For consumers who really want to get the dirt before they dine, a growing number of New Jersey counties now post restaurant inspection grades online, while some post the entire reports.
In New Jersey, county or municipal health departments are required to conduct annual inspections at all establishments serving food. That includes convenience stores, bars and full-scale restaurants. School cafeterias are inspected twice a year.
These surprise inspections cover all aspects of eatery operations, from cleanliness to proper storage of foods.
Businesses can earn one of three grades in these inspections:
S – Satisfactory: The establishment is found to be operating in substantial compliance.
C – Conditionally Satisfactory: The establishment was in violation of one or more of the New Jersey State Sanitary Codes, Chapter 24 (which deals with retail food establishments and vending machines) and a re-inspection is warranted.
U – Unsatisfactory: Unsanitary or unsafe conditions result in a temporary closure of the establishment.
Camden County Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the county health department. Said she’s seen a definite improvement in her county’s food inspection results since the electronic system was put in place. Businesses realize their customers are paying attention.
“One of the things we’ve seen is there is a bit of an incentive for a restaurant to be self-correcting,” Rodriguez noted. “Because it goes on the web, everyone can see what the findings are. It encourages them to do the right thing. We want to see restaurant’s that are clean and functioning.”
Wendy Carey, chief registered environmental health specialist for the Gloucester County Department of Health, Senior & Disability Services, said, “We come from a place of education.” Inspectors meet with managers and establish a dialogue.