Exposed food. Dirty work areas. Cross-contamination.
All of these were offenses found by the Consumer Health Division of the Fort Worth Public Health Department inside the kitchens of TCU-area restaurants this year.
But these infractions don’t always result in a failing grade.
Robert Spindle, code enforcement supervisor for the city of Fort Worth, said the demerit system is operated based on risk.
The city of Fort Worth documents infractions using a demerit system instead of a grading system. According to the city’s official site, demerits are only recorded for “critical violations”.
The highest numbers of demerits have been given to some popular TCU-area establishments including Kroger (23), Cafe Bella (22), McDonald’s (21), Dutch’s Hamburgers (19) and Yucatan Taco Stand (19).
However, Spindle said that establishments are not required to display their demerits. As such, customers who have not looked through the online health inspection reports on the Fortworthtexas.gov/health website will not know how many demerits their favorite restaurant may have.
Any number of demerits below 30 is a passing grade. Specific offenses that are more serious than others must be corrected while the inspector is on-site. If the restaurant has more than 30, the inspector will return within 24-48 hours.
Kroger’s fish market received 23 demerits in March. Although they passed inspection, the store still had many reported dangerous practices occurring in the kitchen.
The employees allowed vegetables to come in contact with raw fish in the refrigerator. Some of the raw fish had expiration date and had been sitting out for more than 24 hours.
The salmon and crab meat sitting in the display refrigerator, like sushi, was being served at an incorrect temperature.
This most common infraction at TCU-area restaurants is classified as “cold holding.” In the case of raw fish, it means the food does not have an internal temperature of 41°F or below and is not being maintained at 34 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
According the health inspection reports, the second most common infraction is “failure to have good hygienic practice”. This includes employees drinking from uncovered containers in non-designated break areas and not properly washing their hands.
The restaurants with the least infractions in the area include Avoca Coffee (3), Corner Bakery Cafe (3), Buffalo Bros (4), Mellow Mushroom (4) and Blue Mesa (4).
The infractions among these restaurants most commonly included food handlers missing their health certificates, improper hand washing, or employees drinking in non-designated break areas.
Spindle said the number of demerits depend on the extent of the restaurant’s operation.
“For more of a full service restaurant, 15-20 demerits is probably safe,” he said. “If it’s a little snack bar and they are pushing into the mid 20s, they are doing something wrong. They have a less in-depth process to begin with.”
Despite some problems at area restaurants, all of the popular TCU-area restaurants have passed their health inspections this year.
To stay up-to-date on health inspections throughout Fort Worth, visit http://www.fortworthgov.org/applications/Health/ to see the full reports documented at the time of these inspections.