CALIFORNIA: Online database helps hold county restaurants accountable
Posted: August 30th, 2009 - 10:56pm
Source: San Jose Mercury News
SANTA CRUZ -- Nearly three years ago, county restaurants got an extra incentive to stay squeaky clean when the Environmental Health Department put restaurant-inspection results online.
"We do have a trend that shows improvements," said John Hodges, the county's consumer protection program manager. "We're also getting supported by our customers who are concerned about their restaurants. That's a very good pressure. Whether they admit it or not, restaurant owners are aware that people are going on and looking at their results."
The results posted as of Aug. 6 indicates a 19 percent drop in major violations compared to when the results first went online in October 2006 -- despite a 2 percent increase in the number of facilities, according to Environmental Health data. General violations have dropped as well, down 4 percent.
"Our report has been and still is a proactive tool, and we feel it has helped to make a positive impact towards improved food safety in Santa Cruz County," Hodges said.
Erik's DeliCafe owner Erik Johnson said having the reports online increases accountability and potentially affects consumers' decisions.
"You go online, you see problems, and you go to the restaurant and see that -- it reinforces your opinion of the restaurant," he said. "You would probably start making choices about which restaurants you go to."
Minor violations are up 11 percent since the site first went online, which Hodges attributed to the increase in facilities and an increase in inspection frequency. From January to July 2009, there were 1,532 primary inspections, a 54 percent increase compared to the same period in 2007, as well as a 28 percent increase in reinspections.
Hodges said in addition to helping consumers make an informed choice, posting results online puts pressure on the restaurants to keep in top shape, lest the public find out they have rats in the kitchen.