New guidelines mean changes for Knox County restaurant inspectio

New guidelines mean changes for Knox County restaurant inspections

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We’ve learned there are now changes to the way inspectors are handling these inspections. It’s all part of the implementation of the new food code that goes into effect next yea We’ve learned there are now changes to the way inspectors are handling these inspections. It’s all part of the implementation of the new food code that goes into effect next yea
Inspectors are now trained to focus on the items that directly lead to food-borne illness. Inspectors are now trained to focus on the items that directly lead to food-borne illness.
“It’s more of a level playing field, all of the inspections seem to be grading on the same issues, focusing on those most important things,” said Tim Joseph, who owns Wok Chow in Bearden. He is also the secretary for the Knoxville Restaurant Association. “It’s more of a level playing field, all of the inspections seem to be grading on the same issues, focusing on those most important things,” said Tim Joseph, who owns Wok Chow in Bearden. He is also the secretary for the Knoxville Restaurant Association.
“They’ve always been in the law, there’s just a lot more emphasis placed on that and placed with discussing and talking with the owner about all these different processes,” explained Ronnie Nease, who oversees restaurant inspections. “They’ve always been in the law, there’s just a lot more emphasis placed on that and placed with discussing and talking with the owner about all these different processes,” explained Ronnie Nease, who oversees restaurant inspections.
By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - During the last few weeks of Food for Thought, 6 News has noticed a change. There hasn’t been a single failing grade for a Knox County Restaurant in three weeks.

In February, a 6 News investigation found inconsistencies with how restaurants are scored, finding some inspectors fail restaurants much more frequently than others.

Previous story: 6 News Investigates: Inspecting the restaurant inspectors

We’ve learned there are now changes to the way inspectors are handling these inspections. It’s all part of the implementation of the new food code that goes into effect next year. Last month, the Knox County Health Department began implementing the new code after receiving training from the state.

Inspectors are now trained to focus on the items that directly lead to food-borne illness.

Restaurant owner Tim Joseph says the difference in inspections is clear.

“It’s more of a level playing field, all of the inspections seem to be grading on the same issues, focusing on those most important things,” said Joseph, who owns Wok Chow in Bearden. He is also the secretary for the Knoxville Restaurant Association.

Special section: Food for Thought

The changes mean inspectors are focusing on five risk factors: improper food sources, improper cooking temperatures, improper holding temperatures and cooling procedures, contaminated utensils and cross contamination and poor personal hygiene and employee health.

“They’ve always been in the law, there’s just a lot more emphasis placed on that and placed with discussing and talking with the owner about all these different processes,” explained Ronnie Nease, who oversees restaurant inspections as the Environmental Health Manager at the Knox County Health Department.

Inspectors still use the 46-point checklist, but they are focusing on four critical items on the list.

The concern for restaurant owners like Joseph was some inspectors focused on minute details, items that could almost never make someone sick but would cost points.

“They’re focusing less on the small things like a dumpster door being open or a mop sitting on the floor and more on the things that matter,” said Joseph.

Nease said that is part of the new training from the Tennessee Department of Health.

“We have been trained to look at things and if its something small, just to discuss it with them and move on,” he explained.

We've seen the difference, four restaurants in last week's Food for Thought scored a perfect 100 and it's been three weeks since a restaurant scored below 70.

The other change is a great consistency amongst inspectors, according to Joseph.

“Before, you were at a potential disadvantage depending on who your inspector was,” he said.

It was a problem we noted in our investigation and the health department says the new food code will continue to help their efforts towards consistency.

“We’ll continue to be working to ensure our staff stays looking at the same things the same way, but again difference in facility makes it really tough to say everything is going to be marked the same every time, but hopefully it will be because these are pretty straight forward,” said Nease.

The inspectors have always been trained to walk restaurant owners and managers through the problems and explain how to correct them but with the recent changes, Joseph says its happening more frequently.

“They never really used to do that before, it was just come in, do the inspection, here’s your score have a nice day, they’re really taking effort and time to really educate someone,” Joseph said.

Nease, who has worked as an inspector for many years, says he’s excited about the new food code and the changes. It’s been almost 30 years since the food code was updated.  It will official go into effect in summer of 2015.

“It focuses again on what makes people sick, a dirty floor doesn’t make people sick, unless they put food on it,” said Nease. “This focuses in on those things that would really help protect the public.”

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