Seven eateries in Kings County failed a food safety evaluation in 2015.
That’s out of 832 inspections conducted by Kings County Department of Public Health officials in restaurants, snack bars and cafeterias all over the county.
Inspectors gave a “pass” grade 611 times, marked “needs improvement” 214 times and checked “fail” seven times.
The seven establishments that failed an evaluation in 2015 are:
Tacos y Mariscos Colima at 320 E. Seventh St. in Hanford
New China Restaurant at 900 Whitley Ave. in Corcoran
China Inn Restaurant at 102 Larish St. in Lemoore
The Irwin Street Inn at 522 N. Irwin St. in Hanford
The Subway restaurant at 27574 Bernard St. in Kettleman City
The Travelodge at 877 East D St. in Lemoore
United Market at 426 East Seventh St. in Hanford
All the restaurants that failed were re-inspected. Some had cleared up all the violations on the first re-inspections, others improved but still had some carryover violations.
The worst conditions – immediate health threats that result in mandatory closure until the problem is corrected – were found at the Kettleman City Subway and at the Lemoore Travelodge.
At the Subway, one employee told officials that overflow from the bathroom toilets backed up into the hallway.
Another employee said workers stuffed a rag in a kitchen sink drain because it had a tendency to back up and overflow into the food preparation area and the dry storage area.
Officials shut down the eatery until the plumbing problem could be fixed.
The restaurant fixed the problems and opened the next day.
Just a few weeks earlier, the restaurant passed an inspection with no violations and was recommended as a “potential Food Safety All Star,” according to the inspection report.
At the Lemoore Travelodge, inspectors found rodent droppings on dishes and pots. The facility was closed until it could prove that an exterminator sprayed the building.
The Travelodge offers free hot breakfast to guests.
The facility re-opened six days later after Travelodge workers cleaned up most of the droppings, showed proof of exterminator service and corrected other violations.
Co-owner Chirag Patel said the rodent problem was fixed “right away.” He said the facility is located in a field and said it’s hard to keep rodents out.
Patel said he wasn’t aware that restaurant inspection reports are public records.
Common violations at facilities that received failing grades included not having soap, hot water and paper towels at hand-washing sinks, refrigeration temperatures that were too high and workers who mishandled raw food.
New China Restaurant owner Any Yao Chun Lee said that the building the restaurant operates out of is 19 years old.
“We did a deep cleaning and maintained equipment,” she said.
During a re-inspection of New China Restaurant, the only remaining violation noted by the inspector was a fly problem.
Inspector Vikram Singh wrote in the re-inspection report that a cockroach problem noted in the earlier report “has been immensely reduced.”
Chun Lee said she installed bug zappers to try to get rid of the flies. She said it’s hard to open the doors in Corcoran in the summer and not let flies in.
“People have been very kind to us even though we make mistakes,” she said. “We try very hard.”
Owners at the other restaurants couldn’t be reached for comment.
Deputy Kings County Public Health Department Director Jeff Taber said a failed evaluation is triggered by violations in key areas such as cross-contamination and not having the right temperatures in refrigerators and hot food holding bins.
He said inspectors try to achieve a standardized approach. Taber said that subjective differences between inspectors may account for the difference between a “fail” grade and a “needs improvement” grade.
Taber said the amount of time restaurants have to correct violations “depends on a case-by-case basis.”
Taber said the next step for repeated failure to correct violations is an administrative hearing to consider other penalties.
It’s not clear how many cases, if any, went to an administrative hearing in 2015.
Taber said ongoing problems requiring multiple re-inspections could result in the restaurant owner being referred to as a “chronic non-complier.”
Kings County Public Health Department Director Keith Winkler said that it’s “not easy” to pass inspections with no violations.
“There’s a 150-page code to deal with,” Winkler said.
Restaurant reports are available on the county’s website at http://bit.ly/24RJTpz
“You want this to be a [public] discussion,” Taber said. “We want [the owners] to get it.”