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Does your favorite restaurant pass food safety tests?

Cock of the Walk received a C rating on its last inspection just last Wednesday. Owner Patricia Clark said she was actually thrilled to see the health inspector Wednesday because the restaurant’s kitchen was spotless.

“I wasn’t even worried when (the inspector) showed up,” Clark said. “I thought, ‘Oh good, she’s here, the kitchen looks great.’”

But Cock of the Walk was given the C because grease and had accumulated behind the fryers and grime underneath a food preparation area.

Clark said the food preparation counter was spotless, but underneath dirt had accumulated.

“We’re in an old building, and those areas behind and under where the food is cooked and prepared are harder to keep clean,” she said.

Clark said those “harder to clean” areas that are not food preparation services had never been mentioned in past inspections.

Cock of the Walk received As on its inspections in April and May.

The restaurant has 10 days to clean the two areas.

“It will be taken care of before the inspector comes back in 10 days,” Clark said.

The inspector also looks for non-critical violations, which are not listed in the A-C rating system.

“A non-critical violation would be something that, although needs to be corrected, does not normally result in the risk of a foodborne illness,” Luke said. “For instance, a dirty floor would be a non-critical violation; food or utensils on the dirty floor would be a critical violation. An open window would be a non-critical violation; flies coming through the open window would be a critical violation.”

Inspections are conducted between one and four times a year, Luke said, depending on the risk level of the facility.

“Generally, places such as a doughnut shop or shaved ice Snow Cone stand would be inspected once per year,” Luke said. “A facility serving a highly susceptible population (such as a) hospital (or) nursing home) or a facility operating at a high volume or around the clock — for example, a casino — would be inspected four times per year.”

Inspections are usually unannounced, but can be scheduled in advance. When they are scheduled, Luke said inspectors have a 65-day window in which they can operate, with inspections happening as early as 60 days in advance or as late as five days beyond the scheduled date the restaurant has been given.

El Potro Mexican Grill and Cantina has been inspected six times this year, according to MDH’s website. The restaurant received a C Jan. 4 from inspector Dorothy Matthews for four violations, three of which were repeated violations. The violations included improper hot and cold holding temperatures and improperly sanitized food contact surface, all of which were corrected on site.

The fourth violation related to the amount of time food sat at room temperature.

The restaurant received a B on its corrective follow-up inspection Jan. 13, a C on its scheduled April 26 inspection, a C on the corrective follow-up inspection May 8 and a B on the corrective follow-up inspection on May 10.

The restaurant received an A on its July 9 scheduled inspection from James Walker, a different inspector.

Fat Mama’s Tamales has received As on its last three inspections. Owner David Gammill said the restaurant has a loose schedule of when to expect an inspector, but the inspectors can pop in anytime.

Gammill said although it is good to have someone looking over your shoulder, restaurant inspections do not necessarily make restaurants safer.

“That falls more on whoever runs the restaurant on a daily basis,” he said. “Day in and day out, you have to make sure you’re sanitizing the sinks, rotating the inventory, things are not past their expiration date.”

Restaurant-goers, Gammill said, should expect As from restaurants and generally notice when the posted health rating is not an A.

“I think (the rating) means a lot if it’s not good,” he said. “People take notice if a restaurant is not up to par. As people that eat out, everybody should almost expect As. Sometimes things happen, but over any extended period of time, it ought to be As the majority of the time.”

For more information on Mississippi inspections or to see the results of your favorite restaurants, visit http://msdh.ms.gov/food/defaultDates.aspx.