Inspectors checking eating sites

Keeping food establishments clean, safe is a never-ending job
BY JOEY STIPEK jstipek@opubco.com Published: August 19, 2012

Oklahoma City-County Health Inspector Jacob Custer washed his hands in preparation for a recent inspection at Lupe's Mexican Restaurant in Midwest City.

This is one of more than 10,000 inspections he and 16 other health inspectors perform yearly at nearly 5,000 eating establishments. More than 20,000 health code violations are found in a typical year, or about two per inspection.

Violations include not keeping food cold or hot enough, insect infestations or lack of cleanliness. The most serious concerns are problems that could cause foodborne illness. Other violations are minor and easily corrected.

Lupe's Mexican Restaurant owner Lupe Lovin has been dealing with health inspectors for 20 years now. Lovin said her establishment has been cited for minor violations in the past.

“Some little violations, but nothing major,” Lovin said. “Something we can fix when they're here. We don't ever make them come back.”

Lupe's Mexican Restaurant passed inspection.

“We didn't find any violations.” Custer said. “They did a good job.”

Lovin said she doesn't mind inspectors visiting her restaurant at any time of day.

“We don't care if it's the middle of lunch; it's in the evening or early in the morning,” Lupin said. “We're ready.”

Other restaurants did not fare as well. The most serious of violations are those that lead to the closure of a restaurant or an order requiring that the violations be corrected within 10 days. For example:

• Hunan Express was voluntarily closed due to numerous cross-contamination violations Nov. 28. The restaurant at 340 S Mustang, reopened after correcting the violations. Calls to the restaurant for comment were not returned.

• The Saigon Taipei Market, 1648 SW 89, closed its hot foods area on June 15 at the request of inspectors after a circuit breaker tripped five times during inspection, causing food warmers not to work. It reopened four days later. Calls to the restaurant for comment were not returned.

• The Sak-N-Go, 305 E Main in Jones was ordered to fix numerous priority violations within a 10-business day period of a May 10 inspection. Manager Ron Srestha said his establishment has fixed every violation.

“If we didn't, they would close us down,” Srestha said. “We haven't had any complaints since the health inspectors last visited. We're doing everything we can do.”

• Popeye's Chicken, 12401 N Pennsylvania, was ordered to fix numerous core and priority violations within a 10 business day period of its March 2 inspection in which it was cited for gnats in a walk-in cooler area and unclean food contact surfaces. Calls to the restaurant for comment were not returned.

Foodborne illness

The most serious problems inspectors find are those that could lead to foodborne illness, said city-county health department spokeswoman Vicki Monks.

In the 2012 fiscal year, which ended June 30, the department received 171 complaints of foodborne illness, but county officials were not able to confirm these complaints.

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The state maintains a website — Oklahoma Food Service Establishment Inspections — where restaurant inspection reports can be viewed. The most serious violations are highlighted in orange.

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