5 On Your Side

Yuck or yum: Inspection grades keep restaurants, diners safe

Posted February 24, 2017 6:13 a.m. EST
Updated March 2, 2017 10:20 a.m. EST

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.