someone, they usually just say, "Oh, um, you'll have to ask the main office." And when I ask the main office, they usually say, "Um, everything is just fine. The store was just slow to post the new licenses."

In other words, nobody wants to take responsibility for breaking the law. Maybe I should just report them to the health department. Or get some tips from this book.

Mind you, the bulletin board in our building hasn't updated its license to employ minors since it expired in 2000. I've pointed this out multiple times to our personnel department, and they assure me that they'll get right on it and post the new license, but it has yet to happen. When I sent them a reminder a few days ago, the response was disbelief, because some other "they" was supposed to have taken care of it. We'll see if anything changes.

Comments (30)
  1. Phylyp says:

    Curious – what are minors employed for in MSFT?

  2. If it’s not that bad then we should repeal the law.

  3. Microsofties says:

    Do you know that you can check the health inspection result online for food establishments?  They could be slow in posting the new license on site.


    Main page: http://www.decadeonline.com/main.phtml?agency=skc

  4. On the alert for expired elevator permits says:

    Heh, just recently a friend pointed out an expired elevator license in a friend’s apartment as we were riding. I had never bothered to check before, in any elevator I had ridden, even though usually I just spend the time staring at a wall anyway. Sure enough, the next elevator I rode was expired as well. I’m on a mission now, or rather it’s an alternative to staring at fake wood panelling.

  5. Darn, I missed the Godwin’s Law event horizon. :)

    "If it’s not that bad then we should repeal the law." +1

    There is at least some utility in the licenses…  they let you know how "on top of things" the administrative staff is.

  6. PatriotB says:

    Dang — a high school internship program!  Where was that when I was in high school?!

    (Of course I didn’t live in the Puget Sound area so I wouldn’t’ve "qualified"…)

  7. njkayaker says:

    People must be slow today: it took 7 posts to get to mentioning Nazis!

    So, if the license is expired, does it mean they -currently- satify the requirements? How much "grace" do you give people? A week, a month, a year? If they can’t do the simple thing of posting the current (valid) license, is it likely that they be doing the harder things (like being sanitary)?

  8. Chris Moorhouse says:

    I don’t check ’em ’cause I don’t care. Think of the number of people who cause car accidents, despite being regarded by our government as "well-behaved, responsible motorists". Yet I still cross the street, I still ride my bike in traffic where the law demands it, and still drive my car with everyone else where appropriate. I trust that out of the hundreds of motorists that I meet on any given day, not one is a complete looney that’ll run me over so as to make it to his manicurist’s on time. I treat food licencing the same way.

    I have yet to get food poisoning (except at McDonalds, which probably is not technically food poisoning, but rather the way you’re supposed to feel after eating that stuff), and I have yet to be run over. Trust is just a basic fact of life.

    On the other hand, a bunch of inspectors have good jobs, and maybe a few businesses do try harder. Who knows?

  9. microbe says:

    The license of our elevator has expired two years ago.

  10. Trey Van Riper says:

    I tend to point out expired elevator licenses.  I’ve always seen this problem in the elevators I ride at work (even after we moved to a new location).

    In North Carolina, I also looked for sanitation grades in restaurants.  You might find some of these surprising.  Most of the time, I saw a grade of ‘A’, but sometimes I saw less.  Once, I believe, I saw a grade of ‘D’.  Considering how lax some of the ‘A’ grades were, seeing a ‘D’ gave me considerable incentive not to eat in that restaurant.

    Since I moved to Maryland, though, I haven’t noticed such certificates as easily.  Perhaps the laws are a little more relaxed.

  11. sebmol says:

    Whether a law exists and whether a law is enforced rarely come together. In the case of licensing laws, they aren’t necessarily always there to protect customers but rather as a barrier to entry for new business in that industry. So the real backers of licensing laws are those already in the industry. And those organizations are the last ones who want licensing laws enforced on current business. So, the best of both worlds in this situation ends up being a situation, where licensing laws are vigorously enforced on new companies and mostly ignored when it comes to existing companies. May not be the ideal situation and it certainly doesn’t help consumers, but since when do we care about them ;-)

  12. Cooney says:

    Think of the number of people who cause car accidents, despite being regarded by our government as "well-behaved, responsible motorists".

    Not that many, actually. I’ll bet you find that a small number of people (usually 5-10%) cause the majority of accidents after you factor out weird weather related wrecks.

    The same is true of doctors – the majority of malpractice is done by roughly 10% of the population.

  13. d chalmers says:

    Wow, Raymond. Just… wow.

  14. Andrew Jackson says:

    On a different topic, assuming you read all comments, Ray …

    Has it occurred to anyone that

    ‘Comic Sans MS’

    translates to

    "funny without Microsoft" !!

  15. Wang-Lo says:

    Many anthropoligists believe that the human male most naturally pays attention to larger aggregates and abstractions, while the female is most in touch with practical everyday details.  Usually men undertake work such as associating families into tribes and tribes into nations.  Organizing the big hunt is manly.  Usually women perform the tasks of making and repairing shelter and clothing, gathering and preparing food, and tending the fire.  Fixing lunch is womanly.

    This means that it is usually men who set up things like food handling regulations and a department of health to enforce them.  Actually filling out the proper forms or properly posting the latest certificates would fall to some administrative assistant or secretary, usually a woman.  So a man would be satisfied that proper health laws were on the books, but a woman would insist that the posted certificates be up to date.

    In other words, Raymond, you complain like a girl too.


  16. Wang-Lo: That was a rather long comment but the punch line was well worth it!

  17. Jeff says:

    I also looked for sanitation grades in restaurants

    Here in Orlando, the local TV station does reports about restaurants that have failed sanitation, and why they failed. Sometimes they even go try to interview the owner.

    We get maybe half a dozen a month, for stuff like "roaches/rat poop in the kitchen", "broken refrigerator/sink", "dead animals in kitchen", "dead animals in food", "food improperly stored", etc

    Some of it is seriously disgusting.

    Oh yeah, and about expired elevator licenses:

    People used to get stuck several times a week in our crappy elevators here at work, until somone reported the expired licences. The landlord got a huge fine in addition to having to finally fix the elevators well enough to pass inspection.

    THAT is the purpose of licences. When it works, who cares, but when it’s broken you have a big can of whoop-ass that you can use to get it fixed.

  18. James says:

    "dead animals in kitchen", "dead animals in food"

    This is a travesty, call the health inspectors! :D

  19. Anonymous says:

    You *could* of course also spend your time on more important matters… :-)  Breaking the law isn’t always that bad, I think everyone should always use their personal judgement as well.

  20. Anonymous says:

    The Germans in WW2 just obeyed their orders and the law at the time. Yet we now believe that they should have used their personal judgement instead.

    I’m not saying that this is comparable, but I do believe that blindly following the law and pointing it out to people is a mistake. In this case, for example, it *really* doesn’t matter that much if a bakery license is expired.

  21. Len says:

    Here in NC they used to have ABCDEF grades.  Now they are % numbers.  Some are actually above 100%.  How can you get more than 100 which would mean perfect?  So I asked someone who has to deal with them (they had a 94%).  He told me that the owner and or manager can take classes to boost the number.  I have seen as high as 109%.

    Back when it was ABCDEF I saw a D once.  I gave that one a wide berth.  Who knows what you would have to do wrong to score that low.  That place lasted a month.  How can you almost fail when you just opened!?

  22. Mike Dunn says:

    Any business in Los Angeles county that sells food has to post its health inspection grade near the entrance. The signs say A B C or the raw number if less than a C grade (C being 70-79 out of 100). I rarely see any restaurants with worse than a B anymore, and I have to wonder if places are really that good, or if the inspectors can be *ahem* convinced to bump the grade up a bit. What, me cynical?

    Then again, I’ve only ever gotten sick from restaurant food once, so maybe the system does work.

  23. Kevin says:

    Can I say how glad I am that you haven’t made a new blog post today.

    If you and your collegues spent more time working and less time blogging then Vista might actually ship one day.

    At least the technical stuff is a USEFUL waste if your time. This is just pointless. I am a stockholder, and it is my opinion that all of you should stop this worthless nonsense and get back to work.

  24. teh win says:

    What is a "useful waste if [sic] time"?

  25. ChrisR says:


    I hate to break it to you, but you do not get to dictate what Raymond does in his spare time [1], no matter how much stock you own.  Now why don’t *you* get back to work instead of posting annoying messages on this blog.



  26. 8 says:

    I’ve heard of a McD getting a C. Yet they show each new kid a bunch of training videos, and have strict rules for hygene. All the food comes in plastics in cardboard boxes. Heck, the buns themself are quite like plastic when they’re still cold.

  27. Zian says:


    That also applies for Orange County and San Diego County.

    Try looking at Asian restaurants. *cringes*

  28. David Walker says:

    Interesting, Raymond, about the licenses for minors.  Let us know if it ever gets fixed.  (Six years?  Wow.  I wonder if Bill would care.  My guess is probably…)

  29. Mitheral says:

    Around here (BC and Alberta Canada) restaurants either pass or they don’t, there are no degrees of compliance.  I was seriously disturbed (on several levels) the first time I travelled to California and noticed the "C" posted on the door as I was exiting the establishment.

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