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.

Horror stories on the menu in south New Zealand

Vermin, food past its best before date and no hand-washing facilities in kitchens are just some of the horror stories uncovered in Invercargill eateries and shops.

barf.o.meter.dec.12A report commissioned by the Invercargill City Council has uncovered the dirty secrets in 39 food premises in the city.

The damning document shows the problems are not just isolated to takeaway shops, with three grocery stores, a delicatessen, a health shop, cafes, restaurants and dairies all involved in the sting.

Invercargill City Council environmental health manager John Youngson said the report was a surprise and a disappointment, a sentiment shared by the hospitality industry.

Among the problems listed in the report are food being stored in refrigerators and freezers with temperatures too high, ice cream scoops not dried properly, encouraging bacterial growth, and in one case a mice infestation was found.

Three premises did not have hand-washing facilities and two premises did not have soap, towels and nail brushes for washing hands with.

Youngson’s biggest concern was the four food premises with high-risk temperature issues, a danger for food poisoning, he said.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said he was shocked by the report, which he had not seen, and would move swiftly to fix the issues.

Eateries will now have to provide food management plans and the council would look at bringing in a rating system, so people could easily see how the food premises scored on health and safety.

Hospitality New Zealand board member and Winton publican John McHugh said he believed the rating system would be extremely effective.

This may help.

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 barf.scaletools 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.

Technology catches up: smartphone QR codes to be used in Pasadena restaurant grades, Longo’s beef in Canada

Chapman says QR barcodes are so … 2010.

I wanted to do the equivalent using a url so people could find out what went into a product back in 2000.

qr.code.rest.inspection.gradeBecause some producers and companies are better at this food safety thing, and, as a consumer, I’d want to know that.

I can’t at retail.

But the technology is catching up to the idea, and in the past week, the Pasadena Department of Public Health announced that it will launch a new restaurant grade database and implement new restaurant rating placards including a QR barcode so diners can scan it with their smartphone and see more information about the restaurant’s inspection on the department’s new restaurant database.

The new restaurant inspection placards will display whether the restaurant passed, failed or passed conditionally, and will also display the numerical score out of 100 that the restaurant received.

Rather than using the letter grade system that the rest of Los Angeles County restaurants use, Pasadena has long used a numerical grading system. Previously, the scores were available online with a pass/fail notice in the window, however, this is the first time the numerical grade would be displayed in the window of a restaurant.

Retailer Longo’s in Ontario has partnered with VG Farms to provide local beef to all Longo’s and Market stores.

This will complete Longo’s offering of Ontario-raised meat, which up until this point included chicken, turkey, pork, lamb and veal. Rosanne Longo, brand ambassador for Longo’s, said the Toronto-area grocery chain searched long and hard to find the right beef farm to work with.

VG Farms is owned by the Van Groningen family. Up until now, VG Farms’ beef was only available at two family stores in Stoney Creek and Simcoe, Ont., in addition to small stores. This will be the first time the farm’s beef will be widely available.

“We’ve expanded our business because we identified that in the Ontario market there was nobody offering a true or authentic farm-to-fork program,” said Cory Van Groningen, owner and the eldest of the four brothers running the farm. “The program we’ve initiated with Longo’s is based on a lot of the best practices we’ve developed over the years.”

VG Farms uses a scientific method to measure the physical tenderness level of the beef, and each package features a QR code to allow shoppers to trace the Ontario farm where the cattle originated, its age and diet.

To familiarize themselves with the product, Van Groningen said 45 meat experts along with senior executives from Longo’s came out to VG Farms to take a tour and try the product for themselves.

Now include that food safety info. The technology is there.

New color-coded restaurant inspection disclosure system to start in Hawaii

Customers will soon be able to find out if their favorite restaurant makes the grade or has a dirty secret. The state’s food safety rating system is almost ready. Health inspectors are dishing out new rules to all food establishments, from fine dining restaurants to convenience stores.

toronto.dinesafePancakes & Waffles in Kalihi attracts customers with its homestyle cooking. Restaurant owner Jason Sung welcomes the changes to keep people from getting sick.

“I am pleased that they’re placing some kind of grading system in Hawaii,” said Sung.

Health department inspectors are visiting more than 10,000 food establishments statewide to educate owners about the color-coded grading system. Green (“Pass”) means one major violation or less that is corrected during the inspection. Yellow (“Conditional Pass”) indicates two or more major violations and requires a follow-up visit. Red (“Closed”) signals an imminent health hazard.

“If we looked at our data currently, probably 60% to 70% of our routine inspections of high-risk facilities would result in a yellow placard,” said Peter Oshiro, manager for the Department of Health’s Environmental Health Program. “So this is something where the numbers are way too high and they need to come down.”

ruby.restaurant.toronto.closedAt Duke’s Waikiki, the 330 employees are gearing up for the new regulations.

“It’s a challenge and I don’t think it’s going to be easy, but it is definitely something that we can all do. We just gotta put the effort into it,” said general manager Dylan Ching.