WSVN — Scarlet Corrada: "Very bad, very bad."
Scarlet Corrada spent 45 days in the hospital, so sick she didn't think she'd survive. She believes the source of her misery was a fish lunch at a restaurant.
Scarlet Corrada: "Diarrhea, diarrhea, diarrhea, and no feel good. I think I die."
Carmel Cafiero: "When we eat out, we're at the mercy of the restaurant staff when it comes to how the food is prepared and handled. We've been told check the bathroom; if it's clean, then the kitchen probably is too. But based on what we've seen, you might also want to check out the back door."
Take a look at this: food delivered and then left for hours in a back alley behind a Miami-Dade restaurant. Boxes labeled "Eggs," "Beef," "Sliced Bacon," "Croquettes," all left in the sun.
This worker took some meat out of a bag and brought it inside, but left the bag open. We also saw raw chicken left exposed. It drew flies as live chickens pecked around the area.
Mark D'Alessandro: "It's scary, very scary."
We showed our video to FIU food management professor Mark D'Alessandro. He says what we uncovered is textbook trouble.
Mark D'Alessandro: "It's very, very dangerous. You have, and especially because you have products like chicken, and like eggs, any raw meat that is susceptible to a great many microorganisms, because of the way we process food."
D'Alessandro says organisms can multiply quickly out in the elements, and the potential danger to customers is clear.
Mark D'Alessandro: "Point blank, it's something that would close a restaurant down if a health inspector saw that.
Carmel Cafiero: "Because?"
Mark D'Alessandro: "Because it's critical food violations."
But for state inspectors to take action, they have to actually see food being mishandled. And it's not the only trouble cooking in South Florida. Here's bacon hanging outside the back door of a Broward restaurant. A "former" customer sent us the picture. And last year, 7News documented meat stuffed in a shopping cart at a barbecue restaurant.
Experts say bad food can be extremely dangerous for the very young and elderly.
Mark D'Alessandro: "Anytime that you are feeding food to an age group that has a suppressed immune system, you can kill them."
Ronald Corrada says his 72-year-old mom was close to becoming one of an estimated 3,000 Americans who die each year from contaminated food.
Ronald Corrada: "She went to pay for a service to eat a meal, and they've destroyed this family, they've destroyed it."
Scarlet had a foodborne bacteria called Campylobacter, which induces symptoms similar to salmonella poisoning. It's drained the once vibrant senior, who now has swollen legs and a mountain of medication. But at least she's home.
Scarlet Corrada: "Thank you God, thank you God, I come back home, because I think I no come back no more."
Scarlet is thankful she did come back, and says she will be careful about what she eats in the future.
Carmel Cafiero, 7News.
If you believe you got sick from restaurant food, the only way authorities can investigate is if you file a complaint. We have that information, and a link to check restaurant inspections, on our website: WSVN.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
FOOD POISONING:Florida Department of Healthwww.reportfoodpoisoningflorida.com
RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS:Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulationhttp://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/
FOOD SAFETY INFORMATION:http://www.foodsafety.gov/