Sixteen Grand Junction restaurants honored for perfect food-safety records
As far as the Mesa County Health Department is concerned, kitchen practices were more sanitary at McDonald’s in Clifton last year than at Bookcliff Country Club.
McDonald’s, 3219 Interstate 70 Business Loop, was one of 16 Mesa County restaurants to earn the distinction of a Blue Ribbon Award. The awards represent continued sanitation excellence for full-service restaurants in which no critical violations were observed during the year in surprise checks by Health Department officials.
In contrast, the Bookcliff Country Club, 2730 G Road, was one of 17 of the county’s top violators in critical areas, with 11 violations. Grand International Buffet, 2504 U.S. Highway 6&50, racked up the most violations, 20, last year.
Making it onto the Blue Ribbon list is not an easy or small feat, said Darleen McKissen, an environmental health specialist with the Mesa County Health Department. The awards are given to restaurants that have no violations in eight categories, with a total of 32 specific requirements directly related to stopping the spread of food-borne illnesses. Health 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.
“When you see larger restaurants out there that are earning that award, it should be an indication that they’re doing something right,” she said.
Dos Hombres, 3245 Interstate 70 Business Loop, earned the award in 2009, as it did in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Kitchen manager Annie Stout said the award was not earned by accident. The only violation that kept the restaurant from earning the award in 2008 was a health inspector seeing an employee wipe glass with a bare hand instead of a towel, she said.
“We work at it every single day,” she said. “We don’t worry about an inspection. We work at it consistently. We go by all the rules and regulations from the Health Department.”
The county’s six health inspectors aim to conduct two surprise inspections a year at each of the county’s 700 licensed food-preparation operations. Those range from sit-down restaurants, churches, nursing facilities, festivals, food booths, ice creams trucks, ice distributors and those who make food products to sell from home.
Blue Ribbon awards only include full-service, licensed, retail, food establishments. The numbers of awards fluctuate yearly, McKissen said, adding 24 awards were given in 2008. Critical violations for a year can be amassed during both inspections and follow-up inspections.
Grand International Buffet, for example, was found not to be using sanitizer for dishwashing; several flies were found in the employee bathroom; cold and hot buffet temperatures were not kept at code; it appeared that a number of buffet food items were taken away when a health inspector showed up; and a large tub of cooked ribs were found stored under a prep table near an ice machine during an inspection Oct. 1, 2009, the Health Department reported. Many of the violations were not cured during a follow-up inspection nine days later, but all of the violations were remedied during a second follow-up inspection Nov. 3, according to the department.
A conversation about the violations between a reporter and the restaurant’s owner Tuesday was unsuccessful because of a language barrier.
Twelve violations were reported at Blue Moon Bar & Grille, 120 N. Seventh St. during an inspection Oct. 19. Those included an employee not demonstrating times and temperatures for food to be warmed and rapidly cooled; an employee not washing hands before putting on gloves to prepare a salad; some food items stored in a walk-in cooler with temperatures above 41 degrees Fahrenheit; no back-flow device on the faucet of the mop sink, and no hand-washing sink available in the area for washing dishes. During a follow-up inspection Dec. 23, most of the violations were corrected, but a back-flow device was not on the mop sink.
A call to the restaurant’s owner was not returned Tuesday.
McKissen said the Health Department’s goal is to get compliance, and often the changes can be made immediately. Ultimately, the agency is looking for improvement among restaurants, and without it the department can issue civil penalties.
McKissen said she understands it’s not a level playing field with some establishments involved in different levels of food preparation, like comparing sushi to Long John Silver’s, she said.
The No. 1 indicator of a clean establishment is whether employees are washing their hands, McKissen said.