Restaurant inspections: Good and the bad of New London County - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Restaurant inspections: The good and the bad of New London County

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NEW LONDON, CT (WFSB) -

Do you know how your favorite restaurant fares with their latest health inspections? New London Bureau Chief Kevin Hogan visited three southeastern Connecticut communities to see who makes the grade and who is failing.

Hogan said the probe of the health inspections revealed an interesting pattern. Many of the area's fast-food restaurants, like Subway, get high marks. You may "eat fresh" there, but it's not the only franchise dishing up health numbers. A Taco Bell in town recently scored a 95.

Just down the street from that, the Popeye's restaurant scored a 99.

But, Hogan said, not everyone is perfect.

Sonny Chok owns Singapore Grille and was once a health inspector, so he is familiar with the position. 

"For the most part things are fairly general," Chok said. "We know what you need to do. But once and a while you'll get one that brought up something you never heard of before."

Stephen Mansfield, who is the deputy director of Ledge Light Health District, said the health inspection numbers could be quite misleading to consumers.

"We may go into an establishment and they may score a 96, that may seem good at first glance, but it doesn't show the consumer that the establishment may have some serious violations," Mansfield said.

A restaurant can get several violations for many different items including not keeping meat at proper temperatures. Meat not kept at the right temperature could cause illness.

The health district consults with a panel of restaurant owners to get feedback.

"While you want to follow the rules the health inspector is looking for, it's sometimes a disadvantage sometimes to adhere to every rule and get the job done," said Lisa Villano, the owner of Olio in Groton.

The Eyewitness News review of inspections in three southeastern Connecticut communities led the station to Panda Buffet, which came in with some of the worst scores in the area.

The restaurant got a 74 in February. Among the reasons for such a low score was the inspector observed the staff improperly washing cooking utensils.

Two months later, they scored a 76, but inspectors found foods that were uncovered in the reach-in and walk-in coolers.

In May, the restaurant received the worst score that Eyewitness News saw - a 52. An inspector found a box of avocados in the employee bathroom near some chemicals, and cockroaches by a flour container.

In June, the restaurant received an encouraging score of 88, with inspectors noting many of the past issues had been corrected.

Last month, inspectors dropped that number for Panda Buffet to an 86. They received demerits for having raw meat stored above cooked meats in the reach-in cooler.

"We still have to look at broken tiles and torn screens and so forth but those aren't the things that get people ill," Mansfield said. "Our primary responsibility is to ensure the people don't get foodborne illness when they eat in our jurisdiction."

To see a full list of the restaurant inspections in Ledyard, click here.

To see a full list of the restaurant inspections in New London, click here.

To see a full list of the restaurant inspections in East Lyme, click here.

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