27 restaurants awarded Blue Ribbons
A day after receiving the award, Lynda Hartman, co-owner of Fraps & Wraps, 150 W. Main St., Unit C, neatly tucked her Blue Ribbon into a frame.
That’s because it is more than just a piece of paper. The distinction, awarded annually by the Mesa County Health Department, is the equivalent of an A-plus for restaurants’ sanitary practices. This year, 27 restaurants were honored with the award — a sharp increase from the 16 restaurants last year that received the honor. Blue Ribbon awards go to restaurants that receive no critical violations during two unannounced checks by inspectors during a calendar year.
“Heck yeah, I’m proud of it because it means that we do things right,” Hartman said about earning the award.
Hartman and her father, Lindsey Thursby, own and operate the small shop where they serve 26 different kinds of wraps and a cadre of specialty drinks including lattes and chai tea. Hartman said the business earned the award three out of the past four years, and it’s become an affirmation to customers that the food they serve has been handled correctly.
“You really got to be on top of it all,” she said. “The food temperatures have to be right. You have to wash lettuce a certain way. One customer said, ‘I’m not surprised that you got that. I never get sick here.’”
The list of winners is comprised mostly of fast-food restaurants, highlighting top-notch sanitary practices at several locations of Burger King, Taco Bell and Subway, and at one location each at a Dairy Queen, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.
Three full-time and two part-time inspectors for the Mesa County Health Department visit and review the county’s roughly 800 licensed retail food establishments, and 283 of those establishments are eligible to meet the Blue Ribbon standards, said Darleen McKissen, an environmental health specialist with the Health Department.
The awards are given to restaurants that have no violations in eight categories, with a total of 30 specific requirements directly related to stopping the spread of food-borne illnesses. Inspectors track 10 other categories of noncritical requirements for restaurants, but violations in those areas do not prevent restaurants from earning the Blue Ribbon standard. Critical violations for a year can be amassed during the two regular inspections and any follow-up inspections.
Inspectors review establishments that include sit-down restaurants, churches, nursing facilities, festivals, food booths, ice creams trucks to ice distributors. In general, food establishments that offer sit-down seating and are open to wide swaths of the public are eligible to earn the award, McKissen said.
“I really want this to stress that these are good guys,” she said of the award winners. “Let’s give them kudos.”
It can be argued that a restaurant with more ingredients, an abundance of entree choices and a high volume of employees is more likely to garner a ding on its record from a health inspector than a smaller operation, McKissen said.
“The more steps in preparing the food, the more chances for someone or something to do something wrong,” she said.
That’s why Kaylie Davis, owner of Cookies Outlaw Cafe, 2493 U.S. Highway 6&50, No. 4, was pleased to earn the award. She serves a full breakfast and lunch of homemade sandwiches, soups and salads. After purchasing the business eight years ago, Davis has earned a Blue Ribbon award four times. She makes a point to frame the award and hang it near the front door.
Still, she knows how easy it is to get docked for a critical violation.
“You can get busy and forget to put paper towels up by the sink,” Davis said, referring to an oversight that would be considered a critical violation if recorded by a health inspector.
Other kinds of critical violations include evidence of pests, storing dented canned goods, employees not using gloves, or employees being observed not washing their hands.
Paula Lynn, owner of The Drive-In, 57482 Colorado Highway 330 in Collbran, wasn’t cited with any critical violations last year, marking the second time the business she owns with her husband, Kenny, has earned a Blue Ribbon award. One year the restaurant missed earning the award after “someone stole the soap out of the men’s bathroom,” she said.
“I think it makes people more comfortable,” Paula Lynn said of the Blue Ribbon award. “We get real excited. We worked real hard for it.”