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Dear Olympia Restaurants and Food Service Establishments

th-copy-2If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you feel as if you are going to die, in fact, after several hours of painful stomach cramps as well as violent diarrhea and vomiting, you kind of wish for death. It’s really one of the worst experiences you can have. It starts with a mild tummy ache that comes on in light waves. You think, wow, this is not cool, I hope it goes away. Over a few hours, the pain increases. Soon you are sitting or laying down, doubled over, writhing in discomfort. During this time, your body is preparing to expel (by whatever means necessary) the multiplying bacteria in your body. Or in other words, unleash hell. I don’t really need to explain the truly miserable experience of diarrhea and vomiting. It’s seriously no joke (and no exaggeration) when you hear “I didn’t know what end to put on the toilet.” Luckily, in my experience, I managed to hit my target, but that’s not to say there weren’t some close calls. Even in complete agony, I am able to read my body signals and get to the bathroom. (I have never liked camping out on the bathroom floor. I find a bed even the slightest bit more comfortable.) When my body temperature rises, my mouth salivates and a warning in my gut tells me vomiting will soon commence. When finished, I am ice cold, shivering with uncontrollable muscle spasms. At this point, you should start drinking electrolytes to decrease the chances of dehydration. Up and down, back and forth from the bed to the bathroom for about 7 hours or so. Every time you think you are done, and there couldn’t possibly be anything left to get rid of, your body surprises you and say Nope, Guess Again! After a while, you are so exhausted, at about 1:30 in the morning, you manage to take a small anti-diarrhea pill and fall asleep.

Now, even though the most wretched part is over (usually) you are left completely depleted, weak, and exhausted for several days. In fact, full recovery won’t happen for several weeks to months. All of your gut flora has been wiped out, most of the nutrients in your body are gone and dehydration is a serious concern for several days. Not to mention, you have absolutely no appetite. Which is counter-productive to regaining any strength or will to move farther than a few feet at a time. And you can forget about going up stairs or doing damn near anything for several days. Figure on sitting for long periods, sleeping or shuffling around the house in sweats you’ve been in since the nightmare began.

I seem to have a rather in-depth knowledge of this you say. Yes, yes, I do. Between August 2013 and February 2017 (3 years and 6 months), I’ve got food pinioning 3 times from places in Olympia (not from home cooking). Two of the instances were only 18 days apart. That means I wasn’t fully recovered from one of the episodes when I got it again. AGAIN!! In this entire time, my husband never got sick. Meaning, it made narrowing down the culprits easier because sometimes we ate at the same place, but ate different things.

My beef (no pun) with Olympia food establishments is food safety seems to be an afterthought. I, myself know quite a bit about food safety, as a pretty serious gourmet home cook. I even have a food handlers permit (it’s not hard to get). Which I got just for the heck of it. I read The Olympians Health Inspections and there is really no excuse for multiple red violations.
NO EXCUSE! If you are in the food business, food safety should be your number one priority. If your product looks or smells remotely off, DON”T SERVE IT!! And for Heaven’s Sake, WASH YOUR HANDS . . . ALWAYS and after EVERYTHING!

The trouble is that many food “professionals” in Olympia aren’t that at all. It is just a job, it’s not a career. Say for example any of the Tom Douglas restaurants in Seattle (Lola, Dahlia Lounge, Palace Kitchen, Serious Pie, etc.) I feel confident that the likelihood of getting a foodborne illness from one of his restaurants is pretty slim because the entire staff is made up of career chefs, bartenders, hostesses, wait staff, etc. How to prep and handle chicken as well as cooking it to an internal temp of 165 F is so engrained, they could do it with a blindfold on. In fact, when I was two weeks out from my second bout of foodborne hell, my husband and I were in Seattle and needed a place to eat dinner. Feeling a bit anemic from not eating for 5 days, a burger sounded good and Palace Kitchen has one of the best in Seattle. I was completely confident that it wouldn’t make me sick. Super fresh, farm-sourced ingredients, homemade bun, excellent quality meat, professional, well-known restaurant, career chefs – no problem.

I’m not going to name names (where I got ill). But one of the places is considered to be one of Olympia’s “better” restaurants (near the water). They should have known better. I got sick from a chicken salad. Due to the events surrounding eating there, my husband and I ate there on my birthday (seriously) and had different entrees, I am 100% sure it was the chicken salad from this particular restaurant.

I’ve had three different conversations with the Health Department. The second was an hour interview with four pages of questions. I was lucky enough to speak with the gal who inspects the offending restaurant. She took it very seriously. I wish the cooks in Olympia took it as seriously as she does. Food safety really isn’t difficult. People’s health and even lives are in your hands when you cook for them. It’s to be taken very seriously! I even go so far as to Clorox wipe my entire kitchen down after dealing with raw chicken. As someone who’s had food poisoning, that’s how seriously I take food safety!

Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures and I take great pride in eating good food as well as cooking it. It’s true you can taste the love food is cooked with. I take great care every time I make a meal and cook with love. I’d feel just awful if I knew my husband (or anyone else) got sick from something I made.

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