by Ben Chapman
In response to public demand, the city’s health department is now posting restaurant inspection ratings online.
At least once a year, health department staffers conduct on-site inspections of the city’s more than 400 retail food establishments and review their food handling processes. Inspectors look at things such as the cleanliness of work surfaces, personal hygiene of workers and whether proper temperatures are used when heating, cooling and storing food, said Jeanne Garbarino, the city’s principal sanitary inspector.
These inspections result in a rating of satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory.
Each business is issued a certificate that by state law must be posted in a conspicuous place to alert patrons of the health rating.
Inspection reports are public documents, Garbarino said. The new online listing gives diners a central place to review all health ratings as well as the last date of an establishment’s inspection. The health department’s website is http://www.vldhealth.org.
This is just the first phase of giving the public more access to information, Garbarino said.
The next step, she said, is to assemble a focus group of about 15 people who will help determine what other information should be added to the health department’s website.
They will be asked, “What do you want us to show,” Garbarino said, noting one option is to post full inspection reports, which is already done in Virginia and Rhode Island.
A couple of restaurant operators who have nothing to hide, and seem to get promoting food safety culture, like the idea:
Saverio Brunetti of Dominick’s Pizza on South Lincoln Avenue welcomed it.
Safe food handling is a serious issue, Brunetti said, adding “You don’t want to give a customer a bad product.”
At Dominick’s Pizza, the health rating certificate is posted on the front wall among the establishment’s accolades so customers can see it.
“The satisfactory rating is not an achievement, it’s a standard we maintain,” Brunetti said.
The online rating information would not only be useful to him as a business manager, Brunetti said, he would use it as a diner.
And, Brunetti said, he might also be tempted to see how his competitors were faring.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” said Russell Swanson, owner of Bain’s Deli on Landis Avenue, noting customers can already see the satisfactory certificate at the deli.
Councilman Louis Cresci, the former director of the city’s health department, supported the online postings.
“The public part of this is supposed to be a motivational tool for these operators,” he said.