Chicago to let some low-risk food sellers certify themselves

Chicago retailers that sell pre-packaged foods and recently inspected restaurants with no history of foodborne illness would police themselves and send inspection reports to City Hall, under a “self-certification” plan advanced Tuesday to free inspectors to focus on “high-risk” establishments.

I don’t care who does the inspection or has oversight, as long as the data is made public. And why not market those food safety efforts to reward good performers and further create a culture of accountability within an operation.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan, approved by the City Council’s Committee on Budget and Government Operations, would apply to roughly 2,500 of the city’s 15,000 licensed food establishments.

The group would include grocery stores, gas stations and other “low-risk” stores that primarily sell beverages and pre-packaged foods and engage in minimal handling or preparation of food.
Self-certification would also be open to restaurants that have passed inspections in the prior year, have not been closed for food safety issues for 36 months and “not implicated as a source of foodborne outbreak” in the past three years.

“If you are a food establishment that has a stellar record, has been doing a great job and has not failed inspections, there’s no reason we can’t work with you to ensure that you are continuing to do that work on your own,” Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair said Tuesday.

Choucair noted that the city code currently requires the Department of Public Health to inspect food establishments “at least once every six months, regardless of risk” and mobile food dispenser vehicles that serve ice cream, frozen desserts and milk once every 90 days months during the season.

That’s a tall order, considering the fact that department has just 32 field inspectors.

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time