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googling for information on [restaurant X], i stumbled upon the virginia department of health restaurant inspection web site:

http://www.healthspace.ca/vdh/

for a person who doesn't have to worry about responsibility for meeting various health requirements in the kitchen, bathrooms, etc., casually clicking on some of the restaurant inspections posted on this site (i started with arlington) provides an interesting perspective on local industry regulation, going far beyond what you might want to know about the cleanliness of a particular establishment. i think this is good inside information for consumers, even if it is unfair to draw conclusions from it.

to satisfy my morbid curiosity, i was wondering if similar information is available for the district.

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I liked how the site posts what should be done to remedy the problem right under the infraction. Very detailed stuff! I agree that you can't draw too many inferences from the mere fact that Restaurant X has 5 infractions...but it's nice that they give greater details so you can draw your own conclusions.

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I've known about this since they put it up a few years back. Be warned, checking your favorite restaurant might bring up some unpleasant surprises :lol:

I wonder if anyone's thought of going through those listings to find the grossest or funniest comments by the inspectors...

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[i'm going to make a major exception to my rule of not editing individual postings, changing the reference to a specific restaurant in giant shrimp's opening clause to this:

googling for information on [restaurant X], i stumbled upon the virginia department of health restaurant inspection web site:

We had a similar situation occur when I was Forum Host at eGullet, and the owner rightfully pointed out that his restaurant was being unfairly singled out. I don't want to do the same thing with [restaurant X], although there are now four postings on what is a very legitimate topic, and so I don't want to quell the discussion.

Please, when replying, think in erectile terms (i.e., long and hard) about citing violations for individual restaurants - almost every restaurant in Virginia has violations, and posting them shines a needlessly negative light on individual establishments.

Cheers,

Rocks]

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[i'm going to make a major exception to my rule of not editing individual postings, changing the reference to a specific restaurant in giant shrimp's opening clause to this:

We had a similar situation occur when I was Forum Host at eGullet, and the owner rightfully pointed out that his restaurant was being unfairly singled out.  I don't want to do the same thing with [restaurant X], although there are now four postings on what is a very legitimate topic, and so I don't want to quell the discussion.

Please, when replying, think in erectile terms (i.e., long and hard) about citing violations for individual restaurants - almost every restaurant in Virginia has violations, and posting them shines a needlessly negative light on individual establishments.

Cheers,

Rocks]

Yes, I remember when one of my very favorite restaurants was closed down by the DC Health Department for a plumbing problem that wasn't its fault. FYI.

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I just went on the website and looked up a few of my favorites. What surprises me is how nitpickyor detailed the inspections can be. Who is responsible to make sure all health codes are kept up to par? Things like writing the use by dates on ready to eats. Making sure menus issue warning about raw foods? I have never worked back of house (kitchen) in a restaurant before, so some of this baffles me!

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The Washington Post runs a compilation like this every week. It's not always in the same place, so I'll go to www.washingtonpost.com and type "health code violations" in the top news search bar. (for some reason it's not coming up with any results today, but I've been doing this for months.)

What puzzles me is you'll often see entries for places like CVS and Rite Aid.

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The Washington Post runs a compilation like this every week. It's not always in the same place, so I'll go to www.washingtonpost.com and type "health code violations" in the top news search bar. (for some reason it's not coming up with any results today, but I've been doing this for months.)

What puzzles me is you'll often see entries for places like CVS and Rite Aid.

Never picked up a quart of milk at CVS while getting some Preparation H?

Or OJ?

They all sell some perishables that need to be refridgerated.

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Never picked up a quart of milk at CVS while getting some Preparation H?

Or OJ?

They all sell some perishables that need to be refridgerated.

Well I guess I was more puzzled by what it covers. For example, last week's entry gave this description for a CVS closing:

"Food service closed Sept. 8 for evidence of rodents and dirty floors and storage areas. Reopened Sept. 13."

Does this include all food in the store, like candy bars and potato chips, or just food in the refrigerated case? I guess that would explain why sometimes you'll walk into a drug store and some cases are completely empty.

Edited by The Doctor
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Here's a good one:

Critical: Employee dispensing ice with glass.

That's actually a big one, but more from a which-server-do-we-want-to-kill-tonight aspect. Picture a packed house middle of the dinner rush, everything is humming along nicely but at a frantic pace, bar service station gets an ice delivery but someone forgets to take out the scoop before dumping in the new ice. Some a-hole comes by and not wanting to take the time to dig around for the scoop grabs a pint glass from the bar to fill their glasses. Oops. Glass breaks in the ice, have to spend the next 15 minutes scooping out the whole thing, running hot water through to melt the remainder, then picking out the shards that didn't go down the drain one by one. All this time the bartender(s) are running on one ice bin (or, depending on the bar set-up, none) while the line is 3 deep at the rail and getting mroe impatient by the minute and orders from the printer are stacking up. It's just one of the little things that can turn an otherwise smooth operation into Weedtown.

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Who is responsible to make sure all health codes are kept up to par?

I envision some nerdy old man with a clipboard and a penchant for wearing white gloves.

I used to get up in arms about such things in Virginia restaurants, but then some of the reasons were, "Dust on refridgerator" and such which is re-donkulous.

I read somewhere (City Paper I think) there are only two food safety inspectors for all of D.C. and they just threaten to shut down just about every one they visit to keep everyone in line since they won't visit but once every year and a half. Anyone know anymore about this?

:lol:

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That's actually a big one, but more from a which-server-do-we-want-to-kill-tonight aspect.  Picture a packed house middle of the dinner rush, everything is humming along nicely but at a frantic pace, bar service station gets an ice delivery but someone forgets to take out the scoop before dumping in the new ice.  Some a-hole comes by and not wanting to take the time to dig around for the scoop grabs a pint glass from the bar to fill their glasses.  Oops.  Glass breaks in the ice, have to spend the next 15 minutes scooping out the whole thing, running hot water through to melt the remainder, then picking out the shards that didn't go down the drain one by one.  All this time the bartender(s) are running on one ice bin (or, depending on the bar set-up, none) while the line is 3 deep at the rail and getting mroe impatient by the minute and orders from the printer are stacking up.  It's just one of the little things that can turn an otherwise smooth operation into Weedtown.

In my bartending days this caused me more aggravation than anything else. I lost count of the number of waitors that I threatened with physical punishment if they ever did it again.

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The Washington Post runs a compilation like this every week. It's not always in the same place, so I'll go to www.washingtonpost.com and type "health code violations" in the top news search bar. (for some reason it's not coming up with any results today, but I've been doing this for months.)

What puzzles me is you'll often see entries for places like CVS and Rite Aid.

the virginia site is far more extensive than what is carried in the post, and includes information on all of the inspections, not just the relative few that are closed. also, as is being pointed out here, there are a lot of things involved that you would never even think about if you weren't in the business.

i'm assuming that dc doesn't have anything like this. in addition to the regulations themselves, you also have to wonder about the competency of some of the inspectors, although i have no expertise to judge either on the virginia site.

for example: many years ago, i had a run in with an inspector at a small theatre on connecticut avenue i was managing who took off a lot of points because we were storing popcorn bags in a crawlspace on shelves that were only x-inches off the floor, a violation, but failed to recognize the exposed sprayed-on asbestos in the area that had always bugged me but i never complained about, just making sure not to brush into it. (some amazing things can happen at a movie theatre concession stand, such as what happens when the candy bars start hatching, but that is another story.)

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(some amazing things can happen at a movie theatre concession stand, such as what happens when the candy bars start hatching, but that is another story.)

Ah, yes, the live squirmy things found in a particular brand of candy bar--I remember it well. I don't buy candy bars anymore. :lol:

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Ah, yes, the live squirmy things found in a particular brand of candy bar--I remember it well.  I don't buy candy bars anymore. :lol:

Oh, please, do tell! My candy bar eating days are behind me, but I can't resist a good insect n' chocolate story.

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Oh, please, do tell!  My candy bar eating days are behind me, but I can't resist a good insect n' chocolate story.

I'm curious about this one, too!

I just looked up some of the places I frequent for lunch, near my work place in Merrifield. Some reports were encouraging, others :lol: , but none was particularly surprising.

ScotteeM

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Oh, please, do tell!  My candy bar eating days are behind me, but I can't resist a good insect n' chocolate story.

one morning, i opened the door to the small room where candy was stored and hundreds, if not thousands, of small mothish flies came streaming out into the theatre lobby. they had made their way out of chocolate candy bars with nuts, a rite of spring, i guess. i still don't know much about what kind of life cycle we are talking about.

we used to do a brisk business in cellophane-wrapped organic muffins, until a week or two when business slowed down, and the muffins started growing moldy beards.

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It's been a while since I've managed a restaurant, but the health code laws are so comprehensive and arcane that virtually no restaurant could operate if they followed the letter of the law.

I've always been a clean freak and hired and worked with chefs who were like minded, but I have never in 10 years seen a chef or cook wash his hands every time he touches a piece of food. Or change tongs, spatulas, spoons, etc. after each use.

Always take these reviews with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, the quality of health department inspectors varies wildly. I have had inspectors (albeit in Balt. & DC) literally fill out my inspection certificate in the lobby. I have had others with super health code hard-ons that have spent over two hours looking through every nook and cranny and putting a thermometer in everyting but the cook's spincter.

Any health inspector, if sufficiently pissed off or grumpy, could write up an ominous sounding review of even the most spotless of kitchens.

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Complaint inspection regarding employee sneezing into hands without gloves while preparing ready-to-eat foods. Employee cleaning around deep fryer during cooking. Investigated the complaint and spoke with the manager. She stated employees are not to clean before closing time at 11pm. She will instruct employees regarding handwashing and use of gloves. Complaint notified by voice mail regarding results of investigation.
Just love what I found about one of my local, rather regular haunts (which shall remain nameless)... [from March 2005]

Fortunately I haven't experienced/observed any sneezing. BUT, they ALWAYS clean up before closing - just 2 nights ago I watched them pull up the mats, start scrubbing things down, etc., well before 11pm, and while a burger was frying up on the grill. In one ear and out the other... :lol:

Guess I could get there earlier to miss all the end of the evening cleaning festivities...... nah, I've been going there for years and have suffered no ill consequences because they like to clean up and get out of there as quickly as possible.

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I use this site regularly to look for egregious violations or signs of dangerous ignorance.

I rarely look at anything other than the 'critical' violations and scrutinize those. I worked 'back of house' for many years and still subconsciously act like that in my own home kitchen. Things get pull dates on them in my fridge, meats and RTE foods are stored in accordance with Morris County, NJ DOH rules (where I learned them), and I am always cleaning something up. I will still occasionally soak plastic and nylon tools in iodophor.

That said, I forgive restaurants for a lot. Only if, say they are bleaching their rancid chicken, the food is improperly holding in steam tables (where bacteria thrive) or on a buffet, employees are not preventing disease like e. coli and staph from getting into the kitchen, will I black ball a restaurant. Things like using a residential toaster or blender instead of the professional version are nitpicking to me.

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I read somewhere (City Paper I think) there are only two food safety inspectors for all of D.C. and they just threaten to shut down just about every one they visit to keep everyone in line since they won't visit but once every year and a half.  Anyone know anymore about this?

:lol:

I know a little about this and believe me it's not true.

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I know a little about this and believe me it's not true.

Back when the city was broke and before the Control Board was installed, this rumor cropped up. There were virtually no closures listed in the WaPo for weeks on end. And I didn't believe it was because all the food providers in town were complying with all the Health Department strictures.

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I was going to say that serious violations would make me reconsider going somewhere, then I looked at the website. There were a number of restaurants listed where I dine (including at least one favorite of people on this board), and some things that were listed as critical violations seemed pretty minimal, more technical violations of the code than anything dangerous. I found myself sorting through the lists to see which things really seemed major, and they all kind of blurred together. Are uncovered drinking containers in the food prep area really a big danger? That was a frequently recurring critical violation across different types of facilities, and I really wonder how bad a problem that is. Maybe it's really dangerous and I just am not aware of it. Perishables being stored at the wrong temperature would seem to be something much more important to pay attention to. When so many different things are classified as critical, it's hard for a layperson to know how to evaluate the information.

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Think about that soda container falling over and into a food container or onto sugar packets, then it sits for a couple of days, bacteria starts to grow and viola!

Arlington County has done a great job in getting more people to do inspectios thus ensuring better safety and health standards for the restaurants.

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Think about that soda container falling over and into a food container or onto sugar packets, then it sits for a couple of days, bacteria starts to grow and viola!

Arlington County has done a great job in getting more people to do inspectios thus ensuring better safety and health standards for the restaurants.

I realize that there are reasons for the various things being considered violations, but there seem to be so many across so many different restaurants that the value to the public of looking at lists of the violations doesn't seem very significant. Even listings of places that are closed for violations may not provide enough information about the situation. If the inspections keep the restaurants on their toes and adhering to the regulations as closely as possibly, that's great. They are valuable. But if I were to look at lists like this before every meal I ate out and were phobic about it, I might have trouble findng a place to eat. I'm not saying the information shouldn't be public, just that it's not necessarily easily interpretable by the general public.
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What I think is interesting is the number of places that have consistent volitions from report to report. Most seem minor, however there is a reason they enforce the rules. Why would any owner risk bad reports? Is it that hard to follow the rules?

Also I tend to gravitate to the highest offenders on the list. Food just has that little extra taste.

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There are vey few restaurants that an experienced health inspector could not give a citation to if he wanted to. I lot of this is subjective. i think this has been discussed befre. Unless the complaint is for persistent evidence of rodents or insect infestation (read cockroaches), I would overlook most of those violations as minor. If you went by that list, there would be very few restuarants that you could eat at.

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Wow, This is the fist time I have looked at this. In South Carolina every restaurant has a grade posted near the door (A,B,C or D) anything below an A is posted in Red. There is a resataurant that we all love on this board with some serious critical violations, one of which I thought was just nasty!

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What I think is interesting is the number of places that have consistent volitions from report to report. Most seem minor, however there is a reason they enforce the rules. Why would any owner risk bad reports? Is it that hard to follow the rules?

Also I tend to gravitate to the highest offenders on the list. Food just has that little extra taste.

There are a lot of health regultions that are based on bad science or ignore the issue of personal choice:

Raw fish has been consumes forever and there are risks involved. But there are risks involved in eating beef and butter.

Another example: there is no evidence that plastic cutting boards are safer than wood yet you need them.

Gloves are not a way to prevent contamination if the folks wearing them are not following proticol. So if they can follow glove protocol, they could just as easily follow hand washing protocol. Gloves result in more accidents as well in my experience.

That quat santizer you need to keep at 75 degrees and at 100ppm, the widespread use of santizer is a cause of the growing virulence and resistence of bacteria. There is a lot of work going on in Japan and Europe that shows that a better approach is to have beneficial bacteria that can outcompete the bad ones. But there is no interest in the USA as to this methodology except for a few hippie organic types. (Ohh I guess I aam a hippy organic type!).

You need to keep your trash covered. I just wish the folk who throw their trash in my bottle recycling bins would close the cover after they contaminate my recycling!

Washington is a town of old buildings. It can be hard to keep a restaurant rodent in an old building free, especially if a neighbor is doing construction. Some places may have a few droppings while others may have a full blown infestation. If you have multiple nests and loads of droppings in many areas, that is one thing. A couple of droppings in a specific area is another. But in a modern crisp clean new building, its much easier.

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Washington is a town of old buildings. It can be hard to keep a restaurant rodent in an old building free, especially if a neighbor is doing construction. Some places may have a few droppings while others may have a full blown infestation. If you have multiple nests and loads of droppings in many areas, that is one thing. A couple of droppings in a specific area is another. But in a modern crisp clean new building, its much easier.

don't like the idea of droppings being found where I eat. This topic is going to make me stay home more often for dinner. Nasty

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I don't like the idea of droppings being found where I eat. This topic is going to make me stay home more often for dinner. Nasty

Have you never had a mouse in your kitchen? While I do get rid of them, they show up every once and a while, especially living in the woods as I do. And for that matter, have you ever had a picnic outdoors?

Standards are good and important, but I think the whole issue of what is "clean and safe" or "nasty" when it comes to eating (at home or otherwise) is way overblown...

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Have you never had a mouse in your kitchen? While I do get rid of them, they show up every once and a while, especially living in the woods as I do. And for that matter, have you ever had a picnic outdoors?

Standards are good and important, but I think the whole issue of what is "clean and safe" when it comes to eating (at home or otherwise) is way overblown...

o I have never had a mouse in my kitchen, and if I did I would not eat there until I was sure the problem had been resloved. I have never run into any mice while have a picnic. Growing up I was toldt that the kitchen and bathroom should be the cleanest places in your home. To this day, I really believe you can tell how clean a restaurant is, by checking out the bathrooms. It the bathrooms are nasty, most likely the kitchen is as well.

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No I have never had a mouse in my kitchen, and if I did I would not eat there until I was sure the problem had been resloved. I have never run into any mice while have a picnic. Growing up I was toldt that the kitchen and bathroom should be the cleanest places in your home. To this day, I really believe you can tell how clean a restaurant is, by checking out the bathrooms. It the bathrooms are nasty, most likely the kitchen is as well.

While you probably did not run into any mice while at the picnic, you can probably rest assured that some mouse, rat, rodent, or other rodent-like creature recently trod upon where you ate. Reminds me of the folks that want all organically raised fruits and veggies and then wonder why they have some bugs and slight blemishes on them. :)

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A certain forum favorite has a low table near the entry, and on weekends the table has fresh donuts and donut holes, on a platter, uncovered. And I sit there and watch as just about every other child walking in attempts to stick his grubby little hands into the tray. And I wonder how many of those precious darlings succeed because their parents aren't watching for a split second.

I also wonder how many coats brush past, and how much dust lands on them, and if anyone ever sneezes near them.

And one of these days I'm going to ask the staff WHY THE FUCK THEY CAN'T PUT A LID ON THE DONUT TRAY.

Yuck.

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Since everyone witha sensitive stomach has already left ...

One business owner in Adams-Morgan was looking for his friend, who owned a restaurant across the street.

Naturally, he went in the back door. He saw a very large hunk of frozen meat, thawing in the mop sink. Later, his friend wanted to know "why don't you eat at my place any more?"

Following good procedures does not help the bottom line ... until you prevent someone getting food

poisoning, with the story in the newspaper.

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While in Bizerte I once ate cockles from a street vendor using a safety pin as a utensil. It was not my pin, it was the vendor's, and I do not believe that it was ever washed (I am sure he is still using the same one today and still has not washed it). So most of the stuff I see on these reports barely faze me.

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Have you never had a mouse in your kitchen? While I do get rid of them, they show up every once and a while, especially living in the woods as I do. And for that matter, have you ever had a picnic outdoors?

Standards are good and important, but I think the whole issue of what is "clean and safe" or "nasty" when it comes to eating (at home or otherwise) is way overblown...

At our house in the country, we resorted to storing all our dry goods in sealable plastic bins to keep the mice out. Since we're not there during the week, they moved right in last winter. We scoured the house and plugged any/all entry holes we could find w/ a combo of steel wool (they hate it) and "good stuff". We've also set traps to catch the few that still manage to find their way in looking for a warm spot on a cold winter day. However, the mice love an empty yet warm place, and it is a constant battle to keep them out. Keeping the dry goods in the plastic bins has at least cut them off from their food supply. The strangest thing they were eating (after all the other stuff was safely stored) was the coaster that the olive oil bottle was sitting on. Nothing like paper soaked in oil when you're starving, I guess.

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Odd, you know, all three of the places in my teeny little town have critical violations. The only "safe" place to eat here apparently is the 7-11. :lol: I have really stopped eating out for the most part. If I'm going to spend my money, it's going to be in some great place that knocks my socks off, and is worth it. I can do better, fresher, and cleaner at home. My exception is taco trucks on the side of the road where there is a long line of guys. :)

I relocated a black snake I found in the grass to my basement, and stopped having a mouse problem in my farmhouse kitchen. This has some drawbacks, like the other day when I saw him (?) for the first time in two years, hanging out of a light fixture in the dining room, but hey, no mice. :lol:

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When I was young we lived in a farm house for 10 years and had a large black snake living in the basement. I think I saw one mouse in the 10 years we lived there. Now granted, my mom wouldn't go into the basement because there was a black snake living down there, but really we rarely saw him and we just saw his molts every now and then. I'd much rather have a snake that stays out of the away as opposed to mice.

Probably not an option for restaurants though...

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Probably not an option for restaurants though...

No, probably not. I'd rather go to a restaurant that had a snake than poison, but I know I am the odd woman out there. I just thought the person who was upthread worried about mice might like to know.

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When I was young we lived in a farm house for 10 years and had a large black snake living in the basement. I think I saw one mouse in the 10 years we lived there. Now granted, my mom wouldn't go into the basement because there was a black snake living down there, but really we rarely saw him and we just saw his molts every now and then. I'd much rather have a snake that stays out of the away as opposed to mice.

Probably not an option for restaurants though...

Or cats, either....

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