OMAHA (KPTM) – Most don't question how things go down in restaurant kitchens, but the Douglas County Health Department does. They inspect more than 3,000 restaurants in Omaha every six months to make sure the food being served is safe and healthy.
Health inspectors then give the food establishments a rating.
In FOX 42 News' "Restaurant Report" Leah Uko heads into places to see if managers have fixed their critical and non-critical violations.
Chinese restaurant located at 50th and Center streets, Hunan Garden received a "Fair" rating January and February 2012.
A "Fair" rating means the establishment barely meets minimum standards required by state and local food safety codes. Inspections often need to be repeated in order to assure the restaurant maintains food safety conditions.
Staff would not allow any cameras inside the kitchen, but some violations were visible.
"There's a build up grease right here on the vents. Will that affect the cooking? Like if it were to drip in the food?" Uko asked.
Shi Jeng Chi, Hunan Garden's leaser replied.
"I clean every three months. I had a company come and clean."
In February, inspectors cited the restaurant for three critical violations and eight non-critical.
They were ordered to repair the prep coolers and ceiling roof. And also clean the heavy grease under the woks along the walls by the stove.
"The building is too old," Chi continued. "I said ‘one more year and you're pulling it down and make a new one'."
The building's owner says the restaurant will undergo renovation in April.
Another restaurant rated "Fair" twice was Bill's Bar-B-Que located near 24th and Ames streets.
"I've been here for 30 years," said a man who would not give his name. "It is what it is."
Some of the restaurant's violations were:
Provide date marking on ready-to-eat food
Clean and sanitize can opener
Clean racks in coolers
Clean door handles and interior of coolers
Keep raw meat below other food or separate
"So regardless of these violations why do you think people stick around for 30 years?" Uko asked.
"It's all about what you get. Food. It's all about what you get. Good price and good food," the man replied.
DCHD Supervisor of Food and Drink, Joseph Gaube said there is no limit of violations a restaurant can get before inspectors shut it down—it depends case-by-case.
He stressed that there are violations managers can fix on spot.
"Date marking, labeling spray bottles, labeling the wipe and cloth pail—if there's a couple of boxes on the floor they can pick them up and put them on shelves, put them on towels," Gaube continued. "If some food is uncovered put a lid on it, saran wrap, foil. Easy issues that normal behavior should've already done."
801 Chophouse was rated "Excellent" in December 2012.
An "Excellent" rating means an establishment routinely corrects sanitation deficiencies and immediately corrects minor violations during inspections.
801 Chophouse was cited for not having a board in between a hand sink and prep table—a risk for cross-contamination.
The executive chef, Brian Langbhan said the necessary part has been ordered.
"This is actually the first time that anybody has told me about it. They have been here every year that I've been here. This is one that has never been pointed out to us in the past."
Other violations included:
Do not place cleaning chemicals on top of ice machine
Hand sink next to front line has no hot water
Open drink above prep line
Mexican restaurant Guaca Maya was rated "Standard".
Restaurants with "Standard" ratings either are new and cannot rate any higher yet or have violations that can be corrected during inspections if allowed by the inspecting health officer.
A cockroach was found in the kitchen in May 2012. This was one of the six critical violations—but not a surprising one for any restaurant.
"[It's] not expected. Does it happen? You can occasionally see—because based on deliveries people are bringing in bulk foods, cardboard boxes, closed containers from warehouses and stuff like that."
Guaca Maya was also ordered to keep raw meat below other foods, date mark time/temperatures on control foods when opened or prepared and to label spray bottles and sanitizer pails.
Kona Grill received a "Superior" rating in June 2012.
"Superior" ratings are the highest and mean the restaurants routinely correct sanitation maintenance everyday and do not wait for health inspections to do so. In addition, 75 percent of employees and management have successfully finished food safety training courses.
The Lighthouse Bar & Grill received a "Standard" rating in October 2012.
It is important to keep in mind that restaurants deemed Below Minimum Standards (BMA) are shut down. So if a restaurant has a rating, the health department views it as safe for business.
To see a full listing of any restaurant rating in Douglas County go to http://www.douglascountyhealth.com/food-a-drink/food-facility-ratings?rname=all&submit=Search.
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