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JAMESTOWN, N.C. -- Students in the Culinary Arts Program at Guilford Tech eventually learn how to cook, but first, they must pass safety and sanitation.

Chef Al Romano told FOX8, “That’s the first thing you have to get through here.” He believes learning to store, handle, and cook food safely is just that important. That’s why his students must be certified in food safety before graduating to make the dishes you order in local restaurants. The same restaurants inspected by county employees like Carla Day.

FOX8 followed Day as she inspected BLL Rotisserie Factory in Winston-Salem. This restaurant has been open 22 years and has earned an A on every inspection. No simple feat when you consider the inspection checklist with 54 criteria mandated by the state. In order to open for business, the state requires that a restaurant be inspected. That happens, but the state also says some restaurants classified as risk 4 must be inspected four times a year.

FOX8 found that’s not happening.

Last fiscal year, in Guilford County, only 71 percent of those risk 4 facility inspections were completed.

In Forsyth County, it was just 21 percent. FOX8 spoke with Sheryl Emory with the Forsyth County Department of Public Health. She told us they are trying to fill five inspector positions leaving them with 14 certified inspectors to handle almost 1,000 places that serve food. Emory said, “We’ve had to prioritize with staff shortages to be sure we are getting into school cafeterias and getting into the nursing homes.”

FOX8 searched inspection reports and found restaurants that received OK scores, but then more than an entire year went by without an inspection. The next grade each restaurant earned was significantly lower. More frequent inspections may have caught the problems sooner. It’s something that worries Chef Romano because food safety matters.

“It could kill you. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

When you walk into a restaurant, by all means, look at the score, but for the full story, check the date of the last inspection.

To check a restaurant’s last date of inspection and scores: