FORGET burgers served on chopping boards, and tea in jars — have you heard about the latest food trend? It’s called Restaurant Roulette. It’s like Russian roulette but possibly more dangerous.

Here’s how you play — go out to eat at a restaurant in Adelaide. Any one.

That’s it.

Did you survive? You win!

Just keep on playing until you get food poisoning — then you’re out. (Maybe in more ways than one.)

And — a bit of pride, ladies and gentlemen — we’re the current national champions here in South Australia, because our food safety laws make it so easy to play!

Unlike states like New South Wales where rat poo and cockroaches in the kitchen would place a restaurant on an official “name and shame” register, in SA we’re heaps more lenient.

We’re more like: “Rat poo in the kitchen? Ooh, that’s not ideal. But look, if you clean it up, we won’t tell anyone.”

Because you see our “name and shame register”, such as it is, is only obliged to list food businesses that have been successfully prosecuted in court. That’s why there are currently only four names on it, and two of those are supermarkets.

And yet in The Advertiser on Wednesday we saw dozens of photos — taken by council health inspectors over the last year and released to the paper via Freedom of Information — of Adelaide restaurant kitchens so filthy, so covered in grime, they could have been part of the set for The Human Centipede 4.

The photos show dead cockroaches and rat faeces scattered on benchtops and floors, and even in the catchment tray of a plate warmer.

Others show mouldy food. One photo taken by Onkaparinga Council shows a rats’ nest in a half-used sixpack beer box, and in another you can see where a rodent has chewed through a bag and nibbled on an onion.

Just a reminder — these are restaurants operating in your suburb, serving you food.

The one with the rat’s nest could be your favourite local Italian joint. Or maybe it’s your favourite Chinese takeaway.

You’ll never know, because your council won’t tell you.

They don’t have to because, as unbelievable as it sounds, none of the restaurants pictured in The Advertiser’s story were prosecuted, instead being issued with written warnings or fines.

You could call it a “slap on the wrist” but seriously, it’s not even that bad. At least a slap hurts a bit.

It is utterly disgraceful that a restaurant can be found to have rats nesting in its kitchen, defecating in its equipment and chomping on its onions, and the public is never told.

What’s even more disgraceful is the sheer stubbornness of councils in releasing this information to the media, which typically has to be dragged out of them via exhausting and expensive FOI requests.

It is appalling that the only way the public can learn of the potential culinary death traps in their local area is if a politician or journalist stumps up the cash and harasses the council to cough up the information.

Even when they do they usually refuse to name the businesses involved, as was the case this week. Who exactly are they protecting?

Ten SA councils are currently trialling a “scores on doors” system, where restaurants’ food safety performance is displayed as a star rating out of five on a sign in the window. It’s a good idea. However, as the trial is voluntary it’s unlikely any of the zero or one-star premises will out themselves, and so is practically useless.

The majority of Adelaide restaurants are no doubt doing the right thing, but the fraction that aren’t make the idea of dining out less than appetising.

The public has been calling for a proper name and shame register for years; the time for it to happen is beyond overdue.

We shouldn’t be forced to play restaurant roulette.


First published in The Advertiser, May 7, 2015. Click here to read the original article.