NORWALK — More local restaurants are making the highest grade in the Norwalk Health Department’s Lighthouse Certificate Award Program.

Established in 2008, the lighthouse rating system recognizes establishments that employ safe food-handling practices. Three lighthouses go to those receiving the highest marks.

Last year, 212 of 392, or 54 percent of Class III and IV food establishments, were awarded three lighthouses. That’s up from 27 percent in 2008, according Thomas Closter, chief environmental officer in the health department.

“We’re happy with quicker compliance,” Closter said. “You wouldn’t believe the food establishments that call us to say, ‘Somebody was in here. We didn’t get a good rating. All the violations were corrected. Could you please come out and do another re-inspection?’ ”

On Monday afternoon, Mayor Harry W. Rilling and Norwalk Director of Health Timothy J. Callahan will announce the latest “Top Lighthouse Ratings” for local food service establishments.

The announcement will be held at Primavera Italian Cuisine at 130 New Canaan Ave. Since opening in 2015, the restaurant has scored consistently high in inspections by health department sanitarians. The health board chose to showcase Primavera.

“You can see the scores — 97, 96, 99, 99,” said Closter, pointing at Primavera’s scores on the inspection reports. “They’ve been pretty solid since they’ve been open. So they got three lighthouses for each inspection that we performed.”

Local food establishments are classified and inspected based upon their level of food handling. Class I establishments are typically convenience stores that handle sandwiches and other commercially packaged foods. Class II establishments sell commercially pre-cooked foods, such as soups and hot dogs.

Class III establishments are often delicatessens with hot food prepared less than four hours before being served. Class IV establishments are restaurants, hospitals and caterers that serve meats, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy more than four hours after being heated.

Collectively, health department sanitarians perform about 2,000 inspections across Norwalk each year, with Class III establishments requiring three inspections a year and Class IV establishments requiring four inspections.

The sanitarians bring with them food inspection forms with 62 weighted items, including source of food, cleanliness of personnel, equipment and utensils cleanliness, vermin control and having a qualified food operator present. Risk factor violations, such as proper food temperature, are coded in red print.

“When your food is out of temperature, you’re going to get somebody sick,” Closter said. “That’s a four- point demerit.”

Restaurants receiving a four-point demerit, or scoring less than 80 points overall, are subject to re-inspection in two weeks and will lose their licenses if the problems are not corrected.

Three lighthouses mean a restaurant has received a rating score of 90 to 100 with no critical violations or less than four risk factor violations. Two lighthouses denote a score of 80 to 100, with one or no critical violations and several risk factor violations. Restaurants scoring below 80 with two or more critical violations receive one lighthouse. Such establishments “typically exhibit poor levels of compliance and sanitation during the inspection,” according to the health department.

Theresa Argondezzi, health educator in the health department, said a Class IV food establishment could receive three lighthouses in three of its four annual inspections, but get only one or two lighthouses in the fourth inspection. It would not receive a Lighthouse Certificate Award for the year.

“The lighthouse certificates go to really the cream of the crop,” Argondezzi said. “That doesn’t mean that the other restaurants aren’t doing well — sometimes they’re not. But a lot of the time, they’re doing pretty well. They may have just missed it by a smidge. These folks that are getting their certificates have the highest possible ratings at all three or four inspections.”

The ratings may be found at www.norwalkct.org/723/Restaurant-Ratings

rkoch@hearstmediact.com