Wouldn’t you know it? I go out of town to a place with limited internet capabilities (there’s this thing called dial-up . . .) and a barefoot incident happens right back home in central Ohio.
It’s another case of a fast food worker being photographed in their bare feet behind the counter.
We saw that once before in Shoeless Employee Leads to Health Department Inspection two years ago.
This time it was in a McDonald’s in Newark, Ohio, which is about 20 miles east of Columbus. The story was “broken” by the Facebook webpage, Random Acts of Newark. Somebody in Newark spotted the woman employee, snapped the photo, and posted it.
Of course, it generated the usual sorts of comments:
“That’s disgusting. Shit should be reported.”
“Yeah, health code violation right there.”
Of course, as we all know, it is not a health code violation, even though so many think it is, and are so willing to share their ignorance.
Now, I’ve been in a McDonald’s in Newark barefoot a few times. I’m not sure that it’s this one; the comments suggest that it is the one right downtown, while I’ve been in the one just west of downtown. But really, no big difference.
Anyways, then the CBS station in Columbus picked up the story: Photo Of Barefoot McDonald’s Worker Investigated By Licking County Health Department. And it’s the usual mess of incoherent assumptions that just perpetuate the myths.
Again, no story would be complete without quotes from people who really don’t know what they are talking about. From the story:
Customers who saw the picture say they have a problem with the image.
“I think it’s gross. They won’t let anyone in there with bare feet, so why are they doing it?” asked Desiree Bender.
“I’m appalled! I eat there. That makes me wonder what else is going on,” said Terry Huff.
Well, yes, they do let people in there in their bare feet. And you see people in there in flip-flops all the time, with just as much of their feet exposed to view.
But then as you read further into the story, you see that, while the Health Department investigated, no citation was issued.
However, the Licking County Health Department says the matter is still considered a health code violation and sent an inspector to the restaurant Friday.
10TV obtained a copy of the Inspection Report. It shows an inspector looked into a complaint of a violation of “personal cleanliness” and it shows no citation was issued.
But workers were given the following corrective action: “Food employees shall wear clean outer clothing to prevent contamination of food, equipment, utensils, linens or single-service or single-use articles.”
Huh? On the one hand they say it is considered a health code violation, but on the other hand, no citation was issued. Well, if you look right there, you can see why: the “corrective action.” Being barefoot doesn’t violate it!
First, that “corrective action” is just a direct quote out of the Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code. The Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code is what the county Health Departments enforce (and as far as I can tell, they have no power to add to or subtract from it with their own regulations). It is part of the Ohio Administrative Code, Management and personnel: personal cleanliness, Section 3717-1-02.2(H):
(H) Outer clothing – clean condition.
Food employees shall wear clean outer clothing to prevent contamination of food, equipment, utensils, linens, single-service articles, or single-use articles.
Clearly, that does not say that employees have to wear clothing over all parts of their body (including their feet)—it says that the clothing that they wear has to been clean. And it also says that the purpose of having clean clothing is so that food is not contaminated.
As another one of the comments on the Random Acts of Newark site said:
“unless they are cooking with their feet, I’m ok with it. I never wear shoes”
Exactly. There is no way a bare foot on the floor is going to contaminate any of the food.
And how do we also know that the rule doesn’t mean that employees don’t have to wear clothing over all parts of their body? Was she wearing clothing over her thighs? No. Was that investigated? No. Was she wearing clothing over her knees? No. Was that investigated? No. Was she wearing clothing over her shins? No. Was that investigated? No.
In fact, the Food Safety Code even acknowledges that, in part A:
(A) Hands and arms – clean condition.
Food employees shall keep their hands and exposed portions of their arms clean.
What? They don’t have to wear clothing on their arms? No. But if they do, it has to be clean clothing so as not to contaminate any food. The same holds true with legs and feet.
The story ends by noting that the Licking County Health Department will conduct a follow-up visit this Friday to make sure that the issue has been properly addressed. I would hope that that means that they ignore it. It wasn’t a violation—it was a bunch of people hyperventilating because of their ignorance.
This would have been a marvelous opportunity for the reporter of this story to provide an actual fact to the public: being barefoot in a restaurant, by either customer or employee, does not violate the health code. She could have read the words in the Health Code and asked exactly how it violated the Health Code.
Instead, we ended up seeing a contradictory story that didn’t explain much of anything but did reinforce the myth.