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Restaurants keep inspectors busy in Berkeley Co.

August 17, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

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More information about the Berkeley County Health Department's food inspections is available on the Internet at www.bchealthdept.org.




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - At least 16 different food service providers since January have been forced to close, if only temporarily, by the Berkeley County Health Department because they failed the agency's inspection, according to the agency's Web site.

"Recently, we've been plagued with restaurants that have been forced to shut down," Health Department administrator Bill Kearns told the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday.

Restaurants can be forced to close if they receive five or more critical violations that are not immediately corrected. A critical violation is defined as something that contributes to food contamination or illness, or presents an environmental health hazard.

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Kearns later added that the agency's three inspectors, including one part-time sanitarian, are challenged with "continuous offenders" who require additional inspections beyond the minimum two per year.

Kearns said he didn't think additional inspectors would catch more violations among the county's nearly 600 food service operations, but is hoping to get state officials to sign off on a progressive disciplinary policy for repeat offenders.

"Within the last couple years, we've had more and more establishments that are being required to shut down," Kearns said.

Kearns anticipates more-stringent food service requirements in the next year or so, when the threshold for critical violations is lowered to three.

Kearns said many restaurants simply are not complying with cleanliness rules, and he added that "a lot of places" have problems with ants and other critters.

Without wanting to name the most recent establishment extensively cited in an inspection Tuesday, Kearns said the franchise's 18 critical violations out of a total of 47 possible, was "excessive."

Kearns told commissioners Thursday that the agency's Web-based list of recent inspections has attracted the public's attention, later saying it was being viewed 3,000 to 4,000 times a month.

"A lot of people check every day," Kearns said. The Web site lists the specific critical violations, the date of inspection and is updated to show when a restaurant may reopen for business.

At least one business has been forced to close at least twice this year and Kearns said culture and language barriers have sometimes been a stumbling block to gaining compliance.

In other instances, Kearns said his inspectors have found changes in food service managers have led to poor inspections.

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