HANFORD - Twelve places in Kings County that sell food and are open to the public failed at least one food safety inspection in 2016:
- La Fiesta (Hanford)
- Jeb's Blueberry Hill (Hanford)
- China Inn (Lemoore)
- Dollar Tree (Lemoore)
- Frutas Express (Hanford)
- Jack in the Box (Hanford, 1518 N. 11th Ave.)
- Meli's Grocery (Kingsburg)
- North Pointe Chevron (Hanford)
- Sweet Palette Bakery (Hanford)
- Tapatia Bakery & Food (Hanford)
- Tropicana Asian Market (Lemoore)
- Zeny's Filipino Cuisine (Lemoore)
Getting a failing grade means they likely had more than one critical violation and may have been repeat violators, according to Jeff Taber, Kings County Public Health Department deputy director.
Critical violations include key areas such as cross-contamination of raw and cooked food and not having the right temperatures in refrigerators and hot food holding bins.
Taber said the department tries to inspect every food-selling establishment at least twice a year.
The last three inspection reports done on Kings County food-related facilities can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/24RJTpz.
In the case of well-known Hanford restaurant La Fiesta, the restaurant was shut down by inspectors on Sept. 29 for improper cold holding temperatures, improper cleaning of utensils and equipment, improper cooling procedures and for not protecting food and equipment from contamination.
The restaurant was allowed to reopen Sept. 30 after a re-inspection.
However, on the latest inspection report dated Jan. 31, 2016, the inspector noted continued improper cold holding temperatures.
The temperature in two refrigerators was measured at 56 degrees and 57 degrees, respectively. Raw meat and vegetables were stored in one unit. Shredded meats and vegetables were stored in other unit.
Proper restaurant refrigeration temperature is 41 degrees or lower.
The inspector wrote that one of the refrigerator units "does not appear to be properly maintained at this time."
The Jan. 31 inspection was a re-inspection coming on the heels of a routine Dec. 13 report that noted similar violations.
"The only situation that keeps occurring is that the refrigeration is off by a few degrees," said La Fiesta manager Mayra Lopez in a phone interview. "These units have a few years on them."
The inspector ended up giving La Fiesta a "needs improvement" grade rather than a "pass" grade.
This isn't the first time La Fiesta has run afoul of food safety rules.
Due to repeated violations, the county held an administrative hearing in October 2015 and put La Fiesta on six month's probation.
If the restaurant had a major food safety violation during the six-month probation, its food vending permit would have been suspended.
Taber said the restaurant made it through the probation period without any critical violations.
La Fiesta is currently open for business, but it isn't completely out of the woods.
Taber said the eatery is currently designated as a "chronic non-complier," a category that triggers more frequent inspections.
He said that to get out from under the designation, La Fiesta needs several "pass" grades in a row.
"They haven't reached that yet," he said.
All told, in 2016, county health officials did 1,022 inspections, handing out 721 "pass" grades, 286 "needs improvement" grades and 15 "fail" grades.
Many of the establishments inspected were cafeterias in schools, prisons, rest homes and other institutional settings.
Taber said a "pass" grade means no critical violations. There may be minor violations, such as a cracked floor tile.
Taber said a "needs improvement" grade likely means several violations that may or may not be critical. He said some issues may be able to be corrected immediately while others might have to wait for a follow-up inspection to get cleared.
Taber said an inspection is mandated by law whenever the county receives a complaint from a member of the public about a facility.
In addition to the public's right to read inspection reports online, Taber said people have the right to walk into any restaurant and ask to see a copy of the latest inspection report.
He said failure to show it to the customer is considered a food safety violation.
Taber noted that nearly all restaurants have at least some violations from time to time.
He said the key factor is how quickly they get it corrected once it's pointed out.
"Things are going to happen," he said. "It's how you deal with it."