"This award is designed to recognize those facilities that take the initiative to go above and beyond health code requirements to excel in sanitation and food safety," says Naser Jouhari, the city's code enforcement manager who oversees the program.
Food-service establishments (from restaurants to gas-station convenience stores) must have fewer than a set number of critical violations (from zero to three) and noncritical violations (from three to nine) within a calendar year to make the list. So the 2012 list is compiled based on the results of 2011 health inspections.
This year's collection of 213 food-service establishments represents a significant increase from the first year of the awards. In 2009, 53 locations made the list. A year later, it was 93 establishments. And in 2011, it was 163.
"The criteria [click here to see them] are tough, so this means people are paying more attention, and establishments are doing their best to keep up with the food code," Jouhari says.
There were four independent eateries that made the list this year: Andre's Confiserie Suisse, Crossroads Coffee House, Eden Alley, and Lill's on 17th. If you're eating fast food — the Burger King at 4351 Blue Parkway, the Wendy's at 5363 Bannister Rd., and the Taco Bell at Tuileries Plaza Center (6350 N Lucerne Ave.) were the sole representatives from each chain. If you've got to eat at KCI, you want Cinnabon or Quizno's in Terminal A, the Fly By Bar or Starbucks in Terminal B, or the Stadium Club in Terminal C.
The establishments are divided into levels of risk — high, medium and low — based on the type of operation, menu they serve and diner population. High-risk establishments, such as hospital or school cafeterias, make food from scratch and serve at-risk populations. Medium-risk locations, typically fast-food establishments, are characterized by precooked foods or simple menus. Low-risk operations, mainly gas-station convenience stores, sell prepackaged foods. The potential risk also corresponds to the number of annual inspections, with high-risk establishments receiving at least three visits, medium-risk places being visited twice, and low-risk vendors having a single annual inspection.
"I'm comfortable eating out in Kansas City, Missouri, more than any other city in the metro area," Jouhari says. "If the establishment is open, it's safe to eat there."