Safe To Eat?

To make sure that mouth-watering burger or other dish at a restaurant, food truck or other eatery is safe to consume, the city of El Campo does routine inspections. Following city council action at its first February meeting, the criteria for all establishments became tougher.

El Campo’s restaurants, food trucks and other eateries are now being graded for cleanliness and health safety on a tougher grading scale.

For the public, Building Official Liz Staff said, the changes mean a truer representation of just how clean their dining choice is and how well they work to ensure food is safe to eat.

“The old (grading scale) was very lenient. You could make an ‘A’ and have some things (wrong) that should have made it a ‘C’,” Staff said. “Hopefully, this will be better.”

Under the previous system, 90 and above was considered an “A” with scores descending on a 10-point scale.

The new system set an “A” at 94 and up (green placard to be displayed), a “B” at 93 to 87 (yellow placard), a “C” at 80 to 86 (Orange), a “D” at 73 to 79 (red) and an “F” at 72 and below (black). The grading scale was approved by city council at its first February session.

“We did our first one (inspection with the new grading system Feb. 10),” Staff said.

The Inspections Department does not give food establishments any warning on when a review will take place.

Immediately after the inspection is complete, the establishment must post the new grade.

“They can have a do-over, but they have to call and arrange it and then we do it (the new inspection) on our own time (unannounced),” Staff said.

The most common violations are “slime in the ice machine,” the once battle cry of the now late Houston television personality Marvin Zindler, and leaving food products on the floors (bags of potatoes, for example).

Violations reducing a restaurant’s score by four points each include restricting personnel with infections, proper hand washing and avoiding cross contamination of raw and cooked foods.

Three-point violations include failure to have soap and towels, evidence of rodents and failing to have thermometers properly calibrated.

All establishments and food trucks must have their inspection grade posted in a highly-visible location.

The grades are not yet visible on the city website, but that option is in the works, according to Staff.

El Campo school cafeterias receive city health inspections as well.

“If every restaurant looked like that, it would be ‘Oh, my God (clean)’,” Staff said.

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