The cuisine of South Mississippi is often described as one of it's most distinctive traits.
“I associate really good with southern food and I think we can all relate to that,” said Local Restaurant Owner Stuart Gates.
It's always about how it tastes, but have you ever thought about if the food you are consuming is safe. The state health department staff says their job is to insure it is before it gets to your table.
“They are given a grade A, B, or C,” said District 9 Administrator David Caulfield.
The grade is posted after a routine random inspection.
“Everybody wants an A, there is no doubt about it. We want everyone to have an A, but we aren't going to give them an A if they aren't meeting the standard,” said District 9 Environmentalist for MS State Department of Health Pansy Maddox.
So what does the letter grade on the wall in your favorite restaurant really mean?
If they have no critical violations they are issued an “A.” If they have a violation that is corrected while the inspectors are there they get a “B.” One violation that cannot be corrected during the inspection, multiple violations, or a repeated previous violation results in them being issued a “C”.
“Typical violations that we see existing most often are probably time and temperature abuse of the food and improper cooking temperatures,” said Maddox.
“Every one of those grades can give the public an idea of the quality of food that they are getting,” said Caulfield. “If a restaurant is open then it is safe to eat in.”
Stuart Gates owns Vickie's on Walnut, which has an A on their wall.
“You always hear health department horror stories, but for us,” said Gates. “If you are doing your job right and you are preparing product as it should be you have nothing to worry about really.”
Gates said to him it's a no brainer.
“As a diner, like when I go out to eat, it's nice to know that all of the other restaurants are being held to the same standard whether it's fine dining or fast food,” said Gates.
Gates tries his best to be on his p's and q's because the inspections are unannounced.
“It can be daunting with they come in because you could have forgotten something real minimal,” said Gates. “You could get a “B” for keeping an ice scoop in your ice machine.”
Health Department inspectors said another common violation they find is…
“Not washing hands when hand washing is required,” said Maddox. That's a cross contamination issue and that's very serious.”
All agree they work together to make sure folks are safe.
“They take pride in their food,” said Maddox. “They take pride in their facility.”