Restaurant inspection rules friendlier in Maricopa County, Arizona

Maricopa County’s newly adopted updates to restaurant-inspection rules expand the self-regulation program and make the process friendlier to restaurant operators.

restaurant.inspectionThe county Board of Supervisors approved 20 recommendations this week from a stakeholder task force that had been meeting since March. The changes are part of an ongoing effort to make various county regulatory functions more business- and user-friendly.

Maricopa County will expand its Cutting Edge program and educate restaurateurs about how it gives more autonomy to high-performing restaurants. It reflects a national trend in which regulators focus limited resources on those areas of the highest public-health risks, while giving high performers tools to stay compliant.

Restaurant owners in the program develop their own plans, subject to county approval, to reduce risk of food-borne illness.

Every other inspection is a “verification visit” in which the inspector makes sure the restaurant is following its own rules.

The county will now require owners to attend a class on the program and the underlying concept of “active managerial control” so that more restaurants know and enlist in the program, which began in 2011.

The county Environmental Services Department also will stop posting inspection records online immediately, instead posting them three business days after the inspection. Currently, the results are posted as soon as an inspector files them into the county database.

The change is intended to give permit holders time to clarify or challenge items in the inspection report, because “once the report is posted, the damage is done,” according to a recommendation document presented to the board.