Restaurant inspection reports: Hawaii embraces openness, northern Utah not, so much

Sorry, northern Utah diners. If you want to see a restaurant inspection report online, expect to do your own detective work and, in many cases, prepare to be disappointed.

big.love.harry.deanLocal health boards are given broad latitude by state administrative code governing food service sanitation, which has led to varied availability of restaurant inspection data on the internet.

The Weber-Morgan health board does not provide a public restaurant inspection database on its website. It does, however, offer an “Establishments Under Enforcement” section that names the affected restaurants and gives a few words about the nature of their critical violations. Complete reports are not available.

As of Monday, April 18, five Weber County restaurants were under enforcement. All of them are in Ogden and all were censured for repeat critical violations.

Restaurants stay on this virtual wall of shame until they correct critical deficiencies to the satisfaction of health inspectors.

At the 817 food establishments in the two counties, 1,697 inspections were conducted in 2015, according to information provided by Michelle Cooke, food safety program manager.

Four restaurants were under scrutiny at the highest risk level (level 4), meaning they have exceeded infractions on an 11-factor inspection scale, have had previous enforcement actions within the past two years, warning notices issued or documented cases of foodborne illnesses. Level 4 restaurants are re-inspected within three months.

“Facilities and restaurants are placed on corrective action when the deadline to correct a critical issue has passed and there has been no good-faith attempt to fix the problem,” Cooke said in a provided statement.

northern.utah.restaurantMost violations stem from a restaurant not having a food safety manager on duty at all times, Cooke said.

“This is required by Utah law and is important because they have a more detailed knowledge of foodborne illnesses and how to prevent them,” she said.

Since 2006, Davis County health board policy has called for all restaurant inspection reports to be available online. However, a recent technology change cut previous inspection records from the department website. Inspections conducted since the technology switch are available, but a search for many restaurants at this time will return no results.

 

25 percent of Hawaii restaurants received yellow, red cards

Two weeks after the state made its food inspections public, we’re digging deeper into the information posted online. The data is public, but the number of inspections and other figures are not simply listed.

All restaurants in Hawaii, the type of safety inspection it received, even the ingredients used in a meal that may have made a customer sick are included in the state’s new website.

“They want an explanation of why we saw certain things and why we did or did not do an action based on that,” said Peter Oshiro with the State Department of Health.

KHON2 spent days digging deeper, and found out DOH inspectors have checked out more than 4,800 locations across the state. They did 10,270 inspections, and have handed out more than 1,800 yellow or red placards.

The state is still in the process of entering more data, and told us Tuesday that 25 percent of food establishments received a yellow (conditional) card or red (closed) card.

“Is that a high number?” KHON2 asked.

“That’s a relative thing. I think what this shows is that 75 percent of establishments right now are fully compliant with rules and regulations,” Oshiro said. “Twenty-five percent yellow cards, we would like to see that down to 15 percent or below.”

To help, the state offers free food safety classes. It’s becoming increasingly popular since the introduction of the health department’s color-coded placard system.

Eating out: Hygiene tops Brits’ list

Surveys still suck, especially since rating are displayed on a voluntary basis in England, but this one is fun in that it concludes UK consumers are united in not tolerating poor food hygiene ratings and simply won’t visit places that have had food safety issues, no matter what type of restaurant they are. 61% won’t eat at a restaurant, takeaway, coffee shop or pub that has a low Food Standards Agency (FSA) Food Hygiene Rating while three quarters (75%) said they wouldn’t risk dining at a restaurant that had been implicated in a food hygiene incident, even if recommended by someone that they trust.

eatmeThese are the headline findings of UK consumer research carried out by Checkit.net, which also found that diners would rather put up with poor service from rude and unhelpful staff than eat at dirty restaurants. 66% of respondents rated unclean or dirty premises as the first or second reason for not returning to a restaurant. Just 16% cited slow or poor service and 32% said rude or unhelpful staff would stop them coming back to a restaurant.

The impact of being implicated in a food hygiene incident is catastrophic for the survival of any restaurant business. Of the 75% of consumers that wouldn’t risk a visit, 43% said they’d never dine there, no matter what, while 32% would only return if it had closed down and reopened under new ownership. A further 22% said they’d only return if the food hygiene rating improved dramatically – meaning that owners would need deep pockets and the ability to invest heavily over a long period of time to meet hygiene standards, rebuild trust and attract diners back.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a Michelin starred restaurant or a local takeaway – consumers will not tolerate poor food hygiene and will vote with their feet if a restaurant has been implicated in a food hygiene incident,” said Dee Roche, Marketing Director, Checkit.net. “This demonstrates the enormous impact that poor food safety has on business survival – how could you cope with 61% of your customers boycotting your restaurant? These findings are a wakeup call to those restaurants that think that food safety is not a customer priority – diners rate hygiene as the number one reason, above service or rude staff when it comes to choosing whether to return to a restaurant.”

mr.creosote.monty.python.vomitThe research found that consumers had the highest expectations of fine dining restaurants, with 69% saying they would not visit any that had a low food hygiene rating. This was followed by takeaways (including Chinese, Indian or kebab sellers), with 64% of people avoiding any with low food hygiene ratings. In contrast they were slightly better disposed to cafés and coffee shops (55%), possibly due to the more limited range of food being sold.

“Food hygiene ratings matter to consumers, and are an increasingly important part of choosing where they eat,” said David Davies, Managing Director, Checkit.net.

Red-yellow-green for Calif.’s Contra Costa restaurants

Starting with the 20 on-site inspections completed laws week, Contra Costa’’s Environmental Health Department is now giving the 4,000-some restaurants, grocery stores, delis, conveniencemarts and gas station heat-lamp operations physical placards showing whether that establishment fully passes (green) or is on “conditional” status (yellow).

placard-types-400x455If major problems like vermin infestations, lack of hot water or improper storage temperatures result in an order to close, such establishments can be assigned a red placard until the problems are solved.

For Contra Costa Environmental Health Department Director Marilyn Underwood, it’s largely a matter of consistency. Alameda County, with the exception of the city of Berkeley, has since July 2012 used a color-coded placard system much like the one Contra Costa has adopted with green (pass), yellow (conditional pass) and red (closed) given to the county’s 6,000 restaurants, grocery stores and other places food is sold.

In 2014, Santa Clara County adopted a similar system showing inspection results for its 8,000 vendors. The only Bay Area county that doesn’t do this or something similar, Underwood said, is San Francisco.

“People here live in one area and commute to other areas, and we wanted a consistent look to what people see,” she said.

Also, having a vendor’s rating posted publicly should encourage them to clean up their acts, literally, and may result in more clients reporting problems they see.

To see more about the Contra Costa placard program, go to http://cchealth.org/eh/retail-food/placard.php

More information on the Alameda County program is available at www.acgov.org/aceh/food/grading.htm

Details on Santa Clara County’s placard program can be found at www.sccgov.org/sites/cpd/programs/fsp/Pages/Placarding.aspx

Why Minnesota doesn’t post restaurant inspection reports

Hawaii has joined other states in providing restaurant inspection data online, New Yorkers are debating whether inspections and reviews of Chinese and other ethnic restaurants are racist, and Canada is once again lauding Toronto’s red-yellow-green system of disclosure.

larry.the_.cable_.guy_.health.inspector-213x300-213x3001-213x300Strangely absent in such debate is the state of Minnesota, which is often praised for its skill and speed investigating outbreaks of foodborne illness.

According to Eric Roper of the Star Tribune, Minnesota is one of the least transparent states in the nation with regard to restaurant inspections.

A local developer posted Minneapolis restaurant inspections to the Web several years ago, but ultimately took the site down after trouble getting up-to-date data from the city. The city’s health department said it hopes to have this data live in 2016, though it had similar goals in 2013.

With regard to letter grades in particular, the city’s Environmental Health Manager Dan Huff is not a fan.

“What we have found is that jurisdictions that do have grades, more resources go into fighting over the grade than actually improving food safety,” Huff said.

He believes it would be detrimental to the inspection process. “It creates a more adversarial relationship with the inspector,” Huff said. “Because you’re like ‘Come on! I just need one point so I’m an A. Give me a break man.’”

Council Member Andrew Johnson, meanwhile, has asked staff to explore the idea further.

“Making it so people can go out to the website and look up restaurants is … a great step,” Johnson said. “But it also would be even better to have higher visibility that incentivizes businesses to put safety first and health first.”

Professor Craig Hedberg, a foodborne illness expert at the University of Minnesota, said there has not been much research into the effectiveness of various grading systems.

Not all cities are convinced by letter grades. Baltimore ditched a proposal last year to adopt them, over concerns that it would negatively impact restaurants.

barf.o.meter_.dec_.12-216x300-216x3001-216x300Peter Oshiro, manager of Hawaii’s food safety inspection program, said “We’re taking transparency to an entirely new level,” adding that, “Information from the inspection reports empowers consumers and informs their choices. … This should be a great catalyst for the industry to improve their food safety practices and make internal quality control a priority before our inspections.”

 

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009.

The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information.

Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874
.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as tools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

‘Oversimplified method’ Colorado seeks to ban letter grades

A Colorado House Bill aiming to update restaurant inspection regulations has Weld County leaders again fighting for local control.

qr.code.rest.inspection.gradeHouse Bill 1401, introduced late last week, would ban summarizing inspection results with a letter, number or any other “oversimplified method.”

County leaders overhauled the inspection page online in late 2014. Among the updates was a change in grading. Instead of using ambiguous words to rate a restaurant’s safety level, they began using an A-F system.

“It makes it much easier for the citizens of Weld County to look at a restaurant to see how they’re doing,” said Mike Freeman, chairman of the Board of Weld County Commissioners. “People don’t know what ‘critical’ is.”

The inspection process never changed; state law would forbid that. The update changed only how information was presented to the public.

Although various restaurant owners attended meetings to criticize the rule change, county leaders say they believe the change has been a boon to residents. Not only is the A-F grading system more transparent, it encourages restaurant owners to step up, Freeman said.

“They don’t want to see Ds and Fs,” he said. “It’s a very positive impact.”

Within the last year, Weld County saw 50 percent fewer inspections receiving an F, Environmental Health Director Trevor Jiricek wrote in a letter. Inspections getting either a D or an F dropped to 19 percent from 28 percent.

Web traffic on the new inspection page increased 100 percent over that time, Jiricek wrote. Leaders say it’s because residents can actually glean something from the page now.

The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009. Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments.barf.o.meter_.dec_.12-216x300-216x3001-216x300

Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.

Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks and enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as tools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated.larry.the_.cable_.guy_.health.inspector-213x300-213x3001-213x300

Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

 

If you’re sick, stay at home: 14 sick, 1 dead at SC daycare, family settles $1M wrongful death claim over E. coli

The family of a two-year-old who contracted E. coli from a South Carolina day care has settled a wrongful death claim for $1 million.

Myles MayfieldCourt records show the family of 2-year-old Myles Mayfield settled the case Monday.

An attorney for the boy’s family tells local media that Myles got sick May 26 and tested positive for E. coli a few days later. Attorney Eric Hageman says the Learning Vine in Greenwood had not told parents a teacher had been sick from E. coli earlier that month.

Health officials say at least eight cases of E. coli were traced to the Learning Vine.

Center officials didn’t immediately comment on the settlement. Myles’ father said in a statement the family was glad to hold the day care accountable.

Where’s the sticker? Hidden because restaurant inspection disclosure not mandatory in Britain

It seems sorta dumb for Cambridge and the UK Food Standards Agency to ensure that Independent eateries “are getting the recognition we think they deserve,” when disclosure – those pretty stars – is voluntary in Britain.

Get a 2-stars-out-of-five? Put that placard away.

rest.inspection.disclosure.uk

Australian mayor pushes for mandatory food safety rankings to be displayed at NSW eateries

There are  many benefits to restaurant inspection disclosure or grades.

Those benefits are negated when the public display is voluntary.

scores_doors_featureGet 2-out-of-5 stars, don’t post the sign.

Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and hundreds of other cities have mandatory disclosure.

Mayor Khal Asfour in the southwest Sydney suburb of Bankstown says food safety ratings should be mandatory.

Scores on Doors, launched by NSW Food Authority in 2010, rates eateries out of five based on their annual food safety audits.

They are then handed a slick certificate to post up in view of customers.

However Bankstown is pushing for the scheme, which is currently voluntary, to be mandated across all eligible food outlets.

A similar push is on by local councils England.

The Food Authority falls under NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair’s portfolio.

However The Express’s request for comment was directed to Food Authority chief executive Dr Lisa Szabo.

When asked whether she would support mandating Scores on Doors state wide, Dr Szabo said the authority preferred to keep it voluntary.

“Displaying a Scores on Doors certificate can be a marketing advantage for businesses that comply with food safety legislation because it can provide a point of difference from competitors,” she said.

Fifty three of 152 councils in NSW have signed up to implement the program.

In south west Sydney only Bankstown and Liverpool are currently members.

The authority’s NSW Food Safety Strategy has set a target of 75 per cent business participation by 2021.

Bankstown Council has signed up 33 retail food businesses out of about 600 this financial year.

The scheme excludes supermarkets, delicatessens or greengrocers, service stations, convenience stores, mobile food vans and temporary markets.

Which further undermines the system.

Chicken Heaven owner Paul Hong, who proudly displays a five star rating in the window of the Chester Hill takeaway, agreed the program should be compulsory.

“Yes. Based on the individual [business] keeping up their cleanliness, hygiene and all that required in the food industry,” he said.

Google Maps to show restaurant inspection reports in Taipei

Inspection reports for a variety of food establishments in Taipei will be made available on Google Maps from August, the city’s Health Department said Thursday.

google.maps.rest.inspectThe health authority said it plans to launch the Google Maps app designed to provide information to the public regarding its inspections of restaurants and other food establishments in the city with the aim of making such information more transparent and ensuring food safety.

The Google Maps feature will allow customers to look up online whether restaurants and food retail outlets they plan to visit follow safe food-handling procedures and have passed all health inspections, according to the department.

The department said it regularly carries out inspections of businesses that serve food but does not publish the inspection reports, adding that by launching the new app, people will be able to search for information about food establishments, including address, photos and inspection scores.