Knox County Dept. of Health offers mock restaurant inspection

Knox County Dept. of Health offers mock restaurant inspection

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Monday's mock inspection at the UT Conference Center kitchen was an effort to show the media what inspectors are looking for. Monday's mock inspection at the UT Conference Center kitchen was an effort to show the media what inspectors are looking for.
"The thing I don't like about our health inspections is a lot of times they're just snap shot, but if we see a violation we stop the process and we will education the cook. We will take the violation but we will educate them," said Scott Bryan. "The thing I don't like about our health inspections is a lot of times they're just snap shot, but if we see a violation we stop the process and we will education the cook. We will take the violation but we will educate them," said Scott Bryan.

 By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE)  –  Knox County Health Department held a mock inspection for the media on Monday. Last month a 6News investigation found inconsistencies with how restaurants are scored, finding some inspectors fail restaurants more frequently than others.

It's raised question on how to standardize the inspection process.

At least twice a year, inspectors armed with this 44 point check list, evaluate restaurants in an effort to protect the public. But a 6News investigation found there are inconsistencies from inspector to inspector and Monday's mock inspection at the UT Conference Center kitchen was an effort to show the media what inspectors are looking for.

"This is one of the main areas we look at when we're doing our inspections and this is also an area that can garnish a lot of points during an inspection," explained Scott Bryan, an environmental manager for the Knox County Department of Health, while pointing to the kitchen's dishwasher.

Bryan is a supervisor of all of the Knox County health inspectors. Walking through the kitchen, he pointed out some of the key violations they look for, including hand washing, proper storage of food and dishwashing. Areas that can cost major points.

"Usually the person running the dish machine is the newest, maybe lowest paid employee. It would be a critical violation if this machine was not getting up to temperature," said Bryan.

Bryan was one of the inspectors we looked at during our 6News investigation. Because he's a supervisor he only inspects around four percent of the restaurants in the county, but he's one of the tougher ones, making up for 11 percent of the failures during the last year.

"The thing I don't like about our health inspections is a lot of times they're just snap shot, but if we see a violation we stop the process and we will education the cook. We will take the violation but we will educate them," said Bryan.

The education aspect is one of the concerns of the restaurant industry.

"One way you help with fixing inconsistencies is by training and education, and making sure that the inspectors train properly and making sure the restaurant owners train properly," explained Greg Adkins with the Tennessee Hospitality Association.

The TNHA is working with the Tennessee Department of Health on the new state food code. It goes into effect in 2015 and will change the way restaurants and other establishments are inspected.

"This is going to be a transition process for both inspectors and the industry," Adkins said.

They are in the rule-making process of writing the Food Code and Adkins hopes some of their concerns will be addressed, including a better appeal process for restaurants and putting more focus on the items that cause food-borne illness.

One of those items was discussed during our mock inspections.

"The number one reason people get sick is because of sick workers. Starting in 2015, you're actually going to have use gloves or tongs, there's going to have to be a barrier between you and the food you are preparing," Bryan said.

One thing we noticed on our mock inspection was a dripping faucet. According to the inspection sheet, a dripping faucet can be marked off under "sewage and waste water disposal." That's a four point critical violation.

"A sewage leak is a common violation, many people assume it's something going on in the bathroom, but it could be as simple as a drip from a hand sink," Bryan said.

But we asked him what constitutes a drip?

He said in this instance, the small drip would not be considered a violation.

"That would not be a violation as right now. We always take a rational look at things and look at things and say is that really going to cause a problem?" Bryan explained.

But that rational look can be subjective; we once again asked the Health Department how they establish a consistency from inspector to the next.

"Certain people might focus on one thing or another, but we do everything we can to standardize that and when we have issues we go and speak that person directly," said Dr. Martha Buchanan, the director of the Knox County Department of Health. "There is a range between inspectors and that is expected."

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