Gwinnett County

Why don't restaurants have to close when receiving extremely low inspection scores?

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — We wanted to get answers to some of the most frequent questions viewers ask about restaurant health inspections.

Channel 2's Carol Sbarge spoke with the Gwinnett County Environmental Health Director Joseph Sternberg.

The good news, he says, is that the average score among the hundreds of restaurants they inspect is actually an A.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Metro area restaurant inspections]

While most restaurants follow the rules, occasionally, some really struggle.

One example was Kung Fu Kitchen in Duluth. We reported last month that Gwinnett County revoked Kung Fu Kitchen's permit after it failed five times.

Sternberg says revoking a permit is rare. The Gwinnett Health Department does 5,000 inspections a year.

Sternberg says fewer than 12 restaurants had to be shut down in the last 15 years.


He says that first a permit is suspended and then they immediately retrain the staff to address the violations.

If failures continue, the restaurant owners must present a specific written plan on how they’ll address the violations.

The Gwinnett Health Department keeps working with them but after the fourth failure, there’s an administrative hearing. It’s one last chance to turn things around.

Many customers get frustrated when restaurants don’t post their current failing score.

Sbarge asked Sternberg why inspectors don’t post the new health inspections on the restaurant walls.

He says the health department doesn’t own the inspection, the restaurant does, and it is their responsibility to be current.

Sternberg says when they do inspections, they look to see if the most current score is posted. If not, it is a violation and repeat violations can lead to permit suspensions.

He stresses health inspectors are constantly educating restaurant workers about food safety rules.

He believes violations often happen because of high turnover in the industry. He stresses though that the vast majority of restaurants get high scores.

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