Inspecting the places where you eat

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Fort Stockton Building Official Robert Stoddard's duties go beyond building inspections, code enforcement, plan review, and fire inspections.

He also conducts annual restaurant inspections.

Each year, more than 100 restaurants ion the city are inspected by Stoddard and two code enforcement officers. All places serving food are inspected, including cafeterias, convenience stores, food trucks and restaurants.

“Anybody that sells food, we do a health inspection,” said Stoddard.

The process for food trucks is a little different since they get a permit for a less than one year. For example, a snow cone vendor might receive a three-month license.

Regardless, everyone is required to have an inspection before operating. Each is then checked on an annual basis, unless there is a complaint.

Code enforcement checks for things like temperature, cleanliness, employees washing their hands and keeping hair up and away from food.

“One of the most frequent complaints is hair in food,” said Stoddard.

Public input

Since there are only three people who work code enforcement, Stoddard asks that patrons pay attention to what is going on at the restaurants and let him know if something is wrong.

“Look at different things – insects or different things like that,” he said.

Before handling food, workers must obtain a food-handler certificate. The course shows workers the proper hand-washing techniques, as well as food handling safety requirements like avoiding the commingling of meats.

Pecos County

Outside the city limits, Pecos County does things a little differently. Alfredo Gomez is the sole person inspecting 25 restaurants outside Fort Stockton city limits.

He inspects twice a year, unless there is a complaint.

“I make sure there are no violations,” said Gomez.

Scoring system

In the city, the food entities are given a letter grade from A to D. Points are subtracted for each infraction in order to determine the grade.

Anything below a grade of 70 is required to close until the violations are corrected.

Anything above a 70 must, depending on the violation, make repairs anytime from immediately to within 90 days.

While all establishments are given a grade, each is not required to display their grade in a certain location.

Some of the major issues are food being cooled and then improperly reheated; refrigerated food being stored above 41 degrees for more than four hours; hot food sitting below 135 degrees for more than four hours; undercooked food, employees who don't wash their hands properly; food from unapproved sources; cross contamination of raw food; and not having a proper water supply for hand washing, preparing food and cleaning equipment.

To call in a food safety complaint in Fort Stockton, call code enforcement at (432) 336-8525. For Pecos County, call (432) 448-2714.

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