In Lexington County, DHEC inspectors have an admirable track record of assisting food service establishments come into compliance with health standards while continuing to protect public safety.
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The state Department of Health and Environmental Control could shut them down by revoking operating licenses for repeated or egregious violations of food service standards. Or fine them up to $1,000 per day for repeated violations via its Enforcement Division.
But, at least here in Lexington County, DHEC inspectors have an admirable track record of assisting food service establishments come into compliance with health standards while continuing to protect public safety.
Take May, for example.
DHEC food safety inspectors conducted 99 May Lexington County food service establishment inspections, issuing A grades to 84 inspected establishments. That’s 84.8% of restaurants inspected getting an A decal to display as required by law posted at the entrance to South Carolina food service establishments.
Nine Lexington County inspections resulted in B grades in May. All were able to manage an A grade on subsequent follow-up inspections during May.
Same goes for the five Lexington County establishments that received C grades during the month. Like the Bs, all the Cs were converted to As on subsequent inspections.
The public can view the details of the DHEC inspections on the agency website. The PDF forms filled out during the inspections list plenty of potential enforcement “teeth” to be used against unsafe food service providers. The C Lexington County reports from May include repeat violations from prior inspections, priority violations of the most important regulations and mentions of referring violators to the Enforcement Division. All these violations could result in fines or licenses being revoked.
But instead, the reports note that inspectors advised the people in charge of the violating establishments on how to comply, gave them instruction fact sheets on how to accomplish the necessary improvements and instructed them on how to maintain employee cleanliness and prepare, store and serve food cleanly and safely.
Both Lexington County residents and our food service establishments, which include restaurants, schools, banquet facilities, food trucks and even the county Detention Center, are well served by our local DHEC inspectors, who could shut down or fine the violators, but instead assist them and universally, at least in May, bring them into compliance, preserving jobs while keeping residents safe from food-borne illnesses.
This article is the opinion of the Chronicle editorial board. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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