WINTERVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – In North Carolina, the law requires any establishment that prepares and serves drinks or food to the public for pay to be subject to inspections by the public health department.
In order to operate, they get a food service license and the business gets a sanitation grade based on that inspection.
So what does that mean for consumers?
Pitt County health inspector Angela Manning said inspections are done unannounced, two to four times per year depending on the type of establishment.
She said she always takes her time when she enters a facility, observing the practices of employees and making sure they’re following proper procedures.
“We do a lot of education, and we do a lot of outreach,” Manning said.
For restaurant owners like Samuel Jones of Sam Jones BBQ, he knows how important health inspections are.
“I try to make sure that when the health inspector shows up, I don’t have to go on a ‘flight of the bumble bee’ all over everywhere to try to fix things,” said Jones. “We do things like they’re supposed to be done to start with.”
Manning said inspectors grade businesses using a 54-question inspection report to ensure food is kept safe and stored at proper temperatures.
“Everything we do is science based, and there’s a reason why,” said Manning.
Half of the check-list is dedicated to food-borne risks that can lead to listeria, a potentially deadly bacteria caused by food contamination. The other portion of the checklist requires that employees are washing their hands frequently and properly, have accessible sinks and the restaurant uses approved food sources.
Each question is assigned a certain amount of points.
“Priority ones are the severe deductions, so if there are hand washing violations that can be up to four points off an inspection,” Manning said. “No matter how dirty the floor walls and ceilings are in a facility, that’s a maximum of 1 point, so when you’re literally looking at the inspection grade, you’re really looking to see what those priority violations are because those are the factors that could cause a food-borne illness.”
A numerical scoring system on a 100-point scale is used with points deducted for each violation. For example, a score of 90-100 points is an A, 80-89 points a B and 70-79 points is a B. Anything below 70 points gets its permit revoked and operations must cease until all issues are corrected. Once an establishment is inspected and receives a grade, its permit is required to be posted in conspicuous view of all diners.
Manning said with the help of cell phone apps like Yelp, people are choosing which restaurants to go to based on other’s opinions, but she said consumers should also look online to check out a restaurant’s inspections score.
For a link to the Pitt County Health Department’s inspection records, you can visit their website here.