While so-called cold-holding violations were on average higher in Summit than other counties for the past few years, only about 1 percent of local restaurants had continuing health issues that required a sit-down talk in 2011, according to Dan Hendershott, environmental health manager for the Summit County Public Health Department.
Cold-holding violations - when a potentially hazardous food item is being stored at a temperature more than 41 degrees - averaged 31 percent in 2011 Summit restaurant inspections, compared to a 25 percent average for other Colorado counties that share the same database.
The number is high, Hendershott said, but almost all the establishments make the correction after it's pointed out during inspection, and the number of restaurants caught in violation is decreasing.
In 2010, 35 percent of Summit restaurants had cold-holding violations compared to other counties' collective 32 percent. That number was down from 43 percent in 2009, while other counties averaged 32 percent.
Summit County has 377 retail food establishments, and of those there were 667 inspections performed in 2011, according to Hendershott. Four businesses had "critical-type violations unable to be corrected on-site," and had two follow-up visits to make sure the problem was corrected. Only one establishment didn't initially fix all of its problems and was fined in 2011, Hendershott said.
There were $250 in fines accessed in 2011, compared to $1,250 in 2010.
Throughout 2011, the Summit environmental health department investigated nine potential food-borne illness cases, but only one was confirmed.
"It's difficult to confirm illness unless there're two or more unrelated cases," Hendershott said, meaning reports from people in completely different parties.
There was one that was "basically confirmed," relating to a case of scombroid poisoning last summer. The condition is one of the most common forms of fish poisoning in the United States, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration website, and can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, headaches and itching of the skin; and sometimes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Usually, food and stool samples would go to the state for testing, but the evidence was so overwhelming that the state didn't feel it was necessary, Hendershott said. This particular situation resulted from tuna, although it's unclear whether it was from when the fish was harvested, distributed or the restaurant's handling practices.
In Hendershott's 13-year career, there's only been one other scombroid situation he's investigated, and that was in Denver.
Anytime a potential illness is investigated, and whenever there's a violation, Hendershott said he uses the opportunity to educate the establishment owner and workers about proper procedures.
The results of Summit County restaurant inspections can all be found online at http://bit.ly/KcHyL9.