‘More info better for consumers’ NC County restaurant inspection ratings to appear on Yelp pages

Restaurant inspections have long revealed the dirtier side of food locales, including the restaurants frequented by residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

In an effort to make inspection ratings more accessible, Orange County announced Sept. 16 that it would begin posting its health inspection ratings to Yelp. A restaurant’s most recent letter grade now appears in the right-hand column of its Yelp page.

seinfeld.soupnaziVictoria Hudson, an environmental health specialist for the Orange County Health Department, conducts inspections in Carrboro and parts of Chapel Hill and UNC. She said more access to information is beneficial to consumers.

“People should be able to use these scores to assign risk,” Hudson said. “The letter ‘A’ does not necessarily give you the full picture as much as the list of comments does.”

Clicking on the inspection score on Yelp reveals more information on previous inspections, including the dates and the number of health code violations found.

In May, for example, an inspection found pink and black mold in the ice machine at R&R Grill, though mold in ice machines was not an uncommon violation at restaurants in 2013 findings. The restaurant lost 1.5 points — a half deduction — and received a 98.5 total score.

Ross Moll, the owner of R&R Grill, said employees cleaned the machine after it was discovered. The machine is cleaned weekly and inspected to prevent the problem.

“I think they do a good job coming down on people who are not up to snuff on things, and they definitely work with people to get things fixed,” Moll said about the Health Department.

Tony Sustaita, owner of Bandido’s, said the inspections help reinforce safe practices.

“Obviously the policy is to be clean all the time, but people mess up once in a while,” he said. “Any issue that is brought up in an inspection is addressed immediately.”

Both Moll and Sustaitia said displaying scores in restaurants and on Yelp helps consumers make decisions.

“I think the only ones who would be concerned would be the ones with negative scores,” Sustaita said. “We’ve had pretty good 

Hawaiian restaurant cited for removing food safety placard

The state Department of Health has fined the owners of Iyo Udon at Ala Moana Center $11,000 for intentionally removing a “conditional pass” placard and for food safety violations during a health inspection.

hawaii-restaurant-placardyellow*304xx1035-1553-83-0On Aug. 22, the department conducted a health inspection of the restaurant, which is owned by Iyo Seimen USA, Inc., and issued a yellow placard. A yellow placard is issued if there are two or more major violations observed during an inspection.

“Placard removal is a serious violation with substantial consequences because this act intentionally places profit above health and safety and compromises the public’s trust and their right to know when violations occur during an inspection,” said Peter Oshiro, the department’s Sanitation, Food & Drug and Vector Control Branch Manager. “Since the start of the new placarding program, we’ve seen excellent compliance with the food industry; this is our first incident involving tampering with a placard.”

Restaurant inspection disclosure returns to Anchorage

After a five-year hiatus, Anchorage’s health department is planning to bring back a scoring system for inspections in restaurants and other food-service facilities.

mystery.alaskaThe Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services this week unveiled a 54-item scorecard along with a method for assessing points. Over the next month, the department will be gathering public comment on the proposed system; it aims to begin posting scores along with inspection reports online in January.

Regular municipal health inspections date back to at least the mid-1980s, and those results are available online, Tony Barrett, environmental health program manager, said in an interview.

Until five years ago, those inspections included a scoring system. But the department discontinued scoring after the 2009 revision of the municipality’s food code because the new code contained a higher number of possible violations, Barrett said. The number of items on the inspection sheet jumped from 44 to 54, adding violations related to sick restaurant workers and bare-hand contact with food.

doug.skatingAnchorage health officials then made the decision to hold off on the scoring portion of inspections until they were more accustomed to the new code requirements, Barrett said. In the meantime, inspectors have used a matrix, and their own judgment, to decide how many critical violations warrant a closure, he said.

As well as providing a clear measure for facilities and inspectors, Barrett said, the scoring system is intended to help the public understand online inspection reports.

Illinois website now details restaurant inspections

Decades after other regions figured out how to do it and five years of trying to get restaurant inspection reports on their website, Illinois public health officials finally succeeded this month.

The site — c-uphd.org/foodinspections.html — now delivers a wealth of information on the inspections, including the inspection history and scores for more than 1,000 food establishments.

larry.david.rest.inspecThe health department opened the site earlier this month but did not announce it until Thursday.

“They can see more information because we summarized it for them,” said Jim Roberts, director of environmental health for the district. “I think we’re telling a public health story. You know if we just put up an inspection report or a score, which may vary from one jurisdiction to another, it is information, but it is very limited. This, I think, can help you make a decision because you have more information.”

The reports can be found on the district’s environmental health section, under “Programs and Services.” A user can search for an establishment under a variety of categories, including its name, adjusted score range and risk categories.

Pittsburgh OKs A-B-C restaurant grading system

After years of local angst and against the opposition of the local restaurant industry, the board of the Allegheny County Health Department voted to approve a new grading system for assessing the food safety standards of local food establishments.

rest.inspec.grade.louisvilleThe board approved the measure by a 6-1 vote, with Tony Ferraro opposed.

The new system would place an A, B or C grade on the doors of restaurants by county inspectors. It would replace the current system, where the county places stickers of whether a restaurant is approved and provides more details on the county health department’s website.

The measure still will need approval by Allegheny County Council as well as County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who has long supported the change.

The target date to implement the new program is Jan. 19.

Seattle restaurants may finally get restaurant grading system

It’s deeply weird or deeply hypocritical that Seattle, self-proclaimed home to many things food, doesn’t have a decent restaurant inspection disclosure system.

restaurant.food.crap.09We’ve tried to make as much information available as possible,” says Becky Elias, Manager of Food Protection for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “As a consumer, you could look up an individual restaurant and see the entirety of all of their inspections, and see how they’ve done. We did that because we wanted it to be as transparent as possible.”

But two-time E. coli victim Sarah Schacht says the system is antiquated and overly complicated, making it difficult to quickly determine how a restaurant is actually doing.

She launched a petition on Change.org earlier this year calling for the county to mandate publicly posted restaurant inspection scores. She says other cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York have seen significant reductions in food-related illnesses since restaurants began posting A, B, C, or F grades in their front window.

“We saw, in Toronto, a 30 percent reduction of total foodborne illnesses when they started a public scoring system for restaurants,” Schaht says.

“We have heard that message loud and clear that that’s something people are wanting,” Elias responds. “So we’re now actively engaging in the process.”

The health department has formed several committees made up of restaurants, health officials and others to come up with new policies for presenting food inspection results.

Elias says they’ll look at findings from other cities, and while they might not adopt a letter grade, they are committed to some public display that quickly informs customers how a restaurant fared.

restaurant-letter-grade“I think that we’re really excited about working towards something that meets the need of improving food safety, making something that is easier for people to understand, and also designing something that is equitable for the incredibly diverse array of food businesses that we have here in King County,” says Elias.

I’m glad you’re excited, with your public service salary, but you haven’t done anything. Toronto did it 12 years ago.

Here’s some researxh to get you more excited.

Can I have your salary and benefits?

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.

Abstract

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.

Florida restaurants to receive letter to follow inspection sign rule

Palm Beach County is sending out reminders to restaurants about a rule that most have not been following.

A 2006 ordinance required restaurants to post a sign on the door or window letting customers know that they can request to see the restaurant’s latest inspection report.

But a recent Dirty Dining investigation found that few restaurants had the signs posted. Some restaurant owners and managers told us they weren’t aware of the rule.

The county ordinance was passed as a way to make sure customers could know what inspectors are finding in the kitchens of restaurants. 

The inspection records detail if the restaurant has a rat or roach problem. It also shows if a restaurant has gotten in trouble for not serving food at the correct temperature and other safety and sanitation issues.

Palm Beach County is sending out nearly 4,000 letters this week. Customers should soon start seeing the signs in the windows.

Public disclosure: Australian Scores on Doors video launched

We’ve signed up for our first hockey tournament (the ice kind) in New South Wales at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour in October, so I’ll be looking for scores. I’m coaching, the kid is playing, and Amy is volunteering.

sorenne.hockeyBega Valley Shire Council and local food businesses are being congratulated for joining the recently refreshed and improved Scores on Doors program, a star rating system based on the outcome of a routine unannounced food hygiene and safety inspection of a food business.

Speaking at the Food Regulation Partnership food retail meeting in Merimbula today, Thursday 31 July 2014, the NSW Food Authority’s Director of Compliance, Investigation and Enforcement Peter Day said the council’s decision to join the program was already proving a drawcard for the area’s food businesses and their customers – locals and visitors alike.

Mr Day said in recognition of the Bega Valley Shire region’s commitment to the program the NSW Food Authority was taking the opportunity to launch a new video promoting the Scores on Doors program during its regional visit to Merimbula.

Bega Valley Shire Mayor Cr Bill Taylor said of the 250 eligible food businesses in the various villages and towns across the Bega Valley Shire 30 had already signed up to the program.

“The Scores on Doors initiative is an effective marketing tool for each of the areas within our shire to promote the standard and quality of the hygiene and food safety of local food businesses,” Cr Taylor said.

“Joining the Scores on Doors program represents a great opportunity for them to collectively promote our shire’s level of food safety compliance to locals and visitors alike.

“I applaud those businesses that have already signed up and encourage those who haven’t yet to get on board.”

Further information about the Scores on Doors program and other food safety initiatives can be found at www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/scoresondoors.

Queensland Health says rating schemes a matter for local governments; top franchises and well-known restaurants among Brisbane eateries slapped with fines for dodgy hygiene and health practices

Sometimes I wonder what Queensland Health does, other than publish error-filled food safety information.

eat.safe.brisbaneNo follow-up on the 50 people that got sick from shiga-toxin producing E. coli at the state fair last year, no follow-up on the 240 who got sick from Salmonella linked to raw-egg mayo last year, and just no follow up at all.

According to The Courier-Mail, cockroaches in the kitchen, rat droppings in the deep fryer and Salmonella are just a few of the nasties that Brisbane’s food safety inspectors are finding on the menu at some of the city’s most popular restaurants.

Top franchises and well-known restaurants were among the eateries slapped with a whopping total of $600,000 in fines for dodgy hygiene and health practices during the 2013-14 financial year.

The revelations follow the DM jazz cafe being fined $25,000 in the Brisbane Magistrates Court this week after a customer found a live cockroach in the chicken and mushroom risotto.

Food safety inspectors slapped more than 30 restaurants and cafes with fines as part of the city council’s EatSafe program in a bid to clean up the industry.

The Beach House was fined $30,000 in December after rat droppings were found in the deep fryer, as well as accumulated grease on the floor and wall surfaces in the kitchen.

The Gap Tavern, owned by the ALH Group, was fined $28,000 for cleanliness issues including having live cockroaches in November 2013.

ALH Group spokesman said the organisation took food safety very seriously and had already taken steps to address the issues raised by the council.

“We have a robust ongoing audit process,” he said.

Major cities and tourist destinations throughout the state are hiding details about restaurants prosecuted for repeated dodgy hygiene practices, which could include insects crawling through the kitchen and food contamination.

There is now pressure on them to follow Brisbane City’s Council’s lead by naming and shaming eateries that flunk inspections and introducing a star rating system for food safety.

Diners on the Gold Coast and in Cairns could be eating at restaurants repeatedly fined for breaching health standards but wouldn’t know because their councils refuse to reveal who they are.

Queensland Health Health Protection Unit boss Sophie Dwyer said food safety rating schemes were a matter for local governments.

Uh-huh.

Palm Beach, Florida not enforcing ordinance requiring restaurants post a sign about their inspections

What good is restaurant inspection disclosure if the results aren’t publicly accountable?

Palm Beach County in Florida passed an ordinance to make diners aware of a state law that allows you to ask for a restaurant’s inspection report. In our tests, the majority of restaurants do not follow the state law.

jake.gyllenhaal.rest.inspection.disclosureIn 2007, Palm Beach County took the state law a step further and required restaurants post a sign in their window, door or menu to let you know you could ask for the inspection report. This came after NewsChannel 5 revealed dirty kitchens. Seven years later, our hidden cameras found restaurants breaking that rule too.

“I remember when the ordinance came up that they had to post it. I was all excited,” explained diner Fran Green.

She said she rarely sees the signs now.

We went to 12 restaurants, from chains to fast food, and looked at their menu and in their window. We found no sign of the signs.

“That’s unbelievable,” explained Green.

“I’m not surprised,” explained Dave Aronberg.

Aronberg was a state representative when he fought to get the ordinance passed.

“I think it’s just because they don’t know about the ordinance,” explained Aronberg.

Don’t know and may not care because we found the county hasn’t enforced the signs. Nobody has been fined over it.