After our brief knit interlude (“knitterlude?”) we’re back on the restaurant inspection beat.

Restaurant owners have plenty of reasons to want to pass an inspection. For one, if an inspector from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) finds enough problems, the restaurant may be subject to a follow-up inspection or even a temporary closing. Two, restaurants will soon have to display letter grades based on their inspection scores. This means potential customers will not only see a pass/fail mark, but they’ll see how well a restaurant passed.   -and who wants the reputation of being a C-student eatery?

According to a recent New York Times article, proactive restaurants are bringing in consultants to help them stay inspection-ready. The consultants, some of them former DOHMH inspectors themselves, essentially perform a mock inspection to spot potential health code violations before a DOHMH team drops in.  That gives restaurant owners a chance to remedy the problems before they are subject to an official inspection.  It’s like getting an advance look at the big midterm exam, except no one will get expelled for it.

We think this is a great idea, as it never hurts to have experienced guidance. We also think it’s helpful to improve one’s understanding of the situation before calling in expert help. To that end, we explored the restaurant data in search of the top eleven most common critical inspection violations. (Why top eleven, instead of top ten? Well, because it’s one more.) Specifically, we reviewed the inspection data from 02 January 2009 through 27 March 2010. This data covered roughly 55,000 inspections across 23,000 restaurants. If a restaurant could tackle these issues on their own, ahead of time, then their inspection consultants could focus on other issues.

Number Violation Code Description
11 04O Evidence of, or flying insects in facility’s food and/ or non-food areas.
10 05D Hand washing facility not provided in or near food preparation area and toilet room. Hot and cold running water at adequate pressure not provided at facility. Soap and an acceptable hand-drying device not provided.
9 04N Evidence of, or live roaches in facility’s food and/ or nonfood areas.
8 04A Food Protection Certificate not held by supervisor of food operations.
7 06E Sanitized equipment or utensil, including in-use food dispensing utensil, improperly used or stored.
6 04I Raw, cooked or prepared food is adulterated, contaminated, cross-contaminated and/ or not discarded in accordance with HACCP plan.
5 06D Food contact surface not properly maintained, or not washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred.
4 06C Food not protected from potential source of contamination during storage, preparation, transportation, display or service.
3 02B Hot PHF not held at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
2 02G Smoked fish and/ or ROP processed food held above 38 degrees Fahrenheit; other PHF held above 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Except during necessary preparation.
1 04M Evidence of, or live mice in facility’s food and/ or non-food areas.
  • PHF = potentially hazardous foods, e.g. food that must be cooked to a certain temperature in order be safely eaten.
  • ROP = reduced oxygen packaging, which is a fancy term for vacuum-sealing or any other method that draws the oxygen out of a product to help it stay shelf-stable.

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