La. site to post reports on restaurants

List of violations will be included

MARSHA SHULER

Capitol news bureau

Beginning this week, people can go to a state website to check the sanitary conditions at restaurants they frequent or want to try.

The Office of Public Health plans to start posting inspection reports that include critical and noncritical violations, as well as corrective actions taken or pending.

In the past, the agency had an online restaurant rating system, which had glitches and was abandoned.

Now people will be able to access the reports that restaurants receive after they are inspected by state sanitarians. “It’s better just to give the public the facts rather than work with subjective scores,” said Tenney Sibley, Louisiana’s chief sanitarian. “The public is smart enough to read it and understand it.”

The reports should be posted a week after the inspections are conducted at http://www.eatsafe.la.gov.

The agency is responsible for licensing and permitting nearly 32,000 retail food establishments through its food safety certification program. Restaurants account for 50 percent of the total.

Inspection records would also be posted for more than 8,800 markets, 4,700 bars, nearly 2,500 day-care and residential facilities and seasonal establishments such as snowball stands.

Other parts of the site would provide the public with food safety information, such as tips for: tailgating parties, preparing a child’s school lunch, and alerts when there are food-related scares.

State Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein said people should have convenient access to public records, and today’s technology allows that to happen, rather than making people wade through reams of paper.

“We want to continue the tradition of keeping restaurants accountable to our standards of health and safety and also provide more accountability for DHH staff,” said Greenstein.

Louisiana is home to some of the best restaurants in the world, said Greenstein.

“I love eating here, going out to eat. We have a great track record,” Greenstein said. “When a restaurant gets a clean record of safety and cleanliness, it is something to brag about.”

The site has been designed to be user friendly with information easily understood, said Greg Richard, IT manager for DHH’s sanitation services.

A user would search first for the restaurant. The user would find a page summarizing the three most-current inspections with the date and time, said Richard.

Richard said the website would list four things:

• How many critical violations were found.

• How many critical violations have been fixed.

• How many noncritical violations were found.

• How many noncritical violations have been fixed.

A link on each line would allow the user to pull up the inspection report to read details.

A critical violation could involve the risk of cross contamination in a cooler where raw meat may be on a shelf above a ready-to-eat salad and the potential exists for meat drippings to fall on the salad, Sibley said.

“That’s a violation we will note, but it’s easily fixed and can be on the spot,” said Sibley.

Another would be a chemical stored in a food-preparation area, Sibley said. “It could be the Windex bottle they use to clean with, which can be moved.”

Sibley said an inspector could note a plumbing issue that needs repair. Inspectors would return in the next day or so to see that it’s been fixed, she said.

Sibley said every establishment is going to have violations, but 99 percent of the time they are probably going to be noncritical and can easily be fixed before an inspector leaves the premises.

“Any establishment can have a good day or a bad day, and it (the report) is only a snapshot,” she said.