If you're eating out, there's a good chance your restaurant did fine in its latest health inspection.
Of more than 4,200 restaurant inspections, about 3,600, or 5 out of every 6, yielded scores above 88 points, a Post and Courier Watchdog analysis found.
Those scores are enough to earn these eateries a capital A.
Getting hungry? Hold the mustard. The analysis also showed that restaurants scored Bs or worse in nearly 700 inspections. At least 30 eateries scored worse than a C in the past year, the Watchdog analysis found.
A restaurant with a C "typically exhibits poor to marginal levels of sanitation," according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
A baker's dozen had scores lower than 60. This select group included a few Chinese and Mexican restaurants but also some prominent downtown establishments.
To check on your favorite restaurant, including your child's school cafeteria, Watchdog has a new searchable database. Go online to Charleston.net/watchdog.
Every year, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control conducts more than 4,000 inspections of restaurants, school cafeterias and grocery stores in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.
DHEC's food cops are quick to say inspections are just a snapshot of a restaurant's performance. They say even the best restaurant can have a bad day, and are quick to point out that poisoning your customers is a bad business model.
Still, food-borne illnesses remain a serious health threat. Heightened awareness of good sanitation practices helped reduce outbreaks in recent years, but illnesses still sicken an estimated 76 million people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And outbreaks can happen anywhere. In Camden three years ago, 71 diners at a buffet restaurant contracted salmonella. Eleven years ago, hundreds of people who ate at a sandwich shop in Greenville were sickened by contaminated mayonnaise, and one died.