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Food inspectors focus on ‘risk factors’ in county

Audress Hill is one of three state food inspectors assigned to examine the more than 750 restaurants in Beaufort County, plus more grocery stores and outdoor festivals with food.

While her inspection includes items like whether tiles are cracked or if the garbage in the women’s bathroom has a lid, state inspectors are concentrating more on food to make sure it’s stored, cooked and served properly. Hill said the key is making sure foods are at proper temperatures. Cold foods need to be kept at or below 45 degrees, while hot foods must be at or above 130 degrees.

The state inspects all 16,600 food-serving facilities, from restaurants to school cafeterias. Inspectors have a standard sheet they use for each inspection that includes the potential violations and the demerits for those problems.

Like on a test, points are taken off for each violation — from one point off for an infraction, such as not having wiping cloths properly stored, to a maximum five-point reduction for serious violations, like employees not properly washing their hands. The most any facility can receive is 100 points. Restaurants can get a ‘A’ grade as long as they retain at least 88 points.

Restaurants are given a chance to fix major violations, like improper food temperatures, within 10 days. The inspector will return to the facility and if the problem is fixed, the restaurant will get a new score.

While restaurants know when a follow-up inspection is scheduled, the initial inspection is a surprise.