5 On Your Side

Yuck or yum: Inspection grades keep restaurants, diners safe

Posted February 24
Updated March 2

Restaurant kitchens are where the culinary magic happens, but they can also pose health problems for diners.

Health inspectors check restaurants for health and safety violations and give grades to let the public know how clean the business is. But have you ever wondered what violations are behind the inspection grade given to your favorite restaurant?

Every Friday, WRAL's 5 On Your Side shows you what county health inspectors find in area restaurants. Here's how those eateries receive their grades:

–State law requires an inspection, without warning, at least once per year. But businesses with problems or complex menus can be inspected up to four times each year.

–A score of 90 or above is an A, in the 80s is a B, and a score in the 70s is a C. If an inspector gives a 69 or below, the restaurant has to close immediately. A restaurant can also be closed for critical violations, such as leaking sewage or no water.

–Restaurants that score below a 90 can get another shot. The restaurant knows it'll happen within 15 days of the request. Since any place can have a bad day, 5 On Your Side includes the score history to give a clearer picture of ongoing cleanliness.

–How can restaurants have many violations and still operate? Inspectors assess 34 categories. Point values are based on how likely the violation will make someone sick. The largest deductions are for food temperature and handling issues, but while bugs and dirty floors sound gross, they're not likely to make you sick

–Grade cards must be prominently displayed, so you can easily check the score before you sit down.

Keep in mind, the goal behind the grading system is to make restaurants as safe as possible and to educate owners and employees on safe food handling processes, not to shut them down.

Eaters can read the actual inspections for restaurants in 61 North Carolina counties on WRAL.com. The other 39 counties don't participate in the state database.


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  • Shivia Phoenix Feb 24, 8:03 p.m.
    user avatar

    I really wish NC had much stricter policies. I have been to places since I've moved here and gotten sick although they had low As. Usually when you see an A you think "hey, its safe to eat here" but I learned very quickly that's not the case in this state. In my home state, a lot of the restaurants that get a score of B here in NC would have failed there. (I know this to be true because my mom works in the food industry there and was horrified when I showed her the restaurant reports from WRAL) So when I do go out I interpret the scores much differently and closer to how my home state would. High A is an A, Mid A is a B, Low A is a C, High B is a D, and Mid B is an F. Looking at the scores like this, at least for me, has kept me and my family and friends much safer.

  • Tim Orr Feb 24, 3:04 p.m.
    user avatar

    Run the numbers Mark. Millions of restaurants, 10s of millions of meals prepared a day. A few times a year you hear about sickness. Seems to be a lot more problems per capita for the police with life threatening issues. Compare apples to apples before you form an opinion.

  • Mark Hayes Feb 24, 8:24 a.m.
    user avatar

    We have LE forced to wear body cams, yet food prep areas often are not on camera, which is more of a danger, unsanitary employees, spoiled food, or the LE officers that serve the area, I'll take my chances with LE, have seen too many unsanitary conditions in food prep areas.