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Restaurant inspections show cleanliness problems

July 08, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Inspections of some restaurants in Jefferson County show shortfalls in cleanliness, including food preparation equipment not being cleaned properly and improper storage of food, a county health official said.

Many of the problems can be attributed to busy restaurants that do not have enough time to make sure health department regulations are followed, said James Hecker, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Health.

Health department standards are suffering in light of a population explosion in the county, Hecker said.

"Some (restaurants) are open seven days a week and they don't have a day set aside for cleaning," Hecker said.

Although some food preparation equipment in restaurants must be cleaned at least once a week, it is not being cleaned at all in some cases, Hecker said.

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In other situations, the equipment is getting "a lick or a prayer to get by," Hecker said.

Health department inspectors have observed food being stored on the floor in refrigerators in restaurants, Hecker said. The health department requires food in refrigerators to be stored on pallets so workers can clean the floor underneath the food, Hecker said.

The restaurants where the problems are occurring often only minimally meet standards, even after being warned, Hecker said.

"We're going to compile a list of them and concentrate on them. We're not cutting them any breaks," said Hecker, adding that the health department has the authority to shut down restaurants that do not meet health standards.

Hecker said the problems seem to occur in the "most busiest of restaurants," such as fast-food establishments.

The health department's five inspectors have also been treated rudely during restaurant visits, Hecker said.

Many times, sanitarians will inspect restaurants by entering the eateries through the rear door, Hecker said. Inspectors will sometimes enter the rear of restaurants because that is where garbage disposal operations are usually located, Hecker said.

Sanitarians periodically inspect those areas to make sure doors in those areas have adequate screens and meet other standards, Hecker said.

When one of the sanitarians went in the rear of one restaurant recently, the inspector was ordered out of the building by the restaurant owner, Hecker said. The restaurant was shut down for three days until food preparation equipment was properly cleaned, Hecker said.

Inspectors are noticing that some workers in restaurants do not have food service worker permits, which are obtained through food service training offered by the health department. Without such permits, employees may not fill positions that require contact with food supplies, Hecker said.

Hecker said some restaurant owners complain that they do not have time to send workers to the training sessions.

Berkeley County officials say they do not know of any similar problems in that county.

"Occasionally you will have a violation," said John M. Miller III, chairman of the Berkeley County Board of Health. When inspectors see a violation, "they are right there" to address the situation, Miller said.

Restaurant inspections are conducted at least twice a year in Jefferson County, and at least once a year in Berkeley County, health officials said.

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