22 Fresno County restaurants have closed for health violations. How’s that compare to 2018?

Only two restaurants in Fresno County were closed after health inspectors found food-safety or sanitation violations in September, and both were allowed to reopen later the same day after owners or managers corrected the problems.

The two September closures brings to 22 the number of restaurants that have been forced to close – some for a few hours, others for a day or two – through the first nine months of 2019. They came on the heels of an August that saw five eateries in which inspectors found violations serious enough to warrant a closure order. No restaurants were closed by inspectors in July.

By contrast, in 2018, 48 Fresno County food places had been closed for various reasons by inspectors through September, and 61 by year’s end.

Both of the restaurants temporarily closed last month were in Selma, and both on the same day. Super Frosty, a burgers-and-fries fast-food restaurant on East Front Street, and Tacos El Gordo on Second Street just west of Highway 99 underwent inspections on Sept. 7 and were closed.

At Super Frosty, an inspector found that all of the floor sinks were clogged, which was causing wastewater to back up into the building. Less than a half-mile away, at Tacos El Gordo, an inspection revealed a lack of hot water and other sanitation issues.

Both restaurants were reinspected later the same day and were allowed to reopen.

Inspectors with the Fresno County Department of Public Health typically make the rounds of restaurants across the county, conducting routine but unannounced inspections four times a year. There are about two dozen environmental health specialists covering the entire county, and in addition to more than 5,300 restaurants, snack bars, grocery stores, commissaries, delicatessens and food vendors, some are responsible for inspecting other facilities such as tattoo or body art parlors, public swimming pools and other sites.

Usually, if inspectors find a problem, it’s something minor that can be fixed on the spot – things like having enough bleach in the water used to wipe down food-preparation counters, replacing lids on food containers in the walk-in refrigerator, resupplying paper towels in the restrooms or reminding employees to wear gloves or hairnets and to wash their hands.

But when violations represent threats to sanitation or public safety – a lack of hot water for properly washing dishes, heating units that don’t get hot enough or refrigerators that don’t get cold enough to hamper the growth of bacteria, or infestations by mice or rats or cockroaches – inspectors have the authority to order a place to close until the problems are fixed.

Inspectors also respond to complaints when consumers see unsanitary conditions or other situations that they believe endanger food safety.

The county posts its inspection reports online at fresnohealthinspections.org.

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Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked in the Valley as a reporter and editor since 1986, and has been at The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and covers California’s high-speed rail project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a journalism degree from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.