HANFORD — The Kings County Health Department’s Division of Environmental Health Services announced its 2017 “Food Safety Silver Star” award recipients, and there are twice as many winners compared to the previous year.
Countywide, 88 food facilities earned the award for their outstanding food safety efforts in 2017. In 2016, only 47 facilities made the grade.
“I’m happy to see the numbers go up like that,” said Jeff Taber, deputy health director of Environmental Health Services.
The Silver Star program was developed by the division in 1996 to give positive recognition to those food establishments within Kings County that consistently exceed requirements with regard to public protection from food-borne illness risks.
Facilities eligible for an award are those that participate in food service preparation to the public. Eligible types of establishments include restaurants, deli operations and bakeries.
Many of the establishments inspected were cafeterias in schools, prisons, rest homes and other institutional settings.
Award winners must meet specific criteria on an ongoing basis in order to be selected for the award, including receiving a “pass” rating on all food safety evaluations performed by the department during the prior calendar year.
Señor Pancho's, a Mexican restaurant that has been in Lemoore for 40 years, has received the Silver Star Award several times, said owner Ana Jose Valdez. Valdez has been the owner since 1992 and said nothing makes her happier than getting the recognition from the Health Department.
“The Health Department is very strict,” Valdez said. “We try to keep it up the best we can.”
Valdez said the department has done a great job at advising the restaurant about the proper way to handle food and how to keep the place clean.
“We work together to follow instructions and do what they ask,” Valdez said.
She said her family eats at the restaurant as well, so she serves the public nothing short of what she would serve to her family.
“I love it because the food is life,” Valdez said.
Taber said the department tries to inspect every food-selling establishment at least twice a year. Most establishments pass with little to no minor violations, while others get marked for “needs improvement” due to several minor violations.
A minor violation can include cracked floor tiles or lack of paper towels in the restroom.
Getting a failing grade means they likely had more than one critical violation and may have been repeat violators. Taber said these establishments get reinspected more often than other places.
Taber said the department checks for critical violations based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most common risk factors for food-borne illness, which include:
- Improper hot/cold holding temperatures of potentially hazardous food
- Improper cooking temperatures of food
- Dirty and/or contaminated utensils and equipment
- Poor employee health and hygiene
- Food from unsafe sources
More Information about the Silver Star program, along with copies of all recent food facility inspection reports, can be obtained on the website at countyofkings.com/departments/environment-health-service/online-inspection-reports or by contacting the Kings County Health Department’s Division of Environmental Health Services at 584-1411.