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The dish on local dining

by: Graphic by Darryl Swan

There are some immediate changes in store for how restaurants manage food, but it's going to take a little longer before substantive revisions occur for how health inspectors rate restaurants and caterers.

Legislative changes in line for adoption in 2012 include keeping sliced tomato and lettuce at temperatures below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, lowering the hot-hold temperature from 140 to 135 degrees and eliminating bare-hand contact for ready-to-eat foods, among others.

Mark Edington, Columbia County's health inspector, said the anticipated changes really reflect Oregon Public Health Authority's adoption of an older food code.

'What they're doing is adopting a later-date food code. They're still kind of behind, but they're trying to play catch up,' he says.

A revised food code should bring Oregon in line with regulations outlined by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for permitting all food agencies except for restaurants and caterers. For instance, the health authority had set 140 degrees as its hot-hold temperature versus the ODA's 130 degrees. As a compromise the two agencies will split the difference.

Left untackled are larger questions about regulating mobile food carts, which are increasingly trendy in and around the Portland metro area, and revising the health inspection scoring system.

Presently, permitted restaurants and caterers are inspected at least twice annually as a condition of their permit. A 'critical' problem discovered on site - evidence of vermin or roaches, food left out for more than four hours, dishwasher not working, ill servers, unwashed hands or sores evident on the server, as a few examples - results in a four- or five-point reduction from a starting score of 100. The eatery then has two weeks to correct the problem, must set in place interim measures, and is in line for a re-inspection.

The scores do not stack, however. If, for instance, beef is discovered at the wrong storage temperature, there is no additional penalty if fish is also discovered at a too-warm temperature. Such violations occur within a particular category, and more than one violation in one category still only results in a five-point reduction.

'The system, I think, is kind of antiquated,' Edington says.

Still, Edington points to studies, one most recently conducted in King County, Wash., that suggest a direct correlation between the restaurant score and the occurrence of food-borne illness.

'It's a pretty good indicator if the score is consistently low, that's a place to avoid,' he says.

Considering the scores

Restaurants all start with a score of 100. Points are subtracted for violations discovered during the health inspection. Minor violations typically receive one- or two-point subtractions. Major, or 'critical,' violations usually result in a four- or five-point subtraction. Point reductions for more than one violation in a category, such as food not maintained at the regulated temperature, do not stack.

Here's how to read the scores listed below:

Restaurant name - Score [number of criticals] (inspection date).

How The Spotlight uses the scores:

90-100 - Clean and healthy. Nice work.

85-89 - A couple of slips, but diner worthy.

80-84 - Dangerous territory.

70-79 - Condition critical. Time for a change.

Below 70 - Fail.

Scappoose eateries

Burger King - 96 [1] (4/14/10); 99 (11/18/10);

Burrito USA - 88 (3/30/11) [2]; 90 [1] (3/2/10); 83 [2] (9/7/10)

Cafe Thirty - 90 [1] 1/6/11); 95 (3/1/2010); 88 [1] (7/28/10)

Coffee Dog - 93 [1] (2/23/11); 97 (2/28/11)

Dairy Queen - 97 (4/12/10); 93 (12/10/10);

Donny Marlu's Deli - 95 [1] (9/1/10); 97 (4/7/11)

Express Lane Espresso III - 91 [1] (1/7/11); 96 (3/1/10); 97 (8/3/10)

Farmhouse Restaurant - 95 [3] (5/28/10)

Fast Lube and Oil - 89 [1] (1/6/11); 93 (3/2/10); 98 (7/28/10)

Ichabod's - 90 [1] (4/12/10); 91 [1] (12/27/10);

Ixtapa - 95 [2] (3/8/10); 93 [1] (8/3/10)

Kandi's Coffee South - 94 [1] (10/25/10);

Longfellow's - 86 [2] (4/1/10); 91 [1] (9/7/10); 94 [1] (1/12/11)

Lung Fung Chinese - 74 [3] (12/10/10); 87 [1] (5/25/10)

Mark's on the Channel - 90 [1] (9/29/10); 90 [4] (6/15/10)

McDonald's - 100 (4/12/10); 92 [1] (12/27/10); 95 [1] (3/1/11)

Old Town Cafe - 100 (3/10/10); 90 (4/1/10) [3]; 100 (1/11/10); 95 [1] (11/17/10)

Pizza Vendor - 90 [2] (1/12/11); 94 [1] (3/3/10); 99 (7/28/10)

Scappoose Cafe - 93 [2] (8/3/10)

Scappoose Cinema - 87 [2] (12/30/10); 92 [2] (5/25/10)

Scappoose Creek Inn - 100 (12/14/10)

Scappoose High Baseball - 100 (3/1/11); 91 [1] (5/10/10)

Scappoose High School Boosters - 99 (10/26/10)

Scappoose Senior Citizens Center - 90 [1] (4/14/10); 91 [1] (12/14/10); 92 [1] (3/1/11)

Subway - 98 (3/8/10); 96 (3/30/11); 99 (12/29/10)

The Wayside - 87 [3] (9/29/10); 93 [2] (3/8/10); 87 [2] (2/23/11)

Varsity Grill and Bar/Daddy O's - 85 [3] (10/15/10); 84 [3] (2/23/11)

Wigwam - 91 [1] (4/20/10); 96 (3/30/11); 94 [1] (9/7/2010)

St. Helens eateries

Bertucci's - 99 (4/27/11)

Best Western Oak Meadows Inn - 95 [1] (8/12/10); 100 (1/11/10); 94 [1] (2/3/11); 97 (4/27/11);

Bing's - 86 [2] (12/20/10); 81 [4] (5/13/10); 100 (6/25/10);

Blackbird Catering - 98 (12/17/10); 88 [2] (4/26/11); 95 [1] (4/10/10);

Burgerville - 96 (10/13/10); 88 [2] (6/8/10);

Columbia County Corrections Center - 94 [1] (3/9/10); 93 [1] (8/13/10); 95 [1] (4/4/11);

Columbia Tavern - 88 [2] (2/11/10); 87 [2] (2/3/11); 91 [4] (7/21/10); 100 (7/22/10);

Columbia Theater Espresso - 96 (1/11/10); 99 (12/15/10); 97 (7/7/10);

Damma's Pastry Shop - 99 (8/31/10); 88 [2] (2/11/10);

Dari Delish Drive Inn - 90 [2] (2/16/10); 96 [1] (7/21/10); 98 (4/8/11);

DC Concessions (Columbia County Fairgrounds) - 100 (5/8/10);

Domino's Pizza - 100 (2/12/10); 98 (7/26/10);

Dutch Brothers Coffee - 91 [1] (2/10/10); 86 [3] (7/13/10);

El Tapatio - 92 [1] (11/5/10); 91 [1] (6/10/10);

Espress Yourself Deli and Café - 95 [1] (1/6/11); 95 [1] (4/20/10);

Express Lane Espresso - 96 (1/20/10);

First Lutheran Church - 99 (2/4/11)

Fresh Start Espresso Café - 88 [2] (1/26/11); 86 [2] (1/26/11); 98 (7/22/10); 98 (1/20/10);

Geppetto's - 95 [1] (10/26/10); 89 [3] (2/12/10);

Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant - 93 [1] (8/13/10);

Hawaiian island Café and Catering - 76 [5] (5/3/10); 81 [1] (10/12/10)

Javalation - 93 [1] (1/27/11); 98 (2/10/10); 97 (7/26/10)

Johnny's - 97 (8/13/10); 90 [2] (2/16/11); 100 (3/30/10);

Kentucky Fried Chicken - 86 [2] (3/10/11); 91 [1] (10/13/10); 92 [1] (4/5/10);

Klondike Bar and Grill - 93 [2] (6/9/10); 86 (3/10/11);

Kozy Korner - 69 [5] (6/30/10);

Kuys - 95 [1] (6/28/10);

Lams Lucky Inn - 92 [1] 6/10/10; 95 (12/17/10); 95 (12/17/10); 97 (12/17/10);

Lion Coffee Express - 95 [1] (1/27/10); 100 (3/29/10)

Lion Catering - 95 [1] (1/27/11); 90 [2] (6/18/10)

McDonald's - 98 (12/17/10); 98 (6/8/10);

Miyako - 76 [1] (8/31/10); 77 [3] (5/10/10);

Muchas Gracias - 84 [2] (2/16/10); 81 [3] (2/16/11); 83 [4] (9/1/10)

Olde Towne Coffee - 89 [2] (10/12/10); 100 (3/10/10); 100 (10/12/10);

Oregon Trail Lanes - 94 (1/27/11); 86 [3] (1/20/10); 96 [1] (7/13/10);

Pastime Tavern - 88 [1] (2/11/10); 85 [2] (2/16/11); 85 [2] (7/13/10);

Plantation Pizza - 83 [3] (5/4/10);

St. Helens Boosters Club - 98 (1/15/10)

St. Helens Co-Ed Softball - 100 (10/7/10);

St. Helens Girls Softball - 93 [1] (10/26/10);

St. Helens Little League - 99 (6/5/10);

Starbucks - 100 (2/16/11); 100 (1/20/10); 100 (9/1/10);

Subway - 91 [2] (1/5/11); 98 (2/11/11); 96 (2/24/10); 91 [2] (8/31/10); 90 [3] (3/10/10); 97 (2/11/11);

Sunshine Pizza Exchange - 89 [1] (6/24/10); 89 [1] (12/20/10)

Taco Bell - 99 (12/16/10); 96 (6/24/10);

Tekila Willie's - 92 [1] (2/24/10); 90 [1] (2/24/10); 93 [1] (8/24/10); 89 [2] (4/4/11);

The Dockside - 95 (6/9/10); 95 [1] (10/21/10); 100 (10/21/10);

The Flower Lady's Espresso - 90 [2] (2/9/10); 90 [2] (8/24/10);

Village Inn - 87 [3] (2/10/10); 86 [2] (12/13/10); 86 [2] (12/13/10)

Vinnie's Chicago Sandwich Shop - 88 [3] (12/30/10); 93 [1] (6/7/10)

Wild Currant - 95 [1] (10/25/10);

Word for Word Books - 100 (1/5/11)

Warren eateries

St. Helens Golf Course - 94 [1] (12/27/10); 94 (6/7/10);

Warren Country Inn - 90 [2] (5/13/10); 83 [3] (1/31/11); 100 (1/5/10)

Columbia City eateries

Mozzare Pizza - 100 (9/4/10); 100 (5/28/10); 100 (1/15/10)

Columbia County Public Health provided the scores upon The Spotlight's request. The Oregon Health Authority has regulatory oversight over restaurants. Not listed are Oregon Department of Agriculture-regulated establishments, such as Safeway, Fred Meyer and the Houlton Bakery in St. Helens, among others.

If you notice a discrepancy in the scores, please contact Darryl Swan at 503-543-6387 or e-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Correction: The health score spreadsheet provided by the county health department has an incorrect score for the 4/26/11 inspection of Blackbird Catering. The correct score is 88. The Oregon Health Authority-provided document also incorrectly listed the number of critical violations on that inspection date. The correct number of critical violations is 2.