Recent news that nearly half of Boston’s restaurants were cited for serious health code violations last year is not out of the norm but is still alarming. “At least two violations that can cause food-borne illness — the most serious of three levels — were discovered at more than 1,350 restaurants across Boston during 2014,” reported the Boston Globe earlier this week in its analysis of the city’s health inspection data. restaurantinspector_406x250“Five or more of the most serious violations were discovered at more than 500 locations, or about 18 percent of all restaurants in the city, and 10 or more of the most serious violations were identified at about 200 eateries,” the newspaper wrote. The state of Boston’s eateries is “not very different from other jurisdictions,” said Roy Costa, founder and owner of the consulting firm Environ Health Associates, “but to say that this is acceptable is wrong, too.” Issues persist because many restaurants think they’re fine as long as the health department doesn’t shut them down, Costa told Food Safety News, adding that there are two things that need to happen in order to improve the conditions in restaurants across the country. The first is the consistent enforcement of rules. Rather than inspecting a facility with violations until the problem is gone, Costa believes health departments should start administrative action such as a warning or a Notice to Show Cause when there are several critical violations. “It should not be like, ‘See you next month,’ but, ‘You’re going to correct this in 48 hours or else come in for a hearing,’” Costa said. The second thing required for safer dining is for the restaurant to take ownership of its food safety and commit to foodborne illness prevention. “Those two things are sorely lacking across the United States,” Costa said. “There are very few jurisdictions that require the facility to have some kind of internal monitoring program tracking compliance.” The model he refers to is in place in food processing and packing facilities, but hasn’t made it to the restaurants which are at the end of the food distribution chain and the last line of defense against any harmful microorganisms that remain in the food. “Unfortunately, the conditions in a lot of these places thwart or even undo the safety procedures that have previously taken place,” Costa said. Bob Luz, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, told the Globe that “[a]nytime there’s any type of violation, restaurateurs take that information and react very quickly and work with health department officials to get that action corrected right away.” Costa suggests that there needs to be more done to prevent the violations from cropping up in the first place. “Our goal should be to improve the situation rather than rest back and say, ‘This is the way it is,’” he said.