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photos by Lara Shipley

Safe Snacks

April 26th, 2004 · No Comments

I just happened upon a handy feature at the D.C. Government website: Notices of food establishment closures. I was mildly grossed out to see that over the course of the last year, places at which I’ve occasionally eaten were cited (and temporarily shut down) for “evidence of rodents on the premises” and “basic inadequate sanitation.”

I’ll toss in (before some purist calls me a hypocrite) that this isn’t one of those big-government intrusions that gets me all bent out of shape as a libertarian. Just as ordering from a menu constitutes an implicit promise to pay the bill (you can’t walk out after a 3 course meal and argue “I didn’t sign a contract!”), there’s a reasonable expectation on a customer’s part that the secret ingredient in the ziti puttanesca isn’t rat feces. It’s also the kind of thing it’s pretty difficult for individual customers to check ex ante, and also at least problematic to trace ex post—if you get sick a day later, can you necessarily prove what caused it? Seems like this is just a more efficient way to do straighforward protection against fraud than (exclusively/primarily) through the civil courts.

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